Sunday, December 26, 2010

emergents bravely running away

Admittedly, however we think our biggest test of modeling the community practice of reading Scripture and interpreting together requires that we step headlong into the controversial... Texts that engage challenging and controversial issues potentially pose the greatest threat to a community hermeneutic, for if anything, it is here that a definitive and authoritative voice seems necessary.

Yet, we wholeheartedly believe that Christian communities are in dire need of having controvesial conversations...

...So, with some honest trepidation, we decided to address the intersection of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community with the church.
Conder and Rhodes, Free For All, p 132,133

Oh, those brave brave Emergents, tackling such a controversial topic! Such a pity no one else doth ever comment on such a thing! Oh, what people of great great courage!

So, over the next few pages, they give an account of their discussions of Romans 1. I'll not go over much into it, because it's quite long. Let it be enough that the waffling starts early, and it continues through the whole thing, including the putting forth of the position that Paul in Romans 1:18-20 is simply being the typical grumpy old man going on about how bad the world of his time was, p 146-147.

All of it, though, for this conclusion.

As you have noticed, perhaps to palpable frustration, we did not produce either a definitive reading of Romans 1 or a community dictum on the issue of homosexuality.
p 149

And they gallantly chickened out.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

imagination gone wild

When we got to the front of the autograph line, we claimed our own place in the pastoral guild and commented that we believed the kind of serious wonder Price advocates is a skill that all Bible readers should hone.
Conder and Rhodes, Free For All, p 233

The co-authors were at a book store, attending a reading. The author doing the reading was Reynolds Price, who seems to be a quite proficient author. The book of his that he was reading from was "A Serious Way of Wondering". Here is a bit of what the "Free For All" co-authors wrote about Price's book.

At the center of the book are several brief stories Price imaginatively crafts, focusing on Jesus' response to three profoundly contemporary ethical dilemmas: meeting a gay man, encountering Judas Iscariot in the act of suicide, and a conversation with a woman caught in a sexual liaison with a man who is not her estranged husband. A scandalous trilogy to say the least.
pp 232-233

So, it got me curious about what Price was writing. But how? Sorry, but I don't like spending hard-earned funds on books I'm sure will not be worth the funds involved. Getting them from used book stores is another thing, but frankly, I regret paying full price for emergent nonsense like McLaren's "A New Kind of Christianity". I have better things to waste my money on.

Enter the library. No, really, go right on in.

Anyway, I found out that a library in a nearby city had a copy of that book, so I made a brief trip to that city, for that and other reasons, found it, and read through those three stories.

I find it odd that Conder and Rhodes mention Judas only in regards to one of the stories, because he is the focus of two of them. In the first story, Judas is a young man not yet twenty years old, and he's a gay man whose main desire was to have a sexual relationship with Jesus. The resurrected Christ visits Judas first, as he's hiding in a cave working up to hanging himself. This Judas betrayed Jesus because he loved Him, and Jesus seemed quite fine with his love and desires, even saying to Judas that he'll not go to hell for what he's done.

In the second story, one independent of the first, Judas is preparing to hang himself. Jesus comes along, makes a bit of an effort to try to talk him out of it, but in the end helps him tie the rope and climb the tree so he can hang himself.

The third is based on the account of the woman caught in adultery, who is spared by Jesus and told to not do it again. Price gives this woman, unnamed in the Bible, the name of Rahab. He puts her in a bad, abusive marriage, and seems to hint that adultery may not have been all that wrong.

So, is this one thing Conder and Rhodes mean by "the kind of serious a skill all Bible readers should hone"? Make some kind of bizarre story, only marginally related to the biblical account, and then use it to say that good is evil and evil good?

One fo the remarkable aspects of the evening, however, was simply the author's repeated acknowledgement that his imaginative musings were forbidden by the church and established Christianity.
p 233

Really? Wow, I wonder why.

I don't know what else he's written in his "imaginative musings", but if these short musings are a example of what he's doing, then I'm not at all surprised that they have been forbidden, and good for the churches that have done so. And it's rather pathetic that he has to try to play the "poor poor presecuted me" act because of his "imaginative musings".

Your story is imagined.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

I'm not saying this. maybe.

There is this to be said about reading books written by emergents--they are good ways to build character. One must learn to control the impulse to hurl them with vigor and force against an available wall, then put on steel-towed boots and jump up-and-down on them with all the enthusiasm one can muster.

Take, for example, this little excerpt.

In response to the ideology that we simply listen to what the Scripture says about an issue, Dale Martin, a professor of New Testament at Yale, comments:

The text cannot interpret iteself. I sometimes illustrate my point when asekd to speak aobut "what the Bible says about homosexuality." I put the Bible in the middle of the room or on the speaker's podium, step back, and say "Okay, let's see what it says. Listen!" After a few seconds of uncomfortable silence and some snickers, I say, "Apparently, the Bible can't talk." This is not the frivolous gimmick it may initially seem. Our language about "what text say" tends to make us forget the expression is a metaphor. Texts don't "say" anything: they must be read. And even in the reading process, interpretation has already begun. And if we want to move on from reading the text out loud, say, to paraphrasing it or commenting upon what it "means," we have simply moved further into human interpretation.

Martin affirms the point that reading the Bible as the Word of God is never as simple or as straightforward as looking at words on a page. Instead of viewing Scripture as a flat collection of words that provide a secure foundation from which to build our theologies and worldviews, we have to understand that we must interpret those words. And we believe that this interpretation happens best when the body of Christ, the church, discerns the word of God together.
Conder and Rhodes, Free For All, p 50

For all that this guy Martin that they quote says he isn't doing some 'frivolous gimmick', in reality that's all he's doing.

It is a common practice for us to use to word "say" when refering to what is written. When we play sports and games, we ask what the rules "say", and usually refer to a written version of those rules. When, for example, we may be driving and looking for directions, we may ask what the road signs "say". It is a word even used in art, where one may talk of what a painting or a photography "says".

Martin's little word game, then, becomes nothing more than the "frivolous gimmick" he says it isn't. It is perfectly legitimate, by the common usage of the word, to use the word "say" when refering to what is written in the Bible. The Bible does say things. Martin should be ashamed of his amateurish, asinine argument.

It's always amazing the kinds of arguments emergents use to try to justify their twisting of Scripture. Scripture isn't a "flat collection of words"? I suppose one could wonder what is meant by that phrase, if it isn't a bit of distracting nonsense--the pomos seems to be good at making those kinds of nonsense statements, unlike most of the rest of us.

And Scripture isn't "a secure foundation from which to build our theologies and worldviews"? I suppose they have better suggestions? Maybe the Discworld novels? Tea leaves? Flipping coins? How about we settle questions of theology with some games of 3-on-3 basketball, and worldview with a bit of flag football?

Nah, someone would complain that it wasn't futbol. I mean, soccer.

No, I guess they want us to settle those questions via emergent group-think.

Please tell me you understand

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

the church is too safe?

Convinced that the world is a threat to our lives and existence, Christians have become overwhelmed by our own culture of fear. Who could forget the tragic events that took place at New Life Church in Colorado Springs on December 9, 2007, when a young gunman opened fire on church members after Sunday morning worship? We both (the authors) remember watchin the news coverage after the event and feeling compassion for the families that lost loves ones as well as the traumatized church community. It was a truly terrifying and horrible event.

But what also struck us as odd and problematic was the tremendous amount of praise showered upon the security officer who supposedly fired upon and killed the young gunman. (It was later discovered that this young man had actually killed himself, a possibility not even mentioned in the fanfare.) We must admit that it left us with a bitterly confused taste in our mouths, wondering what message it sent for Christians to employ security guards at our churches and for us to so publicly laud the killing of a threat to our people. We were left wondering whether we have not let on infatuation with security take control of us, having turned us into a people of fear. Protect our schools, protect our families, protect our churches , protect our investments and our national interests. But in this search for security where has our mission gone? With all this emphasis on protection what exactly are we giving? Is it any wonder that the world finds our message to be so selfish, so hateful, so ugly?
Condor and Rhodes, Free For All, p 215

Hello. My name is Phyll Douglas Anthony McBrian, and as a self-appointed spokesperson for the emergent church, or whatever we are calling ourselves nowadays (as if it mattered), I have decided that I simply must address this heinous thing in the church that my fellow emergents Condor and Rhodes have touched upon.

The church is too safe.

I remember, years ago, I was attending a particular church. I wanderd by the nursery area, and do you know what I found there? I found toys that were considered appropriate for children of that age, rubber duckies and blocks, not a single choking hazard at all. To my dismay, I learned that there would be "adult supervision", intended to keep the children safe. And to my horror, I learned that they were going to give them a snack. It's not that a few cookies were so bad, but that they were going to make the kids wash their hands before eating. With soap!!

And this church was filled with other horrible examples of their mad addiction to security. They had stairs, and those stairs had handrails, so people could more safely go up and down them. I even saw an elevator for those with wheelchairs or other handicaps that would make make it unsafe for them to use the stairs. And on the outside there was a wheelchair ramp! With rails!!

And I saw horrible impliments of safety, like fire alarms and fire extinguishers, and emergency exits. There was even a first-aid kit or two about.

And, finally, I bet that if I had accessed their computers, I would have found security software on it--anti-virus, anti-malware, all kinds of anti-hacker things.

I bet they even had insurance. The pastor and others probably had health assurance. Their cars probably had car insurance.

Could you believe it? What a bunch of selfish, hateful, and ugly people!! How dare they try to protect themselves, the old people visiting, the children in their nursery! What kind of message is that sending? How dare they fear that their children might choke on a toy not appropriate for their age! How dare they fear fire so badly that they have alarms and extinguishers! How dare they fear hackers to such an extend that they put protective software on their computers!

I never returned to the church of those safety-idolators.

Ur fail make us sad.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

getting the Right wrong, as usual

Now ask yourself, what does the Religious Right look like? Do they support a political vision that would expect the best of us, a vision that would inspire us to make economic sacrifices for the common good, for health care and the relief of poverty? Or do they support a political vision that underestimates the generosity of Americans and appeals to our greed by promising to reduce out taxes? Are they mad with their love of the poor and oppressed, or are they just plain mad because somebody is asking them to reach into their pockets?
John Caputo, What Would Jesus Deconstruct, p 96

These are, as you can imagine, loaded questions. Let me do a couple of things here. First, let me rephrase them so that they can be similarly applied to the Left, religious or otherwise.

Does the Left, religious or otherwise, have a political vision that would expect the best of us? A vision that would expect us to make the sacrifice of accepting responsibility for our own actions? Or do they underestimate the intelligence of Americans, and appeal to their greed in the form of government redistribution of wealth? Are they really mad with love for the poor and oppressed, or are they just plain mad because the American people, the Constitution, and the laws of the land are against their agenda?

Now, let me rephrase Caputo's questions, so that they more fairly relate to reality.

Do the Right, religious or otherwise, support a political vision that expects the best of us? I think that is a "yes", with of course reasonable reservations. Those reservations would be things like law enforcement, because they are needed. But, yes, the Right does expect people to act well--to obey the laws, the work so as to provide for themselves and their families and their own wants and needs and, if they choose, to give to those in need, through charities and otherwise, as they themselves deem fit.

Does the Right inspire us to economic sacrifices? Wow, that's a very loaded statement by Caputo. We would have to know what he means by 'economic sacrifices', and he tells us--high taxes. Amazing how generous people like Caputo are with other people's money.

Let me attempt a rephrasing here--does the Right inspire and expect us to help others? I think that is another "yes". But the difference is that the Right is quite willing to give a hand up, by that I mean help people get education and training, find work they can do, and help those who are for whatever reason unable to help themselves. We are somewhat less inclined to help those who while able-bodied demand that they be provided for without working for it, or those who continue in desolute lifestyles like drunkeness or drug addiction. For those who want out of those addiction, let all reasonable or even more-than-reasonable help be given, but not a cent to allow them to continue in it. If they insist on wasting their own lives, do not let them also waste the lives and substance of others.

Does the Right believe in the generosity of Americans? Time and again, we have seen that generosity, so how could we not? It is, rather, ones like Caputo who do not believe in it, but rather feel that they must force the American people to be generous by taking from them what they have earned through taxes, often even before they get their paychecks.

Does the Right appeal to greed by promising to lower taxes? Wow, let's see, "We promise to let you keep more of the money you worked for and earned." Yeah, that's an appeal to greed. Note the sarcasm.

I would say, rather, that the Left appeals to greed through their class warfare rhetoric. What is class warfare but the greed of those who have not for what those who have have? Greed is a common human vice, no doubt present among those on the Right, but no less so than among those on the Left. It is a human sin, not the sin of any particular economic system. No doubt there are greedy capitalists, but there are also greedy socialists and communists.

Is the Right mad with love for the poor and oppressed? Caputo wrote this a few years ago, he spends no small amount of the book attacking the Bush adminstation, but this could still be applicable today, in an economy that is simply bad (mostly Obama's fault, but I do remember that it started with Bush and the first stimulous or bailout or whatever it was called). Now, what I find important is that, contrary to what seems to be conventional wisdom (sadly, one time when conventional wisdom is far more conventional than wise), the Right is far more generous than the Left.

Does the Right want to help the poor? Yes. But not by making them dependent on a government dole, but rather by helping them get out of their poverty through education and work. We have seen how making them dependent on the government hurts the poor, not helps them. The government simply does charitable work very poorly, often causing more harm than good.

Perhaps a more pertinent way to phrase this question would be as such--Does the Right want to help the poor, or do they want to make the poor dependent? Does the Right believe tax cuts are good for many reasons, one being that they allow businesses to keep more of their profits and thus hire more people?

And so, Mr. Caputo, here is the birdict.


i already gave, i was taxed

Indeed, I could imagine that if the New Testament is our literal guide, then the standad tax rate for Christians should be set at 100%
John Caputo, What Would Jesus Deconstruct, p 93

That is an interesting claim. His support for it?

The early Christians lived in common and distributed to one another according to their needs; in fact, one of the first disputes to break out in the church was whether this distribution was truly equal (Acts 6:1).

And Acts 6:1 says...

Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution.

An interesting claim. I would certainly like to see how that equates into Christians needing to be subjected to a 100% tax rate.

I've heard that claim about the early church before, or something similar. For my part, I have to question if what the early church practices were so much like the communism people like Caputo seem to want.

For example, here are Acts 2: 46-47

So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

And also Acts 4:32-35

Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. Nor was there anyone among them who lacked, for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things they sold, and laid them at the apostle's' feet, and they distributed to each as anyone had need.

Again, fascinating. At the risk of being contrary, I think it would be safe to say that this must mean that not all homeowners sold the homes they were living in--it hardly seems to be smart to help others by making ones so destitute that one must then become a part of the supported. Though the idea that it may have been an extra home or excess land is interesting.

But one things is pretty clear--this is something the people were doing themselves, of their own accord. It was not coerced by the church, as the account of Peter's confronting Ananias and Sapphire shows. It was their own money, they could have done with it as they wished, their sin was not in keeping back a part of it, but in lying about it.

Nor was it normative. People may make much of Jesus telling a rich young ruler to sell all he had, but so far as I can remember, that was the only person to whom Jesus said that. He seemed quite pleased enough that the tax collector Zacheaus gave half (I can well image a Caputo smirking that it was 'only' half), and seems to have not held it against Lazarus and his sisters that they had their own house, but rather accepted their hospitality in allowing Him and his disciples to sometimes stay there (which likely meant it was a pretty large house, since it could hold so many guests).

This is telling, for Caputo writes things like this...

I may be forgiven (I depend a lot on the Christian virtue) if I have concluded that the private-charity argument is a cynical cover for greed, which has a way of working thigns out so that I get to keep as much money as I can for myself and let the poorest of the poor go to the devil.
p 93

What is telling is that, after saying that, he looks to the early church for support for his positions. But the early church was practicing private charity, not tax and redistribute. They certainly weren't being funded by the government of Rome or of Israel, and not by the Jewish religious authorities (unless those were themselves private individuals giving to the church, which ones like Nicodemus may well have done). It was members, be they individuals or families or maybe some small group or two of them, who of their own accord (with the leading of the Spirit, perhaps) sold their own things and gave the proceeds to the church (not sold their own things and then waited for the various governments to tax them) so that those the church set in place to provide those in need may do so, not let far-off government bureaucrats decide issues of welfare.

Friday, December 3, 2010

another dippy sojo comment

Maybe I should make this a regular thing. I doubt I will, though, mostly because I don't have the time for it. Many more things I'd rather do, or must do.

But some jewels of stunning nonsense should be shared.

The Story of One Unemployed Man

The main article itself would be of interest--Sojo supports policies that endanger jobs, frequently castigating the US for many of various sins real and imagined, and simply seem to want us to do away with economic policies that have been proven to work for those that have time and again proven to be failures. And when the failures happen, like with this anonymous person she's talking about, well, it's up to the government to take from those who have to give to those who have not.

What I found hilarious, though, was this comment.

Extending the bush tax rates for the wealthy will not help build a business. Taxing them at 90% would effectively force them to build their business by giving them the incentive to invest instead of paying the tax. You have it backwords.

Oh, really? Taxing those labelled "wealthy" 90% is an incentive to grow business?

Wow, that's surprising.

Oh, I could see it being an incentive of sorts. An incentive to continue moving jobs from the US to other countries. An incentive to find places where they can build their businesses without them being place for government charities to syphon off funds. Perhaps even an incentive to decide that it's just not worth it, that it'd be better to simply not try to build when almost the entirety of what you build is taken away by law.

An incentive to keep fighting so that an overbloated government can continue to take away a vast majority of what one as worked for? Hardly.

Even this bunny  Knows you failed