Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Totally Like Whatever By Taylor Mali

I heard Chris Seay quote this poem in a CD of a lesson he taught at Mars Hill Church in Seattle. It's great.

Totally like whatever, you know?
By Taylor Mali

In case you hadn't noticed,
it has somehow become uncool
to sound like you know what you're talking about?
Or believe strongly in what you're saying?
Invisible question marks and parenthetical (you know?)'s
have been attaching themselves to the ends of our sentences?
Even when those sentences aren't, like, questions? You know?

Declarative sentences - so-called
because they used to, like, DECLARE things to be true
as opposed to other things which were, like, not -
have been infected by a totally hip
and tragically cool interrogative tone? You know?
Like, don't think I'm uncool just because I've noticed this;
this is just like the word on the street, you know?
It's like what I've heard?
I have nothing personally invested in my own opinions, okay?
I'm just inviting you to join me in my uncertainty?

What has happened to our conviction?
Where are the limbs out on which we once walked?
Have they been, like, chopped down
with the rest of the rain forest?
Or do we have, like, nothing to say?
Has society become so, like, totally . . .
I mean absolutely . . . You know?
That we've just gotten to the point where it's just, like . . .

And so actually our disarticulation . . . ness
is just a clever sort of . . . thing
to disguise the fact that we've become
the most aggressively inarticulate generation
to come along since . . .
you know, a long, long time ago!

I entreat you, I implore you, I exhort you,
I challenge you: To speak with conviction.
To say what you believe in a manner that bespeaks
the determination with which you believe it.
Because contrary to the wisdom of the bumper sticker,
it is not enough these days to simply QUESTION AUTHORITY.
You have to speak with it, too.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Fear and Trembling in Philippians

The phrase “work out your salvation in fear and trembling” is possibly one of the most contextually abused passages within the history of my tradition (churches of Christ). I remember hearing it in sermons(note: not my father's sermons), at youth rallies, and at church camp. The point was always the same…you’d better be vigilantly making sure that you’ve dotted all your “i”’s and crossed all your “t”’s because God was watching, and that was something to be afraid of. Indeed our disregard for the context of this passage may have contributed greatly to our “once saved, never quite sure you’re saved” theology. Needless to say, this interpretation makes no sense with in even the immediate context of Philippians. Beginning in chapter 1, verse 12, Paul explains his situation. He is “in chains”, but does not despair because the gospel is being advanced through his circumstance. In verses 15-18, he make a very odd point about people who preach the Gospel out of envy and rivalry. He implies that their motivation is irrelevant (at least for the point at hand) because the Gospel is still being preached (an odd point to make, if a few verses later you are going to try to induce a form of theological paranoia). In verse 27, Paul reminds them that they are “citizens of heaven”, which can certainly be read as being in tension with the empire of Rome (both by Paul’s readers and by Rome itself). He follows this up by encouraging them not to be frightened (which would seem to reinforce this interpretation, as it was quite a dangerous thing to be in tension with Rome). In chapter 2, he follows all of this up with the encouragement to have the mind and attitude of Christ. He illustrates this point with an apparent hymn extolling Christ’s attitude and the obedience and death on a cross that were the outworking of that attitude. However, the hymn also makes a point to explain that in God’s reality, the present perceived reality is turned on it’s head with Christ being victorious and the “powers” becoming obedient. It is against this backdrop that Paul inserts the line “work out your salvation in fear and trembling,” although even stating it like that is somewhat misleading, as this isn’t even the whole sentence. It actually states “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” Perhaps it could be better translated, “In light of everything we have discussed so far, just as you always have, continue to live out the reality of your salvation in the midst of fear and trembling.” (targum mine ;) ) This interpretation would seem to be confirmed by the following verses in which Paul encourages them to do everything without complaining so that they might become blameless and pure children of God in a warped and crooked generation. (emphasis mine). Once again, the idea seems to be “live out this reality in the midst of another reality.”


Friday, September 08, 2006

The Gospel According To Ricky Bobby

So, I saw Talladega Nights . Yes, it was funny...and yes, in places it was fairly vulgar. Oddly enough though, it's not the vulgarity that I hear most Christians I know (who didn't like the movie) raising objections to. Instead, they object to the prayer scene. In this scene, Ricky Bobby (a NASCAR driver played by Will Ferral), sits with his family and best friend around a dinner table (of fast food) and says "grace" before the meal. He begins by addressing his prayer to "Baby Jesus" and proceeds to thank him for all of his material possessions and success. He is sure to mention all of his corporate sponsors (some because of a contractual obligation requiring him to do so). As he repeatedly refers to "Baby" or "Infant" Jesus, an argument breaks out in the middle of the prayer. Ricky's wife informs him that Jesus grew up, and insists that it's weird to pray to a baby. Ricky informs her that he prefers "the Christmas Jesus", and since he's saying grace, he'll pray to whoever he wants to. At this point, Ricky's friend Cal starts pointing out all of the ways that he likes to picture Jesus (in a tuxedo T-Shirt, as the lead singer for Lynyrd Skynyrd, etc.) As Cal rambles on with his ridiculous characterizations of Jesus, Ricky's wife Carly interrupts and demands that Ricky finish the "d*mn grace" and that he does it good so that God will let him win his race the next day. Ricky finishes his prayer (making sure to emphasize that it's the baby Jesus that he's praying to), and at it's conclusion everyone gives high fives and congratulates him on how good he did. One of his sons even "compliments" him by saying that he made that "grace" his "b****".

Are you shocked? Are you offended? Are you thinking "How dare they?" I thought it was some of the most brilliant social commentary I have ever seen. The reason that it stings it because it is an exaggeration of the truth. American Christianity can look an awful lot like that, particularly to outsiders. Prayers are performance used to curry favor. We remake Jesus to our liking...or our comfort. It's a caricature of the dissonance between the story we claim and the story we live. We've made "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" about how our kids can win sporting events.

Do I think it was written to be social commentary? Probably not overtly. However, it wouldn't be passed off as comedy if the obviously dissonant situation didn't exist in the first place. Did I laugh? Yes...a lot...probably to keep from crying.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

PRR Returns and a Book Tag


Post-Restorationist Radio is back on the "air" after it's summer hiatus. This week Phil and I were joined by Matt Wilson in a discussion about viewing scripture through a relational lens rather than a judicial (legal) lens. This was one of the rare occasions where we got to sit in the same room and chat (we usually do it over the internet) and we had a blast. We are also looking into the possibility of Matt joining us more frequently.

Click here to get your own player.

Book Tag

Also, Phil book tagged me, so here goes:

1. One book that changed your life:
As cliche' as it may be, Brian McLaren's A New Kind of Christian changed my life and in a very real way saved or at least reinvigorated my faith.

2. One book that you've read more than once:
Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell. Well, I've read it and listened to the audio book many times. Always refreshing. Always challenging.

3. One book that you'd want on a desert island:
Dallas Willards The Divine Conspiracy. I've read it and I was deeply moved and challenged by it, but I'm also quite sure that I've only scratched the surface of this profound work.

4. One book that made you laugh.
To Own A Dragon by Donald Miller. The first chapter had tears rolling down my cheeks because I was laughing so hard.

5. One book that made you cry:
I'm embarrassed to write this, but I distinctly remember crying when I read Where The Red Fern Grows in like 5th or 6th grade. It was the first time I really engaged with a book and a character (who was not even a nice character) died. The description was so vivid that I was brought to tears.

6. One book you wish you'd written:
The Secret Message of Jesus by Brian McLaren. That book is a profound work of truth and beauty.

7. One book you wish had never been written:
Piloting the Strait by Dave Miller. No comment.

8. One book you are currently reading:
A Heretic's Guide to Eternity by Spencer Burke

9. One book you've been meaning to read:
The Trinity and the Kingdom by Jurgen Moltmann

10. Tag others
Tony Griffies, Jon Owen, Kenneth Grizzell, Jovan Barrington, BST, Dana Ellis

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Free Derek Webb

Most of you know that I'm a big fan of Derek Webb. His music provides a provocative and needed voice. He has decided to offer his new CD for free download. I highly recommend that you take advantage of this. Click on the image or title to go to the download site.