- If you've got loads of the time, the best way to enjoy the blog is to start reading at the beginning and work your way forward.
- Since very few of us have that kind of time, use the recaps to look at 10 or so games at a time.
Friday, March 31, 2006
Thursday, March 30, 2006
There are a lot of issues when it comes to Christianity and truth - which is a little weird, when you think about the whole "thou shalt not bear false witness" thing in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20) - and I'm going to take them on here in the Grapevine over the next couple of weeks. Let's get started... We had a great week (well, 4 days) with Dr. Allen Troxler & the book of Mark. (For me, it was really cool to work through the layers of meaning behind the triumphal entry... that was new territory for me.) On Sunday morning, Allen started out his message with a rather famous story: There was a professor of philosophy who was a deeply committed atheist. His primary goal for one required class was to spend the entire semester attempting to prove that God couldn’t exist. His students were always afraid to argue with him because of his impeccable logic. For twenty years, he had taught this class and no one had ever had the courage to go against him. Sure, some had argued in class at times, but no one had ever really gone against him because of his reputation. At the end of every semester on the last day, he would say to his class of 300 students, "If there is anyone here who still believes in Jesus, stand up!" In twenty years, no one had ever stood up. They knew what he was going to do next. He would say, "Because anyone who believes in God is a fool. If God existed, he could stop this piece of chalk from hitting the ground and breaking. Such a simple task to prove that He is God, and yet He can’t do it." And every year, he would drop the chalk onto the tile floor of the classroom and it would shatter into a hundred pieces. All of the students would do nothing but stop and stare. Most of the students thought that God couldn’t exist. Certainly, a number of Christians had slipped through, but for 20 years, they had been too afraid to stand up.
Well, a few years ago there was a freshman who happened to enroll. He was a Christian, and had heard the stories about his professor. He was required to take the class for his major, and he was afraid. But for three months that semester, he prayed every morning that he would have the courage to stand up no matter what the professor said, or what the class thought. Nothing they said could ever shatter his faith...he hoped.
Finally, the day came. The professor said, " If there is anyone here who still believes in God, stand up!" The professor and the class of 300 people looked at him, shocked, as he stood up at the back of the classroom. The professor shouted, "You FOOL!!! If God existed, he would keep this piece of chalk from breaking when it hit the ground!" He proceeded to drop the chalk, but as he did, it slipped out of his fingers, off his shirt cuff, onto the pleat of his pants, down his leg, and off his shoe. As it hit the ground, it simply rolled away unbroken. The professor’s jaw dropped as he stared at the chalk. He looked up at the young man, and then ran out of the lecture hall. The young man who had stood, proceeded to walk to the front of the room and shared his faith in Jesus for the next half hour. 300 students stayed and listened as he told of God’s love for them and of His power through Jesus.
Great story, eh? But just as Allen said Sunday morning... it's not true. It's an urban legend. (For more background on the story, see truthorfiction.com.) Allen went on to focus on "urban legends" in the story of the woman anointing Jesus... but I want to deal specifically with the college class story for a minute. What is it that causes us as Christians to forward these kind of stories, even though the vast majority of them are bogus? I've got some ideas... but for this week, I'll just focus on one. We are, unfortunately, pragmatists. A pragmatist bases his decisions, beliefs & behaviors on "what works"... and while there's a temptation to follow that kind of logic, that can easily lead us to allow a Machiavellian "ends justify the means" attitude to creep into the way we share the faith. We deplore when cults use techniques like "flirty fishing" (sending attractive young women to seduce/indoctrinate young men into a cult) - but this kind of "bait & switch" method is not ethically very far from justifying telling stories with no basis in fact (i.e., lies!) in order that people will believe in Jesus. You could well point out that Jesus told stories (parables) that may or may not have been "true" stories. Here's the difference: Jesus doesn't claim that these parables, used to illustrate & illuminate particular points of theology, were actual events. You could also point out that people have been saved under the ministry of some world class liars (Mike Warnke springs to mind). But the fact that God allowed someone to cross the line of faith in this manner doesn't justify the behavior - it simply highlights the grace of God. Here's the deal... truth is important. If a seeker finds out we're willing to make up/spread stories because of their emotional effect, then it's a hop, skip & a jump to wondering what else about the Bible & Christianity is "made-up." So, what should we do?
- Check out stuff that's forwarded to you against those sites - and have the courage to let people know when they've forwarded you "junk".
- Tell real stories... stories you have personal knowledge of. God has done so many amazing things in our hearts & lives - we don't need to make stuff up!
Proverbs 12:17,19,22; 14:5,25; 16:13
- two ladies we don't know
- Laura Edwards (Braeden's favorite babysitter)
- Shelley Edwards (she was on the search team that brought us to Easton - also a good friend to Shari)
- Mackenzy Edwards (Laura's little sister)
- Braeden Jackson (Rescue Heroes-obsessed 4 year old who likes beating his dad at board games)
- Shari Jackson (beautiful wife whose birthday is TOMORROW!)
- Collin Jackson (just along for the ride... dreaming about the board games he will one day beat his father at)
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
Sunday, March 12, 2006
- I have watched my home church slowly implode. They are working and scrambling to find the perfect program that will bring in the “right kind of people” and have in the process managed to decrease attendance and look really stupid. And, oh yeah, they fired my dad and then lied about it.
- My Mother is a compulsive church-goer. She has given some of the best parts of her life to a congregation who doesn’t appear to appreciate the gift. As a result, we miss those best parts and the people who get them don’t seem to care.
- I don’t fit the church demographic as I have known it. I’m single and I have yet to vote Republican. Sometimes it has felt that there isn't a place for me.
- When they have places, they are singles groups.
- And singles groups are by nature creepy.
- Because I am not trolling the churches for a husband.
- But plenty of guys are trolling the churches for a wife.
- The bit of depression I deal with has done a number on my self esteem and sometimes it’s terrifying to put myself “out there” to new people. I do far better getting to know people when we work together at something I am good at
- And I am not good at church
- Because (and this is the most definitive answer I can find) church has always been a place where you have to be perfect
- Or at least really, really, good.
- And lots of times, I am just not.
I can give an answer for every single item on that list (so don't try to give me any, please.), but at Sunday morning wake up time, none of them hold water.
There's more to her post than that... like I said earlier, you ought to read the whole thing.
I responded with:You succinctly & carefully lay out the fears, hurts & hopes of so many folks when it comes to dealing with institutionalized church. As a pastor, I just want to apologize for our tendency in church to value conformity over authenticity and perfect exteriors over transformed interiors. At the same time, I encourage you not to give up on church. It's kind of like sex. (Really... not kidding. Let me explain!) Sex was/is this incredible wonderful amazing idea in the mind/heart of God, given to us to enjoy & use & cherish. It makes a marriage more than simply a promise of respect; sex morphs marriage into an intimate alliance shot through with physical & emotional vulnerability. And we have managed to reduce it to a physical act/exchange of bodily fluids, casually used & abused & downgraded to an instinctual response used to sell hair care products & beer. By the same token, church was/is this incredible wonderful amazing idea in the mind/heart of God, given to us to enjoy & use & cherish. It makes following God more than a personal act of will; church gives us allies/friends/compadres to explore the physical & spiritual world with... iron that sharpens iron and, at it's best, brothers & sisters who mourn with those mourn & rejoice with those who rejoice. There is a tenderness & grace & vulnerability in an authentic Biblical community that make our hearts beat quickly & our spirits soar. And, as you so beautifully related, we have managed all too often to reduce it to an elaborate play where we all wear Greek comedy masks, reciting lines we barely believe at each other. No wonder it sucks people like your mother dry... church can be a people-eating monster rather than a community of Christ-followers. Well, didn't think I'd go off quite like that when I started this response. My prayer: that your Lenten experiment helps you find a place where there are no scripts, no masks, and the Director comes complete with grace, truth, & holes in His wrists & side. Evidently, I'm not the only person who was drawn to Educat's story... and she responded later in the week with two posts, one about the effect of the service she attended (Where I'm Starting) and one that more specifically dealt with her frustration of being used as a poster child for "the unchurched" (Extending the Metaphor). Again, you ought to read the whole thing, but here's a taste just the same. Mark made the observation that church is like sex. To simplify, when used right, it's good. When society gets hold of it, it can be used improperly and hurt people. I'd like to kindly extend the metaphor, if I may. Let's say someone is hurt by sex. She was abused or something like it. Let's say lots of well meaning people who love her tell her that the solution to her fear of sex is to find the right partner and enter a physical relationship. Those people counsel her. They talk and talk to her about her problem and try to get her to date lots of people so that she will find that healthy relationship and experience something that will strengthen the relationship as an expression of love that will also serve as a means of procreation. I have had some bad church. I don't know if abuse is fair, but for whatever reason, I've got issues. Lots and lots and lots of well meaning people have told me that the solution to not liking church is to go to church. They've told me over and over how good church is and to "get back in there". It hasn't worked yet. Here's what's worked (to the extent that anything has). I've watched people in good relationships with the church. I've watched people who I know have been hurt go back and risk more hurt. Sometimes, though, they find the right match and form great relationships with the church that strengthens their relationship with God and serves as an encouragement to others. They don't talk it too much, but they've done more for my will to come back than any Monday night visitation ever has. It wouldn't work to overtalk our sexual abuse victim. She probably needs to just watch relationships until she finds someone she trusts and to enter a relationship when the time is right. The moral of the story is, let's not overtalk this. I have heard over and over that the "good church" is out there, but I don't need to hear about it. I need to see it. So give me time, I'm watching. Which brings me to my final point to those of us on "the inside" - how do we live "good church" for the sake of Educat & and the millions like her? Isn't it time to stop hounding people with guilt & the Chinese water torture of visitation and instead spend our energy living out the community Christ called us to?!
Monday, March 06, 2006
- Initial reports put viewership down by 10%... which is hardly surprising, considering that the majority of the nominated films didn't connect with the public at large. I'm not saying that these films didn't earn money or recognition, just that they didn't capture a wide swath of viewer loyalty & interest.
- Jon Stewart is very funny on The Daily Show. He was not particularly funny last night. I particularly didn't like the "Jimmy Kimmel Live"-ish bits (the campaign commercials, the gay cowboy montage) which fit nicely on a late night talk show but seem woefully out of place in an evening set aside to honor excellence in filmmaking. (It's one of the major problems of cyncism & irony - when our humor is based entirely on shredding things, what do you do when you want to give something honor? You're forced to undercut your admiration & praise with a sly wink... sigh.)
- I will give Jon Stewart credit for the best line of the night, however - following a montage of "message" films, he commented: "And none of those issues were ever a problem again." (Smirk) A well-placed pin jab in the self-inflated importance of the Hollywood elite.
- Look, I don't hate Hollywood. I love movies. I think they are the "sitting around the fire storyteller" of our media-heavy generation. But it's important to remember that media doesn't lead cultural change as much as it reflects it.
- Rachel Murray (aka Rachel Jones) beat me by ONE STINKIN' POINT in my annual Oscar Pool. (For those of you who are mid-gasp that I'm running a mini-gambling ring out of the church office, please note that there is no financial reward here. All you get is bragging rights for next year.) Congrats, Rachel.
- Movie I need to see: Crash (and not just because it won Best Picture... the whole issue of racism in America is important stuff for those of us who claim to follow Jesus)
- Nominated Movies I'd Actually Seen Before the Awards: Pride & Prejudice (which should have garnered some awards - what a delightful film), Batman Begins, Chronicles of Narnia, Star Wars Episode III, King Kong, and Wallace & Gromit. Yep, 6 films.
- Last but not least... Ben Stiller is the King of Uncomfortable Comedy. (See the picture above.)