New Order?

Henry Kissinger and Chairman Mao, with Zhou En...

Henry Kissinger speaking with Chairman Mao.

The following quote by Henry Kissinger in his recent book, “On China,” relates to the reasons for the profound one year change from near-war animosity between China & the U.S. to both governments preparing for Nixon’s historic first visit to Mao’s China. This is the “It” that begins the quote.  What lessons can we learn for our dealings with the prevalent proclivities we find in our antagonistic and animosity filled culture and the Church’s engagement with it?

“It did so by sidestepping the rhetoric of two decades & staying focused on the fundamental strategic objective of a geopolitical dialogue leading to a recasting of the Cold War international order.” (On China, Kissinger; p. 234).

Is such a reordering possible in our two-decades old U.S. Culture War that has perverted our governmental processes and the Christian Faith in the U.S.? 

What should we sidestep? How do we do it?  What remains of the enduring “strategic objective” of the Church – for those who claim Christ who desire to find a way beyond the hubris, the anger, the bitterness, the spitefulness, the willful ignorance, the vengeful attitudes and actions that subsume so much of what is the Body of Christ, today?

Unwanted wisdom

Richard Rohr

Image via Wikipedia

you try to assert wisdom before people have themselves walked it, be
prepared for much resistance, denial, push-back, and verbal debate.”

Richard Rohr, (Falling Upward; via MINemergent)

This is very true. There is also the reality that people who speak truth in these days, whose “yes” is yes and whose “no” is no, who and actually deal with the issues that become big, white elephants in the room, well these people are going to be resisted, are going to be accused, and are going to be opposed. (The vested interests of the status-quo will not recuse themselves easily, even as their failure is imminent.)

This is too bad, because when we speak truthfully, with consistency, and actually deal squarely with the real problems we face, then real, positive, and workable change for the better can occur.  This is, of course, called integrity. 

When we live within integrity, we then earn a hearing and garner respect from those who want nothing to do with the institutions to which we (I) belong – namely, the Church.

China = the Church


Henry Kissinger and Chairman Mao, with Zhou En...

Image via Wikipedia

ere is an interesting review of Henry Kissinger’s new book, On China, in this past week’s edition of Newsweek, entitled, Dr. K’s RX for China.”  (Accessed 5/31/2011)  (NYT’s Book Review)

A comment made by the review out of Kissinger’s book is that the leadership in China has many millennia of history and experience to draw from when sociological, political, military, and economic decisions are made and strategic plans are developed for dealing with interior and exterior issues and problems.  Whereas, the U.S. has only a couple hundred years of such experience – barely a ripple. 
If there were to be real conflict between the U.S. and China (which, sadly, almost seems inevitable), I suspect that in the long run the winner will be those for whom exists a deep well of wisdom and patience born of hundreds of centuries and who actually pay attention to it – they will probably prevail.  It is not simply that China has such an overwhelming population three times that of the U.S., but that they way they think and the patience that is realized will provide for them, well.  Of course, there is also negatives with this way of thinking, being, and acting.
This is the case for anyone or any nation that is patient and has a clear understanding of where it has been, where it now is, what it is, and where it is going.
This is why, IMHO, the enduring Christian Church with two thousands years of history and experience behind it and informing those who will listen will far outlast the trendy Christian Church of the last one hundred years, and more particularly since the 1960’s.  Even now, statistics suggest this to be the case.  Again, this does not mean that the Church does not or should not engage in change, but that which endures is what is reliable.

Changing landscape of Belief

PASADENA, CA - OCTOBER 29:  Copies of The Chri...

Image by Getty Images via @daylife

The Christian Science Monitor published an opinion piece online March 24th, 2011. The piece is by Jonathan Merritt and entitled,”Evangelical shift on gays: Why ‘clobber scriptures’ are losing ground.”

I’ve been watching this shift over the last 20 odd years. I’m still amazed at the length certain anti-homosexual groups go to attempt to reinforce their positions, even while the arguments they use are constantly changing over time because their arguments of justification loose their persuasive force as the blanket exaggerations or misinformation of gay people become all too clear.  It does them no good nor their argument when what they say no longer seems to line up with what more and more people are experiencing in their day-to-day lives.

They’ve lost the emerging generations, already. In Barna Group‘s research project that resulted in the book “unChristian,” one of their primary findings suggests that emerging young people find Christianity in the U.S. to be profoundly anti-homosexual, and it doesn’t jib well with their own beliefs or experiences.

(Now, I will say that much depends on how one defines “homosexual” or how one believes homosexuals think or act in the aggregate. The primarily Religious Right anti-homosexual groups try to persuade people that most all homosexuals are sex-crazed alcoholics who will just as soon molest your young son as have a coke at the corner dinner. Spreading this kind of misinformation is simply baring false-witness against a whole class of people, whether one believes those people need saving, healing, or death or not.  As a Christian, I will say that much of what is presented as normative in the urban gay subculture by certain gay interests – hedonism – isn’t the kind of life that is conducive to our own personal best interests.  But, the gay people involved in living their lives in such a way are no different than what I witnessed in my 20-years working in higher education with students who happen to be in the straight Greek system – unabashed hedonists.)

Back to the issue at hand and speaking of “clobber passages”… I’ve particularly noticed how Bible publishers have been dealing with the issue.  As might be known, the term “homosexual” never appeared in an English Bible until the mid-to-late 1950’s – that’s approximate 450 years without such a term in English Bibles. Over the years, as their arguments against all forms of homosexual relationships continue to gain less traction, the anti-homosexual groups attempt to reinforce their position by becoming even more specific and detailed in their demand of and translation of Scripture to attempt to bolster their failing arguments. 

For example, the length that the English Standard Bible goes to attempt to make specifically clear that the obscure Greek words found in I Corinthians 6:9 are absolutely about homosexuals, but not just homosexuals, but about men, and not just men, but in the footnote pertaining the to two Greek words, men who are the passive AND the active partners AND both giving consent.  The ESV translates the Greek words, “nor men who practice homosexuality,” with the footnote clarifying the mean with, “The two Greek terms translated by this phrase refer to the passive and active partners in consensual homosexual acts.” 

The King James version translates the words this way, “…nor effeminate, or abusers of themselves with mankind.”  The New International Version translates the words this way, “…nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders.”  The New American Standard Version translates the words this way, “…nor effeminate, nor homosexuals,” with the footnote specifying, “I.e., effeminate by perversion.”  (How is one “effeminate by perversion?”)The New Revised Standard Version translates the words this way, “males prostitutes, sodomites…” 

The truth is, whether it supports a socio-political position or agenda or not (conservative or liberal), we simply do not know what Paul meant.  Yet, in order to tow the anti-homosexual line, Bible publishers cave into the demand by anti-gay Religious Right organizations to take a anti-gay stand in the translation of these words. (I Tim. 1:10, is another example) I’ve witnessed big campaigns that demand the Bible publishers publish the translation even more specific, as we witness in the EVS. 

After all, we have to make the Bible absolutely specific in order to keep ignorant people from being deceived by Satan (through the liberal Bible “scholars”) trying to make homosexuality not a sin, make in normal and celebrated in the public mind, when we know that the end of this will be death and the end of Western Civilization by the punishing judgement of God.  Right?  You see why the anti-gay zealots have to exert a great deal of pressure on the Bible publishers to be absolutely specific that God condemns in no uncertain terms everything homosexual, whether we know the Greek words used by Paul actually mean “homosexuals” or not.

The problem, as the opinion piece details, these kinds of arguments are no longer persuading the emerging generations.  It isn’t that the fags are winning in the deceiving of young, impressionable minds (although there is some truth in the assertion that the pro-gay message has more traction than the anti-gay message), but that the justifications and “proofs” for the anti-gay arguments are being shown to be fallacious.

I want to be clear, as a Christian and as a priest in this Church, our role and goal is not simply to affirm different groups of people, including homosexual people.  Our goal is always and for everyone – everyone – the cause of Christ for salvation, reconciliation, and restoration calling us into such a life that we become free of so much within our world that binds us, deadens us, enslaves us, deceives us, and causes our lives to be separated from God and estranged form one another.  This means that I call homosexual people as another other people into the reconciling relationship with God through Jesus Christ.  This will transform us and cause us to be different – not tied up in knots by giving ourselves to the hedonistic culture.  This does not mean, however, that homosexuals stop being homosexual.  Gay or straight, we are called to be with God according to God’s ways and not simply according to the dictates of the prevailing culture or our own proclivities.

The anti-gay Religious Right will not win in their quest and crusade, because their positions cannot be sustained according to the truth that we know.  Yet, they will become even more demanding and stringent as they lose influence, as their arguments fail.  Unless, of course, as we are witnessing, people change their positions.  This has already happened for the majority of younger people.


From a short article in Newsweek (Feb. 14th edition, pg. 6) dealing with e-books and the future of print books into the future.

“The Future of the Book” – from James Billington, librarian of Congress:

“The new immigrants don’t shoot the old inhabitants when they come in. Our technology tends to supplement rather than supplant.  How you read is not as important as: will you read? And will you read something that’s a book – the sustained train of thought of one person speaking to another? Search techniques are embedded in e-books that invite people to dabble rather than follow a full train of thought. This is part of a general cultural problem.” (emphasis mine)

What impact might this “dabbling” have on the “train of thought” of the Gospel? What impact might this development have on already short attention spans?  How might this impact our engagement with knowledge, that requires sustained and perhaps linear processes? How might this change teaching and learning?

I believe this is an important idea or consequence to investigate.

Brain Freeze

I was looking through this morning.  I’m in the process of uploading my Israel/Jordan photographs to my account.  I noticed a couple photographs from people I follow and ended up on this guys website.  “Mer” is his moniker, perhaps his real name… I’m not sure.  Anyway, one post on his blog caught my attention.  It is entitled, “Anthony’s computer is giving him diverticulitis.”  The post is presented as a conversation – whether actual or as commentary I don’t know – between I suspect Mer and Anthony.

“I don’t know my best interest.”

“It appears that way.”

“No I need someone to come into my life….someone maybe hired that comes in and protects me from this culture.”


“That person would put me on a cultural diet.”

“I’m sorry?”

would have to go into texting or cable news deprivation for months.
That person would demand me to use a land line for a prescribed amount
of time. Putting a lap band around my laptop use.”

“Slapping mobile devices out of your hand.”

“This person would come into my life and begin cutting away at the obesity of distraction.”

“Sounds like textration.”

need this. I love this sort of socialist counselor. I have ran amok.
Gorged myself on the hedonistic part of the culture and come away with
diseases. All because I like a big bowl of societal High Fructose Corn

“Sounds like it includes table spoons of dramatic.”

is me. I wasn’t built for this society. As a kid I sat with my on
internet; my imagination. Using Army men as play station. I should be 90
already and getting ready to die soon. This disdain for life is coming
too early. I just need prescriptions of hand written letters,
socializing without cellphones and news deprivation.”

“OK. Your point?”

“I can’t do it alone. Somebody has to come in. I need a trainer.”

“You think you could find someone online?”

Consider the article in this week’s Newsweek entitled, “The Science of Making Decisions,” or “Brain Freeze,” concerning what the constant barrage of input into our brains does to our brains and our ability to make good decisions:

The Twitterization of our
culture has revolutionized our lives, but with an unintended
consequence–our overloaded brains freeze when we have to make decisions.”

There are diminishing returns to the constantly plugged in society.

So, Mer’s post concerning Anthony’s statement, or conflict with himself – does this present a coming state of mind of many of us?  Everything I read tells me that we need to give our brains a rest.  By doing so, we are able to assimilate, contemplate, and make much more wise and satisfying decisions.

What happens when immediate trumps wise?

A different religion?

“We have come with some confidence to believe that a significant part of Christianity in the United States is actually only tenuously Christian in any sense that it is seriously connected to the actual historical Christian tradition… It is not so much that U.S. Christianity is being secularized.  Rather, more subtly, Christianity is either degenerating into a pathetic version of itself or, more significantly, Christianity is actively being colonized and displaced by quite a different religious faith.”

-Christian Smith with Melinda Denten; quote from: Almost Christian: what the faith of our teenagers is telling the American Church, by Kendra Creasy Dean (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010; p.3)

I’m very interested in reading this book.  The quote above fits very well with what I have been observing and experiencing over the last decade, at least.  Much of the “Christianity” I witness from both the supposed “Left” and “Right” are combining into something that is only vaguely recognizable as Christianity when couched within the historic tradition of the Faith.

I believe this is one of many reasons, albeit a more prominent reason, for the distrust and poor image the U.S. Church in general has among younger people.  I believe this is one reason for the decline in the success of the Church in the U.S. to truthfully engage the emerging culture and emerging generations in ways that resonate with them – ways that actually smack of Jesus’ example and his teachings.

Here are excerpts from the opening page from Kendra Dean, the author:

“Let me save you some trouble.  Here is the gist of what you are about to read: American young people are, theoretically, fine with religious faith – but it does not concern them very much, and it is not durable enough to survive long after they graduate from high school.

“One more thing: we’re responsible.

“…the religiosity of American teenagers must be read as a reflection of their parents’ religious devotion (or lack thereof) and, by extension, that of their congregations. Teenagers themselves consistently demonstrate an openness to religion, but few of them are deeply committed to one.”

What in the world are we doing with this ancient faith in these days that makes this faith that has endured 2,000 years of trial, persecution, within a multitude of cultures and languages, so “not durable” among our young? 

I agree with Dean, but we have to face squarely that we (those who are currently leading or moving into leadership) are failing the One-Who-Came-to-Gives-Us-Life-to-the-Full among the young.  I don’t blame them; the fault is ours – “by our fault, by our own fault, by our most grievous fault.”

Is it really the case that we would rather justify our own selves (all of our pet and “insightful” theories) while our actions speak volumes of faithlessness, neglect, polarization, hubris, greed, hypocrisy?  I think so.  Read the results of Barna’s research in their book, “unChristian.”

We’ve got to end this. Lord, make speed to help us!

Motivations of the Day (of the Christianist kind)

Regrettably, Newsweek (which I’ve subscribed to since high school – I’m a news geek) isn’t posting online its most recent edition (which I received by mail on Tuesday). If it did, I would link the most recent “Scope” article by Lisa Miller. She writes about what is motivating the Religious Right leading up to the 2012 elections (already?).

Miller suggests that what is motivating Evangelical Christians in the USA of the Religious Right stripe is not the culture-war issues as in the last general election, like abortion or gay-marriage, but what is motivating them for the upcoming election “is a vision of America as God’s own special country and a belief that free-market capitalism is crucial to its flourishing,” according to Tony Campolo.

A quote by Tony Compolo from the article:

“The marriage between evangelicalism and patriotic nationalism is so strong… that anybody who is raising questions about loyalty to the old laissez-faire capitalist system – by, say, supporting bailouts – is unpatriotic, un-American, and, by association, non-Christian.” This is a shame for the cause of Christ in the USA!”

This is a sad day for Christianity and the Cause of Christ in the United States.  We reduce the enduring and life-giving Gospel of to political and/or economic ideologies that are nothing more than the creations of Man, not God!  The Church and the Gospel are defamed and trivialized to the point of being nothing more than a reflection of the latest cultural trend. 

With respect to the Gospel and an eternal perspective there is no such thing as “American Exceptionalism.”  There may well be exceptional things that have come out of the United States during its history, but that does not mean there is such a thing as a divinely established “American Exceptionalism.”  A word for those who believe such a thing may be hubris or perhaps vainglory. 

We wouldn’t be what we are today if it were not for the exceptional nature of the English contribution to world history.  Yet, I don’t hear of an English Exceptionalism (of course, the colonized peoples of the world would certainly make exception to such a claim).

A little humility, please, and the acknowledgment that this culture is anything but Christian – as least as Scripture and the authors of it describe this thing called the life in Christ.  (All of this coming from a person, me, who truly believes that many very positive and creative things coming out of the United States have been valuable contributions to the world’s well being, reflected in such things as American ingenuity and out of the Protestant Work Ethic, and from one who tends to be more philosophically conservative – which is different than the present neo-Conservative idiocy.)

So, there you go.

Economics, Nationalism, and Justice

Glenn Beck of FoxNews and Jim Wallis of Sojourners have been in a battle of words of late. This is a recent post from Sojourners responding to another rant by Best, “We Won’t Back Down from Beck.”

The controversy has even made the Daily Show and the Cobert Report. Glenn Beck, on his FoxNews program and his syndicated radio show, over the last several months has taken to trash talk about any religious institution or leader that advocates for “social justice.”  He recommended that anyone who attends a church that talks about social justice needs to leave that church right away.  Of course, even his church (he is Mormon) has publicly stated that Beck does not reflect the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints position on justice.  Yet, he continues on.

All economic systems in this world come from theories of Man.  They all look good on paper, but on the group, well, not so good.  They all fail at one point or another.  When Christians decide that God sanctions one or another of these Systems of Man and demand that all others are therefore ungodly or evil, we get ourselves into all kinds of trouble. Wars, rumors of wars, greed, hording, violence, retribution, ad nauseum, result, despite that each of the Systems during certain periods of time and under certain conditions might actually be the best System to benefit the most people. We tend to attribute to God what fallible people create, and that never ends well.

So, when a Christian-Liberationists demand Socialism or Prosperity-Gospel people demand a form of Laisse-faire Capitalism (and I don’t think Wallis or Beck go to either of these extremes), we are off track.  When someone like Beck demonizes religious institutions and leaders who advocate for justice, he is off track.

What does God require of us, really?  Micah 6:8 gives us a clue:

He has showed you, O man, what is good.
       And what does the LORD require of you?
       To act justly and to love mercy
       and to walk humbly with your God.

I think somewhere in there is a call for Christians to be concerned about justice issues, but that does not mean that we equate an economic or social system devised by Man with God’s will.  The approach we take being in the Kingdom of God is different.  What does Jesus call us to?  Jesus’ call goes something like this (Matthew 22:36-40):

Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

We can believe in Socialism or Capitalism, we can be a liberal or conservative – I don’t care what.  What I care about is whether I and all of us who claim Christ love God, love our neighbor (even our enemy), do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.

Song of Songs

In my Carroll Gardens Home Group, we are reading through the Song of Songs attributed to King Solomon, one of the great rulers of ancient days.  Solomon was known to have loads of wives and concubines during his reign as King of the united kingdom of Israel.  Solomon, full of wisdom and its seems virility, had a profound effect on the Jewish nation then and for us, today – Christian or Jew.

The Church (as well as the Rabbis) tend to read the Song of Songs in an allegorical sense.  The passionate descriptions of love and devotion are said to represent God’s love (the lover) and God’s chosen people, Israel (the beloved), or in the Christian interpretation of Christ (the lover) and the Church (the beloved).  Or, perhaps, the poetry of this book truly does describe the abandonment two people can find in passionate love for one another – glorious in its reality.  We truly don’t know why the early Jewish religious leaders declared this book to be a part of the canon of Holy Scripture, but regardless of why or whether it should be allegorically or literally understood, it presents to us a wonderful depiction of love.

If we read through the writings of the ancient Christian religious or mystics, we see in their writings vivid and passionate language when they refer to their experience with and love for God.  In some of the writings, these depictions seem almost erotic in nature. The ecstatic feeling of love and fulfillment and comfort when enveloped in God’s love is wonderful.  I can see why such love language is used to describe it.

Here is a quote from the Interpreter’s Bible commentary on the Song of Songs

“Some importance, in other words, attaches to the fact that the Song of Songs has enjoyed a virtually uncontested place among the books of the Bible.  This does not mean that we are necessarily bound to the traditional allegorical method of interpretation, but it does lay upon us the responsibility of discovering what the biblical view of love is, its content and the language in which it is expressed. We may also discover, incidentally, that the biblical view of love gives a deeper meaning to the Song of Songs even when it is taken to be no more than the passionate, sensual love associated with physical attraction – that the Bible here, as in other ways, redeems and baptizes what otherwise is vulgar, common, and prurient.” (Vol.5, p. 110)