Evangelism is not…

In my unimpressive opinion, evangelism is not a matter of convincing anyone of anything.
It is not a matter of instilling the “fear of God” in people or the fear of going into eternity in a “lake of fire.” It is not a matter of promising people wealth and prosperity and that all their problems will be solved. It is not a matter of showing people how accepting, diverse, or loving we are. It is not attempting to convince people of anything.
It is a matter of one’s life being so ordered and formed by the way one lives and understands life within God, that others cannot help but notice and be attracted to that something that emanates from one’s life. The locus is the person’s life – his/her lived religion – not attempts to prove the faith, prove how successful or wonderful Christians are, or legislate anything. This makes the life of a Christian who desires to be engaged in evangelism much more difficult, but far more honest, sincere, and ultimately life-giving.
Viewing evangelism in this way moves us away from a sense of insecurity and the compulsion to indoctrinate or somehow prove how right we are. It understands evangelism as a natural outgrowth of our intimacy with God, God’s transforming power, and our willingness to be among those “of the world.”

It is happening again

THis is my second year in a row that I am not involved in an opening of school. For twenty years, I was a part of the beginning of a new academic year. I miss it!
Here is Beloit College’s Mindset list for the Class of 2010, born around 1988.
Beloit College’s Mindset List for the Class of 2010:
1. The Soviet Union has never existed and therefore is about as scary as the student union.
2. They have known only two presidents.
3. For most of their lives, major U.S. airlines have been bankrupt.
4. Manuel Noriega has always been in jail in the United States.
5. They have grown up getting lost in “big boxes.”
6. There has always been only one Germany.
7. They have never heard anyone actually “ring it up” on a cash register.
8. They are wireless, yet always connected.
9. A stained blue dress is as famous to their generation as a third-rate burglary was to their parents’.
10. Thanks to pervasive headphones in the back seat, parents have always been able to speak freely in the front.
11. A coffee has always taken longer to make than a milkshake.
12. Smoking has never been permitted on U.S. airlines.
13. Faux fur has always been a necessary element of style.
14. The Moral Majority has never needed an organization.
15. They have never had to distinguish between the St. Louis Cardinals baseball and football teams.
16. DNA fingerprinting has always been admissible evidence in court.
17. They grew up pushing their own miniature shopping carts in the supermarket.
18. They grew up with and have outgrown faxing as a means of communication.
19. “Google” has always been a verb.
20. Text messaging is their e-mail.
21. Milli Vanilli has never had anything to say.
22. Mr. Rogers, not Walter Cronkite, has always been the most trusted man in America.
23. Bar codes have always been on everything, from library cards and snail mail to retail items.
24. Madden has always been a game, not a Super Bowl-winning coach.
25. “Phantom of the Opera” has always been on Broadway.
26. Boogers candy has always been a favorite for grossing out parents.
27. There has never been a skyhook in the NBA.
28. Carbon copies are oddities found in their grandparents’ attics.
29. Computerized player pianos have always been tinkling in the lobby.
30. Nondenominational mega-churches have always been the fastest growing religious organizations in the United States.
31. They grew up in minivans.
32. Reality shows have always been on television.
33. They have no idea why we needed to ask “…can we all get along?”
34. They have always known that “In the criminal justice system the people have been represented by two separate yet equally important groups.”
35. Young women’s fashions have never been concerned with where the waist is.
36. They have rarely mailed anything using a stamp.
37. Brides have always worn white for a first, second or third wedding.
38. Being techno-savvy has always been inversely proportional to age.
39. “So” as in “Sooooo New York,” has always been a drawn-out adjective modifying a proper noun, which in turn modifies something else.
40. Affluent troubled teens in Southern California have always been the subjects of television series.
41. They have always been able to watch wars and revolutions live on television.
42. Ken Burns has always been producing very long documentaries on PBS.
43. They are not aware that “flock of seagulls hair” has nothing to do with birds flying into it.
44. Retin-A has always made America look less wrinkled.
45. Green tea has always been marketed for health purposes.
46. Public school officials have always had the right to censor school newspapers.
47. Small white holiday lights have always been in style.
48. Most of them never had the chance to eat bad airline food.
49. They have always been searching for “Waldo.”
50. The really rich have regularly expressed exuberance with outlandish birthday parties.
51. Michael Moore has always been showing up uninvited.
52. They never played the game of state license plates in the car.
53. They have always preferred going out in groups as opposed to dating.
54. There have always been live organ donors.
55. They have always had access to their own credit cards.
56. They have never put their money in a “Savings & Loan.”
57. Sara Lee has always made underwear.
58. Bad behavior has always been getting captured on amateur videos.
59. Disneyland has always been in Europe and Asia.
60. They never saw Bernard Shaw on CNN.
61. Beach volleyball has always been a recognized sport.
62. Acura, Lexus and Infiniti have always been luxury cars of choice.
63. Television stations have never concluded the broadcast day with the national anthem.
64. LoJack transmitters have always been finding lost cars.
65. Diane Sawyer has always been live in “Prime Time.”
66. Dolphin-free canned tuna has always been on sale.
67. Disposable contact lenses have always been available.
68. “Outing” has always been a threat.
69. “Oh, The Places You’ll Go” by Dr. Seuss has always been the perfect graduation gift.
70. They have always “dissed” what they don’t like.
71. The United States has always been studying global warming to confirm its existence.
72. Richard M. Daley has always been the mayor of Chicago.
73. They grew up with virtual pets to feed, water and play games with, lest they die.
74. Ringo Starr has always been clean and sober.
75. Professional athletes have always competed in the Olympics.

It saddens me that I think this is so funny, but…

A friend of mine sent this joke to me the other day. It may be old, but it’s new to me and I couldn’t stop laughing.

Donald Rumsfeld is briefing George Bush in the Oval Office. “Oh, and finally, sir, three Brazilian soldiers were killed in Iraq today.”
Bush goes pale, his jaw hanging open in stunned disbelief. He buries his face in his hands, muttering “My God…My God.”
“Mr. President,” says Cheney, “we lose soldiers all the time, and it’s terrible. But I’ve never seen you so upset. What’s the matter?”
Bush looks up and says…”How many is a Brazilian?”

What is in the hearts of wo/men will be revealed…

There are times when the true feelings, inclinations, beliefs of elected officials are blatantly made known. There are many people within the politicized Religious Right who are determined to do everything in their power to bring about (in their way of seeing things) or impose (in the minds of many other Americans) a form of theocracy. Most will never admit this in public because they know that it will not fly with a very large percentage of American voters, conservative or liberal.
A recent interview of Katherine Harris, a representative from Florida, is a good recent example. From the Washington Post:

Rep. Harris Condemns Separation of Church, State
By Jim Stratton
Orlando Sentinel
Saturday, August 26, 2006; Page A09
ORLANDO, Aug. 25 — Rep. Katherine Harris (R-Fla.) said this week that God did not intend for the United States to be a “nation of secular laws” and that the separation of church and state is a “lie we have been told” to keep religious people out of politics.
“If you’re not electing Christians, then in essence you are going to legislate sin,” Harris told interviewers from the Florida Baptist Witness, the weekly journal of the Florida Baptist State Convention. She cited abortion and same-sex marriage as examples of that sin.
Harris, a candidate in the Sept. 5 Republican primary for U.S. Senate, said her religious beliefs “animate” everything she does, including her votes in Congress.
Witness editors interviewed candidates for office, asking them to describe their faith and their positions on certain issues.
Harris has always professed a deep Christian faith. But she has rarely expressed such a fervent evangelical perspective publicly.
Harris told the journalists “we have to have the faithful in government” because that is God’s will. Separating religion and politics is “so wrong because God is the one who chooses our rulers,” she said.
“And if we are the ones not actively involved in electing those godly men and women,” then “we’re going to have a nation of secular laws. That’s not what our Founding Fathers intended, and that certainly isn’t what God intended.”

The reactions were swift:

Political and religious officials responded to her published remarks with outrage and dismay.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) said she was “disgusted” by the comments “and deeply disappointed in Representative Harris personally.”
Harris, Wasserman Schultz said, “clearly shows that she does not deserve to be a representative.”
Ruby Brooks, a veteran Tampa Bay Republican activist, said Harris’s remarks “were offensive to me as a Christian and a Republican.”
“This notion that you’ve been chosen or anointed, it’s offensive,” Brooks said. “We hurt our cause with that more than we help it.”

What will happen now? If enough Florida voters wish to have this kind of representative, then they will – or if enough voters who do not simply stay home on Election Day. We get what we deserve.

Continue reading

What sort of time is it?

I’m having a frustrating time discerning our cultural indicators and what they suggest regarding the direction of our national life at home and how this commonly accepted life is effecting the world. I don’t know whether the time in which we are living is another cyclical period of human history or whether we may be living within a different sort of time – a time that marks a shift in human history or at least within our national life.
I watched the second half of Spike Lee’s HBO documentary (WHEN THE LEVEES BROKE: A REQUIEM IN FOUR ACTS) on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and how New Orleans and New Orleanians are dealing with it all. There was a comment made by, I believe, an historian from a prominent university who said that we as a nation can have available all the money we need to do what we really think is important. Of course, there is often a difference between what our government wants and does and what the people think should be done. I wonder whether the divide between the government and the governed is growing at an ever faster pace these days?
We spend, what?, almost one billion dollars a day on the war in Iraq that has ultimately made Islamic radicals and the resulting terrorists more resolved in their campaign against the U.S. and the West in general and more numerous in membership. We can find the money to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on political campaigns. Yet, we cannot find the money to rebuild New Orleans in a timely manner; we cannot find the money to build new levies that are world class (as the Dutch do); we cannot find the money to enable poor New Orleanians to return to their refurbished homes; we cannot find the money to clean up non-tourist areas; we cannot find within ourselves the will to hold government and private interests accountable for the common good rather than their own exclusive interests, yadda, yadda, yadda.
Spike Lee included a video-clip of the senior Bushes at the Houston Astrodome not long after Katrina and Barbara, Mother-of-the-Nation, was saying how a lot of these people were destitute to begin with that this has actually made their lives better – as she surveyed all the people sleeping on cots with only the cloths in such a nice venue.
I have this underlying suspicion that those in positions of power are clueless about how average people live in this country and the world over. There is a disconnect that they do not recognize – a disconnect between what is assumed to be and what really is. Let them eat cake! I also have this underlying suspicion that those nefarious people in government whose only concern is the enrichment of their own is growing unrestrained and their attitude is increasingly unapologetic in their self-justification. The poor disserve to be poor because they are lazy and inferior. (Of course, this attitude is only encouraged by the very American but pseudo-Christian “Prosperity Movement” – God blesses those who are doing right by Him with material wealth and prosperity, and we can deduce what that then means concerning the poor.)
What does this say about our nation – about our government and the forces that shape our culture and self-understanding? What does this say about both the generosity of our people who helped those fleeing the hurricane and the same people who refuse to hold their government accountable? Perhaps, and this is sad, a majority of the populous is so disengaging from the political process, our history, current-events, and governmental processes, that a small group of self-interested people can run free as they use the government and the peoples’ money to enrich themselves. Are we more interested in being entertained than being competent and responsible citizens? A democracy cannot be sustained without an informed populace that is engaged in their governance.
One life-long New Orleanian woman said something like, “We need a government that really cares about the people!” We were warned many years ago that if the American people discover that they could raid the coffers of government for their own enrichment that the republic could not stand. Government officials have imbibed from the teat of the people’s money for a long time, but now it is becoming commonplace and unchallenged by the very people who are supposed to hold government officials accountable. The worse part is that the American people are now starting to become drunk on the same possibility of personal enrichment.
The bad that happens in government will continue unless we, the people, hold our elected officials accountable – unless we elect competent people in the first place, liberal or conservative. We need to hold our representatives accountable concerning how our money is spent and on whom it is spent. Our government can fund a misplaced war that at present seems only to be encouraging and strengthening our foes, or we can demand that it spends our money on assisting those that have been ravaged by forces not of their control. The issues are complex, I know, but something just doesn’t seem to right – and not right in a different sense than under previous administrations or previous times in our history. Is this true, or just my impression?
We have had periods of tremendous corruption and misplaced policies in our nation’s past. Is this just another of those kinds of times, or are we entering into a different sort of time when the trajectory of our nation moves in a different direction? It seems the direction we are moving is not good. That which is good is being called bad, and that which is bad is being called good.
Something like that, anyway.

Quote from Stephen Colbert

Here is a quote from Stephen Colbert:

“I love my church, and I’m a Catholic who was raised by intellectuals who were very devout. I was raised to believe that you could question the church and still be a Catholic. What is worthy of satire is the misuse of religion for destructive or political gains. That’s totally different from the Word, the blood, the body, and the Christ. His kingdom is not of this earth.”
– Stephen Colbert, of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report.

Source: TimeOut New York via SoJo e-mail updates
For those who may not know, Stephen Colbert is a talk-news satirist and “anchor” of Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report.” This show, and Colbert, along with the “Daily Show” with Jon Stewart, are both quite influential with younger people. I love both shows!

What are we doing?

Not even a mile after I crossed the Brooklyn Bridge there is a Religious Society of Friends (the Quakers) Meeting House. It is an old meetinghouse sitting in the midst of modern and tall buildings – near skyscrapers.
As I passed by the meetinghouse, I saw hanging on their chain link fence a large plain white banner that reads, in black letters, “Honor God. Don’t torture.”
What in the world have we come to in this country? This isn’t a commentary on the present administration, but a commentary on the state of the Christian religion in this country. Something is desperately wrong when those in this country who profess to be Christians need to be reminded that it is not honoring to God be allow, consent to, or carry out torture of other human beings!

Where to belong

There are all kinds of organizations that are popping up, adding to those already established, and taking sides concerning the troubles in our Church. I just learned of a new one from the “liberal” perspective that is outraged by what happened at General Convention – a capitulation to those forces opposed to “the full inclusion of all people.” This group adds to those who are outraged at what happened at General Convention – a capitulation to those who will not uphold the Gospel, as they understand it. This one adds to those who are thrilled with what happened at General Convention – do they know what really happened at General Convention?
You know, I just don’t want to be involved in any of these organizations or in any of this mess. They distill complex issues into very narrow and dogmatic positions that I just cannot agree with – “liberal” or “conservative.”
What am I to do? Where do I belong? Certainly, I am to be faithful and continuing on with the work God has given me to do. But, there comes a point where dealing with all these interests groups within the Church and with Church leadership that refuses to lead gets the best of me. Where is the honesty, the self-giving, the humility, and the integrity that God calls us to? Where are the signs of wisdom and insight and righteousness that Solomon calls us to?
I don’t know.


I was walking out of the subway this morning, just off the train and up the first set of steps, and everything went just a bit blurry – kind of otherworldly – and I thought this whole situation just seems so surreal. Is this really my life?
I’m up by 5:30 am (earlier, sometimes, because I just wake up). Listen to NPR while I get ready for work. Try to do some sit-ups, push-ups, and stretching – I have sciatica. Take a shower after the water warms up. Shave, and all that stuff. Then, after ironing a shirt or some such thing, if need be, I try to sit for a bit of quite-time, devotional time, prayer time, Bible-reading time, some time where I can actually encounter God. “Try” is the word. Too many times I become distracted by some thing or another and I end up not doing any sit-ups (which can also be attributed to laziness) or having a devotional time.
Leave to catch the subway by 7:00 am. Go down into a very steamy and hot tunnel and stand and stand and wait and sometimes read. I inevitably just missed the train I wanted. It happens all the time. I’m fated. So, if I’m fortunate, I can sit down, otherwise I will stand for around 20-30 minutes riding through tunnels under Brooklyn, the East River, and Manhattan. I arrive at my destination – 42nd Street. Walk up the first set of stairs, through the tunnel, and through the turnstiles.
There, on my left, is the newsstand, the little florist shop, and lots of people milling around and going somewhere. The proprietors are not native to this country. I talked with a young cab-driver last Saturday. He was born in Bangladesh and came to this country when he was eight. He has only been driving a cab for a couple of months and hates it – hates it! His dream was to open a candy store. Good for him. He said that in this country that anyone can make money. He would work 11, 12 hours a day in his candy store – no problem. In this country, no one bothers you and you can make money, he said. The proprietors of the newsstand and the little florist shop work all day in very hot conditions, underground, everyday, and they make a living.
Up another set of stairs and suddenly, open space, Bryant Park, and another non-native man standing at the top for the subway exit passing out free “subway newspapers.” He says something, but I have no idea what he says. He is older. I don’t sense anger, bitterness, or guile. He is making a living. He is making some money. He is taking care of himself. He works and tries and is honorable in his efforts to support himself and perhaps his family. I think, at this age, this guy should be heading for retirement and enjoying his grandchildren, not standing out in the weather trying to get rid of the pile of newspapers at his feet.
Walk a few blocks and get my orange scone and medium coffee at Au Bon Pain. Sometimes, something else to eat, but always a coffee – always. Cross 37th St. at 5th to the produce cart. The man working the cart is always there – during the coldest days of winter and the hottest days of summer. He is always there (well, almost always – after one particular snow storm last winter he never made it in). I buy my banana for 35 cents. He is not from this country. He works hard, everyday and no matter the weather. He is nice. He generally smiles. He knows some of his repeat customers and the chat or joke a bit.
March to the office. I sit at a computer for hours and pretend to be a data-analyst. I play with numbers for 7 hours or so a day. Numbers. 7 or 8 hours a day. This is my life?
It seems so surreal at times. Don’t get me wrong, please, the job I have is with a great bunch of people. Dedicated and hard working. They all make a whole lot more money then the newsstand worker, the florist guy, the produce-cart man. I get paid well and it enables me to work with the people of St. Paul’s. To learn the ropes of church stuff.
Yesterday, I was solo for the first time.