Thursday, May 24, 2007

On Religion by John Caputo

I picked up one of the books that was on my "order from the library", and it is a fun book to write. Written by the man who is the foremost interpreter of Derrida to America, Caputo here does some intelligent deconstructing of religion as a means of preserving the truth of the religious impulse. Very interesting and very accessable for a theology book.

Here are some quotes:

"Religion is for lovers"

"The opposite of a religious person is a loveless person" (he means this in a way that is meant to be inclusive of people from non-institutional religious structures).

"There is no merit in loving moderately" (4)

"Love is not a bargain, but an unconditional giving; it is not an investment, but a commitment come what may" (4)

"The religious sense of life is tied up with having a future"(9)

"Religion...is for the unhinged" (he means unhinged as a positive virtue)

"Religion on my telling is a pact or covenant with the impossible" (15)

I have been made a question unto myself (Augustine)

Non-Knowing is the inescapable element in which decisions are reached, which intensifies their passions (19)

The people of the impossible are also the impossible people (32).

Picture of the Garden of the Gods in the Morning

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Things like this always happen to me


So I am out golfing with Jen on Saturday (she won), and I was playing my best hole. I drove the first shot right in the short fringe on the edge of the fairway. I hit the second shot just below the green, and was about to attempt to pitch it up on to the green for a beautiful par.
All of the sudden I hear a golfer yell "FORE". They were close enough I stood up from my stance, looked up, and looked around a little. All of the sudden I hear a THUD as the golf ball hits my stomach. No bounce. No warning. A sizzling tee shot right in the gut!
It did not hurt too bad at first. I bent over because I was stunned and the blow seemed to half knock the wind out of me. Jen, who heard the thud from about 100 yards away ran over to see if I was ok. I said, quoting Chris Farley, "Well, I think that might leave a mark!"
The rest of my golf game fell apart, not so much because my body was in pain as my mental focus on doing anything was shot.
The bruise was about the size of my fist by Sunday morning, and has slowly grown to be a little bit larger than a softball.
Why do all the strange things like this still happen to me?

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Welcoming the Stranger

As anyone who has followed this blog over the years knows, I am a strong advocate of immigrant rights. Quite honestly, I favor amnesty for most of our immigrants pending an international criminal background check funded by the potential citizens. I especially favor this with Mexican immigrants, whose land I believe we stole at the same time we stole land from the Native Americans in the last century. I believe the Homeland Security issue involving immigration is often a red herring. I also believe that much of the protest against illegal immigration is tied with an implicit racism, and the threat of terrorism is more of a threat coming through Canada than it is coming through Mexico. If we are going to build a fence on the Mexican border, we should also build one around Detroit and Pontiac, MI, and along the Great Lakes Borders in Canada. (After all, this is how most of the 9-11 immigrants entered the US).

This implicit racism was in full view when I got home late Thursday night. As I watched MSNBC I heard Pat Buchanan yell at the immigration rights person to shut up on national television, and then heard him say that "This is the beginning of the end of America," and that Americans will pay the price of immigration in "increased crime and increased diseases" as people come streaming across the border to take over America. I got angry enough to change the channel to FOXNEWS to hear Bill O'Reilly quote that the US is now "less than 3/4 white" and losing ground every day. This made me more angry so I turned to the moderate CNN to hear the report cite the states that were going to be"minority majority" states by 2020--which included Hawaii (too many Asians and Islanders I guess), District of Columbia (its implied that there are too many blacks and we must be scared), New Mexico (can we see the word "Mexico" in the title of the state?), and California (which has large populations of all minority groups).

I will be honest. It is a struggle for me when I go to a fast food restaurant and people cannot speak English, and I am less likely to shop for a car in a small street corner lot when there is a banner bigger than their business sign saying "Se Habla Espagnol" with holes through it. However, I firmly believe that the immigration struggle in relation to Latin Americans in this century is as important of an American human rights issue as the Civil Rights movement was a couple of generations ago. Furthermore, the health of our economy is dependant upon foriegn workers that are willing to accept wages that are less that what most non-immigrants are willing to work for.

As far as the Word of God teaches us, we are commanded to welcome the stranger and the alien. We are called to defend the downtrodden and give voice to the voiceless. The Bible is clear, God is on the side of the underdog and the poor. So, as a Christian, as a human being, and as an American I can do nothing else but be thankful for immigration reform and hope the bill passes Congress very soon.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Starfish and Spider Reflections



If I could name one book that has challenged and transformed my thinking in the last 6 months, it would be the book The Starfish and the Spider. Written by two men in Southern California, it presents a detailed study of how organizations across the world are moving toward decentralization, and how decentralization is the "way of the future".

As one looks at the progress of history, one sees a slow progression away of hierarchy and centralized power. The Reformation destroyed the idea of one centralized religious power in the Western World, and began a domino effect of religious splinters which led to more and more local interpretation of mission and practice of one's faith. The rise of nation-states signaled that the same of political power, followed by the rise of democracy in the United States and France. The rise of the printing press decentralized knowledge of all kinds to the masses. As the communist USSR began to splinter, we began to see a reemergence of tribal culture in Europe unparalled since the Dark Ages.

With the advent of the internet, we have begun to see the acceleration of decentralization of organizations and institutions at an exponential rate. And, as a result, the way we do government, education, business, church, and much more will radically change.

Government
Nearly 8 years ago, George W. Bush ran for president as a "compassionate conservative". After 7 years, it became clear that he was neither.

This becomes especially evident as one looks at the size of government, and the expansion of government power under the Bush Administration. With the Patriot Act, the phone spying inititiative, the effort to build walls on our southern border, and more their has been a huge effort by the military to combat threats by centralizing power and government. In the long run, this is not going to work.

As a part of this centralizing power, we are attempting to fight a traditional war in Iraq in a context that is decentralized, postmodern (the Islamic fundamentalist version of it though), and tribal. Thus, although I believe our casualities are minimal considering other military ventures, we are failing to make progress, and come to any positive resolution. This is because terrorism operates like a starfish, and we are trying to kill it like we kill a spider.

The authors describe how spiders are much easier to eradicate than a starfish. A spider has a centralized nervous system and a centralized body structure. You cut off a spiders' leg, like a human it is without a leg forever. If you try and kill a starfish by cutting it into one or more pieces, that starfish will regenerate itself into multiple starfish. A starfish's DNA is decentralized, while a spider is centralized.

Thus, the terrorists tried to destroy the giant spider of America by attempting to attack the center of its power (the Pentagon (military), the World Trade Center (economic), and the White House/Capitol Building (seat of government). We have tried to cut the terrorist cells into all sorts of pieces, but like a starfish our attacking and cutting apart Islamic fundamentalist movement has only made terrorism more powerful and more of a threat.

Part of the challenge of the future is working to decentralize our government to a hybrid organization that is both nimble enough to function without centralized structure, yet stable enough to protect our safety and economy. It is a daunting task, and has us looking at a scarier future than we anticipate in relation to international conflict.

Education
Last night I was visiting with my mother about how education had changed during the last 20 years as a public school teacher. (What follows is my opinion, not hers) Part of the changes that my mother is dealing with is the centralization of standards of education, and how that centralization of controls leads to a centralization of political and economic power within our education system. Thus, teachers are often in a catch 22. Our therapeutic culture demands that teachers teach each student as an individual and cater to their individual needs, often because parents are either too busy or too neglectful to take the responsibility for their children's education than they did a generation ago. At the same time, the no child left behind initiative forces teachers to stifle their creativity and their initiative to care for individual in order to carry out orders to teach narrowly standardized curriculum, with narrow pedagogical techniques permitted, in order to get the schools to pass standardized tests. Furthermore, the standardization mandates certain curriculum publishers and systems, which means that educational administration is becoming more and more enmeshed with a big business culture.

This whole project is in many ways doomed for failure, unless it finds a way to mandate some basic standards, while at the same time decentralizing control. There is much more to say about this, but for now lets just say that in many ways NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND is failing and losing some of its best prospects because it is going the way of spider instead of the starfish.

Business
The book does a better job of explaining the business implications of the starfish and the spider than I ever could. It uses several examples of decentralized economic power through the internet. In particular, it cites the music industry as a spider organization grasping for power in a world full of music sharing and CD burning technology. And, the more powerfully the music industry tries to control music copyright, the more difficult an enemy they have to fight because the enemies become more numerous and adapt to copyright sanctions.

The book spends most of its time speaking about economic phenomena, and you really need to read the book to understand what they are saying fully. All in all though, it is better to think of our economic structures in the future as webs of relationships instead of ladders of coorperate power.

In a more sinister way, a lot of identity theft functions in "starfish" ways. By having loosely structured, decentralized, multinational organizations structured (now under the government protection of Iran) to steal credit card identities to obtain monies, identity theft is almost impossible to track and to defeat.

Church
For most of my ministerial career, I have served in a mainline denomination that bemoans people's lack of denominational loyalties, as well as former congregants lack of commitment to spiritual community in general. The reason, I believe, may be that we are trying to maintain "spider-like" churches in a starfish world.

It has always seemed interesting to me that churches can have amazing diversity of opinion on issues such as predestination/free will, homosexuality, modes of baptism, ways of interpreting scripture, types of music that are sung, and much more, but when it comes to tithing nearly all church leadership clings to a narrow, fundamental interpretation of primarily Old Testament biblical texts. Why? Although they want freedoms in several ways, they still want the centralized power and control of financial resources. (This result is not necessarily a bad thing in that it allows united mission and care of a congregation(s) when done ethically).

Also interesting is the search for the universally magic program and method. Your church may be struggling, pastors are told, but if you do a Purpose-Driven Life program your church will thrive just like Saddleback Church with its 20,000+ people a week in Southern California. Instead of the starfish-like method of having a missional approach of going out and forming networks of relationships, we look for a magic bullet that will have people come in. When the big programs work, like it has to a certain extent in our church, it is because the DNA of the church has been shared with more and more of the congregation, thus allowing it to grow and muliply itself in each persons life.

The "starfish and spider" way of looking at the world is why I see the future of many churches tied to shared leadership, the letting go of control from the top of church and faith-based organizations, and the development of healthy small groups within congregations.

I also think the way churches share Christ with others is dramatically affected by this transition in our world and global culture. This is best illustrated with my transition from a traditional small town in Montana to a suburban/city culture in a culture in Colorado saturated with evangelical Christianity.

The small town in Montana had centralized places where you could connect with a lot of people all at once. Whether it was school activities, or community functions, I could go to certain functions and make contact with 10 church families, visit with folks I did not know in a non-threatening way, and be a visible presence of God's grace to hundreds of people in a very short time.

Colorado is quite different. There are very few places where large amounts of students are both visible and are open to forming relationships. When there are a lot of youth gathered in one place, they are not as open to getting to know and build relationships with strange adults (Their are several good reasons for this...if you doubt me watch TO CATCH A PREDATOR on MSNBC). Ministry is essentially tribal here. This means if you get connected with a tribe of students, you have the possibility of having a ministry with that tribe of people.

When we grow at FBCCS, whether with youth or adults, it is because we have built a relationship with a person who is connected to a tribe or tribes of people. Also unique to Colorado Springs is the saturation of evangelical christianity, which muliplies the suspicion and animosity of people not connected with a spiritual community.

Even without that dynamic, we are challenged to look at doing more and more ministry in decentralized ways. This means less big box advertising and marketing, and more ministry like what my friend Ken is doing with Coffee Tunes. Coffee Tunes is creating an online meeting space on our church website for a community of people (coffee shop owners, performers, and customers) that did not exist in our community. We then plan to have a "best of" performance in our church once a month. By building relationships without playing the power games of mass marketing we may be able to make a big difference.

Ministry like Montana is more and more of an anachronism. Ministry like Colorado is more and more of the challenge that churches face in the future no matter where their location.

There is much more I could say on this...but this is already my longest post of all time.

A Quote for Today from Christian Reflections on the Leadership Challenge

Vision isnt everything, but it is the start of everything
David McAllister-Wilson

We often say, "Seeing is Believing". But the deeper truth is that believing is a certain way of seeing.
David McAllister-Wilson

Monday, May 14, 2007

You Know You are Grown when...

You know you are a kid when....you spend all weekend at the mall
You know you are grown when....you spend all weekend shopping houses

You know you are a kid when...you get excited about a trip to Denver
You know you are grown when...you dread running an errand across town

You know you are a kid when...going roller skating sounds like a good time
You know you are grown when...going to the roller skating rink makes you feel like a pedophile

You know you are a kid when...eating Mcdonalds twice in a week sounds exciting
You know you are grown when...you get excited about how much you saved cooking tuna helper.

You know you are a kid when....you hope oneday to have your own room
You know you are grown when...you hope oneday to move from the cubicle to an office of your own.

You know you are a kid when...a dog is a good friend
You know you are grown when...a dog is $50 more a month, plus a $250 deposit

What other ones of these can you think of? I would love to hear them!
You know you are grown when...

Quote of the Day

When the wonder has gone out of a man, he is dead--
DH Lawrence

Book Lust

Occasionally, instead of buying all the books I want, I simply make lists of books I want, and then try ways to get a hold of them through the library. Sometimes, I have discovered I really dont want to read the book as much as I want to have it with me to open, to touch, to smell, to hold, and to skim. After a brief fling with the said book, I no longer have any interest in her anymore. Making my lists of books is my way of controlling my book lust. Unfortunately, much like a drunk going to a bar and trying to say they are in recovery, I seem to always find myself in a bookstore moaning and holding my newest book interest next to me.

Here are a couple of books that caught my eye. If they sound interesting to you use the search engine on the right to order the book and give me a little kickback.

THE LIST

John Calvin--On Prayer
Richard Rohr--Everything Belongs
Bob Roberts Jr.--Glocalization
The Spirit of Silence
Judiasm and Justic
Reel Spirituality
The Next Christendom*-Jenkins
Jesus and Buddha--parallel sayings
Front Porch--Myers
Organic Community--Myers
Remarriage After Divorce in Today's Church
Seek and You Will Find--Taize Community
Leading with a Limp--Allender
Listening to the Beliefs of the Emerging Church
Evangelism after Christendom
Dream Talk--Wilson
Soul Graffiti--Scandrette
Simplicity, The Freedom of Letting Go
The Speed of Trust--Covey
Happiness Myth
The Leadership Challenge
Mind the Light--Bill
Encounter the Other--Vanier
Sharing Sacred Stories
Peril in Paradise
Body Language--Pease
The Orgin of Satan--Pagels
A Peculiar People
Queen Bees and WannaBees--Wiseman
Importance of Being Foolish--Manning
Banker to the Poor--Yunnus
Offices Series...Tickle
Metamorpha--Strobel
The Questions of Jesus--John Dear

Board Games
Smart Ass
Argue
Electronic Guestures
Would You Rather
Stratego
Axis and Allies
Battleship

Posters
Einstein quotes
Jesus Rocks

Did you know there is a board game called:
The Journeys of Paul: A Historical Strategy Game?

Food Flavored Clothing

Instead of limiting my clothing choices to Casual Male Big and Tall, I have been looking at the King Size Catalog for clothes. There are a lot more choices in the catalog, and I like that. But one thing keeps bothering me. Why do they feel that naming the color of clothes after foods will encourage fat men to buy more product? In the catalogue the green color is celery, the yellow color is butter, a certain red color is called rasberry, another pinkish red color is called melon, a brown color is called honey, and another red color is called tabasco. Do they think fat men are more likely to order their product if they name it after grub?

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Changing Thoughts on Evangelism

I have been thinking a little about evangelism lately, and the way people come to faith in the circles that I work in. When it comes to life issues where life and death are directly confronted, there are still a lot of people who chose to trust Christ because they "want to go to heaven".

More and more though, I notice that the appeal to avoid hell in order to come to faith has less and less appeal to people. When I see others talk to people about faith in that way...in terms of eternal destiny....I can see in their eyes they are already beginning to check out.

What seems to speak to people, from my experience, is a faith that works. A faith that makes sense in day to day living.

Why is this? I think this is in part because we live in a culture of immediacy. A culture that values what makes sense now, and what works now, not on something hypothetical in another dimension or something.

More about this later...I am just thinking outloud

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Anniversary


For those of you who have been longtime subscribers of this blog, perhaps you have noticed my lack of bemoaning my single state the last year or so. You may have also noticed my waning regularity for posting blogs. There is a reason for that. Jen (jecaad in the comments under the last post) and I had our first date on May 12, 2006. That makes this Saturday the one year anniversary of our first date. My life has been much fuller, and much more joyful in the last year, despite many of the same problems in other parts of my life. One year is my longest term relationship


For those of you who dont know anything about her, she has a poetry/photo blog in my blogroll, where she combines her poetry with her beautiful pictures to make some wonderful art.


During the last year she has had to endure my indecisiveness, my heightened sense of drama (I call that "flare"), my fumbling attempts at communicating, and has somehow decided that I am still a little bit interesting. In the process I have grown a lot, and become completely smitten.




My look alikes

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Midland

"You have a Midland accent" is just another way of saying "you don't have an accent." You probably are from the Midland (Pennsylvania, southern Ohio, southern Indiana, southern Illinois, and Missouri) but then for all we know you could be from Florida or Charleston or one of those big southern cities like Atlanta or Dallas. You have a good voice for TV and radio.

The West
Boston
North Central
The Inland North
Philadelphia
The South
The Northeast
What American accent do you have?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

Women in Christianity

A beautiful video that simultaneously celebrates the many things that women offer to us as ministers, and a chronicles the many ways women have been oppressed by people abusing their power in the church to push their mysogenistic agenda.