Saturday, January 30, 2010

Dorothy Day....gusty grannie and christian anarchist

"And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. -James 3:18

Part One:

Dorothy Day...a New York writer and Catholic anarchist who at the height of the Depression unwittingly created what would become a worldwide peace and social justice movement. The Catholic Worker persists to this day in over 180 houses of hospitality and soup kitchens across the United States, in Europe, Australia, Canada and Mexico. Their tenet is based on doing works of mercy and living in voluntary poverty with no attachments to Church or State.Dorothy Day....she is no ordinary saint. Caught up in the Bohemian whirl of 1917 Greenwich Village, Dorothy wrote for radical papers, associated with known Communists, attempted suicide and had an illegal abortion, a doomed common-law marriage and a child out of wedlock. The birth of her only child led to her religious conversion.
Part Two:
"Peace...begins in thought, word and deed." -Dorothy Day
"There was a time when Christians took faith as seriously as Mid-Eastern Muslims currently do: the Medieval Era." - Wayne Dunn
"There are only two means by which men can deal with one another: guns or logic. Force or persuasion. Those who know that they cannot win by means of logic, have always resorted to guns." -Ayn Rand

Show us the Father....

"The biblical story, is a story with direction...whose central story is the story of Jesus."

"In the Old Testament God twice reigned down fire from heaven in judgment on various individuals and groups. Yet, when John and James wanted to do this same thing in the New Testament, Jesus rebuked them (Lk 9:52-55). It violated the spirit of the Kingdom Jesus came to establish to want God to act the way he did in the Old Testament! In some ancient manuscripts of Luke, Jesus rebuked John and James by saying, “you don’t know what sort of spirit you are of” (vs. 55).

The reason is that the New Testament presents Jesus as the final, definitive, perfect revelation of God. This is what is meant when John calls Jesus the “Word” (logos) of God. When God speaks or thinks, John is saying, it looks like Jesus (Jn 1:1). So too, Paul calls Jesus the “form” of God and the “image” of God, which means that the infinite God has made himself finite and visible in Jesus (Phil. 2:6; Col.1:15). While no one has seen God as he is in himself, the Gospel of John says, the “one and only Son, who is himself God…has made him known” (Jn 1:18). This is why Jesus responded to Philip's request to see the Father by saying, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (Jn 14:9, emphasis added). We behold the glory of God himself in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor 3:18-4:6; I Jn 1:1-3) which is why we are always to fix our spiritual eyes on him, and on him alone (Heb 12:2; Col.3:5).

The author of Hebrews sums up the matter nicely when he writes:
"In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven (Heb 1:1-3).

The author is saying that while God revealed himself in a variety of ways in the past, in these “last days” (meaning simply, in this last epoch of history), God has superseded all these by revealing himself through his own Son. Unlike all previous written and spoken revelations, the Son radiates God’s glory and is “the exact representation of his being.” He is, in fact, the one through whom and for whom everything exists (Col 1:15-17).

In other words, Jesus is the point of everything – including the point of all the previous revelations (see Jn 5:39-40, 46). While others spoke and wrote about God, Jesus is God (I Jn 1:1; Rom. 9:5; Tit. 2:13). Indeed, "in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form" (Col. 2:9). Think about this! All (not some) the fullness (not an aspect) of the Deity (God himself-- not a lesser being) lives in bodily form (in the incarnate Son of God).
-Greg Boyd

Friday, January 29, 2010

Any agency powerful enough to stand up to the strongest also strong enough to become the strongest evil.
Some poignant thoughts from the Declaration of Independence: Friday Biblestudy with Roger, today we are at Rockwood Bakery.
Psalm 33:16-17
iPad frustrations....
I've found the Borg...must assimilate.
Oh, thank the good lords of kobold for allowing me to discover, I can post once for all my social networks & blogs
We submit to laws not because they have authority over us, but because we submit to God.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Why I don't teach Tithing...

Yes, I do not teach tithing as represented by most churches at Jacob's Well.

As you know, if you attend here regularly or heard yesterday's message. But since I am sure that message shocked some, upset others and probably set a lot of guilt laden believers free...I thought I would take some time to expound here.

I teach principles of giving rooted in the Old Testament texts concerning Israel's system of economics represented in the Manna, Tithe, Gleaning, Debt forgiveness, Jubilee and the Sabbath texts (Ex 16:16- 26, Lev 25, Dt 15); taught and modeled by Jesus and the early church and expounded on by the Apostles in both word and deed.

Israel followed the Old Covenant law and that law contained commands that fell under three general categories:

As New Covenant followers of God, we must discern which of the commands pass through the cross and resurrection of Jesus. I believe the NT teaches that much of the moral law passes through, but the ceremonial and civil law do not in the letter of the law; but do in the spirit of the law. Most of the commands of the law were fulfilled by Jesus and now are embodied in spirit in the believer's life both personal and communally as the church.

I believe the "righteousness" of the Christian church exceeds and goes beyond that of the OT believer. Kingdom economic's surpass Israel's economics. The ending of the civil based kingdom focus of the OT necessitates a Kingdom ethic that embraces OT ethics in relationship to money, giving and the poor but allows for the expansion of the gospel into all the world via a spiritual kingdom.

Laws have become principles for the community of faith to wrestle with and walk out for the good of the community and in honor and worship of God; who has blessed us and made us stewards of His resources.

You can search high and low in the epistles and letters and you will find no clear cut teaching on anything that reflects a literal command to Tithe. But you do find a sacrificial giving community that embodies a corporate ethos that clearly resembles all the commands and practices of the OT community of faith.

The NT focuses on the inner life of the heart and soul; uprooting the love of money and all its abuses and idolatry. This focus goes beyond and below the ideas of blessings, the pursuit of wealth or percentages.

The main NT text's that speak directly to the issue of care for the poor and giving are below.

Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.
-2 Corinthians 9:6-8

Now regarding your question about the money being collected for God’s people in Jerusalem. You should follow the same procedure I gave to the churches in Galatia. On the first day of each week, you should each put aside a portion of the money you have earned. Don’t wait until I get there and then try to collect it all at once.
-1 Corinthians 16:1-2

Give in proportion to what you have. Whatever you give is acceptable if you give it eagerly. And give according to what you have, not what you don’t have. Of course, I don’t mean your giving should make life easy for others and hard for yourselves. I only mean that there should be some equality. Right now you have plenty and can help those who are in need. Later, they will have plenty and can share with you when you need it. In this way, things will be equal. As the Scriptures say,
“Those who gathered a lot had nothing left over, and those who gathered only a little had enough."
-2 Corinthians 8:11-15

...I want you to excel also in this gracious act of giving. I am not commanding you to do this. But I am testing how genuine your love is by comparing it with the eagerness of the other churches." -2 Cor 8:7-8

The New Testament's basic giving principles:

1. Give All You Can
Key phrase in 1 Cor 16:2: "as he may prosper" (nas version)

2. Give voluntarily
Key phrases: You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure (2 Cor 9:7

3. Give with Equality in mind
Key phrase: There should be some equality (2 Cor 8:13)

The New Testament's giving ethos examined:
-Acts 2:43-47
-Acts 4:32-35,
-Acts 6:1
-John 12:6

In the OT the land apportioning and giving texts provided basically two realities:
-An opportunity for everyone to work and provide for ones family.
-A safety net for those who couldn't care for themselves.

These two principles pass on to the NT community. NT economics maintain the ethos that if you can work, you should. If you can't we will take care of you. Giving isn't meant to enable sinful lifestyles, immaturity, greediness or laziness. Giving is a gracious example of generosity that cares for the poor and suffering and exhibits a community that is free from the love of money and is motivated by love and not fear or greed.

There is much more on the subject that expands on the beautiful way in which NT communities went above and beyond in the care of the poor, one another and for the mission of God to the world; but for brevity sake...these are the main guiding principles we at Jacob's Well use to express our value of Partnering together for Mission.

Soldiers of Conscience

Soldiers of Conscience, PBS Emmy nominated documentary from Luna Productions on Vimeo.

Here is another trailer with different content.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Amazing Dolphins...

Sunday at Jacob's Well...

We are in Luke 4, in our journey through this gospel. We begin our wrestlings with the temptations of Jesus.
First up: the issue of Bread (economics)

Here is a short video we will be incorporating in our discussion:

Main texts:
Luke 4:1-1-4
1 Corinthians 16:1-2
2 Corinthians 8:10-15, 6-14
Acts 4:32-35

Interesting fact:
Luke’s ordering of these temptations corresponds, in reverse order, to the first three petitions of his version of the Lord's Prayer: May Your Name be hallowed; May Your Kingdom come; Give us each day enough bread (Lk 11:1-4).

Haiti, Hedonism and Capitilism...

Ok, I hope that the Hope4Haiti telethon raises a ton of money...that would be a great result. I'm not trying to be a scrooge about that...any help is needed at this time.

My issues are that I wish I could cheer louder but I'm not a fan of actors and sports figures who make obscene and in my mind immoral amounts of money off a economic system that breeds the very injustices that perpetuate this kind of inequitable reality. Why are actors who more than not, represent the worst about ourselves...lifted up as our mouthpieces in times like these? Yah, I get the celebrity thing and how they can stimulate more giving etc...but as principle, it frustrates me.

It would be like John Edwards becoming the spokesman for Focus on the Family. I just don't by it.

Yes, I know they give lots of money and that becomes the over arching excuse for each and every institution or individual that seems to be living in contradiction to their actions. This idea that it doesn't matter how I make millions because I might give a lot. The means to the end, do not seem to matter anymore. I have a problem with that.

We say things like...hey, Americans give more than anyone else on the planet. Which is true in dollar amount...but not per ca-pita.

Example, regarding Haiti...taking all money given so far by Americans, it averages out to:
.40 cents per person.

Canadians give $3 dollars per person

So we give more, true...but only from a certain point of view. This kind of accounting justifies so much around these types of events. So, do I sound cranky and finger pointy...yes, I am sure from a certain angle, I do.

But Justice is as important as mercy, in these types of things.

Do what you can, with what you got...I'm all for that....but think and act.
Check out Charity Navigator to make sure the org you are giving to, is acting responsible with the money it is getting. I did that yesterday in researching where our church giving will go to...and I discovered some things that will alter where I am going to give that money. Do your home work.

It's like giving to the can give money to a drunk and facilitate the addiction or...give it to the folks that help the drunk get free from their addiction. Which is a better use of that money?

I wouldn't give to some of those orgs represented last night because the work they do or the world view they promote doesn't help the long term issues in my opinion. Why throw money into the hands of some orgs that will rebuild a culture with the very foundations that promote the crumbling of healthy culture?

These issues go into many areas....we could talk about the Catholic churches culpability in all of this, with their stance and teaching on family planning in Haiti. Or the historical realities regarding agriculture and the export and import issues with the USA and Haiti. We could talk about national Debt forgiveness and the reparations possibly needed sense the USA has benefited economically in the past from the slave trade issues, France and the sanctions that went along with all that. Not to mention all the political history between us and Haiti.

In the end, I feel an inner sense of contradiction; like when I saw the big Cruise line ships docking in Haiti this week. All the vacationers pouring off the boats to swim, jet ski, gorge themselves on seafood buffets on Haiti's white sand beaches...oh, and all that's perfectly ok, because these ships bring supplies and relief and hey, they employ locals or other poor folks from around the Caribbean. I could not jump off the boat and play in the ocean there...knowing the realities that are taking place a few miles away.

But in the end...that has always been true, to some degree or another...So in the end, the light falls on me again...and my need to repent of participating in a culture of excess, fantasy and unrestrained hedonism and consumerism.

The fact of all that hits me, as I watch multi-millionaires dressed up in philanthropist garb...asking me to give whatever I can to the poor.

I'm sorry...the whole thing reeks of hypocrisy and its convicting, on a very deep level both, personal and public.

Justice & Mercy need to Kiss....

"My view: the gospel that has been preached in Haiti has left a vacuum—has left the political landscape untouched. The church doesn’t see its business as being a prophetic witness to those in power. The result has been a political sector left to its own devices; this is why the common people were the first responders to the crisis, not the government. This is the result of the gospel being truncated, emasculated, instead of confronting the powers that be to do what God intends for them to do: protect and enhance life." -Dr Dieumeme Noelliste, president of the Caribbean Evangelical Theological Association, quoted in Christianity Today. 

This is a profound exposure of the critical issue of being missional vs traditional in my opinion. 
One view sees the gospel for the whole man...body, soul and spirit. 
One sees it for the spirit only. 

One sees all of life. 
One sees only eternal life. 

One is holistic. 
One is dualistic. 

One is concerned about Heaven on Earth. 
One is concerned only about getting people of earth to heaven. 

One sees a kingdom that has come. 
One only sees a kingdom coming. 

One is a gospel of head and heart.  
One includes the hands.

The fact that a nation that is do full of Christians and yet so poor is worth wrestling with. 
I think it touches many things but the issues of Mercy and Justice are central to it. 

Christians abound in Mercy... 
They ask: "How can I help"?

But not enough are concerned about "Justice".
Justice asks: "Why did this happen"?

We need Justice and Mercy too kiss...for real transformation to take place. 


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Sabbath Economics....

As we continue to wrestle with the issues of mercy and meeting the needs of those suffering in poverty or devastation (ie. Haiti); we must also look at the issues concerning Justice. This short 10 minute talk by Ched Myers looks at the story of God giving manna as it relates to a concept he calls "Sabbath Economics".

Led into the wilderness....

I read this paper from Ched Myers this morning. I don't think I have read a more concise article that captures the heart of my own personal journey with the gospel; as it relates to personhood and politics. If I could have everybody that interacts with me, read this...I think they would understand the underlining ministry and mission impulses that burn in my belly. This article helped me frame those Spirit & Word "perceptions" in a clearer way. It was like hearing someone speak my inner turmoil and give it greater light. I know that sounds over the top, but it really resonated and explained myself to myself in some profound ways.

I began this mornings study, compelled by a phrase in the book of Luke, chapter 4:1 about Jesus "Being led into the wilderness by the Spirit." when I watched the above video and reached around the 6 minute mark, the Spirit was doing quite a number on my heart. I just had a conversation yesterday with my friend Jeremy from Kentucky, about feeling this inner impulse towards a wilderness season. I was feeling a compulsion towards wilderness. The message in this paper and this video touched that in a profound way.

As we teach through the book of Luke, I can see that much change is ahead...I both long for and fear, the unfolding of this gospel in fresh and life altering ways.

Friday, January 15, 2010

What to do when tragedy strikes....

In Luke 13:1-5, Jesus spoke about the spiritual significance of two tragic occurrences that happened during His years walking the earth (they were the "breaking news" stories of the time): “Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish."

In this passage, two groups of folks were pointed at...the Galilean’s deaths at the hands of the Roman soldiers and the Jews who were working on the Roman aqueduct in Judea.

Two tragedies.

One happened to the Galilean Jews, that were often considered less spiritual and known for thier adversarial relationship with Rome. The other happened to the Jews in Judea that were cooperating with Rome and helping build on the water aqueduct. One group, the Judeans, thought of themselves more righteously than the Galileans.

The Pharisaic scholars of Judaism, centered in Jerusalem and Judea, found the Galileans to be insufficiently concerned about the details of Jewish observance-for example, the rules of Sabbath rest. The Talmud says that Yohanan ben Zakkai, a great Pharisee of the first century, was assigned to a post in Galilee during his training. In eighteen years he was asked only two questions of Jewish law, causing him to lament "O Galilee, O Galilee, in the end you shall be filled with wrongdoers!" (Jerusalem Talmud Shabbat 16:7, 15d).

This attitude seems to be the MO when disaster’s strike. We look at the people it happened to and begin to try to connect the “karmic” dots. You will hear people contemplating “why” this happened to “those” people. It was the same in Jesus’s day...and it still takes place today.

Jesus’s words light the way through this philosophical and theological conundrum:
“Unless you repent, you too will all perish."

Simply put...when death, tragedy, pain and destruction comes...and it will....we should use the light of that suffering to expose our own souls and lead us to repentance. We all will die and face God, someday...maybe years from now...or tonight. You do not know when. Today is the day to get right with God, embrace Him and the forgiveness He offers for our sins. Turn from sin and cling to the mercy and restoration found in the work of Jesus on the cross. Don’t put off the issues of your soul for some other day....because that day may never come.

Don’t trust in your own righteousness to save you...all of us are sinners. Our blessings are gifts not merits. Your abundance is given for others who lack. To those who are given much...much is required. God has a day of wrath coming...but today, our own sin, is our punishment.

We can be spared that coming day of embracing the mercy and love of God found in Jesus, today.

Religious Conservatives and the future of the church...

On 9/14/01, Falwell issued an apology for his comments and said he believed that the terrorists alone were responsible for the attacks. He reiterated, however, that theologically he believed that groups that have worked to secularize America have helped remove the nation from its spiritual foundations.

Pat Robertson, on his website, distanced himself from the comments that he had agreed with at the time they were made. He said that during the interview, Falwell suddenly made a "...political statement of blame directed at certain segments of the population that was severe and harsh in tone, and, frankly, not fully understood by the three hosts of The 700 Club who were watching Rev. Falwell on a monitor." Robertson said he considered the comments "totally inappropriate" and that critics had taken the words out of context.

This infamous video created a firestorm in the press when it was made...much like the situation Pat Robertson is in right now. It shows the power of media and the extreme light that is cast on those who use it. My interest in the comments both the 9-11 stuff and the present statements about Haiti and the devil pact are not really about slamming the man or the ministry. They do good stuff, there is no doubt about that. Many people are blessed by the millions of dollars spent in humanitarian relief by the ministries Pat leads and many people have come to faith through thier prayerful work as well.

The issue I have is that this version of American Christianity is becoming more and more a catalyst for a new exodus among faith searching emerging generations. Like the monastic movements of the past...these forces help create a groundswell of reaction that often leads to an abandonment of present religious structures. The church in America had better wake up to the fruit of it's marriage to the state and politics...or she will turn around and realize her kids have left or ran away from home. The religious rights worldview produces a way of thought and action one that is familiar to those raised in conservative, primarily Republican churches. The stuff Robertson televises on his program is soaked in his charismatic, prophesy bent reporting.

Here is an overview of some major controversial moments. Granted, many good folks believe this way...but the serious issue facing the church that the emerging generations most often...don't.

That doesn't bode well for the churches in the future.

Crucifying anyone in a spirit of ridicule isn't the way of Christ...we all learn form putting our foot in our mouths or overspeaking or saying something we shouldn't. There is forgiveness for failures.

But we are still required to examine the doctrine, ethics and way of life these types of folks who call people to vote and live and think a certain way...especially if they stand as a leading voices of evangelicalism or conservatism.

God and Violence...a perfect match?

Some would kill to have it...I will kill to protect it. -Eli

The Book of out today...and the book ELi will kill to protect is the Bible...if you didn't know.

According to one Review the movie has a:
"Very Strong Christian worldview, including themes of sacrifice, where the protagonist constantly prays, shows others how to pray, quotes Scripture, and, though he is not perfect, constantly tries to live what he believes and consistently walks by faith in God, not by what he can see..."

The reviewer than lists some of the content in the movie:
Extreme, brutal violence depicted including man abuses his wife by pulling her hair,
Man is found after having hanged himself
Multiple scenes of blood spurting after people have been shot and limbs have been cut off with a samurai-like sword
Men fire guns and heavy artillery
Men get sliced with sword
Man is shot in private area with an arrow
Man gets shot in the neck with an arrow
Men get shot in the head and all of it is completely shown
Man gets beheaded by sword
Lots of punching, brawl fighting, lots of explosions with hand grenades and grenade launcher
Man uses a derogatory word to encourage his men to fornicate
Men rape a woman but cameras cut out before anything is shown
Young girl tries to seduce older man but he rejects her because it is wrong
One scene of attempted rape where girl is rescued before it actually happens

Carnegie, the protagonist in the film has something to say about that "book":"It's a weapon"

Indeed, I guess it appears to be.

I am being driven over the edge with this cultural fascination with killing and faith...will it never end?

Haiti, the devil, Freemasons and George Washington...

Supposedly Haiti made a pact with the devil...which is probably bunk:

So let me get this straight...God levels shanty towns, out of vengeance against the sons and daughter of slaves; who were trying to free themselves from the ongoing white man's European slave trade oppression.

But we are the most prosperous nation on the face of the planet...even though our founding was awash in Freemason loving activity...and our founding fathers, ummm like George Washington were involved in pagan-like rituals.

Not to mention our slave issue...and our First Nation displacement and slaughter.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

iHeart Revolution....

Abraham Joshua Heschel...on Where is God...?

"In a free society some are guilty...all are responsible."
-Abraham Heschel

"The response to the catastrophe is not to focus on the catastrophe; but to focus on human possibilities."
-A comment by Heschel's biographer reflecting on how Heschel processed the Holocaust and the loss of his family members.

I post these quotes and this nourishingly rich interview and biographical highlight of Abraham J. Heschel in light of the horror's taking place in Haiti. In a era when we are forced to hear the thoughts of lesser mind and heart are baptized afresh by such deep wisdom.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Pat....please...close thy mouth.... » ‘They Have Been Cursed’: Pat Robertson Says Haiti ‘Swore a Pact to the Devil’


Ok, first of all...I think I enjoyed this film more than any film I have scene in this genre in a long time. It was an amazing experience, especially in Imax 3-D with a sound system that made the hairs on my liver quiver. It was a completely immersive journey that thrilled me, moved me, amazed me and frustrated me.

Separating the technological from the ideological is a tough venture to doesn't want to color the viewers journey. So..I guess, I would say...go see it before reading anything around here. Because I think there is a lot to respond to in the film.

These articles go for the issues jugular:
-Heaven and Nature
-"Why do the Conservatives hate the most popular movie in years?"
-Avatar: Depression and Suicide

I've got my own thoughts...which I intend on rolling out in the next few days...but for the moment, here is just one:

-How can this movie be the almost number one money grossing film of all time in this country? Here in a "Pro-Military, Pro-War on Terror, Support the Troops always because they are Hero's Culture...this absolutely mystifies me. The ethos and ideology of this film seems to me to be at odds with most American' least almost all Christian American's I know.

On a lighter are two comments about the film that I read, that made me laugh out loud:

"The message is: whitey bad, natives good. And the supplementary message of how we should all "get back to nature", brought to you by directors and movie stars driving $250,000 cars and flying around in private, that ritual scene with the stupid movements and dancing was Disney-quality garbage. It made me want to see them all get carpet-bombed by the shuttle."


This movie is simply: "Braveheart Smurf"

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Christians...what they really care about

Breaking News: Christians Give Poor People The about it here

Monday, January 11, 2010

Death Metal Rooster....

Eden's Dream blog posts....

Here are the recent posts that are going on over at my Eden's Dream Politics Blog:
The Donkey King....
Sarah Palin
Healing wounds...through art and story
The sins of our Fathers....
Jesus vs. Jehovah?
Are Conservative Commentators good for your Soul?
Burn yourself alive....out of desperation
Fox News Military Strategy....
The War Prayer...By Mark Twain
You want a is what you get?
Children....Puppets & Collateral damage of war
War: Child Soldiers
Woe to the bloody city...
Anti-Gay Sex...but not Anti-War
A loaded revolver...
5 Questions...
Body of War
Gospel wrestlings in Abu Ghraib
Our Presidents and War....
To be governed is to be....
Mr. Madison...and the 10th Amendment
Leo Tolstoy's classic text of Christian Anarchism....
Money talks for Blackwater in Iraq...

Hang 'Em High

My boys and I, watched an old Clint Eastwood western called "Hang 'Em High" last night. It isn't my favorite of Clint's Westerns but it had some fairly deep issues going on in the plot.

One of the movies main characters is Judge Adam Fenton. He was based on the real-life figure of Isaac Charles Parker (1838-1896), the judge in charge of the U.S. Court for the Western District of Arkansas, based in Fort Smith. In his 21 years on that bench, Parker issued 160 death sentences, resulting in 79 executions. His first week at Fort Smith resulted in rulings leading to a six-man hanging, very much like the one depicted in "Hang 'em High", complete with a huge crowd of on-lookers, hymn-singing, and prayers, as well as massive press coverage.

This part of the movie resulted in some grunts from my youngest about what the heck those church folks were all excited about a "hanging for"? Preachers preaching, singing hymns, vendors selling drink and food...everyone gathered together as one big community to watch people die. It was bizarre to say the least.

Then there's conflicted Clint...he wants Justice, but sees the wheels of Justice rolling over innocent folks...he bears the scars of an intended illegal hanging on his own neck; as well as his aversion to some young men who are getting hanged for stealing.

So what does he do in this inner turmoil? He grabs a hooker and get's it on in the bordello...while outside, the church folk are singing the hymn: "Down at the river". On the gallows the condemned drunk is confessing his sins and preaching a prohibition sermon about "pouring the devil down his throat" to the crowd. The preacher is quoting scripture and a convicted old man is chewing tobacco for one last hurrah before his neck is broke...and the unrepentant are struggling under the black hoods...and the young brothers are saying their tearful goodbyes and the rope is slipped over their necks....all while the good man of Justice looks down from his courthouse window; on a wild, quasi-religious revival, pagan love fest, blood thirsty sports event that culminates in a jarring thud...of dead men dangling from ropes.

Quite a spectacle indeed...I thought this blogger summed it up well:

"The movie asks some very interesting questions, not the least of which is “Whose right is it to judge?” What I found most interesting and compelling about this movie is that it did not portray the judge as a cruel, heartless tyrant, but as a stern seeker of the truth, and who was genuinely concerned with the progress of the state (Oklahoma). Conversely, Eastwood plays the role of the one who is always confronting the judge about his judgments and the sometimes brutal nature of their outcome. Eastwood also bargains for the life of a man who he thinks is innocent, in a scene that makes us forget about the typological Eastwood character. There are also several very lucid dialogues between the judge and Eastwood, where the judge offers exposition on justice and his duty, even going so far as saying “I wish there was someone between me and God” – where he acknowledges the flawed nature of any justice system based on the judgments of man. These scenes often render Eastwood speechless, because the judge fully embraces his imperfection, yet the need for a justice system that is not seen as weak to those who would seek to exploit it, and for the good of the Oklahoma territory, which was not yet a state in the Union." (

What Gospel have you heard...or taught...?

"Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son." -2 John 1:9

It never ceases to amaze me, how many folks that claim to follow Jesus...consider the word's of Jesus to be void of authority. His word's really do not have to regulate thier lives. They say, He is Lord...but do not do what He says.

This is normative Christianity today.

Does that trouble anyone?

Could it be that the 'gospel' that has been preached, taught and possibly a weak or watered down version of easy believeism? A modern equivalent of Bonhoeffer's "cheap grace"? Is it surprising to you to think about the fact that Jesus and the Apostles preached the gospel...before Jesus was ever crucified, buried and rose from the dead?

» And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people. (Matthew 4:23)

» And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. (Matthew 9:35)

» Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. repent, and believe in the gospel." (Mark 1:14-15)

» [Jesus] said to them, "I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, because for this purpose I have been sent." (Luke 4:43)

» Now it came to pass, afterward, that [Jesus] went through every city and village, preaching and bringing the glad tidings [gospel] of the kingdom of God. (Luke 8:1)

» The law and the prophets were until John. Since that time the Kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is pressing into it. And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one tittle of the law to fail. (Luke 16:16-17)

» And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. (Matthew 24:14)

Have you ever had anyone, seriously explain the "Good News" to you...the Pre-Calvary version? Doesn't that even sound heretical to say...? I know it does, just writing it.

My perplexing contemplations about the often..."complete and utter disregard" for Jesus's teaching is leading me to question wether or not...what folks have heard, has even been an accurate transmission of the Gospel Jesus taught.

The announcement of "good news"—the very best news that could be heard today—which the Father gave through Jesus Christ, was about His Kingdom being established on earth.

But what is a kingdom? It is essentially a nation, with all of its citizens, land, and laws, ruled by a government. In biblical usage, a kingdom can also mean a family from a single parent grown into a nation.

A kingdom has four basic elements:
1) a king, supreme ruler, or governing agent
2) territory, with its specific location and definite boundary lines
3) subjects or citizens within that territorial jurisdiction
4) and laws and a form of government through which the will of the ruler is exercised.

I propose...that If we ignore any one of these essential elements—if we ignore the whole message that Jesus Christ brought from the Father—we will have a distorted faith, one that will not bring salvation in the sense that Jesus meant.

Maybe, the fact that there is a rampant disconnect between saying one "Believes" and what one "Lives" far more of an issue than simply struggling humanity to do "gooder"? Maybe instead of making excuses for our failure to truly embrace and obey Jesus...we should examine the message we are consuming? Could it be...that the fruit of a result, of the root of belief?

Have we placed the message of death, burial and resurrection in it's proper context with the broader context of the Kingdom of God? What happens if you separate them?

I get some serious problems.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Healing wounds...through art and story

The Experiment at Shan Town from Partners Relief & Development on Vimeo.

In November 2008, (Partner's Relief and Development) traveled to a school of 700 students in Shan Town. They asked the children to help them understand their life experiences. Though they only had acrylic paint and paper, the results were incredible. Read more: here.

As an artist and a pastor of a church that values the proclamation and activism of justice, through the medium and witness of the arts; I am thrilled to see this project. I hope we can get it to come to Spokane.

We currently have a team of people from our church in Thailand in the refugee camps along the Thai/Burma border...(Please Pray for them)...I am sure they are going to return forever changed by thier journey. As a church, we are actively involved in refugee work, primarily with the people from Burma. As a church committed to a Head, Heart and Hands gospel of Jesus Christ...we see injustice in the world as a call to compassionate action, in our own communities and around the world.

Why Burma...?

-According to Human Rights Watch, at 70,000 kids, Burma boasts the highest number of child soldiers on Earth.
-The government spends .04% on health care. In contrast to an estimated 70% of government funds expended on the military.
-Rape is used as a weapon of war (an allegation upheld by the US State Department).
-Landmines are widely used, killing more people in Burma in 2002 than any other country in the world.
-Millions of Burmese have been pressed into forced labor. The Int. Labor Organization calls this "a modern form of slavery".
-Burma is the world's 2nd largest producer of opium, only second to Afghanistan. It's SE Asia's largest producer of meth.
-Has razed more than 3,200 villages and displaced over 1.5 million people, mostly farmers.

In 1990, National League for Democracy (NLD) opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, was elected Prime Minister under UN sanctioned elections. After winning 85% of the popular vote, she was imprisoned by the ruling military junta. The junta also imprisoned approximately 1,600 political reformers, including 38 elected members of parliament. Aung San Suu Kyi and others remain in custody today.

Information gathered from the following sources:
Wikipedia -
The World Fact Book on Burma
Human Rights Watch

Friday, January 08, 2010

Are Conservative Commentators good for your Soul?

I was listening to Ruch yesterday and he was cajoling about how it was so ironic that he was in the hospital with chest pains while President Obama was on vacation in Hawaii too. He was sharing his nervous concern that Obama might possibly come to the hospital and offer his concern and sympathies. He was joking about how the fear of that happening was worse than the fear of his heart problems. As I listened to him...I was once again rolled over with another wave of disgust at the national talk radio, cable tv news animosity based commentary. Rush makes his living by continually keeping his message in a state of antagonism. He doesn't want answers...he wants ratings.

This industry of Madness is primarily consumed by the conservatives. Fox news out-rates all the others...and the majority of listeners that feed upon this source of news and commentary are Christians. Does that fact bother anyone else than myself? How has the leading sources of pissiness become the voice of the conservative Christians in this country?

"Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of malice or evil behavior." -Ephesians 4:31

I guess, verses like these dont apply to our listening or viewing pleasure.

Are we truly getting fair and balanced news? When did these voices get anointed as the golden throated bastions of righteousness and rightness?

I was also watching Bill O'Reilly's program last night and heard this conversation:

Bill O'Reilly: We need to go in there and blow the hell out of them.

Fox Military Analyst: "And you cant over-worry collateral damage."

This comment from Bill, was in the center of a hotheaded blather about how until Bill was angry that Obama calls us at War now...but we are not (according to Bill and the Analyst) acting like we are at war. The context involved Bill going on about how we need to send our troops into Pakistan and take out the enemy there. Then after he huffed and puffed about how we are not doing what is needed...he paused, and then with a editorial back track, said "Well, I dont advocate that, I know that we cant actually do that" or something really close to those words. In that stream of blow them up stuff...the analyst said that in this conflict we need to not -"OVER-worry" the collateral damage issue.

So...if you know we cant approach the conflict in that "drop the bomb" method...why the diatribe?

Give me legitimate thoughts, answers and plans...not hot headed, unrealistic, civilian slaughtering blab.

These types of conversations reinforce my general perception that we dont know what the hell we are talking about most of the time. And, I would add that we dont know half the truth either. In much of our arm chair quarterbacking that is going on is pure msg and filler in our ratings hyped, ego saturated media and lazyboy American culture. The two loudest voices in news casting, are two diametrically opposed news does that happen? Who are these ex generals, news analysts, military strategists anyway? You drop a intelligent sounding title under some blokes name and Im supposed to take him as some authority figure?

Now, I watch or listen to Rush, Sean Hannity, Glen Beck and Bill regularly...not because I am a die hard fan but he is part of my roundup of talking heads, I listen well, as Rachel Maddow and occasionally Keith Oberman. It's mostly because its the only source of political commentary I can find available....but the more I am subjected to personalities and a way of dialogue being chosen...the more Im getting tired of it.

Being pissed...sells these days.

I hope that some network, news outlet or political voices arise out of the rubble of our cultural brawling that eventually has got to get disillusioning to the intelligent masses...and builds a sane, non-partisan, truly libertarian dialogue that is both accurate and interesting.

But...until Christians start applying the Bible to themselves instead of everyone else...I dont imagine we will see it anytime soon.

Monday, January 04, 2010

What do you think?

So do you think this kind of stuff has any effect on us or our kids?

Image Makers & Evil Arabs....

As we wrestle with the fruit of radical Islamic extremism and suffer through the consequences of it as a must start to ask serious questions about how we ended up where we are at. Not in a "Blame America" way but in a sincere search for answers or at least understanding of the visceral hatred that is boiling in the hearts and minds of many folks abroad and within our borders. This isn't an act of shifting the blame or making excuses for evil actions but a sincere attempt at social and religious diplomacy. Listening to others...being slow to speak and quick to hear. If we are going to move our country out of more and more international's going to take many great minds and courageous souls doing the work of spiritual and humanitarian diplomacy...not just bigger and deadlier weapons.

Martin Luther King once spoke about the dual work of both Charity and Justice that is needed in addressing social and racial (& religious?) evils. He talked about a river full of drowning kids and how there were good people doing the work of rescuing and pulling them out of the raging river. But how that was not enough...we need to go upstream and see who or what is causing these kids to fall or be thrown in the river too.

When I watch this short video on the impact of film portrayals of Arabs...I have to wonder if it's not a part of this drama.

Kill the Gays....Civil Rights...vs....Christian Right?

The religion practiced by the civil rights movement stands in profound contrast to the religion practiced by a truculent and reactionary Christian Right. Where the religion of the non-violent civil rights movement appealed to the heart and the soul of the adversary, the Christian Right views those who disagree with it as an enemy to be vanquished. Where the religion of the non-violent civil rights movement sought to persuade America to become a place where the self-evident truth that all were created equal would become a reality, the religion of the Christian Right wants to recreate America into its own image. Where the religion of the civil rights movement spoke in words of redemption and reconciliation with the adversary, the religion of the Christian Right speaks in anger, vilifying all who disagree with its definitions of what is good and what is evil. -GOD AND SOCIAL CHANGE by Julius Lester

Looks like the Christian Right and the Culture War, especially on Gay rights issues; has finally led to it's most extreme but unfortunate logical conclusion....KILL THE GAYS.

At least that's what it has led to in Africa, particularly Uganda....and it's shedding some really uncomfortable light on some of America's favorite Christian Pastors.

Here is Rick's video response to Africa:

Here and here are some troubling articles about the "battle for Africa"...well worth the reading, especially for those who are wrestling with the "way" we are "waring" on the issues of family values.

It amazes me how American Christians see everything as "War"...and as everyone who is familiar with war knows....someone dies. Is it any surprise that the language and imagery the church uses in it's vilification, denouncing and attacking methods in the culture war...would lead to these types of conclusions?

I'm not surprised....Faith & Politics...tend to unsheathe the sword at some point.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Suckers, were...."Selling products, not values"

Average Female Mannequin:
Size: 2, Height: 6′0, 32A-23-33

Average North American Woman:
Size: 14, Height: 5′4, 41-35-43

Anyone whose a regular reader of Crowbar Massage, knows that I've got a particular loathing for the Barbie Brigade and thier lucrative and oppressive Beauty Business. As a former youth pastor and now a senior pastor, as well as a father of a teenage girl...I've witnessed first hand, the damage upon the psyche and pocket books of American girls and women. It's scandalous in my opinion. So..when I've seen the Dove Beauty Campaings like the one below or this one...I find some hope.
But as usual that hope is dashed to the ground in a landslide of corporate hypocrisy, when I found out that...Dove is part of the same company (Unilever) that produces the AXE commercials.

Here is a mash up of the dove commercial with Axe commercials...showing the marketing manipulation that is going on in the Beauty industry (Warning: sexually charged images ahead)

In an op-ed titled “A Company’s Ugly Contradiction” in The Boston Globe...contributor Michelle Gillett said, “Viewers are struggling to make sense of how Dove can promise to educate girls on a wider definition of beauty while other Unilever ads [for Axe] exhort boys to make ‘nice girls naughty.’ …Unilever is in the business of selling products, not values, and that means we, the consumers, are being manipulated, no matter how socially responsible an ad seems.”

Once again, I am reminded by the inextricable nature of nonmoral, and unguided capitalism and whatever it touches. Consumerism is the gnawing appetite of a people who have been seduced, deceived and plundered by a soul eroding system of worldliness.

As Saint Augustine said in his autobiography "Confessions":...we are in love with our own ruin, in love with our own decay.

I look forward to the liberating day when all of creations sings:

"Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great!
She has become a home for demons
and a haunt for every evil spirit,
a haunt for every unclean and detestable bird.
For all the nations have drunk
the maddening wine of her adulteries.
The kings of the earth committed adultery with her,
and the merchants of the earth grew rich from her excessive luxuries."
-Revelations 18:1-3