Super Duper Jesus Fish or I Respect The Deep Theological Statements You Can Make With Car Magnets, But...

    + Today I pulled out behind a black truck that had one of those magnetic Super Jesus Fish eating a Darwin footed fish. What a sad place our christianist culture has taken us.

    At least, the Darwin footed fish had a scant trace of creative humor. I’ll give ’em that. But all the same, they’re not really making their own claim on an idea. They’re just reacting to the one presented (the original Jesus fish in this case).

    So why do we follow suit and show that we can go ‘one lower?’ “Hey world, not only can we be reactionary and sarcastic just like you but we can do it and not even be funny.”

    As much as I’d like to see the magnetic icon war proceed until finally becoming a full magnetic mosaic of Super Duper Jesus fish cooking up footed Darwin fish in a frying pan while Peter is swimming toward Him and Long St. John Silver is hauling in a net of 153 little footed Darwin fishes with a crumbling Capt’n D’s in the background, I think perhaps I’d rather see evidence that the church has found all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

    I wish we could be funny (in the actually funny sort of way).

    I wish that we would stop making reactionary or copy-cat christianist versions of popular products (or at least stop finding it acceptable).

    Let’s put out a moratorium effective immediately. From now on, thoughtful and Creative are the only ship that’s floating on these waters.

    Who’s with me?

    My Job In A Big Money Industry or How I Don't Think I Can Ever Do It Again

    + I can’t say I don’t feel sinful being here. The stage is set, the lights come up.

    There she is. There he is. There’s passion alright. You can see it on both their faces.

    I can’t tell about intimacy but come on, could you act like this if there was any?

    Cue the music. Perfect. Who would ever listen to this stuff. It’s like they create it exactly and only for these kinds of scenes.

    Quit it, Michael. Try to focus on why you’re here. You got a job. Pay attention to your job. Don’t get distracted. Eyes forward… Focus…

    Oh my gosh…

    Here come the contorted face… ecstasy. Wham. They made it.

    The real deal Lucille.

    I think she might rise into tears. Wait… wait… there we go. Tears to prove it’s real.

    Always happens at the same point.

    But what poise, what presence. Her face is always perfectly caught on the camera. Perfect. I mean, wow.

    Such has the worship service become.

    Bumper Sticker Theological Discussions or Ten Great Ways To Leave God Out Of Our Theology: Number One...

    + “The Bible says it. I believe it. That settles it.” I’ve seen the bumper sticker so many times and it always confuses me. I wish the sticker would define what “it” is. I mean, can you really have the bumper sticker if you actually read the Bible?

    This whole notion seems to spring from our tendency to turn the Bible into a moral codex: first, determine for ourselves what the moral code is, and then we only need the Bible as proof in an argument that the particular determination is Biblically supported.

    Works like this:
    • “I don’t like profanity”
    • The Bible says “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouth”
    • That means you shouldn’t cuss
    • That settles it!

    The issue arises in that now Ephesians 4:29 only means “don’t cuss.” It’s only used as proof you shouldn’t cuss. And it’s read in isolation from Paul’s ideas about Christ having cancelled the written code.

    Very few things are settled for us that easily and I don’t think that Paul, or more importantly, God, wants them to be. The Bible should drive us to God in prayer. It’s a mighty thin line we walk.

    Perhaps the bumper sticker would be more acceptable if it was on a car following a car that I saw the other day, whose bumper sticker said: “Jesus loves you. Everyone else thinks you’re an asshole.”

    Our Christianist Marketing Society or Come And See What Christ Can Do For You

    + One of the most shameful things about our christianist society is our use of Christ as a marketing tool. It’s permeated everything. We’ve developed an entire line of christianist music, with christianist DJ’s and radio stations. Their main selling point… “we’re christianists.”

    Grant took me to the grocery store and showed me you could buy Jesus breath-mints (they looked like Altoids) and other Jesus natural products (looked like Bert’s line of products).

    Often church signs largely promote what “Christ can do for me” in such a way that I’m compelled to see how he stacks up against the leading mutual funds.

    And I cannot count how many business signs display a cross or a fish as if to say “hey I’m a christianist, keep your money in the club.”

    Personally, when I see one of them fishies I button up my wallet pocket and keep moving ahead, eyes forward, nobody sees nothing.

    Now, I’m not saying we should hide the fact of our faith. And I certainly recognize that in some countries enigmatic symbols may be helpful for the Church (of course, the cross and the fish are hardly “enigmatic” to those who would persecute the Church).

    What I’m saying is this: If we want to glorify Christ as a breath mint maker, wouldn’t it be more consistent with our beliefs to be the best stinking breath mint maker on the planet rather than just a ho-hum mint-maker with a fish on his label?

    For the business man, take the God-forsaken cross off your business card and make your name itself be known for fair-dealing, excellence, integrity, and concern for the poor.

    These are the things that make me want to do business with you. These are the things that should make me want to do business with you.

    It’s not that fishes and crosses are all bad. It’s just that it’s the mark of the christianist to substitute the faith with symbols of the faith.

    Our Christianist Society or How The Notion Of Christianity Has Taken Over The Faith

    Somewhere along the way, the church in the U.S. has developed a sub-culture, an entire way of life vaguely related to the idea of Christianity, our christianist society. When I say christianist, I mean those things in our culture that seem to be more dedicated to developing in us a general sense of Christianity than they are to Christ Himself or His actual teaching.

    I suppose that traditions of this sort have existed throughout the history of the church, but since I live now and here, this particular one is the one I find myself struggling against.

    Our christianist society is quite the lucrative industry. Which possibly explains why it is so prevalent. We have myriad forms of media dedicated wholly to the propagation of the culture. They don’t so much propagate Christianity, per se, but rather a general sense of being involved in a culture that uses Christian terminology and stories from the Bible. It’s not so important that we understand the stories or can use the terms correctly. What’s important is that we can utter the words.

    Hell. Save. Grace. Righteousness. Hell.

    Just say ’em. Ahhh, yeah. You’re in.

    Our christianist society is a fiercely traditionalist culture bound together by its anti-traditionalism. 40,000 “just the Bible and me” denominations can’t be wrong.

    Our christianist society is fiercely free-thinking so long as that freedom doesn’t lead you into historically verifiable Christian thought.

    Our christianist society is fiercely un-original (see Jesus fish eating Darwin fish car magnet).

    Our christianist society is fiercely evangelical but its message is so un-compelling (buy Jesus lip balm rather than Bert’s Bees…Why? Because it says “Jesus.” Oh, right. Got it.)

    I suppose I could wave it off as no more than a subjective affront to my individual sensibilities except for the looming impression that the Person of Christ has been replaced by the Notion of Christ.

    Where the Christianist Draws The Line or The First Rule Of Elite Club Is...

    At times I feel like the Christianist church is the most exclusive club around.

    I don’t mean that it’s difficult to attain membership. (Quite the opposite on that account, some Christianist groups are practically puppy-humping your leg in their excitement for you to join… that’s something that always works for me).

    No, what I mean is that Christianists in general have a certain voracity to clearly delineate who’s in the club and who’s out. There is a terribly strong notion of ‘US and THEM’ that exists among “US”.

    It seems that one of the obvious problems with this mentality is that we lose a proper focus. We develop the wrong idea of who is “US” and who is “THEM.”

    Perhaps in our life, we could talk about having a ‘focus’ and an ‘awareness’ in our view of the world. Our “focus” being that upon which our attention is directed – THEM. Our “awareness” being the people or place from which we consciously identify our point of view – US.

    I’ll give an example from down here on the border. Immigration. Our focus might be “security of life and liberty”. And our awareness could be hard working, law abiding American citizens. Or, on the same issue, our focus could be “equal opportunity for life and liberty.” And our awareness might be that we are the conscientious “haves” (as opposed to have nots).

    Just examples, lets not get in an argument over all that (at least not in this post).

    Because here’s the point I want to make: When my awareness is of those qualities I share in common with my surrounding congregation and my focus is on your lack of those qualities, then where is God?

    The better angle perhaps is to be aware of those qualities that I share with all of mankind and set my focus on God’s ability to save me from those very things.

    It’s not so very different from our first perspective. We are still in the mindset of ‘US and THEM.’ Only now, ‘THEM’ is a ‘Him/Them’ meaning ‘God – Father, Son, Spirit.’

    If we truly thought in terms of “neighbor,” it would help us to more easily realize the nature of the “US” in this world.

    When we the church become more aware of our neighbor, and our similarity to him; when we become better focused on God rather than on measuring someone else’s relationship to God, then we will be more valuable towards God’s end of restoring that someone else’s relationship to Himself.

    The Bible As ATM Machine or "I believe it and the Bible says it"... that explains it.

    + Somewhere along the way, we have confused the Bible for an ATM machine.

    This is how it works: we “insert question”… “what to think about abortion, …the death penalty, …poverty, …capitalism, …salvation,” etc. and we get our simple answer if we type the right code number.

    A couple problems with this approach.

    One, just like an ATM machine, we can only get money (answers) that we have already deposited. The reason for this? There’s no one we have to convince that we are right but our own selves.

    And this is another problem (perhaps the bigger one). Where did the struggle go? Where is Israel (Israel means “one who struggles with God”)?

    The sadder fact is that this kind of “insert question, receive simple answer” seems to be so very dependent upon our ignorance of what the Bible has to say.

    There is quite a bit that is confusing in there. And I think it is intentionally so. The point of the Scriptures is to testify to the historical reality of an eternal God, and to drive us into His loving arms. To drive us into a deeper relationship with Him.

    The easy answer aborts this process and allows us the feeling that something holy and religious has occurred although nothing spiritually significant has actually happened.

    If our search for answers doesn’t drive us eventually into prayer then we may not be truly desiring to know God’s heart on the subject. And if that search doesn’t drive us into learning the history of what God has revealed to other Christians on the matter, then we certainly run the risk of confusing God’s heart with our own ego.

    Will Noah Ever Be Safe From The Flood? or How Many Times Do I Have To Tell You That I Already Know Everything

    + At what point was Noah saved from the flood?

    When he obeyed God and built the ark? When the flood waters subsided? When he was born in accordance with God’s plan? When was it?

    At what point was the world saved from total annihilation? When Noah built the ark? When the animals were loaded? When the waters subsided? On day 26 at 2:00 in the morning?

    Or did Noah’s obedience even matter at all… because God is sovereign and His sovereign plan cannot be thwarted (groan, of course He is, but that doesn’t address the question).

    The only answer given to us is that it was both God’s sovereignty and Noah’s obedience that saved the world, 100% each. Not both, 50% each; not one 100%. There’s a difference. The first is impossible. The other two are just stupid.

    So what’s the point? Yeah, good question. Answer: I’m not sure.

    But I think it’ll probably have something to do with this – the discussion of God’s sovereignty and man’s choice is always a pastoral one and not a philosophical one. Because it deals with issues of chronology (first this, then this), as soon as the eternal God is brought up as part of the discussion, the discussion itself can no longer make sense.

    We need so badly to understand our own salvation in this way. It’s both a point and a process. It’s not a forgone conclusion once we enter into the community by way of the water. But neither must we fear every evil wave until we step out onto the dry land of the resurrected life. It’s God’s action working itself out in our life and in our actions.

    However, from a pastoral perspective, sometimes we need to emphasize one part of the truth over and above the other. If we’re running our lives in accordance with our own wills and ambitions, perhaps we need to hear the one side. If we live in constant fear and anxiety, then maybe we need the other side?

    Creating What Always Was – One Day At A Time or How I Never Didn't Wake Up At 5:30 This Morning

    + I feel certain that for those of us who have fully functioning physical capabilities the most difficult motion we ever make is a distance of about 3 feet: moving our head from the pillow to the sitting position. It’s a battle for me every morning at 5:30 and I’ve been getting up at this same time for over 5 years now.

    But what’s got me writing this morning is not so much waking-up habits as time itself, history, eternity.

    I’ll try to give you you the Cliff Notes of my thought process. So, I got up at 5:30 this morning. I could have gotten up at a different time… but I didn’t. I got up at 5:30. To imagine a world where I did not wake up at 5:30 on this morning may be possible, but it is only an effort of fantasy. That world does not exist. That world will not exist. Ever.

    OK, so we got that. Fine. But what has my wheels spinning is this: from a point of view outside of time (i.e. God’s view), a world where I did not get up at 5:30 on this morning never might have existed. In other words, I just created an eternal fact.

    By the choices we make, we become creators of history. But wouldn’t this be the same as being creators of fate, destiny, or eternity. That is to say, that as soon as an action is taken it has always been taken at that precise point in time and precisely in that fashion.

    As soon as I strike my hand against my desk here, swallow this sip of coffee, or cry out ‘Son of David, have mercy on me,’ that action exists eternally. Which is to say that the only world that ever was going to be, the only world that is, the only world ever created is the world when I did that action at that time.

    Of course, I may have chosen to wake up at a different time, and of course, that would have affected the world differently. But the truth of history and eternity is that I did not wake up later or earlier, but precisely at that time.

    We are constantly becoming what we already are. If we are to be perfected in Christ someday, then we are already perfected in him eternally speaking. In fact, we have been perfected in Him from the day of creation. But of course, we exist inside of time and are therefore not yet perfected. We must live through each of the points along the way to that perfection. But they do not exist until we have lived them, until we have created them.

    I’m not sure what this means. But I think it’s probably important… it probably has something to do with questions of God’s sovereignty and man’s free will.

    Either that, or something else.