Wednesday, December 9, 2009


"Shall it be held lawful to make an occupation of the sword, when the Lord proclaims that he who uses the sword shall perish by the sword? And shall the son of peace take part in the battle when it does not become him even to sue at law? And shall he apply the chain, and the prison, and the torture, and the punishment, who is not the avenger even of his own wrongs?"


Saturday, November 28, 2009


John Howard Yoder
On binding and loosing (Matthew 18:15-18)

"Moral discernment and forgiveness condition and enable one another in complex ways. Admonition presupposes prior discernment; otherwise the criteria for admonition would not be common to both parties. Conversation with reconciling intent is the most powerful way for a community to discover when the rules they have been applying are inadequate, so that they may be modified. Asking whether there has really been an offense helps determine which differences need to be resolved by coming to unanimity by means of dialogue and forgiveness and which call for an agreement to differ. Having experienced forgiveness together enables a community to deliberate in an otherwise inaccessible mode of mutual trust.

Before moving on toward the present, let me summarize the primary components of this mandate; some of them differ from the way our world usually works:
1. Believing men and women are empowered to act in God's name.
2. What the believers do, God is doing, in and through human action.
3. God will not normally do this without human action.
4. If we receive forgiveness, we must give it.
5. This dialogical reconciling process must come first. Only then must we turn to talk of the set of standards that this process enforces. Much Christian debate about moral issues makes the mistake o concentrating on what the standards ought to be rather than on how they are to be discerned and implemented.

Taking seriously this apostolic witness would seem to put us at the mercy of a number of ecclesiastical scarecrows. It gives more authority to the church than does Rome, trusts more to the Holy Spirit than does Pentecostalism, has more respect for the individual than does liberal humanism, makes moral standards more binding than did Puritanism, and is more open to the new situation than was what some called "the new morality" a quarter-century ago. If practiced, it would radically restructure the life of churches. Thus the path to the rediscovery of Christian faithfulness might lead through some positions contemporary Christian "moderates" have been trying to avoid."

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Silent Matrix

If the Matrix had been shot in the Silent Era. The main guy does a pretty good Charlie Chaplin.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Current Events

This will be a bit of a rant, but I’m posting it here because I’m curious whether others have had a similar experience.

I was reading this post Michael Kruse linked to about the fall of the Berlin Wall and I realize that I know almost nothing about the fall of the Berlin Wall. Which reminded me of something I’ve really felt is is lacking in our education system.

We really need a “recent events” class or something, because I took multiple versions of American History (middle school, high school, college) and not one of them got further than World War II. I know much, much more about the Revolutionary War than I do about the Vietnam War. I know much, much more about the Civil War than I do about the Cold War.

I suspect there’s a weird inverse bell curve to our knowledge of history, such that we know what happened 50+ years ago because of history classes, and we know what happened since we (hopefully) started paying attention to the news, but there’s a 30 year blind spot. The year in American history about which I know least is probably the year of my birth. And what I do know is unlikely to be very accurate. What I know about the European colonization of the Americas or the New Deal comes from textbooks. What I know about the ’70s and ’80s comes from Forrest Gump.

And yet this is likely to be the most relevant for understanding the world, right? Knowing about what precipitated World War I matters (the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand), but not much more than the French revolution. We’re still dealing with the fallout from the Cold War, and that is particularly relevant to questions about government involvement in the economic sector. Many folks hold up the example of the fall of Communism as why the free market is better, and I don’t even know enough about the events of my own lifetime to be able to evaluate that claim. I’m a pretty informed guy, and yet I resort to reading Wikipedia articles about Gorbachev, because articles written today by people of an older generation assume a level of knowledge I don’t have. And so we talk past each other because some of us think We already tried that in the ’70’s, you idiot, don’t you remember Carter but they don’t say that, and others of us only know Republican excesses, not Democratic ones, so we think There’s nothing self-evident about the idea that regulation is bad, so why are those old people such ideologues?

Ironically, we relate worst with the generation closest to us, because a common frame of reference is assumed, and yet nothing could be further from the truth. I can relate to my grandparents, because I learned about the world they came of age in, and we are socially conditioned to realize we come from different worlds, but my parents are a mystery to me, although we never act like it.

If my theory is right, the generation coming after me, who will live in a world to large degree shaped by 9/11 and the war on terror and whatever we eventually call the current economic crisis, will be those who know least about what happened. And I and people my age will act as if they know more than they do, because they were born in 1998, for Pete’s sake, they were there, but they weren’t, because they were 5 or 10 or maybe 12, and if they are very lucky they will have learned about American history up to the Kennedy assassination, flattened by history into being as relevant as Lincoln’s.

Friday, September 11, 2009

The War Prayer - by Mark Twain

It was a time of great and exalting excitement. The country was up in arms, the war was on, in every breast burned the holy fire of patriotism; the drums were beating, the bands playing, the toy pistols popping, the bunched firecrackers hissing and spluttering; on every hand and far down the receding and fading spread of roofs and balconies a fluttering wilderness of flags flashed in the sun; daily the young volunteers marched down the wide avenue gay and fine in their new uniforms, the proud fathers and mothers and sisters and sweethearts cheering them with voices choked with happy emotion as they swung by; nightly the packed mass meetings listened, panting, to patriot oratory which stirred the deepest deeps of their hearts, and which they interrupted at briefest intervals with cyclones of applause, the tears running down their cheeks the while; in the churches the pastors preached devotion to flag and country, and invoked the God of Battles beseeching His aid in our good cause in outpourings of fervid eloquence which moved every listener. It was indeed a glad and gracious time, and the half dozen rash spirits that ventured to disapprove of the war and cast a doubt upon its righteousness straightway got such a stern and angry warning that for their personal safety's sake they quickly shrank out of sight and offended no more in that way.

Sunday morning came – next day the battalions would leave for the front; the church was filled; the volunteers were there, their young faces alight with martial dreams – visions of the stern advance, the gathering momentum, the rushing charge, the flashing sabers, the flight of the foe, the tumult, the enveloping smoke, the fierce pursuit, the surrender! Then home from the war, bronzed heroes, welcomed, adored, submerged in golden seas of glory! With the volunteers sat their dear ones, proud, happy, and envied by the neighbors and friends who had no sons and brothers to send forth to the field of honor, there to win for the flag, or, failing, die the noblest of noble deaths. The service proceeded; a war chapter from the Old Testament was read; the first prayer was said; it was followed by an organ burst that shook the building, and with one impulse the house rose, with glowing eyes and beating hearts, and poured out that tremendous invocation

God the all-terrible! Thou who ordainest! Thunder thy clarion and lightning thy sword!

Then came the "long" prayer. None could remember the like of it for passionate pleading and moving and beautiful language. The burden of its supplication was, that an ever-merciful and benignant Father of us all would watch over our noble young soldiers, and aid, comfort, and encourage them in their patriotic work; bless them, shield them in the day of battle and the hour of peril, bear them in His mighty hand, make them strong and confident, invincible in the bloody onset; help them to crush the foe, grant to them and to their flag and country imperishable honor and glory –

An aged stranger entered and moved with slow and noiseless step up the main aisle, his eyes fixed upon the minister, his long body clothed in a robe that reached to his feet, his head bare, his white hair descending in a frothy cataract to his shoulders, his seamy face unnaturally pale, pale even to ghastliness. With all eyes following him and wondering, he made his silent way; without pausing, he ascended to the preacher's side and stood there waiting. With shut lids the preacher, unconscious of his presence, continued with his moving prayer, and at last finished it with the words, uttered in fervent appeal, "Bless our arms, grant us the victory, O Lord our God, Father and Protector of our land and flag!"

The stranger touched his arm, motioned him to step aside – which the startled minister did – and took his place. During some moments he surveyed the spellbound audience with solemn eyes, in which burned an uncanny light; then in a deep voice he said:

"I come from the Throne – bearing a message from Almighty God!" The words smote the house with a shock; if the stranger perceived it he gave no attention. "He has heard the prayer of His servant your shepherd, and will grant it if such shall be your desire after I, His messenger, shall have explained to you its import – that is to say, its full import. For it is like unto many of the prayers of men, in that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of – except he pause and think.

"God's servant and yours has prayed his prayer. Has he paused and taken thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two – one uttered, the other not. Both have reached the ear of Him Who heareth all supplications, the spoken and the unspoken. Ponder this – keep it in mind. If you would beseech a blessing upon yourself, beware! lest without intent you invoke a curse upon a neighbor at the same time. If you pray for the blessing of rain upon your crop which needs it, by that act you are possibly praying for a curse upon some neighbor's crop which may not need rain and can be injured by it.

"You have heard your servant's prayer – the uttered part of it. I am commissioned of God to put into words the other part of it – that part which the pastor – and also you in your hearts – fervently prayed silently. And ignorantly and unthinkingly? God grant that it was so! You heard these words: 'Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!' That is sufficient. the whole of the uttered prayer is compact into those pregnant words. Elaborations were not necessary. When you have prayed for victory you have prayed for many unmentioned results which follow victory – must follow it, cannot help but follow it. Upon the listening spirit of God fell also the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!

"O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle – be Thou near them! With them – in spirit – we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe. O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it – for our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen.

(After a pause.) "Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak! The messenger of the Most High waits!"

It was believed afterward that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Execution of the Innocent

Texas may very shortly become the first state to recognize that they have executed a legally and factually innocent person. This piece on the Cameron Todd Willingham case is long, and it's in the New Yorker, so you'll have to put up with those insufferable cartoons, but it's a fascinating and heartbreaking tale.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Center Way

My friend Jesse has started a blog on the healthcare debate, to which I will also be contributing. I may occasionally post things both here and there, but I'm probably too lazy to do that. Anyway, check it out:

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


"For me to be a Spirit-bearer is to realize all the distinctive characteristics in my personality; it is to become truly free, truly myself in my uniqueness. Life in the Spirit possesses an inexhaustible variety; it is wrong-doing, not sanctity, that is boring and repetitive. As a friend of mine, a priest who spent many hours each day hearing confessions, used to remark wearily: 'What a pity there are no new sins!' But there are always new forms of holiness."

Bishop Kallistos Ware, The Orthodox Way

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Free for All

Tim Conder and Dan Rhodes, two of our pastors at Emmaus Way, have a new book out now. It's called Free for All: Rediscovering the Bible in Community. I'll post a review once I get my copy, but for now, here's the description from the back cover:

Say "free-for-all," and most people imagine a brawl. But what if we had a free-for-all with the Bible? What if we opened up to aggressive interpretation within the communities of our local churches? In this provocative book, Tim Conder and Daniel Rhodes explore the critical need to encounter Scripture collectively, and then they invite us to listen in as a group from their church delves into four Bible passages--the obscure, the emotive, the familiar, and the controversial. Free for All makes a compelling case for communities as a valid authority for biblical interpretation. The authors show that communities are capable of breaking open the texts in fresh and surprising ways, unleashing them anew into our lives.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Trailer: The Fantastic Mr. Fox

Wes Anderson's movies take place in such an artificial, carefully crafted universe, it's only natural that he would turn to a form of animation, where he can control literally everything onscreen. I'm cautiously interested, since I think Anderson does his best work when some element is unruly enough to burst out of his micromanaged mise-en-scène, like Gene Hackman in The Royal Tenenbaums (still Wes Anderson's best work). I'm not sure if George Clooney's voice is enough to give Anderson's somewhat airless style the life it needs.

On the other hand, Roald Dahl wrote the original story, and his stuff is usually brilliant. Plus, stop-motion is underutilized, so good for them.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


Christianity Today had this fascinating article on a third way between religious fundamentalism and religious relativism. The story is mostly about a Muslim leader on interfaith dialogue named Evoo Patel:

"For fifteen minutes the students debate the matter, fluctuating between constitutional rights and economic realities. Finally, Patel interrupts.

'I'm hearing you articulate two grand narratives. First, the narrative of American freedom. And second, the narrative of capitalism and productivity. But remember, the reporter is not calling you because you are an expert in economics or constitutional law. He's calling you because you are a minister. Don't be afraid to answer the question as a Christian. Answer out of the Christian narrative.'

The irony of a Muslim challenging a group of pastors to be more Christian was not lost on the students. Heads dropped as they contemplated a different response to the case study. Cassie Meyer assisted the students by adapting the scenario.

'Imagine you're the pastoral intern at the church in Grand Island,' Meyer says, 'and you've been given the responsibility to preach a sermon this Sunday addressing the conflict between the Christians and Muslims. What would you say from the pulpit? What would you use from Scripture?'

'The greatest commandment is to love God and love our neighbors,' says one student. 'Whether we like it or not, these Somali Muslims are our neighbors and we are called to love them.'

'But many in the town don't view the Muslims as their neighbors,' says another student. 'They view them as intruders, unwanted outsiders, or even their enemies.'

'Do you think referring to the Muslims as 'enemies' in your sermon might inflame the problem?' Patel asks.

"' don't think so,' the student responds. 'Jesus calls us to love our enemies and to show kindness to aliens. But that would have to be made clear in the sermon. The story of the Good Samaritan comes to mind.' Patel is out of his chair, energized by what he is hearing.

'I want you to see what just happened,' he says. 'I want to affirm this. You are using the grand Christian narrative to respond to an interfaith conflict. First, I heard the Christian story of loving God and loving your neighbor. Second, I heard the Christian story of the Good Samaritan and the call to love the stranger. By using these stories, you are defining reality through the Christian narrative.

'Remember, the three most powerful narratives on the planet are narratives of religion, narratives of nation, and narratives of ethnicity/race. You cannot afford to forfeit that territory by talking about economics or the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Don't be afraid to be Christian ministers. If you don't use the Christian narrative to define reality for your people, then someone else will define reality for them with a different narrative.'

Patel's call to stand firmly on the Christian narrative isn't what most students expect to hear from a Muslim professor."

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Jay-Z and American Hegemony

Marc Lynch at Foreign Policy has an interesting (to me, anyway) analysis of the limits of hard and soft power, as displayed in the current beef between Jay-Z and the Game.

"See, Jay-Z (Shawn Carter) is the closest thing to a hegemon which the rap world has known for a long time. He's #1 on the Forbes list of the top earning rappers. He has an unimpeachable reputation, both artistic and commercial, and has produced some of the all-time best (and best-selling) hip hop albums including standouts Reasonable Doubt, The Blueprint and the Black Album. He spent several successful years as the CEO of Def Jam Records before buying out his contract a few months ago to release his new album on his own label. And he's got Beyonce. Nobody, but nobody, in the hip hop world has his combination of hard power and soft power. If there be hegemony, then this is it. Heck, when he tried to retire after the Black Album, he found himself dragged back into the game (shades of America's inward turn during the Clinton years?).

But the limits on his ability to use this power recalls the debates about U.S. primacy. Should he use this power to its fullest extent, as neo-conservatives would advise, imposing his will to reshape the world, forcing others to adapt to his values and leadership? Or should he fear a backlash against the unilateral use of power, as realists such as my colleague Steve Walt or liberals such as John Ikenberry would warn, and instead exercise self-restraint?"

Click here for the full article.

Thursday, June 25, 2009


"Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, ... about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience.

Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. ...

If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason?"

St. Augustine

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

A Stranger

They say there are really only two stories in the world:

Someone goes on a journey, or

A stranger comes to town.

Both kinds of story have a similar rhythm. The status quo is upset somehow, and equilibrium must be restored. The protagonist is either thrust by events outside the familiar into the larger world, or the larger world comes bursting into the protagonist's comfort zone in the form of the stranger.

In the first kind of story, the journey can be literal, metaphysical, philosophical, spiritual, or (usually) all of the above. Dorothy is ripped from her home and takes a physical journey through Oz, but it's also a journey to adulthood of sorts, where she makes friends, learns lessons, and discovers personal strength. Frodo has to journey to Mount Doom in Lord of the Rings, but it's also a spiritual journey of sacrifice. Ebenezer Scrooge travels in space and time (or dreams it, or whatever), but his real journey is one of personal discovery.

The second kind of story is common in Westerns. The townpeople are being oppressed, but surviving, until a stranger rides into town wearing a white hat to clean up the badguys. Once that's done, he rides off into the sunset. Or think of The Cat in the Hat. Equilibrium is upset by the appearance of the strange figure, but in the end a better status quo is established. Romantic comedies can work this way too, particularly recently. Frequently the mopey male lead's world is interrupted by the manic pixie dream girl, who is a destructive force but draws him out of his shell (Elizabethtown, Garden State). You know it's the "stranger comes to town" plot when there's a big speech at the end where the guy says something like "ever since you showed up, you've ruined everything, I can't sleep, I don't know what to do, but you're all I think about..." and so on and so forth.

So if the Bible is primarily the story we find ourselves in, what kind of story is it? There are of course a huge variety of smaller stories within the big story, but I think we can see the Bible's narrative as kind of a fractal pattern involving both story types.

In the Old Testament, after all the exposition and setup (Genesis 1-11), a stranger comes to town. Abraham's ordinary life is interrupted by the arrival of a strange God, who tells him to take a journey, both physical and spiritual. The rest of the OT is an account of this journey, with all its digressions, dramatic interludes, and what Scot McKnight calls "wiki-stories", smaller stories that fit within the big story (Ruth & Boaz, Jonah). But the big journey seems to fizzle out. The Promised Land is reached, and yet...Israel still seems to be stuck in a persistent exile. There's a new status quo, all right, but it's apparently one of expectantly waiting while being oppressed. Some story.

And then a stranger comes to town.

And he starts to talk about the old story, and how it's now coming to fruition through himself. And he talks about how the status quo is being overturned, and there really is a happy ending on the way, though of course (like all good stories) there's a lot of bad to come before that. And he threatens the people who profit from the status quo and tells them the part they've chosen in the story does not end well, and of course they don't like that so they kill him. And the story seems to be over. It's a cautionary tale about not rocking the boat. Because the villains always win. Life is nasty, brutish, and short, and eventually Grendel or Darth Vader or Caesar will get you.

And yet.

The story isn't over. Paradoxically, the antagonist's moment of triumph was simultaneously their very defeat. The rhythm of the universe picks up again. The seed sown in the dark earth sprouts up a plant. Aslan gets off the stone table, Neo picks himself up off the (virtual) ground, and Jesus walks out of his final resting place not just resuscitated, but Resurrected.

And the story starts again. A new people is gathered, made of all the nations of the earth, and the friends go on a journey. The turning point has happened, the war is over, but there is still a lot of work to do. The story continues, and we're still in it, and we decide what part we will play. The invitation is extended to join the journeying friends, who will have their own smaller stories, but these stories will find their place in the great narrative that fills the cosmos.

This pattern repeats itself yet a third time. Because the journeying friends know that the stranger will once more come to town, and set all things right. And then a new journey will begin. And this part of the story stretches away so far ahead of us we can barely understand it, but it's the story we're choosing to live in, every day. It's the story that is the most beautiful to us. It's the story that is deeply good. And it's a story that is true; that is, it makes the most sense of what we find around us. And we learn how to mourn, and how to celebrate, because the story isn't over.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


"...the shorthand phrase "the authority of scripture" when unpacked, offers a picture of God's sovereign and saving plan for the entire cosmos, dramatically inaugurated by Jesus himself, and now implemented through the Spirit-led life of the church precisely as the scripture-reading community. ... We read scripture in order to be refreshed in our memory and understanding of the story within which we ourselves are actors, to be reminded where it has come from and where it is going to, and hence what our own part within it ought to be."

N.T. Wright, The Last Word

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Things I've Learned Recently

FACT: Dinosaurs can be hilarious.

FACT: Hurley has a blog. (Okay, it's not Hurley, it's the actor who plays him, Jorge Garcia.)

FACT: Buying a house is hard work, and emotionally taxing.
SOURCE: The whole last freaking 2 months.

FACT: Asparagus is from the lily family, and can grow 6 to 10 inches in a day.

FACT: "Weisure" is a stupid word, and I hope it doesn't catch on.
SOURCE: CNN, home of "articles" that are basically interviews with one person about whatever they want to say, apparently.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Dumpster Diving

Everybody go check out my beautiful wife Amy's article on dumpster diving over at Relevant.

"As far as dumpsters go, the one I was standing in didn’t smell all that bad. My garbage can in my kitchen has produced worse smells.

It’s midnight on a chilly spring night in North Carolina. A young woman, dressed in dark jeans and a hooded sweatshirt hops a short chain link into a nearby alley and scrambles up the side of an open dumpster. Sounds of rustling emerge as she sorts through newspapers, bulging trash bags and bins of produce.

Are we watching a scene from an afternoon special? A documentary on the dangers of street living? A burglary in progress?

None of the above. The scene I just described took place behind a suburban strip mall. The girl involved? A graduate student from Duke University. She was participating in a practice that has become more and more popular..."

Monday, April 27, 2009

Biblical Curse Generator

"Behold, thou shalt be as welcome as a fart in the queen's bedchamber, O ye plaything of Beelzebub!"

Thanks, Ship of Fools. Go here for more.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Christian Utilitarianism, and Mourning

Everybody go read this thoughtful and poignant reflection on how the church has unfortunately absorbed our culture's utilitarian ethics. Daniel Salinas' daughter, Karis, was born with cerebral palsy, and he writes about his experience with the well-intentioned but totally inadequate response of Christian community:

"We thought that we would find compassion, understanding, empathy, help, rest, and a friendly hand in the Christian community, but instead we found the same utilitarian ethics as in the secular world. For most believers, including the majority of our family members, there were two options: Either God heals her, or God takes her away. They posed questions like: What sense does it make to live like that? Isn’t it better that God takes her away instead of letting her suffer here? Innocent questions, yes, but behind these questions we saw the same arguments that secular scholars have proposed....

Death is our enemy. But in our case, for most of the believers who came to comfort us, our daughter’s death was the best thing that could have happened to her and to us. For those people, she was better off dead. They were not that blunt, but the message was clear: She is better off now, no more suffering, no more pain.

That was too much for us to bear. Would anyone in their right mind say that to parents who are burying their seven-year-old “normal child”? Yes, Karis lived with much pain and suffering, but how much better to search for ways to alleviate the pain and not celebrate death. Does our God not care about life, all life? Are we not supposed to promote life? So then, why did our fellow Christians keep telling us that it was better for our daughter to die?"

We need desperately to rethink how and why we value people, and how we can support and love those with special challenges of all kinds. Go check out L'Arche for a great example of this.

And also very importantly, we need to learn how to grieve with people. There's a very simple answer we should remember when we're tempted to avoid those in mourning by claiming "we don't know what to say": don't say anything. Take a cue from Job's 3 friends. When they first show up to comfort him after the loss of his family, they sit in silence with him for a week. It's only when they open their mouths that they get into trouble. So if someone is mourning or grieving, and you want to offer them a platitude about God being in control, or how every cloud has a silver lining, or how really, it's better this way...just shut the hell up and be there.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Flotsam & Jetsam: Post-Resurrection Edition

...Mary stood outside the tomb weeping. As she wept, she knelt to look into the tomb and saw two angels sitting there, dressed in white, one at the head, the other at the foot of where Jesus' body had been laid. They said to her, "Woman, why do you weep?"

"They took my Master," she said, "and I don't know where they put him." After she said this, she turned away and saw Jesus standing there. But she didn't recognize him. Jesus spoke to her, "Woman, why do you weep? Who are you looking for?" She, thinking that he was the gardener, said, "Mister, if you took him, tell me where you put him so I can care for him."

Jesus said, "Mary."

Turning to face him, she said in Hebrew, "Rabboni!" meaning "Teacher!"

Jesus said, "Don't cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go to my brothers and tell them, 'I ascend to my Father and your Father, my God and your God.'" Mary Magdalene went, telling the news to the disciples: "I saw the Master!" And she told them everything he said to her.

Hope you had a great Easter weekend like we did. Back to blogging.

1. This guy gets it.

2. These jurors don't. Right before Good Friday?

3. That sucks.
fail owned pwned pictures

4. This looks neat, but isn't that amount of ambient electricity a problem?

5. Legos!

6. You never thought about it from the goombas' perspective, did you?
via Offworld

7. Appropriately rescued on Easter. But what do we do about piracy in Somalia, which is basically ungoverned?

8. Mike Morrell posts an excerpt from Peter Rollins' new book. I plan to get it.

9. Speaking of Rollins, and since it's Easter-time, here's a quote from him, when accused of denying Jesus' Resurrection:

Without equivocation or hesitation I fully and completely admit that I deny the resurrection of Christ. This is something that anyone who knows me could tell you, and I am not afraid to say it publicly, no matter what some people may think…

I deny the resurrection of Christ every time I do not serve at the feet of the oppressed, each day that I turn my back on the poor; I deny the resurrection of Christ when I close my ears to the cries of the downtrodden and lend my support to an unjust and corrupt system.

However there are moments when I affirm that resurrection, few and far between as they are. I affirm it when I stand up for those who are forced to live on their knees, when I speak for those who have had their tongues torn out, when I cry for those who have no more tears left to shed.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


I'm giving up the Internet for Lent.

Well, most of it. I'll still be checking my email (I'll hold myself to twice a day), and as a matter of practicality, anything work-related is okay. As are very specific searches, like if I genuinely need to look up a phone number or something.

Basically, I'm giving up recreational web-surfing.

Not because it's inherently bad, of course. It just takes up too much of my time. So I'm going to make some space in my life, and hopefully fill that space with Jesus. 

This means I won't be blogging. We'll chat after Easter.

Is this a joke?

I somehow stumbled across this website, which is either for a crazy super-fundamentalist church, or a really clever satire of one. I can't decide which. The pastor's name is Darwin Fish, but he insists that's his real name.

Either way, it's good for a laugh.

I especially thought this from the FAQ was pretty funny:

1. Are you the only true church/believers?

We do not know. There was a church in Murfreesboro, TN, but that has since dissolved. Other than that, we have not yet, as of this date, found another church that is in the truth (1 John 4:6), and we have been to many. Will we find one? Actually, the real question is, will Christ find one?

When the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth? (Luke 18:8, see also 2 Timothy 3:1-5; 4:3; 2 Peter 2:2)

Also, apparently, if you regard such crazy radical left-wing liberals as Billy Graham, John MacArthur, Charles Stanley, T.D. Jakes, Charles Spurgeon, Chuck Colson, C.S. Lewis, or "Pope John Paul" (I assume they mean the Second) as godly men, you are not saved.

Wow, I'm boned. Dallas Willard, Rob Bell, and Phyllis Tickle didn't even make the guy's shitlist. See you in hell, everybody.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Previously on Lost

BEN: Thomas, the Apostle. When Jesus wanted to return to Judea, knowing that he probably would be murdered there, Thomas said to the others, "Let us all go that we might die with him." But Thomas was not remembered for this bravery. His claim to fame came later, when he refused to acknowledge the resurrection. He just couldn't wrap his mind around it. The story goes that he needed to touch Jesus' wounds to be convinced.

JACK: So, was he?

BEN: Of course he was. We're all convinced sooner or later, Jack.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Jetsam and Flotsam

Go here, and feel better about your day.

Time-lapse snails

Cave house for sale

Conan is about to displace Leno, finally.

Oh yeah!
fail owned pwned pictures

I'm glad that everyone is welcome at our communion table, even J.I. Packer

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

They'll know we are Christians by our...what was it exactly?

Everybody go read this ridiculous story of a bunch of church people being total jerks to a waitress.

I'll quote:

A group of six church-goers came in last night after their evening services and sat down, not in her area but in another server's. When the girl came to greet them and take their drink order, one of them said, "We want to tell you up front that we will not be tipping you tonight because..."

Are you ready?

"...we do not believe in people working on Sunday."

The girl was taken full-aback, stammered out something that sounded like "I wouldn't have to work on Sunday if so many church people didn't come in," or some such. She was furious. So was the manager of the restaurant whom she summoned to deal with them. I think he should have tossed the people out on their...uh...Bibles. To his credit, and demonstrating something like agape all around, he did say to them, "Well, we don't believe in making our people work for nothing, so I will be serving you tonight." And he did. God bless him.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Flotsam, also Jetsam

Rainn Wilson (Dwight on The Office) on religious persecution in Iran

You will never hear this song the same way again

You know, I might actually hire this guy

Carl McColman on the future of Christian mysticism (via Mike Morrell)

I'm basically a pacifist nowadays, so why do I think armor and swords and stuff are so cool?

Speaking of cool, Amazon has great deals on this book:
(via Brant Hansen's blog, which also features this amazing judge-off)

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Dark Night of the Soul

And now a few words from St. John of the Cross:

On a dark night, Kindled in love with yearnings—oh, happy chance!—
I went forth without being observed, My house being now at rest.

In darkness and secure, By the secret ladder, disguised—oh, happy chance!—
In darkness and in concealment, My house being now at rest.

In the happy night, In secret, when none saw me,
Nor I beheld aught, Without light or guide, save that which burned in my heart.

This light guided me More surely than the light of noonday
To the place where he (well I knew who!) was awaiting me— A place where none appeared.

Oh, night that guided me, Oh, night more lovely than the dawn,
Oh, night that joined Beloved with lover, Transforming Lover in Beloved!

Upon my flowery breast, Kept wholly for himself alone,
There he stayed sleeping, and I caressed him, And the fanning of the cedars made a breeze.

The breeze blew from the turret As I parted his locks;
With his gentle hand he wounded my neck And caused all my senses to be suspended.

I remained, lost in oblivion; My face I reclined on the Beloved.
All ceased and I abandoned myself, Leaving my cares forgotten among the lilies.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Flotsam & Jetsam

The weird story of Amy Grant suing Dr. Strange

Obama-ize thyself

Bishop Will Willimon sticks it to antitheist Bart Ehrman

Why Disney dumped the Narnia series...I hope they can find another distributor, at least long enough to make The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. More Reepicheep!

Freaking awesome guitar-shaped boat for sale

The bioethics of prenatal cancer gene screening

How marketing affects (read: controls) moviemaking

Monday, January 19, 2009


I'm cautiously excited about a new series NBC has coming out. It's called "Kings" and it appears to be a modern-day retelling of the story of David and Saul. You can learn about the show here. You can read the story of David here.

I've often thought that the Samuel/Kings/Chronicles narrative would make a fabulous movie or TV series (or comic book, or something). Film versions of Bible stories tend to be centered around either Exodus or Easter or the Christmas story (all of which are great, mind you) and tend to be depressingly traditional. Everybody wears bathrobes, like they stepped off a flannel-graph display, and everyone speaks in stilted, grand cadences. And until fairly recently, all the Jewish characters (Moses, Jesus, etc.) were suspiciously Norwegian-looking.

But so many more interesting things could be done with the stories. Make Jesus black in the South during Jim Crow, and make the Roman Empire into the KKK. Make Moses the adopted son of a factory owner at the height of the Industrial Revolution, leading his people out of unfair working conditions. Or zoom in a little bit. Tell the story from Peter's perspective. Or Pilate's. Or Judas'. Mel Gibson did this a little bit with The Passion of the Christ, in that the film is really just about Jesus' crucifixion (I wish he'd done more than this, actually; the flashback scenes between Jesus and Mary were the best in the film, but I give him credit for trying).

And the story of David and Saul is absolutely ripe for this kind of artistic interpretation. It's epic. It's tragic. It's full of Shakespearean intrigue. It is not a pious Sunday school story. Sex! Violence! Betrayal! Hundreds of foreskins! Revenge! Impotence!

You really could make a show about this that could last for years. David's rise from small-town shepherd boy, to new king favored by God, to arrogant rapist/murderer, to repentant yet inevitably declining monarch...he's a tragic hero the Greeks wish they'd thought of. Plus he's the rock star of the ancient world. Ooh, that would be interesting...David as young wannabe to Saul's aging rock god...

What biblical story do you think is unjustly ignored, and deserves a good retelling? How would you tell it?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Flotsam & Jetsam

<--I have no idea who this woman is, but she's my hero

-Does this spin, or are the wheels just for effect?

-Get ready for action

-I don't usually say things like, "What's the world coming to?", but...what's the world coming to?

Cities are too gridlike. Let's just throw buildings around randomly.

As a former video editor, I thought this was just really charming

Bars & Tones from André F. Chocron on Vimeo.

Monday, January 12, 2009


No matter your opinion of President (for another week, anyway) Bush, he is not a great orator. Here's my favorite of his mangled phrases:

"There's an old saying in Tennessee—I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee—that says, fool me once, shame on—shame on you. Fool me—you can't get fooled again."
—Nashville, Tenn., Sept. 17, 2002

I like the way he gives up halfway through the saying and just sums it up.

What's your favorite Bush quote or made-up word? "Misunderestimated"? "Strategery"?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


N.T. Wright on hell

(See also this book by him. And this one, by that other British Anglican guy. And this podcast for a different perspective, which you can find free on iTunes, but I don't know how to link to that.)

What do you think? Since adolescence I've discovered the Bible isn't nearly so clear about heaven, hell, and the afterlife as I thought it was. It's clear enough (whatever hell or judgment or separation from God mean, you don't want it), but the Bible does not usually speak in ways that lend themselves to tidy diagrams and charts.

I know this isn't a fun conversation to have, but I think it's one we need to have.

Monday, January 5, 2009

With a Capital "P"

Scot McKnight is complaining about informal pastor web pages.

"What annoyed me about these sites was the utter absence of a sense of the sacred in pastoring, of the overwhelming sense of God's call upon a life that reaches so deep that everything becomes holy, of the profound respect and privilege of the call to lead God's people, and of the total lack of order."

I normally think he's right on, but not today. I don't like the argument that the priesthood of all believers means the pastor's calling isn't "better, just different", when that "just different" calling comes with special titles and decorum and pomp and circumstance and seats of honor and special access to God. I don't like the implication that God's call that makes everything holy is reserved for a select few. There is none not called (Yoder said that somewhere).

If this is a problem at all (I'm quite dubious), it's a problem of the celebritization of pastors. Scot cites the fact that some pastors' websites list what's on their iPod or what they're reading. It is a little self-absorbed to think that everyone will want to know what your favorite music is. But then again, I have a blog, and so does Scot, so how can we judge?

Now, he's right that the priesthood of all believers doesn't mean hyper-individualistic rejection of authority. It doesn't mean "no one can tell me what to do" or "I can find God on my own". It means the opposite of that, actually. The priesthood of believers is a call to incredible mutual interdependence. But it also doesn't mean the outsourcing of our spiritual life to a special class of religious professionals.

What do you think? Does your church's website have pastor bios with tidbits of info? Do we treat pastors too informally? Too formally? Should we have a clergy/laity distinction at all, or is the biblical image of the body of Christ much more complex than that?

How I Spent My Winter Vacation

I didn't seem to blog at all over Christmas. I guess it's because we were bouncing around all over Florida, with inconsistent internet access and plenty to do. Or maybe I only blog when I'm avoiding work.

Somehow over a week and a half Amy and I managed to see lots of folks on our list of People To See. People in our lives are now roughly divided into 5 categories: Family (Amy's, mine), Tampa (mostly Amy's friends), Polk County (mostly my friends), Orlando (our friends from college and Wesley), and now North Carolina. We saw the fam (we had 4 separate Christmases, of course). And New Year's was fun, and made more exciting by the announcement of Amy's sister Monica's engagement to her longtime beau, Louis. Due to a well-timed wedding (congratulations, you two) we managed to see many Orlando friends we hadn't seen in awhile, albeit far too briefly.

I always love going home, and I'm always equally ready to come home. (Yes, you can have more than one home).

Apropos of nothing, did you know bubbles can freeze?