creeds and criticism :: hellfire and history (part I)

“I reject any creed that would send the Dalai Lama to hell.” I watched an author of fiction (one I’m quite fond of) offer this phrase at a book release last year. As he spoke, the vast majority of receptive ears were attached to heads nodding in agreement and righteous indignation.

Inner monologue: “Who could possibly be so stupid as to send the Dalai Lama to hell? What group of people could possibly hold a set of beliefs that would send such a man to such a place? They must be ridiculous! The Apostles creed is bunk! We’d be better off if it were never repeated again!”

So… wouldn’t we as a species make it a few steps further along our evolutionary journey if we dropped the self-righteous possession of truth in pretty little formulas? Weren’t the creeds the attempt of the powerful majority in the early church to subjugate all dissenting opinions? Who in their right mind would want to follow such a legacy? Continue reading “creeds and criticism :: hellfire and history (part I)”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer :: violence and responsibility

I wanted to make the paper [Bonhoeffer and Violence] I’ve written most recently for a seminar on Bonhoeffer available. (If Bonhoeffer is a new name to you, let my friends introduce him). The paper tackles a major question that cuts across both Bonhoeffer’s biography and his theology:

What is a fellow who can say the following sentence doing involved in an assassination conspiracy? “There is no thinkable deed in which evil is so large and strong that it would require a different [i.e. a violent] response from a Christian.” This question looms large in many ways, especially as both Bonhoeffer and questions of violence have appeared in the conversation with Casey lately.

I’m sure that you’ll see more Bonhoeffer here soon, he and I are spending a lot of time together these days as I write my thesis on his moral epistemology (i.e. the answer to the question, “How do we know what to do?”).

Seven Stanzas at Easter :: John Updike

Resurrected Christ
Make no mistake: if He rose at all
it was as His body;
if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules
reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
the Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers,
each soft Spring recurrent;
it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled
eyes of the eleven apostles;
it was as His flesh: ours.

The same hinged thumbs and toes,
the same valved heart
that–pierced–died, withered, paused, and then
regathered out of enduring Might
new strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping, transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the
faded credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mâché,
not a stone in a story,
but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow
grinding of time will eclipse for each of us
the wide light of day.

And if we will have an angel at the tomb,
make it a real angel,
weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair,
opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen
spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are
embarrassed by the miracle,
and crushed by remonstrance.

[Written for a religious arts festival sponsored by the Clifton Lutheran Church, of Marblehead, Mass.]

friday’s guilt, saturday’s solidarity :: thoughts on responsibility

This post continues a converation I’ve been in over the last few weeks. See more here and here.

I was born into a rich (by global standards) white family in the hills of Colorado. I began existing in this world in 1981. I emerged into a part of the world (into a structure) where people live in privilege, (for the most part) unknowingly on the backs of others. I didn’t come to realize all the links in the system (and I still don’t know most of them) all at once. Through high school and college I learned more and more.

Am I ontologically guilty by virtue of being born into privilege? I don’t think so. Continue reading “friday’s guilt, saturday’s solidarity :: thoughts on responsibility”

theology and power :: what’s the use?

Here’s an excerpt of a conversation that I thought others might want in on – feel free to add your two bits, eh?:

I’m going to throw a few words back; you said:

    “I’m really trying to figure things out – especially the power of nations against nations…especially “doing” theology while comfortably existing in a nation – I mean really – how does this work. Maybe they are right – in order for our ‘lil theology centers to keep tick’n out happy theology that “cares for the poor” we better keep piling money into our military piggy bank…because ALL nations will do this, so we better be the best at it.”

If theology is a detached “merely academic” enterprise, then you are right; theologians are the worst of the bourgeoisie – lazy, overfed men (and women) peddling metaphysical delicacies to those with the capital to buy a few years of listening leisure. Continue reading “theology and power :: what’s the use?”

God’s work in Zimbabwe

Many of you will already have seen this, but what follows is a letter I’ve written to friends and family on behalf of a friend of mine who works as a pastor in Zimbabwe. Feel free to get in touch if you are interested.

Dear friends and family,

Greetings, I hope that Spring is progressing nicely wherever you find yourself this year. Here in Vancouver the cherry blossoms have just come out on the trees. I think that it’s my favorite time of year. At the moment, my only time to appreciate the cherry blossoms comes as I make my way back and forth from school. Carolyn and I are finishing up our last full semester at Regent College in Vancouver. We’ll still have a few credits lingering after this spring, but for the most part we’ll be finished; these two years have gone too fast.

My primary reason for writing is to let you know that I’m sending asupport check to Noah in Zimbabwe within the month. I’ve distilled and summarized the latest news that I’ve gotten from Noah below. He always passes on many thanks for the support that we send him. He remains tremendously busy these days and the state of his country
makes it increasingly difficult for anyone to maintain a stable existence. Noah’s commitment to serve the people around him is commendable, read a bit further to hear more about what he’s up to these days. In addition to his, I want to pass along my own gratitude; the consistent support we’ve sent over the last three years has made Noah’s family and his church an island of coherence and sanity in a whole sea of unrest. Continue reading “God’s work in Zimbabwe”

of hospitality and hope :: coherence in corrosive times

Carolyn and I recently had the opportunity to stay with some friendly folks in Durham, NC. I want to call attention to what they are doing because I think that it offers an strong alternative to the standard American dream that is pressed (or oppressed) onto most of us from the time we wake up till we lay our heads back down on our designer pillows.

When a culture grows paralyzingly disjointed, unable to provide a coherent vision of what a good life looks like, unreflective participation in the machinery leads one deeper into bankruptcy of the soul. The need for an alternative vision is heart-felt. Christians throughout history have lived in some fairly fragmented cultures and have recognized the need to resist the toxic influence of the “values” touted by the mainstream. Continue reading “of hospitality and hope :: coherence in corrosive times”