Thursday, April 30, 2009

The more church, the more torture

This was a little shocking to read. A survey was recently done which found that “the more often Americans go to church, the more likely they are to support the torture of suspected terrorists”. That's got to make you think... I wonder what Jesus thinks of that? I mean considering since he was tortured and all, and in spite of that, told us to "love our enemies", "turn the other cheek", etc.

One thing the survey found that I appreciated: “The religious group most likely to say torture is never justified was Protestant denominations -- such as Episcopalians, [...] -- categorized as "mainline" Protestants, in contrast to evangelicals.” Yet another good reason to be Episcopalian.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Theology in the Letters to the Editor

Here are polar opposite Letters to the Editor from today’s papers for your meditation. First from the Salt Lake Tribune:
I don't begrudge The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for asking $2 million for a condo in its rising City Creek Center ("Million dollar view," Tribune , April 16). Why should it, out of human kindness, price it for less, when the buyer can turn around and resell it for a lot more?

City Creek Center is an expensive urban project, and to make it financially successful the LDS Church should get what the market will bear. After all, the project is a hard-headed business investment as well as generous act to revive downtown Salt Lake. And who can fault the church for not wanting its world headquarters to be surrounded by urban decay?

While I don't fault the church for its business acumen, let's be clear: Jesus would not live in a $2 million condo, and he would condemn those who do. "Give me the simple, communitarian life," was the song he sang and lived. Being a true Christian requires more than proudly increasing the point size of "Jesus Christ" in a logo.

Anthony Edward Samuel
Salt Lake City
And now one from the Deseret News:
I saw the signs in London saying "Down with Capitalism." I also read where the majority of Europe is now atheist.

I suggest something like a prisoner swap. We ship all of our atheists and socialists to Europe in exchange for their Christians and capitalists. I know we may have to do a two for one, but I'm willing to bet on which country would be the greatest place to live now or 10 years from now.

Mark Arrington
Heber City
So… what’d ya think?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Meeting: April 22nd

This is a reminder about our upcoming get together this week:

The usual time: 7pm, April 22nd
The usual place: High Point Coffee, 1735 W 7800 S, West Jordan

Come share and discuss what books you've been reading and some of your favorite blog posts, and/or articles, you've read this past month.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Christ crucified electrocuted

A sculpture of Christ in an electric chair by artist Paul Fryer, titled Pietà, is generating a lot of discussion in France ever since it was propped up in the cathedral of Gap by its bishop.

From The Mirror:
The life-like sculpture depicting Christ sitting in an electric chair was displayed in the city's cathedral at the suggestion of the bishop of Gap, Jean-Michel di Falco.

He defended the choice saying: "The scandal is not where one believes it to be.

"I wanted the provoked shock to make us once again conscious of the scandal of someone being nailed to a cross.

"Usually, one does not feel any real emotions in front of something really scandalous: the Crucifixion.

"If Jesus had been sentenced today, he would have to reckon with the electric chair or other barbaric methods of execution. Scandalous is therefore not Jesus in the electric chair, but the indifference to his crucifixion."
The Bishop makes a very good point here, the real scandal is not in the artwork, but in the indifference to his crucifixion.

More on Bitemybible and Arcadja.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

“Tea Party” protesters and theology

I’ve been skimming some of the pictures of these tax day “tea party” protest things, and the single most striking thing about the pictures I saw was that the protesters are not at all ethnically diverse; they appear to be mostly just a crowd of ticked off white people.

Here’s one comical picture I liked:

I love that sign:
Clinging to
My God!
My Money!
My Guns!
You just have to wonder what kind of theology that person has.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Christians in Orissa and Ashok Sahu

I just saw this BBC report on the ongoing persecution of the Christians in Orissa, India. The visuals bring it closer to home for me what is going on there, but what interested me more was that the reporter takes us to briefly meet face-to-face one of the leaders of the persecution. Like the religious leaders we read of in Acts, who stoned Stephen to death, like the ones who imprisoned the Apostle Paul and beat him to a pulp, like the Pharisees who had Jesus crucified, here is one of those men, his name is Ashok Sahu. What do you think of him? Do you detest him, or do you love him?

A related article quotes him,
"I don't justify violence, but there are two types of violence," he explains. "One is planned violence and the other is spontaneous violence."

"A maximum number of Christians were killed, yes it is a fact, but why? The Hindu sense of dignity has come to the surface in a spontaneous manner and they want to protect that sense of dignity."
The article mentions that Ashok Sahu “is now facing charges for inciting hatred against Christians in one of his campaign speeches.” This reminds me of someone else I’ve read about, one who held other peoples coats while they picked up rocks to stone another, and then went on a campaign to “spontaneously” root out Christians. He should be more careful how he goes about his business, a blinding light might catch him unawares on one of those dusty roads out there, and who knows... in a couple years he may just be India’s best-known apostle of the cross.

Here’s to hoping. :)

Saturday, April 11, 2009

A couple of Easter thoughts

From the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams:

From Real Live Preacher:

Newsweek & Speaking of Faith

I thought I'd share a couple of things I've read and listened to this past week that I think are worth passing along. First, Newsweek had a cover story on The End of Christian America. Next, American Public Media's radio program, Speaking of Faith, posted an interesting interview with Armenian Orthodox Theologian Vigen Guroian (with some additional resources as well).

Finally, just an off topic side note I thought I’d share. I just got back from picking up some milk at Smith’s and you’ll never guess who I saw there – “SuperDell” Schanze, you remember him, he’s the guy who makes Glenn Beck look normal. Yup, I just saw him down at my local Smith’s. I wonder what he was doing grocery shopping at my local Smith’s? … … Noooooooooo!!!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

I think Richard Rohr may become my new favorite author

Richard Rohr was one of the speakers at the Emergent Church conference in Albuquerque last month. He is a Franciscan priest and his organization, the Center for Action and Contemplation, hosted the event. Although I had not read his books or heard him speak before; I left the conference determined to get some of his books in my collection.

I have been listening to some of his audio on the web, and I was really drawn to this quote by him:

"Judgment is not, by and large, a search for Truth. It is certainly not a path toward Love. What it is, is a search for control - a way that the Ego positions itself as better, righter, above, correct, in charge, in control. Once you see that... judgment starts losing its fascination. My great disappointment in so much of institutional religion is that it actually trains us to be judgmental".

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Where does the authority come from?

This was a question that was repeated many times throughout the Emergent conference in Albuquerque a few weekends ago. It was the central question of a talk given by Phyllis Tickle as she shared ideas from her book The Great Emergence. Her basic premise was that every 500 years or so, the church (universal) goes through a rummage sale of sorts because the institutions of Christianity become overly bogged down with themselves. Then "reformations" happen, when everything goes on the table, and the church must look again at where its authority comes from.

Everyone had thoughts on this throughout the weekend and it was interesting to hear the different perspectives. Most agreed that Luther's assertion of Sola Scriptura had the unintended consequence of forming a myriad of schisms... as different groups took away different priorities and interpretations from said scripture.

The central problem with schisms, according to Brian McLaren, were not the schisms themselves; but rather that each schism tried de-legitimatize every group above it (or below it).

The question of authority still remains, but here is my take on it. Any authority other than yourself is always going to be problematic. The minute you start relying on statements like "What my church teaches is...." then you have outsourced your discernment to someone else. You have removed yourself from accountability (or at least tried to). That is why, I believe, Peter set a standard of a priesthood of ALL believers. Hebrews concurs "in the past, God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets... but in these last days, He has spoken to us by his Son."

In the end, I will stand before God to give an account (Hebrews 4:13). I think the awareness of personal accountability is what is causing house churches and spiritual communities to catch on more. For many Christians, the days of being dependent on a Pastor are growing old. I think there will always be a need for an administrative authority in churches, but the assumption of spiritual authority has developed a generation who's discernment has atrophied. They didn't need it.... the pastor/bishop/priest told them what to think. That era, I believe, is coming to a close. I may harness my carriage to a teacher like McLaren or Claiborne at times, but I will always hold the reigns.

I think the upcoming generation will differ in that, rather than trying to de-legitimatize the paths of others, we will be looking to garner something from their view of life, scripture, and God. We will not feel the need to abandon the traditions we grew up in (though we will have the freedom to do so), rather we can view them as a sanctuary, but no longer the destination.