Monday, January 29, 2007

Daniel Amos lyrics...

Here are some of the lyrics to the song "She's All Heart" by the band Daniel Amos. I had forgotten how wonderful Terry Taylor's writing could be. Just thought I'd share this little bit.

"My longing:
Not to be a god or hero, but to change
Into a tree that grows for ages
Hurting no one...

My longing:
To hold the hand of someone long ago
Who passed away, a memory,
No sorrow...

My longing:
To be brave until the end of all my days.
At the neighing of the red horse,
Fearing nothing..."

amen to that.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Are Christians bad friends?

My pastor has a blog, and in conjunction with last weeks' sermon, he recently posted a letter from someone who, after hearing the sermon, emailed a letter which included the following statements:

"Non-Christians accept each others faults and are capable of loving each other regardless of individual flaws."

"Groups of Christians tend to be more prone to forming clicks [sic], speaking poorly of others behind their backs, and entertaining disputes over petty differences."

In response, I posted my thoughts, and decided to post them here (slightly modified) as well:

While I have seen first-hand the unfriendly or "cliquish" attitudes of some Christians, I would encourage the letter-writer not to be too hasty in his/her assessment of all Christians. My own experience has been that people tend to surround themselves with others based upon similar beliefs and interests. Additionally, people are generally fairly civil to one another as long as their deepest-held beliefs aren't strongly challenged.

BUT - put people together who have differing belief systems and quite often, Christian or not, the sparks will fly! Not to mention the many other relational difficulties between people. There are enough bad examples of friendship everywhere that one doesn't need to highlight Christianity... except for the fact that Christians are supposed to be DIFFERENT!

So what's the problem? I think part of it is that Christianity has, for a couple hundred years at least, been primarily expressed as a rock-solid, empirically verifiable, series of propositions that must be defended against its "enemies." Add to this the puritanical concept of "being holy", and the distinctive "individual" idea of faith (that is more reflective of American ideals than the biblical witness), and it is not surprising to me that many American Christians feel they must vigorously defend their faith against everyone who doesn't think exactly the same.

This is, in part, what creates all the cliques and "petty differences" mentioned above. Ironically, because many Christians are certain that they have found the "absolute truth", they then feel that they must protect that truth at all costs. And I would suggest that once such a mindset has been fostered, it tends to quickly notice points of contention and gravitate toward them. So, if there aren't any "outsiders" to defend against, often "defense-minded" Christians end up turning on each other.

So what's the solution? Well, there's no easy answer, and I don't claim to have one, but I would like to make two suggestions:

1. Every Christian should get to know at least a couple people who think very differently than you do. Really get to know them, as people, not just as potential "mission fields." Find out what another person, with a different perspective, thinks about things and why. Don't dismiss them, learn their story. Let's trust that if God is the creator and redeemer of the universe, God is also big enough to take care of us outside of our comfort zone in friendships. Not to mention the model of friendship exemplified in the life of Christ.

2. Christianity must rid itself of the idea that the Truth of the Gospel is something we need to defend or protect at the cost of loving others. This is patently unbiblical. In fact, God doesn't really need our help; God is capable of defending Himself just fine. But do we really believe that?

I think that often our inability to befriend or love others is related to selfishness, but deeper still, I see fear; fear that we'll somehow be "corrupted" by befriending those who don't agree with our perfectly developed belief system (as if there is such a thing!). Or, fear stemming from our own doubts. Maybe we're not as sure of our faith as we pretend to be. Perhaps we are afraid that our faith really isn't capable of weathering the challenge that comes from hearing a different point of view.

Needing to constantly "prove" what we believe is usually an indication of our own struggle between faith and fear, more than anything else. But if God and Jesus Christ are the truth, and we are confident in that truth, we shouldn't be afraid of other people. And I remember reading somewhere that "perfect love casts out fear." That is an important reminder to me, as I struggle to be a better friend. And that's my 2 cents for now. :-)

Monday, January 22, 2007

long live the metal...

hehe... so when I was younger, I listened to a lot of heavy metal, and although my tastes are much broader now, I still find myself enjoying it once in a while... like right now, as I'm experiencing nostalgia listening to the newest Iron Maiden and some old Soundgarden stuff. Say what you want, Chris Cornell once had the knack for a clever turn of phrase ("lookin' California and feelin' Minnesota...").

In related non-theological news, evidently the drummer for Iron Maiden became a Christian several years ago. That's almost the definition of irony, isn't it? :-) Still, you gotta hand it to them, 30 years later, all the original members, still going strong... eeyyaaaaaahhh!

(plus, it's nice to know that God is even at work in the lives of those "evil metalheads"!)

Thursday, January 18, 2007

ethical action in a fallen world...

In my ethics class, we've been discussing and reading about what it means to develop a Christian ethic. Hauerwas and Yoder, among others, make the point that a Christian ethic will inevitably revolve around the cross: self-sacrificial love is at the forefront, and that is very convicting to Christians living in an age of individualistic salvation and material prosperity.

In a conversation with a couple friends recently, we debated the practical outworkings of such a self-giving Christian ethic. How do we live this out?

In last week's sermon, the pastor (coincidentally?) drew in a bit more of the picture for me when he suggested that we can only love others as we grow to love God. If we have not grasped the love God has for us, it will be difficult to honestly and effectively love others.

But this seems to beg the question: How do we grasp God's love? Although I do not want to turn this post into a discussion of Aristotelian ethics, it seems that there is a very necessary piece of the puzzle which turns on our simply doing. Should we not say that it is possible to understand God's love as we love others, however imperfectly? Can habits of giving lead us to a greater knowledge of God's love, which in turn illuminates the proper way to love others?

These are all questions just swirling around in my head right at the end of class... I'd love to hear what you think!

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Hauerwas lecture link

I had a request for a link to the Hauerwas lecture I referred to, here it is:

It is listed under the lecture series for The Sermon on the Mount. It's in mp3 format.

I think I had links to a couple others in realaudio, but I'll have to locate those...

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

previous entries...

In case anyone may care, I've had a blog on Myspace for a while now ( and there are a lot of older posts there that I didn't feel like transferring over to this blog. So, if you're interested in reading more of my random thoughts, just visit the link and check out the older blog... or don't, it's cool either way. :-)

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

focus on the family?

here's a great quote from a Stanley Hauerwas lecture I downloaded:

"Every time Christians make a fetish out of the family, you can be pretty sure they don't believe in God anymore... (nervous laughter from audience) ... they don't really want to witness to the truth of the Gospel, they just want to make sure their kids don't grow up to have any alternative..."

Wow... and ouch.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

"The Peaceable Kingdom"

Classes begin again in a couple days... this quarter I'm taking a Christian Ethics course... as a sort of "preparation" for that, I've started reading "The Peaceable Kingdom" by Stanley Hauerwas (though it isn't one of my textbooks). Here are some of the excellent observations that have stood out to me so far:

"There is an inherent relation between truthfulness and peacefulness because peace comes only as we are transformed by a truth that gives us the confidence to rely on nothing else than its witness."

"In the upsurge of religious conservatism... Christianity is defended not so much because it is true, but because it reinforces the "American way of life." Such movements are thus unable to contemplate that there might be irresolvable tensions between being Christian and being "a good American"... But this strategy avoids the most essential question. We should not want to know if religious convictions are functional; we should want to know if they are true."