Thinking Out Loud

June 18, 2019

WordPress.com has rendered us unable to post new content

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: — paulthinkingoutloud @ 11:20 am

Tomorrow’s Wednesday Connect column is in doubt as we need the full functionality of the blog’s “classic editor” in order to being working on it.

I had a problem yesterday with recurring spam comments on an old 2008 post, and that began a comedy of errors that resulted in the current situation.

It reminds me of a certain religion where once you join, you can’t switch back. I engaged the newer editor hoping to find the toggle to close comments and discovered it was now the new default and there was no way of changing it.

WordPress offers support forums but the solutions that worked for others often simply don’t work later on.

I’m typing this on the block editor — the editor for blockheads — and it is pure hell.

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June 17, 2019

I Love Analogies, But…

I am a great believer in the power of analogy. Jesus did this in his ministry. However, I’m not so sure that this one works. The kids in the post in which this appeared on social media were quite young. In other words, impressionable. But fortunately, also prone to forgetting this over the years.

In the larger scheme of things, “Father, Son, Spirit” is itself an analogy to the point that it is God trying to describe the community of God — or Godhead, a word I’m not fond of — in a way that we might understand. But of course we’re forced to create other analogies (ice/water/steam, length/height/depth, eggs, shamrocks, etc.; each of which has its own liabilities) to try to make this more understandable.

I guess my objection here is that on any level, even allowing for liabilities, this one just doesn’t work.


More articles on Trinity here:

June 15, 2019

Bad Christian Movies

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:46 am

With all the successes Christian filmmakers have had at the mainstream box office in the past few years, it’s easy to overlook that there are still Christian movies of dubious quality being cranked out on a monthly basis.

The plot of one had me curious so we decided to give it a look. I’ll spare the company the name mention but during the course of 125 minutes, we watched,

  • Horrible lighting and/or film processing right from the very first scene
  • Mismatched shots; items in the background in one scene and not there the next and then seconds later, back again (continuity)
  • Dialog overdubs with mismatched background noise; not sure which were the originals and which were done later
  • Introduction of a key character at the beginning who never returned
  • Over-the-top acting (though some was well-done)
  • Implausible abrupt changes in characters
  • Doctrinal propaganda
  • Screenplay trying to take on too many faith issues at once
  • Incomplete portrayal of the rites involved in another faith

These are just the few I remember days later.

The subject matter did stay with us, and we had several discussions about it afterwards, but I’m thinking that the production and script liabilities outweighed the benefits.

The movie released in 2014, so the aforementioned box office successes were only just beginning to happen. Hopefully an awareness of what can be done will raise (or has already raised) the bar for the rest of the Christian direct-to-video film industry.


For a reminder of what’s been great lately, especially in 2018, check out these articles here at Thinking out Loud:

June 12, 2019

Wednesday Connect

A new Barna Research survey has determined, using 16 factors, that the northeast region of the United States is the most ‘post-Christian.’ Click the image to read more.

We’re back. Or so I say each week. I was raised in a writing tradition where a constant mantra was, “‘We’ is an editorial ‘I.'” When this weekly column was part of the Christianity Today team, there really was a ‘we’ in the sense that my wife checked all the spelling and verified all the links. But once that ended, she cast me adrift into the sea of typos and dead links. There is also a ‘we’ in the sense that three or four people periodically send me story and opinion-piece suggestions. [realizes he has no idea where he’s going with this introduction…]

■ Who’s up for a good Church Membership Covenant? Hopefully no one. The practice asks members “to surrender their 6th, 7th, and 8th amendment rights.Check out this entire thread on Twitter. Also check out Wade Mullen’s blog. If you enjoy Spiritual Sounding Board, Wartburtg Watch, or Warren Throckmorton, this is a good site to bookmark.

■ If you missed the update that ran here a day later, the 17 year old girl in the Netherlands died, but not from euthanasia, for which it turns out she had actually been refused. Refer back to last week’s column for insight into how the false story got spread, and this article on how the conditions for it to happen in The Netherlands are still very real.

■ Target painted on his back? The guy in the original Colorado “gay wedding cake” story is now facing his third lawsuit for refusing to do a “gender reveal” type of cake for a trans customer. “So this latest attack by Scardina looks like yet another desperate attempt to harass cake artist Jack Phillips. And it stumbles over the one detail that matters most: Jack serves everyone; he just cannot express all messages through his custom cakes.”

■ Gender identity in the Catholic Church: “In its first statement on gender identity, the Vatican on Monday rejected the idea that transgender people can change their gender identity in a document meant to instruct Catholic teachers and students on sexuality and gender…This document comes in the midst of Pride Month…”

■ Worth following the thread: In 25 separate tweets, an outline of the story of a Spanish speaking pastor who was deported to Columbia by the U.S. government, after 19 years.

…My uncle is a faithful pastor of a local Spanish-speaking congregation, and my aunt is a beloved school teacher. They founded a soccer academy, and have been leaders in our community for almost 20 years… My uncle graduated in the 80s from a university in New York for which he played soccer. He was promised legal residency upon graduation, but instead graduated to a broken promise from this institution… It’s no secret to our family that this country’s immigration system is deeply broken and biased toward immigrants of European descent. But this current administration—and to speak more frankly, our president—has been the single greatest threat to my family the past few years.

■ Incomplete. Lives that were never finished. “A grieving Parkland dad announced the launch of the Museum of Incomplete, which will feature artifacts from lives cut short by gun violence—clothing never worn, an email left unsent, artwork never finished.

■ Your next book to read? God’s Internationalists: World Vision and the Age of Evangelical Humanitarianism, by David King. He researched the 70 year history of the organization. In teasing out this interview, Scott McKnight posed the question as to whether people would perceive World Vision as part of the religious right or evangelical left?

■ Translation Troubles: Speaking of Scot McKnight, he has a really good article on how the tribe which produced a Bible translation may influence its rendering of certain verses. He offers a great example in James 3:1.

■ If you can take the 13½ minutes to watch, this homily by Rachel Held Evans given in 2015 in a California church is almost prophetic, given the events of the past two months.

■ Catholic songwriter David Haas’ new song, You’ve Made Me Wonderful is not without its critics. “Haas said he had written the refrain on Sunday as a gift to all of his friends in the LGBTQ community who will be involved in Pride activities this month…and is based on Psalm 139:13-14. Haas has elaborated by saying that the Bible verses speak of a God who knows us better than we know ourselves and loves and accepts all of us.” (We tracked it down on YouTube and observed that the song clocks in at less than 90 seconds.)

■ Question of the Week: Is David Brooks a Christian or a Jew?

■ Provocative Headline of the Week: “Why Are Calvinists So Mean?” (Presented by someone within the camp; and presented without further comment. But oh, so tempting.) (And what are they going to do about this problem?)

■ New Music: Last week a friend introduced me to Bethany Music — not Bethel Music — and this is their most recent video, an acoustic version of It is Finished.

■ Different Music: Steelpan is an instrument you don’t see featured often in mainstream music. Joy Lapps performed recently with the Toronto Mass Choir. This video was recorded two years ago.

■ Testimony/Sermon: If you’ve never had the Francis Chan experience, this was posted just last week from a talk Chan gave to a youth convention in the UK.

■ Leadership Lessons: “Clipboard Leadership emerges when the need for reports begins to outweigh the need for results.” Three ways to recognize when it has crept into your church’s corporate culture.

■ Harvest Bible Chapel: The Niles campus of Harvest, located east of O’Hare International Airport will sever itself from HBC, and return to its roots — since 1871 — as an independent church. Read the story, or watch the video announcement.

■ “A former Sunday school teacher who was falsely accused of being a drug smuggler, detained at Vancouver International Airport and eventually strip searched says she is still traumatized by the treatment and is calling for greater oversight of the Canada Border Services Agency.”

■ Biography (1): Rev. Jasper Williams, the pastor who delivered the eulogy at Aretha Franklin’s funeral has released, It Ain’t But One. “Williams looks back on his life and ministry, recounting the challenges of taking the reins of leadership at Salem Bible Church at the tender age of 20, growing and shepherding the congregation and rising in leadership and influence in the Atlanta community and across the country.

■ Biography (2): Releasing this fall, Ray Barnett, the founder of the African Children’s Choir tells his story in Don’t Tell Me It Can’t Be Done. “Barnett takes readers on a roller-coaster journey through … a childhood marked by loss, abuse, learning disabilities, rejection, and the crushing discovery that the family who raised him was not his own.”

■ Katy Perry is still trying to buy that convent in Los Angeles. “The last living nun of the convent who fought off Katy Perry’s purchase of a Los Angeles property isn’t giving up on the feud. Sister Rita Callanan, 81, told the New York Post that the singer ‘has blood on her hands’ after the lengthy legal battle over the former home of Sisters of the Most Holy and Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary… On her mission to woo the nuns into accepting the sale, Perry reportedly sang ‘Oh Happy Day’ for them at a meeting regarding the sale, and showed them a “Jesus” tattoo on her wrist. It apparently didn’t do the trick…”

■ Gospel music’s Deitrick Haddon will appear in the movie Sins of the Father on July 7.

■ Finally — Seeing Double: In Italy, 26-year old twins were ordained to the priesthood, side-by-side on the same day.


June 11, 2019

The Peculiarities of the Definition of Sin

How many times have you sat in church and been told by the pastor that the word for sin is taken from the word hamartia, which means missing the mark? You’re then told that the meaning of the word is based on an archery term and perhaps you were given a teaching slide which showed such an image.

In the examples above, there is only one arrow and it lands appropriately in what we could call the center of God’s will or even, as applied in our generation, the center of God’s design. Of course, anything that missing that mark, in God`s economy simply doesn`t count. The following diagram makes that more clear…

…And yet we`re faced with an analogy that offers — and certainly does in the sport itself on which the analogy is based — an opportunity to come close and receive a lower score.  I`ve always pictured this more like the image below…

…and have even gone so far to say that in reference to contemporary issues of co-habitation, divorce, and even gay marriage, that some of those things borrow from the ideal, and yet still miss; the idea of a graduated response.

I wish I could articulate this better, but here goes…

I wonder sometimes if instead of looking at human behavior as being either right or wrong in God’s eyes, we should look at our various responses to His intentions as falling into categories like

  • good
  • better
  • best

In other words, a person who has lived 24 years in a committed gay relationship obviously sees some value to that; especially when one considers the hurt and rejection they have had to face [the price they’ve had to pay] from others over the course of those years. But in God’s eyes there may have been a ‘better’ or even a ‘best’ that they missed out on. Taking that to the next logical step, we can see how anything that falls short of God’s ideal standard could by some measure be considered sin because that’s how the word sin was originally defined. But it would appear to some that it was still ‘good.’* So the question is can there be activities that appear ‘good’ (either to some or to all) but also appear to be ‘sin’ (to those who have studied God’s intention or ideal plan)?

*Clarification: I went on to say that those relationships, while they are not best, might be seen by some (including the parties involved) as good or better to the extent that they borrow from the best. Perhaps it’s a Christian couple that attends church, gives, and supports a child through Compassion. Perhaps they are committed to monogamy. Perhaps they demonstrated all of the Fruit of the Spirit.

But transgression in civil law doesn`t work like that does it?

If the speed limit is 60 and you’re doing 65, it’s less than 10% over, but you’re still speeding. If the girl is due to have a birthday in two weeks, 14 days seems pretty trivial, but she’s still underage.

So why did God give us an image which appears to be graduated in its meaning? Why not choose something more binary; something more black & white?

In that benchmark source for all things theological that is Wikipedia (!) we read:

Hamartia is also used in Christian theology because of its use in the Septuagint and New Testament. The Hebrew (chatá) and its Greek equivalent (àµaρtίa/hamartia) both mean “missing the mark” or “off the mark”.

There are four basic usages for hamartia:

  1. Hamartia is sometimes used to mean acts of sin “by omission or commission in thought and feeling or in speech and actions” as in Romans 5:12, “all have sinned”
  2. Hamartia is sometimes applied to the fall of man from original righteousness that resulted in humanity’s innate propensity for sin, that is original sin For example, as in Romans 3:9, everyone is “under the power of sin”
  3. A third application concerns the “weakness of the flesh” and the free will to resist sinful acts. “The original inclination to sin in mankind comes from the weakness of the flesh.”
  4. Hamartia is sometimes “personified”. For example, Romans 6:20 speaks of being enslaved to hamartia (sin).

Perhaps we’ve overstated the archery image. (Preaching in different eras does go through periods of emphasis and de-emphasis of certain principles) Clearly, to God, sin is sin. You hit that target center or you don’t. You (as in Rom. 3.23) fall short of his glory. Other than The Message and J. B. Phillips, all of the English translations speak of God’s glory in that verse. (The other two looking more toward justification as key.)

It’s easy to say, “I missed the bullseye, but at least I landed on the target.” Or simply, “I’m trying.”

But knowing God’s ideal; knowing that the goal of the game is to hit the center; knowing that God’s desire is we aim for a perfect score… this has to commit us to aiming to do nothing less.

So again I ask, why did God give us an image which appears to be graduated in its meaning? Why not choose something more binary; something more black & white?  Or did he give us something more like Wikipedia states and we’ve simply overemphasized an alternative use of the word in antiquity?

What visual image would you choose?

June 9, 2019

Thoughts for Pentecost Sunday

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. ~James 4:8a NASB

When the disciples were meeting together, it was already the feast of Pentecost, though the word, as Wikipedia reminds us, did not have its Christian meaning:

Shavuot commemorates the anniversary of the day God gave the Torah to the entire nation of Israel assembled at Mount Sinai, although the association between the giving of the Torah (Matan Torah) and Shavuot is not explicit in the Biblical text.

Rather, Pentecost in a New Testament sense commemorates the giving of the Holy Spirit. I don’t want to rush through this too quickly, so take a minute to pause and think about it:

  • the giving of the Word
  • the giving of the Spirit

Do you see the beauty of this? The parallels and the balance in the Christian life between Word and Spirit are not the purpose of today’s thoughts, but the Christ-follower needs both.

In the 21st Century Christian milieu, certain notions about the work of the Holy Spirit in general, and the baptism of the Holy Spirit in particular, are often thought to be more the province of Charismatic and Pentecostal churches. I am sure that today, the expression of Pentecost Sunday was quite different in Episcopalian churches than it was in Assemblies of God churches.

Regardless of the particular emphasis, we would all have to agree that on this day, the disciples received something more. And that’s the launching point for our thoughts. Perhaps you would resonate with someone who says,

  • “There must be more to Christianity.”
  • “I feel like I’m not all in.”
  • “I’m not sensing the Holy Spirit’s presence.”
  • “I think there’s things in the Christian life that I’m missing out on.”
  • “I want more of God in my life.”

In some ways, I think this gets even more complex than salvation when it comes to discerning next steps.

Some churches teach that the baptism in the Holy Spirit is a second work of grace; a particular post-conversion experience that takes place after salvation. Others believe that we receive all of the Holy Spirit at salvation, and that there is no subsequent experience, and yet these also admit there are times they sense that God has something new for them, and wants to lead them into greater a greater experience, what others might call the deeper Christian life.

Either way, we all could agree with the 5th quote above, that we want need more of God in our lives, and some of you, like the 4th quote, feel this more acutely; you’re heart is really crying out to God, not for something you might receive (healing, etc.) but for more of God Himself.

I believe you just need to ask God for this. I base that on today’s verse at the top of the page. As one of my former pastors, Dr. Paul B. Smith would say, “If you take one step toward God, God will take ten steps toward you.”

Take the time as you listen to the song below to ask God to give you more of Himself. Ask for a greater awareness of the Holy Spirit in your life. Ask for the filling; a saturation of the Holy Spirit.

Break my heart and change my mind
Cut me loose from ties that bind
Lead me as I follow you
Give me strength to follow through

More, more, I want to be more like Jesus

More of Jesus less of me
By his power I will be
Like a flower in the spring
Brand new life in everything

Holy spirit fill me up
Gently overflow my cup
Touch my eyes and let me see
Me in you and you in me

More, more, I want to be more like Jesus

More of Jesus less of me
By his power I will be
Like a flower in the spring
Brand new life in everything

More, more, I want to be more, I need to be more like Jesus


Go Deeper:
Take a close look at the lyrics of A.B. Simpson’s best known poem/hymn, Himself.


Bonus item:

Seven years ago, for Pentecost Sunday 2012, Darryl Dash posted this:

Today is Pentecost Sunday. I’m haunted by these words by Oswald Chambers, which remind me of how much I need the Holy Spirit.

Beware of worshiping Jesus as the Son of God, and professing your faith in Him as the Savior of the world, while you blaspheme Him by the complete evidence in your daily life that He is powerless to do anything in and through you.

I long for evidence in our lives and churches that the Spirit is at work through us. I’m praying that it would be so.

June 5, 2019

Wednesday Connect

Photobombing the Toledo Grace Brethren Church. Found at the anon Twitter account, Lloyd Legalist.

As you can see, Coffee With Jesus has switched to a vertical format. Read more installments at this link. (And thanks to Happy Monday at The Master’s Table for this one!)

We’re back with more things you might not see elsewhere. This week Roger Olson had a piece on three “religions” often confused with Christianity: Moral Theraputic Deism, Americanism, and a Christianity rooted in social justice. It’s too bad my AdBlock-er was showing 28 advertising elements or I would have linked it.

Essay of the Week: An excellent profile of watchdog bloggers at Watch Keep, Spiritual Sounding Board, and The Wartburg Watch, appearing this Sunday in the Washington Post Magazine no less.

■ A massive exercise in spin? Later this month ” 3,235 boxes of paper items, 1,000 scrapbooks of news clippings dating back to the 1940s and more than 1,000 linear feet of videos, cassettes, reels, films and audio” which “documents the life and ministry of evangelist Billy Graham” will “no longer be housed at Wheaton’s highly regarded Billy Graham Center Archives.” The boxes are on their way to North Carolina, where a Wheaton College history professor notes, “The so-called (Billy Graham) Library is not a library…It has no archives. It has no archivist.” But it might be worse than that. Religion News Service notes,

Their fear: that this move is part of a bid by Franklin Graham to control his father’s legacy and make it more closely echo his own conservative political and theological agendas. They worry that Franklin Graham may deny access to the archival materials to scholars and others who don’t share his views or who are unwilling to promote what one called a “sanitized history” of the evangelical movement.

■ Provocative Headline of the Week: ‘Holy Ghosting: When Christians Vanish from Church.’ The article defines terms first, “Ghosting happens when people leave without informing church leadership. But it’s more than that. It’s also when a person decides to not speak to anyone about their decision to move on.” Then, an explanation of a mixed blessing; “Church growth, while being an obvious blessing for any congregation, can increase the likelihood of ghosting taking place. While the specific numbers vary, it is commonly said that a leader cannot pastorally care for more than 100 people at a time. Without an increase in pastoral staff, those in larger congregations can feel like they haven’t been fully embedded into their local church community. If they slip away from regular attendance, their absence is less likely to be noticed.”

■ From our continuing NBA Finals coverage: “Toronto Raptors point guard Jeremy Lin has reflected on power and importance of prayer, explaining that prayer ‘acknowledges that He is God and we are not,’ ‘brings necessary humble surrender into our lives,’ and ‘intimacy in our relationship with God.'” He adds, “I’ve been heavily challenged personally to pray more often and more boldly. So that’s why I decided to start a prayer movement with whoever will pray alongside me during the 2019 NBA Playoffs.”

■ Last month Newsweek cited a report that “says that the persecution of Christians across the world is fast becoming genocide and that the faith will soon disappear in some areas of the world, even in locations where its presence dates back to antiquity…The review found that eradicating Christians and other minorities through violence was the explicit objective of extremist groups in Syria, Iraq, Egypt, northeast Nigeria and the Philippines. These groups are not only murdering Christians for their faith but also whitewashing all evidence of their existence by destroying churches and removing religious symbols such as crosses.”

■ For years, I was a regular listener to the Phil Vischer Podcast, and I know that many of you shared that interest. Podcast regular Christian Taylor has been busy making a movie about D-Day and Normandy and tomorrow (Thursday 6/6) you’ll have a one-day opportunity to stream the complete film.

■ Concerned about “teaching children about the society that we live in and the different types of loving, healthy relationships that exist” at this UK primary school, now parents can’t even publicly voice dissent: “The head teacher of a school where parents have protested LGBT awareness lessons says she is bracing herself for mass arrests after the High Court moved to halt the protests. The High Court order bans protests from taking place outside the gates of Anderton Park Primary School in Birmingham – the first in the UK to have a legally enforceable exclusion zone.

■ A heartbeat is a heartbeat is a heartbeat. Except at The New York Times, which calls it “embryonic pulsing.

■ Bizarre Headline of the Week: “Christian Refugees Denied Asylum in Sweden for Failing Difficult Theological Quiz.” The Deputy General of the Swedish Evangelical Alliance noted, “A theology student may have to take another test if he or she fails, but if the asylum seeker fails the test, he or she will be deported to a country where he or she may be killed;” adding that the test included questions which “not even experienced pastors have been able to answer.”

■ The BBC finds American Christianity fascinating, as do Christians in other parts of the world. In a recent article they look at prosperity preaching and televangelists and profile some people who sent the last of their life savings. For this reader, it was also an introduction to Televangelist Todd Coontz.

■ Eric Metaxas: “To be clear, it’s not in my book anywhere, but was used in the jacket copy.” But it was used in related products and in a speech. Sigh! The Bonhoeffer quotation that will never die, even if Bonhoeffer didn’t say it.

■ KidMin: What would the perfect Children’s Ministry look like? The author of this piece offers eleven characteristics. Sample: “The focus would be upon the two whats and the two hows – what is is saying, what does it mean, how do I live this, how will it change my life.”

■ MusicMin: “If you’re happy and you know it shake your chains [rattle, rattle]” Paul and Silas, speaking to you from prison, will tell you not all Christian music is happy. They sang, but “they knew the pain they were experiencing.”

■ Walter Martin’s classic reference work Kingdom of the Cults has released in its sixth edition. “This new edition, comprehensively updated by experts Jill Martin Rische and Kurt Van Gorden, builds on Dr. Martin’s authoritative original text, and includes helpful information about changes and developments in belief systems around the globe in recent years.” Hardcover available now, from Bethany House Publishing, paperback in November.

Christianophobia. (Yes it’s a Patheos link, but only 15 ad elements on this one.)

■ New ♪ Music: Phil Wickham’s Singalong 4 is now out, but for physical CD collectors, sadly the Singalong series is only available for download. Meanwhile, here’s a sample medley.

■ Chicago Student Pastor deported to Columbia in ICE raid. “Betty and Carlos have no criminal record whatsoever, and the fact that Betty is a pastor in the Lutheran community and has these deep ties. They are also homeowners. … We think that distinguishes their case.”

■ Not ‘Lead us not.’ After many months of discussion, Pope Francis has signed off on the change to the official Catholic version of The Lord’s Prayer.

■ Joe Gibbs, Kathy Lee Gifford and the Unplanned movie were among the non-music category winners at the K-LOVE Fan Awards for 2019. Lauren Daigle and For King and Country won two each.

■ What’s your favorite? Readers at Reddit’s Christianity page discuss their favorite podcasts.

■ Noa Pothoven claimed that “sexual assaults and rapes as a small girl led her to develop post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anorexia. She was attacked three times as a youngster.” The 17-year old was legally euthanized according to Netherlands law. “Children as young as 12 can opt for euthanasia in the Netherlands but only after a doctor determines that the patient’s pain is unbearable.”  UPDATE (6/6; 13:20): Politico.eu has posted “The Euthanasia that Wasn’t,” clarifying that the English language version of the story which went worldwide was wrong, that she was actually refused Euthanasia, though Noa has indeed died due mostly to starving herself. We’ve pulled the link that was above, and you can read this updated report at this link.

■ Top clicked items here are posted on Twitter at some point the next day. Here’s what you liked last week.
1. Tweet of the Week: Fire Dancing at Church
2. Churches and organizations: Ditch MailChimp?
3. The exact moment when life begins
4. ‘Wear it Rainbow Day’ at work
5. Forced out of PhD program for beliefs
6. Things learned returning to ministry
If you missed last week, or are curious, click here.

■ New ♪ Music: Jen Ledger sings professionally as simply ‘Ledger.’ This is her newest single, Completely.

■ This was all over the internet yesterday, so you probably heard about David Platt’s explanation for praying for the U.S. President.

Another young pastor screws up.

■ Finally, Aardvarks in Church. The person who wrote this opening paragraph loved quotation marks:

A United Methodist “church” in Alabama has decided to host a “wedding party” featuring a free screening of the “Arthur” episode surrounding the same-sex “wedding” of Mr. Ratburn after Alabama Public Television said that it would not air the broadcast.


This week a major Christian news website devoted an article to the issue of CBD oil.


Digging a Little Deeper

From the Thinking Out Loud blog family, check out the recently renovated Christianity 201. Guaranteed distraction-free faith blogging with fresh posts every day. www.Christianity201.wordpress.com

June 3, 2019

Again Remembering Rachel Held Evans

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:36 am

Nadia Bolz-Weber delivers the sermon at the funeral for Rachel Held Evans on June 1. YouTube screenshot via Religion News Service.

Abraham doubted. Job doubted. Peter doubted. Martha doubted. Even Jesus cried out, “My God, why have you forsaken me?” Condemning people who are thoughtful about their faith, who doubt & who wrestle & who cry out with questions, is legalism from the pit of hell.

Oh there are times I really miss living with absolute certainty, never questioning anything I believed or anything my pastor said, or any of my interpretations or biases or ideas. It was easier then. But maybe God doesn’t want easy.
– Rachel Held Evans, January, 2018

Yesterday I either watched or listened to all of the 1¾ hour video on YouTube of the funeral for Rachel Held Evans, as it had been streamed live the day before. I know I’ve already covered this topic when Rachel’s death was announced, but I can’t help returning.

I won’t embed those here as we did last time, but just note some highlights. If you want to find the original for unlinked quotations, try my Twitter feed. I unashamedly retweeted about ten of them.

Friend Jeff Chu wrote,

…The family asked for a funeral, not a celebration of life. Though ecumenical, the liturgy is based on the Episcopal one to honor Rachel’s adopted tradition. We gather to mourn and grieve, to look toward resurrection hope, and to worship. 

Religion News Service confirmed, “The service was ecumenical but drew from the Episcopal Church’s funeral liturgy, Held Evans’ adopted church.”

A podcast host I’m not familiar with, Amy Sullivan, wrote:

This is like our version of the Billy Graham funeral except that Rachel was 50 years younger and it is, in Rachel’s words, “a bunch of outcasts and oddballs gathered at [God’s] table.”

I’m still pondering the comparison — not the Billy to Rachel comparison, but rather the funeral to funeral comparison — because both impacted different cultures, but both for the cause of the same Lord. Two very significant moments for two unique demographics; two subsets of Christian culture.

Writer Jonathan Martin said,

I don’t really have words for how holy this was. The atmosphere was dense with God—the weight of grace and grief, of Spirit crackling through the room between us.

Author Sarah Bessey, who participated in the liturgy, wrote,

It was a testimony to Rachel’s life to stand in a crowded (packed!) room and know this rowdy, deep, diverse, never-would-have-found-each-other-without-her community all showed up in Chattanooga, just so we could say goodbye together and to love her family. 

Rachel’s sister Amanda, who gave a Eulogy and performed a song — one that she had written for Rachel but never sung for her — tweeted:

How will I remember her? And what will I remember most? Hopefully, the wide-eyed wonder of our childhood. And the long history of love that only sisters share. I don’t have to remember …because she is a part of me. 

I hope that song can be posted at some point in the future with a proper recording. The audio for the live stream was very poor any time there was anything involving music.

Husband Dan posted on her blog:

…I want to be just a bit more like the person I see reflected back in my edited self. The person Rachel saw in me. She made me better than I was before I met her. She left the world better than how she found it. For that I will always be grateful.

Singer Audrey Assad also participated,

I have a crying hangover from [remembering Rachel] at her funeral today. And I’m filled with absolute gratitude that I got to come and say goodbye.

Shane Claiborne wrote,

After saying goodbye to [Rachel] today, mom & I watched the sunset for her birthday. I told her the best present I can imagine giving her is a set of Rachel’s books. (My mom is new to RHE). As sure as the sun will rise again, Rachel lives.

The anon Twitter account, Unvirtuous Abbey posted,

Watching people you’ve followed for years on twitter as they grieve a sister and testify to her life was a surreal yet powerful reminder that community is real. Seeing her family in the front pew was heartbreaking. 

Jeff Chu’s prayer include this:

God who is ridiculous, inexplicable love: Help us to know, feel, and embody that love, radiating it out into a nation and a world that desperately need it. As Rachel had posted over her desk, our job is to tell the truth—and the truth is that this world isn’t the just, kind, righteous place of flourishing for all people, all creatures, that you would have it be. We pray against all forms of hate, disdain, and neglect, and we pray for all who have unfairly suffered its consequences—for women, for refugees and immigrants, for people of color, for LGBTQ people, for disabled people, for poor people, for the unseen, for the unheard. Inspire us to be women of valor, men of valor, people of valor—living out our faith, cultivating hope, and shining love on all around us, as Rachel did.

Although I’ve had some recent reasons for concern regarding the ministry of Nadia Bolz-Weber, her sermons are always right on the mark and her delivering the funeral sermon — something not announced prior — was no exception. Several have asked her to post the text. 

Carina Julig at Word and Way reported that Sarah Bessey and Nadia Bolz-Weber “displayed the tattoos they got in advance of the service. Those tattoos read, ‘eshet chayil,’ or ‘woman of valor’ in Hebrew, a phrase from the Bible that Held Evans popularized.”

Yesterday, instead of our regular devotional post at Christianity 201, I included some assorted elements from the liturgy. You can find those here. For a link to the full text of the Requiem Eucharist or a link to the full video, click here. But I do want to include the Benediction here. The final paragraph is Rachel’s own words:

Blessed are the agnostics. Blessed are they who doubt. Blessed are those who have nothing to offer. Blessed are the preschoolers who cut in line at communion. Blessed are the poor in spirit. You are of heaven and Jesus blesses you.

Blessed are those whom no one else notices. The kids who sit alone at middle-school lunch tables. The laundry guys at the hospital. The sex workers and the night-shift street sweepers. The closeted. The teens who have to figure out ways to hide the new cuts on their arms. Blessed are the meek. You are of heaven and Jesus blesses you.

Blessed are they who have loved enough to know what loss feels like. Blessed are the mothers of the miscarried. Blessed are they who can’t fall apart because they have to keep it together for everyone else. Blessed are those who “still aren’t over it yet.” Blessed are those who mourn.You are of heaven and Jesus blesses you.

I imagine Jesus standing here blessing us because that is our Lord’s nature. This Jesus cried at his friend’s tomb, turned the other cheek, and forgave those who hung him on a cross. He was God’s Beatitude— God’s blessing to the weak in a world that admires only the strong.

Jesus invites us into a story bigger than ourselves and our imaginations, yet we all get to tell that story with the scandalous particularity of this moment and this place. We are storytelling creatures because we are fashioned in the image of a storytelling God. May we never neglect that gift. May we never lose our love for telling the story. Amen.

 

 

 

 

May 31, 2019

Who Really Has the Better Life?

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 11:22 am

This article first appeared in May, 2014

Essay of the WeekI usually see him at church.

He lives in a house for developmentally challenged adults.

Unlike me, he can’t just get in a car and go somewhere, and yet he truly gets around.

He has no fashion sense, yet neither he is encumbered by having to worry about clothing, its availability, cost, cool factor, and what color goes with what other color.

He isn’t blessed with perhaps all the right social graces, and yet I think he knows when people are taking a general interest in him as opposed to those who are just playing him in a conversation.

He didn’t sweat the income tax deadline. He doesn’t have to worry about renewing his drivers license. I doubt his life is complicated by remembering user names and passwords.

His love for God is a genuine priority in his life.

…So there I am, lying in bed at 4:00 AM one day this past week and suddenly I start thinking about him.

And I started asking myself who has the better quality of life?

If you meet him, he will tell you about an upcoming week he’s going to be spending at a Bible conference. Honestly, given the right speaker that week, I would love to be able to take a week off with my wife and have a place to stay and all meals provided.

But look, already I’ve qualified it. I want it to be a certain type of Bible teacher. He’s not worried about who the guest speaker is. He’s not going to critique the worship team. He’s not about to second guess the lunch menu.

He was recently told that due to staff changes where he lives, he would have to change churches. So he did. Willfully. Peaceably. Not for some doctrinal reason. Not because he didn’t like the percentage of the budget allocated to missions. Not because so-and-so was elected to another three-year term on the church board. Not because he didn’t like the new chairs. The change was made for him, and he just went with it.

At the new church, everybody knows him.

And everybody likes him.

And he likes everybody.

Like I said, I wonder who has the better quality of life?

 

May 30, 2019

A World of Social Credits

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 11:57 am

Yesterday Uber Technologies announced changes to its ride-share system insofar as it is affected by ratings that passengers give its drivers, and the drivers give the passengers.

It prompted the announcer on the talk radio station that’s on when I drive home to be reminded of an episode of Black Mirror in which every single interaction is tied to a rating system, including such trivial things as paying for your fuel at the self-serve station or picking up milk at the convenience store. People are constantly identified and the rating is quickly punched in at the conclusion of each transaction. Things like being a blood donor are obviously weighted higher for consideration of a person’s social credit score.

Early on in the episode, a woman goes to rent a car only to be told something like, “We only rent to sevens or higher.” She must then try to find away around the system, and my wife, who has seen the episode, says at that point the story gets darker.

I have always liked — and often used — the Max Headroom phrase “20 minutes into the future.” From my perspective, many of the things science fiction dreams of happening in a very distant future are often, relatively speaking, just minutes away from being reality.

Anything transactional in a goods-and-services sense always reminds people of the words of Revelation 13:

It also forced all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads, so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name.

When BankAmericard and MasterCharge (today’s VISA and MasterCard) were first introduced in the U.S. some Evangelicals claimed this was the forerunner of the mark of the beast. (The same, but to a lesser degree, in the UK with the introduction of Barclaycard.) It was a similar reaction when UPC barcodes were introduced — somewhere I have a prototype print of the circular type of barcode that was never used — and then the same discussion once again when microchips for dogs and cats were first made available.

But each of these discussions focuses on the how of the technology, but not so much on the what.

What if your ability to conduct transactions isn’t determined so much by how much is in your account or the limit of your available credit, but instead by other factors, such as the social credits? What if, like the woman in the TV show, you can’t rent the vehicle for reasons other than financial? Uber stated that below a certain point customers may stop having access to the Uber app. People were calling in with opening lines such as, “Hi, my name is Dan and I’m a 4.87.”

The talk radio hosts spring-boarded to a discussion of Uber and Lyft drivers refusing to take people to certain destinations. What if your car breaks down and your conservative fundamentalist Uber driver refuses to take you to Joel Osteen’s church? Or what if the atheist driver refuses to pick you up at Saddleback to give you a ride home? (And why are they working on Sunday?) What if the fish on the back of your car caused you to be down-rated by people you weren’t even dealing with at arm’s length?

I would argue that the potential for market disruption — not to mention blatant discrimination — here is huge, and the insidiousness of it makes the issue of bakers refusing to bake wedding cakes for certain customers look tame by comparison. 


Update: There’s a reader comment below that bears highlighting. The link is to a New York Post story from May 18th which begins:

Imagine calling a friend. Only instead of hearing a ring tone you hear a police siren, and then a voice intoning, “Be careful in your dealings with this person.”

Would that put a damper on your relationship? It’s supposed to.

Welcome to life in China’s “Social Credit System,” where a low score can ruin your life in more ways than one…

 

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