“We treat faith in our culture much like a painting that you hang on the wall. It’s something you go and look at. Look at my faith. Faith is a beautiful thing. But biblically faith is a connecting concept to connect you with something else. It’s not an end point destination that you stare at but it’s something you stare through. In other words, faith is more like a window that you install in a wall, not a painting you hang on a wall. It is something designed to help you see through the wall or whatever barrier is there to see … the outside of your particular world.”
~Bruxy Cavey, author of The End of Religion and Teaching Pastor of The Meeting House, an eightteen-site church in Ontario, Canada from the series Get Over Yourself, part six, December 13, 2009
January 31, 2015
January 30, 2015
June 26, 2014
- “I know what Dutch people are like”
- “I know what left-handed people are like”
- “I know what red-haired people are like”
- “I know what people from Arkansas are like”
- “I know what French people are like”
- “I know what lawyers are like”
- “I know what landlords are like”
No, you don’t; you know a few, not all.
- “I know what Christians are like”
No, you don’t; you know a few, not all.
We are a community of the broken. We are fallen. We are flawed. So naturally you are going to see us at our worst as well as sometimes at our best. You’re going to see us not living up to the standard we should. You’re going to see us when we’re “moving toward the cross” and when we’re “moving away from the cross.”
Ideally, we are people of love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness… Ideally, we are people of grace. Ideally, we reflect the character of the Christ we follow. That’s what we call “positional truth.” In terms of “practical truth,” we miss the mark, often by inches; often by miles. Just as suddenly, we sometimes get it right.
But we’re also not all the same. We have good days and bad days. We have people among us who are a real embarrassment to us, and people who truly model the life of Jesus in everything they do.
We are a community of faith. You don’t have to be “pure” to get in. You don’t have to “clean up real good” to join. It’s a “come as you are” party. And people do.
There’s no status, no seniority, no gender, no ethnicity; nobody can claim “spiritual dominance,” or “spiritual oneupsmanship” over any of the others. It’s as long and wide and deep as any cross-section of the broader society.
In fact, there’s no generic portrait of a Christ-follower that captures us all. There’s no homogeneity. There’s no ‘Mecca’ to which we must travel. No rites or rituals in which we must participate. No prescribed term of missions service we must all complete. No earthly head who speaks for all of us. No secret mantra we all recite.
There is respect for elders, yet sometimes “a little child will lead them,” and truths are spoken “out of the mouths of babes.” Younger brothers — even youngest brothers — are sometimes served by older brothers. Newcomers can make as viable a contribution as seasoned veterans. The next generation is free to reinvent the wheel. The generation after that is free to rediscover the ancient practices and classic disciplines.
It’s an upsidedown kingdom. An insideout kingdom. It’s a family. It’s “two or three gathered together” in a living room Bible study; it’s a multitude of people on a grassy hillside listening to a summer conference speaker. It’s elegant cathedrals and small country chapels. It’s quietness and solitude. It’s the making of a joyful noise with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.
There’s the doctrine — what is believed. There’s the ethics — how that belief is lived out. There’s the experience — what happens to us when we believe the orthodoxy and live out the orthopraxy. There’s the ‘macro,’ big picture version of Christ-following; and there are people focused on the ‘micro’ issues, or a number of individual ‘micros.’
There are those who have locked in for life. There are those who will leave and then return. There are those who will drift away. There are those who will look in, but as one looking through a window from the outside.
Some will give tirelessly to this — in every waking hour. Some attend services at Christmas and Easter. Some give substantial parts of their income. Some give the minimum required to stay on a membership list. Some grew up with this faith. Others came as adults. Some nurture their children in their beliefs. Others feel their kids need to choose, to ‘take ownership’ of their concepts about God.
Personalities are factored in: While one person may be demonstrative about their faith, another might be reticent about their personal beliefs. Whereas one person might be given to an emotional, relational kind of worship; another might prefer a formal liturgy, a quiet, controlled worship environment.
…do you still think you know what Christians are like?
I’m part of this, and I don’t. I just know that I’ve joined myself to a company of people who are trying to live a new life in a new way; a group of people who I otherwise would have nothing in common with.
Now, we have everything in common.
June 1, 2014
January 27, 2014
This just in: People think Mormons are hot! But they also think Buddah is fat, which somehow seems politically incorrect.
Sarah Pulliam Bailey is a former writer for Christianity Today who now lends her talents to Religion News Service. As a religion writer you’d think she’d know better than to play the Google game; the one where you type in a key word to see how Google auto-completes it. Or would she? Perhaps she trusts her reporter’s instincts that Google doesn’t lie, and that the commonly asked search criteria reflect both the perception and the reality of how religious groups are viewed. So here’s what she posted on Twitter last night:
Islam: so strict?
Mainline Protestantism: declining?
Evangelicalism: on the rise?
Pentecostalism: so popular?
Muhammad: called the seal of the prophets?
Hare Krisha: a cult?
Baptists: in the south?
Presbyterians: called the frozen chosen?
Evangelicals: turning Catholic?
Atheists: so angry?
Jehovah’s Witnesses: so nice?
Mormons: so hot?
Evangelicals are turning Catholic? That’s news to me. Unfortunately for you, what follows is merely a screenshot, you’ll have to do the search yourself. I did both the regular web search, and a separate one using Google Blog Search. And finally, I’m ashamed to say, I did a Google Images search for “hot Mormons” and “hot Mormon.”
I don’t want to talk about it.
March 22, 2013
“I am Justin, a servant of Jesus Christ, and I come as one seeking the grace of God, to travel with you in his service together.”
~ The Most Rev. Justin Welby
from the ceremony at Canterbury Cathedral
as reported at Religion News Service (RNS)
We have an Archbishop.
It didn’t garner nearly as much television time worldwide as last week’s coverage of the new Roman Catholic Pope. Not even close. But yesterday the worldwide Anglican communion installed their new leader Justin Welby, who has chosen the name Justin Welby. He is the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury.
The Christian Post wasted no time delving into what someone recently called “the pelvic issues” raising the g-word within the first paragraph of the story, and no, g in this case does not stand for God. Of course, some argue neither does the Anglican Church or its American Episcopal counterpart.
To many, this issue is the face of Christianity. No wonder the church is dwindling numerically.
Timing is everything, and this event occurred in the shadow of last week’s Papal election and miraculously Pope Francis’ name surfaced in this story. “Pope Francis, the newly elected leader of the Roman Catholic Church, sent his well wishes to Welby, expressing his hopes that they can maintain good relations.”
It’s probably the closest thing to anything “religious” the story had to offer.
Meanwhile, an Associated Press story mentioned the honored guests, what Welby wore and something about the choir that sang, but the story was equally dominated by the homosexual backdrop to the denomination’s continuing journey.
Can anyone provide a balanced look at what happened yesterday?
Yes, Religion News Service (RNS) strikes a balance between the pageantry of yesterday’s installation service, the relationship between the church of England and the government of England, and the gender issues the new leader will face. If you only click one link here, click that one.
February 19, 2013
I considered this for the link list, but decided it was truly worth a re-blog. You can read it at source at Ben Witherington III’s blog Bible and Culture. (If you want your comment to be seen by the author, leave it at the source blog, not here.)
I was caught totally off guard. When was the last time a Pope stopped poping while still wearing his Papal slippers? The answer is almost six hundred years ago. No wonder I didn’t realize this could even happen. On further review, shock turned to understanding. A Pope who was PUP (physically unable to perform the job) decided it was time to step down, and hopefully let younger healthier folks do the job. One of the great problems of course with electing Popes is that it has tended to be based on seniority and experience. And this in turn means that old folks who already have their AARP status become Popes. But frankly the job of Pope is too demanding even just physically for almost any 75-85 year old person, and it became so for Pope Benedict.
Benedict, as we now know, had had a pacemaker inserted into his heart recently. He was tired, worn out. I am not referring to world-weariness or even the weariness that comes from fighting things like the scandal of pederasty again and again in the church. I have no say whatsoever over who should be the next Pope, but if I did here is what I would use as criteria:
1) Pick someone over 50 but under 65 for a change. We need a younger person with fresh ideas not to mention someone in the peak of physical health.
2) If you can find someone who is as good and critical a thinker and theolog as Pope Benedict, by all means pick that person;
3) Pick someone who is not so wed to Catholic traditions that have not been part of ex cathedra pronouncements that he would tend to avoid some serious changes— like for example the option of a priest to be married if he did not have the gift of celibacy. This in itself would probably reduce the danger of pederasty considerably.
4) Pick someone who is prepared to continue the ecumenical discussions with Evangelical Protestants, working towards more concordats on faith and praxis.
5) Pick someone who is prepared to continue the process of weeding out superstitious practices and inessential ideas. For example, the recent dropping of the expectation that a good Catholic ought to believe in limbo is a good thing. In short, a more Biblically focused faith, and one less steeped in traditions that do not comport with the Bible (for example Jesus’ descent to the dead) would be a welcome development.
6) Pick a Pope more concerned with protecting his sheep than his shepherds when crisis arises, especially when the crisis is caused by the behavior of the shepherds themselves. Continue to set up accountability structures to protect the young, the innocent, the naive, the poor, and so on.
7) Pick a Pope from somewhere other than Europe. It would be nice to have a North American one for once, considering that English both on the Internet and off of it is the lingua franca of an increasingly global community, society, market.
September 25, 2012
source: Stand to Reason (STR) Blog
UPDATE (Dec. 4, 2012) As noted in a comment below, if you want to know more about the origin of this graphic visit contradictmovement.org
September 10, 2012
For Christian publishers, any kind of reference book can be a tough sell, and the sub-category of “world religions” isn’t likely to produce a chart-topper anytime soon. So I always appreciate it when authors and publishers go out of their way to produce helpful material in a form that is more accessible to the average person.
Understanding World Religions in 15 Minutes a Day (Bethany House paperback) is one such title, and the “15 minutes” in question is probably more like ten minutes for most of us, if that. For someone like myself — eternally doomed to confuse Hinduism and Buddhism — books that provide a refresher course like this are always needful, and Garry R. Morgan, who teaches missions at Northwestern College in St. Paul, Minnesota even provides a bonus “extra minute” with an always interesting sidebar.
The book has 40 chapters and covers 24 distinct religious groups, with five sharing parts of two chapters, and others having multiple chapters. (Christianity 5; Islam 6; Folk and Aboriginal religions, Buddhism and Hinduism 3 each; Judaism 2.)
Sometimes there are similarities between other faiths and our own. Here’s a paragraph from the book with parallels added:
…Conservative Judaism leaves to each congregation whether or not they will accept a female rabbi (sounds familiar, my denomination is wrestling with this right now). The person who actually leads the synagogue services, however, is the cantor, or hazzan (in other words, the worship leader or worship team is in charge of the service). Large congregations seek a cantor who not only sings but will also compose original music. Usually the cantor is also responsible for coaching young people in Hebrew as they prepare for their Bar or Bat Mitzvah (in other words he doubles as the youth pastor). (Okay I stretched that a bit, but not much.)
Or this paragraph about Islam,
Islamic beliefs and practices are based on the Qur’an, the Sunna and the Haddith. The Quar’an is held to be sacred scripture… Many questions about faith and practice arouse after Muhammad’s death, so Muslims asked those who had known the prophet and were still alive what he said or did in various situations. These were eventually written down and collected into the Sunna (or Sunnah) meaning “Traditions.” Although not considered a holy book like the Qur’an, in daily life the Sunna is moved more frequently. (Which reminded me of what some view as a concern that although we have the gospels, in many of our churches, the majority of New Testament sermons are based on what Paul wrote, not the words of Jesus.)
The book is also ever dealing with the question of which groups deserve a chapter and which are simply mentioned in the context of a larger body, which bears on the question, what constitutes what the larger group would consider a “cult” and at what point do these subset groups become a religion in their own right. (Or if you want to go for the pun, in their own rite.)
Books like this are tough to write because, while this one will mostly be sold through Christian bookstore and online channels, there is always the possibility (and for the publishers, the hope) that the title will appear on the shelves of mass retailers like Barnes and Noble in the U.S. or Chapters/Indigo in Canada; which means you don’t know that a member of that group won’t flip through a copy to see how they’re represented.
And I wondered if there was something of this behind a sentence that appears early on,
At the publisher’s request, this book intends to be descriptive rather than evaluative or polemic.
so I contacted the author at Northwestern. Garry Morgan was gracious enough to write back:
…They encouraged me to not hide my own faith, but to just describe what the various religions believe and practice, without an overtly evangelistic “here’s how you share the Gospel with a ….” section.
Even in my World Religions courses at Northwestern College, where all the students are professing Christians, I strive to be fair and accurate in describing the religious beliefs of others (I tell my students my goal is to teach in such a way that a follower of the religion sitting in the classroom would agree with my description, even if they disagreed with my assessment). So, I don’t think the book would have been substantially different without that request. Had I assumed an all-Christian readership, I might have added suggestions for appropriate responses to the various religions (e.g. “You can’t love your Muslim/Hindu/etc. neighbor and fear them at the same time.”). I did find it challenging at times to use vocabulary or phrasing that non-Christians would understand (it’s surprising how ingrown one can become teaching in a Christian environment). I think keeping the potential non-Christian reader in mind helped sharpen my writing.
Certainly the problem of becoming ‘ingrown’ is behind the need for this book. While I learned a lot reading this — including reading some chapters twice — and especially enjoyed the sidebars at the end of each entry, I lamented the absence of a concluding chapter to bookend the very helpful introduction. In a way, Garry Morgan provided the missing element to me in his note, and I offer it here alongside my recommendation of this title:
I do believe the Christian faith is truly unique. I think that comes out in the first chapter on Christianity in the book. My hope is that non-Christian readers would do their own evaluation and come to the same conclusion, and that Christians (who I assume will be the vast majority of readers) would have a resource for better understanding what others believe in today’s increasingly globalized society.
A copy of Understanding World Religions was provided to Thinking Out Loud by Graf-Martin a book promotion and publicity agency that comes alongside publishers and authors to increase visibility for key titles in Canada.
Quoted sections page 60 and page 69. The book is 174 pages and retails for $12.99 U.S.
Other books in this series include, Understanding Theology in 15 Minutes a Day and Understanding Your Bible in 15 Minutes a Day both by Daryl Aaron.
September 9, 2012
At a time when other media outlets are stepping up coverage of religion-based or religion-influenced stories, USAToday, which led the way in this area for several years, is scaling back. Cathy Lynn Grossman reports at the soon-to-be-discontinued blog, Faith and Reason*:
After four years of spirited conversation… Faith & Reason and its accompanying reader-led Faith & Reason Forum are shutting down.
USA TODAY is celebrating 30 years with a massive redesign of all publishing platforms…
…Several digital subject-area pages, including the online religion page, will vanish as stories are mainstreamed into News. If you read on a smartphone or tablet, you won’t notice any change. But if you read religion coverage at USATODAY.com on your laptop, these stories will be running in News, Nation and Politics, just as they already do in print…
But then this note:
…so many posted at the Faith & Reason Forum it became the most successful forum at USATODAY.com by a mile.
So why end it now?
I have been meaning however, to note here at some point how much the general media pages devoted to religion have been dominated by coverage of Roman Catholic people and events. Perhaps others have noted that as well, and it’s led to this decision. And the CNN Belief blog is often dominated by commentary instead of news, and one particular writer especially. There’s a place where I would have preferred to see the winds of change blow.
Faith and Reason at USAToday was very much appreciated. Cathy, I tried to leave a comment only to find it had become a Facebook-members-only forum — perhaps that was not such a good idea — and since I’m not sure if you got it, here it is: I’ve truly appreciated your insights and your perspective, and you’ve alerted me to many news stories I would have missed. I’ll look forward to seeing your byline in other sections of USAToday.
*obviously this link may not last long