Thinking Out Loud

November 24, 2017

The Place for Christian Satire and Humor

When a comment popped up on an earlier look at this topic — originally posted seven years ago — I thought I might revisit this. I quickly realized that most of the references in the original article were to blogs and websites which no longer exist, so this is greatly revised.

For readers today, it’s hard to imagine a future world without, for example, The Babylon Bee — or its Roman Catholic equivalent, Eye of the Tiber — but I suppose it will happen eventually. Sometimes the humor is topical references to things currently on our minds. Other times the jokes are somewhat timeless…

The original article began with a comment from a reader who found the rather humorous graphic, Fundy Preacher Bingo, not so funny. (Click the link to see it full size, or perhaps even print a few!)

Actually, “Christian hate” is the term she used. “Hate?” Really? Not surprising though. I have in the past encountered Christians who don’t get religious humor or satire. “Foolish talk and course jesting;” is the verse usually quoted.

And then she asked the question that I think is key to all this:

What kind of hardened heart finds delight in making fun of your brothers and sisters in Christ, as if you weren’t flawed and saved by Grace – same as them?

Well, the answer is, many people. One of the items in our personal book collection is Games Christians Play which was published in the 1940s by Harper & Row. I’m sure it was not the first example of literature in which Christians take some potshots at their own foibles. And space does not permit us to list the many examples of Jesus using wordplay with both his disciples and his critics. (See this book review.)

And the phrase “at their own” is also key. When non-believers want to lampoon and ridicule Christianity that’s one thing. But even there, I wouldn’t want to be too dismissive, because I think it’s important for us to be able to see ourselves as others see us. Some of the attacks by atheists are unwarranted, but at other times, it’s like holding a mirror up to The Church.

But it’s always better when the barbs come from within, ergo the long-time popularity of the now not-in-print Christian magazine, The Wittenburg Door. One of my earliest mentors was a musician who said, “The Wittenburg Door is my conscience.”

Humor is a powerful force and it can be abused for sure, but it can also be a force for keeping us all honest and accountable. You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. Many a truth is spoken in jest. [Add your own cliché here.]

So while I could criticize fellow Evangelicals, I wouldn’t criticize Lutherans. For that we have Garrison Keillor, although he has spent enough time among Baptists and Pentecostals that increasingly a larger group of people are swept up in his humor and storytelling.

So rule number one would be that you criticize your own. You might even need to quantify that, as one writer did at the time:

I’m a conservative evangelical Christian. Very, very conservative by most standards and I’ve got the Wide-Margin Old Scofield King James Bible to prove it.. [comment at Stuff Fundies Like, Sept 10, 2010]

Over the years, spoofers have included Jon Acuff of Stuff Christians Like (now a motivational and business writer) and Joel Kilpatrick and the author of the blog Jesus or Squirrel or Matthew Paul Turner at Jesus Needs New PR or the host of cartoonists including many different ones at Baptist Press (who years ago stopped allowing us to use them). And let’s not forget years and years of cartoon and satire books published by Zondervan and InterVarsity (the latter having returned to the genre with two books each in the Coffee With Jesus and Theologygrams series) and the cartoons that were printed in each issue of Leadership Journal.

The enemy of The Church today is not those who poke fun at our sacred cows, but the people who simply walk away. I responded to the woman who left the comment:

…For what it’s worth, “hardened hearts” don’t engage. They walk away. They are apathetic. Most of us read something like this and it’s very easy to resonate with the spirit of it, and that is fully compatible — to me at least — with being indwelt by the Spirit of Christ.

Sadly, the person who wrote to me said I had “lost another reader.” In other words, she chose to walk away rather than engage.

As to “hardened hearts,” I think if anything, reading satire from different denominational tribes has softened my heart in terms of understanding and relating to people who are from faith families different to my own.

So what’s your take on Christian comics, Christian cartoons, Christian satire, Christian humor, etc.? Is there a place for this genre? Is it helpful? Is it hurtful?

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October 12, 2017

Blogroll Update #8

This is actually one of the best supplements I’ve ever done simply because it contains updated links to some longtime favorites of mine, some great writers that we use at Christianity 201, and some things I discovered simply had never appeared here before.  This time around I’ve listed previous blogrolls at the bottom! There’s probably well over a thousand in there, maybe more.

Blogs
Biblical Proof | Speaking where the bible speaks, and silent where the bible is silent.
5 Minutes in Church History – A Weekly Christian Podcast with Stephen Nichols
Ramblings on the Way
Better Bible Teachers – Elementary Sunday School Lessons for Teachers
Blog — 100 Movements
Home – A Clear Lens – Theology, Worldview, Apologetics
Apologetics Archives – A Clear Lens
Craig Greenfield
More Than Cake
Home – Communicate Jesus
The Things Unseen
Christian Food Movement – discipleship + sustainability + health + justice
The Reagan Review | Ministry, Books & Reviews by Pastor Jimmy R. Reagan
Rob Jacobs – “CROSS”-Pollination
The Missing Peace – … what we’re all looking for
WARNING! Sleep Talking Zone
National Association of Evangelicals | Influence For Good
Blog | Hot, Holy & Humorous | Sex & Marriage, by God’s Design
Sierra White
Church and Culture
Lady Shepherd – the story of my life
Trey and Lea Morgan | Stronger Marriage Workshops
Jamie the Very Worst Missionary
Blog posts – Passionately His
the gospel side | A bridge builder masquerades as a provocateur.
Mockingbird
Mike Frost
Light in the Darkness
KindlingWord | Thoughts to ignite the heart
The Stream
Blog – Jayson D. Bradley
catholichipster | Weblog
THE RIVER WALK | Daily Thoughts and Meditations
WestWord | Reflections from a Christian Perspective.
as i learn to walk
Blog Archives – DashHouse

The link to part one. (October, 2014…six years worth of links to that point)

The link to part two. (St. Patrick’s Day, 2015)

The link to part three. (May, 2015, also included my news sources to that point)

The link to part four. (August, 2015, included blog aggregators and people who do things similar to the Wednesday Link List)

The link to part five. (August, 2016, a full year later)

The link to a mini update. (Just five weeks after part five the file was getting full again)

The link to part six. (January 2017)

The link to part seven (June 2017)

June 30, 2017

Blogroll Update #7

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:07 am

That time again; this should pick up where the last list left off. This includes a few people who we’ve been following for years, but weren’t bookmarked in this list. Also a few updates. So a mix of new and old. But first a recap.

blogThe link to part one. (October, 2014…six years worth of links to that point)

The link to part two. (St. Patrick’s Day, 2015)

The link to part three. (May, 2015, also included my news sources to that point)

The link to part four. (August, 2015, included blog aggregators and people who do things similar to the Wednesday Link List)

The link to part five. (August, 2016, a full year later)

The link to a mini update. (Just five weeks after part five the file was getting full again)

The link to part six. (January 2017)

Blogs
Convivium Magazine – Faith in our common life
Scott Cochrane – A Leader’s Journey
Worthily Magnify – Helping Worship Leaders Lead Well
Putting the Protest in Protestant – Love is not the same as nice.
Tod Bolsinger
Cody Libolt
Between Worlds | living an intercultural life
Radically Christian | 1st Century Christianity in a 21st Century World
god from the machine | A former atheist explores the Christian worldview
Resources For Investigating Today’s Competing Religious Claims | Institute For Religious Research
Zach Hoag
Mark O Wilson | Living the the Overflow
Books and Blogs by Rene Schmidt reneschmidt54@gmail.com
The Life Project | Finding Clear and Simple Faith
SensibleFaith – Making sense of life, faith and the universe.
Sheila Walsh – The Braveheart Sisterhood
Notes in the Margins
ApoloJedi – Discussing Biblical Authority
Power of One Man
Smile, God loves you! | John 3:16
Abide
hairmetaljesusfreak
Bareknuckle Bible | Loving the truth even when it doesn’t feel good
Joe Holman–Live From Bolivia.
Parchment Girl | The Place for Readers
Digging The Word
Think Christian
Grabbing a Beer with a Pastor
Living To Love Him
1517 The Legacy Project
SharperIron | Thinking is fundamental
The Daily Disciple – Helping You Become an Authentic, Inspired, and Passionate Disciple of Jesus
Blog | ChuckLawless.com | Evangelism • Leadership • Missiology • Church Health
The Scriptorium Daily: The blog of the Torrey Honors Institute
Articles — CHAD BIRD
The way of improvement leads home |  history, religion, politics, academics
Biblical Proof

May 18, 2017

The Case for Online Church Community

Like “real” church though, you need to be all in…

I wrote this almost exactly eight years ago. At the time, what I had in view was the blogging community to which I had become a part. The word podcast wasn’t in my vocabulary though there was a healthy choice of online sermons on demand. There weren’t so many full service broadcasts (live or delayed) back then because of a nervousness concerning the worship song copyrights.

Also, more blogs allowed comments back then, and people engaged more. Today comments are closed at many sites and you also have a number of key bloggers who migrated to Twitter and other platforms. To relive those days, check out our post from Monday, A Golden Age of Christian blogging.

For those of you reading this on a PC, or subscribers who have always wondered, the default font for this blog’s theme is very small and to this day we take a minute to manually enlarge every paragraph. However, for a few years we also were putting everything in bold face as well.

Remember, this was all about community. It doesn’t purport to address the five other things I see as central to actually showing up in person at a physical church: Corporate worship, corporate prayer for others, potential prayer for your own needs and concern, corporate giving, and communion. I also think the level of personal accountability is higher when you’re there in person. 

I do know there are people for whom physical attendance at weekend worship is currently impossible for a wide variety of reasons. For those of you in that category, I hope you will endeavor to develop the type of online community I had in view when I wrote this. Many churches now have a online pastor to cater to the needs of those who don’t attend in person. 

Two “finallys”: Again, remember that I wrote this at a time when I envisioned the blog community becoming a surrogate church for some (which it did.) Also remember there’s nothing new about this; for generations the church wrestled with the issue of people dropping out on Sunday mornings to stay home and watch services on television. (I wonder what that would have looked like if it had a chat or discussion option as did blogging?) 

How can online churches better address the issue of community?

If your background is mainline

At a certain part of the service there is a time set aside for “the passing of the peace.” You greet one another with a hug or a handshake (or in a few places, a “holy” kiss) and say, “The peace of Christ,” or “The peace of Christ be with you.” In reply the other might say the same, or say, “And to you also;” or “And to you also, the peace of Christ.” If the church is smaller, you know these people, at least by name, but if it’s larger or it’s tourist season, you may not know them at all.

After the service there is a time when coffee and juice is served and you can engage people conversationally for about five minutes; usually people you already know. For an extended time like this, don’t miss the pancake breakfast and the strawberry tea held each year.

To get to know people a little deeper, or other people, you can join the choir, or volunteer for a host of guilds or committees that are always in need of help. You’ll also find a lot of the same people serve on civic projects and thereby will run into them in other contexts outside of the church itself. Don’t expect to break into the core community until you’re a “regular,” which occurs after you’ve attended and been involved for a gazillion years.

If your background is Evangelical

At a certain part of the service there is a time set aside for “greeting” or it may be formalized as “the ritual of friendship.” You greet one another with a hug or a handshake and say, “Good Morning;” or “Did you happen to catch the game yesterday?” In reply the other might say the same, or say, “Is that a new car I saw in the parking lot?” If the church is smaller, you might know these people, at least by name, or if it’s a mid-sized church, you can look them up in the photo directory when you get home.

After the service there is a time when coffee and juice is served and you can engage people conversationally for about five minutes; usually people you already know. For an extended time like this, don’t miss the annual potluck lunch and the annual bowling night.

To get to know people a little deeper, there isn’t a lot to volunteer for, since everything is done by the paid staff. The mens’ and womens’ retreats would help, but that’s $120 and $130 respectively. Better to join a small group. That way you’ll get to spend time in at least one person’s house each week, and get to know them and about four other families (or eight other singles) more intimately.

If your option is blogging community

There is a possibility that there will be people in your fellowship who you do not have any idea what they look like, or exactly where they live. However, you don’t have to wait for an opportunity to engage conversationally. Those opportunities occur at any time and may produce a variety of responses from a variety of people.

Through those conversations you will learn about their likes and dislikes, events in the life of their family, where they stand on a variety of issues, and what challenges and needs they face. You’ll possibly learn the names of — or see pictures of — their kids or their parents, be given insights into their job, and you’ll almost certainly know a little about every book they’ve read since they started blogging. And they’ll know the same about you.

You may find very quickly that their prayer requests become your prayer requests; you feel drawn to the needs of these people as one might with someone in their church family. If Twitter enters into the picture, you’ll know even more about their daily routine, the various thoughts and challenges that burst into the brain brought about by various stimuli. And if you Twitter, they’ll have that input from you also.

Plus, they will introduce you to their online friends, and you might pick a few of those to subscribe to or at least bookmark, and over time, perhaps their friends will become your friends also. It’s not unusual to pick up e-mail addresses from comments you’ve received and send out some off-the-blog messages. (In fact, two weeks ago, I sent out about 60 such e-mails about a project I wanted to get going that needed an off-the-blog start-up.)

Finally, if you want to get really hardcore, you might find yourself contemplating attending a bloggers event which sometimes take place in conjunction with other events, and at other times are stand-alone events. Not because online fellowship is insufficient, but simply because the relationships are already well established. (And nobody’s pretending to be a 17-year old girl from Ohio; at least I hope not!)

So at the end of the day, online community isn’t better or worse than Sunday church fellowship; it’s just different. And I would argue it’s a good different. One can’t entirely substitute for the other, and hopefully people using online community as a surrogate for a physical community that is currently absent from their life would, over time, find themselves drawn back to something resembling a church or house church; and then maintain a balance between the two relational paradigms.

March 1, 2017

Wednesday Link List

tweet-othersWelcome to WLL#348. It’s also Ash Wednesday. We have an unusual number of mid-month pieces here today even though the list was prepared the day before. So not fresh off the press, but we thought worth including. Don’t forget to try to get your suggestions to me by 6:00 PM EST on Monday; but later ones do get considered.

Our extro image is from the Twitter feed Unvirtuous Abbey:

batman-dark-night

February 25, 2017

ThInKiNg OuT LoUd TuRnS 9

Filed under: blogging, Christianity, personal, writing — Tags: , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:52 am

TOL Banner Red

 It’s our 9th Birthday…which means we’re now in our tenth year!

Who would have thought I’d be doing this 9 years later? I thought this year, instead of taking the time to reminisce and blow my own horn, we’d look at you guys, readers. If you’ve been with us since the beginning, thank you for your support. If this is your first day, welcome.

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First you guys have forced me to discover who I am. Yes, the various labels are annoying sometimes or a caricature of what people truly believe, but writing every day and interacting with such a broad base of news stories and opinion pieces have helped me clarify my positions on a variety of doctrinal subjects and crafting a personal theology.

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Second, you readers have inspired me to read some really great books. There are times I got on the bandwagon of trending authors and now wish I’d focused on different types of material — more from IVP perhaps — but I appreciated tracking with the titles that have frequently topped bestseller charts.

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Third, the off-the-blog fellowship that has resulted from this project is something I greatly treasure. True, it’s often still confined to the world of electrons — emails and direct messages on Twitter — but I’ve also been blessed to meet a few of you face to face.

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Finally, without Thinking Out Loud, there would never have been a Christianity 201, which has benefited me spiritually in so many ways. I thank those of you who tell me, “I read both blogs;” it is humbling to think you spend that amount of time with me on a daily basis.

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So this time around, it’s Happy Birthday to you the regular readers here at Thinking Out Loud. Thank you for keeping us among the top Christian blogs in North America.


TOL Banner Teal

February 22, 2017

Wednesday Link List

soul-cleanser-medication

Did you miss us last week? Subscribers will have one free week added to the end of their subscription.

The item in our top and bottom image was found in a candy store and originates with LaughRat.com (viewer discretion advised).

soul-cleanser-medication-back

February 8, 2017

Wednesday Link List

jesus-bible-no-b-c-full-size

Welcome to Link List #346. Please shake off the snow and leave your hats and boots at the door.

Re the image ↑↑ Granted, it’s a promotional piece for a new product from Zondervan Bibles, but it makes you think, doesn’t it.

Our closing item below is a bit different, I waited an extra week before including it. Found at Ben Witherington’s blog.

heartburn

There won’t be a link list next week; we’ll see you back on February 22nd.

February 1, 2017

Wednesday Link List

being-tall-706

faith-with-benefitsYou’ll have to scroll down to find the link referencing the book cover here, but yes, the title means what you think it means. For our upper and lower images today we’re featuring the artwork of the UK’s Dave Walker from CartoonChurch.com which originally appeared in the Church Times and can be found in the book Heroes of the Coffee Rota, published by Canterbury Press.

  • Essay of the Week: “I didn’t intend to create an IT policy for my spiritual life, but inadvertently I ended up doing so over the past few months… I didn’t think I had an issue–but since making these changes I am more relaxed, have far more free time, am more present at home, and even in times (like now) which would previously have been cripplingly busy at work are manageable–making me far more productive.”
  • Norma McCorvey, was the “Jane Roe” in the classic court case Roe v. Wade. Here are seven things she wants you to know about that precedent-setting case.
  • Must Reading: Do the rich get better discipleship? After shopping for a church with a solid youth program for four teenage boys, this family realizes they simply can’t afford it.
  • Op-Ed: A challenge to the teaching of Francis Chan and the Family Integrated Church movement. Sample: “Chan has totally missed the mark of what it actually means to be a Christian family!
  • The fertility industry: It’s the year 2042 and the woman who is the product of a surrogate birth shares her story: “They bought my mother’s eggs—lots of them—so they could pick the best embryos. They rented another woman’s womb for 9 months. Well, 8 months: we were premature and underweight. My dad’s decided that each of them would get one genetic child—so I’m a half-sister with my own twin, which is strange.” An expert offers the other side of the story.
  • Megachurch Life: Our messaging that it’s okay to come if you are broken and your life is messy right now is contrasted by the image we project with a polished, professional service.
  • Pause for Thought: Humility and certainty can go hand-in-hand. “In other words, Christians are humble because their understanding of truth is not based on their own intelligence, their own research, their own acumen.”
  • The son or daughter has informed his or her conservative Christian parents that they are gay. Should the parents disown them?
  • I love what The Gospel Project is doing with their videos, but this one should also be made available at those sites where you buy clips for weekend church services. Every church needs to show this.  
  • January’s Essay of the Month: Philip Yancey on the election.
  • The Joy of Sects: A look at The Panacea Society. “Joanna Southcott…had died a century earlier – and had left behind a sealed wooden box full of prophetical writings, stating that it should only be opened during a time of national crisis by all 24 Church of England bishops.” This group of women were “convinced they held the fate of the planet in their hands.”
  • Leadership Lessons: It’s been a month now. How are you making out on your new year goals? “Sometimes we in the church are just not that serious or passionate… We trust that the Word will do its work and that we are stewards of the mysteries of God. But we don’t really want to rock the boat. We don’t want to take risks.”
  • Current Events in the Rear View Mirror:  Should Christian women march?
  • Church Tech Talk: Is the tech team or communications team simply service providers or are they a ministry unit?
  • Survey Says: Pollsters seem to reject the possibility that you can be African American and Evangelical at the same time.  “… historically the word points to and names a theological-spiritual ethos, not a particular socio-political-class movement…”
  • What are your idols? Find out what matters to you with this short 20 Questions to Expose Your Idolatry.
  • Timely: Christian recording artist Audrey Assad tells of her father fleeing Syria and coming to the U.S. as a refugee. (6 minute video; watch full-screen.) 
  • Kids still deciding on a college? 25 Things to do or questions to ask before making the final choice…
  • …Meanwhile, at the other end of the education spectrum, a Christian mom explains her choice to send the kids into the public school system.
  • When your church, denomination or parachurch organization disagrees with the government: This author suggests there are but three courses of action you can choose.
  • ‘You have just aborted Beethoven.’ That’s the punchline to a popular argument against abortion. However, “It assigns value based on (presumed) accomplishments. It is a utilitarian argument — assigning intrinsic value based on one’s “utility” (usefulness) — and it is utilitarian arguments that are best suited for pro-choice arguments, not for pro-life. In any event, those contemplating abortion are already employing utilitarianism in their thinking.”
  • First there was The Bible Museum. Now the American Bible Society is launching the Faith and Liberty Center in downtown Philadelphia.
  • Sadly, another high-profile Christian family processes divorce
  • …while the writers at one website consider that we are only hearing one side of the story.
  • Forthcoming Film: The Resurrection of Gavin Stone “represents what modern Christian life actually looks like, with a sense of irreverence and a knowing point of view.”
  • Parenting Place: 95% of our behavioral patterns are established by age 6. Authors Todd and Jackie Courtney have launched Inspirational Nursery Rhymes, with four titles releasing today. They’re available where you buy books; Christian bookstores can access them through Anchor Distributing. Info and an interactive game at the series website.
  • Who remembers when Keith Green sold his music albums on a “pay what you can” basis? Now, author and pastor Craig Groeschel is working with his publisher on a “pay what it’s worth” system for his new book, Divine Direction. (With a base price of $5.)
  • Martha Collison was the youngest ever contestant on the UK version of the show we know as The Great American Baking Show. She pays tribute to fellow Christian and bake off star 81-year-old Mary Berry.
  • Faith With Benefits: “…students on Catholic campuses report being unhappy with casual sexual encounters, most studies have found no difference between Catholic colleges and their secular counterparts…” Oxford University Press, $29.95 hardcover.
  • One way to get your books out there: HarperCollins is hosting GodLab, a 3-day faith-focused conference in Los Angeles in early June. (Cocktails will be served.)
  • Christian comedian Chonda Pierce faced some backlash after appearing at the Presidential Inauguration. She noted that, “somebody asked me what I’m wearing and I said, ‘Whatever is washable because someone might throw eggs at me!'”
  • Not enough links today? You can always try Religion Link
  • Provocative Headline of the Week: What to Do When You are Bored of God.
  • Video of the Week: You’ve got to see it to believe it as parents in Tbilisi, Georgia lined up at Trinity Cathedral to have their children baptized.
  • Finally, something a little different to end today; a poem by Brian Bilston found at this Twitter post.

refugees-poem


cyber-attacks-706


Reproduction of the Wednesday Link List in whole in or in part would constitute a great waste of scarce resources.

January 25, 2017

Wednesday Link List

alternative-facts

Thanks for your suggestions this week. Don’t forget to share today’s link list URL on your blog and social media. Take a deep breath… here we go!

I know you thought we were quite done with Christmas, but now we know why these guys (below) took so long to find the baby:

Arctic Wisemen from Sacred Sandwich

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