Tag Archives: christianity

Request This Book: The Profane Conspiracy

The Profane ConspiracyIn the Month of November, my friend Zach Swee wrote a fiction book, The Profane Conspiracy. I ordered a copy and read it within 24 hours. I’m biased, because Zach is a wonderful friend, but I think it is a great book. Here’s the brief synopsis:

Explore what happens when God touches people’s lives and brings them together to do His work. Nothing is impossible for those who follow His call. This is the story of two young men, Jon, a high school dropout living on the streets, and Chris, a committed Christian who always has a smile on his face. When God brings them into each other’s lives, anything can happen.

Now, I think you should all read this book and I’ve got a brilliant way for you to do it. Zach self-published this book, which is a really neat opportunity technology has provided us. It also means that it’s going to take a little work on our part to get the book distributed. This won’t cost you a penny, it will just take a few moments of your time. I want to make sure a copy of Zach’s book, The Profane Conspiracy, is available at the Nashville Public Libraries. And here’s what I’m hoping you can do to help…

Click this link to Request a Book at the Nashville Public Library.
Enter this information:

Author: Zach Swee
Title: The Profane Conspiracy
Publisher: LuLu Publishing, 2007
Where you saw this item mentioned:

You don’t have to enter any barcode info, just hit submit. And if your really interested in helping, request the book at your own local library. Let’s spread the word!

Scheming Swindlers

I think this is one of the most brilliant statements about the current state of Christians and the church today.

“The matter is quite simple. The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand we are obliged to act accordingly. Take any words in the New Testament and forget everything except pledging yourself to act accordingly. My God, you will say, if I do that my whole life will be ruined. How would I ever get on in the world? Herein lies the real place of Christian scholarship. Christian scholarship is the Church’s prodigious invention to defend itself against the Bible, to ensure that we can continue to be good Christians without the Bible coming too close. Oh, priceless scholarship, what would we do without you? Dreadful it is to fall into the hands of the living God. Yes, it is even dreadful to be alone with the New Testament.”
-Soren Kierkegaard

The Church’s role in Suburbia

It could possibly be over a year ago, I asked readers to give me some topics to write on and this was one of the ones that was brought up. I started a draft with just the title and that’s as far as I got until now. Rather then just delete it I figured it’s time to dig in a share my brief thoughts.

I know the person asking this didn’t intend this, but I think I initially have to say the churches role in Suburbia is to be the same as it’s role everywhere, and that is to make the good news of Jesus known to all people. So the role in Suburbia is the same as in the inner city, the war zone, the church buildings, the workplace, the brothel, the senate, the sweatshop, and in the family. So, if we are going to ask about the Suburbs we need to ask about these other places as well, but you can do that within your own church. on to Suburbia…

Let me start with what I do not think the churches role is, because I think it will get to the heart of what is inherent in this question for many people. I think we’ve started asking these sorts of questions about certain places, activities, and lifestyles in order to justify those things. So, by asking and answering the question of “The churches role in Suburbia” we might automatically acknowledge that it is an okay lifestyle and place in which to dwell for a Christian. A Wealthy CEO with a membership to a country club begins to ask, “what is my role as a Christian in this country club” and inevitably the answer will make the assumption that they should continue to be a member of the country club. The church wouldn’t allow the same question to be asked and answered of a drug dealer in a crack house, we would instead acknowledge that the answer must include that they stop dealing drugs. I hope that made some sense.

So, and I’m going to be bold about this, I don’t think the churches role in Suburbia is to live the lifestyle of suburbia and from there have a role of influence (wait though, I’m not saying you can’t live there). I would argue that the church, made of many individuals and families would do much better moving in geographical proximity to those in physical need (which is not in the suburbs), but that is a whole other topic. For now, let’s assume you are living in suburbia. I think our role as the church is to share the good news of Jesus with our neighbors. And before you think I’m talking about the Romans Road sharing the gospel let me clarify.

Suburbia is full of all the things the world tells us will satisfy our souls. White picket fences, SUVs, makeup and fitness machines, electric can openers and pretty pets, big plasma tv’s and our very own swing sets. If your living in suburbia with all this stuff, and your telling your neighbor it’s really Jesus who satisfies you, let me just say it’s going to be a confusing message.

A vision for the church in Suburbia:
Keep your house… for now. Sell all your unnecessary possessions, or even give them away to your neighbors. Tell them they can have those things because they will not truly be satisfied by the stuff, that only Jesus can satisfy. Take the extra money and give it to the poor. In fact, go out and bring the poor to your house for a big banquet. Sell your trendy car and buy a cheaper one with cash, that gets you from A to B. Take the extra cash flow and start sponsoring a child, take in a foster child, donate to the women’s shelter. Pay off your house in a year or two, because the debtor is slave to the lender. Find a church made up of people that look different then you and who worship in a way that might not be the most comfortable for you, you’ll likely have to drive a ways to find this place. Shed your life of anything that might confuse your neighbors, so that when they so your joyous, selfless life, the only thing they can acknowledge as the source of truth in your life is Jesus Christ.

Geez Magazine: How a Faithful Nation Gets Jesus Wrong

The recent issue of Geez Magazine was one I was really looking forward to. Geez is a fresh perspective on faith and each issue has challenged me to consider a different perspective and a new way of thinking. The latest issue: Let’s Get Evangelical, was exciting for me because I was hoping to see an articulate take on Christianity and “Evangelicalism” that would help me put some of my own thoughts into words.
Overall the articles were good, but they weren’t quite what I was looking for. Geez seems a little more on the skeptic fringe then I thought they would be. However, I was just reading the last article in the magazine, and I got through the first paragraph and realized it deserved a post.

Here’s Bill McKibben on How a Faithful Nation Gets Jesus Wrong:

Only 40 percent of Americans can name more than four of the Ten Commandments, and a scant half can cite any of the four authors of the Gospels. Twelve percent believe Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife. This failure to recall the specifics of our Christian heritage may be further evidence of our nation’s educational decline, but it probably doesn’t matter all that much in spiritual or political terms. Here is a statistic that does matter: Three quarters of Americans believe the Bible teaches that “God helps those who help themselves.” That is, three out of four Americans believe that this uber-American idea, a notion at the core of our current individualist politics and culture, which was in fact uttered by Ben Franklin, actually appears in Holy Scripture. The thing is, not only is Franklin’s wisdom not biblical; it’s counter-biblical. Few ideas could be further from the gospel message, with its radical summons to love of neighbor. On this essential matter, most Americans–most American Christians–are simply wrong, as if 75 percent of American scientists believed that Newton proved gravity causes apples to fly up. Asking Christians what Christ taught isn’t a trick. When we say we are a Christian nation–and, overwhelmingly, we do–it means something. People who go to church absorb lessons there and make real decisions based on those lessons; increasingly, these lessons inform their politics. (One poll found that 11 percent of U.S. churchgoers were urged by their clergy to vote in a particular way in the 2004 election, up from 6 percent in 2000.) When George Bush says that Jesus Christ is his favorite philosopher, he may or may not be sincere, but he is reflecting the sincere beliefs of the vast majority of Americans. And therein is the paradox. America is simultaneously the most professedly Christian of the developed nations and the least Christian in its behavior. That paradox–more important, perhaps, than the much touted ability of French women to stay thin on a diet of chocolate and cheese–illuminates the hollow at the core of our boastful, careening culture.

Read the Whole Article (Previously published)

What’s your take?

Protecting our Children while Caring for Others

This Morning I received an email asking for advice:

Hello!  You and your wife bought some cloth diapers from me through Craig’s List.  I recognized your name when you were hosting at Nashville Is Talking, then found your personal blog.  Small world, right?
I’ve been reading for a couple of weeks now.  You’ve definitely pricked my suburban conscience.  My family’s not image conscious to begin with, and we do all the comfortable “crunchy” practices like driving an old Volvo, wearing only secondhand clothes, breastfeeding, etc.  Yet I’m aware that I’m lacking in the person-to-person expression of Christ’s love.  I hurry my children past the homeless at the downtown library.  My childlike response to help has been squashed by a parental need to protect my children, to teach them wariness with strange men.  I know you feel fearless now, but there’s a vulnerability you feel when you are a mom out alone with small children.
So I’m asking you for advice!  Can you suggest a safe way for a mom and kids to help the homeless we encounter?  Small bags of portable food?
With thanks,
Eager to Help

Dear Eager to Help,

First of all, let me say thanks for the diapers. We are about six months from being ready to use them, but excited as the time approaches.  I’ll also say I’m anything but fearless right now. As I think about raising a child in this world, I definitly feel a desire to protect and yet teach my children to engage in this world, “in it, but not of it.” I’m honored that you felt compelled to ask me for advice, so without further ado, here it is.
Let’s talk about the fear for a minute. I wrote a little while ago about Guestrooms for Jesus, where I said fear and protecting your family was a lame excuse. I meant it was a lame excuse for inaction, not that protecting your family wasn’t an okay thing to do. In other words, don’t feel guilt about your desire to protect your children, I’m sure that is a God given desire in your heart. We are called to “Love our neighbors,” and I can think of no closer neighbor then family. As you’ve begun to realize though, if this is keeping you from loving other neighbors, particularly those Jesus talks specifically about, the poor, hungry and thirsty, then you probably have room to grow. I know I certainly do. So, what are some practical ideas for you to do to help those in need around you? Let’s start with your first idea.

Gift Bags are a great idea. The Homeless Guy (Nashville’s very own blogger, who you should definitly subscribe to), wrote a wonderful post about what he would suggest you put together for Homeless Gift Bags.  I added my two cents about Gift Bags, with an additional note about money (I really break down the money idea here). Stick a bunch of the bags in the car behind the passenger seat and let your kids help and see that the homeless are not to be feared or shunned, but to be joyously acknowledged as part of your community.

The next idea I have is to start educating yourself a little more on the homeless, particularly in Nashville. The Homeless Guy blog is a good place to start. The other group I would Highly recommend is the Nashville Homeless Power Project, probably the coolest group in Nashville right now. If your Wednesday afternoon’s (1pm at the Downtown Presbyterian Church) are free, check out the Living Room, a discussion group among homeless and “homies.” You can also volunteer with them, but at the least Join their Mailing List. Another great group that isn’t working specifically with homeless, but definitly those on the edge is the YW. They are also a great organization and work specifically with women in need. They’d be great for you to volunteer with. Also, I have helped out with a group called Food Not Bombs, who serve potluck meals every Sunday. If you want to come up on a Sunday and hang out and eat a meal with us about 1:30pm at the Veteran’s Memorial, that would also be a good chance to just meet some folks in a safe environment.

Now let’s get to the heart of the matter.  I think far too often we create a dichotomy or a tension where it doesn’t need to be. I think you hinted at one that many of us are quite guilt of: parenting/children – interacting with those in need. Our perception is probably more accurately: Safety of Children – Getting near Dangerous Crazies (does that sound a little more honest?).  The truth is I don’t think these things need to be in tension. I think first of all we need to recognize that “safety” needs to not be our first concern. God doesn’t call us to safe living.  I know lot’s of C.S. Lewis fan’s like to quote this passage from The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe referring to Aslan, The Lion:

“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver. “Don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

God calls us to be faithful, just like he did to Abraham (almost sacrificed his son and then took his family on a unknown journey to new land), Daniel (remember the lions den?), Paul (went through all sort’s of trouble to share the good news), and even Jesus (they killed the dude).  Now, we aren’t talking about dangling your kids off balconies or anything like that, but we are talking about being faithful to God’s call to care for those in need, and to do it with your children in tow.
And this is where I think we really get to the important part. Too many kids are being raised in “christian” homes where the Christianity that is being modeled is nothing like what we see in the stories of the Bible, but a safe religious practice, that holds personal protection and well being and satisfaction above all other callings in Scripture (which by the way I don’t really see the former in scripture at all).  So, we have whole generations that grow up assuming there is no conflict between their suburban living and the scripture that they read. The Christianity we see modeled today is not the same as that we see lived out in Scripture. 
I really care about protecting my children. But the protection I’m thinking of is a little different. I’m not too scared of scrapped knees, dirty hands, or the stinky breath of someone we’re talking too. I do want to protect my children from the “patterns of this world” and worldly treasure that moth and rust destroy. I want to protect my children from believing in a Christianity that has sold it’s soul to the materialistic, money-hungry, image driven, and earthly-focused society that we live in.

Protect your children, by all means. Just make sure your protecting them from the right things.


Time Machine: Wheaton College article about the FMA

(In the fall of 2004 at Wheaton College, where I was a senior, a couple of students from the Student Government were trying to approve an official statement from the Wheaton College Student Body declearing a stance in support of the Federal Marriage Amendment that would outlaw homosexual marriage. A number of students rose up in opposition to the attempt to approve the statement. I’m ever grateful to Lola, the Student body president at the time, for if she had not vetoed the initial vote on the statement it would have been sent out and made regardless of others input. Anyways, here is my article for the Wheaton College school newspaper concerning the topic)

How do we truly love our neighbor? If I may contextualize a bit: Jesus says do as the homosexual prostitute did when he, not judging or condemning, had compassion and cared for the needs of the Wheaton student who had been left for dead in the alley outside of the ministry she worked at, even after another Wheaton student and a pastor drove by. (LUKE 10:30-37).
Some in our community feel that loving your neighbor is best done by supporting the Federal Marriage Amendment, I’m fearful of that action. I am neither the person, nor a Record article the place to sway your decision on the Federal Marriage Amendment. I will say that we must be very clear that the FMA is NOT a stand against homosexuality as sin, but a political statement concerning the rights of those already practicing homosexuality. My words here are only to voice a concern over the message that Student Government and the Wheaton College student body will send to the world if we COLLECTIVELY support this amendment. This is not a definitive statement, only a few thoughts.
Jesus’ public condemnations where almost always directed to the Religious authorities within the religious community that he was a part of. In the early church we see most rebuking and moral standards being dealt with within the church, not to non-Christians. Paul even says, “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church?” (I Cor. 5:12)
This FMA Statement will define our community for years to come, especially if the news world catches wind of it. When we go to do ministries the question will not be about whether we are allowed to dance, but why do we dislike homosexuals so much?
How did Jesus address the idea of using physical punishment to uphold morality? He said, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone.” (Jn. 8:7) We are not to use the law as a means to force adherence to our moral standards. You want to love your neighbor who is a homosexual? Go hang out with them, be with them. Work with Emmaus ministries on CSC (Christian Service Council), sit at the bedside of someone dying of AIDs whose family has disowned him or her. That is where you can share Christ love.
Before we try and take the speck out of others eyes (and I think by “brothers” Jesus meant other believers), have we made sure there is not a plank in our own? I’m not sure exactly how we go about doing that but I have some ideas of statements that we could make to the greater community that would at least be a step in that direction.
I have two suggestions for possible proposals and resolutions that I think we can as a college campus collectively pass and send to every major organization that is fighting for gay rights. First as it relates to the support of marriage. I think we can be humble and admit that Christians have not been a very good example of the sanctity of marriage. We can let the world know that we know that we too are sinners and fail to live up to God’s ideals. We can explain to others that God is and will forever be the one who has defined marriage, and no matter what we the church or the rest of the world does we cannot change that. And we can commit to being an example in years to come of what true marriage is, as a union before God.
The second statement I think we can make, relates to the homosexual people who this impacts. We, the church, have been a horrible example of Christ love to the homosexual community for years. Christ would have sat by the bedside of dying homosexuals in the height of AIDs in this country, yet we stood outside with signs saying they would burn in hell (or we passively stood by while those statements where made). We can beg forgiveness from the homosexual community for the hurt and hatred that has been dealt to them by members of the Christian community. We can commit to spending much more time personally showing and spreading the love of Christ in genuine ways to people who practice homosexuality.
Unity in the body of Christ is an absolute priority in scripture and should be on this campus. How do we bring that unity amidst such differences on an issue like the FMA, which is not a simple Biblical issue? Shall we divide our community by making collective statements that misrepresent those in our community? I pray not. Let us dialogue together and pray together. “And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained.” (Phil 3:15-16)
If you believe it is best and most loving to support the FMA, then I pray you are doing equally as much to assure the that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons know the love of Christ. Please don’t make a statement supporting the FMA on my behalf. To those who support the FMA, please feel free to collect 1800 signatures of students who support the FMA, but please don’t outcast me from the community by making collective statements. How will I remain in this community? How will I tell my homosexual friend that I chose to remain a part of a community that was making collective statements that to her carry such hate? Lord help me.

Recycling is Biblical (part 2)

This is a follow up to my intro in part 1 (which according to my friend Josh, sounded grouchy).

If someone is hoping I’m going to pull out the verse in Habbakuk 13:8 that says, “Any container that can be reused or returned to it’s natural form should. The punishment for not doing so is death,” I’m sorry to disappoint you but that’s not the verse I’m preaching on today.

I’d rather pull a few phrases of Paul, “Everything is permissible for me, but not everything is beneficial,” and “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God,” and finally, “Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak.

First of all I want to point out that my desire to argue that Recycling is Biblical does not come from a point of condemning those who do not currently recycle. We are not bound by the law anymore and therefore my goal is not to place this as the 11th commandment, but rather to simply argue that it is worth considering recycling as opposed to not recycling as the more “Christ-like” thing to do. When Paul says “Everything is permissible for me,” he is exclaiming the fact that we don’t live under the law, but then he points out it is not all beneficial. In light of that I’ll ask, what is better for you and your great grand children, recycling or not?

Whatever you do, you are to do it for the glory of God. Now, you well know that that does not mean that we are to lie and cheat to the glory of God. There are some things that given the option (between lying and telling the truth) one is clearly not as glorifying, or not glorifying at all. Currently, as it relates to recyclable products in your home, there are two options. You have the opportunity to recycle those items, contributing to a more sustainable world, and not recycling. You’ve got taking care of God’s green earth (recycling, composting, using less trash and less gas, gardening, etc) and then you take not doing those things (draining resources, creating tons of trash, etc). I’m not sure it’s too difficult to argue that one is more God glorifying then the other.

And, last but not least, you have your weaker brother here. There is no law binding you to recycling. There was no law keeping Paul from eating meat. But Paul was willing to sacrifice the exercise of his freedom, so that he did not become a stumbling block for his weaker brother who felt recycling was so important it was almost a sin not to do it. One might choose to recycle, not because they are selfish, nor because they have been compelled by the evidence of the benefits of recycling, nor because of the Scriptures, but simply because they see the trauma it causes their brother in Christ when they don’t recycle.

-your weaker brother

The Bible is a Story

If you haven’t noticed the little countdown on the side bar, I’ve decided to join a group of folks from Mosaic in reading through the Bible in 12 weeks.

Adria explains well why we are all doing this:

Why read the Bible together in 12 weeks?

1. To know what the Bible says, so that we can better understand what the Bible means, and what God’s message is to us through this story, so that we can live well.

2. To have an experience of reading the Bible as a whole book, and not just it’s separate parts. The beauty of reading the Bible in such a concentrated amount of time is that we better understand the overall story and let it put our lives into context.

3. To create community around a common goal.

To facilitate the community part of things Adria put together a blog, 12 weeks, for all those reading to write their thoughts on and to create some dialogue. It’s a pretty neat thing and I’m excited to be a part of it. It did take me a couple days into it before I finally joined in.
If you want to keep up with what I write as I read you can bookmark this link, or grab this feed.
And now you know what I’ll be reading for the next three months.