Posts Tagged ‘ Theology ’

Perspective:Excitement

A.W. Tozer, in his book Of God and Man, writes;

If He is who and what the Christian message declares Him to be, then the thought of Him should be the most exciting, the most stimulating, to enter the human mind.

What Tozer calls us to is to first, see God as who God is not as who we have made God to be.  And to second,  be excited when we those real thoughts of God come into our life. Taking these words to heart is imperative for living a whole life. We, as Christians, want to be excited at the thought of God, but what often happens is that our minds and hearts are convoluted with negative thoughts about what we perceive God to be rather than who God is.  We sometimes get lost in thinking God is a divine police officer who is waiting behind the billboard so he can arrest us for speeding. Sometimes we see God as a cosmic vending machine who simply provides what we need in a non-relational way (and we then get upset, disappointed, or disillusioned when he does not respond with what we want when we push E7 = going to church or A5 = service). Both of these views – and many others – take the relational aspect of God away and are the product of the god our culture – and subsequently churches and theologies – have shaped. God is more than just relational, but God is also always relational. He does not turn off on trait for the sake of another, they are in a constant mix. Although God as judge may at a time be more potent than God is father, He is indeed both at once.

Another implicit value within Tozer’s words is the ability to listen and be aware of God.  Before we can be excited, we must listen. I cannot be excited about my relationships with my friends unless I am taking time to listen to them or to think and remember – listening to the past –  who they are. This is true in our relationship with God, we must remove the distractions, silence our hearts, and find excitement in the now and then presence of God.

The Soul of Hip-Hop

I cannot exclaim how excited I am to add another book about Hip-Hop to my library. Not only will The Soul of Hip Hop sit well next to Can’t Stop Won’t Stop, The Hip Hop Wars, Total Chaos Where You’re At (which I plan to someday review), and  others on my office shelf, it will add vital insight to the rich spirituality and faith within Rap music and, more broadly, hip hop culture. Full disclosure , the author, Daniel Hodge, is a friend of mine and I had the honor to have him for a professors while I was studying in Los Angeles.  Nevertheless, I truly believe this book will – for those to take it seriously – provide a strong apology of the compatibility of hip-hop and Christianity. Additionally, Hodge’s analysis will opens us hip-hop to be understood and approached as a culture – with then all the positives and negatives – rather than just a popular phenomena portrayed within popular media.

I just received by book in the mail this afternoon and it has quickly jumped to the top of my reading list. Anyone interested in understanding the depth of hip-hop and its relationship to faith would do well to pick up this ethnomusicological examination.

To get a glimpse of the book find it on google books and check out Hodge’s article on the Fuller website.

Commentary: Ground Zero Mosque

I am sure most everyone has heard about the potential “mosque” near ground zero – in reality it is an islamic-based community center open to all peoples. Newt Gingrich and other primarily politically and socially conservative public figures have becoming increasingly outspoken about their disdain for this idea and claim that it is offensive and un-American – ignoring that 10 percent of those who died in the attacks were Muslim and that the American quilt consist of Muslims. Some have lighter opposition and simply do not want the mosque close to 9-11.

To speak truth, 9-11 was the result of a terrorist attack perpetrated by Muslims. The tragedy is terrorism not Islam. Yes, they were influenced by passages in the Koran, but it is kin to Christian slave owners proliferating modern slavery in colonial and early America. These Christians were inspired by and utilized the Bible as their defense. Slavery, not Christianity, was the issue. Now I am not making a plea for the theological correctness of Islam and I am not an unitarian. Arguments towards such ends are mere strawmen. I believe that the Christian faith, towards which I am unwaveringly committed by the redemption that is in Christ, is concerned with hospitality, even towards those who are quite different. Christianity is concerned with love, even towards – if not especially – towards those who do not know the love of Christ. Christianity is concerned with reconciliation. This reconciliation is perhaps the most potent of points. The terrorists want us to be like them, evil in its simplest, wants to beget more evil. Unjust war begets unjust war. Hatred begets hatred. oppression begets oppression. This is the cycle of sin of transgression. This is the reason why the Father God sent the Christ incarnate; to reconcile us to take us out of the cycle and put us back into right relationship with God. Allowing . . . welcoming, the Islamic center, is a picture of that reconciliation. It is not the full reconciliatory process which we receive through Christ  – to suggest that is blasphemous -,but it is a mirror of that ultimate reconciliation and a means for Christians to be Christ-like and to show the world who the Christ is and what the Christ has done for and offered us all.

Return of bloggin

I apologize for not blogging recently; I have just finished graduate school and am now planning to move to Santa Barbara for a Resident Director position at Westmont College (more on this later). I am going to try to start up the blog again however; my wife and I will be traveling out to California on Thursday and will be going to Taiwan (where my wife’s extended family lives) at the end of June.  For organization sake, when I do start into blogging consistently I am going to “limit” myself within four broad categories.

Art for the Soul – I have done a couple of these already. Basically, I am going to post a music video, art work, poem, lyrics, etc. and either talk about the significance to our lives or simply post the artwork and leave it for interpretation/discussion.

Media Reviews – Think book reviews, but I am going to expand to albums and movies.  Most will probably be over newer works, but I will probably bring up some books, movies, and albums that I am revisiting.  Some works may even be discussed multiple times at various angles. It all depends on how I feel and how much time I have.  *

Commentary – These will be my discussion on news and current events. It may be about immigration, church relations, multiculturalism, economics, urban development, higher education (my current career) etc.

Perspective – While in the commentary I will point out specific events in society and culture, the perspective section will focus on things that have happened in my life or something, outside of the news, that has made me think. These may be simple one-liners, or they may be longer blog posts; it all depends.

To those who have read my blog in the past, thank you for the support. To those who randomly or just recently discovered my blog, welcome. Feel free to go back and scan through old posts and comment if you wish to. To all, don’t just read, respond, I want to know if you like or don’t like my thoughts and perspective. Getting, respectful, pushback on ideas is how we grow.

*I am very far past due on several reviews of books I was supposed to write so in the next week or so I will be posting reviews of the following: Friendship at the Margins, Between Allah & Jesus, Education for Human Flourishing, and maybe a couple others.

Living Gently in a Violent World: The Prophetic Witness of Weakness

Stanley Hauwerwas and Jean Vanier’s Living Gently in a Violent World: The Prophetic Witness of Weakness is the third book in the Resources for Reconciliation series put out by Inter-Varsity Press.

I was introduced to Jean Vanier about a year ago. A friend of mine handed me a copy of From Brokenness to Community, which is an edited version of Vanier’s speech at The Harvard University Divinity School Wit Lectures.  As I read Vanier’s story of leaving what he thought he knew, changing his life’s trajectory and engaging in community with the mentally “handicapped” I immediately engaged with my own selfishness.  Reading From Brokenness to Community pushed me into a deep examination of myself, of my brokenness and of the redemption that God provides within community – both in communion with Him and communion with others. If you have not read From Brokenness to Community, it is well worth purchasing. The book is only 50 small pages and is easily read in one sitting – although it is best read at a walker’s pace, taking in every word and nuance.

Vanier begins Living Gently in a Violent World by explaining L’Arche. The L’Arche movement is an international connection of faith-based communities centered on developing communities where people who have developmental disabilities and people who do not have these disabilities live in harmony. In 1964, Jean Vanier and his wife Pauling welcomed two men with disabilities into their home in France. What they learned and gained from that experience was the impetus for the L’Arche movement.

Vanier is humble and poignant in Living Gently in a Violent World. Vanier admits that L’Arche is still maturing and that, in some ways, is a fragile movement.

“. . . L’Arche is a fragile reality. Will it still be here in twenty years? There is always be people with disabilities, but will there always be people who want to live with them as brothers and sisters in community, in a place of belonging that helps each member, each person, grow to greater freedom?”

As I read of the challenge and returns of the L’Arche community I could not help, but think of its larger impact. L’Arche communities are diverse both between communities and within each community. Some communities are primarily Christian (although there is denominational diversity), those outside of the Christian faith lead some, and they exist from North America to the Middle East. However, all of these communities support the whole-person transformation of all community members. The community is not to “help” people with disabilities or even to enrich or mature those who do not have a disability. While, this surely does occur the central aspect is L’Arche is the central aspect of the Christian faith; Love.

Vanier tells rich stories about what love can do to individuals hurt by the pain of abuse; abuse, spiritual, social, and mental. L’Arche’s result is to address brokenness through the love that is found in true community. L’Arche’s uniqueness is that it highlights brokenness, not so that people wallow but so they can find redemption. It is the acknowledgement and gentle approach of community that pain and brokenness that allows society to find healing. When we are willing to recess into our own brokenness, we are able to view the holy aspects of others. We have come down off our spiritual or moral pedestals to dwell and broken people in need of healing and redemption via community and ultimately the Father.

Vanier is the prophet in Living Gently in a Violent World, while Hauwerwas is the polemicist. Hauwerwas begins by confronting the issue of time. While we are often scurrying around to find answers and to enact our own justice, we often neglect that peace (ultimately love) takes time. Violence is a shortcut to peace, and inevitably brings us to more violence. Hauwerwas argues that peace is achieved by redemption and transformation, which inevitably takes time.

“If the time has already been redeemed by Jesus, we learn to wait on the salvation of the Lord by taking time to listen to our weakest members”

Progress pushes us towards deafening speeds that force us to continue to move closer to an ideal, which seems to get further and further away. However, speed is not the central issue. We are consumed with the purpose behind the speed, efficiency. We desire everything when we want it and how we want it. This expands beyond the golden arches (McDonalds), domain names, or radio signals. Efficiency has overwhelmed our relationships. We see the traces of this the heightening levels of divorce, the constant movement of people (i.e. the idea of a “starter house”), the institutionalization of the “mentally handicapped” etc.  What is more dangerous is our dependency on efficiency. Our society is suddenly lost and frustrated when remote controls do not work, when automatic gates do not close on vans, when the internet is slow, when our churches get out “late” or when our food does not come quickly enough. This fervor for efficiency passes over people and focuses on the task.  We disregard community. We go and leave church having little more than interactions of “Southern Hospitality”. We drive past our neighbors rather than getting to know them. It is not that we are inconsiderate, we are simply too busy to invest. For Haurwas the ethos of L’Arche is what the Church and society needs to combat this dependency on efficiency.

“Constancy of place seems to me imperative if we are to be Christians who don’t abandon one another in the name of greater goods. You cannot be constantly going and coming as an assistant in L’Arche. Core members, love routines, and routines create and are breated by familiarity. Familiarity is what makes place “a” place.”

I must admit; I was a little disappointed by Hauwerwas’ contribution.  Make no mistake; Hauwerwas gives a sophisticated perspective on the L’Arche community and its prophetic voice to both the global and local contemporary church. Hauwerwas’ academic resolve is unquestioned. However, his academic prowess convolutes the wisdom of his commentary. Nevertheless, Hauwerwas’ perspective is a valuable asset to the book.

Gentleness and weakness are usually the last things we think about in our modern society. We are a society of quickness, efficiency and strength. These characteristics result in a violence that is sometimes systematical interwoven in the fabric of our society (i.e. American Slavery) and sometimes intentional.  Vanier and Hauwerwas view L’Arche as a flagship to the church and hope that its expression of Christianity can embrace a gentleness of patience that will bring healing to broken people and a broken world.

(I will be going back and writing on the first two texts Welcoming Justice and Reconciling All Things later this spring and I hope to read the last text Friendship at the Margins: Discovering Mutuality in Service and Mission soon after its release.)

Vince Campbell

Here are three youtube clips of great commentary on the early church – specifically the divisions that emerged from different cultural perspectives and cultural philosophies.  The video is from a workshop he and Soong Chan Rah led at this year’s CCDA (which I was unfortunately unable to attend).

Vince is currently a PhD student at Catholic University, studying the early African church.

Thoughts?

Words of a King

“Faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

“Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it.”

“Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted.”

“I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. That is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.”

“I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for the law.”

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

“It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can stop him from lynching me, and I think that’s pretty important.”

“Let no man pull you low enough to hate him.”

“Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity. Hate destroys a man’s sense of values and his objectivity. It causes him to describe the beautiful as ugly and the ugly as beautiful, and to confuse the true with the false and the false with the true.”

“Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love”.

“Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars… Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”

“The good neighbor looks beyond the external accidents and discerns those inner qualities that make all men human and, therefore, brothers.”

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

“The church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society.”