Wednesday, August 26, 2009

I Did Not Write This, and You're Not Reading It

I've been having discussions with several friends lately about how it's important that we don't spend our whole life on "truth patrol." Of course, we need to maintain good theology and sound thinking, but if we spend all our time on search and destroy missions, looking to stamp out godlessness and heresy wherever it may occur, we won't be spending our time focused on constructive things that will help us grow, love others, and become godly (Christlike) people.

So in this spirit of not always grousing about everyone who's doing anything wrong, I am not going to write a blog post about Brian McLaren celebrating Ramadan this year. I am not going to point out that if I ever thought he was an OK guy who was just misunderstood, I now think he's lost it when it comes to orthodox theology. I won't say that he has somehow become the Splenda of faux Christianity...his words may taste sweet, but they're not real sugar.

I also won't say that McLaren's practice of Ramadan with his Muslim friends bears no resemblance to the Apostle Paul's commitment as stated in Colossians 1.28,29:

We proclaim [Christ], admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.
I won't say that the last thing from McLaren's mind seems to be the proclamation of Christ. Or that his solidarity with others trumps fidelity to his putative Savior.

No, I won't say any of those things. I just won't do it.

But I will tell you that you can read his Ramadan posts on his website. The first of the series is here.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places

I think it's part of the human condition that many of us feel lonely, if not all the time then at least from time to time. And if you're single, it's easy to think the antidote for loneliness is matrimony. But according to Henri Nouwen, those who marry because of loneliness will likely end up as lonely spouses. Our condition is not changed by our circumstance.
We ignore what we already know with a deep-seated, intuitive knowledge - that no love or friendship, no intimate embrace or tender kiss, no community, commune or collective, no man or woman, will ever be able to satisfy our desire to be released from our lonely condition. This truth is so disconcerting and painful that we are more prone to play games with our fantasies than to face the truth of our existence. Thus we keep hoping that one day we will find the man who really understands our experiences, the woman who will bring peace to our restless life, the job where we can fulfill our potentials, the book which will explain everything, and the place where we can feel at home. Such false hope leads us to make exhausting demands and prepares us for bitterness and dangerous hostility when we start discovering that nobody, and nothing, can live up to our absolutistic expectations.

Many marriages are ruined because neither partner was able to fulfill the often hidden hope that the other would take his or her loneliness away. And many celibates live with the naive dream that in the intimacy of marriage their loneliness will be taken away.

- Henri Nouwen, The Wounded Healer, pp. 84-85.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Chrysler Clunker

In the "Great Moments in Marketing" department, here's this gem from yesterday's news:

Chrysler says it is dropping its lifetime powertrain warranty in favor of a 5-year or 100,000-mile guarantee.

Chrysler spokesman Rick Deneau says the decision was driven by market research that showed consumers prefer warranties with a fixed time period.

Really. What question could the market researchers possibly have asked that would yield this answer? Try the most obvious version on yourself: "Would you rather have a lifetime powertrain warranty, or would you rather have one that expires after a few years?"

If there were any morons (um, I mean "consumers") that said they prefered the "fixed time period," then they deserve to be owners of Chrysler products.

On the other hand, the true moron could be the Chrysler spokesman, if he really expects us to believe his nonsensical assertion.

Friday, August 21, 2009

God and the Whirlwind

A couple days ago, the ELCA denomination of the Lutherans voted to liberalize their stance on practicing homosexuals. Then a small tornado struck the place where they were meeting. After watching the storm from his Baptist church, Reverend Piper shared a few thoughts about it on his blog. I suspect this is one blog post he will end up wishing he'd not written. It's a shoddy hermeneutic he employs, and his conclusion that the whirlwind is a warning from God is a reading-into-Scripture that doesn't follow from his five premises. I really thought Piper was better than this.

This curious tornado touches down just south of downtown and follows 35W straight towards the city center. It crosses I94. It is now downtown.

The time: 2PM.

The first buildings on the downtown side of I94 are the Minneapolis Convention Center and Central Lutheran. The tornado severely damages the convention center roof, shreds the tents, breaks off the steeple of Central Lutheran, splits what’s left of the steeple in two...and then lifts.

Let me venture an interpretation of this Providence with some biblical warrant. ...

Read his entire post here.

Jenell Paris found a certain amount of silliness in the Piper post. Her take on the matter is a great example of how humor can be a better corrective than anger. And no, it doesn't descend into ridicule.

John Piper explains the biblical connection between the Minneapolis tornado and its target, the steeple of Central Lutheran Church where the ELCA was meeting to discuss homosexuality and church leadership. His conclusion? “The tornado in Minneapolis was a gentle but firm warning to the ELCA and all of us: Turn from the approval of sin.”

Wow. Today the weather in Grantham, PA is “82 degrees, feels like 88.” The humidity is 73%. God is speaking to us, too, and I believe I have been chosen to interpret today’s weather for everyone else in Grantham, and perhaps even Mechanicsburg, our surrounding suburb. My spirit is unclear regarding Camp Hill or the city of Harrisburg, so I don’t think the prophecy extends that far.

Read the rest of her post here.

There was yet another preacher who weighed in on the matter. He said that God "causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." Had he been asked about tornados, I think he would have included those, too.
Illustration: William Blake, "The Whirlwind: Ezekiel's Vision," 1803

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Wander Home

He lets us wander so we will know what it means to come home.
- Marilynne Robinson, Home, p. 102

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Posture of Grace

There is a saying that to understand is to forgive, but that is an error, so Papa used to say. You must forgive in order to understand. Until you forgive, you defend yourself against the possibility of understanding....If you forgive, he would say, you may indeed still not understand, but you will be ready to understand, and that is the posture of grace.
- From Marilynne Robinson's novel, Home, p. 45

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Great Iconoclast

Images of the Holy easily become holy images - sacrosanct. My idea of God is not a divine idea. It has to be shattered time after time. He shatters it Himself. He is the great iconoclast. Could we not almost say that this shattering is one of the marks of His presence? The Incarnation is the supreme example; it leaves all previous ideas of the Messiah in ruins. And most are "offended" by the iconoclasm; and blessed are those who are not. But the same thing happens in our private prayers.

All reality is iconoclastic.
Heaven will solve our problems, but not, I think, by showing us subtle reconciliations between all our apparently contradictory notions. The notions will all be knocked from under our feet.

- C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed, pp. 78-77, 83

Friday, August 14, 2009

Save the Planet. Use the Shower.

According to this fine video, you could save over 1,000 gallons of water per year, lower your utility bill, and increase your fun quotient. Who said environmentalism has to be dreary?

You can get more information at, though it's a bit of a "shot in the dark" if you don't read Portugese.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

In Praise of Celibacy

I'm still waiting for a preacher to read 1 Corinthians 7.32-35 at a wedding. As a lover of irony, I'll make sure it's read at my wedding...if God makes me get married some day. Don't hold your breath waiting for that.

I talk to a lot of people who somewhat recognize the value of celibacy (a.k.a. singleness), but very few seem to value it as a high calling. Jesus did, not only for Himself but also for His followers (Matthew 19.10-12), but somehow we zip right past those comments of His, putting them in the "Idealistic But Not Realistic" category of the things He said that we don't like.
Marriage obviously has its place, and it was God's idea. My intention is not to demean marriage, but to advocate that singleness should be seen as equivalent in value, not as Plan B or Second Best. Marriage and singleness are both Plan A...the only question is which Plan A God wants you to have.
The Christianity Today website just posted an interview with Christine Colon, who with Katie Fields cowrote a new book called Singled Out: Why Celibacy Must Be Reinvented in Today's Church. I just ordered the book and am looking forward to some good reading that will confirm my prejudices. My only regret, so far, is that Colon and Fields didn't draft a celibate/single male as an additional cowriter. That oversight probably dooms the book to be read almost exclusively by women. Nevertheless, here are a couple excerpts from the interview:

Celibacy can be a radical testimony to God's love and provision, because it reminds us that our ultimate fulfillment has to be union with God. That is equally true for married couples, but oftentimes marriage is seen as, once you have that partner you will be fulfilled. And that's a lie. With celibacy, you have to come to grips with that early on, to say, "My fulfillment lies in God, and there are always going to be these longings unfulfilled here on earth," but that's a good thing — if everything were fulfilled on earth, we wouldn't need God.

Marriage is the metaphor for God's exclusive love for his church, and it's a good and powerful metaphor. But singleness is also a metaphor of God's love — the aspect of God's love that extends to everyone. Oftentimes church communities become so ingrown and focused on, "Let's build up our families, let's build up our community." Wait a second, what are we here for? Singles don't have that exclusive relationship, so we need to build relationships out. And the church itself needs to as well.


We wanted to look at celibacy as a state in which we are content with where God has called us, and are also willing if God calls us to a different state. We're not eliminating the possibility of marriage, but we're not put on hold until marriage comes. It's not, "I vow to be celibate until I die." It is saying, "God has called me to this state; I am going to serve God right here. If he calls me to marriage, great. I will serve God there. If he doesn't call me to marriage, fine. I'm going to serve God as a single person." With celibacy, we're trying to draw from the past but not be wrapped up in, "You've made your vow, and you're done."

You can read the entire interview here, and CT's review of the book here.