Saturday, October 31, 2009

Matthew 25 According to Free Market Capitalism

Is the Bible too liberal and justice-demanding? Some people think so. Conservapedia is an organization that has set up the Conservative Bible Project, which seeks to rewrite the Bible from a conservative, capitalist perspective. They claim that the Bible is full of liberal, socialist bias. So they are seeking to root out all the liberalism and replace it with a more conservative perspective. We're not making this up! So, just for the fun of it, we thought we'd rewrite Matthew 25 according to conservative economic theory - and Free Market Capitalism. Please don't write us letters. This is only meant to be a satirical piece!

Matthew 25:31-46
Judgement of the Employees

When the Son of Wealth becomes Boss, and all the associates work for him, then he will sit on the throne of his plutocracy. All the workers will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a downsizing consultant separates the valuable employees from the dispensable employees, and he will put the valuable at his right hand and the dispensable at the left. Then the Boss will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by the Head of the Board, inherit the nest egg that was set up for you from the foundation of this company; for I was greedy and you paid me 419 times the average worker's wage, I was middle-class and you moved me into to a gated community, I was guilty of tax fraud and you lied to protect me, I was a failure and you gave me a golden parachute, I was sick and you gave me the top tier health insurance reserved only for the most exclusive employees.” Then the worthy employees will answer him, “Boss, when was it that we saw your greed and overpaid you, or middle class and we rescued you? And when was it that we saw your guilt and protected you, your failure and bailed you out? And when was it that we saw your sickness and gave you better health insurance than all other employees?” And the Boss will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the most elite of our customers or partners, you did it to me.” Then he will say to those at his left hand, “You who are disposable, depart from me into the eternal poverty prepared especially for small businesses and union employees; for I was greedy and you demanded fair pay for all employees, I was middle-class and you argued that all people deserve to live in my neighborhood, I was a failure and you said I deserved to get fired without a severance package, I was guilty of tax fraud and you were a whistle-blower, I was sick and you tried to say that I should understand now that all employees deserve quality health insurance coverage.” Then they also will answer, “Boss, when was it that we saw your greed, middle-class fear, utter failure, inequitable health insurance coverage, and didn't offer you preferential treatment and secret bonuses?” Then he will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the most elite of our customers or partners, you did not do it to me.” And these justice-demanding employees will go away into eternal poverty, while the elite-protecting employees will go into eternal wealth.

Also, Stephen Colbert's take on the Conservative Bible Project can be found here. His wittiest quote about the CBP has to be this: "After all, the Bible says Jesus fed the poor. It should say he fed the rich and let the loaves and fishes trickle down." Wow.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Ode To Lillehammer

In 2001 we lived in Lillehammer, Norway for six months. It was a good time - and life-changing. You could say that it was everything a study abroad trip should be. Learning a language. Interacting with locals. Gaining a new perspective on life. Etc. We definately fell in love with the language, culture, and shenanigans of Norway. So, here is a love song to Lillehammer. Really, it's just a fun reflection on some of our expereinces in Norway and the other countries we visited. Good times!

"Ode To Lillehammer"

Exploring the fjords and trains
Most beautiful blustery winter
Up with the midnight sun
The stars are just like glitter
Illuminate heart and mind
Like heat on the bathroom tile,
The best things in life can be found on this street
Just walk with me for a while
Night falls around us while eating potatoes
Waterfalls sing in the dark just ‘cause they know
Skiing down hills is fun, that’s apparent
But not as much fun as photos with Darren
Hunting wolves prevents overpopulation,
Tattoos on independence celebrations
Red and white parties for Russ graduations
Concordia, Luther; peace between nations

I love you I love you I love you I love you,
I love you I love you I love you I love you,
I love you I love you I love you I love you,
Really means I love you

My love, love, love, love is away
My love, love, love, we’ll meet again one day.

Lutheran agnostics sing hymns of progression,
The 7-11 in Town of Recession
Scaring off demons with crosses and dragons
Ice travel happens on skis hooked to wagons
Running down hills to the street brushing teeth
The speeding train carries us all while we sleep
Postmodern football in socialist nations
Stein wearing jerseys of sports imitations
Yellow sheets create our togas for volleyball
Mammoth beer’s not such a great purchase after all
Bicycles fly by on streets made of slippery ice
Norwegian men are thin also the girls are nice
Airplane rides over an ocean that’s cold and wet
Here come the locals to pass around cigarettes
Castles, cathedrals; perpetual camera flash
Birdseed bread, chocolate spread, campfire’s smoke and ash

Euphoria, -phoria, -phoria, -phoria
phoria, -phoria, -phoria, -phoria
phoria, -phoria, -phoria, -phoria
Can’t describe my joy

My love, love, love, love is away
My love, love, love, we’ll meet again one day.

Magazine cutouts from ads that are funny,
A train ride to Bergen to spend all your money
In Finland, Estonia; duty-free cruisin’
Not quite the selection of ol’ Rema Tusen
Fish markets silver rings napkins on fire,
Peanut butter; not caring if it’s expired
Colorful houses and second-hand shop
Alice Cooper and Ronnie’s show make your jaw drop
Loved ones were absent but sights to be seen
Watch out for that guy they call String Machine
Our political views changed like yesterday’s underwear
Like we were listened to, not like they didn’t care
Life here moves easily, stay for a while
Cause there isn’t a drive-thru in 2000 miles
Is that feminist jamming to Natalie Maines,
on the bus and the plane and the boat and the train?

Being home, being home, being home, being home,
Being home, being home, being home, being home
Being home, being home, being home, being home,
Still while I’m away

My love, love, love, love is away
My love, love, love, we’ll meet again one day.

Cheeseburger, fries, or a bowl of fish pudding, Now,
what if I told you that one may contain Mad Cow?
Enter Sandman; the place that we played it
I thought of the Cadbury Egg; CJ ate it.
Presidents fumbling through speeches on TV
Notting Hill’s strawberry guy from the movie
Working out deep in the bowels of the college,
We talked with the Balkans and owed an apology.
Too much gelato while sleeping in Beehives
What the heck happened on that evening’s bus ride?
Cat’s at the window meowing for dinner
It’s never easy to bring down current winners
But moose tracks will scare you right off of a mountain
The vodka in Russia is flowing like fountains
And wintery picnics, the heavy smoke made your eyes water
Or maybe it’s because you plagiarized

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful,
Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful,
Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful,
Har du vaert i Norge?

My love, love, love, love is away
My love, love, love, we’ll meet again one day.

My love, love, love, love, is away
My love, love, love, you’re in my heart to stay.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Missouri: Our New, Old Song

In 2004, Sara and I wrote our first song together. We wrote it on a napkin on the floor of our apartment. It was all quite special. Then we lost the napkin to the annals of time. Actually, it's probably somewhere in one of our miscellaneous boxes with Q-tips and motor oil. In any case, we lost the napkin with the lyrics and forgot about the song. Well, until the song made a return to us on a walk last weekend. For some strange reason it popped back into our heads five years after we wrote it. I managed to remember and sing the chorus. Sara managed to do the first verse. And by the time we got back to our place, the song had made it's complete return. So, here's our song about moving to Missouri. Sure, we did the Saint Louis thing for a while and moved back to Iowa, but that just gives the song an ironic twist. And, yes, Sara is wearing an Iowa t-shirt in the video!


Let’s get out of town
leave it all behind
take one last look around
and drive

We shouted, “Come what may,
We’re ready for the ride!”
Now it’s time to say

Oh, Missouri
Oh, Missouri

We’ll drive a million miles
Shed as many tears
Share twice as many smiles
This year

And we won’t turn back now
Not time to compromise
We’ve got to figure out
our lives

Oh, Missouri
Oh, Missouri

Now the dawn is breaking
Take this chance to learn
No more hesitating
It’s our turn
Done with our excuses
Through with saying “no”
Now we’ll take our cue: it’s
time to go

Heading down the road,
Riding wind that’s at our back
And we can rest our load
at last

Take in all the sights
Learn to put down roots
We’ll live and love and write
Life’s book

Oh, Missouri
Oh, Missouri

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Christianity 21: Listening to the Voices of Women Explore the 21st Century Church

In the song "Pendulum Swinger," the Indigo Girls sing about the hope they see for the Church when the voices and influences of women are listened to and embodied. The lyrics read: "You work in the system / You see possibilities and your glistening / Eyes show the change you're gonna give 'em / When they back off the mic for once and give it to a woman." And that is exactly what happened at Christianity 21. Two of the original leaders of the Emergent Church, Tony Jones and Doug Pagitt, backed off the mic (i.e. organized an event) and gave it to 21 women. And the voices that rang through that mic just might change the Church of the future.

Christianity 21 was a conference - or learning party - held in Minneapolis, MN on October 9th-11th. It's tag line was "21 Voices, 21 Ideas, 21 Minutes Each." The cool thing was that these 21 ideas came from 21 women who are doing innovative, fresh ministry in the Church. In this time of radical change in the Church, it's a gift to be able to listen to the perspectives of women who are on the ground and at the edge. They are on the ground, doing real ministry in fresh ways. They are on the edge of 21st Century Christianity, exploring ways to help the Church be relevant in our postmodern world. These are important voices to hear. These ain't no abstract, dispassionate, theological blitherings. These are practical, visionary, ministerial insights.

Click here to learn more and click here to order CDs from the event.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Calling on Academic Theologians to Engage The Popular Culture - And Increase Their Relevance in the Church and World

Academic theologians write important books and thoughtful journal articles. But who cares?! Seriously. Nobody reads that stuff. The books end up covered in dust, decomposing on some random shelf in a seminary library. The journals end up bound together somewhere in the back of a library, never to see the light of day again. It's sad, but true. The only people who bother to read academic theology, if anybody, is other academic theologians. Okay, maybe a few seminary students read some of it too - but only if it's a required reading assignment for a class. Outside of those people, academic theology is completely ignored. We'd estimate that 99.9% of clergy and laypeople live their lives happily without ever cracking an academic book or journal. Academic theology - especially the progressive kind - is almost completely irrelevant to almost every person alive. And this is not hyperbole. If this were American Idol, progressive academic theologians would already be voted off the show. Honestly, who can even name these people or the stuff they've written!?

Progressive academic theology has been relegated to the sidelines of society – and the Mainline Church itself. The Mainline Church in general has quickly become sidelined. Part of the problem is that the Mainline Church is so diverse that it has no united vision or identity that people can rally behind. Another aspect of the problem is that the Mainline Church has lost its ability to inspire passion and reflect powerfully on the issues of the day. The result is that the Mainline Church has ceded things like excitement and populism to the Evangelicals and Fundamentalists. And these more "conservative" groups have taken the ground and run with it, leaving Mainliners in the dust of irrelevance. To make matters worse, there is a growing chasm between lay theology and academic theology in the Mainline Church, which leaves academic theologians increasingly sidelined even among their own people and congregations. Progressive academia is concerned with the German model of “the academy” that emphasizes theoretical scholarship over practical implications. This, in turn, leaves congregations interested in everything except what Mainline academic theologians have to say or write. And this causes a defensiveness in the academic theologians that inspires many of them to hide in their crumbling ivory towers instead of engaging the culture like we need them to be doing. They don’t care about Joe the Church Plumber, and Joe the Church Plumber doesn’t care about them.

The major result of the sidelining of academic theologians is that progressives have been decentralized in popular theology and public life while conservatives have been centralized. In other words, you could say that conservatives have won American Idol for the past few years. Go to the religion section of any bookstore and you’ll see tons of books by people such as Joyce Meyer (prosperity gospel), Jerry Jenkins (theo-political right-wing escapism), Max Lucado (conservative spirituality), etc. Listen to the radio and you'll hear people like James Dobson (patriarchal fundamentalism). Watch TV and you’ll see people like Joel Osteen (conservative self help). Gone are the days of massive crowds showing up to hear progressive, academic preachers like Harry Fosdick. Gone are the days of US presidents seeking counsel from progressive theologians like Reinhold Neibuhr. Gone are the days of the progressives being the “Mainline.” But that doesn’t mean progressives should disappear quietly into the night. There is still hope for progressive, academic theologians. They must reclaim their right and responsibility to engage the popular culture. And allow us to hope-it-up by saying, yes they can. It’s possible. And we need them.

So, here are some tips for academic theologians:

(1) Start a blog that explores the intersection of progressive theology and pop culture.

(2) Use Twitter to comment on regular, daily stuff from a progressive theological perspective.

(3) Write op-eds that explore issues of public interest from a progressive theological perspective.

(4) Write music, devotionals, comics, fictional novels, or children’s books that incorporate progressive academic theology in more relatable, enjoyable forms.

(5) Take the time to learn from your kids and students about how to use the latest forms of multimedia and social networking – then start using it.
The list could go on and on. Start somewhere. Anywhere. And then go with it. The important thing for you to do is to bring your wise theological insight to bear on the popular culture. We need you. We don't even know we need you - but we need you. We need your groundbreaking, innovative theological ideas. But you gotta bring your ideas into conversation with the popular culture in much more concrete, practical, and interesting ways. It’s going to take some work. We know it’s an uphill battle. But we need to hear about all of your vitally important postmodern, multicultural, justice-advocating theology. You're doing cool stuff. Keep it coming. We just need it translated into words and forms that we can actually enjoy, engage, and employ.

And heck, while we’re asking for things, we could use a “John Stewart” or “Stephen Colbert” of academic theology. Just picture it. On TV we would see a witty, satirical theologian who deconstructs problematic issues and promotes progressive theologies. This person would make us think, pray, act, and laugh all at the same time. S/he would speak truth to power with humor. It’d be great. In fact, that’s what we want for Christmas from the academy!

Props to blogs like Homebrewed Christianity, organizations like Transforming Theology, and authors like Phyllis Tickle for helping to bring progressive theological insights to the masses. We just need more people doing more of this kind of work. It’s part of an academic’s right and responsibility. Bring on the engagement with popular culture!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Christianity: The Movement for Change or the Boredom of Ritual?

Christianity isn't a set of irrelevant rules and boring rituals. That isn't Christianity. To be a follower of Jesus - to be a Christian - means joining a movement that seeks to change the world. It's about living according to the teachings of the Hebrew prophets and teachings of Jesus. It's about working for a world that's more inclusive, compassionate, fair, etc. It's about embodying the Kingdom of God in our daily lives. In the end, Christianity is meant to be radically exciting and shockingly relevant.

In the past couple days I've come across two videos that describe the radical implications of Christianity. The first is by Tony Campolo and the second is by Brian McLaren. Both of these guys describe the Christianity as being primarily concerned with bringing about change in our world by living out the Kingdom of God in our lives. It's good stuff.

Tony Campolo talks about the Kingdom of God being spread out upon our world, here and now. It's not just pie in the sky when you die. It's about bringing about God's desires and will "on earth as it is in heaven." The Kingdom of God is meant to be a present reality. Tony points to Isaiah 65:20 as a vision of what the Kingdom of God could look like in our world. This text says: "No more shall there be in it an infant that lives but a few days, or an old person who does not live out a lifetime; for one who dies at a hundred years will be considered a youth, and one who falls short of a hundred will be considered accursed." Tony then talks about how the Kingdom of God in our world would mean that there would not be thousands of infants dying every day because they lack food, clothing, housing, and health care. In the Kingdom of God - here on earth - there will be no more children who will die in infancy. Tony adds this challenge: "The Kingdom of God will change us - not into pietistic religionists that seek to escape from the world, but into agencts of social change...who will change the world into the vision that God wants it to be." We are to be the hands and feet of Jesus, bringing about a better world for all God's children with our hands and feet. The Kingdom is now if we would only choose to embody and incarnate it.

Brian McLaren also talks about how the Kingdom of God is meant for our world, here and now. Brian says: "Jesus didn't come to tell us how to get to heaven after we die, primarily, he came to talk to us about how the Kingdom of heaven can happen here on earth. While we are here. And our children and grandchildren are here." The Kingdom of God spreads whenever we choose to act in ways that are in accordance with God's vision for us and our world. The Kingdom of God happens through us each time we care for the poor, work for peace, protect God's Creation, etc. Brian says, "Jesus said things like if you give someone a cup of cold water in my name; if you see someone in prision and you go visit them; if you see someone who is naked and you give them clothing; if you welcome a little child - in those moments God's will is being done on earth. Because God cares about that little child. God cares about that forgotten person in prison." Whenever we use our time, money, voice, and vote to help bring about God's vision for our world, we are being a citizen of God's Kingdom. By living our lives according to the teachings of Jesus and the Hebrew prophets, we allow God to spread the Kingdom of God through our lives. We join a movement that seeks to bring about the change we really can believe in. And that has nothing to do with irrelevant rules or boring rituals. It has to do with transforming the world.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Song of Hope for Overcoming Breast Cancer

A few days ago we posted a poem based on Psalm 3 to commemorate the movement and research to overcome breast cancer. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so we revisited this psalm once again and this time turned it into a song. The lyrics and video are posted below.

Victory (Psalm 3)

Facing before us our enemy
Frightened we go to war, fearing defeat
It rises against us so strong
Tries to break us down, make us weak
Says to us, “All hope is gone.”

But God, Your shield surrounds us
And You are the fortress within us
When we cry out in agony, pain, and fear
From the sacred earth
And within each person
You reply, “I am here.”

So we march, march on like soldiers
Victory’s ours to be won
Holy and healing God strengthens us
Rest we’ll find
And peace of mind, knowing
We’ll wake with the sun

Rise up within and around us
We call out “Deliver us, God!”
Help women strike down this enemy
Like those before
We’ll win once more, lead us
To victory

Healing and strength, God,
We ask for your blessing
Lead us like Esther to victory
You are our hope and in
You we take comfort
Grant us the will and
the courage we need

Then we’ll sing, sing out like songbirds
Knowing in You we have hope
Only from God does our strength come
We sing Your praise
Our voices raise, knowing
This battle’s won

So we’ll march, march on like soldiers
Victory’s ours to be won
Holy and healing God strengthens us
Rest we’ll find
And peace of mind, knowing
We’ll wake with the sun

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Philip Clayton and Harvey Cox on Tour

Philip Clayton and Harvey Cox both have new books out and they are taking them out on tour. It's going to be an awesome tour, complete with lasers, pyrotechnics, and a light show that would make U2 look cheap. Ok, maybe not. But wouldn't that be cool!? In reality, their tour will take place via blogs. Which is still exciting - and much less expensive. In fact, it will be free to attend this tour. So check it out. Clayton and Cox are rock stars of theology. And they will be sharing ideas about the future of the Church in our postmodern world.

One of the stops on their blog tour will be here, at Eph-Po. They will also be making other blog stops, so be sure to check out the tour schedule below. Each stop will feature reflections on their new material.

The tour will wrap up in Montreal with a special live show at the American Academy of Religion's annual meeting. There they will be joined by fellow rock stars Eric Gregory, Bruce Sanguin, Serene Jones, Frank Tupper, and Andrew Sung Park. They will all be sharing 'Big Ideas' for the future of the Church. These 'Big Ideas' will be videotaped and shared, so be on the lookout for live footage from the last night of the tour.

Philip's new book is Transforming Christian Theology for Church & Society. This compact volume offers a way for Christians to reflect deeply on how best to conceive Christian identity, commitment, and discipleship in today's challenged, globalized, pluralistic scene. Growing out of the recent "Transforming Theology: Rekindling Theological Imagination" initiative and led by esteemed theologian Philip Clayton and his colleagues, this volume seeks to capture and articulate the ferment in grassroots North American Christianity today and to relate it directly to the recent strong resurgence of progressive thought and politics. It argues strongly for a mediating role specifically for Christian theology, conceived first as a life practice of Christian discipleship, and its call has found enormous response from popular audiences in conferences, online, in informal Christian settings, as well as in mainline denominations and the academy.

Harvey's book is The Future of Faith. This book explores the essential change taking place in what it means to be "religious" today. Religious people are more interested in ethical guidelines and spiritual disciplines than in doctrines. The result is a universal trend away from hierarchical, regional, patriarchal, and institutional religion. As these changes gain momentum, they evoke an almost point-for-point fundamentalist reaction. Fundamentalism, Cox argues, is on graphic display around the globe because it is dying. Once suffocated by creeds, hierarchies, and the disastrous merger of the church with the Roman Empire, faith - rather than belief - is once again becoming Christianity's defining quality.

Both books are worth checking out at one of the many tour stops. If you can't wait, you can listen to them interview each other. Enjoy the tour!

Blog Tour Schedule

Joseph Weethee , Jonathan Bartlett, The Church Geek, Jacob’s Cafe, Reverend Mommy, Steve Knight, Todd Littleton, Christina Accornero, John David Ryan, LeAnn Gunter Johns, Chase Andre, Matt Moorman, Gideon Addington, Ryan Dueck, Rachel Marszalek, Amy Moffitt, Josh Wallace, Jonathan Dodson, Stephen Barkley, Monty Galloway, Colin McEnroe, Tad DeLay, David Mullens, Kimberly Roth, Tripp Hudgins, Tripp Fuller, Greg Horton, Andrew Tatum, Drew Tatusko, Sam Andress, Susan Barnes, Jared Enyart, Jake Bouma, Eliacin Rosario-Cruz, Blake Huggins, Lance Green, Scott Lenger, Dan Rose, Thomas Turner, Les Chatwin, Joseph Carson, Brian Brandsmeier, J. D. Allen, Greg Bolt, Tim Snyder, Matthew L. Kelley, Carl McLendon, Carter McNeese, David R. Gillespie, Arthur Stewart, Tim Thompson, Joe Bumbulis, Bob Cornwall

This tour is sponsored by Transforming Theology DOT org!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Working On Our New Music

Hi all! Happy Fall! It's cold here in the Midwest. So we do what everyone else does. Indoor stuff. So, right now we're indoors working on putting together an album of some of the music we've written over the past few years. It's going to be a spiritual-folk-alt-blues-jazz album. We're still writing, re-writing, and selecting the music. But we hope to be recording it this winter. We'll update this blog with more details as they emerge. For now, here is a taste of some of the music.

"Ephphatha (Be Open)"

"Source of Life"

"Holy Gardener"


"We Move"

"Mask of God"

"Victory (Psalm 3)"

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Moral (and Ironic) Choice: Getting the H1N1 Vaccine While Listening to Glen Beck

Swine flu. H1N1. Or whatever they call it now. It's in the news every day. Some people are quite worried. The good news is that the vaccine is now available. People from places such as Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic, the Center for Disease Control, and the Department of Health and Human Services, all recommend that people get the safe and effective H1N1 vaccine. Especially pregnant women, parents of infants, and health care workers. Seems like a simple choice. Get the vaccine. Stay healthy. Easy enough.

But choosing to get the vaccine isn't a simple choice for everyone. Shock jocks such as Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and Bill Maher claim the vaccine is unsafe and dangerous. Beck says the shot might be "deadly." Limbaugh calls it a "manufactured crisis." And Maher said that people who get the shots are "idiots." But they aren't just questioning the vaccine. They are also claiming that it's inappropriate for governmental agencies to recommend the vaccine.

Yup, the shock jocks have cooked up another conspiracy theory. Most of the time, their tirades are funny to listen to. Especially knowing that most people don't take them seriously. In fact, David Brooks recently said these guys are characterized by "remarkable volume and utter weakness." So most of the time it's safe to laugh them off. But when the shock jocks begin to put human lives at risk in such overt ways - such as telling people not to get the H1N1 vaccine - it becomes important to challenge their banter. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite is just the woman for the job!

Rev. Dr. Thistlethwaite wrote an insightful op-ed in the Washington Post called, "Paging Dr. Salk: Undermining Trust in Science Puts our Kids at Risk." It challenges the conspiracy theories and upholds scientific research all in one article. Here are her words:

Many Americans today no longer trust science; they would rather believe internet conspiracies that vaccinations cause autism than believe the numerous scientific studies that have found no link at all between vaccination and this condition in children. And now, in an epidemic of the H1N1 virus (swine flu) that is particularly virulent in children, they won't get their children vaccinated.

How different is the lack of trust in science today from the time when vaccination was still in its infancy. Dr. Jonas Salk (1914-1995) was the virologist famous for discovering and creating the safe and effective polio vaccine that eradicated that disease in children. Until 1955, when Salk introduced the "polio shot," polio in children was considered the greatest public health danger.

There were upwards of 300,000 cases a year, and 58,000 deaths, most of them children. When the news was broadcast that Salk had created a polio vaccine, church bells started ringing across the country, factories stopped for moments of silence, synagogues and churches held prayer meetings, and parents and teachers cried with relief and joy. Salk was hailed as a "miracle worker" and parents rushed to get their kids vaccinated.

I remember all this quite vividly, even as I remember standing in a long line with my mother, waiting to be among the first kids vaccinated. My mother cried "Thank God! Thank God!" when I received the vaccination.

But in the last few decades, religious and political conservatives have mounted an all-out assault on the validity of science. From denying evolution to denying the increasing evidence for climate change, conservatives have undermined the trust of many Americans in scientific method. Any scientific method.

This is the result. The undermining of trust in scientific method has led to parents now refusing to have their kids vaccinated for H1N1--putting their own kids' very lives at risk, let alone the lives of other children and vulnerable adults from unvaccinated kids spreading the disease.

And yes, I think it's immoral not to get your kids vaccinated, both for their own sake and the sake of the health of the whole community. Suppose parents in the 1950's had had this current attitude about the polio vaccine and refused to get their kids vaccinated? Then polio would still be killing and maiming kids and adults. Which do you think was the better moral choice?

That's a good question to ponder. This is a time when our moral standards must stand up to political rhetoric. Maybe, just for the fun of it, we should listen to Glen Beck on the drive to get our vaccines. Irony is always cool. Especially when it keeps us heathly. Now, let's go get our shots.

Also, faith-based resources for responding to H1N1 can be found here, here, and here.

And don't forget to wash your hands.

Be Careful When You Say Amen

be careful of simple words said often.

'amen' makes demands
like an unrelenting schoolmaster:
fierce attention to all that is said;
no apathy, no preoccupation, no prejudice permitted.

'amen': we are present. we are open.
we hearken. we understand.
here we are; we are listening to your word.

'amen' makes demands like a signature on a dotted line:
sober bond to all that goes before;
no hesitation, no half-heartedness,
no mental reservation allowed.

'amen': we support. we approve
we are of one mind. we promise.
may this come to pass. so be it.

be careful when you say 'amen'.

- barbara schmich searle

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Marketing Starbucks Like a Church

There are a lot of strategies floating around about "marketing" churches. Too many of these ideas are comically ineffective and inauthentic. Here's what it would look like if some of those same strategies were applied to marketing a Starbucks coffee shop.

Jesus fed the rich and let the loaves and fishes trickle down

Stephen Colbert does it again. He uses comedy in a prophetic way to challenge injustices, hypocrisy, and other wrongs - as he sees them. The October 7th, 2009 episode was no different. In his "Tip of the Hat, Wag of the Finger" section, Colbert went after an organization that seeks to change the words of the Bible. This especially angered Colbert because, as he says, he a "huge fan of the Bible" because it affirms his "fundamental beliefs." And that is why he used his satiric wit to deconstruct the project of Conservapedia. This organization has a project, the Conservative Bible Project, that seeks to rewrite the Bible from a conservative perspective. They claim that the Bible is full of liberal bias. So they seek to root out the liberalism and replace it with a more conservative perspective. To point out the absurdity of their claim Colbert says, "After all the Bible says Jesus fed the poor. It should say he fed the rich and let the loaves and fishes trickle down." Yup, the Bible according to conservative economic theory instead of the message of Jesus. So wrong! Thankfully we have Colbert to stand up for the prophetic message of Scripture!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Psalm of Hope for Overcoming Breast Cancer

October is breast cancer awareness month. To commemorate this month – and the movement and research to overcome breast cancer, we have written a poem of hope and survival based on Psalm 3.

O God, how mighty is our foe!
How it ravages the bodies of some of your daughters.
With might it tries to rise against us;
to break us down,
to make us weak.
It seems to be saying to us,
“There is no help for you in God.”

But you, O God, are a shield around us,
and a fortress within us.
You are our hope, and the one who lifts up our head.
When we cry out in agony or fear,
Answers spring forth from God’s sacred earth;
And answers are embodied in God’s people.

We march like soldiers;
knowing we will be led to victory,
for the Holy One strengthens us.
We lie down like sheep;
knowing that we will awake again,
for the Holy One strengthens us.
We will sing like birds,
knowing that we have hope,
for the Holy One strengthens us.

Rise up, within us and around us, O God!
Deliver us, O Holy One, our God!
For you will help us strike down this enemy of women;
you will break its power over our daughters,
and lead us all to ultimate victory,
like you led Esther and her people to victory.
Deliverance belongs to God!

Holy One, may your blessed healing and strength,
be upon all your daughters.
Praise be to you, Mighty Victor, our God!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

I'm Christian like the Olive Garden Is Italian

What would Jesus do today? What would Jesus have us do in our lives? What would it look like to follow Jesus' teachings in our jobs, schools, etc.? How would we act? How would we treat the poor? How would we vote? Well, Ed Dobson spent one year trying to find out.

After reading AJ Jacobs' book My Year of Living Biblically and being diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's Disease, Dobson decided to spend some of his shortened life doing an experiment. He decided to live one year according to the life and teachings of Jesus. He ate kosher. He observed the Sabbath. He gave money to the poor. He tried his best to live his life like Jesus.

Christians talk about wanting to be Christ-like, but it's tough to follow this wily character. Sure, nobody said it would be easy. But that still doesn't take away the reality of the challenge. Jesus is one difficult guy to follow. Sometimes I wonder if it's possible. Can we really be Christ-like in our day-to-day lives of work, sports, school, etc. Sometimes I wonder if I really am "Christian." Perhaps, to paraphrase AJ Jacobs, "I'm Christian in the same way that the Olive Garden is Italian." It's kinda close, but not authentic. Christian lite. Or maybe I'm just a cheap substitute for the real thing. Just being honest. Living out the teachings of Jesus in real life is...absurd. Are we really supposed to do stuff like feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, welcoming the stranger, caring for the sick, and visiting those who are in prison? Sounds pretty extreme.

Jesus was a radical - and so were his teachings. His example and message should shake us up and wake us up to a different way of living. That's part of the point. Repent. Change. Take a different direction in life. And that's what Dobson did. One example of the radical change that Dobson went through was who he voted for. After graduating from Bob Jones University (fundamentalist college), serving as an executive for the Moral Majority (right wing political organization), and voting for Republicans all of his life, he decided to vote for Barack Obama. This doesn't mean that Jesus would have voted for Obama. It just means that after Dobson tried to apply Jesus' teachings to the issues of the day, he decided that Obama's positions more closely follow the teachings of Jesus than the other candidates. And this goes beyond politics. It points to the fact that we should all be ready to be changed and challenged by the teachings of Jesus no matter who we are or what we believe. Jesus was a radical - and Christians are called to join his radical movement called the Church. While we don't all have to vote for the same people, we should all be prepared to change our lives, actions, decision, and maybe even our voting pattern.

Being Christian means being changed. It should change how we treat people who are different than us. It should change how we treat those who are less privileged. It should change how we think about political issues. It should change how we think about how we treat our friends, family, co-workers, classmates, etc. It should change us because we're being asked to live by values - love, justice, mutuality, etc. - that often aren't affirmed in some aspects of our culture and churches. That's what makes Jesus - and following Jesus - so radical. And we're asked to be fellow radicals with Jesus. It ain't easy for us and it wasn't easy for Dobson. But it sure makes for an interesting journey of faith.

If you'd like to check out more about Ed Dobson's story of trying to live like Jesus, check out his book The Year of Living Like Jesus and/or watch the video below. Thought-provoking and action-provoking stuff.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Tickle and Bass at Eden Seminary

Cool news! Phyllis Tickle and Diana Butler Bass will be the speakers at the 2010 Spring Convocation at Eden Theological Seminary. This is exciting for us because we spent three years in the student housing at Eden. Very small place. But that's another story. The speakers - or lecturers, if you want to be all formal about it - are really something to get excited about.

Tickle has one foot in the Mainline Church and one in the Emergent Movement, which places her in a unique position to talk about being the Church in our Postmodern world. Her book, The Great Emergence, describes the major shifts in Christianity - one of which we are entering right now: Postmodernity.

Bass is an outstanding author on topics such as spirituality and Church vitality. She too can help the Church be vital in the Postmodern matrix. Her book, Christianity for the Rest of Us, describes ways that the Mainline Church can remain relevant in our changing, Postmodern world.

Tickle and Bass are theologians of the Church. They are smart without being overly acedemic. Instead, they bring their practical wisdom, theological insights, and insightful minds to bear on big topics in concrete ways. You'll hear big and exciting ideas. But you will also hear about why these ideas matter. You'll be able to ask and explore the "So what?" question. It will be good stuff for theologians, pastors, and plain old ordinary church folks like us.

My question is why is Eden bringing in the exciting speakers after I graduated!? Ok, that is a loaded question. I admit that I am biased toward practical theology. I know practical theology isn't "sexy" (i.e. well respected) right now in academia. But if the goal of a seminary is to prepare people to be pastors in local congregations, then it's important to balance theoretical ideas with practical application, academic rigor with spiritual formation, deconstruction with reconstruction, etc. With Tickle and Bass speaking at the event, Spring Convocation in 2010 promises to walk that very balance. So, yeah, I'm excited. This event will be a good one. Surely, it will spark some generative conversation about the future of church life as well as the seminary education needed to help pastors foster healthy churches in a postmodern world. It'll be good stuff!

If you're free - or you can make yourself free - come to Eden on April 6th and 7th, 2010 for Spring Convocation. A good time will be had by all! Or you'll get your money back. Wait, I can't promise that. Forget the money thing. But seriously, this should be a great event. Come check out some theological rock stars. Click here for more info on the event.