Thursday, July 29, 2010

Podcast Episode 10- The Authority Question

The latest episode of The Truth As Best I Know It Podcast is up.

Jessica and I are continuing with our discussion of Brian McLaren's A New Kind of Christianity: Ten Questions That Are Transforming the Faith. Here we focus on question 2- the Authority Question.

You can listen or download the episode from Podbean, subscribe on iTunes, or listen on the player below.

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As always, comments and questions are always welcome. If you're reading through the book right now and have specific issues or questions you'd like us to address, please let us know!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

More Ways to Speak Up

In yesterday's post I encouraged folks to speak out against all forms of hatred and bigotry, specifically when it is against our Islamic brothers and sisters, and I mentioned a church in Florida that is planning a "Burn a Koran" day on September 11. My dear friend and colleague Dave McIntyre shared with me some ways that you can speak out on this particular issue:

To whom it may concern, to all people of faith:

On Sept. 11, Terry Jones’ Dove World Outreach Center plans to hold the first “International Burn a Koran Day” ceremony on the steps of his church in Gainesville, Fla. (cf. the announcement from the church’s website above). We must not “silently consent” to Pastor (Associate Pastor) Wayne Sapp’s call.

This vicious call to desecrate and burn a revered book of scripture is tantamount to a hate crime and should be vigorously opposed by all legal means possible. Below are some steps you can take:

1. Reporting his Facebook page to the page administrators:

a. Visit!/pages/International-Burn-A-Koran-Day/134718123226530?v=info and press the “REPORT PAGE” link at the bottom left corner of the page; followed by ‘Racist / Hate Speech’ Reason.

2. Report his You Tube video to the page administrators by ‘flagging it as inappropriate:

a. Visit:
b. Please click the "Flag" link under the video
c. Select “Hateful or Abusive Comment”
d. Select “Promotes Hatred of Violence”

3. Call or write to the FBI/Hate Crime Division nearest office to call their attention and to report this matter:

Postal Address: 5805 NW 37th St.; Gainesville, FL 32653
Phone Number: 352-371-2487
Fax Number: 352-371-6511

** NOTE: Please remember to always be polite and respectful in conveying any message you may choose to convey.

Let me second that last point. Be polite. Don't let this kind of hatred, as disgusting as it is, make you hate in return. If we do that, then they win. Let's speak the truth in love. That means we have to speak. Make your voice heard.

Monday, July 26, 2010

... then the terrorists win

If Americans continue in their fear and hatred of Islam, then the terrorists win.

I realize this might be a provocative statement. Hear me out.

I realize using "then the terrorists win" as the predicate to any statement makes it quite logically suspect since it's highly pejorative and almost entirely devoid of context. So let me explain what I mean.

Americans who have lived through the past decade generally associate the term "terrorists" with Osama bin Laden, al Qeda, and others who advocate and practice indiscriminate violence against others in the name of Islam. For the moment, this is what I mean as well.

The thing is, though, that "the terrorists" do not truly represent Islam. As one of the three great monotheistic religions that follow the God of Abraham, true Islam is a beautiful, peaceful religion that has been twisted and used as a front by those whose core values have nothing to do with the God they claim to worship. "The terrorists" are a very small minority, and it is a tragedy that people who should know better group all Muslims in with them.

In fact, the real tragedy is that most of those who judge Islam by its worst examples claim to be Christians. And it's not like Christianity hasn't had more than its share of worst examples. We have a Christian terrorist group that started in my home state of Tennessee: it's called the Ku Klux Klan. Christianity has its own shameful history of indiscriminate violence that blasphemes everything that Jesus stood for and died for: the Crusades.

The essential message of "the terrorists", people like Osama bin Laden, is this: this world isn't big enough for the both of us. We can't all live together in peace. One of us has to go. It's either you or us.

That's what "the terrorists" believe. And sadly, it's what a growing number of Americans believe. Our country is beginning to come to the same conclusion as those for whom death for their enemies is the only justice. Those who believe this ignore the teachings of Islam, Judaism, and Christianity, which tell us that to love our enemies and to live in peace with all of God's children is the true will of God.

With all that said, I'll say it again: if Americans continue in their fear and hatred of Islam, then the terrorists win.

If communities in New York City and Middle Tennessee reject the building of mosques for no reason other than fear and misunderstanding, then the terrorists win.

If a church in Florida holds an "International Burn the Koran Day" on September 11, then the terrorists win.

I don't want "the terrorists" to win. I don't want to live in a world where we believe that we can't all live together as one great human family. I don't want to live in a world where hatred gets the last word, and someone has to lose for us to "win". Do you?

If you don't, please take a stand with me. One way you can take a stand is to sign this petition saying that you support freedom for all religions in the USA. America is a country for whom freedom of religion is a core value, and at this moment we stand in very real danger of tossing this value out the window.

Take a stand. Speak up. Don't let "the terrorists" win.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Parenting Changes Everything

While I don't usually blog about family stuff (Jessica's blog is the usual destination for that, which, incidentally, is why she gets more readers than I do), I had an experience today that reminded me that being a parent changes everything.

I rarely go to movies in theaters. It's too expensive, and ever since I spent a summer working in a movie theater and saw the horrors that go on there, I can't go near the concession stand without having flashbacks. (The upside was free movies and getting to work with my best friend, Lisa.)

I made an exception today to go see Inception. I love Christopher Nolan's movies, plus I'd promised my friend Will that I'd write a movie study for YMToday.

A little more than halfway through the movie, when the crew is just starting the "big job" that drives the plot, I got a phone call. I ignored it at first because I didn't recognize the number, and let it go to voicemail, but when the same number called me a few minutes later, I knew it must be urgent.

It turned out that Kate was being sent home from daycare, along with half her class, with a very high fever. I had to walk away from the film I'd paid $8 to see so I could go sit in the waiting room at the pediatrician.

Sounds annoying, right? Two years ago I would have thought so. But since Kate had a fever and was feeling sleepy, she clung to me the whole time and pretty much just buried her head in my shoulder, even as other kids were screaming and running around.

It's going to cost me $8 more to find out how Inception ends, but those kind of tender moments with my little girl are priceless.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

"I've Been There"

Anyone who knows my dad knows he's a golf nut. For his 60th birthday, his present to himself was a trip to St. Andrew's, Scotland, to play where the game was invented. This week the (British) Open Championship is being played at the Old Course at St. Andrew's, and my dad has been getting up before dawn to watch every moment.

Talking to him today, he remarked that although St. Andrew's is one of the courses that the Open rotates around every few years, his experience of watching the tournament is completely different because he's been there. He knows how hard it is to alter one's tee shot based on the strong, shifting winds. He knows how awful some of the bunkers are. He's been in awe of the history and tradition of the place. In some ways, having played at St. Andrew's makes him an active participant in watching the Open.
Something about having physically experienced a certain place deepens our appreciation of it. You notice more things in friends' vacation photos if you've been to the same place. If you hear a story about something that happened there, you can imagine the scene much more vividly. You realize how little pictures, even amazingly high-resolution digital photos, really can capture the beauty of actually being there.

I hear many people of faith say the same thing about going to the Holy Land. A friend of mine and her husband are leading a trip there in December. People who have been there describe reading and experiencing the stories of the Bible in a whole new way after they get back. I hope to get to go someday.

In an age where we have more access to information and images than ever before, there is still not substitute for having physically been somewhere.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Great Event You Should Check Out

Later this month in Pacific Grove, California, the Alliance of Baptists will be having their annual convocation, focusing on being "Born of Wind and Water". The event goes from July 29 to August 1.

This promises to be a great gathering for Christians of all stripes, particularly for progressive evangelicals that find themselves agreeing with many of the stands the Alliance takes (I find myself in this camp).

One of the highlights of the convocation will be presentations by Mark Yaconelli, an amazing thinker and speaker whose book, Contemplative Youth Ministry, is a must read. In fact, if you use the word "yacpack" in the comments section of the registration page, you'll receive a copy of Mark's newest book.

Also, if you happen to register for the event after learning of it through my blog, I'd appreciate a shout-out in the comments section on the registration page.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

The Continuing Adventures of Shameless Self Promotion

I wrote the current round of Sermon Starters for Circuit Rider magazine. If you're a lectionary preacher, these may help jump-start your thinking as you sermonize.

You can view a PDF of them here.

Also, The Truth As Best I Know It Podcast will return later this week, as our technical difficulties have been resolved.

As always, any comments or questions are always appreciated.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

An Apt Metaphor for the Church

I've been on vacation this past week, and I've had quite a bit of time to reflect on a lot of things. One thing I've bee pondering is what we're really devoting our energy to in the church. I'm talking about local churches, regional and denominational bodies, and the whole church universal.

Sometimes I think we're no better than the members of a society portrayed in my favorite Monty Python sketch:

I sometimes wonder if we're so focused on pandering to the values of our society so we can pad our numbers by getting some shallow "decisions" that we've lost sight of the lifelong journey of discipleship. We're too busy trying to cram people into one mold or another to embrace the possibility of God doing just about anything. In other words, we're too obsessed with the tangibility of "putting one thing on top of another thing" to realize that the whole thing is rather silly!