Media

Since When Did Southern Baptists Become Anabaptists?

I am sure that many here and elsewhere are overjoyed with the popularity surge that Anabaptism is receiving of late, especially those that stem from Mennonite origins, since it has given them a means to experience more of the glare of publicity.

Some most likely think that this is a good thing, after all others are becoming familiar with that legendary group. Yet I feel that people need to be concerned, particularly when individuals are using Anabaptism for a denominational agenda?

In a blog-post entitled An Anabaptist Infatuation Amongst Some Southern Baptists by Joshua Breland he writes:

There has been an increase of blogging recently regarding how great and wonderful the Anabaptists were/are and how much we modern day Southern Baptists owe to the so called “radical reformers.” Often the Anabaptist “hoorahs” are joined with condemnatory remarks about the evil and oppressive magisterial Calvinist reformers.

The author adds in his opinion, “The narrative seems to be, “anyone but the Calvinist magisterial reformers.”

As of late the Southern Baptist Convention is in a state of fragmentation with the influx of Reformed theology specifically Calvinism or the self-styled “Doctrines of Grace”. It is apparent that the SBC is seeking some sort of Arminian Reformation era link in the same fashion that the Reformed churches call back to John Calvin as their theological forebear.

I just wonder if once all the contention between the Calvinists and Arminians over in the SBC has concluded will the Anabaptists be as popular and will their reputation remain intact. I am going to look into this matter a little more and make a follow up post later.

Manifesto of the Mennonite Anti-Mission Association

We are Mennonites (and fellow travelers) who reject the church’s mission activities.

We believe Christian mission, historically, goes hand-in-hand with cultural destruction. We love human diversity and seek to preserve it. Thus, we oppose evangelistic crusades and mission boards that proselytize, no matter how well-meaning they claim to be.

We reject the authenticity of the so-called “Great Commission” (Matt. 28:19-20). We simply don’t think Jesus said it. Most New Testament scholars doubt its authenticity as well, for a couple reasons. Firstly, any statements supposedly made by Jesus after his death must be called into question. Secondly, if Jesus told his followers to go out and convert the world, then the debate about the inclusion of Gentiles during Paul’s time makes little sense. To modern scholars, the “Great Commission” sounds more like the post-70-A.D. church talking than the historical Jesus.
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Adrienne Rich: Visionary (1929-2012)

Several months ago I drafted a post on Occupy Wall Street suggesting that people interested in thinking through issues of race and gender (re)turn to Adrienne Rich as a wise source. We so often forget those who have gone before us, outside a fairly limited range, and I thought posting a few quotations from one of Rich’s essays might provoke thought and also encourage folks to dig out college anthologies, hunt down books in the library, or do a little web-searching.

I didn’t post the little piece because I wanted it to be Just Right. Then I got busy.

And now Adrienne Rich has died, and I am reminded again of how much she has to teach us.

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Young Adults & Church: BikeMovement 5 years later

Five years ago I joined a group of young adults called BikeMovement that biked from the Pacific Coast in Oregon to the Atlantic Shore in New Jersey. We stopped at churches along the way holding conversation about what it meant to be a young adult in the church. The journey started July 10, 2006 and ended August 25th, 46 days, 23 churches, and 3,585 miles later.
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Love Wins

Is Gandhi in hell?  What’s more, what is hell?  Or heaven, for that matter?

These are some of the questions that have sparked a bit of a firestorm around Rob Bell’s new book Love Wins: a book about heaven hell and the fate of everyone who ever lived.  This first came across my radar screen when I read a post on Tony Jones’s blog late last week about the growing attention and criticism about this book.  Then I did some searching and saw that it has even made a splash on the national news scene from CNN to ABC.

Here’s the book promo video:

Controversy in and of itself isn’t surprising with Rob Bell.  That’s happened before.  What is striking is that judgment has been leveled by a number of people who haven’t even read the book yet because it has not yet been released!

Ultimately the controversy stems from the fact that Bell is raising core questions about issues that are central to the Christian faith.  He has posed the questions in ways that have led some to conclude that Bell is promoting something called Universalism; a doctrine where everyone gets saved, no matter what.  Again, these are all assumptions because none of his critics have actually read the book yet.  The only worthwhile critique I’ve read so far is Greg Boyd’s, namely because he actually has read the book.  (As a side note, as an Anabaptist, it’s worth paying attention to Boyd partly because he’s grown very close to Mennonites in recent years, even flirting with the idea of joining MCUSA.) (more…)

Wikileaks’ Cablegate as a threat to empire: Cyber Command scrambles

Today Wikileaks began its release of over 250,000 diplomatic cables in conjunction with media outlets around the world. I believe the work they are doing is on the emerging edge of resistance to US imperialism. The releases not only unmasks the powers in meticulous detail, but threaten the very mechanisms through which empire seek to influence, control and coerce. After all, if client states and their leaders know their collaboration with the U.S. could be published all over the world, they may be less ready to go along with imperial machinations.

For example in Newsweek, Christopher Dickey describe a cable in which Yemeni leaders promising to lie to their own people and parliament. He goes on to complain, “That bit of dialogue is not just embarrassing, it’s going to make the covert war against the most dangerous Al Qaeda franchise that much harder to wage.”

For once, it is the empire that it is on it’s back foot, scrambling to respond. (more…)

Anawim Theology and Avatar

Anawim theology is the biblical theology of God’s salvation of the poor and outcast. It is strongly linked to anabaptist theology. “Anawim” is a Hebrew term that means “the poor seeking the Lord for deliverance”, is used in the Psalms extensively and is referred to in the Magnificat and the Beatitudes. If you are interested in reading a popular theology of it you can read the book Unexpected News: Reading The Bible Through Third World Eyes or check out this website: http://www.nowheretolayhishead.org/teachings.html

But I’m not here to talk about that. I’m here to talk about Avatar.

I understand that some feel that there is some racism in Avatar, and I can see their point, but it would be deeply embedded and certainly not obvious to the masses throughout the world watching it. However, I believe that part of the reason that Avatar is so popular is because of the open Anawim-like theology involved. There is a general morality throughout the world that the underdog should be supported and that God is on the side of the oppressed. Avatar not only supports this, but has a pretty strong morality/spirituality. As I sat and watched it a couple times, I wrote the following principles down that I think describes Avatar’s basic support of Anawim theology:

There is a empire, ruling the world, and its focus is to increase the wealth of a limited few, even if that hurts others. Everyone within the empire is a part of this system of greed, even if they superficially attempt to oppose it. (more…)

“In the world…”

I’m embarking on an interesting adventure this fall, one of my choosing (to borrow some terms and phrases from Wayne Speigle’s sermon this past week). See, I love movies. I like to watch the characters unfold, the plot thicken, and all those little surprises and such that come up. But I’ve also recently learned to love to hear the messages that movies try to tell us. The filmmakers (directors, producers, screenwriters, actors, etc) are telling us a story in a rather fascinating medium that allows elves to live on screen, dragons to fly, robots to laugh, and monsters (both “real” and figurative) to be overcome. Through that story, they are trying to convey ideas, theories, and worldviews in a hope that we will understand them and where they are coming from. Some filmmakers even do so to try and “convert” us (watch “Gorillas in the Mist” sometime…). So, this fall, I’ll be leading a Sunday School hour discussion time on film, the stories they tell, the messages they speak, and our responses to them. I’m looking forward to this adventure. (Shameless plug: If you’re going to be in the Bally/Boyertown area anytime during the months of September through November, come on by Bally Mennonite Church at 10:45 AM and join us!).

One criticism that I’m bound to get on this (and I’ve heard some of this already from a few places) is “Why are we talking about watching some of these movies from Hollywood? Why not show and talk about Christian movies?” This bothers me somewhat (lots of things bother me, as many of you already know). I recently read a blog article from someone else (I can’t remember where and if you’re reading this and you’re the culprit, please speak up) about the “ghettoizing” of Christianity. Music is performed and Christians historically have done one of two things. Either we have denounced it as “from the devil” and called for boycotts and other protest means (and this is not relegated only to “Rock ‘n’ Roll”… read up on Mozart, Beethoven, and Bach sometime) or we’ve “redeemed” it and made our own music and made it “OK” to listen to. Books are written and the same things are said and done. Poems are made. TV programs are made. And now, suddenly, we want to do the same with movies. (more…)

technology and worship: part 2

Part 2 (look here for part 1)

If Marshall McLuhan’s dictum, “the medium is the message,” is helpful (as Shane Hipps argues), then we must go all the way down; we must dig into the materiality of the medium. We must investigate the conditions that make possible the process of production. Hidden powers are physically remembered in the pieces of technology we use.

Most popular discussions of technology and worship fail to explore the realities of material production–the where, when, why, and how of invention and assembly. From reading these books on media and worship, one would assume that technologies magically appear–created out of nothing. Since electronic devices are available, we have to figure out ways to make them liturgically productive. The problem, according to Eileen D. Crowley, is that “Most churches lag at least twenty years or more behind the art world in the kind of media art they create or purchase and in how they imagine that media might be integrated within worship” (32). Our churches are not on the cutting edge of media. Our liturgical media is passé. We have failed to encourage the development of artists who makes use of anything at their disposal to lead us into an “experience of the Holy” (32) (more…)

technology and worship: initial reflections

I’m participating in AMBS’s conversation on technology and worship. I have to put together a paper. Below are my initial reflections as I work towards something of substance. I would appreciate any critical engagement. Am I going in a helpful direction? Should I turn around while I still can? Thanks.

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Why not start with Karl Barth? In his essay, “Church and Culture” (in Theology and Church, London: SCM, 1962), Barth disallows any uncritical approval of culture, nor does take a consistent stand against culture. As usual, Barth makes things complicated. On the one side of the dialectic, Barth takes up the ax of John the Baptist: “Christian preaching…has met every culture, however supposedly rich and mature, with ultimate sharp skepticism” (quoted in T.J. Gorringe, Furthering Humanity: A Theology of Culture, p. 18). But later in that same essay Barth has no patience for a spiritualism that ignores our cultural milieu. There is no room, Barth writes, “for a basic blindness to the possibility that culture may be revelatory, that it can be filled with promise.” The seeds of God’s kingdom proliferate throughout the world. Barth pursues the same line of thinking in Church Dogmatics IV/3, where he claims that if “all things are created in and through Jesus” (Colossians 1:16-17), then, as Prof. Peter Dula puts it, “there is nowhere, not even the mouth of an ass, that we cannot expect to find words reflecting the light of the Word” (Peter Dula, “A Theology of Interfaith Bridge Building,” p. 164 in Borders and Bridges: Mennonite Witness in a Religiously Diverse World). Barth goes on to call these diverse worldly witnesses to God’s kingdom “secular parables” (CD IV/3, p. 115). The earth and human culture resound with echoes of the one Word of God which speaks into existence the kingdom of God. Therefore we must pay attention to the places we inhabit, the cultures that permeate us. “The Church,” he writes, “will be alert for the signs which, perhaps in many cultural achievements, announce that the kingdom approaches” (20). The kingdom does come. The question Barth poses to the church is whether she is ready to receive it, however strange it may appear.

It’s a strange possibility to consider how the pieces of culture called ‘technology’ may display God’s kingdom, if only parabolically. Barth won’t let us rule out an abstract category like “technology” without serious engagement in particular technological machineries–he calls them “cultural achievements.” Nor will he take up every new sophisticated invention as a chance for the kingdom to make headway. There’s nothing wrong with a healthy dose of skepticism.

In The Hidden Power of Electronic Culture (Zondervan, 2005), pastor Shane Hipps critically considers the place of technologies in worship. He carefully steers clear of many church leaders who welcome any and every form of technology as the panacea for dying churches. Blindly welcoming technology into church life turns worship into another capitalist commodity. We then become one show among many where Christians can find “new experiences to consume” (15). In Modernity, writes Hipps, “churches heeded consumer demands and sough to reinvent church. They either had to compete in the consumer marketplace on the consumer’s terms or face extinction. In the spirit of modernity, these churches reincarnated themselves as highly competent vendors of religious programs and services” (99). But the answer, according to Hipps, is not a reactionary turn against all forms of technology. “I’m not arguing for some Luddite strategy of literally destroying media” (65). Instead, we carefully and communally discern how modern technologies can aid us as we embody the good news of Christ. In Hipps’ words, “We learn to understand the power of our technologies to shape us, thereby regaining power over them” (122). (more…)

Envision 08: Toward Christian Unity in the Public Square

Is Christian unity in the public square an important goal to work toward? Here at seminary there are many people thinking about denominationalism as a theological issue/concern. I went to a conference to think about some of these issues. It was called Envision 08 (www.ev08.org) I helped out with a workshop on Sexuality and Faith. There were many young evangelical Christians who are freeing themselves from the grip of right wing politics there. The conversation was familiar to an Anabaptist like me, but it was like watching people hear the Good News for the first time. Everyone was so excited that faith meant more than rigid rules, hierarchy, and supporting the U.S.A.

The Declaration below, coming from “Envision: the Gospel, Politics, and the Future” at Princeton University June 8-10, 2008, began with an online dialogue of approximately 100 participants on June 2 about religion, social change, and politics. On June 8, a diverse panel of scholars discussed the results of the dialogue.

After attending the conference and hearing reports about the conversations that occurred throughout many aspects of the conference, the panel met and created the declaration. You can sign it if you want. (more…)

Guatemala to require DNA tests prior to adoption

Since I first heard about the Guatemalan infant market here on YAR (thank you Tom Dunn), it only makes sense to post a link to this news story. It looks like the Guatemalan government is trying to crack down on the human rights abuses.

New York Times article

This one is a straightforward hard news story: (more…)

So about this rich guy I know

I’ll be the first to admit it’s a strange feeling to log onto www.time.com and read a story involving someone I know.

Time story

It’s even stranger to get to the end, do a little more searching for what is being said about this person elsewhere online, and come out feeling quite conflicted about the whole thing.

Examiner story

Machetera story

For those who are reading this post before going back and reading the links, I should clarify what I mean by “know.” I am currently spending five months doing volunteer work at the Stansberry Children’s Home and Daycare in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia, and one of the people on the board of directors of Stansberry is Ron Larsen, a US-born cattle rancher who is fighting with the government to keep the thousands of acres of ranch. I can’t say I know him well, but I have met him a couple of times and engaged in run-of-the-mill chit-chat about who we both are and what we’re doing in Bolivia. (more…)

Democratic candidates will debate lgbtq issues

I don’t know if I should be bringing politics into this already-heated blog that’s taking on lgbtq, extra-marital sex, and abortion issues, but hey — why not? So here it is.

According to the New York Times, the Human Rights Campaign — an lgbtq rights advocacy organization — and Logo — a cable tv network geared toward the lgbtq community — will host a one-hour Democratic presidential candidate debate focused on gay rights issues on August 9. What impressed me most of all about this is that Clinton, Obama, and Edwards have all agreed to attend already.

Here’s the official press release from the HRC, and here’s the NY Times article.

My Problem with “Opening the Floodgates”

I had a lot of great discussions with Katie (and other YAR’s) this week at San Jose. Katie asked that I write a post about how I, as someone who did not grow up in the church, understand what the church teaches about queer sexuality.

First of all, I will say that, generally, Christian thought about same-sex sexuality appears backwards to me. It seems to neglect our Lord’s commandment to love and instead go around being Satan (which, I learned, is translated as “prosecutor”). And the old “love the sinner, hate the sin” thing isn’t the commandment – love is unconditional, and what you are saying when you say “love the sinner, hate the sin” is “I love you but…”, which is conditional. There are serious pitfalls in this thinking (and, I will admit, even in my own on the subject).

Another problem I find in the teaching of sexuality is what I call Floodgate theory
but which can be identified as the “slippery slope fallacy”. What is Floodgate Theory? (more…)