Monthly Archive: January 2007


For the most part, I think Avery Dulles is right to say that “dissent [in the church] should neither be glorified or vilified.” Dissent in the 21st century is not only permitted, it is often even required as a sign of truthfulness. Of course, that’s not entirely incorrect. To dissent, in part, is to signify that there is road left to travel, that we have not finally arrived in understanding or practice. Those who compel us towards growth in understanding, towards a more faithful discipleship, always bear something of a critical edge—they take notice of those places where we have fallen short, they push us beyond our insufficiencies. But dissent in the 21st century West is also celebrated, totalized, in a way that negates its opposite: trust. Or maybe it’s the reverse: dissent in the 21st century West is impossible, because there is a refusal to recognize that anything could rightly claim authority—there is nothing from which to dissent. The result of glorifying dissent, on this end of things, is an indomitable arrogance, where nothing is worth preserving and my critical edge is automatically the critical edge of truth.

Yet I wonder if Dulles has forgotten the central place of the prophets as faithful dissenters in the Old Testament canon. At least it disturbs me somewhat to hear Dulles reduce Jesus’ prophetic role to “authoritative instruction.” Instruction is certainly there, but for Jesus and the prophets before him, prophetic instruction is always instruction over against. That is, prophecy always involves judgment, and not just of individuals but (even primarily) of establishments and habits. And what is dissent if not this critical judgment of establishments and habits? Need we not maintain what Dulles forgets, a positive account of the indispensability of dissent, if we are to walk with the prophets even today?

Update: Tim Nafziger has made an important comment below, calling me out on the unnamed and narrow scope I had in mind while writing this. Ambivalence towards dissent from violent regimes or structures is but a damnable apathy towards evil, Tim is absolutely right, and I did not mean to suggest otherwise. This post has in mind dissent within the church, and in a particularly American context.

Radical like surfers or revolutionaries?

This week I read this post over on Adventure Faith about YAR and was inspired to rewrite the YAR “about us” page. In his post, blogger Mike Barret suggests that radical Anabaptists is about as incongruous as radical librarians. I realized that we’re operating with different definitions of what radical means. Mike is about to publish a new book entitled “The Danger Habit”. I was curious about what “radical” means for him, so I read the first chapter that he’s posted on-line. In it, Mike describes his experience as a surfer, skateboarder and Christian. But it isn’t just another “Whoa, Dude, God is cool” book. Mike describes the experiences of being diagnosed with ADHD and realizing that his lifestyle wasn’t always compatible with being a dad. At the same time, he came to see risk-seeking behavior as a gift from God:

And God needs some of us to be change makers, not routine sustainers, to live dangerously, not just enjoy reading about it, to pioneer new ways of thinking and living because the old ways are tired and boring.


NEW Year

It’s January 2, so I’d like to write an entry for the NEW year.

Growing up, I learned that “the blood of Jesus washed me white as snow” (It confused me, since I’m bi-racial…but that’s another blog entry). Anyhow, there was emphasis put on the fact that an acceptance of Jesus “made you NEW, CLEAN,” You were born again (Like Peter, I was the kid in Sunday School who asked the anatomy question, but I get it now). Today, I recognize that I still cling to this concept and feeling state because I remember that I did feel NEW and different when I accepted Jesus.

I thrive in NEW situations, but sometimes begin to trip up as the NEW situations become routine. Sometimes I feel sad or angry at my inability to maintain the special NEWness feeling. At these times I turn to the meaning of faith to get me through, but I crave the NEWness again. That is partially why I love the coming of the NEW year and New Year’s Day so much. (more…)