communication

Leviticus 3:16b “All fat is the Lord’s.”

Hi Friends!
It is time for the 2nd preach-off between Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary and Goshen College. The first one was in 2006 (organized by some YARs) and it was very successful.

For the preach-off, folks will give three-minute sermons on scriptures they’ve received 24 hours prior. People can vote with their donations, and a panel judges will give humorous feedback.

The donations benefit up and coming young adult leaders from the Global South by giving them a full scholarship to attend the Global Youth Summit (July 10-12 in Asunción, Paraguay).

In addition to the fun of preach-off, we realize that the lives of many people in Northern Indiana have been enriched by connections with the global church. So this event will be interspersed with short testimonies from people in the area, celebrating these ties as we raise funds to support the next generation of Anabaptist leaders from around the globe.

So, YARs…we’re collecting crazy passages. If you know of one, please write the reference as a comment. Your help is appreciated…and if you’re in Northern Indiana at 6pm on Dec. 6 you are warmly invited to materialize and participate!

Voices in the Night: What keeps *you* awake?

(Hi friends. Tis been awhile.)

Lately, I have been thinking about the Biblical stories that star God’s voice. (You know, humans actually hearing God in the middle of the night and assuming it’s someone else.) I wish I could say God’s voice is what’s waking me up at 4 in the morning. Mostly, I fear that the news and election are the real voices echoing in my head. I admit, I still hold a bit of angst about getting involved politically, just as my ancestors did. It’s hard to come to terms with wanting to be an activist, an Anabaptist, and still realizing that we’re most likely never going to have a president who does not want to be the world’s superpower in both “peace” (military might) and prosperity at the sacrifice of other nations. It’s harder still to watch my heart harden around other Christians who do not share my views on how we should work on the “mighty ache” in the world, those who view “the other” candidate as more Christian. Yikes… But let’s be honest–mirroring Shane Claiborne’s views–if Jesus was running for president, neither of the candidates would vote for his platform! It’s so radical, so embracing of the weak and misguided, that we’d nervously laugh him off the platform. All this election talk and anxiety has made me realize something else: Most friends and family know where I stand politically; my t-shirts, posters, and discussions make it clear. But am I just as vocal or transparent about my support of a Christ-led life in the presence of those who don’t know me well? And how can I do this without becoming what I so “lovingly” now refer to as “a crazy Christian”?

When and where do you hear God’s voice, and what is keeping you up at night? Plant your suggestions here.

And in the meantime, here’s an excellent radio source for listening to diverse issues of faith, ethics, and the human heart not found on NPR or Fox called SPEAKING OF FAITH: http://speakingoffaith.publicradio.org/

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…)

An Invitation To Express Yourself

Okay so we are Young Anabaptist Radicals—but that doesn’t mean that we are in agreement on the basics. I’m not talking about the basics of what is “young” “Anabaptist” or “radical”. These terms have been discussed. I mean the basics of what is significant—what is the good, what is truth, what is moral, what is justice, what is our hope, and how do we know any of these things? And what is the minimum that we expect others to agree with us in order to discuss any of these things? Some of the disagreements we have originate in differing opinions on these matters, and we often go to loggerheads in our discussions because we think others think as we do. Folknotions brought up this issue in Katie’s “Tired” post, and I thought that perhaps instead of assuming where we are all coming from, perhaps we should explore it.

So, this is my recommendation: If you can, put your basic worldview down in a paragraph or two, so we can know where you are coming from when we discuss things. If it is significant in your life, then talk about Jesus and/or Scripture, but the most important thing is that you talk about the foundation of your beliefs and morality, not what you think others want to hear. (more…)