Monday, April 26, 2010

Brian McLaren @ LaSalle Street Church

Teetselberry, eat your heart out.

Brian McLaren came and spoke at LaSalle Street Church last weekend. We had an all-day conference with him on Saturday (10-4) at which he talked mostly from his new book, A New Kind of Christianity. McLaren has received A LOT of flack about this new book, even more than his previous ones, and has really peeved off a number of evangelicals. The book is structured around 10 questions about Christian faith and praxis. He spoke to us mainly about the narrative of the Scriptures, the authority of the Bible, how Jesus and other religions interact and a bit on how we move forward as a community.

On the Bible, McLaren's main points were that we read the Bible through a Greeco-Roman lens, specifically a 6 line narrative, influenced VERY heavily by the debate between Plato and Aristotle that was at the philosophical heart of Greeco-Roman culture, where the story goes like such: Perfect Unchanging Garden, Fall, Condemnation into Change/sin, Salvation to Unchanging Heaven or Eternal Conscious Torment in Hell. At first read, this seems fine. However, McLaren suggests that we are reading this structure onto the Bible, that it really isn't there in the text (Imagine that! We bring baggage and bias to the text! Anthropology wins again!). He suggests a much different narrative, one that has the Exodus story as the main narrative, the Genesis story as a prequel and Isaiah and the Prophets as a call to a coming Kingdom of God or peaceable kingdom.

Really, what McLaren is offering us in how to read the Bible isn't anything new. At least for Catholics. For Protestant, especially Caucasian American Evangelicals, it is something a bit new. (Yes, a few have heard of this type of stuff before, but as a whole church, we are unaware). What McLaren is suggesting is that we read the Bible as the liberation theologians do, as Rabbis do, as progressive Catholics and mainline protestants do. God created a good world. It was a world filled with possibility, change and evolving creatures. After sin entered the world, God saved his people in the Exodus, where he definitively sides with the oppressed, downtrodden, etc. The prophets give us a hope for the future, one in which we can imagine a new world of peace, wholeness, shalom.

Another bit of wisdom McLaren offered was that we stop reading the Bible like a constitution and start reading it like a cultural library. Initially when I read this in his book, I didn't like this. Now, however, I love it. Constitutions are meant to be sited and used to defend agreed upon statements. Libraries are meant to be used to see the diversity of views and become a part of the conversation that is continuing. When we read the Bible like a constitution (something that wasn't around in 'Bible times') we pull out verses and paragraphs to defend and back-up certain claims, like slavery is right, men are better than women, and a host of other things. McLaren suggests that the Bible isn't meant to be used this way, and shouldn't be. We should see, read and use the Bible as a cultural library. One that has great power to instruct and was inspired by God, yet isn't 'perfect' as a constitution is, but as a library is. We should instead use the stories of Scripture to continue the conversation between humans and God and live our lives from that relationship.

McLaren also spoke of other religions and their place in the kingdom of God. I won't write much on this, since I was busy making coffee during this point and will probably expand on this in a later post, but will put out a few things I loved. One thing he said that he isn't so much interested in Buddhists and Muslims and Atheists becoming Christians, per se, but all people, including Christians, becoming fervent lovers of Jesus. Following Jesus doesn't necessitate following a certain religion. Not to say that a Buddhist that loves Jesus wouldn't change some of their practices and/or beliefs, but then again, Christians that pursue the life of Jesus would probably change a lot of their practices and beliefs too!

Overall, I think A New Kind of Christianity and the one-day conference with McLaren awoke in me my desire to explore these topics more. And that I'm super progressive. Even if I am a Calvinist. :)


Sunday, April 25, 2010

Brian McLaren, Hurt Locker & Avatar

It's been a while. I shall be returning this week.

Brian McLaren came to LaSalle Street Church last weekend. He spoke on his new book, A New Kind of Christianity, on Saturday from 10-4 with us. Then preached at our services on Sunday. It was great and Brian was wonderful.

LaSalle has a movie night once a month called Cornerstone Cinema. We watch a movie and have a discussion. It's a super diverse crowd and I made my first one on Friday. Hurt Locker is amazing!

Tonight I saw Avatar. Yes, for the first time. Again, AMAZING! Sorry First Tribes Peoples of our soil. Mark Driscoll, I'm saddened that you thought that movie was satanic.

Yes, that is what is to come. More in depth on each.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Anthropology and History

I picked up India: A History the other day, a book I read while in India to learn a bit about my surroundings. It's a SUPER long and detailed book, about how we know things about India's ancient history from Vedic myths and engravings of rulers on coins. It reminded me about how much I loved Human Origins, an anthropology class about how humans came to be from apes (yes, that is supposed to be inflammatory). I got super excited back then about how humans developed, where the Garden of Eden was, what the "Image of God" was, how humans moved throughout the world, etc.

I then picked up my Basics of Physical Anthropology book and my Africa: A Biography. I've always thought it would be great to learn, not just from the intricacies of history, but the broad strokes and larger stories. How does it all relate to theology? What do we, as 21st century people have to learn from the story of australopithicus, the Bantu migration, the rise and fall of the Maya and many other stories?

So, here are some REALLY basic cool insights and possible things to look into. Thoughts?
-Pangaea, the idea that there was a super continent, then it split apart fits into the idea that when God created oceans it was to split apart the land masses.
-Some 'scholars' have decided that the earth is 6000 years old. Others have decided it is 6 billion years old. Usually the former think that evolution is in the face of God and the later think evolution is truth and God doesn't exist. In reading the beginning of Africa: A Biography it explains the evolution of life, dinosaurs and such before people. The way it went from vegetation to water animals to dinosaurs to mammals works with Genesis. This isn't 'new' to me, but hit me in a new way. Maybe God is that cool...
-Dinosaurs were REALLY big and dominant and the first mammals, who would 'win' the evolution game, were really small - teeth about 1mm in length. Maybe large cultures that try and dominate don't work?

There are very basic thoughts without much sophistication. Hopefully more will come. If you're on Facebook, please go to to comment!


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Haiti, Pat Robertson and God

The following is from the Huffington Post:

Televangelist Pat Robertson said Wednesday that earthquake-ravaged Haiti has been "cursed" by a "pact to the devil."

"Something happened a long time ago in Haiti, and people might not want to talk about it," he said on Christian Broadcasting Network's "The 700 Club." "They were under the heel of the French. You know, Napoleon III, or whatever. And they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, we will serve you if you'll get us free from the French. True story. And so, the devil said, okay it's a deal."

Robertson said that "ever since, they have been cursed by one thing after the other" and he contrasted Haiti with its neighbor, the Dominican Republic.

"That island of Hispaniola is one island. It is cut down the middle; on the one side is Haiti on the other is the Dominican Republic," he said. "Dominican Republic is prosperous, healthy, full of resorts, etc. Haiti is in desperate poverty. Same island. They need to have and we need to pray for them a great turning to god and out of this tragedy I'm optimistic something good may come. But right now we are helping the suffering people and the suffering is unimaginable."

It PAINS my heart to know that someone with as big a following and with as much influence as Pat Robertson has would say this. I'm really not interested in whether or not this actually happened. The truth is that Haiti has been in terrible conditions for a while and a natural disaster just devastated them more. Whether or not they made a pact with the devil means nothing for whether or not people should be assisting them.

Pat, please stop.


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

American Enterprise Institute, Hastert Center and Breaking Bread

This morning I attended a breakfast and lecture on the 39th floor of the Lyric Opera house at the Tower Club. It was an event hosted by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and the Hastert Center at Wheaton College on the topic of free enterprise and capitalism. The three lectures/topis were 'The Fight for Free Enterprise', 'Capitalism:Fix the Machine or Change the Behavior?' and 'My Brother's Keeper: Why Capitalism is Good for the Poor'. We ate a grand breakfast of scrambled eggs, roasted potatoes, the best bacon I've ever had, fresh fruit and pasteries, with coffee, juice and soda. The presenters spoke for a couple of hours and fielded some comments and questions. It was a room of about 75 people, with two people of color.

In a couple of hours I will open up the doors of Cornerstone Center to welcome in about 100 guests for Breaking Bread, a hospitality ministry/soup kitchen of LaSalle Street Church. Keith and the volutneers will be preparing a meal of spaghetti, garlic bread, corn and dessert to go along with our coffee, juice and water. Guests will come in from the cold to sit and talk, participate in a Bible study, listen to some music on my iPod, enjoy a meal and have the option of picking up some free clothes and canned goods. Our 100 guests will be predominately men and women of color.

I write this because these two meals I'm a part of today, that are bookending my day, seem like unreconcilable and uterly paradoxical events. I really, honestly, don't know what to think about it. Part of me wants to yell at AEI and Wheaton. Part of me wants to yell at our guests and LSC. I have no idea what I would say to any of them or why I would say it, other than the fact that this paradox of meals is frustrating.

More thoughts will come later, but this is the context that they will come out of...