Strollin through parenthood.

Little Ben and I just got back from a trip around the neighborhood.  He was in the stroller, I was walking behind the stroller wheezing as I pushed it up the hills.  He has been doing great, but both Jacqueline and I have realized that this parenting thing is certainly no “paint by numbers” game.

I guess coming into parenthood i had certain expectations.  But like any relationship, what I am finding is that those expectations are not going to be correct, because there are other people involved.  It’s not like a relationship with my computer.  I wake up each morning to the same computer.  It hasn’t grown, changed, had a bad night, or in any way pooped on itself.  I enter in certain data, and I can expect certain results.

Not so with parenthood.  Just because he slept 5-8 hours per night the first week we had him home from the hospital doesn’t mean he is going to do so the next week.  We found this out.  Does it mean that something is wrong?  No.  He’s not a computer that produces the same result every time you enter certain data.  He’s a person.  And he has good nights and bad nights.

It works the same way with Jesus (you knew some type of metaphor was coming… it was just a matter of time).  He is a person (albeit a much more perfect person than my son), and so anytime I try to just plug in a formula—read two chapters a day, journal at least a page, and don’t drink too much beer—it doesn’t work, because that’s not love.  Love is a relationship, and a choice.  I am spending time with a person, not a machine.

Thanks, Jesus, for a little boy not sleeping through the night teaching me some lessons.

Corporate memos from American Jesus.

It’s my culture’s fault.

It’s my parent’s fault.

It’s my child’s fault.

If it wasn’t for those things, I would have read my Bible yesterday.  Or the day before.  And furthermore, if I had read my Bible, I would have some great insight into life to blog about today.

These are a few of my favorite lies.

The bottom line is that I should read my Bible.  Or is that the bottom line?  I wrote it unquestioningly enough.  It flowed right out of my brain, through my fingers, and spilled all over the blog. I have been conditioned to say things like “I should read my Bible more” or “I should pray more” or “I should share my faith more.”  The question being, who or what conditioned me to say those things?

I am so prone to make my relationship with God into an exercise in efficiency.  I Americanize Jesus.  I make him about the bottom line, only it’s not a financial bottom line, it’s things like “how many people came to Christ” or “lives changed,” or to CCC it up a bit “movements everywhere.”  And Jesus becomes my CEO and corporate president, pushing me to figure out more and more ways to see our corporate vision become a reality.

That turns my apporach to the Bible into reading the corporate memo.  And, while avoiding conjecture about God’s feelings, I would rather Jacqueline not read a love note from me if she is going to read it as though it were a corporate memo.

It’s time to go find the love note I left on the bedside table.

I don’t hate this because it is religious. I hate this because I am a designer and this is lazy design and theft masqueraded as parody.


This article in Gizmodo is the subject of the above commenter’s angst.  And mine.  I could not have said it any better.

the iChurch

That’s what a creative, artistic world thinks when they see our pathetic marketing.  I am not against the church using marketing, but isn’t it safe to say that we might be able to come up with something that is not a rip-off of some major advertising department’s stuff?

Do we serve an infintely creative God?  Are there ideas out there that are (gasp) better than just photoshopping an iPhone onto a banner and printing it?  Let’s return to the days when the church led the way in artistic thinking (think Michelangelo or Raphael before they were Ninja Turtles), and leave behind the lazy photocopying of other more talented artists.  Then, and only then, will we have any voice in our culture.

Back in the Saddle again.

I’ve grown lazy lately.  I have spent far too much time reading about the iPhone, and far too little time thinking about things that—well—matter. It struck me as I read John 3 this past week (one of the first times I have slowed down my relentless gadget-idolatry long enough to spend time in the word this month) that I marvel at all the wrong things.

Jesus is talking to Nicodemus, a religious and cultural leader (think: a nice mixture of P-diddy back when he was called Puffy and John Piper any time after he started speaking at Passion Conferences), and he is telling him some pretty crazy stuff.  He says that in order to see God we have to be birthed again.  (I avoid using the phrase “born again” so that maybe you and I won’t just drive by what has become a well-known label, and instead hear the words at the same degree of slap-you-in-the-mouth absurdity that Nicodemus heard them.)  Nicodemus stated the obvious in reply.  “How? Am I supposed to climb back in the womb?  That doesn’t sound pleasant for anyone involved” (My paraphrase and extrapolation)

I have to say, I think its a valid question, and that Nicodemus had to have laughed while asking it.  I probably would have.  But it’s Jesus’ reply that absolutely has been ringing in my ears since I read it.  Jesus says “Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘you must be born again’…” (Emphasis added, and actual wording not checked, but I think I’m in the neighborhood).

So let’s spell it out.  Not only does Jesus toss out strange instructions like “be born” (a process that I was exceptionally passive in the first time around, making it very difficult to turn into an imperative), but he then tags on the end “…and don’t be shocked or wonder about it.”

That’s when it hit me.  Jesus is saying, I think, that we get sidetracked like a two-year-old in a shiny stuff factory.  We start to marvel, or wonder, at things that aren’t the point.

I am a marveler at all things gadget.  I marvel at the fact that now when I put an item in my calendar on my computer, less than 10 seconds later it mystically appears in my phone’s calendar.  I marvel at the fact that they have phone numbers that you can call and speak into the phone a note to yourself, and less than 5 minutes later you recieve an email or text of the note transcribed for you.

So before Nicodemus (and I) get off track and start talking messy logisitics of being born a second time, or arguing theology, or any of that, Jesus heads us off at the pass, saying not to marvel at those things.  The one we need to marvel at is the one telling us not to marvel at other things.  He is the God-man, come to save us from our idolatry, our marveling for too long at things that don’t matter, and neglecting the things that do.

I am so thankful for God’s grace. Pardon me while I go and marvel.

Deconstructing the deconstructionist "gospel"

I am bringing some of my facebook notes over to this blog, because some of you (for reasons I don’t understand, being the social networking addict that I am) are not on facebook.  Here’s one I wrote on April 22nd

It is with a heavy heart that I left a talk tonight by John D Caputo, a philosopher/author/professor who is behind many of the deconstructionist ideas of the Emergent church movement. I was struck after reading his book “What Would Jesus Deconstruct” and subsequently hearing him lecture about the book that his “gospel” of social change and Jesus-as-misunderstood/misrepresented-apocalyptic-prophet-but-not-God-incarnate theology are completely devoid of hope.

If my only hope in reading the New Testament is to have to wade through and pick out the parts of it that seem true to me and then apply them to my life, I would contend that I am without hope.

Caputo’s anthropology is the problem. He sees humans as basically good, and Jesus as no better than any of the rest of us, save for living an exemplary life that we too could and should aspire towards. This utopian anthropology has a tough time dealing with the evening news and the murder, rape, fraud, etc that goes on all around us. I think Jeremiah was right to call the human heart “desperately sick” (Jer. 17:9)

If we are to rely on the historical-critical scholars (Crossan, Ehrman, Borg, etc) to point us to what Jesus actually said and did, we are left with basically nothing upon which to build our theology. Worse still, we are left with our own feelings to guide us. I don’t know about the rest of you, but my feelings change by the minute. I don’t even know right now how I will feel toward my wife tomorrow morning. My feelings are affected by so many undeterminable external forces. I could drink 12 beers, eat 10 chalupas from Taco Bell, get indigestion, wake up and decide that since I feel so bloated and hung-over and Jacqueline is not helping me with the problem that I need to leave her for someone else that will make me feel better. The point is, if feelings are my moral compass, my theology is different on sunny days versus rainy days.

When you start to pick and choose what Jesus said and did based on how those sayings and deeds strike you at a certain time, you end up losing any semblance of an objective standard to guide your hermeneutics. In short, in ruling out even part of the Bible’s testimony about Jesus, you lose JESUS. Take the virgin birth, for example. (Mark Driscoll is responsible for this insight) The Emergent church folks are asking whether or not the doctrine of the virgin birth is essential to Christianity (Rob Bell in his book “Velvet Elvis” asks this question). Well, here are the options: either Mary was a virgin or a lying whore. And if she is a lying whore, then why should we believe anything she says about the virgin birth, the deity of Christ (she was with the early church worshipping Christ) or anything else? And why would we follow Jesus, the bastard son of a lying whore? See, it matters. Furthermore, James and Jude, Jesus’ brothers, wrote books in the New Testament. Why should we trust the other sons of a lying whore to accurately tell the story? The point: if we lose the doctrine of the virgin birth, we lose credibility for the rest of the story, and ultimately we lose JESUS.

I want to pause and point out that I totally agree with many of the diagnoses Caputo makes in his book. I think that the hypocrisy of the religious right in this country and around the world is despicable. To stand up for the anti-abortion cause and then to knowingly turn a blind eye to the woes of poverty, AIDS in Africa (the two of which combine to kill more people than abortion), and the environment is satanic. And Jesus would (and does… I believe that the Bible really teaches a RESURRECTED, active, alive Jesus) deconstruct that hypocrisy.

I find it funny (and sad) that I am sure Caputo would accept the words of Plato or Aristotle or Homer to have been preserved accurately in the modern translations, yet we only have a handful of manuscripts that date hundreds (like 700’s) of years after the original. We have THOUSANDS of manuscripts of the New Testament that date to within a hundred years of the original (in some cases less than 50 years, depending on which scholar you believe), and ALL of them agree on major doctrines, things like Jesus’ virgin birth, his death/burial/resurrection, etc. And Caputo (among others in the historical-critical camp) can’t trust that they accurately portray Christ? I think Jesus would (and does) deconstruct that hypocrisy as well. It is academic arrogance at it’s ‘finest.’

I feel that Caputo has responded to the hypocrisy of the religious right with a different, but equally sinful, hypocrisy. And in the process of dispelling the misconceptions about Jesus that the right holds dear, he has thrown the baby out with the bath water. Jesus (as revealed in the Old and New Testaments) is the answer to both types of hypocrisy. In John 17 Jesus prays “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” (17:15-17) He prays that we would not be taken out of the world (like the religious right wants… to get away from poor people and AIDS victims) but that we would be sanctified in the truth of His word (which flies in the face of a claim that His word is not the truth, as the Emergent folks would have us believe).

It is my prayer that we will not continue to fall into either one of those camps… the religious right or the irreligious, syncretistic left. By the grace of God.