In August 2011 I created an updated crucifix showing Jesus put to death by today’s most powerful empire. Possibly in that same spirit but with way more awesomeness Kris Kuski has created some amazing sculptures of church joining state.
21 April 2013
john michael greer,
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A thing we old people like to do to amuse ourselves is to subscribe to ‘blogs’ via ‘feed readers’. Many of you youngsters won’t understand these things because you haven’t found the secret click combination to get outside of Facebook or else you aren’t sure what to do with writing that is longer than 140 characters. But some of you kids might want to experience the old-fashioned Internet. If that’s you, there is a small chance you may enjoy some of the things on the non-exhaustive list of what I like to read and look at.
Comics, illustration, design
- Doodlemum – these are way better than doodles
- Dresden Codak – cyborg sci-fi in a weird world
- False Positive – webcomic tales of the surreal, fantastic and macabre
- Happle Tea – a funny and insightful webcomic about mythology and other things
- Hark a Vagrant – Kate Beaton is excellently superly excellent
- Illustration Art – insightful commentary on the world of illustration
- Jill Lorraine Turpin has a great take on family life
- Marlo Meekins is much funnier and stranger than most people
- Nimona – when the sidekick has actual powers and doesn’t follow the supervillain rules
- Punching the Clock – surviving the daily fail of big box retail
- RUTH AND ANNABEL RUIN EVERYTHING – it’s in all caps for a reason
- Ryan Andrews – beautiful engrossing short story comics
- Sin Titulo – It’s going to take a while to read, and it will suck you in. Clear your afternoon schedule
- The Abominable Charles Christopher – he’s actually not abominable at all
- the johnson banks thought for the week is the blog of my favourite UK design studio
- Thrillbent’s Insufferable – What happens when you’re a crimefighter and your sidekick grows up to be an arrogant, ungrateful douchebag? What on Earth could draw the two of you back together again?
- Willow Wood Starfall – gorgeous comic in a nouveau style
- XKCD – a webcomic of romance,
sarcasm, math, and language.
Lots of words in a row
- Doors of Perception – John Thackara’s blog about design, energy and the planet’s future
- Heresy Corner – questioning received wisdom on culture, politics and religion
- Kester Brewin – Peter Rollins’ mate writes about pirates, theology, education and stuff
- Michael Rosen – author and former children’s laureate blogs mostly about education, especially how Michael Gove is ruining everything
- Peter Rollins – pyrotheology
- What If? – the author of xkcd answers hypothetical questions with physics and funny
Good blogs I’m not reading right now because I’m taking a break from American Christianity and politics
- Greg Boyd – with all the shouty Calvinists about it’s nice to be reminded the bible has other salvation metaphors and visions of eternity
- Matthew Paul Turner – obvs
- John Michael Greer – Druid perspectives on nature, culture, and the future of industrial society. Don’t let the ‘druid’ throw you. This guy is a genius
- Larry Shallenberger – author, pastor, writer of this blog that I really like even though he sometimes writes about sports
- Love is what you do – she’s actually living the gospel in real life
- Rachel Held Evans – obvs
- The Beautiful Due – I’m not a fan of poetry. I love this guy’s poetry
- Two Friars and a Fool – theology and culture with an emergy kind of vibe
What do you like to read and look at?
21 August 2012
john michael greer,
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11 years ago Christine and I with our 2.5 year-old son left the United States to live in North Wales. We set out to make a fresh start, and we did. But I sort of failed at something. I never really left America. I blame the Internet.
While Christine and I were starting fresh and getting healed up from a full term stillbirth and some whacked out ideas about God and the response of a church that didn’t know what to do with an unhealed dead baby, I sort of stayed in America. I kept up with American politics and Christianity via the Internet. Being the Internet, it was kind of a cartoon version of American politics and Christianity.
It was fine for a while. Some bits were very good: I found Greg Boyd, Rob Bell, John Michael Greer, Shane Clairborne and Larry Shallenberger. Other bits were bad. My evolving views made my wonderful sister and brother-in-law angry and lost me a really good friend.
Lately, America has just been making me mad. I’m cheesed off that American Christians are still debating whether or not women can do the same jobs as men or be considered their equals. I’m cross that they are still trying to decide whether or not LGBT people get to be counted as fully human. I cannot endure one more pastor with perfectly reformed theology expounding ad nauseum why a different conclusion than his is Dangerous. I’m sick of the fake miracles and the politics of fear. (‘AMERICA IS DOOMED!’ Of course America is doomed, not because it has a black liberal president but because America is an empire and all empires are doomed.) I don’t have the stomach for this presidential election. I don’t need to hear the latest pronouncement by the church’s prophets of Baal about what kind of prayer and fasting we need to do for the next 40 days to make sure God doesn’t lightning bolt the country. I have no interest in what the evangelical pope has to say about anything. I’m sick of the megachurchcorp CEOs and their obsession with their big numbers. I’ve had it with the whole thing. I have no grace to offer.
I realised a couple days ago that the problem isn’t America – okay, actually the problem is America and its stupid paranoid greedy consumer religion. But that’s not my problem. My problem is that I’m making it my problem. I live in Wales, UK. My job is to serve and love people in Wales. Raising my blood pressure over what the Americans are doing is stupid and dumb. I’ve been stupid and dumb.
I’m going to stop.
American Christians are on their own journey. My meddling in it displays a serious lack of faith in the Spirit’s work in those Christians and an unwillingness to fully concentrate on the work I’m doing here. It’s time for me to leave America – for real – and keep my face pointed in the same direction as the plough.
This is what I’m doing. Until the end of 2012 anything to do with American spirituality or politics is out of my life, the good and the bad. (The exceptions are family and friends, of course. And I’m keeping Josh Garrels in my playlist.) Basically I’m cutting out a bunch of podcasts, books that I may have read, blogs, Twitter accounts and all their links and link and links. Here’s a list for people who like lists:
- Blaine Hogan
- Cognitive Discopants
- Google US news
- Greg Boyd
- Jamie the Very Worst Missionary
- Jesus Needs New PR
- John Michael Greer
- Kirk Cowell
- Larry Shallenberger
- Love is what you do
- Mars Hill (the good one)
- Naked Pastor
- People ranting about Mars Hill (the other one)
- People ranting in general
- Rachel Held Evans
- Rob Bell
- Shane Claiborne
- Stephen Colbert
- The Beautiful Due
- Two Friars and a Fool
- Unvirtuous Abbey
This will give me space to clear my brain. Once I get to 2013, I’m not sure. My goal is not to pretend that America doesn’t exist or has nothing spiritually good to offer. Rather, I want to return (metaphorically) full of grace and love and no longer fighting against a bunch of rules and ideas that haven’t actually applied to my life for years. It may take me more than six months to get there.
This is obviously a big overblown statement full of broad brushstroke characterisations. It says more about me than it does about the United States. That is the point. I want to expose my own dysfunction so that it is clear (to me probably more than anyone else) why I am doing this. It also makes me kind of accountable. If I announce something on the Internet, I am a lot more likely to do it. Also, I tend to make big overblown statements about things that don’t need big overblown statements.
If you are an American reading this blog, you are welcome to keep reading and to comment. I’m not going into hiding.
Finally, thank you, Greg Boyd, Rob Bell, John Michael Greer and Shane Claiborne and so many others. You have helped me to become a better person. I’ll be back listening to you again, maybe as soon as next year.
I start as soon as I finish my last book on spirituality by an American author for now. (The book is Falling Upward by Richard Rohr. It is the perfect book for where I’m at right now.)
4 June 2012
john michael greer,
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Not too long ago, prompted by one of these messages by Greg Boyd, I went through all the bits of the bible that have been connected with the idea of hell.
I read Rob Bell’s Love Wins a few weeks ago.
Then some Francis Chan books were available for free on Amazon, so I downloaded and read Erasing Hell.
Over the last five days Two Friars and a Fool have posted 95 Tweets Against Hell
It has been interesting.
Boyd endorses annihilation rather than eternal torment. Bell says there is always hope because the good news really is good. Chan paints a reasoned, thoughtful but shocking picture of God and asks us to answer not whether we want to believe in a God that sends most of us to eternal conscious torment but whether we can believe in such a God. The Friars unleash everything they can lay their hands on to combat the idea of hell. They organised their assault weapons into three categories, ethical, theological, biblical.
Every one of these resources is worth getting your hands on, especially the scriptures, especially if you untranslate as you read.
Now here’s my opinion: hell is a very interesting subject to think and read and speculate about, but the bible seems to recommend that far more important is the way we spend our lives working for God’s Kingdom now. People have argued for centuries about who are the sheep and who are the goats of Matthew 25 and what happens to them after the judgement, but everyone agrees, in principle at least, that the things the sheep do are good things. What if we did the sheep things and left the sorting to God?
(There is a reason why we don’t, but that is a subject for another post.)
20 April 2012
tags: greg boyd,
kingdom of god,
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In the book I’m now working on (Jesus Versus Jehovah?) I’m offering an alternative interpretation. Over and against their polytheistic ancient Near Eastern neighbors, ancient Jews emphasized that there is one sovereign Lord over all creation who rules all of history. They thus tended to view God as a supreme ancient Near Eastern monarch king who had ultimate authority over all subordinate angelic and earthly rulers. As a good monarch king, Yahweh takes responsibility (though not moral culpability) for all that transpires within his “court” (the world), including events he himself abhors.
I’m not very widely read, but I know that a number of people have written books to address the apparent contradiction of the violent, angry God of the Old Testament compared to Jesus in the New Testament. It may just be that I am a fan, but I think that the book Greg Boyd is working on now could turn out to be one of the more important Christian books. The way we understand God and God’s character has massive implications for the way that we relate to the world and the gospel that we share. This book might even revolutionise our understanding of God’s ways and God’s plan. Greg is an excellent teacher with the ability to help us ordinary folks understand complex ideas without our brains hurting.
Unfortunately, the book isn’t done yet, so for now, go read the whole article
19 March 2010
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12 February 2010
tags: greg boyd,
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...church is what you do from Sunday to Sunday out in your neighborhood, with your small group, with your tribe of people.
—From an interview with Greg Boyd on the Burside Writers Collective.
10 February 2009
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This morning I listened to an interview (i.e. puff piece for his new book Spectacular Sins) with Dr John Piper. The interview finished and iTunes appropriately chose Pipe Dreams by Travis
I read it all, every word
And I still don’t understand a thing…
Three things stood out to me in this interview:
1. The insanity of his understanding of God If God is like the god that John Piper describes, active rebellion against him is the only righteous position to take.
2. A very interesting insight into Judas’s betrayal of Jesus Judas was a man to whom Jesus gave authority to cast out demons. He not only lived with Jesus, he ministered healing and freedom to people with the authority that Jesus gave him; yet he chose the money over the relationship and the power.
3. John Piper and I have the same heart At the close of the interview he said that the reason he wrote the book was to enable a faith that could handle the really big, life-shattering bad/evil events that people too often have to live through.
I want to enable that same robust faith in people. That is what motivates me when I tell a woman that her friend’s child didn’t die because God killed them. I want people to know the God who triumphs over evil, not a god who invented evil and who uses it at a tool to make people glorify him. When I tell people that science and Scripture are not at war it is because I want students to know the God who isn’t afraid of the fossil record and the unravelling mystery of DNA. When I embrace a partially open future it is because I believe in a God whose infinite wisdom and insight and power is actually infinite enough to give human beings a true free will.
John Piper and I believe nearly opposite things about the nature of God. I see his theology as based on a logic so convoluted that it could only be suited for designing Russian motorway junctions. He boldly characterises many of my core beliefs as weak, spineless and false. (I’m talking about the beliefs here, not my holding of them. I don’t think John Piper knows I exist.) Both of us are convinced that our opposite beliefs offer better, more helpful and truer answers about the condition of the world and the nature of God.
Yet the marvellous thing is that we are both motivated by love for God and an earnest desire to see God’s kingdom come on earth. I have been writing this post in bits throughout the afternoon and evening, and the more I think about it the more I am shocked and humbled by the generosity of God. As far as I can tell he lets both of us stay in his family. He gives both of us meaningful work to do for his kingdom. It is conceivable that He even calls both of us his friends. That would mean I probably should think about calling John Piper my friend, even though that doesn’t fill well with thing number one.
I’d rather call him a heretic and overturn his URL, but I don’t think God offers that as a valid option.
20 October 2008
kingdom of god
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I like to keep up with what was hot five years ago, so I just read Your Best Life Now by Joel Osteen.
It took me back to my teenage years and the two Kenneths. Messrs Hagin and Copeland were very influential on my spiritual development. I am very grateful today for the understanding of being in Christ I got from Kenneth Hagin and for Kenneth Copeland’s superb teaching on covenant.
On the other hand, when you lose a baby, despite all your faith and confession, you find that Word of Faith has some pretty poor answers to a lot of life’s big questions.
Nearly nine years on and past the pain and anger, I was able to thoughtfully read, if not enjoy (Joel, 10 aphorisms in a row isn’t a paragraph, it’s a list! And please stop calling me ‘friend’.) Mr Osteen’s book. I found it inspired me to pick up some important truths that I had thrown out with the bath water.
It also got me thinking. Here are some of those thoughts.
1. A lot of Word of Faith teaching is not uniquely Christian. Rather, it is universal principles with a Western church skin. I’ve read the same principles with a business skin, a self improvement skin and a Buddhist skin. Underneath it is basically the same: belief and words are powerful forces for change. In fact, my favourite ‘Word of Faith’ book is not Christian at all. It is a jaunty little self help read called Being Happy.
In some ways Word of Faith is better without God. It keeps us from trying to turn God into a genie. And when the thing that we are believing for doesn’t come to pass we can blame an imperfect universe instead of a god who is constantly evaluating our Faith Performance.
On the other hand, the idea of life without God stinks. God has to be bigger than the WoF version or I quit.
I don’t think Christians should stop living according to a principle just because it is not uniquely Christian. Our God is the God of the universe. All truth is ours. The question is how we use it. The answer is: How did Jesus use it? Which leads me to my next thought:
2. The stink of acquisition and greed is really hard to disguise, no matter how much perfume you put on. Giving to get is just ugly, and it sucks the joy out of giving. Surely we can give simply out of gratefulness to God for his indescribable gift?
3. The Word of Faith message is especially suited to inspiring preachers, motivational speakers and writers. They speak (or write) words, and people give them money. Tidy. It is a different story for the guys putting in the new water pipes on my road. They could confess increase and income all day, but unless they dig some trenches and put in some pipes, they will find themselves experiencing decrease and outgo. (see The Mustang 2 and James 2).
4. As I read Mr Osteen’s book I found myself constantly wondering how his seven principles could be made useful people living in poverty without any life skills. The book has something to offer to relatively well-off people who want to improve, but the stories about how to avoid speeding tickets won’t be much help to the single mum on the council estate who can’t afford a car. (Never mind the extreme poverty of the developing world!) Something else is needed.
The sequence of John 3:16 is instructive: God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (TNIV) Loving and giving come before believing. And since we are supposed to be acting like Jesus in this world – James 2:16 comes to mind.
5. The more I talk to Christians the more I think that the majority of us, WoF or not, have a faith that is basically a belief in some form of mystical or formulaic magic – often coming surprisingly close to magick. Most of us probably don’t know any better.
6. I should shut up now and you should go right now and listen to Greg Boyd’s message on Speaking the Kingdom. Whether you love Word of Faith teaching or you hate it or, like me, you are all over the place, I think you will find this to be a inspiring and life-giving message.
26 August 2008
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Tia Lynn has started a very promising series on God’s design for women at Abandon Image. She starts here with good definitions of egalitarianism and complementarianism. Her second post speaks brilliantly about NOT glorifying the consequences of the curse of Genesis 3. And I love the fourth post about Deborah. It shows the things you can find in the bible when you are willing to put aside your grid and read what the text actually says.
Greg Boyd has written a very good (and long) review of Chuck Colson’s latest book God and Government: An Insider’s View on the Boundaries Between Faith and Politics. Okay, the review is actually more of a device to allow Greg to groove (he’s a drummer too) on his vision of the kingdom of God. It’s very much worth reading.
9 March 2008
kingdom of god,
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In his review Greg writes that the church has been subverted by success, money, morality, religion, pragmatism, violence, politics, power.
Every one of these things is realised in the kingdom of God, just not in the way or the timing that we humans necessarily want it to be. That’s what makes us so susceptible to temptation. We are so easily like Abraham with Ishmael, Saul with the pre-battle sacrifice. But we can be like Jesus when satan offered him easy shortcuts to everything God was giving him.
Have a read of Greg’s post, then come back here for a quick look at the good things that are subverted by each of these eight things and what implications they have for a life of following Jesus in our time.
Success God’s dream for the world has always been for the whole world – from Adam (fill the earth) to Abraham (all the nations of the world will be blessed in you) to Jesus (my house shall be a house of prayer for all nations; go into all the world…) to the apostles (God desires all people to be saved). The temptation is to try and make it happen by dumbing down the good news: Say a prayer, buy a T-shirt, you’re in the club. Salvation is transformation and that rarely happens while being swept along in the emotion of a giant crowd. The good news is for the whole world, one real connection with God at a time.
Money The bible talks so much about money. It is full of promises about our needs being met, about us having an abundance. But ‘all these things’ are added as a side-effect of seeking God’s kingdom, and we freely receive so that we may freely give. The temptation is to make the side-effect the goal.
Morality Living a moral life is not the aim. Living a life abandoned to God is the aim. The Kingdom of God is a return to eating from the tree of life. Goodness is a by-product of God’s kind of life. The temptation to base life on ethics and morality looks so good. It is so safe and easy. But it has no power to enable us to live a life that is truly good. The rules are a wall that separate us from really knowing the source of goodness. That brings us neatly to…
Religion Paul writes about people holding on to a form of godliness but denying its power. That’s a good definition of religion. There is this urge in people to be like God. That makes sense; we are made in his image. Religion gives us a set of boxes to tick in order to be like God. It gives us a feeling of accomplishment. Except that it doesn’t in the long run. Religion grows and looks for more and more behaviours to control. Look at God’s original terms of covenant with Israel – three chapters in Exodus. Look at what it turned into by the time Israel got to their land – Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. Religion’s promise of making us like God or pleasing to God is a false one. Jesus said once that the one necessary thing was sitting and being with him. Fact is, it is a lot easier to try and define life with rules.
Pragmatism God has been at work to fix the world ever since sin came into it. We humans have a natural desire to join him in it. The problem is that we stink at fixing the world. The thing that fixes the world is the spread of the kingdom of God. That doesn’t make sense to our natural minds though. What makes sense is: I see a problem; I’ll try to fix it. And then it gets more broken, giving us more to fix and so on, leaving us completely distracted from the real answer. Living and spreading the Kingdom of God causes the world to be fixed without all our clever efforts
Violence See my upcoming post Hooray for violence.
Politics It’s religion, it’s fixing the world, it’s being willing to be bought (even though we’ve already been bought by God for an infinite price), it’s playing by the rules of this world’s system (which guarantees we lose*), it is ultimately a quest for…
Power Jesus says, you shall receive power. Paul writes about God’s power working mightily within us. People want power. It’s one of those built-in things that goes with our God-given mandate to take care of the earth. Once again, the temptation is to try to seize power. But the power that God promises is the power to be his witnesses, the power to lay down our lives for others. It’s funny how unpopular that kind of power is. Nevermind that it is the same power that Jesus had, the only power powerful enough to reach the world, to remove the fear of lack, to make us good like God, to connect us with God, to fix the world, and to defeat evil.
We Christians, if we are willing to let God change our minds about almost everything, could actually be the kind of humans God designed us to be.
*for an example of how to win by not playing by the rules, look at David fighting Goliath.