Monday, February 27, 2006

liminal space

The concept of "liminal space" art, culture, church, life...has been very compatible to the emerging church's emerging conceptualizion. I recently attended a liminal space art exhibition at Calif State Fresno, and dovetail that with many helful online articles and blogs, see especially Len's "Forty Years in a Liminal Space", Richard Rohr on liminality,
McLarenhere and Mclaren/Roxborough here.

Limimality is at base a threshold, in between, transition kind of space/plus..thus sacred; thus the holy arena where "Shift Happens"..

Anyway, the pictures below kind of relate:

Over on our "Shift Happens" forum (and here on the blog), I posted this ship picture..and asked someone to name it. As usual, Keltic Ken "won"..he titled it "ships happen". So I promised to post the rest of the pictures (thanks to St. Dennis Sterling)for possible naming. Here they are. there are some "secrets" and things to look for, but i will reveal those much later, so you can have fun exploring.

Also, some of Mark Deraud's paintingswork a bit this way for me..intentional, Mark?

Belonging BEFORE believing: a delirious heresy?

One song left off of the American version of the "Touch" CD by Delirious is ...ironically..titled "America."

And another irony: To me it is a prophetic word to that nation.

And we as a nation/church are too quick to write off as blasphemous the following offensive lyric (Warning: don't read the quote to follow of easily's a shocker). Here it is:

"You don't have to believe to belong."


Methinx I just heard the eyes some _____ Seminary grads eyes pop out, as the owners of those eyes simultaneously pulled out their heresy detectors.

Not so fast.

As I write this, Don Knotts has just died, and one story I just heard was about his famous Deputy Barney Fife character ("Andy Griffith Show") is that he only was allowed to carry one bullet with him...and that, in his he had previously shot himself in the foot. And that's what I do anytime I don't let someone belong before believing. The only thing worse is shooting someone else in the foot...beacuse they don't believe/don't look like I do etc. Though we have a lot to learn from the police department (!), God doesn't need any more quickdraw deputy-pastors. We are not in Mayberry anymore, church.

I think I first heard the "belong and then believe" sequitur from my amazing professor George Hunter (read about what a fun guy AND scholar he is) whose specialty is, well, take his book title: "How to Reach Secular People." He deconstructed our all-American evangelical assumptions, and we came out the stronger..and the more Celtic..because of it.

But"it wasn't easy for some of us to morph. This whole giving folks room and space (literally) to 'belong" even before they "believe" (if ever) goes way against the whole ingrained (and ingrown) grain of American evangelical church culture.

Which is a good sign it may be an indispensable, vital truth.

Not to mention Jesus' unspoken and Spiritanous M.O.

A quick googling suggests how many church websites have an, written, rule that the order is exactly the opposite. Indeed in some cases it will flow that "traditional" way. But now more than ever, we need to not call it vice to vise the versa.

I am not judging any of the churches listed. (It's likely that they model ministry far better than their mottos). I am judging myself, and asking us to ask rough and tough questions about what Miraslov Volf calls "exclusion and embrace" ...and "the soft difference"

Consider this excerpt from Brian McLaren's "More Ready Than You Realize," Chapter 11 (maybe a prophetic chapter title: it's precisely where we are "Chapter eleven" in "bankrupt"): "The Idea of Playing For and Through God" (as quoted and commented on by Adam Cleaveland at this link):

"I am fortunate that the church I am privileged to serve understands something that too few churches understand: Sometimes belonging must precede believing. In other words, unless we let not-yet-Christians enter and participate in the Christian community, many of them won't becomes Christians...Many of our denominations arose or redefined themselves during the modern period (say between 1500-2000), when theological controversy and competition, combined with a penchant toward control (all in an environment where modern Christianity provided the dominant worldview), reinforced what I call "motivation by exclusion." Motivation by exclusion says something like this: We're on the inside, but you're on the outside. We're right, and you're wrong. If you want to come inside, then you need to be right. So, just believe right, think right, speak right, and act right, and we'll let you in.

Again, there were reasons why this line of thinking predominated in modern churches, but I think for those of us living and serving in a postmodern world, we need to move beyond motivation by exclusion. Our motivation by acceptance will say something like this: We are a community bound together and energized by faith, love and commitment to Jesus Christ. Even though you don't yet share that faith, love, and commitment, you are most welcome to be with us, to belong here, to experience what we're about. Then, if you are attracted and persuaded by what you see, you'll want to set down roots here long-term And if you don't, you'll always be a friend."

"If you don't, you'll always be a friend." Wow; maybe that's the promise we can't make. Which we have been taught Jesus wouldn't dare have us make. "You don't have to believe to belong."

I remember the first time I met TMac. He was already waiting at the door as I was unlocking it for a Bible Study. He said something like, "Do you accept people with tattoos?"

I smiled and said "Come on in. In fact, I specifically remember praying you in! Glad to meet an answer to prayer!"

Now Tom had been a believer for years, so this is partly a false analogy. Buthis only "problem" in "belonging" in traditional churches is..he had tattoos..which is some minds must have equated to not yet being a "believer" (at least his arms didn't look "saved").

Not a problem for me; for our church.

In fact, here is a shot of him playing guitar for one of our gatherings (and the reason he's wearing a jacket is not to cover the tattoos...more likely he was cold..or was told he looked cool in leather).

Some may be saying "Amen, you gotta catch the fish before cleaning them." That's not what I'm saying. I do not ever ask Tom to get his "tats removed." (Here's my essay on "Doesn't the Bible forbid tattoos?", if you are interested) .

By the way, TMac is a youth parole officer at juvenile hall..and his tattoos have lead people to Jesus! (Oops, don't tell God!)

So I have learned a lot from TMac. He may sound too hard on traditional church to some to call their adherents
"robots in abominational coffins". But walk a mile (literally) in his tattoos before you claim to know what it feels like to be as judged as he has been by a system I helped build. He has been glared out of pews, when he may well have been an answer to the pewsitters' prayers.

And let him challenge your borders as he offers Black Sabbath lyrics as singable in church; or ponders the gnostichurch tendency to compartmentalize and de-scaralize holy language via a flat rejection of "holy profanity".


To me, all talk of borders; and belonging and believing brings back to front and center the hugely helpful concepts of "set theory". It's all a matter of how we view people..via the intention and direction (Proverbs 23:7; Hebrews 4:12) of their heart (centered set); or merely by whether they look to fit certain criteria for "club membership" (bounded set).

Frost and Hirsch, in the landmark book "The Shaping of Things to Come: Innovation and Mission for the 21st Century Church" (reviewed well by Len Hjalmarson here) add a layer to "set theory":

"A useful illustration is to think of the difference between wells and fences.
In some farming communities, the farmers might build fences around their
properties to keep their livestock in and the livestock of neighboring farms
out. This is a bounded set. But in rural communities where farms or ranches
cover an enormous geographic area, fencing the property is out of the question.
In our home of Australia, ranches (called stations) are so vast that fences are
superfluous. Under these conditions a farmer has to sink a bore and create a
well, a precious water supply in the Outback. It is assumed that livestock,
though they will stray, will never roam too far from the well, lest they die.
This is a centered set. As long as there is a supply of clean water, the
livestock will remain close by."Churches that see themselves as a centered set
recognize that the gospel is so precious, so refreshing that, like a well in the
Australian Outback, lovers of Christ will not stray too far from it. It is then
a truly Christ-centered model. Rather than seeing people as Christian or
non-Christian, as in or out, we would see people by their degree of distance
from the center, Christ. In this way, the missional-incarnational church sees
people as Christian and not-yet-Christian. It acknowledges the contribution of
not-yet-Christians to Christian community and values the contribution of all
people. Jesus' faith community was clearly a centered set, with him at the
center. . . . There was a rich intersection of relationships with some nearer
the center and others further away, but all invited to join in the
kingdom-building enterprise. If the modern church followed this biblical model,
the church would be more concerned with relationships than with numbers."

Yes, there are borders in the Christian faith; ye,s there are boundaries on doctrianal statements. Believe me, I have gone to bat for sound doctrine, and though I believe in it more than ever, I would approach life, ministry, and battles differently now than in the day when I (wrongly) became a hero is some circles for keeping the "bounded set" bounded.

"You don't have any fags at your church?", someone asked years ago.

My shocking (shocking in that it was the "right" answer, even though I was in a "bounded set" context) answer: "Well, I won't use that offensive word, but the answer actually is "I hope so!"

Where else do you WANT homoexuals? Or heterosexuals? Or any humans?

What does it mean to be "in the church'? For some purposes, it is a bounded set; for others (far more than we have dared to imagine), it's a decidedly centered (or even scarier: a "fuzzy" set).

Not that I am saying God wants Christians to continue in homosexual sex. I didn't say that or imply it. All I said was, "I hope there are some homosexuals in the house on Sunday morning."

And in some senses, they may well have to feel they "belong" before they can believe. And if they do believe, it is only as a fellow "belonger" that I can walk them through their journey.

My friend Doug, the window-cleaning prophet/pastor, intoduced me to the book Fourth Turning soon after 9-11, while many were asking if 9-11 was a "fourth turning in our very day and age. No doubt 9-11 was a hinge both "changed everything" and changed nothing in our culture/church; remember the temporary spike upwards in church attendance soon after (which soon returned to an even flatter flatline as hungry pre-Christians found nothing sustantial or supernatural in our services.

Or maybe they simply didn't get a chance to belong before they fully believed.

Anyway, to come full circle to the "America" song. This song previously unreleased in America; in fact intentionally deleted from the CD as it migrated to our nation from England,was, in response to 9-11, released online and given away free in New York a word of prophetic encouragement, healing and exhortation.

Explaining the release decision, band frontman Smith said:

"We are not doing this as a 'weird' marketing ploy, but feel in light of what
has happened we are changing our short term plans so that people across the
world can participate in the sentiment of this song, written at the beginning of
last year. It will be available free and no additional marketing or promotion
will be undertaken. We are just letting this song go to where it needs to go."
'America' starts with the lyrics "America, you're too young to die" and ends
with "You don't have to believe to belong". Explaining the sentiment of the song
Smith went on to say "What happened in America yesterday has made the nations of
the world stand still. It is often when we are standing still that the God of
heaven speaks and brings us to our knees. Today as people who 'believe' or not
we know we all 'belong' and must unite to 'sing a new song' in this time of

Sometimes we aren't ready for the prophecy until we are 9/11-ed. And often even then it doesn't hit as it should.

But I can imagine God singing:

America you're too young to die...
Where can a man go, if he's fallen to his his knees?
How can a mother free her children from disease?
Where can a river run if it cannot clean itself?
Where can a man go from the curses of his wealth?
Well everybody come on.

It's time to sing a new song..

You don't have to believe to belong.

Hey, I just noticed that many (all?) online versions of the lyrics are correct up to a point..they leave that last line..the punchline/tagline/very plumbline of the song..out!? What's up with even the "secular" world being afraid of "belonging before believing??


I can't "clean myself." But I claim to belong to the Kingdom community.
Hey, now that I think of it, the main reason I was able to yield my life to Christ was I met belivers at a college and church who were daring enough to let me belong far before I believed.


"Preach faith until you have it," Zinzendorf challenged Wesley ,"and then because you have it, you'll preach it."

Delirious advice indeed.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

from anality to freedom indeed..via loud creativity

It is either among his most cringeworthy/corny lines or among his most profound/prophetic.

Likely both.

When Bono sings "Freedom has a scent like the top of a newborn baby's head;" his passion borders on the embarassingly exhibitionistic; he means it. One can almost watch him pushing past the cringe factor; knowing it will morph into, and unloose the prophetic...if only enough veins pop in his neck. He is giving birth himself, perhaps. At the very least, he is shamelessly singing for his life; maybe even to maintain his wobbly freedom.

Almost as if keeping his day job and eternal salvation secure was proportionate to his (and our)abandonment to the truth of the maxim at hand.

Freedom has long been one of Bono's keynotes for lyrics and philosophizing. In a stimulating 1990s speech to German artists on the futility of fascism, he (who else would give such a speech? ) claims:

Laughter is the evidence of freedom…. It was from a Mel Brooks movie called “The Producers” that U2 took the name of their latest {“Achtung Baby”} album . In the bizarre musical, an S.S. officer is met with the greeting “Achtung Baby!” to which he replies, “Zie furher would never say ‘baby’!” Quite right. The furher would never say ‘baby.’ We are writers, artists, actors and scientists. I wish we were comedians. We would probably have more effect…Anyway, for all this: imagination!..To tell our stories, to paint pictures…but above all to glimpse another way of being. Because as much as we need to describe the world we live in, we need to dream up the kind of world we want to live in. In the case of a rock and roll band that’s to dream out loud, at high volume, to turn it up to eleven. Because we have fallen asleep in the comfort of our freedom. David Dark, in "Everyday Apocalypse"(p. 142) , citing "U2 at the End of the World"

Perhaps it is only when this intrinsic two-edgedness of freedom is can siren-song us to sleep and death; or engender life and visionary art; depending on how it is wielded...that we can begin to actualize its wild and wide blessing. Berdyaev, the Russian philosopher so enamored with the concept of freedom, and its shocking status as "even more fundamental than being." (which of course raises its own logical and ontological questions), also explicitly connects freedom with its daughter:creativity. For

The creative act of a man requires matter, it cannot be without the material reality, it does not occur in an emptiness, in a vacuum. But the creative act of a man cannot be completely determined by the material which is given by the world; in it there is newness that is not determined by the outside world. This is the element of freedom that comes into any real creative act. This is the mystery of creativity. In this sense, creativity is creation from nothing." -Berdayev, Self-cognition, p. 213

What then do we fear in freedom? Creation; creativity. We are terrified and terrorized by the tabula rasa nothingness that is our only and proper starting point. We dread creativity; are allergic to the baptismal waters of tohu bohu, and the resultant non linear (Consider the thesis:"There are no straight lines in creation.") new creation life-mileu of unfettered freedom. The only rub is that we desperately require all these more than breath and manna. Even more than the "sex and love and faith and fear" that keep us tethered.

If only we could bask and trust in the glorious gospel that "Freedom is just chaos, with better lighting," as Alan Dean Foster would have it (in "To the Vanishing Point"). Foster may have intended that thesis as a sarcasticism, but interpreted in the right context and light(literally), it's a bingo. Yet we fear "better lighting" itself. Or better said by Jesus ( John 3:19), we "prefer darkess to light."

That is, we are anal retentive.


David Dark, resonding to the Bono quote at the top of the page laments the unfree and “anal retentiveness that can’t say ‘baby’.” So maybe it is simply our banal anality that hinders the reckless outbreak of El Shaddai-freedom that was always supposed to be the norm in church
life. It shouldn't take an Einstein to grasp this, but it might take the literal Einstein to wisen us up to its centrality: "Everything really great and inspiring," Einstein suggested, " is created by the individual who can labor in freedom. "

We need light for this labor, as John 9:4 argues well.

If nothing less than everything hinges on fenlightened freedom/creativity in no-one-less-than-Einstein's book; and if laughter is indeed freedom's litmus-test; and if an anal retentive option towards darkness/straight lines is freedom's nemesis....there is untold value in asking what shape this laughter takes. Who better to inquire of on matters of shape and obedience than a rabbi? A charming rabbi-businessman, in a swirling postmodern midrash revolving around defining the colorful Hebrew term,"TZaCHok" (traditionally, but reductionistically, translated "laughter", or as the rabbi more aptly reckons it, "an outrageous rupturing of fundamantal norms"), posits (note another appearance of a newborn head):

Virtually all forms of laughter spring from this violation of norms....To understand why a baby 's laugh is so precious, we must make one further observation:... human beings are the only creatures on this planet who laugh....How could (animals) laugh? Laughter is a defining mark of humanity beacuse only humans understand that there are norms in the universe.

For that reason, we humans are the source of all laughter in the world.

When a baby is born, everyone coos and oohs and ahhs...but to be honest I must consider most brand-new babies to be pretty funny looking..For the most part all they do is eat, sleep and defecate. If you are a new mother, you will resent me for saying this...(But) when a baby laughs for the first time, long before he ever speaks, we are overjoyed, for the child has expressed a profoundly human uniquness. -
Rabbi Daniel Lapin, "Buried Treasure", p. 46-47

Ah, so freedom does indeed smell like a newborn baby's....uh, head (The particular baby smell the good rabbi has namechecked is decidedly less pleasant)...but freedom newborn also is hallmarked by a sound (and neurological research is suggesting that sound/voice is more foundational than sight or smell..thus a "hermeneutic of acoustemology" is emerging): laughter; "hilarious freedom" (My professor Leslie "Twinkle Toes" Mark's term, I believe) even.

And that an appropriate working definition and application of freedom is crucial not just in our current church atmosphere, but in the world political climate should go without saying.

Well-meaning folks, including President Bush are partly right and partly wrong in couching motivation for ongoing presence in Iraq in the "obvious" call of America to spread its brand of democracy, knowing intuitively that all nations long for the Western definition of freedom. This assumption is based on an incomplete picture of Islam and Middle Eastern culture, particularly.

Perhaps the most thoughtful proponent of this view is Michael Novak's "The Universal
Hunger for Liberty: Why the Clash of Civilizations is Not Inevitable.
" This signature work of a respected scholar is landmark enough to be required reading, but still misses the mark in its too-sweeping claim. A more nuanced; necessarily multiplex and metanarratived read on the times is Fared Zakaria's "The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad," which helpfully unpacks the ways various factors, including the "Californication of conservative Protestantism "(Mark Shibley's term), blind and bind us to the possibility of spreading a too-narrow democracy/freedom (214). And this is not necessarily to say ongoing American military presence is misguided: "We can leave fast or we can nurture democracy, but we cannot do both." (258).

All this to say whether reflecting on the praxis of freedom politically, personally, spiritually, or even economically..discern the angles well.

"Why do you Christians produce such dirty films?," a sincere Middle Eastern Muslim asked my Protestant pastor friend as they made friends in the passport line. We Westerners scratch our heads at the apparent huge leaps in logic and non-sequiturs. But it all makes sense to a Muslim mindset: Since church=state for us, it must be the same in the West. America is a Christian nation, therefore all Americans are Christian. Dirty films come out of America. Therefore, Christians in America make dirty films." Of course the faulty and fallacious syllogisms are obvious from their starting point (and our often flatly stated heresies: "America is a Christian nation," etc).For more on this unintentional ethnocentricism and framejacking , which thwarts a creative and sensitive application of freedom, see Maik Pearce's articulate and artful "Why the Rest Hates the West," to my pleasant surprise publised by an evangelical publishing house (kudos to Inter Varsity) .

All this to say, whether reflecting on the praxis of freedom politically, culturally, personally, spiritually, or even economically..discern the angles well.

Especially when thinking theologically.

So let's summarize the argument so far, and then call in two astute theologians to frame it.
Freedom sounds (Rabbi Lappin)/smells (Bono) like, and is in fact evidenced by, a recognition of norm-violation(Lappin) , which issues in laughter (Bono). And its upshot is boundless creativity and art (Berdayev, Einstein, Foster)...all Christ-contoured kenosis which is free of ethnocentricism and ego (Zakaria, Pearce). On to the interweaving of two (more) theologians germane and adept to the tricky task at hand (doublechecking the semantic and culture domains as we define "freedom") :Jurgenn Moltmann and Martin Luther King (This was such an obvious juxtaposition of bedfellows to me; but because I am a bit eclectic, I bundled and googled the two names , finding to my relief/disappointment that they had been listed together some six hundred times).

From Moltmann's seminal chapter on "The Passion of God" in "The Trinity and the Kingdom" :

"Which (particular) freedom corresponds to God's freedom? The triune God reveals himself as love in the fellowhip of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. His freedom therfore lies in the friendship he offers men and women..His fredom is vulnerable love, his openness, the encountering kindness through which he suffers with the human beings he loves and becomes their advocate, thereby throwing open their future to them" (56)

That the essence of our freedom, if it is pattened in the imago dei, then, is the vulenerable friendship of a trinitarian community. That is plently to chew on. But that it all dovetails with
an eschatological "throwing open of the future" is a connector to Martin Luther King's witness (emphases mine):

In the Black church, King knew that the people had a hope that stretched back to beginnings of the Black Christian community in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. All he had to do was to restore that hope for freedom in the songs and language of the people, and the people would respond to the content of the message. That was why King used the language of the so called negro spirituals’ in his sermons in black churches. King’s sermons always contained the hope for freedom and he always related it to his current struggles to attain freedom in this world. But when it seemed that freedom was difficult to realize in this world, Martin King did not despair but moved its meaning to an eschatological realm as defined by the Black church’s claim that ‘The world will make a way somehow’. The night before he was assassinated (3 April 1968), King, in a Black church worship service, restated that hope with the passion and certainty so typical of the Black preacher. "I don’t know what will happen now. We have got difficult days ahead but it is divine matter with me, because I’ve been on the mountain top. Like anyone else, I would like to live a long life. But I’m not concerned with that. I just want to do God’s will and he has allowed me to go up the mountain."

King’s emphasis on the eschatological hope for freedom, as defined by "the mountain top", was not derived from White theologians and philosophers, but rather from his own religious traditions. These words of faith and hope were derived from the Black people’s struggle to overcome their pain and suffering. People who have lived in the context of nearly 400 years of slavery and suffering are not likely to express an eschatological freedom. Hope in God’s coming eschatological freedom is always derived from the suffering people who are seeking to establish freedom on earth but have failed to achieve it to their perception of their humanity. In Martin King’s failure to establish freedom in his existing present, he prevented despair from becoming the defining characteristic of his life by looking forward to God’s coming, eschatological freedom. Although he had to face the threat of death daily, King denied that it had the last word, for he said in the previously quoted sermon: "I see the promised land. I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the promised land. I am happy tonight that I am not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord". It was with this accomplishment that he courageously fell to an assassin’s bullet.

Franklyn J. Balasundaram, "Martyrs in the History of Christianity"

Denying death had the last the way, precisely Bono and U2's mission in the CD/book "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb" (read Beth Maynard's blog on the book here)...ensuring that the Kingdom is at least proleptically come NOW. “I don’t expect this pie in the sky when you die stuff, "Bono preaches. "My favourite line in the Lord’s Prayer is, ‘Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is heaven. I want it all, and I want it now. Heaven on earth – now – let’s have a bit of that.'"
(p 267, Steve Stockman's 2005 edition of "Walk On: The Spiritual Journey of U2." )

Freedom is eschatological hope; which seizes the future today by a fearless, laughing, norm-violating creative art-based trust and participation in God's vulnerable freedom and heart for the oppressed.

Finally, full circle to singing. We began with Bono's vein-popping, volume 11 lyric about freedom's baby-scent. And remember that "all MLK had to do was to restore that hope for freedom in the songs and language of the people."

Ultimately, freedom can only be won if sung.

Thus, Eugene Peterson (who elsewhere has boldly placed U2's music squarely within prophetic lineage: "Amos crafted poems, Jeremiah wept sermons, Isaiah alternatively rebuked and comforted, Ezekiel did street theatre. U2 writes songs and goes on tour, singing them."), offers in a chapter titled "Free to Create":

"In Christ we are set free to create...Free creativeness is in the creature; an anwer to the great call of its Creator....(thus) dreams are creative...(and the fruit of the Spirit is ) provocative jabs toward creativity....and singing the free life."

Freedom may only materialize and matter if we are proactively postured in such a way as to be "provactively jabbed" into singing Martin Luther Kingish songs of freedom in a strange land.

Jab us, Yahweh. There's too much pain as this child is being born. But we will not be afraid of the creative act; Thou art the Midwife.

Turn on the lights. Turn up the volume and art up to eleven. Laugh as the baby arrives: giggles, defecation, and scent and image of Godhead. Risk vulnerability. Tohu! Don't be so anal retentive you can't say "baby"..or muster a holy laugh. "For all this: imagination." And big loud dreams. For such are not only signs of freedom, but signposts of the Kingdom come.... on earth; as freely, naturally, and creatively as it has come in heaven.

Smells good.

Monday, February 13, 2006

untitled photo

First Church of Binitarian Biblilolaters

At a number of camps, conferences and retreats, I simply read the following list of Scriptures; warning that they are all off by only one word. I get one word wrong every time. By the end of the list, the lesson is (hopefully) obvious.

· “Do not take Thy Holy Bible from me!”
· “’Not by might, not by power, but by my Holy Bible,’ says the Lord.”
· But before Mary and Joseph came together, she was found to be with child by the Holy Bible.” · “As Jesus was baptized, the Holy Bible descended on him, as a dove in bodily form.”
· “John baptized with water, but I have come to baptize with the Holy Bible and with fire.”
· “There will come a day when all worshippers worship correctly: in the Holy Bible and in truth.”
· “All other sins can be forgiven, even those against the Son of Man, but there is an unpardonable sin that will never be forgiven: the blasphemy against the Holy Bible.”
· “I will send you another Helper, who will counsel you, and will be like me, the Holy Bible.”
· “The Holy Bible will lead you into all truth.” · “You will receive power when the Holy Bible comes upon you” ·
“All of them were filled with the Holy Bible, and began to speak in other tongues as the Holy Bible gave them utterance”
· “Don’t worry about what to say, words will be given you; it will not be you speaking, but the Holy Bible.”
· “Go, therefore, making disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and Holy Bible…”
· “The fruit of the Holy Bible is: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, goodness, self-control.”
· “On the day of Pentecost, when they were all together in one place, the Holy Bible fell on them.”
· “Don’t be drunk with wine, but be filled with the Holy Bible”
· “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Bible?”
· “The love of God, the grace of the Lord Jesus, and the fellowship of the Holy Bible be with you all.”
· “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord,” except through the Holy Bible.”
· “Do not grieve the Holy Bible.”
· “The one who has an ear, let them hear what the Holy Bible is saying to the churches”

I could go on, but I will stop while I am behind. I am guessing you get the pointed point; sorry for the sarcasm. But I need it to take and retake this humorous but serious test in a desperate soul-searching manner ; I chuckle when I check this checklist and do the necessary substitution (“Cheat sheet” for those who haven’t yet discovered the secret: simply replace the word “Bible” with “Spirit,” and every verse above is now reloaded to read as it was written); but my laughter gives way to tears and conviction when I recognize not only the profound point (Yes, the Spirit IS more “important” than the Bible; I could live without the latter if I had to; I cannot breathe, let alone hear/see God’s voice without the Former! I am doomed  without Him; if I loose it, at least I have…ideally…previously “hidden the Word in my heart”), but also recognize myself and my creeping and creepy temptation towards bibliolatry; or at least elevating the “Holy Bible” over the Holy Spirit, which I am not convinced falls anywhere short of full-blown Bible-worship.

By now you’ve figured out that Bible Deism is not so much a theology as it is a
system that caters to personalty type. It’s a system that religiously proud,
hurt, intellectual people find hard to pass up…(it’s) much more comfortable to
relate to a book than a Person .
Raschke, Next Reformation, p255


Now, just when you thought it was safe to quit this article, I want to crank up the ante; (by adding an adjective) before we return to our regularly scheduled program ... I propose that we are not only inveterate bibliolaters, but binitarian bibiolaters, as well! Now that would certainly be a hilarious sign to put in front of a church, “BINITARIAN BIBLIOLATERS MEET HERE!”, but it is basically the sign God writes and Ichabods over us and our churches when we practice in practice what I was preaching against in theory in my string of Scriptures above: Replacing the Holy Spirit with, not just the Holy Bible, but with anything/anyone. Dropping the Dove; worshipping a truncated two-thirds trinity is binitarian (only two members to the Godhead committee), not Tri-nitarian (with the full Three not just honorary, emeritus, or non-voting members).

Risky business! But take the risk of cycling once more through my suggested two dozen verses above, and ask yourself and God in a “blatantly honest” (Mike Yaconelli’s phrase) way: How do I fall into the binitarian/bibliolatry trap?

God cannot be trapped in, contained in; restrained by the Bible, the written Word. “Extra-biblical revelation?” Again, absolutely!. As much as that phrase mentioned in a positive light is apparently the definitive and damning litmus test for a heretic or cult these days (1,120 listings found by googling that phrase, most of them frantic warnings about the unqualified heresy of any such animal). But, delicious irony, even the biblical revelation is full of sanctions of, and encouragement toward…seeking extra-biblical revelation! Reread every one of the above verses, and find that….no math degree needed here.. the Spirit is not the Bible! The Spirit leads us into all truth, not the Bible. And the Spirit says many things that are not in the Bible. (Yes, yes, I know that many horrendous abuses and heresies arise .just because someone says “God told me..” , and all cults do have in common inappropriate “extra-biblical revelation..but trashing the baby with the water is ridiculous and an adventure in completely missing the point). What card-carrying inerrantist evangelical would not claim to have received an answer to prayer? Yet how many answers to prayer consist only of a verbatim Scripture? Is “Marry Joyce” or “Move to Vancouver” or even “Turn left at the light”, or “My daughter, I love you” “in the Bible”? Of course these words are not literally found in the Bible, but can be congruent with the Written Word.

Besides a misguided fear of God speaking "outside the Bible," I sense something else is up with our bibliolatry. I may not eventually agree with Raschke at all points (Here at this link is a helpful review, suggesting ironically...and irenically...that Raschke's application of "category mistake" below is in fact a "category mistake"), but he must be wrestled with:

The “infallible” authority of Scripture, therefore, is not founded on the fact
that it contains no “errors.” The doctrine of inerrancy is thoroughly
misplaced. It is what twentieth-century philosophers have described as a
“category mistake.” A category mistake occurs when one set of terms is misapplied
to another discourse  not in “error” but confusion. British philosopher
Gilbert Ryle gave an example of a category mistake….A visitor to a university
asked to be shown around. After a tour of all the different buildings and
facilities  nd learning their names, the visitor asked indignantly, “But where
is the university?” His host was thoroughly befuddled He thought he had shown
him the university. The problem was the visitor thought the university was a
building not the ensemble of all the buildings and their relationship to each
other. Inerrancy is grounded on a kindred category mistake. The truth of
Scriptrure is “certified” by the fact that it is God’s self-revelation to us,
not all at once, but progressively….The innerrantists demand that the whole
story be “true” as a tableau of impersonal facts, when in fact the facts
themselves are signs of God’s all-encompassing and awesome presence. Nothing
about God is “impersonal.” The inerrantist, like the visitor to the university,
demands to be shown Scripture; when indeed the fulness of Scripture is the
whole person of God in Christ. If that were not the case, then Jesus would not
have gone to the cross, He would have simply written a better book.
Raschke's The Next Reformation
" p.134



“Though we may never prove it scientifically and by formula ; it seems inevitable that we will eventually taste it experientially and by faith: the arrow of time is not uniderctional, and may most fundamentally operate from, and originate in, the future ”

This created but representative quote from the field of physics, as shocking as it might sound, is so common a working assumption of post-Einstein physics that anyone conversant with the discipline will already be nodding off… blah blah, yada yada, tell me something I haven’t heard..And if you’re not a scholar for whom this is a 101 basic bonehead assumption, then the implications of the quote might ring esoteric and resound like clanging gobbledygook if you don’t get it, and resolutely ridiculous and absolutely impossible if you do. But its proposal must be wrestled with; it is neither too wild-eyed to entertain, nor too throwaway to flirt with. Don’t dare diss it; discuss it. It may well be the very keychain of the Kingdom, and that’s nothing to throw away. I must commend physicists for inviting this proposal into the professional, public and Christian areas; for whether such researchers are searchers or not; are Kingdomed (Tom Fuller’s marvelous word) or not: they are, in the language of the Kingdom’s King, “not far from the Kingdom of God” in such a suggestion.

Is it about time working backwards? Well, yes, but in a frontwards kind of way. More on that later, but I’m guessing some are scoffing , “That’s impossible!”. Of course it’s impossible. That’s precisely and prophetically why we must consider it possible:

“’You speak of impossibilties, ’ interrupted the King. ‘You must have seen a vision.’”
(p.59, Flatland)

“For only one thing is impossible with God: nothing.”
(Luke 1:37)

No wonder Einstein required his disciples to read the first book quoted above. No wonder Einstein’s creator requires His disciples to be read and heed the second Book noted above. Both teachers intuitively knew that there is something radically freeing in at least opening oneself to…at least for the science’s sake, if not for Christ’s sake…the possibility of impossible possibilities. Otherwise, no human could muster a mustard seed of hope. Without hope, we die. Inveterately we live in hoplessness; inevitably we die of and by it. No theologian has pondered this in a more profound and practical way than Jurgen Moltmann. Watch the astute linking he establishes between hope, the future and possibilty:

Since Christian faith lives in hope, there is only one realproblem in Christian theology—the problem of thefuture—and hope is the foundation of theologicalthinking as such. Moltmann takes a strong stand againstthe mysticism of being because he thinks it presupposesan immediacy to God which the faith that believesin God on the ground of Christ cannot validly adopt.Future-oriented, he rejects much of the Hellenic worldview. For him, all knowledge in faith is anticipatoryand fragmentary; its mobilizing force is hope, throughthe medium of which all theological judgments func-tion as showing reality its future possibilities. More-over, “creative action springing from faith is impossiblewithout new thinking and planning that springs fromhope” (Moltmann, “Theology of Hope” 1967, p. 35).

Moltmann's theology of hope understands history as a reality
instituted bypromise. That is, there is a relation between promissio and missio such that the Christian consciousness ofhistory is a consciousness of mission. In this view, then,the reality of man is historic and progressive, andrevelation too is progressive in that it creates progress.
Dictionary of the History of Ideas, p, 215

Revelation is progressive, and it does indeed lead to progress. But it may well be that, like time itself could be, and like the Kingdom itself clearly is…such life-saving and crucial hope is God- gift from the future to the present; progress progresses from the future, and unfolds and completes and lands in the present time.

So, anyone wanting or needing hope (that’s all who are breathe, as Hugo was hugely right: “Hope is the word written on the brow of every man”), and at least claiming a spirit of honest enquiry must… by default or design... “do” theoretical theology…in a way that hopes least hopes to hope for..the impossible. Only then, as the power and promise of the “future and hope” (Jeremiah 29:11) unfold among us in the her-and-now, can the “creative action springing from faith” spring at all. It’s our only hope! “It impossible for hope to disappoint,” according to the bold blanket promise of Paul in Romans 5:5, for at heart it is hope that actually “saves us” (Romans 8:24). Find it impossible and hopeless to risk believing in God? Fine, “try on” a temporary believing anyway, and see what happens. What do you have to lose?, Pascal’s famous wager still asks. Find it impossible to believe that the arrow of time might, against all odds and impossibilities, also “run backwards”? Fine, even if you have no reason; “test drive” the temporary and tentative belief and hope for season, and watch what just might emerge. What do you have to gain? Lots, even to the degree of witnessing your life changed and rearranged in wild and wonderful ways you never had even conceived or hoped for when you innocently started this essay. That’s the scope and sweep of this chapter, and I indeed wager the farm on it.

So you don’t have to check your brain at the door to continue in good conscience, but I do recommend adopting the timeless wisdom of the mystics: “descend with the mind into the heart.” Read that again, make and manuever the descent; even if it calls for a radical dismantling. Then your descent down the page will flow more naturally.

What’s “up” with all this descent? And what’s going on with all this talk about the direction of time’s arrow? Back to the Future? Back From the Future? Time travel? Maybe, but basically it’s just back to Jesus’ keynote sermon: “The Kingdom of God (which operates and originates in the future) has now arrived (in the present). Therefore, turn yourselves and your understanding around”

Anyone familiar with the life message of Fuller Seminary’s George Eldon Ladd will be able to summarize: Jesus’s gospel is all about the Kingdom of God, a reality which belongs first and foremost to the future (the “age To Come”); invading and lopping over into the present (“this age”). Why was Jesus murdered? For daring to teach that, in Him, the Kingdom had already begun to come on earth as it is in heaven. Inextricable from a Jewish concept of the Kingdom of God is that such a reality..because it is the property of the future messianic age, and age and time completely wall it off from this current, evil, earthly age.
One could only preview the Kingdom prophetically; not view (postview?) it proleptically. Jesus and Paul ..and God..being good Jews. clearly pick up on this teaching , and do not subvert, highjack or framyank it, but are consisitent and insistent with its tenor, but recogogize that in Jesus, the Impossible has come; the eagle has landed. By the Spirit they steer this existing theology towards its shocking and inevitable “holy coda” and (il)logical extreme: Even though these two ages are dichotomized and walled off, in the invasion of the impossible that Jesus has inaugurated, the future has come; and by definition it can only wander in from one direction: “backwards” from the end of the timeline, and ..against all known laws of physics of the day (but not against what contemporary physics has since discovered, which is precisely the point of this essay and its exuberance) into the currency of our “current” life. Eternity, a gift from and of the future, has begun visiting, affecting and effecting time. Kingdom is “here and now” and not merely “then and there.” Reversibility is irreversible. Every good and perfect blessing one receives from God is a gift, not from the past (though we are historically rooted, ..especially in the crucifixion/resurrection event), from the future.

“The presence of the Kingdom of God was seen as God’s dynamic reign invading the present age without (completely) transforming it into the age to come, ” (p.149, The Presence of the Future.”) Ladd asserts; taking careful and prayerful note of the necessary “inaugurated but not fully conumamted,” creative teension of the “now and not yet” mix which has caused so much fuss and ink to be spilled by theologinas. Unfortuntaley, we are not comfortbale living in paradox and creative tension. Yet the tension is designed to snag our attention. And it got the attention and guard of the religious leaders/theologians of Jesus day alright; the only filter they had for him was heretic. He broke the kingdom/two age teaching, or so they thought. In reality, of course, he came to “fulfill, not destroy.” Ladd gets this: it is this in-breaking without a change of age that is the very springoard of Jesus’ message and ministry.

Since have acknowledged the cruciality (literally, “cruc” as in “cross”) and crux (ditto for word origin) of our faith’s history , it is wisdom to park here for awhile and ponder the past. For one, to ensure and insure our grounding at the cross’s historical and holy ground.. Secondly, to trace the grounding wires of this holy grounding from the cross(an event in the past) to the Kingdom (a future “event” which embraces and encompasses the present and past)..or vice versa. Appropriate also at this juncture to quote a fiction writer, as isn’t that the best way to get a handle on non-fiction? No don’t worry, we won’t jump to HG Wells’s Time Machine or Zemeckis and Gale’s “back to the Fture. Let’s start a little more squarely in Christian orthodoxy; with the master of Christian fiction and non-fiction.” In “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” a volume in C.S. Lewis’s “Chronicles of Narnia, it is said of Aslan, the Christ-figure, and his substitutionary death on a “table”:

'When a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor's stead, the table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards.'"

Death working backwards; time works backwards, reversing the curse…but it’s all historically grounded in a specific “time and place” table ..even if in another dimension, or parallel universe/parallel time. Too wild? Hey, note, in the definitive “non-fiction” book, “when” the crucixion happened: “before the creation of the world,” or “before time began.” Historic? Prehistoric? Post-historical? Choose the prefix to affix: trans-, sur-, pan-, etc. Jesus died before being born? The cross before creation? Time out! (Exactly! Literally!)

The Lord will watch your back

Watch the "the Lord will watch your back"segment of Pastor Paul Hewson's sermon at the National Prayer Breakfast.

Or read/watch the whole thing here.

No wonder Pastor Eugene Peterson calls him a prophet.

temple tantrum/ which curtain was torn?

"Behind the second curtain was a room called the Holy of Holies"
-Hebrews 9:3

We all know "the curtain of the temple was torn in two as Jesus died."

And most assume it was the curtain separating the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies, meaning Jesus provides direct access to God.

Good and true that he does that, and it is the proper "evangelical answer"..

but what if the temple torn in two was not the second curtain (or second curtain only),
but the first..

what would the implications be?

The first curtain separated the outer court from the Holy Place; the second curtain, Scripture speaks of dividing the Holy Place and Holy of Holies..

So Jesus here would be dying not only to give us direct access to God, but to provide "direct access to direct access" to the foreigner/outcast/leper/prostitute....the folks who normally couldn't step beyond the outer court into the Holy Place, let alone the inner place, the Holy of Holies.

Why don't most evangelicals know there was a first curtain? And recognize that we may have re-built it in our time..

Most think Jesus's "temple tantrum" was due to his being ticked off about folks selling stuff in church. But he didn't say "Quit selling stuff in church" , but "My house shall be a house of prayer for all nations," quoting Is 56:6-8, whose context is all about letting foreigners and outcasts have a place..hmmm. He was likely upset that not that Dovesellers and money changers were doing business selling and changing , but that they were doing so in the "outer court," the only place where "foreigners" could have a pew at "attend church." They were making the temple area "a den of thieves" not (just) by overcharging for Doves and money, but by robbing folks..'all nations'... of a place to pray..and to "access access" to God.

I am glad at least a few pastors( here and here and here) are brave enough admit to their congregations that there were two curtains, and that this "alternative view" might be correct.

Consider and stretch re: the curtain issue below by way of three excerpts below...
perhaps the 3rd article jacks things up by building the case from the very shape of Scripture. Cheers!

>Note:See also Howard M. Jackson's "The Death of Jesus in Mark and the Miracle from the Cross," NTS 33, 1987)

>R.C. Sproul also comments:
"It actually does not matter much which curtain was torn, for the tearing of either one can incorporate the meaning of the tearing of the other."



Many people teach that the curtain that was torn in the Temple was the curtain that separated the Holy of Holies from the Holy Place. Did you know that there were two curtains in the Sanctuary?

Hebrews 9:3 “Behind the second curtain was a room called the Most Holy Place,” And Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance has this to say about the second “curtain” (the Greek word used here is “katapetasma”) in the Sanctuary: katapetasma { kat-ap-et’-as-mah} “The name given to the two curtains in the temple at Jerusalem, one of them at the entrance to the temple separated the Holy Place from the outer court, the other veiled the Holy of Holies from the Holy Place.”

There were two curtains in the Sanctuary. I don’t think that
the curtain that separated the Holy of Holies from the Holy Place was the
curtain torn in two [Matthew 27:50-51]. Rabbi Sha’ul (the apostle Paul) reminds
us that Messiah (Yeshua) is not divided or torn in two [1Corinthians 1:13]. All
of this would mean that God is calling all believers (male and female) in the
New Covenant to become ministering priests before Him -

-G.M. Maurer

2)Jesus is crucified. When he dies, the temple curtain is torn in two, from top to
bottom, the sky darkens, an earthquake shakes the earth. As anyone might
remember who saw the Jazz Singer with Neil Diamond, a Jewish father might tear
his clothes when his son dies... so, in effect, God tears the veil when his
beloved son dies. There were two curtains associated with the Temple. One was a
huge tapestry that hung outside with an image of the night sky woven into it.
The other was the veil that hung inside the temple that separated the Holy of
Holies from the rest of the temple... which temple curtain tore? I thought David
Ulansey's analysis was interesting, found here.
(Note, the analysis is copied below as
quote #3)
-Dan McAfee, link


by David Ulansey [Originally published in Journal of Biblical Literature 110:1 (Spring 1991) pp. 123-25]:

In the past few years, several different scholars have argued that there was a connection in the mind of the author of the Gospel of Mark between the tearing of the heavens at the baptism of Jesus (Mk 1:10) and the tearing of the temple veil at the death of Jesus (Mk 15:38). [1] The purpose of the present article will be to call attention to a piece of evidence which none of these scholars mentions, but which provides dramatic confirmation of the hypothesis that the tearing of the heavens and the tearing of the temple veil were linked in Mark's imagination. [2]

To begin with, we should note that the two occurrences of the motif of tearing in Mark do not occur at random points in the narrative, but on the contrary are located at two pivotal moments in the story-- moments which, moreover, provide an ideal counterpoint for each other: namely, the precise beginning (the baptism) and the precise end (the death) of the earthly career of Jesus. This significant placement of the two instances of the motif of tearing suggests that we are dealing here with a symbolic "inclusio": that is, the narrative device common in biblical texts in which a detail is repeated at the beginning and the end of a narrative unit in order to "bracket off" the unit and give it a sense of closure and structural integrity.

Indeed, in his 1987 article, "The Rending of the Veil: A Markan Pentecost," S. Motyer points out that there is actually a whole cluster of motifs which occur in Mark at both the baptism (1:9-11) and at the death of Jesus (15:36-39). In addition to the fact that at both of these moments something is torn, Motyer notes that: (1) at both moments a voice is heard declaring Jesus to be the Son of God (at the baptism it is the voice of God, while at the death it is the voice of the centurion); (2) at both moments something is said to descend (at the baptism it is the spirit-dove, while at the death it is the tear in the temple veil, which Mark explicitly describes as moving downward), (3) at both moments the figure of Elijah is symbolically present (at the baptism Elijah is present in the form of John the Baptist, while at Jesus' death the onlookers think that Jesus is calling out to Elijah); (4) the spirit (pneuma) which descends on Jesus at his baptism is recalled at his death by Mark's repeated use of the verb ekpneo (expire), a cognate of pneuma. [3]

According to Motyer, the repetition by Mark of this cluster of motifs at both the baptism and the death of Jesus constitutes a symbolic inclusio which brackets the entire gospel, linking together the precise beginning and the precise end of the earthly career of Jesus. Seen in this context, the presence at both moments of the motif of something being torn is unlikely to be coincidental. However, at this point an important question arises: if there was indeed a connection for Mark between the tearing of the heavens and the tearing of the temple veil, which veil was it that he had in mind? For the fact is, of course, that there were two famous veils associated with the Jerusalem temple.

It has been debated for centuries which veil it was that Mark was referring to: was it the outer veil, which hung in front of the doors at the entrance to the temple, or the inner veil which separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the temple? [4] Many interpreters have assumed that it was the inner veil, and have understood the tearing of the veil to have been Mark's way of symbolizing the idea that the death of Jesus destroyed the barrier which separated God from humanity. Recently, however, favor seems to have shifted to the view that it was the outer veil, the strongest argument for which is that Mark seems to have intended the awestruck response of the centurion to the manner of Jesus' death (Mk 15:39) to have been inspired by his seeing the miraculous event of the tearing of the veil, but he could only have seen this event if it was the outer veil that tore, since the inner veil was hidden from view inside the temple. [5]

In his 1987 article "The Death of Jesus in Mark and the Miracle from the Cross," Howard Jackson argues that the question of which veil it was that Mark was referring to can be easily answered if we acknowledge that there was a link in Mark's imagination between the tearing of the heavens at the baptism of Jesus and the tearing of the temple veil at his death. For, says Jackson, if there was a parallel in Mark's mind between the tearing of the heavens and the tearing of the temple veil, then Mark must also have intended there to be a parallel between Jesus at the baptism and the centurion at the crucifixion: just as Jesus witnessed the tearing of the heavens, so the centurion witnessed the tearing of the temple veil. But, as we have already noted, the centurion could only have witnessed the tearing of the veil if it was the outer veil, since the inner veil was hidden from view. Thus it must have been the outer veil that Mark had in mind. [6]

Jackson's argument is suggestive although certainly not conclusive. However, there exists a piece of evidence which Jackson does not mention in his discussion which, I believe, provides decisive proof that Mark had in mind the outer veil of the temple, and which also provides rather spectacular confirmation of the existence in Mark's imagination of a link between the tearing of the heavens and the tearing of the temple veil.

The evidence to which I refer consists of a passage in Josephus's Jewish War in which he describes the outer veil of the Jerusalem temple as it had appeared since the time of Herod. According to Josephus, this outer veil was a gigantic curtain 80 feet high. It was, he says, a

Babylonian tapestry, with embroidery of blue and fine linen, of scarlet also and purple, wrought with marvelous skill. Nor was this mixture of materials without its mystic meaning: it typified the universe....

Then Josephus tells us what was pictured on this curtain:

Portrayed on this tapestry was a panorama of the entire heavens.... [7] [emphasis mine]

In other words, the outer veil of the Jerusalem temple was actually one huge image of the starry sky! Thus, upon encountering Mark's statement that "the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom," any of his readers who had ever seen the temple or heard it described would instantly have seen in their mind's eye an image of the heavens being torn, and would immediately have been reminded of Mark's earlier description of the heavens being torn at the baptism. This can hardly be coincidence: the symbolic parallel is so striking that Mark must have consciously intended it.

We may therefore conclude (1) that Mark did indeed have in mind the outer veil, and (2) that Mark did indeed imagine a link between the tearing of the heavens and the tearing of the temple veil-- since we can now see that in fact in both cases the heavens were torn-- and that he intentionally inserted the motif of the "tearing of the heavenly veil" at both the precise beginning and at the precise end of the earthly career of Jesus, in order to create a powerful and intriguing symbolic inclusio.

-David Ulansey

What Can Church Learn From the Police Dept?

What Can Church Learn From the Police Dept?
I wrote this about a year ago...after being arrested by the Chief of lunch

Whenever I do it, I grow and stretch; and hopefully morph more into the image of the Messiah that I am called to reflect. This holy stretching happens every time I intentionally poise and position myself far enough out of the box, and church, to ask, with no strings or preconceptions, : "What can I learn about God/church/faith from _______________?" And I recklessly fill in the blank with anything (that's the point); especially those persons, technologies, and entities that at a lazy first glance would seem as far removed from Christian mentors as I am from perefectly reflecting; never deflecting, said Messiah.

It's often precisely those people and groups that are not quite Christized than can catapult us into the most productive stretching - learning curves. "All truth ," if it is indeed as we have cliched it, "God's truth"; then we ought to "expect to expect" some of its richest gold to be embedded among the dross and dregs of culture. Could it be that a benevolent Man of stealth wealth with a holy wink in His eye, has buried it there, and now watches expectantly on hidden camera and on tiptoe; hoping to Himself that some day, He'll catch some band of appropriately-greedy, religion-free prospectors boldy coming along, intentionally and eagerly seeking and finding it. Intentionally is the word he's underlining here: he hopes they'll "take initiative by God's initiative" and come; as opposed to tripping over the lid of the treasure chest, and continuing on the way to "church"; assuming it was only trash. But wait a minute, we're not even allowed in that neighborhood, anyway; so how can we even be encouraged, let alone sanctioned to explore and plunder the goldmine, for Christ's sake?... Unless that is the only Sake and Stock we have. I modestly propose we need to explore more often , and with the same wild and wide-eyed joy of the Holy Embedder who has planted such gold among the thorns, ask daringly "What can I learn from the gold to be found in________,?" It may not be politically correct to speak of plundering Egyptians, but it would be good politics to, if you are not familiar with the implications of that biblical analogy for the task and gold at hand, look it up and live it a "theologically correct" way, of course...

So it's really not that large of a stretch, and a modestly modest proposal ask, for the rest of this article, what I/church can glean from the philosophical principles of... say..let's see.... the Fresno Police Department! (You were afraid I was gong to suggest fellowshipping with neoNazis, eh? Next article, maybe!) After all, police departments at their best are clearly after some "compatible with the Kingdom" goals: healthy communities, bettering society etc., right? Is anyone in favor of rampant crime, ruthless murder, societal lawlessness? Sure, some well-meaning churchfolk would Pharisee us into saying we shouldn't mess with plundering potential gold-lessons from even "good" "secular" groups..companies, police departments and the like... because we, as the church, are too "spiritual," and don't even want to be accused of trying to learn from(holy gasp!), let alone incorporate insights (holy heresy!) from "worldly" folk or organizations. The Gold-Hiding Head of the Church, however, actually challenges us in Luke 16:9 to purposely and purposefully "use worldly methods and even worldy wealth" for Kingdom lessons and ends: "Be wise in the same way the worldly are wise..but for right and godly purposes and reasons." This of course is the same irreligious, non-gnostic, rule-breaking Jesus who dared to commision His goldmining gang to be "as sneaky as snakes and as docile as doves" ( Matthew 1o:16) .

I confess, then, I am not yet snake-like enough. I; as an entrenched enchuched person; have a lot to learn, from snakes and pagans, let alone the police. Not to say those three groups are interchangeable!..

...Especially here in Fresno,California. Jerry Dyer, the chief of police, is a Christian.

Now, if you are prematurely saying "yay!" for the wrong reason: "Wow, they have a "Christian police chief! Good news!"; or as some readers I now see, are prematurely saying, "That may be the bad news'. Both sides imagining, by the way, another bully-pulpit sherriff, with Bible and badge both aimed at converting the town against their pagan will." Keep reading. Humble, honest; yet public and unabashed chaser after Christ describes Chief Dyer. He gracefully , not grandiosely, moves in the Matthew 10:16 balance of power. Having allowed the Lord to navigate him through the crucible of personal tragedy and moral failure has authenticated his witness via the requisite and real brokennness. He is not proud of his humility either! Chief has earned his stripes (literally) and his authority. I remember his inauguraration ceremony..or do I I mean worship service? Yes, that's what it was: both/and. I left the sanctuary..excuse me, government hall... remarking to a fellow pastor, " That was one of the most awesome worship services I have been to. " He amened me.

By the way, for the's what I don't mean, and couldn't amen about a worship service/chief of police installation: A hijacking of state by church...or vice versa, which is also a vice...; a grandstanding "enpulpiting" of Christian entree into a public arena and event. The installation liturgy was not hardwired with a "sinner's prayer" where all present accepted the Republican party as their personal Savior, "Let's all worship the stars, stripes and cross; and take back our heathen city for Jesus!", yada yada. Instead, the unsassuming yet uncompromisng faith of the chief earned him incredible favor in simply sharing his story: warts and all; Jesus and all., as he accepted the mantle of his office. His self-effacing , and even "sneaky as a snake and docile as a dove" style granted him the ability to choose the hymns, prayers and pastors that contoured the ceremony in a way that amazingly eschewed triumphalism.; and might even have left the most hardened blue-state ACLUer (Hey, "What can the church learn from the ACLU?") at least picketless, if not accidentally defenseless and humming and hymning along.

To the goldmine then. When I heard that the chief, and the five regional captains who work under him..better yet, alongside him...were to speak to a lunch meeting of Christian leaders; I went eagerly..with gusto for the gold. My only question when I arrived was why didn't I see anyone else taking notes? My prospects for prospecting were encouraged by the official title: something like "The Fresno Police Department's Philosophy and Approach." I came with ears attuned, and prospector's axe sharpened, to hear a talk, for all pracitical and prophetic purposes, "What Can the Church Learn From the Police Department?" I have no idea of the chief was aware of the cross-disciplinary framejacking that he had encouraged, and I was about to commit.

I was not disappointed with the notes; I am about to let you look over my shoulder at them. But I was surprised at how much the simple presentation atmsophered like a senior pastor sharing the vision for the systemic organization of his church; while letting his five associate pastors also speak and testify. Kind of a new wineskin church growth seminar...lunch included. Maybe that's part of who why we are to pray for civic leaders, and why they are "God-instituted authorities over you,": in a very real but underappreciated sense they are pastors/gatekeepers of the city, and the church in a given city. Even if, especially if, they are technically "unconverted."
By the way, and speaking of conversion, as I convert my mess of glossalalic steno-scribblings into a coherent computerized version thereof, I will not work hard at overly organizing my thoughts and outline, nor at drawing out extended specific appplications. For one, I hope the bridge from police to church world will be fairly obvious; even if it is a bridge less travelled.

Mostly, though, because I want the conversation to emerge among all of us in the Christ-community as we go "golding" together. Which leads directly to the first lesson: In a touching and genuine moment, Dyer taught me again how to be a leader/pastor; head of staff without being head of state; a strong leader realizing strength is in the team...working and golding together. He basically gave all the credit to our city's noted turnaround in crime to..not himself, not God (at least not directly), but the five captains that "God gave me." I love hearing senior pastors bragging and blessing on their staff like that, especially when they really mean it (!) it's actually true(!!) and they gladly confess it publicly (!!!). He truly belives in his leaders, trusts them implicitly, and knows that he should spend quality time with them, sharing his heart and home with them..and not just as a smokescreen for forcefeeding his "vision" onto them or barking out organizational commadments (Pastor types; take copius notes). He took no spotlight for himself, but sneakily as a snake-dove, astutuely repositioned it towards his associates, preferring them over himself (I was tempted to stand and read Phillipians 2:1-11, then adding "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing"...but heavy mistake and huge irony that would have been, it would've cost the point and lost the chief's reward. But I do recommend inserting a careful reading of it right now).

The catch is, an astute observer of Fresno's Police Department will recognize that much of the turnaround has indeed been captained and implemented by the city's senior pastor..uh, chief..and his leadership style. A style that apparently is downwardly mobile enough to include the oft-quoted but little-followed leadership maxim, "There's no limit to what God can do through a leader who doesn't care who gets the credit." . After each regional captain shared about the happenings, flavor, problems and turnarounds of their particular zone of the city, Chief Dyer would immediately follow-up with an enthusiastic statement like, "Here's something Captain _____neglected to share...". He then would praise one specific sucess of that regional captain. As a pastor, this is something I always have tried to do with staff in public moments. I thought I learned it from John Maxwell, but I experienced it incarnated with Chief Dyer. It was encouraging and emotional to see the tangible comraderie and trust, and telltale good-natured teasing and hugs that spoke volumes of the health the chief has intentionally "life-blooded" the system with. He is not afraid to "boldy C.E.O. where no one has gone before," but he has simultaneously turned the classic hierarchichal organizational flow-chart upside down. New wineskin leadership can do that; the Wine is even sweeter. But Old Guard Guardians, self-appointed keepers of the wine and wineskin desire both, as well as that flow chart, under lock and key. Oops, I am preaching...

In a city such as ours that has been blessed with some nationally-recognized ("What is God Doing in Fresno?", Christianity Today asked) passion and impetus towards citywide unity, a city in which the motto, "One church, four hundred fifty branch offices" has taken hold, walls have been broken down. Some we are still chipping away at. And we can , now more than ever, fall into the temptation to trust that we have arrived, and neglect to actualize the unity in practical ways. And many sectors of the city have not heard of Christianity Today....the magazine, let alone the reality. So when I heard one of the captains state, "Now the chuches in our zone finally see themselves as one congregation," that was exactly the kind of gold-advice I was scouting for. The secret? What kickstarted the "now'? What finally birthed the "finally" to this often quixotic quest for John 17:23? When police first started seriously looking to churches to partner with (is that radical enough?), they found pastors whose church buildings were literally two blocks from each other, but didn't not just know each other (sin enough!); they didn't even know each other's names! If we are in actuality one Christian congregation in the city, such a disconnect is not only unacceptable, but impossible. Thus someone has to intercede; that's all God is looking for. I love and suusbcribe to Walter Wink's definition of intercession: "spiritual defiance of what is, in the name of what God has promised." Since God has promised we are one Body, someone had to intercede, intervene and defy the non-Christian reality of local Christianity (what "is", but is not of God) of pastors not knowing their brothers/neighbor's names, congregations or situations two doors down. Who rose to that prophetic task, on Christ's and the city's behalf? Not me, to my shame. It was the police department's zone captain (pastor) who took the amazing historic defiant step of...actually introducing pastors too each other! A basic function of apostolic ministry. Yes, and for a "secular" reason: to work together on crime, etc. But why did it take the intervention of the police department to call a meeting that should have been the norm and form from the beginning? Perhaps because they are, as Paul lays out, "servant-messengers appointed by God," but perhaps also because the church has a lot to learn from "secular" sources. The zone captain went on to talk about police and church sponsored block parties, incuding one where 22 people gave their lives to Christ. This was not quoted in a gloating, "got some converts" way; in fact, I do not even know if this captain is a Christian. But he knew Christians working together,and reproducing 'after their own kind" can be an answer to the city's problems and the church's prayers. " We can't do it without you," this captain earnestly promied and begged; this captain who had in fact (to our shame) done something without u: gotten 70 pastors together in same room..unheard of in many locales. Unless the church can learn from police, I guess. "I looked and looked for someone to stand in the gap and intercede," the Lord complained in Ezekiel 22:30, "and I found one!" In another (Isaiah 63:5) frantic churchcombing search for apostolic citywide gapstanders, he admits he found no one, and had to do it himself. I hope in our day he has some willing police offers, and maybe even a handful of us pastors. Who met at the police-sponsored meeting. The alternative, as spoken the chilling conclusion to the Ezekiel word( 22:31), is decidedly not a desired outcome. Yikes!

The lessons went on. Again, it won't take much imagination to make application to church (But it will require imagination to imagineer the lessons into the church life). These are all things we learned in Sunday School..or seminary..but may have to learn afresh from God's chosen prophets, the police. How about how the PD has developed a network of neigborhood cell groups, strategic listening posts constituted by both officers and citizens, officers who actually know the citizens! Small and strategic groups with mapping centers, information sharing to do some damage to the "enemy's camp". Bring the applications on. I want the cells in our fellowship to be more like that, Wolfgang Simson, a taxi-driving apostle, in "Houses That Change the World," suggests that such Kingdom outposts are " persecution proof".: terrorists, for example, can't destroy the "church" in any city, beacuse having realized it's not about buildings or fiefdoms anyway, they are people clustered all over the city, and in tune with the God, the world, and the war at hand.

Chief Dyer spoke of the following five "prongs" of the Fresno PD's approach. I realize that when I suggest them as appropriate models to goldmine, I realize that part of the current Kingdom mess is we have instead been golddiggers, not goldminers, here. We have in fact , obeyed them, but in a wholesale whoredom way; bending them consumeristically, and steered them down a faulty fundamentastic dead-end. No pot of gold at the end of that line. So here what I am NOT saying, in addition to what I am.

1)Identify trends quickly so we can deploy quickly. Hello, church? Enough said? I'm not here to trend-surf, and the church has certainly baptized trends and bastardized herself thereby, but I want instead to line myself and church up with the lineage of Isachaar people, who in the "timely for our times" words of1 Chronicles 12:32, understood both the times they were living in AND the Lord they were living under..."grasped the times, and what the Lord wanted his people to do". Now there's a tribe I want to number myself among; one that is capturing kairos.who simply caught the times and tides, understood the word and the world , and deployed quickly with specific marching orders. For thsi church this may start with reading George Barna books, but it cannot end there. And the "deployees" cannot be galvanized Gonzo-guerillas for the culture war; but Isacharian, Dyer-like, goldmining disciples who venture out of their aforementioned cells (having there identified trends, done spiritual mapping, charted God-sightings, consulted with police and God) to terrorize the devil, outsnaking the snake, all while as docile as doves.

2) Strong enforcement Towards this end, traffic safety has been a huge thrust in our city. Would-be speeders, for example, complain they can't get away with anything...a cop on every corner! We had twenty four traffic-control officers two years ago, and eighty-five now, all without a dime's increase in budget or taxes! The answer is astounding yet obvious: this department is self-funding. As long as therev are violators who get fined! It's an "abuser fee" when it happens, which may relate to Kingdom economics, try it out). Now the church application should not be about "traffic cop" pastors on every corner, and legislating morality in a shame -inducing way. Been there, shamed that. We as church don't anymore need to "should" on people; we have tried legislating morality. But the police deaprtment's motive, though obviously, literally and necessarily "legislative," is intrinsically motivated by a preventative grace-shaped approach. As simplistic as it sounds, the chief knows that lives are saved when violators are approriately stoppe and fined. The captains spoke almost in tears about how Chief Dyer takes personally any life lost in Fresno due to traffic or crime. His mission is saving lives. Isn't mine? The department brings in five million dollars a year on towinng fees alone..none of which goes to PD office parties, or raises, but back into the traffic control department, whuch is not just about getting people to "stop sinning," but saving lives. (No, the "towing fee" aplkication may not justify the sign spotted outside a church/convent: "No Parking. Violators Will Be Towed....--The Sisters of Mercy.")

3Relentless follow-up, especially in cases of violent crime. No, no, please no relentless and repentless "follow up" to church visitors, at least the version that seeks their scalps and souls in a home visit ins alim sady disguise of "thank you for coming to church." That's rape; something the police..and the church..are supposed to be against. Because we are FOR people. So if there is any relentlessness to follow-up, let it be in the vein of what Brennan Manning (what a police officer he would be!), coins the "relentless tenderness of Jesus"; such fierce mercy manifested in His people that it blesses a church and city by its careful care. I simply cannot give up on anybody; in the Body or without. I have to see God-potential in criminals, including (as T-Bone Burnett sings) the "criminal under my own hat" who needs loving and relentless mercy and follow-up.

The church needs to dream up new ways to follow up, instaed of letting an explosion of evanglism scare them off prematurely. One version of this is still door-to-door, admittedly...but has to do with a church distributing free items (drinks, flyswatters, toilet paper) all to "show God's love in a practical way." This is one brand of what Steve Sjogren has called "servant evanglelism," amd gains us the huge privilege of entrance into people's homes, not so we can recite a canned outline all over them, or sign them up to join a committee, but so we can hear their story with relentless mercy, "especially in cases of violent crime," which by the definition of John 10:10, every resident on our block has been victimized by. Don't let the police be the first to knock on their door. Be sneaky doves, and knock first.

4) Building relationships of trust within and without the department. "We have 467 standards to comply to if we want to be accredited and awarded...and though we plan to meet those standards, but we can win all the certificates and awards in the book, but if the people don't feel safe, it's all meaningless." Sounds like Jesus harassing the "long-flowing robes" and titled leaders of his day, but again it's Chief Dyer blessing the police department of his. It's also 1 Corinthians 13.

5)Partnering with all sectors and segments of the community, especially the faith-based.
The Chief admits that he is unshamed in seeking huge help from churches and faith-based groups, "not because I am believer in Christ..."and with a pregnant pause, he made this my favorite prophetic quote of the day. "..but because I am a believer in Christ's people. " Wow, I want to be like that.

The police in Fresno partner alright: with apartment managers, through Care Fresno, a creative cooperative project of church, police, apartment managers and schools (ever put those all in the same sentence, let alone the same room?). The apartment managers come to the table because they have graffiti on their buildings and drugslords in them. But the table they come to is often a church table. Because the police in our city, whether or not they believe in Christ like their chief, believe that teh local church is the hope of the city. Which is why last year, for "Family Awareness Day." an annual gathering of chuches to celebrate family, the police brought the bouncehouses. While one church practice "servant evangelism." They may have ven set up the stage for the gospel musicians. Forgive me if this reminds me of the old joke about the Christian lady who prayed out loud on her porch, "Lord, you know I'm broke and need groceries. Please help me!" Her atheist neigbor overheard, and decided to teach this believer a lesson. He bought groceries and that night, snuck them onto his neigbor's proch and waited. When she came out, and discovered them, she of course shouting "Thank for my groceries!" The neighbor jumped out of hiding and annouced"Aha! There is No Lord! I bought those grocreies, not the Lord! She immiediately shot back; "Thank you Lord, for the groceries..even though the devil payed for them!"

And please, I beg large forgiveness not just for the joke, but for appearing to compare the police department to the devil (I'm not). But God loves to use "secular" sources, sources we believe are demonized, to faciliate and pastor things like... buying groceries, manning bouncehouses. This is no advocating a loosey-goosey ecumenism and "fellowshipping with darkness." It's just recognizing that every good and "perfect gift comes from God" do the partially good and imperfect gifts..they are still gifts. And thus of God. What more could we ask for than a police officer setting up the gospel tent? That's a goo and nearly perfect Holy Spirit set-up.
And tas those hsoe concerned about the chuch "taking" worldy weatlh...Mammon even ..remember it was Jesus, not his enemy, who commanded and demanded us to do just that. I that gold tainted? "Mammon" is a name of a spirit!

Other goals the chief mentioned for the department are below. I will comment on a few, you all fill in:

1)Respond to calls for servcice in a timely fashion, especially "Priority Zero": life treatening cases.
2)Proactive approach to crime fighting.

3)Proactive approach to traffic safety

Here maybe think about "traffic" in church. How safe is it? It is by definition 'dancing with porcupines," especially on the way to the "worship wars." Brennan Manning again, on the main problem with Christianity: Christians. So any help in "letting us all get along" is welcome.
Fresno, I believe, the chief said has the most traffic checkpoints of anywhere in the nation. Now, I am against church checkpoints, if they are of the kind that Jesus overturned in the temple. His temple tantrum wa not about folks "selling stuff in church." It was about something far more offensive: Racism. Denying a particular people a place to worship. The moneychangers and dovesellers had set up their booths and boxes smack in the middle of the Court of the Gentiles, the only place allowed for non-Jews to worship. No wonder Jesus was ticked. But note he said "My house shall be a house of prayer for all nations." Not "Thou shalt not sell stuff in church!" And having recently returned from Bethlehem, where thee Israeli/Palsetine situation has been "made real on the ground" by Checkpoint Charlies and barbed wire, I wonder how often default or desgn, set up borders, walls, checkpoints.

We do want checkpoints, but to let folks in, not keep them out. Here I refer and defer to the
extremely helpful "bounded set versus centered set" articles I have culled.

I was thrilled to hear that the zone captain for my region gave a "testimony" about how one day he pulled weeds and rased graffit in our area...and I don't think it was a mandate from HQ..again, it was built into the DNA of the system. I want to be more like that. I hope if anone spots me around town, knowing the rumor that I am a Christian type..even a "clergy" type...I will be found doing something as Kingdom as that.

I am going to quit, hopefully before I'm behind. Because I am indeed behind on the learning curve, and I am anxious to hear from you on the topic: "What Can the Church Learn From the Police Department?". There's gold there, share the wealth you see, regarding your local PD, library board, my friend who is director of that entity all about his I can learn about Jesus, church and life!.

We are blessed in Fresno in many ways. Not just because the Chief of Police is born again. But beacuse the whole system and society is in the birth pangsof being born again. And it happens not by getting a Moral Majority, and it may have nothing to do withy a Christian mayor, police chief, fire chief, etc. I just want to be more Christian. And to do that, I need to dare to find prospective Kingdom community principles anywhere God has hidden them.

So I had a great lunch. Heard a great sermon by the chief. Actually it was a better "pastor's conference" than many I've been to. But as the chief reminded me, It's all a meaningless lunch without living more ingdomly today. And how I need to again "become a believer in Christ's people." I need deconversion, detoxm death and conversion to beome such a believer. "Christ's people," as imperfect as we are..are the very hope and light of the world. But the only hope of the hope of the world in these amazing and historic days, is to garpple with the the crazy "open secret" that the men of Isachar specialized in...simply getting a little more into the world to learn how to bless, heal and reach it, in Jesus name. Holy worldliness indeed. There's gold there.

Note: Here is the chief's website, and his testimony in
Charisma magazine.