Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Crap Detectors

In "Teaching as a Subversive Activity, " Neil Postman
and Charles Weingartner argued that "crap detectors" have
played a key role in history:

One way of looking at the history of the human
group is that it has been a continuing struggle
against the veneration of 'crap.' Our
intellectual history is a chronicle of the anguish
and suffering of men who tried to help their
contemporaries see that some part of their fondest
beliefs were misconceptions, faulty assumptions,
superstitions, and even outright lies. (p. 3).


Reminds me of a song
"earth has no sorrow"

it's time to get the lash it's time to get the rope
sharpen the razor grab the microscope
it won't be pretty when they cut the tether
sometimes you lose your address to find your shelter

why is joy something i must steal
starving skeletons looking for a meal
out in the graveyard the church bells peal
earth has no sorrow heaven can't heal

i bought a crap detector it emptied all my savings
it's got a hair trigger feel for the slightest provocation
not there to spill blood or judge out of line
it's just a modern convenience to save you some time

johnny says to sarah as he takes her by the hand
"i hear angels 'cross that river in beulahland"
the waters are cold and they're deep my friend
i'm going down down down and coming up again

i'm checking my closets since i don't know when
surely life is more than learning how to live with your skeletons
wind swing low whisper in my ears
wind swing low dry these tears

--"earth has no sorrow"
by bill mallonee and vigilantes of love

Roger Ramjet vs. Evilkisser

Has the light in your refrigerator ever gone out?

The Real War

Capon, The Astonished Heart, p.12o:

"We are in a war between dullness and astonishment.

Not between conservative aand liberal, not between pesant and intellectual---and above all, not between believer and nonbeliever. The modern world is dying to believe. We surreptitously read the National Enquirer in the checkout line precisely because we are itching to believe even the most unvelievable stuff, if only we can convince ourselves it's astonishing....We will buy any gnostic product on the shelves of those religions of right thinking just because we find in them a promise of conquest of death which, even though it is patently false, astonishes us more than

the church's tirseome recitation of recipes for persoinal success and its dreary preoccupation with who does what to who in the bedroom."

Moltmann Wrestles With God in POW Camp

Moltmann, "Wrestling with God" from Chapter 1 of "The Source of Life" (a practical theology of the Holy Spirit"):

In the years I spent as a prisoner of war, 1945-48, the biblical story about Jacob's struggle with the angel of the Lord at the Jabbok was for me always the story about God in which I found again my own little human story:

And Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the d When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and Jacob's thigh was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, "Let me go, for the day is breaking." But Jacob said, "I will not let you go unless you bless me." And he said to him, "What is your name?" And he said, "Jacob." Then he said, "Your name shall no more be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed." Then Jacob asked him, "Tell me, I pray, your name." But he said, "Why is it that you ask my name?" And there he blessed him. So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, "For I have seen god face to face and my soul has been healed." And the sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his thigh (Gen. 32:24-31).

We were caught up in the terrors of the end of the war, and in the hopeless misery of a prisoner of war's existence. We wrestled with God in order to survive in the abysses of senselessness and guilt and we emerged from those years "limping" indeed, but blessed. The end of the war, when it at last came, found us with deeply wounded souls; but after the years in Norton prisoner-of-war camp in Scotland many of us said: "My soul has been healed, for I have seen God." In the labor camps, the night of cold despair fell on us, and in that night we were visited, each in his own way, by tormenting, gnawing thoughts. But when we emerged, we saw "that the sun had risen." As a lasting reminder, each of us had somewhere or other "his lame hip," as it were -- the scars of that time in body and soul. That is why I chose this story, so as with it, and hidden in it, to tell our story as I experienced it.

When we lie awake at night and descend into the deep wells of memory, then suddenly everything is present again, although it is all so long ago. It is as if there were no time. The pains and the blessing are still in us, for they go with us wherever we turn. Out of the profusion of the visions that then swim to the surface, let me take a few, so that we can remember together.


We were the ones who escaped. We escaped the mass death of the world war. For ever one who survived, hundreds died. Why did we survive? Why aren't we dead like the rest? In July 1943 I was an air force auxiliary in a battery in the center of Hamburg, and barely survived the fire storm which the Royal Air Force's "Operation Gomorrah" let loose on the eastern part of the city. The friend standing next to me at the firing predictor was torn to pieces by the bomb that left me unscathed. That night I cried out to God for the first time: "My God, where are you?" And the question "Why am I not dead too?" has haunted me ever since. Why are you alive? What gives your life meaning? Life is good, but to be a survivor is hard. One has to bear the weight of grief. It was probably in that night that my theology began, for I came from a secular family and knew nothing of faith. The people who escaped probably all saw their survival not just as a gift but as a charge too.

We had escaped death, but we were prisoners of war. I was first of all in the wretched mass camp 2226 Zedelgem near Ostend, then in Labor Camp 22 in Kilmarnock in Ayrshire. It was July 1946 before I came to Norton Camp. The end of the war and the summer of 1945 brought cold horror into the camp: all the German cities in ruins; 12 million people fleeing from East Prussia and Silesia. Many people were face to face with nothing, and didn't know where to go. We had escaped but we had lost all hope. Some of us became cynical, some of us fell ill. The thought of there being no way out was like an iron band constricting our hearts. And each of us tried to conceal his stricken heart behind an armor of untouchability.

My spiritual nourishment had been Goethe's poems and his Faust, which my sister had given me to take with me ("pocket edition for the armed forces"). These poems had awakened the emotions of the boy, but now, when I was shut into a hut with 200 others, they had nothing more to say to me, although I often said them over to myself. I had dreamed of studying mathematics and physics. Einstein and Heisenberg were my heroes. But in that hut my dream fell to pieces: what was the point of it all?

And then those sleepless nights, when I was overwhelmed by the tormenting memories of the tanks that overran us on the fringes of the battle of Arnheim, and woke up soaked with sweat; when the faces of the dead appeared and looked at me with quenched and sightless eyes. It was five years at least before I found some degree of healing for these memories. In that mass camp, where we just sat around and had nothing to do, one was especially at the mercy of those tormenting memories. In those nights one was "alone" like Jacob and fought with principalities and powers that seemed dark and dangerous. It was only afterwards, and later, that it became clear with whom one had been wrestling.

And then came what was for me the worst of all. In September 1945, in Camp 22 in Scotland, we were confronted with pictures of Belsen and Auschwitz. They were pinned up in one of the huts, without comment. Some people thought it was just propaganda. Others set the piles of bodies which they saw over against Dresden. But slowly and inexorably the truth filtered into our awareness, and we saw ourselves mirrored in the eyes of the Nazi victims. Was this what we had fought for? Had my generation, at the last, been driven to our deaths so that the concentration camp murderers could go on killing, and Hitler could live a few months longer? Some people were so appalled that they didn't want to go back to Germany ever again. Later they stayed on in England. For me, every feeling for Germany, the so-called sacred "Fatherland," collapsed. It was only when my father's jewish friend Fritz Valentin returned to Hamburg from his English exile in 1945 (he was president of the provincial court, a convinced Christian, and later founder of the Protestant Academy in Hamburg) that my father in his French captivity and I in England felt duty bound to return to that country of contradictions, between Goethe's Weimar and Buchenwald. The depression over the wartime destruction and a captivity without any apparent end was exacerbated by a feeling of profound shame at having to share in this disgrace. That was undoubtedly the hardest thing, a stranglehold that choked us.


For me the turn from humiliation to new hope came about through two things -- first through the Bible, and then through the encounter with other people.

In the Scottish labor camp, together with some other astonished prisoners, I was for the first time given a Bible by a well-meaning army chaplain. Some of us would rather have had a few cigarettes. I read it without much comprehension, until I stumbled on the psalms of lament. Psalm 39 held me spellbound: "I was dumb with silence, I held my peace and my sorrow was stirred" (but Luther's German is much stronger -- "I have to eat up my suffering within myself"). "My lifetime is as nothing in thy sight ... Hear my prayer, O Lord, and give ear to my cry; hold not thou thy peace at my tears, for I am a stranger with thee, and a sojourner, as all my fathers were ..." They were the words of my own heart and they called my soul to God. Then I came to the story of the passion, and when I read Jesus' death cry, "My God, why have you forsaken me?," I knew with certainty: this is someone who understands you. I began to understand the assailed Christ because I felt that he understood me: this was the divine brother in distress, who takes the prisoners with him on his way to resurrection. I began to summon up the courage to live again, seized by a great hope. I was even calm when other men were "repatriated" and I was not. This early fellowship math Jesus, the brother in suffering and the redeemer from guilt, has never left me since. I never "decided for Christ" as is often demanded of us, but I am sure that then and there, in the dark pit of my soul, he found me. Christ's godforsakenness showed me where God is, where he had been with me in my life, and where he would be in the future.

The other thing was the kindness with which Scots and English, our former enemies, came to meet us half way. In Kilmarnock the miners and their families took us in with a hospitality that shamed us profoundly. We heard no reproaches, we were accused of no guilt. We were accepted as people, even though we were just numbers and wore our prisoners' patches on our backs. We experienced forgiveness of guilt without an confession of guilt on our part, and that made it possible for us to live with the past of our people, and in the shadow of Auschwitz, without repressing anything, and without becoming callous....

The other experience turned my life upside down was the first international Student Christian Movement conference at Swanwick, in the summer of 1947, to which a group of POWs was invited. We came there still wearing our wartime uniforms. And we came with fear and trembling. What were we to say about the war crimes, and the mass murders in the concentration camps? But we were welcomed as brothers in Christ, and were able to eat and drink, pray and sing with young Christians who had come from all over the world, even from Australia and New Zealand. In the night my eyes sometimes filled with tears.

Then a group of Dutch students came and asked to speak to us officially. Again I was frightened, for I had fought in Holland, in the battle for the Arnheim bridge. The Dutch students told us that Christ was the bridge on which they could cross to us, and that without Christ they would not be talking to us at all. They told of the Gestapo terror, the loss of their jewish friends and the destruction of their homes. We too could step onto this bridge that Christ had built from them to us, and could confess the guilt of our people and ask for reconciliation. At the end we all embraced. For me that was an hour of liberation. I was able to breathe again, felt like a human being once more, and returned cheerfully to the camp behind the barbed wire. The question of how long the captivity was going to last no longer bothered me.

In some English circles, Norton Camp counted as a camp where young Germans were supposed to be "re-educated" for a better Germany. But in reality it was a generous gift of reconciliation offered to former enemies, and as such it was unique. I came to the camp in the autumn of 1946. My wartime Abitur -- the school-leaving certificate -- was no longer accepted and I had to go back to school. The decision whether I should become a teacher and pastor was made for me through my experiences math the Bible and at the Swanwick conference. In the evenings I often walked along the camp fence and looked up at the chapel on the hill: "I circle round God, the age-old tower . . ." I was still searching, but I sensed that God was drawing me, and that I would not be seeking him if he had not already found me. On August 15, 1946, I wrote to my family: "I end most days in a curious way. In our camp there is a hill, overgrown with huge old trees. It is really the center of camp life, for there is a little chapel on it where we meet for evening prayers, so as to end the day with a hymn and collect our thoughts for new life. I like to sit there in the evening and look through the `Norman' windows into the twilight, out on to the lake and the fields. Perhaps we ought to see this whole imprisonment as a great churchgoing." We loved the chapel. It cast a wholly unique spell over us.


Norton camp was a kind of monastic enclosure, "excluded from time and world," as Gerhard Noller wrote in 1948 in his farewell letter. The day began at 6:30 with a bugle call (because we had lost our watches when we were taken prisoner) and ended at 10:30 P.M., when the English put out the lights. All at once we had time, time in plenty, and stood, spiritually and mentally starving as we were, in front of a wonderful library put together by the YMCA. During those days I read everything -- poems and novels, mathematics and philosophy, as well as any amount of theology -- and the theology especially was fabulously new to me. The YMCA also printed books for the help of POWs. I still have some of them -- Nygren's Eros und Agape and Bonhoeffer's Nachfolge (The Cost of Discipleship). My first book of systematic theology was Reinhold Niebuhr's The Nature and Destiny of Man, which made a deep impression on me, although I hardly understood it. New worlds dawned for us, worlds which had been forbidden to us under the Third Reich. We read emigre literature, as well as the work of modern English and American writers.

The semester timetables were rich and varied, and of course we wanted to hear everything. I learned Hebrew under Walter Haaren and Gerhard Noller. Gerhard Friedrich introduced us to the New Testament. And then there were the visitors from outside: Anders Nygren stayed a fortnight and taught us systematic theology. Professor Soe from Copenhagen did the same for Christian ethics. Werner Milch, an emigrant, later in Marburg, enthralled us with a history of 20th-century literature. Fritz Blanke came from Zurich, and Matthew Black from Scotland. I met him again later in St. Andrews. Of course, we were a "show camp," and not without reason; but we were also richly benefited and honored by the visits and addresses of Birger Forell, John R. Mott, W A. Visser 't Hooft, Martin Niemoller and others.

I think not least of the moving sermons by our camp chaplains Rudolf Halver and Wilhelm Burckert. They were the first sermons I had ever heard, and I could still repeat some of them today, especially Halver's sermon of August 10, 1947, on the magna peccatrix, the woman who was a great sinner. I can still see in my mind's eye the long procession of prisoners on their way to Cuckney church, or to the Methodist church where Frank Baker was minister. I met him again later at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.

At night we sometimes crawled through a hole at the right-hand corner of the back fence so as to fetch wood from the duke of Portland's park for the iron stove that stood in the middle of the hut. How much time we had for night-time talks in the firelight of the stove, long after the lights had been put out! Never again have i lived "the life of the mind" as intensely as I did in the last semester of the theological school in Norton Camp. It was a marvelous, richly blessed time. We were given what we did not deserve, and received of the fullness of Christ "grace upon grace."


For us, what looked like a grim fate when it began turned into an undeserved, rich blessing. It began in the night of war, and when we came to Norton Camp the sun rose for us. We came with wounded souls, and when we left "my soul was healed." Certainly we did not "see God face to face" like Jacob at that place on the Jabbok. According to biblical tradition, that is reserved for only a few "friends of God"; for all others it is promised only for the great day of resurrection, when we shall see "face to face" and know as we are known." No, what we experienced was just the reverse: God looked on us with "the shining eyes" of his eternal joy. Blessing and the Spirit of life always have their origin in the "light of God's countenance" (Pss. 51:11; 139:7; Num. 6:24-26), just as his judgment means his "hidden face" (hester panim), and rejection is the face of God when it is "turned away." What we experienced was for many of us the turn from God's "hidden face" to "the light of his countenance." We experienced with pain his hiddenness and remoteness, and we sensed that he looked upon us "with shining eyes," and felt the warmth of his great love.

We have met together here after 50 years in order to praise the hidden and yet so merciful God for everything that we have experienced of him. We have also come to remember 4th gratitude the people who came to meet us prisoners with such readiness to forgive and such hospitality. We shall never forget Birger Forell and John Barwick, who set up Norton Camp, and we have lasting ties with the YMCA, which organized that generous "prisoners' aid" that raised us up. With Psalm 30, verse 11, I acknowledge:

Lord, thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing; Thou hast loosed my sackcloth and girded me with gladness, that my soul may praise thee and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to thee for ever.

--Moltmann, "Wrestling with God" Chapter 1 of "The Source of Life"

Fresno: something to do with money

Cities are important in the Bible.

So many have prophetic names and intended destinies. Some have suggested each city has a "redemptive purpose"...not surprisingly, often tied to its name (I love visiting our friends at Bethelehem Bible College...Bethlehem means "house of bread," and the college provided the only public library in Bethlem, and it...well, gives out bread to those in need), natural resources, or its surroundings...

...or city motto, I used to pastor in Delano, whose motto was "An International Community Working Together.

It wasn't.

I now live in Fresno. With a population of half a million, it is still commonly viewed as an overgrown farm town, and lampooned in the media as an Okie town . We are smack in the middle of the most fertile valley in the world, and we feed the world.

It might be an obvious leap to offer the spiritual and literal feeding of the world as our redemptive gift. Some within prophetic circles believe it is leadership; particularly Christian leadership.

Whatever the case, there had been enough critical mass of Christianity here that we have been dubbed the Bible Belt of California. Something is up when Christianity Today stands up to take notice, asking on its cover, no less:

"What is God doing in Fresno?"

The problem is the answer to that question, CT concludes, is basically "We're not sure yet.":

“The church in Fresno is all over the map, literally and figuratively. It's
premature to say that what's happening in Fresno will make a lasting


We haven't made George Otis's list of transformed cities yet..

I suppose I pray every day, "God, what are You doing in Fresno?" or "What do You want from the church in this city?" "How do we cue in to make that lasting difference?"

I wasn't planning on getting any help in sorting out the answer when reading an "unrelated" book: Fareed Zakaria (articulate editor of Newseek International)'s "The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad ." Why would Fresno make an appearance?

"America began to change on a mid-September day..." he begins one section.

But he doesn't mean 9/11 2001.

And it has everything to do with Fresno.

"America began to change on a mid-September day in 1958," writes Joseph Nocera in his fascinating book, A Piece of the Action. He is referring to the day when the Bank of America 'dropped' 60,000 credit cards in Fresno, California, thereby creating the all-purpose credit card.It was a novel idea, in effect offering anyone who wanted it a general line of credit, unsecured by collateral. In the 1950s Americans were just getting used to taking out loans to buy ... products—cars, refrigerators, televisions.

But debt was still disreputable. If you could not afford something, you squirreled away money until you could buy it. Besides, it was not easy to get a loan Most banks thought that making small loans to the average family was not worth the time and effort. Except for the Bank of America. Its founder, AP Giannini, the son of an immigrant, wanted to make money available for “his people.” His bank, founded in 1904 in a converted saloon, was initially called the Bank of Italy and in 1928 renamed the Bank of America. Whereas other banks passed off consumer loans to finance companies, Bank of America embraced the role of serving the broad middle class... As a result it grew to become America's largest bank by the 1970s .

Credit cards opened up the world of credit to the masses, allowing ordinary people to take out an advance on their future earnings, as the rich had always done. It is difficult today to imagine life without credit cards. And yet they were almost unknown forty years ago. What happened over those forty years, and most especially in the last twenty-five, is in many ways more is in many ways more revolutionary than in any comparable period in modern financial history. Capitalism was transformed into democratic capitalism. (pp. 202-203, whole chapter here)

If Fresno's supreme legacy so far, so pivotal and "revolutionary" is connected to credit cards and loans, this of course raises questions about the blessings and curses we have unleashed on the entire world.

Perhaps our blessing, divine destiny, and reason for being has much to do with creative micro-loans for immigrants, debt forgiveness, Jubilee. Giving money away, for Christ's sake. In the lineage of "Bank of America's founder, AP Giannini, the son of an immigrant, wanted to make money available for 'his people.'"

And in the lineage of another "so of an immigrant" who wanted to make worship, and money, available to His people:

Though most do not realize it, Jesus' "temple tantrum "was first and foremost about racism and prejudice; as well as about commercialization. The dovesellers and money changers set up their booths smack in the middle of the Court of the Gentiles; the only place were different ethnicities could "go to church." Which is why Jesus text that day was Isaiah 56: "Foreigners must be welcomed into the house...for my house shall be a house of prayer for all nations."

How about someone setting up some booths smack in the middle of church foyers, so we can proclaim Jubilee to immigrants?

Preaching at the National Prayer Breakfast, Bono proposed the "novel" idea of the nation tithing to the poor in

its midst.

Uh, That policy has not yet been adopted on a national scale yet.

Maybe it's Fresno's call to pioneer it.

One city George Otis is starting to look at as a city "on the way to transformation" is Huancayo Peru. Ironically, I treat Huancayo as a sister city to Fresno. Members of our Fresno church are missionaries there and are seeing amazing results in city wide awakening. Not only is it the same size and style of city, with a similar amount of critical mass of Christian unity, but perhaps our redemptive purposes are parallel. (View a small example of what's happening in this video clip; as we pray for government leaders...and a beer truck driver; and uncover the founding "god" of the city).

I stood on top of the Andes Mountains one day,

at the water source for Huancayo below. A team had come to pray over the city's water, which had ben cursed by a witch. I will never forget the avalanche that fell over the witch's cave just as one person prayed the Scripture about "the terror of the Lord descending from the rocks onto his enemies."


As dramatic as that story is (read it here, or watch it, avalanche and all below):

... it might be just as profound a prophetic act to witness Huancayo...and Fresno..reversing the curse of credit with interest free loans, and Jubilee.

What is God doing in Fresno?

God forgive us if we think we've arrived.

Amazingly...devastatingly...the very two "succeses" that Peter Wagner mentions as the two that, once they have happened in a city, can cause it great risk.. rest on it's laurels, trusting in them:

A Billy Graham Crusade, and a Pastors Prayer Summit.

Uh, we in Fresno just did that.

As wonderful as these two events are, trust in them as signs of spirituality "can inhibit the emergence of strong citywide leadership." ("Apostles of the City", p 25)

It may well have something to do with money...

Bono says "celebrity is currency". Since Fresno is apparently infamous for birthing credit cards; and I believe is about to be famous for midwifing Kingdom purposes..

May we marshall our faith and the church; the largest company in our city" (see Alan Doswald's important article here) ..

Let us consider Wagner's warning that "God is poised to release unprecedented amounts of wealth for the expansion of His Kingdom....but the two middle links
(see his diagram) in the "four necessary links for this release are weak or missing in many cities.(The Changing Church, p.101)...

and what if we rehearse what may well be written for the second time:

"America began to change in Fresno, California..."


George Carlin, no Christian by his own definition, "interviewed" Jesus:

Q:Do you have any words of advice?

Jesus: Well, I don't know how spiritual it is, but I'd say one thing is don't give your money to the church. They should be giving their money to you."

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

If I Had a Bumper Sticker

In the tradition I began in the prequel
(still online here...all two words of it),
Let me present some more two-word(mostly)
neo-mottos, ZooTV rejects, prayers, good advice, subversive bumperstickers..whatever they are...
Some of these might even make immediate sense, on some the hyperlinks will help interpret...basically they are all commentary on
Matt. 4:17 and"Subvert the dominant paradigm" well as satire on "Visualiaze Whirled Peas".

Break laws.

Go chaordic.

Question Einstein.

Create wisely.

Dismantle death.

Sell dresses.

Sacralize the secular.

Exploit silence.

Spend celebrity.

Carpe manana.

See voices. (Rev 1:12 Habb 2:1-3)

Milk Aslan.

Get lower.

Fold soup.

Flirt with uncertainty.

create chaos.

Peach karaoke.

Deconstruct deconstruction.

Defy today.

Leak power.

Remix Colossians.

Smell Jesus.

Club clubs.

Baptize pagans.

grow organically

Miss Christ.

Drink fast.

Herd goats

Decrab Colson

Bookmark Occasio.

Hijack empire.

Trifurcate liminally.

Unfreeze community.

Get fuzzy.

Hanglide naked.

Derail biniatarianism.

elevate sex.

Wear shalom

Harness mercy.

Mind your own (1 Thess 4:11)

Have a nice day.
Randy SQ will add some better ones..

The Prophets: Rush, Neil Young, Genesis

(Note: if this jukebox below doesn't play, don't kick it, or check your pocket for another quarter...just click the "launch standlone player" button)

Why do all these "secular" songs seems to be messages from God to the church? Wake-up and shakeup calls to us in leadership ...

the priests ("2112"),
the "missionaries" ("Cortez the Killer")
and preachers ("Jesus He Knows Me")...

to not let the "top" get so topheavy?

From Rush's 2112: "The meek shall inherit the earth...(but) we are the priests...and we've taken care of everything, the words you hear and songs you sing...we are the priests.."
I hope not!

From Neil Young's "Cortez the Killer": "He came dancing across the water, with his galleons and guns..and his subjects gathered round him like leaves around a tree.."
Dang, I want to be like that. Deliver me!

The lesson for clergy from Genesis' "Jesus He Knows Me" should be obvious: "Jesus he knows me, and he know I'm right..."
I am right about one thing: I'm not always right.

Narrative Sickness

I almost ran the red light.

Not because I was reading while driving; as usual.
But because for once (okay, twice: read here about the other shocking time), I was listening to Christian radio while driving.

Which is potentially more dangerous is up for grabs..

"God has given us the Bible," the preacher said, "so we don't have to think."


Because of what he said next, I am pretty sure he was winking as he offered that terrible wisdom (What he meant us, one shouldn't have to stop and think abouty whether or not one should steal or cheat; it's already clear in the Bible).

But I worry that this is often what folks hear us preachers saying, or implying.

Or worse (?); "God has given us preachers and teachers, so we don't have to think."

As Friere characterized what he calls the "banking" concept of education (in a sense his critique of this model is so revolutionary that it led to the "invitation" by his homeland of Brazil to leave his country!) : "The teacher teaches and the students are taught; the teacher knows everything and the students know nothing; the teacher thinks and the students are thought about" (Pedagogy of the Oppressed, p.59).

Bono has already lamented, in another satire, that "banks feel like cathedrals."
I fear our cathedrals and churches feel like banks, in the context of Friere's terminology.

"A careful analysis of the teacher-student relationship at any level...reveals
its fundamentally narrative character...Education is suffering from
narration sickness.

The teacher talks about reality as if it
were motionless, static, compartmentalized, and predictable. Or else he
expounds on a topic completely alien to the existential experience of the
students....The outstanding characteristic of this narrative education,
then, is the sonority of words, not their transforming power" (Friere, 57)

Sounds like church. I fear you can bank on it. A good grounding in set theory, and quantum physics should cure the church of any concept of reality (and Christian life) as "motionless, static, compartmentalized, and predictable." But we are too busy listening to the sonority of teachers. And this fourold message is, ironically, what we often export, as we "come dancing across the water...with guns" in the name of missions..

And Friere midwifes me into wondering: With the "incredulity toward metanarrative" that has been suggested as so inextricable from postmodernity; perhaps an appropriate (and even postmodern-sensitive) metanarrative is possible; even inevitable.

While we pastors/teachers continue to build the banks of "narrative sickness"; could it be that God is calling us to so embed ourselves in radical community (especially among the oppressed) that we might learn the one metanarrative that empowers the transformimng power of words and education. It must be a brutally honest paradigm.
(Note: I want to hear more on this topic from the St. Happy Juancho, as she is a Latin American poeta-pastora who has written well on the Chilen church and metanarrative..)

Another provocateur who has spent time in Latim American communities, hoping to be undone of empire, Bruce Cockburn, helps a lot here. Through the crucible of hiw own experience
and faith (see "I became a Christian, and my marriage fell apart."), he

... knows postmodern despair. But in the face of the Other, and in
the face of radical evil that admits no postmodern deconstruction, he has a
feeling--granted it is no absolute moral order, but just a feeling--that comes
on so strong that he cannot deny it. This is a feeling of profound ethical
normativity. Cockburn can deconstruct the lies of modernity with the best of
them. Yet he goes beyond deconstruction. And this "beyond" is rooted, most
fundamentally, in a radical eschatological hope. Here Cockburn is blissfully
unpostmodern. Such a hope requires a decision in the face of undecidability, a
place to stand in a world that seems to be composed of cultural quicksand. And
that decision and that standing seem to us to be inextricably connected to
embracing a grand narrative and to being embraced by that narrative. Simply
stated, without a metanarrative, without an overarching vision of the story of
the world, hope is literally impossible.

"Who tells the world's story?" Douglas Hall asked. If we listen to Cockburn's telling, it is clear that his metanarrative and his hope are not naive, blissfully unaware of the fires of cultural decline and personal failure and brokenness. Rather, this is an eschatological hope for a broken-wheeled world. It is a hope, like all biblical hope, born in suffering and tested by fire. It is the hope of a second naivete. This is a hope that can passionately ask: "so how come history takes such a long, long time when you're waiting for a miracle?" ("Waiting for a Miracle," Waiting for a Miracle, 1987) Cockburn can ask the question honestly and passionately precisely because he has a genuine hope in a God who, beyond modernity and postmodernity, brings life out of death. Such honest questioning and radical hope are indispensable if there is to be Christian faith in a postmodern world. (Brian Walsh)

It's the "honest questioning" (maybe that itself is a least betanarrative...that we should test-drive) that I fear we have not even begun to explore; as we spend way too much time...and the bank.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Way Too Much Fun...Click Away

just the latest posts on "Shift Happens"(

Friday, May 25, 2007

Preaching Texts That May or May Not Be "About Preaching"

One of the joys of my life is facilitating classes for Ministry Skills Institute (an outreach of Grace Covenant)
and other groups.

I enjoy the MSI classes as pastors, missionaries and all interested folk come out for regional events that are seminary level, but decidedy practical and impartational.

As usual, my teaching can be (to mix metaphors) "out of the box and without a paddle." They call me (lovingly, I think) the faculty "Wildman"..

I think students for my next preaching class (It will eventually be called "Preaching in the New World", "The Event Formerly Known as Preaching" or something cheesy like that) will have the fun of picking a number from the list below, and then using the suggested pair of books for their research paper. Some pairs may be obvious: they dovetail, they contadict, they balance

each other theologically or lengrth-wise...Some pairs are unobvious and that's's holy randomnity...

...which is why I might allow "mix and match."

I am aware that I really wanted more authors of "color" (not mine, that is: ghostwhite) and/or international representation. Any suggestions would be appreciated.


1)"Countdown to Sunday: A Daily Guide for Those Who Dare to Preach" by Chris Erdman
"Re-Imagining Preaching" by Doug Pagitt

2)Haddon Robinson's "Expository Preaching"
Ralph Lewis's "Inductive Preaching"

3)"A Serrated Edge: A Brief Defense of Biblical Satire and Trinitarian Skylarking "
by Douglas Wilson
"Permission Granted to Do Church Differently in the 21st Century"
Graham Cooke and Gary Goodell

5)" A Conversation With Jesus" by Stephen Seamands
"Get Up Up Off Your Knees: Preaching the U2 Catalog" ed. by Raewynne J. Whiteley and
Beth Maynard

6)"Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters"
Annie Dillard
"Kingdom, Grace, Judgment: Paradox, Outrage, and Vindication in the Parables of Jesus" by Robert Farrar Capon

7)"Ministry in the Image of God: The Trinitarian Shape of Christian Service"
Stephen Seamands
"If You Want to Write" by Brenda Ueland/"On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft" by Stephen King

The Shaping of Things to Come: Innovation and Mission for the 21 Century Church by Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch
"One Step Closer: Why U2 Matters to Those Seeking God" by Christian Scharen

10)"The Hidden Power of Electronic Culture: How Media Shapes Faith, the Gospel, and Church" by
Shane Hipps
"Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith" , Anne Lamott

12)"Prophetic Imagination"
by Walter Bruggeman
"Rock Gets Religion" by Terry Mattingly

13)"Houses That Change The World" by
Wolfgang Simson
and "The Tipping Point" by Malcolm Gladwell

God, beach and breasts

Note: I took this post down for awhile so as not to unnecessarily offend. I repost it now, asking that you read carefully, and understand the intent.

"Why do people go to the beach?"

Ponder and pray about your answer to that intriguing question.

Many moons ago (some literal uh, from Rev Kev), at a pastors retreat at the beach..
one of us asked this question.

Kyle, the brilliant theologian and thinker stroked his beard and said (oops, he didn't have his beard yet) said

something like:

"It's the mystery, the inevitable tug of even the unregenate heart toward beauty, wonder and the divine; the waves are a reminder of the eternal.."

Good answer.

But partly to follow up that profound answer with a spoof on it;
partly to get a laugh,
partly for the self-parody of a pastor saying a dirty word,
partly because it is also a right answer..

I humbly stroked my beard (I think I did have a literal one, then) and

offfered my one-word answer.

I tried to get my pause in for comedic timing and effect.

I wanted a laugh; but I also want us to consider that it may well be the real reason.
Especially for guys.

My answer?

Let's just say it was a slang word for breasts.

For years now, I have been teased about my answer.

But it's largely right; and profound in it's own way.

Shapely women in bikinis..or in less.

That may be the bottom line reason.

And my answer is essentially the functional equivalent of Kyle's.

The attraction to beauty; the admiration of the female form..

at its most twisted becomes lust, adultery, rape...

at its purest...well, an invitation to worship God.

We simply need to master the prayer technique that the Chasidic rabbis (and Bono in the song by the same name) have suggested:


Prayer is not something the elevated believer just is an
experience he enters into. There is no room for inhibition; singing and dancinga
re essential means by which he expresses his emotional cleaving to God….buts uch
ardor/desire for God has to be so overwhelming …If distractions are erotic in
nature…and the pray-er faces up to the predominance of the sexual urge
at both conscious and subconscious levels, and its capacity to intrude even
during prayer...then he has learned to take measures…by introducing the
(ancient) doctrine of the "elevation of strange thoughts." This is a Chasidic
Jewish technique not of sublimation, but of thought conversion, whereby
the beauty or desirability of the woman is latched upon and used not as
a sexual but rather as a mental and spiritual stimulus
. We are taught
to "elevate" these thoughts by substituting the beauty of God for thephysical
beauty that is currently bewitching us. (Bono) has learned toimmediately
contrast the pale reflection of beauty that humans are endowed with,on the one
hand, and the supreme Divine source of authentic and enduring beauty,on the
other…This is not sublimation; This is elevation.
-Rabbi Jeffrey Cohen

(read all about that wonderful model for prayer here.)

As David found out from Bathsheba, it's the second look that's problematic.
David need to find the elevator.

If only the first look would take us where we
need to go:

to the elevator towards the Author of all beauty: ocean waves, the moon (the literal moon, Kev), ..and well:

uh, whatever the four-letter word I used for is.

God made 'em, so they're good.
Check Song of Solomon ("Really love your peaches, wanna shake your tree" as Steve Miller famously translated it) if you doubt it.

One of the Bible's primary names for God even implies that God has 'em...

...and the female version of them, at that


Rob Bell and have Carmen Berry (a woman) have both recently written good books on the sexuality/spirituality connection. Bell's is provocatively titled "Sex. God.":

"Sex. God. They're connected. And they can't be separated.

Where the one is, you'll always find the other."

Bell defines sexuality in a succinctly brilliant, and surpisingly broad (please, no sexist puns) fashion as:

"Our sexuality is all the ways we strive to reconnect with our world, with each other, and with God." (42)

Here is a great discussion of "Can I Go to Hooters for Bible Study?":

Priest Has Great Time @ Hooters in Waco

Can I Go To Hooters?

Bible Study at Hooters

Here (just type "sex" the top search bar!) are many other worthwile articles on sex and church.

We all know why men go to Hooters.

Same answer as the beach.

And church, maybe.

Why do we insist on such a large cleavage between sexuality and spirituality?
Here are many other worthwile articles on sex and church.

Because the women from our congregatiion just returned from a beach retreat in the same town as we men did all those

years ago; I was remembering my infamous question, and decided to "google" it:

The very top answer made an explict link between motives for going to ther beach,and goung to church:

Why do you go to the beach? Do you go to church or mosque? What are some
activities you do at a church or a mosque? What type of clothing do you wear to

Of course, breasts in church have their own problems (see this).

But if it gets men in the door(:

Please, this is no licnese for men to ogle in church.
But it can be an admisison that we all have at times the lousiest motives for hanging out with Jesus.

A Reformed church planting couple discuss living in a European context where topless women on the beach can be the norm:

One of the conclusions I’ve come to is that there is a difference between
being curious about someone and being attracted to someone. Just because I see a
topless woman on the beach, and that makes me curious, doesn’t necessarily mean
I’m attracted to her or that I’m thinking sexual things about her. One thing
I’ve learned from experience is that just because you’re on the beach with a
bunch of topless women, doesn’t mean it’s pretty. In my opinion, naked people
are more comical than anything. Clothes are a good thing...

Maybe if you went to the beach long enough that would change. Maybe that’s
the difference for European guys. The curiosity about what women look like has
been demystified. When I see a woman sitting there on the beach, and she’s
topless, it’s nothing sexual for me that makes me think I want to have sex with
that woman. It’s not that. It’s more of a curiosity about what women look like
in general...

Mystery is a part of who we are, and there’s something about being together
and having sex and all that stuff that comes with marriage, and I think that the
mystery of it all is a beautiful thing. It’s fun. It’s exciting. Even when
you’re married, you don’t walk around your house naked all the time. Again,
having sex is like discovering the mystery in each other again, in this sense,
on a physical level.
On mystery, curiosity
and the Mediterranean sunbather
by Kelly Crull

"Mystery is a part of who we are," Kelly said.

"Mystery is what it's all about," Kyle said.

Pastor Kyle was right all along.

But I still think it's all about ____


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

a month of Octobers

A song that God has wonderfully used; one that has gotten me through every October (literal or spiritual) for twenty five years:


and the trees are stripped bare
of all they wear
do i care?

and kingdoms rise
and kingdoms fall
but You go on
and on..."

(Paul Hewson, 1982)

It may have been June (1983...I was a month old as a Christian; U2 waqs my first "Christian" concert), but I will never forget being just feet from Bono as he prayed "October" for brother and I (We were in the audience at the New Haven long ago that a U2 concert was not sold out!).. A couple concert versions are available to soundtrack this simple prayer:

A few more here ...enough to get you through a month of Octobers..

While grabbing these videos, I found another "October," one I didn't know, this one from Evanesence:

I can't run anymore,
I fall before You,
Here I am,
I have nothing left,
Though I've tried to forget,
You're all that I am,
Take me home,
I'm through fighting it,
I give up,
You're my only strength,
Without you,
I can't go on,
Ever again.

My only hope,
(All the times I've tried)
My only peace,
(To walk away from You)
My only joy,
My only strength,
(I fall into Your abounding grace)
My only power,
My only life,
(And love is where I am)
My only love.

I can't run anymore,
I give myself to You,
I'm sorry,
I'm sorry,
In all my bitterness,
I ignored,
All that's real and true,
All I need is You,
When night falls on me,
I'll not close my eyes,
I'm too alive,
And you're too strong,
I can't lie anymore,
I fall down before you,
I'm sorry,
I'm sorry.

My only hope,
(All the times I've tried)
My only peace,
(To walk away from You)
My only joy,
My only strength,
(I fall into Your abounding grace)
My only power,
My only life,
(And love is where I am)
My only love.

Constantly ignoring,
The pain consuming me,
But this time it's cut too deep,
I'll never stray again.

My only hope,
(All the times I've tried)
My only peace,
(To walk away from you)
My only joy,
My only strength,
(I fall into your abounding grace)
My only power,
My only life,
(And love is where I am)
My only love,
My only hope,
(All the times I've tried)
My only peace,
(To walk away from you)
My only joy,
My only strength,
(I fall into your abounding grace)
My only power,
My only life,
(And love is where I am)
My only love


Gee, both songs are beautiful Christian prayers. Why have both artists been banned from "Christian radio"?

Never mind.

There is
no spoon.

Happy October.

How can I be a spokesman when all I've got to say is... 'Help! I don't know what to say"

I was once in the running for the Guinness World Record for shortest sermon ever.

It was  a one word sermon.

I had to arrange it carefully with the worship leader for full effect; and repeating it at multiple morning services, I indeed had to "practice" it.

It was Christmas time. I had the worship leader say something like: "Dave's message today addresses the question addressed by the sermon title:
"If The Savior Has Really Been Born, What Do I Have to Worry About?"

I made sure those were the last words he or she said. Maybe twice so that haunting question was focused in the listener's mind; expecting a profound answer.

Notebooks were opened.

The holy pause for effect as I stepped to the pulpit.

I stood there silently for a moment, scanned the congregation, and said one word:


And I sat down.

To a standing ovation.

I have heard many times over the years comments like:

"I still remember every word of that sermon!"
"That sermon was about nothing."
"That sermon changed my life!"

Cheesy, I know. And it turns out the Guinness record for shortest sermon was scored by a pastor who gave the exact same sermon; except the title was "What does religion have to offer me?"

"Everyone's calling me a spokesman for the generation; the man with all the answers... when the only thing I've got to say is 'Help!'"

In the 1980's, U2's Bono often said something like this. But the cameras caught the reality of it, as they swooped over his lyrical notebook during the filming of 1984's "Unforgettable Fire" documentary:

The pressure on a professional "holy man" (or woman) and "spokesperson for God"---the preacher---to always (at least weekly) have something profound and theological to say is insane
and inane.

What if all the preachers in America...for one Sunday anyway...just stood in their pulpits, and


one word:



Eschatological even.

It's even scriptural, if every sermon must be expository:

Check out it's usage in the Psalms alone.

Some have called the lyrics to the Beatles classic "Help!" (a song someone has clearly linked to U2 here, and a song U2 occasionally covers in concert, as does Christian band DC Talk, making the prayer explicit) a "prayer at its purest." Sure, it's not specifically addressed to God. But "where does all my help inevitably come from?," the Psalms ask. Audioslave, another God-haunted band offers this "unorthodox" lyric:

I will pray
To the gods and the angels
Like a pagan
to anyone
Who will take me to heaven

But isn't that how a desperate and honest person prays:

"Hello? Anyone up there?"

"Help! I need someone...."

Hello? Hello?

In the Vertigo Chicago DVD, Bono begins the song "Elevation" with, as he calls it "a frog in his throat."
Instead of bravefacedly fumbling his way through, he asks (the audience? God? Both, most likely...anyone who will listen, maybe) for:


Watch it, from 1:21, here:

What convinces me this was at heart prayer, is

a) he vocalizes it, in a song that is about prayer itself, at the place in the song when he is, head and hand uplifted, praying the lyric "I believe in You"

b)This delightful story:

Mike Gerson, a Christian and Bush cabinet member, remembers meeting Bono before a concert:

"We met Bono beforehand, and he says, 'I'm so honored that you would pick me for
your first rock concert. I'm a little hoarse tonight. I need you to do me a favor. If
you hear my voice going out, I want you to pray for me.'

If any of you ever hear my voice going out; see my light going out..or especially: fear I am preaching too long:

Do me a favor. Pray for me.


A woman in our first congregation had had a stroke. Try as she might, she could only vocalize one sentence. No matter what she intended to say, it always came out---initially to great frustration---the exact same sentence:

"I don't know what to say."

After awhile, she learned that by facial expression, gesture and tone, she could to amazing degree communicate her actual statement and sentiment, even if the words inevitably came out:

"I don't know what to say."

For example, I would tease her, "How is John (her husband) treating you?"

By her smile and sarcastic expression, she communicated lightheartedly that he was being a rascal as usual. But you know what the only words were.

I realized how profound her sentence was when I realized it was a direct quote of Romans 8:26.
We never know what to say; but the Spirit helps, and gives us the words the Father would have us say and pray.

I never know what to say.