Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Marva Dawn and the Powers Part II

Marva Dawn and the Powers Part II

More random notes…though I hope it’s a “holy randmonity”…
Part 1 is here..

"Does email contribute or take away from your ministry?"

My unsoken answer to Marva Dawn was "yes."

She has decided that for her the answer would lean too far into a "take away" that she does not use it.

"I don’t have a problem with email; I have a problem with us not thinking about it.”
Email and cell phones, she continued, “have taught us not to be present with the people with whom we are present…Multitasking is impossible....this has even been proven neurologically.”

“Nothing wrong with tools; I am not opposed to the church using them; I am opposed to the church relying on them instead of God.”

Her case: Internet and email can be a healthy tools; but also tools for the powers in that; in the name of providing information; provide far more information than we can handle (She stressed often that this is the very nature of the powers: they overstep the boundaries of their purpose and calling….as perhaps all systems do…what Gautam Chatterjee
might call the “stylized narration of masks” ). This almost inevitably leads us to doing one thing:


Dawn even trapped one of the pastors present (St. Bryan Martin of St. Patrick's Community Church) into saying (rightly or wrongly):

“We are doing nothing for Darfur.”

This pastor, shepherd of a wonderful church very intentional about positively using the tools of culture, stood up at question/answer time to say how troubling the presentation had been.
She responded: "Good."

He gave an example: he had reccently seen a helpful episode of “Oprah” which enlightened him on the issues in Darfur. He thought this might have been a case of God using the tool of television.

She pressed him: “What did you do about it?”

He responded that he had sent email to the congregation enlightening them as to the
situation, and urging them to become involved in specific ways.”

She challenged him again: “What are you doing for Darfur?”

He stated simply; “We are doing nothing for Dafur.”

And sat down.

The trap worked; the argument reached its intended effect.

She did at the conclusion, back up a little; reminding that she wasn’t against technology; she was emphasizing that because the powers behind it are so vulnerable that we often wind up thinking we have done something practical, physical and Christian; when all we have done is communicated impersonally and technologically; overloading our people into overload, inertia and entropy.

I am sure she came on too strong on my friend.

I am also sure she had a terribly worthy point to wrestle with.

(And I fear most of us might feel like this blogger, "I like the mix of shows that Oprah has. I wouldn't be able to handle a Dafur every day for example, so it's nice to have little frivolous shows like fashion..")

And I agree with her that more “Christmas” worship services ought to include dung.


To remind us of how real, human, lowly and personal Christ was in incarnation.

For God so loved the world; he didn’t send a mass email. He came personally, and he smelled not like incense, but like..


And he remained human, personal….and he suffered….throughout his earthly life.

Ironically, the only hand I saw go up when Dawn asked “How many of your churches recite the Apostle’s Creed’?" was the Oprah-watching Brian.

She went on to expose a simple yet costly grammatical misunderstanding in almost every hymnal version of the creed. It usually is printed, and thus recited:

“I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth/
And in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord/
Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary/
Suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead and buried…”

The only problem here, she argued, is that the original sources are unanimous; it is not “suffered under Pontius Pilate.” There is a comma after “suffered”; and the “Under Pontius Pilate” is connected grammatically to the next clause. In other words:

“Conceived by the Holy Spirit,
Born of the Virgin Mary,
(and) Under Pontius Pilate, (He) was crucified.”

The point being: He suffered. Not just under Pontius Pilate; not just on the cross; but throughout his life!

The implication then: so do (or should) we!

The powers put far too much pressure on pastors to not only lose their focus ("How many times are you asked to do something that has nothing to do with your calling?"); but lead us into number-worship.

And by the way, Dawn impolitely asked “Who in hell told us that numbers equals success?”

Exposing the power-fed lie that church is all about how many people we “have,” she quoted one of the most shocking lines she has overheard at pastor’s conferences; “And how many people do you worship?,” one pastor innocently asked another at break time.

Aside from the fact that “how many” is the wrong question to ask; the unintentional gramamatical idolatry (using “worship” as a verb….though as Robert Webber has well reminded us, it is very appropriately a verb) this question admitted that people are the object of worship.

Which is what the powers are after all along: worship of anyone/anybody but God.

Even though she proffered, “the numbers game is of the principalities and powers”;
indeed there is a place for numbers in exposing the powers.

In an argument she prefaced very carefully (“September 11 was a terrible thing; an evil thing; and we grieve any unnecessary loss of life"):

“What did the endless televsion replyaing of the planes hitting the World Trade Center tell us?”

“That the 3,000 people that died there are more important than the 35, 650 children who died of starvation that same day!”

Yes, the room grew quiet again.

But only for her to break it by suggesting we tithe to the poor; and split our home grocery budget in half between our family and the poor.

She this offered enough information to "whelm" us; but into action; not "over-whelm" us into inaction and paralysis, as the information overload of the power-media seems to do.

This is, she suggested, precisely what Neal Postman predicted would be happening in our current culture, under due to what he called the “Low Information-Action Ratio.” Note the intentional acronym “liar.”

Ironically, she basically called my emailing pastor-friend a “l.i.a.r.” Ironically the only time he may have truly lied is when she cornered him into a confession : “We have done nothing for Dafur.” Isn’t one congregant out of one hundred enlighhtened into cation worth a quick thoughhtful email a good Kingom investment?

I don’t know.


Marva did continue to expose for ours: this time the danger in the phrase “user-friendly.” Nothing wrong in making folks comfortable (Or is there? she asked. Perhaps our job is to pastor them into discomfort them…like with Christmas dung…. that leads to a high information-action ratio), she clarified. But she wanted to call our attention to the origin of the phrase: in the context of …


“Have you yet met a computer that was your friend,” she smiled. “We put the locus of hospitality in the wrong place!"

The she dropped yet another bomb. She claimed that only twice in 28 years of church ‘freelancing,’ visiting churchs all over the nation, did she have someone verbally and physically express hospitality.

Yes, she named names:

“The first was St. John’s in New Orleans; where someone said to me, ‘Let me show you how our worship flows, so you will feel at home.’

The second was St. Paul’s in Ann Arbor, where someone said, “You’re a stranger; sit with me..’”

One last bomb.

A true story which perhaps embodies everthing Marva was desiring to commicate; one true story which the very telling of exposes the entire plan of the powers. If we are not careful, the story’s ending may be the “four last words of the church.

Thanks Marva Dawn for the ministry of exposing and unmasking.

The story:

Visiting slums in Kenya, Canadian pastors were overwhelmed by the conditions. One asked “Where is the hope?”

“Our hope is in Jesus Christ!,” a Kenyan pastor responded.

Ouch! That was enough indictment, right? Keep listening.

A Canadian pastor actually answered:

“But that’s not enough.”

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