Books I’m reading

I am currently about halfway through reading “The Faith of Barack Obama” by Stephen Mansfield.  For the most part I have enjoyed this view into Barack’s faith perspectives.  I appreciate how Mr. Mansfield has been able to clearly identify the importance of Barack’s faith and the wonderful way he has highlighted that there is faith on both sides of the issue (left or right).  I share my pastor’s views in wishing that we could move beyond those unfortunate and, often, loaded terms such as liberal, conservative, left and right.  The important reality is that Barack has not relegated his Christian faith to the sidelines for it is very much a part of who he is and what kind of leader he is.   When I finish this book I will blog about more.

I am also reading a book by Anthony Thiselton called “The two Horizons.”  This book is not new, Thiselton wrote it in the eighties.  I have just picked it up and began to read it.  It is quite academic but his perspectives on Hermeneutics is invaluable and it is a book any of us seeking to interpret the Scriptures seriously will want to own and read.

Lastly I am just beginnin to read Peter Rollins’ book entitled “How (not) to speak of God.  I haven’t yet read any of this book but I did hear a book report at the emergent cohort to which I belong and it sounds very good.  The book is recommended highly by Brian McLaren.  I am quite excited to read it; more will be coming about this book.

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Words of faith and life in hopeful discovery

I am preparing to preach at my church on Sunday, our text as designated by the lectionary is Matthew 16:13-20, which records for us the interaction between Jesus and his disciples and the proclamation from Peter.  Jesus asks “who do men say that I am”?  The disciples answer, “some say John the Baptist, others Jeremiah and still others Elijah.”  Then Jesus asks, “who do you say that I am”?  Peter answers, “you are the Christ the Son of the living God.”  

We are impressed with Peter’s answer and there is the sense that he has understood (by revelatory means as Jesus comments) that Jesus is the Christ, which means the annointed One, the Messiah.  Peter’s proclamation is true, he is right…Jesus is the Messiah and the one that God had promised would come; that is indeed a profound statement of faith.  The challenge comes for Peter and for us who read that proclamation, in assuming that the proclamation indicated an understanding of what that all meant.  I believe that the Scriptures indicate the reverse, Peter spoke from faith what it would take a lifetime to understand.  That truth is evident in what follows in the narrative…Jesus begins to announce for the first time the result of his identity: death and suffering. Unfortunately that does not equate to Peter’s notion of what he had espoused at the time of his earlier proclamation.  This leads Peter to renounce that Jesus could endure such treatment.  Jesus then turns to the one, who had heard from God the truth of who this prophet from Nazareth was, and tells him “get behind me Satan for you are not on the side of God but on the side of men.”

Our words are indeed important, and our statements of faith set us on our path.  But I believe that, as in this instance, they are uninformed and are but the entry into a life that hopes in the reality of what we thought we understood.  It will take Peter a lifetime of living and discovering to understand what those words meant, what the implications of those words are, what it would cost him to live based upon those words.  Our notions of what it means to be a disciple and to live the life that such statements call us to must be tried and tested in living, a life of discovery and of learning.  

It is easy for us at this juncture of history and church history to believe that that such truths have been wrestled downed and understood and that the belief we have inherited (and the expressions of belief) are ones which actually reflect the truth of Peter’s statements (and our own), but in reality, we faithfully proclaim and them must hopefully discover all that God will teach us about the reality of those words in living.

Unfortunately, we often take those words as the ending point of faith and fill in the blanks about what such a life will look like in the world where our living takes place.  We lose the discovery and we form statements that predispose us to perspectives that, remarkably, fit with the religious culture from whence we have come.  Peters’ words on that day reflected a life that stood in contrast to political and religious perspectives normative in that day: views of country, of patriotism, of power, of righteousness and redemption.  

What views are we baptizing in our notions about God, faith and discipleship, which run with our culture (either religious or secular) and not with faith lived out in hope?

Young Postmodern Faith

This post first appeared on the Emergent Boise blog to which I also belong.  I wanted to share my thoughts on this quote from a book I am reading.

I am reading a book (thanks to Mark’s earlier blog) on the faith of Barack Obama.  I approached this book wearily, because I don’t like to read the religious drivel that is often produced and prominently displayed in Christian book stores as thoughtful.  Thus far (eleven pages into the introduction) if found this gleaming quote that follows up nicely a discussion on truth and beauty from the emergent gathering the other night and fits nicely into our plans for October’s gathering discussing politics and the upcoming election..  

“Religiously, the majority of America’s young are postmodern, which means they do faith like jazz: informal, eclectic, and often without theme.  They have largely rejected organized religion in favor of a religious  pastiche that works for them.  They think nothing of hammering together a personal faith from widely differing religious traditions, and many acquire their theology the same way they catch colds: through casual contact with strangers.  Thus, when Obama speaks  of questioning certain tenets of his Christian faith or the importance of doubt in religion or his respect for non-Christian religions, the majority of the young instantly related and welcome his nontraditional faith as a basis for his – and their – left-leaning politics” (page XiX of the intro to “The faith of Barack Obama”.  

Now, I give you the paragraph mainly as a means of not proof texting by attempting to include some context of the phrase that has so captured me.  But I love this description of postmodern religious folk:Which means that they do faith like jazz: informal, eclectic, and often with out theme.  Now I have been reading emergent and postmodern Christian books for quite a while now, and I must say that this artistically worded description gets at what I have observed and felt regarding the cultural shift to a postmodern perspective and the effects of that shift upon religious thought and primarily upon the Christian faith to which I belong.  That is so what we do in our re-evaluation, our thinking outside of the acceptable and traditional boxes; it sounds as though there is no theme, but there is to the one playing it, to the rhythm that they feel inside.  It doesn’t make sense to so many who hear it, yet it has a beauty to it and in so many ways it is more beautiful than it is cognitive or accepting of objective reduction.  For many, however it is noise.

Pot – Kettle…black????

This morning I listened to NPR and heard of Russia’s invasion of Georgia.  And while I am not in favor of Russia’s actions, I also heard the report of President Bush’s condemnation of Russia’s act and call for their withdrawal.  My immediate thought was, “who the hell are you to comment at all about the invasion of Russia into Georgia, after you lied and led our country into a unnecessary, costly and immoral war in Iraq.  

President George Bush, you who had the plan to invade and attack the nation of Iraq from the beginning of your presidency, who has caused the death of thousands of U.S. Soldiers and even more civilians (collateral damage) in Iraq.  You who have ignored the world community who called for us to not invade, you who have stubbornly continued to claim that all this is in defense against terrorism.(?)  You from whom so many travesties, which you termed executive privledges resulted in the invasions of not just Iraq but invasions of our freedoms.  You whom authorized “extreme interrogation techniques,” which of course you would not  term torture, under you the prisoners were tortured, jailed without due process and all for your sick version of what it meant to guard our homeland.  You screwed up our education system with no child left behind, for which no respecting educator has anything but disdain.  You tapped our phones, ratted out our CIA agents for revenge and just lied.  You lied, and you lied and you lied.  You sir are the terrorist, you sir are the renegade who has brought shame and scorn upon our nation and our reputation.  

You sir have no place to comment on anyone else’s military actions.  I can’t wait for your departure from office.  Again, I assert this is not a pro-invasion of Georgia blog entry, because I am not in support of the Russian action.  I am just tired of the hypocrisy, the lying and the shoveling of crap by our President, that makes Nixion look like like a poster child for integrity: at least he had integrity to admit his wrong doing and to step out of the office.  George Bush you could take some lessons from Nixon’s integrity in that manner.  You are, as Senator Byrd intimated, “the worst president ever”!

Lessons from John Wayne

Any of you, who know me know that I am a huge fan of John Wayne.  I set down this evening to watch one of his movies: Chisum.  In this movie, John Chisum is an owner of a large cattle ranch in the New Mexico Territory.  The movie begins with Chisum a top his horse up on the side of a large hill, where he was surveying all his land.  His right hand man, rode up where he was sitting and asked him if he was thinking about the beginning, to which he replied, “yea and before.”  

My thought about this is that here is a man who owns a huge portion of the New Mexico territory and each morning he rides up to the hill to think about where he has landed and from whence he has come.  That is a good practice for any of us, to remember from whence we have come and to survey all that we have gained.  It seems to me that most of us think about where we are and seek to keep it in hand, but often we are not so aware or don’t remember from when we have come.  if we were more inclined to remembering as we are planning we might just plan better, wiser were we to take the time to keep in perspective all that we have come through to get to where we are.  

I think that the reason that I appreciate the John Wayne movies so much is that it portrays a simpler time where we were aware of our blessings and aware of where we hoped we are going.  With much work, determination and a willingness to appreciate our partners, enemies and our blessings, we might just be more able to work toward the betterment of our situation and those who are traveling with us.  There are lessons to be learned from Mr. Wayne.  this is just one.

Obama, a president who listens…

I just read an account where some hecklers showed up at an Obama town hall meeting.  You can find the article on NBC’s website at the following link.

 http://firstread.msnbc.msn.com/archive/2008/08/01/1240564.aspx

At this town hall meeting, a group of African-Americans interuppted Barack.  I was impressed by his genuine and interested response.  He asked them to sit down and promised to address their questions during the question and answer time and then, he did just that.  He heard them and sought to answer their question but more importantly his answer wasn’t focused at his ability to change the situations they were protesting.  Rather he pointed them toward exercising their vote, running for office themselves but most importantly respecting one another and seeking to come together for an to the problems we face as Americans.  

I am impressed that this potential president wasn’t afraid to hear dissenting opinions or questions and I was impressed by his dependence upon our democratic process, where differing opinions, perspectives, where all the varieties of culture in our country must come together if we every hope to wrestle down answers to these very difficult problems.  

After 8 years of having dissenting voices escorted out of gatherings because they held opinions that spoke against the policies of the President, I am refreshed by Obama’s authentic candidacy and I hope he is our next president.