Archive for July, 2007

wouldn’t it be funny…

…if it took an overextended war like the one we have in Iraq to alienate an entire generation of Americans from their government?

I saw the following over at Will Samson’s blog. It’s a list of things conservative blogger Rod Dreher no longer believes after 4+ years of American occupation in Iraq.

1. Having been absolutely certain that the war was the right thing to have done, and that we would prevail easily, I am no longer confident that I can discern when emotion is affecting my judgment unduly.

2. I no longer implicitly trust governmental institutions, including the military — neither in their honesty nor their competence.

3. I no longer believe the Republican Party is superior in foreign policy judgment to the Democrats.

4. I no longer have confidence in the ability of our military, or any military, to solve deep cultural and civilizational problems through force alone. I mean, I thought nothing could stand in the way of the strongest military fielded since the days of ancient Rome. No more.

5. I have a far greater appreciation for how rare and fragile liberal democracy is, and a corresponding revulsion at the American assumption that it’s the natural state of mankind. Which is to say, the war has made me rethink my ideas about human nature, and I’m far more pessimistic now than I ever was.

I could really care less about having a discussion here about the politics of the war in Iraq. But I wonder if Dreher’s words represent thousands or millions of others who have become jaded with the political system and really wonder if any good can come from such a system.  Furthermore, I wonder if he speaks for people of faith whose views of a “good kingdom of this world” have been shattered over the last 6 years.

I’m thankful to serve a King who genuinely loves his servants and is at work bringing true peace — shalom — to all the world.  No human king can do such a thing.

harry, etc.

While walking along the Charles River Esplanade on Sunday with my folks, hundreds of folks were laying out enjoying the absolutely spotless weather. One out of ever 4 of them, it seemed, was reading the new Harry Potter installment, Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows. What is it with this ongoing story that has been translated into 63 languages and purchased 365 million times? What causes readers of all ages to forego sleep to digest the thick volume in a single night?

Is it the adventure? The romance? The friendship? The fantasy?

Admittedly, I’ve only seen the first movie and haven’t read any of the books. But the frenzy around J.K. Rowlings’ books is hard to ignore at this point, especially after 8.5 million copies of Book 7 were sold in the first 24 hours &emdash; in the U.S. alone.

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n54602793_31146510_294.jpgWith all the events of this past weekend, I almost forgot to mention our amazing evening last Wednesday. Chrissy and I went to a birthday party &emdash; hers. But this was unlike any birthday party either of us had ever attended. Several of our neighbors came together and decided to throw her a surprise party. (these are the “single moms” I have mentioned before. They are not all technically “single,” but we certainly don’t see much of the men) One of them bakes (“designs” or “creates” would be a better verb here) cakes as a side job, so she made two for the party — a pineapple upside-down cake with fresh fruit and whipped cream on top, and a brandy (!) cake. Another woman played host for the surprise party, decorating her place with balloons and signs and preparing a Puerto Rican spread of salad, rice & beans, baked chicken, and these empanada-like things that were filled with meat. Oh man, was it all good!

My sole job was to get Chrissy down to our neighbor’s house, where several of our neighbors and their children were waiting to surprise the birthday girl. She was indeed surprised, though one of the kids answered the door when she rang and promptly told her that her “birthday cake is in the kitchen.” Kids, ya know?!

We sang the birthday song, ate, talked, and ate some more. We wrestled with the kiddos for a while and helped clean up. So many smiles, hugs, even tears were shared. It was perhaps the best time I’ve had in recent memory.

I couldn’t help thinking the whole time, “The Kingdom of God is like a surprise party thrown for you by people of little to no means, but with great joy.”

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One last thing: My brother’s band, Homer Hiccolm & the Rocketboys, is in a contest to perform at this year’s Austin City Limits music festival (a big deal). The winner of the contest is determined by online votes, so please click over to this page and cast your vote for HHRB (one vote per person, per day, per IP address). The contest is in stages, so they’ll likely need your vote again in a few weeks. Check back here for the next opportunity to send them to Austin!

great weekend with the ‘rents

DSCN1565.JPGThe folks were in town this weekend, and it was one of those weekends from which you need about 3 weekdays to recover. One of those weekends that make you think there could be no better place to be in the summertime than New England.

The weather and company were amazing all weekend. We spent time walking along the seaside Marginal Way in Ogunquit, Maine, played miniature golf in Portsmouth, NH, made and flew our own kites near the Chelsea Creek in East Boston, enjoyed the Italian Festival a few blocks from our house (remember the event from last year when we met our great friends Matt & Pam?), walked the Esplanade along the gorgeous Charles River (see photo), enjoyed a bluegrass concert in a harborside park near our house, and worshiped together at the historic Trinity Church in Copley Square.

Trinity, an Episcopal congregation founded in 1733 (!), is a Boston mainstay and center for faith formation in this city. We thoroughly enjoyed our time worshiping there Sunday morning, and would encourage anyone traveling to Boston to schedule a Trinity service into their schedule.

I saw the a T-shirt hanging in the church building with the following Top-10 list, which I thought was blog-worthy. It’s Robin Williams’ “Top 10 Reasons He’s an Episcopalian.” These were especially fun as we were walking out of the service. Enjoy!

10. No snake handling.

9. You can believe in dinosaurs.

8. Male and female, God created them; male and female, we ordain them.

7. You don’t have to check your brains at the door.

6. Pew aerobics.

5. Church year is color coded!

4. Free wine on Sunday.

3. All of the pageantry, none of the guilt.

2. You don’t have to know how to swim to get baptized.

1. No matter what you believe, there’s bound to be at least one other Episcopalian who agrees with you.

(oh, and thanks to PreacherMike, who paid us a visit and treated us to some great seafood and encouragement on Thursday night)

freedom

Since 9/11, we’ve often heard President Bush state that freedom is a “gift of the Almighty,” that God desires all people to be free. It is common knowledge that the President’s theological belief on this particular issue has undergirded much of this country’s foreign policy and military action over the last six years.

I just read a nice piece over at ChristianityToday.com about the President’s latest declaration of his theology of freedom, this time to a group of conservative reporters on Tuesday. As you’ll see from CT’s report, the response was immediate and mixed, with some calling Bush’s statements heretical. (including many conservatives)

For those who don’t have time to read the CT article (which I’d recommend doing), here’s what Bush told the reporters:

The other debate is whether or not it is a hopeless venture to encourage the spread of liberty. Most of you all around this table are much better historians than I am. And people have said, you know, this is Wilsonian, it’s hopelessly idealistic. One, it is idealistic, to this extent: It’s idealistic to believe people long to be free. And nothing will change my belief. I come at it many different ways. Really not primarily from a political science perspective, frankly; it’s more of a theological perspective. I do believe there is an Almighty, and I believe a gift of that Almighty to all is freedom. And I will tell you that is a principle that no one can convince me that doesn’t exist.

Is he right? Is freedom — and I assume he means political and physical freedom, like the Iraqis now have (sorry, couldn’t resist) — an inherent right given to humanity by God?

lovely

It’s nice to know there are still places in our society where people from all walks of life unite (story):

In an area famous for balkanized neighborhoods and clannish mentalities, the South Bay Center on the border of Dorchester has emerged as a melting pot uniting residents of South Boston, Dorchester, the South End, and Roxbury. At Best Buy and Super Stop & Shop, Old Navy, and Home Depot, the city’s black and white, rich and poor, Latino and Asian converge in pursuit of cat litter, artichokes, and air conditioners against the backdrop of the city skyline.

Someone queue the Lee Greenwood music!

social gospel

I am an adherent of the social gospel.

God is at work in the world transforming not only the souls of individual human beings, but re-building communities of people by reconciling the broken social bonds that have created injustices and inequalities. One need only look at the life of Christ to know this is true. Christ’s first recorded sermon (Luke 4), spoken from the book of Isaiah in the Temple, reveals that his mission is to “preach good news to the poor … recovery of sight for the blind … to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” As I’ve written in a previous post, Jesus’ words likely would have been heard first and foremost as being restorative of broken social relationships, then spiritual lives. What a profound sermon to begin the formal ministry of Jesus!

And Jesus’ ministry would back up his words in the Temple that day. He called together a community of disciples that contained individuals who would, under any other circumstance, be enemies — an employee of the Roman government (Matthew, a tax collector) and a violent revolutionary against said government (Simon, a Zealot). Over and over, he sought to restore the humanity of prostitutes, tax collectors, and lepers, declaring that his good news was for all people and essentially evens the playing field. The Bible is replete with examples after example of a God that restores broken social relationships and the humanity of the marginalized and poor, but space doesn’t allow me to list them all here. (what are some more? list them in the comments section)

Yes, we are restored spiritually to our creator when we call on Him and live into His way. But the reign of God — his Kingdom — breaks into every area of our lives, “on earth as it is in heaven,” not least our social bonds and physical world. We were created for community, and God’s mission is to restore us to community with himself and with others. By relegating the gospel to the spiritual realm or the afterlife, Christians have ignored the clear social implications of the gospel, which declares good news for people here on Earth as well as when we die. This theology profoundly affects the way in which we live in this world.

So I believe in the social gospel. And the physical gospel, and the spiritual gospel. May we never truncate or sell short the vastness of the mission of God, into which he invites us to join him. May we do just that.

Note: The Social Gospel movement began in the late 19th century as “a movement that applied Christian principles to social problems, especially poverty, inequality, liquor, crime, racial tensions, slums, bad hygiene, poor schools, and the danger of war” (wiki). When I mention the social gospel, I am not referring to this movement in Christian history.

coverings and church perception

Keith Giles has some helpful things to say about “spiritual covering” in today’s Subversive Underground Newsletter. He contrasts authentic biblical accountability in ministry and missions with what some churches call “spiritual covering,” which he asserts is often used as a way to control the activity of their members. He concludes with this powerful statement:

The Holy Spirit promised (and I really do believe Him) to lead us into all Truth. We do not need an expert or a professional to tell us we are “safe” or “official”.

Personally, I think he’s right.

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I just saw the following list over at Abductive Columns. According to Dan Kimball, these are the six most common perceptions of the Church among post-Christian 20s and 30-somethings:

  1. The Church is an organized religion with a political agenda
  2. The Church is judgmental and negative
  3. The Church is dominated by males and oppresses females
  4. The Church is homophobic
  5. The Church arrogantly claims all other religions are wrong
  6. The Church is full of fundamentalists who take the whole Bible literally