The NY Times has posted a recent article about a child molester, recently released from prison, who is seeking to join a congregation in Carlsbad, California.

How sad that this is even up for debate. I don’t have kids, so I can’t imagine the feelings parents must have about this, but seriously: this is the church. This is the body of which Christ is the head, and people are arguing over whether certain people have the right to be members.

I wonder if they had this argument the first time a soldier, recently returned from the Middle East, tried to place membership. Did they question his right to belong, based on things he had done in his past? What about those who are greedy, who are racist, who are fill-in-the-blank.

The church is not a country club, and who are we to start denying entry into Christ’s body?

The Tacoma Narrows Bridge was brought down by a series of small wind-created vibrations resonating with other small wind-created vibrations that became large undulating ribbons of tar and concrete.

Simlarly, there are small, seemingly unconnected events taking place, sometimes no more than a fleeting thought or a daydream, that are acting in harmony to disrupt my current equilibrium.

For over a year now I have not been able to fully participate in worship because I am preoccupied with critiquing the message of the songs. One of my favorite pasttimes during worship is to count how many singular pronouns occur on each slide, and then “scoring” the songs based on some sort of unrefined scale of my own creation. I’ve written before, in other venues, about my distrust for the modern, contemporary evangelical worship service, so this is nothing new.

But what is new is the focusing of my critique on my own internal condition. I tried, recently, to take stock of how many personal pronouns occur in my own ruminations and planning. The tally frightens me.

How am I going to pay my tax bill? How can we save up for our trip? What is the next step in my education? Me, myself, and I. Sometimes, we.

I am approaching a state I can only imagine Nouwen experienced (as passed on to us through his writings): a state where I feel that if I don’t begin to expend myself in the service of others, if I don’t begin pouring out my life as an offering, if I don’t get my head out of academia and philosophy, my soul is in danger of shrivelling up and dying.

So, I get Henri Nouwen. I get the need to “check out” of the rat race and get messy, and even though I know that it is what is needed, I can’t bring myself to pull the trigger, so to speak, and put this miserable man out of his misery.

Thanks be to God for the outlet of quasi-pseudonymous confession!

This is not really a response to Q’s last post (Is Religion the Answer?), but more of an attempt to further the conversation.

I hear people say, and I read, and I see on the television and the internet, that they are “Spiritual, but not religious.”

I’m sorry, but I have a few problems with that statement, which I don’t have time to really delve into here, so I’ll just enumerate them and revisit it when I have the chance:

1) What is “spirituality?”  Sorry, but a lot of times when I hear people saying this I picture some woman from a tampon commercial running through a field of flowers, a crown of daisies on her head or something, communing with Mother Earth.

2) Are “spirituality” and “religion” mutually exclusive?

3) What is their definition of “religion?”

A rant, I know, but this is just a jumping off point…

Something I’ve been thinking about over the course of the last few weeks is whether religion is the answer to our problems and to the question of God (some may say they are one and the same). In many ways I am sympathetic toward theologians who envision a religionless Christianity (be it through Bonhoeffer or Tillich’s concept of dynamics and form). In the spirit of genuine curiosity, what is your take on religion? Is it a necessary component or hindrance to the universal message of the gospel?

A while back we discussed a review of a recent book on the need for increased Biblical Literacy in the U.S. Today, the L.A. Times published an opinion piece by that book’s author, Stephen Prothero, “We live in the land of biblical idiots“.

Though we already discussed this, I thought I’d at least share this link. Perhaps a good discussion for this post is why two major nationally distributed newspapers would even give press to a book like this. I’m sure there have been plenty of books along this same lines published. I know people are saying all the time, we need to teach religion in our schools. What about Prothero’s book makes this “news” right now?

I’m sitting here at my desk, pondering my sermon for this week, and I’m wondering, is the concept of “conversion” a completely Christian concept? What has spawn this thought? I just read an article about a small, rural church that has blossomed into a thriving church. They have started several ministries to reach out to all kinds of people. As a result of these ministries, they say, over 80 people have been “converted”. I can’t help but wonder, converted from what? From another faith, from no-faith at all, or from their own selfish ways.

I guess my problem with the concept of “conversion” as we often understand it is that it seems to go against a process understanding of salvation. It suggests that salvation occurs in this big, one-time conversion experience. But, isn’t being saved more complicated than that. At least for me, there has not been a one time conversion experience, so much as many little conversions along the way. And really, I don’t feel like I’ve left anything behind, so much as God has carried me through some things, using some crappy mistakes to develop me into the person Christ has called me to be. When someone “converts” from being a Muslim to Christian, is this a conversion or simply another step on their faith journey (And I’m not suggesting people should convert from being a Muslim).

I don’t know if I’m making sense. For a while I’ve done my best to avoid the term “converted” because of all the baggage I see it carrying. Is there a better term we can use when someone makes that step of commitment to Christ. Or, is “converted” a fine term and I’m just speaking nonsense?

Slap

Courtesy of RLP.