The IM Saturday Brunch: August 25, 2018

Pink Zinnia, Chicago Botanic Garden (2018)

The IM Saturday Brunch: August 25, 2018

Nuns having fun edition

During Marian Catholic High School night at Guaranteed Rate Field on Saturday, Sister Mary Jo Sobiek took the mound to deliver the first pitch. In one of the slickest moves of the season, Sister Mary Jo showed off a cool arm-bounce trick and threw a strike over the plate.

Sister Mary Jo comes from a long tradition of nuns having fun. Here are a few more sisters at play…

And you wonder why the evangelical churches are shallow?

Because THIS is the kind of leadership advice they are getting and listening to.

When your church is mediocre, it should be no surprise unchurched people aren’t lining up to join you and that you’re not attracting and keeping the amazing leaders who might attend your church but don’t want to get involved because things are so sub-par.

…So, how do you know your church is mediocre? Here are 7 signs to look for.

1. You have non-singers singing and bad players playing
2. Bad Production
3. School Play Quality Live Streams
4. A Lame Website
5. Your Info Isn’t Current
6. You’re Resigned to This
7. You’re Afraid to Change

Seriously, these are the problems churches are having these days?

The real problem is in the assumption Nieuwhof makes — that the goal is to have “unchurched people line up to join you” and “attracting and keeping amazing leaders.” More church growth babble: if you build it (an awesome organization with incredible entertainment and programs), they will come.

But will they find Jesus there?

Sad news from the McCain family…

“Last summer, Senator John McCain shared with Americans the news our family already knew: he had been diagnosed with an aggressive glioblastoma, and the prognosis was serious. In the year since, John has surpassed expectations for his survival. But the progress of disease and the inexorable advance of age render their verdict. With his usual strength of will, he has now chosen to discontinue medical treatment.”

“Our family is immensely grateful for the support and kindness of all his caregivers over the last year, and for the continuing outpouring of concern and affection from John’s many friends and associates, and the many thousands of people who are keeping him in their prayers. God bless and thank you all.”

Everyone is judge and jury these days…

A story in the news ticked me off this week.

As our series on Jonathan Haidt’s book The Righteous Mind showed, “human nature is not just intrinsically moral, it’s also intrinsically moralistic, critical, and judgmental.” These days, it doesn’t matter what partisan side you’re on, it seems you are compelled to play judge and jury on every thing you become aware of through the all-pervasive media.

Daniel Murphy is a baseball player. The Chicago Cubs traded for him to boost their flagging offense for the pennant race. As a Cubs fan I am interested in all things related to the team, and I was excited to get this All-Star quality player for our side. But as I listened to radio coverage, it seemed like all anyone wanted to talk about what something Daniel Murphy said back in 2015 about the “homosexual lifestyle.”

Back then, Murphy, a devout Christian, made some comments about former MLB player Billy Bean, who is openly gay and serves as the league’s Ambassador for Inclusion. Murphy said at the time he “[disagreed] with his lifestyle” and “the fact he is homosexual.” But in fact his statement was more nuanced than that, and he affirmed that he would not shun Bean or any other homosexual, because that would not represent the kind of love he believes he should show to everyone. It was a common evangelical response.

Billy Bean, MLB Vice Pres & Special Assistant to the Commissioner

Now I don’t happen to fully agree with Daniel Murphy about this. But words like “bigot” were being thrown around by these radio people and in print in stories I read.

Folks, holding an opinion that I disagree with is not bigotry. Bigotry, in fact, is not an opinion or an intellectual “position” a person holds. There are no “bigoted views,” as the linked article above calls them. Bigotry is an attitude, a visceral opposition to another. Someone holding an opinion may be misinformed or ignorant. Views and positions may be spouted in defense of bigotry, but a bigot is not someone who simply holds a point of view. Furthermore, we are all on a journey, and on this way we learn, we grow, and our opinions and perspectives change. But no one seems to be inclined to practice patience or forbearance anymore. We have become so partisan and violently tribalistic in our discourse that views we deem unacceptable are seen as active animosity toward our side and therefore simply cannot be tolerated.

In fact, Billy Bean himself showed us a better way. He personally reached out to Murphy in 2015 and intentionally sought to develop a friendship with him. By all reports, they have indeed become friends. If anybody has a right to talk about Daniel Murphy it’s a person like Bean, who refused the path of moralistic judgment and chose the way of generosity, hospitality, and peacemaking.

Speaking of which…

An article at CT makes reference to a recent survey that shows — surprise! — people want to go to church with people who agree with them about politics. What might be a bit surprising is that it is younger people who agree most with the statement, “I prefer to attend a church where people share my political views.”

More than half (57%) of Protestant churchgoers under 50 say they prefer to go to church with people who share their political views. And few adult Protestant churchgoers say they attend services with people of a different political persuasion.

Those are among the findings in a new report on churchgoing and politics from Nashville-based LifeWay Research.

“Like many places in America, churches are divided by politics,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. “And churchgoers under 50 seem to want it that way.”

The survey did find that it is a relatively small group of people that feels very strongly about this, so perhaps there is something we can find here to be thankful for.

This is not a story from The Onion…

The animals on the Barnum’s Animals Crackers boxes have been set free from their long captivity in Barnum & Bailey Circus cages. As the New York Times reports:

After 116 years of captivity, animal crackers have been freed from their cages.

It was a symbolic victory for animal rights activists, notably People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which had argued that the immediately recognizable yellow-and-red boxes by Nabisco portrayed a cruel bygone era when traveling circuses transported exotic wildlife in confinement.

The new boxes are expected to arrive in stores this week. They show a zebra, an elephant, a lion, a giraffe and a gorilla roaming free side-by-side in a natural habitat, a sweeping savanna with trees in the distance.

…“Throughout our history, we have leveraged and evolved our classic design to drive awareness around key animal and environmental issues,” a Mondelez [Nabisco’s parent company] spokeswoman said on Tuesday. “To continue to make the brand relevant for years to come, we felt this was the right time for the next evolution in our design, now showing the animals in a natural habitat.”

I do like what Matthew Haag, the author of the Times piece, observed: “While the animals enjoy freedom on the box, the small, crisp, sweet crackers themselves are of course still destined for human stomachs or perhaps the crevices of baby strollers.”

Happy Birthday, Jeff Tweedy…

Songwriter, musician, and leader of the world’s greatest rock band, Wilco, was born on this day in 1967. Of course, in honor of the occasion I’d like some Wilco today, please.

• • •

And here’s the man himself, with Punch Brothers on Live From Here:

99 thoughts on “The IM Saturday Brunch: August 25, 2018

  1. As Eagle put it, “American Christians have sold their birthright for a Supreme Court Appointment”.

    Though this DOES bring the matter to some sort of close; the GOP Establishment has been stringing the Christians along with it for 40 years or so.


  2. Headless U Guy, Thanks for the clip from the great, immortal Simpsons. You are also so right on about McFarland, it is like paint by numbers vs. Da Vinci.

    McFarland just does whatever pop culture references the manatees pull out of the bingo-ball tank this week, but sometimes he makes a hit.


  3. I understand the word “bigot” originated as a slurring of the phrase “By God”.


  4. It will take YEARS for those “ideas that were indelibly imprinted” to fade enough to where she can function normally. I lost a few years to the End Time Prophecy locusts, and didn’t stop having flashbacks for 10-15 years after I disconnected. Thank you Hal Lindsay & Jack Chick.


  5. Every time I hear “understand the text literally”, I remember the Demon Locust Plague of Revelation “literally and plainly” being helicopter gunships armed with chemical-weapon “tail stingers” being flown by long-haired bearded hippies…


  6. All too often in practice, the Unpardonable Sin is “Whatever YOU Do that I Don’t”.


  7. Microchips = Mark of the Beast 666, etc. Time to put on your white robes and go as high as you can in mountains or skyscrapers so you won’t have as far to Ascend in The Rapture.

    That’s been “plain meaning of SCRIPTURE” since I was in-country in the Seventies. Anyone remember the “IBM 3666 POS System” Christian Urban Legend?


  8. You’re probably right, but at least they tacked an exclamation point onto it to make it look like Trump wrote it.

    Points for being a good and faithful servant.


  9. I’ve been gone all day, but one of the first things I did an hour ago was to check on Trump’s tweets. I use and they keep all of his tweets up, even the ones edited or deleted.

    No further mention of McCain—and, as many have noted, no real mention of McCain himself in the tweet last night, merely “deepest sympathies and respect for the family of John McCain,” with hearts and prayers going out to them.

    Seven tweets today, none about John McCain. The usual deprecation of Jeff Sessions, The Fake News, The Clintons, the FBI failing to investigate Hillary’s emails (did you know there were 33,000 in question?). Bragging about the stock market and consumer spending, but Obama had nothing to do with the recovery.

    Today Mr. Trump was at his (or one of his) golf courses. Still no mention of John McCain. Flags half-staff on the orders of governors, and somebody at the White House. Trump did not brag in a tweet that he had ordered flags lowered. Because apparently it was not he who ordered it.

    To answer your question: yes, technically, I think he meant it, as much as he means anything. There really wasn’t much said, and I think the “sympathies” and “respect” were about as “deep” as Trump could manage for McCain’s family. Not for McCain; for McCain’s family.

    Mere words, as you said, from a man who lies often? Yep, that too.

    The wheels of justice turn slowly, but they grind exceedingly fine. Stay tuned.


  10. Burro, bigotry is a disease of thought just as cancer is a disease of the tissues. Is bigotry consistent with the Christian life? Many think so. After all if god says it’s ok to be a bigot then it must be ok.


  11. Heather you’re ascribing motives to me which you can’t possibly know. All I can tell you is that the LGBT community is no more patient now than African-Americans were in the 60s. There were many voices counseling patience back then too.


  12. Mike, I take your point I really do, and people should be given the opportunity to change their minds. Is there any evidence that Daniel Murphy is prepared to change his mind or even realize the damage he is doing? Why are we willing to cut him so much slack? If he had come out with some racist or anti-Semitic remark would we be so patient? Or is it the perception that those battles have already been fought?


  13. Ted, do you think trump meant it? It is not enough for me because it is insincere IMO. Just mere word from a man who lies often.


  14. Stephen and JB, substitute black, latino, blue-eyed, or bald for homosexual. Maybe that will give you a clearer picture of the problem with Daniel Murphy’s comment.


  15. Whatever he says should IMO be taken with a grain of salt. IMO he attacked a hero and never apologized for such a disgraceful act. But it is par for the course for him.


  16. Somebody on Trump’s staff wrote a short tweet concerning John McCain’s death, but it didn’t sound even a little like Donald Trump. That is probably a good thing.


  17. The commander-in-chief is incapable of expressing sincere condolences or sympathy. It would be better if he said nothing about the Senator’s death, rather than saying something no one can believe.


  18. I just have to put in my 2 cents worth of agreement, CM. I am old enough to remember when homosexual people were regarded as either disgusting perverts (by traditionalists) or unfortunate perverts (by more liberal minds). I read an old book as a kid: “The Well of Loneliness — that was the first inkling I had of the possibility of any gray area on this subject.

    People don’t switch attitudes over night, on any subject. Those who consider themselves more “enlightened” seem to take quite a bit of pleasure in slamming other people’s deviation from the enlightened views with the ugliest of epithets. While it’s human nature to flatter oneself by degrading others, it isn’t, as you note, very useful in bringing about the attitude change that is wanted.


  19. The term “Swift boating” showed up when John Kerry ran for president. It’s a technique of attacking not a person’s weakness, but his strength. Kerry performed an act of bravery and was lampooned for it, much the same as our commander-in-chief has lampooned McCain for getting captured.

    It’ll be interesting to read what the commander-in-chief has to say now that McCain has died. If he says anything.


  20. Senator McCain will be missed IMO. He was willing to go against the flow politically which is becoming rarer on both sides of the aisle. Rest in Peace-Senator John McCain.


  21. Christians worry too much.

    That’s because Jesus, on a number of occasions, said to the apostles, “Be very afraid!”


  22. And for those five years as a POW he’s called a non-hero by the commander-in-chief, because real heroes don’t get caught.

    So, all of the soldiers killed in action are no longer heroes, because they didn’t make it home? I don’t think the commander-in-chief would get much mileage out of that, but that is exactly what he’s saying, without thinking it through.

    John McCain ran a class campaign in ’08. I didn’t vote for him, but I gained a lot of respect when he refused to take the bait about Obama being a “Muslim.”


  23. Hello DAVID,

    about Revelation, some say it is better to read it FIRST when reading the New Testament, because it tells you that Christ is the only One able to ‘open the scrolls’ and explain their meaning

    for many who say ‘the Bible clearly says’, and then they spout their own intepretation of Scripture, I would point them to the Book of Revelation which gives Jesus Christ as the One Who may explain to us the meaning of ‘the Word’, because He IS the ‘logos’, The Word Incarnate, the Lamb Who was slain

    Christ is ‘the Revealer of God’

    so the Book of Revelation helps people by directing them to read the Scriptures through the lens of Jesus Christ Himself and any human person who ‘interprets’ the Scriptures in a way that is not ‘Christ-like’ is off-track


  24. It’s pretty universally agreed that if a person worries about committing the unforgivable sin (blaspheming the Holy Spirit), then he or she hasn’t done that.

    Something like Dear Abby saying, “If you think you’re a bore, you’re not.” That was became a question on Jeopardy a very long time ago.

    Christians worry too much.


  25. I hope his passing is peaceful. I hope he is kept pain-free as possible. I feel so sad that his voice will not be raised again against the ‘crazy’. He IS one of our better men.


  26. And they badly hurt the reputation of American Christianity, they and those who bought into their mentality.


  27. The name Carey Nieuwhof rang a bell and … turns out I had some posts a few years back about his interview with Justin Dean, former PR/communications head of the former Mars Hill Church.

    I would be hesitant to take Nieuwhof’s comments as cogent if he considered Justin Dean an authority to interview on churches and PR. From where I stood it looked like Mars Hill had a pretty good reputation before Dean took on the role of handling it’s PR. If anything there’s a story Justin Dean shared in his book PR Matters in which it sounds like he admitted that a disastrous handling of a PR situation on his part was part of what catalyzed the demise of Mars Hill.


  28. “Just the use of the term ‘bigot’ has already made you judge, jury and prosecuting attorney.”

    Just as bigots make themselves judge, jury, and executioner for those they pre-judge.

    What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.


  29. May his death be peaceful and may God receive him into glory.

    I remember the Vietnam War era, and was in the Army for the first two years of it. That John McCain (and others, of course) endured five years as a POW is something I can’t even wrap my head around.


  30. I agree with Ronald; you did fine, Robert. Better than I did when riding with an old friend who I knew was extremely fundamentalist. I made the mist of saying something about the Catholic priests who molested children, and how awful that was. She agreed it was awful, but said that, in her theological outlook, it was something she could rejoice about because it was just another sign that the end times were near. (She said the same in 2001 after the Twin Towers came down.)

    She’s a close friend and a kind, generous person. I just don’t get it. Of course she didn’t ask me my opinion, though she said rather apologetically that she knew my beliefs were different. I just couldn’t think of anything to say, so I was silent until I could think of a graceful way to change the subject.


  31. I don’t follow baseball whatsoever, so I the only backdrop to the story I know is what has been presented here today at iMonk, but I have to wonder: why did Murphy feel it was incumbent on him to publicly weigh in on Bean’s lifestyle at all? Was to do that by an interviewer? If he was, couldn’t he have just demurred in offering his opinion about what is really a personal matter, and has nothing to with the business of baseball?


  32. Which is more easily put down to Marvel having fun at the expense of a certain kind of Christian than to their being the actual anti-Christ.


  33. This is mostly true, but I doubt that John of Patmos knew that, or intended to project his notions of what to do about Rome two thousand years into the future. He and his fellow Christians had enough trouble with the rulers of his own time.


  34. I don’t know that she goes to church, or really reads the Bible. But she absorbed a lot End Times prognosticating from the church culture she grew up in, and even as she’s become detached from the church, she continues to grapple with the ideas that were indelibly imprinted in her religious imagination by bad Christianity.


  35. Looking back 10 years ago now, I realize something I heard from a co-worker was a ‘canary in the goldmine’ to the current political state. By that time, I had disconnected from the world of talk radio and F$# news. One of my co-workers was obsessed with that world and suddenly started making very personal attacks on John McCain. I found it confusing, given McCain’s character and the fact that most people at that time considered him an American hero, and no one had ever questioned his ethics or morality. Those on the left may have disagreed with his policy, but I had never heard any prominent politician question his character. Honestly, I wrote it off to some psychiatric issues this particular person was having. This co-worker changed jobs and I lost touch with that world for a while.

    By the time the personal attacks from Trump happened, I had been disconnected from that world for more than 10 years. I found it as a shock, but I realize now that echo chamber had been repeating it for years.

    I still consider him an American hero and public servant beyond reproach. Sadly, he was the last representative of a Senate that is no more.


  36. Headless U Guy, Thanks for the clip from the great, immortal Simpsons. You are also so right on about McFarland, it is like paint by numbers vs. Da Vinci. I quit following every episode of Simpsons but know they will always be available on re run or dvd forever or my lifetime, which ever comes first.

    The evolution of Homer is just comedy history when at first Bart was the main character, in my opinion. In any case , the Simpson always make me laugh or think but mostly laugh. If the world was full of Ned Flanders would it be a diddly do wonderful world or would we want mostly Homer in the world?

    Mr. Burns, another character that developed so fully and so funny. I will catch up as I have missed track of the series.

    The clip was totally relevant. It is amazing what a cultural icon the Simpsons have become. I have never been so shocked and caught off guard as the death of Maude Flanders and the marriage to Edna K. Never know where a Simpson episode will take you. Pure comedy genius.


  37. “There is a wicked and pervading arrogance loose on the earth, like a rabid beast, an overdog. Does it run, does it slouch, does its name have a number? The beast preaches contempt, for that’s what arrogance says: that nothing is real but itself, and the bone and blood of another’s being are insubstantial as breath.”
    (K. Cherry)


  38. In the words of the prophet Matt Groening:

    And his dumbed-down copycat Seth Mc Farland (first 2 1/2 minutes):


  39. I would take McCain as President any day of the week over the present “president”.

    McCain is a hero in my book!


  40. After healing from the Official Hal Linsday Party Line, that was the conclusion I came to. That a lot of Revelation illustrates patterns of history that repeat (and will presumably reach their zenith at The End Time). My example was the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse as a pattern of Messiah politics:

    1) The unnamed “Man on the White Horse”. This is the Messiah-figure politician, the Caesar, The One Who Will Save Us (and Can Do No Wrong), “going forth to conquer” backed by wild enthusiasm. But this Messiah is not God but only a man; not necessarily an evil ruler, but imperfect. Even a good man can make mistakes, especially when he has Court Prophets pouring the oil on his head, laying on hands, and prophesying His Anoiniting (echoed by the cheers of the crowd). So he’s going to screw up, deliberately or accidentally. At which point:
    2) War. op cit Mark Twain’s “The War Prayer” regarding unexpected consequences/side effects. Including the side effects of the last two Horsemen:
    3) Famine. From the disruption/destruction of War. (With an aside about economic exploitation in “Don’t touch the Olive Oil and the Wine” — both of which were cash crops (like King Cotton in the South) which at the time of writing were planted all over the Eastern Med in plantations owned by and enriching absentee landlords in Rome. Taking up so much arable land for cash crops that there was none left to plant food crops to feed the people.)
    4) Pestilence. Epidemics running wild in the wake of the above two.

    And finally, Death and Hell (originally Thanatos, God of Death, and Hades, King of the Underworld/God of the Dead) riding behind scooping up all the casualties.

    This is a pattern that has repeated. That will repeat. The Man on the White Horse could apply to Obama (in the eyes and cheers of his fanboys) or Trump (again, in the eyes and cheers of his fanboys). The danger which invokes the First of the Four Horseman is when the Messiah figure in power starts believing his own PR and fanboys. “I kill my own mother and still they cheer me! I Can Do No Wrong!”


  41. How horrible that she thinks she can accidently and unknowingly reject Christ and accidently consign herself to hell. The first step for her is to get a good Bible commentary, something other than Grudem, and actually read the Bible. Oh, and change churches.


  42. I’m OK with being a bigot. The term holds very little sting any more, as it used mostly by wearisome, Puritanical enforcers of a tedious orthodoxy a lot of people resent In the meantime, Ill continue doing as I do, trying to treat people fairly and rightly, but using what you call bigotry as a rough heuristic as to how to navigate the differences between groups of persons.

    Just the use of the term ‘bigot’ has already made you judge, jury and prosecuting attorney.



  43. Stephen, the difference is that people are still coming to terms with the fact that homosexuality is not a choice, not a lifestyle, but an inborn reality. “African-American” and “Jewish” are self-evident. It took people a long time to overcome old stereotypes even in regard to them. Many still haven’t.

    I also don’t think Daniel Murphy “condemned” a whole class of people. He said he disagreed with their homosexuality and their lifestyle. But he (to a degree) balanced that with a distinctly non-condemning statement. Now, to be sure, that is faint praise, but in my mind he is more misinformed and behind the state of current knowledge than a bigot. The fact that he was willing to become Billy Bean’s friend says something.

    Also, I’m not justifying anything on the basis of his being a “devout Christian.” That merely is a fact to take into account in the whole scenario. It means he has been in a certain community, under certain teaching, shaped in certain ways.

    The main point of the story is that there is a better way of promoting change than in the automatic tribalistic condemnation of someone who happens to express something with which we disagree. Billy Bean is the hero of this story. Blessed are the peacemakers.


  44. I think Revelation was most likely messages to the faithful warning about the actions of Rome against them, present and future, which had to be disguised, because the Roman authorities did not take kindly to being criticized and plotted against. Either that, or John of Patmos was smoking some weird hallucinogenic something-or-other. I can’t see it as prophecy applicable to the present.


  45. If we are talking God’s ‘assumption’ of our humanity in order to save it, I WOULD add one additional word to the Capon quote, this:

    ” . . . . the Church is in the world primarily to announce that God has gathered up every human being’s jack and plugged it into Himself by His INCARNATION, death and resurrection.”


  46. Stephen, Where he used the word “homosexual” substitute adulterer, bigamous or polygamist.

    I remember when the Moral Majority was so powerful they demanded and got a Christian inclusion representative on the staff of MLB and NFL management to monitor speech and beliefs that the Moral Majority did not agree with. I did not think this was right to force people not to hold views different with the lifestyle of Christians but they were the had the political and social power even though they were only 3 percent of population.

    I know many of my friends who love baseball keep careful track of statistics maybe this could be new category , baseball players categorized by sexual lifestyle, religious beliefs, political position and social justice awareness. What if Ty Cobb were in charge of the baseball inclusion program? 80 percent of the current major league would not be there. Will the term switcher hitter be banned as insensitive , how about catcher and pitcher.

    I am working on a new men’s hygiene deodorant that I will market as Foul Balls if it is acceptable to the public.


  47. Given my pathetic knowledge of history (particularly church history), do you think Revelation could largely be history by this point instead of prophecy (or maybe a combination of both)?

    That would completely change how one approaches these topics…


  48. Except for some Christians(TM) who will kill the fatted calf and rejoice at this news, i.e. God Punishing McCain for his blasphemy against Trump. (I am NOT making that up.)


  49. “For you cross land and sea to make a single convert, and when you do you make him twice the Child of Hell as yourselves!”
    — some Rabbi from Nazareth


  50. “Folks, holding an opinion that I disagree with is not bigotry. ”

    No, but holding an opinion that condemns a class of people because of who they are and not because of anything they’ve done, is. The fact that Daniel Murphy is a “devout Christian” is not or should not it be cover for anything. Every time he use the word “homosexual” substitute “Jewish” or “African-American”.

    I’m continually being assured there’s a difference. Could someone tell me what that difference is?


  51. Which used to be the address for Marvel Comics. Known for such characters as Mephisto, the Son of Satan, Satanna, and Satannish.


  52. It seems too good to be true, doesn’t it? It’s no wonder that we try to add our own efforts to the completed work of God.


  53. I was in a presentation yesterday about software for designing printed circuit boards. They even to 3D modeling of the boards to verify component in enclosure clearance. Spiffy.

    Combine that software with your analogy and you could make some wild sermon illustrations! Really go into the weeds!

    Some people certainly have more Ohms (resistance) than others…


  54. James, when you stated you went on “holiday” rather than vacation, even I non Columbo, that I am would have surmised that indeed you were referring to the original Norfork. Nice story and it gave me an elevator or as you might say, a lift.


  55. I suppose it would not have been helpful to note that Donald Trump’s son-in-law’s most prominent property holding is 666 Fifth Avenue in New York.


  56. Amen. Capon and Barth, they provide me with a good amount of the theological ballast I need to negotiate the rough waters of existence.


  57. > people want to go to church with people who agree with them about politics

    If one takes a step back and looks at some maps . . . I find this much less disturbing than in may at first appear. The degree of segregation in America – along just about any axis [not just race] – translates this to “people who don’t hate|fear|despise me”. Yes, I would rather go to church with people who don’t harbor animosity towards me. I would also rather go to dinner, a movie, or a beer with people who don’t harbor animosity towards me.

    The degree to which such animosity is real in any given direction is a complicated question; but “a relatively small group of people that feels very strongly about this” is likely the answer. Yet, sadly, a person who feels strongly is worth fifty who are don’t. You only need to be berated by one person in order to feel unwelcome.


  58. “The first thing the Church has to realize is that it is not in the religion business; it’s in the Gospel proclaiming business. So often (and it doesn’t matter whether it’s a Catholic notion of the Church or the Protestant notion) the basic impression given is that the Church is kind of a divine panel board that goes through the world with a lot of slots in it and the role of the Church is to persuade people to plug their little jacks into the panel board and they’ll be okay. Depending on the particular ecclesiastical model, you can plug it in sacramentally or plug it in by being born again, etc., but for the Church to give that impression is fatal. It’s fatal because the Church is in the world primarily to announce that God has gathered up every human being’s jack and plugged it into Himself by His death and resurrection.”

    — Robert Farrar Capon


  59. On the subject of nuns:

    This would have been August 1972, and I’d have been six. Mum, dad, my brother, sister and I went to Norfolk on holiday (East of England, not Virginia) and we went to the shrine our Our Lady at Walsingham. Lots of candles (so my little brother, two at the time, started singing “Happy Birthday, dear Jesus”), and after a while we came out, drove away, and stopped on a little country lane overlooking a ford in the river that runs past Walsingham.

    A small car pulled up, parked in the ford, and a nun got out. Hitching up her habit, she produced a sponge and started washing her car in the ford. She saw us and waved. My dad asked if she minded if he took a picture: she said no, and somewhere we still have the photograph…


  60. A truly skeptical person would think the best idea is to open a New Willow Creek just down the road from Old Willow Creek and collect everyone leaving Old Willow Creek; since they were attending Willow Creek, it is Willow Creek that they want. Just get a few consultants to help you weave a generalized message of accountability and people-first into your marketing. Maybe have a woman as the organization’s president [not to be confused with CEO], making surethat will never be an actual problem can all be dealt with in the organizations by-laws [which, let’s be honest, how many people read?]


  61. The biggest problem about the evangelical churches I’ve been associated with was this: that they were dead set on getting more people into the door, and turning them into clones of the guy at the front. The idea of having someone engage with the faith and – shock horror! – work out for themselves what the right course of action was, was anathema.

    Talbert Swan coined the term “talibangelical”: it fits.


  62. Well, I did say that, if she wanted to understand the text literally, it would mean that the Mark would have to be an actual Mark on the forehead, no interpretation involved. I went on to say that once you get into interpreting the Mark on the forehead as a symbol of something else, you have no way to know that your interpretation is correct and the other guy’s is wrong, which is going to leave you in constant state of fear. And a constant state of fear is not what the gospel, the good news, of Jesus Christ could possibly want to put us in, so it would probably be a good thing to leave it alone.
    But I was trying to avoid confirming her basic approach to the Bible as something that has to be interpreted as if it were a primarily a secret coded-message, with loss of salvation as the punishment for getting it wrong, even as I was having to engage the place of her specific fears by partly entering into her interpretation game, so to speak. It is a quite dizzying navigation to do that and come out the other side into a space of light and openness. I realized later, as my previous comment suggested, that once I had done deconstructing and unpacking (to the extent that I could, given the situational limitations), I should’ve headed for Jesus’ actual teachings. That is the place of light and openness in the scriptures, the place where it should be fairly obvious that we need to spend our time figuring out what salvation requires and entails, and how Jesus himself constitutes our salvation. There are certainly secrets to be decoded there, but they are the paradoxes of parables intersecting deep places of the spirit, the meat of our human condition, rather than the esoteric details of informational orthodoxy sold as fire insurance.


  63. I admire your ambition. If I couldn’t have changed the subject I would have gotten an urgent cell phone call. 🙂


  64. > most awesome audito… er, sanctuary in town

    aka: decorated poll barn.

    Current church architecture is institutional McMansion schlock.
    For the kind of money they spend, they should get better results.


  65. I’d have started with the text in Revelation itself – just within context, there is *nothing* to indicate that the Mark was something subtle or hidden. “You don’t have it, you don’t eat!” is pretty obvious. Starting from there, I’d work to “why do you think it would be something not obvious?” and try to gently pick apart the insane end-times theology she’s been programmed with.


  66. Yesterday I had a conversation with someone who was very concerned about how she could know what the mark of the Beast was. She told me that, given the state of the world, she thought we might be living in End Times, and she was afraid that, if she didn’t know exactly what the the mark of the Beast was, she might accept it and as a result end up going to hell forever. It was a difficult conversation to engage, because there were so many theological (and hermeneutical) assumptions in her thinking and language that a lot of deconstruction would be necessary before any positive core of shared theology between the two of us could be found, even though we’re both supposedly Christians. I wasn’t up to the task, and I’m afraid I fumbled my way through it in a manner very unhelpful.

    Later on, as I reflected, it occurred to me what a terrible place much Christianity has worked itself into, when people think they need to know something like what the mark of the Beast is in order to avoid hell, but don’t give a first or even second thought about all the ways they (and the rest of us) fail to live up to, or into, the Sermon on the Mount, or any of Jesus’ other actual teachings. It’s like people are looking for salvation in all the wrong places.


  67. With everything that’s happening to Willow Creek, you’d think that anyone with two interconnected brain cells would be running as far away from that model as possible. But hey, doubling down on bad bets is the evangelical way it seems…


  68. 8. You don’t have a smoke machine.
    9. No past sermons as podcasts.
    10. You don’t incur massive debt to build the most awesome audito… er, sanctuary in town.
    (I’m sure we could add many more to the mediocre list…)


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