Tuesday, February 28, 2006

PZ quote re: Contemporary American Evangelical Christian Church mis-guidedness:

Almost every week it seems, I am out in the field, all over the country, and asking how Christianity is faring in whatever region I happen to be in. This is how it stacks up in many places: the mega-churches, almost all of them Pentecostal and offering mostly rock ‘n roll concerts on Sunday mornings, are doing well, but they have tapered off. They are almost all down about 10% or so from a few years ago. The mainline churches are about a third to a quarter full in most places, with some holding their own at 50 to 60% capacity. Our own Episcopal Church is generally failing to attract younger families. This is partly because families with small children are reluctant to entrust their children’s spiritual formation to our denomination, given the current reputation we have. (People usually don’t say this in so many words, but they are voting with their feet; and many old-line Episcopalians are telling me that their grown children are now attending PCA and other conservative churches.)

The other big thing to note is the mall-culture of our life. Everywhere I travel, there are new and bigger malls. I saw one off Route 95 in Florida yesterday, which is a new “destination” mall. It must have been the size of Altoona, Pennsylvania – all stuck in what was very recently a cow pasture. It was Sunday afternoon and the parking lot – more or less in the middle of nowhere – was jampacked, the entry ramps all bumper to bumper. Now these are mostly church-going people, or in that “catchment,” but they are being drawn in vast numbers to new malls everywhere. I think it is fair to say that the biggest competition we are facing, as committed Christians, is the tractor-beam of “shop till you drop.” It is all so empty – an easy target for any serious competitive ideology.

I feel the phrase “empty bromides” provides a clue to the Christian churches’ stalling. For we have stalled, in almost all sectors. Not fallen radically down yet, but stalled.

The preaching in most of these churches, from left to right, is not making contact with the felt needs of people. At least if numbers are any indication. This is because most ministers are speaking from the pulpit as if they are addressing an “in house” group of people who simply need to be motivated to get off their duff and go out there and win disciples. That is not the way to go about it. We need to realize that the people who still come to us Sunday mornings are not a team that needs a cheerleader, but rather a wounded group of sufferers who need to hear the re-animating Word of comfort in God’s Grace and forgiveness.

I noticed this yesterday in a wonderful parish church. I just talked about how it is that people are able to recover from terrible discouragements: They don’t need guilt to motivate them, or cheerleading. They need Love. They need, pure and simple, the strengthening Word that Christ is with them at their point of need. People seemed to line up afterwards. “That was for me”, they said. “You were speaking about my son, my mother, my former spouse…” They don’t need Tony Robbins. They need a Comforter and a Savior.

We are treating congregations as if they are a football squad to be readied for the second half. There is no Balm in Gilead there. No wonder the people who still come are discouraged and so many of our churches are not growing. I almost wonder whether the preachers themselves are in touch with their own need. Can a preacher who tries to exhort his hearers into action really be holding any wisdom about his own problems? We surely are, each of us in public ministry, just sinners and needy weak vessels like everyone else. But that does not seem to be coming through.

“Empty bromides”! And Ferrigno’s book – and note its timeliness in reference to real events that are happening right now, the “cartoons” controversy, which just took 15 lives in Nigeria over the weekend, and the burning of Christian churches, and the dire life-threatening attack on Bishop Ben Kwashi’s family – names it. With the unbeatable pull of the mall (barring a stronger pull from the Rock of Ages, or the Holy Qu’ran, for that matter), Christian churches that offer little of weight and deep comfort to their listeners will go under, slowly. The people won’t come. The people are not coming.

Preachers, dear colleagues, and those who believe in preachers: Look to yourselves, look to your own Achilles heels and your own points of need. Then you can speak with feeling and connection to the enervated selves who are looking up to you, in arithmetically decreasing numbers, on Sunday mornings.


Sunday, February 26, 2006

Excellent NY Times article on Redeemer Presbyterian Church (Feb 26, '06):

Preaching the Word and Quoting the Voice


In the twilight of the biggest snowstorm in New York City's history, the pews of a rented Baptist church on the Upper West Side of Manhattan were packed for the Rev. Timothy J. Keller's fourth sermon of the day.

The 600 or so who braved the snow for the evening service got what they had come to expect — a compelling discourse by Dr. Keller, this time on Jesus' healing of the paralytic, that quoted such varied sources as C. S. Lewis, The Village Voice and the George MacDonald fairy tale "The Princess and the Goblin." It was the kind of cogent, literary sermon that has helped turn Dr. Keller, a former seminary professor whose only previous pulpit experience was at a small blue-collar church in rural Virginia, into the pastor many call Manhattan's leading evangelist.

Over the last 16 years, Dr. Keller's church, Redeemer Presbyterian, has swelled to 4,400 attendees, mostly young professionals and artists who do not fit the prototypical evangelical mold, spread out across four different services on Sundays. Although Dr. Keller, 55, is hardly a household name among believers outside New York — in part because he has avoided the Christian speaking circuit — his renown is growing in pastoral circles and in the movement to establish or "plant" new churches, a trend among evangelicals these days.

Pastors from around the world are beginning to come in a steady stream to New York City to glean what they can from Dr. Keller and Redeemer. Their goal is to learn how to create similarly effective churches in cosmopolitan cities like New York, which exert outsize influence on the prevailing culture but have traditionally been neglected by evangelicals in favor of the suburbs.

"We're not giving them a turnkey template," said Dr. Keller. "What we're saying is, 'There's lots of overlaps between our big city and your big city. Some of these things you will use. Some of these you will discard. Some of these you will adapt.' "

Believing new churches are the best way to produce new Christians, evangelicals are making a major push to start new churches around the world, said Edmund Gibbs, a professor of church growth at Fuller Theological Seminary outside Los Angeles. But only recently have some evangelicals begun to turn their focus to urban centers.

Dr. Keller "has grasped the strategic significance of the city, of the urban culture and the need to engage that very diverse culture at every level," he said. "Our culture is urban-driven."

In New York City, Redeemer has become the central training ground for anyone planning to start a church in the metropolitan area, whether among Guyanese immigrants in Queens or streetwise youths in the Bronx.

Since 2000, when it established its own training center for "church planters," as they are called in evangelical parlance, Redeemer has helped start more than 50 churches in the city, from faith traditions and denominations as diverse as Assemblies of God, Lutheran and Southern Baptist. In addition, it has helped found 17 "daughter churches" of its own Presbyterian denomination in communities like Williamsburg and Park Slope, Brooklyn; Astoria, Queens; and Hoboken, N.J.

Meanwhile, so-called city-center churches modeled on Redeemer — also attracting audiences of professionals and creative types — have sprung up in places like Boston, Washington, San Francisco, Berlin, London and Amsterdam. The churches emulate much of Redeemer's approach, including its attitude of embracing the city and its focus on the Christian message of grace and redemption, which Dr. Keller argues has been muddled in many churches.

The Rev. Stephen Um, whose church in Boston, Citylife, began four years ago and now attracts about 500 people every Sunday, said he and other pastors had embraced Dr. Keller's emphasis on delving into the prevailing culture almost as much as into the biblical text. Along these lines, Dr. Um is just as likely to cite a postmodern philosopher like Richard Rorty or Michel Foucault in his sermons, as he is, say, Paul's Letter to the Philippians.

"This is Tim's thing," said Dr. Um. "He said, 'You need to enter into a person's worldview, challenge that worldview and retell the story based on the Gospel.' The problem is evangelicals have always started with challenging the worldview. We don't have any credibility."

Redeemer meets in three facilities: the Ethical Culture Society and the First Baptist Church on the Upper West Side, and Hunter College on the Upper East Side.

Unlike most suburban megachurches, much of Redeemer is remarkably traditional — there is no loud rock band or flashy video. What is not traditional is Dr. Keller's skill in speaking the language of his urbane audience. On the day of the snowstorm, Dr. Keller tackled a passage from the Gospel of Mark in which the friends of a paralyzed man carry him to Jesus. At least initially, however, Jesus does not heal the man but offers him a puzzling line about his sins being forgiven.

Part of the point, said Dr. Keller, is people do not realize that their deepest desires often do not match up with their deepest needs.

"We're asking God to get us over that little hump so we can save ourselves," he said. "It doesn't occur to us that we're looking for something besides Jesus to save us."

Observing Dr. Keller's professorial pose on stage, it is easy to understand his appeal. While he hardly shrinks from difficult Christian truths, he sounds different from many of the shrill evangelical voices in the public sphere. "A big part is he preaches on such an intellectual level," said Suzanne Perron, 37, a fashion designer who is one of many who had stopped going to church before she discovered Redeemer several years ago. "You can go to Redeemer and you can not be a Christian and listen to that sermon and be completely engaged."

Dr. Keller shies away from the label evangelical, which is often used to describe theologically conservative Protestant Christians like him, because of the political and fundamentalist connotations that now come with it. He prefers the term orthodox instead, because he believes in the importance of personal conversion or being "born again," and the full authority of the Bible.

An important lesson that Dr. Keller said he had tried to convey to other pastors is that the hard sell rarely works in the city. Becoming a Christian in a place like New York, he said, is more often the product not of one decision but of many little decisions.

"One decision might be Christianity is more relevant than I think," he said. "Or, here's two Christians that I don't think are idiots."

It was the Rev. Terry Gyger, an official with the church-planting arm of the Presbyterian Church in America, an Atlanta-based evangelical denomination, who persuaded Dr. Keller to come to the city to start a church in the late 1980's. At that point, Dr. Keller was a professor at Westminster Theological Seminary and the part-time head of the Presbyterian Church's mercy ministries.

His only previous pastoral experience was at a Presbyterian church in Hopewell, Va., a struggling factory town. Under Dr. Keller, the congregation grew from 90 to roughly 300 in nine years, but that was in the Bible Belt, of course, not New York City.

"I just saw in him the raw ingredients," Mr. Gyger said. "I felt he had the inquisitiveness. He had the intellectual capital. He was very articulate, even though he had not had a lot of preaching experience in the big pulpits of our denomination."

Even so, Dr. Keller was offered the post only after two other candidates turned it down. Within a year of its founding in 1989, however, Redeemer had grown from 50 people to more than 400. By the end of 1992, the church had swelled to more than 1,000 people. Since then, it has continued to grow steadily, all while renting space in several locations.

Sept. 11 proved to be a defining moment for the church. On the Sunday after the terrorist attack, more than 5,000 people showed up. So many people packed the church's Sunday morning service that Dr. Keller called another service on the spot, and 700 people came back to attend. While attendance returned to normal in other churches after several weeks, Redeemer kept attracting about 800 more people a week than it had drawn before the attack.

"For the next five years, I would talk to people about when they joined the church, and they said right after 9/11," Dr. Keller said.

After the attack, the church also began to increase its training for those working to found churches. His church's main goal, Dr. Keller said, is to teach pastors how to truly love the city, rather than fear its worldly influences. Unlike many evangelicals, Dr. Keller advocates an indirect approach to change.

"If you seek power before service, you'll neither get power, nor serve," he said. "If you seek to serve people more than to gain power, you will not only serve people, you will gain influence. That's very much the way Jesus did it."

As a result, one of Redeemer's hallmarks has always been its focus on charity, something it emphasizes in its training of urban pastors. It operates a program called Hope for New York that arranges volunteer opportunities for people from Redeemer with 35 different partner organizations. Last year, 3,300 people from the church volunteered their time.

A looming question for Redeemer, though, is how much of what Dr. Keller and his team have built can be maintained when he ultimately exits the stage. When he was out for several months in the summer of 2002 while undergoing treatment for thyroid cancer, attendance dipped noticeably.

For now, the faithful of Redeemer do not have to contemplate that situation. Dr. Keller continues to preach nearly every Sunday, dashing back and forth to its different rented facilities and putting in unrelenting 80-hour work weeks.

On the night of the snowstorm, Dr. Keller closed his monologue with a moving riff on Jesus' love in spite of humanity's flaws, and a quote from C. S. Lewis, one of his favorite writers: "The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men, and his compulsion is our liberation."

And then he prayed for his congregation and his city.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

New Mike Fernandez comic (Mike's "interpretation of John Zahl's version of the last supper.")!!!

"This is my interpretation of John Zahl's version of the last supper. You figure out who the apostles should be. Is Blowfly playing Judas? Maybe Don Rickles? Who knows. Nipsey Russell IS Peter. Greenspan should be obvious"...MF

Friday, February 24, 2006

David Bagchi quote:

(taken from his unpublished essay, The function of Luther in the New Perspective on Paul, pp. 3-4. This is a John Camp exclusive!)--

Dunn's second charge against Luther is that he understood 'justification by faith in distinctively individualistic terms', the gospel being for every one 'in his or her own individuality'. In Dunn's view this error has graver consequences than faulty exegeseis alone:

"One might also note its outworking in the individualism and privatization of religion which was such a feature of the political philosophy which dominated the 1980s in the UK".

Warming to his theme, Dunn goes on to include within Luther's legacy not just Margaret Thatcher but also the Third Reich and the apartheid regime in South Africa. There is no mention here of the Enlightenment or political economy; or that Hitler and many of his lieutenants were Roman Catholics, not Lutherans; or that white supremicist Afrikaaners in South Africa were Calvinist, not Lutheran. Clearly, in Dunn's view, Luther has a lot to answer for as a result of his allegedly individualistic understanding of Paul's doctrine of justification by faith.

...Dunn's charge relates not to Luther's understanding of faith but of righteousness.

Dinosaurs and the Bible (John Camp has now officially been hacked!)

I logged into John Camp this morning only to find this post, one which I had never read. It freaked me out, what with getting "violated"/ hacked (out of the blue); It was Lady D! --JAZ

“Most of us loved reading about dinosaurs at some time in our lives. In 1993, the movie “Jurassic Park” stimulated the public interest in dinosaurs far beyond its previous level. As a result, increasing numbers of people have thought, “Since we have found all these fossils and dinosaur bones, we know dinosaurs existed. How come they are not mentioned in the Bible?”

The Bible refers to many the common animals we know today. The list includes lions, wolves, bears, sheep, cattle and dogs along with various kinds of birds, rodents, reptiles, and insects. What is interesting is that this extensive list includes three animals that we no longer recognize. These three are (in the original Hebrew language) tanniyn, b@hemowth (yes, it’s spelled correctly—at least as close as we can get in Roman characters), and livyathan.

Although we alter the spelling of behemoth and Leviathan slightly, we still use those same words in bibles today. However, tanniyn is always translated into another word when we write it in English. Tanniyn occurs 28 times in the Bible and is normally translated “dragon.” It is also translated “serpent,” “sea monster,” “dinosaur,” “great creature,” and “reptile.” Behemoth and Leviathan are relatively specific creatures, perhaps each was a single kind of animal. Tanniyn is a more general term, and it can be thought of as the original version of the word “dinosaur.” The word “dinosaur” was originally coined in 1841, more than three thousand years after the Bible first referred to “Tanniyn.” To make things clearer, we constructed the following table comparing the scientific names with the Biblical names tanniyn, behemoth, and Leviathan.

“Dinosaur” Names, Then and Now
Name and date first written in the Bible
Scientific Name (best estimate) and date the name appeared
tanniyn (dragon)
before 1400 BC
1841 AD
before 1400 BC
1903 AD
before 1400 BC
1901 AD

How we got these new names is interesting. In 1822, Mary Ann Mantell became the first person to discover and correctly identify a strange bone as part of a large, unknown reptile. Her husband, Dr. Gideon Mantell, later named this creature an “Iguanodon.” From that time forward, these forgotten animals were given names chosen by the people who rediscovered them. Of course, the Bible, written between approximately 1450 BC and 95 AD, does not include any of these names.

Reading the Bible carefully, you will realize that no living creature matches the descriptions of behemoth and Leviathan. However, if you grab your kid’s dinosaur book, you will notice several possible matches for each one. Let’s examine those.

Behemoth has the following attributes according to Job 40:15-24
• It “eats grass like an ox.”
• It “moves his tail like a cedar.” (In Hebrew, this literally reads, “he lets hang his tail like a cedar.”)
• Its “bones are like beams of bronze,
His ribs like bars of iron.”
• “He is the first of the ways of God.”
• “He lies under the lotus trees,
In a covert of reeds and marsh.”

Some bibles and study bibles will translate the word “behemoth” as “elephant” or “hippopotamus.” Others will put a note at the edge or bottom of the page, stating that behemoth was probably an elephant or a hippopotamus. Although an elephant or hippopotamus can eat grass (or lie in a covert of reeds and marsh), neither an elephant or a hippopotamus has a “tail like a cedar” (that is, a tail like a large, tapered tree trunk). In your kid’s dinosaur book you will find lots of animals that have “tails like a cedar.”

We would expect behemoth to be a large land animal whose bones are like beams of bronze and so forth, so whatever a behemoth is, it is large. A key phrase is “He is the first of the ways of God.” This phrase in the original Hebrew implied that behemoth was the biggest animal created. Although an elephant or a hippopotamus are big, they are less than one-tenth the size of a Brachiosaurus, the largest (complete) dinosaur ever discovered.[1] A Brachiosaurus could therefore easily be described as “the first of the ways of God.”

Comparing all this information to the description in your kid’s dinosaur book, you may come to the conclusion that “behemoth” is not a normal animal, it is a dinosaur—the brachiosaurus. We agree with that conclusion!
Note: Some paleontologists have found fragmentary leg bones, ribs, or vertebrae which they propose belong to “new” sauropods larger than Brachiosaurus. Examples of these include Amphicoelias, Argentinasaurus, Sauroposeidon, Seismosaurus, Supersaurus and Ultrasaurus. There currently is not enough evidence to really determine the size of any of these, and some paleontologists believe that they are merely large examples of known dinosaurs like Brachiosaurus or Diplodocus. In any case, only the “modern scientific name” of behemoth would change. The point would still remain that behemoth refers to a dinosaur, not a “modern animal” like an elephant or hippopotamus.

Leviathan has the following attributes according to Job chapter 41, Psalm 104:25,26 and Isaiah 27:1. This is only a partial listing—just enough to make the point.
• “No one is so fierce that he would dare stir him up.”
• “Who can open the doors of his face, with his terrible teeth all around?”
• “His rows of scales are his pride, shut up tightly as with a seal; one is so near another that no air can come between them; they are joined one to another, they stick together and cannot be parted.”
• “His sneezings flash forth light, and his eyes are like the eyelids of the morning. Out of his mouth go burning lights; sparks of fire shoot out. Smoke goes out of his nostrils, as from a boiling pot and burning rushes. His breath kindles coals, and a flame goes out of his mouth.”
• “Though the sword reaches him, it cannot avail; nor does spear, dart, or javelin. He regards iron as straw, and bronze as rotten wood. The arrow cannot make him flee; slingstones become like stubble to him. Darts are regarded as straw; he laughs at the threat of javelins.”
• “On earth there is nothing like him, which is made without fear.”
• Leviathan “played” in the “great and wide sea” (a paraphrase of Psalm 104 verses 25 and 26—get the exact sense by reading them yourself).
• Leviathan is a “reptile [a] that is in the sea.” (Isaiah 27:1)

[a] Note: The word translated “reptile” here is the Hebrew word tanniyn. This shows that “Leviathan” was also a “tanniyn” (dragon).

Unlike behemoth, who is huge, Leviathan is ferocious and terrifying. Many references (we have not listed them all) refer to the sea, so Leviathan is probably a sea creature. Although some bibles refer to Leviathan as an alligator or crocodile (and both of these are fierce) neither of these is a sea creature. They like the water, but they spend much of their time on land. Further, the question “Who can open the doors of his face. . . .” implies that nobody can open Leviathan’s jaws. Although an alligator's jaws cannot normally be forced open, a punch to their sensitive snout or poke in eye might startle them enough to release their grip.[2] Although this is a good description of an alligator characteristic, it does not fit perfectly with the description of Leviathan, which in the context of the Bible was supposed to describe an essentially impossible event, and we are not done yet.

The description of the scales is interesting. Several verses describe these great scales. Compared to Leviathan’s armor, iron is like straw and arrows ca not make it flee. Let’s face it, an arrow can do a lot of damage to a crocodile or alligator. This is not a description of either of them—or any living animal we are aware of.

And now for the key ingredient: fire. It is hard to read Job 41:18-21 without realizing the Bible is telling us that Leviathan breathes fire. That alone will eliminate almost every living animal. Yes, there is one animal like that in today’s world. It is called a bombardier beetle. This beetle is a native of Central America, and has a nozzle in its hind end that acts like a little flame thrower. It sprays a high-temperature jet of gas (fueled by hydroquinones and hydrogen peroxide with oxidative enzymes) for protection. Now, if a Central American beetle can do it, so could Leviathan. By the way, crocodiles and alligators are out of the picture on this one, don’t you agree?

Before we leave the topic of fire, there are two more notes you may find interesting:
• The history of every culture is filled with stories of fire-breathing dragons. If you think about it, in all the past ages wouldn’t someone have made up a story of a fire-breathing lion or something? Nobody did because the dragon stories are based on truth, and only “dragons” breathed fire. It is easy to imagine Leviathan as a member of the dragon (tanniyn) family. (Plus, Isaiah 27:1 strongly implies this connection.)
• Many fossil dinosaur skulls contain unexplained, empty passages. Scientists have not been able to guess the reason for these passages. Would it make sense that some dinosaurs used these passages as “gas tanks” for the combustible mixture used to “breathe fire?” We believe it does.

Comparing all this information to the description in your kid’s dinosaur book, you may come up with the conclusion that Leviathan is a kronosaurus. We have heard (and read) other suggestions, but the kronosaurus is the best match of any known creature to the description of Leviathan.

Since humans are in the Bible, we unconsciously think that dinosaurs were extinct—and therefore not mentioned in the Bible. As you have just seen, the Bible not only refers to dinosaurs, but has detailed information about two of them.”

Thursday, February 23, 2006

A (sort of) morning meditation:

Here follows the passage (The Parable of the Weeds, also commonly known as the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares) that immediatly came to mind this morning when speaking to a friend about her frustrations with Christian believers who think they can distinguish clearly between who is (and who isn't) "saved". I take this seriously as one who recently, and somewhat rediculoutsly claimed that both Miles Davis and Serge Gainsbourg are now eternal residents of: "H" - "E" - "Double-Hockey-Sticks". Anyway, I offer a few reflections after the text itself. --JAZ

(Matthew 13:24-30)---

24 Jesus told them another parable:

The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy cam and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed ears, then the weeds also appeared.
27 The owner's servants came to him and said, 'Sir, didn't you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?'
28 'An enemy did this,' he replied.
The servants asked him, 'Do you want us to go and pull them up?'
29 'No', he aswered, 'because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.'

Some notes on specific verses:

Verse 27: "The owner's servants" (i.e., you and me).
Verse 28b: "The servants asked him (here follows a very human question), 'Do you want us to go and pull them up?' (i.e., "I'll fix it." "Let's get rid of the problem immediately." "I know best," etc.)
Verse 29: This is God's answer to the fallen human tendancy betrayed in the preceding question: "Do you want us to go and pull them up?"..."while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them" (i.e., humans can't see things clearly the way God does, etc. "Plank in your own eye"..."Now we see through a glass darkly"..."Let he who is without sin cast the first stone."...)
Verse 30: "Let both (i.e., good and evil is a real distinction to be made, but...) grow together until the harvest" (i.e., "Don't just do something, sit there!" "Put your sword back in its place." Matt 26:52)


What I love about this parable is not that it points out how incapable we are of discerning the things of God accurately (that part comes as a bit of a blow, if I'm honest, though it's definitely in there!). But I love this teaching because it says that, in light of the fact that I can't distinguish between good and evil (though the two are clearly real and distinct, as illustrated toward the end of this passage), God does the discerning for us; He runs the show, and He's in control (where I know it had better not be left up to me). We are fortunate that God is indeed actually Real and Powerful and able to effect things.

Many Christians wrongly think that God works in the ways they would have Him work. The moment suffering hits, that view is crushed (usually in a very painful way, unfortunately), but that is the point where a real relationship with God through Christ begins. Luther actually says that God blesses us those he loves with suffering (i.e., treats us as he treated his own son). It's important to realize that the Christian message brings human beings to a place where they must confront the thing that they are so deeply afraid of: the limits of their own ability to shape life into that which they desire.

At that point, one starts to view God very differently (i.e., as one who often works through the opposite kinds of ways we would ever envision, through Nazareths, and through weakness rather than strength), and theologians often call this: "A Theology of the Cross", as opposed to the other view, which is sometimes called: "A Theology of Glory". The former is extremely counter-intuitive, and views God as one who intervenes on our behalf. The latter tends to interpret God as working in line with our personal hopes and dreams, and in light of our own wants. The two approaches present very different ideas about the Christian life, grace, and in what it consists. You get the drift. That book you liked called "The Spirituality of the Cross" (G. Vieth) is a layman's approach to explaining this stuff (a Theology of the Cross as opposed
to a Theology of Glory) in accessible terms. I think he does a very good job of presenting the matter. The link below elaborates on the point in a similar fashion, and is helpful.

I write so much about this because it is, for me, the key insight that Christianity brings to the table about human life in a Fallen world, and, further, is the thing that makes Christianity unique. It is the thing that makes Christianity so totally other than "humanism" (which is what I believed in for most of my life); Christianity, in this sense, is "God-ism", or more accurately, "Christ-ism". All of that is contained in this little parable of the weeds. Amazing!

The link below (referred to above) has to do with the exact issue you raised with me this morning in that it discusses the problems that arise when we start thinking we can know and understand clearly where God is and isn't, where he is working and where he isn't working, etc. As the passage from Matthew points out, those lines are far blurrier than most humans are usually willing to admit. At the bottom of the post, you'll see where a friend raised some question about the issue with me, and then how I responded.

Bioluminescently, John Z

Click Me! to read the post referred to in the above paragraph.

New Background at John Camp (thanks in part to the influence of "Lady D") --

I think it has a bit of an Edward-Gorey-meets-Oswald-Chamber's-Bible-Training-College,-Clapham-1912 vibe. Hope you enjoy the new format.

"Lady D"

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Some of my favorite albums (a list):

Thanks to my short attention span, I usually prefer single songs to albums. When I find a perfect song, I listen to it millions of times, until I find a new perfect song, etc. But I do think there are some amazing full albums out there. Here are the ones that come to mind (note: I will add to this list as regularly as the memory is jogged)":

Gary Wilson: You Think You Really Know Me (Recorded and performed in Endicott, NY in a basement. Way ahead of its time! A notoriously worth-it cult album. I saw this guy live, which involved his wearing lady's underpants on his head, a mannequin strapped to his back, and his band mates throwing baking flower at him while he writhed on the floor moaning the names of girls from his 7th Grade home room. Beck gives a shout out to this guy on "Where it's at." After this album re-emerged to lots of critical acclaim, Gary was finally tracked down working in an adult book store in San Diego, playing gigs with a house band at the local Radisson Inn. He had not had a phone for over 8 years. He made a new album last year on Stones Throw which flopped, but was pretty cool. There's even a documentary and another excellent album of old out-takes and unreleased stuff. I first heard him when the only way to get his album was to befriend one of the employees at Other Music, and get them to make a tape for you...)

Deltron 3030: 3030 (One of the smartest hip-hop albums ever made. Pre-Gorillaz, but all the seeds for that project are sown here. The opening track is epic with Kid Koala scratching wonderfully, but the whole thing is great! The premise of the album is that it was made in the future, in the year 3030, and they use the future as an interesting lens through which they are able to criticize the present. My favorite line: "Never let a computer tell me shit!" Del at his best. Dan the Automator at his best, mostly. Damon A, from Blur, narrates, and MC Paul Barman makes a hilarious guest appearance. Though there are stand-out tracks -- "Thing you can do", "City Madness" -- the sum is greater than its parts. )

Polyrock: Polyrock (Phillip Glass produced. Perfect, tight NYC punk song-writing and edge, but with beautiful authentic synth keys added. If you like the Strokes, this is your band!)

Can: Ege Bamyasi (From their excellent Damo Sazuki period. Every song on this rocks, though I wish it had more electronic experimentation, which is the stuff that make later Can so significant. I think this album is far superior, and less 70s-bound than the more popular Tago Mago. These guys are German, with a Japanese lead singer. The moment you start to turn into a Music Indie Nerd, Can immediately surface. Jaki Liebezeit's drumming is incredible. I've recently discovered the most amazing song from a side project by Holger Czukay, Can's bassist, and Jaki, their famous-for-a-reason drummer, made with Jah Wobble. Find this song: "How Much Are They?"! Another really cool Can tune is a later one, called: "I Want More". It's a gem!)

Gary Numan: The Pleasure Principle/Replicas (I love both of these albums, and keep coming back to them year after year. The keys and the real instrumentation, the overt conceptual-ness, the whole alien in the 80s thing. This music is timelessly cool. If you're having a party and want to impress, but aren't sure where to go with the music, just put this on, and use red lighting. You can't go wrong. Also, the cover of Pleasure principle is great.)

Dudley Perkins: A Lil Light (Madlib beats, Dudley Perkins vocals. Not really rap, or soul, or any genre per se. This album got panned, but I always go back to it. It's just one of my faves and Dudley is Christian. I also really dig his rapping under the alias Declaime. For more, see the post I put up about him in November.)

Quasimoto: The Unseen (Probably my favorite hip-hop album of all-time. Really raw and out-there, but all the seeds of what would later become Madlib's immense influence are present here. The main attraction is the loose, apathetic quality of the production and Quasimoto's helium voice, which is just Madlib's sped up. The lyrical content won't overwhelm, so don't go here for that. Personally I'm glad this guy steers clear of attempts at profundity. Check out the song "Come on Feet", which is a cover of sorts, and is one of the weirdest hip-hop singles ever released. You can see the video on Stonesthrow.com. There aren't really any particularly note-worthy stand-outs as this is really a sort of home-grown, cannibus-smoking producer's science project, but "Bad Character" is a good place to start. "I'll have you slavin' in my dungeon while I'm eatin' swordfish!")

The Flame: The Flame (Sometimes called "The Black Beatles". This album sounds just like the White Album. The song-writing is trite, but catchy as all-get-out. Amazingly, one of these guys later became a member of the Beach Boys. Typical weird Beach Boys fact. They are from South America, I mean, S. Africa.)

Quasimoto: The Further Adventures of Lord Quas (The recent follow-up to "The Unseen". Excellent again, mainly as a whole. I just love listening to this stuff. Madlib is a true artist, and, fortunately, prolific as well. Jay Dee was really the only current cat who could hang with this guy's vision. I also love Madlib's tribute to the late Weldon Irvine, under the alias, Monk Hughes, but it's not exactly radio music. Think Miles Davis' "On the Corner".)

Cannibal Ox: The Cold Vein (Another of my favorite hip-hop albums. This is El-P's production at its best. This is Def Jux when Def Jux was new and interesting. Vast Aire shreds from start to finish. Every song is excellent. I can't pick a favorite. This is dense music, made for multiple listens if any at all. It will keep your basket full of fish, and your other basket full of orchard fruit; a very high careful-listening-bears-fruit ratio. "You were a still-born baby; your mother didn't want you, but you were still born." One last comment on this: this album has views the world to be truly Fallen. The album is entitled "The Cold Vein", like the vein of the reality of stuggle that runs throughout life. At one point, the throw-away, "New York is evil at its core" is stated, which is a statement I've never been able to shake. Seriously. Are you wondering if they end the album talking about the need for Holy Spirit intervention? "Scream Phoenix" is a song loaded with theological implications.)

Madvillain: Madvillainy (In my top 5 of all time. I would choose this as a desert island disc. Just buy it and then try to figure it out. MF Doom is my favorite rapper and this is the only project of his that I'm listing, but, know that, almost every morning, my computer wakes me up with a song from his catalogue chosen at random. I have everything he's ever recorded, I think, which is like 30 albums. Everything he says is brilliantly witty, and thought provoking. He was born in England and his story is fascinating. His lyrics just keep on giving and fortunately much of his production is top notch as well. But the production aspect reaches its peak here with Madlib. Check out "All Caps", "Great Day", "Meat Grinder" for starters.)

A Certain Ratio: Early (This band is my current obsession. Art-punk-disco from Manchester's New Wave scene.)

Vitesse: You Win Again, Gravity (I love this band, almost every single song. I used to find a new "favorite song" every day. Think Psychedelic Furs, Talk Talk, Stephin Merritt w/out the irony, layers, wonderful production, stangely complex melodies. This is an album that keeps on giving. The initial stand-out is "Unsolvable" or "Ride the Hook", but my faves are "Out Under Stars" and "In Time". I also love the fact that noone seems to have heard of them. I've always felt like they were my own personal favorite band, just for me to know about.)

Serge Gainsbourg: L'Histoire De Melody Nelson (This one makes a lot of lists. The band sound a bit like Neil Young's band on the Cowgirl in the Sand/Down By the River jams of his early days, but with the edition of the New College boys choir. This album is truly Humbert Humbert singing to and with Lolita. You don't have to know French to understand perfectly. But it's incredibly haunting and rich as well. Serge is another whole world to be explored. The best stuff is the stuff with Jane Birkin, though the later "Lemon Incest" phase with his daughter is a personal fave. This guy is basically Tom Waites meets Elvis meet Jarvis Cocker all rolled up in a frog, though I wonder seriously if there is anything actually redemptive to be found in his story. Serge Gainsbourg, like Miles Davis, is probably spending eternity in Hell.)

Dennis Wilson: Bamboo (This is the secret Smile-like project of my favorite Beach Boy. This is hard music to track down, but well worth it, if you don't mind sentimentality, which I obviously do not. See my earlier post on Dennis for more. He is in Heaven, I feel confident. "I know a carpenter who had a dream. Killed the man, but you couldn't kill the dream. He said, 'People gotta be free!'")

Miles Davis: The Cellar Door (Box Set) (I've recently found myself returning to Miles' electric period, the music with which I was obsessed in high school. This recent release captures the best of that period and I love it! The perfect degree of improvised abstraction, funk and Retro-cool. Keith Jarrett's keys on this stuff are as sick as anything ever recorded. And Jack D is no slouch. If they come out with a time machine, I'm going to go back and attend every one of these concerts!)

Fourtet: Madvillainy (Fourtet Remixes) (Great, very abstract remixes of some of my favorite songs. The place where authentic synth instrumentation meets rapping at its most sublime is the place where I want to grow old. I think Fourtet may have a map.)

Koushik: One In a Day (I love this guy's ear and leanings. This EP is the most consistent display of those sensibilities. Think raw, urban, dj/hip-hop beat production combined with 60s-style harmonious melody based song-writing. Very beautiful and ethereal, but with its tail dragging in the gutter. His full-length comes out in the Fall, and I'm sure it will be on this list the next day.)

Souls of Mischief: 93 'til Infinity (The album that got me back into hip-hop in 1994, after a 7 year hiatus. The rapping is ahead of its time, and the beats are great. I love their on-the-mic personalities. Urban artistic leanings, like Mobb Deep, without any of the education to make it mainly a release that targets the white man. A sort of Quannum/J5 that just couldn't cross over and got caught somewhere in the too creative to sell, too legit for college students category. There subsequent releases have proven dissappointing. "A Name I Call Myself" is the best hip-hop song of a totally lude nature ever!)

Cristina: Sleep It Off (Think WASP, think Lower East Side punk, think 70s disco, think 80s synth, think British aristocracy, think cynicism directed at hip hedonism, Think Harvard, think Radcliff, think anomalous Marriage right out of college in NYC, plus guitars and keys, and compass point instrumentation/studio stories, plus great photography of Cristina, who is attractive to say the least, wearing a Red leather slicker in an Upper East Side town house, with not one but two minks on rhinestone-encrusted leashes, etc. The best song about Christmas as well!)

Bertrand Burgalat: The Sssound of Mmmusic (My favorite French producer's first solo effort. He played bass for Air on their first US tour and epitomizes all that is good about 60s French Camp production, and a heavy dose of conceptual weirdness. I saw this guy live at the Mercury Lounge 4 years ago in his single US performance and it rocked!)

Blackalicious: Melodica (Their first EP from 93, and also DJ Shadow's first released piece of music, "Swan Lake". The rapping is tremendous, and unstoppably intelligent, and creative but without any of Gab's later New Agey musings. This is dope as ...heck! Not too artsy. Each of the 7 songs are perfect! A favorite ever since I first heard it. Notice Lyrics Born on "Deep in the Jungle". He gets really weird: "I know you can make colors rhyme...")

Mobb Deep: The Infamous (The reality of art spawned in adversity, like the Greece's Golden Age. This album holds up like the day it was released. Their straight-forward descriptions of project-life bring on goose bumps. There's real poetry, and amazing expression going on here! This one kept Nas's first off the list, though I love that too. This is the better version of that.)

Various Artist: The Trip (created by St. Etienne) (Great selection of obscure gems from the 60s and 70s.)

The Ethiopians: Engine 54 (I've been going back to this album regularly since 1997. I love male falsetto singing, and this is that at it's most beautiful. It's called Ska, but technically it's actually of the Rocksteady genre, which I much prefer. Pre-Selasi reggae oozes Christianity, and lacks a certain anger that permeates the scene when Rasta stuff enters the scene. These guys sing like they're all virgins. Check out: "You've got the Dough, but I've got the Soul" or the title track, for starters. The album has about 6 perfect songs and the rest are just fine. The title track is a bit weird as well, and it sounds like they're singing "Angel 54" not "Engine 54" and I like the idea of numbered angels in a kind of Middle Ages sort of a way.)

Burning Spear: Marcus Garvey/Ghost of Marcus Garvey (This is haunting stuff. The dub versions are cool. His voice is like that of a prophets crying blood. I saw Burning Spear live in Cleaveland once. It was not the "happy-Jah-love" reggae vibe that one might have expected. Burning Spear didn't start playing until well after 1am. The event was in a biker bar and there were fist fights breaking out between bikers, hippies, and rastas. Pretty dark and brooding. Check out: "Live Good" for the most instantly accessible track.)

Digable Planets: Blowout Comb (This was big for me in high school. It represent everything that I thought was cool re: retro, black culture, the 70s, etc. The album hold up, mainly because its production is so sophisticated, but also because Butterfly raps beautifully. "Sub zero degrees can't freeze the cool breeze." Unfortunately, this stuff has turned out to be much less cool that I originally realized. But check out the opening track, or track 5, or the final one with its great beat, gorgeous brass, and easy pacing. I still love it! Doodlebug has not held up though. His rapping is...not so great.)

Al Green: Call Me
Mouse on Mars: Niun Ngung
Tarwater: Silur

Raz Ohara: The Last Legend (This album saw me through a very painful break-up, and also precipitated my re-conversion to a more devout Christian life. This is a Dutch guy who sings like Prince, but does simple R & B ballads, mostly with just the backing of a guitar. The track "Reality" posits that, on the other side of heart-break, there is a quasi-mystical experience called "reality" to be found. Such was indeed true for me. I was so prickly at the time, like "Don't touch me", and this was all I could stand to listen to. "Give me back my bike.")

Toshack Highway: Toshack Highway

My Bloody Valentine: Isn't Anything (For me, this album is high school. I'm so pleased it's held up so well over the years, though the drumming weaker than most are willing to admit. I've listened to this more than probaly any other piece of music. I love "Blown a Wish" and I was in a band in college that covered "Only Shallow" not very well, but nonetheless.)

Pixies: Surfer Rosa
Slum Village: Fantastic, Vol. 2
Madlib: Remixes 2
Lenny Breau: 5 O'clock Bells
Japan: Gentlemen Take Polaroids/Adolescent Sex/Tin Drum
The Zombies: Odessey & Oracle
Pulp: This is Hardcore
Phoenix: Alphabetical
Stephin Merritt: Pieces of April (soundtrack)
Pat Martino: Baiyini
Twin Peaks (the movie): Fire Walk With Me (Soundtrack)
Jaylib vs. J-Rocc: Championship Sound (Bonus Disc)
The Feelies: Crazy Rythms
The B-52's: Mesopotamia
Jan Hammer: Complete Miami Vice Instrumentals
The Magnetic Fields: 69 Love Songs
Lovage / Dan the Automator: Music to Make Love to Your Old Lady By
Ladytron: Light & Magic
Kid Koala: Carpel Tunnel Syndrome
Giorgio Moroder: From Here to Eternity
Nino Nardini & Roger Roger: Jungle Obsession
Duran Duran: Rio
Fleetwood Mac: Tusk (Bonus Disk)
Cody Chestnutt: Headphone Masterpiece
John Coltrane: Ole
Sam Prekop: Sam Prekop
Olivia Tremor Control: Black Foliage
Breeders: Pod
Boby Dylan: John Wesley Harding
Ann Peebles: The Hi Years
Blonde Redhead: Ballad of Certain Damaged Lemons
Arthur Russell: Calling Out of Context
Ghostface Killah: The Pretty Toney Album/Bulletproof Wallets
GZA: Liquid Swords
Zoot Woman: Living in a Magazine
Daft Punk: Discovery
DJ Vadim: USSR Reconstruction
Apples in Stereo: Her Wallpaper Reverie
The Slits: Cut
Cecil Taylor: Looking Ahead
Tom Tom Club: Tom Tom Club
Bobby Brown: The Enlightening Beam of Axonda
Beach Boys: Friends/20-20
Company Flow: Funcrusherplus
Juggaknots: Clear Blue Skies
RJD2: Since We Last Spoke/Dead Ringer
Roxy Music: Siren/Roxy Music/Flesh & Blood/For Your Pleasure
Whitey: The Light At the End of the Tunnel is a Train

Click Me! for the best album list I've found on Amazon

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Great Album Cover (good, not great, album):

plus, here's a link to an informative interview with Koushik: Koushik Interview (Click Me!)

a quote from that interview: "As far as current stuff, the only people that I constantly get really excited about are Dilla, Madlib and Doom. I'm sure there's lots of people doing great things; I just haven't heard much of it."

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Ernst Kasemann quotes:

taken from "The Testament of Jesus" --

“’The Light shines in the darkness’…This encounter reveals the world’s whole past, present and future as darkness, in so far as it does not enter into and remain in the brilliant stream of light. The Gospel, therefore, describes the world as the realm of deficiancies and defects, of sickness and death, of lies, unbelief and misunderstanding, of doubts and sheer malice.” (p. 34)

Friday, February 17, 2006

Toilet Stall Graffiti from the Radcliffe Camera

For some time, I have been wanting to post a comprehensive guide to the Bathroom Grafitti found in Oxford's famous Radcliffe Camera. Unfortunately, those in charge monitor the situation carefully, cleaning and repainting the walls with amazing regularity (i.e., think Switzerland). But today, like a gift, I found the following hilariously theological piece of vandalism:


Bonnie Zahl on Imago Dei:

by Bonnie Zahl

As a researcher in psychology and religion, I study religion from a
psychological perspective (and vice versa, albeit less frequently)—not
to disprove or explain away religion, but to draw parallels between
religious experiences and psychology. One idea that has interested me
both theologically and psychologically is the idea of imago Dei, and
the implications of this idea on our understanding of humans
(particularly Christians.)

There are plenty of things to say about imago Dei, but I will briefly
highlight only one. The Bible says that we were made in the image of
God (Genesis 1:27); no Christian can refute that! But the debates get
heated when we start to talk about the degree to which we retain (and
recover) that image of God, fallen creatures that we are. Rather than
grossly over-generalizing different Christian traditions' view of the
degree to which we retain (or recover) the image of God, I will
outline some research showing that God is (sometimes, and in some
ways) made in the image of man.

First, a clarification of terms: in psychological research, God concept refers to the cognitive
or theological understanding of God. God image, on the other hand, refers
to the emotional or affect based understanding. Discrepancy between
the two can lead to resentment, anger, guilt, or anxiety.
Psychologists are not always consistent with these terms, but often
their methodology makes it clear whether they are tapping into the God
concept ('head knowledge') or God image ('heart knowledge').

Piedmont, Williams, and Ciarrocchi (1997) conducted a study in which
they compared individuals' self-ratings of their personality and their
ratings of what they think Jesus' personality is like (God concept).
Using validated and comparable personality measures, participants (68%
Catholic, 25% Protestant, 7% no religious affiliation) rated their
personality and then their view of Jesus' personality on the scales
(some did it the other way around to counterbalance any order
effects.) Below is a section describing the personality profile
generated by subjects, published in the Journal of Psychology and

Based on the psychological meanings of the Adjective Check
List scales (Gough & Heilbrun, 1983), a personological sketch can be
drawn of Jesus' personality. Overall, the results presented here
portray Jesus to be imaged as a caring and concerned individual who
yet maintains a degree of detachment from those around him. In some
ways, this profile is reflective of the self-actualized person as
described by Maslow (1970). The acceptance and compassion for others
is balanced by a need for privacy; he has a concern to bring others
into harmonious relationships while not always encouraging stereotypic
roles and values. No doubt the historiographic profile that emerged
here reflects a Jesus who is perceived to have a complex inner

Piedmont et al.'s study also found that subjects' one's own
personality is associated with their perceptions of Jesus'
personality. Specifically, multiple regression analysis indicated that
subjects' collapsed (i.e. overall) self-ratings were most predictive
of Jesus' level of Conscientiousness. The study also found that 11% of
the variability in ratings of Jesus was accounted for by subjects'
self-ratings, which is a moderate-sized association. Further analyses
revealed that it was self-rated dimensions of Extraversion, Openness,
and Religiousness that constituted the overlap with ratings of Jesus.
In other words, variations a person's self-ratings of those three
dimensions accounted for 11% of the variations in ratings of Jesus
(i.e. they overlapped).

Despite 'knowing' the person of Jesus (as opposed to a more abstract
person of God) biblically and catechistically, our perception of
Jesus' personality is dependent on our own personalities. It is
interesting that in this sample (which, admittedly, is not evenly
distributed amongst the Christian traditions), it was self-ratings of
religiosity that was correlated with ratings of Jesus'
Conscientiousness, not one's own level of conscientiousness. It is
unclear why this is the case, but is noteworthy because it suggests
that religiosity is a stronger predictor than simply one's own
dispositional sense of duty or level of self-control. Subjects were
not just projecting themselves; they were seeing Jesus as what they
thought they ought to see Him as, and the more religiously preoccupied
they were, the more pronounced was their rating on Jesus' level of

Given both the broad and more detailed findings described above, their
conclusion highlights what most interesting about this study:

In many ways this profile reaffirms biblical presentations
of Jesus. That such perceptual consistency is found within our
relatively heterogeneous sample underscores the power of these New
Testament images. Yet despite such influence, the results
show that individuals do not veridically internalize these portrayals.
Perceptions of Jesus are significantly related to the needs and
temperaments of the individuals themselves.

I am not proposing that God is simply Freud's idea of an "idealized
father-figure". But one thing is certain: empirical evidence shows
our tendency to do what Feuerbach saw as a criticism of Christianity:
"In the object which he contemplates, therefore man becomes acquainted
with himself; consciousness of the objective is the self-consciousness
of man. We know the man by the object, by his conception of what is
external to himself." Feuerbach said that when Christians talk about
God, they are really talking about themselves and their own ideas, and
he was not entirely wrong. When we talk about Jesus, we are also
talking about ourselves. Simply put, we sometimes unconsciously
project our own characteristics (particularly those that are
religiously relevant) onto Jesus.

This brings me to the question of whether our sense of control over
our spiritual lives also affects how we see God. It is possible that
there is a direct proportional relationship between the extent to
which we think/ experience ourselves to be able to effect meaningful
change in God's level of affection for us, and the extent to which we
believe that His level of affection actually depends on us? In other
words, if we have regularly experienced efficacy in "cooperating" with
God, we will come to think that His affirmation and continual love
depend on us. Conversely, if we do not think we can effect meaningful
change in God's level of affection for us, we believe that His level
of affection does not depend on us. "For I am convinced that neither
death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the
future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in
all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is
in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:38-39)

Admittedly there are problems with psychology as an approach; it is
reductionist, social psychology renders all experiences as the result
of 'nurturing', how can we study the supernatural using natural
methods, and so on. Certainly psychology and theology are two
distinct disciplines, with different methodologies and epistemologies.
Psychology cannot say much about the supernatural God and His ways,
but it can say plenty about the natural man and his ways. How much of
the fallen (and redeemed) man is in God's image? We do not know; but
we do know that in our fallen (and redeemed) state, we continue (to
one degree or another) to make God in the image of man. This should
serve as a cause for our humility over our own condition.

Piedmont, R.L., Williams, J.E.G., & Ciarrocchi, J.W. (1997).
Personality correlates of one's image of Jesus: Historiographic
analysis using the five-factor model of personality. style="font-style:italic;">Journal of Psychology and Theology
25, 367-373.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Peter Kay's Phoenix Nights (and some random NY Mets memories)--

Are you familiar with Peter Kay? Unless you're British, the answer is probably "no". That's okay, it's not too late. Peter Kay is a much beloved Northern English comedian from a town near Manchester called Bolton (not exactly SW1). He dropped out of school at the age of 15 or 16, and, after working some awful jobs, applied for enrollment at an acting school, where he met former Met, Mookie Wilson. His application was full of untrue information, but, as the school didn't perform (get it?) any background checks, they accepted him. Today he is probably Northern England's favorite comedian, but he remains completely unknown to US audiences, (not unlike Tyler Perry is to the white community in the States). Well, I'm hoping to help change that (like Doc Gooden changed the way people think about looking like rapper Jay-Z).

I was first taken in by his genius (yes, I think his stuff to be truly remarkable), when I caught a single episode of Phoenix Nights last year in the Wycliffe Common Room. They were speaking English, but I couldn't understand a word (sort of like hanging out with Jose Canseco). I still, to this day (and having watched both series multiple times), have to watch the show with the sub-titles turned on. I don't want to steal another great series' thunder, or reduce the uniqueness of Phoenix Nights unhelpfully,... but one can safely compare this show to The Office as being the Northern English equivalent. Darryl Strawberry.

Phoenix Nights stars Peter Kay, wheel chair-bound owner of a drinking club (a dying, if not dead, pub alternative, traditional only to the North of England, though they are all mostly a memory at best these days) called The Phoenix. I believe it was either Met's pitcher Bobby Ojeda or side-armer, Dan Quisenberry, who first coined the very applicable phrase: "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" In keeping with that sentiment, this show, Phoenix Nights, has a very low anthropology, meaning it's very human, with lots of the important content of each conversation left unspoken. Not one person in the entire 12 episodes is more than mildly attractive by media standards. This note-worthy ugly, forgotten-ness of the lives and people portrayed in the show (all of it centers around this club and their attempts to land more customers, despite somewhat stiff competition from the other local club in Bolton, Banana Grove) opens the door for endless, amazing, layers of jokes. Gary Carter. But the show also has a heart and is very touching at points. A little bit of love goes a long way in Bolton. Episode 4 has Peter Kay falling in love. Nothing quite like wheel chair romance to twist the emotions!

The show is only available on UK format (PAL) DVDs though. Many DVD players able to play both US and English DVDs, but check before you get the discs home. I write this in hopes that many of you will discover this most amazing little piece of British Television. I love the photo above, which shows Peter Kay in character, wheeling his way down the Blackpool boardwalk. You can see the "famous" Blackpool Tower behind him in the distance. If you are willing to trust me with a sincere recommendation (I would not, for instance, sincerely recommend the band Sparks, though I love them!), then get yourself a copy of Phoenix Nights. I'm sure it can be tracked down online (as is also the case with Lenny Dykstra, aka Nails' Upperdeck rookie card).

If you like it, there's a lot more Peter Kay out there for you (numerous stand-up concerts, an earlier skit show called The Peter Kay Thing, and some other stuff as well).

Best, JZ

p.s., I met Keith Hernandez and Dr. Ruth once backstage at David Letterman.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Ashley Null (a.k.a., "A. Null") on Cranmer:

"According to Cranmer’s anthropology, what the heart loves, the will chooses, and the mind justifies. The mind doesn’t direct the will. The mind is actually captive to what the will wants, and the will itself, in turn, is captive to what the heart wants.

"The trouble with human nature is that we are born with a heart that loves ourselves over and above everything else in this world, including God. In short, we are born slaves to the lust for self-gratification, i.e., concupiscence. That’s why, if left to ourselves, we will always love those things that make us feel good about ourselves, even as we depart more and more from God and his ways.

"Therefore, God must intervene in our lives in order to bring salvation. Working through Scripture, the Holy Spirit first brings a conviction of sin in a believer’s heart, then he births a living faith by which the believer lays hold of the extrinsic righteousness of Christ."

A letter from the Bishop of NH, Gene Robinson:

February 13, 2006

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I am writing to you from an alcohol treatment center where on February 1, with the encouragement and support of my partner, daughters and colleagues, I checked myself in to deal with my increasing dependence on alcohol. Over the 28 days I will be here, I will be dealing with the disease of alcoholism-which, for years, I have thought of as a failure of will or discipline on my part, rather than a disease over which my particular body simply has no control, except to stop drinking altogether.

During my first week here, I have learned so much. The extraordinary experience of community here will inform my ministry for years to come. I eagerly look forward to continuing my recovery in your midst. Once again, God is proving His desire and ability to bring an Easter out of Good Friday. Please keep me in your prayers and know that you are in mine.

Your Brother in Christ,

Monday, February 13, 2006

Ed Carson reflects upon the "Footsteps in the Sand" poem:

"John, when I looked back on my life and saw only one set of footprints in the sand, I realized that the Nintendo 64 had been carrying me the whole time!"

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Mark Mattes reviews Paul Zahl's "A Short Systematic Theology":

A Short Systematic Theology. by Paul F. M. Zahl. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2000. viii and 109 pages. Paper. $12.00.

With this delightful gem, Zahl, dean of the Cathedral Church of the Advent (Episcopal) in Birmingham, Alabama, offers a concise summation of the gospel and its impact on life, a work appropriate for personal or group study. His book is decisively Protestant, deeply sensitive to the German Lutheran and Reformed traditions. He builds on his earlier interests in The Protestant Face of Anglicanism (Eerdmans, 1998). Zahl's approach to theology is nonspeculative, narrative-based, brief but meaty and intesnse, sensitive to contemporary pop culture and yet markedly scholarly. Here one will find developed decisive Lutheran themes such as the practical nature of theology, the hiddenness of God in both nature and the cross, Jesus as the friend of sinners, the inability of humanity to escape from the impurity of the heart, sin as self-justification, and the hiddenness of the Spirit's work in the community of the church. In sum, Zahl positions his own work in relation to that of Luther's: "For Luther the unifying principle was God's justification of sinners through Christ's atonement, with the resulting freedom of the Christian. With that principle always in view, the Reformer never needed to organize the rest of his thought. This is the essential model for all theology that is free" (p. 84).

The following points are decisive for Zahl's theology. While God can only be known fully in Christ, God is not divorced from nature - including its sometimes-unfriendly ways toward humanity. Yet, from Christ, we discern that God's will for humanity is a liberation of life - God restructures life from that of a "play of marionettes into life as action and will" (p. 11). Jesus pointed beyond the externals of Jewish legal obedience to the will and its impulses as corrupt, indeed so injured that human agency is unable to heal it (p. 16). Indeed, as an expression of divine love with his gracious invitation to the publicans and tax collectors, Jesus surpassed the law with its demands (p. 19). While this hospitality led Jesus to the cross, such victimization is not beyond God's means of working sub contrario, the "opposite of God's reasoned attributes such as strength and authority and life" (p. 28) to redeem and renew humanity. While Christians currently live "in the presence of Jesus' absence" (p. 35), since Jesus is raised from death and ascended to heaven, we are permitted a direct, nonmediated relation to God (p. 37) and led by the Spirit who we are unable to tame (p. 30). Christ is our "substiture" and as such brings us sinners to God (p. 60). Christian theology is christologically construed, and thus we wee God as Trinity, yet this doctrine is "too intellectual to fuel the Christian movement" (p. 73), which is then properly fueled by the Spirit's agency in us.

This book gets to the core of Christian beliefs quickly and is also fully confident that the historic Protestant tradition speaks to today's concerns. It could be tackled by adult groups in congregations, pastors' study groups, and introductory college or seminary classes. Zahl's is a refreshing voice thanks to his confidence about the gospel.

John Passmore quote:

from 'The Perfectibility of Man' (pp. 90-91)

"Augustine's theology is certainly theocentric, then, in so far as he firmly maintains that nothing but God ought to be loved for its own sake. There is no love 'left over', as it were, to be directed towards the world, or towards our neighbours, or towards ouselves. But this is not inconsistent, according to Augustine, with my loving myself because self-love, rightly understood, is not a distraction from loving God, but is equivalent to it. 'The love wherewith a man truly loves himself is none other than the love of God. For he who loves himself in any other way is rather to be said to hate himself.' For a man to love himself in this sense, to seek his own true good, is to cherish the image of God within, to love God. To raise the question, then, whether Augustine's theology is fundamentally egocentric or fundamentally theocentric is to ask a question which cannot be answered; for on his view a theocentric and an egocentric theology, properly understood, will coincide.

"Luther will have no truck with such concession to self-love. His theology is resolutely theocentric. Those who truly love God, he says, 'submit freely to the will of God whatever it may be; they seek absolutely nothing for themselves'. 'Love your neighbor as yourself' does not imply, as Augustine had also recognized, 'you ought to love yourself'; it rests only on the observable fact that every man does love himself; it is the equivalent of Jesus' other precept: 'All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.' Men ought not to love themselves. By hating themselves, they can both love God and love their neighbors (b/c love of self exists in opposition, not accordance, to them. - JZ). For the medievel doctrine, as expressed, for example, by Bernard of Clairvaux, that men can attain to perfection by beginning from self-love and gradually arising above it, Luther has nothing but contempt. According to Luther, then, the sign that a man loves God with his whole heart is that he hates himself (in Cranmer's words: "miserable offenders,...not worth so much as to gather the crumbs from under Thy table,...there is no health in us..." - JZ), and is prepared, even to damnation, wholly to submit himself to God's will - not that Luther believed that such a man would be damned(!!!2 Corinth 7:10)! Augustine, in contrast, saw as the perfected man one who love himself, in the 'higher' sense of self-love, but who loved nothing in the world for its own sake. They agree, however, on the crucial point; neither kind of perfection is possible to men."

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Jay Dee dead at 32

You may remember the earlier post about my eager anticipation of this guy's album, Donuts, from Nov. 15th. He was truly an artist, and, fortunately for us, was also extremely prolific. He leaves much incredible music in his wake, but his death (especially at such a young age) is a real tragedy. --JZ

Here follow's his obituary from pitchfork.com, though I'm sure we'll be hearing more about him in the weeks to come:

"James Yancey, the man known to the hip-hop world as Jay Dee and J Dilla, passed away this morning at his home in Los Angeles. He was 32 years old.

"While the cause of death has yet to be confirmed, Yancey had recently suffered from kidney problems. His latest album, Donuts, released on Tuesday, was partially recorded in the hospital using a portable studio.

"Jay Dee began his career as a member of the Ummah, A Tribe Called Quest's production team. He would go on to make beats for Common, Busta Rhymes, De La Soul, Pharcyde, and many others. He was a member of Slum Village, collaborated with Madlib as Jaylib, and put out several acclaimed solo albums, mixes, and singles. Pharrell Williams once called Jay Dee his favorite hip-hop producer.

"Peter Adarkwah, the founder of BBE Records, which released Jay Dee’s 2001 solo album Welcome 2 Detroit, gave the following statement: 'Jay was one of my favorite Hip-Hop producers of all time. His passion for music was a rare thing amongst people in the music industry. His music and presence will be sorely missed for many years to come.'"

Friday, February 10, 2006

Kinks anyone?

by David Zahl

I've never been so excited for Valentine's Day in my life - after years of waiting, Whit Stillman's Metropolitan finally comes out on Criterion Collection DVD! What's more, on the same day, we also get the first ever solo album from Ray Davies (of the Kinks)! To celebrate, I've put together a list of my 17 favorite lesser-known Kinks songs:

1. Sweet Lady Genevieve – Preservation Act 1. From the period where the whole band had long hair and beards and no one listened to them.
2. This Is Where I Belong – Face to Face (single). I’m pretty sure Ray wrote this after the band got mysteriously banned from the States in 1965.
3. Shangri-La – Arthur. The first of many British Empire-themed rock operas from Ray. Cynical and sentimental at the same time, with great drumming.
4. This Time Tomorrow – Lola vs. The Powerman and the Moneygoround, pt. 1. I suspect this song sums up everything we need to know about “life on the road”. I never understood why Ray and Dave stopped singing together like they do on this song/album.
5. Deadend Street – Face to Face (single). With the exception of this song, the working-class-hero bit is the least interesting side of Ray's persona.
6. Starstruck – Village Green Preservation Society. Hard to pick only one from this album. No one ever talks about how awesome the Kinks’ back-up vocals were.
7. It’s Alright – The Kinks (b-side). Also, they sure could rock!
8. Nothing in This World Can Stop Me Worrying About My Baby – Kinda Kinks. Otherwise known as the song from Rushmore. I always wonder how the super-long title came across in 1964.
9. No More Looking Back – Schoolboys in Disgrace. Frampton Comes Alive was only two years away, and you can tell. In a good way…
10. A Rock n Roll Fantasy – Misfits. Worth it if only for the Beach Boys-style breakdown toward the end.
11. Til The End of the Day – The Kink Kontroversy. In the early days, people would accuse Ray of shamelessly recycling the “You Really Got Me” riff. But I don’t see how you could listen this song and fault him for it.
12. Animal Farm – Village Green Preservation Society. I have no idea what he’s talking about here, but it’s really English and really catchy.
13. Something Better Beginning – Kinda Kinks. My father’s favorite Kinks song. Note the brevity.
14. No Reason – Something Else. Is this bossanova? I don’t know. But even if it is, I love it.
15. Art Lover – Give The People What They Want. Latter-day Kinks. Weird and slightly perverted but clearly fantastic.
16. Autumn Almanac – Something Else (single). I just really like the way Ray sings the word, “almanac”, stretching it into four syllables.
17. I’m On an Island – The Kink Kontroversy. JAZ’s favorite Kinks song. Probably their most successful foray into calypso.

While I’m at it, here are 9 of my favorite well-known Kinks songs:

1. Waterloo Sunset – Something Else. As close to perfection as it gets.
2. All Day, All of the Night – The Kinks. Best of the riff-songs, no question.
3. Tired of Waiting for You – The Kinks. Sometimes it takes girls a long time to get ready.
4. Better Things – Give The People What They Want. Sappy but terrific.
5. David Watts – Something Else. More inspired back-up vocals.
6. Days – Village Green Preservation Society (single). More inspired sentimentality.
7. Sunny Afternoon – Face to Face. I heard he wrote this in twenty minutes.
8. Apeman – Lola vs The Powerman and the Moneygoround, pt. 1. I can’t think of any other band that pulled off the mean/silly combination so well so often.
9. Celluloid Heroes – Everybody’s in Showbiz. Why do people sing about Rudolph Valentino so much? Who was he?

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

On Prescription a.k.a., "Don't Tell Me What To Do!" (the first photo below features the lovely Deirdre, as seen in the Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh.)

My friend Will (author of the White Hall blog) recently raised the following question about Prescription:

"Also: what's the problem with something's being prescribed? Jesus prescribed all kinds of things. Preach the gospel, go in peace, sin no more, baptize, make disciples, fear not, do this, etc. etc. etc."

Here's my attempt at answering this question:

Dear Will,

the short answer to your question on prescription usually runs along the following lines: Prescription does not provide a method for bringing about the thing it requires, but, rather (to quote Romans 7) it "increases the trespass," "making sin utterly sinful". It tells the car where to go, but it doesn't put any gas in the tank.

Where there is prescription, there immediately comes the opposite of the thing the prescription intended, and this is what it means for the will to be bound. Knowing better does not equal doing better according to Paul (foolishness to the Greeks), and, if anything, it increases the doing of worse, or, at a minimum, puts the doing of "worse" into the perspective of not being as good as the standard fulfilled.

So the Law (as prescription) brings rebellion and penitance. Paul calls this "the proper use of the law" in 1 Timothy 1: 8, 9. Jesus further clarifies the law in the Sermon on the Mount in his antitheses, by showing that prescription exposes an impossible angling of the heart, one that mere behavioral adherence cannot meet the standard of (i.e., suddenly adultery is not a behavior, but a motive, etc. That portion of the Sermon on the Mount climaxes with: be ye perfect therefore as your Father in heaven is perfect -- good luck!) -- This exact issue is currently being discussed on in the thread under the post called "An Insight from Jeff Dean"; it's a far from settled hermeneutical matter, but what I describing here is the basic sort of Luther 101 position on the matter. I hope those of you who are sympathetic to such a read, can help me to tighten this us if you think I've gone far astray here. Adherants of this position tend to think the bible must be interpreted and/or read through the lens of the Cross if sense is to be made of its text. You get the drift.

Anway, as a result of this awful conundrum known as the human condition post-Fall,...(drum roll) "thanks be to Jesus Christ" who died to on the behalf of us sinners who know ourselves as sinners in light of the fact that we cannot set the record straight in the way the Law demands through our own efforts (i.e., works based righteousness), and God cannot commune with anything less. According to this view, prescription is always basically a big set-up for "repent and believe the Gospel".

If Jesus' command, and any other commandments in the Bible (especially given the nature of human reception of any kind of command as illuminated by Paul in Romans 7 famously) could simply be followed in the way that their imperative nature requires, then why did Jesus have to die, and so brutally at that? In what sense is Grace really grace, and forgiveness really forgiveness and mercy really mercy and love really love if those qualities are not a response to something that requires them? In the same vein, tolerance and love are obviously not the same thing.

Furthermore, if the law can be fulfilled by us, then the Bible often starts to be interpreted as a rule book of some sort, a ladder for us to climb (rather than the story of one who came down and then climbed up on our behalf while we were busy doing our own thing).

Obviously, for those who buy into this read of prescription, the implications are pretty major for how you come to understand the Christian life; the Gospel has to do with a lot more than just conversion, it also has to do with sanctification. Salvation and sanctification become seemingly identical in the view of some. The message one preaches to the Christian is no different than the message one preaches to the non-Christian.

Some Christians try to draw different distinctions as to just how far-reaching the implications of this understanding travel. Does this relationship to the Law altar at the point of conversion? Calvin says yes. Most Christians say yes. Luther appears (at least in his notable Commentary on Galatians, which is the thing that Wesley was listening to when his heart was "strangely warmed") to basically say "No", though that's been well disputed. W. Elert argues strongly against any other interpretation of Luther, and makes for a pretty fun read. My favorite, shared by many, is Gerhard Forde's "On Being a Theologian of the Cross". It is short and really worth reading. I can't plug it enough. Others try to draw lines between different kinds of prescription, that some can be adhered to, while others can't. It's basically the history of Protestant denominational break-down.

The most commonly lobbed criticism of this view that Prescription only works in this strange back-handed manner is "antinomianism", which suggests that being set free from the Law's prescriptive quality through Christ's Cross results in dangerous anarchic freedom, and of the most immoral kind at that. This criticism was not stranger to Paul himself: "Should we sin more that grace may abound?"

For what it's worth, no Lutheran accepts this charge of anti-nomianism ("Certainly not!"), and there are many important and note-worthy arguments, Scriptural verses and passages, plus experiences and testimonies that suggest anti-nomian behavior is not a necessary consequence of such an understanding of the Cross in its relationship to the Law. Some even suggest that such anti-nomian behavior is an impossibility given the profound, heart-changing nature of Grace, that, to the extent it has sunk in, nothing but fruit can be born of it.

It is indeed the case that, to go all the way with such an interpretation of the Gospel is pretty radical; it puts a lot onto the shoulders of Jesus for sure! My father's tag line is: "Low Anthropology, High Christology". Personally, my leanings go pretty much all the way with this one, to the displeasure of many perhaps. Christians seem often to hate this understanding of Christianity. Non-Christians (to the extent they identify with the Prodigal son) tend to love it (i.e., it's irresistable)!

For what it's worth, I think Cranmer bought this view pretty whole-heartedly and my favorite Articles 9, 10, and 11 epitomize this type of thinking. They are especially note-worthy b/c they mention "sin that persists in the regenerate" in almost back-to-back succession with a will that is bound (i.e., not free), and justification by faith in Christ.

Obviously the whole issue gets me pretty excited. But I do hope this helps to lay out the "prescription" matter (as many like me see it anyway) in fairly clear terms.

Guess this isn't such a short answer after all. Maybe I'll post it. Yeah, I think I will, Will. Thanks for asking.

Best, JZ

Is this what comes to mind when you hear the word "cult"?

click for "an explanation" of sorts

I love the funny people in the background! JZ

Monday, February 06, 2006

Moltmann quote (preceded by some criticism of "The Emerging Church"):

The following excerpt struck me as having helpful critical implications for "The Emerging Church" movement, so well-intentioned and prevalent here in the evangelical wings of the C of E.

Would that all "contemporary" churches held themselves to such a line of thought as the following one espoused by Herr Moltmann! I fear that too many Anglicans (and all denoms with an established theological tradition) are neglecting the advantages their theological roots afford them. For example, the Book of Common Prayer oozes theological and pastoral insight!

In England many have chucked liturgy, the understanding being that its absence is the first ingredient necessary for church (re)growth. Liturgy seems to be associated with Imperialism and slavery, or something like that. On the other hand, in the States, many of us adore liturgy for exactly the opposite (wrong) reasons: We think it makes church seem more legitimate, and less ignorant / naive than the less worldly non-denominational alternatives down the street. Such a caricature epitomizes the make-up of most ECUSA congregations in NYC. Oxford is an even more obvious example of the same thing. It is a place where Americans specialize in exactly that kind of insecurity. I've just come from an Alister McGrath debate at the University Student Union, and over half of the questions from the floor came from Americans! English culture, which is pretty depressing by the way, cannot quell such deep need for affirmation. I feel for my fellow American seminarians who have come all the way to England, the supposed Mother Ship of Anglicanism, only to find the most casual, insubstantial churches they've ever seen, churches where the clergy are eager to hear whether or not you have ever been to Willow Creek, Time Square Church, and the Kansas City Prophet place? You can almost hear these poor Episcopalians muttering under their breath, "You mean the Canterbury Trail ends here?..."

The common line (one of Nicky Gumbel's) is that the church must "keep the message, but change the packaging". Unfortunately, I have yet to find one church that has re-packaged without changing the message, theology, and ecclesiology. The first thing to go seems to be any doctrine of sin as total depravity. To the extent that these Christian estimations of human anthropology slighten that doctrine, the Cross is robbed of exactly that much power. The result is always the same poll-vault over Calvary, a place where, given Easter, morality and churchiness as the content of the Christian faith are preached, or, rather, taught. Christianity of this ilk always becomes what I would call "flaky", either overly glory-based or overly mystical in its leanings. I've heard that, in Sydney, they've done a wonderful job of translating the BCP into intelligibly accessible language without losing the pith. To my way of thinking, that sounds like the right initial approach.

But the fact that much of the evangelical Church is totally consumed with being "Radical" (California-Teenage-Mutant-Ninja-Turtle style) and "culturally relevant" displays the extent to which the (actually) radical Christian Gospel has lost its primary seat in Church. We're right to take the criticism of having been overly aloof and obtuse, too far removed from the reality of human anxiety in the day-to-day. I agree. We need to stop painting clownish smiles on frowning faces, while guilt funnels its tithe directly into the Youth Program in hopes that "at least the children will experience Grace".

But let's not necessarily think the problem has been a lack of arcade games in the nave, or that of contemporary-worship-leader "sincerity" (don't even get me started on the flute-playing a la Herbie Mann, though without the shirt off, which would be an improvement, for that matter). Suddenly Sunday church services are being modeled after their own Youth Groups!

What I want to know is, since when has critiquing the secular world's humanistic, Pelagian thinking not sounded radical and relevant? Or is that practise now completely out of vogue except maybe via Paul Walker, Tim Keller, and / or that Terryl Glenn (?) guy at the AMIA flagship on Paulie's Island? Fortunately, Cranmer does it ad infinitum, and, these days, Sunday evenings find me making a bee-line for what is arguably Oxford's most pathetic traditional sung Evensong, where I get the Gospel I crave straight out of the Book of Common Prayer. Only a God of Grace would show up in that service, and He does!

I say, first, start preaching the Gospel again as described in antiquated Article 11: "The justification of man -We are accounted righteous before God solely on account of the merit of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ through faith and not on account of our own good works or of what we deserve. Consequently the teaching that we are justified by faith alone is a most wholesome and comforting doctrine. This is taught more fully in the homily on Justification." Preach it again and again (like a broken record for consistently broken lives)! Preach it to Christian and non-Christian sinners alike! Preach it like you're Augustine and they're Pelagius. Just as G. Forde says, "let that bird fly!" Those that can hear it will lap it up (yes, I believe in Irresistible Grace), for it is a / (THE) "most wholesome and comforting doctrine". It is sufficient.

Suddenly, good old-fashioned Parish ministry looks pretty radical to me. I can't wait! -- JAZ

p.s., Along similar lines, I like Luther's first thesis of his famous 95, where he basically says the following: "When Jesus said 'Repent and Believe' (because the latter is contingent upon the former), he meant that the entire Christian life should be made up of 'Repenting' (and, thereby, 'Believing')." As far as I'm concerned, it's a pretty good model.

p.p.s., As far as church for the post-modern world goes, I've never seen a better model than the one offered in John Ford's 'Donovan's Reef' (1963). In the movie, we find a church community gathered on Christmas Eve, in Hawaii, during a severe rain storm. A seemingly traditional, children's Christmas pageant begins. The congregation, which includes John Wayne (!), sits (each holding a candle), in their most formal, floral-printed shirts and muumuus, singing Silent Night in traditional Hawaiian tongue. On the stage, the setting is much the same as one might imagine, a small manger, children dressed as angels, and the narrator reads from the beginning of Luke. Only, in introducing the Magi, the wise men are entitled: The Prince of Polynesia, The Emperor of China, and The King of the United States of America. Instead of baring gifts of frankincense, gold and myrrh, the Polynesian, clad in loin cloth and tropical wreath, carries a platter full of pineapples, the Emperor of China brings a tray of different teas, and the King of the USA, strangely enough, carries a phonograph and wears a crooked crown. The scene is peculiar and the “same old story” has vibrancy, and renewed power. Yet the elements include an old German hymn translated into Hawaiian, an old story retold with modern elements (pineapples and a phonograph), an ethnically diverse congregation, children and adults, etc. Truly postmodern! And its poignancy still brings tears to the eyes. This photo of the astronaut on the moon, worshipping the Cross is another favorite image of mine for similar reasons.

(from The Crucified God) --

"A Christianity which does not measure itself in theology and practice by this criterion of Christ crucified loses its identity and becomes confused with the surrounding world; it becomes the religious fulfilment of the prevailing social interests, or of the interests of those who dominate society. It becomes a chameleon which can no longer be distinguished from the leaves of the tree in which it sits.

"But a Christianity which applies to its theology and practice the criterion of its own fundamental origin cannot remain what it is at the present moment in social, political and psychological terms. It experiences an outward crisis of identity, in which its inherited identification with the desires and interests of the world around it is broken down. It becomes something other than what it imagined itself to be, and what was expected of it.

"To be radical, of course, means to seize a matter at its roots. More radical Christian faith can only mean committing oneself without reserve to the 'crucified God'. This is dangerous. It does not promise the confirmation of one's own conceptions, hopes and good intentions. It promises first of all the pain of repentance and fundamental change. It offers no recipe for success. But it brings a confrontation with the truth. It is not positive and constructive, but is in the first instance critical and destructive. It does not bring man into a better harmony with himself and his environment, but into contradiction with himself and his environment. It does not create a home for him and integrate him into society, but makes him 'homeless' and 'rootless' (yep, we become extra-terrestrials. JZ), and liberates him in following Christ who was homeless and rootless. The 'religion of the cross', if faith on this basis can ever be so called, does not elevate and edify in the usual sense (i.e., in the mystical sense. JZ), but scandalizes; and most of all it scandalizes one's 'co-religionists' in one's own circle. But by this scandal it brings liberation into a world which is not free. For ultimately, in a civilization which is constructed on the principle of achievement and enjoyment (not including the USA. JZ), and therefore makes pain and death a private matter, excluded from its public life, so that in the final issue the world must no longer be experienced as offering resistance, there is nothing so unpopular as for the crucified God to be made a present reality through faith. It alienates alienated men (i.e., it won't allow them to understand themselves as Gods, as having ultimate control. JZ), who have come to terms with alienation. And yet this faith, with its consequences, is capable of setting men free from their cultural illusions, releasing them from the involvements which blind them, and confronting them with the truth of their existenc and their society.

"Before there can be correspondance and agreements between faith and the surrounding world, there must first be the painful demonstration of truth in the midst of untruth. In this pain we experience reality outside ourselves, which we have not made or thought out for ourselves (one of the ways in which liturgy is so helpful! JZ). The pain arouses a love which can no longer be indifferent, but seeks out its opposite (Grace = unmerited love for a sinner. JZ), what is ugly and unworthy of love, in order to love it. This pain breaks down the apathy in which everything is a matter of indiffernece, because every one meets is always the same and familiar.

"Thus the Cross in the church is not just what Christian custom would have imagined...It does not invite thought, but a change of mind. It is a symbol which therefore leads out of the church and out of religious longing into fellowship of the oppressed and abandoned. On the other hand, it is a symbol which call the oppressed and godless into the church and through the church into the fellowship of the crucified God. Where this contradiction in the cross, and its revolution in religious values, is forgotten, the cross ceases to be a symbol and becomes an idol, and no longer invites a revolution in thought, but the end of thought in self-affirmation." (pp. 34-35)