Navigating Through National Politics from our pews

Though I thought twice about posting this but it is a blog, not a church newsletter so here it is.   Great article last month from Brian McLaren on Jim Wallis’ God’s Politics blog.  The article is entitled, “Mal-Engagement, Disengagement, and Wise Engagement” and here are the lines that made me nod my head in agreement:

“f people are saying they’re tired of pulpits and churches becoming the field for proxy battles between Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, I couldn’t agree more. And if they’re saying that pastors and other religious leaders should try to throw their weight around in the political arena, bypassing normal debate and discourse by making theological pronouncements, again, I couldn’t agree more.

But if they’re saying, “Let’s go back to the good old days where in church we talked about ‘us and Jesus’ and nothing more,” I couldn’t disagree more. To talk about “us and Jesus” alone is unfaithful to Jesus, who linked love for God with love for neighbor. To exclude from our circle of concern the well-being of neighbor and enemy means that we aren’t following Jesus’ way, but some other way under “Christian camouflage.”

I grew up in those “good old days,” and I can tell you they weren’t so good. It wasn’t good when racism and concern for the planet were excluded from consideration because they were “social and political matters.” It wasn’t good when poverty couldn’t be addressed directly or in a sustained way – in spite of the fact that the Bible says so much about it – because it was “political” and “social.” It wasn’t good when we couldn’t talk about peacemaking in a violent world because to do so was “too political.  For more …”

If you are having a wonderful day, I’d suggest skipping the comments.  The lack of unity and love is disheartening.  But if it’s a normal day for you, then go right ahead.


pssst – Christian shirts don't work

At the Revelation Generation music festival, I stopped by one of those Christian t-shirts tables.  Yeah, not sure I’m going to be able to stop once I start.  

First, I believe in righteous anger but I cannot tolerate the argument that this is a form of it.  Please comment/email me/contact me if you are the guy/girl who came to know Christ from reading someone’s Christian t-shirt.  I’m still looking for that story, “I was walking through the mall and this shirt read, “You think it’s hot here?  God.” and I asked the guy, “Dude, what must I do to be saved?”.  

Second, they only rally Christian  (Todd Hiestand has an interesting post regarding preaching) and offend the skeptical, the hurting, the marginalized and the normal.  

Third, though they’ve been out for years and years, the”attitude” shirts are too much of an imitation.  In a world without consequences, I would open up my own Holyster store so I could create these type Christian shirts.  They’d pretty much be the same type of shirts as we have now, but I’d market them like Abercrombie.  I’d employ Amy Grant’s strategy of “being sexy for Jesus” (Rolling Stone, June, 6, 1985) and have good-looking models with six pack abs holding their shirts that read, “Virginity is HOT”.  Maybe I’d even produce a teen coming to age movie, entitled, “He’s All That”.  I’d have the ‘t’s look like crosses.  Unsuspecting audiences would come expecting American Pie and we’d hit em up with uhhh … well … I’d have to pray about it but it would be a solid bait and switch which some consider to be great evangelism.  

Fourth, they’re usually lame.  

I present to you exhibit A:

You might ask, “What does this even mean?”

“Well, I’m glad you asked.  Please read the back of my shirt that has some Scripture and an explanation how porn “poses” as love but it isn’t really.  You see?  Now go and sin no more”.  Is that how you would actually speak to someone?  If so, you might want to rethink some of your social skills.

Here’s one that I thought was pretty good ….

until I read the back:

Should have just left the back blank.  The front actually has the potential to start meaningful conversation.  

Then there’s the pro-life shirts.  First, please know that I have very strong views against abortion.   However, if you have ever spoken to someone you love and respect (even if they are a stranger), some rhetoric, regardless of how clever it may be, is not helpful.

For example:

Could you imagine a pro-choicer having a shirt that says, “It’s a fetus – get over it!”???  I’d go nuts.  

What if someone walked around with an anti-capital punishment t-shirt that had a picture of a woman strapped to the electric chair with the fifth commandment over top of it, “Thou Shalt Not Kill!”.  I may not go nuts but I think that shirt would be distasteful.

I want to be careful and not say, “We shouldn’t wear these shirts” because those type of statements, among many things, sound legalistic to me.  Perhaps we can put some different thought into what we wear (and don’t wear).


Washington Post – GOP Loyalty Not a Given for Young Evangelicals

Found myself relating to this article.  Hope you enjoy.


DULUTH, Ga. — Jonathan Merritt is a Baptist preacher’s son with a pristine evangelical lineage. It was his dad, the Rev. James Merritt, who reportedly brought President Bush to tears in the days after the Sept. 11 attacks when he called the president “God’s man for this hour.” The Rev. Jerry Falwell was like a grandfather. 

“When you look at the political party that has traditionally championed poverty, social justice and care for the least of these, it’s not been the Republican Party,” said Merritt, who now considers himself an “independent conservative” and is unsure whom he will vote for in November. “We are to honor the least of these above even ourselves. It’s very difficult to reconcile totally.”

He is part of a growing group of young born-again Christians standing on one of the many generational breaks surfacing in this election cycle. Merritt still shares his parents’ conservative convictions on abortion, a core issue that forged Falwell’s Moral Majority and brought evangelicals firmly into the Republican camp, but he says they are no longer enough for him to claim the Republican Party.

“There’s a shift in issue focus,” said Joshua DuBois, 25, who was associate pastor of a small evangelical church and is responsible for Obama’s faith outreach. “I don’t think any young evangelical is ignoring the traditional values issues, but they are adding other issues, including poverty and war, and they are also looking at integrity and family.”

“The church has a bad reputation for being judgmental, worrying more about what people wear to church than the fact that they are coming to church,” he earnestly told the group of about 20.

The students agree, and they say some of it has to do with a politicizing of their religion. They feel the tension of their competing interests.

“I went to school with a lot of agnostic people and after Bush, they were like ‘no’ ” to religion, said Brittany Kelley, 22, who recently graduated from Savannah College of Art and Design (HEY ADAM). She is leaning toward McCain because she shares his economic views and is afraid that Obama will raise taxes. But in a lowered voice she said she does not feel the way some of the other young evangelicals do when it comes to all social issues.

Full article here.


Reflecting on Q Conference – Session 2 – Post 3

Environmentalist, Bill McKibben – “More vs. Better”

He wrote the book The End of Nature which is considered an important contribution in this discussion and now considered ahead of its time. He has a new book Deep Economy is out now – took time and lived off the fruit of local farm.

His first argument was from science:

– “How can we have grown large enough as a species to affect the planet?”

– “Science went to work on that issue.”

– We dramatically underestimated the pace of our growth

– The earth is more finely balanced then we thought …

– There were 275 parts/million of CO2 in atmosphere before the Industrial Revolution.

– We now have 385 parts/million of CO2 in atmosphere after the IR.  And we need to get it down to 350 parts/million of CO2 immediately. He said James Hansen, “greatest climatologist in the world”, endorsed this.

In his second point entitled, “Argument from Hebrew Bible”, he said:

 “4% of world population (us) produces 25% of CO2 …

– “We are not the good samaritan, we’re not even the levite.  We’re the suv driver that backs up to run over the pediastrian.”

            – “We are not loving our neighbors, we are drowning our neighbors” – (what a line).

He endorsed the Evangelical Climate Document and urged everyone to check out which is an effort to build first global grassroots, open sourced plan to reduce CO2 in the atmosphere.  It’s a great site, they talk about the Q Conference and there’s a ton of stats and other necessary info. Also, 350 calls for a rise of artists, all types of speakers, and peaceful protests.

When I say he “pleaded”, I don’t want to make him out to sound whiney.  He wasn’t at all.  I would tell you he was more angry.  I was happy to see Q have him.

This is something I need to work on.  I have been and have been making some progress but I survey my lifestyle and am convicted.  I’ll probably blog more about this later but I wanted to post something today and wanted to get these names and sites out.

Q Conference Post 2 – Jon Tyson session

The first speaker of the Q Conference was church planter, Jon Tyson.  Born and raised in Australia, he was the young adult pastor in a mega-church in Orlando and a couple of years ago started Origins Church in Manhattan. 

I’ve met Jon a couple of times (even brought my youth group to see him, and yeah, I know, our kids are so lucky, I mean blessed, to have a guy like me taking them to a guy like Jon.)  and really appreciate his humility.  He speaks with a lot of wisdom and brings great ideas and insights to his audience whether it be on Sunday mornings or to a group of fellow leaders at a gathering like this.

Here are a couple things he said that got me thinking:

“We have incredible fruit in our churches on an individual level but there is little cultural fruit”

       So true.  The success of our churches have been on that individual level.  We all know people who have radically changed their lives through the power of the Gospel and through the discipleship and encouragement of their local church.  What we haven’t heard nearly as much are the stories of churches that have had similar impacts on their communities.

       Thus the long-term causality has been the minimal effect the church has had on the culture.  We’ve retreated from it, been told it was evil or worldly.  For a long time, the church was only a refuge and not an agent of transformation and now many of them are becoming monuments.

“There needs to be a return of the city

                        Return where cultures are created.

                        We have a mandate – we’ve been commissioned … (gospel)

                        Accept our responsibility – Christ did this like spiritual acupuncture, he took those moments                         and points …           

                       Engage the world …“

       Jon and later fellow NYC pastor Tim Keller, called for a return to the “city”.  This was more then an anti-suburban cheer but was more of a vision-casting of the hope and need of a city.  I’ve always loved many parts the city, (and I enjoy certain parts of the burbs too.  Who knows what is in store for us? But back to Tyson and Keller.) but the idea was to be a part of the city.  To see it for it’s potential, to see it’s not only worth saving, but worth loving.  They didn’t say this, but all the emphasis that we put on the burbs, maybe we can be as faithful in the city (or attempt to be). 

       We read things like this and we react because the cities do not have the best public schools, have more crime, polluted, crowded and expensive.  But we all know that at the end of the day, generally speaking, we live where we want to live.  We don’t want to live in the city.  I found myself convicted on this yet again.

       Cultures are created in the city.  That line alone is a lot to think about.



He called for the need to create “a holistic theology relevant to our time”.

– Not sure I can put these thoughts into words yet.  I find myself nodding ‘amen’ but that’s all I got so far.  Yes, things need to change.

Reflecting on the Q Conference

I was fortunate enough to attend the Q Conference in NYC put on by Gabe Lyons’ (co-author of UnChristian) Ferni Project.  Truth be told, I was really impressed.  The theme was Culture.Future.Church.Gospel.

Seemed very balanced to me.  Chuck Colson and Jim Wallis were both speakers, need I say more?  Some of the speakers were Tim Keller, Andy Crouch (who was friggin awesome), Os Guiness, Shane Hipps (the second coolest guy named Shane) and a bunch of others.

Sitting in round tables in Gotham Hall in Herald Square (in between Time Square and Madison Square Garden), they put a lot of thought into this.  For instance, each speaker was only given 18 minutes to give one big point.  There was a countdown clock left of the speaker.  No joke.  It helped keep everyone’s attention.  

There were “3 Minute” missional shorts to create awareness of projects, films, and causes.  There were talk-backs with the speakers, an AIDS Care assembly kit (where you actually pack the kit with supplies) and some music like The Fray who played some old and new tunes. 

Gabe Lyons is my latest hero.  (Yeah, he’s a fellow Liberty grad.  We’re not all lame you know).  I hope to highlight some of the speakers’ points as I bring a blog post once each month.  So, yeah, maybe you should just register for next year.  It will be in Austin next year April 27-29. Here is the link.


Listen to Derek Webb … on his podcast

 I’ve been trying to catch up with the Derek Webb podcast lately.  Really appreciating it.  He’s been doing it for a while.  If you are one who enjoys his music, most likely you’ll enjoy the podcast as well.   

In the third podcast, he is summarizing good art and the Christian involvement. He insists that it’s his (like all artists) job to produce bold and truthful art.  Derek also says that too many Christian artists want to be popular and sell a lot of cds as opposed to making great art.   We have all heard that a million times before but what I appreciate about it is that it’s

coming from someone who actually is selling records.  Someone who has enjoyed the royalty checks from the Christian music industry and someone who turned his back on it.

 He also mentions his appreciate for Dylan and Wilco – can’t wrong with that.  

Check him out here.

Empty Legacy – MTV Turns 25 by Chuck Colson

Empty Legacy
MTV Turns 25

August 28, 2006

MTV turned 25 this month—but with uncharacteristic modesty, the cable channel isn’t doing much celebrating. It’s been left mostly to the news media to honor MTV’s many accomplishments.

“Without MTV,” the Associated Press points out, “you might not have reality television. Commercials wouldn’t have vertigo-inducing quick cuts. Musicians wouldn’t need to look like models to survive. Kelly Osbourne [of the reality show The Osbournes] wouldn’t have gotten near a recording studio. And only seamstresses would know about wardrobe malfunctions.”

If that were my legacy, I’m not sure I’d want to call attention to it either. But that’s not really the reason MTV is playing down its anniversary. As the Associated Press says, “When your average viewer is 20 years old . . . perhaps it’s wise not to mention you’re 25. MTV wants to be the perpetual adolescent.” The Washington Post puts it more succinctly: “At MTV, it is always about the now.”

Perpetual adolescence and living only for the moment are just a couple of the twisted values that MTV has foisted upon us over the past twenty-five years. There’s also exhibitionism, voyeurism, promiscuity, greed, and a host of other vices. Through its style as well as its content, MTV has done all it can to promote the cheap, the vulgar, and the flashy over the good, the true, and the beautiful.

I’m not saying that MTV has added anything to the culture that wasn’t already present. All these elements have always been part of sinful human nature. Where MTV distinguished itself was in glorifying these things—moreover, glorifying them for a young audience.

The Art of Being David Bazan

An interview with the always controversial Pedro the Lion frontman.

Pat Robertson on Global Warming

“And it is getting hotter, and the ice caps are melting, and there is a buildup of carbon dioxide in the air. And I think we really need to address the burning of fossil fuels. If we are contributing to the destruction of this planet, we need to do something about it.”

– Pat Robertson, admitting on his television show, The 700 Club, that recent heat waves have convinced him of the reality of global warming.

The rumor (that I just started) is that Robertson will make a cameo in Al Gore’s upcoming sequel, “False Actualities”.