Legend tells of a unique bird, beautiful and majestic. At the dusk of life, it would construct for itself a funeral pyre. As the flames consumed the phoenix, from the ashes would rise another bird – younger, stronger, more beautiful than the one before.
From these smouldering ashes, let rise a new future – hopeful, beautiful, and more full of life than the flames consumed.
In the first centry, Christianity was an unknown religion. In the second, third and fourth centruries, Christianity was a misunderstood religion. After Constantine and the merging of Christianity and Empire, Christianity was at first a permissible religion, then a favored religion, and then the required religion. And it has continued to be the favored religion even in the protestant era, but something is new now, because for people like April, Christianity is, for the first time a failed religion. You know when you meet somebody and they’ve had five divorces… and you think, “You know… it probably wasn’t bad luck. There must be something…” I think when a person outside the faith, they think about us as a religion that’s had five divorces.
I was just in South Africa where the Christian community in South Africa invented something called Apartheid. And we had our own version here for a long time. First slavery, then segregation. If Christianity is so good, why didn’t it teach white people to love people of other colors? Any young woman who’s been to college and taken a women’s studies course is going to say “If Christianity is so good, why have Christians treated women like dirt for so long.” If Christianity is so good, why did Christian cultures create the industrial revolution that has brought us to the brink of environmental destruction? Why did we rape the earth? Why did we not appreciate God’s creation? And why is it that when people care about the environment today and try to make a difference, why do they find that Christians are against their efforts and make fun of them as tree huggers? Why is it that whenever there’s a war, Christians seem happy about it and are the first ones who want to go fight? Didn’t Jesus say something about peace? Why is it that rich Christians stay so far away from poor people?”
First, she says “I need to talk to someone…” She doesn’t say, “I need to have somebody talk to me.” “I need to talk to someone, and I can’t think of anyone I can talk to about religion.” Now brothers and sisters, I think you know that there are a lot of people around who would be happy to talk to her about religion, you understand? But what she is desperate for is not somebody to talk to her, she is looking for somebody who will listen to her and have respectful conversation with her. Does that make sense?
I hope this won’t offend anybody, but I think you will all understand if I use it this way. What if you had a sincere question about Amway Products?
And I understand that Amway changed their name exactly because of that reason, because there had been too many people who’d tried to twist people’s arms and get them in their upline or downline, and you know what folks – there might be some good reasons to change the brand name of Christianity for similar reason. Because a woman like April is desperate to talk to somebody, but she can’t think of anybody who’s safe to talk to.
She’s so honest, she’s so transparent, and she doesn’t want to put any pressure on me. She is doing unto me as she hopes that I will do unto her. Is it possible for two human beings in America in 2004 to have a conversation about God without one person putting pressure on the other? And there are people who are desperate for a conversation partner.
by way of jeremy hegi, 5 talks from brian mclaren at a restoration movement church regarding emergent Christianity.
i was reading through the tao tonight and ran across one of my favorite sections…
the master gives himself up
to whatever the moment brings.
he knows that he is going to die,
he he has nothing left to hold on to:
no illusions in his mind,
no resistances in his body.
he does not think about his actions;
they flow from the core of his being.
he holds nothing back from life;
therefore he is ready for death,
as a man is ready for sleep
after a good day’s work.
for all you have
all things, both large and small,
for things important and things not,
i watched a west wing episode last night that had a rather poignant moment. i promise this blog isn’t turning into something political, but i wanted to share it. the discussion is taking place concerning sending troops to prevent genocide in a small african country.
Stand by while atrocities are taking place, and you’re an accomplice.
I’m not indifferent to that, but knuckleheaded self-destruction is never going to burn itself out. You really want to send your kids across the street into the fire?
Want to? No. Should I? Yes!
Why? And don’t give me a lefty answer.
A lefty answer is all I’ve got.
Why are you sending your kids across the street?
Because those are somebody’s kids too.
Africa makes a mockery of what we say, at least what I say, about equality and questions our pieties and our commitments because there’s no way to look at what’s happening over there and it’s effect on all of us and conclude that we actually consider Africans as our equals before God. There is no chance.
This is the straight truth, the righteous truth. It’s not a theory, it’s a fact. The fact is that this generation–yours, my generation–that can look at the poverty, we’re the first generation that can look at poverty and disease, look across the ocean to Africa and say with a straight face, we can be the first to end this sort of stupid extreme poverty, where in the world of plenty, a child can die for lack of food in it’s belly.
It’s a fact. So why aren’t we pumping our fists in the air and cheering about it? Well probably because when we admit we can do something about it, we’ve got to do something about it.
-Bono, May 17, 2004
at the university of texas at austin’s resurrection week this year, there were several large boards where people could write anything they wanted in response to a few questions on display for all to see. one of the boards had the question “Why do you hate Christians?” the answers were open, honest, and all too often true. here are a few i wrote down:
i hate when they think they have the right to judge.
they are very judgmental and unloving.
they go against what Jesus teaches.
they try to legislate morality.
they don’t want to show weakness.
they act perfect and self-righteous.
they lack the ability to be real.
they bomb abortion clinics
they are intolerant.
they control the politics of the country.
they would go to a gay man’s funeral and spew hate.
in a day and age where our Christian sub-culture seems to be more interested in sounding religious than being Godly, i am reminded of the words of God in hosea – “I want you to be merciful; i don’t want your sacrifices. i want you to know God; that’s more important than burnt offerings.”
may we be a merciful people.
from keese, over at the afc blog…
this morning i spent several hours driving to and from this resort trying to claim a prize i had “already won.” it was one of those get a letter in the mail, show up at the right time, listen to their advertising presentation, say no, get your prize things. i knew it was too good to be true and i totally expected to get cheated, but i at least hoped to make it a little further into the game before i lost out. you see, i didn’t meet the qualifications because i don’t earn enough annual income (i guess it takes money to buy lake-side condominiums these days) to be worth their time or something. of course, it clearly stated this is the fine print but unfortunately for me, i never received the letter containting these stipulations. disappointing, but at least lauren and i got to spend some time driving through the texas countryside together.
so all this got me thinking about salvation. odd how seeing God’s creation through a car window will do that. in God’s eyes we’re all “instant winners.” we who call Jesus our Lord and Savior already are gauranteed to receive the promised reward. and the best part is that there’s no fine print that will take it all away from us. sure, a walk with God isn’t always a pleasant stroll, in fact it seems like a marathon at times, but at least our guide has been up-front and honest with us. we won’t arrive at our destination and discover that we’ve been disqualified for the prize. Jesus has said that if we confess Him as both master and friend, He will confess us before His father at the end of our road. and i am very glad it’s all laid out for us all in some very true fine print.