I frequently encounter surprise and even occasional disdain when I recommend works of fiction as a critical element of one's spiritual or theological diet.
"What's the point? Novels aren't true," I'm asked with incredulity. Or sometimes, "I only read spiritual books," with a judgmental edge. As if works of fiction are neither spiritual nor true.
This belies a fundamental lack of understanding about the nature of truth. Truth, especially God's truth, is true regardless of the genre by which it is delivered, whether fiction or nonfiction; prophecy, poetry or parable; apocalyptic or dystopia, and so on.
Add to the literary genres other mediums, such as movies and television (and not just documentaries!), stage plays, art shows and music of every type. All of these forms suggest the possibility of a message and where there's a message, there may be truth (or a lie, just as in nonfiction).
Tuesday, October 25, 2016
|"IHS" is an anagram for "JESUS"|
We are only days away from the US Presidential Election. Soon the equivocations, prevarications, character assassinations and mudslinging will all be over… or will it?
In an attempt to help further educate (or is it “influence”) voters “fact checks” have attempted to serve us, the gullible public, by informing us about which of the two candidates tells more lies most often. But now we hear claims that even “fact checks” have their own agenda. Say it ain’t so! Given the outrageous claims that both candidates and their teams have leveled at each other it might be comforting to think that the incriminating accusations will end on November 9 – but oh no, it will not be over – politics as usual will continue with its double speak, sleight of hand and outrageous truth claims.
Even though we don’t always know what to accept and what to reject, most of us are prepared for lies and chicanery in the world of politics. We live in a marketplace economy, so as we grow up we become aware of hyperbolic marketing claims that seek to persuade us and sell us on a particular product, thereby achieving the goal of lifting money out of our pockets and depositing it somewhere else.
Few are ready for outrageous truth claims when it comes to their faith.
While many are on guard for the lies of politics and advertising and promotion at large, few are ready for outrageous truth claims when it comes to their faith. When someone does question the veracity of a belief or practice of a particular church or denomination, the religious institution in question often directs them to documents called “statements of belief” or “statements of faith.” Sometimes, in longer forms (sometimes books and even several volumes of books) these statements are called “confessions.”
Thursday, October 20, 2016
Bricks or stones?
As you look around any college campus you see many bricks, and they are a wonderful building material in construction and architecture.
However, bricks are also a metaphor for sameness, lack of individuality, and commonness.
Bricks are made in a mold, and heated to create an identical building material that lacks individuality. Bricks are symbolic of pressure, systems, and structures that conform individuals to specific behaviors, ideologies and perspectives. Common Core programs in schools, government over-regulation, media bias, religious dogmas, and political correct standards are forces that can mold and conform us into bricks. Faced with these forces and pressures that seem to be the accepted social norms, we can stop thinking, stop questioning, stop reasoning, and stop trying. We risk becoming what others want us to be, think and believe, rather than what we are designed to be, and know to be right and true.
Tuesday, October 18, 2016
What is God like?
Jesus showed us!
In every Gospel story,
Jesus showed us what God is like,
Because Jesus is "God with us."
What did Jesus show us about God?
That God is perfect love!
That God loves us!
This is the intro to our new children’s book, Jesus Showed Us! The book is a series of sixteen gospel pictures (inspired by the child-friendly Coptic iconography of the persecuted church in Egypt). In each case, the artwork portrays Christ demonstrating the truth that God is love.
We created this book for children because so many children grow up afraid of God and alienated from God, some because of abuse, others because of the brand of gospel well-meaning Christian parents and teachers shared with them. Otherwise healthy and well-loved children often suffer spiritual and emotional damage due to the distorted images of God presented in their early religious education.
This is especially true in what we tell children about the meaning of the Cross.
Monday, October 17, 2016
WHEN JESUS WANTED PEOPLE TO
UNDERSTAND GOD'S KINGDOM PRESENCE,
HE USED PARTIES AS A PICTURE
Key Text: The Wedding at Cana (John 2:1-11)
The very idea of any kind of party, any kind of laughter, feasting, light-heartedness and yes, even enjoyment of life itself, is suspect in some religious environments. Our keynote passage does more than just record history, it is inviting you and me to a party, a party that is already in progress! There's important teaching in this passage.
You may have heard one of the take-offs on our passage, which goes something like this:
Jesus turned water into wine almost 2,000 years ago, and ever since that time, legalistic religion has been trying to turn wine into grape juice.
I don't want to spend a lot of time on the specific chemical properties of what Jesus created, but we cannot ignore the obvious. Alcohol was not only served at the wedding celebration that Jesus attended, but he contributed to the fact that alcohol was present by creating it when the original supply had run out. There's no getting around that fact, though there are some religious authorities who twist themselves into theological pretzels attempting to do so.
Wednesday, October 12, 2016
Cindy Brandt is a blogger at CindyWords.comhttp://cindywords.com and at Unfundamentalist Parenting. She is also a regular columnist for CWR magazine.
In this talk, Cindy describes how carefully raising children in a Christian subculture or 'bubble' establishes and reinforces in-out, us-them binaries. Is this really a solid foundation for their faith? Or might there be a better and more beautiful approach to raising children of authentic faith?
Tuesday, October 11, 2016
The Likely Cause of Addiction: Disconnection - reflections on Johann Hari by Michael Peterson & Brad Jersak
"The opposite of addiction is not sobriety. It is human connection."
- Johann Hari
In his Jan. 1015 article, entitled, "The Likely Cause of Addiction Has Been Discovered, and It Is Not What You Think," Johann Hari (author of Chasing The Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs) presents a strong case for believing that addictions are rooted, not in chemical hooks, but in disconnection or alienation. The best treatment, he proposes, is human connection. I.e. love. Dr. C. Michael Peterson and Brad Jersak reflect on these findings.
1) The author contrasts the traditional treatment approach of bio-behavioral therapies and cognitive interventions vs. a love-based approach. Her final sentence stated:
"For a century now, we have been singing war songs about addicts. It occurred to me as I wiped his brow, we should have been singing love songs to them all along."