Friday, June 27, 2008

[LIF] Took a Day Off

Tomorrow I'm back at writing. Today I just hung out with my kids. We went to the store to get Lady in the Water, they had been asking to see that one again. It was there for $6.99, score! I bawled like a baby (again). I won't wreck the movie, it does have a few startles and a wolf-like creature, but I'm convinced it is a kids movie. It is based on a story M. Night made up for his kids. What gets me is Paul Giamatti's character, he does such a great job.

I also picked up Eastern Promises and Balls of Fury (I really like Christopher Walken, I hope this movie is totally odd). Rogers has a sale on for used movies. I plan on using these as carrots. I'll watch one when I get a draft of chapter 2 done and maybe the other after I make the revisions on chapter 2. Things are going well on my paper. I have the intro and first chapters in for my director to tear apart. I am pretty happy with it though, Sharon says it is my best work to date. I feel like I'm learning how to write all over again. My goal is to get it done (in the A range), but I want to master academic writing (as a skill) in my PhD programme. It is quite different than the stream of consciousness I can pull off on a blog. It is even quite different than the technical writing that I did when I was an IT policy analyst, and that was pretty precise work. I'm growing in confidence that I can actually learn this, and learn it well. It is definitely a particular skill.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

[THO] Homosexuality on TV

I've been watching the Torchwood series online, a natural progression for a Doctor Who fan. Right from the get go there is a lot of ambiguity around Jack's sexual orientation. This just adds to the mystique of the show. I find Jack to be fairly unattractive too, which is odd because he is supposed to have this sex appeal. As the show unfolds we find out that this ambiguity has something to do with his origins in the 51st century where sexuality is a lot more fluid than we think of it today. Fair enough.

The last episode is a really good. Jack meets the real Captain Jack and his initial comment throws me, "I never thought he'd be so hot." It was like an aha moment. The series actually explores sexuality, but not very directly. In this episode there is a touching moment when these two men kiss. Yeah, you read that right, touching moment.

So I decided to do a little searching to see what folks were saying about this same-sex snog. One comment really hit the nail on the head (not sure where it was I looked at a bunch of blog entries). Basically it said that the american film/tv portrayal of same-sex acts of affection were distastefully executed, but that Torchwood was really tasteful. I must admit that even the kiss with James Marister didn't seem out of place - which is the way I would describe it. It seemed sort of a natural part of interplay with Jack's character - what I would expect Jack to be possibly do (will he kiss you or kill you? or both?)

But something about the sexuality of Torchwood does bug me, and it bugs me a lot.

As you can probably tell I'm not anti-gay. In fact I am quite comfortable with my own sexuality (I'm not gay myself) and with the sexuality of my gay and straight friends. Sexual orientation is something that doesn't throw me at all. I have my stance about what I think theologically about homosexuality, but what is important is that I'm not called to change or condemn anyone, but to love folks and reveal the love of God to them. Another discussion for another time perhaps - now back to my point. My problem is with promiscuity portrayed as a norm.

I think that Torchwood captures the promiscuity of our culture all too well. I am disappointed with any of my friends who treat sexual acts (including passionate kissing) like an easy commodity. I am convinced that promiscuity destroys the credibility of what should be positive events, like the gay pride parades. When my gay friend tells me that he is going to the gay bar where they "make out and shit" (his words) I get a sick feeling inside. It is not the idea of same sex partners kissing, but of random people "hooking up". I really want to see gay men and women who take pride in themselves and are not really just masking their hedonism with an excuse of sexual orientation. Promiscuity makes all gays look bad, and as a Christian I can't find any wiggle room in scripture on the issue of lust, either hetero or homosexual in nature.

This isn't a gay problem. I really am just as bothered when my heterosexual friends talk about casual sex (what the hell is casual about sex anyway?). It is a problem of not knowing how to deal, as adults, with our sexuality. I think we, as a North American society, are very immature in terms of sexuality. I could blame the puritans, but really it is up to our generation to decide if we are going to continue the madness. This isn't a gay problem, it is a people problem and it is a problem we need to face.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

[THO] Attractional and Incarnational

I just finished up my first chapter with a brief, very brief, discussion of attractional church as a contrast to incarnational church. It is really evident how bad of a caricature this false dichotomy presents. I reflected back to Jerry Cook's discussion in Love, Acceptance and Forgiveness, where he contrasts the inward looking church-as-a-field to the missional, but horribly named, church-as-a-force. I think that the dichotomy does serve a purpose, it brings the paradigm you want to endorse (Incarnational, church-as-a-force, missional, etc.) into clear relief against a starkly contrasted position.

My concern over such word-play is that we miss the reality that these models function together. Of course there are various ways we can weight the influences - and I do think that a more incarnational focus is good. But the attractional church is not bad, it is not even undesirable - it is also good. I think that needs to be clear.

At our last pastors gathering, Gary Best took on this whole issue. His concern is that there are strongly attractional churches rejecting strongly incarnational churches, and vice versa. That to me is very sad. The last thing we need is another division in the Body of Christ.

What I propose is that we open up to and learn from each other. Fact is attractional churches do pretty sweet church. Incarnational churches do too, but the emphasis is a bit different and worth rejoicing in. The other fact that us emerging types need consider is that incarnational is often more of a talk than a walk, so what is the real difference between us and the attractional church? We all have a long way to go. Perhaps instead of stark contrasts we need to just enjoy the journey and embrace as many partners along the way as possible.

Friday, June 20, 2008

[THO] Landing and revising....

One of the tasks that I had to do was land on a topic for my paper. This sounds easier that it is. I had gone in several directions, but most of them were not well suited to a mere 60 page paper. Postmodernity, though an important topic, is really not something anyone can tackle adequately in such a short paper. Even if I were to look at cultural postmodernity, I'd waste half my paper just trying to establish what cultural postmodernity was and why it is different than philosophical postmodernity. Heck I'd even have to waste another half figuring out if there even is a postmodernity!

Because my passion is social engagement (social action with our whole bodies), I knew I needed a way to enter that discussion. My exploratory research goal was to figure out what theology(s) were animating/enabling/sustaining social engagement. My thinking was that this is a component of the emerging church puzzle that has potential for broad application in the evangelical church. I found pretty much what I expected - Kingdom Theology (a lot of it is from the Fuller influence), Cultural critique which is mostly a deconstruction of modernity, Ecclesial critique which also ends up as mostly a deconstruction of modernity, Missional Theology and Incarnational Theology. That's not all there is, but those categories allow us to group certain patterns of thinking from the writings.

I decided to do Incarnational Theology and I am using the response to cultural irrelevance as a way of getting into my subject. I am not looking at all the possible aspects of an emerging church Incarnational Theology, but really two features: The inward embodiment of Christ in the Church (how do we as the Church emulate Christ) and The outward presentation of Christ to the world. I'm borrowing one of Len Hjalmerson's term - Public Presence for that one.

I have a good chunk written now, but I had the emphasis on cultural relevance rather than Incarnational Theology, so I'm redoing what I've written. It is a tonne of work.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

[LIF] Life is funny, sad and surprising

Sometimes life is an odd combination of all three and more!

What I thought was my good friends Jeff and Melanie just had their first baby. One of the reply-all responses to their announcement was, "Screenshots or it never happened." But what is sad is that I think life has become that blurred for many people. Screenshots indeed.

Sad because another dear friend was spilling his heart to me about how Christians had let him down in his hour of deepest need. That really surprised me too, but it shouldn't have, I've known for years that Christians tend to shoot their own wounded. Why is it that Christians can be some of the least Christ-like people on the planet? That is sad.

And lastly I was surprised to find some really dear but long lost friends on facebook. This is a couple that have encouraged me at critical moments over my life. They are the kind of Christians that make me proud to also be a Christian. Nothing funny or sad - just a delightful surprise.

OK, back to writing!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

[LIF] Happy Father's Day

I wish all the fathers a wonderful day, not that I have anything against the non-fathers, or even against fathers having wonderful days at other times, it is just that today is Father's Day!

BTW I'm moving from the Fundamentalists to the Neoevangelicals today (in my paper of course).

Sunday, June 08, 2008

[THO] Feeling a bit dizzy

I woke up today having dizzy spells. Probably a bug. It is pretty annoying because I'm so close to finishing my research work - ready to write. My director returns on the 10th from Crete, I need to have something ready to show her. But it has me wondering about why I have been so sick this semester. Seriously, I was sick just a few weeks ago, lost three days of research. And I have never been sick this often. Sharon is encouraging me to do a cleansing fast when I'm done. I think that is one aspect. Intense study has led me to not take as good care of myself as I should. So obviously that is one point. The other is that I've never worked as hard as I have this last semester. Sure I've pulled all nighters on projects, even sustained that sort of madness for weeks on end. But I really have had to run full tilt for months now, and it isn't letting up. Hence, my body is telling me that I need a sabbath.

Earlier I was holding my head and praying one of those desperation prayers - 'Oh God, not again.' It is frustrating when you can see the end in sight. But I also see several late nights in the library, banging out pages, sneaking sugar and coffee fixes. If you pray, I could use it.

The thing about being sick is that it is beyond your control. When the dizzy spells would hit it was all I could do to keep from vomiting. Now they are just dull occasional waves of discomfort that the back of my head. I like to be in control - but part of living life is learning that we are ultimately not in control. So much of what passes for Christian spirituality these days is about control. It is focused on us and helping us have the life somehow we've been told we should have. It is a funny reading of the Bible that lets us do that. Jesus himself is quoted as saying "in this world you will have trouble" but we seem to think Jesus was just having a cloudy moment. Funny, the disciples used to think the same think about Jesus' predictions of the cross - that was until they could no longer pretend Jesus was just joking. I think the same thing happens to us - we hit rough stuff and we can't pretent any longer. At least not right away. Getting sick reminds me of my need for Jesus. I need Jesus the realist who adds, "take heart I have overcome the world." Not so I can pretend life isn't hard, no, so I can remember who writes the last word. Jesus always has the last word.

Despite the sickness I will persevere. I'll probably have a rough month (again those prayers are appreciated). But at the end I'm confident that Jesus still has something to say. May we become less so he becomes more.

BTW Dan has a wonderful post on Lakeland, well worth reading.

Friday, June 06, 2008

[THO] It's a Western thing...

The debate over the emerging church is very frustrating for me. I continually feel that those attacking postmodernity fail to realize that simply pointing out the dangers of postmodernity will not dispell the changes we see in popular and academic culture. Just because there are changes does not mean we need to characterize or even demonize the changes, any more than we should blindly embrace every wind of change that blows across our landscape. I do get what is at stake epistemologically, however, I don't see much that really makes me want to return to even a moderate foundationalism as Scott R. Smith has suggested. I just don't think that truth is the issue here. (I also think that Smith fails to grasp the implications of the realization that we are a symbolic species, but his suspicion of evolution already reveals his bias. See Truth and the New Kind of Christian.)

What I am more and more convinced of is that we are in a liminal time, and likely will be for at least my generation. There will be and should be churches that are attractional, highly propositional, missional, incarnational and whatever-else-inal that our God given imaginations can concieve as long as these churches represent the important paradigms of thinking of people God desires to reach. Personally I think that the postmodern condition is the opportunity we need to shake up all that can be shaken in the church. At the end I expect that the Church will emerge stronger than ever, but I don't pretend to think it will necessarily look anything like it does today. It might be a small comfort to folks like Carson and Smith that they will only see rumblings of the future in their lives. Me, I'm just a bit more impatient, but I'm a realist. As a practitioner, leading a church into an emerging form, I know how deeply engrained modernist thinking is in people. This is the challenge of ministry in our day. For me I'd prefer to rise to the challenge.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

[THO] Yup it's my Birthday

And I've been thinking about postmodernity all day. I've been thinking about how the critics of the emerging church like to cast one picture of postmodernity that isn't quite accurate and the emerging church itself resorts to modernist categories to cast it another way that also isn't quite accurate. But at the end of the day the postmodern condition is actually described by this mutual stumbling! It is enough to make ones head swim. So as a remedy I'm letting my lovely wife take me out to a comedy club (my first time ever) and we'll see if by the end of it I'm not laughing at the preposterous poject I call a masters research paper!