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Archive for February, 2006

Lunch of Pi

I finished Life of Pi, a story of a puppy who likes butterflies and the dear child who cares for him. They have some sort of Disney adventure, and live happily ever after.*

*This may not be an option presented by the book, per se, but it is the story I choose – the “other-one-with-animals,” I like to think. My suffering in reading it was so great (especially when the detailed diet of Pi interfered with my lunch hour). Also, puppies help me believe in god(s).

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Goosey Jihad

The young’un has a cd on which children and sweet voiced ladies sing 12 songs to variations on “Twinkle, Twinkle” (come on, you can think of some), a few VBS classics and some nursury rhymes. I have been troubled about what kind of child he might turn out to be romp’n’rolling to this one:

Goosey Goosey Gander whither shall I wander,
Upstairs, downstairs and in my lady’s chamber
There I met an old man who wouldn’t say his prayers,
I took him by the left leg and threw him down the stairs

And then discovered that it is just part of his vibrant heritage of faith.

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tweedy dee

Clicking on interests to see if I could find someone interesting (truthfully, someone I know, but I’ll never admit to that kind of desperate time wasting), I tried “abilene” and discovered – me. From October, 2005. Last post 16 weeks ago. Very similar id, even. I guess it’s about the same week in the quarter as last time. Thank you, eharmony.

I was thinking about your comment about fast forwarding through unknowns on the iPod and the death of the album. I was reading an interview with Jeff Tweedy in Paste and he said

“I think Wilco is never going to accomplish this goal, but I would love for more people to listen to music as a sole activity. I think it’s a really transformative way that that art form can touch you. Aside from live music, which I think is really important to being human – to be a part of a crowd experiencing music – recorded music is like literature when you allow yourself to sit and listen. I mean, you know. That’s all you did when you were growing up; that’s all you needed to do. You found friends that could sit and be quiet and not f—in’ ruin it; those were your friends, you know? If somebody couldn’t do that, you couldn’t hang out with them. I don’t care how cool they were; they were not cool.”

And I thought, “yeah, that’s totally all I did. Those people that weren’t my friends totally suck!” But I am not cool anymore, and I have never sat through an entire Wilco album without multitasking. I once had a professor who scared the crap out of me by saying, “there are some people who think they want to be scholars, but are really only bibliophiles.” I don’t listen to music for the sake of being and becoming human, but I have 31.6 Days of titles on my hard drive that somehow make me feel like me. I do miss listening to music as a single activity, but when am I going to do that?

If you believe Jeremy Begbie, a guy I’m reading this week for class (Theology, Music and Time), sitting around listening to music is almost doing theology, if not a partial credit for spiritual discipline.

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And then I go. . .

I made an unsettling discovery. While I often look through celebrity playlists and think, “yeah, this famous person really gets it. They are so cool. Or their personal assistant really knows how to read indie mags,” I really rarely own or listen to (and dare I admit, like) most of the music they reference. As of yesterday there are only two CP’s that I honestly relate to, and they are Derek Webb and Switchfoot.

This is troubling me a little bit. Although, to make myself feel better, I checked on a few whose playlists I assumed I wouldn’t relate to, and I didn’t. But I really enjoyed reading Andy Milonakis’ and Nicole Kidman’s. The latter switches from ‘I” to “we” near the end, with no explanation:

“Hollaback Girl” (Track 14): “We like this song because Gwen rocks! She wears great clothes and can dance! Her whole record is great!”

At first I suspected body thetans, but further textual clues indicate that she may have been joined midway by Andy Milonakis.

. . .

I wonder if we share “the evangelical imagination.” Shudder.

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First, Suckas!

Despite the inescapable sense that I should have one, I have been trying to figure out what in the world I would put in a weblog, since I am not currently having a conversation with any of you. Blogging is arrogant and useless, and doesn’t create real community, just simulated dialogue and the opportunity for unaccountable fakery. So, today, it occurs to me that I will just paste in the conversations I am having, which, occaisionally, I would like to have all-in-one-place somewhere. Maybe this-where. So, let the voyeurism and vanity begin.

My friend and hero Greg writes me a few weeks ago asking about a class I’m teaching at church, and bringing up some questions about what “discipleship” is. I responded with this unsolicited encyclical (my apologies – it was a cry for help).

. . .

Well, the first two things you should know about my Sunday morning class are 1) “why” I’m teaching this class is my brotherly love for Linda, who asked me to do it and 2) I’m really only “teaching” about 5 times. I’m helping coordinate some small groups and panels the other weeks. So if you’re looking for someone who has 14 weeks worth of material on discipleship burning in his bones, it’s not me. 🙂

Last semester Bob taught on discipleship, and the class was called “Run to Him.” I don’t know what he said, but this semester they were interested in something challenging that connected faith and current events, and I suggested taking some of our practices as disciples – personal spiritual disciplines, corporate worship, and acts of service – and talking about how these things shape a uniquely Christian engagement with the world. I’m trying to give evidence that attending Sunday school, for example, makes a difference to the world as it helps make us into Jesus’ followers who enact his love for one another, enemies and strangers. I’m not using any books or resources, but the way I ramble on (see, for example, this e-mail) they are surely wishing I would. Mere Discipleship would be a great place to start.

I haven’t read Camp’s book yet, but his ghost haunted the halls of ACU while I was there (we would speak his legendary name in hushed tones), and I would say that his biggest influences (especially his PhD prof, John Howard Yoder) are also the people that most challenged my sense of discipleship. Rodney Clapp’s books are a good synthesis of this stuff, too, which looks at discipleship not only as personal morals or spiritual practices, but belonging to a community that is building a Kingdom culture in participation with God’s life in the world. A lot of the emerging church folks (Brian Mclaren, Rob Bell, etc.) are getting at Christianity through a combination of this and pre-Reformation Christian practices of spriituality and community. You may have already processed and dismissed all these guys, but I’ll keep talking about them as if you’ve never heard it before, since this is e-mail and I can’t tell if you’re nodding or making a sour face.

It’s all very rooted in Matthew 5-7 – not as a bunch of impossible rules, but as a life that witnesses to an alternative culture and blesses those in your immediate vicinity. I think since reading these guys, the next phase for me was viewing some old ideas in a new way, giving stuff like the doctrine of the trinity and the practice of solitude a sudden relevance to the way I live and relate to others. Actually, I would say that this view of discipleship saved me from coming to the conclusion that Christianity was simply not relevant to anything.

I think in the last 10 years my view of discipleship has shifted from (in caricature) a limited view of personal responsibility for the Great Commission (i.e. sharing the propositional truth of the gospel in hopes of establishing personal assent to the heavenly efficacy of baptism by immerson) and maintaining a “Christian morality” (i.e. asexuality + good American citizenship), to incorporation and cooperation in Jesus’ community embodying the inbreaking, burgeoning reign of God.

But I would confess the shift in thinking has not immediately resulted in a life of radical discipleship – I still have to get over myself, and getting to participate in all that excitement still has to do with whether I will get up in the morning and be with God or put any money in the collection plate on Sunday (which I haven’t in some time, truth to tell). Despite the new theology, it still amounts to things I learned in VBS: “Read your Bible and pray every day/ And you’ll grow, grow grow” and “All around the neighborhood/ I”m gonna let it shine.” Not to mention “Don’t be grouchy like a rooster.”

Now, what you’re left with is whether or not you’re supposed to be a destitute itenerant preacher, offering your peace to the homes that will keep you and shaking the dust from your feet of the ones going straight to hell. I think the answer is, “yes,” if you haven’t been given anything else to do. I think it’s a good idea, but Zaccheus was still a tax collector, and, as much as I hate to admit it, the Centurion was still an instrument of the Imperial war machine. But I don’t think I am called to follow them – I am called to follow Jesus, and commissioned to participate in the filling and care of the planet (by living in and contributing to making of culture and care of creation), so, hopefully , it’s ok to want to be a teacher or a fireman or a barista (I still think about it). I like to think the Centurion at least had trouble sleeping. Surely.

By the way (in case you’re still reading this e-mail), Glen Stassen is an ethicist at Fuller who writes in a similar vein to the authors mentioned above (these guys are almost all pacifists, by the way, who line themselves up in the anabaptist tradition), and he has a book called Kingdom Ethics: Following Jesus in Contemporary Context. His take on the Sermon on the Mount is that it is not a set of teachings contrasting an old and new command, but a set of (almost all) three-part teachings: the traditional teaching no one can live up to, the vicious cycle that results from the human condition, and a “transforming initiative” that defeats the vicious cycle. So, in Mt 5:21-25, you have the traditional teaching of not murdering, the vicious cycle of anger and judgment, and then the proposal that you cut enmity off at the pass through the “transforming initiative” of confronting the tension and being the one who offers grace – “as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” It turns the sermon not into a “don’t even hate/don’t even lust” diatribe but, rather, into a description of life in the Kingdom. I like it.

Here’s Clapp, Yoder, Hauerwas and Stassen at Amazon:

Clapp, A Peculiar People

Yoder, The Politics of Jesus

Hauerwas (and Willimon), Resident Aliens

Stassen, Kingdom Ethics

And here’s a website where you can do things like generate fake trivia about people you know (The Mechanical Contrivium – example: “Greg can taste with his feet”):

In the end, I desperately hope I can still be a disciple and secretly like Kelly Clarkson.

. . .

Ironically (in the ironical sense), Greg recently sent me this story about his ESL class: “This one 1st grade kid blew me away though. I asked, ‘Do you like dogs?’ and he just had to say, ‘Yes/no’ or ‘Yes, I do/No I don’t.’ But he said, ‘I like small dogs, but I don’t like big dogs.’ Some of these kids are amazing with English.”

Get that kid an editor.

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