The Bible Triumphant

Methoblogger John Meunier posted a week or so ago the parallel between Joel Osteen's creed about the Bible...and the creed of the Marine Corps Rifleman (Get your Bible, Get your Rifle).  He didn't know how to respond to it, so I'm offering to do so now! ;-)

If you've ever watched Osteen on TV or in person, the spectators at his parish hold their bibles in the air and recite with him Lakewood Church's Creed.

“This is my Bible. I am what it says I am. I have what it says I have. I do what it says I can do, I am about to receive the incorruptible, indestructible, ever-living seed of God, and I will never be the same. Never, never, never. I will never be the same. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”
In comparison, the Rifleman's Creed in the Marine Corps has a similar tone (though it is more complex)
“This is my rifle. There are many like it, but this one is mine. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life. Without me my rifle is useless. Without my rifle, I am useless. I must fire my rifle true. I must shoot straighter than the enemy who is trying to kill me. I must shoot him before he shoots me. I will. My rifle and I know that what counts in war is not the rounds we fire, the noise of our burst, or the smoke we make. We know that it is the hits that count. We will hit.
“My rifle is human, even as I am human, because it is my life. Thus, I will learn it as a brother. I will learn its weaknesses, its strengths, its parts, its accessories, its sights and its barrel. I will keep my rifle clean and ready, even as I am clean and ready. We will become part of each other.
“Before God I swear this creed. My rifle and I are the defenders of my country. We are the masters of our enemy. We are the saviors of my life.
“So be it, until victory is America’s and there is no enemy.”
What strikes me most is not the violence in the Rifleman's Creed (which is understandable), but the shared imagery of triumphalism.

The triumph of Christ is evident in the marketing techniques used by Lakewood.  From a white paper on the "business" of Lakewood (PDF):
[Osteen] raises his bible up in his right hand while reciting his creed. The upraised gesture symbolizes victory and championship. The image almost looks as if he won an Olympic metal. This reinforces Lakewood’s slogan that explicitly encourages championship
Lakewood’s catchy slogan is “At Lakewood, Discover the Champion in You!”
Compare this to the last line of the Rifleman's Creed:
“So be it, until victory is America’s and there is no enemy.”
Creeds and liturgies affirm and state what the community believes.  They are descriptive, but in some ways they become proscriptive.   By holding a bible up in your hand and reciting a rousing creed, a call to arms, then the bible becomes the tool by which triumph is achieved.  In Constantinian times it was conversion by the sword.  In contemporary times, it is conversion by marketing.

I am weary of triumphalism (anyone remember the "God Is On Our Side" documentary back in 2004?).  While I have no problems with the theological assertion that victory over death is true...the fruits (the effects) of such a way of framing that promise are often anything but humbly listening to the Spirit.  From the article linked above:
This is the problem of Christian triumphalism - it sees only success and believes in a God that generates that success. Any troubling evidence that all is not right is ignored. The personal and financial scandals of fundamentalist preachers are conveniently swept under the carpet. This is not a religion that lives by confession and forgiveness: It is a religion that knows that it is in the right, period. Jerry Falwell must be the smuggest man on earth. Instead of God being “other”, the one who is over and against us, God is on the side of the believer to whom he gives an absolute moral stance and a privileged insight into how the world works.
My friend Mike Slack has written much about Lakewood seeing only success.  Read it here.  Suffice to say, a God who wants you to be rich or prosperous definitely wants you to triumph over everyone else, not necessarily live in harmony with one another...especially since we will "win" in the end.

I believe in a God who does give us assurance.  But God does not give us faith to rub it in others faces.  I believe in a God who wants us to converse with one another, and find shared companionship on our journeys.  Manifestations of Christian triumphalism, whether in a huge parish like Lakewood or my small congregation, that sound like a call to arms point more to the sickness in that community rather than the presence of the Holy Spirit.

What do you think?
  • How do we walk the line of faith and assurance without rubbing it in people's faces?  
  • In what ways are the chest-beating assurance turning people away from Christianity more than they are thinking "I want to be a part of that team?"
  • If you are not Christian, what role does this kind of triumphilism play in your perceptions of Christianity?
Discuss.  Welcome to our visitors!

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All I want for Christmas...

Is an invite to Triiibes.

Triiibes is a web community dedicated to the kind of grassroots and exemplary styles of leadership that I am.  It sounds like exactly the type of people to have a conversation about grassroots and non-hierarchical methods of transforming the church.

It is a closed community.  So if you are reading this blog, and think I would be a good fit, I'd love an invite.  Use my email in the CONTACT page on the top of the blog.

You are beautiful.


Man Create Robot, Robot replace Man, Woman inherit the Earth.

Since we talk about hacking the bible, we might as well branch that out to other intersections of religion and technology.  So this seems to fit perfectly: an assembly-line robot has been haXoRed to replicate the Bible on a continuously rolling 900m parchment, just like the scribes in the middle-ages. (hat-tip to Andrew Sullivan)

Website here.  Video can be found here.  More pics can be found here.
The installation 'bios [bible]' consists of an industrial robot, which writes down the bible on rolls of paper. The machine draws the calligraphic lines with high precision. Like a monk in the scriptorium it creates step by step the text.

Starting with the old testament and the books of Moses ‘bios [bible]’ produces within seven month continuously the whole book. All 66 books of the bible are written on rolls and then retained and presented in the library of the installation.
Pretty nifty!  Read on for more!

So, what is this? Dick calls it Performance Art but can't decide what to do with the narcissism inherent in performance art since the performer is a robot.  Peter quotes the project's desire to create an environment where "the massive appearance of the robots, the movements and the machine sounds effect the visitor."  So, in the performance aspect of this piece, the idea of automatons assembling one of the most human of books may be disconcerting.
The project is called the BIOS bible. BIOSHere's their explanation of the term:
In computer technology ‘basic input output system’ (bios) designates the module which basically coordinates the interchange between hard- and software. Therefore it contains the indispensable code, the essential program writing, on which every further program can be established.”
In layman's terms, the BIOS is not the operating system, like Max X or Windows.  The BIOS is the link between the hardware and the software.  The Operating System is still software running on a BIOS.  Got it?  In other words, your dell computer may have Windows Vista, but it is a dell-written BIOS that works behind the scenes to make the computer work.  So, if you have a perfect BIOS, then everything else is squeaky-clean.  The theological statement and comparison with a perfect God is clear.
However, here's the question this evokes in me: Would the Bible have been better if it had been written by robots and not humans?  We would have gotten perfect replication.  The stories would have been compiled then and future replications would have been perfect.  No errors.  No human fallibility. 
    Are we looking at post-human reproduction where reproduction includes human effects even though the copy is perfect?
    What the robot does is a step up from print in reproducing the manuscripts made by monks, which is great, though it doesn’t say whether the robot arm applies differential pressure and angle of stroke depending on the previous letters, or how far across the line it is, or how far down the page, like a human being would. If it did, then that would in my mind give the work a magical, delicate quality of something written. I don’t want to get all tedious and mystical about some missing innate human or animistic quality, but I like the idea of a robot arm having to stretch a bit at the edges of the page, altering its stroke weight after a particularly arduous cadel previously, all that kind of stuff. I can imagine a whole series of publications that could be given this ‘hand done’ treatment. We could have special editions of books made by one-time-only robot arms, ones that get tired after a number of copies and can’t be made to write any more, books made by robots with a signature style, with minds of their own. All eventually of course leading to original works created by machines so advanced we have to refer to them as human (or post-human) too
    What do you think about this project? Is its theological claims of perfection and reproduction faithful?  Or is its squelching of human ingenuity (even though it is a product of it) render its reception of the Spirit meaningless?


    (Yes, the title is a parody of a line in the 90s film Jurassic Park)

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    Funeral Homes are getting desperate

    fail owned pwned pictures
    see more fails (Some content NSFW)


    What Personality is your Blog?

    Typealizer tries to categorize your blog in one of then Myers-Briggs personality types.

    Try it.  Typealizer

    Does it work?  Not for me.  It categorizes me as ISTP...which, if you know me, is the polar opposite of my personality type ENFP.  Every test from Methodist ordination to the internets says that's my type.

    So, take it with a grain of salt.  Unless it matches!

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    SBL Books & FAIL book

    So, for those of you that read my twitter and facebook statuses, you know I recently got into the Society of Biblical Literature's annual event in Boston by playing the "local clergy" card....which was fun.  Yes, I might have roped in Blake into the escapade, but I'm not saying either way.

    Anywho, I got $200 worth of books for a bit over $100 (40-50% discount), which makes my continuing education fund happy as well.

    Here's what I got:

    To complement my recent bible spree (The Green Bible and the Bible Illuminated), I was looking at two bibles.  The first was The Peoples' Bible, which offered ethnic American perspectives as part of an NRSV study bible.  Let's do the John 3:16 test on both these bibles (I check out how commentaries treat John 3:16 to see if I can stand it).

    The Peoples' Bible has the following note written by Miguel A. De La Torre, a professor at Iliff:
    John 3:16 - God so loved the world--God's desire is that neither the earth nor its inhabitants should perish but rather they they may have life.  salvation means that humans have sufficient food and the earth is safeguarded from those who would commodify it for gain.  When the few monopolize the earth's resources so that the many cannot be sustained, the gift of salvation is nullified. 
    Christians from industrialized Western nations have interpreted this verse as a call to evangelize the world; but impoverished peoples have responded by pointing out that the capitalist ethos has brought not life but death, as those nations have enriched themselves through extraction and exploitation.
    Cool.  Great perspective, and I'm better from reading it from a less insular viewpoint.

    On the other hand is what looked like an equally good contender is The Inclusive Bible.  I'm all about inclusive versions of Scripture.  Let's do the John 3:16 test. In this translation, it said something along the lines of "God send the Divine One" instead of "The Father sent his only Son."  A bit dodgy, but worked for me.

    But alas, the shine was soon to fade from the latter and leave the former looking better.  While thumbing through the Inclusive Version, I remembered a scripture I was attempting to make inclusive, so I turned to the Beautiful Bridegroom section of Revelation (to the guy at the Sheed & Ward bookstore who didn't know his Scripture, it's Revelation 21...tsk tsk).
    • What would they choose?  Partners?  Beloved? 
    • Nope..."bride and groom."  
    Apparently, gender inclusive does not "relationship inclusive" and that means they will make it unreadable to all kinds of couples, Massachusetts or otherwise.


    So, I got the People's Bible instead.

    I think I made the right choice, as the commentary is worth more than an inclusive bible that falls short.

    What books are you reading lately, or are excited to read?
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    Political Smarts

    So, apparently, most elected officials score a 44% or lower on this Civic Literacy Report .

    Me?  Glad you asked!  78%. Yes, I'm smarter than most elected officials.  I say that with great humility and a little incredulity towards my elected officials.

    You answered 26 out of 33 correctly — 78.79 %
    Answers to Your Missed Questions:
    Question #4 - B. Would slavery be allowed to expand to new territories?
    Question #7 - D. Gettysburg Address
    Question #12 - B. the Supreme Court struck down most legal restrictions on it in Roe v. Wade
    Question #13 - E. certain permanent moral and political truths are accessible to human reason
    Question #14 - B. stressed the sinfulness of all humanity
    Question #31 - A. an increase in a nation’s productivity
    Question #33 - D. tax per person equals government spending per person
    Of those, yes, it's ridiculous that I missed #7 and #33.

    Your score?  Post it in the comments!



    Be an Alleluia! in a broken world.


    The Green Bible [review]

    There are probably two types of bibles: those that want to start a conversation, and those that want to add to the conversation.

    • My previous review on the Bible Illuminated was obviously the former as the book tries to draw people in via unconventional forms and means. 
    • This bible, The Green Bible, is probably part of the latter.
    Essentially, The Green Bible takes a cue from the red-letter KJVs (the ones with the words of Christ in red) and puts all the words that deal with environmental topics or creation care in green. It colors them if they fall into one of four criteria.  Passages that show:
    1. how God and Jesus are involved with Creation.
    2. how all elements (land, water, plants, humans, animals, etc) are interdependent
    3. how nature responds to God.
    4. how we are called to care for creation. 
    I'll admit that my first impressions were negative. I am weary of these types of color-coded bibles. The redline KJVs often highlight the Messianic texts in the Old Testament, to my annoyance. But more importantly, one of my first bibles in college was The Five Gospels where the Jesus Seminar went through the Gospels and color-coded them based on how close they were to the original words of Jesus. This sort of thoughtful yet arbitrary color-coding did not make a strong impression on me (except how much of John is second-generation).

    All that said, here's some joys and concerns.

    There's some excellent "extras" found in the essays at the front of the text. Barbara Brown Taylor's treatment of cattle and humans in the Creation story is hilarious and poignant. Gordon Aeschliman connects creation care with poverty initiatives. Brian McLaren talks about human sin taking precedence over Creation being Good and traces the extra-biblical notion of this Creation being disregarded.

    Better yet is the "green trails" at the end which trace certain elements of Creation texts through Scripture: There are study and question guides on six topics, such as Creation as "Good," being connected to Creation, the impact of human sin, and creation care as justice.  I essentially got six bible studies that I can get really excited about for $20...a bargain!

    Some of the texts highlighted are done because "they show Jesus or God interacting with nature."  However, as eco-ethicist Marla Marcum told me, not all those passages are meant to be centered on how God or Jesus interact with nature, but simply to show the power of God. The ways how JC and God interact with Creation are not meant to be lessons of how we should, but rather exemplifications of the power of God. Take heed!

    While not as revolutionary as the Bible Illuminated, The Green Bible is not meant to be so.  It is meant as a tool for personal or group study, and has many practical impacts. It is meant to add to the conversation to answer the questions of "what did Jesus have to say about recycling" and traces biblical themes in response. 

    Thoughts or impressions?

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    Sacrificial or Pyrrhic victory? [bad.hack]

    For Christian activism, there are sacrifices.  The question of "Are the achievements worth the cost?" are applicable for any such activism.  Otherwise, any achievement can become a pyrrhic victory, one that may put you ahead for a while, but you ultimately cannot sustain the initiative.

    As a case study, what if a Christian organization spent a half million on a successful advertising campaign, then laid off 200 people just in time for the holidays?  Is that really caring for their employees?  Will their joy at succeeding put warmth on their plates this holiday season? 

    If you say that's a pyrrhic victory, then I'm sad to say the example is true.  Focus on the Family spent over $600,000 promoting Proposition 8 in California that "saved traditional families," but couldn't run its shop well enough to save Christmas for 200 of its own presumably traditional families. [snark] Maybe they should focus on their own families. [/snark]

    The same sort of short-sightedness is sadly commonplace, especially in institutions.  Oral Roberts University in Tulsa announced 100 layoffs....oh, and a $440,000 severence package for their outgoing president who mired ORU $50 million in debt.

    The secular world is a mirror-image.  This week, the Big Three automaker CEOs came to DC to ask for help amidst layoffs of thousands of workers.   Great, except did I mention they came in their private jets.  Wow.  Like a senator said: "It's almost like seeing a guy show up at the soup kitchen in high hat and tuxedo"

    So, what's the hack for this situation?  We will always sacrifice for whatever cause or activism that we believe Jesus calls us to.  This tendency is commendable, even if the cause is not one you believe in.  But the important hack that must be done here is that you care for the people involved in the cause.

    Our churches and institutions are struggling in this economy.  The question is how are we going to best proceed forward with our causes AND ensure that the people involved continue to get a paycheck and continue to provide for their families and are involved in their communities.

    May the shortsightedness of our leadership fail to recognize that any victory is temporary, any trouble is temporary, but when all is said and done, you need people to continue to witness, and sacrificing them at the altar of a pyrrhic victory is not sustainable.


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    Daily Read 11/20/2008

    Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.


    Revelation 2.0: Using Fake News for the Good News

    In New York City, the pranksters The Yes Men published a fake version of the New York Times and distributed it throughout town saying that the Iraq War was over.  Health care universal was fixed.  Bush tried as a war criminal.  It was dated July 4th, 2009 and the mantra altered to "all the news we hope to print."  Read more at Laughing Squid: Fake NYT, and read a google cached version of it here: New York Times Special Edition

    It struck me as I was watching the news reel below how...happy people may be if all their dreams come true.  Watch it and even when they know it is fake, it still gives them a glow. (hat tip: BoingBoing)

    New York Times Special Edition Video News Release - Nov. 12, 2008 from H Schweppes on Vimeo.

    Read on for ideas on how to use this for your church or community.

    Again, what struck me from the video was the look of joy and wonder on people's faces as they imagined what their world might look like.  Certainly only people with a particular bent (in this case, moderate-to-liberal) would react positively, but news that is a joy to read is very rare these days.

    For the church, so often the Good News is Bad News, news of how the world is wrong and wayward and only Jesus is right.  What if we used fake news to spread the Good News and show, highlight, embody what a world where the Good News is spread looks like.  It would be like the Book of Revelation 2.0, without the weird trippy imagery, but with the hope for a better world!

    There are several ways to use fake news like this as part of an evangelistic or outreach effort into your local town.  Keep in mind I am not about breaking the law (except when I am), but there may be creative legal manifestations of the following:

    • Print your monthly newsletter dated one year in the future showing everything perfect and pristine, filled pews, award-winning children's program, etc.  This vision of the future would go out to all the membership with an attached letter stating "what if..." and that this is achieveable.
    • For your local non-profit, distribute a fake shareholders report that shows goals achieved, bad guys overthrown, and a new sense of ownership by the locality of their local issue.  As a result, you are closing it down because the non-profits' job is done (assuming that doesn't trigger an automatic stock dump).
    • If you can get permission (or plausibly deny involvement...wait, I didn't say that), a fake copy of the local paper with all the town's little problems fixed and orientation towards the bigger problems could be very evocative for the local town.  If non-parishioners read it and saw a glimpse of what their town could look like, then a town-wide meeting a day or two later that addressed the concerns of fake news while also orienting people towards action and mobilization could be very powerful (if you aren't in jail...well, even then!).
    The role of the church is to advance the kingdom of God.  If we can get that image of what the kingdom may look like, what a better world may look like, what a world where justice and lovingkindness reigns, into people's hands...then with the Spirit's blessing,  transformation is possible!  Modeling hope is better than preaching hope, and perhaps concrete reminders and manifestations (a fake newspaper or newsletter) could be the impetus to do it.

    What do you think?  Is a fake news approach to evangelism and social justice immoral and unethical?  Or is it a subversive way of showing how EVERY problem that confronts us is solveable, and by catching a glimpse of a better world, our hearts may ache even more to achieve it.

    Discuss.  Welcome to our visitors, and feel free to comment below.

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    Star Wars a cappella [video]

    My life is now complete. It even includes the best of the George Lucas films.


    Help beta-test HackingChristianity 2.0

    Two construction workers at work.Image via WikipediaGot a new style for this blog that I'm working on. If you can check it out and give me some feedback, I'd appreciate it.

    Post any thoughts or ideas over there so that when this launches, it looks all shiny and perty!

    And yes, this is why I haven't been posting much. But I've got some doozies lined up, including a new series "What the Church can learn from Apple." Yes, that's a teaser.

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    Daily Read 11/08/2008

    • tags: no_tag

      • It's not about race; it's about disinformation. - post by umjeremy
      • First,
        there's the matter of the Yes on 8 coalition's staggering disinformation
        campaign. Ad after ad told voters that without Prop 8, their churches
        would be forced to perform same-sex unions and be stripped of their
        tax-exempt status; that schools would teach their children to practice
        homosexuality; and, perhaps most effective, that a smiling Barack Obama
        had said, "I'm not in favor of gay marriage." This last bit went out in
        a flier by the Yes on 8 campaign, targeting black households.
    • tags: blogger

    • tags: no_tag

      • Great primer. The last line "focus on the West" is a needed disclaimer! - post by umjeremy
      • One thing about this primer is that it is an on-line primer. Which means you don’t have to purchase a book, a magazine or a journal to learn about the missional church, you can just read through these rich links. While this post includes links representing different continents, it has a focus on the West.
    • tags: no_tag

      • Interview with the estranged son of Fred Phelps (of God Hates Everyone fame) - post by umjeremy
      • The mattock, a close cousin of the pickaxe, is used to dig through tough, earthy surfaces—it loosens soil, breaks rock, and tears through knotted grass. Its handle is a three-foot wooden shaft, twice the density of a baseball bat and its dual-sided iron head is comprised of a chisel and a pick. It was Pastor Fred Phelps’s weapon of choice when beating his children according to his son, Nate Phelps.

        “The Bible says ‘spare the rod, spoil the child,’” explained Nate, “and he would be screaming that out as he was beating us.” One Christmas night, Pastor Phelps hit Nate over 200 times with a mattock’s handle, swinging it like a baseball player.

        Nate would hide out in the garage with his siblings, where he could escape his father’s wrath. What he couldn’t escape, however, was the fear of going to hell. He suffered much abuse growing up under the roof of the infamous Westboro Baptist Church (WBC)—he still suffers today.

    Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.


    What if Starbucks marketed like the Church? [video]

    I post a lot of videos.  I apologize.  But for some reason, I've gotten to see a lot of great videos lately.  But this one is by far my favorite at the moment.

    New blog has a video on what if Starbucks marketed like the church.  It is both damning of the church's failures in people-skills...and hilarious. (hat tip ThinkChristian)

    Did you see the...

    • They had to park far away because the regulars took the close spots
    • Reserved parking spaces for the "Managers" and "Baristas"
    • Greeters ignoring people. Locked doors, only a few actually open.
    • coffee is good. ALL THE TIME. And all the time...COFFEE IS GOOD.
    • Pointing out the visitors and embarassing them.
    • Making visitors fill out forms and such, instead of just feeding their souls.
    • "Java-lluia!"
    • "deep down inside, I know the beans been planted"
    • "I couldn't find the bathrooms."
    • "so, we'll see you next week, right?"

    Thoughts? What do you think about the stereotypes? And what about your church...does it struggle with these same issues too?



    For our American readership, vote.

    For the rest of the world, pray for a transparent and accountable election.

    And then tomorrow...keep on, keepin' on.


    The Star Wars...Cantina [video]

    This is excellent for a Sunday morning...based off of Coba Cabana

    "Music and blasters and old jedi masters
    at the Star wars, star wars cantina..."

    Yes, I'm gonna have a good day.

    (thanks to my SIL for this!)


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