Swine Flu: Injustice Anywhere...

LONDON - DECEMBER 11:  Spider Pig, a character...Image by Getty Images via Daylife
At my local church two summers ago, I preached about the human rights and environmental violations occurring at Smithfield Food properties, especially the hog farm in North Carolina, where unions were discouraged and environmental waste from pigs was overwhelming the local environment. 
We reflected on how violations anywhere affect people everywhere.

This Sunday I feel called to revisit that conversation and reflect on how Smithfield-affiliated hog farms may be involved with this swine flu outbreak and now the festering violations threaten global health. 
Regardless of whether or not this Smithfield subsidary is ground zero, pig farms breed resistant forms of diseases thanks to the chemicals used to break down pig feces and chemicals used to keep pigs healthy enough to become food.

Of course, worker injustice didn't cause this any more than immorality caused Hurricane Katrina.  But it is worth reflecting on how terrible environmental conditions are not localized to the workers themselves, but can expand to threaten entire areas with health concerns.

We are reminded today that there's a reason why we are called to be advocates for justice.  Echoing MLK, we are called to oppose injustice anywhere, no matter what kind, before injustice morphs and threatens our global relations everywhere.

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He found me! [humor]

Oh no.  I opened up my gmail this morning and saw this in my inbox:


Mark Driscoll?  Of Mars Hill Church?  Is now stalking me on Twitter?  Oh noes!!!11!  What if he reads my blog post "Cool Kid Calvinism" and decides I was predestined to get booted in the face?

**Scream heard in the night***

Thankfully, it's Fake Mark Driscoll (twitter) who followed me.  There's also FakePastorMark (twitter) on the service as well.  You know you've probably made it in the twitterverse when there's not one but two fake accounts in your name.

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John's Gospel hating on the other Gospels?

GethsemaneImage by mtsofan via Flickr
I read this during Lent and never got around to blogging about it until now.  Did you ever notice that the Gospel of John not only has different stories and takes on stories as the other three Synoptic Gospels...but it actually hates on them too (in a mean way)?


I'm reading through This Tragic Gospel by Louis Ruprecht and he outlines the ways how the Gospel according to John subverts the other Gospels...especially the Gospel of Mark.  The key point of difference comes in the Lenten story of the prayer at Gethsemane.   You know, where Jesus prays to God? Check out what Jesus says in Matthew, Mark, Luke:
"Father, if you will, take this cup away from me. Still, let not my will bed one, but yours."
- Luke 22
"My Father, if it is possible, then let this cup pass me by. Still, not how I want it, but how you do."
- Matthew 26
"Abba, the Father, all things are possible through you. Take this cup away from me. Still, not what I want, but what you do."
- Mark 14
Now check it out in John.
Oh, that's right.  There is no prayer at Gethsemane.  Hmm.  In fact, Jesus seeks out the arresting party and confronts them, terrifies them to their knees, and practically makes them arrest him.  Very different from the others.

Why is this important?  Look at what Jesus says to the arresting party:
The cup that the Father has given me--shall I not drink it?
- John 18
And consider what Jesus said previously in his parables:
"Now my soul is troubled. And what shall I say? 'Father, save me from this hour'? No, for this purpose I have come to this hour.
- John 12:27
Yup, that's right.  Jesus in John directly quotes and ridicules the Prayer of Gethsemane found in the other three gospels.  Think about that for a minute...what Jesus says in John directly quotes and refutes all three of the other Gospels...and not just a line, but the heart-wrenching, soul-searing prayer in Gethsemane! 


What does this mean?  According to Ruprecht's This Tragic Gospel:
  • Jesus in John replaces the doubt and wrestling found in the other Gospels with a cold certainty and a scary intensity.  
  • Instead of a very human Jesus who doubts and wrestles with God found in the Synoptics, in John we have a Jesus who lacks doubt and fear and scares the arresting party to their knees.  
  • There is no collision of wills between Jesus and God in Gethsemane that the other gospels report on; in John, Jesus never doubts or is self-wondering or is otherwise.....human.  [I would point to Lazarus's death, though, as a story when Jesus wept]

Very weird. Thoughts? Anyone else troubled by this?

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Methodist Twitter - Fake or just Unoriginal?

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...Image via CrunchBase
My newest web program I'm enjoying is TwitZap, which allows me to follow channels ("topics") that I've chosen.  Naturally, I chose "Methodist" to see what the twitterverse was yacking about my home team.

And then the strange thing happened...three updates came within 45 minutes of each other.  Check them out.
  1. "Just made it home from the Job Seekers group at Alpharetta First United Methodist Church. Very engaged audience and lots of great questions." @taimingraleat
  2. "Just made it home from the Job Seekers group at Alpharetta First United Methodist Church. Very engaged audience and lots of great questions." @nayad94911
  3. "Just made it home from the Job Seekers group at Alpharetta First United Methodist Church. Very engaged audience and lots of great questions." @rickysteele 
OK, so what's going on here?  
  1. This is a canned response that these people got via email or other distribution and they set as their twitter status to advertize.
  2. These are fake updates used in an SEO strategy (they are from Mesa, Indianapolis, and Atlanta...how could they all go to Alpharetta UMC in northern AtlantaAnd why was the one of the above reading about Twitter SEO?)
I just find it weird that a United Methodist Church would use fake (or at least unoriginal) updates in this way to get people to come to their Job Seekers group.  While the ends are probably amazing and helpful to people, are these means really appropriate?

Did these people actually attend or did they not?  That's my question.

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One Year Blogiversary!

A Piece of Cake album coverImage via Wikipedia
I missed Hacking Christianity's one year blogiversary.  And none of you got me champagne, so I assume that means (a) you know I'm a teetotaler, and (b) you didn't really care.

So one year ago last week, I started blogging.  Here's some statistics for this, my first year of blogging.

The Numbers
  • Total Blog Posts: 348 (yup, almost one per day)
  • Total Comments: 738
  • Number of subscribers (via RSS) is 193 (it fluctuates wildly but it's been in the mid 190's consistently)
  • Number of Twitter followers is 117.  (follow me on twitter)
  • My Technorati authority maxed out at 52 six months ago.  Today it is 32.
    • For reference...the Methoblog has an authority of 50 ...and my next milestone will be when I beat Richard Hall as his authority is 90.
  • Number of souls saved: uncountable.
The Buzz

Thanks for being on this new journey with me and all the community at Hacking Christianity.
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Sunday is for Star Wars

Mashup: Star Wars intro done in the style of the old TV show "Dallas"

(Hat Tip: Lake Neuron)


Who Goes There? [review]

This is my first book review after becoming part of the Ooze select bloggers.  As always, while I claim I can be bought, as you can see, buying me doesn't guarantee you will get kudoes!

I recently had the opportunity to read Who Goes There: a Cultural History of Heaven and Hell by Rebecca Price Janney.

Janney's premise seems to be that when death was an everpresent reality, heaven and hell were more integral components of Christian thought.

  • By looking at memoirs and Boston gravestones, the early American settlers, with their infant mortality rate and short lifespans made death a present reality and fear.  People thought often about where their loved ones went and where they would go.
  • People during the Second Great Awakening who were suffering in real life found comfort knowing a better life was before them.
  • Soldiers in war knew they would directly enter heaven if they died in battle for their "Christian" nation.
From these observations, her premise hinged on the numbers: Christianity hit its highest levels of social discourse and influence in times of death and wonder about the afterlife.  Still today, even as the mainline church hits its decline, the segments of Christianity (such as Pentecostalism and Baptists) that are growing the fastest are the ones most decisive about who goes to heaven. 

Is there a lesson for the rest of Christendom?  Should we emphasize further heaven and hell to grow the church again? 

What struck me most was how many pastors in history resorted to emotional ploys and appeals to emotion.  Charles Finney exhorting emotional reactions from New England "Frozen Chosen," Tract societies (still to today) using cartoony appeals to emotion, and telling a young man that his father was in hell and he had to choose eternity with hellbound father or with heavenly Jesus.  Geez.  Great examples.

The question both bothers me and hits home...what is the Christian to do with heaven and hell?

Putting trying to answer that question to the side, while reading the book, I noticed a growing sense that amidst all the facts, figures, and personal accounts (that were all utterly fascinating)...there was an evangelical slant to the reading and a slow bashing of mainline denominations lack of discussing heaven and hell.

  • The mentions of eulogies that didn't emphasize heaven/hell (which I actually found most helpful) were presbyterians, social gospel proponents, or those who said hell wasn't an afterlife but a present reality after WWII.
  • The slant goes up a notch when we get to JFK, where she writes "Kennedy didn't seem to understand that many issues are largely morally or spiritually driven" (pg 174).  Ahem...what?  (a) how do you know he didn't understand, and (b) given the great diversity of moral/spiritual responses, how else does a secular president of a secular nation bring consensus except by not being partial to one moral/spiritual viewpoint?
There's more, but it was just difficult to read a book that peppered you with so much excellent source material that you didn't realize her written text was slanted in a particular direction.  I know every book does that, but it was too transparent in this book for my taste as a scholar who tried to make a cultural history into a cultural agenda for today.

This agenda became clear in the conclusion:
  • Janney claims that our lengthened lives and medical science means that "we have nothing to fear at death."  I was a hospital chaplain and I offer funeral services to a dozen families a year: there's plenty of fear at death!
  • Janney claims that if we "endure pain and heartbreak for no apparent reason" and life is "without meaning or purpose" then that doesn't give any semblence of hope or coping.  Again, that is not my experience.  Suffering does not have to have a divine purpose to be made sense of.  The stench of determinism in this claim is incredible...we don't need to ascribe purpose or God's will to make sense of suffering.
  • Finally, Janney claims that "unless hell exists, there is no moral deterrent."  Actually, she quotes Chuck Colson who apparently knows something about deterrence given his role in Watergate.  But that aside, claiming that hell as a deterrent to bad behavior is an echo of the colonial and revivalists who wanted to scare people into righteous living via emotional appeals.  What kind of discipleship is it that relies on scare tactics to keep you in good standing?
As if there was any doubt, Billy Graham, Chuck Colson, and Pat Robertson all are on the next to last page.  Any reasonable mainline preacher?  None.  Sigh. 

Janney's call to action seems to be a repeat of history.  The only thing apparently that will save Christianity is the great numerical growth that comes from megapreacher events with emotional appeals.  In conclusion, she seems to call for a contemporary Great Awakening that will somehow have an equal effect of past spectacles even though Christianity's place in society has inverted since the last one.

In short, I really enjoyed the source material, even the stuff I didn't agree with.  Kudoes for finding all of it and putting it in my hands.  What I didn't agree with was calling this a "cultural history" when it really does provide space for the successes of the evangelical and pentecostal traditions of emotional appeals while ridiculing or painting as "failures" the groups that did not.  That's not a cultural history, that's an agenda.  So if you want an agenda, read the book.  If not, read the book...but only the source material, because that's the really good stuff.

Thoughts?  Check out other reviews on the Ooze page.


Narrow Churches in a Fragmented World

This is a continuation of the previous post and a conversation with HX reader Larry B here. Normally I would be done.  But there's more to talk about here.

While we knock on Saddleback for creating a gated church community...many of our churches are gated communities in practice if not in name.  We often want only particular types of people to come.  That's a basic human tendency and is shared by every church, not just Saddleback.

But it's worse than that.  Even if we say we are open to many, our models of evangelism betray that we only want to focus on particular groups.

This gated church community snafu is an unintentional outcome of the intentional evangelism model of Saddleback Church.

  • It is well known that Saddleback bases their outreach on "Saddleback Sam" who is a caricature of the type of mid 30s angsty males who are under-served by the church.  
  • By focusing their evangelism on these men, then they will bring their entire families with them.  
It works.  It is effective.  And niche congregations are growing like wildfire.  But it can lead to blind spots that causes entire churches to cease valuing the Church universal like in this instance.

Evangelism today is showing/telling the Good News in a world more and more characterized by niche churches that serve minimal slices of society.
  • Churches like Saddleback and other Wal-Mart Churches grow at least partially because niche marketing and fellowship are effective, the message can be relevant because it is speaking to a monoculture [the Echo Chamber].  
  • But what we end up with is dozens of monocultures who cease to interact and fracture society even more so that entire sections of society slip through the cracks.  

What does the Good News look like to a fragmented world?  And can it really be the Good News of reconciliation and leaving the 99 to find the 1 that Christ calls us to be?  We may set up damn effective ministries and programs that grow and bring more souls to Christ for those 99...but where's the 1 that Christ calls us to serve?

A troubling thought for Holy Monday.  Thoughts?

[Lead Image by Cody Jensen


Saddleback's Gated Church Community [bad.hack]

A bad.hack (read more about it here) is a manipulation of a Christian system either using illicit means to achieve an end, or achieving goals that leave the system worse off and less open than before. Read on for the hack!

It seems that famed Rick Warren's megachurch Saddleback Church has inadvertently opened the first REAL gated community church by planting an extension church on in a gated community's property.  Doh!

The primary membership of an official Village organization must be comprised of Village residents. Guests of residents are allowed by GRF to utilize the community facilities when accompanied by that resident- an official club meeting is no exception. But, GRF rules do not allow persons uninvited and unaccompanied by a Laguna Woods Village resident to attend their gatherings.
From MMI:
So… in reality… you will not be able to attend Saddleback’s new campus next Sunday (Easter) unless you are a resident of Laguna Woods Village, or are attending WITH a member of Laguna Woods Village.  Ruh-Roh.

So, Saddleback may have just inadvertently started America’s first ‘gated’ multi-site campus.
Wow.  Major PR bungle here.  I'm probably leaning towards what MMI figures: they were blindsided.  But who would want to setup a church plant in a gated community anyway?  Bad plan, Saddleback.

But I think what bothers me most is the first comment on MMI.  The commenter says "who cares" because this gated church plant is only 10 minutes from the main Saddleback campus.  It's a short drive over for anyone unable to go to the gated church plant.

Well...IT MATTERS!  Anytime we open a church and say that only "particular" people can attend, or we suckle ourselves up to authorities who can regulate who attends, then we cease to be the Church universal.  And that's a bad.hack



Sunday is for Star Wars

Happy Palm/Passion Sunday!


Psalm 23 for UM Ordination Candidates

There's been lots of UMC ordination posts recently...to add to the conversation, my friend Kelly Drescher @ BU wrote this and I got permission to share!

Psalm 23 for UM Candidates

God is my mentor, I shall not be found lacking

My mentor brings me back to a place of prevenient grace; I am led to the cooling water of life; my justified soul is restored here. I am guided through the correct channels for the sake of maintaining integrity of Order.

Even though I find myself in the midst of dCOM, BOoM and other boards, I shall not be brought to paralyzing terror, for you (my mentor) are with me. Your Book of Discipline and knowledge will guide me through with love.

You point out my ministerial strengths and fruits of the Spirit in front of these committees and boards. You acknowledge me as your mentee – I am your sheep, and I am overjoyed to be your apprentice.

I doubt not that love and grace will follow me through this journey and all the days of my life, and I will live in God’s parsonage my eternal life long.
Kelly Drescher
Excellent! Thanks Kelly!


iBible [video]

Oldie but a goodie!

Hat Tip: Everyday Theology


Ministry: A Blind Imitation of the Past?

Today, Iowa became the fourth third state (sorry CA) to have marriage equality.  Regardless of your opinions on the issue, there's a hacking moment in the decision that is important for Churches to hear when it comes to evaluating ministry standards and effectiveness.

The Supreme Court based their decision on equal protection under the law:

The process of defining equal protection, as shown by our history as captured and told in court decisions, begins by classifying people into groups. A classification persists until a new understanding of equal protection is achieved. The point in time when the standard of equal protection finally takes a new form is a product of the conviction of one, or many, individuals that a particular grouping results in inequality and the ability of the judicial system to perform its constitutional role free from the influences that tend to make society’s understanding of equal protection resistant to change.

As Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes poignantly said, “It is revolting to have no better reason for a rule of law than that so it was laid down in the time of Henry IV. It is still more revolting if the grounds upon which it was laid down have vanished long since, and the rule simply persists from blind imitation of the past.”
From the Wikipedia way of doing ministry to beta programming, we talk a lot about how to create new ministries or understandings of ministry.  And one of the barriers to new ministry or redefining who can do ministry is "we've always done it this way" and "the bible always has defined X as Y." 
Perhaps when it comes to ministry innovation, there's a few questions to ask ourselves that are informed by Justice Holmes' quote above:
  1. Is the only basis for a ministry that it was laid down eons ago?
  2. Has the relevant group of ministry creators or recipients moved on?
  3. Has the structure and "way of doing things" of the ministry been a "blind imitation" since its inception?
If the answer to any of the above is yes, then perhaps a review is in order.  We divide  ministry into groups like society divides people into groups.  And perhaps when we really look at the standards of ministry, we may see that we are not ministering effectively or faithfully to our current congregation or community.  And it may be time to change it.

Thoughts on ministry innovation, seeking relevant ministry, and removing barriers from irrelevant ministry standards?  Discuss in the comments or on Google Connect!

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Peter Rollins Doesn't Hack Christianity

From the horse's mouth:

The life of faith cannot be treated in the way we approach objects such as computers.

Just so everyone knows, this means this blog is officially not emergent


Pink Kitten Christianity

This is a notice that Hacking Christianity has recently been bought out by PetSmart.  As everyone knows, PetSmart is a pet store and their #1 client is gay couples or gay singles.  We don't know why this phenomenon is true...maybe their pets love them like God does: just the way they are.

But, alas, this means there are changes in store for this website.

In homage to my new overlords, I now give you Pink Kitten Christianity, a new website with a more overt purpose: to spread the HomoLiberalAgenda through subversive usage of pink, kittens, and love.  Our new mission is to use these themes to further the HomoLiberalAgenda to take over the Church.  Muhahahha.

You ask, why Pink, Kittens, and Love? Well, honey, let me explain.

PINK: Pink is nice, gentle, affirming. It brightens up a room with its texture and its grace. Pink is necessary to help others feel happy about our plans to further the HomoLiberalAgenda in the Church. See?  Pink?  It is lovely. So lovely. No one will ever associate negative opinions with the Agenda's insistance that women are people too if all they see is pink. Subversive, but brilliant.

KITTENS: Who doesn't love kittens? The cute lil things? They are not ferocious or scary at all...they are just playful. Kinda like the HomoLiberalAgenda...we are not scary people, just people who wanna have fun and relax at Methodist Country Clubs Churches. If our mascot is a kitten, who wouldn't want to snuggle and hear our positions against substitutionary atonement?  Subversive, but cuddly.

LOVE: All You need is Love!  Love between same sexes will not destroy society; it will give more love into the world. Love is all you need, and with love, we can defeat our foes through love not through hating on the gays every four years.  Subversive, but subversive.

So, there you have it. Hacking Christianity is now Pink Kitten Christianity, and together we can further the HomoLiberalAgenda and make the Church that much closer to the Apocalypse because gays will be marrying, women will have rights over their bodies, and yes, dogs and cats living together: mass hysteria.  And along the way, we will have pink things, cute kittens, and love for one another.

So, now that this website's true purpose has been revealed, we can live life openly, honestly, and with pink fluffy adooooorable kittens.  Oh, and as a reader you are automatically joining in the HomoLiberalAgenda, so welcome to the subversive but cuddly side! 

Thank you for being a part of this transition, I hope this first day of April treats you well.


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