Emptiness on Easter

It has been a wonderful week in Oregon, and we are getting ready to head back to MA very early tomorrow morning. It seems that vacation would be a good time to really write out some posts, but this one was full of time with family and friends we had not seen for some time, so the writing took a back seat.

I did want to point out two great things:

1) This article on an  emergent type of group was on the front page of The Oregonian today. It is well done!

2) Gregg’s sermon  today was powerful and right on. It was great to worship at Newberg Friends. We really miss the community here.

That is it for now! Happy Easter, and may the Lord make himself present to you today.


Making Up for Lost Time

What an absence. It seems as though all parts of life converged onto last week, and the 24 hours in a day seemed to become more like 20. So, in an effort to make up for lost time, I am packing into this post all of the things that have teased me the past week – those things I wish I could have spent more time with:

– It appears that Quakers still have the ability to rock the boat, and convey truth while doing so. First, she was fired for being a Quaker. Then, she was re-hired for being a Quaker!

Foy Vance rocks. Check out this song, then buy his album:

Rue Royale is also worth your time and both your ears.

– I was a member of the GC4JC relay team that took first place last weekend in the BAC 30k challenge. Believe me when I tell you it was the other two who made a win possible…believe me.

– If you haven’t yet, you must watch Into the Wild. Amazingly beautiful and disturbing.

– Finally, Alaska Airlines did a fine job bringing me and my family to Oregon, where we will be for the next week or so. Man, I miss this place.

Anti-Quaker Day

Pithy post of the day:

Did you know that today may be the most un-Quaker day of the year?

It is, after all,  March 4th (or march forth), the only day of the year that is an actual command.

On this March 4th, may you march forth towards a calling that is of Christ.

Quaker Conspirators?

Through a prolonged stint of blog-hopping at the end of last week, I happened upon the New Conspirators Festival hosted by Tom and Christine Sine this past weekend. It was a gathering of folks doing new types of ministry underneath the emerging umbrella – or as the blog promoted, it was a gathering to “spend time with those on the innovative edge who are creating new forms of life, church, mission and celebration.”

As I perused through, I recognized some names of a few presenters, until I came across the name Bruce Bishop. I was so excited to see his name there, connected with the title, “Holy Loitering: Rediscovering Spirituality for New Expressions and Traditional Communities.” Bruce is a longtime friend who I deeply respect, both for his friendship and his ability to plumb the depths of human life in order to look for the work of the Spirit.

What was even more exciting, though, was a Quaker presenting at the conference!

As a few other Quakers have noted (Wess, Robin, and AJ are some of them) the emergent movement and the Quaker church have much to teach each other, and much that is in common. I hope Bruce’s participation in the festival continues the conversation that has been begun already with the Quaker church.

Hermeneutical Ranking

Scot McKnight created a hermeneutics (what you read into the Bible) quiz that you, yes you, can take here. Scot correctly mentions that it is not an encompassing quiz, and that there are issues with the scope and in some cases, the applicability of such a quiz. But, it is fun to take. To my surprise, I am a moderate (64 is my score – I just took it again (3/6) and scored a 52. Hmmm), which matches well with my political leanings. Perhaps hermeneutics and politics are (insert sarcasm) interchangeable!

Of course, I used hermeneutics to interpret the actual quiz, which therefore means that a hermeneutics of hermeneutics quiz should be created. Oh, what a hermeneutical web we weave. This is precisely the point at which I should stop, because I am starting to sound too postmodern.

Anyway, I encourage you to take the quiz, and if you feel led, to report your score back here.

Political Selectivity

I am not sure why I am going back here, but something in me will not let me move on:

I have recently written on those within the Quaker blogging world who have endorsed Obama, and they have done so with good reason. And often, in the world of politics, the (relatively) new Christian voice is bemoaning the single-issue approach that often endorses the candidates who place abortion and homosexual marriage near the center of their platform. The new voices I am hearing are beseeching others to look past those single issues and focus on a broader understanding of life. In this vein, the most vocal are asking why war should not be as or even more important than abortion. There are lives being lost in war, just as there are lives being lost in abortion. The emphasis, then, is placed on a candidate who will in turn have a more holistic view of justice, environmentalism, and certain family values. Hear me here: these are good things, things I am too passionate about.

But it seems to me that one issue is being traded for another, and what ends up being critiqued as single-issue voting is traded for, in essence, single-issue voting. If one is truly pro-life, you have to be against both abortion and war. This is where the difficulty lies for me: if I endorse Obama because of his stance on issues like war, poverty, health care, and the environment, I am choosing to neglect others issues on which he stands opposed to my moral belief.

For instance: John Caputo, in What Would Jesus Deconstruct, believes that if one truly follows Jesus, pacifism is the only way to go. But in the current state of life, it is impossible. So he advocates an approach to war (and I assume to other ethical dilemmas) that he calls the “lesser evil.” But if I pursue political issues as one being a lesser evil than the other, I am fragmenting what I truly believe about life. For instance, if I say that at this moment in our nations history war and abortion are both stealing lives unfairly, and I view both of them as equal evils, which it seems to me they are, then how can I support someone who views one as a greater evil than the other? Are they not both related to saving lives? To upholding a healthy, Christ-centered view of humanity?

This is what I mean by political selectivity. Can we as Christian focus on issues to the exclusion of others, especially when they have to do with the same fundamental issue? I can see my friends commenting again on how issues like these are the reasons they do not vote any longer, but since I am not at that point, how can I pursue political issues as a Christian without exhibiting some type of political selectivity, whether it be the selectivity of the right or the selectivity of the left? Because both sides are, in the end, selective.

Does it really come down to selecting the lesser evil? I hope not, but I am, at this point, unsure.

Frozen Fun

Thanks to friend Sherri for finding this gem:

Wow! I wish I could have experienced it, and it is very impressive to freeze for 5 minutes.

Elevated Spirituality

Just yesterday the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life released findings from a recent survey about the frequency and scope of people changing faith traditions and/or leaving established religion totally. This story did not focus solely on Christianity, but it certainly seemed to note that it was in Christianity that the biggest change was happening (Zach has done a nice job offering a broader context for the study). It was, in essence, another opportunity for media to place a negative focus on Christianity. There is, to be sure, quite a few areas where the public life of Christianity needs to be reformulated, where new voices need to be heard and sought out. Brian McLaren, in this press conference, begins that conversation, and it is one I welcome whole-heartedly. And here McLaren himself talks about the significance of the Pew Study.

But this morning, after reading the article A Spiritual Graduation by Roland Martin, I am left with even more questions than before. Read more »

Random Weekend Bits

I have been delinquent this past weekend in writing! There has been so much going on that writing took the proverbial backseat, and here I am now trying to bring it back to the steering wheel. Here are some highlights from the last time I posted:

Leif Enger, author of Peace Like a River, came to Gordon last Thursday to talk about the writing process, and about his book. All of the freshmen here were required to read it (I am sure that at least half of them did…) as part of the Freshmen Seminar course I (and several others) teach. While there are many other directions I would have loved for him to take, he focused his lecture on writing as entertainment, and the value it plays in entertaining the reader. One comment he made, which I can see in the development of his characters, is that entertainment is meant to expose one to the “bigger picture.” And in the exposure to the big picture, three things happen:

1) You realize how small you are

2) You realize that everyone is the same size as you

3) Your empathy and gratitude for the other is increased.

Like your novel, Mr. Enger, this is well stated and rings true.

– On Sunday, I ran the Hyannis half marathon with a friend. This was a delight not just for the completion of the task and the subsequent endorphin boost, but for the conversation that accompanied the 2-hour-each-way drive. Our conversation ranged from running to the Quaker view of sacraments – what more could there be to talk about!! – and it was a blessing to be able to wrestle with these issues as pre-race jitters overwhelmed us and post-race fatigue beset us.

(Insert soapbox) You should run! If there is one thing I am continually amazed with it is the diversity that arrives each race-day morning at the starting line. Old, young, big, little, fast, slow. It is, as my friend Heather continually describes it, the “great cloud of witnesses.” Running can feel so isolating when you hit the road by yourself or with a few friends each day, and then – boom – you show up for a race and out of the seeming woodwork come runners of all shapes and sizes. It is encouraging and it is fun. You should run! (Remove soapbox)

– New blogging friend Zach Alexander accepted my forwarded meme, something it seems he does not do often. Bravo, Zach!

AJ brought up forgotten memories in her response to the meme. Thanks, AJ. That is what old friends are for…

– Finally, I plan this week, as fellow blogger Wess has recently done, to post my reading list for the year. Feel free to send along suggestions!

More Pacifism

Cherice has continued the conversation of pacifism and its merits, and has the context of wrestling with the issue as part of a class in which she may be the lone pacifist amidst a group of just war theorists. I found the essay intriguing, but also enjoyed the comments that have followed, including the comment from the originator of the comments to which Cherice is responding.

It is interesting to note that, as my experience and Cherice’s tend to convey, that the majority of students attending seminary are strong, if not vehement, just war theorists. I am not sure that this bodes well for the church! Cherice’s interlocutor is quick to point out the main source of his just war theory is a reformed Mennonite, as if that provides the necessary validation for the topic. What of the many, as I have even learned this past week, who have converted to pacifism? Do their voices not carry at least equal weight in the conversation?

It is, to be sure, an age old conversation, and one I am glad folks are still pursuing. May it continue!