Archive for February, 2008|Monthly archive page

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. Continue reading

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!

Meme Book Tag

My friend, fellow Quaker and blogger, Michael Chapman tagged me on a rather fun meme. The rules are as follows:

1. Pick up the nearest book of 123 pages or more. No cheating!
2. Find page 123
3. Find the first 5 sentences
4. Post the next 3 sentences
5. Tag 5 people

So, here it is, and it comes from John Caputo’s What Would Jesus Deconstruct?:

“The world is mad with cruelty, and yet the news from Bangladesh this morning is accompanied by the beauty of an azalea in full bloom outside the rectory (Diary, 73). Unrelieved suffering in the neighborhood, but at this very moment, down at ‘the shore,’ the Atlantic coast an hour or so drive away, the seagulls swing gracefully overhead, the sun rises over the ocean on a brilliant morning. We must believe and we cannot believe that love holds everything in the palm of its hands.”

I tag my new friends:

1. Rich Accetta-Evans

2. John Kindley

3. Zach Alexander

4. Johanpdx

5. AJ Scwhanz

A Response to Pacifism Comments

My most recent post has drawn a lot of interest, lengthy comments, and thoughtful interaction with the issue of pacifism. It has been a delight to read your thoughts and to continue to wrestle with the issue. I did want to provide some feedback to a few of the comments, which is what follows (my comments are in bold):

Rich Accetta-Evans wrote:

Even before that, when military service was not an issue but violence was, Fox had chosen to respond to violent abuse with what we would call non-violence. I don’t have the exact quotation handy, but I recall one occasion on which he was being man-handled and turned to offer himself as a target for more blows, saying “here’s Gospel for you”, a reference to Christ’s teaching about answering evil with good.

I really like this quote, Rich. It has been fun to imagine Fox uttering this line in the face of oppression for his beliefs, and I can clearly see the conviction with which he would have uttered the line. I can clearly see how Fox used love for Christ and love for others to infiltrate everything he did and said, one of the reasons I look to him as a spiritual hero.

Will T

It is not surprising that this was a process the early Friends were making it all up as they went along. It took a while to work out all of the implications of Quakerism for daily life and it was mostly a process of seeing what God required at any given moment.

Will T, my main issue with this is that it makes the earliest forms of Quaker belief/action as reactionary and not as a life lived with firm conviction based on what the Holy Spirit was doing in their midst as individuals but also as a community gathered in Christ.

Thy Friend John

God forbid that the Quakers should make a doctrine out of pacifism! But I believe that the living Christ made a doctrine out of pacifism, and gave it to us Quakers.

Thy Friend John, this is exactly why I wrote the post originally. Doctrinal positions have historically been avoided among Quakers, and yet you insinuate it was preposterous for me make such a comment. In the same way, it seems to me the closest Christ ever came to creating “doctrine” was in the Sermon on the Mount.

kevin roberts

Does it matter whether an issue like this conforms to a modern political orthodoxy?

Kevin, thanks for your comment. I guess for me it matters because there is correlation between someone’ s faith values and the expression of those in the public sphere. So a pacifist belief, while it should not conform to modern political orthodoxy, still highly influences modern political “praxis,” at least among fellow Quakers.

Thank you all, for the time you have spent in your lives considering this issue, and your desire to share it with others. May the Lord continue to bring you peace and the rest of the world peace.

Is Pacifism a Quaker belief?

The Jerusalem and Athens Forum at Gordon College is holding a debate this year on just war theory. Since I am a Quaker (an anomaly here) I have been sought out by one student who was assigned the con side of the argument. Admittedly, I have not yet come to a solid stance on pacifism, and for a while was a bit ashamed to profess that, in fear it made me less Quaker! So, in order to have an educated conversation with this student, I have been reading up a bit from Quaker history on the subject. Continue reading

Willard, part 1

This afternoon was the first of two speaking sessions Dallas is participating in this week. The first talk was a “fireside” chat with Dr. Stan Gaede, in which Stan asked questions about the current state of evangelicalism. The talk was very interesting, and I think one of the most intriguing parts of the conversation came when Stan asked Dallas about the emerging church movement. Dallas initially answered that the term “emergent” is a misnomer because the church already emerged 2000 years ago. Though the quip was humorous, and seemed to resonate with quite a few folks in the audience, I don’t think Dallas meant to disparage the movement. But, he did offer words of wisdom in regards to the new movement that I think are worth sharing. Continue reading