Same “tension”, new direction

Since I’m still getting some regular traffic on this blog, I thought I’d highlight something new that I’m up to: music

Here’s a little blurb from my new site:

Some days, I’d be perfectly content to just enjoy all the amazing music that’s already out there.  There’s so much of it, what else could I possibly have to add, right?

But other days, it seems like if I don’t create my art, if I don’t make my music and get it out there, I’d be missing the boat on something really important.

So, here I am.  Making my music and sharing it with the world.  I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t care whether you like it or not…  I really do hope you like it, and that it strikes a chord, or a nerve, or something.

A little detail on the name, the Tension.

I’ve always been kind of an idealist.  Which you might think would mean that I am a pretty optimistic guy, but I’m actually not at all.  I’m pretty critical and pessimistic, actually.  That’s what seems to happen when the realities of life come crashing down into the hopes and dreams of an idealist.

I find myself constantly torn between the amazing things that we could do in this life, and the reality that the day to day can be a struggle for many of us.  The heights of human achievement, and the depths of our dysfunction.  Our unfathomable capacity for healing and love, coupled with our seemingly inescapable tendency to destroy and hate.

This is the tension we find ourselves in.  This is where our dreams and reality meet.

This is the Tension…  welcome.

So, thanks for stopping by my blog.  But I’d love it if you’d join me over at my new site as I continue to wade through the tension…

Brian McLaren weighs in on the Dobson vs. Obama debacle

Chances are you’ve heard about James Dobson‘s recent comments about a speech that Barack Obama made a little while back.

If you haven’t, then great, don’t bother looking into it.  It’s the same old, same old, stuff that people like Dobson have been saying for a long time.  Stop reading this post now and go do something else.

But, if you did already hear about, then you should read this blog post from Brian McLaren where he weighs in on some of the issues with what Dobson said, and (equally as important) how he said it.  Here are a few choice quotes:

This week’s “Beloved Christian Broadcaster Attacks Beloved Christian Presidential Candidate” headline reflects at least seven patterns of unhelpful discourse I frequently see among the religiously vocal, whatever their political persuasion.

First, this Christian leader didn’t restrict himself to making judgments on Barack Obama’s statements; he inferred the candidate’s motives and judged them as well. Consider his use of the word “deliberately” in this sentence:
“I think he’s deliberately distorting the traditional understanding of the Bible to fit his own worldview, his own confused theology.”

The Evangelical leader in question – whose attempts at persuasion I would judge as average or slightly above average in the world of religious broadcasting – displays the common religious tendency to lapse into name-calling, which has predictable and unhelpful results. For example, he referred to Obama’s approach as “a fruitcake interpretation of the Constitution.” This tendency to mock the opposition might be deemed excusable if it were a rhetorical icing on the cake of solid analysis, but lacking that analysis, it can hardly be called an improvement over the thoughtful speech by Senator Obama, given at an event at which I was present in 2006, which was being criticized by the respected Evangelical speaker.

Unless this leader and his political and religious allies can lift their level of discourse, their shared good ideas will be discredited along with their bad ones. The same goes for all of us. And unless more of us become more scrupulous regarding how arguments are made – even if we agree with the point they’re trying to prove – we will become less able to tell the bad ideas from the good ones.

Read the whole thing here.

Thoughts?  Is Brian off base in his critique?  Was Dobson off-base?  Do you agree that HOW something is said is equally as important as WHAT is said?

UPDATE 7/2/08:

Scot McKnight weighed in on this as well. It’s a lot more concise than McLaren’s, however, he does come to some of the same conclusions.  For those people who have a tough time hearing from McLaren, maybe this other take on it would be beneficial to check out?  Just a thought…  (HT: David Swanson)

UPDATE 7/3/08:

In the comments, John pointed us to a site with more info on what went down.  It’s clearly Pro-Obama, but I still think it’s worth checking out because it doesn’t inject much opinion, it merely compares their statements side by side.  The fact that, when presented in this way, Obama comes out “on top” should say something to us…

Oh very cool. Take a look at this website: http://www.jamesdobsondoesntspeakforme.com/

It does a good side-by-side comparison of Dobson’s skewed characterizations and Obama’s actual words.

NT Wright on dropping African debt

Interesting piece by NT Wright (as usual), defending his opinion that the massive debts that many African countires owe to Western countries and banks should be canceled.  Here’s a few quotes to whet your appetite:

In the 1970s, for example, Western financial institutions loaned the best part of a billion dollars to Idi Amin of Uganda – a vicious psychopath and known to be such. By doing so, they not only saddled that impoverished country with a millstone of debt, but financed the dictator’s reign of terror. These actions were both financially irresponsible and morally reprehensible. After Amin’s fall, the debts were inflated by massive rates of compound interest (up to 20% p.a.!) resulting mainly from economic policies pursued by the developed world, not least as long-term results of the Bretton Woods agreement. At the same time, the bottom fell out of the market for Uganda’s main exports.

Here in North East England, Christian Aid received an unsolicited email from Dr Simon Challand, when he was working in southern Uganda with the Church Mission Society. He wrote that: “Debt relief means money stays in the country instead of pouring out to Europe and the US and there have been huge improvements in health and education… The Ministry of Health has just increased the grant to all the health centres by 85%… four years ago they got nothing. Many health centres are able to provide immunisation, growth monitoring, health education and antenatal care to remote rural areas… Everywhere you go you can see new classrooms going up to support the Universal Primary Education programme which gives every child 7 years of free schooling.” [Uganda used its first tranche of debt relief to improve basic medical provision and to abolish fees for primary school.]

Read the whole thing here.

(HT: Emergent Village blog)

a bit of a tongue twister, but…

…Yet perhaps it is precisely this that we are being called to: engaging in that most difficult task of putting our religion to death so that a religion without religion can spring forth.

-Peter Rollins, from his new book The Fidelity of Betrayal: Towards a Church Beyond Belief

A bit of a tongue twister, I admit…  but a very interesting point.

What do you think?  Is it possible for Christianity to be a religion, that is in fact, not a religion at all?  What would that even look like?

Rob Bell on Suffering

Here’s a neat video clip of Rob Bell, speaking at something called Seeds of Compassion InterSpiritual Day, in which different leaders from different religious backgrounds came together to discuss important issues.

I can’t actually embed the video here on this page, so you’ll have to go over to the original poster’s blog and check it out there:

“Rob Bell on Suffering” – by Mike L.

Here’s a quote from the end of it, to spark your interest, but I would really recommending watching the whole thing; it’s only a couple minutes long. Rob is speaking about revenge and forgiveness when he says this:

…when people choose not to hand it back, but to bear it, it will always lead to suffering. And you will unavoidibly become a better person on the other side. …that is what changes the world when somebody chooses not to hand it back.

Jill Bolte Taylor: My stroke of Insight

Found this video over at Doug Pagitt‘s blog. It’s a TED Talk by a “Neuroanatomist” named Jill Bolte Taylor, in which she recounts her experience of a having a stroke, from the standpoint of a brain scientist. She was able to remember the entire process, and in the end, discovered that there is much more to life than there seems to be.

While she doesn’t come to any specific revelation regarding Jesus, or even the Judeo-Christian God, I valued hearing about her spiritual experience, especially in light of her being a Scientist.

Scientists aren’t supposed to talk about things like Nirvana, and visions of heaven-like places…  are they?  😉

Jill Bolte Taylor: My stroke of Insight

(HT: Doug Pagitt)

love wins

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UPDATE #3 – (2/26/2011)

The internet is buzzing today about Rob Bell’s new book, called Love Wins.  Some prominent folks in the Reformed/Calvinist camp watched the promo video he put out, and have decided that it clearly means that Rob Bell is a universalist.  Well… why don’t we all just wait and read the book first. 🙂  But in the meantime, since this post is getting so many hits today, I figured I’d at least point people towards the video in question:

And now, back to my original post.  Thanks for stopping by!  And let’s remember that as followers of Jesus, if we don’t have LOVE, then we don’t have anything.

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Again, let me preface this post by saying that I may be sounding like a broken record again, but I think it’s with good reason because Rob Bell is the only person saying the things that NEED TO BE SAID AND HEARD. At least, the only person that can be heard by a large audience anyways, since I have no way of hearing about this stuff from “Joe Schmoe” the Senior Pastor at “Grace Bible Fellowship Community Chapel” even though he may be TOTALLY spot on with this stuff… OK, that’s enough of a preface. I’ll get on with it now:

LOVE WINS

Has anyone seen this on a bumper sticker or t-shirt before?  I haven’t, but I’ve heard about it. And this is the message that, as best I can tell, started it. Rob Bell spoke about the Cross and Jesus and what it means to the world as a whole, beyond the purely personal answer of “getting my butt out of hell” that we’ve been so fond of making the top priority.

You really should give this a listen if you’ve got a few free minutes… Maybe throw it on your mp3 player or burn it to CD and listen to it while you drive somewhere (that’s usually what I do). But the main point is this:

The cross is God’s way of saying, “Love Wins.”

I think his point is that the way that the entire universe works RADICALLY CHANGED through Jesus’s life and death on a Roman cross. He lived a life, filled with all the same opportunities for evil and injustice that we experienced, and yet NOT ONCE did he sin by responding in any way other than with love, forgiveness, etc. And then to top it off, he was defeated and killed by the “powers-that-be” of the day (Rome) and yet somehow turned that loss into a win for the Kingdom of God by not staying dead… 🙂

So how did all that RADICALLY CHANGE the universe? By making it so that the people that appear to be the winners, are actually losing… and the people that appear to be losing, are actually winning… And that in all situations, with all people, and in all ways, LOVE WINS. Revenge will no longer gain you any ground in this world (even though on the surface it may appear to) and instead, we should Love (even though on the surface it seems foolish).

I feel like all of this stuff, for the most part, isn’t (or at least shouldn’t be) news to anyone who calls themself a Christian or a follower of Jesus, but if we stop for a second and ask ourselves “Do I respond with Love in every situation and circumstance that comes up during my day?”…

On most days, can we honestly say that we even TRIED to do this? I know that until recently, it didn’t cross my mind at all…

What would it look like if we even just made an ATTEMPT to do this everyday… How many people around you would be FUNDAMENTALLY CHANGED if you started doing this… And thus, how many systems and institutions that we’re all a part of would start to change if the people in them started to change… How much of what Heaven is about would start to happen right here, right now…

I know that ultimately this life will always be filled with problems and evil because Sin exists in the world, but doesn’t this start to make you think that maybe… just maybe… this is what Jesus was talking about when he taught His disciples how to pray:

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

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UPDATE #1  ( 8/9/08 ): I get so many hits on this post from people searching for “love wins bumper sticker”, so I decided that I would point people to a site that I found that actually sells the stickers, in case anyone is interested in getting one.  http://www.lovewins2.com (I’m not affiliated or connected with this site at all, FYI)

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UPDATE #2  ( 8/8/09 ): Mars Hill itself is apparently now selling the “Love Wins” stickers, for only a buck a piece!  You can order them here. Thanks to commenter grandrapidion for providing the link!