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Season After Pentecost (Proper 7[12]) – The Gospel Passage: Seeing the might of Jesus in hindsight

“On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him.” (Mark 4:35 – 36)
That sounds very nice, an evening sail on the lake. And since Jesus’ disciples (or at least some of them) were able fishermen and seamen, I am sure it was a very safe thing to do. Keeping that fact in mind, what follows is very significant.
“A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” (Verses 37 – 38)
It must have been a terrible storm to upset the disciples, or at least those who were sailing the boat. And it must have come up suddenly because when they set out the lake was calm, or they would not have set out in the first place.
“He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” (Verses 39 – 40)
“Have you no faith?” he asked them. That question seems to be a surface question that does not hint to the deeper understanding that the disciples did not seem to understand. When one is with Jesus, there is no need to fear any situation. Jesus was (and is) in command of all situations. And if the Divine is sitting (or sleeping) in your boat, you need not fear anything. It makes me wonder if the the boat would have capsized if they had just tried to manage on their own. I mean, really, do you think Jesus was going to end up drowning?
“And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”” (Verse 41)
Of course, my thinking also tends to be from a human perspective, thinking of the physical danger rather than trusting in the plan of the Divine. Consider, if Jesus was mighty enough to command “the wind and the sea”, why did he not just hold off the storm in the first place. No, I think Jesus was going to let this teachable moment happen, and had that plan from the moment he said “Let’s go across to the other side.”
That is something to remember, beloved reader, as we set out and continue on the path and journey that the Divine called us to. Nothing will ever take the Lord or Jesus Christ by surprise. We can rest, and sleep, in that assurance. Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

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Have we really fallen this far?

Last week Fariborz Karami committed suicide. And I don’t think many Australians noticed. He was just 26 years old, and he had been held behind bars for 5 years without any hope of safe release. His mental health had been deteriorating for years. But I don’t think many Australians cared. Worse still, I don’t think … Continue reading Have we really fallen this far?
Syndicated from the Way?

Podcast: A Cross Vision Reading of David & Goliath

Dan takes a shot at interpreting the David & Goliath story through a cruciform lens.   
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Podcast: What is Your Book Writing Process Like?

Greg talks about bleeding on the page. 
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Confronting the Divine Montage

The superiority of Jesus’ revelation over a montage view of God (see previous post) is captured when Paul and the author of Hebrews utilize an analogy of a shadow verses reality. Paul instructs his disciples not to “let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.” And the reason, he says, is because “[t]hese are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ” (Col 2:16-7). Similarly, the author of Hebrews says that the law and sacrificial system of the OT were “only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves” (Heb 10:1). As with Paul, the “realities” are all found in Christ.
These two authors see Christ, the reality, casting a shadow back in time, and this shadow takes the form of the first covenant, with its law and sacrificial system. Think with me for a moment about what this entails.
While there were certainly “glimpses of truth” in the OT’s law and sacrificial system, the revelation we are given in Christ is as superior to them as, for example, the real you is superior to your shadow. I could learn some things about you if I only had your shadow to look at—the basic shape of your body, for example. In this sense, your shadow points to you. But I couldn’t learn the most important things about you from your shadow, such as your personality, your beliefs or your affections. And, most importantly, if I got to know the real you, I certainly would never try to supplement what I know about you from what I learned from your shadow!
Jesus also confronted the montage view of God directly. Philip asked Jesus to “show us the Father.” Jesus responded by saying: “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Jesus is claiming that to know what God is like, we are to look nowhere other than to him. Now, Jesus obviously wasn’t saying that we can know how tall God is, how much God weighs, or what gender God is by looking at him. He is rather saying that to know God’s character we should look nowhere other than to him. And this character is altogether loving, self-sacrificial, and non-violent.
Similarly, a number of times the Gospel of John presents Jesus as the “light of the world.” There isn’t an assortment of different sources of light that reveal God, each supplementing or competing with the others, thereby created a divine montage. No, there is only one “true light,” and he “gives light to everyone” (Jn 1:9). In other words, insofar as anyone has ever received “light,” it is this light that they were receiving. It’s the same point the author of Hebrews was making when he said that the Son was “the radiance of God’s glory” (Heb 1:3).
For this reason, Jesus must be the one who serves as the sole source of our picture of God. We must rebel against any mental images of God that are montage like. Only in this way will we envision in our minds the beauty of God that actually reflects who God is. And only in this way will we genuinely love God with passion and self-sacrifice.
—Adapted from Cross Vision, pages 25-27
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Downs With Love – A Play Review

 Human relationships are complex and fascinating, but what happens when a girl with Down Syndrome falls in love with a man who ends up being her carer’s boyfriend?
In “Downs With Love” a play that toured throughout Scotland, Beth (played by lead actress Abigal Brydon) becomes friends with Tracey, her support worker.  Tracey and Beth get together multiple times a week to sing, watch TV, and do chores, but Beth wants to take Tracey on a special outing.  Every Friday night, Beth goes to the local pub where she listens to a singer named Mark.  Mark is handsome, has an angelic voice, and is around her age, and Beth hopes that he will one day fall in love with her.  At first Mark ignores her and finds it difficult and awkward to relate to someone with a disability, but as support worker, Tracey, urges him to at least be friendly and kind to Beth a friendship forms.  Mark, Tracey, and Beth all begin spending time together, going to the movies, going out for coffee, and going bowling.  Eventually Mark works up the courage to ask Tracey to go on a date with him.  Tracey does not feel comfortable going behind Beth’s back, but she agrees as long as it is just a casual date, not a “date date”.  Yet as Mark and Tracey grow closer together, they both start getting more and more distant from Beth who truly believes that something might eventually happen between her and Mark.  Soon the day comes when Mark and Tracey have to break the news to Beth, a moment she does not handle well.  She is devastated and feels like her friends have betrayed her.  She questions whether it is all about her disability and if she were simply “normal” if she would have the chance for love.  Yet, at the end of the play, all is remedied as Mark and Tracey get married and Beth forgives them both and is truly happy for them and so their relationship continues.
The play “Downs with Love” is based off of Beth’s (Abigal Brydon’s) own experience.  Abigal is part of a local theatre troupe called Inspire that welcomes actors of various ability levels.  Abi has even succeed in her dream of being a professional by taking classes at a local college, though her ultimate dream is to one day be on television!  Throughout the play, Abi weaves in her past humiliations of being bullied in school and seen as different, as well as her day-to-day routines and her own previous relationships.  It is a play that is at once realistic, thoughtful, and thought-provoking.
After watching the play and having the question and answer session with the panel, I came away with so many questions about how our society perceives people with disabilities in relationships.  Do we view that as awkward or romantic?  Do people with disabilities have enough resources to learn about relationships as the general public?  What is right or wrong in a relationship for someone with a disability, who decides that, and why?
This play really showed me that it is so imperative to support those with disabilities to accomplish their dreams in the same way as we would for anyone else.  It is important to be honest, upfront, and to be clear about boundaries.
I have never seen a play quite like this one, but I believe this is the start of something amazing when it comes to disability inclusion in the theatrical world.  The director, Suzanne Lofthus, has so many upcoming dreams for continuing to make similar plays and maybe in the future, films.  Until, then, I am excited to see more actors with developmental disabilities taking centre stage and reminding us of how love can be a possibility for us all.

Syndicated from Zweibach and Peace – Thoughts on Pacifism and Contemporary Anabaptism

Why I Went to a Funeral for Someone I Never Knew

  Death – a word we all try to avoid, but that we know is inevitable.  It isn’t easy in the slightest to go to a funeral for someone you knew well and cherished, so why would one ever go to a funeral for someone they never even met?  This is the question I found myself asking as I piled into a room full of about 40 people from my L’Arche community in Inverness, Scotland.  The room was full of people wearing black, the room was also full of people wearing yellow.  A core member (person with a developmental disability) named Fiona had recently passed away and her favourite colour was yellow.  She liked the brightness of it and how it reminded her of the sun, of warmth, of laughter, and of friendship.  She even moved into a L’Arche house named Grianan, the Scottish Gaelic word for “Sunshine”, directly linked in a duplex style housing to another house named Saorsa meaning “Freedom.”  And that’s what Fiona was.  She was free, even despite her physical and developmental limitations, because she knew she was loved and held by the care and support of many who loved her.
Her funeral was much longer than any other memorial I have ever attended, but time seemed to be suspended as core members and assistants alike shared poems, stories, and pictures of Fiona.  As they said their final farewells and wrote on yellow cut-out hearts to be placed in a specially decorated box all the things they would have wished to have said to her but never had the opportunity.
Fiona’s boyfriend also spoke.  He and Fiona had been partners for a long time.  They went on trips together, shared meals together, and he visited her every Sunday at her house.  He  recounted a time when Fiona first asked them to be a couple.  His exact words were that she said “you and I should be together so that we can make others laugh.”  He even referred to her as “a cheeky little monkey” – a great term of endearment over here in Scotland.
I was off that day.  I was under no obligation to attend her funeral.  She hadn’t been part of the community for over 2 years as the result of her declining health which meant other arrangements had to be made.  I never met her.  So why should I use my free time to attend a community gathering as solemn as this?  The answer is because I feel memorials are a way of respecting and honouring someone’s life.  In our ableistic culture we tend to tote and idealize celebrities who pass away because we feel they have made a significant contribution to our world.  When a movie star, singer, or actor dies his or her name is mentioned in all the newspapers and tabloids.  When someone who has made a contribution in the field of medicine, scientific inquiry, theology, or psychology passes we feel a sense of gratitude for their commitment and inventions.  But oftentimes, someone with a developmental disability can be ignored.  And that’s not the way it should be.  The Bible tells us that “God uses the foolish things of this world to confound the wise” (1 Corinthians 1:27) and L’Arche has taught me that God also uses those whom society deems unfit and even worthless to teach us what humanity, love, laughter, and life is really and truly all about.
Listening to people share that day brought me back to this place of realizing how everyone who walks this earth has something to share and contribute.  Fiona was a person with a disability, but she was also so much more.  She was a girlfriend, a daughter, a friend, a traveler, an adventurer, an explorer, a dancer, and that only begins to scratch the surface.  When the box got passed to me to stick my little yellow heart into I wrote, “Dear Fiona, I never knew you, but you’ve left a legacy.”  And that’s exactly how I felt.  She taught assistants from around the world to interact with her and get to know her.  Not for her disability, but for her personality.  Not because they were paid to care for her, but because they entered into a community in which she was a part and in which she urged them to get close to her and to be her friend.
This week in community has been full of ups and downs.  Death is not easy for anyone, and is especially difficult for people with disabilities to process.  But we’ve also had laughs and joyous occasions.  Also this week, one of our core members celebrated his 70th anniversary with great fanfare and a ceilidh band.  In his own words, “birthdays are a way to thank someone for being born.”  How true that is – people with disabilities are often shunned and sadly seen as a burden, but that’s not how it should be at all.  So both in celebrating a birthday and in honouring the legacy of a great woman, the message is the same – thank you for being born, thank you for living, showing us yourself, and teaching us the true values of humanity and love.  But most of all, thank you for your continuing life that whether in this world or the next continues to shine forth, proclaiming a message of equality, respect, and tolerance.  Thank you that that message can impact even those you’ve never met because you have left a legacy.

Syndicated from Zweibach and Peace – Thoughts on Pacifism and Contemporary Anabaptism

How we Keep Going When “Not Inhumane” feels like the Only Thing we Can Accomplish

Is this what we’ve come to? Defending the moral claim that families should be together and children should not be in cages? After days of denying the family separation policy and pleading helplessness to change the law, early this afternoon Donald Trump said he would suspend the Homeland Security policy of family separation at the border.
Trump offered no details on the new policy and maintained his tough-on-crime rhetoric. (BTW, almost half of all undocumented immigrants have not broken a criminal law; many immigration violations fall under civil law, which means there’s no crime against the public and should be no prison sentence attached to these violations). As with so many political moves, we’re left with the promise of justice but no evidence of it. Through popular pressure, the Trump Administration made a public promise to not be deliberately inhumane–but that’s far from a promise to treat migrants humanely.
Where do we go from here? Is the bar we’re working for, “not deliberately inhumane”? Put another way, is our hope to keep our country from “not actively violating international law“? It’s hard to maintain the energy for justice when the bar you’re trying to hold keeps slipping lower and lower. It’s exhausting to keep yelling when you’ve lost your voice ten times over. It is devastating to hold the present trauma of family separation while lamenting the historical trauma of similar policies like Japanese internment and Indian boarding schools. It’s helpless to feel guilty for unjust policies and simultaneously powerless to undue them. If Trump’s strategy to exhaust resistance until we’re too tired to call for justice, it sometimes feels like it’s working.
It’s been a hard 18 months. There are years to go. This announcement feels less like a victory than a chance to catch our breath.
But there are glimpses of hope. The family separation policy brought out the public tension among Trump supporters as evangelical Christians from the stronghold of his camp—such as the fundamentalist leader Franklin Graham—announced their opposition to the family separation policy.
We also learned something about the limits of biblical manipulation, as Jeff Sessions’ call to follow the law as mandated by Romans 13 was met with the correction from evangelicals, progressive Christians, Jews, and non-Christians that the Bible is not a book about assenting to abuse. The very premise of the Hebrew exodus from Egypt is an insistence that unjust laws should not be followed. The 10 Commandments is God’s bestowal of laws that should always supersede human governments: you shall not steal parents from children. You shall honor your father and mother, and all the fathers and mothers around you. Jesus was tried and died on a cross under the guise of his breaking the law. Conservatives have long functioned on the assumption that if you’re the first to say “the Bible says…” you can claim the moral high ground. Jeff Sessions discovered the limit of that assumption.
The reason Trump finally rescinded this policy is because after trying every possible defense, the Administration found no moral high ground to stand on—with anyone. Two-thirds of Americans oppose the policy, a rare decisive majority in a politically partisan landscape.
There’s another kind of melancholy hope that comes from the biblical text. When it comes to resisting oppression, the Bible says it doesn’t get easier. Look at the criticism Moses gets from the Israelites when he first goes to free them from Egypt. Or Daniel’s move from the fiery furnace to the lion’s den. Or Jeff Session’s authoritative Apostle Paul’s repeated imprisonments (note: in spite of what he said in Romans 13, he was imprisoned several times after breaking the law). Look at Jeremiah 12, where the prophet complains that his calls for justice go unheeded and the God of Justice says, “If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses?” God practically promises us it’s going to get harder. Doing the right thing never gets easier, not when you live under a powerful, self-defending Empire that views people as pawns.
There’s a courage in proclaiming things don’t get easier from here. There is a resolve in constantly renewing our commitment to justice, which looks like a commitment to resistance. Because we move together, because we continue to tell the stories. Because we hold each other up. Because justice is our stamina. We don’t call for justice because we expect that we can usher in world peace or even that we can change a corrupt government—we call for justice because it is the right thing to do, even if nothing changes. When we call for justice, we change—we grow closer to God, we grow more faithful, we grow more stamina. We join a long line of faithful witnesses who continued to struggle even when they made little to no headway.
What will keep us strong and faithful in the coming years is not the outcomes we accomplish–most likely that we’ll accomplish little beyond damage mitigation–but the certainty that justice is always worth pursuing.
 
These signs began appearing across the country after the 2016 election; you can still find them in many places.

Syndicated from gathering the stones

Juneteenth

Yesterday [June 19] in 1865, slaves from Galveston, Texas, became the last to know of their newfound freedom. Union soldiers finally reached this city and read aloud Abraham Lincoln’s famous Emancipation Proclamation, which had declared two and a half years earlier that all American slaves had been freed, although for many their bondage continued.
Psalm 72 is an appropriate psalm for this occasion. A wonderful blessing on a leader who defends the needy, delivers the afflicted and brings prosperity to the land. Perhaps this prayer is more pleasant to pray than the previous post!
Trivial details: This psalm is the only one “of Solomon” and was probably written for his coronation ceremony or some occasion celebrating his reign. Verse 20 says that this concludes the prayers of David. The editors got this wrong as 108, etc. are also psalms of David. We have also come to the midpoint of the Book of Psalms and the end of Book 3 as we come to the midpoint of the “Psalms in a Year” project.

Syndicated from gareth brandt

Podcast: Why Did You Teach at Bethel and Why Did You Leave?

Greg talks about Bethel, why he taught there, and why he left. 
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Season After Pentecost (Proper 7[12]) – The Epistle Passage: The gospel not in vain

“As we work together with him, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain. For he says, “At an acceptable time I have listened to you, and on a day of salvation I have helped you.” See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation!” (II Corinthians 6:1 – 2)
I did a double-take in reading the first part of verse one – “not accept the grace of God”! However the “in vain” ending put a whole new meaning to the verse. And I think this admonition is just appropriate now as then. If I can understand and paraphrase the mind of Paul . . . do not halfheartedly follow God or only follow God when it is easy and convenient. If you are going to commit yourself to the Divine, do so with authenticity and devotion.
“We are putting no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; in honor and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see–we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.” (Verses 3 – 10)
Paul then goes on to give example after example, and incident after incident of how the road and ministry has been rough for him, but he has stayed the course. The key to reading this without losing one’s patience with Paul or feeling like he is bragging is to understand that “commend” does not mean self-congratulations but have acted in a way that is consistent with devotion to a cause. Now if one is judiciously slow, as I am, in commending Paul’s actions and intent, verses three to ten are read carefully and proof is sought in other writings to see if Paul is genuine. Paul was very outspoken and did not “test the waters” before he spoke up. I suspect at times it was as much his style of presentation of the gospel as it was the content of him message that got him into trouble.
“We have spoken frankly to you Corinthians; our heart is wide open to you. There is no restriction in our affections, but only in yours. In return–I speak as to children–open wide your hearts also.” (Verses 11 – 13)
Have you known people like Paul, beloved reader? People who speak truth but bluntly and outright? Who dive into a situation without fully exploring what might be involved? Paul at times reminds me of a missionary who strides forth with the gospel and does not first investigate the best way to explain the gospel. Legions of missionaries have done that in the past, and the results were very mixed. There is a time and place for Paul’s type of ministry. But, enough said; and I digress.
Paul makes a good point – do not hear the message of salvation and then not take it to heart and action. While Paul may be “commending” himself a little bit much, he did live out the gospel as it was given to him. And did not hesitate to act on it, at the risk of his own life. May hold to that example. Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Notes and Musings After Reading ‘Desiring the Kingdom’

Desiring The Kingdom: notes and musings
Overall Score: 3/5 (https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/43877739-jon-beadle)
Italics = my thoughts
Introduction:
The life of the mind is a study that is very concerned with Christian higher education – a decidedly modern approach to education.  – 17
Thesis: ” [Desiring the Kingdom is] an invitation to re-vision Christian education as a formative rather than just an informative project.” – 18 “philosophical anthropology”
“What if the church unwittingly adopts the same liturgical practices as the market and the mall? Will it then really be a sight of counter-formation?” – 25
“These quasi-liturgies effect an education of desire, a pedagogy of the heart. But if the church is complicit with this sort of formation, where could we look for an alternative education of desire?” – 25
Core Claim: “…liturgies – whether “sacred” or “secular” – shape and constitute our identities by forming our most fundamental desires and our most basic attunement to the world. In short, liturgies make us certain kinds of people, and what defines us is what we love.” – 25
Defining Education: “An education, then, is a constellation of practices, rituals, and routines that inculcates a particular vision of the good life by inscribing or infusing that vision into the heart (the gut) by means of material, embodied practices…Behind the veneer of a “value-free” education concerned with providing skills, knowledge, and information is an educational vision that remains formative. There is no neutral, nonformative education; in short, there is no such things as a “secular” education.
I’m learning that the “Secular” is a myth, a game that millions participate in on a daily basis. It feigns the common space as a neutral space. War, it seems to communicate, the opposite of neutrality. The path to peace in this case is the path to a static utopia of live and let live. As we have seen with the new activists, the public space is longing to be filled with values. Whereas the liberals (I include conservatives within this designation of lower case “l”) pretended the public space was neutral – although it was certainly not neutral, cultivating a generation of Christian consumers and “know-nothings” – radical progressives now demand that the public space be populated by a liturgy of inclusivity, equity, and diversity. For our purposes, I will here on out refer to the big three as the “unholy trinity.” We believed that secular education was nonformative, when it reality it was all formative.
If Christians are to retain any level of continuity with the global church, as well as the historic church, she is then to shed the dead weight of liberal secularism and adopt a post-liberal strategy. One facet of the solution must be to reclaim a form of Christian education that does more than teach Christian ideas and form students with apologetics, the “life of the mind.” The Christian school must first and foremost be a place, as Jamie Smith articulates, that cultivates what students should love; in short, virtue. We begin with that which is below the neck and move onto the mind. And what we love is that which is what we desire as a way of life (Smith 2009, 27). Our love is shaped by practices and refined by the mind[1]. A Christian education is not primarily to do with “Christian” ideas; rather, it has to do with Christian formation. It is formation over, but not against, worldview. If both are held in proper perspective then all of the classics may be engaged because there is no fear that a pagan idea will dominate a Christian idea. All truth is God’s truth, and the same goes for formation. If it forms you to love God, and magnify his Son, Jesus Christ, it is “Christian.” The center of gravity for your mind is your body.
Therefore, the primary Question beneath all questions that we should be asking is this: Is Christian education one in which all ideas that are passed from instructor to students being countered by the very environment (Smith 2009, 31)?
“Let me suggest an axiom: behind every pedagogy is a philosophical anthropology.” – 27
Part 1: We Are What We Love
Overall goal: “…to scketch a formal account of education as the formation of the imagination by affective practices.” – 37
Ch. 1: Homo Liturgics: the human person as a lover
Rationalist-Based Anthropology: For us to be “Educated” we are “formed.” You are not educated if you know things; rather, you are properly educated if you have the virtue and the skill to navigate the chaotic world with your identity, emotions, and reason intact (Smith 2009, 40). Unfortunately, we have often taught students that their actions flow directly from their mind. Perhaps it is the leftovers of the Certasian way of thinking (I think; therefore, I am”), or perhaps we were so desperate to short circuit the work it took to develop students in a way that strengthened against the bonds of secularism; but we are not first thinking creatures. We are first lovers. We do what we want to do, period. The mind is primarily a lawyer, trying to help our desire justify its actions.
Faith-based Anthropology: “What defines us is not what we think – not the set of ideas we assent to – but rather what we believe, the commitments and trusts that orient our being-in-the-world. – p. 43
Objection #1: Beliefs are often ideas set beneath other ideas. Thus, it keeps the person swimming in rationality, and makes the Christian obsessed with apologetics on the same footing as the rationalist she is trying to critique.
Objection #2: Person-as-believer is still the Cartesian individualist model. – 44
If our way of life can be accomplished without any mediation from the church, it is a Christian heresy. Who of us can live as a body without a head? Perhaps like a chicken we end up running around the yard, but not for very long (Smith 2009, 45).
“While the Reformed tradition of worldview-thinking generates a radical critique of rationalism and its attendant claims to objectivity and secularity, the critique still feels reductionistic insofar as it fails to accord a central role to embodiment and practice. Because of this blind spot, it continues to yield a quasi-rationalist pedagogy.” – 45
The Augustinian claim is that human are primarily oriented towards the world through love. The person-as-thinker and person-as-believer claims are anthropological reductions. – 46
Person-as-lover Anthropology: We are “embodied agents of desire or love.” – 47
“So as we inhabit the world primarily in a noncognitive, affective mode of intentionality, implicit in that love is an end, or telos. In other words, what we love is a specific vision of the good life, an implicit picture of what we think human flourishing looks like.” – 52
“Augustine would say that the effect of sin on our love is not that we stop loving but that our love becomes disordered. It gets aimed at the wrong ends and finds ‘enjoyment’ in what it should merely be ‘using.’ Or, in other words, instead of being caritas, our love becomes cupiditas. See Augustine, Teaching Christianity 1.26.27-1.27.28.” – 52 (footnote 25)
Social Imaginary Versus Worldviewism – 65
“The ‘social imaginary’ is an affective, noncognitive understanding of the world. It is described as an imaginary (rather than theory) because it is fueled by the stuff of the imagination rather than the intellect: it is made up of, and embedded in, stories, narratives, myths, and icons. These visions capture our hearts and imaginations by ‘lining’ our imagination, as it were – providing us with frameworks of ‘meaning’ by which we make sense of our world and our calling in it. An irreducible understanding of the world resides in our intuitive, precognitive grasp of these stories.” – 68
In order to grow in one’s desire for God one must grow in virtue (noncognitive “dispositions”), acquired through practice. Christian truth is such that you only “know” it is true when you have first begun to live as if they are true. – 71
(Reminder: Read George Linbeck)
Ch. 2: Love Takes Practice: Liturgy, Formation, And Counter-Formation
This is an incredibly boring chapter. It connects many cultural dots for the groundwork laid in the first chapter but has no profundity whatsoever. Seriously.
Ch. 3: Lovers in a Dangerous Time: Cultural Exegesis of “Secular” Liturgies
“We also need to keep in mind just how this process works. Because we are embodied, affective, liturgical animals, our love and desire are shaped and directed by rituals and practices that work on our imaginary; this can often be a sort of automation that inscribes in us habits formed without our recognition because they are operative at the level of the adaptive unconscious – particularly if we fail to recognize the practices as formative rituals.” – 94
We begin with liturgics – the practices, stories, myths that shape our unconscious, thus our lives – move on into the imaginative, where our conscious mind interacts with the unconscious, and rituals are then enacted. Thus, it is wise for the church to have an intense interest in the stories, films, and imaginative formative influences that are out there in the world because their influence is more powerful than even the lecturing that secularism engages within. In fact, in America, most people are not consciously secular. They go to church, believe in God, the divine plan that mystically governs their lives, and purpose. And yet, secularism is the unconscious religion because these same people live in such a way that is anti-thetical to the Christian tradition. Meaning: Christians in America today have more in common with Epicurus than St. Benedict, or St. Augustine. When we accept the cultural liturgy as normative for the water we swim in, our churches will be parallel with the mall-as-polis.
There are no limits to the impact of consumerism on Christian church. And this view of capital is not neutral. Just attend a heavily populated youth group.
Are the kids reciting the Apostles Creed?
Are they taking communion?
No.
The likelihood of ancient forms in the youth space is slim to none. Rather, it is a rush to mimic the culture. A concession in order to “get them in the door to hear the gospel.” The problem is clear: we make believers who are still thoroughly persuaded by the forms of consumerism than that of Christianity. I’m not saying Youth Groups should not have hip hop or games; rather, they should be given to discipleship for the whole person. The role of consumerism is of a non-stop revolution. And yes, that may make me sound like a Marxist (I am not!) but the criticism must be taken seriously. Our children seek stability, and the constant barrage of activities will only hollow out their faith before they are able to get started. The primary issue, unfortunately for the average, and passionate, youth pastor, is that the primary agent in the kid’s conversion to secularism is not the media, but their parents. When I was a youth pastor, parents would come to me in tears. Why isn’t my child a Christian? Perhaps their entire experience was in the externalities, completely devoid of mystical encounters – whether the gifts of the Spirit or the simplest of experiences in “listening prayer.” So when the student is told every week that they can’t do anything, it’s all grace, they hear a slice of truth, but none of the power, narrative, coherence of the Gospel that has the power to keep them. And if they were to put their trust in that power, parents would also realize that the Holy Spirit can keep them in that love more than their inherent ability to be deceived. Parents who want their children to be disciples should first become disciples themselves, get more excited about worship that the Bachelorette, and perhaps their children will follow suit. I say this as a parent.
Every parent should read “Demons” by Dostoevsky. It paints a portrait of a handful of smart young people.  
God does not go to church. We go to Him. The Magi were seeking not a country, but a King; a Kingdom. In this sense, the dominion of our King is our King Himself. This is why discussions of the dialectic between the individual and the collective fall flat in the church because the “community” of faith is a synthesis of the two.
Part 2: Desiring the Kingdom – The Practiced Shape of the Christian Life
A more practical approach. Also, meh.
Ch. 4: From Worship to Worldview – Christian Worship and the formation of Desire
“The point here is that just as worship precedes the formation of the biblical canon (“The Bible”), so too does participation in Christian worship precede the formulation of doctrine and the articulation of worldview. Lived worship is the fount from which a worldview springs, rather than being the expression or application of some cognitive set of beliefs already in place.” – 136
Those who constantly emphasize that their service is not meant to be a “show” and yet, constantly dim the lights and turn up the sound to the level of a deafening effect are lying. The sacramental space is the “social imaginary.” It is the place where we reimagine “place” in the world. So when the worship space is merely a nest for the spoken truth, it is already subverting its potential by refusing to nest the space in the imagination of the unconscious, which celebrates love, purpose, hope, and, well, the story within the story, the Gospel. We must be vigilant in asking the following kinds of questions: does our heart scream at the level of a Handel’s Messiah when we see the break broken over the communion table, or when we get an unexpected discount at Target?
When Jesus lifts up the bread and says “This is my body,” He claims the universal within the particular. The transcendent fully collides with the immanent, within that brokenness. It is, as one songwriter has said, a collision more akin to a sloppy wet kiss than a proper ballroom dance. (Smith 2009, 149).
“First, it is not only high-church or liturgical contexts that are liturgical and formative. All Christian worship – whether Anglican or Anabaptist, Pentecostal or Presbyterian – is liturgical in the sense that it is governed by norms, draws on tradition, includes bodily rituals or routines, and involves formative practices. For instance, though Pentecostal worship is often considered to be the antithesis of liturgy, it actually includes many of the same elements: charismatic worship is very embodied (hands raised in praise, kneeling at the altar in prayer, laying on hands in hope, etc.); it has a common unwritten routine (“praise” music, followed by quieter “worship” music, followed by the sermon and then often “altar time”); and these practices of Pentecostal worship are deeply formative, shaping our imagination to relate to the world in a unique way. In this sense, even Pentecostal worship is liturgical; indeed, as we’ve emphasized above, Christian worship can’t help but be embodied and material.” – 152
Ch. 5: Practicing (for) the Kingdom: An Exegesis of the Social Imaginary Embedded in Christian Worship:
“ [the eucharist is] the school of active love for neighbor.” – John Paul II
Ch. 6: A Christian University Is for Lovers – The Education of Desire
Students should not be handed a “Christian” perspective. They should in fact, let go of perspective and seize Reality. Perception is not Reality, only to those who are willing to live with their eyes on the three feet of ground in front of them. (Smith 2009, 218).
Corruption of the Youth = New Monastic Vision for Christian life
Final Takeaways:
Rod Dreher did it better with _The Benedict Option_.
I really want to read _For The Life of the World_ now!
The use of pop culture and movies are helpful, but beneath the scope of his engagement. If you distinguish between thick and thin practices, why pander? I don’t think he often chooses the most interesting examples, which was also a problem  with his book on Charles Taylor and Relativism.
My favorite part of the chapters were always the footnotes. Sassy. Tasty. 
Now I want to read Graham Greene.
The first chapter is worth the entire book. Or just read the first chapter, and pick up rod Dreher’s book. 
I can’t drop Douglas Wilson’s criticism of this book — that Smith actually argues for a slimmed down version of Modernity with the use of Post-Modernity as a lens for his critique of Modernity. This is unavoidable for most po-mo types because their very critique is contingent upon modernity having the cultural power, making po-mo “parasitic,” dependent and weak. Thus, Smith’s post-liberal ideas are much stronger. But he simply tells us to go read his other book…boo! 
Smith really, really, absolutely, really, adores Heidegger. I was almost moved to pick up my copy of _Being and Time_ but then decided to take a Tylenol instead.
[1] In Jonathan Haidts book “The Righteous Mind,” he makes a solid case for the human being as an animal of desire, first, and of the mind, second.
 

Syndicated from Jon Beadle

In the Beginning Was Love

In the beginning was Love. Love was with God, and Love was God, for God is Love. Everything came into being through Love, and nothing came into being without her. All things were created through Love and for Love. Love is before all things, and in her all things are held together.
Syndicated from Hippie Heretic

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