Friday, March 28, 2008

I just saw a bank robbery!

...well...kind of. I just saw part of the high speed chase after the bank robbery. I was on Interstate 694 eastbound when I saw a car screaming past heading the opposite direction with about a dozen police cars chasing it. I turned on the radio and heard a live update about the chase. Ten minutes later, they announced that they had pulled him over and had footage of him throwing bags of money out of his car window (no, I didn't pull over and help myself...). Five minutes after that, the radio reported that they "pulled him over" by shooting him from behind and that the bank robber was dead on the scene. More updates as I hear them...

The suspect was shot, but not killed. "He'll be just fine" according to the new reports.

...UPDATE 2...
They still haven't released the name of the suspect, but they believe he's been involved in other area bank robberies. Dude, quit while you're ahead!! Full story here.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Thoughts on the Obama/Wright Fiasco

Since the media isn't about to let the issue go yet, I decided to weigh in on the comments by Obama's pastor Rev. Jeremiah Wright. I'm going to go after this on two fronts - first, the cynically politicized and second the hopefully Christian.

Cynically Politicized
Why are you people making such a big deal about things that Obama's pastor says? Of course he hasn't left the church. That church is the largest black church on the south side of Chicago. The reason he goes there is because he needed it to form his political base when he was first running for office. He doesn't take Rev. Wright seriously. No one does. Just relax and recognize that our political system requires candidates to be church-going people. Therefore, candidates choose the most prestigious churches that they can find. This whole issue says nothing about Obama's judgment or his beliefs. He simply used the church for his own benefit...just like every other politician does. He stuck with Wright and his church for the same reason that Hillary stuck with Bill...power and politics.

Hopefully Christian
Wouldn't it be great if it wasn't an assumption that the minute we disagree with our pastor we are obligated to leave our church? I know, I know, you're going to say that it's not just disagreeing with the pastor, it's the level of hatred and vitriol that would make it impossible to stay in a church like that. But what if Obama is more interested in the community than the pastor? What if some aberrant beliefs aren't enough to cause him to leave the church where he found his faith, where his kids were baptized, where he finds emotional and spiritual support from a community that loves and embraces him? What if Wright also offers spiritual counsel that is very different from these publicized comments? What if he also offers good and faithful teachings that have been beneficial to Obama's spiritual development? What if Obama recognizes that Wright's comments are wrong (which he does) but instead of leaving, he decides to be a voice of change in the community that he loves? Can't we find a way to be Christian without dividing into tinier and more fragmented groups ALL THE TIME!!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Good Friday Reflection

Due to the inclement weather on this second day of spring, we have elected not to have our Good Friday Experience this evening. Instead, I have posted a reflection that contains some of the thoughts and reflections that we were going to talk through this evening. God bless!

For Christians today, it is virtually impossible to talk about the crucifixion without simultaneously thinking about the resurrection. We know that death isn’t really death…out of death, life. But for today, Good Friday, our goal is to try to forget that we know how the story ends.

Today, we are going to explore abandonment, loneliness, the absence of God. It is a moment when we experience for ourselves Christ’s cry on the cross. It is a moment when we ourselves feel abandoned by God and alone in the world. That day is always a little closer than we are comfortable with, as we have all experienced the unsettling feeling of abandonment, when perhaps everything we believe is empty words and hopeless dreams. This is the tragedy of the cross…not just the suffering of an innocent man…but the removal, the absence of God.

For Reflection: When have you felt lonely, alone, abandoned? When have you felt that even God didn’t care?

Read Matthew 26:36-46

Poem: The Sins of the Father

I was hungry for love, and you ignored me
I was thirsty for encouragement but all I received was criticism
I was naked - ashamed with no self worth; you couldn’t even look at me
I felt like a stranger in a strange land – you did not make me feel at home
I was sick with depression, and all I felt was your condemnation
I was in the prison of the soul, and you were silent
I tried to sing, but my songs did not touch you
I spilt out my inky soul onto pages, but you would never read a word
You were there, but all I felt was absence
Your presence was my desert
The image of you tormented me, for it became a memorial
A reminder of love’s privation
The absent father, who was there, but was not there
Cursed are you in your abstraction - for there you can mean nothing to me
I remember that day I sat down in front of you
And asked you to say that you loved me
For any father should love his child
But you just looked back at me blankly…
…you made a bastard out of me.

Read Matthew 27:11-16

Put yourself in the crowd as you respond to Pilate's questions:

Pilate: “Which one do you want me to release to you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?”

Me: Barabbas!

Pilate: “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?”
“But he is a criminal.”
“A thief.”
“A troublemaker.”
“He cares nothing for you!”
“I don’t understand!”

Pilate: “What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called Christ?”
Me: Crucify him!
Pilate: “Why? What crime has he committed?”
Me: Crucify him!
Pilate: “But he is an innocent man!”
Me: Crucify him!
Pilate: “He is your king!”
Me: Crucify him!
Pilate: “Your Lord!”
Me: Crucify him!
Pilate: “He heals the sick!”
Me: Crucify him!
Pilate: “He raises the dead!”
Me: Crucify him!
Pilate: “I don’t understand!”
Me: Crucify him!

Pilate: “I am innocent of this man’s blood. It is your responsibility.”
Me: Let his blood be on us and on our children!
Pilate: “Do you know what you are saying?”
Me: Let his blood be on us and on our children!
Pilate: “You will carry this weight?”
Me: Let his blood be on us and on our children!
Pilate: “You will carry this guilt?”
Me: Let his blood be on us and on our children!
Pilate: “You have said it. Let it be so.”

Reflection: How many times have we chosen Barabbas over Jesus? A person. A secret sin. A cherished possession. An unspoken longing. Reputation. Prestige. Each of us has a Barabbas. And each of us has willingly placed his blood on our hands. What have you chosen today in place of Jesus?

Read Matthew 27:27-50

Reflection: Sit for a few minutes and think about Jesus' loneliness. Abandoned by his friends. Abandoned by God. Abandoned by you. Alone.

Court Case

In a world where following Christ is decreed a subversive and illegal activity you have been arrested and brought before a court.

The prosecution has quite a case against you. They begin by offering the judge dozens of photographs which show you attending church meetings, speaking at religious events and participating in various prayer and worship services. Next they present a few of the religious books that you own, followed by some of your worship CDs and Christian artifacts. After this they step up the pace and present many of the poems, pieces of prose and journal entries that you have written about faith. Then in closing the prosecution offers your bible to the judge. This is a well-worn book with scribbles, notes, drawings and underling throughout, evidence, if it were needed, that you had read and re-read this sacred text many times.

Throughout the case you have been sitting silently in fear and trembling. You know deep in your heart that, with the evidence amassed against you, you face the possibility of a long imprisonment or even death. At various times throughout the proceedings you have been on the verge of standing up and denying Christ. But while this thought has haunted your mind you resist the temptation and remain focused.

Once the prosecution has finished presenting their case the judge proceeds to ask if you have anything to add, but you remain silent and resolute, terrified that if you open your mouth you would deny the charges made against you. After a few moments of silence you are led away while the judge ponders your case.

The hours pass slowly as you wait to be summoned back. Eventually a guard appears and leads you into the courtroom in order to hear the verdict and receive word of your punishment. The judge enters the room, stands before you, looks deep into your eyes and begins to speak,

“Of the charges that have been brought forward I find the accused not guilty”.

“Not guilty”, your heart freezes. Then, in a split second, the fear and terror that had moments before threatened to strip your resolve is transformed into confusion and rage. Despite your fear, you stand before the judge and demand that he tell you why you are innocent of the charges in light of all the evidence.

“What evidence” he replies in shock.

“What about the poems and prose that I wrote?”

“They simply show that you think of yourself as a poet.”

“But what about the services I spoke at, the times I wept in church and the days that I offered myself for prayer?”

“Evidence that you are a good speaker and actor, nothing more. It is obvious that you fooled those around you, and perhaps even yourself, but this foolishness is not enough to convict you in a court of law”

“But this is madness, no evidence would seem to convince you”

“Not so” replied the judge as if informing me of a great, long forgotten secret,

“The court is indifferent toward your bible reading and church attendance; it has no concern for worship with words and a pen. Continue to develop your theology, and use it to paint pictures of love. We have no interest in such armchair artists who spend their time creating images of a better world. We exist only for those who would lay down that brush, and their life, in a Christ-like endeavor to create it. So then, until you live as Christ and his followers, until you challenge this system and become a thorn in our side, until you die to yourself and offer your body to the flames, until then my friend you are no enemy of ours”.

Friday, March 14, 2008

My Catholic Daughter

Last night when I put my two-year-old daughter to bed, I asked her if she wanted to pray. Here's how the conversation went...

Corey: Would you like to pray first?

Lily: I pray to Mary.

Corey: What did you say?

Lily: I pray to Mary, Jesus' mommy.

Corey: Well, why don't we pray to Jesus instead.

Lily: Dear Baby Jesus...

So she's either becoming Catholic or Will Ferrell, I'm not sure which yet.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The Last Word 8

In chapter 7 of "The Last Word", N.T. Wright describes how the polarization of left, right, conservative, liberal, modern, and postmodern have resulted in misreadings of Scripture on both sides. He lists these misreadings as falling generally into the "right" and "left".

Some of the misreadings of the right include:
  • The openly dualistic 'rapture' readings of 1 Thess. 4
  • The explicitly materialistic 'prosperity gospel' understanding of biblical promises
  • The support of slavery (not currently, but historically used by the right)
  • The endemic racism of much of Western culture (again, generally historically, but some groups still use scripture on which to base their racist claims)
  • Undifferentiated reading of the Old and New Testament
  • Unacknowledged and arbitrary pick-and-mix selection of an implicit canon-within-the-canon
  • Support for the death penalty (which was opposed by many early church fathers)
  • Discovery of 'religious' meanings and excluding 'political' ones, thereby supporting the social status quo
  • Screening out the Jewish dimension of Paul's writings, Romans in particular
  • Attempting 'biblical' support for the modern state of Israel as the fulfillment of scriptural prophecy
  • An overall failure to pay attention to context and hermeneutics
The misreadings of the left include:
  • The claim to 'objectivity' or to a 'neutral' reading of the text (the classic modern position)
  • The claim that modern history or science has either 'disproved the Bible' or made its central claims redundant, undesirable, or unbelievable
  • The 'cultural relativity' argument: The Bible is an old book that we can't take seriously in a modern world
  • Rationalist rewritings of history which use as a starting point the things that the Enlightenment wanted to prove
  • Caricaturing biblical teaching on some topics in order to be able to set aside its teaching on other topics
  • Discovery of 'political' meanings to the exclusion of 'religious' ones
  • The proposal that the NT used the OT in a fairly arbitrary or unwarranted fashion, leading to the conclusion that we can use the NT the same way.
  • The claim that the NT writers did not think they were writing Scripture
  • Pointing out that the church took a while to settle on the precise canon and using this as an argument to discredit the canon and privilege other non-canonical books
  • A skin-deep appeal to 'contextual readings'
Some might disagree with Wright's perspective on this (and might also wonder how he determines that his understanding of these issues is, in fact, correct). But the point remains that people regularly misread Scripture based on their backgrounds. How to reconcile these differences is the subject of the final chapter of the book.