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In one of my last classes at Bethel Seminary, I stumbled onto a discussion board dialogue that left me thinking. Thinking deeply, in fact.
Two of my friends were discussing burn out in the North American church. More specifically the heavy demands put on pastors. While the conversation initially held my attention because of burnout, it ended up leaving me wondering about the future role of pastors in the church.
My friends went back and forth on a few exchanges in this thread. Then one of them–a man who is characteristically reserved about his personal life–let us in a little bit to where he was at personally. It was telling … and quite refreshing. He said:
I’m getting to a point where I’m wondering exactly what my vocational future will be. I know my limitations, and I’m simply uninterested in assuming the mantle of perfect, superhero to lead a bunch of Christians down some imaginary journey to their own perfection. If I find a church that wants a messed up dude like myself and feels like paying me to be their pastor and offer them what I have to offer, that sounds great to me. I’ll do my best to earn their generosity. But I also want to keep my fingers in the officiating world because I’ve developed some great relationships there that I want to maintain (and I think I’m good at it, and I enjoy it). So, if that means that I’ll be doing the sort of bi-vocational thing that you’re doing, that’s on the table for me.
His thinking was echoed by many in the class. Keep in mind, the people I go to school with are already in ministry, leading churches and ministries on a daily basis. They’re the pastors, deacons, elders and board members that make up your church. This wasn’t an isolated incident, either.
Another wise friend of mine weighed in on the issue. This is a man who’s been around ministry his whole life. He’s a PK (preacher’s kid) and he gets it. When discussing the future of the North American church he stated that “very few” churches will be able to afford full-time pastors in the future. “Just watching the trends,” he said, “most churches won’t have the money to afford full-time staff. Pastors will most likely need to be bi-vocational.” Another eye-opener for me, as he’s someone whose opinion I value greatly.
I’m beginning to wonder if bi-vocationalism is going to be a necessary part of the pastorate for the 21st century? I wonder if we’ve created a role in the “superhero” pastor that is, to borrow a business term, not “scalable” for future generations. We’ve forced our pastors to be the Every Man and Every Woman that No One is capable of being. Bi-vocationalism will provide a healthy distance for pastors and their congregations while alleviating growing economic concerns in many (not all) North American churches.
- Paul seemed to be down with bi-vocationalism.
- Jesus was a carpenter.
- I know of one church that requires (yes requires–as in, “you have to do this”) their pastoral staff to be bi-vocational. Love that. It forces them as a staff to get out into the community.
What are your thoughts? How would you feel about your pastor being bi-vocational? Pastors, do you see this as something you’d be willing to try? What are some potential pitfalls? Benefits?
Nothing wrong with wearing red on Pentecost.
But if no one
-gets filled with the Spirit
-speaks in tongues
-accuses your members of being drunk at 9am in the morning
-gets converted (there were 3k on Pentecost)
…then we need Linus to get up on stage and read us the Bible story (which he does so well for Christmas) to remind us of what Pentecost is really all about.
As with much of the high-octane faith in the Bible, we have de-natured it for “polite” church use. Instead of calling down fire from heaven, we wear red sport shirts.
Veni Sancte Spiritus
Job utters his famous soundbite:
The LORD giveth, and the LORD taketh away.
Problem is, according to the story in the Bible, he was wrong.
The devil did all the taking. God did not lift a finger to take.
“Allow” and “take” are two different verbs.
There are many cases like this in the Bible, where a particular individual has a “perspective problem” (i.e. doesn’t see the whole picture), and voices it.
Thus, the person is “in error” in an inerrant book.
Now, for the record, I am a strident supporter of Biblical inerrancy. For a lot of reasons. But that’s the topic of another post.
The problem is, these “problematic” sound-bites have legs, and get quoted. For instance, Job’s quote is a central verbal phrase in the classical Anglican funeral liturgy. Cranmer, the Book of Common Prayer, and all that.
Have a good look at the bottom of the gravestone above.
There are lots of other examples of catchy non-role-model-thought throughout the Bible. The most famous one is Job’s wife: Curse God and die.
What are your thoughts on this?
As of sometime in 2011, there are no more American manned space launches planned.
And it’s going out with a whimper, not a bang.
Not saying this is a good or a bad thing. Just a fact.
Each of the three remaining space shuttles is on her last trip–they are headed for museums (Atlantis, Discovery, Endeavor). Columbia and Challenger disintegrated with their crews aboard. There were five in the fleet; a 40% loss.
From now on, Americans will be hitch-hiking rides to the ISS (International Space Station) aboard Russian ships. Russia is the only nation remaining with solid, regular manned launch capacity. China dabbles in it. Europe and Japan never attained it. India is supposedly planning on it.
The problem is, America has no goals in space. No goals in any system, and entropy and bean-counting sets in. “Astronauts holding their knees up and spinning around in zero-G for TV” gets boring after a while. As does their swallowing water bubbles.
Kennedy was, far and away, the greatest of the space visionaries. His “to the moon before the (60’s) decade is out” mobilized the nation in one of its two truly great “collective” adventures. The other one was World War 2.
Both were a smashing success. Our two biggest “wins” as a nation.
A great goal has to be measurable and (barely) attainable. That was Kennedy’s genius. He put a concrete (outrageous) goal together with a timeline. Much of our technology today derives from that effort (including the computing power that lets you read this).
As for the second great national adventure, we are so stuck in nostalgia that we still have a WW2-style military (tanks and carriers), 65 years after the end of that great war, looking around for something to do. And without any clear “wins” to chalk up since the Japanese surrendered on the deck of the Battleship Missouri.
Both great adventures have left us with a lot of rusting hardware. And a lack of clear direction ever since the task-completing “victories.”
But on the positive side, compare how Roosevelt reacted to Pearl Harbor to how Bush II responded to 9-11. Just a shade variation in clarity and measurability makes all the difference. Roosevelt asked congress, at the declaration of war, to picture total surrender on the part of the Empire of Japan. And less than four years later, they had the big glossy pictures of the capitulation to show in LIFE magazine.
“Fighting terrorism,” on the other hand, is not measurable, unless you make a concrete step within that battle the “tripwire” goal. Bin Laden is still at large, almost a full decade later.
We have been vision-less as a nation since Eugene Cernan took his foot off the moon (for the last time) in 1972. We haven’t even left Earth orbit since that time.
Not that our goals have to be in outer space.
But they have to be worthy of a prosperous nation of 300 million.
“Creating better jobs” or “cleaning up the environment” are great ideas, but they aren’t measurable. It won’t lead to epic “YES!” moments with sailors kissing nurses in Times Square, or every TV on earth trained on Neil Armstrong’s fuzzy image from the surface of the moon, complete with his well-meant, but semi-botched lines.
The Bible says: Without a vision, the people perish.
Back to our space program.
It is ironic, that, starting in 2011, if an American wants to get into space, he or she will have to ride atop an updated Russian R-7 booster, the same one that launched Sputnik, the first artificial satellite, in 1957.
We’ve gone redneck. Seven rusting cars in the front yard and we still need a ride to work. No Russian know-how, no Americans in space. Our astronauts are, in effect, becoming cosmonauts.
Korolev designed the iconic R-7 booster in the 50’s, and it (in continuously updated form) has remained the workhorse of the Russian space program ever since. Like the Kalashnikov rifle, once you perfect something that’s tough and it works, keep using it. High-tech doesn’t always lead to highest reliability.
Other boosters have come and gone, but the rocket that first initiated space exploration (53 years ago) is now the only one still left bringing people into space. The tortoise has overtaken the hare.
Here’s a proposal. We need something.
I believe that the United States should commit itself to starting a permanent, self-sustaining colony on Mars before this decade is out. Before 2020. It would be catchy to call it (or another vision like it) a 20/20 vision.
The reason we haven’t gone to Mars is because the technology required for a ROUND TRIP is so expensive and complex. You have to send a spacecraft to Mars which is capable of flying back to Earth (where there are no gas stations to refuel it, by the way–so you have to take propellant for the return trip with you). And then, when the astronauts return from Mars, as they did for the moon, we will have abandoned it. No one will be left up there. It’s not a conquest–it’ a drive-by.
The whole thing gets very doable if you think of ONE WAY rather than round trip. Think “Mayflower,” not Columbus.
Figure out a way to make building material out of the Martian soil. Send an unmanned supply ship (one way) every so often.
The whole point would be staying there.
As with the Mayflower, not everyone will survive. But there would be no shortage of volunteers! Who knows what great new nation could come of it?
The colonists would have to be young and of child-bearing age. They would capture the imagination of people on Earth. We would get to know them and follow their progress. Nations would compete to send them one-way care packages of things they need.
It would be good if they all had one language and one basic spiritual perspective–we don’t need to re-create the strife we have here on Earth.
They would have to find a way to produce food there (not rely on supply ships forever).
It might fail. But we could do it with current technology. Creativity would escalate in the face of problem-solving. We would even learn a lot of things about applied sustainability here on Earth by creating sustainability there.
Getting back to Earth is the problem. If you don’t have to come back, you solve a lot of these problems. Payloads increase. Equations simplify.
If not this goal, then what? What are your ideas for a worthy vision for our nation? Post them in the responses. Let’s get a good discussion going.
The truth is, America will soon cease to be a spacefaring nation. Is that what we really want?
Please pass the link to this essay on to others in the aerospace world. I’d love to hear from them. LINK to this essay > http://wp.me/pGQxY-a1
Follow me on Twitter @RobinwoodChurch
Che and Marty
Movements “morph” over time. And the labels they once used no longer fit what the movements have become. Revolutionaries become oppressors. Conservatives become Progressives and even the primary change agents.
Disclaimer: This essay is not for the irony- and humor-impaired. I am not promoting any partisan political view. I am just pointing out how words change their meaning over time and no one seems to notice. And how “true believers” of any “line of thought” are more than ready to accept huge contradictions for the sake of their cause.
For the record (I always lay my cards on the table): I am a family-values free-market guy.
I just see some cracks in the ice, and think it’s a good idea to tell you where they are…
Also, there is a PG-13 woodcut coming up. Commissioned by Martin Luther. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Think about these five words:
The meanings of these words change over time. In a few generations, a total 180-degree-shift in meaning is possible.
German Reformer Martin Luther was an almost-crazy, authority-taunting radical. He was the “Che” of the 16th century; except that Luther was more influential than Che over time. Che, on the other hand, was more iconically photogenic and had a cooler rifle. Both are responsible for much violence and bloodshed as a result of their charismatically resistant posture. They both also had streaks of bigotry a mile wide.
Luther’s most ardent followers today are anything but radical. There is no word “rigid” enough to describe some of his most enthusiastic students. Luther wouldn’t spend five minutes with these “hyper-Lutherans” if he were alive today. He would drink too much beer, make fun of them, and probably get some world-class artist to do woodcut-cartoons of them with animal heads. Like the one below he had done of the Pope:
Pardon the PG-13 nature of Luther’s propaganda. He was a tad earthy. Well…more than a tad.
“Lutheranism” is a prime example of radicalism, over time, under the same banners and labels, becoming entrenched “conservatism.”
And today’s self-proclaimed political “conservatives” are anything but conserving. Especially here in California. They are trying to reform a bloated, decadent societal core–grown fat on entitlements, and trying to accomplish this more or less from the outside. Hint: the ones chopping away with hatchets are not those who are conserving things.
California will be electing a governor this year, maybe the one in the EBay pic above. “Conservatives” are running as the ones who are going to dismantle, not preserve/conserve the “large public sector” system. Thus, “conservative” is the wrong word for them. They are the progressives, but they are afraid to use that word.
And, liberals are liberal? Hardly. They seem to be the ones who want more, not less, regulation. Liberal should have a “laissez faire” economic and social vibe, as it does in Europe. The word “libertarian” is a close cognate, but true liberals won’t return their phone calls.
Liberals want to tell me that I can’t have a weapon in my house potent enough to protect my family and neighbors should there be large scale social unrest (already happened here in LA twice in the past couple of generations), even if the US Constitution is crystal clear in saying that I can.
After Lexington and Concord, the founding fathers saw the value in a lethally-potent local militia of gun-owners powerful enough to chase away trained (Red Coat) armies. Such combat-quality weapons today are “California Unapproved.” What’s liberal about that? Not saying I want or need such a weapon, but telling me I can’t have one is not very “liberal.” Liberals, if they are true to their label, shouldn’t want the government to have a monopoly on force. They should be NRA members.
By the way, famous British “red coat” general Burgoyne surrendered 8,000 of the best trained soldiers on earth to the barely-trained American citizen militia at Saratoga during the Revolution in 1777 at least partly because one regular American guy, Tim Murphy, put a bullet through General Simon Fraser’s heart (from 200 yards out) with his own rifle, which was better (sporting newfangled spiral rifle threads) than any muskets with which the Red Coats were equipped. The gun was made in the USA and not registered anywhere with the authorities.
Every time I’m in Europe discussing politics, someone reminds me that our liberals in the US are not really liberals. Liberals in Europe (like the Free Democratic Party-FDP in Germany, or the VVD in Holland) are the free-market, no-regulation people.
Liberal is Latin for “freedom-oriented.”
And our “Conservatives” are actually big socialists when it comes to military spending. They love huge socialized military (Think about it, we are 4% of the world population and we spend over half of the military money on earth). This outrageous spending, along with other entitlements (much of which are going to people who don’t need them–many of the people getting social security would be fine without it) are the reason you have to work most of the first half of the year just to pay our taxes.
Somehow it doesn’t count as big government if it’s armed. If you break the economic back of the country through military spending, somehow that’s not big government. We won’t mention that, by far, the biggest office building in Washington is…the Pentagon. If aliens landed in DC, they would go there to find the leaders.
Conservatives used to be against foreign wars and “entangling alliances.” Now they want to build aircraft carriers that cost a bazillion dollars and sail them all over the world, way far from home, poking our noses around where we have little business being. What on earth were we doing in Kosovo and Somalia? Would we want Chinese aircraft carriers (thank God they don’t have any) sailing around in the Gulf of Mexico? We do the equivalent to everyone else all the time, our Nimitz-class carriers commanding sovereignty over an area bigger than California wherever they go. No wonder we have PR problems.
The Russkies sent one old navy cruiser and a destroyer escort to Venezuela in 2008 and we had a cow.
And all of this, and we can’t, a decade after 9/11, with stratospheric spending and the ability to read license plates from orbit, find ONE guy behind the WTC attacks. Not exactly a lot of bang for our (countless) bucks.
Please hear me, I’m not anti-military. I think a draft would be a good idea, as long as draftees had a choice between military and non-military public service. And I am proud of our soldiers and sailors, who do their best given the decisions that our leaders make.
There are lots of valid opinions on this, I just believe that our true security interests are:
1) Ensuring stability, free trade, and prosperity in the Western Hemisphere, in cooperation with local governments.
2) Protecting the nation from incoming missiles from rogue states.
3) Foiling the efforts of yet more nations to achieve nuke status. Ideally through diplomacy. By stealth and sabotage if necessary.
4) Making sure there is never another 9/11 or Pearl Harbor.
5) Finding the guys who plot 9/11 schemes and bringing them to justice (Bin Laden types). Best done by special elite forces, not by invading whole nations (Iraq and Afghanistan).
6) Ensure that air travel is safe and convenient.
We don’t need tanks or aircraft carriers to pull off any of the above. WW2 was over in 1945. Nostalgia continues to craft our military budgets.
Just my opinion (and there are lots of good opinions), but I think we should pull out, militarily, of the Eastern Hemisphere altogether. Especially the Middle East. If we got cut off from their oil, it would force us to become self sufficient–and it’s about time we did learn how to provide our own energy needs.
How about another word that has changed meaning? “Progressive.”
The two Republicans on Mount Rushmore were arguably two of the most progressive statesmen we ever had. Abraham Lincoln hardly conserved the status quo. He deconstructed the Southern social/political/economic system by force. He was willing to take casualty numbers in single battles as high as all of our casualties in Vietnam put together (biblical-level battle death) in order to enforce central Washington DC control. Played fast and loose with the Constitution all the time (made Nixon’s line-crossing look like a mischievous choirboy). Hardly a states-rights anti-Washington guy. Phenomenal leader; he did what he had to do. He wouldn’t get to first base with today’s Republicans. Not a strict constitutionalist. Not a church member. Not afraid to shed American blood. Too intellectual. Unable to carry the South.
If you can read his Second Inaugural Address without shedding a tear, you’re not paying attention.
And Republican Teddy Roosevelt kicked the pooey out of established big business, robber barons, and monopolies through…get this….massive new government regulation and federal takeover of HUGE tracts of the Western US for conservation. Lincoln believed in powerful centralized government at the point of a bayonet. TR would be kicked out of today’s Republican party for being “business unfriendly.” His enemies (think today’s Wall Street barons) had to figure out how to put their political teeth back into their mouths after meeting with him.
I think that today’s Republicans are economically progressive/liberal (they want change). The Democrats are the ones who want to conserve big government and create regulation. Except for military, where the Republicans are socialist conservers.
I used the word “progressive” once to describe, favorably, a certain kind of missional evangelical Christian. I was warned by MANY afterwards not to use that “P” word or people might think I’m a liberal…but not liberal in the sense that the word liberal really means.
The Mount Rushmore darling of the (so-called) liberals, Thomas Jefferson, hardly believed in the rainbow coalition and diversity. Current Democratic party conventions would bewilder him. He kept slaves…for a lot of reasons.
He is often invoked by the ACLU to halt school prayer and town square manger scenes, although most all the explicit (and very moving) spiritual/God references in our founding documents come directly from him. He (although quirky-deist in orientation) considered himself a devout follower of Jesus and did several stints as a vestry elder in the local Episcopal congregation.
And his views of US-American rule of the continent were decidedly imperial. More American Indians had to move and go somewhere else because of him than because of any other one person. He planned the Euro-stock settling of the whole Northwest Territories (why it looks like a checkerboard to fly over), which the British had reserved for the Indians, and bought the whole Louisiana purchase to the west of that without really thinking about where to put these Indians (who aren’t from India, as you well know–another word with a total shift in meaning).
And then we go all PC on them with the term Native American. “Native” is Latin for “born here.” Thus, I am a Native American since I was born here (My wife and my son are not–Asia and Europe births). And American? From Amerigo Vespucci, the Italian who finally figured out (unlike Columbus) that this wasn’t Asia. Thus, the First Nations (this Canadian term is way better) peoples that the Europeans found here are “native” (as I am) and connected to some Italian (i.e. “Native American”)? “Native American” is just as odd as calling them “Indians.”
Any why are pro-life people (and I am one of those) usually for the death penalty? Only super-spiritual Catholics seem to come out as consequentially against abortion and the death penalty.
And why are many pro-choice people afraid of laying out all the choices for a woman with an unexpected pregancy and against giving her a day to think it over and make a choice? Or offering her a solid alternative choice to abortion? Seems like only pro-life people show up on the sidewalks of abortion clinics offering women the choices of food, shelter, and long term help. My head swims when I think of this stuff.
And we talk about a woman’s right to choose. What about the 50% chance that there is a woman being formed inside the mother? Is anyone asking that woman if she wants to be born or not? If we’re going to affirm the right of a woman to choose, why not both of the women involved?
And one of the most universally held beliefs out there (left and right) is that late term abortions are (way) yucky. The more you learn about them, the more you think so, no matter how you label yourself. And yet, in a democracy, we still do them. How does that work? Go ahead and google an image of a late term abortion. You won’t forget it.
And the religious far right has to come to terms with the fact that the two of the three most outspoken presidential followers of Jesus in my lifetime were Democrats. Bush the younger is the lone Republican with enough explicit faith even to have had the potential capacity to teach a Sunday school class.
Hint: One of the two Democrats on the explicit-Christian list wrote a book called Born Again and still teaches Sunday School every week.
The darling of the Republicans (also a hero of mine, by the way), presidential-wise, was apparently more interested in astrology readings (yes, I know his wife dragged him into it) than Bible class. But the conservatives forgive him for that. Because…well, I don’t really know. It is not unthinkable that “conservative” Christians will help nominate a Mormon in 2012 to try to unseat a Black evangelical. Never mind that this Mormon instituted the same health care concept for Massachusetts that Obama passed for the USA.
Many of these same hardline “conservatives” believe the bizarre conspiracy that our current president is a Muslim. Never mind that he’s one of two presidents in my lifetime that can describe his explicit concrete born-again Christian conversion experience in any more than somewhat evasively vague terms.
Granted, it’s strange to me that he’s pro-choice. But then, what about American politics isn’t strange (the whole point of this essay).
And then “conservatives” want a free market when talking about goods (which is why you are right now within reach of something made in China) but not with labor (which is why they try to close the borders).
A market cannot be partially free.
A free market does not work without freedom of labor to find its way to capital. If you close the border to labor, you have to close it to goods too, or they will flood in from the outside, manufactured by someone else’s cheap labor.
Unless you are a liberal in the true sense of the word and open it to both (goods and labor).
We don’t make things in America anymore because we seem to be afraid of freely mobile (and cheaper) labor coming into our country.
Not saying I understand all of this, but the contradictions on this topic are not only bizarre, they are heaping up a trade deficit that God himself could never pay off. The result is that capital is leaving our shores in search of overseas labor. Why would we want that? Why not attract BOTH labor and capital in OUR direction? Isn’t that how we built this country in the first place? Isn’t that what brought your ancestors here? Labor seeking capital.
If our immigrant ancestors had faced today’s paperwork immigration regulation jungle, they wouldn’t get in either. It took less time to process a non-English speaker with little meaningful documentation at Ellis island than it takes to change your oil. We basically just checked them for lice, spelled their names wrong, and let them in.
And less than a third of all American immigration (from 1609 onward) was ever documented. If you don’t believe me, try finding all the immigration entry points in your family tree. Even the Mormons can’t find them for you. Widespread passport use wasn’t even common until around World War One.
My ancestors came in legally!
That’s because it was easy back then, usually easier than getting a driver’s license today at the DMV. Or that for a majority of us, no one was even watching.
Picture Title: “Our Trade Deficit”
And all the talk about “securing the borders.” Have you ever flown from LA to Houston with a window seat? Right over the border. Our whole military could never pull it off. The distances are VAST. And most of the Canadian border doesn’t even have a fence. God bless you if you want to “secure the borders.” Good luck–it simply is not physically possible. Your grandmother can cross the Canadian border at will wherever she wants to at any point along the line, night or day. And Canada is so big it doesn’t even really have borders. Certainly no one is able to watch their coasts! I don’t think there are enough Canadians, total, to play red rover with us at the border.
You can believe whatever you want about immigration. But securing the borders is not physically possible. Go ahead and build another Iron Curtain. But remember how well the first one worked. Even the best walls leak…a lot. The Great Wall of China (similar dynamics gave rise to it) never worked. Ever.
We are a funny people. Myself included. We get all caught up in group thinking patterns that spin us away from the truth. We are so off balance that surveys can prove that a few catchy sound bites and a couple negative campaign ads can convince us to vote for just about anything.
So, liberals aren’t “liberal” when it comes to guns or economics. Today’s conservatives lean toward dismantling, not conserving, the political and economic status quo (especially here in California). These true progressives are afraid of their own label. But Republicans are also socialists when it comes to the military; an over-funded, under-focused military which is still designed to fight World War II. Pro-choice folks are wary of too much choice for women with distressed pregnancies. Pro-life people tend to be pro-death when it comes to nasty criminals. Free-market Republicans want to close the borders to mobile free-market labor, and conservative Anglo-white Evangelicals would rather vote for a Mormon who “feels” like them than for an African-American Evangelical (most all of whom tend to be Democrats).
Once again, I am not taking stands on these issues, just trying to point out the truly bizarre nature of current American politics. And the need to start “thinking straight.”
What if we all started believing in real truth again, and started with the assumption (as I do) that no one of us possesses it fully?
How about: There are flaws in my thinking and I want to find out what they are.
The truth is out there.
What if we started valuing it more than our opinion patterns?
Please pass the link to this essay to everyone. I write these things because I want everyone to read them. LINK: http://wp.me/pGQxY-9y
Took a Sabbath today.
The Bible says we have to.
So I did.
Rode around on my beach cruiser bike in the sunshine. Surfed in nasty big waves this AM. Bought a Mothers’ Day card. Tried and failed to get a haircut.
Stopped in at the Huntington Beach Library and looked through their massive for-sale books offerings.
Picked up a musty, moldy volume by H.G. Wells called The Outline of History.
Between the World Wars.
He sees all of history as a struggle between civilized obedience-oriented river cultures and free, nomadic will-oriented cultures. Royalists and Roundheads. Loyalists and Colonial Patriots. Unionists and Rebels. Versailles and the Barricades. US Army and Viet Cong. The Nimitz and the Taliban. M16 and Kalashnikov AK-47. Priests and Revivalists. Aristocrats and Barbarians. Churchill and Che. Sebastian Coe and Steve Prefontaine. Oxford and NASCAR. Episcopalians and Pentecostals.
Neither is purely good or bad. Both have dark sides.
“As if it were a necessary process–efficiency and energy give way to pomp, indolence and decay. They finally succumb to some fresher child-rich lineage from the desert or from the steppes.”
-HG Wells, 1925
Follow me on Twitter @RobinwoodChurch (the barbarian child-rich little church from the steppes….)
Some reflections on the National Day of Prayer
1) President Obama did not cancel it. In fact, here is his proclamation affirming it:
2) There has always been tension between church and state. For 2,000 years. Not just in America. To kings, the idea that there is another King has been problematic. Always has been, always will be.
3) There never has been a time when any national government and the true, faithful Christian Church were fully aligned.
4) Christian activity rises and falls in America. It goes in waves. Great Awakenings. The Pentecostal Azusa awakening in 1906. The big post WW2 churchgoing boom. The Jesus movement of the 60’s and 70’s. We are not in a post-Christian era. We are between booms.
5) Our Founding Fathers of the USA were neither the Focus on the Family Republicans the “right” makes them out to be, nor the “enlightenment Deists” that the “left” makes them out to be. Thomas Jefferson considered himself to be a devout follower of Jesus, but would hardly move to Colorado Springs to be with his peeps if he lived in our generation.
6) We cannot COERCE people to pray. Government should never coerce any faith practice. Jesus never coerced anyone. He let them walk away. But, on the other hand, the fact that some are OFFENDED by us “intentionally, publicly spiritual people,” does not obligate us to practice our faith only in private.
Any OFFENSE on the part of others, because of any of our faith practice, private or public, when we are not being coercive, is NOT another reason to push us out of the public practice of our faith (which is totally guaranteed in the Bill of Rights). That was a long, complicated sentence, but I don’t know how else to say it.
It seems like, lately, whenever what we do offends someone, some court makes us stop doing it. This is not constitutional. We are not properly distinguishing between coercion and offense. The former is wrong, the latter can’t be helped in a free society. The systematic elimination of all offense leads to a controlled, non-free society.
7) No government can cancel a national day of prayer. Any more than churches can legislate tax code.
8.) Over 90 percent of Americans pray regularly. Not just born-again Christians. Everyone prays before algebra exams. Humans come hard-wired for prayer. Built in wi-fi.
9) As a free-market family-values conservative, I have the right to criticize our own movement. We have gotten way less attractive since Bush left office. We are more prone to conspiracy theories than ever before. A lot of us have just turned off our brains.
I just confronted a man who was looking for signatures using a poster of our president with a Hitler mustache in front of our post office. We are going to lose the next elections if we don’t work on our image. Middle America is not going to vote with what they see as crazy people.
Elections are won and lost with the moderates. We are alienating them. We come across as extremists (remember how may votes Goldwater got?) who love big guns, big business running our health care, closed borders and deportations, conspiracy theories, and people who hate gay people. Reagan (as opposed to Goldwater) got huge votes because of what he was FOR (free markets, strong America, positive-optimistic attitude).
10) We have another national day of prayer, instituted by Abraham Lincoln: Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is a transitive verb which requires an object. And that would be God.
11) For the record, I believe:
-in having “in God we Trust” on our money
-in school prayer
-that the Bible should be taught in public schools, at least as literature and history
-that intelligent design should be taught in public schools along with spontaneous non-designed evolution.
-that marriage is between one man and one woman.
-that faith conversation and prayer belongs in the marketplace, the public square, the government, the media, and our schools. It is a part of who we are and free societies are free to be who they are.
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I have always been fascinated by Cranmer’s poetic rendering of Matthew’s (and Luke’s) rendering of Jesus’ phrase:
Give us this day our daily bread.
Please stick with me through some heavy linguistics. It will be worth it.
In Greek, which Matthew wrote and Jesus didn’t use when teaching his Lord’s/Kingdom/Father prayer, it says:
THE – BREAD – OF – US – THE – EPIOUSION – GIVE – TO – US – TODAY
Apparently, according to Danker’s Lexicon, the word epiousion was coined by the evangelists where they were translating Jesus’ Aramaic “Abba” prayer (see also J. Jerimias: Abba). Origen said early on that the word was coined by the evangelists.
The word exists nowhere else. In the New Testament or in secular Greek literature.
“Ousia” means substance/being. “Epi” means marked or designated “right on top of.” Think “epicenter.”
In depth-etymological terms, it can’t mean “daily” or “tomorrow’s bread” as so many have suggested.
We have to go with depth etymology, because we can’t go with any parallel Greek usage outside of “our” literature.
Thus they coined a Greek word to get at what Jesus was saying in Aramaic, because what he was saying was not to be contained in a normal “off the shelf” Greek word. The problem is, our current Aramaic versions of the New Testament are, in some ways, translations from the Greek. We don’t have pre-Luke/Matthew Aramaic versions of the gospels.
When doing a depth-etymology, it’s best to stick with the un-spun core-root meanings of the parts involved in the compound word.
Thus “designated-present-substance” is the best we can mine from the root words.
It unravels if we try to project it beyond the Greek into what Jesus may have said in his language–we end up with compound speculation.
But in hand, we have EPIOUSIA.
What do you think, based on what we have said, that it means?
I’ll take a stab at it:
Jesus saw provision as dynamic, and not as static. Everything we need comes out of the Father-substance (hence the Father prayer). Have a lunch box? Feed 5,000 people.
Need to pay taxes? Take the Krugerrand out of the fish’s mouth. The Father feeds and provides for us as he does the lilies and the birds.
Don’t store up treasures in barns. Rely on daily manna. Trust God for your abundance.
Get your provision from substance, don’t try to gather it from the circumstances around you.
The epiousion is the designated/marked substance from which our bread comes.
This is the abundance we are teaching a Robinwood Church. Not some form of American consumer greed.
The world is not a zero-sum game (more for you, less for me), it is an “open system.”
Give us of the designated substance our bread today. I know it’s not as “sexy” as Cranmer, but nothing in English is
What are your thoughts?