The Challenges on the Horizon  

Posted by The Metzes in , , ,

One of my elders brought the following blog to my attention yesterday: It's a pretty interesting idea - four guys write the posts - two from the Conservative wing of Churches of Christ (Greg Tidwell - hey, he's a Columbus guy . . . at a church here in town . . . that I've never even met in nearly six years of ministering here . . . only about twenty minutes away from here . . . (there's about 10 Churhes of Christ of any size here in Columus) and Phil Sanders, who used to preach at the Concord Rd. Church of Christ in Brentwood, TN where my wife went before we were married and where we were married) and two guys from the Progressive wing of Churches of Christ (Jay Guin, an elder for the University Church in Tuscaloosa, AL (a church we stayed at on the way to New Orleans a few summers ago) and Todd Deaver (the only guy I can't play two degrees of separation with - but I bet I could get him in three!!)- all four falling within the spectrum we could probably look upon as "mainstream congregations" (read: no extremists).

So, anyhow, I ventured over there and the site has gotten quite a flury of action in the few months in been up and running (putting our conversation here to shame! :-) The idea behind the site seems noble - bring folks - who share a similar heritage - from differing ideological backgrounds together to have civil dialogue on important matters in regards to the Churches of Christ. So I spent a few minutes perusing the comments today over lunch. I'm curious if other contributors to our Post-Restoration site have been there, but I wanted to make a few reflections based on what I read there.

I applaud their efforts at bringing a converstaion that is often riddled with inflammatory and slanderous language to the point of being counterproductive to a format that promotes mutual edification and respect. Now, I feel totally ridiculous having to point that out since we are all Christians, you'd think it'd be a given . . . but I think we know our flesh better than that!

And while applaud their efforts and hope that they are blessed, I cannot help but read the conversation as an outsider. To me, the dialogue seems riddled in modernly constructed arguments and logic, and frankly, I have difficulty following them - or even caring to. I may just be using all this post-modern stuff as a way to wash my hands clean of some really important stuff, I don't know, but I'm not certainly not trying to take some high and mighty ground here. It may very well be that I have become numb to much of these kinds of discussions - something I would count as another of my many personal flaws. But, I can't help but wonder it if it is something more.

I believe the "Progressive" response to the often-oppressive and legalistic tradition that many in Churches of Christ grew up with 20 and 30 years ago was a purely (for the most part) modern response. And that response, rooted in a thoroughly modern epistemological thought-structure has sown for many of us in the next generation of leadership, some major problems. The dialogue that ensues between these groups seems to be pretty linear (from what I can see in the responses I read on this blog). Point - counter-point kind of stuff. I find myself, however, coming from a totally different thought-structure that doesn't catch much in these circles.

From my perspective, conversation at-large has greatly changed for those outside the church and for those connected at an arm's length, but we, in our churches, continue to muddle through so many archaic and unrelated minuteia. I still believe it is important. I still believe it is necessary. I just don't think that it is as central as we have made it. Making it central has made it divisive, something that has become our identity more than even Christ, himself. It's almost like we feel we need to get our in-house stuff figured out before we can allow our conversations to venture outside into the "real world." Unfortunately, I think we would be much better served by taking these conversations to the streets and allowing those outside the church to help form our understandings, instead of the inbred group think we seem to be better equipped to promote in our current structures.

I, personally, am interested in the relationship the Christian faith as to other faiths of the world. I believe there is salvation found in those other faiths . . . just not sure how, or why, or to what extent. I'm interested in the redeeming qualities portrayed in the arts and how we can better incorporate them into our identity as a redeemed people. I have a great interest in ecology and its connection to faith and theology . . . an area of theology that has been dormant for so long in the halls of academia. I have an interest in being part of a community that is diverse and hetergeneous so that I can learn from people who are different than I am.

And yet, I find in my own tradition (both macro & micro) a people who are consumed with making a homogenous, uniform reality built on stoic mantra and stodgy, esoteric -ologies. Certainly, I think the aforementioned blog is a positive move toward dialogue, but I find the coversation morose and overly internal. I find a people who would rather ramble on ad naseum (myself included!!) about God, instead of meeting Him in the realities of the world around us - this is a message to me!

I suppose, as a means to promote discussion, I'm asking you reading, is this a personal character flaw. Am I being some kind of academic snob claiming "no one gets me"? Certainly, that is not my intention. Looking ahead at things in Churches of Christ, where is postmodernity taking us? A pressing question that lingers since my days with Dr. Hicks is, How does a tradition "born and bred" in a thoroughly modern intellectual construct survive the desconstruction of that base without losing its identity altogether?

Torture and The Follower of Jesus  

Posted by Phil in , ,

Cross Posted from my blog

Obviously, the big talk for the last couple of weeks is the release of the torture memos by the Obama administration, as well as the waffling that the President and his administration have done about the prosecution of individuals who either participated in the practice of "enhanced interrogation techniques" or the people who wrote legal opinions justifying it.

I'm not going to talk about the dissembling and fracturing of language participated in by the Bush administration because of these legal opinions ("these documents say that what we're doing isn't torture so I can go in front of America and say we don't torture.") or the waffling by the Obama administration ("No, we won't prosecute the people who did this. Um... when I said 'we,' I meant the White House. Anyone else can do what they want.")

What I will say this. If we claim to follow a Jesus who told us not only to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:39), but also to love our enemies (Matthew 5:43-45), if we claim to have the same attitude of Jesus and put others needs ahead of our own (Philippians 2:5-11), if we claim to follow a Savior who was tortured to death by the most powerful empire at the time, then as those followers we cannot condone or support this activity.

I honestly don't care what having committed torture says about America. I'm much more concerned that there are people who would view America's use of torture as a tantamount approval by Christians that torture is acceptable.

It's not.

Can torture gain information about potential terror attacks to prevent the loss of innocent life? Maybe. But the truth is that if we resort to tactics that those we consider evil use, then we are saying the (good) ends justifies the (evil) means. Here's the clue though. Almost everyone that we would consider evil, considers themselves good. A dictator typically thinks that he or she is doing what is best for their people and the means to accomplish that are unimportant.

If we claim to follow Jesus, we cannot be people who support torture. We simply cannot.

Quoting Theology: Good Friday Edition  

Posted by Adam

"So it is impossible to speak of an incarnation of God without keeping this conclusion in view. There can be no theology of the incarnation which does not become a theology of the cross. 'As soon as you say incarnation, you say cross.' God did not become a man according to the measure of our conceptions of being a man. He became the kind of man we do not want to be: an outcast, accursed, crucified...

...When the crucified Jesus is called 'the image of the invisible God', the meaning is that this is God and God is like this. God is not greater than he is in this humiliation. God is not more glorious than he is in this self-surrender. God is not more powerful than he is in this helplessness. God is not more divine than he is in this humanity."
--Jurgen Moltmann, The Crucified God pg. 205