Red Letter Day

April 28, 2008

My fondest memory from the 1994 ELCA Youth Gathering (other than eating at Hooters every day for lunch) was hearing Dr. Tony Campolo give a passionate speech about something.  I can’t quite remember the details of his oration…i just remember a lot of yelling and sweating.  Basically, he was fired up about Jesus and he wanted us to be, too.  It was the first time in my young life that I had heard a Baptist preach and didn’t immediately disregard who he was or what he had to say.

Fast forward to two years ago when I hard Tony speak again at the 2006 Youth Gathering.  He looked a little different – having lost about 70 pounds – but he was still worked up about inspiring young people to be passionate Christians.  What struck me at that time was that he appeared, for lack of a better term, liberal.  He talked about feeding the poor, visiting people in prison, and giving generously to those who have need.  He told about the time he held a birthday party for a prostitute in Hawaii…and about the high-priced lawyer who works pro-bono representing the kind of “scum” who have come face-to-face with Death Row…and about the preacher who cared more about testimonies than he did about titles.

Up until that point, I had largely identified the religious-right with being myopic about two issues: abortion and homosexuality.  My eyes were opened when I heard this Baptist minister from a Bible college talking about giving your life away and serving others as Jesus did.  I went back to my hotel room and found a clip from Tony’s visit to the Colbert Report earlier in 2006.  My favorite line he offers is on the topic of church & state.  “Mixing government and religion are like mixing ice cream and horse manure.  It doesn’t really affect the manure, but it really messes up the ice cream.”  He recently showed up on Colbert’s show again to talk about religious issues.

Campolo has teamed up with Sojourners to form a loosely-organized group of Red Letter Christians.  This is something that inspires me as well.  Check it out and let me know what you think.  Also, if you’re interested in learning more about Dr. Campolo, search his name on YouTube…there are some great sermon excerpts on there.


Emerging From What?

April 23, 2008

I’ve been reading Tony Jones’ manifesto on the Emerging Church movement, entitled “The New Christians”.  My friend, and fellow blogger, Jake Bouma lent me his copy…and I must say, I’m glad he did.  I entered into the book with some trepidation.  After all, as a life-long liturgy-loving Lutheran, I tend to be adverse to anything new.

So, on Sunday night, after an insane weekend of church shizzle, I found myself unable to sleep.  Around 11:30 I sauntered in to the chain smoker’s paradise, known as the Village Inn.  I thought about cracking open my laptop, but I figured (A) there’s no wi-fi at the VI, and (B) the two gentlemen sitting in the booth adjacent to me had probably never seen a computer before…and I didn’t want to make their brain explode.  Instead, I decided to open the book that Jake had given me.  It was amazing!

I’ve re-read the first chapter 3 times since then (once each day), and I can’t seem to get past my initial reaction of “ohmygodthisisamazing!”  Now, I temper my enthusiasm with a disclaimer that I haven’t read many books in my life.  Magazines…yes.  Blogs…absolutely.  Newspaper features…you know it.  But not books.  Thusly, I have little to compare Jones’ first chapter to.

From what I can gather, his main thesis is that there is a groundswell of faithful Christians who are looking for a “third type of church”.  There are currently two kinds of Christian churches these days:

  1. Mainline, protestant, shrinking, liberal
  2. Non-denominational, charismatic, growing, conservative

These options, to put it concisely, suck.  I liken it to the 2004 Presidential Election, where voters had to choose from elitist, slick, ultra-liberal John Kerry or incompetent, unintelligent, ultra-conservative Dubbya.  What resulted was record levels of voter apathy and an insane amount of polarization throughout the country.  It left the middle-majority of the country saying, “isn’t there a third option?”

So, too, with church.  Jones argues, and I agree, that there is a growing group of people who aren’t satisfied with the two-party system of doing church.  They are looking for something relevant and meaningful.  They want to feel connected to Christians throughout history, but also want it applied to a modern context.  Basically, they don’t want church to assume anything about how to function.

I’m intrigued by this group of Christians – the “new Christians”, according to Tony Jones.  I look forward to reading the rest of the book.  Something tells me that these Emergent types may not be truly “new”, but they do have something they haven’t had in a while…a voice.


Stealing & Hulu

April 16, 2008

Profoundly intriguing and discouraging confirmation class tonight.  The topic – the 7th commandment (otherwise known as “you shall not steal”).  It seems simple enough; don’t take stuff that isn’t yours.  We discovered, however, that there is a lot of gray area in the commandment.  I’ll save you the preachy rhetoric that I normally save for 7th & 8th graders – but believe me when I say it was a very humbling discussion.

One of the more lively discussions had to do with YouTubeIs it okay to watch videos on YouTube that haven’t received permission? YouTube has it’s share of family home videos, but it also has a lot of bootlegged copies of concerts, TV shows, movie clips, music videos – very few of which have been posted by the original distributor.  Though I’m sure members of the entertainment industry aren’t having a difficult time “feeding their family” because a few college kids post their favorite clips on YouTube, the question of morality remains.

Enter Hulu, a site I stumbled across tonight.  It’s possible (read: likely) that I’m way behind on this phenomenon – but it seems like a cool thing.  You can watch entire TV shows and movies on this site, as well as shorter clips from TV and film.  The streaming video is high quality.  The best part – it’s free and it’s LEGAL.  You have to put up with an occasional 10-15 second video advertisement, but it’s worth it to see full-length episodes and movies in digital quality resolution.

Oh, and if you’re wondering – over 2/3 of the confirmation students thought it was NOT stealing to watch videos that violate copyright rules.  Most of them also didn’t think borrowing a CD from the public library and burning the songs on an iPod was stealing either.  Ugh.  At least they were honest…

Time to watch “The Big Lebowski” on Hulu.


Feeding My Family

April 15, 2008

It’s a sad day for sports fans in the city of Des Moines.  Head men’s basketball coach at Drake University, Keno Davis, left for Providence College.  The Friars are going to pay him a guaranteed $7,000,000 for 7 years.

I’m personally disappointed that Drake lost its National Coach of the Year after only one year of service.  While it’s unlikely to imagine that the Bulldogs would have captured the lightening in a bottle for a second season, it would have been fun to watch them try.  Keno is a very good (not quite great) head coach.  I think Drake will struggle to find a quality replacement for him.

Providence more than quadrupled his current salary with this deal, and gave him a national stage in a BCS conference to show what he’s made of.  Personally, I think this is a no-brainer for Keno…and I wish him well.

On the way home from work, a guy called in to a local radio station and said that Keno has to worry about “providing for his family”, which is why he supported Keno’s decision.  It reminded me of Latrell Spreewell’s claim that $10 million per year wasn’t enough to feed his family.

This morning at staff meeting we spent time discussing Acts 2:41-47; specifically the implications of what it means to “live in community” in the 21st century.  The story of the early Christians living together, sharing everything, and having all things in common seems to fly in the face the notion that accumulating wealth translates into providing for your family.  Perhaps it’s in all of our best interest to discern what kinds of things we are really PROVIDING for our families.


Famous Birthdays

April 12, 2008

Today is my birthday, which (I’m told) is supposed to be important.  I don’t really see what all the fuss is about…but whatever.  It seems that I share the same birthday with a few semi-famous people, including:

Claire Danes

Shannen Doherty

Vince Gill

Andy Garcia

David Cassidy

David Letterman

Herbie Hancock

Tiny Tim

I’m not sure who I’m most proud to share this day with.  Claire Danes and I were actually born on the exact same date – April 12, 1979…which is cool.  Tiny Tim is the only native Iowan on the list, and he also played a mean ukulele.  I think I’m going to have to go with David Letterman, who is destined to to be remembered as the King of Late Night be the time he finally retires.  He also sired a child shortly before turning 60 (impressive!) and has a sexy gap in his teeth.  (Maybe some day he’ll save up enough money to get it fixed.)

Check out this website to see the famous people who share your birthday.  Who is the coolest one?


One Month Running

April 11, 2008

(Disclaimer: this post will be more than just a little self-indulgent)

Today marks one month since I started running…again…for the first time.  It’s been two years since I regularly ran.  A lot has happened in that time – new house, new baby, 45 pounds…you get the picture.  Though I’m still plodding along at a pace that’s closer to 9:00 and 8:00 per mile, I’m really starting to feel good.  My running buddy, JP, is kicking my ass every day, but neither of us seem to mind too much.  Tomorrow we’re going to do 5 miles.  Two years ago, this wouldn’t have been such a big deal.  However, I’m getting old (29 years tomorrow) and have moved from “overweight” to “obese” in the last year.  Here’s hoping I live to tell about it.

I promise to have something more thought-provoking and intriguing next time I write.  My apologies to the 2-3 people that have endured this post.  I realize that reading someone tell about their exercise routine is about as interesting as hearing someone talk about their fantasy football team or their rectal exam.

In other news, I got my first birthday present yesterday – a bobble-head Buddy Christ that now sits atop my office printer.

“Jesus didn’t come to give us the willies, he came to help us out!  How could you not feel just great walking into a church and seeing this behind the priest – a positive reinforcement that whatever we do, God thinks is ‘a-okay’.”  ~ Cardinal Glick (played by George Carlin) in Dogma


Eyes Opened, Head Pounding

April 10, 2008

I’m having a reading renaissance this week.  I don’t think I’ve read this much in one week since my over-achieving stint as Hudson Elementary School’s Book It champion of 1986.  (Thanks to the greatest motivation any 7 year old pastor’s kid could have – PIZZA.)  To the utter dismay of my parents, I didn’t read very much in college (hence my abysmal 3.8 GPA).  However, thanks to the help of my new friend, Jake, and the genius of Google Reader, I have been reading tons of good stuff this week.  Most of it has been church-related…mainly so I can justify all this extra reading during the work day.

The one thing that has smacked me in the face is just how closed-minded I’ve become in my refusal to read a wide variety of articles from a broad perspective of writers.  Take this article, for example.  If last month someone would have handed me an article about social justice, penned by a Vineyard pastor, I would have used the paper it was printed on as a substitute for toilet paper.  After all, what could a conservative Christian possibly know about something as radically liberal as caring for the sick, poor, and oppressed?  (Sarcasm intended)

However, thanks to the phenomenon of linking articles within articles, I stumbled across Pastor Nathan’s well-written opus about how social justice is at the core of the Gospel.  Though the content of the piece didn’t say much I didn’t already know, the origins of the article have managed to dash any preconceived notions I once had about certain authors, websites, blogs, etc.  At this point, I might actually turn into a book worm…or, more realistically, start reading a little bit every day.

Just one of many joyful discoveries this week that has opened my eyes and made my head hurt…in a good way.