Friday, February 20, 2009

emergency water landing - 600 miles per hour

blank faces, calm as hindu cows.

this morning the nytimes is
reporting that robert allen stanford, the alleged perpetrator of yet another financial fraud, has been served papers by the f.b.i.

during these difficult times in which an overwhelming amount of financial fraud is being uncovered, i suspect that much of the fraud and dross within the church is going to be revealed as well.

i fear that when the foundations of the church is laid bare we will find that:

1. the church is just as addicted to easy credit as consumers.
2. the church's commitment to "staffing for growth" has led us to underutilize the latent gifts of the laity.
3. the church has replicated far too many services for the silliest of ideological reasons.
4. the church's narcissistic spending patterns has rendered it largely incapable of assisting and empowering the poor.
5. the church has used a frenzy of activity to avoid the desert of prayer.

i share these suspicions not to accuse, for, God knows, i am the guiltiest of all. rather, during the upcoming season of lent i hope that the body of Christ, God's church, is inspired by the Holy Spirit to confess our sin, embrace obedience to Christ's mission and be surprised by new life.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


if pithiness is next to godliness
i'm going to need an assload of indulgences

Monday, February 16, 2009

fun with metaphors

on march 7th the gathering gang is leading a breakout session on the topic of worship at the brian mclaren/everything must change conference that the episcopal diocese is hosting.

as i've been preparing for this discussion, i've started thinking about the liturgy at the gathering as a "mashup." i'm a bit of a technological idiot, but as far as i can tell a mashup is an artistic piece that is a creative combination of two or more divergent video or audio sources.

for example a cursory search on youtube yielded this mashup of office space and the trailer for xmen 3 and that brilliant mashup of christian bale's latest profane tirade.*

at the gathering, we often offer up a new mashup every week. last week's mashup might be pentecostal worship whipped with a evangelical "big idea" sermon, while next week's mashup might be classic hymns of the reformation intertwined with lectio divina and a zwinglian framed communion. sometimes these mashups are inspiring and provocative and sometimes the juxtapositions are cumbersome and distracting. however, since we are a diverse community each member has to trust that the elements that do not connect with them speak directly to someone else in the congregation, while another element which does speak to them might not connect with the other at all.

i'm not going to lie, sometimes i wish our worship had the cohesion of a catholic mass or the plodding regularity of a presbyterian order. but i love our quirky community and believe that the mashup is the best fit for our diverse congregation.

one side note: while reading the most recent modern reformation david wells states that "emergents" have rejected the niche marketed vacuity of the megachurch and have instead embraced "casual blending of different belief systems in their churchly experimenting-a bit of Catholicism here, a bit of Greek Orthodoxy there, a hip rendition somewhere else-has also come about because of a rejection of traditional ideas of authority and because the self is exercising its autonomy to shape its spiritual context the way in which it wants."

i think that his former assertion is right on, but i don't believe that the tendency of the participants in the emergent conversation to drink deeply from multiple streams of christian tradition and to weave the strands of that tradition** into their worship is, necessarily, a rejection of "traditional ideas of authority" or a narcissistic pastiche. rather, i think that many of the participants in the emergent conversation are trying to respect and practice their received tradition of the christian faith while also exploring and utilizing the untold riches of resources that have been discovered by christians throughout the centuries. although i'm a evangelical protestant by birth i think it would be foolish for me to ignore the valuable practice of lectio or lenten fasting just because my immediate forbears did not embrace these practices. i'm proud of my christian church/church of christ tradition, but my forefathers and foremothers are many, and i don't think i am dishonoring alexander campbell - neal windham for that matter! - or rejecting their "authority," by listening to the words and being shaped by the practices of st. francis of assisi, martin luther king jr. or henri nouwen.

second side note: feel free to share mashups that you love. i've just started to explore this art form and would love to receive your recommendations.

* this clip is inappropriate for children and those who are easily offended. consider yourself warned.
** talk about your mixed metaphors.
in context

is a sailboat. stupid head!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

read and reviewed: creating a world without poverty by muhammad yunus
submitted by: anita

I thought that I was a dreamer and an optimist, but compared to Muhammad Yunus I would almost be considered a cynic. In Creating a World Without Poverty, not only does he envision eliminating poverty in his native country of Bangladesh, he envisions "putting poverty into museums" throughout the world so that future generations of children could go and marvel at the way large parts of the world used to live.

He acknowledges that he is a dreamer. Yet he has in fact reduced Bangladesh's poverty level from 73% in 1973 to 40% in 2005. The poverty level continues to decrease by 1 percent each year and so in the not too distant future, his dream of eliminating poverty in his country could become a reality.

How is he doing it? It's pretty simple. He has dared to think outside of the box. He has refused to buy into the capitalistic, maximizing profit model that the developed countries have lived by. Instead, he introduces the concept of social businesses. These are businesses that are created not to be PMBs (profit maximizing businesses) but businesses that have as their goal a social benefit to the world's poor. People who invest in the businesses get their investment back, eventually, but they do not receive any profit. Instead any profit that the business makes is re-invested into the business or else it goes to the shareholders who are the poor. As an added benefit, the investors in these businesses can then invest in another social business and keep perpetuating the benefits. It is much better than a hand-out, for both the investors and the recipients.

How can a model like this work? Yunus has shown that it works well. He started out by offering loans to poor people who had no collateral and who would be poor risks by most bank's standards. He found that these poor borrowers had a far better rate of loan repayment than more well-off borrowers. He also found that the poor were extremely resourceful and hard-working when it came to using their loaned money. As a result many of them were able to create viable businesses, pay back their loans and better the standard of living for themselves and their families.

For example, some poor women would take out a loan and become telephone ladies. They would purchase a cell phone and then sell minutes to people in their village. This provided benefit to them and also to others around them. And connecting a poor village with the world helps to remove them from isolation which further increases the likelihood that they will escape poverty.

It is a hopeful book. Yet it also is pleading with the world to adopt this same model of social businesses in order to save our planet as well as eliminate poverty. As has become obvious to many, the world can no longer afford to maximize profit and ignore the effect that this idea has had on the world's resources and on the use of the these resources by the privileged few.

I found it an inspiring book, with lots of practical insight. Putting its ideas into practice should be given serious thought by the developed nations. Success will only be hindered by a stubborn clinging to the current model of business that has benefited only a small portion of the world's population. Yunus believes that investors and people in general, are capable of and even attracted to making a choice that does not result in financial gain, but instead contributes to a world where those at the bottom of the socioeconomic structure are benefited and given a way of escape.