Sunday, March 26, 2006

bono bytes

Having read Bono on Bono - and to give you something on which to reflect as you wait for the delayed U2 concerts (in NZ anyway!) - here is my countdown of a 'first eleven' bytes from the book:

#11 on hypocrisy
As you get older your idea of the good guys and the bad guys changes. As we moved from the 80s to the 90s I stopped throwing rocks at the obvious symbols of power and the abuse of it. I started throwing rocks at my own hypocrisy. (95)

#10 on jesus
Id be in big trouble if Karma was going to finally be my judge … It doesnt excuse my mistakes but Im holding out for Grace. Im holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the Cross … The secular response to the Christ story always goes like this: he was a great prophet, obviously a very interesting guy, had a lot to say along the lines of Elijah, Muhammad, Buddha, or Confucius. But actually Christ doesnt allow you that, He doesnt let you off the hook. You are left with this: either Christ was who he said he was or a complete nutcase … this man strapping himself to a bomb with ‘king of the Jews’ on his head going “OK, martyrdom, here we go. Bring on the pain! I can take it”... The idea that the entire course of civilisation for over half the globe could have its fate changed and turned upside down by a nutcase, for me that’s far-fetched. (204-205)

#9 on obsession with youth
Some people die at seventeen and put their funeral off until they’re seventy-seven. I see a lot of dead young people, I see a lot of alive old people. (252)

#8 on what makes mandela different
His imagination. His ability to see, taste, and almost touch a future that wasn’t yet there. Most people in his situation would focus on what they had lost – the past. He is only thinking about the future. (275)

#7 on ideas
Whenever you meet a philosophy where ideas are worth more than people you have to be on guard. A dangerous idea that almost makes sense is a very compelling thing. In a way, when the devil gets it right, its usually not a wrong fighting with a right, its usually two half-truths fighting it out. (178-179)

#6 on religion
Religion can be the enemy of God. Its often what happens when God, like Elvis, has left the building. A list of instructions where there was once conviction; dogma where people once just did it; a congregation led by a man where once they were led by the Holy Spirit. (201)

#5 on televangelists
There were people, old ladies with bronchitis, old ladies with broken hips, and probably people with cancer, all over America, getting out of their armchairs and putting their hands on the TV. It broke my heart. But remember I was a believer. Though I understood the power of the Scriptures they were quoting from, I was seeing it debased and demeaned…These televangelists were the traders inside the temple, that story where Jesus turned over their tables. They were putting people off God, especially young people who didnt want to admit to being Christians anymore. (167-168)

#4 on trading with the poor
Trade is the way forward (102) … Its a shock to discover that for all our talk of the free market, the poorest people on the Earth are not allowed to put their products on our shelves in an even-handed way. They have to negotiate all kinds of tariffs and taxes. We can sell to them but they cannot sell to us. (263)

#3 on depression
Its a very real illness, depression. I understand chemical imbalance and all that. But I do think its prevalence has a lot to do with a lack of perspective on your life and a lack of empathy of what’s going on in other lives. … (People can become) pickled in themselves. We must be careful not to stew in our own juices. See, if I look at depression from another angle, I could be more positive ... If you look at it as a nerve end. A leper would love to feel pain in their hands as he falls into a fire. Perhaps we should see depression as a nerve end, as a thing that reminds us that everything isn’t OK. (135)

#2 on being a global community
Through the media we have some strange faces in our backyard whom we werent calling family until very recently and we still don’t really want to. But if you are going to enjoy having your sneakers and your jeans made by developing communities, you are already involved with those people. You cannot just ignore some of the problems they are negotiating. Theyre living on your street. There was this old definition of generosity which states that the rich man looks after the poor man on his street. Guess what? Now that street runs around the globe. (197)

#1 on africa
There is a certain molecular excitement in Africa which you do pick up. It feels like the molecules are vibrating a little faster. (219)

Im not sure we accept that Africans are equal … 6500 Africans are dying every day of a preventable, treatable disease … two 9/11s a day. No tears, no letters of condolence, no fifty-one-gun salutes. Why? Because we dont put the same value on African life as we put on a European or an American life. God will not let us get away with this … We say we cant get these drugs to the farthest reaches of Africa, but we can get them our cold, fizzy drinks. The tiniest village you can buy a Coke. (81)

Dont have an argument you cant win. On the Africa stuff we cant lose because we are putting our shoulder to a door God Almighty has already opened. We carry with us the moral weight of an argument … I might walk into an important office and people are looking at me as though I am some exotic plant. But after a few minutes they don’t see me. All they are hearing is the argument and the argument has some sort of moral force that they cannot deny. (94-95)

Strike a chord or two? A resonant one - or a dissonant one?

Nice chatting


Monday, March 20, 2006

emergent tension

I've just finished reading another book from within the Emerging Church movement (this time it is Doug Pagitt's Preaching Re-imagined). I like opening myself up to what they write. I enjoy the challenge of reflecting on things from another angle.

I find myself responding in much the same way as I have done in the past...

Firstly, I am impressed with the innovation at work. They are just so creative. For example, I love Rob Bell's nooma series, delighting in the way he sees the 'spiritually significant in the utterly ordinary' - the principle at the heart of good illustration. Then to package it into such compelling communication - great stuff! I speak like that in my dreams. Doug Pagitt's talk about 'progressional preaching' and the 'implication' that lies beyond the application fits in here as well. Dan Kimball's early books also demonstrate this innovation. I'll keep reading Emerging Church books for this innovation alone, if necessary.

But then I get frustrated with the arrogance that comes through in the books. Not an arrogance in the authors! No! I have it on good authority that they win people over with their grace and humility. I can believe it.

No, it is the arrogance in the ideas being presented. I find the proclamation of the arrival of a brand new era is just too brash. History does not develop along an 'eclipse' model, in which the 'modern' is somehow eclipsed by the 'postmodern'. Doesn't history follow more of an adding 'lanes to the highway' model? A postmodern lane - faster and busier, maybe - is being added alongside the modern lane. But the modern lane remains in place afterwards... I hear the emerging church literature suggests that it is possible, even advisable, to run from the embrace of the 'modern' into the embrace of the 'postmodern'.

Really?! How is that even possible? And how does that improve things? Either way don't we still have the 'cultural captivity of the church' that Martin Luther moaned about? Doesn't the postmodern have to be submitted to ongoing biblical critique in just the same way as the modern - thereby enabling churches always to be in the process of reformation? I suspect that the established church is not as bad as they make out, nor the emerging church as good as they make out.

Doug Pagitt does seem to advocate that preaching as we know it, 'speaching' as he calls it, is on the way out. It is not the future. Gee - that is such a big call to make! Does he really want to say that? It is just too bold. The historical, biblical, and theological justification for such a conclusion is just not there in the book. The 'sociological' seems to be running the show, as it too easily can do. But that is like expecting a boat without a rudder, or a keel, to float against the current and the tide. It is hardly the counter-cultural engagement which we need.

Well - there you have it.
Just a small taste of my emergent tension: excited about the innovation even as I am disappointed by the arrogance.

Feel free to help me out
Sit me on your cyberspatial couch and give me some therapy.

Nice chatting


Friday, March 10, 2006

the internally-focused church

I notice that a seminar has passed through called 'The Externally-Focused Church'?

Really?! Externally-focused... I don't mind the 'external' word as it reminds us that the Great Commission is critical and that mission is at the very core of God's being and purpose in the world. But that word 'focus' makes me very nervous.

Is the church only about external stuff?
No! No! No! In fact a thousand ugly Noses!
Now I doubt whether the seminar leaders gave this impression. But 'an emphasis in a teacher becomes an extreme in a student' and I wonder about the imbalance that people may have taken home with them.

Read the New Testament and you cannot avoid that there is a heap of internal focus about the church. Let me call just the one witness - Colossians 1:28-29 - "We proclaim him (Jesus), admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labour, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me."

Seeing God's people become 'perfect' - not so much 'sinless', as mature and ripe and, as the Parachute Band sings, "complete" - is the purpose of Paul's ministry. External-focus without investing in this internal-focus is misguided. It is short-sighted.

It is a bit like the punga, that tree fern in the New Zealand bush. Down Rotorua-way I once saw a punga with 8, 10, 12 branches, or koru, unfurling - all at different stages towards perfection. It was a thing of beauty. It was intriguing. Photos from every angle. I did not want to leave.

Please, please lets not lose sight of Operation Unfurl in the Internally-Focused Church?! It is part of the story. It builds intrigue and external people are attracted. But it also grows and matures the people of God for that ongoing external-focus which remains critical.

Nice chatting