An in depth interview with Bono of U2…
My former seminarian and mentee, the Rev. Curtis Farr, now writes a weekly blog for his church, St. James in West Hartford, Connecticut. The blog, entitled Into the Fire, uses the adapted form of Midrash I described in an earlier post to reflect on the appointed Scriptures for the upcoming Sunday. I’ve been following it. Pretty good stuff. But then, I’m biased,,,
Here’s how it starts…
Italicized taglines like the one found at the bottom of all of the “Into the Fire” posts typically go unread. That being the case, I want to describe the process of Midrash a bit here. Here is a link to a former mentor’s three-part post about Midrash, which I credit completely for what follows in this post. We’ll look at the process and then try it out, after the jump.
The Art of Sustainability: Imagination, Not Spreadsheets Will Create Change
A rational, data-driven approach won’t be sufficient to drive a sustainable future. We need more emotional engagement
The Guardian, 24 May 2013.
Addressing the problem of achieving environmental sustainability, the above article notes that logic alone is insufficient to persuade public and private leaders to risk the necessary changes. My experience with church planting and congregational vitality tell me that a similar dynamic applies to individual churches, adjudicatory bodies, and denominations. As it has from its inception, the Church continues to exist in a dynamic tension between body and building, between spiritual organism and human organization.
The Church as organization is preoccupied with the need to survive, seeking order and certainty, preferring predictability and security.
The Church as organism is driven by the desire to thrive, responding eagerly to calling and sending, motivated by generativity and risk.
It seems to me that the problem the Guardian article identifies is not with spreadsheets, per se, but with where they can take us. If we are not careful, the logical realism of our spreadsheets can anchor us too tightly to the organization side of the tension, convincing us that avoiding unnecessary risk is the sole measure of excellence in church leadership. Meanwhile, this same spreadsheet thinking can disconnect us from the from the organism side of the tension: our need to harness our God-given imagination and creativity, and to respond to Christ’s call to risk ourselves faithfully to bring into being the kingdom of God.
[Thanks to Sarah Lapenta-H for the original article post.]
Every so often, I have heard a critique of Paradoxy which runs something like this:
Sounds like you are trying to tell us that
Orthodoxy (the conservative way) is bad;
Orthopraxy (the liberal way) is better;
Paradoxy (your way) is best.
As though “my way” were just “orthopraxy with a twist”… good old liberal Christianity with marketed with just enough orthodox window dressing to suck in a few naive conservatives. Would that it was as simple as that. It would be a lot easier to develop a loyal following if I were willing to take sides.
But I’m not… and for good reason.
Watching conservative and liberal Christians fight so ferociously for their favored positions on any of a variety of issues, you’d think that the two sides had been in their respective bunkers since Jesus Christ rose from the dead. But while the two sides frequently fight over the precise nature of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, they haven’t been around nearly that long. In fact, they are relatively recent creations. Constructs of modernity, they arose from the Enlightenment epistimological paradigm of Foundationalism, which is based on the assumption (flawed, I would argue) that human reason, properly harnessed, could achieve absolute objective certainty regarding self-evident, foundational truths.
Even worse, we engage in the same anachronistic projection with the whole idea of orthodoxy, assuming it always meant what we take it to mean today. Ironically, the meaning of the term “orthodoxy” is one thing on which conservative and liberal Christians agree. Ask either side what “orthodoxy” means and odds are you’ll get the same: that “orthodoxy” is a single, uniform, doctrinally-based, and ultimately conservative way of understanding truth. There can only be ONE right way to believe: chose right and you’re in, chose wrong and your out.
Somehow conservative Christians now “own the rights” to orthodoxy, having taken it away from their liberal Christian brothers and sisters without a fight. Truth be told, liberal Christians were happy to let it go, because if their Conservative sisters and brothers wanted it so badly, how good could it be? Rejecting the rigid exclusivity they perceived in conservative Christianity, which they assumed to be inherent in very concept of orthodoxy, they abandoned it and coined a new term, “orthopraxy” (i.e., right practice), to take its place. Orthopraxy meant living by the principles Jesus taught, which they presumed to be universal. The assumption that all religious practices must spring from a common core of spiritual intention may sound inclusive…but is it really? Or is claiming, for example, that the deepest motivation of the Buddhist search for the detachment of Nirvanah must be the same as the Christian motivation in seeking the presence of the living God just another form of spiritual chauvenism. Continue reading
In recent months, several people have asked me to unpack my oft-spoken statement that “conflict can be holy ground.” They wanted to hear more because the statement runs so counter to the ways we have been taught to think about conflict: that conflict is a bad thing, that it is bad for relationships, that it is a sign of dysfunction in communities, especially in faith communities, where it may even be seen as a sign of sin…or at least bad manners. And because we think that there must be only one right answer to anything of any real importance, we believe that the object in conflict is to win: to prove ourselves (and those who agree with us) right and the other (and those that agree with them) wrong.
But the more my congregation has thought about this the more our thoughts have moved in a different direction: that conflict, in-and-of itself, is neutral, that it is how we DO conflict (our motives and our actions) that makes it good or bad, and that done in the right spirit it can be quite healthy…even holy! Continue reading
“Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.”
― Albert Einstein
“Science does not know its debt to imagination.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Reality can be beaten with enough imagination.”
― Mark Twain
“Reality isn’t what it used to be.”
― Walter Truett Anderson
“If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.”
― Jesus of Nazareth
Sitting in a hotel room in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, waiting to head out for my cancelled-and-rescheduled-a-day-later flight when I came across this eye/I-opening blog post, which I am now happily sharing with you. God truly works in paradoxical ways…
Yoga-mat-carrying-chics could learn something from bible-carrying chics. I should know. I got schooled by some sassy, suit-wearing lady-preachers this past year when I moved back down south to Virginia, land of the notorious Bible Belt.
A few months back I had a big ole’ fat case of the poor-me’s. A mind gremlin had actually wrapped her slimy webbed palms around my head and heart. She was ruthless, loudly blaring things into my heart space that made me wanna’ give up on my dreams and get in bed with a box of Chex-mix and a block of cheese.
Luckily, my mama (Vera) was around to pull me out of funk-city, dragging me kicking and screaming to a bible study. The last time I had been to bible class I was wearing MC-hammer pants, braiding friendship bracelets and listing to Toni Braxton. Needless to say, I was less than thrilled at the prospect…
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