What if the rest of the world gets it?

“I can never come to terms with a person who claims to be a man of God, spewing forth the hatred which we have seen this week in the USA….

The hate-filled pastor’s website claims he has no college education but he does have a good memory – by way of his committing to memory well over 100 chapters of the Bible, including almost half of the New Testament.

He might well remember that Christians are encouraged in the Gospels to love thy neighbour as thyself.”

Off Air: Hate from people who should know better

The quotes above come from ABC journalist Tony Eastley, talking about the bile that’s been coming from a number of “pastors” in the states. I was left with this disturbing thought:

Maybe the rest of the world understand Christianity better than the Christians do.

Coffeehouse Theology – An Enticing Introduction

Coffeehouse Theology, by Ed Cyzewski
Coffeehouse Theology, by Ed Cyzewski

When theology blogger and author, Ed Cyzewski was about to release his book “Coffeehouse Theology”, he sent out copies of aforementioned book to a heap of christian bloggers, if they would participate in a “blog tour” (meaning people review the book, each posting on a different day). Due to Rebecca having a really well written and widely read blog, Ed asked if my beloved would mind joining the tour.

Unfortunately, a combination of a really slow postal system, and Rebecca being flat-chat with assignments in the lead up to the end of semester, she has not (yet) read “Coffehouse Theology”, and being the inquisitive, literate person that I am, I pinched the free copy myself (which becomes legal now that we’re married), and had a read. So there’s your disclaimers – I didn’t pay for this book.

Despite a title that a friend called a little bit “touchy-feely-emergenty”, this book is a really worthwhile read. Up until now I’d have described Brian McLaren’s “A New Kind Of Christian” series as the best introduction to post-modernism and the ramifications for the church, but (with a completely different approach), Ed Cyzewski provides a very gentle, very thorough and balanced understanding of what post-modernism really is and how it effects how we think about God. Ed has a way of writing that makes him almost impossible to disagree with: you feel like he’s articulating the way you already felt, even as he takes you to places you’ve never been before.

“Coffeehouse Theology” provides a compelling case for contextual theology, and a clear and conscise methodology for theological contemplation. Ed doesn’t turn theological thinking into an academic exercise, but instead invites his readers to think about their Christianity, and to recognise that we follow Jesus in a time and place. “Coffehouse Theology” was great to read for myself, but in many ways it feels like I’ve only got about a quarter of the value out of this book, because this is a book that I will, without doubt, hand to someone else to have a read (and if you’re reading Ed, I’ll then encourage them to get out there and buy a copy themself! :)).

Coffeehouse Theology is the sort of bridge-building book that provides a real chance for the mainstream church to see that in so many ways, they are on the same side as “emerging” type thinkers. Because the road to syncretism and heresy doesn’t come from looking seriously at the culture we find ourselves immersed in, and recognise the benefits as well as the dangers of our culture, but rather it starts when we pretend that culture does not and has not effected us. Ed (it’s much easier to type than “Cyzewski”) is certainly pushing the church in a direction it needs to go, and is doing with an approach that doesn’t throw away the wider church tradition as we consider the words of Scripture.

Basically guys, it’s a really good book. If you get a chance – pick it up!

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Politics, Christians and Homosexuality

OK, I’m angry. And what’s more, I’m likely to make you angry. Possibly for the same reason as me. Possibly because you vigorously disagree with what I say. Either way. But here’s the back story:

After Scott and Christina kindly posted a link through to the video of the Australian Christian Lobby’s big politician thing “Make It Count”, where there were a whole bunch of church leaders at the National Press Club in Canberra, as well as being simulcast all over the country via online streaming. It was a pretty big deal and we had both Howard and Rudd addressing the issues they saw as affecting and being particularly relevant to christians. Thousands of people across Australia were watching, and I certainly saw a lot of value in hearing what the two leaders had to say.

And both leaders said a number of things that were of value. However, for some reason, there was only one thing that the crowd felt was deserving of spontaneous applause. It wasn’t a humanitarian measure that prompted spontaneous applause, nor was it mentions of conscience votes on stem cells, RU486, or comments on refugees. Instead, this room full of christian leaders believed that the only moment most worthy of spontaneous applause was the moment when John Howard mentioned his involvement in the amendments to the marriage act to enshrine in law the standard of marriage being between “one man and one woman”.

I was already fairly worked up after hearing that, but I was pushed just a little further while I was listening to the Kevin Rudd, question answer part and heard the National President of the Australian Family Association ask Kevin Rudd for an assurance that he would not support an extension of “de-facto” relationship status to include homosexual relationships.

I was pretty ticked off. For starters, here’s how I’d see the issue of marriage in relation to homosexual relationships. For my thinking, there are two parts to what happens in a marriage: there’s a change in legal status (complete with a bunch of legal rights, particularly in the event of death of a spouse), and there is a spiritual dimension to marriage: the spiritual unification of two people. Now I strongly believe that homosexuality is a sin, and I also strongly believe that churches should not be holding weddings between homosexual couples. But I fail to understand why a country who has on the whole accepted that people are in homosexual relationships, is not willing to grant the legal dimension of marriage to couples wanting to commit to one another for life.

OK, so that’s my position. But I understand that for some people (including probably the majority of christians), the notion of compromising the institution of marriage, even if only in a “legal” sense is an unacceptable position. I’d like to hear why, but I want to make another point first.

De-facto relationships. To use the old-fashioned term: “living in sin”. At the moment in Australian law, couples in a de-facto relationship are given more “rights” (in the same sense as we talk about legal rights in marriage) than any form of homosexual relationships. So the part I cannot understand is why we’re so determined to ostracise homosexual couples to the point that we’re not even willing to give them the same status as couples whose only real commitment to one another is that they are living together. It defies belief. Both situations are against the teachings of Christianity. So why is the Australian Family Association so frightened of “compromising the family” in this way?

The Holy and the sinful

I know that I seem to be linking through to just about everything these guys put out there, but “Out Of Ur” has posted another great article, this time by Mike Sares, pastor of “Scum of the Earth” church (what a name). But I was struck by this quote:

Boomer Christians tend to divide the world into three categories: the holy, the secular, and the downright sinful….. The new generation of Christians, however, tends to see only two categories: the holy and the sinful. This means things that previously fell into the “secular” category are now open for consumption and experimentation without judgment.

It’s an interesting proposition, and certainly an interesting concept. I must admit, I’ve noticed my own worldview shifting towards removing the notion of secular from my life – which pushes you to consider where the “holiness” is in the “secular” things you do, or whether or not they are just sin. Worth a thought.

Religious Right. Right?

There are two things that really just hurt about this article. The first is the way in which Christian values have been manipulated to fit in with a political ideology. Conferences like this re-inforce the sentiment that the church is about rules, about being homophobic and xenophobic. When terms are used like “attack on our Christian heritage”, everyone knows that the implication from that is that it’s the Muslims who are the root of all the problems in this country. It’s hate-speech, wrapped up in self-righteous pomposity. These groups push Christianity as being a religion for respectable, white, middle/upper class families. “Family Values” are the cornerstone of what the religious right is about. Not “good news for the poor, sight to the blind, freedom for the captives” (link).

But the hardest part to take is the bitterness in this article. The exasperation. The church is failing. We’re more passionate about keeping our culture from the evils of sexual immorality than we are about caring for the broken. This article is an accurate reflection of what most of Australia’s population sees from christians in the news. Moral policemen. Respectable rich people wanting to clamp down on “unsavouries” in soceity.

Whitewashed tombs.