on the corruption of governments

A few weeks ago at my church, I had the pleasure and privilege of preaching from God’s Word.  (The link to the video for that can be found here.)  The sermon series this summer has been “What Does God Say About _____.”  After much thought, I decided to roll the dice and propose the topic of government.  Nothing controversial there, right?

I proceeded with my points:

  1. Government was instituted by God
  2. We must submit to the governing authorities.
  3. The only thing we can do with government is corrupt it.

It was this third and last point that came to mind when I was listening to the radio and heard an unbeliever (my assumption) echo the very sentiment.  This past week, Russian president Vladimir Putin wrote an op-ed in the New York Times slamming American “exceptionalism,” the notion that there is nothing special about America.  The radio host vehemently disagreed.  He said the following:

So what is it? Well, if you know the history of the world… Read your Bible, read whatever historical account of humanity you hold dear, and what you’ll read about is human tyranny. You’ll read of bondage. You’ll read of slavery. The vast majority of the people, the vast majority of the human beings who have lived and breathed and walked this planet have lived under the tyranny of despots, the vast majority.

It isn’t even close.

The vast majority of the people of this world since the beginning of time have never known the kind of liberty and freedom that’s taken for granted every day in this country. Most people have lived in abject fear of their leaders. Most people have lived in abject fear of whoever held power over them. Most people in the world have not had plentiful access to food and clean water. It was a major daily undertaking for most people to come up with just those two basic things.

Just surviving was the primary occupation of most people in the world. The history of the world is dictatorship, tyranny, subjugation, whatever you want to call it of populations — and then along came the United States of America. Pilgrims were the first to come here seeking freedom from all of that. They were oppressed because of their religion. They were told they had to believe in the king and his god, whatever it was, or they would be imprisoned.

They led an exodus from Europe to this country, people of the same mind-set. They simply wanted to escape the tyranny of their ordinary lives. This country was founded that way. For the first time in human history, a government and country was founded on the belief that leaders serve the population. This country was the first in history, the EXCEPTION — e-x-c-e-p-t, except. The exception to the rule is what American exceptionalism is.

It is because of this liberty and freedom that our country exists, because the founders recognized it comes from God. It’s part of the natural yearning of the human spirit. It is not granted by a government. It’s not granted by Putin. It’s not granted by Obama or any other human being. We are created with the natural yearning to be free, and it is other men and leaders throughout human history who have suppressed that and imprisoned people for seeking it.

The US is the first time in the history of the world where a government was organized with a Constitution laying out the rules, that the individual was supreme and dominant, and that is what led to the US becoming the greatest country ever because it unleashed people to be the best they could be. Nothing like it had ever happened. That’s American exceptionalism. Putin doesn’t know what it is, Obama doesn’t know what it is, and it just got trashed in the New York Times. It’s just unacceptable.

The host?  Rush Limbaugh.  (His full monologue can be found here.)  Even an unbeliever understands that we as humans have a tendency to corrupt everything we come in contact with.  Even an unbeliever knows that there is a supreme being that endows men with rights.  The problem is that we look for redemption in the external.  We look for salvation through government (whether less or more of it, even though I certainly have an opinion which is better!).

Yet, salvation, deliverance, and eternal life are only found in one place — the God-man Jesus the Messiah.  He paid the penalty for our sins at His first coming, and He will set up the most perfect government when He comes again!  Lord, haste the day!


on circumcision…

Disclaimer #1 — Yes, this is a post on circumcision.  Yes, I will be talking about the penis.

Disclaimer #2 — This is in no way a response or critique of those that have decided to have their sons circumcised.  It is a personal decision that is deserving of mutual respect and annihilation of ignorance.

When you find out that you’re going to be a father, you realize that there are a myriad of decisions that need to be made, some major, some incidental.  I already posted on one of those decisions — vaccines.  Laura and I also mutually decided that we would want to homeschool, even though I had never, ever, thought I would want to, having been a product of an excellent public school education.  On January 19, 2011, when we found out that we would be having a son, another decision we had to make was whether or not to have him circumcised.

At first, Laura wasn’t sure why I would want to leave him intact; after all, it has become the “norm” to have boys circumcised.  We discussed it, I researched it, and sure enough, one of the first questions the nurse asked (even before Laura was out of recovery) was whether or not he’d be circumcised.  And I said “no.”  Over the next few days, as people visited, some even asked, “Has he been circumcised yet?”  Or, “When does he get circumcised?”  One curious friend (one of my best, I might add) called a few weeks before and bluntly asked, “Tell me you’re gonna have him circumcised, right?”

It was at that point that I laid out my reasoning to him why, in fact, we would leave him intact.  For those of you that are curious yourself, or have already given Laura an earful, or think that I’m crazy, I’d like to give you my thoughts on the matter, arguing from the perspective of the reasons people give for circumcising.

First, the argument from religion: “God commands it.”  Actually, no.  In the beginning, God created man with a foreskin.  It was a part of His original design.  It wasn’t until Gen 17:9-14 that God commands Abraham and his male descendants to be circumcised as sign of the covenant between Himself and Abraham.  Circumcision was there to remind the nation of Israel that if they do not follow God’s Law, they will be cut off from the blessings of God’s people just as their foreskin was cut off.  Talk about a vivid illustration!  Today, ever since the death of the Son and the giving of the Spirit, Israel is no longer God’s premier entity on Earth, the Church is.  The Church does not have the same relationship to God as Israel did, nor do we have the same set of rules — which includes circumcision.  In fact, Paul goes to great, extensive lengths to deny the necessity of circumcision (1 Cor 7:18-19; Gal 2:3-5).  Now Paul talks about the inward circumcision of the heart (Rom 2:29).  Paul goes toe to toe with Peter in Acts 15 to discuss the matter, an argument Paul ends up winning.  To say that we should be circumcising today based upon the Bible is, quite frankly, to be ignorant of Scripture.

Second, the argument for hygiene:  “Do you know how dirty the foreskin is?”  I’d imagine that it does indeed get dirty.  So does the circumcised penis.  Do we cut our ears off because they get crusty behind them?  Do we pull out our teeth because they have many cracks and crevices for bacteria to grow?  No!  We wash behind our ears.  We floss and brush our teeth.  Regardless of whether a guy is intact or circumcised, they are going to have to clean their penis.  Either way, if it is not regularly washed, it’s going to smell, just like every other body part.  I think a better case can be made that it is more hygienic to be intact.  The foreskin is meant to protect the glans and, for the first ten years (on average), is fused to it.  Parents don’t have to worry about feces getting in contact with the glans as circumcised boys do.

I’ve also been told horror stories by friends who had other friends whose mothers would forcibly retract their foreskin and scrub it so hard it hurt.  But how is this an argument against circumcision?  Let me be clear: I have no plans of ever retracting my son’s foreskin.  He will be the first one to do so, and he will be the only one to do so.  I will instruct him as to proper care, just as we will with brushing his teeth, washing between his toes, and wiping his butt after he goes to the bathroom.  There is no hygienic difference.*  In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics has come out and said there is absolutely no medical reason to circumcise.  (Although they still see no problem with injecting our babies with toxic and animal products.)

Third, the argument from societal pressure:  “Don’t you want him to look like every other boy/you?”  Actually, the rate of leaving boys intact in the United States has risen dramatically the past two decades.  We’re one of the few countries in the world that still has a high circumcision rate.  In addition, I don’t know how often my son will see other men’s penises.  I would hope it would not be a regular occurrence that other men are noticing, especially since we’ll be homeschooling (let alone kids haven’t showered after gym class for decades now).  I plan on educating my son that it’s nothing to be ashamed of; indeed, he’s the way God originally created man.  If anything, it’s up to other men to teach their sons that there is nothing wrong with their friend who still has his foreskin, and to not perpetuate the ignorance that they themselves have.

Fourth, the argument from its resurgence in America.  When the pediatrician came to the hospital to examine Daniel, he had asked us about circumcision, as well.  When we told him that we were going to leave him intact, he breathed a sigh of relief and said, “Oh good.  The whole reason why it became popular in America, anyway, was to curb masturbation.”  I got a good chuckle out of that one.  Not to be crass, but ask any circumcised guy if it curbed his desire to masturbate.  Between that and his support of our vaccine decision, we would have so gone to Dr. O’Croinin with the Pediatric Group if Kaiser accepted them.  We loved Dr. O’Croinin.

Fifth, it’s not my body.  I will not make that decision for my son.  Yes, by the time he is old enough to make that decision, the procedure would be far more painful and recovery time far longer.  But it’s not my decision.  I’ve had friends that have had their sons circumcised, but they couldn’t bear to watch the procedure.  For me, if I can’t watch a medically unnecessary procedure because of the empathetic pain, perhaps it isn’t necessary.

Dr. Sears has an EXCELLENT little blog on the matter.  Some are the same reasons I gave here.  You can find it here.  If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask me and we can talk about it.  It was ultimately my decision, as Laura deferred to my judgment on the matter since I’m the father.  I’m not on a crusade to convince fathers otherwise, but to shed light on the issue so that we aren’t circumcising our sons “just because.”

*Perhaps the case could be made that God commanded it because it was hygienic — that it was part of the laws of cleanliness, and not part of the ceremonial law.  The Bible does not say either way, but I felt it worth noting so that the charge could not be leveled against me that I didn’t take that under consideration.  I did.  Thanks.

on marriage and sex.

Disclaimer: This post is in no way a response to any one I know, particularly my brother and sister-in-law who are getting married on Saturday (woohoo!).  Enjoy this unmarried’s perspective on such things.  I’m sure those of you who are married will laugh at these musings.

Given that my younger brother is getting married on Saturday, many well-meaning people have asked if it bothers me that he is getting married before I do.  After I indulge them with a brief chuckle, I do my best to convey to them that I am, in fact, quite content with where I’m at with life right now.  I’ve seen enough unhappy or failed marriages of friends to know it’s better to be content waiting than to jump into something for which I’m not ready (as if timing was independent of God’s will, but that’s another blog).  Although I haven’t always viewed my singleness with contentment (and there was that one year where I dated), it’s something that I have come to appreciate and enjoy.  I know that the day will come when I’ll take that next step, but for now… being single makes ministry so much easier (I feel as though there’s a verse somewhere to that effect).  And I’m fine waiting for a marriage that will make ministering together a blessing.

There are only really only two things that ever break my state of contentedness — one healthy, the other not as much.  Whenever I attend weddings, or whenever I see healthy marriages (those I consider healthy are quite few and far between), I’m struck with a twinge of sadness and loneliness.  It’s those moments where I know that I won’t be single forever, because such a huge part of me is my daily interaction with others, and I can’t imagine living life without having that one person to bless and build up, and for them to do the same for me.

The other issue that frustratingly breaks my contentment is the issue of sex.  I think because so much of an emphasis is placed on sex in today’s culture, people equate marriage with a license to have sex.  Especially in the believing community, “kids” desire (or maybe are even told) to get married if they just can’t contain their physical passion.  Evidently it is better to abstain from sex for its own sake, rather than learn the self-control and respect that abstinence takes.  To get married, and to view it solely (or even to emphasize it) as divine permission to have sex is to have a warped view of what it means to be married.

To be sure, it is a privilege that comes with it, but it is not the end of it all.  It’s God design to wait (whether or not we heed that call), but marriage is so much more than that.  It’s an emotional and spiritual connection (which I’m sure is heightened by sex).  It’s permanent companionship and best friendship.  The vast majority of times that I become discontent is when my friends talk about sex as the end-all, be-all of the commitment.  We brag about the wedding night, but we don’t want to talk about all the other areas that marriage entails.  (Side note: It also frustrates me when believers talk about not wanting to die [or better, not wanting to be raptured] until they get married, as if sex is somehow better than being in the presence of Christ, but I digress.)  With all the pressure on the sexual aspect of marriage, no wonder there is so much emphasis on performance, and such a de-emphasis on what really matters.  It’s a cheapening of the institution of marriage.

Lately, I’ve been reading the poetry and essays of Wendell Berry.  They are quite interesting, as he writes from a unique perspective.  He’s evangelical and familiar with a great deal of Scripture, although his interpretation is sometimes skewed.  His political views are such that he seeks the benefit of the community (local, not national), and that the community and the family are the cornerstones of our civilization.  In one of his essays, “Sex, Economy, Freedom & Community,” Berry attempts to show (fairly successfully) the connection between the over-sexualization of our culture, and how that is seen in, well… the economy, our freedom, and the community.  I’d like to offer a couple quotes.  Some I’ll let speak for themselves, some I’ll comment on, but I think they speak to a better, more proper perspective on sex.  I will say, though, that while Berry focuses on the mystical/spiritual aspects of sex, I think there is a case to be made so that it doesn’t exclude pleasure.

The public language can deal, however awkwardly and perhaps uselessly, with pornography, sexual hygiene, contraception, sexual harassment, rape, and so on.  But it cannot talk about respect, responsibility, sexual discipline, fidelity, or the practice of love. “Sexual education,” carried on in this public language, is and can only be a dispirited description of the working of a sort of anatomical machinery — and this is a sexuality that is neither erotic nor social nor sacramental but rather a cold-blooded, abstract procedure that is finally not even imaginable. (p. 122)

If you destroy the ideal of the “gentle man” and remove from men all expectations of courtesy and consideration toward women and children, you have prepared the way for an epidemic of rape and abuse.  If you depreciate the sanctity and solemnity of marriage, not just as a bond between two people but as a bond between those two people and their forebears, their children, and their neighbors, then you have prepared the way for an epidemic of divorce, child neglect, community ruin, and loneliness.  (pp. 124-25)

[A lotion advertisement depicting a headless woman] suggests also another telling indication of the devaluation of sexual love in modern times — that is, the gravitation of attention from the countenance, especially the eyes, to the specifically sexual anatomy.  The difference, of course, is that the countenance is both physical and spiritual.  There is much testimony to this in the poetic tradition and elsewhere.  Looking into one another’s eyes, lovers recognize their encounter as a meeting not merely of two bodies but of two living souls.  (p. 134)  One of the reasons I love looking into a person’s eyes.  It’s like you are actually looking at them, not just the physical shell that contains who they really are.  Now all my friends are going to be self-conscious about it.  Awesome.

Because of our determination to separate sex from the practice of love in marriage and in family and community life, our public sexual morality is confused, sentimental, bitter, complexly destructive, and hypocritical.  (p. 140)  Here he begins talking about the dignity and respect aspects of sexuality.  I like this next quote:

Sexual lovemaking between humans is not and cannot be the thoughtless, instinctual coupling of animals; it is not “recreation;” it is not “safe.”  It is the strongest prompting and the greatest joy that young people are likely to experience.  Because it is so powerful, it is risky, not just because of the famous dangers of venereal disease and “unwanted pregnancy” but also because it involves and requires a giving away of the self that if not honored and reciprocated, inevitably reduces dignity and self-respect.  The invitation to give oneself away is not, except for the extremely ignorant or the extremely foolish, an easy one to accept.  (pp. 143-44)  This is the issue.  In today’s society, we glamorize the physical and physiological aspects of sex that we neglect the wonder, dignity, and spirituality of it.  In so doing, we especially degrade the institution of marriage when we focus on sex as the goal of marriage (especially in its physical and physiological sense).

One final quote.  While talking about depictions of sex (whether it be art, pornography, or voyeurism), Berry writes: True intimacy, even assuming that it can be observed, cannot be known by an outsider and cannot be shown.  An artist who undertakes to show the most intimate union of lovers — even assuming that the artist is one of the lovers — can only represent what she or he alone thinks it is.  The intimacy, the union itself, remains unobserved. (p. 163)

So how does this relate to my thoughts on marriage?  I’m thankful that I’m still single.  It seems that with every single day, I learn more about myself, and more about what I am, and am not, looking for (again, as if God’s sovereignty was an independent issue).  I have a much better understanding now of what it takes to have a healthy relationship (not saying that I’ve arrived or have a full understanding of what all is involved with the marriage relationship).  But I’ve come to understand that marriage is so much greater than any one aspect that comes with it.  By emphasizing sex, we degrade and distort the intimacy that comes with it.

Why do we… fine, I… allow myself to be so affected by the world’s emphasis on sex?  We talk about reaching sexual maturity, and how we want to take advantage of being in our sexual peak, but what is the point of that if it’s at the cost of a beneficial, loving, long-term marriage because we are too young and immature to do little more than the physical and physiological act of sex?  May I do my part not to degrade nor diminish it.

What is love?

Have you ever thought about what love is?  I mean, think about it.  Can love be utterly selfless?  Ot is that God’s alone?  Is it an emotion?  A decision?  A gut reaction?  Do we choose who we love?  If so, why do we make that choice?  Why do we love the ones we do?  Is it because we seek to bless them, or is it because they bring something else to the table?  Is it fondness for someone or their sensory input patterns?  Is it, in contrast to spiritual gifts, a set of actions and attitudes found in 1 Cor 13?  How is it that I guard very specifically to whom I say those three little words; yet, there are people I have no problem saying it to, but it becomes so difficult to others who I should feel compelled to love?  You can know for sure that if I tell you that I love you, you hold a special place in my life.

So?  What is it?  Or is this a question(s) without an answer?

Sugarland has quickly become one of my favorite acts in country music (in fact, their album Love On The Inside is about all I have been listening to lately).  They wrote a song that attempts to tackle this issue (a song whose chorus is so simple, melodically and lyrically, yet so intriguing).  While I don’t think this song holds the answers, or even is consistent in offering good questions, I think it’s an interesting song.  Here they are singing it on last year’s CMA awards:

Is it the face of a child?
Is it the thrill of danger?
Is it the kindness we see in the eyes of a stranger?
Is it more than faith?
Is it more than hope?
Is it waiting for us at the end of our rope?
Is it the one you call home?
Is it the holy land?
Is it standing right here holding your hand?
Is it just like the movies?
Is it rice and white lace?
Is it the feeling I get when I wake to your face?
Is it the first summer storm?
Is it the colors of fall?
Is it having so little and yet having it all?
Is it one in a million?
Is it a chance to belong?
Is it standing right here singing this song?
Is it a veil or a cross?
Is it the poet’s gift?
Is it the face that has launched over thousands of ships?
Is it making you laugh?
Is it letting you cry?
Is it where we believe that we go when we die?
Is it how you were made?
Is it your mother’s ghost?
Is it the wish that I’m wishing for your life the most?

I say it’s love.

review of Anne Lamott, “Travelling Mercies”

Postmodernism – in the circles that I usually find myself, it can be a worse thing to say than any four-letter word imaginable.  And, these are the same words that Anne Lamott uses occasionally throughout her book, “Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts On Faith.”  Not that I have a problem with those words – after all, it was my roommate who said concerning his sister’s new boyfriend, “Yeh, Davey, I think you’ll like him.  He’s a Christian, and he drinks and swears.”  Concerning the book, however, I definitely have mixed feelings.  I came across this book last Wednesday when I was working with one of my new coworkers, someone who I’ve come to look up to in not a few ways, despite the fact I’ve known him an entire three weeks (he has borrowed my DVDs of “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia” and likes them – seriously, how bad could he be?).  He himself goes to a more emerging church than I’ve ever set foot in.  We talked about Donald Miller, and he said if I wanted to read something more “edgy,” to pick up Lamott.  Although I think that the subtitle of the book is quite misleading, as there isn’t much in the book about faith (let alone faith that is saturated in grace that is utterly free), I think there are definitely good things that we conservative evangelicals can glean for our own spiritual lives.  All this, of course, with utmost respect to my friends and family members who glean a lot more out of this than I would.  But what’s the point of learning and growing if we aren’t dialoguing about it?

Probably the most striking issue at heart here is the matter of truth – and that comes at no surprise.  In today’s secular world, truth has become so relative that we accept those who hold antithetical views solely because there is no standard to call one “right” and one “wrong.”  This seems to serve as the foundational presupposition of Lamott’s work.  After all, she admits that she was nurtured by various families – Catholics, Christian Scientists, Jews, and her own agnostic father (3).  Later on, she claims that spirituality of any kind is what enables people to have meaningful lives (100).  And this may be true to an extent.  People who believe in something do seem to have more purpose in their lives, but only those who know Jesus as their Savior have real purpose.

She isn’t shy about her own past in coming to Truth: “I was thirsty for something that I will dare to call the truth, so I read a lot of East Indian poetry and sat in the little chapel on campus and tried to pray” (27).  And:  “Still, I had never stopped believing in God since that day in Eva Gossman’s class.  Mine was a patchwork God, sewn together from bits of rag and ribbon, Eastern and Western, pagan and Hebrew, everything but the kitchen sink and Jesus” (41).  Combining her variety of spiritual backgrounds to her drug and alcohol usage, as well as her sexual promiscuity, as well as the era in which she grew up, it is little wonder she has arrived at the Christianity that she has.

And that is a Christianity that, as it seems to me, has so very little hope: “And since this side of the grave you could never know for sure if there was a God, you had to make a leap of faith, if you could leaping, across the abyss of doubt with fear and trembling” (27)  And: “I had the cracks [in my life for the hope to shine through,] but not the hope” (40).  When she lost one of her best friends, Pammy, to cancer, she grieved her so much (72), but never seemed to come to the realization that, yes, we are to grieve, but our grief is to be immediately comforted in hope of the rapture in the resurrection.  I mean, we have huge emphases in the New Testament regarding the hope we have (1 Cor 15 and 1 Thess 4-5 come to mind off the top of my head).  One of the most comforting things to me about my relationship with God is the hope that I find in it.  I can’t fathom what it would be like to live apart from this hope – and it is something that seems to be so lacking from Lamott’s worldview.  It is dreadfully obvious from her disdain for eschatology: “[On a plane, I was sitting next to] a man my own age who was reading a book by a famous right-wing Christian novelist about the Apocalypse.  A newspaper had asked me to review this book when it first came out, because its author and I are both Christians – although as I pointed out in my review, he’s one of those right-wing Christians who thinks that Jesus is coming back next Tuesday right after lunch, and I am one of those left-wing Christians who thinks that perhaps this author is just spiritualizing his own hysteria… I remembered saying in the review that the book was hard-core right-wing paranoid anti-Semitic homophobic misogynistic propaganda – not to put too fine a point on it” (60).  Now, I’m not defending the date-setters and the hyper-typers, but it is no coincidence that so much of the Bible is prophecy, that so much of it is as detailed as it is.  The prophets of the Old Testament, the letters to the Thessalonians, Revelation, they are all meant to educate believers on what is going to happen, and for me, that means such a great influx of hope knowing how things are going to turn out, even if I don’t know all the details.  I don’t need to wonder what heaven is going to be like, as Lamott does:  “[Snorkeling,] the water is not crystal clear, and there are not a million brilliantly colored fish to watch, but if there is a heaven – and think there really may be one – it may be similar to snorkeling: dreamy, soft, bright, quiet.”  Or: “I was also thinking of a priest who said that sometimes he thinks that heaven is just a new pair of glasses” (200).  When so much is said about future things, how can one be so disdainful and nonchalant about it!  This is a foundation of hope!

Now, if she were here sitting next to me, I’d expect vehement disagreement with this next point.  There were times where she’d say something, and I’d chuckle heartily because of what she was, in essence, affirming!  Note:  “Now.  Maybe you think it is arrogant or self-centered or ridiculous for me to believe that God bothered to wiggle a cheap bolt out of my new used car because he or she needed to keep me away for a few days until just the moment when my old friend most needed me to help her mother move into whatever comes next.  Maybe nothing conscious helped to stall me so that I would be there when I could be most useful” (114).  I’m sorry, but if this isn’t a Calvinistic commentary on her car’s breakdown, I don’t know what is!  What she calls “arrogant” and “self-centered,” I call the “sovereignty of God!”  I have these moments multiple times a week, if not a day, and all I can do is look up and praise Him for it!

And speaking of the gender of God, one of the things that really bothered me throughout the book is the ambiguous use of the pronouns “him” and “her” to refer to God:  “I got out my note to God.  I said, Look, hon.  I think we need bigger guns” (133).  And:  “I wouldn’t put anything past God, because he or she is one crafty mother” (152).  Or:  “God must have been in one of her show-offy moods” (242).  And yet again: “Veronica [her pastor] stepped to her side.  ‘God is an adoptive parent, too.  And she chose us all.  She says, “Sure, I’ll take the kids who are addicted, or terminal.  I picked all the retarded kids, and of course the sadists.  The selfish ones, the liars…”’” (254-255). Should we think of God as masculine in the sense that men are masculine, maybe, maybe not.  Nevertheless, it is pretty evident that we are to think of Him as masculine, as every pronoun, name, and title in the entire Bible is in the masculine, not feminine form.  Again, this is a reflection of the worldview of truth that people bring to Christianity.  They want to keep what they see as the best of their old lives (in Lamott’s case, community, feminism, and liberal politics) and force it to mesh with a biblical worldview – and in some cases, it just results with disaster.

In other cases, it works phenomenally well.  Their focus on community, forgiveness, and love is something that evangelicals have lost sight of in a grievous way.  She tells the story of a choir member in her church, Ranola, who was not at all happy when an HIV-infected, former homosexual, Ken, started attending their church (64).  And this is where evangelicals fail.  Miserably.  I’ve heard it said once, or maybe read, that the only acceptable sin to an evangelical is one in the past:  “I used to struggle with pornography.  I used to shoot up every weekend.  I used to be a womanizer.  I used to steal.  I used to do this, I used to do that.  But now I am perfect!”  This completely takes away from the fact that we are not yet perfect!  If we have to keep deceiving each other, tricking each other into thinking that we have already arrived, all this does is hinder fellowship and sanctification.  This is not to say that we take sin lightly, but that we take into account that we are all still “in process,” and that we need to love each other as we are.  I like to think that when I’m with other believers, there should be no awkwardness, no “getting to know you” stage.  After all, we share the most personal bond any two people could ever share – the same baptism of the Holy Spirit.  As believers, we are more a part of each other than anyone else in the entire world.  And if we have that in common, that right there is all I need to know in order for me to automatically consider someone a friend.  If that’s in place, I feel as though that “connection” is already there.  Maybe that’s a little too mystical and all that, but I believe it with my whole heart.  That’s one of things that I love about working at the market this summer.  I know that the people I work with, even if it is not all of them, are believers.  It immediately makes it a more enjoyable experience for me, and I feel as though I am able to relate differently because of it.

Kudos if you’ve made it this far.  I’m leaving so much out that was thought-provoking, yet here I am anyway babbling on.  Couple more thoughts.  Again, I love the idea of community, but in the subchapter, “Why I Make Sam Go To Church” (99-105), the answer is not “to learn more about Jesus” but “to be a part of a loving community.”  Indeed, the whole Jesus-faith-salvation-hope-death-and-resurrection thing is a rarity in the book, and this makes all the parts I agree with feel very unsubstantiated, because we left out the reasoning for all the practice.  We are a community because of grace.  We have hope because of the resurrection.  We have life because of Jesus.  Instead, the community is more important than Jesus; love is more important than hope and faith (but not in the 1 Corinthians 13 way).  And what has this done to Sam [her son]?  “His spiritual views are changing; sometimes he says he doesn’t believe in only Jesus now.  He says, ‘I believe in all the gods now,’ but that may be just to torture me” (267).  No wonder!  And she says it so nonchalantly as if it is a decision to be made lightly, or one of no consequence!

Alright, alright.  Time to wrap it up:

On grace:
“I do not at all understand the mystery of grace – only that it means us where we are but does not leave us where it found us” (143).  Good description of what grace does, but not really the heart of what grace is.

On beer:
“Not all people happen to love the taste of rye bread soaked in goat urine.  I myself don’t mind it” (185).  I, myself, hate it.  Give me something stronger for the love of Pete!

On comforting others:
“I believe that when all is said and done, all you can do is to show up for someone in crisis, which seems so inadequate.  But then when you do, it can radically change everything.  Your there-ness, your stepping into a scared parent’s line of vision, can be life giving, because often everyone else is in hiding – especially, in the beginning, the parents.  So you come to keep them company when it feels like the whole world is falling apart, and your being there says that just for this moment, this one tiny piece of the world is OK, or is at least better” (163-164).

On love:
“Even when we’re most sure that love can’t conquer all, it seems to anyway” (264).

All in all, it was an interesting read and I’m glad I did it.  I may edit some of this as time goes on, but oh well.  Thoughts?  Questions?  Snide remarks?  There’s so much to wade through when it comes to the philosophy of postmodernism, and I’m by no means an expert, but I’m continually trying to see the good in it all and not throw the baby out with the bath water.  Like I said, when it comes to love and community, evangelicals have a lot to learn!  We need to realize that we are still sinners in need of grace.  Granted, I like how I view things in terms of the marriage of theology and practice.  If I didn’t, I’d be hypocritical to hold them.  It’s just that there is so much grace in the Christian life, and that grace is meant to be shared and to be reveled in, and especially to be appreciated with others within the community.  On the flip side, however, is the fact that the Bible is filled with so much about God and what He has done for us, does for us, and will do for us in the future.  To ignore the depth of that information is just as bad as to divorce ourselves from love and community, as if theology is all that matters.

As the most awesome Paul Benware has said, “Sometimes the people who have experienced God’s grace the most are the most effective to be in ministry.”