Here’s our very first OOZEtv piece, a ThinkFWD interview between Spencer Burke and Shane Claiborne on Circus Theology. Enjoy!
PS: Do you Twitter? Let’s follow each other! I’m @zoecarnate
Here’s our very first OOZEtv piece, a ThinkFWD interview between Spencer Burke and Shane Claiborne on Circus Theology. Enjoy!
PS: Do you Twitter? Let’s follow each other! I’m @zoecarnate
Leonard Sweet. He got many of us thinking about the postmodern cultural-spiritual shift in the 1990s with provocative titles like Quantum Spirituality, SoulTsunami and AquaChurch. These titles were like books on crack, seemingly taking a cue from the then-popular VH1 Pop-Up Video, with ADD-appropriate sprinkles of information overlaid on more conventional text. By the early, he was introducing proto-emergent ideas of faithful Christian engagement with postmodernity, including books like A Is For Abductive with Brian McLaren. By the mid-2000s, Sweet’s books took on a more contemplative (though no less provocative) tone beginning with Out of the Question…and Into The Mystery. With Sweet’s latest offering, he deepens his commitments to a culturally-responsive and biblically-savvy ecclesiology.
For two more days only, you can download So Beautiful in its entirety absolutely free from Christian Audio – just go here and enter the coupon code ‘APR2009.‘ Tell them Mike Morrell sent you in the Order Comments! If you’ve never ordered anything from ChristianAudio’s quality audio library before, you’ll need to create an account here. It’s quick.
Also, if you prefer print, I still have a limited allotment of So Beautiful Update: We are now out of hard copies, but you can still choose two awesome titles from this month’s ViralBlogger offerings for review. If you’re already an Ooze Viral Blogger, you may select it! If you’re not, go here to check out the rights & responsibilities herein. If you’re up for applying, go here.
I hope that this book gets read far & wide. The Good Doctor Sweet presents an extraordinary look at life as it was intended to be lived, sharing hidden treasures of God’s design for God’s people in three interwoven elements that form the heart, soul and calling of the apprenticed-to-Jesus life. In the spirit of radical inquiry – from radix, going to the root –So Beautiful unearths God’s deep-rooted dreams for the beloved community after his own heart.
Check out ze book trailer:
More to come at TheOOZE.tv
So this is kind’ve last minute, but Lent is here, that 40-day period between Ash Wednesday (that’s today) and Easter Sunday. My friend Christine Sine has some thoughts:
During Lent this year I would like to invite you to join us at Mustard Seed Associates on a journey with Jesus towards the Cross, a journey that we hope will change our lives forever. We want to challenge you to set aside time to deepen your relationship with God by entering the brokenness of our world. Allow yourself to encounter Christ as you reflect on all the aspects of your life and of our world that distort your ability to live as effective representatives of God and God’s kingdom.
A couple of years ago, after the 10th person told me they were giving up chocolate for Lent I became extremely frustrated and decided to produce a Lenten guide that encouraged people to make some meaningful sacrifices during this season. Each week we focused on a different aspect of the brokenness of the human condition — with activities from easy to challenging that people could participate in.
I also want to give props to my friends in Atlanta who are orchestrating a flash mob Ash Wednesday requiem in a MARTA bus terminal – easily the most creative expression of grace that I’ve heard of in a long time. Read all about it here, and check out the video.
Artists Dubhghlas and Makoto Fujimura are part of The Art of Helping Others, a new artist consortium producing fine visual art and funding humanitarian initiatives through their sale, as well as bringing attention to pain & healing through the beauty and ambiquity of their work. Their galleries are quite stunning; I recommend checking them out. And read my friend Dubhghlas‘ blog, which he’s just started here. A video unfolds their muse:
Are you an artist? A patron for good art & worthy causes? See how you can get involved here.
Church as Art by Troy Bronsink
What comes to mind when you think of ‘the end-times’ or ‘the return of Jesus’? For some, this is a boring subject. For others, it literally defines their lives. For many, ideas about eschatology fuel their passion & faith in God; for still many others, those same teachings have caused untold pain.
From the 1970s – 1990s, books about ‘the end of the world as we know it’ became best-sellers that fueled entire cottage industries. But as the first decade of the 21st century seems to mirror more & more a real-life apocalypse now, it seems like Christians are questioning their inherited assumptions. At the same time, people of goodwill from all faith backgrounds (or none at all) are questioning the public good of ‘Left Behind’ spirituality. Environmental carelessness, turmoil in the Middle East, and a general attitude of war = end-times progress and peace = the antichrist have caused many journalists, theologians, ministers and ordinary believers to weigh the fruit of these popular ideas. They’ve been weighed and found wanting.
Thankfully there are other resources for faith and practice besides pop-culture interpretations of Revelation. Inquirers have been seeking out Scripture and church history with fresh urgency, to see what Jesus and his earliest followers might have been thinking about ‘the time of the end’ and Jesus’ return.
My friend Kevin Beck of Presence International has written a book exploring just these questions. No dogma remains unwalked; no sacred cow remains un-tipped in his exploration of a better way to tell this Story. Kevin and the folks at Presence have decided that this book is too important to sell – and I agree. Whether you see eye-to-eye with every jot-and-tittle is irrelevant; This Book Will Change Your World lives up to its promise, and deserves to be set free to as many readers as possible.
For this reason, Kevin has enthusiastically agreed to give away a digital edition of this book to everyone who will share it with their friends. You can share it with as few as 3 friends, or you can share it with your whole email address book, which I’m doing.
Kevin wants to share this book with everyone – not to manufacture consent, or tell you what to believe. Rather, his heart is to re-frame a well-worn paradigm and open a conversation, a vital dialogue on what is (spiritually, geopolitically, ecologically – you name it) one of the most urgent matters of our time. To get your free copy of This Book Will Change Your World, go here and click the ‘free e-book’ option. It’ll take you from there. I’m trying to get the word out about this, and I hope you’ll help me. Feel free to post a link to thisbookwillchangeyourworld.com (or my post here) to your blog, Facebook profile, email list, etc…
And let’s discuss it! In the comments here, or on The Ooze.
Well it happened today: A. Jason Jones added me, and became Facebook friend number 4800. I have 200 friends to go before Facebook caps me out. In case you didn’t know, Facebook has a 5,000 friend limit. Their reasoning is that, unlike Myspace, they want to limit your contacts to actual friends, and curtail commercial abuses and that sort of thing. I get that. And yet, it feels a bit paternalistic that they get to decide who consenting adults add or accept as ‘friends.’ It’s true, I accept & request people on the basis of shared affinity – people interested in comic books, futures studies, house church & emerging church, fellow authors, et cetera, et cetera…not just my high school & college buddies, co-workers, and flesh-and-blood friends. But so what? I enjoy my e-quaintences, and to some degree they must enjoy me too, or else I’d be pruned from their lists by now. Sometimes I meet a Facebook acquaintances who’s in town over coffee, and we become friends of the more flesh-and-blood sort. Sometimes powerful business partnerships result, or new activist initiatives. Or conferences or meetups or…
As everyone not living under a rock knows, President-elect Obama has pledged a massive public works program to reinvigorate both US economy and national infrastructure. I am mostly all for this initiative, though my inner childhood libertarian still wonders where all the money will come from. There are some good suggestions out there for funding though, so we’ll save such a ponderances for another blog post.
For now, I’d like to look at the kinds of projects deemed ‘public’ and worthy of such sweeping systemic updating. We all know that roads, bridges, and schools are vitally important. And we’ve heard the administration’s support for the creation of ‘green jobs.’ It’s the latter I’d like to expound upon, suggesting two areas of public works support that ought to receive a lot of attention and funds.
When I first traveled to Europe in 2003, I was struck by how many of my new friends, grown adults, did not have drivers licenses. Then I was struck by how many restaurants and businesses were not connected by roads and parking, but rather, massive walking spaces. The atmosphere in these vehicle-free zones was intoxicating; I had never experienced a Commons space without cars and traffic. One of the inadvertent consequences of our first public works program in the U.S. was the creation of the Interstate Highway System, both a blessing and a curse. On the curse side, it further nationalized our food systems (more on that in a sec), and it made business dependent on proximity to highway exits. In the 21st century, we’re now looking at the relative value of this differently, recognizing what Bill McKibben calls a deep economy with ‘multiple bottom-lines.’
Enter the Greenway. When last in Atlanta, Jasmin and I had dinner with Jannan Thomas, director of DOOR Atlanta, and her husband Jay. We learned about something I should’ve known about our once-and-future city, but didn’t: The BeltLine project. The idea is simple: Take 22 miles of old, unused railroad track connecting Atlanta’s oldest cities (some now affluent, some in serious disintegration) and turn this derelict space into greenspace for joggers, walkers, and bikers. Further, develop park space and sustainable business along this space, and maybe, some nice public transportation – something the Southeast has never, ever had. The BeltLine project already has some steam and it looks like they’ll be doing it…over the next 25 years. Now I’m all for the long view; long-term projects used to be the norm and not the exception (Cathedrals used to take centuries to complete!). All the same, I think that a project of this urgent importance shouldn’t have to wait decades to complete when for-profit builders can erect a massive new condominium complex in 8 months.
Whadaya say, Obama administration? Would the BeltLine project (and others like it) merit some of our Public Works apportionment?
Local Food Infrastructure
Equally critical as where we can walk is what we eat. For health reasons, of course, but also ecological reasons. Did you know that most of our food is fertilized by petroleum and that, combined with transporting it all over the country (and world), food is the second-largest guzzler of gas behind cars? And accessibility reasons: Why is it that in the poorest sections of towns across America, the only ‘food’ available is truly awful pre-packaged faux food from gas stations and ‘convenience’ stores? Well it’s partially because of how corn and soybeam subsidies were developed during the Nixon administration, laws that are allowing mega-corporations like Monsanto to patent food itself…but I’m getting ahead of myself. : ) If this is a whole new world to you, you’re not alone. While I’ve never really mentioned it in print, for several years now I’ve been working on a book on the intersection of God, meal-sharing, and mystical spirituality. While in the process of finishing this book, I came across – only in this past year – a trio of truly mind-blowing books: The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved by Sandor Katz; The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan; and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. (Two of these are widely available at libraries and all three of them can be purchased quite affordably, under $35 total; get yourself a paradigm-altering Christmas present!) My education was further deepened by attending a Bread for the World Hunger Justice Leaders training this past July in Washington DC and joining Slow Food USA, recommended by my friend (and Foresight@Regent program director) Jay Gary.
What have I been learning? A ton. A distillation: At present, our food system is broken and in need of healing in order to offer healthy, affordable, and ecologically-sustainable nourishment for all people. Further, food done right can build community and help people grow in compassion, ethics, and spirituality.
It may surprise you to learn that among the issues that will occupy much of your time in the coming years is one you barely mentioned during the campaign: food. Food policy is not something American presidents have had to give much thought to, at least since the Nixon administration — the last time high food prices presented a serious political peril. Since then, federal policies to promote maximum production of the commodity crops (corn, soybeans, wheat and rice) from which most of our supermarket foods are derived have succeeded impressively in keeping prices low and food more or less off the national political agenda. But with a suddenness that has taken us all by surprise, the era of cheap and abundant food appears to be drawing to a close. What this means is that you, like so many other leaders through history, will find yourself confronting the fact — so easy to overlook these past few years — that the health of a nation’s food system is a critical issue of national security. Food is about to demand your attention.
I repeat: Pollan’s Open Letter is well-worth reading in its entirety. So go for it. I’ll wait for you.
Back? Okay. There’s some good news: Local food initiatives are springing up like new growth all across North America; famers’ markets are the fastest-growing segement of eating options out there these days. But there are ways government can help, just like they’ve presently favoring Big Agribusiness that’s responsible for a lot of this mess. A shift in sensibilities could reverse the damage, and bring food back home. It’s already happening in Canada: Nova Scotia’s government has just pledged a quite-affordable amount to support development of “local food” systems. In their own words:
The province will provide $2.3 million over three years to fund “strategic infrastructure” and development initiatives that “enhance industry competitiveness, market access and direct marketing methods.”
“This funding will develop the roots between rural and urban food systems, and support marketing initiatives,” Agriculture Minister Brooke Taylor said in a release Friday.
The province said its investment “will make it easier and more convenient to buy local foods” and will “complement” its current food marketing programs, Select Nova Scotia and Taste of Nova Scotia.
Fortunately for all of us, there’s a really huge actionable step right on our horizon in the U.S. Here’s an email I recieved today from Slow Food Triangle:
In these final days before President Elect Obama makes his selection for Secretary of Agriculture, we urge you to spread the word to your members about a petition they can sign to express their support for dynamic and sustainable choices for the post.
The petition lists six suggestions, including Gus Schumacher, Former Under Secretary of Agriculture for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services at the U.S. Department of Agriculture; and Slow Food leader Neil Hamilton, the Director of the Agricultural Law Center at Drake University.
Even if the new administration doesn’t pick one of the listed candidates, signing the petition sends a strong message that we want a good, clean and fair food system and that we expect our new administration to make choices that support that vision. More information is available here and here.
We stand at a crossroads, and our next decisions matter a great deal. There are a few things we can do, right now, to make the world a safer, nourished, more abundant place: it’s going to happen through agribusiness reform.
For my friends on the left, realize this: Agriculture is a key ecological and humanitarian matter. Agriculture done right helps the earth in her innate, life-giving rhythms; it conserves and even produces energy. Intelligent agriculture policy feeds hungry people so no one will have to go without.
Friends on the right, some things to consider: Just as much as Homeland Security, this cabinet-level position will help determine our future strength as a nation and our vulnerability to terrorist attack. Smaller, localized food systems are grassroots capitalism and small business at their best. They create jobs and bring important jobs back to America. They restore the farmer to a place of respect in our society.
For my Christian friends, let’s consider: Jesus lived and died by way of his food habits. (And was resurrected as an eikon of Living Food & Drink) The way he chose to eat, and with whom he chose to eat opened up new vistas of the Kingdom of God on earth. And it was large part of what got him executed by the powers-that-be. I personally feel Jesus’ spirit stirring in this day and age to look at how food and food systems need to be approached in the 21st century. And while I feel churches should never wait for government initiatives to make a difference locally, I think we’re at a golden moment to speak truth to power – power that, it seems, is open to hearing from us.
I’m Asking You to Please Do Three Things:
Call to action time!
For the past year or so I’ve had the privilage of getting to know Tom Davis, a no-nonsense friend of Jesus and humanitarian rabble-rouser. He can be gruff-around-the-edges sometimes, but he has a heart of platinum and is loads of fun to hang out with.
If you like readin’ books, you can check out a few of his that have come out in the past couple of years: Fields of the Fatherless, Confessions of a Good Christian Guy, and Red Letters: Living a Faith that Bleeds.
And if you like coffee, you should treat yourself to Saints’ Coffee, which is organically grown, fair trade, and directly supports oprhans worldwide! It doesn’t get any better than that, folks. (Seriously…cancel your Gevalia subscription and try some Saints. You’ll be glad you did.)
So: Tom is no stranger to controversy, and this past week he’s been setting this here internet a-buzz with his article entitled (as my blog entry title suggests) Why Christians Suck. Except Beliefnet censored it, reading instead “S**k” throughout. Which somehow feels far more salacious and tawdry, y’know?
Anyway, here’s some of what Tom has to say:
“Each Sunday, millions of Christians in America gather to worship the God who commands us to “love our neighbor as ourselves.” We belt out praises to the God who tells us that “pure and undefiled religion is caring for widows and orphans in their distress.” We kneel in pious prayer before the Almighty God of the universe who describes Himself as loving, gracious, merciful, and generous.
Then, we walk out the back door of the church, step into a world in need, and proceed to withhold the love, grace, and mercy that’s extended to us.
We might as well give God the middle finger. Outside of a tiny minority of Christians, we have become a self-centered group of priggish snobs.
In short, we s**k.”
Well come on, Tom! Tell us what you really think! He does this, unpacking his prognosis right here. But Tom doesn’t leave us hanging – oh no. He shows us a remedy to Christian suckishness in his companion piece How to do What the Bible Says.
So how is it that the brewer of Saints is so keen on the Church’s sins? A few years ago, I would have said “Now wait just a minute, Mister!” After growing up in guilt-inducing religion, I was refreshed to find teachers who explicated the refreshing nature of grace; that no matter how sucky Christians behaved, Paul (for instance) always addressed the churches as “holy ones” in the New Testament. Holiness is the core reality of the new creation, regardless of the more external trappings. So my thinking on this has been kinda like John Eldredge’s, pointed out in this 2004 Christianity Today interview:
[Eldredge] challenges Christians who apply Jeremiah 17:9 (“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure”) to their post-conversion hearts. “Not anymore it’s not,” he writes in Wild at Heart. “Read the rest of the book. In Jeremiah 31:33, God announces the cure for all that: ‘I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.’ I will give you a new heart.”
And what about the seemingly humble assertion that Christians are just sinners saved by grace? It’s a Big Lie, Eldredge writes in Wild at Heart, adding: “You are a lot more than that. You are a new creation in Christ. The New Testament calls you a saint, a holy one, a son of God.”
I believe so much in the gratuitous holyfying nature of God’s manifestation in Christ that I have an entire section of my links directory dedicated to it. I believe it, saints. But at the same time, I can’t camp out here any longer. That I am beloved by my divine Abba before I lift a finger and no matter how sucktastic I am is a core reality that helps me get out of bed in the morning. But the Gospel, as Brian McLaren helped point out to me, transcends justice-avoidance. It isn’t Thank God Jesus died for me so now I can live for myself. The transforming energies of death and resurrection are dedicated to our new creature-ship, to seeing heaven’s reality more and more on God’s beloved earth.
These two vital realities must be held in creative tension. We shouldn’t be guilt-trippin’, but neither should be sitting around like slugs on a log. In my Bible, Paul and James aren’t enemies. Both are friends of the God found in Jesus Christ, who has given us every grace and enablement to live a life marked by transformative good deeds.
Grace & Justice to you this day,
The ‘Crowder conversation’ continue to invite reflection from many perspectives – including mine, but it shall have to wait (tomorrow, hopefully!). My fellow Raleigh house church communard shares his thoughts ‘In Defense of the Spirit.’ The past year has been a spiritual renaissance for him, Micah says, being exposed to solid biblical scholarship and emerging churches and like-hearted authors…
“I have all of these new, great, and powerful ideas floating around within me, but in this presentation of the Gospel of the Kingdom I can’t help but notice a gaping hole. Where is the Spirit? It isn’t as if these folks don’t believe in the Spirit, or that s/he/it (who knows?) is never mentioned, but it I only seem to find it in passing, or mentioned in such an abstracted context that there seems to be no method of approach or interaction with this very real facet, or hypostatsis of God. I’ve been to a couple of emerging churches and new monastic communities. I’ve enjoyed authentic people who love Jesus and are pursuing his Kingdom. I’ve admired the community, participated in group expressions of our experience(i.e. art projects), fed the hungry, taken communion and heard words of encouragement and good news. But still, I’ve wondered… where is the Spirit?”