Is God ‘A Recovering Practitioner of Violence’?

“Recovering? Who said I was recovering?”

I was recently watching some sessions from 2004′s Emerging Theological Conversation that I attended at All Souls PCA Church in Decatur with Jasmin and Seth in the fall of 2004 – some eight years ago. Walter Brueggemann was the presenting scholar, and Brian McLaren, Tim Keel, Troy Bronsink and others were emceeing the dialogues with him (Yes, ladies, there were lots of dudes on stage back in 2004…we got better).

It was the first time I’d met Troy; the second time I’d met Chris Seay I believe, and the third time I’d met Brian – I got up the courage to approach Brian afterward and ask him if he needed editorial feedback on any of his work; to my grateful surprise I got to informally work on The Last Word and the Word After That. Good times.

Soo, yeah. It was at this conference that Brueggemann presented his 19 Theses:

1.     Everybody lives by a script. The script may be implicit or explicit. It may be recognized or unrecognized, but everybody has a script.

2.     We get scripted. All of us get scripted through the process of nurture and formation and socialization, and it happens to us without our knowing it.

3.      The dominant scripting in our society is a script of technological, therapeutic, consumer militarism that socializes us all, liberal and conservative.

4.     That script (technological, therapeutic, consumer militarism) enacted through advertising and propaganda and ideology, especially on the liturgies of television, promises to make us safe and to make us happy.

5.     That script has failed. That script of military consumerism cannot make us safe and it cannot make us happy. We may be the unhappiest society in the world.

6.     Health for our society depends upon disengagement from and relinquishment of that script of military consumerism. This is a disengagement and relinquishment that we mostly resist and about which we are profoundly ambiguous.

7.     It is the task of ministry to de-script that script among us. That is, too enable persons to relinquish a world that no longer exists and indeed never did exist.

8.     The task of descripting, relinquishment and disengagement is accomplished by a steady, patient, intentional articulation of an alternative script that we say can make us happy and make us safe.

9.     The alternative script is rooted in the Bible and is enacted through the tradition of the Church. It is an offer of a counter-narrative, counter to the script of technological, therapeutic, consumer militarism.

10.  That alternative script has as its most distinctive feature, its key character – the God of the Bible whom we name as Father, Son, and Spirit.

11.  That script is not monolithic, one dimensional or seamless. It is ragged and disjunctive and incoherent. Partly it is ragged and disjunctive and incoherent because it has been crafted over time by many committees. But it is also ragged and disjunctive and incoherent because the key character is illusive and irascible in freedom and in sovereignty and in hiddenness, and, I’m embarrassed to say, in violence – [a] huge problem for us.

12.  The ragged, disjunctive, and incoherent quality of the counter-script to which we testify cannot be smoothed or made seamless. [I think the writer of Psalm 119 would probably like too try, to make it seamless]. Because when we do that the script gets flattened and domesticated. [This is my polemic against systematic theology]. The script gets flattened and domesticated and it becomes a weak echo of the dominant script of technological, consumer militarism. Whereas the dominant script of technological, consumer militarism is all about certitude, privilege, and entitlement this counter-script is not about certitude, privilege, and entitlement. Thus care must betaken to let this script be what it is, which entails letting God be God’s irascible self.

13.  The ragged, disjunctive character of the counter-script to which we testify invites its adherents to quarrel among themselves – liberals and conservatives – in ways that detract from the main claims of the script and so too debilitate the focus of the script.

14.  The entry point into the counter-script is baptism. Whereby we say in the old liturgies, “do you renounce the dominant script?”

15.  The nurture, formation, and socialization into the counter-script with this illusive, irascible character is the work of ministry. We do that work of nurture, formation, and socialization by the practices of preaching, liturgy, education, social action, spirituality, and neighboring of all kinds.

16.  Most of us are ambiguous about the script; those with whom we minister and I dare say, those of us who minister. Most of us are not at the deepest places wanting to choose between the dominant script and the counter-script. Most of us in the deep places are vacillating and mumbling in ambivalence.

17.  This ambivalence between scripts is precisely the primary venue for the Spirit. So that ministry is to name and enhance the ambivalence that liberals and conservatives have in common that puts people in crisis and consequently that invokes resistance and hostility.

18.  Ministry is to manage that ambivalence that isequally present among liberals and conservatives in generative faithful ways in order to permit relinquishment of [the] old script and embrace of the new script.

19.  The work of ministry is crucial and pivotal and indispensable in our society precisely because there is no one [see if that’s an overstatement]; there is no one except the church and the synagogue to name and evoke the ambivalence and too manage a way through it. I think often; I see the mundane day-to-day stuff ministers have to do and I think, my God, what would happen if youtook all the ministers out. The role of ministry then is as urgent as it is wondrous and difficult.

Want to see the talk for yourself? Here it is.

It’s interesting that what disturbs us sometimes the first time we hear it ends up comforting us the next time we hear it. More explosively than even his challenging theses, it was at this conference that Brueggemann wonders out loud if  “God is a recovering practitioner of violence.” As Geoff Holsclaw summarizes – “By this he means that God used to think violence was a good idea, but then gave up on it. However, like all addicts, He has relapses. Of which the cross is either the final deliverance, or another relapse.”

Of course this is potentially disconcerting, as we don’t like to imagine the repentance of God – and yet, this is precisely what is suggested in Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan (thanks, Jack Miles!). Incarnation inaugurates a genuine new-ness in God’s new covenant with humanity & cosmos. As Geoff continues, “Concerning faith and knowledge, Brueggemann says: “We all have a craving for certitude, but the gospel is all about fidelity.” By this he means that certitude is an epistemological category while fidelity is a relational one. And the way of the Cross is to depart from our certitude, to die to our answers/desires/scripts.”

Part of the ‘inner reflex’ is Centering Prayer is letting go. For 20 minutes twice a day, it’s a continuous letting go of thoughts and emotions that well up inside – kind of like a fisherman catching fish, but not to eat – just for fun. She’s sitting in a boat (the mind) and her pole rests in the water (the field of consciousness). Little fish (thoughts, ideas, emotions) come up and nibble on the line (ordinary awareness) – the fisherman doesn’t shoot the fish with a revolver or cut the line. Instead, she pulls the little fish up, but doesn’t keep them in the boat – it’s catch & release.

Catch and release, catch and release, gently, graciously – because you recognize that even the lake is situated in a much larger ecosystem (God). You can let go because the earth is abundant; you will be fed. Centering Prayer is a journey of trust in God, even on the unconscious level, where all kind of mis-trustful thoughts bubble up to the surface. The life centered in surrender to & trust in God is a life of profound peace and productivity – and our Scriptures attest, in a myriad of ways, that such trust (faith) ‘pleases God.’

But when we’re faced with the disturbing truths that Brueggemann elucidates – God’s irascibility for instance – what do we do?

There are two ways to do handle this. One is the way of definitive, forceful – almost violent – denial that there is (or has ever been) anything troubling in God’s character or actions according to revealed Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition. It’s the route of “trusting” God via suppression of the more unseemly parts of our sacred canons and sacred canopies.

But there is another route – more painful, more adult, more complex – but I think it can still end in deeply-rooted, childlike trust. It’s a path that I’ve learned from many guides over the years, including:

(Did you read that list, Ken Silva? Its semantic relations were practically tailor-written for you, LOL. If you don’t write about me, Discernmentalist Mafia will!)

And this is the path: As Grubb and Bill Volkman propose in a substantially panentheistic reading of Holy Writ: There is only One Person in the Universe. (Y’know, like “I Am the Lord your God, there is no Other?”) Creation unfolds inside of God. And within this unfolding, it moves from gross to subtle to causal (see Integral theory) – meaning that God, our our sacred history, once walked around and acted, anthropomorphically, as a human being. Gradually across the narrative shape of the Hebrew Bible, God began to withdraw God’s conscious presence in this way – “I will hide My face from them, and see what their fate may be.” God goes from walking around earth to appearing via angelic intermediaries; to public miracles, to dreams and visions and prophets, to private subjective experiences to interpretations written out in a Book. In Ruth and Esther, God is scarcely mentioned at all. (God then repeats this process again in Jesus – but the same progression from overt to subtle takes place on the pages of the New Testament and in Church history)

We could lament this move as somehow connected to God punishing us; withheld manifest presence as a result of our sin or some such thing. On the other hand, what if we as a human race are growing up, maturing, and therefore God appears to us in more mature ways? In this way, God is very actively involved in our history as a parent, but then gives us space to get older – not becoming more distant, but in fact closer than our very breath. God’s presence moves from the obvious to the sublime. (Which would explain, to me, why Monotheistic Western religion – in the form of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – starts out very concrete-operational in orientation and almost inevitably move to the mystical, with increasing circles of empathy for God, self, world, and others. The majority adherents might not make that leap, but it undeniably does seem like a leap forward.)

Now, here’s the same thought from another trajectory: God influences us, that we’ve always known; but what if we – the sum total of we, human and non-human life alike – influence God? If we’re bound up in God, marked off in God before our conception, our learning and growing is God’s learning and growing – what if? I don’t mean to rehash the entire Open Theism vs. Calvinism debate of the 1990s here, but I think that it’s possible to simultaneously hold that God is good, wise, and powerful while also affirming the ability of God to learn and (even) change God’s mind – we see so many examples of this in the narrative of Scripture, that it seems fool-hardy to deny this in order to preserve our cherished Greco-Roman structured systematic theologies.

So, today, in a secular age, we affirm that God is true and real, but we wrestle with what this means. We stake our lives on the goodness of God, but we recognize that ‘goodness’ might be different today, as it truly seems to be if you’re looking at Covenantal unfolding in Scripture. This simply seems developmentally apparent: If you’re someone who, like me, is committed to peace and justice work today but grew up watching the 700 Club approvingly as a kid, you’ve experienced the dissonance that God, just possibly, has experienced: What made perfect sense in the 1980s seems cruel and inhuman today. And this is precisely what Abraham and Moses are recorded as having argued to YHWH some 4,000+ years ago: “Don’t wipe out this-or-that people, LORD; it’s bad PR. It does not magnify the glory of Your Name; it does not add to the praise of Your reputation.” Sometimes, YHWH did what he was going to do anyway; sometimes, he listened and changed course.

What does this have to do with our lives today? Is this a wildly unstable theology of God? Is such a changeable God not worthy of worship? I don’t know about that. I think that, if the evangelical mantra is true, and we can indeed have ‘a personal relationship with G-D, then this relationship is a genuine one with real give-and-take, real learning on both sides. I think that I can be an orthodox Trinitarian Christian with a high Christology, and still hold that the Universe is one important aspect of the unfolding of God – and that we are the co-unfolding of God, within God. And that we recognize this unfolding, and respond to it, and even initiate its furtherance of it, on a deep, nourishing level when we learn to trust the God Who Is – as opposed to the fantasy God whom we fondly wish Would Be. This path is more difficult – but this is real trust.

Watch or listen to the complete 2004 Emergent Theological Conversation with Walter B. here.

This post originally debuted on November 21, 2009.

Walter Brueggemann

Spirit Week Guest Blog: John Crowder Speaks!

This is the post that started it all – a four-part interview with arguably the most controversial contemporary charismatic minister, John Crowder. It’s worth noting that Crowder’s ministry has evolved since 2008, and that he’s recently released two new books reflecting this: Mystical Union & Seven Spirits Burning. And now, without further ado…

And this is why I value talking to people and not just about their ideas, beliefs, and actions. Dialogue opens up so many doors of mutual understanding, respect, and maybe even partnership in common endeavor, despite (or because of!) the real differences that exist at the end of the day. When I posted Charismatic Chaos or (Holy) Spirited Deconstruction? I emailed John Crowder and Ben Dunn privately to a.) Let them know about the post and b.) Let them know that in addition to my cautious and idiosyncratic support for what they were doing, I had some questions and concerns. John quite graciously took time from his busy schedule to write me a novel in response – something I’ve not often seen any challenged people in ministry do, from any stream of the family of faith. I’m quite taken with the breadth, depth, and tone of John’s response, even while some differences of spirituality and praxis remain. So without further ado, I’m going to hand today’s blog entry over [with only the barest occasional interspersions-and hyperlinks-from me]. Ladies and gentlemen, Brother John Crowder!

Hi Mike – Thanks for writing and thanks for what you do. Enjoyed your blog and we would love to contribute something for you. Feel free to use any of these rambling thoughts for the site. [Thank you, John! I shall use them all. And if this is how you ramble, I'd hate to see you focused!] bento.png

Crowder 2I am normally quite busy for something like this (doing my circus road show in church basements all over the world! : ) ) but I appreciate your honest questions and know that you reach a lot of people who have a clear hunger for the things of the Spirit. We are quite familiar with the emergent church, and while not actively involved in Emergent as an “entity” we are having a lot of fun watching the fur fly, as we seem to have inadvertently broken a few sacred paradigms over the past few weeks. It’s an entertaining ride. It was exciting to garner a full expose in the Wittenburg Door – a magazine I have secretly loved for years! I feel like I need to buy a white suit now and preach from a golden throne to live up to all this notoriety. We also got an indirect slap on the wrist from Charisma this month in the editorial (for smoking Jehovah-wanna and Baby Jesus). When it rains it pours!

You hit the nail on the head in discussing the deconstruction of Pentecostalism – and kudos for addressing the topic of “emergent snobbery,” something the emergent camp has long winked at, if not openly coddled (especially toward “Spirit-filled” ministries – how dare those charismatics have a brain!)

[Mike sez: I think this is actually a little more complex than that - of course, wouldn't I, being emergent and all? ; ) But really. A whole term has been coined, 'post-charismatic,' (not 'anti') to describe many 'emergers' who love the Holy Spirit but who feel down-and-out about many aspects of Pentecostal and charismatic culture. In our own efforts at deconstruction, we've tried very hard not to throw the - ahem - baby out with the bathwater, but I know we've fallen short in many areas.]

I would love to talk about this just a little, as well as to give a brief anti-apologetic on the ongoing blogger fray, before getting to your questions.

[Yes! Please do.]

Apologia

Crowder 3Obviously, there are many bloggers better educated than I, who have an edge on what God Almighty is doing, who will never be able to acknowledge His movements outside their own personal experience (Bless their hearts). I would not waste time trying to convince someone who already has all the answers. For this reason, we do not engage in defensive diatribes (not trying to be negative, just honest). But I do love constructive (& deconstructive) controversy in the name of our Lord. Rather than offer up an apology to anyone who has a beef with us, we have just chosen never to defend ourselves. A form of radical pacifism I suppose, or else its just too much work to keep track of it all, considering the trail of carnage we leave behind us. Our nonresponsiveness on the blog circuit should not be mistaken as elitism – we do not assume ourselves too posh to combat these rampant strikes at our good names (My favorite are those blogs which end with the classic pomo courtesy tag at the end: After viciously lashing out at us, they say … “Or maybe I’m missing something and Crowder is right after all.” True Christian humility, I am sure).

[Aww, Steve's not so bad. Next time you're in C-Town hanging out with Ricky J and Company, look him up. He'll have a drink with you - though spirits or Holy Spirit on tap, that y'all will have to work out!]

Anyway Mike, you are the first person to approach us directly, so we appreciate the chance to talk.

[And I appreciate that you're talking!]

Of course, nasty emails are common for us, but I know where the delete button is. We’ve found the freedom in not caring about reputation or having to spend ourselves on the already satiated. I’m too addicted to the Wine Room to care about that stuff. And there are so many thousands of hungry people who want to experience God in fresh new ways, why get sidetracked by a few resilient critics? Other than this forum, folks should know we won’t be scrambling to correct every inaccuracy that floats around about us on the web. In fact, we like to intentionally chuck rocks at the hornet’s nest, just to stir things up all the more, then run away snickering at the mess we’ve made. Crowder 4

Just wanted to clear that up, so that readers know our motives in writing this. We want to be available to the thirsty, but this is not a knee-jerk reaction to some cyber-persecution. Whenever we get defensive, we cease to be on the offense. Life is too short to continually be explaining yourself.

I honestly believe that the age of apologetics is over, and the age of activation has come. Experience is more important than explanation. Not that explanation is irrelevant, but it is subsidiary. When we look at the ministry of Jesus, He rarely gave an explanation, prior to the experience. Mystery must be embraced before it is explicated. Jesus only explained Himself to the inner circle who were truly hungry. To those on the outside, he always spoke in parables and enigmas. It is almost as if he put up an intentional roadblock to the minds of men, offending their thoughtwork in order to reveal their hearts. Consider when He told the multitudes to essentially “Eat Me.” He knew that half of them would walk away, but He said it anyway.

What we see today is a lot of people looking for a Pneumatology without the Pneuma. They want the package without the Toy. What if God is intentionally making the package raw and offensive to these, in order to reveal their true colors? Maybe the package is irrelevant, as long as we’ve got the Toy.

It’s Hubris but it Makes Me Feel Cool!

Let me say something quickly about the emergent movement, while I’ve got your ear:

[Please do. You've got it! The emergoblogosphere is listening.]

While I have long acknowledged the existence of postmodernity as a reality of the age, this very intellectual elitism on which you have commented is one of the chief reasons I have been hesitant to dive headlong into the trendy “fad” aspect of the emergent discussion. I should add at the onset that I would not consider myself “emergent” anymore than I would consider myself “charismatic.” But both camps try to pin me down into the other. In the same way, you could say I am neither catholic nor protestant (I am not protesting anything; I am pursuing Someone). Like most emergents, I reject labels. Without the restraints of such labels, we are more apt to truthfully address the sacred cows in every respective camp. My orthodoxy may not be as generous as McLaren’s, but I am not ignorant of the discussion and appreciate the influx of new ideas. This openness is a God-given dispensation, but it must be guarded in the context of true humility. Whether they like to admit it or not, many emergents are entrenched in a religious package of trying to look cool and trying to impress a select audience with their perceived edginess of theological progression. The melee of anti-charisma these past few weeks is an indicator of a deeper problem. It surfaces clearly, for example, when they do not have a grid for someone who comes along with an outlandish orthopraxy.

[I'm not gonna say much here...but...most of those who came out strongest in response to some YouTubes they saw of you, actually are charismatic folks who would consider themselves 'moderate' and also in some way 'emerging.' I hope to be hearing from some of youse in the comments below...]

Crowder Baby Jesus TokeTo many emergents, some of my colleagues and myself will always be a challenge to the “new” intellect-based models of Christianity. I believe the intellectual pursuit of mystery is intrinsically modern in nature, by the way. It is an old hag carried over from the Age of Reason/Enlightenment, or shall we say further back – it is gnostic in origin (the idea that we are saved by knowledge is perhaps the very antithesis of the gospels, which say we are saved by the finished work of Jesus Christ). Gnosis is not the gateway that reveals mystery – faith is. And so for all the talk of pressing into terra nova, I believe there is inherent danger of building an intellectual religion of non-religion that is rooted in “ideas” and “discussion-only” without true, tangible interaction with the divine. I love the emergent notion of pulling outside the ecclesiastical boundaries of dead formality. But without radical possession by the Holy Spirit, we are simply “moving out” of something, and never “entering into” Someone. I do not see a majority of emergents discussing personal, supernatural experiences with this God we so glibly talk about, though many are quick to lay charges of charlatanry on anyone who does (by supernatural experiences I mean far more than the simple, goose-bumped quiet time, as beautiful as they may be. What is so far-fetched about healings, dead-raisings and even more extreme miracles, if we claim to know Big Pappa Himself?). I do not say this of ALL emergents, only those who are quick to shoot with their religiously non-religious anti-bullets. This criticism of what we do not understand (or have maybe never experienced firsthand) can be the most detrimental element to our spiritual walk. It is the very essence of hubris.

A Lack of Discernment

Lakeland

According to the recent blogstorm surrounding us, we are accused of being anti-intellectual, if not throwing our “discernment” right out the window (love the graphic, Robby Mac. God still loves you). I’ve previously made the point that I am rubber and the critics are glue, but nevertheless, allow me to respond to this topic. Let me say for one that “discernment” is not an intellectual tool made up of theological principles and opinions. I would die for good theology, and we all need sound doctrine. But discernment comes not from the head, but from the belly. If I may be so fundamental as to use a scriptural example, consider Luke 1 when Zechariah (a priest highly educated in theology) encounters an angel. Zack’s discernment of this encounter was so poor that he essentially asked the angel to “prove himself.” Zechariah, a well-studied priest, should have comprehended that this experience was from God. Because of his spiritual dullness, doubt, fears or all of the above, he was struck mute. He should have been on the cutting edge, but he missed it.

But hold the phone! In this very same chapter, a young, simple, likely uneducated girl named Mary had a similar angelic encounter. She lacked the theological armory and Princeton training of Zechariah, but she could taste something of Heaven on this experience. Mary was given a much more far-fetched word: you will give birth not merely to a prophet, but to the Son of God Himself! How crazy! Yet somehow, because of her intimate relationship with the Lord, her hunger or her faith – she instinctively discerned that this encounter was legitimate. She did not say “prove it to me.” She said “tell me more.” She said “let it be according to your word.” Her discernment was greater, because she intimately knew God enough to recognize how He felt, tasted and smelled. She had been with Him, not merely read about him. She could smell the cassia and aloes of Heaven on this encounter, and she jumped right in without having to process it. She discerned correctly. Not from her head or her theology. From her belly.

Intellectual discernment is a holdover from modernism. Moreover, it is paranoia-based (always focused on keeping the devil out, but never recognizing God when He is trying to come in). This spirit of fear is the bread and butter of the heresy hunter pages. The greatest discernment you will ever have is to be able to recognize God, not the devil. Anyone, the most depraved sinner, can point out the devil. But will we recognize God when He is trying to come in? We should embrace Him, even at the cost of our present level of understanding. I want to intimately experience Him. And I trust Him enough to explain later, if an explanation is even necessary. I would rather my spirit and heart to fully engage in experiential interaction, and allow my mental paradigms to catch up later. Is this anti-intellectual? Far from it. It is simply putting the mind and its Greco-rationalistic structures in their place, secondary to heart. What many consider “intellectual” is actually mental insanity (1 Cor. 2:14-15). True sanity only comes through conscious-altering epiphanies with God.

God wants the intellect to bloom and flourish. He does want a renaissance of fresh ideas and creativity to revolutionize not just the face of Christianity, but to transform all of society in a holistic fashion. But how arrogant to think our minds can be supernaturally renewed at such a colossal fashion apart from the very Spirit of God Himself! Who are we to limit God to the academic diagnoses of the seminary, or to the reading of books? I know Who I have experienced. I have seen His power. I have tasted His freedom. I’m done trying to make sense of it all. I am in for the ride.

If I am a nutbar for shaking on the floor – and yet I am experiencing the love of Jesus – then count me with the crazies. I am tired of running endless mental circles and playing religious games. The time for playing games is over. The time has now come to play games.

And there you have it, friends! Not quite the staggering HolyGhostDrunk response many anticipated, eh? So whaddaya think? Keep it respectful, please, but be free. And yes – there’s more! Over the next week, John and I will be discussing, one at a time, all the “Yeah, but…” ‘s that occurred to me as I dipped into my past and their present concerning the Holy Spirit’s wild side.

Originally posted May 30, 2008.

Spirit Week: Does ‘the Prophetic’ Have a Future?

What great feedback on Charismatic Chaos or (Holy) Spirited Deconstruction! I will be interacting with all of your thoughtful replies soon. And while that post outlined my affirmations of this new bacchanal of the Spirit, I still have a few caveats, which I will be airing this week. But in the spirit of filial kindness or what have you, I’ve emailed Ben and John personally in hopes of getting them to give me some feedback first. I want to hear from them in their own words – whether in the tongues of men or angels.

I know they’re probably busy, so I’m giving them a coupla more days; they can even have a guest blog if they want.

In the meantime I wanted to share with you something my friend/professor/mentor Jay Gary wrote, reflecting on the US & European pneumatic prophetic movement. In studying Strategic Foresight, I interact with future possibilities through a variety of lenses: human, ecological, technological, economic, political and – yes – spiritual futures. I’m often asked by my charismatic and Pentecostal friends how my studies relate to the revelatory spiritual gifts of prophecy, words of wisdom, knowledge, etc…

I have yet to articulate a fully satisfying response. But the good Professor Gary – scholar, consultant, and futurist extraordinaire – sheds some light. Read on!

Do You Hear Voices in Your Head? – Jay Gary

It is not normal to hear voices in your head, at least in my culture. Yet many of my friends claim to. If you confessed to ‘auditory hallucinations’ you would normally be diagnosed as borderline schizophrenia by your psychiatrist.

Among psychologists there is little agreement as to why people hear voices. Most relate the experience to our unconscious minds, which presumably aims to resolve our past troubles. Today there are dozens of support networks to help people learn to cope with their voices and the problems that may lie behind them. Not every one who hears voices is mentally ill, nor do they drown their children, like Andrea Yates.

Recently I spent two days with a growing number of true believers who aim to induce each other into ‘hearing voices.’ They are part of what Pentecostal Christians call “prophetic ministry.” They claim the practice of listening to the Holy Spirit goes back centuries to biblical prophets such as Elijah, Daniel, or even Jesus. Granted, few claim to “hear voices” in the literal sense, but they do claim to hear God through the “inner voice” of their spirit.

While receiving personal guidance has been widely practiced in Christianity, especially among Quakers or Friends through the “inner light,” the modern day prophetic claims it receives guidance far beyond personal matters. A contemporary web site, the “Elijah List” aggregates daily prophetic “words” to a subscription base of over 130,000, about matters ranging from church sloth to U.S. foreign policy crises.

Few books offer an objective view of the prophetic movement. Most are written to the choir, like Pytches and Buckingham’s 1991 account, “Some said it thundered: A personal encounter with the Kansas City prophets.” As an insider to this sub-culture, Clifford Hill has written a fairly balanced overview entitled “Prophecy past and present” (Vine, 1989).

Some boast the 21st century prophetic is part of a new breed of believer, who is spiritual charged to take back what’s been lost to a secular culture. While the warfare motif is strong across the prophetic, which some number up to 500,000 in the U.S., there is a modulating bridal dynamic at work, calling believers to recapture a new innocence with their Lord.

Few demonstrate this self-reflective, “bride of Christ” focus better than Graham Cooke. Recently I went to hear Cooke, after being prodded by a friend for nearly four years. The conference was packed wall to wall with 600 people, mostly suburban 40- and 50-somethings. Interactive Journals

Following an extended session of worship the first morning, Cooke gave a 100-minute talk. His British manner was very disarming. His conversational style and anti-institutional rhetoric was the polar opposite of a TV evangelist. In taking about upgrading one’s life, he spoke in street-language as appropriate to an Irish pub, as much to a church. I was surprised also, that unlike other prophetic superstars, he did not engage in any “called-out” prophecy to his audience, made famous by psychic medium John Edward, in a parallel world to Christian fundamentalism.

To me Cooke’s message was surprisingly refreshing–and future-oriented. He spoke about living out out of our dreams, nurtured by God’s love. He talked about “suddenlies” or encounters with life that re-orient us to who we can become, not just who we have been.

Perhaps taking a cue from Reggie McNeal’s book, The Present Future: Six Tough Questions for the Church, Cooke labeled these as “present-future” experiences, rather than “present-past” fixations. To deal with our baggage, the Holy Spirit must speak to us from the future. The Word renews our identity, and makes way for us to inherit a larger work and service. In turn we are called to relate to our spouses or relatives as emerging, in their present-future potential, rather than present-past stereotype.

While the main sessions went from dawn to dusk, the real action was in the back room…

Continue Reading “Do You Hear Voices In Your Head?” …

This was originally posted on May 29, 2008.

Weird Oscars Dream

http://www.babble.com/CS/blogs/famecrawler/2008/01/oscar_statue-award.jpgSo last night we had a fun low-key Oscars party – thanks to Hugh, Renee, and everyone who came out! We were happy that Slumdog Millionaire just about swept the Oscars – it’s a great film about inner-city India, despair & hope if you haven’t seen it. (For a much more erudite take, listen to Jet Loe & Gareth Higgins’ The Film Talk podcast – their show in general is really a must-listen if you haven’t heard yet) I don’t pay any attention to when most films are released (for some reason, I can tell you about a ton of 1999 releases, but that’s about it) and know next-to-nothing about how the Oscars process works, so can somebody tell me if City of God would’ve been eligible this year? Ah yes, that’d be 2002. I’m disappointed it wasn’t in the running – (was it in 2002?) it’s Slumdog-esque, but decidely more depressing (though still hopeful at the end). I’ve probably answered my own question as to why it didn’t place.

Anyway, for some reason, I had the strangest dream last night following the Oscars. My wife Jasmin & I were actually there, as well as our little girl Jubilee. http://www.aolcdn.com/ch_kids/kca-2008-jack-black.jpgThere was a minister there too, from my past – though instead of having wiry white hair, he’d died it jet black and hat it nearly shaved. His mustache was dark too – made him look decades younger. After the awards were over, Jasmin & I got separated – I was in the car waiting for Jasmin, then I realized she wasn’t coming so I parked it and looked around. Adjacent to where the awards were was this huge coliseum-like structure, made of clay or grey concrete or something. I went inside looking for Jasmin, and it was some kind of coercive cult disguised as a radical labor movement. Most of the crowd – and there were tens of thousands – were working class people, blue-collar on “up.” From the center of the coliseum the speaker was talking about workers’ rights and organized labor and dignity, but there were blue-uniformed policemen at all the doors, preventing people from leaving. But then it got more bizarre; there were lots of kids in the crowd too, and they were encouraging the kids to make ‘scary’ sounds; I think training them for whatever they might be doing once let out of the structure. While most of the people there were ‘ordinary’ workers, there were Hollywood types in the crowd too (just being the Oscars and all). Jack Black was there, sitting in one of these stone-hewn rows, with lots of kids surrounding him – he seemed to be leading some of the scary-sound-making.

http://www.celebrity-exchange.com/celebs/photos56/hugh-grant.jpgI still couldn’t find Jasmin, but I had Jubilee with me; I wanted to find an escape route, and I’d also left some stuff at the Oscars nearby apparently. so I went up to an exit and asked to leave. “Why should we let you leave?” the security officer asked. “Because I left some stuff out there…look, I’ll back: You see this baby? Her mom’s still in here. You don’t think I’d leave & try to raise her by myself, do you?” This seemed thoroughly convincing to the officer, and he let me go. When I got outside, Brittian Bullock was also there – he had apparently witnessed the bizarre goings-on inside and got out too. We were trying to figure out how to leave the whole complex – and grab my things – when Hugh Grant joined us. He seemed to be in the same boat as we were, disheveled and frazzled by the indoctrination/brainwashing going on inside. He urged us to go back in so we could find Jasmin. Once we got back inside, the ringleader – I think his name was Richard (Gere perhaps? Or Simmons?) – was recounting how this group got its start a decade ago as a role-playing game that went awry; what began with a board and dice and some nerds never actually ended, and it grew into this. Then Richard said that the founding member was Hugh Grant. We looked at him, stunned. He gave a guilty shrug – “I’m afraid it’s true, boys.”

And then I woke up.

Stepping into a Violent Wind: Writing This Pentecost

violentwind3.gifI’m pleased to be one of the judges in a literary competition this Pentecost season.

“We want your words. Jesus Manifesto is inviting you to submit an original article exploring the theme of Pentecost. In particular we want you to explore the theme of Pentecost in light of the world’s struggles. In the so-called “first” world, Christendom is fading into memory. In the so-called “third” world, new religious realities are emerging as Pentecostalism, Catholicism, and Islam compete for souls. Meanwhile, our world is growing increasingly diverse as immigration patterns and globalization intensify both the interconnectedness and the fractured-ness of our world. Ours is a world where urban poor in US cities carry cell phones while urban poor in other cities live amidst disease and intractability.

How can Pentecost provoke our imagination for the 21st Century? In 1000 words or less, we want you to stoke the embers of our imagination into flame.

PRIZES: We’re awarding one $50 prize for each of our categories (doxis, praxis, culture, aesthetics, and satire) with a $150 grand prize for the overall best general submission. That’s $400 total in prizes.”

For more, check it out.

Warrants Issued To Arrest Bush and Cheney

Not to get too political here, but I think this is awesome:

“Town Clerk Annette Cappy stands in her office in Brattleboro, Vt. Friday Feb. 29, 2008, holding a sample ballot with an article which voters will consider that would instruct the town’s attorney to draft indictments allowing President Bush and Vice President Cheney to be arrested by local authorities for crimes against their Constitution. On primary day Tuesday March 4, 2008, its residents will vote on whether to issue warrants for the arrest of Bush and Cheney, should they ever visit.”

More here.

How Does Social Change Occur?

Recently for my LMSF 602 Survey of Futures Studies course I was asked to reflect on my own ‘theory of social change’–that is, how does change occur? Some base their guiding narratives on power, others on progress, still others on ideas. As a friend and follower of Jesus, as well as a futurist-in-training, I offer some rough thoughts:

 


Being thoroughly postmodern and suspicious of neat meta-narratives, I don’t have much confidence in the Story of Progress as was propounded through the Enlightenment era. On the other hand, looking at the broad sweep of history, I cannot come to the nihilistic conclusions that some of my secular and religious friends have come to, that the universe is essentially meaningless or that we’ve all going to hell in a handbasket. There has been real change over the past several thousand years, and it is generally (sometimes very generally) positive. But there is no invisible hand guiding us to some inexorable destiny. I suppose I believe in a realized eschatological world, where emergent nested creativity (which I see as a Triune God with real personality and kosmic-and-personal dreams) abounds, ready for humanity and creation to tap into. I am a realist. History has, in many cases, been guided by self-interest of a powerful few, hell-bent on maintaining and expanding their privilege. But in the midst of this, we’ve maintained humble, celebratory wisdom traditions that give dignity to individuals and communities—thus the spirit of innovation and adaptability continues.

I think social change happens when individuals and communities generate and tap into powerful new ideas rooted in the old. Taking from our store-houses treasures old and new, we can become truly conservative and progressive, preserving the best of the past while reimagining life together into the future. This will happen through humility, foresight, and imagination. It is a good time to be alive.

Living New Heaven & Earth Realities

My friend Kevin strikes gold again in his unique voice (you can get one of these every week here):

jesus-in-light-large.jpgDrawing from their ancient predecessors, John and Peter — both belonging to the group of Jesus’ original twelve friends — envisioned the arrival of a New Heaven and New Earth. Peter encouraged his original readers to hasten the day, and John believed that the time was at hand.

The New Heaven and New Earth expected by the apostolic witnesses was not a refurbished space-time universe. Instead, they believed that the day of a kosmic transformation had arrived, and a new world order had begun. The first one — glorious in itself — was being surpassed by a new one of exceeding glory. The first one was characterized by law, judgment, and promise while the second one would be filled with righteousness, grace, and fulfillment.

The first world divided people as good and evil, clean and unclean, us and them. The last world order transcended differences and integrated humanity into one new being. It is this new Heaven and New Earth that we dwell in today.

Awakening to New Heaven and New Earth realities transforms everything about us. Our thinking, relationships, and place in the world undergo a transfiguration as we begin to thrive in the all-in-allness of the God who is Love. Thinking in terms of a New Heaven and New Earth created by the power of Love allows us to experience four intersecting dimensions of fulfilled living and to conceptualize life in terms of four three-dimensional spheres.

Each sphere represents an aspect of your own garden that God has entrusted into your hands to tend and keep. As you nurture each sphere in love, you’ll find the healing fruit of the Spirit blossoming year-round. The first sphere is the Inner-Sphere. This includes your individual head and heart space. This is the single-most important sphere to cultivate because this houses our core self. Jesus affirmed that out of our heart comes the fruit of our lives. An Inner-Sphere overgrown with anger, frustration, and bitterness results in physical and emotional suffering. However, planting the small seeds of love, compassion, and kindness brings forth a harvest of self-care that reaches into the other spheres.

The Second Sphere, the Inter-Sphere, involves your interpersonal relationships, your dealings with others. Bringing conscious love into your family and friendships opens the way to deepening integrity and intimacy. Ignoring your closest relationships brings about inner turmoil and separation. However, filling the Inter-Sphere with love causes the New Heaven and Earth of your relationships with other people to bring about feelings and actions that promote healing and growth.

The Trans-Sphere cuts across the various organizational, national, and cultural boundaries you participate in. This sphere allows you to gain a global perspective, recognizing that nearly 7 billion people currently inhabit spaceship earth. In the Trans-Sphere, we share a common space regardless of our apparent differences and acknowledge the interconnected Presence of God look into one another’s eyes. It is the way to recognize the collective all-in-allness of God.

Finally, the Supra-Sphere transcends time and place in order to develop a link with the all-in-all across the ages. All people of all time, the entirety of the kosmos, the environment we inhabit, the fullness of God, and the blessed spiritual unfolding constitutes the Supra-Sphere. David wrote sacred script for a “generation not yet born.” He sensed his own place in the Supra-Sphere and consciously contributed his unique loving gifts to it.

Focusing solely on one or two of these Spheres leaves the others empty, but balanced living attends to all four of these spheres. As you discover the fullness of God’s love pervading all of four spheres, you’ll find the New Heaven and New Earth expanding to include and embrace the continual emerging perfection of God’s graceful dwelling. J. Krishnamurti observes, “To transform the world, we must begin with ourselves. However small may be the world we live in, if we can transform ourselves, bring about a radically different point of view in our daily existence, then perhaps we shall affect the world at large, the extended relationship with others.”

Stephanie Dorwick notes, “The goals of self-discovery are attuned to life.” So begin attuning to your life by asking yourself, “What would my Inner-Sphere look like with love? How will love for myself transform my head space and heart space?” Stay with that for a while and revisit it often, becoming aware of the answers you find emerging. Then, do the same for the other three spheres. As you consciously tend and keep your worlds in love, you’ll discover the ever-increasing blooming from the tree of life.

Intelligent Paper

So the other night I had a dream that there was a new commodity on the market called Intelligent Paper, an invention that did for books what Director’s Cut DVDs do for film. It was for all intents and purposes regular paper, except when you tapped a sentence–any sentence–twice with your finger, all kinds of little multicolored errata would pop up, like those old VH1 Pop-Up Videos, or the Comments feature in Microsoft Word. What would these “extras” say? Definitions of words, author’s commentary, you name it.

Upon waking, I was at first stunned at what a revolutionary invention Intelligent Paper would be. But then I realized that the new crop of electronic paper eBooks, and indeed the Web page probably trump Intelligent Paper in terms of functionality–it’s as fruitless as a visionary dream of 8 Tracks 2.0

In my dream I was passing a newsstand at an airport, and there were several paperbacks and comic books, available in two editions–regular, and Intelligent Paper! Was that a nerdy dream or what?