Opening Up.

Emerging from Jason Sager’s Rolfing sessions, I’m always in a bit of an altered state. I haven’t felt this as powerfully as in Session Five of the Ten Series, completed Friday. I’m almost preternaturally calm, my breathing is deeper and more even, and I feel relaxation in more areas of my body than I knew existed. I experienced all of this and then some in this session – but it wasn’t a total joyride.

Heart Chakra OpeningUntil recently, it had been over 18 months since my last Rolfing session. For whatever reason, I dropped out after session four in May of 2011. As I mentioned in my post from that time, Sager sees this alot – starting in sessions four and five, deep whole-body catharsis tends to release – in other words, $#!t gets real. In that sense, I am but a statistic. In my memory of it, though, I wasn’t thinking “This is getting too intense, I need to stop it.” I got busy; and then I had this thought in my head that I needed to lose weight in order to derive the maximum benefits from Rolfing. But in December 2012, I realized the silliness of letting business and other health goals from keeping me from the bodily reorganization and reintegration that Rolfing provides. After all, I had a Mayan Apocalypse Party to throw, and – I had no way of knowing it at the time when I resumed my ten series – I’d fall down half a flight of stairs on Christmas day at my aunt’s house. It was bad. According to the doctors, I could be expected to be laid up for nearly two months. Thanks in large part to Jason’s expert intervention on my muscles and bones, it was more like 2.5 weeks.

When I resumed late last year, Jason determined that it’d be best to begin the Ten Series over again, from session one. Not because all was lost – in fact, sessions 1-4 were easier the second time around because many of the changes wrought in 2011 were lasting – but simply to position me best to get the benefits from sessions 5-10.

And I just had session 5. describes it thus:

Session 5 continues the work from Session 4 to open and lengthen the rest of the front body. This covers hips to chest and deeper work includes psoas, pec minor, and front of the neck. For clients who tend to slump forward at the shoulders or hips, this is one of the primary sessions that will help.

Such a brief description for such an intense experience. If you’ve never engaged Rolfing first-hand, it can be difficult to describe. It’s not like a medieval torture chamber; my only experience is with Sager, but my impression is that skilled Rolfers do each movement with precision intentionality, designed to move fascia, muscle, and bone from stuck places into newfound freedom, mobility, and interdependence.

If it sounds like I’m veering from a matter-of-fact description of bodily movement and getting philosophical – I am. I’ve come to accept what initially sounded “woo-woo” to me: that our body stores unprocessed, “stuck” emotions at various places within us. (Incidentally, Sager is very soft-pedaling of the philosophy of energy work behind Rolfing; he’ll hardly bring it up unless you do…and of course, I do. : )  It’s clear to me, though, that he knows the “why” of what he’s doing inside and out.) In this session, in particular, he noted that my chest and lungs were almost frozen into place, like a block; and that my gut area, this part of me that I probably pay the most attention to – negative attention – is also stuck, and bloated…stretched to capacity.

And with Rolfing, Sager made room – within myself, for myself. Re-arranging the stuck places; letting hardened knots of muscle and tissue breathe, and relax. The process itself isn’t always “relaxing.” But the effects consistently are. “Rolfing” isn’t to “relaxed” as “Chinese” is to “eating” – 45 minutes later and it’s like nothing happened. As I type, two days after my session, I’m still aware of the differences in my body: Greater fluidity, groundedness, and just all-around “in-touchness.”

In addition to the men’s work I’ve been doing, awesome coaching I’ve been receiving, and the dietary and exercise changes I’m making, Rolfing thus far has proven to be one of my most rewarding investments of time and energy. It’s reinforcing, for me, the links between physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health – vitality – and power.

There’s too much life to live – I’m not delaying my Rolfing sessions anymore.

More in this series:

Why Did I Let This Man Put His Hands on Me? A Rolfing Immersion

C’mon Sea Legs, Pull Yourself Together 

I Get Knocked Down, But I Get Up Again 

Hurts So Good


Love is Love: Do we believe it?

Calling All Lovers: Augustine (or was it John Caputo?) once famously probed: “What do I love when I love my God?”

I think that Tom Oord in his Nature of Love: A Theology begins to take seriously, perhaps for the first time in contemporary theology, ‘God IS Love’ as a starting point for theology, spirituality, and practice. I think his project is exciting (you should really check out the book if you haven’t already), and if it resonates, it begs the question: Who do I love? What is love? And how can we explore/express these questions together trans-rationally, devotionally, ecstatically, in song?

Well, if these are questions that matter to you, I’ve got your mystical poetry for absorption into the One today. This is Love is Love, coming from post-hardcore band Lungfish‘s visionary, wheel-within-a-wheel frontman, Daniel Higgs. The version that so resonates with me – and with Trinity’s Place, my faith community in Raleigh – is actually a cover by Tortoise, when they collaborated with Bonnie “Prince” Billy.

I use this song frequently – working out on the ROM, and as a prelude to prayer or contemplation. Here it is:


The lyrics are anybody’s guess. Here’s mine:

Love is love in the shape things take

Love is love in the womb of wombs (wound of wounds)

Love is love at the highest height

Love is love at the deepest depth all right

Love is love as the risen rise (as the risen Christ)

Love is love in the sight of creation

Love is love in patterns of light

Love is love at the root of the grave

Love is love in the life of all life

Love is love in echoes through space

Love is love a vigil for this world (a vision for this world)

Love is love in the marrow of new bones

Love is love as above so below

Love is love in the record of events

Love must be love to let time begin

Love is love always reconciled

Love is love in the wind and shade

Love is love – alien and strange

Love is love in truth and falsehood

And, for your added enjoyment, here’s the original Lungfish version. Sink in!

This was originally posted on January 23, 2011. 

Karma Unbound

(Yes, this is in the key of Radiohead, while imagining Jean Valjean on the run from Javert…for richest effect, play this while reading…)

Karma Unbound 

O Grace-in-Chief
Unbind this man
he talks in tongues
his heart is like a dirge
It’s playing for the mourning

O Grace-in-Chief
Release this girl
Desire bound
is bound to press the world
We’re grapes hard-pressed for the party

Now is how we’re met
Now is how we’re met
Now is how we’re met
When we’re met with you…

O Grace-in-Chief
I’ve given all I can
It’s not enough
Ac(/Ex/)cept I AM
Drawing you in through mouth and lungs

Now is how we’re met
Now is how we’re met
Now is how we’re met
When we’re met with you…

For a lifetime
I lost myself, I lost myself
In our breathing, now –
I lose myself, I lose myself

For a lifetime
I lost myself, I lost myself
In our breathing, now –
I lose myself, I lose myself…

* * * * *

The story behind the meditation…

I’ve had an incredibly full past two weeks – from spending time in Memphis with people (like DonSarah, Doug, George, Wendy, Drew, Riley, Brian, Dani and Mark) at the Great Emergence event in Memphis, to checking-in with my MKP brothers in IGroup, to ringing in seven years of marriage, to staffing alongside some of the most brilliant souls I know at H Opp (getting to know equally brilliant – and courageous, inspiring – participants), to showing my dear friend Aline around Raleigh while she stayed with Jasmin and I this week, to delving into ecstatic dance at Carrboro’s FlowJo, to – finally – he pauses to take a breath – participating in yet another spirited, loving exchange between Muslims and Christians at the IITS/Divan Center in Cary co-hosted by Peace Catalyst International.

I am overflowing with the goodness and abundance of a wildly diverse group of friends and colleagues who are showing up and offering their gifts and presence to the world.


It seems to me that we still haven’t found what we’re looking forGranted, some of us are far more contented along the journey, while others of us are more ravenous. I judge neither. But last night, driving home from a biblical-Qur’anic discussion on Adam and human origins, while reflecting on my abundantly divergent friends and experiences in this past couple of weeks alone, I had this overwhelming, beautifully aching feeling: we long to be seen in our individuality, and to merge in communion.

I Tweeted:

We are the all, aching for All;  
we are the many, longing for union.

Now – I realize that I’m using “we” generously here, maybe even presumptuously. I have no idea what you are consciously (or subconsciously) longing for.  There’s a saying in personal-work settings: Use “I” statements. So – if this fits for you, claim it. Either way, feel within myself a spaciousness and constriction that I identify with “the human condition” – I feel the ache of longing for connection, for communion:

With my wife and child,
With friends, new and old;
With family members,
With strangers that who catch my eye for the first time,
With people who, by virtue of initial dislike or slow-conditioned disdain, have become enemies.

This is why – whatever else I am – I’m a committed Perennialist. (and I’m in good company!) When it comes to my basic orientation toward reality, it seems that

  1. There is something bigger than us
  2. We either are (West) or seem to be (East) separated from it
  3. Through various means [or perhaps One Mean, apprehended in a diversity of forms] we can become reunited with it (or realize that we already are)
  4. Once the separation is overcome, we will lead larger, richer, fuller lives

Valjean ImagesFor whatever reason, I feel further called to steward this universal Mystery in her Christian manifestation (which, believe me, sometimes feels like more trouble than it’s worth!) As a Trinitarian (some fun little rabbit trails in that link), I would say that my tradition’s highest conception of God points to the paradox that reality is ultimately One, and yet, also Many. This is the (or at least a) mystery that the Three-in-One God points to. Oneness and plurality, transcendence and immanence, individuation and communion. And grace is the aroma that’s shot through – the All in all.

I hear this in the cry of Jesus to his Abba, just before he was betrayed with a kiss:

My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will trust me through their message
That all of them may be One, Father, just as You are in me and I am in You.
May they also be in Us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be One as We are One
— I in them and You in me—
so that they may be brought to complete union. 
(John 17:20-23a)

We long to feel this union – with the Divine, with each other, with our surroundings and environment, with our own spit and sinew, bodies and selves – and yet…so often we feel chained.

‎”I always rely on the kindness of strangers.” – says not just Blanche DuBois, but Everyone, to Everyone Else. Interdependence – recognized or unrecognized, cozy or cruel – is everywhere. It seems to me that we are all aloft on a streetcar named Desire.

With this desire unusually palpable in me, and reading an awesome re-written Psalm by a friend who emailed it to me, I sat down to my Centering Prayer practice this morning. In the midst of the silence – and, if I’m candid, some tears of recognition – the tune to Radiohead‘s Karma Police welled up within me. And then, the words you read above began to come. I bent the rules of Centering Prayer to step away and put them down, and then some more, adding flesh to bones. (I will resume in the Unconditional Silence early this evening, I hope.)

This may not be its final form; its derivativity (that should so be a word) feels mildly kitschy but it’s hitting me in a deep place considering the life I’m living.

Your feedback is welcome. You feelin’ me?

Darkwood Brew: For the Love of God

Darkwood Brew LGBTMy friends Eric Elnes, Scott Griessel and company are putting together an awesome Darkwood Brew series I wanted to tell you about.

For the Love of God will be addressing the Bible passages that people commonly cite to oppose LGBT equality and adding several more that show that inclusion and acceptance is part of the flow of a “biblical” faith. There’s a truly stellar line-up:
Dec 30: Rev. Bruce Van Blair (UCC minister 40 yrs, not well known but kicks ass on biblical stuff. We featured him for our entire series on Colossians last year)
Jan 6: Dr. Jacq Lapsely (Princeton Seminary OT scholar and editor of the Dictionary of Biblical Ethics)
Jan 13: Dr. James Forbes
Jan 20: Dr. Jack Levison (NT scholar from Seattle Pacific U with Pentecostal roots)
Jan 27: Sue Fulton (first female graduate from Westpoint, lesbian)
Feb 3: Bishop Gene Robinson

Check out this trailer!

God in the Material World: Altizer and Žižek in the ‘Wake’ of the Death of God

Eccentric visionary and radical theologian Thomas J. J. Altizer created napkin-scribble icons to God’s mysterious demise at Atlanta’s Dark Horse Tavern in the mid-1960s, Carl McColman once told me; 40+ years later, Brittian Bullock and I would sit in the same bar pondering the same thing.

Now, about four years after that, I’m once again thinking of the death of God – the crisis in the life of God, God’s mysterious disappearance from the stage of history and even faith; the self-abnegation of God in Christ; the emptying of ‘the Sacred’ into ‘the secular,’ the ultimate kenosis that makes the here-and-now holy.

Feeling nervous around all this talk about theothanatology? You’re not alone. In a 2006 Emory Magazine article, Altizer himself said he felt “violently misunderstood” in his ideas and intent. “My work really means just the opposite of what everyone thinks.”

Altizer’s is, you see, a conversion story for our age:

Descended from General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, Thomas Jonathan Jackson Altizer grew up mostly in West Virginia in a family that was “deeply Southern” and marked, he says, by madness. He did learn a love of books from his father, who told Altizer his own father also revered the printed word, with one notable exception: in a fit of rage, Altizer’s grandfather once hurled Nietzsche’s The Antichrist into the fire. Although Altizer claims he was deeply taken with Christianity as a youth, he was raised with little religious guidance, left to find his own way through reading and prayer.

Altizer attended the University of Chicago from 1947 to 1954, finishing with a PhD. During his early years there, he also served as a chaplain at an Episcopal church and was on a path to becoming an Episcopal priest. But candidates for the priesthood were required to undergo a rigorous psychiatric exam, which, as Altizer writes, he “unexpectedly and totally failed.” Indeed, a psychiatrist told him he could expect to be institutionalized within the year.

In the weeks before the examination, Altizer remembers being in a “turbulent condition,” a period when he experienced a violent transformation that would profoundly inform his work from then on.

“This occurred late at night, while I was in my room,” he writes. “I suddenly awoke and became truly possessed and experienced an epiphany of Satan, which I have never been able fully to deny, an experience in which I could actually feel Satan consuming me, absorbing me into his very being. . . . Satan and Christ soon became my primary theological motifs, and my deepest theological goal eventually became one of discovering a coincidentia oppositorium [coincidence of opposites] between them.”

In 1955, the year before he arrived at Emory, Altizer was reading in the University of Chicago library when he experienced a similar revelation—but the inverse of his encounter with Satan.

“I had what I have ever since regarded as a genuine religious conversion, and this was a conversion to the death of God,” he writes. “Never can such an experience be forgotten, and while it truly paralleled my earlier experience of the epiphany of Satan, this time I experienced a pure grace, as though it were the very reversal of my experience of Satan.” (You really should read the whole article here.)

I’m not going to summarize Death-of-God theology for you here; instead, I’m going to show you some videos in Altizer’s own words, as he discusses the implication of this radical Event for the life of the world. He is joined here by Slavoj Žižek, superstar Lacanian philosopher and cultural trickster (whom you might recognize from Pete Rollins love-fests or perhaps from Welcome to the Desert of the Real, often paired with The Matrix DVD commentaries of Cornel West and Ken Wilber).

Without further ado…let the out-pouring begin!



I, for one, am looking forward to Altizer’s latest book, The Apocalyptic Trinity, out on Christmas Eve.

ONE: The Gospel vs. Christianity

Mike Williams became a rising star in Evangelical circles during the 1980’s as an “Ex-Gay” preacher who had been cured of (or “delivered” from) homosexuality.  He was the poster-boy for the Christian agenda to eradicate homosexuality. Mike appeared on numerous prominent broadcasts including Pat Robertson’s CBN as well as TBN.  He also became a well-known and highly respected Bible teacher in the Charismatic movement.

During that time, Mike tried desperately to make his Ex-Gay “testimony” true.  From the time he was a child, he had taken his beliefs seriously.  So seriously that they caused him intense inner suffering resulting in his first of three suicide attempts when he was just a teenager.

But ONE: The Gospel According to Mike (currently only $3.47 on Kindle) is not a book about being gay. It’s a story of grace trumping religion – and the theological breakthrough that allowed him to leave behind questions of “what is Lawful” forever.

Last year, Rob Bell made waves in publishing and spirituality alike with his book Love Wins (not to be confused with my friend Hugh Hollowell‘s Raleigh, NC ministry to traditionally marginalized people, also called Love Wins, which had the name first, sorta-kinda…).  Bell asked questions about the nature and manifestation of God’s goodness that Christianity (and Western religion in general) has grappled with for ages. He was a heretic to some and a hero to many.  In ONE, Williams – who has become a veteran grace teacher – goes perhaps even further than Bell, challenging interpretations of virtually every major Christian doctrine from salvation to damnation, while presenting Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection in a Scriptural context seldom seen in spirituality and practice.  What’s interesting is Mike’s perspective that not only does love win – love already won.

Rooted deeply in a love of Christ and Scripture, with a disdain for the bean-counting, score-keeping element of organized religion that’s reminiscent of the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Galatians, ONE mounts Scriptural arguments against the doctrines that have propagated the fear of a still-angry God and eternal torment in the fires of hell.

Wherever one comes down on soteriology – the eternal-conscious-torment/annhilationism/inclusivism/universalism scale – what fascinates me are evangelical universalists like Mike Williams, Thomas Talbott, and Robin Parry – who make their case for the unconditional, persistent love of God in Christ not from the vantage point of some all-roads-lead-to-the-same-path liberal idea of the brotherhood of humanity, but from a precisely-made, patient, biblically-literate standpoint. One: The Gospel According to Mike (this is the official booksite, with an in-depth table of contents and more) is a worthy addition to this discussion – I’d say a must-read.

PS: Check out Gospel Revolution, Williams’ thriving online tribe.

GMO Labeling: Let the Buycotts Begin

GMO labeling in America: Where we won -

Last week more than 5 million California voters stood up for transparency and labels on genetically engineered foods by voting Yes on Prop 37. We came up short on election night, but have built a powerful movement that has changed the conversation on GMO labeling in the U.S. forever.
At Food Democracy Now! we want to express our gratitude for you and all of our members who helped place Prop 37 and labeling of genetically engineered foods as a central part of the national debate during this year’s election.It was a hard fought race and we’ve been amazed and inspired by the grassroots support in California and across the country. Despite being outspent nearly 6 to 1, the Yes on 37 campaign fought Monsanto and DuPont to a standstill with 47.6% to 52.4% at the polls.

We may not have won on election night, but what we did gain is unprecedented and can never be taken from us: the fact that millions of people have stood up for democracy and labeling of genetically engineered foods, and we have fundamentally changed the conversation in the U.S. forever.

What’s next?

Along with our allies, we’ve been encouraged to hear this question ring throughout California among those who gave their heart and soul to this fight and within the growing national food movement: “What’s next?”

Food Democracy Now! has been a part of this fight from the beginning and along with our close allies who fought with us every step of the way, we can tell you that this fight is not over and we will not stop until we achieve transparency and the basic Right to Know what’s in our food.

Why do 61 other countries enjoy this right while Americans do not?

It’s time that we make sure these questions are heard at the highest levels here in the U.S., from the White House to Congress to state capitals across the country.

Right now efforts are unfolding in Washington state where volunteers are gathering signatures to place an initiative similar to Prop 37 on the ballot in 2013 and there are attempts to get President Obama to enact his 2007 campaign promise to label GMOs in Washington DC. No matter what, GMO labeling in the U.S. is going to become a reality.

Give Thanks and Reward Our Heroes

Today there are there are 2 things that you can do to move this conversation forward and help thank those who stood with us during the historic battle on Prop  37.

1. Please join us in thanking those Organic Heroes who stood with us in the fight on Prop 37, from the moms, grandmothers and grassroots activists to the California farmers and organic and natural companies that helped make the fight possible. Without their help, it wouldn’t have been possible!

2. Please join Food Democracy Now! in committing to doubling down in the marketplace by supporting those companies that supported your Right to Know at the grocery store.

A lot of these companies are small in size, but their leaders gave a generous amount to help us in the fight to Label GMOs in California. Please reward them with your undying brand loyalty at your local coop or grocery store because when the next fight comes, we know they’ll be there for us!

Thank the Heroes of Prop 37

Thank Dr. Mercola, Dr. Bronner’s, Lundberg Family Farms, Nutiva, Amy’s Kitchen, Organic Valley, Clif Bar, Udi’s, Earth Balance, Annie’s Homegrown, Applegate, Eden Foods and Good Earth Natural Foods. They have stepped up to the plate and stood beside their customers and this grassroots movement to Label GMOs.

The people who run these companies care a great deal about doing the right thing and Food Democracy Now! is proud to stand with them in the fight to label GMOs!

Click on the link below to thank the Heroes of Yes on 37 on Twitter.

 Thank on Twitter Click on the link below to thank the Heroes of Yes on 37 on Facebook.

 Thank on Facebook

Now spread the word and share this with your friends to show who stood with you and who is against you and your Right to Know! Let them know that you intend to vote with your dollar!

Heroes and Zeroes
 Tweet This  Share on Facebook
Election Results and False Reports of Voter Fraud

Despite numerous reports of voter fraud in the election on Yes on 37, there have been no proof of fraud or vote tampering in California. As with every election, not every ballot is counted on election night and currently Food Democracy Now! is working with the California Right to Know campaign to monitor the final vote tally from the state.

As of November 16, 2012, the vote totals are 5,869,382 NO to 5,329,994 YES, with the NO side ahead 52.4% to 47.6%.

California state law requires county elections officials to report their final results to the Secretary of State by December 7. The Secretary of State has until December 14 to certify the results of the election.

Food Democracy Now! will continue to monitor these election results with our allies and report the latest results.
Thanks again for participating in food democracy. Your involvement has help build a stronger movement and brought us one step close to GMO labeling!

Thank you for contributing what you can today – Together we can win!

Thanks for participating in food democracy,

Dave, Lisa and the Food Democracy Now! Team

P.S. As we move forward in our efforts, we need your help! Please chip in today to help defeat Monsanto’s bid to silence GMO labeling in the U.S. – It’s time to fight back to make GMO labeling a reality!

- from Food Democracy Now!

Election Day Communion: Uniting Our Divisions, Body & Soul?

Part 1: Chicken Run

Eating. It can unite us, or divide us. How – and with whom – we eat divided many of us as a nation late this summer when news of Chick-Fil-A’s track record of anti-LGBT lobbying hit the mainstream. Progressives were aghast, and conservatives rallied the base. Former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee declared Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day, attended by millions. Gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered families, their friends and allies, grieved, as a nation seemed to gleefully say to them: “Let them eat chicken.” 

Mealtimes in Jesus’ day were divisive, too. In the ancient Near East, observant Jews were careful to practice “safe sects,” eating only with their closest co-religionists, the ones that interpreted their purity codes just like they did. The less-than-pure were sure to be kept away from the immaculately prepared meals, socially-stratified tables, and carefully-washed utensils. The ‘pagan’ Romans were no better, with a firm pecking order of who got to eat where based on citizenship, social standing, and rank.

Jesus, by contrast, ate indiscriminately. Scholar Bruce Chilton suggests that Jesus, like many tradesmen of his day, was often paid in meals. At these meals, he could invite whomever he wished and his client had no choice but respect his table arrangements. It is here, Chilton believes, that Jesus honed his conviction that God was near when a table was full – of good food and “whosoever.” So Jesus invited sex workers and religious leaders, government stooges and terrorists alike to share a common meal around a common table. In so doing, he enacted Isaiah and Ezekiel’s eschatological vision of a heavenly banquet come to earth, where God lays a spread of the finest foods and aged wines to all humanity. How inclusively does Jesus mirror this image of God’s all-encompassing shalom? Even at his final meal before execution, Jesus invites his betrayer to dine with him.

Do we eat like this today? I confess that every time I sat at a table with my social group in high school, every time I turn away from others at the mall food court, every time I refuse to meet a homeless street hustler’s gaze on the sidewalk downtown, I do not.

And in a worshiping context? So often, communion or eucharist or Lord’s Supper follows society’s norms rather than reshaping them.

But it doesn’t have to be this way; another meal is possible. The meal that Jesus left us with can cause endless social and doctrinal divisions, or it can unite us against the larger societal forces that fragment us. Radical theologian William Cavanaugh frames our meal choice – between consumption or communion – in his ground-breaking essay The World in a Wafer:

Globalism is a masternarrative, the consumption of which ironically produces fragmented subjects incapable of telling a genuinely catholic story. [T]he Eucharist [by contrast] produces a catholicity which does not simply prescind from the local, but contains the universal Catholica within each local embodiment of the body of Christ. The body of Christ is only performed in a local Eucharistic community, and yet in the body of Christ spatial and temporal divisions are collapsed. In the complex space of the body of Christ, attachment to the local is not a fascist nostalgia for gemeinschaft in the face of globalization. Consumption of the Eucharist consumes one into the narrative of the pilgrim City of God, whose reach extends beyond the global to embrace all times and places.

As Cavanaugh states elsewhere, “To consume the Eucharist is an act of anticonsumption, for here to consume is to be consumed, to be taken up into participation in something larger than the self, yet in a way in which the identity of the self is paradoxically secured.” In sharing Eucharist we enter the suffering of one another – the literal meaning of compassion - and in so doing ” we see the distance between friend and enemy overcome.”

To this end, my Facebook friend Andy and I created People Appreciation Day – an attempt to stem the Chick-Fil-A food fight that was, absurdly enough, gripping much of the nation. Its premise was simple: Invite someone out for a meal, someone you’d normally be uncomfortable dining with. Perhaps someone of another race, class, orientation, or religion…or perhaps, an outright enemy.

For me, many of the above categories weren’t particularly challenging. I’m married to a woman of another race, and have a veritible ‘rainbow coalition’ of friends; while I don’t do it as often as I’d like, I joyfully break bread with people who live outside; I get together with my Turkish Muslim friends monthly and enjoy baklava and other treats as we catch up on matters of family, nation, and faith. No, for me, my boogeyman wasn’t a black or homeless or gay or Muslim person – it was a ‘fundamentalist,’ the people I came from…the people I used to be.

I decided to invite my former Facebook friend Art Mealer. Art and I met a year or two ago, online and in-person. He’s a businessman and house church organizer. He has a ministry called Waging Love. We got together for dinner at Market in Raleigh. We really wanted to like each other…we found that, besides professing Jesus as Lord, we had little in common. It was awkward. Over the months, he’s invited me to house church barbecues (I’ve usually had other things to do, but honestly felt nervous around getting together in this setting); I’ve invited him to my church, Trinity’s Place (which made him nervous, he said to me plainly, on a number of theological and even moral levels.) Thus, Art and I’s primary interaction has been online, where tempers flare, partisanships are on display like proud peacocks, and the decorum that usually accompanies in-person interaction is all-but-absent.

I forget which online post it was from one of my friends that triggered it: Was it the one from Kimberly Knight? Or Matthew Paul Turner? Or Rachel Held Evans? Or Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove? Whichever it was, after reading one post too many, Art de-friended me on Facebook. As online connections, we were “over.” A connection severed over our very real differences – different conceptions of ethics, the public square, governance, and even God. I knew that if I was going to follow my own mandate and break bread with someone who made me uncomfortable, I’d have to ask Art out to lunch. He accepted, and light-heartedly (?) proposed we meet at Chick-Fil-A. After some back-and-forth about politics and nutrition, he suggested Aladdin’s instead. I accepted.

Art and I had a great meal. Hundreds attended People Appreciation Day – not the million or so that defiantly ate chicken a few weeks before, but what is that line about not despising small beginnings? If the planet is a loaf, a little leaven is a good place to begin. The News & Observer did a great little write-up on PAD, in which they quote me saying:

“If I can look in their eyes and share food, I won’t be able to callously dismiss their perspectives the next time I’m surrounded by like-minded people,” said Morrell, who often references the meals Jesus shared with people whom others avoided. “I’ll be able to see their perspectives in a more human and less sound-bitten way.”

Part 2: Election Indigestion.

What have I learned since then? That I need to share even more such meals. I have been sound-bitten, and I have been the biter. In the run-up to election season, I have posted my fair share of opinionated pieces, news items, and videos – all advocating a particular vision of our nation’s future. Others have advocated their visions similarly. As you could imagine, these visions sometimes clash.

Be specific without being exclusivistic is my frequent refrain for myself. As I allow myself to partake of God as my Tree of Life beyond the knowledge of good and evil, and enter into unitive consciousness as I see life through a renewed, Christ-like, and spacious lens, I recognize a paradox: I don’t un-become who I am. I don’t suddenly become formless. I’m still me, in all my partisan particularity. Though hopefully, as I keep breaking bread with enemies and eating God, I take myself and my particularities less seriously.

I needed this reminder after being de-friended by yet more people – including a relative I will likely see at Christmas, or her daugther’s wedding next Spring – over online political posts.

I needed this reminder after eating at Zaxby’s tonight with four of my MKP brothers, most of us laughing about a particular presidential candidate’s idiotic policies and presence – only to look over and notice that one of our brothers wasn’t laughing, because he voted for the candidate the rest of us were deriding.

And so, after dinner on Election Night, I drove around the corner to Raleigh Moravian Church, where I knew Election Day Communion was taking place. What’s this, you ask? Well, as their homepage reads in part,

On November 6, 2012, Election Day,
we will exercise our right to choose.

Some of us will choose to vote for Barack Obama.
Some of us will choose to vote for Mitt Romney.
Some of us will choose to vote for another candidate.
Some of us will choose not to vote.

During the day of November 6, 2012, we will make different choices for different reasons, hoping for different results.

But that evening while our nation turns its attention to the outcome of the presidential election, let’s again choose differently. But this time, let’s do it together.

Let’s meet at the same table,
with the same host,
to remember the same things.

We’ll remember that real power in this world — the power to save, to transform, to change — ultimately rests not in political parties or presidents or protests but in the life, the death, and the resurrection of Jesus.

We’ll remember that, through the Holy Spirit, this power dwells within otherwise ordinary people who as one body continue the mission of Jesus: preaching good news to the poor, freeing the captives, giving sight to the blind, releasing the oppressed, and proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favor (Luke 4:16-21).

We’ll remember that freedom — true freedom — is given by God and is indeed not free. It comes with a cost and it looks like a cross.

We’ll remember that the only Christian nation in this world is the Church, a holy nation that crosses all human-made boundaries and borders.

We’ll remember that God’s strength is made perfect in weakness.

And we’ll re-member the body of Christ as the body of Christ, confessing the ways in which partisan politics has separated us from one another and from God.

On Tuesday evening, November 6,
make a choice to remember.
Let’s meet at the Lord’s Table.
Let’s remember together.

I wanted to remember, together. I wanted to counter the brokenness of my relationships with the brokenness of Christ’s body. I wanted to partake of a common cup to remind me of the transcendent meaning that we all share in a common humanity.

The only problem was, Raleigh Moravian had their Election Day Communion at 12:30 that afternoon. Looking up an N&O article on my phone, I discovered that my friends at Raleigh Mennonite started their Election Day Communion Gathering…20 minutes before I read the article. I zoomed over, just in time to hear my friend Duane Beck read from John 17…to speak of communion, common union, working its way through bread and wine and bodies – diverse bodies, political bodies, divergent bodies…common bodies. He invited everyone to come up and partake – black and white and hispanic, Republican and Democrat and anarchist, old people and young parents and students…we ate, we drank, we lit candles if we wanted…and we lingered, reminding one another of our shared identity as God’s beloveds.

So I ate ate the bread, drank the cup, and passed the peace in embrace of friends and strangers. Did I overcome division?

It’s a trickier question than I first supposed. It’s not only I’m divided from those who think and act and live differently than me; I’m divided from myself, sometimes. A stranger from myself. When it comes to politics, I am part-idealist, part-pragmatist, part-hypocrite, and part-cynic. Anarchism, third parties, intentional communities, partisan rancor, ambivalence, compromise, resignation, even apocalyptic fantasies. All of these exist within me.

As I type, I hear a still, small voice.

This is My Body, broken for you.

Even me, Lord?

Even you. And every ragamuffin, ne’er-do-well, teamster, prankster, gangster, poseur, pollster, reality-upholsterer and gun-holsterer that walks this planet. Even all of you…saints and scoundrels…broken apart like so much bread, in the fragments of your violence toward one another and Me; forgiven and re-gathered, reconstituted and re-mattered, as My Body is consumed and digested, I am consumed with love for you. You are bodies…broken and re-born. You matter to Me.

It is in this consummation that I am consumed; it is in divine digestion that I rest. The election was called a few hours ago – in the world of manifestation, ideological divisions still exist between us. As a nation, planet, and ecosystem, we have a lot of healing left to do. I pray that we can “taste and see” God’s sustaining goodness together. And with each other imagine a common future. Another world is possible – and in the scandalously-inclusive table of God, is already here.

Please…tell me your story of Election Day Communion, or other boundary-breaking meal-sharing, in the comments below. I’d love to hear.

Update: Welcome, Brian McLaren readers!

See also:


Born Twice: My Adoption Story

October 30th – it’s my birthday today. I turn 33. So it’s only appropriate that I delve into something that I’ve never said here before: I’m adopted. I was adopted from birth. And nearly two years ago, I connected with my biological parents for the first time.

I recently sat down with my friend (and parenting blogger) Jeremy Uriz to discuss what it was like to grow up as an adopted kid, and what impact this has on me now. Jeremy has a vested interest in knowing: as of earlier this year, Jeremy and his wife Jennifer became the proud adoptive parents of a toddler from China, Penelope. Let me tell you, she is a cutie, and ridiculously smart, to boot. Jeremy has been chronicling her life, and their life as parents, at Belonging Together. It’s a treasure trove of information and wisdom on parenting, adoption, cross-cultural parenting/adoption, et al.

In our two-part interview – which you can read as a transcript or listen to as a podcast – we discuss adoption and parenting from all sides. If you want, you can jump right now to part one and part two – otherwise, here are some excerpts…

Jeremy: Recently you had a unique experience among some adoptive people. We’ll discuss that in a little bit. Let me just start out and ask you how sensitive a topic is adoption now versus 10 or 20 years ago?

Mike: Do you mean how sensitive do I think it is in the culture at large?

J: Yes.

M: I would say in most corners it’s way more open now than it used to be. My impression is, and what I’ve gathered, is there used to be a culture of almost shame and secrecy around adoption and now people are far more commonly talking about adoption, either if it’s their children that they have adopted or if they are kids or adult children who were adopted it seems more common now. It’s more out in the open.

J: When did you find out you were adopted?

M: I found out I was adopted when I was, I want to say, 4 or 5 years old. I kept pestering my mom about “birds and the bees” type questions and think I point blank asked her at one point if I grew in her belly. My mom is of the “I will not tell a direct lie” school of ethics, and though it was an uncomfortable topic for her, she decided to give it to me straight. She told me then that I was adopted and that they chose me, my mom and dad chose me, and that they loved me very much because they especially chose me.

J: What were your feelings at the time?

M: …to hear my feelings, go here for the continuation of Part One.

Jeremy: That brings me to another question. Did you feel there was a piece of you that was in a sense “filled in” by this connection or did you know it was there, did you not know it was there and you only discovered it when you began speaking to [your birth mother]?

Mike: That’s such interesting question. Connecting with both her, and shortly thereafter my birth father, I did see some aspects in common in terms of they were both very opinionated people, they are both entrepreneurial, and creative. And so there were some cool resonances there but it actually wasn’t as intensely ”Oh I found this missing piece of myself” as I think I may have built it up in my mind. I think there’s a bit of allure that develops around adoption that makes you feel like there’s this sort of ache or primal wound or something that once you find these people you’re going to have a missing piece of yourself.

I was very fortunate to have a wonderful reunion experience with both of my birth parents. I know in some cases the birth parents don’t want to be in touch, or they turn out to be co-dependent, or addicts, or there’s all kind of horror stories out there. I’m really grateful that none of that was the case with me.

At the same time I think that what it confirmed that there are some ways in which I am simply unique. So in the ways in which I felt like maybe I didn’t fit in when I was growing up among my parents, my adoptive parents, that maybe if I ever imagined “well I don’t fit in with them but it’s because I’m more like my birth parents” in some ways I’ve discovered that I’m just a unique person on my own two feet. It’s great as an adult to be in a relationship with the parents I’ve always had as well as my birth parents.But I’m relating to all of them really as an adult.

Yeah, its an interesting process. It’s not over yet by any means so I’m still along for the journey in this regard.

J: So in some respects it offers you a larger palate to work from than other people.

M: Sure.

J: Not necessarily the way people would choose but it’s the hand you were dealt.

M: Yeah, it is the hand I was dealt. [I would add that this is not as grim as it sounds! By and large, I like the upbringing I had, though it’s not without its challenges. I am grateful for how things unfolded, and continue to be grateful for how they unfold today with my big, diverse, interesting family…] And I think increasingly in this day and age there are a lot of adopted children, and lots of blended families, people who have step parents of one sort or another,  I think a lot of us are getting to play with larger palates these days as we’re discovering why we’ve developed in the way we have and what’s formed our identity.

J: Now this particular question is going to be important for me and anyone reading, or for a lot of people reading this. What do you feel adoptive parents should know about their adopted children? Is there something about the experience? For Jennifer and I we can’t relate in some respects to the experience Penelope has. What is it that parents should know in this circumstance?

M: …to hear my life-changing advice for adoptive parents, continue on over to Part Two.


 How about you? Have you adopted children? ARE you adopted? What’s your story? I’d like to hear, here

Jesus: A Theography – the Sweet/Viola Interview + Recommendation

In the third century, Origen of Alexandria taught that there are four senses of Scripture. In Chanting the Psalms, Cynthia Bourgeault summarizes these as follows:

  1. Historical (or “literal”), where Scripture is “all about facts and linear causality” (50).
  2. Christological (or “allegorical”), in which “all the stories and images in the Bible [are]…pointing toward the Christ mystery” (51).
  3. Tropological (or “growth”), in which the stories of Scripture are seen as “holograms of the soul’s journey” (51).
  4. Unitive in full blossom, (others say “anagogical”), in which “we begin to realize that there is only one story, the great biblical drama of salvation, and our own life is perfectly mirrored and contained within it” (52).

For many contemporary readers of Scripture and followers of Jesus, we’re stuck at the literal or historical sense of Holy Writ. Now granted, for alot of us, this is actually a step up; I know that when I was a kid and even a high school and college student, so much of the Bible was reduced to a one-dimensional morality tale, a story about how to “be like David” (the giant-slaying David, mind you, not the Bathsheba-bedding David!) or the Proverbs 31 woman (well, not me, specifically) or whatever. So when I began to discover the historical context of Scripture through scholars like NT Wright or Amy-Jill Levine or James Dunn or Bruce Chilton, my world opened up, as did my Bible and my faith. Still, as Cynthia‘s outline suggests, the ancients had a far more multi-dimensional approach to our sacred text, and it wasn’t just for reading – it was to to experientially know the God of the Bible (as revealed in Jesus Christ) and move through our own soul’s journey into a sense of union with God and the fullness of our destiny.

To put it mildly, contemporary Bible studies don’t do that. Most of them stick to morals that are often shallow, dubious, and/or partisan. A few of the best dip into the historical context of Scripture and paint the narrative in a compelling way. (For fine examples of this, I’d recommend my friend Sean Gladding‘s The Story of God, the Story of Us from Likewise, with its accompanying DVD set for group reading – as well as the Network of Biblical Storytelling and the International Orality Network) But what if there was a resource the bridged the Historical sense of Scripture with the Christological – the latter being a style of interpretation that has been out of favor with the academy and churches alike for centuries – paving the way for the reader to be catapulted into the Tropological and the Unitive fellowship of the Godhead?

I daresay that Frank Viola and Leonard Sweet‘s Jesus: A Theography does precisely this.

I’ll say more in a minute. But first, I wanted to share with you some about the book from the authors’ own words. I sat down with Sweet and Viola (virtually speaking) over the weekend to glean the following (note – the words are the interviewees, but the links are mostly mine. I like you to be able to engage the conversation with as much depth as you desire; Andrew Jones doesn’t call me “Dr Linkage” for nothing!):

Mike: Thanks for taking the time out to talk to my readers and curious potential readers everywhere. My first question about your new release concerns your sub-title. “Theography?” What’s a theography?   

Len: “Theography” literally means “the story of a god.” Even though I’m not averse to coining words (some would call that an understatement), we did not make up the word “theography.” It’s an actual genre of literature which has a long history. Rather than write a “biography of God” (Jack Miles) or a “history of God” (Karen Armstrong), we decided to lay our cards on the table and write the story of someone we believe is, as the Nicene Creed puts it, “God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father by whom all things were made.”

Frank: A theography is a theological biography. The book, therefore, tells the story of Jesus, beginning from eternity (John 1:1), all the way through the Old Testament (where Christ is foreshadowed, prefigured, and prophesied about), all the way through the New Testament and ending in Revelation. It seeks to marry theology with biography, bringing together Christology with historical Jesus studies.

Mike: You resurrect an ancient way of reading Scripture that’s nearly lost today – what some would call allegorical, or typological. Can you each say something about this way of finding Christ on every page of Holy Writ?

Frank: It’s not allegorical. We make a clear distinction in the book between subjective allegory (which we don’t subscribe to) and classic typology – which is basically a semiotic reading of Scripture. The latter is how the NT authors interpreted the OT. It’s also how Jesus taught His disciples to read the Scriptures. We unpack those two statements in the book.

Let me add something else. There are three things being emphasized today by some Christians and our book speaks directly to each one:

First – there is an emphasis on being “Red Letter Christians.” For better or for worse, one result of this emphasis is that many people have the idea that in order to really understand Jesus, we have to focus solely on the Gospels, particularly the places where Jesus tells us what to do. The “red letter” emphasis is no doubt a reaction to those who have pushed the gospel strictly in Pauline terms. But the net is often that we end up pitting Justice against Justification and people take sides.

By contrast, we believe that we will never fully understand Jesus simply by reading the red letters in the Gospels. Nor do we believe that we can fully understand Him by reading the writings of Paul only.

It is our conviction that we can only fully understand Jesus by learning to discover Him from Genesis to Revelation and interpret the Scriptures the same way that Jesus taught His disciples to interpret them.

Luke says that the risen Christ opened the understanding of His disciples, revealing Himself to them through Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms. Those are the three parts of the Hebrew Bible – the Tenack.

In addition, if we understand that Jesus is speaking in and through the Old Testament as YHWH, then all of the Bible should be in red letters.

Consequently, we’re all for being “Red Letter Christians,” if by that we mean Genesis to Revelation should be written in red.

If all Christians learned to discover Christ in all the Scriptures, it would constitute no small revolution in the Body of Christ . . . and in turn, the world. I believe the earth begs for such a revolution.

Second – there’s a re-emphasis on discipleship today in many quarters (“discipleship” was also big in the late 60s early 70s, then it went off the rails. As I’ve pointed out elsewhere, many who are on the discipleship band-wagon today don’t know their history. And ignorance of history usually ends up in a repetition of it.)

Most of the people who promote this emphasis talk about the importance of reading the Bible. But reading the Bible on its own doth not a disciple make. The Bible must be interpreted.

In Jesus: A Theography, Len and I demonstrate how the first Christians (the NT authors) interpreted the Old Testament. And then we use that same hermeneutic (method of interpretation) to unveil Christ from Genesis to Revelation.

Consequently, beyond being a book that converges NT scholarship with theology and canonical criticism, our volume is a handbook for discipleship, showing God’s people how to read the Bible in the light of Jesus Christ. Reading the Bible this way brings it to life on so many levels.

Third – we live in a time where there is perhaps more diversity among Christians than ever before. Last year, Christian Smith wrote a little book about this and asserted that the cure for the interpretive pluralism that plagues biblical interpretation among Christians today is the rediscovery of the Christocentric hermeneutic.

We believe that there is a lot of truth in Smith’s proposal. While it’s no panacea, reading the Scriptures Christologically can help us profoundly on this score. Thus our book seeks to show what a Christocentric hermeneutic is, what it looks like, and how it can be applied to the entire Bible – both Old and New Testaments.

Len: Nowadays christology is the weak slat under the bed of theology; Frank and I believe it should be the whole bed. That is what we tried to show in this book—the seamless garment story of Jesus.

There has been a renewed interest in both ancient approaches to the Bible known as allegorical and typological. Although Frank and I contrast the two, shunning the allegorical and embracing the typological, there are some scholars who argue that we are mistaken in this and that any crisp contrast between the two is misguided (e.g. David Dawson, Allegorical Readers and Cultural Revision in Ancient Alexandria [University of California Press, 1992).

But we maintain the distinction in our book, and believe that the “storied world of the Bible” (Hans Frei) needs a unitive telling that requires a typological hermeneutic. If we are to move the biblical narrative from its historical context into any present and future setting, “translation” must transition into typology.

Charles L. Campbell’s excellent book on typological preaching defines typology as “fundamentally a Christological and ecclesial form of interpretation. That is, the movement is from events in the story of Israel through Jesus as the center and ‘archetype’ of the story to the church as the ongoing bearer of the story” (p. 253 of Preaching Jesus [1997]).  I personally prefer the lens and language of “semiotics” to “typology,” but the consensus of the publishers was that this would be too confusing to the reader.

You say some intriguing things about gardens and temples in your book, and how they reveal Christ. Could you summarize and preview this a bit here?               

Frank: The garden-temple theme stretches from Genesis to Revelation. We trace it in great detail throughout the book. It’s everywhere in Genesis 1 and 2 (we dedicate two chapters to Genesis 1 and 2, in fact). The garden-temple theme reappears in Revelation 21 and 22.

Jesus uses these motifs often in pointing to Himself. In John 1 and 2, which is “the new Genesis,” Jesus describes Himself as the new temple. In John 7 and John 14, images of living water and a vine tree hearken back to the garden. Christ embodies both the temple and the garden. The details, which we explore in the book, are no less than fascinating.

Len: The world’s oldest profession is not what you think it is. The First Adam was a gardener. The Last Adam, whose mission it was to return us to that garden relationship with God, had the imagination, not of a tool-guy, but of a gardener. In his first post-resurrection appearance, Jesus was mistaken for a gardener. As a writer, I think of myself as a gardener with words, and my computer as a garden bed. The Bible begins in a garden, and ends in a garden city . . . .  Have we teased you enough with the metaphor?

Mike: Yes Len, you’ve given me plenty to plow through. :) (Ba-dum-bum!)

I’ve read both of you since the 1990s, and feel like I have a good handle on your respective themes and styles; I feel like this volume is much more ‘blended,’ style-and-content-wise, than your first collaboration together, Jesus Manifesto. Has your collaboration process evolved since then? How did you go about writing Jesus: A Theography?

Len: The more you spend time with someone, and think their thoughts with them and after them, the more you start to vibrate on the same wavelength. We wrote this book showing how Jesus is our tuning fork to the Eternal, God’s Perfect Pitch. As we disciplined our “tunings” to Him, our voices began to harmonize in a rich and rare way. I think you can still hear our distinctive frequencies, but it’s an ensemble of harmonious difference, not clashing differences.

Frank: Jesus Manifesto was a much shorter work and it reads more like an anthology of collected essays on the same topic. Jesus: A Theography is over 400 pages and it seeks to tell one story – a story that’s based in the discoveries of two lifetimes (Len’s and mine). We tried our best to write it with one voice. Some of our readers have observed that it reads similar to a novel. Each reader will have to decide if we succeeded in our intent.

Mike: Len, Frank – you’ve both served in ministry for decades, and yet I feel you both have as hallmarks of your ministries how everything old becomes new again – especially the ever-newness of God’s mercies in Christ. So I’m curious: In the process of putting words to paper (or pixel, as the case may be), did you each, personally, discover something fresh about the Christ you were unearthing in the pages of Scripture?           

Len: Our ancestors used to sing, “Every day with Jesus is sweeter than the day before.” That’s the ultimate in discipleship. Jesus is the same, yesterday, today, and forever. But he also wants to be fresh every morning.

The Living Bread requires we bake fresh bread, which is what this book is: the freshest bread the two of us could serve up. Painter Robert Motherwell confessed one day that “most good painters don’t know what they think until they paint it.” I don’t think we really know what we believe and who Jesus is until we live our faith, put fingers to feelings and legs to thoughts. In writing this book, I discovered so much about Jesus I never knew or imagined.

Frank: When asked how long it took me to write my part of the book, my answer is that it took 30 years. I’ve spent my entire Christian life exploring Jesus in all the Scriptures, in the community of the church (present and ancient), and in day-to-day life. Yet there’s no way to exhaust Him.

So putting the story down in one place with Len took my breath away. And I hope it does the same for those who read our book cover to cover. There’s always more light to break forth from God’s Word whenever we look at it in the face of Jesus Christ. All Scripture really does point to Him (John 5:39).

People can take a look at the Introduction of the book (which includes endnotes), a full description, a Publishers Weekly review, the Table of Contents and a free audio where I share the untold story behind the book (including why we chose not to have any endorsements) and another audio where Len shares why he and I wrote the book. Just click

Frank & Len: Thanks Mike!

Mike Morrell: You’re welcome. Thank you.

* * *

A couple of closing thoughts: I’ve been listening to Jesus: A Theography in audio book form in the kitchen this weekend, while the fam has milled about. My five-year-0ld daughter has been listening in, and started drawing pictures “of God.” There’s a lot of storytelling in the book, and the stories have kept her attention – and ours.

I personally believe that every evangelical, charismatic, missional-minded disciple and Reformed Jesus-follower should read this book. Youth groups and campus ministries especially (can you hear me, Cru, Inter-Varsity, and Campus Outreach?). It can form a True North that everything else you do is oriented toward.

Further, I hope that emergent, progressive, Integral, poststructural, Radical Orthodox, New Monastic, and liberation/anarchist-minded Christians and Questians don’t ignore this book. The authors throw some hermeneutical curve-balls that you may not agree with, but if you stay with the source material (take it, if it helps, as coming from the best of the devotional-Pietist tradition as informed by the Canoncial Critical school of Biblical interpretation), there will be rich material for reflection and community-formation, even if there are points you’d debate with as you hold this vision of Christ in creative tension with a Christology from below.

For readers of every stripe – including those who would not identify as Christian – I believe that Viola and Sweet have done a magisterial job of bridging the Historical and Christological senses of Scripture in a way that can connect and resonate with contemporary readers, which puts Jesus: A Theography at a distinct advantage over similar Patristic and Medieval texts that (at first encounter at least) cannot bridge this divide in the contemporary mind.

Check it out!