Thursday, September 29, 2005

here I am again

And here are my politics...

You are a

Social Liberal
(73% permissive)

and an...

Economic Liberal
(15% permissive)

You are best described as a:


Link: The Politics Test on Ok Cupid
Also: The OkCupid Dating Persona Test

scary aren't they...

Santa Barbara weather wimps or more about me

We moved to Santa Barbara, CA from Albany, NY 3 years ago. While in Albany we sponsored a number of refugee families including one from the Ukraine who were Pentecostals. Viktor, the dad, once told me "You Americans have it too easy... it makes you weak."
Now that we live in SB, I really see it. The weather here is pretty much close to perfect. We do get fog a lot of mornings but the temperature is perfect virtually year round and it rarely rains (the climate is actually semi-arid). And boy does it turn people into weather wimps. When it goes into the 40's or even low 50's at night, people complain it is freezing. If the high hits 85 (with low humidity), it is much too hot. And you see the weirdest mixes of clothing - like a polarfleece jacket, Uggs, and shorts... or gloves and a watchcap with gym shorts and flipflops.
After only 3 years, I have to admit I've become one. Yesterday was hot (it hit 90 and beautiful) but it was cold last night (it went down to 48 with sparkling skies). Yep... I'm officially a Santa Barbara weather wimp! I think Viktor was right.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Here I Am

Sometime ago I did one of these quizes that places me theologically and yesterday came across another
The first one said that I was an anabaptist (good choice I think). These are my results from today's test. Anabaptist isn't a choice.
You scored as Emergent/Postmodern. You are Emergent/Postmodern in your theology. You feel alienated from older forms of church, you don't think they connect to modern culture very well. No one knows the whole truth about God, and we have much to learn from each other, and so learning takes place in dialogue. Evangelism should take place in relationships rather than through crusades and altar-calls. People are interested in spirituality and want to ask questions, so the church should help them to do this.



Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan


Neo orthodox


Classical Liberal


Modern Liberal




Roman Catholic


Reformed Evangelical




What's your theological worldview?
created with

So what are you?

courageous trust

Dennis McFadden is my friend but we disagree on some pretty significant issues when it comes to church. In his blog Dennis sees the current battles in the American Baptist churches as one of world views, between an "Enlightenment emphasis upon Christian experience (aka 'soul competency' or 'congregational autonomy') vs. the Reformation tradition of 'sola scriptura' ('biblical authority')." I think he is probably correct... but if he is, it is a battle between dinosaurs, both headed towards extinction.
Both mindsets are based in a modern paradigm of how the world works and neither fits in a post-modern context. Just as those structures of reality differ markedly from the pre-modern view of the world, so they will differ completely from the now emerging paradigm. The categories of theology and the core understandings of the Church will not be the same, cannot be the same. As I said in an earlier blog, I believe we are facing a new reformation.
There is another place where we divide that I believe is much more important. Let me pose another question: Did the Church emerge fullblown and mature out of God's head like Athena or was it birthed as a newborn, slowly maturing and adjusting to new contexts? If it was all there at the beginning then the Church is doomed... indeed it has already disappeared because our modern institutions are nothing like those early churches (in spite of what many Christians say, all across the theological and cultural spectrum). If it is contextual, then God still has much to do and much to say and the trajectory of God's salvation history continues to take us into a future we have not seen.
I'm excited by it all... and more than a little anxious (hey, one of those institutions pays my salary)... but a little courageous trust goes a long way.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

hating the church

Angela, one of my new friends from Soliton posted on her blog last week (hey, I'm slow) two pieces where she talks about hating the church with at least a little bit of guilt about her feelings.
I think it is the Holy Spirit at work. In a comment on her blog, her husband Rob says that he feels like a reformer. I think this is more true than any of us realize. I believe that this discontent is just setting the stage for a change that God has already begun - a change which will be at least as radical as the reformation was. I think both the little mom & pop churches will disappear but so will the massive Walmart mega-churches. Instead, we will see small communities, committed to mission, accountability, creativity, and following Jesus in their context. I think the new church will do theology in a different way (see orthodoxy & orthopraxy below). I think the forms will be myriad as the gospel will be contextualized in the setting of each individual community of faith. I think we may not recognize it as a church, but God will be there doing a beautiful and wonderful new thing and the Church will be stronger than it has ever been.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Everything sings

As you see in my profile, I'm a guitar player... These days I play a lot more electric than acoustic. They really are two different instruments - the difference being similar to the difference between an organ and a piano. The touch, the response, the voicings, the vocabulary... they're all different. Some folk compare an electric guitar to a horn or a horn section while the acoustic is less linear.
Anyway, I played a bit of electric today and then some acoustic. My acoustic guitar is a Lowden. What an amazing instrument George designed. My particular guitar was built in the former Lowden factory but George did do the bracing on it. It is a customized version of the O25 model.
My electric is a frankenstrat that I put together beginning with a Carvin kit. I changed the electronics a bit including a pickup that I wound at a user group day Seymour Duncan.
It all helps to keep me sane and keeps my feet on the ground. You can listen to some of my acoustic playing at Alexis d. Alexis, who is singing, is my daughter and has an amazing voice and a stage presence that is unbelievable.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Prejudice, Racism, and Katrina

Paul Krugman has a very good op ed piece in today's NY Times titled Tragedy in Black and White where he raises the question of race in the handling of Katrina. He cites polls that show that African-Americans believe 3 to 1 that race was a factor while anglos think the opposite by a similar ratio.
good stuff... but sadly he falls into a common trap that many folk succumb to... he confuses racism and prejudice.
Prejudice is a characteristic of individuals who prejudge another because of race or any other quality. An example is obvious. When an individual sees a group of black teenagers walking down the street and crosses to the other side to avoid them, the individual has exhibited prejudice.
Racism is a systemic thing... it occurs when a system is rigged to work against a given racial group. When an African-American child goes to a poor school, has poor nutrition and poor support from parents who are struggling to survive, is unable to get into a good university because of that, doesn't have the opportunity to network and get the best jobs with the best companies or go to the best grad schools, or even drops out because they were inadequately prepared for higher education... and then ends up with a lower income, racism is at work. The other side is equally true. When a white student who is at best average in ability and below average in motivation gets into Yale (we'll not name names) while many more qualified minorities end up at community college, racism is at work.
Racism and prejudice can operate separately. A person can be prejudiced but not live in a racist system or a person can exibit no prejudice but because she lives in and benefits from a racist system, they are racist. They do however tend to feed one another.
I don't see any way that a reasonable argument can be made that we do not live in a racist system in the US. Just looking at statistics of poverty and race proves it. I also think it is virtually impossible to grow up in the US and not be prejudiced. Even Jesse Jackson says that he is because he too gets nervous, speeds up, and crosses the street when he hears a group of black teenagers walking behind him.
Bottom line... I'm part of the minority of anglo folk who agree with the majority of black folk - race was/is a factor in what happened in New Orleans and it will continue to be as we see moneyed developers (read white folk) jockey to gentrify the city as it is rebuilt and poor minorities end up left out again.
As people of faith. We need to work to subvert the system and work for ways that all folk have equal opportunity in our culture.

Monday, September 19, 2005

American Baptists and trusting God

I belong to the American Baptist denomination. I didn't grow up Baptist. In fact the word had lots of bad connotations for me but I ended up at an ABC seminary (long story that is irrelevant here). While I was there I learned what I took to be the best parts of the Baptist tradition - a commitment to diversity in community because each individual is responsible before God to work out their own faith and each local congregation is responsible to incarnate the presence of God where they are. Nobody outside has the power to dictate to anyone else what they should believe or how that faith should be lived. All of that is kept in tension with the need to be in community. Individuals don't spin their faith out of their own juices, they work it out as they wrestle with scripture and with others. Churches associate with other churches to do the things they cannot do alone and to be accountable to one another.
It has added up to my vision of what a denomination could be. There is no single racial group that comprises over 50% of the churches. There is theological diversity from fundamentalists on the right to churches that are essentially unitarian on the left. There are churches that back progressive social agendas and churches that are pro W all the way... and everything in between. It is messy and sometimes difficult. There is always someone who disagrees and usually can give reasonable justification for their views. I think that is a recipe for growth.
Sadly, there are those who disagree with me and the region I am a part of has chosen to leave because of "irreconcilable theological differences."
The presenting issue is homosexuality. There is obviously a lot going on there but I am coming to believe that maybe there is something deeper... I think there is a profound difference in theology but not the one presented... I think these folk have a small God.
They believe that God cannot surprise them. They know who and how God loves and how that love can and cannot be expressed in the world. They claim it is about the authority of scripture but really it is about the authority of their interpretation... and they know God's mind.
They lack faith in God. The folk who are pulling out feel a need to protect God and themselves from being sullied through contact with "the other." God is dependent upon their holiness and is unable to bring into its fullness, the kindom of God without them being "pure."
They don't understand the incarnation. Jesus was always there with those who were most likely to be at the margins of society and his criticism was always aimed at the religious and those who saw themselves as righteous.
Please don't think that I am implying these folk do not have faith... they do, serious faith. My criticisms do not show the whole of what they believe or how they live out their faith. They bring real commitment, a concern to share the good news of the gospel, and a tenacious spirituality, all of which I can and need to learn from... And that is why I grieve that they are removing themselves from the fellowship to which I have committed myself. We will all be impoverished.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

more extravagant beauty

a friend sent me this photo taken last spring on the east side of the Carrizo Plain in the Tremblor Range about 50 miles due west of Bakersfield, California.
why such beauty where nobody may see it? what purpose does it serve except extravagant beauty? what does it show other than the goodness of God poured out beyond our expectations or needs?
btw, remind me of this photo when I complain that there aren't any seasons here in CA

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Ryan Bolger has some helpful thoughts about the emerging church that in some ways parallel what I said in my earlier post on orthodoxy & orthopraxy...
a brief snapshot of the emerging church

extravagant beauty

just got back from a walk on a mesa next to the ocean...
dolphins, sea lions, butterflies of a variety of shapes and colors, blue bellies (western fence post lizards), dragonflies, hawks, the smells of sage and anise, yellow & white flowers, blue sky, warm sun...
extravagant beauty!

orthodoxy vs. orthopraxy & the Emerging Church

Back when I was a student at Eastern Seminary I did a paper in a theology class on Latin American liberation theology. Two books that caught my attention were A Theology of Liberation by Gutierrez and The Liberation of Theology by Segundo. Coming from a fairly traditional background, it was jarring stuff for me. In my paper I concluded that it wasn't theology at all. After all, they didn't concern themselves with the typical topics of western theology where entire books are written, arguing whether we begin the discussion with the doctrine of God (after all God is at the beginning) or with the doctrine of humanity (because if we weren't here the whole thing would be moot). Instead the Latin Americans said that the most important question is not one of orthodoxy, that is having the right beliefs, but of orthopraxy, living and practicing your faith in the right way in community. The word praxis was key for them. By that they meant the process of living your faith in the world, doing theological reflection as a community about that living, and then living better. It was a theology of the people living and working and struggling together in small communities they called base communities. And they were mostly poor people. Sitting and playing mind games, writing volumes arguing over substitutionary atonement, or even constructing faith statements were seen as peripheral to what is real - living your whole life as a follower of Jesus.
There were other groups doing agenda theologies - Black Theology and Feminist Theology - but in large degree these works were the work of academics. The Latin American form of Liberation Theology began with the people and then was articulated by the academics.
The seeds were planted for me for a new way of experiencing faith, living as a church, and of constructing my paradigm of the church.
Recently, I've been very interested in the movement called The Emerging Church or the post-modern church. In it, I've seen two faces - one that parallels the base communities of Latin America and a second that looks to me me to be just window dressing on conservative churches using a tool to reach younger adults. And the key difference is in the question of orthodoxy vs. orthopraxy. When I go to a website of an "'emerging" church, the first thing I look for is a statement of faith. If I find one, I move on. Most have them.
Last week I attended a conference in Ventura, CA called Solitoncity. The attendees were mostly 20 & 30 somethings coming from "emerging" churches. I was thrilled at the example of authentic faith lived in the world, genuine struggling with difficult issues, and a sense of real solidarity with the poor. I met folk who were interested in doing praxis whether they knew that word or not. I met folk who were less concerned about believing the right things than about living as followers of Jesus.
I know, the criticism will be that beliefs do matter because they shape our actions. That is true, but as James says in the Bible - faith (orthodoxy) without works (orthopraxy) is dead.

Friday, September 16, 2005


well... this is my first entry on this blog and the questions are real... do I have anything to say and more important do I have anything to say that is worth your reading? got me... you be the judge of that.
what is important to me is wrestling with what it means to be a follower of Jesus in today's world. where do we experience the presence of God? how do we align ourselves with the yearnings of God for this world that is both amazingly beautiful and filled with wonder but also marked by brokenness?
next blog... orthodoxy vs. orthopraxy