Showing posts from January, 2015

January 2015 Pop Culture Roundup

Five items for the first month of 2015...

1. I admit that I only have a passing acquaintance with Belle and Sebastian. I mostly know them as the "sad bastard music" that Dick plays in the movie High Fidelity. This month they released Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance, which is certainly something other than how it's described in that film. This is almost a dance-pop record, with liberal use of synthesizers and upbeat tempos seemingly borrowed from the 1980s. I'm normally not big on this sort of sound, but Coffeedaughter and I had a good time dancing to this. I'd especially recommend the peppy "Enter Sylvia Plath" and the whimsical "Perfect Couples."

2. One of my most-anticipated albums of the year came pretty early, as The Decemberists released What A Terrible World, What a Beautiful World last week. They slowly released a few songs in anticipation, including "Lake Song" and "Make You Better," which are quite good. But really…

Vintage CC: Slow to Emerge

I have some fresh words that I intend to share about Emergent before too long, but while I'm still sorting out how best to say them, I figured I'd re-post this entry from July 2011. It references Marcus Borg quite a bit, which was a nice bit of happenstance given his passing last week. Be forewarned that this is the longest post I've ever written.

In a recent Pop Culture Roundup, I reported on finishing Brian McLaren's A New Kind of Christianity. In that review, I said this:
If you're already familiar with McLaren, nothing will be tremendously new here. Also, if you're familiar with 200+ years of modern Biblical scholarship and theological traditions besides fundamentalism and neo-Calvinism, nothing will be tremendously new. I understand that McLaren is writing to an audience within Evangelicalism disillusioned with the same old, same old, but emerging/emergent really are behind the curve theologically. On Twitter, somebody picked up on the comment about being…

Giving Thanks for Marcus Borg

This morning, I woke to the news that scholar, author, and speaker Marcus Borg died yesterday. I was shocked and saddened by this news. I hadn't realized that he was in ill health, let alone that he'd been so close to leaving this earthly life.

My first encounter with Borg's writing was the summer after I graduated college. I was well familiar with the work of the Jesus Seminar by that point, and I took a copy of Reading the Bible Again for the First Time with me to my job as a staff camp counselor with the Ohio Conference Outdoor Ministries. There, seated on a cot and in between shushing 8-11 year-olds who were supposed to be napping, my sense of how the Bible can serve as a window into how my faith ancestors viewed God and Jesus, and how I myself could think about these things in new ways, was challenged and deepened.

Years later, I had the opportunity to meet Borg when he and J.D. Crossan spoke at Eden Theological Seminary. By that point, they'd just penned their l…

Loving the Struggle

The first time I engaged in the spiritual practice of walking a labyrinth was the opening retreat of my seminary career. My class traveled out to a Catholic retreat center, and there was one on the grounds, an 11-circuit Chartes-style set by larger stones around the path and gravel on which to walk. After a brief explanation by one of our retreat leaders, we were released to give it a try.

I've walked labyrinths many times since, although the experience has always brought mixed results. In those times when I'm too conscious of what I'm doing, when I'm willing something to happen, I get nothing out of it. I'm just walking a bunch of twists and turns and I'll have burned a few calories for my trouble. On the other hand, when I give myself over to the practice, when I free my mind and spirit and just let the path happen to me, that is when I receive something from it.

This realization was made no less clear to me than one of the times I walked the labyrinth durin…

Book Review: They Call Me Dad by Philip Cameron

The fall of Communism had come only months before. The iron curtain was finally destroyed, and detailed news from the Soviet Bloc was finally being reported to the outside world. Before the fall, no one in the Western world knew that mass orphanages, filled with babies living in horrible conditions, littered these countries. Suddenly these children were featured on one television news report after the other. My dad had had a steady diet of these reports for days, and he was like a man possessed; nothing else seemed to matter to him.

"Philip, are you there?" he started again. "Did you hear me? Babies are dying, and you have to do something!" - Philip Cameron, They Call Me Dad

The letter from James in the New Testament has this take on what religion is really about: "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress." (James 1:27) Statements like this tend to rankle some Christians, because it seems to p…

Book Review: Sobriety by Daniel D. Maurer

The solution to our illness isn't something meant to drag us down. In the same vein, twelve step recovery is really about waking up to what our condition is...a spiritual problem. Remember, spiritual things aren't the same as religion. Religion can have spirituality connected with it, and many people do find their spirituality in a church. What I'm saying is that our difficulty as addicts is connected directly with our dis-ease. We alcoholics and addicts are not "at-ease"--not at all! To feel "at-ease" we need either: 1) drugs and alcohol, which eventually kill us, or 2) a spiritual path to serenity and wellness. So the twelve steps are really about life! - Daniel D. Maurer, Sobriety: A Graphic Novel

I admit that I only have a passing familiarity with recovery groups and 12-step programs. I've attended a few meetings as an observer and have a copy of the "big book"--largely untouched--on my shelf. I have several friends and acquaintances wh…

Small Sips Isn't Surprised By Much

Hopefully people know this by now. Carey Nieuwhof observes that the church needs to keep up with the changing times. That part likely isn't surprising:
You might think “things will never be the same again” is a conversation reserved for people over 70.

But my guess is you’re struggling with that in ministry leadership right now.   Even if you don’t realize it. And you’re probably struggling with it more than you think.   Wise leaders pay attention to those instincts and jump on any insights right away, because the key to the future lies within them.   Even if you’re a young leader, the change you’re seeing around you is radical. And it will require a radical response from you. From there follows five church-related things that will never be the same again. Some are more helpful than others (my tradition tends not to have revival meetings), but the others are good reminders of what the church is likely to face if it isn't already facing them: having kids isn't an automatic…

Turning Ten

We write to discover ourselves, to connect with other people, to explore language, maybe because we don’t know what else to do with ourselves and we know suicide isn’t a good option, or we don’t want it to be an option, and so in this way we write to save ourselves, to record ourselves, to root ourselves — whatever the specific reason, always always writing is a reaching towards, a rearranging of words to understand something better, to make something feel more precise. It is a fumbling in the dark. It is a belief that there is something worth fumbling for.

The above quote comes from a blog post I stumbled upon called After All, You Feel Alone Because You Are: Writing As Compulsion. It references an essay by Joan Didion that I've read several times in recent years entitled "On Keeping a Notebook," which explores the strange compulsion a certain segment of the population feels to write. Some journal, others keep less organized scribbles in spiral notebooks, and many have …

One Word 365: Venture

At the beginning of 2014, I discovered a different take on making New Years resolutions called One Word 365. This was thanks to Katherine Willis Pershey, who has been doing this for a few years now.

The basic gist of One Word 365 is that you try to live according to a single word for the entire year, as opposed to a whole list of good intentions. At the beginning of last year, for instance, I chose the word "Share:"
I was very drawn into myself in 2013. I could really trace it further back than that, but due to all the transition, some strong natural tendencies, and some stuff I was processing related to some ministry experiences at my previous stop, I was very much in a spiritual cocoon for much of the year. The positive moments came when I picked up the phone and reached out to people, whether to talk over some of the stuff I needed to get through my system, to catch up, or just to get out for a night.On top of that, it took me needing to tell people I needed to talk; they…

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