Monday, September 03, 2012

Learning to See With BS Goggles

It's been a long time since I've posted anything here, and I'm remiss in that. Tonight I had to rectify that. A family member and good friend sent me a message that triggered this response. I won't go into his situation, but I do feel for what he's going through and I've been through it... big time. Anyway, here's an edited version of what I told him. 


This may be a hard lesson, but no place is a safe place, a haven, except what you make it. It's a cliche that home is where the heart is, but it's true. The family you make is that haven. Cherish your wife. Cherish her dearly and give up everything you are for her if needed. She is your haven.

All others will fail you. Your parents will fail you. I know I will fail you terribly. I know me. I get too self-absorbed to be any kind of haven for anyone but my wife, and only for her when life kicks me in the balls and reminds me that that's my job in regards to her.

Sometimes a broken spirit is the best place to be because it's a first step in a new direction, a day one on a new way of seeing the world. Perhaps a harsher, more jaded way of seeing, but a new way of coping and seeing and living more abundantly nonetheless.

Turn to God in this time and lean on him. Even when the church is pure and utter bullshit, God will never be. He is beginning and end the same. The church is only a failing bride who sleeps around. The Bible teaches us that over and over. It will also fail you. But God won't ever. Ever. Period.

Think of this time as a time of God giving you a new pair of bullshit goggles that will enable you to see through the dirty rags that masquerade as virgin gowns and through the whitewashed tombs trying to pass themselves off as holy Pharisees.

Learn to live in the bullshit, but to see beyond it. Learn live with the smell but seek to be a better fragrance with each step you take.

It's why I think hitting the jaded and cynical point in your life can be a good thing. We learn to deny the sugar-coated bullshit and see it for what it is, and learn to love people and extend grace to them (even those in the church) in spite of the way they smell.

Hang in there, buddy. It gets worse, but it makes us better.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

You know, it's okay to tell me happy holidays instead of Merry Christmas, even if you're a fellow member of my faith. I'm not going to get in your face about how you're not "keeping Christ in Christmas."

I don't care if you use Xmas either, because I understand the history of the X (and that it precedes both Malcolm and Stan Lee).

I understand that Constantine and his ilk thoroughly mixed the birth of Christ with pagan celebrations to obtain political ends. And if people still continue that today, they're not "not keeping Christ in Christmas" -- they're just continuing the blending that Constantine started all those years ago.

I get that.

If my understanding of the holiday season is about the work of Christ incarnating into humanity in order to be a perfect substitutionary sacrifice on humanity's behalf, then nothing you say or refuse to say can change one jot or tittle from that. No dollar sign can attach to it. And you can't wrap it or stuff it on a tree.

I can celebrate Christmas as I understand it without offending you or getting in your face, because the season is not some church-ordained mass evangelism event. Nothing about the season changes how I interact with you on behalf of my faith and what I perceive as your need for salvation from original sin -- I still have the same mandate to treat everyone, believer and nonbeliever alike, with the same grace, love, forgiveness and understanding that I do every other day.

Just because the word "Christ" is in "Christmas," it does not, nor should it ever, give me carte blanche to hassle you about becoming like me. (I would love for others to find what I've found, but it's not my job to be God's used car salesman or God's Internet spammer.)

I even enjoy the game of Santa Claus and dig the idea of adding a little drummer boy to our legend version of the nativity (as opposed to the real one that smelled like animal crap and was filled with a crying -- not silent -- baby, and didn't have any -- much less three -- wise men drop by until almost two years later).

All this to say, I hope that you have a wonderful time getting together with your friends and family. I hope you take advantage of this time to share some of your wealth with those less fortunate (trust me, in comparison to the rest of the globe, you ARE bone-idle rich). I hope you experience the love of those around you and share that love with everyone you encounter.

And I hope that, somewhere, in the busy-ness of this season, you find a few moments of peace on earth to contemplate the true and higher peace the angels spoke (not sang) about when they said: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased."

Merry Christmas! Happy holidays! Peace on earth!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009



Sean Taylor
170 Huntington Circle
Alpharetta GA, 30004


Alpharetta, GA, May 24, 2009— You may have seen them back in the day as Reign, but if not, you can catch them all over again as the newly reformed 22FIVE. With a new show filled with rocking original songs and a few favorite cover songs, 22FIVE is now finally accepting concert dates for community and church events.

Between 1988 and 1992 Brett, Steve and Sean toured as the Christian rock band, Reign (along with keyboardist Matthew Carter and later guitarist Rob Carter). The band played for churches at camps, youth events, community events, and at festivals, including AgapeFest, IS Fest and Atlanta Fest, the Southeast's biggest Christian music festival. During that time Reign shared the stage with bands like The Newsboys, Jacob's Trouble, The Waiting, The Choir, Adam Again, The Throes, Violet Burning, Guardian, Freedom of Soul, Dig Hay Zoose, Mad at the World and others.

The band released one project called i of the storm and began work on a second release, tentatively titled Even in the Dry Season, but the band broke up in 1992 and the guys thought the days of making music together were over and gone.

But thanks to the beauty of God's providence, in early 2009, the Brett, Stephen and Sean happened to hook up with each other again through the power of the Internet, and 22FIVE was born. The group is currently scheduling new concert dates and recording a new project, tentatively called Taller Than Trees.

“It’s great being back together,” says drummer Stephen Bagley, who is also a Fulton County Police officer. “It’s like the magic is back and all the parts are falling into place. It’s almost like we never were apart. The new songs are sounding great, and are pretty much guaranteed to get crowds excited again.”

To request a date for a concert, event organizers and church leaders should contact Sean Taylor (404.429.7663) or email and request a promo pack or to see what dates are available, as dates will be filled on a first come, first served basis.

For more information about 22FIVE and for free streaming MP3s and song lyrics, visit the band’s website at

22FIVE is a Christian modern rock and roll band based in Atlanta, GA. The band plays for community events and concerts/worship services for churches and organizations.


Thursday, December 04, 2008

UPDATED -- Best Redemptive Films

Don't be surprised not to find these recommended by churches or anything, necessarily, but at their core, films all have messages that "preach" better than most sermons.

And yes, if you're a moral majority type, be warned that a lot of these are rated R and include things like "bad words" and some nudity.

In no particular order...

1. The Spitfire Grill
2. The Apostle
3. Saved
4. The Shawshank Redemption
5. Chocolat
6. The Sky Is Watching
7. Black Snake Moan
8. Shadowlands
9. Cool Hand Luke
10. The Green Mile
11. Meet John Doe
12. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
13. The Poseidon Adventure
14. Luther
15. Spirited Away
16. The Return of the Jedi
17. Blade Runner
18. The Matrix Revolutions
19. Unbreakable
20. Pulp Fiction
21. Kal Ho Naa Ho
22. 16 Blocks
23. The Dark Knight
24. Superman
25. The Reaping
26. The Exorcist
27. Star Wars: A New Hope
28. Ghost in the Shell
29. Stephen King's Desperation
30. Stephen King's The Stand
31. Ikiru

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

My favorite t-shirt design I created:

Even folks at my church really dug this one. If I could find a distributor interested in my designed, that'd be great.
Current Events and Past Events (the circle of history)
While I've been working today, I've been watching/listening off and on to a special on the History Channel about the history of the KKK. According to the show, the KKK had all but died at one point, but fears about immigration and the loss of national identity laid the groundwork among many Americans for the explosive rebirth of a renewed (and more violent) KKK.

I couldn't help but think about current fears of border control and illegal immigration. I know many people -- many otherwise sane, wise, caring people -- who fall into the trap of generalizing about "them" when it comes to anyone of Hispanic descent. It makes no difference whether the person is legal, illegal, or U.S. citizen, he or she is seen as lazy, dirty, or trying to beat the system and get one over on the U.S. government and take jobs away from good, hard-working U.S. citizens.

I also notice a growing agitation and outspokenness among young adults and teenagers (in my area at least) against "Mexicans" -- even though many of the targets of this speech are from various Latin and South American countries and not Mexico after all.

I wonder what the fallout of this will be. Are we breeding a new rash of KKK-like thought among the next generation by the us-vs.-them talk we adults use in this issue? Are we laying seeds for future hate crimes as our population becomes more Latin in the years to come? I hope not.

I don't know what the answer is or the proper response should be, but something about my understanding of faith and humanity says that it should be one based in humility and love and grace and service rather than one of irritation, distrust, superiority and (not so) righteous indignation. It's one of those "What Would Jesus, Ghandi, Buddha, etc. Do" kind of moments, I think, regardless of your faith or choice not to believe any faith. The central truth remains -- at least in my mind -- that people have an innate value we should preserve and we should treat every person with respect in however the issue is handled.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Just wanted to give everyone a heads up that the band I'm a member of, Nothing Regal, now has a Facebook page up and ready to go. Feel free to "become a fan" at the following link:


See ya there,

Saturday, June 14, 2008

If a man is known by the company he keeps, then my name just picked up a lot more notice. I have been approved for a Red Room Author Page.

Just in case you didn't know, Red Room is a networking and authors' site that can boast of many of the top writers and thinkers today, including Amy Tan, Maya Angelou, Salman Rushdie, Ivory Madison, Janny Wurts, Clive Barker, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Alice Hoffman, Peter Trachtenberg, Marc Tyler Nobleman, and even presidential hopeful Barack Obama.

So what am I doing there, right? I'm just going to do my best to fit in with the other graphic novel and comic book writers like Danny Donovan and Ivory Madison (she's writing the new Huntress book), be "writerly" and "thinkerly" and occasionally have something useful and/or helpful to say. Please check it out.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Josh Medors Benefit Auction @ ECCC
Wed, April 23rd, 2008 at 2:30PM PST

Updated: Wed, April 23rd, 2008 at 4:30PM PST

Official Press Release

23 April 2008 (Berkeley, CA) - Unknown to the general public, FRANK FRAZETTA'S SWAMP DEMON, RUNES OF RAGNAN, WILLOW CREEK, GI JOE and 30 DAYS OF NIGHT artist Josh Medors has been fighting cancer for the past several months. In his time of need, Image Comics and Frazetta Comics have stepped in organize an auction with all proceeds going straight to Josh.

"Josh is a good friend, father and artist. With the support from the comic industry that he loves so dearly, we can all help with costly medical bills and ease his pain just a little would be most appreciated," said Frazetta Comics Editor/Artist Jay Fotos. �š��žúWe are under a crunch, for the show is just a few weeks away, so anyone that would like to donate please contact me as soon as you can so we can get your donations there for the auction in time, we are also taking PayPal donations as well that go directly to Josh.�š��žù

Many of the industry's finest are donating items to auction, including Frank Frazetta himself. Any other creators interested in donating are encouraged to contact Jay Fotos at

The Josh Medors Benefit Auction will take place Saturday, May 10th at the Emerald City Comic Con. If you would like to make a PayPal donation, please do so to

Contributors thus far:

Frank Frazetta
Jerry Beck
Brian Haberlin
Tom Beland
Mark Kidwell
Todd McFarlane
Nat Jones
Tony Moore
Peter Bergting
Richard Starkings
Steve Niles
Kody Chamberlin
Jay Fotos
Rick Remender
Christian Beranek
Ahmet Zappa
Image Comics
IDW Publishing
Zenescope Entertainment

Monday, December 31, 2007

What's your theological worldview?
created with
You scored as Reformed Evangelical

You are a Reformed Evangelical. You take the Bible very seriously because it is God's Word. You most likely hold to TULIP and are sceptical about the possibilities of universal atonement or resistible grace. The most important thing the Church can do is make sure people hear how they can go to heaven when they die.

Reformed Evangelical




Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan




Neo orthodox


Classical Liberal


Modern Liberal




Roman Catholic


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thank the Lord and Pass the Patriotism? (by Obery Hendricks)
reposted from the God's Politics Blog

In many pulpits during this Thanksgiving season, love of our country and pride in our citizenship will be pronounced in the same breath - and often with the same intensity - as declarations of love for our God. But we must be careful, for patriotism can be destructive as well as constructive. Worse, it can become idolatrous.

Constructive patriotism, or what James Forbes, pastor emeritus of the Riverside Church in New York City calls "prophetic patriotism," is the willingness to strive in word and deed to ensure that this nation is healthy, whole, secure, and conducting its affairs at home and abroad according to the political doctrines we claim to hold dear.

Destructive patriotism, however, is primarily focused on discrediting or destroying those it perceives as opponents of America. The purview of destructive patriotism is "us" against "them" - "them" being not only foreigners, but also any American who openly disagrees with the official actions of the leaders of the United States, no matter if their policies contradict our Constitution, harm the public good, or violate the most basic ethics of the biblical faith they claim to hold dear.

If we who call ourselves patriots are to be true to our faith, our patriotism must ever be constructive, because constructive criticism of governmental policies and practices is squarely in the tradition of the biblical prophets and the gospel of Jesus. It is not only concerned with political affairs - it is also concerned with the spiritual and moral health of America. Constructive prophetic oversight is the highest and healthiest form of patriotism because it seeks to help the nation become its best and most righteous self,.

That is why true patriots will welcome prophetic critiques of our government - because they can help America become its most righteous and most just self. Conversely, the true patriot will reject uncritical abdications of our prophetic responsibility to make our nation its best self that are expressed in such slogans as "America - love it or leave it" and "Criticism of our government equals support for our enemies." To the degree that patriotism causes division and enmity between God's children, it is in opposition to the gospel, pure and simple. But when patriotism seeks to silence prophetic criticism, it is more than oppositional; it is idolatrous, because by following its own beliefs, judgments, and interests rather than the prophetic mandate, it makes an idol of them. This blind, idolatrous brand of patriotism is blasphemous because it values the welfare and even the humanity of some of God's children - that is, Americans, and not all of those, either - over the welfare and humanity of all others, particularly those who look, speak, and worship differently. In contrast, a God-centered patriotism will confess, like the apostle Peter, "I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears God and does what is right is acceptable to God" (Acts 10:34-35).

Therefore, if we are to be true patriots and true followers of the biblical imperative of justice on earth as in heaven, then each day before we pledge allegiance to the flag and the republic for which it stands, we must first recommit our allegiance to the gospel of Jesus, the justice of God, and the love of our neighbors it commands. We must never forget that the flag does not supercede the cross.

Thus, if it is the gospel that is truly the object of our faith and our allegiance, this Thanksgiving let us give thanks to God for the faithful voices that, despite the derision and even the personal physical harm they risk and sometimes suffer, nonetheless continue to speak out against every action, policy, and pronouncement of our leaders and our government that distances us from the liberating gospel of Jesus and the kingdom of God.


Obery Hendricks is the author of The Politics of Jesus: Rediscovering the True Revolutionary Teachings of Jesus' Teachings and How They Have Been Corrupted.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Then Jesus said to him, "Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword." -- Matthew 26:52

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Found this article in my inbox from Christianity Today a few days ago, and I've been mulling it over.

"Faith is relevant for many people, but church is not," says Bryan Wilkerson, senior pastor of Grace Chapel in Lexington, Massachusetts. "People want to attend to the spiritual side of their lives, they are interested in God, but their experience of church has not been relevant.

Spiritual growth, then, may be occurring for many of today's Christians in non-traditional ways. Instead of attending church on Sunday mornings, many opt for personal, individual ways to stretch themselves spiritually.

"Emerging generations may not see themselves as churched, but neither do they see themselves as any less committed," says Joel Hunter, senior pastor of Northland Church in Longwood, Florida. "The traditional programming that churches do is becoming less essential to work out faith for many people."

I think the bulk of the people I know tend to fall into this trend. As a believer myself, I still feel the need for getting together and building and strengthening the relationships I have within my church, but I understand that as the many churches that seem to distance rather than draw people and judge rather than love and extend grace to people continue to become a deterrent to faith in their communities, I don't expect people to stop seeking God elsewhere, such as in nature, etc.

"The old paradigm of evangelism was a transactional sharing of the gospel," says Ken Fong, senior pastor of Evergreen Baptist Church of Los Angeles. "I would try to get people to intellectually agree with me. But the new paradigm is different, an approach in which I invite you to walk alongside me, examine my life, and see evidence of the truth, and hopefully there will be something compelling that you see. It's a no-strings-attached invitation to enter my life as I follow Jesus.

This one is a big deal for me. I can't stand the mindset that Fong addresses here, that "target and convert" mindset that so permeated the place I used to work. I remember constantly trying to promote the idea of relationships vs. evangelism, and no-pressure vs. sales technique, and the relationship being contingent on shared belief vs. the relation being a safe place to either agree or disagree. I'm still surprised how many people within the church just don't get this concept, as if God were sometime limited by the church's ability or inability to "sell" him to the biggest "market" possible.

Another necessary shift is recognizing that the old metrics of success may no longer apply. Wilkerson says, "We need to spend the next ten years investing in the life of our surrounding community and finding ways to regain a hearing for the gospel. Instead of going to the nursing home and holding a church service, we're just going to go and love and serve people for years and years, until the staff and residents ask, 'Why do they care so much?'

Perhaps the biggest "duh" moment of all. If this is the kind of life Christ modeled, why do we still try to treat our religious faith like a humanistic, romantic, rationalist (the worldviews) exercise of intellect and purpose rather than an organic, always ebbing and flowing, always changing and growing part of our being? And as such, we become living "testaments" simply by being Christian (ie, exercising grace, love, patience, concern, care, charity, etc.) and showing people we actually do all this crap we talk about.

Of course these are just my thoughts. Your mileage may vary.


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Seemed appropriate, after the previous post...
Two strong op ed column blogs... (I think)
Coming from a position of Christianity, and a Christian position that seeks to reveal many of the fallacies of the conservative fundamentalist slant in my chosen faith, I found these two blog entries really interesting.

I think the article names in the links below say plenty all by themselves.


From the above link:
I remember about eight years ago when then presidential candidate George W. Bush repeatedly claimed that he would restore honor to the presidency, soiled as it had been by our previous president's infamous affair. I remember hoping he would succeed. But a new kind of shame has come to the office and to our nation as reports surface about our government's secret authorization of torture. We all share in this shame.

From the above link:
However the vast majority of Americans, especially those who describe themselves as born again Christians, are solidly in support of Bush, and even question the Christian identity and commitment of those who disapprove of Bush...

The only problem is that somehow his aggressive American-ness has been identified with his being a Christian. But we in India cannot see the war as the work of a Christian.


What I'd love to see is a candidate who is either a conservative democrat or a liberal republican, someone who supports the poor and elderly and opposes a proactive war but supports a strong military, who seeks equity in taxation across all income levels, but also encourages responsible exercise of free speech in media and art without creating censorship options (prefer a sort of responsible self-censorship as self-sacrifice for the greater good and a willingness to discuss what that means without resorting to bipartisan name-calling), and open discussion on hot bed topics such as abortion and illegal immigration without having to castigate either side as evil or "the enemy" (at worst) or stupid uninformed religious hicks or liberal nutjobs (at best).

But sadly, I don't expect to find that anytime soon.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Karl Barth back in prison?!

I don't know if you've been following this story about religious books being pulled from prison libraries, but thank God it has a happy ending... for now.

Yet another example of throwing the baby out with the bath water in order to root out the dangerous religious extremists. This kind of lowest common denominator thinking is just more proof that the collective wisdom of our politicians has dropped.

Common sense approaches like finding and getting rid of the dangerous stuff but leaving the other stuff may take more time and be harder work, but isn't it the more Christian thing to do in this case?

Again, just my thoughts. Your mileage may differ.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Thought on War from a Christian

Well, here's an article that just reinforces the fact that people should listen to what he has to say.

Taken from this article.

My favorite bits:

"Our previous president had a love affair with a young Jewish intern. This was despicable to many of us, disgusting, dishonoring. Our current president also has a kind of special affection - with Evangelical Christianity. Many of us have an infatuation with him that may eventually hurt us as much as that young intern was hurt after her infatuation."

"Great leaders through Biblical history, like King David for example, have made great mistakes and needed to be counseled or confronted (as the prophet Nathan did for David). Being chosen by God didn’t give Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Saul, David, or Solomon (or even the Apostle Peter for that matter) a carte blanche to be above needing counsel and confrontation at times. Those who think they stand above the need for counsel are warned in Scripture that they too can fall, and if they are proudly overconfident about their standing, it is certain they will fall. So, yes, we must pray for our president, and we must speak the truth to and about him and his policies."

"First, I should say that I agree with some things expressed in those four italicized paragraphs. For example, we should not harshly criticize our country and our president. Part of this is simply a matter of “doing unto others.” As a pastor, I am routinely criticized by people who are certain they know more than I do. Meanwhile, I am often privy to dozens of facts and confidences of which they are unaware, and if they knew and saw what I do, they wouldn’t be so critical. I simply must endure their criticism (some of which is harsh and mean-spirited). Their criticism doesn’t make my job any easier, nor does it increase the likelihood that I’ll do better in the future – rather, the reverse. So harsh criticism is not good for anyone. That’s why I believe that harsh criticism of our leaders can be ultimately counterproductive, even if our leaders are deeply and dangerously wrong. So, I am against criticizing our president with harshness, insult, or arrogance. However, that cannot mean we aren’t allowed to raise questions, express concerns, or even voice strong disagreement – as long as we do so respectfully and with appropriate humility, understanding, and charity."

"American Christians have a long tradition of doing so. Since colonial days, we’ve seen ourselves as a beacon of light, the leader of the free world, the New Israel, and other similar notions. “Manifest Destiny” was a self-affirming doctrine promulgated by many Christians in our early years, and our president seems to echo this belief. He said recently, for example, “The advance of freedom … is the calling of our country.” He has defined America’s mission to “rid the world of evil.” “This call of history,” meaning the call to rid the world of terrorism through military action, he said in the 2003 State of the Union address, “has come to the right country.” In September of 2002, he said, “This ideal of America is the hope of all mankind…. That hope still lights our way. And the light shines in the darkness. And the darkness has not overcome it.” For of all of us who know our Bibles, our President is associating America pretty closely with Jesus. This seems to be what he believes. And perhaps many of us do too? This belief is comforting. It makes us feel proud and blessed. It gives us great confidence. But it also makes us dangerous. Our ancestors who believed they had a divine mandate (Manifest Destiny) didn’t think twice about stealing lands from the Native Peoples or First Nations here. Even when we made treaties, we broke them."

Saturday, September 08, 2007

More books...

Asking the big questions …

A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis
The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis
Holy the Firm by Annie Dillard
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard
The Manger Is Empty by Walter Wangerin, Jr.
Living the Questions by Carolyn Arends
Joyful Noise edited by Rick Moody and Darcey Steinke
Disappointment with God by Philip Yancey
Hungry for Heaven: Rock ‘n’ Roll & the Search for Redemption by Steve Turner
Reality and the Vision edited by Philip Yancey

Friday, September 07, 2007

the view from...
Brian McLaren

(For Brian's official bio, go to

Formless Rambings: Tell us a little about how you became a Christian. What experiences led you to believe that there had to be something more than just this life?

Brian McLaren: I was brought up in a committed Christian family, and like a lot of church kids, I had to reach a point where I either rejected the faith or made it my own. That happened for me in my teenage years. Right at the point where I had the opportunity to walk away, God brought into my life several friends my age or a little older than me who lived a life of radical discipleship, and they challenged me to join them, and I did. During this time, I had some very powerful experiences with the Holy Spirit which led me to the conviction that God was real.

FR: How did those experiences and that decision to follow Jesus Christ impact your life and the relationships you had with others?

Brian: Interestingly, the first thing that I remember was a desire to get along better with my parents, and the second was to "cease and desist" from some of the crude and hurtful behavior that a lot of my buddies were part of. The third was to begin sharing my faith with some friends.

FR: What does your faith mean to you? Why is it crucial to you?

Brian: I think that life boils down to a choice between running my own agenda (or some other agenda created by human beings) or seeking God's agenda. My own agenda will focus on my personal interests, pleasure, prosperity, security, and so on. God's agenda will focus on love, joy, peace, justice, character development, and so on. One will make me part of the problem in the world, and the other will make me part of the solution.

FR: What lessons have been the most valuable to you during your experience of following Christ?

Brian: I'll mention three. First is the importance of staying in close contact with God. It's so easy to keep up religious activities but not actually be "abiding" in God. So, disciplines or practices like prayer, practicing God's presence, solitude, silence, Scripture reading and meditation, and so on, have been central to my life. Second, I've learned how important it is to see Christ in the people most often rejected or forgotten by others. The Holy Spirit always draws me to find the loneliest person in a crowd, or the youngest, or oldest, or most different to befriend them and connect with them - and this has been very important to the direction my life has taken. And third is the need to keep learning. I'm in my early fifties now, and I feel that I have more to learn than ever. I've seen some acquaintances become complacent or even proud - as if they have all the answers - and I don't think this is a good sign. So I try to keep learning, keep asking questions, keep aware that however old I am, before God I'm just a little kid who knows next to nothing.

FR: Many Christians seem to have retreated to a subculture where they can recreate the world into a "safer" version of reality, with Christian TV, Christian music, Christian fashion. Do you feel this retreat from the world has helped give the impression that Christians don't really care about people but instead care about protecting themselves from the "bad" influences out there?

Brian: Yes. Sadly, there's a dangerous religious impulse - I read where someone called it a "religiously transmitted disease" - where people create us/them, in/out groups. They become culture warriors and exluders instead of healers and peacemakers as Jesus was. Jesus' movement in the incarnation was downward, to come among us, to bring God to us, while the Pharisees movement was upward, to place themselves above others and look down on them in judgment. This whole movement into a Christian subculture and parallel religious universe, it seems to me, is both understandable and problematic for people who want to be followers of Jesus, not modern-day Pharisees.

FR: How do you avoid that retreat, particularly as a writer and established "Christian thinker"?

Brian: I remember feeling this very much when I left my first career as a college English teacher and became a pastor. I had to take intentional action or I would have been isolated in a religious parallel universe. What I did back then was to get involved in community soccer and start doing volunteer work in an area of interest for me. Just yesterday, my wife and I organized a picnic for all our neighbors and we had a great time getting and staying connected with everyone.

Because my works are considered controversial by some people, I could easily get sucked into intramural arguments with my critics. But I've chosen instead to focus on issues that are common to all humanity - not just religious folks - so I'm increasingly focused on what the gospel says to global crises like the environment, peace and war, and the gap between the rich and poor. This puts me into increasing contact with people in the society at large who care about these things.

FR: The notion of separating the sacred (that spiritual existence) and the secular (the "real" world of jobs and flat tires) -- what's your response to the person who tries to divide the world into these simple divisions?

Brian: This shows the degree to which we've become devotees of the Greek god "theos" instead of the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Jesus. The Jewish concept of God was not dualistic -- God was the creator of the physical world and all its stuff, and God called it all "good" and "very good." The Greek god "theos" was interested in spirit but not matter, souls but not bodies, eternity but not history, and escape not incarnation. So, I would encourage the devotee of the Greek deity to reconsider how different Jesus was, and what he reveals about God - a God who "became flesh" and "dwelt among us," who ate with tax collectors and sinners, who immersed himself in our world of dust and dirt and sweat and tears.

FR: In your open letter to worship songwriters, you address several concerns that could be leading to a lesser level of spiritual depth or at least to a less well-rounded faith that goes beyond just "me-nes." How has recent spiritual songwriting contributed to generating Christians that don't seek to engage the world with the mystery of Christ?

Brian: I think that "the worship industry" has great intentions, but sadly, it begins to function like the mass media of which it is part. TV, radio, video games, even the internet have a way of sucking you out of "real reality" and into "virtual reality." You watch "Animal Planet," but you never get out and see an osprey diving for fish, or ride a real horse, or make friends with the neighborhood squirrels. In a similar way, we can become addicted to a "feeling" of "God's presence" which we experience "in worship" - maybe like Peter wanting to stay on the mount of transfiguration in the Gospel story. We want to build our tents there. But Jesus always leads us down the mountain and into ministry. I love to be on the mountaintop and have those intense experiences, but I find that they go stale. As Jesus said, he is is the kind of shepherd who leads us in and out to find pasture ... he doesn't lead us in and in.

FR: Who are the thinkers, artists, and writers who have influenced your understanding of the life of faith?

Brian: There are so many, it's hard to know where to begin. In my early years, C. S. Lewis and Francis Schaeffer were a huge influence. Then, Walker Percy's writings really helped me. In the last decade or so, Lesslie Newbigin, David Bosch, Walter Brueggemann, Wendell Berry, and N. T. Wright have helped me so much. In the last few years, I've been tremendously inspired by African, Asian, and Latin American theologians - like Alan Boesak, Jon Sobrino, Leonardo Boff, Rene Padilla, and others.

I'd have to say that the music of Bruce Cockburn, David Wilcox, Carrie Newcomer, Mike Blanchard, and others like them has been the kind of soundtrack for my spiritual life. The poetry of Wendell Berry and Mary Oliver mean a lot to me, along with William Wordsworth and William Blake and John Donne.

FR: What do you see as the biggest hang-ups keeping Christians from being able to make an impact in the world at large, or becoming what Bob Briner refers to as "roaring lambs"?

Brian: Lately, I think it's the culture war mentality that has swept through Evangelical and Charismatic Christianity. I think its long-term effects will be so negative. Put that together with the Prosperity Gospel, and I think you have a religion of power, aggression, selfishness, and greed ... hardly what Jesus intended. Much of this is made worse by the "left-behind" eschatology that encourages Christians to dream of evacuating or abandoning the earth rather than incarnating the gospel into it and seeing it transformed by the good news of the kingdom of God. Some of this comes from a theological assumption that God hates the world because of its sin, and that God wants to destroy it as soon as possible. So, I think the causes of these problems are deep, interconnected, and highly related to some bad theology.

FR: What do you see as the real issues Christians should be addressing to a today's generation and its culture?

Brian: This is really the subject of my newest book, which is called Everything Must Change: Jesus, Global Crises, and a Revolution of Hope. I try to understand the world's most serious crises and see what the message and example of Jesus teach us about how to respond. In the book, I describe four crises - the prosperity crisis, the equity crisis, the security crisis, and the spirituality crisis. I'm very hopeful that the book will get people thinking about the question you raise - and help us focus on deeper issues than we've been preoccupied with.

FR: Suppose I'm an honest skeptic standing before you at this moment. What's the one thing you wouldn't want me to leave without hearing?

Brian: First, I'd want to say I'm sorry for all the confusion and aggression that religious people create in the name of God. I would want you to know that I can see why, in light of crusade and jihad, in light of religious scandal and hypocrisy, you would feel that being a skeptic is a better option than being a religious bigot or hypocrite. But then I'd say that there are many of us who are devoting ourselves to seeking a better way, and we believe that this is the way God showed us in Jesus. I would want you to know that you're welcome to come along and see what we're up to, what we're learning, and whether there is good reason to move from honest skepticism to honest faith. I would want you to know that we're not perfect and that you'll see a lot of problems and failures in our lives, but that we won't expect you to be perfect either, because in the end, we believe that God loves and accepts us all just as we are.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

NOTE: Another old one, but one of my favorites.


What kind of choice is that?

Okay. Here's the scenario. Jonah's hanging out with his friends at the Dead Sea Beach Club discussing the current headlines and why the resident priest needs to be impeached when all the sudden the conversation shifts to the free will of man. Well, Jonah (still wearing big fish belch marks all over his body, not to mention the amino acid scars) can take no more of this banter, and cuts in:

"Choice? Free will? Let me tell you guys a little bit about that. I know all about it -- first hand, me and Moby Dick out there swimming around. Here's the choice God gave me -- Jonah, go to Ninevah, or Jonah, go to Ninevah. Some choice, huh? Well, right off the bat, I'm thinking 'No way am I going to Ninevah! Surely God can respect my decision in this matter. I mean, what's He going to do, make me go?' Some stooge I was.

"Well, anyway, the whole point is this -- I didn't really have a choice, did I? Do it, or wait until He pushed me into doing it. What kind of choice is that?"

* * *

Just to what degree is God in control of history? What is the difference between His permissive will and His perfect will? Is there indeed a difference? What's the point in telling me to choose whom I will serve when the same Bible tells me that all of my days are already mapped out and known? If God is omnipotent, then why can't he make things happen just like He wants them to?

Well, to be perfectly honest, he does. History is always under the power of god. God is never under the power of history. Not a single event has happened without passing under God's careful planning and scrutiny. Communism, the Roman persecution of Christians, stillbirths, tragic accidents, slavery, all are a record of history. Surely God didn't approve of these things. And yet, they are a part of history.

To understand, first we need a more accurate understanding of God's will, both permissive and perfect, active and passive. We must never think that God's will can be deterred. When we speak of God's permissive will, He permits it because He wills to permit it, knowing full well that it will also accomplish His perfect will. And when we speak of God's passive will, we must never think that God is being passive, for God is actively passive. In other words, if God chooses not to act and let events take their natural course, it is because by allowing things to happen on their own, they accomplish His plan.

Too often, we apply words like can't and not able to to God's abilities. One thing we must never forget is that God is omnipotent. According to Webster, that means having unlimited power or authority. and that leaves no rooms for can'ts and not able tos. Sometimes God doesn't do things, but that never means He is unable to. For example, have you ever heard that God can't work in your life if you don't let Him. Sure you have. Well, what about Pilate? He wasn't exactly what you'd call a model Christian, and yet God used him as a key player to accomplish His will for the redemptive work of the cross.

How can things like accidents, murders, poverty, abuse, gang fights, wars, affairs, terrorist attacks and even hunger accomplish the will of a holy and loving Lord? Because He told us so.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28, NIV).

Read that again. Whose purpose? Which things?

There is so much we can't yet see through our glass darkly. But God cannot only see the big picture, He's the Creator who made that picture. He, and only He, knows what's best. Our job is simply to draw closer to Him as He goes about His business of keeping the universe in order and working out His plan.

And guess what? He made us another promise, that if we draw near to Him, He will also draw near to us.

© 1994 Sean Taylor