Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The (Not-Just-a) Rebel Jesus

Here is a version of a song that I haved loved for years. I first heard this song on the wonderful Chieftains Christmas record. Great message from "a pagan."

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Let's Discuss

After seeing thise images read about it here, then comment.

My paper on Anglican Identity

I'm pretty sure my arch-conservative prof. will hate this, but here it is:

Scripture, Tradition, Reason, and their Experience

One of the defining characteristics of Anglican Identity has been the so-called three-legged stool: Scripture, Tradition, and Reason. In order to understand what is meant by "three-legged stool" we must understand the historical and theological context in which scripture, tradition, and reason were established. Once we understand the context then we may begin to look at how the Anglican understanding of scripture, tradition, and reason has shaped its identity. Then we must take into account new findings in thinking, postmodernism, about the creation, reception, and interpretation of scripture, tradition, and reason. Then we can consider Anglican identity through scripture, tradition, and reason. Looking at the postmodern contribution is not to find new way in which scripture, tradition, and reason can be integrated into Anglican identity, but rather to understand how scripture, tradition, and reason has been, is, and will be assimilated. By no means ignoring Dr. Lytle's instruction to consider experience as an addition to our stool, thus rendering it a four-legged stool, it is my thesis that indeed experience is shot through scripture, tradition, and reason enabling them to work dynamically in people, in the Church, and in the culture.
Richard Hooker is usually credited with developing our three-legged stool. It must be always kept in mind that Richard Hooker was "par excellence the apologist of the Elizabethen Settlement of 1559 . Simply put, Hooker charted a course through the European reformation that at once absorbed reformation ideas while keeping the radical reform movements of the Puritans at bay. Thus, seeing Scripture as the first, if not primary, facet of the identity of the Church in England demonstrates the chief concern of the Reformation: sola scriptura. Hooker, and other reformers, saw that the Church had veered significantly from scripture and the reformation can be seen in one light as an attempt to bring the church under the Holy Scriptures.
Hooker's vision, however, was not sola scriptura but perhaps, scriptura et cetera. Hooker thought that a strict literal reading of the scriptures did not answer the problems of "modern life." At the time, the radical reformers did not participate in English civil life because of their prohibition, Biblically supported, against waging war and taking oaths. For the Puritans, only that which is to be found in scripture is to be practiced. Hooker found this untenable since scripture leaves so much open, in terms of the evolution of cultural and political realities. Therefore tradition is included in his identity of the Church in England. For Hooker, as well as subsequent Anglicans, tradition is the continuing discernment of the Church to live its life as a people of the eternal God living within the confines of history and culture. Here again, with the addition of tradition, Hooker blazes a middle path between the extremes of sixteenth century Roman Catholic abuses and Radical Reform ideals that do not account for the innovations of modern civil life.
Finally, Hooker included reason as a defining characteristic of the Church in England. With the addition of reason, Hooker does two things. First, Hooker is including the use of reason which was so important to the early modern period. But he also included reason because the two extremes simply were not using reason. The Roman Church, used Church doctrine to shore up its arguments. The Reformers used scripture only to establish their position. Both extremes, on the continent, and to some extent in England, were resorting to violence and outright warfare; which the Elizabethan settlement was designed to stop. The inclusion of reason along with scripture and tradition was as if to say: Here are the moderated and useful aspects of the represented extremes of the reformation: scripture and tradition. Now, let's use our heads (reason), before we all lose them.
The above shows the historical which birthed the peculiar Anglican amalgam of scripture, tradition, and reason. Oddly enough, the formation of the three-legged stool within the fiery crucible of the Reformation has, by and large, shaped Anglican identity up to the present and without too much change. That is, at the time of the Elizabethan settlement, scripture, tradition, and reason was a sufficient summary of how Anglicanism works and it still holds today. What I will attempt to do now is cast the suspicion of postmodernism upon scripture, tradition, and reason in the hopes that we can establish a hermeneutic of the experience of scripture, tradition and reason.
The great postmodern contribution to human understanding is that it showed how the modern paradigm of representing the world (whether physical, moral, spiritual, or aesthetic) was severely limited. The modern worldview describes a subject looking at an object and describing what it sees. The postmodern worldview claims that the modern view was limited in that it did not include the subject as part of the object which it was describing . This postmodern discovery has had tremendous impact on all of human endeavor, including biblical studies, theology, liturgy, and most especially philosophy.
We have come to understand that all scriptures are situational. That is, each Gospel, letter, and apocalypse was written by a person to a community in a certain context. The work of Christopher Bryan and Paul Holloway attest to this: we must understand the occasion and genre of any given text to understand it better, or even understand it at all! We also interpret texts out of our own experience as well, and all previous commentators have interpreted the biblical texts out of their own experiences. Thus we have a collection of books, the Bible, that has been interpreted through experience at every stage of writing, translation, interpretation, copying, marginally considered, retranslated, and recopied. Yes, the Holy Spirit may be at work in all of this, which is another context added to the mix of interpretive experience.
Tradition too, perhaps more than scripture, takes place within contexts. The history of liturgy is filled contextual mapmaking. A glance at any Orthodox church, or, for that matter, an Anglican/Episcopal church, will quickly demonstrate the ethnic context which birthed both the liturgy and the ecclesiology. Tradition is an attempt at faithful living within contemporary culture. Since Christianity is an incarnational faith, one could say that tradition is a necessary component to the faith. Anglicans, as well as other Christians, view the Bible as the Church's book. Since those who wrote the New Testament did so under a tradition namely, Christ crucified, risen, and ascended, and within the keeping of the Eucharist (1 Cor. 11:23-26). Tradition then is the continuation within the lives of the faithful of that same spirit which inspired the scriptures. Therefore, tradition is sacred scripture writ off the page and lived in the life of the Church.
What of reason then? Was Martin Luther onto something when he called reason the devil's bride, "that pretty whore"? Is reason also subject to the contextualization of the postmodern critique? Yes, and postmodernism was not the first to see that reason itself is subject to the vagaries of existence, but indeed it was the modern view, the enlightenment that first brought us the scientific method which first lifted up the ideal of clear objective reasoning. What postmodernism has brought to reason is the conviction that the thinker and the thought cannot be separated. In science this idea was brought to light, pun intended, in Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle whereby one cannot know the location and velocity of an atom simultaneously because the photons from the light needed to observe the atom changes both its speed and its location.
It might be useful to summarize the postmodern idea in Derrida's phrase, "There is nothing outside the text." While this phrase is sometimes unfairly interpreted as a nihilistic platitude, I think he more accurately means that there is no objective view; there is no view of reality outside of our interpretation. I argue the postmodern critique not to submit all our beliefs to the postmodern abyss; instead I want to show how our ideas of scripture, tradition and reason, and our language surrounding them, is essentially modern; that is, we simply say, "scripture" or "reason" as if these things were static and immutable. Scripture, tradition, and reason are not static objects that we can observe and describe, instead, they are mediated from, by, and with our experience and interpretation.
Does this recognition of the modern world-view’s limitation mean that we should proclaim nothing but postmodern relativism? To quote St. Paul: By no means! As Christians we believe that the Holy Spirit has "caused all holy Scriptures to be written" (BCP 236 proper 28), and that God is at work in tradition and is the fount of all wisdom. What Christians can draw from postmodernism is not a slavish allegiance to denouncing all "meta-narratives," instead we can better understand the impetus and reception of our scripture, tradition, and reason; and know that we interpret them in our own contexts, but that does not necessarily dictate our theology (CC).
Therefore, to return to the original question, would I include experience along with scripture, tradition and reason? My short answer is no. My long answer is it is impossible to separate experience from either scripture, tradition, or reason. First, experience is an ontological fact; we must experience to exist, to even recognize what something is and that it is. Second, in a more epistemological sense, we experience reality through our interpretations. To be a person is to be a hermeneutic person. Experience and interpretation are utterly bound together, this is the postmodern contribution. I argue that on the surface, and at the core, of the church today we really are using a modern model for looking at scripture, tradition, and reason. What passes today for discourse in the church is simply two camps vying for the left and right extremes of an outdated model of understanding .
All the above raises the question: What about revelation? I believe that God speaks through scripture, tradition and reason. But I also know that when God spoke, and speaks, His words land in a context, a sticky, complicated, human context. While God’s word may be pure, our ears (our contexts) are not so holy. My thesis has been that the very act of being cognizant of scripture, tradition, and reason proves that experience is included in the “three-legged stool.” And since we experience scripture, tradition, and reason, we interpret them. It is our interpretation that effects a change within us however, which in turn changes our interpretation. Therefore, to approach scripture, tradition, and reason is to enter into a dynamic relationship, one that changes us. And yes, we experience, through scripture, tradition, and reason, none other than the incarnate God.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


Read this, gotta go and actually minister to some two cents to follow.

Monday, October 19, 2009

An urban faith

Christianity is an urban faith. Paul really helped spread the faith in cities more than anywhere else. Here's a link from a newspaper article about a class a friend of mine is taking, be sure to click on the audio portion and you can hear my contextual ed. professor speak.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


Poetry is on my mind. Just the sounds of harmony and discord (dischord?) of the spoken language. My homiletics class is a study in the structure of messages. But it is just the sound of words that's been hitting me lately. A Clockwork Orange does sound well, so does Ginsberg: I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by
madness, starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn
looking for an angry fix,
angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly
connection to the starry dynamo in the machin-
ery of night

I've got no real theological message here, except that God has a word too, a Word. When God uses a Word, it is a person, and it changes everything...

Friday, October 2, 2009


Here's a homily I wrote on John Chrysostom for my Anglicanism class, I know his day is Jan 27, but here it is now.

Morning Prayer Homily on St. John Chrysostom.

Readings: Psalm 49: 1-8, Jeremiah 1:4-10, Luke 21:12-15

Today we remember Saint John Chrysostom. It should be noted that Chrysostom, “the Golden-Mouthed” was an appellation given to John after his death, though he undoubtedly earned the title during his earthly life.

John Chrysostom was born in 347, in Constantinople. His mother, a widow since John’s early childhood, insured him an excellent education at the feet of the great orator Libanius and he received the finest theological education under Diodore of Tarsus, the leader of the Antiochene School. John was a good boy too. He took care of his ailing mother, forestalling his desire to live as a monk. At home he followed a strict rule of life and later became a hermit for eight years under the Pachomian Rule, one of the earliest monastic rules that has carried tremendous influence for monasticism and Christian life up to today. John was so austere in his asceticism that he had to leave his hermit life because his health had debilitated.

John was a fiercely devout man whose tongue may have been more fire than gold, and he was ordained deacon in 381 and priest in 386 by Bishop Flavian. Flavian rightly discerned a fire for Christ in John and appointed him to the ministry of preacher. Starting in 386, John preached every Sunday and in some seasons every day, for 12 years. Scores of his sermons still survive; many are full commentaries, sometimes an entire sermon will consist of John’s meditation on but one verse. For example, John spent three, one hour sermons, exegeting and meditating on John 1:1.

What is startling about John’s sermons is how pastoral they are; John never shies from asking questions of the text and of Our Lord. But these questions are all to the service of the growth and strength of the gathered faithful.

John also opposed the allegorical interpretation of scripture, which was so favored in the Alexandrian school of hermeneutics. Instead, John, along with his Antiochene teachers, interpreted the Holy Scriptures, historically, or as we say today in much misunderstood and maligned language, literally.

Today’s readings, Jeremiah and Luke, give a perfect model of the life of St. John Chrysostom. By all accounts John lived the injunction from God to “not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you.” When John was made Patriarch of Constantinople in 396, very much against his wishes, he set about to reform the infamous city and garnered the ill-favor of Empress Eudoxia who took his reforms personally. John was brought up on charges of Origenism, which was trumped up, considering his distaste of the allegorical method of biblical interpretation. It seems also that the Golden-Mouth was also exceedingly tactless in his comments about the Empress which guaranteed his banishment, thus thrusting John into the literal living out of Luke 21, “they will arrest you and persecute you…you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name.” Banishment wasn’t enough for the powers that be though, and when John did not perish soon enough he was further banished to a harsher area, where he was executed by forced march. His last action in this life was to receive Christ in the sacrament of Holy Eucharist.

And there is the rub. We cannot metaphorically live the gospel. It will not do to allegorically proclaim Christ crucified and risen. While our interpretations of Holy Scripture can and should bear our most literal, historical and, yes, even allegorical scrutiny, it is impossible to live the life of Christ in any way but literally. There is no life, no risk, to be found in the purely cerebral, cogitation of Christ. Obedience is not to be found among the metaphors. “Follow me” is not a figure of speech. The living out of Christ, crucified, and raised, can only be truly lived when done literally.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Theologizing the computer

I got a new computer, here are the words I have added to my Word dictionary this week.

-thelema (greek)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

hmmm...I can't tell if this is sublime or hopelessly misguided.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Do the Hoaxy Pokey

At church this morning the priest centered part of her sermon on the Prayer of St. Francis. It is found in the book of common prayer and on cross-stitch and calligraphied framed art everywhere. The BCP rightly calls the prayer "A Prayer Attributed to Saint Francis." Why "attributed"? Because Frank didn't write it, and the prayer itself can be traced back to 1912, not the 13th century.

This brings up the issue of legend and reality, and how the border between the two is so easily blurred.

When I was growing up, I went to a missionary Baptist church and I was very involved in the youth group. One day, one of my teachers put a copy of the Arkho Volume in my hands. For those who don't know it, read a brief introduction to the Arckho Volume here. The Archko Volume is essentially a (fake) account of interviews with the members of the Sanhedrin who convicted Jesus and even an interview with a shepherd who saw Jesus' star! It is an utter fabrication, an amatuerish one at that, and I believed it without question as a young adolescent. The book was originally written, in my opinion, to convince skeptics to become Christians without the burden of having faith.

I could write for hours here about the importance of demythologizing our culture-religion and starting again with a trusting relationship with God, one with pitfalls and uncertainty. But for know I think I will simply say that the truth of the church is always stranger than fiction, and more importantly, God and the Holy Scriptures can and should stand up to our most rigorous examination. Thanks be to God!

Friday, August 28, 2009

High Church Musical

My 4.5 y.o. daughter has recently become interested in High School Musical. Saying "interested" is something of a understatement. For the longest time, about 30 years, I hated musicals of any kind,The Sound of Music, Mary Poppins (which has deep theological import, see here), if it had Rogers and Hart, or Hammerstein, or even Sondheim in it I wouldn't give it a chance. That was before the Buffy: the Vampire Slayer episode, "Once More With Feeling."


This episode showed me the importance of song for the expression of what can't be simply said. Now, I'm kind of a fan of musicals, I still don't care for the Sound of Music; but I'm open to the idea, I really liked Moulin Rouge, and Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along blog.

Musicals communicate a depth of feeling that words sometimes can't, music itself, its rhythms and harmonies (not to mention the cumulative associations we all bring to how music makes us feel, which coincidently, there are real biological reasons why minor key songs are wrenching for us emotionally. It has to do with overtones that harmonize nicely, and minor keys clash with that, causing cognitive dissonance) amplify the message.

What strikes me as funny, but also poignant, about musicals is that the characters simply break into song, then go about their lives as if the song was just the thing to do.

We do this in the church too, especially when we chant. We break into song. "Come let us sing to the Lord; let us shout for joy to the Rock of our salvation." Singing that carries more meaning, and involves more of my physical body, than simply saying the words.

Singing, in chant, hymns, and South Pacific, all mean one thing: These words need more, these words say what I mean, but they need my complete abandon, my emotional nakedness!

Breaking into song, there is something very true in that phrase. We break from the standard politeness of regualr speech and communication, into something more vulerable and concentrated.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Feeding of the 450.

Here's a little movie about this past weekend's mobile food pantry. I was very excited to volunteer there, but was a little disappointed to see only three other seminarians there.

My feelings on the event ranged along the spectrum with my physical energy. We worked from 9-4, and were able to distribute food to 450 people (250 more than anticipated).

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Jonathan Daniels

Here is my sermon from Friday, my first preached at Sewanee.


Context is everything.

In biblical studies, we learn of the importance of context. What is the historical setting of the text? What are its cultural assumptions? What is the inter- and intra-textual organization of the entire work? Why did the writer put pen to paper in the first place? How did the original audience hear the text?
As we learn about scripture, or any communication for that matter, we learn that some messages are high context: messages that need unpacking. For example, the Old Testament is high context. It needs careful study and comparison and it helps a great deal if you can read biblical Hebrew: High context.
A smiley-face, by contrast is low context. No real explanation or special language required.

Last year’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel “The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao,” by Junot Diaz is high context. If the reader is not highly conversant with the world of Tolkien’s Middle Earth, Doctor Who, Dungeons and Dragons, and Marvel Comics, much of the depth of that beautiful story is simply lost by the non-nerdy reader. High Context.

The Real House Wives of New Jersey is low context. Anyone watching that show quickly sees the meaning of it: That these people are horrible. Low Context.

Why was it written, what did it mean? What is the context?

But there is another context.Not just the context of the words spoken, but that of the words received. There is this context [book].There is our context [us]. And there is my context and yours, as individuals. Indeed, each individual is a veritable constellation of contexts, shaped by time, situation, genetics, and nutrition to name but a few. Did you ever wonder why it is that we are hear the same words and some are brought to tears, while others are brought to sleep? It’s our contexts.

One night, in 1965, many seminarians at the Episcopal Theological School, now the Episcopal Divinity School, went to evening prayer. Jonathan Daniels, one of many, followed the liturgy and chanted the Magnificat with everyone else. “My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my savior.”

Jonathan Daniels likely could have used his newly acquired Greek to parse out each declension of each word of Mary’s song. Or perhaps he, or one of his classmates, while chanting the words “Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed,” may have speculated on the historicity of the Magnificat. Even more likely, Jonathan Daniels and his classmates simply went to evening prayer. Perhaps they went out of piety, or a sense of duty, or perhaps coercion by the faculty. Or maybe, some of them harbored that old George Herbert inspired pastoral fantasy. Whatever the case, most of the students there at evening prayer just went; they went and said the words. No care or concern for the context, either their own or for the words they sang.

Just saying the words. This is a great hazard of life in the church, and it can hardly be overstated, but of course when we overstated something, it is no longer heard, which is the problem. For us in the church, we say history’s most astounding things…everyday. For example, today’s Epistle:Galatians 3:27for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

“No longer male or female”? One with Christ? Really? No victims no boarders?
Maybe the problem is not the context of the words, but the context of where the words land.

But that night in 1965 at evening prayer as Jonathan Daniels heard the Magnificat, he heard its words. And those words entered a context, the subversive, apocalyptic, loving context of Christ at work in Jonathan Daniels that had only one response: Yes.
The context of Jonathan Daniels that night was subversive in Christ; subversive because Mary’s words described God’s reign, God’s way of doing business, bringing down the powerful and lifting up the lowly. Mary was talking about Selma, Alabama. Right there in evening prayer, Jonathan Daniels stood at the nexus of apartheid in Selma, and, it must be noted, the segregated Episcopal Church there; and God’s subversive upending of all that seems to be. Daniels said, “Yes,” and was resisted by sheriffs, mobs, priests, bishops, and ultimately a shotgun blast. Daniels was an “outside agitator” because he believed and acted as the subversive God, heralded into this world, this context, by the song of a virgin. God made man, to make good on God’s own promises.

The context of Jonathan Daniels that night at evening prayer, in 1965 when he sang the Magnificat, was apocalyptic. Apocalyptic is not a word we use to describe the Christian life very often, but you had better believe that apocalyptic is an exact definition of what we do up there at that table [point to altar].

Eugene Peterson writes:
In its dictionary meaning, apocalypse is simply “revelation,” the uncovering of what was covered up so that we can see what is there. But the context in which the word arrives adds color to the black-and-white dictionary meaning, colors bright and dark—crimson urgency and purple crisis. Under the crisis of persecution and under the urgency of an imminent end, reality is revealed suddenly for what it is. We had supposed our lives to be so utterly ordinary. Sin-habits dull our free faith into stodgy moralism and respectable boredom; then the crisis rips the veneer of cliché off everyday routines and reveals the side-by-side splendors and terrors of heaven and hell. Apocalypse is arson—it secretly sets a fire in the imagination that boils the fat out of an obese culture-religion and renders a clear gospel love, a pure gospel hope, a purged gospel faith.” (The Contemplative Pastor, Eugene Peterson)

That night in 1965 at evening prayer the context of God met the context of a brash, self-absorbed, 26 year old man. I have no romantic illusions about Jonathan Daniels. I don’t think he went happily to his death. I think he would rather have lived; and I know his beleaguered mother would have had him live. But the context of God’s word met the Christ prepared context of Jonathan Daniels and the world responded in the only way it knows how, with a cross.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Go and the Sin No Mores

This is the name of a doo-wop band we should start here at the seminary.

So this week was a big milestone for me, my first confession. Confession is called the rite of Reconcilation in the Episcopal Church. Reconciliation is the key for me, to understanding sin in this day and age. For a long time, 32.5 years, I wasn't really sure what sin was/is. The prayer book isn't much help here:

Q. What is sin?
A. Sin is the seeking of our own will instead of the will of
God, thus distorting our relationship with God, with other
people, and with all creation.

Here we are given a definition that presupposes knowledge of another thing, namely, the will of God. It's like answering a question with a question. What is sin? Well, what is God's will?

I think that most thoughts on sin come from a misreading of the Old Testament. A literal reading of the OT would have us see sin as obeying rules and the violation of said rules lead to repentence and ritual satisfaction, i.e. purity laws. The Hebrews actually saw these rules, this Law, as a gift from God. Following the law equaled walking with God, closeness with God. Breaking the Law was a seperation from God and the community. This is were my new understanding of sin comes in (from Paul Tillich), sin as seperation. Sin is seperation from ourselves, our human community (neighbors), and our seperation from God (experienced subjectively).

So with an understanding of sin as seperation, can we back-track and develop what God's will is? If sin is seperation, maybe God is connectedness, intimacy, LOVE. A quick aside: God is love and intimacy. But God is also personal. While it is good and fine to be in love with the universe (as New Agers might say), the universe doesn't love you back, or love you first!

But sin and God are not polar equals. God always wins, God's mercy perseveres. I am one of those wacky people who think God's love wins the day, the last day, no matter what. Demons, devils, Dick Cheney, and even that most hallowed god (free will) cannot resist God's love. Sorry.

The great satirist Terry Pratchett hit the nail on the head in his book Carpe Jugulum:(This is an converesation between a man and his grandmother and is best read in an English accent).

"There is a very interesting debate raging at the moment about the nature of sin, for example."

"And what do they think? Against it are they?" [said Granny]

"It's not as simple as that. It's not a black and white issue. There are so many shades of gray."

"There's no grays, only white that's got grubby. I'm surprised you don't know that. And sin, young man, is when you treat people as things. Including yourself. That's what sin is."

"It's alot more complicated than that--"

"No. It ain't. When people say things are alot more complicated than that, they means they're getting worried that they won't like the truth. People as things, that's where it starts."

"Oh, I'm sure there are worse crimes--"

"But they starts with thinking about people as things..."

Amen and 'nuff said.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

D025 passed

Here's how history is made, quite boring. At 5:46 you can barely hear my bishop voting yes. D025

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Theology Geek #2

For part one in my sure-to-be-way-too-long series on science fiction and spiritulity see here.

Part two involes the story Article of Faith by Mike Resnick. You can listen for free here, either on computer or Mp3 player. It is a pretty good story and I really like the host of Escape Pod, Steve Eley, he's a very thoughtful guy. The story itself reminded me of Robot Dreams from Isaac Asimov where a robot has a dream in which it is a Moses figure freeing the enslaved robots. For this dream, the robot is destroyed.

In Article of Faith, a robot and preacher learn about faith and the resulting disaster. I say disaster because I believe when faith is real, when we say, as Phylis Tickle does, that is Jesus is God not guru, there will be a shake-up in life. The preacher has to make a decision about what a soul is and what a member of his church can be. It reads a little like a story of racial prejudice, a few years delayed. In fact it sounds alot like an experience that happened in Americus GA back in the 60s with Clarence Jordan and some of his friends from Koinonia Farms.

At its worst sci-fi is humanistic paternalism with technology as the savior. At its best sci-fi can give us new images to think about age-old human problems. Which, in my opinion is the definition of good theology: new images of thinking about the fundamental issues of human existence.

Saturday, June 13, 2009


Here's a comment from an interesting post I left on theolphilics. Astute Sewanee folks will hear echoes of KN, from church history and Joe from ethics.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Well, it's been a month. A few thing have happened: Finals, two deaths, end of the first year of seminary, start of my summer-long chaplaincy.

Instead of a blow by blow, I'm just going to pick up where I am, "to begin in the middle of things" to quote the Archbishop of Canterbury.

I started my Clinical Pastoral Education last week, CPE for short. I am a chaplain at the local hospital and the nursing facility down the road. I was lead to believe that the nursing home was for old folks but it's actually a facility for people with dementia and other mental issues i.e schizophrenia, bipolar, etc.

I've had some amazing and frightening experiences already, just in the first week. But the real take home for me initially is the closeness of these pocket worlds of pain and suffering. I live on a mountain, The Mountain. This place is a paradise. Sometimes I feel like Samwise Gamgee waking up in verdent Middle Earth, all is well. But a three minute walk from my front door leads me to the hospital. In that hospital there is a woman who screams alot, nothing can be done for her. There is a lot of pain, frustration, and forgetting there. There are many of caring souls too, families gathering, and I think God is there too.

But simply saying God is there is such a bromide, so pat an answer that I feel sad saying it. I do believe God is there, but couldn't he make himself known? Platitudes help no one, especially the speaker. Actually, I think formulaic speaking is a defense mechanism that protects the speaker from engaging in real life.

Entering into pain with people is an honor and a challenge. When the people I speak with share their story with me and reveal themselves a sacred space is created; all the alarms and blaring t.v.s fade into a cloud of forgetting as a human connection is formed. The challenge comes with me when I enter the room. What will I witness? Are they friendly, hostile? Oh God give me words! Being a chaplain is a master class in mindfullness of speech. How easy it is to fall into the old patterns of talking. Just think how hard it is to start a conversation when you take out, "How are you?"

So, back to my original thought, the closeness of these places, hospitals, nursing homes, hospice, to "regular life" is strange. These places to me are like people, we go by them everyday never knowing what goes on inside, or if we do we avoid them. About 10 years ago I got my first hard lesson on not knowing what is going on inside a person when my friend Marcus died. Oddly enough, it was his funeral which led me to the Episcopal Church, it was an Easter Liturgy, these people had the right idea. Anyway, we can never know what another person is thinking or living through. It is the mystery of not knowing that is humbling and a sure cure for complacency.

I guess this is where Jesus comes in. Jesus says, "Trust me, the knowing is going to be complete someday, death and suffering are not the final words..." This is what I believe and it is a mystery too. The mystery is hard to live with, and as Flannery O'Connor says, "the mystery is an embarrassment to the modern mind."

God grow my capacity for your mystery, grant me ambiguouity, so that I may walk in your many ways.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Liturgy of the Word

Today, in New Testament, a group of seminarians performed a portion of John. There were 8 people perfoming, seven read and one drummer. They read, very dramatically and artistically, Here's the music they used, along with their reading of the death, and resurrection of Jesus, adn his appearance to the disciples and Thomas. The performance was most effective, and drove home the utter easterness of Christianity.
finally, here is a poem I wrote called liturgy of the word.

Liturgy of the Word

A hymn, psalm, or anthem may be sung.
The processed, but unwitting, griot; flanked by fire.
Holding forth with wind, reeds, and tongue.
The people sit, this brood, the words: their sire.

Puttin' some English on it. Throwing out
A proportion, ratio of chaos-God-life.
Scandalous breath-shapes to the lout,
Born and born again these words in strife.

Clanging in the new ears undopplered.
Thoughout space-time, atmosphere now sounding.
Translated, to this human-soul, the Word!
The fleshing starts in the ear's pounding.

Anamnetic consciousness in crisis,
Meets in slow delight of duty gnosis.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Another final project

Here's a small portion of my Greek final, the so-called twleve year old version. We have an actual child in our class who we present our translatiosn to. First we translate the passage then reword it so it can be understood by a young person. Here's my version of 2nd and 3rd John:

2nd John:

From your old teacher,
To the special Lady and her members: Am I alone in loving and acting on the Truth? I’m not, because everybody knows what truth is, because truth is inside of us and always will be. Grace, mercy, and peace will be with you from God and his Son, Jesus Christ.
I was so happy to hear that the members of the church are on their best behavior and acting like they were taught to by the father. I’m writing, not about something new, but about love, and you all have loved each other from the start. Love is living your life in line with the teachings of the father, which you have always done, and lived your whole life that way. But there are some out there who lie about Jesus. These liars say that Jesus didn’t really live on Earth! Be careful, don’t mess up what we’ve done together, let’s finish our work and get paid. Whoever lies about Christ doesn’t know God, but whoever tells the truth about Christ has the Father and the Son. If somebody comes to you and is lying about Jesus, don’t invite them into the church or say, “Have a good day!” Even if somebody says, “Have a good day,” they help the liar.
Even though, I’ve got so much to write to you, I’d rather come out and see you all and talk face to face, that will be awesome!
Goodbye to my friends and the Lady, the special one.

3rd John:

The Old Teacher to Gaius, my best friend, whom I love,
Friend, I wish you the best in everything! I was so happy to hear from everybody about what a great guy you are. It makes me so happy to hear that my old friends are doing like they should. My friend, you take care of our friends and strangers, who all say, in front of the whole church, that you took good care of them before sending them off, and they didn’t need anything from anyone! We owe these guys a lot, because they love God, just like we do.
I’ve already written to you, but “Mr. Bossy,” Diotrephes, didn’t let us in. Because he’s such a jerk, I’m going to have to come over there and I will talk about his bad behavior: he says bad things, gossips about us, and that’s not enough for him. No, he doesn’t let our friends in the church, and the ones who want to join, he kicks out! My friend, do not be a copy-cat to bad behavior, but copy good behavior. When somebody is good, it comes from God, when they are bad, they don’t even know what God is!
Demetrius on the other hand, he’s just as good as you, Gaius! Everybody talks about how good he is; you’ve seen it.
I have so much to say to you, but I don’t want to with pen and paper. I will see you very soon and we’ll talk, face to face. Hope all is well, say, “Hello!” for me to everybody personally for me.

Project central

I've been doing lots of final projects. Here is part of my presentation on Tobit. My group decided to do a presentation on the apocrypha, because we get nothing on it here. Tobit is an awesome book, and I hope my little character sketches will inspire you to read this hilarious and inspiring book.

Introducing Tobit
Five of the many unusual characters from the book of Tobit.

Shalom! I am Tobit, I have walked in righteousness all the days of my life. Even when my kindred and I were taken captive into Assyria, and all my people sacrificed to calves, I kept the law completely. No orphan, widow, or stranger ever went hungry in my sight. When the Assyrian king began killing my kinsmen and leaving them outside as examples, I buried my brothers in violation of the king’s law, under the cover of night, I was a vigilante for the Lord! One night I slept and the sparrows also slept, but their fresh droppings fell into my eyes and I was blinded. I prayed for God to end my life. I sent my son Tobias to my cousin to retrieve money I had left, when he returned I was healed through magic and I met an angel. Blessed be the God who lives forever!

Hello, I am Tobias son of Tobit. I went on an adventure with a kinsman, Azariah, to retrieve money for my father, my dog came along too. On my adventure I was bitten by a fish, which I hauled right out of the Tigris! Azariah taught me how to use the fish’s organs for magic. While getting the money for my dad, I found my true love, a fully lawful marriage too! I used the magic Azariah taught me to free my wife from a demon and heal my father’s blindness, also, I met an angel!

I used to be unlucky in love. My first seven husbands all died on our wedding night. The source of my bad luck was Asmodeus, the demon. I prayed that God would take my life so I would no longer disgrace my father. But along came Tobias, whom I loved at first sight. He did a strange thing: Tobias, on our wedding night, cooked fish liver and heart in our room, it stank to high heaven. After that though everything was peachy, Tobias even survived our wedding night!

I am Raguel, Tobit’s cousin. I held money in trust for Tobit which his son Tobias retrieved. Tobias married my daughter Sarah. I’ll admit I was worried he’d be yet another dead husband. I even had my servants dig his grave after the wedding. When I sent my wife to check on them, the boy still breathed! I had those servants fill in the grave, maybe this one will take?

I am the archangel Raphael, one of the seven angels who stand ready and enter before the glory of the Lord. I carry your prayers directly to the Holy One, I carried Sarah’s and Tobit’s prayers to the Almighty. God sent me to restore faithful Tobit’s family. I disguised myself as Azariah and led Tobias on adventures and taught him some tricks with fish organs; which drove Asmodeus the demon to Egypt, I caught up with him and bound him there. When I finally disclosed that I was an angel I said, “Do not be afraid; peace be with you. Bless God forevermore.” That’s good advice, take it from me, I’m an angel.

Senior Sunday

This past Sunday was Senoir Sunday at All Saints' Chapel. It was a time to recognize the seniors who have contributed to the worship life at Sewanee, both undergrad and seminary seniors were recognized. In conjunction with Senior Sunday is Senior Prank Day: a time for seniors to mess with the liturgy. It was all in good fun and I think it shows how much they love and are comfortable in church, here are some highlights.
1.) Moving the row of seats for the priests and chalice bearers (me) to the very edge of the platform. We had to move them back during the first hymn.
2.)(My favorite prank of the day) The seniors have kindly placed a copy of Dianetics in the priest's chair, nothing like the bible of Scientology to brighten a christian priest's day.
3.)Placing limeade in the priests' glasses.
4.) Leaving a plateful of a hardy breakfast in the preacher's nest.
5.)Screaming AMEN! every time the congregation said amen.
6.)Recessing during the final hymn with a hymnal in each hand.

It was fun to watch and be a part of, it sure kept me on my toes, and to expect the unexpected, a too often forgotten sentiment in the church.

Friday, April 24, 2009

La Fabuleaux Destin de Amelie Poulin

One great thing about living on the mountain is the cultural opportunities. Usually we miss alot of them, but last night I couldn't resist. The single screen movie theater was playing one of my favorite movies: Amelie. I have a copy, if anybody wants to borrow it. This movie is utterly magical and life affirming. Here's a clip: Amelie has found, buried in her apartment wall, toys of a former resident, and has found him...his reaction at :56 withers me.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Colbert vs. Ehrman

Here's Bart Ehrman, scholar, with no sense of humor. I also think that Ehrman only goes so far in his thoughts, most of what he says is true, but he doesn't try to explain himself in light of Jewish or church tradition. One thinks he might have an agenda...nah!

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Bart Ehrman
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorGay Marriage Commercial

Friday, April 10, 2009

Birth of a Sacrament

Britt and I had the honor to do the eucharistic bread for the Maundy Thursday Service and the Easter Vigil. A sacrament is simply defined as a synthesis of matter and spirit. In my opinion this definition can be problematic in that it hints at a division of spirit and matter: dualism. But the sacrament shows how reality really really is. John's Revelation most boldly shows this as the new heaven and the new earth joining, with heaven descending to earth, not the other way around. The eucharistic bread is just that: bread. It is not wheat, or olives, or any other naturally occuring thing. Bread is made, through the skill, knowledge, and technique of people. Same with wine. We, our best and worsst, are tied intimately in the sacrament. It would not be a sacrament without us.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Happy Birthday Joseph Campbell

Reading Joseph Campbell and hearing his lectures and interviews changed my life. I'm not being hyperbolic. The thoughts and insights of this great man helped me tremendously in developing the proper use of my imagination for the understanding of living with a text in community, in my case, the Bible in the Church. His book The Hero With a Thousand Faces, is still, in my opinion the best introduction and explication of Jungian psychology out there, he explains Jung better than Jung does.

Campbell helped me see the golden thread that binds all human culture, indeed he said that "Myths are public dreams, dreams are private myths." As one storyteller, said, the essential thing that separates animals and people, is that people tell stories about animals. Myths are stories that reveal more in their telling than if informaton had simply been disclosed. This is why I think Jesus taught in parables, a story commands interaction and interpretation. Anthony DiMello said that the fastest route to the truth is a story.

Campbell also indirectly had a HUGE impact on my childhood, because George Lucas learned alot about storytelling and myth from him for his development of Star Wars. (too bad Lucas forgot all his learning in the latest Star Wars movies, utter dreck!)

Does this sound like Luke Skywalker to you? Jesus?

"A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man."

Learn a little more

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Hate the Sin, Love the Sinner...yeah right.

Here's Father Matthew, he's very good about expressing orthodox Christianity in simple direct ways.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Book Review: Fight Club

I finished Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk last week. talk about a break from seminary! This book, reportedly written on post-it notes, is fast, disjointed, and frenetic. Fight Club is a damning indictment of modern masculinity, i.e. neutered, materialistic, and tame. There is alot wrong with the thinking of this book, but the reader is left with the feeling he has just had a conversation with a slightly crazed prophet. I think of Fight Club as a parable of the modern (Gen X) man. A generation of males raised, for the most part, without fathers in a post-feminist society. Now, you can see how much is wrong with that statement right there, not every one lost their father and it was the feminist movement in many ways opened the doors for fathers to claim their caring role.

There is a recurring theme of abandonment also, the author is well aware of this issue and says so explicitly. Palahniuk makes the point that our fathers=God, "if our fathers abandoned us, what does that mean about God, in fact God may not even like us, which is better than being ignored! We are God's misbehaving children, getting attention for being bad." Well, I could really lay into that quote, but for now let is suffice that we need to hold on to our images of God, but lightly. Hold onto them, because we are image animals, that's how we think. Hold those images lightly, because we are also rational animals: It just makes sense that God is beyond our reasonings (see St. Paul for more on this).

The crux of the book lies in the wonderful twist that sets all the wild adventures and opinions in stark relief whereby one is forced to at least reconsider all that was said and done. The book is brutal, quick, and inspiring at times (made me want to get off my duff and get something done). Here is a scence from the movie, which is almost word for word, from the book. This is a very representative scene: violent, vulgar (F-bomb), gritty (in tone with the book, and scene framing and focus with the movie), and a call to action.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

From my learning journal for Ethics

Reflection and learnings on "The Passing of the Picture People."

This article is about the idea that there sre two ways of seeing the world. 1. The world is a picture. Something static that is to be interpreted and mastered. I think Alan Watts would call this picture, the artifact view of the world. 2. The second view is the drama view. This view sees the world as an unfolding drama, whereby the viewer actually identifies with the drama and participates, as opposed to the picture, where the view is a bystander. "A picture...represents persons and events witha finished image a story, a drama, everything is developmental." (Nogan, 16). The picture view seems to be a contribution of the Enlightenment, the rational understanding of things, the (absurd) idea of cold objectivity. The drama view is...a human one. "Stories," said Anthony DeMello, "are the shortest route to the truth."
I take issue that these views are people, like the title suggests. Are people their views? Maybe. I think, rather, that we ossilate between the two views incessantly. That said, I want to be a drama person, and I think I am but I notice that I always fall back to the picture mindset. I especially fall back to the picture in times of stress or worse yet in response to statements from a picture person. This happened to me very recently when a scientist friend of mine was grilling me on the historicity of Jesus, I couldn't help but adopt his mindset that framed the question (picture reference), and ended up sounding like a fundamentalist apologist! I am not a fundamentalist apologist! Even while i was answering him I realised that I was chaffing against my own answer, it didn't get to the nuance, the drama that I wanted.
My real question is: how can we more readily default to the drama view? I've noticed in the faculty at Sewanee, they tend to quickly broaden the question asked from the picture to the drama.
I listened to an interview recently with John Haught, a evolutionary science scholar. Being the 200 year anniversary of Darwin, this is fitting: he talked about the difference in picture and drama people in terms of the evolution debate. The creationists tend to see things as a picture, especially nature and scripture. In fact by definition these literalists are picture people. The evolutionists tend to be drama people, the world unfolding as a drama. And what does a drama need: conflict (adaptation), accident (natural selection), and time (lots and lots). Evolution is a drama, and I think that God is a drama too, maybe a dramatist, but certainly a drama.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


Usually Christians mark a Saint's day with thier death day, well today is Dietrich Bonhoeffer's birthday. learn about him here and here. I think that Bonhoeffer's writing has the feeling of Paul's: a guy trying to figure this Christ thing out, while on the run. Practical and urgent Christianity with a deep deep conviction that most of us will never have to think about. It's what makes Bonhoeffer more compelling to read than Barth, Luther over Calvin. There is real life in the writing and it has authority, what can be more real than writing about moral theology while just finishing a being interogated by Nazi's? Bonhoeffer's witness makes me very impatient to get out of the classroom and get with people!

Sunday, February 1, 2009


We've been studying the prophets. These were not guys you would have liked to meet. For me, a prophet was/is against the grain. According to Heschel, one of our sources on the prophets, prophets share in God's pathos, in God's response to human activity. So I've been thinking about modern prophets. Here's Manu Chao, a Spanish artist who I've followed for years:

I wonder if this guy was prophet, warning: F-Bomb and other choices phrases

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Thanks Andy!

Anybody in my classes with me will find this as no surprise. Here is my personality test result in terms of the Church Fathers:

"You do nothing by half-measures. If you’re going to read the Bible, you want to read it in the original languages. If you’re going to teach, you’re going to reach as many souls as possible, through a proliferation of lectures and books. If you’re a guy and you’re going to fight for purity … well, you’d better hide the kitchen shears." OUCH! Well, this was fun, but I do hold Origen's view of apokatastasis: the redemption of all things in Christ.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Presidential religious: Bishop Robinson

Bishop Robinson is funny:

Here's his too-long, but good prayer, which wasn't aired on HBO...

Finally, here's Rachel Maddow explaining why Bishop Robinson's prayer wasn't aired:

Presidential religious:Joseph Lowery's Benediction

This is worth a second look. This prayer rides the line of polemic several times. I just happen to agree, the rhyming, however, is trite.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Saint John's Bible

I first read about this project about 10 years ago and was blown away: A new, hand-written Bible, fully illuminated. The work is simply striking. Check it out:

The St. John's Bible - "In the Beginning..." from Speaking of Faith on Vimeo.

Here is the stem of Jesse, can you find Jesus, note the DNA double helix.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Presidential religious: thoughts

I think that Pres. Obama is a consummate politician. Here's what I think he is saying in his choices of religious leaders taking roles in his inauguration:
Rick Warren: Obama will talk with people he doesn't agree with, he will allow democracy to take place, however ugly it seems. Obama is also open to contrary views, unlike the White House of the past 8 years, where no dissenting thought entered discourse. Also, I think Obama is sending a clear message to his liberal base, y'all aren't getting a free ride, this is a new kind of president.

Joseph Lowery: a bit of the old school, touching the MLK hem, but with Lowery, who is still active in progressive causes, we have socially engaged gospel.

Sharon Watkins: A taste of things to come...I can't think of a better way to put it, this is very exciting...

Right Rev'd Gen Robinson: while pre-inauguration, I think Obama is really just sealing the deal on how is Christianity is big-tent Christianity.

Finally, I find it interesting that all these choices are protestant Christians, no Islamic or Jewish leaders, no Buddhists, Secular Humanists, etc. Clearly, I think, this is a message that says, I'm a Christian, o.k.? Listen here fore more.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Presidential Religious: Joseph Lowery

Presidential religious: Rick Warren

I'm a little impressed with Rick Warren, he's decided to remain silent, to the press, unitl the inauguration, saying his "prayer will speak for itself." Here's a quick interview with Warren. He's gets it wrong at 2:11, Warren says that the model of marriage that we have is between a man and a woman, and that model is 5,000 years old. Too bad the OT is full of polygamy. Also, the church has only recently been involved in marriages, even in the middle ages, when marriage was still a land agreement between familes; the only time a priest was sought, was as witness. Anyway, Warren does ok here, even though he's "had dinner in gay homes."

Monday, January 12, 2009

Presidential religious

Part One: Start with the closer.

Sharon Watkins, president of the Disciples of Christ, will deliver the closing prayer at Barack Obama's inauguration. Who is she? What is Disciples of Christ? What is her theology? What does her pick say about Obama's theology? What does her pick say about Obama's politics? I'll pull together some links and thoughts later today, now, I'm off to morning prayer and the first day of the Easter Semester.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

I'm all for these ads, but I think they get it wrong in one fundamental way. If these were my signs I would have them say: THERE PROBABLY IS A GOD, SO STOP WORRYING. Feeling the presence of God, the creator of the universe (and the universe), and knowing that she or he (but not it, too impersonal) is not only with us as a general creation, but me as individual is scandalous! How could you stay the same after experiencing this? My discernment helped with this, but mostly having children: my life is not mine, everything I have is a gift from God. So I find it easy not to attach myself to the people and things around me, before I recognized God in my life, I was struggling to make this happen on my own, now, it's easy. Enough evangelizing! Incidently, evagelize comes from the greek: euangelion, good news, the good news that God and creation are reconciled! There I go again! Soon I'll be thumping the Bible outside: THUS SAYS THE LORD, JESUS CHRIST: I HAVE COME THAT THEY MAY HAVE LIFE AND HAVE IT MORE ABUNDANTLY (John 10:10). That's good news. I'll stop now. I'm off to Saint Mary's for a mini-retreat, and to get out of my wife's hair while she has her "Girl's Weekend".
Finally, you may have noticed the color changes on this blog in the past several weeks, I'm going liturgical with the color choices, epiphany=gold and white.


Friday, January 9, 2009


I've been steeped in Advent and Christmas for over a month now, but it is Epiphany, how do I proceed? Epiphany is about the showing-forth of God in Jesus. In the Episcopal Church, this is first celebrated by the visitation of the three kings. Here, with the wise men we have the recognition of Jesus by Gentiles. It's funny how epiphany has entered our vocabulary as an event that gives great clarity. This is also the theological meaning, and one that I think has brought me to seminary, Jesus, in some way is God in the flesh. I've experienced this and now I'm searching for meaning of that experience. So I guess I strongly identify with those three wise men, the three kings...

Friday, January 2, 2009

Happy New Year!

Here's a viddy of my hero Rowan Williams. His statements remind me of an epiphany I had once that changed my life. It was simple: I once looked at a person that was inconviencing me, and I saw them as a problem, not a person. Seeing someone as a problem objectifies them and releases us from all charity and responsibility and opens the door for all manner of evil...