Showing posts from 2009

What is worship?

I already wrote about what I think the role of worship leaders should be ( What I can't get over is how much the term "worship" in modern parlance has to do with (1) my feelings, i.e., my emotional state, and (2) my various expressions of it. Typically, when a church person speaks Christianese, they would define worship as "an emotional, passionate response to God." But, by practice, they really mean more. It means that I have to really squint my eyes. I need to cry when I do it. I should shout when I do it. I should sway when I do it. I should act very emotional, whatever that means, to express my "worship" to God. Furthermore, I need to express it in some type of "passionate" way. I need to raise my hands. I should clap. I should, in some way, act like I feel passionate about God.

Of course, this means that if I sit still, quietly, then I'm not worshippin…

A "Christian Tithe"?

Perhaps like you, I was raised in Protestant churches. I was always taught, at least once a year, that Christians were obligated to pay a "tithe." Typically, references to the Old Testament were mentioned, but not very often. Usually, the preacher just assumed that everyone just "knew" it was expected.
I've been bothered about it for many years. Those who know me well know how opposed I am to churches speaking out so vehemently against those who do not devote an entire ten percent of their income to the Church.
Plain and simple: the New Testament never supports giving a tithe and when it was given, it was part of the now-dead-and-gone Temple system of Judaism. What is so intriguing and vexing about this issue is how much Christian leaders speak so forcefully about a subject that is so clearly limited to a particular cultural time and place as to render the moral necessity of our fulfillment absurd.
If we're going to use the Bible, then let's see what …

Inconsistent Christian Views on Gay Marriage

There are now twelve states that support same-sex marriage or civil unions. Certainly this number will continue to climb. Is there anything positive about the the discussion of same-sex marriage or should we oppose any SSM decisions?

This post is deliberately limited. I will not tackle every possible issue in this discussion. Rather, I wish only to discuss a few salient points. I've seen the two Dr. Phil shows on the issue (especially concerning the CA legislation concerning Proposition 8) that aired a couple months ago (one of them can be found at There was a panel of three advocates on either side. The entire audience was split down the middle: about 50 pro-gay marriage, about 50 anti-gay-marriage.

(1) In every discussion of same-sex marriage (= SSM) I've heard, the following thing must be admitted: the entire discussion is predicated upon the morality of homosexuality. Though this might seem elementary, it is typically overlooked in the di…

Should the Flag be in the Church?

This question is utterly about one theological issue: ecclesiology, i.e., the theology of the function or role of the Church. The Church is full of symbols: the cross, the baptistery, the seasonal colors, etc. Moreover, for most American churches, it also contains another symbol, the American flag. It is not a small issue for churches to decide if the American flag should occupy the same level of symbolic significance as the other symbols in the Church (i.e., be placed alongside them).
Though the Church was independent of (suppressed and oppressed by) the State for the first three centuries, from Constantine (4th cent.) on the Church exercised an enormous amount of influence in civic issues. For centuries the Roman and Orthodox Churches held enormous sway over the various governments across the European landscape. The Roman Catholic Church has changed its position through the years, but has typically held to the separation of the Church and State in modern times. The recent position o…

We Owe All of Our Devotion to Michael Jackson

I'm sad for his family; I really am. The sudden loss of a family member or close friend is traumatic and will cause much anxiety. I have prayed that God will comfort them in the coming grieving process.

But for the rest of those flooding his Neverland Ranch . . . what in the world is wrong with you?! This guy was not some hero or world leader. "Beat It" and "Thriller" do not transform people. Michael Jackson was an "icon" (which for Jews, Christians, and Muslims, is already a bad word) for Pop music, of course. But does this mean that we should be forced to hear about it for the next week on the news?

Michael Jackson was an entertainer. . . an entertainer. All this attention in the media is expected by Americans since we worship entertainers. American "royalty" are actors, actresses, and musicians. Entertainers. We worship them because they make us happy. And when they don't make us happy, we discard them. We vitiate and vilify them. We l…

Fake Cigarettes

My family was walking through the zoo known as "the mall" yesterday. I saw a kiosk that was soliciting something I'd never heard of: e-cigarettes. Yes, "electronic cigarettes." The sign for the product really struck me:

"It looks like a real cigarette . . . it tastes like a real cigarette . . . it feels like a real cigarette . . . but it's not a real cigarette. E-cigaratte."

These electronic straws allow a battery-powered device to shove nicotine down your throat without having all that pesky smoke. While it's legal in most places, supposedly it's still illegal in Australia and Hong Kong.

I was both humored (as I am now, in fact) and amazed by it. I thought the sign should read, "E-cigarette. It's the cleaner way to kill yourself."

Then I was struck by the sales sign. As you might imagine, I had a theological reflection. My reflection made my smile go away, unfortunately, as I thought about how many Christians could fit that desc…

Negotiating with God

Exodus 3:12 He said, "I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain" (NRS).

When God was negotiating with Moses about Moses bringing God's people out of slavery, Moses gives every trick in the book. It starts out with (and I paraphrase), "Um . . . and which god are you? Who do I say sent me?" God answers something. Moses says, "Cool, cool. Um . . . how in the world would I be able to do this? Do you have any idea how much I am unimportant in Egpyt right now?" God says two things: "(1) I will be with you, and (2) you will know I have been with you when you get back here and look back."

There are several stories in the Bible with which I can relate the most. This is one of them. Moses continues to tell God why he can't do it; God continues to negotiate. I'm struck by how God does not make Moses do anything. He does no…

Why Don't I Feel Like God is There?

There's a Reba McEntire song called, "What Do You Say?" that has a line that is repeated several times: "Just close your eyes and let your heart lead the way." She's talking about knowing what to say in difficult situations, but that line really stood out to me. It reminded of nearly every Christian I've met in my life.

Part of the major attractions of Post-modernism is that fact that deconstructionalism (i.e., the attempt to dismantle any sense of "absolutes" in reality, truth, etc.) attempts to make everything relative. Therefore, if truth is not the standard, but a preference, then I get to decide what I consider truth to be. Isn't this great? We no longer have to say things like, "we all know that's wrong or right," or "that's not fair." We can only say, "that does not keep the societal preferences." Now, this blog is not about how silly and inadequate this notion of ethics is; this blog is only …

"Since we are surrounded . . ."

My wife competed in her very first triathlon last weekend. It was a great event. To see 2500 women of various body sizes and ages wandering the landscape with multi-colored rubber hats on their heads was an intriguing sight. I was so proud of my wife. She looked just like the veterans (well, like the younger veterans).

It was a beautiful morning. The sun was barely breaking over the clouds when the event began. Her group was one of the last to begin. When she got into her group of purple-headed women to wade into the water, we all awaited for the announcer to commence the count-down. I teared-up several times: that was my wife; she was a bit scared; would she be safe? "Ready women?! 5 . . . 4 . . . 3 . . . 2 . . . 1 . . . Go!" Off she went like a minnow into the murky lake.

I cheered her on as she came out of the water, video camera in hand. “Yeah Elaine! You did it! You just swam over a half-mile! Wow! Keep going! Don’t stop!” I still fought back the tears. Up the hill she we…