Archive for May, 2005

How to be jolted

New perspectives help us to see our faith more clearly, and they are desperately needed. I find new perspectives from two sources. One is historical: people used to act like us and it didn’t work out, or people used to not act like us and it worked better. The other is cultural: Christians in China don’t do that/have that/need that and they do better than us.

Nailing Five Theses to the door of the church

A Christian friend who came from a non-Christian background explains some of the differences in that vantage point compared to people who were raised in church :

  1. Talking about God’s presence in a situation honors Him and recognizes His role.  It’s a privilege to recognize him.  vs. Let’s be quiet about our faith in Jesus because we don’t want to overwhelm people.  Why don’t people in the church want to talk about God?
  2. When we tell each other problems in the church, we should pray for each other.  vs. Why do these people tell me their problems?  I have enough garbage in my own life to deal with.  Why don’t they take responsibility & just pray about it?  Why don’t people pray for each other in person as problems come up?
  3. The church is the body of Christ.  vs.  Biological family is the main thing that holds people together in groups.  Why don’t people offer hospitality to one another and include others in their lives even if they aren’t related by blood?
  4. How can I be growing as a follower of Jesus Christ?  vs.  What, a daily quiet time?  I know I should, but the pastor is asking too much of my time this week.  I have so much to do.  Why is spending time with Jesus not a priority?
  5. How can we give glory to God with the spiritual gifts he has given us?  vs.  Why practice so hard to do the arts well?  It’s just for us, and we don’t care if it’s in tune or not.   Why does the church settle for mediocrity when it comes to the arts?

Any questions? Any answers?

Truth is not static.

In one sense, truth is static, written in heaven, but our understanding of it is imperfect so not static.

In another sense, truth is relational. What is good news will change depending on the needs of the hearer. The broken-hearted need mercy, and the unrepentant need law.

Art or craft?

Some Christian artists believe that anything done for God is acceptable, even if it’s artistically flawed, if it quotes enough scripture or something. And others confuse spirit and soul, and believe that as long as it stirs your aesthetic sensibilities, it’s acceptable as Christian art. One approach is to think of ourselves as craftsmen instead of artists. Our job is to make well what needs making. Our job isn’t to fit some stereotype of an artist, or to expose our inmost expressions (express our fascinating self) to the world. (more…)

Mind of the Maker

All real art has a vision behind it. Characters take on a life of their own, paintings turn out differently than you planned. You can’t go against this vision without completely changing the work, and probably making the work less believable. (more…)

Violence produces justice

People who turn the other cheek don’t get much respect. Oh, some admire us for our constancy. But if they really want to get something done, and done quickly, most people count on weaponry.

Before 1966, nearly all of the American civil rights movement was committed to Christian nonviolence. Then some young black leaders began calling for “black power.” They demanded to know how passive resistance could ever bring freedom to their people.

In spite of my non-resistant Anabaptist beliefs, I have to confess that they had a good point. Historically, violence has been one of the most powerful tools for spreading justice and righteousness. Don’t believe it? Read on. (more…)

Winning through nonintimidation

I just finished reading “The Children” by David Halberstam, about the nonviolent students who integrated lunch counters in Nashville. It gives me insight into what it’s really like to turn the other cheek, and how love is more powerful than hate. Some of these early leaders were young black fundamentalists, but unfortunately the book implies that nobody in those days had both a social conscience and a high view of the Bible.

What I like about that group is that most of them were motivated by their Christian faith and believed in nonviolence as a way of life, not just a temporary tactic. Even some who had lost their childhood faith seemed to be able to share in this fellowship. As if they had trouble believing the Christianity of their Sunday school but no trouble believing the Christianity of the civil rights movement. But by 1966 their organization, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, had been taken over by non-religious black power/black separatism advocates who wanted to abandon nonviolence.

Chinese water torture evangelism

So many Christians think they’re supposed to inject religious words into their conversation (“After all, he says his word will not return void!”) – the Chinese water torture method of evangelism. But I don’t think that bears any fruit. We’re supposed to not cast pearls before swine, to refrain from saying things that people wouldn’t understand or appreciate anyway. I like the times when an honest answer to their question unavoidably gives glory to God. When I really did trust God, not just was supposed to have trusted to God. “Well, you know, I just need to depend on God’s strength day by day” but I have to be careful to say that only when I do.