Blasphemy on Sunday morning

“The misuse of meaningful songs, or even only a lack of understanding and feeling in singing them communally, has a devastating effect. When we sing them in real community with the Holy Spirit, we sense something of innermost holiness. Such songs should be sung only at very special moments, only at times of God-given experiences. To suggest songs that were once written in the Spirit, with the idea of producing an atmosphere that does not exist, to sing ‘God is present with us!’ when no one feels that God really is present, to dare to sing ‘Lord of all, to Thee we bow’ when there is no real honoring of God’s greatness in the atmosphere of the meeting is a misuse that borders on the sin against the Holy Spirit.”

— Eberhard Arnold, God’s Revolution: Justice, Community, and the Coming Kingdom

Love will never come to nothing

Love will never come to nothing. Everything has an end but love. Love alone shall stand… Love clothes us for the wedding feast because God is love and love is God. He helps us out of all distress, and who shall take us far from him? Knowledge swells but love builds up. Everything done without love comes to ruin. Oh love! Oh love! Lead us with your hand and bind us together. False love is that which deceives us. Amen.

— Ludwig Haetzer, based on I Corinthians 13, Ausbund, 57:6-7

Beware of prayerless tears.

“Beware of prayerless tears and beware of tearless prayers.”

– Anonymous

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?

Plague-proofing your city

“If the good Lord sent the ten plagues of Egypt on New York City, I don’t think New York would even notice.”

– From a Garrison Keillor sketch

Can love be carried too far?

Consider this: if your fiancee loved you as much as you love God, would you break off the engagement? Soon God’s people will become his bride, though you don’t have to take part in that. Once the marriage takes place, if not before, his people will do nothing but worship him and praise him. Does that thought disturb you, of never ceasing to praise God? Do you have a hard time doing it now? Does the thought make heaven seem enslaving or boring? You don’t have to take part in that either. However, you may not like the alternative. There will be no alternative in heaven.

God has been relocated

“Where is Hollywood located? Chiefly between the ears. In that part of the American brain lately vacated by God.”

— Erica Jong, from How To Save Your Own Life

Theatrical illusion in the service of reality

The email appeared to be Christian spam, advertising a book and no personal greeting, but why did it come to me? I looked over the website it referred to, and then I could see why.

For thirty years Paul Kuritz was a respected (and atheistic) theater professor. Then, faced with personal crises and divine interventions, he found himself praying that God wouldn’t make him a born-again evangelical Christian. God did anyway, and Kuritz wrote more about his new perspective in the Porpoise Diving Life.

I wouldn’t agree with everything in the book The Fiery Serpent, which I haven’t read. For example, the email refers to the supposedly “undeniable truth: that Christian filmmaking and theatre… are having global impact on our world today.” I’ve already summarized my disappointing first-hand experience with imaginative conversions and Christian theater here. There really is a difference between drama and real life. You might also wonder how he can use Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Kazan’s On the Waterfront as examples in a book on Christian film and theater. But Kuritz is no wooly-minded, starry-eyed artiste. He doesn’t baptize the status-quo so much as he is calling for it to change. And he is calling for filmmakers and theater people to change.