You can often tell about a bill by its sponsors

In Massachusetts there is a bill that will effectively enable the children of illegal aliens to pay less for a college education than is true for the children of legal citizens.

Take a look at the sponsor of the bills and you’ll see how this makes sense in a kind of weird way. Howie Carr wrote about this in a recent column. Legislators who flaunt the law and don’t pay their taxes are submitting new laws. It boggles the mind. The bravado needed for this kind of assault on the MA taxpayer can only come from those who live on a planet where the buses don’t run.

Enough is enough!!! Scott Brown has taught us that local elections can change the nation. Let’s get local. Let’s get small and change the world. We are better off when these people go, and that is doable.

This is one book I expected to be on Kindle – and it was

The title is Thy Kingdom Connected: What the Church Can Learn from Facebook, the Internet, and Other Networks. If this book wasn’t on Kindle, then something about the metaphysics of the universe would have imploded. I downloaded my free sample to my Kindle and will see if I want to buy the entire book.

I am surprised at the number of people in the church who don’t want to be that connected. You would think Facebook is a communist plot and that tweeting is something done by a bird of prey. But the church that is easy with the technologies that connect people is a church with an edge in creating community and belonging to one another.

Being personally present to each other doesn’t just mean getting in a car and driving over. It includes that and sometimes demands it, but it more and more means an invitation into the warp and woof of one’s life by having the chat box open on Facebook, twittering a thought/prayer request/mood/need, text messaging a simple message, and otherwise just showing up in people’s lives.

Some churches are taking this very seriously and benefitting by it. Others are neutral, as in “the old ways still work”, and others see the number of the beast on technology.

Others who are considering fellowship with the church can come into the intricate patterns of fellowship more easily through technology. They can taste and then sense what is going on. Doors are kept open.

Is technology in church budgets in a major way? Not for the most part. It is a here and there thing, but the development of connections and the developing of a connected cultural digitally speaking is still optional for most churches. It shouldn’t be.

This is what Kindle users are afraid of

Macmillan books not available on Kindle. Amazon is effectively blocking certain books because of disagreements on pricing. I would think publishers can set their own prices and then Amazon can charge whatever discount it is willing to suffer. People will then buy or not buy the book. But to make the book unavailable is not the best solution.

Kindle’s formatting is proprietary while other E-books publish in an open source format, like the new Apple iPad. If Kindle isn’t careful, it’s going to get left behind when all other E-book readers use one format in common and Kindle holds out.  This could lead to certain books being available on one kind of E-reader and others available on a different E-reader.

If more books would end up on Kindle for a higher price, then I am game. Nothing more frustrating than using the Kindle and finding they haven’t provided the incentive book publishers need to publish in the Kindle format.

Mclaren on reading the Bible

I think there would be some more authentic biblical interpretation if we took this piece of advice from Brian Mclaren

My training [in literature] taught me to read for scenes and plots, not doctrines; for protagonists and antagonists, not absolute and objective truths; for character development and conflict resolution, not raw material to be processed into a system of beliefs; for resonances and common patterns among many texts and traditions, not merely for uniqueness or superiority of one text or tradition; for multiple layers of interpretation, not merely one sanctioned one. (55)

I know there are limits to this approach and they need to developed reasonably. But I think Christians would be the better off for understanding that the Bible is literature and not simply data. It tells stories and describes people in such a way that insight develops. People who ignore stories and simply want to get to the facts skip over the reality that when God wanted to communicate with us, it was stories he chose and not a systematic theology. That has something to say about how we come to an understanding of the truth.

Twitter and the “how much God is using me” syndrome

I really enjoy Twitter and following some people whose books I enjoy and whose ministry is pacesetting in addition to just keeping up with my friends.

But the “this is how God is using me” stuff gets tedious. Maybe everything some people do is just PR. I don’t want to believe that but it seems that some cannot speak in other ways. It gets oppressive.

Yes, I think, I love your books and how big your church is and how much money you raised for Haiti and how you started a new relief ministry overnnight, and so on and so on. Yes, God is using you. And it’s grand.

But in this kind of transaction something gets lost. It’s hard to describe. In the process of communicating that way you become an “it.” There is a distancing mechanism at work when all your communication is about how important you are to what God is doing. You would never say you say that. But believe me, you do. I am finding out a lot about how little you cooperate and get on other people’s turf where they are in charge. I am finding out that you don’t really get how big it all really is and how small each of us is no matter how big we appear. It gets tedious, man.

I also like to hear about lessons being learned and what you are catching other people doing well. For my personal friends I like to hear about the normal. Glad to know you are on vacation, to learn about books you’re reading, restaurants you enjoy, and so on. But for others who use Twitter as a fan base, I could use a bit less fanning.

Haggard’s complain about how their church treated them

With Gayle’s new book, Why I Stayed: The Choices I Made In My Darkest Hour, there is some focused attention on the failure of the Haggard’s church to respond in merciful ways. I don’t disagree from what was reported in Christianity Today. CT did not evaluate the process negatively but their description of it evidenced the typical overreaction of churches to sexual sin. I have seen this time and again. Once a church sinks its teeth into the neck of the prey, it can’t seem to let go. There is too much of a domineering spirit in such “discipline” cases. I have seen pastors submit to humiliating and demeaning “restorations” time and again. It’s a terrible thing to behold. Some people just love to “restore.” And by that I mean that they love knocking down a former leader a peg or two and keeping him under the yoke.

But it does not seem right to me for the Haggards to strike this note too loudly. Ted hit first. And once you strike the first blow you lose the right to complain that the church you brutalized by your behavior strikes back. Yes, they might have acted unmercifully and in all contradiction to the forgiveness their very Bible preaches. But you no longer have the right to preach how you should be treated once you violate the covenant. New Life Church has been to hell and back. And Ted put them there. He shouldn’t have done what he did, and New Life shouldn’t have done what they did.

My guess is that what that church did to Ted they did to others when Ted was the pastor. Did Ted do it too? Did he stop the church from harshness and overreaction? Or was he part of the system, the system that finally caught him in its teeth? He was most likely treated as the church had been taught to treat people who did what he was ultimately found to have done. Churches don’t change MO overnight.

You can bet that if Ted pastors again, he will rethink how we treat “sinners.” And when sinners start going to his church, he will be criticized for the kinds of people who go to his new church – people who fell short and finally understood how much they needed grace. I sometimes wonder if you can have that kind of church without plenty of that represented in your leadership.

You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train

Howard Zinn, historian and activist, just passed. His most famous work was “A People’s History of the United States”.

He titled his autobiography “You Can’t be Neutral on a Moving Train.” I like that title. He says of himself:  “From the start, my teaching was infused with my own history. I would try to be fair to other points of view, but I wanted more than ‘objectivity’; I wanted students to leave my classes not just better informed, but more prepared to relinquish the safety of silence, more prepared to speak up, to act against injustice wherever they saw it.”

To relinguish the safety of silence – that is the thing. As much as I talk, I am too often silent about what really matters, all because it would upset life as I and others know it. It will be my silence that will be my greater sin, not how much I talked but what I refused to talk about.

He reminds me of Gore Vidal. Vidal is not easy to listen to in interviews. He is so acerbic and seemingly ungrateful. But he speaks a lot of truth about our country. We can do better. We can be better.

Keller, Mohler and Piper still don’t get The Shack

Tim Keller wrote a piece recently on The Shack. (Here is Mohler’s piece). It felt like something he didn’t want to do but had to do do because of the popularity of the book. (This sounds like an MO for some leaders in the reformed community – they resist being informed and aware of what is moving through the church because it is beneath them. I have a lot of respect for Keller and think he is a breath of fresh air in the reformed ghetto. But there is still this tendency to be removed from something that almost the whole church likes or is moved by).

His piece is by and large negatively critical. Piper reaffirms Keller’s opinion piece in a recent tweet.

Why, O why? Why, O why? Such people see it as undermining some traditional doctrines of the church.  John Piper tweets “”The Shack deconstructs the holiness and transcendence of God.”

I don’t think so, anymore than “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”

I think that what Piper and company fail to grasp is that it is exactly the transcendence of God so many see, per Romans, where Paul writes that everyone sees God’s supreme power, though it might be a truth they work to suppress. What people don’t really get is that God outrageously loves and draws near to people like we know ourselves to be and that all things serve the purpose of that love.  Perhaps it is here that I part ways with the default mode of the reformed community. Tell people that God is holy and the reformed applaud and rejoice. Tell people that God loves them and they rush in with a thousand qualifications.

I read The Shack. I fell in love with our Trinitarian God all over again. I didn’t believe He was less glorious, less powerful, less holy. I experience the power of His love for Himself and the overflowing abundance of the dancing love of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Christians that I know who have read The Shack don’t end up denying the holiness and transcendence of God or diminishing these attributes. They end up on their knees worshiping, grateful for the love of God.