30 July 2008

I'm 37! I'm not old!

(There's a Monty Python video embedded below, FYI, for those reading from the feedreederz.)

(I must admit, I kinda feel old.)

17 July 2008

Another World Is Possible

Another World is Possible
Living Into God's Jubilee Economy

Servant Leadership School
July 19
Suggested Donation $10 (includes lunch)


Global warming. Widespread hunger. People pushed out of their homes. Full-time jobs that don't even pay the basics. The world is not working; we've got ourselves a system that devastates the planet and exploits the majority for the benefit of a few.

What does our faith have to say about all this? How did the people of Israel and Jesus respond to the systems of economic domination they experienced in Egypt and Rome? How can Jesus’ followers and justice seekers live differently today?

Together, we'll collaborate on ways to embody a just and sustainable world now and transform our present structures. Another world is possible—and our faith calls us to it.


Cry Jubilee! The Biblical Paradigm of Alternative Economics
Jan Sullivan, Co-director of Ministry of Money

Why Jubilee? Created Crises, Current and Coming
David Hilfiker, Author of Urban Injustice: How Ghettos Happen

Do Jubilee! Workshops Include:
Redistribution Circles with Relational Tithe
Local Alternative Economies with Anacostia Hours
International Debt Activism with Jubilee USA
Challenging Gentrification with Empower DC
Community Investing with David Hilfiker
Talking Money in Church with Ministry of Money


Servant Leadership School
1640 Columbia Rd. NW
Washington, DC 20009

Register by calling 202.328.0072

16 July 2008

Not for the faint of heart

This little piece of dramatic art from Canadian filmmaker Mathieu Ratthe is heart-wrenching. It's also wise. I won't tell you what teaching(s) (of Jesus, and many others) I think it illustrates, because, well, that would be telling. But please be warned: don't hit "play" if you find disturbing images and situations hard to take. Seriously.

07 July 2008


Reminder: NoVA Cohort tonight!

Monday, July 7, 8 pm (Look for Cohort signs at the tables)
Glory Days Grill
3059 Nutley Street
Fairfax, VA 22031
Phone (703) 204-0900

AND: DC Cohort tomorrow night!

We will meet Tuesday July 8 at the Front Page at 7pm. We will debreif on Shane Claiborne's Jesus for President tour, get updates on the Church Basement Road show that will swing through DC on July 31at 7pm at American University and otherwise carry-on.

Hope you can come out!

The Front Page is located at Dupont Circle http://www.frontpageresturant.com/

Y'all come!

01 July 2008


Seeing as how it keeps coming up lately (and seeing as how I just attended a subversively wonderful rally on such topics), I thought I'd say a few words about my ever-evolving perspective on secular government. My thoughts on this have been shaped by such practical theologians as Shane Claiborne, Chris Haw, a monkey named Mojo (whom I understand is nothing more than a mouthpiece for Walter Wink), Matt Pritchard, and Marguerite Welton St. Lawrence.

Here's where I stand these days, more or less. Biblically speaking, secular government is Caesar, or Babylon. God really didn't want God's people to have kings, but we insist on having them. Our governments are never going to save us. They are not going to be kingdom-oriented. If we are faithfully following our Lord, we will probably get in trouble with government at one point or another - God knows Jesus and his original followers did.

We should concentrate on following in the way of Jesus, serving and blessing everyone we meet, and stop waiting for laws and policies to make life the way God dreams it could be. And we Christians should be, at the very least, deeply suspicious of any power that uses force (violent force or merely legal, authoritarian force) to compel behavior, no matter how desireable that behavior. That's the way of Caesar. It's not the way of Christ.

Does this mean I completely equate the US government with the Roman or Babylonion empires? Absolutely not. The US is a republic. Whether our democratic process works well or not, there is a very real sense in which our government acts on our behalf, in our name, if we are US citizens. There's a very real sense in which the slaughter of tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians and thousands of Western soldiers has happened in our name. There's a very real sense in which the torture of countless "enemy combatants" has happened in our name.

That's why I believe that US citizens, even Christians, really do have a responsibility to some minimal involvement in the political process: damage control. Caesar is always going to be Caesar. He's never going to be Christ, and quite honestly, he's never going to be someone who follows closely in the way of Christ. (He'd get fired.) But a Caesar who does not condone torture is hugely preferable to one who authorizes, commands, and defends the torture of unnumbered children of God in my name. It is worth spending an hour in line at my local polling place to try to pick the lesser of two evils, because we have seen how evil the greater evil can be.

Caesar always sucks. My hope is not in Caesar. But in a republic, we do not have the luxury of claiming that this is not our problem.

And that's what I think about that.

Certainty and control

I concluded a recent post with the following question: If I feel that God is calling me and/or my community (present or future) to emerge into a radically different way of being and doing Church, what am I willing to lose?

You may ask, "So, Mr. Rude Armchair, exactly what do you suppose this rhetorical 'I' might have to give up?" (No-one did ask, truth be told, but in my benevolence I'll tell you anyway.)

I think a lot of the answer boils down to two things (which may actually be one thing): certainty and control. But that works itself out very differently for folks with different stories. For a lot of folks from a more evangelical background, the biggest difference in the "postmodern" or "emerging" space is the letting go of certainty regarding our "perfect" understanding of matters of doctrine. This shift can be extremely stressful, as is obvious from the history of the emerging church conversation.

And for folks from all over the established church (but especially, I think, folks like me from a more "mainline" background), the biggest difference might be a letting go of certainty and control regarding matters of church structure, polity (church leadership), and career-related issues. Postmodern folk are frequently no too keen on stuff like hierarchy, positional authority, lay/clergy divides, and regularly scheduled stewardship beg-a-thons that are necessary to fund a model where professional clergy make 100% of their living from their job as a pastor, priest, bishop, apostle, or whatnot.

This means that if you are one of those professional clergy, and you feel called to move in an an "emergent" direction, then I honestly feel that one of the questions you must ask yourself is, "how will I feed my family and pay the mortgage?" Because the traditional answer, "From my church paycheck, of course", is going to be less and less tenable in an emerging context. I know many people who have unhappily discovered this.

There are many ways to creatively answer this question, even for folks who feel like they have no other marketable skills than those of a pastor. (I guess that's one good aspect to traditional churches expecting pastors to be omnigifted - pastors need to be able to do all kinds of things, many of which can be sources of secular income.) And there are ways for couples and communities to plan creative ways to make sure that everyone gets by - smplicity, sharing (Acts 2), entrepreurial ventures, etc.

I would also go so far as to give this advice to folks feeling the call to ministry in an emergent context, but doing something completely different now: don't plan to go to seminary, get ordained (if that's something they do in your tradition), and then expect to support your family going forward on a pastor's salary at an emerging church. I'm not saying that's impossible - it's entirely possible - but I am saying that it's hard, and will (I believe) get harder as more people step out into the wild, uncertain freedom that is emerging.

As much as I suspect that failure might be a necessary step in emergence, don't set yourself up for that kind of failure, that "OMG, my whole plan for supporting my family is totally not working - now what do I do?" kind of failure. Yes, if you step out into the land of uncertainty and having to find creative solutions to such problems, you run the risk of that very thing happening anyway - but I think it's important to expect it, as opposed to expecting that a traditional church structure, a traditional pastor's role, a full-time paycheck, etc. are a certainty, and that you can control the emergence of your community in such a way as to gaurantee the viability of those things.

So what do you get when you give up certainty and control? You get things like freedom, risk, constant change, and hope. It's not a simple either/or, of course, but it's important, I think, to pray hard about what sort of context God is calling us to.

photo by sgs_1019 (rights)