Thanks to my buddy Dave…”We all Give God the Blues!”

 

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The Demise of Facebook – at least in my life

Facebook_like_thumbYes friends, I'm back from a bit of time away from the blog posting.  It's really a great thing to walk away from technology from a bit.  In fact, I'm going to have to reflect with a tad more intentionality of my "issues" with how technology dominates much of my life.  Betweeen texts and emails ALONE, technology can become oppressive.  Even so, that is not the purpose of this post.  Allow me to get to the point…

I'm not a Prophet…never have claimed to be one and don't desire that mantle.  I do understand prophetic "ministry" and the prophetic office though.  I do know that sometimes people speak out the words and insights of God in a "thus saith the Lord" kinda way.  That's good and all of us who follow Jesus and live Kingdom lives need that.  I've been the recipient of many prophetic "utterances" in books, conversations, and other means.  I get that.  It would be more appropriate to say here and now that prophets in the bible had little to do with predictive/fortune telling type of action than they did "reading the signs of the times" from a God-centered perspective.  It doesn't always take some movement of God in your life to see where people's actions and activities are taking them.  It is sometimes simple to be able to come to some conclusions on how a "train wreck" is approaching because you can see the "trains" out of control and on a collision course.  So, that's where I'm heading today.

After a 10 day period away from technology, I was able to jump back in with some renewed perspectives.  First of all, I rebooted my great iPhone and immediately received the icon prompt of the many "comments" that I could view on Facebook.  I did just that…and that's when it hit me – Facebook is going to "die" as a cultural phenomenon.  Better yet, maybe its more accurate to say that it will go into some sort of "background noise" status in our culture.  Why?  For a couple of reasons – first of all, Facebook is the playground of the "unboundaried," voyeuristic, narcissistic, and lonely.  More and more, I'm fascinated with how Facebook is being utilized by people to be impressed with themselves, or to air their insecurities or to publicly unload feelings and insipid activities in their lives that they believe the "world" cares about.  I know that may be a bit harsh (in fact, it is harsh…yikes!) but you know it to be true.  Put it this way – I'm embarrassed about some of the things I see on Facebook.  TOO much public self-disclosure is inappropriate.  In addition, people say and do things in public media that they would NEVER do in "person" which brings out the the potentiality (as most of us have seen) of creating more and more personas over time.  What most people are doing on Facebook is relating to personas…in fact, it becomes more of a video game existence on Facebook as "avatars" relate with each other not the reality of life but a fantasy type of existence where characters vie for attention and recognition.  I really believe that sane people are getting tired of that…I really do.

Secondly, as one of my friends pointed out, people are not able to have real conversations on Facebook…the "freedom" that comes from typing out comments on a keyboard instead of looking at another person in the eye gives some a false sense of courage.  It leads to people saying stupid, mean, and outright offensive remarks that doesn't promote relationship but actually tears it down.  For example, one of my friends who often posts articles and comments from religious leaders around the world frequently gets "FB BLASTED" by others who berate and condemn just for the sake that they CAN within the Facebook context.  You don't have to be patient with people on Facebook…you just verbally take your shot and move on.  The vitriol that I often read coming out of responses to people's thoughtful remarks about world events, etc. is not only alarming but downright hateful. I believe that honest people who are looking for honest conversations about pertinent issues in our world will most likely take their conversations back to where they at least get a fair hearing.  

Lastly, advertising…I turned on my iPhone after my stretch of being away from technology.  I looked at the Facebook comments and then went to my status update section to take a quick peek at people's comments only to find that I had to bypass every second or third post because it was an ad for an app or other type of service that was for sale.  Facebook used to partition ads.  Now it looks more and more that businesses and entrepreneurs are using social media for sales.  I get that…but social media was intended more for relationships than branding and buying and selling.  I believe people (I know I have) will and are getting tired of that reality on Facebook.  When we are exposed to 1000's of ads a day in and through innumerable means, many of us will opt out of something that is more and more ad driven.  For example, one of the reasons I dropped reading the newspaper is because of ads.  I found that there was more print space dedicated to sales than to stories.  The actual "news" in the newspaper would merit one or two pages.  The rest…well, you know what I mean.  

So, there you go – over time, the sane will get tired of the insecure and narcissistic…people will desire what should be the standard in relationships, conversations about real life issues in real time, face to face encounters where there is some level of emotional accountability…and lastly, aren't we all tired of getting sold something?  I'm tired of how consumerism has redefined life (but that's for another post). My conclusion, many of us will opt out of Facebook OR cut our involvement back and discover other means of communicating and connecting with cadres of acquaintances.  That's my take…what say you?

Darwin’s Doubt – If you have a “Scientific brain”, read it. If you don’t, read it anyway!

Darwin's Doubt coverMany of you know me and what I'm about to post should not come as a surprise.  I'm NOT a scientist. In fact, my entire academic career and life's journey has been dedicated to what many would call the "humanities."  My work and my interests lie in literature, music, philosophy, theology, missiology, practical theology, biblical study and the like.  Truth is I didn't do too well in science classes.  Call it a lack of interest or simply outside of my wiring pattern, scientific endeavors weren't my cup of tea.  

Which brings me to the question – why did I read Stephen Meyer's GREAT book, Darwin's Doubt. Here's the reason, pure and simple – the subject matter of this GREAT book (did I mention it was GREAT) is not only at the cutting edge of scientific conversation these days but is also at the crossroads of a clash in culture regarding worldviews.  And THAT is what I'm very interested in.

For those of you who are following the debate between science and "religion"…for those of you who feel like there are innumerable Jesus followers who purposely stick their heads in the sand regarding issues like those covered by Meyer's GREAT book…for those of you who are curious and fascinated by the growing conversation between religious communities and the scientific world…for those of you who have conversations and relationships with younger generations who have been exposed to a "naturalistic,"  "humanistic," "secularistic" worldview, this book is for you!  What the book does is thoroughly explain, not just the history of the debate between Neo-Darwinism and those in the scientific community who have brought evidence and hypotheses to the table to refute, or at least, challenge what many people (including me) believe is cultural dogma, it also truthfully underscores the BIG issue – that being worldview and how worldview captures one's pre-assumptions and steers one's conclusions no matter what side of Darwinian fence they reside.  

I must admit, there were many, many parts of the book that simply went too far for me especially from a technical perspective.  I'm not a chemist, paleontologist, biologist or genetic engineer.  I can appreciate their stories and findings AND I can clearly see why Meyer wanted to clearly articulate his argument using highly technical language.  Even so, Meyer does a great service to the reader by attempting to practically illustrate every scientific insight.  I really enjoyed the pictures (in other words)!  Yep, you read that right…there are great pictures in the book!  What Meyer did though is give the reader a THOROUGH history of the scientific debate regarding Neo-Darwinian orthodoxy.  Without being dogmatic, insulting, superficial or defensive, Meyer does what many theologians and pastors MUST do – he is patient with the conversation and approaches this debate with humility and forthrightness.  I appreciated that!  I've read other books that are hysterically ignorant or demeaning to anyone who doesn't adhere to their worldview and, even more importantly, purposely mix condemnation in with very little intellectual honesty. Meyer doesn't succumb to either.  

What is downright BRILLIANT about the book is how Meyer specifies the truth about the clashes in worldview.  In Christendom and Modernity, the essential assumption alive within every intellectual endeavor was that there was a "higher power," or deity that was alive in the cosmos.  In that instance, the starting point of assumption was a theistic worldview.  That had implications for every intellectual discipline.  NOW, in the 21st century (and really that which began in the 19th century) there is a deliberate "split" in the worldview launching pad.  For some, theism is the lens through which they interpret the world.  For others, non-theism is their doctrine.  The issue though is that for those who are NON-theistic, any discussion of any topic that brings "design" (aka God) into inquiry is faulty and not worthy of engagement.  Here's a quote from the last chapter of Meyer's book:

"For many scientists and scholars…a scientifically informed worldview was a materialistic worldview in which entities such as God, free will, mind, soul, and purpose play no role.  Scientific materialism, following classical Darwinism, denied evidence of any design in nature and, therefore, any ultimate purpose to human existence."  

Or consider this:

"…the case for design supports us in our existential confrontation with the void and the seeming meaninglessness of physical existence – the sense of survival for survival's sake that follows inexorably from a materialist worldview.  Richard Dawkins and other New Atheists may find it untroubling, even amusing and certainly profitable, to muse over the prospect of a universe without purpose.  But for a vast majority of thoughtful people, that idea is tinged with terror…the evidence of a purposeful deign behind life…offers the prospect of significance, wholeness and hope."

You see, here's the rub…Neo-Darwinism at its core is a NON-theistic worldview.  Non-theists attack any theory or even evidence of any "worldview" other than a materialistic worldview as religious naivety.  Meyer states that the theory of intelligent design is not based upon religious belief nor does it provide PROOF of God's existence.  It has faithful implications and potentially opens more dialog between intellectual communities.  What DOES become important is how Neo-Darwinism has been dogmatically protected by some at the purposeful expense of ANY religious adherence and conversation.  Just as it is wrong, in my view, to marginalize or mock those coming from a materialistic perspective, so it is just as damaging and hysterical to minimize the importance of honest evidence of an injection of "information" into the evolutionary process that may (remember this is a theory) be prime evidence for some "higher" intelligence in cosmological origins.  

I liked this book – I actually felt "smarter" for reading it.  Of course, I also felt like an idiot at the same time!  But the journey was well worth it.  I enjoyed getting a bird's eye historical view of the scientific debate but, primarily, appreciated Meyer's ability to summarize the broader worldview issues at stake. Meyer summarizes the scientific debate well and provides a helpful worldview conversation that illumines a very pertinent topic in post-modern culture.  Did I mention it is a GREAT book?   

Yep, “The Cosmic Egg” might sound strange but it works!

1strangeReflections on Things
Hidden, Scripture as Spirituality
, Richard Rohr

“The genius
of the biblical story is that, instead of simply giving us ‘seven habits for
highly effective people,’ it gives us permission and even direction to take
conscious ownership of our own story at every level, every part of life and
experience.  God will use all of this
material, even the negative parts, to bring us to life and love.
” Richard Rohr

I’ve said a
lot of strange things over the years.  In
fact, I have a foot print safely, securely and evidently etched in my mouth to
remind me of how many times it has been stuck there.  Even so, what I’m about to write, for many of
you, might be the “topper.”  It may go
near, if not absolutely to, the top of the list in terms of strange.  But hear me (rather, “read” me) out. This post is on what Rohr calls, "The Cosmic Egg."  Though on the surface this might sound weird
it has all the substance necessary to not only change your perspective on
scripture but also give it a new sense of meaning. 

As we
proceed, take a careful look at the following illustration scanned specifically
from Things Hidden:

 
Doc - Aug 12, 2013, 8-50 AM

This is how
Rohr explains the “Egg”:

“Picture
three domes of meaning.  The smallest
dome of meaning is my private story, “This is me,” “My story.”  It is subjective, interpersonal, self-help,
psychological language (Ed. Note – culturally shaped by the language of culture
over the past decades).  It is very good,
as far as it goes.  There is a second and
larger dome of meaning that encloses the first. 
“This is us,” “Our story.”  This
is where most people have lived their lives…their ethnicity, their gender,
their group, their religion, their occupation. 
The biblical tradition honors both of these domes of meaning.  “This is me” and “This is us” are both part
of the narrative.  The third dome of
meaning that encloses and regulates the two smaller ones is called, “The
Story.”  By this, I mean the patterns
that are always true.  The biblical
tradition takes all three levels seriously: 
My Story, Our Story and THE Story. 
Biblical revelation is saying that the ONLY WAY you can understand in
any depth THE Story is to walk through and take responsibility for your
personal story and also for your group story.” 

Things Hidden, pages 20-24

Frankly, I
found this image EXTREMELY helpful!  As a
student of and lover of scripture, I need to understand that I constantly bring
my little world into the biblical story always at the expense of the meaning of
the text.  In other words, I reduce the
level of the text’s meaning and potentiality to something that I can understand,
appreciate, and with which I can agree. 
UNFORTUNSTLY, that reduces the text and it negates its meaning by making
it purely into a collection of sayings that back ME up instead of revealing to
me a bigger God and Story that calls into a new reality and life.  When MY story trumps THE Story, the bible is
no more than a mirror for me to enjoy my reflection (the very definition of narcissism)
instead of being the “cradle of Jesus” (Martin Luther’s phrase, not mine) or,
better yet, a divinely inspired and created light that illuminates and
challenges me with a bigger world. 
That’s why so many of the followers of Jesus that I know (including
myself at times) don't really “get” 2 Timothy 3:16-17.  We say to ourselves, “yeah I can agree with
the fact that the bible is divinely inspired” but it isn’t good for in the way
Paul says.  IT IS ONLY GOOD for being
something that affirms ME, my perspective, my view of the world and my comfort
level of spiritual formation, understanding and development.  We purposely ignore the “correction, reproof,
and training for righteousness” stuff because it is TOO BIG of a Story to
comprehend and live (we understand intuitively that THE Story is really where
life is but we ignore it the best we can because we know that once we acknowledge
a larger story, we lose our place on the throne of our lives).  Let me put it this way and I’ll move on – we
impose our small view of the world and God on the bigger story purely so that
we can control, avoid, and continue to live self-focused and self-perpetuating
lives.

So, here’s
the rub.  MY story…YOUR story is not THE
story.  Our stories are essentially
stories driven by our own self-interest, perspectives, context and
preferences.  To “impose” our story upon
the world (especially the bible) is to transpose those stories to “subject”
status, in other words, placing them “under” our story of meaning.  When that happens, these other stories
rendered meaningless at best.  Let me say
it like this – when our story becomes THE story then WE become God and God is
reduced to little more than a servant or better yet slave to our interpretation
of the world.  We start reading into spirituality,
especially the bible, what WE want to see that is affirming to our
perspective.  We turn the bible not into
a revelation of THE Living Word drawing us into a bigger story of meaning and
purpose and life but rather we reduce it to a collection of hand-picked
snippets that say nothing more than we are right and that OUR story matters
more than anything or anyone else’s. 

It is vital
to know and to live the fact that our story ONLY finds perspective and meaning
in THE Story.  Once that occurs, we don’t
have to be threatened, judgmental or frightened in entering other people’s
stories.  Their story is being unfolded
in a larger story just as ours is…the difference is that they may not have
“eyes to see and ears to hear” the larger story.  Our story, as it fits in the larger story,
gives our story vitality, purpose, perspective (even in times of pain because
our pain, tragedy, etc.  “fits” in THE
Story where there is life and meaning even in the most PAINFUL of sufferings).  Hence, it gives us the courage and freedom to
share our story and to allow other people’s stories to have meaning EVEN WHEN
they are disconnected or ignorant or rebellious of entering or even acknowledging
that THE Story exists. 

So, this
image works for me!  It gives my life and
your life necessary spiritual perspective that is honoring to and acknowledging
TRUE reality but it also frees me (and us) to enter other people’s stories
without condemnation, belittlement, or dismissal.  So friends, as biblical lovers and students,
let’s embrace the text for what it is – a revelation of HIS-Story in which we
truly find ourselves and God’s freedom, peace and purpose. 

I know, I
know…a little heavy today but necessary deep waters to navigate. 

Things Hidden – Are you ready for the INFINITE?


572545-3-crossing-infinity“Are we ready for something infinite or not?"  Richard Rohr

What a
perplexing, provocative and stunning question, huh?  Think about that for a minute and you will
most likely discover, like me, that you have NO CLUE about how to answer
it?  Why? 
Because, in essence, we are materialists.  Yes, we say we believe and trust in God even
so we are focused primarily on the here and now.  The only time where “infinity” crosses our
minds is if we are exposed to some sort of complex mathematical issue or
watching some “cosmos oriented” television program or reading a book that tries
to sum up the eternal search for answers about “the great unknown” beyond the
grave.  Yet, if the truth were exposed
for all to see, we are pretty much stuck in our prevailing existential paradigm
– we are sensual creatures caught in the moment with eyes and ears and touch
that holds on to purely what are senses can attain.

Now before
you start accusing me of being a pessimist, consider this – when you are with a
child and face an issue where they have to embrace some sort of “delayed
gratification” what is there reaction? 
“I want it NOW!”  If you think
about that, delayed gratification, waiting, planning, looking into the future
for MOST PEOPLE is frustrating, dizzying, and frankly something they avoid like
the plague.  Why do most diets fail for
people?  Because they can’t ready themselves
for infinity…they have to satisfy their needs in the moment despite what it
will do to their futures.  Why do 99% of
new years resolutions fail?  Again,
people rarely deal with what is down the road…we are always struggling in the
moment, rationalizing, excusing, and making judgment calls that meet our needs
in the moment without consideration for eternity.  We are an “I want it now” being.  Even consider what happened back in the
Garden of Eden…what is that old cliché, “a bird in the hand is worth two in the
bush?”  Well, for Adam and Eve, a piece
of fruit in the hand was worth trading the promise of infinity for the
temporary satisfaction of an appetite. 
Someone once told me that cows were one big appetite…truthfully friends,
human beings are not much different.  We
just don’t “moo” and give milk…but we are the same when it comes to “feeding
our moments.” 

So that
takes me back to the Rohr quote above. 
Rohr makes a point in the first chapter of Things Hidden to talk a bit about our rejection of infinite meaning
in exchange for private meaning.  In
addition, he says that it is that dynamic that hinders us from really wrestling
with and being transformed by the biblical text.  In other words,

“…Biblical revelation says that we are
essentially related to something Infinite. 
It says that, in fact, we cannot know the full meaning of our life until
we see we are a little strand in a much larger tapestry.”

Instead of
being stuck and fixated on self-importance, the bible (because it is not only
the REVELATION of who God is but also because it embodies the LIVING WORD – the
same WORD that brought everything in existence – that is transformational by
its very essence) calls us into infinity. 
It calls us to embrace a relationship with God and become a person who
is driven not by finite appetites but for a yearning for eternity. 

I like what
Rohr says here,

“Most of religion, historically, expected we
would come to God by finding spiritual locations, precise rituals or right
words.  Our correct behavior or morality
would bring us to God or God to us…biblical revelation is that God is manifest
in the ordinary, in the actual, in the daily, in the now, in the concrete
incarnations of life.”

And if we
discover that God is moving in our ordinary lives, at the same time we discover
that God is pulling us into a time, place and action that is NOT limited to
just the here and now.  God gives meaning
in life HERE AND NOW but also says that we have MORE OF REAL LIFE to embrace as
we follow Him into the “infinite” (we would call that eternity).  Jesus said is well when He announced, “the Kingdom
of God is here” (Mark 1).  Most people
heard that and expected ONLY here and now implications (and there were
miraculous revelations of God’s presence in and through the ministry of Jesus)
but Jesus was saying MUCH, MUCH more. 
God brought infinity into our finite world through Jesus.  No longer was infinity tied to a place and
only exposed to a certain, select group. 
NOW, eternity was available to all. 
In fact, think like this – INFINITY lives in you as you trust in Jesus
and live His gift of Grace.  You are not
stuck in the moment…you have the Spirit of God living in you and that Spirit is
INFINITE and eternal.  Transformation for
every disciple is taking place as we treasure less of the “closed system” of
the mundane (only the here and now and what can be experienced sensually) and
look more for the infinite, the eternal, the life of God’s Spirit in every
moment.  Are YOU ready for the
INFINITE?  Follow Jesus and you’ll be
amazed!