I read an article in the New York Times about the popularity of tweets (Twitter posts/updates for those non-users) from Christians who post inspiring or supposedly meaningful phrases in 160 characters or less. The article, entitled “Twitter Dynamos, Offering Word of God’s Love” appeared in the @nytimes June 2, 2012 print copy and online in their technology section.
The tweets that have gained popularity are those that are uplifting or inspiring. Often, popular religious Twitter users, who gain massive amounts of “followers,” quote lines from the Bible that resonate with Christians or really any human who is seeking some type of fulfillment or encouragement. The idea of Twitter and personal fulfillment is quite interesting. What is it that people find rewarding from feel-good and cliche phrases that are often more empty than fulfilling?
Don’t get me wrong. There are short proverbial phrases that are valuable and various social media outlets can be good tools for communicating and networking. I use Twitter and other social media outlets to ask questions, pose thoughts, or connect (as shallow as it may be) with other thinkers and writers around the earth. Twitter is my primary source for links to news, video, information about publications, book releases, direct trade coffee, and European footballers’ contracts, strategies, and statistics. My concern is that the modern, popular expression and understanding of Christianity becomes cheapened to quotable one-liners that promote the acceptance of a therapeutic form of religion that does not represent the person of Jesus.
One other danger rests in the act of reading about Christianity and social justice initiatives and a consequent feeling like we’re somehow involved in the goodness of the world. How might we use social media outlets as a means of connectivity and resourcing while not compromising the call to be followers of Jesus, representing compassion and enacting theology? Is it possible to responsibly engage in Christian formation via Twitter? How might we most effectively shape our culture in a world of instantaneous, mass, online-social communication?
Some empty rituals are empty. Others are not.
When we think of rituals we typically think of religious-type rituals. I would suggest that there is no ritual that is not religious. We go about our lives and much like rituals performed at “religious services,” our practices are meaningless. Have you ever really stopped to consider, “Why do we do this?” Is it just a ritual of our culture? Something we’ve been taught?
“This is just how things are.”
“It’s just a part of our system.”
We go about our lives because we adapt to the ways things have always been done. Empty religious rituals.
Some empty rituals are not empty. But these are the rituals that I think we do not practice because we’re busy practicing empty rituals. What rituals do we need to practice that allow us to empty our lives in order that we might make space to be filled by the love of God? A love that will inform our ability to practice rituals that are life giving – to ourselves and to others.
For a number of years many people have liked Rob Bell because he is different. He is passionate, engaging, energetic, insightful, and creative with refreshing language and perspective.
For a number of years many people have not liked Rob Bell because he is too different. He has been accused of embracing humanism and pluralism and paganism and many other -isms.
Just when people have (for better or worse) been getting used to Bell , his speaking tours, podcasts, NOOMA videos, and books named with stars, sex, and velvet, he produces something else that is, well… different. If you haven’t watched the Resurrection video you can view it below.
You may be distracted by the visual elements included in the production. However, that which the effects represent is something that we too often don’t even see. As products of modernism, we insist on a logical reasoning and scientific proofing while we close our eyes to the supernatural things all around us. We insist that the only things that are real are the things that our sensory perceptive capacity enables us to see or taste or touch or smell or hear. Like the biblical character Thomas who had to see the holes that wounded Jesus on the cross, we ignore the possibility that things are happening all around us that exceed our quite limited human comprehension. Hence, resurrection:
Resurrection: Rob Bell from The Work of Rob Bell on Vimeo.
Go on up to the mountain of mercy
To the crimson perpetual tide
Kneel down on the shore
Be thirsty no more
Go under and be purified
Follow Christ to the holy mountain
Sinner sorry and wrecked by the fall
Cleanse your heart and your soul
In the fountain that flowed
For you and for me and for all
At the wonderful, tragic, mysterious tree
On that beautiful, scandalous night you and me
Were atoned by His blood and forever washed white
On that beautiful, scandalous night
On the hillside, you will be delivered
At the foot of the cross justified
And your spirit restored
By the river that poured
From our blessed Savior’s side
“Teaching Little Kyla…”
A series on Travis and Sarah’s journey of parental flubs, flaws, failures and accidental^ fortune.
When Kyla begins to pray she now touches her forehead, then her chest, then crosses her shoulders while saying, “In the name of the Fahver, in the name of the Son, and the Holwy Spiwint.” She proceeds to give thanks for the most simple things in life. Her genuine gratitude really shows and I’ll tell you more about that in my next post.
After seeing and hearing Kyla do the sign of the cross, someone asked her, “Are you catholic?” To which I replied, “Of course she’s catholic.” The word catholic means “one, universal.” The people of God are one church. There may be some organizational nomenclature that distinguishes one gathering of the church from another gathering of the church but ultimately there is only one church, the people of God.
Scott Peterson, University Chaplain at MVNU, asked last night if I have read the book “Who Will be Saved?” by William H. Willimon. I have yet to read it but am putting that as a priority on my reading list. Scott disclosed that the essential theme of the text recognizes the tension between “the narrow way” of Jesus and a universalist perspective that suggests all paths of religion or the unlimited grace of God allow all people access to God (I am not attempting fully or accurately describe universalism; that is a conversation for another day). If I recall the conversation with Scott correctly, he said that Willimon (in the previously mentioned text or another) suggests that those who will be saved must be a part of the church.
What does it mean to be a part of the church?
What does it mean to be identified by the sign of the cross?
^ There is someone(s) greater than me/us (a divine being and a community of people) that intercede with grace and giving.
God is not a man. Not a white man. Not an old man. Check out the video and comment your thoughts below. What made you chuckle and why? Ultimately is it because of not-love that you extend toward certain people for certain things? What is theologically good and what is theologically ridiculous?
It appears as though my last post was published on August 11 – almost a month ago. I suppose there is a reason why I have not written in nearly a month. On August 12 I was offered and accepted a new position at MVNU, where I have served as a Resident Director for the last 3 years. I am now in the position formerly known as the Associate Dean. Though the listed responsibilities are essentially and/or technically the same as in previous years, the name of the position has changed, symbolically reflecting the change that I will/am bring/bringing. I am serving as the Director of Student Involvement and Accountability in the Office of Student Development. My title is the next-to-longest name second only to Rick Teasdale (not to be confused with an actual person), the Assistant Associate Vice Regional Director to the Chancellor of Student Services. My new role at MVNU includes serving as an advisor to the Student Government Association, chairing of the University Judicial Council and Campus Life Council, providing leadership development and mentoring to students, and handling all discipline process and accountability standards for students. I’m also the University Liaison to the Parents’ Association.
In the midst of the transition into my new position I’ve been quite wrapped up with a number of things. Sarah, Kyla, and I moved out of the RD apartment attached to Oakwood Hall. Per my request, we were able to maintain MVNU’s campus as our place of residence. My next post will tell about our move down the hill from Oakwood Hall to the Rosewood Apartments. We primarily wanted to remain on campus in order to continue living life among the students that we love, opening our home to all those who accept the invitation to journey with us, together in the struggle to learn what it really means to live in the way of Jesus.
I realized during a time of silence on our SGA Retreat (a couple of weekends ago) that the consistent and abnormal practice of solitude, prayer, and reflection is essential in the midst of all the things both good and bad that fill our lives. So… I am not particularly proud of the fact that I’ve had only 2 days off in the last 29 days but I am excited to enter a new season of life that possesses a more natural and healthy rhythm of existence. A more consistent schedule of thinking and writing will reignite the posts that are going to be published on a much more regular basis now that the time demands of transition have subsided.
I also moved into a new office. It’s name is Sweden. Stop by. We’ll share some coffee and conversation.
A review(ish) of Rob Bell’s newest book. Drops Like Stars is Bell’s best book yet. I was able to get a pre-release copy of the book from the Poets, Prophets, and Preachers conference held in Michigan. The book is now available (release date was August 1). Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.
I am not at Poets, Prophets, and Preachers (PPP) so I thought I would have a lot to say about it. My friend Matt Rawlings actually offered me a free ticket to the “conference”^ but I was unable to attend for several reasons (in no certain order):
>> I am on an interview committee here at MVNU that is meeting with a Resident Director candidate on Monday morning. >> I have a very busy academic year with more time off in the summer and wanted to set aside more time with my family. >> We are hoping to adopt and possibly purchase a home so I’m crunching down on the spending. Gas, hotel, and food would have been a few dollars.
From the middle of Ohio I have been keeping up with PPP. I’ve been reading all the tweets tagged with the #ppp09 hashtag and checking out a few blogs. I’ve noticed so far that at the first gathering, those commenting publicly all support that which is being discussed at PPP. Nothing that I have read has challenged the intitial teaching by Rob Bell entitled, The Original Guerilla Theatre. The positive perspectives may be fueled by the expectation of those attending. Many hours before the first session many were tweeting about anticipating their arrival in Grand Rapids. Others noted their excitement as they sat in the theater waiting to hear from Rob, who has obviously created a dedicated community of people who value his teaching.
In the Original Guerilla Theatre, Rob discussed the lost primal art form of the religious discourse. Those in attendance all tweeted the same few lines that apparently remained lodged in numerous cerebral cortexes. None of those lines seemed to be earth-shattering to me but centered on the theme that those giving sermons need to be more daring. It is not necessary for a spoken message to be safe and even resolved. Rather, those with ears to hear should be asking questions and talking more with each other in order to continue wrestling with the content. I would suggest additionally that those attending church gatherings seeking answers should alter their perspective. Knowing that the journey of following Jesus is a process of wonder and discovery, couldn’t it be more valuable to expect to leave with more questions? It is only our systems of modernization that make us think otherwise.
^I’m not sure that PPP is actually a conference. Well… I guess technically it is but probably not the typical churchy conference where the Youth Specialties tent is giving away free workbooks entitled something like, “How To Keep Teens Hooked: Staying Relevant for GenY.” JUST FOR THE RECORD: I just made up that title it may be the worst title for a book ever. I’m not sure which word is the worst, “How to,” “Teens,” “Hooked,” “Relevant,” or “GenY.”