You’re Kidding, Right???

I really dislike using this space for political commentary, but I suppose it does fall under the “culture” part of “faith, art, and culture.”

So, anyone think I’m crazy for saying that I’m afraid of our government? Read this little treat: Virginia just legalized a request by the Republican Party that voters who vote in Virginia’s Republican Primary in February must sign an oath vowing that they will vote for the Republican Party’s presidential nominee in the fall.

At this point it is unenforceable, because Virginia voters don’t register according to party. Give it time, though. After whatever it was that happened in Florida a few years ago to put the current train wreck in office, I have no doubt that Virginia will find a way to enforce it…or be forced to do so. I’ve never really liked Virginia, but now I’m ashamed to live here.

Yet one more way in which we must bow and pay homage to Emperor Bush. Don’t you just love our carefully disguised monarchy?

I can only hope and pray for two things: that someone with some sense of honor and without an antisocial personality ends up in office next fall (in a Utopian existence we could impeach Bush, but I suppose that’s too much to ask for), and that, when this person takes office, the damage done by this evil president will not be irreparable.



My wife loves trees. Not surprisingly, I’ve found a new appreciation for that part of nature. I’m a beach person myself, but I’ve learned to appreciate the beauty in what’s outside my window in the morning. I feel sort of like my friend Carly, who loves Autumn so much (and has some beautiful photography to prove it), as I become fascinated by the colors. Earlier this week, I was looking out my living room window, and I noticed this tree that sits just off to the left of my view. The tree was completely and vibrantly yellow, and was backlit by the morning sun, causing the yellow leaves to glow. It occurs to me how carefully that tree was crafted, how gently it was sculpted. Recently I read Coffin’s poem, The Dead Bittern, where he states that “tremendous pains had been expended” on a single animal. I’ve been learning to see the beauty in what God has made.

So, I had an epiphany this week. Just as carefully as he painted and sculpted what surrounds us, even more carefully has He crafted us. I’ve been trying to be intentional about seeing the individuals that I come into contact with in my day to day as the works of art that they are. The epiphany comes into play, though, as I’m continuously trying to reconcile the fact that I’m a counselor in my day job, and that this is so counter intuitive to my creative impulse at first blush. It occurred to me that, if all of these people are the dynamic and living works of art that I’ve discovered them to be (because life is art), with all of their frustrating tendencies and idiosyncratic quirks as signatures, then relating to them is not scientific (as in the way I view counseling), but, in fact, creative and artistic. So, as I relate to people through the day; as I choose the words with which to interact and dialogue with them, or the way I look at them (or whether or not I even look at them) as they pass, I’m engaging in artistic expression. Perhaps that’s the key to this over commercialized concept of community that Believers love to talk about these days.

Bonhoffer said that community just happens, and that its our job as Believers to accept it and work with it as it happens, not to be going around intentionally trying to force it and make it happen. If that’s the case, then I encounter this community every day, and how I engage it is a form of creativity, not scientific inquiry.

And that makes me want to get up in the morning.

Missing the Point

Earlier this week, I listened to a discussion on The Kindlings Muse about C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity, and the concept of ecumenism. One of the panelists, Dr. Bryan Burton, disturbed me in his discussion a bit.

Mind you that, after three years of failed attempts to program me during my seminary career, I have an inherent distrust for any theologian that attempts to interpret literature. Although Burton, to my knowledge, has never claimed to be a theologian, he certainly did his share of bashing orthopraxy in the name of orthodoxy, emphasizing that a correct theology is the key to the unity of Believers, because that theology must be acted out if it is true.

Any time anyone says that the key to anything is a good theology, I find them immediately suspect. Most theologians have the audacity to attempt to explain everything about God, casting aside the beautiful quality of His mystery. Perhaps I find myself aligned more with the Emergent Church (though I detest labeling myself), but I see the key to existence in Scripture to be simple faith acted out, not a bunch of religious mishmash. Certainly, the Scriptures speak of religion (the Book of James, for example), but what we define as religion today leaves me with a vacuous and wholly unspiritual (and unscriptural) feeling.

While I’m certainly a deep thinker and value intellectually pursuing God, analyzing literature and picking away at the semantics cheapens the entire experience, in much the same manner that exegesis, when taken to the extent that it normally is, cheapens Scripture (which was written by God as literature, and should be read as such, not semantically analyzed at every turn). Burton compared (he’s not the first to do so) Lewis with Karl Barth, which thoroughly leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Somehow, that seems so derogatory.

A great quote by Packer was tossed out during this segment, though: “American Christianity is a thousand miles wide and an inch deep.” I think that a huge part of the reason American faith is so damaged is the lack of unity caused by the hatred of denominational divides and doctrinal differences, which in turn have come from scholarly over-analysis that couldn’t see the forest for the proverbial trees. The argument becomes circular very quickly to me: Believers need more unity, and they need to study the Scriptures more analytically, which leads them to different orthodoxies, which leads them to divide and forsake unity. Theology is so horribly narrow: it approaches God only analytically, when He wants to be approached relationally. He wants us to understand things about Him, certainly: but He also wants us to be awestruck in His mystery.

I think the late Madeliene L’Engle said this best: “If my religion is true, it will stand up to all my questioning…But if it is not true, if it is man imposing strictures on God…then I want to be open to God, not to what man says about God.” I’m not saying that scholarly study and teaching is worthless, but, at the end of the day, it is only one human’s opinion, and I’m much more interested in the original than an an overly-traditional interpretation.


This has been percolating in my head for a little while, and some of the more conservative members of our family have made it an issue lately. Karen recently decided that, having never read the Harry Potter series but having seen the movies, that she wanted to read what everyone is talking about. She discovered everything I’ve ever heard about the books to be true: they are beautifully written, and Rowling is gifted at her craft.

Being a fantasy lover, Karen moved on to other modern fantasy greats, such as the Seeker series (good movie, but I understand they took painful liberties with the novel, as Hollywood is wont to do). Fantasy, is, after all, one of the great genres of literature. I admit I don’t read much in the lines of fantasy (the last true fantasy I read, I think, was the Dragon Riders of Pern series…did I just date myself?), being more of a sc-fi fan, but I think I may be in the mood to read some soon.

The problem? Well, apparently, the problem is that we’re Believers, and Believers shouldn’t do that fantasy stuff.

Or at least that’s what we hear a lot. The aforementioned conservative factions of our family are very much up in arms about how Harry Potter is horribly evil because it contains witches and magic. Yet, most Believers love Tolkien‘s and Lewis‘ work, both of which frequently contain magic. A double standard, perhaps? If so, it is one born of ignorance. Somehow it is okay for The Chronicles of Narnia to use magic as a literary device to communicate Christ’s story, or even for the Lord of the Rings to communicate the epic struggle between good and evil. But magic in the sense of witches? Apparently that crosses some invisible Christian line (even though the final book of the Potter series has some amazing metaphors for our faith, as I understand it).

Modern religion seems to consistently rob us of the beauty of artistic expression, which, if left well enough alone, would only grow our faith. What’s worse, it typically is began by some hyper-conservative, uneducated fundamentalist somewhere who decided something was wrong for some bizarre and obscure reason, and made a video or wrote a book about it because they knew it would sell to Christian pop culture. Once again, “Christian bookstores” contribute to our illiterate society.

Here’s my issue: if you have read this stuff and don’t like it, fine. If you can contribute an educated perspective on it, then by all means, open dialogue about it. Everyone could grow from that. But don’t go around thumping some podium somewhere preaching that some series of books or movies are evil because they utilize magic as a literary device, or aren’t specifically about God. Jeffery Overstreet, on a recent episode of The Kindlings Muse, said that he wasn’t allowed to watch Star Wars as a child because his parents felt that Yoda was a Buddhist and that he might convert from Christianity to Buddhism if he watched it. I don’t think anyone ever did that…or began practicing witchcraft because they watched or read Harry Potter. My favorite is when Believers decry movies or books because the author is (if there really is such a thing) and atheist.

Wasn’t Lewis a proclaimed atheist when he wrote Narnia?

Perhaps all truth really is God’s truth. We might see that better if we would just get ourselves out of the way, look past our precious Evangelical culture (which is remarkably un-cultured), and just enjoy the story.

Missing the Basics

When I read about hatred like this, it is no wonder to me that Believers have a bad name.

Regardless of your feelings on the issue, Scripture teaches love, never hate. If you find yourself disagreeing with a lifestyle choice, then disagree, but articulate why you disagree. Discuss it. Seek to understand, then to be understood. But we must never, never hate.

What’s more, we cannot confuse the people with the action. Every person has priceless value, because we are created in His image. We can all find things that someone else does that we see as bad, but that doesn’t mean that the person is bad. What we do is not who we are. The father of this family, I imagine, wants nothing to do with God, because he’s been presented with an image of God that is a hateful bigot. Nothing could be further from the truth.

If Believers are to be intolerant of something, then let us be intolerant of hate. And let’s do so before we all have to answer for the bigotry of a few.