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Evan
Wausau, WI
Interests: Pina coladas and getting caught in the rain...
Recent Activity
Brent, thanks for the kind spirit of your question. I'm far from an expert on war theory, but I'm more of a Just War proponent than a supporter of pacifism. Wiki lists the range of pacifism strains like this: "Pacifism is the opposition to war or violence as a means of settling disputes or gaining advantage. Pacifism covers a spectrum of views, including the belief that international disputes can and should be peacefully resolved, calls for the abolition of the institutions of the military and war, opposition to any organization of society through governmental force (anarchist or libertarian pacifism), rejection of the use of physical violence to obtain political, economic or social goals, the obliteration of force except in cases where it is absolutely necessary to advance the cause of peace, and opposition to violence under any circumstance, even defence of self and others." So, to oversimplify, some strains are more stringent than others. It strikes me how tightly war theory is tied to the broader ideas on political involvement and the "two kingdoms". I'm not completely anti-violence. If an intruder breaks into my home and threatens my family, I'll do whatever I can do disable him. If an intruder breaks into my country and threatens my national family, I also think we need to defend ourselves. The funny thing is, I'm one of the least confrontational people you'll ever meet. Really. But I also have very deep convictions and affection. I'm interested in reading more of Yoder's work as I'm able. The idea of being longsuffering and slow on the trigger is appealing to me. I may have some growing to do in this area, but I don't think I'm the only one.
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At the end of the first hour of this video, I'm struck by the blessing that each of these panelists is to the Kingdom of God. Yes, they represent even some of the differences in this NTRT comment thread, but both church and society are richer for their unique type of involvement. Yes, I think that's part of the centered set political involvement. We can disagree with each other's politics and even each other's practice of faith, but we can still drive toward Jesus at the center. We can even feel that someone else's approach to God and government is misguided, and still aim together for a Jesus-center. I said a prayer at a Republican function a few weeks ago. I asked God to help us operate in grace and truth. Perhaps being public with my politics and my faith will help me show the redemptive love of Jesus in the middle of America's supercharged political divide.
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Boyd, "Sometimes we put the political cart before the kingdom horse." Agreed. Colson, "Jim Wallis' latest book out is 'Join the Democratic party and get justice.'" So the uniting of the cross and the crown can cut both ways. Claibourne, Mother Teresa didn't wear an "Abortion is Murder" shirt, but she said "If you have a baby, you can give it to me." I like the spirit of that.
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Interesting dialog with Dave T and Brent. Rather than comment much, I'm taking the opportunity to complete an assignment I gave myself months ago--to view this video: http://bit.ly/dr69v2. It's a conversation on Christianity and Politics with Chuck Colson, Greg Boyd and Shane Claibourne. Many of us have sampled it in blog writings and book reviews. It strikes me that if we do not embrace Colson's "two kingdoms" perspective, we get cornered into a very stringent strain of pacifism. At this point in my journey, that view seems naive regarding the nature of evil. Similarly, the idea that Bonhoeffer was a key player in the evil of the holocaust rings hollow for me. An off the cuff thought: If we apply directly Jesus' comments about godly living under Caesar's government, we may end up with a form of government more like Caesar's government. Interesting...in Colson's opening comments, he explains that his book Kingdoms in Conflict was authored to counter evangelicals who were uniting the cross and the crown. I also agree that Christian involvement in the public square should be sophisticated enough that a theological view could be paired with a number of disparate public policy stances.
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Steve Martin's Father of the Bride movies - more of the "life is rich and family is unbelievably good" department. Chocolat, where the town's religion of anti-chocolate pokes fun at the inhuman nature of religious bounded sets. The redemption of Darth Vader in the final moments of Star Wars 6.
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What I find interesting about DJ Sybear's comment is the idea of what we do with further convictions beyond just "Jesus is the center". Does having firm convictions about what comprises civil society, for example, mean that a bounded set has been created? In one sense, yes, but the logical conclusion of that line of thought is that any fleshing out of what it means to walk as a Jesus-follower becomes a boundary. Seems like a Jesus-center invites more concentric circles in our individual lives while never displacing the center. Or, a different graphical representation might be that our arrows are comprised of what makes us who we are as individuals. Pointing toward Jesus, then, in all of our liberalism, conservatism, and other isms, is just part of the process.
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The "first things first" argument is a strong one. The idea that devoted Jesus followers can spend huge chunks of their lives unknowingly opposing each other and effectively erasing each others' legacy...that's significant too. I also understand that issues of politics and faith are restrictive and somewhat messy. Here's the problem I have. What if, in a representative republic like the US, each citizen is really responsible for running the country? I'm not trying to be sarcastic, but it seems like we've lost much of the idea of civic responsibility. Talking publicly about those ideals seems, well, democratic. Conversely, not talking and being openly involved in politics seems like tacit admission that our government ought to be centralized in its power structure and less responsive to the needs and influence of the people. Quietness doesn't seem neutral. Jesus never had a democracy to comment on directly. This is one of my frustrations with Christian commentary on politics...what if citizens in a democracy actually should take personally the biblical directives to the kings and officials? In other words, what if there is no king but us? I love going to a church that's not red or blue politically. If my pastor was politically involved, that certainly could change. It's like a political vow of celibacy. But I'm not resolved on why I should feel OK with not bringing active direction to the country. So my genuine question is: What if Jesus were a US citizen?
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I had a senior pastor announce to me upon bringing me from part-time to full-time salaried, "Now we own your soul!" I think his sarcasm was mixed with glee. I've worked with that tension of my calling and vision vs. the church's ministry and demands. This picture is helpful. Seems also that parachurch/sodality-type ministry can be part of the glue that holds the many churches and denominations together. In that sense, the missional calling of each parish may parallel the personal, God-ordained vision of each Jesus follower. Perhaps this also explains how individual parishes might even resonate with vision from other denominations while retaining the values of their own movement. Perhaps the values of each denomination are the cookie dough, but the shape of each parish is provided by the sodality cookie cutters passed between movements.
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Wow, tabula rasa! I've been reading along in ye olde english version, devotionally here and there. Perhaps this only adds to the "bracingly different perspective". Perhaps my upbringing in a Pentecostal-Holiness tradition makes it feel a skitch more comfortable. The idea of embracing a worldview that is impervious to fad and trend is a double-edged sword, but hey, that means one edge cuts in a helpful way. I'll include a quote that carries the directness of, say, George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards in the 18th century revivals: Chapter XII - Of the Royal Way of the Holy Cross Unto many this seemeth hard speech, "Deny thyself, take up thy cross, and follow Jesus." But much harder will it be to hear that last word, "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire." For they who now willingly hear and follow the word of the cross, shall not then fear to hear the sentence of everlasting damnation. By the way, I'm only reading the old English version because it was at hand and free. But I think the "otherness" of The Imitation partly comes from this monastic commitment to look starkly at biblical text and hang the consequences. I suppose there could be a pride that comes with that sort of separation too. But playing hardball with ourselves instead of always coddling and understanding is OK too. There's balance involved. So, in this quip, we get a window into the motivation of a'Kempis: judgement and eternal consequences later for choices and actions here and now. There's a church at a major intersection in our town that until recently had huge lettering on the front of the building reading "Prepare to Meet Thy God." I hated that. Stern. Harsh. Uninviting. But in the quietness of our own hearts, we each have some soul searching to do on the preparation front.
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So, to summarize, if you want to plant a church you need to start by being a shirtless dude dancing wildly on a hillside. Am I getting the main point? Actually the post is potentially life-changing. Thanks.
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Seems like part of the anger over experiential faith, or centered set faith with the center being Jesus and our arrow being relationship, is the idea of slippery slope. I witness firsthand how people express horror at any intake of alcohol, or going to the theater, or reading a book by a "non-Christian" author. The idea is that the moment "holiness" is compromised, a Pandora's box of decadence and moral decline is opened. Very stage 2, the idea of "how far can you get from sin." In some ways it's safe and noble, but it places a huge gulf between "us" and "them". Redemption is a desperate hope for people to hurdle the distance and land safely on "our" side. What's sad to me is that the Stage 2 crowd I'm describing also passionately wants good things and God things for people. I just don't buy that system.
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Enjoyed it. Agreed with it. Love it. I think the dark side can come with competitive, comparative gifting, or with spending beyond one's means. But you're right, those things are not seasonal. Viva la Mannheim Steamroller!
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My grandfather died a few years back just before his 89th birthday. He was a retired dairy farmer, very successful and respected in his small Canadian city. He always tried to stay informed with TV news, papers, magazines and books, and a pillar of a pentecostal church plant. He said to me one day in his later years, "You know, I've always thought that it's important to stay up on everything that's going on, but I don't suppose it really is." I think when you're getting ready for a short step to heaven, and weighing the legacy you'll leave, the news cycle weighs a bit light. He spent more time sitting by the lake and drinking in the northwoods beauty. Time is precious. Life is precious. This thread is a good reminder about, among other things, considering the urgent and the important.
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Interesting thread. Seems to me that credible scientists of strong biblical faith don't get much press. This tends to marginalize those views, yet I think there's much to be considered there. FYI, I'm checking in here and there but trying to spend less time blogging and more time serving my family. Please don't be offended at the very occasional (and potentially marginal) posts. God bless you all!
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Dave and all, I'm praying for the center of the centered set to very dynamically be the center of the Culture Center Summit! Praying also for the resources to emerge for this powerful message to reach the midwest and northern Wisconsin.
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Nice song Dave. Enjoyed it thoroughly. I'm finding some new music that I enjoy, but nothing can replace the way an old song takes you back. Music has that sort of eternal quality which hovers above the timeline of your life and let's you experience it all at once. Awesome! Desperados ties in nicely with our conversations about hope and idealism vs skepticism and realism. You've gotta cheer for folks who've had their share of failure and rejection and still push through for something special. Maybe that hopeful feeling of "being in on the ground floor" is part of the image of God in us. Yes, we can be unrealistically optimistic about our prospects (see American Idol auditions), but human life and potential really are special and significant. What I like about Desperados is how it expresses the "before", when the potential was still unfulfilled. How noble to always persevere when the outlook is bleak!
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I think about this continuum quite a bit, but more in terms of the balance that faith can bring to the polarized non-faith community. Here's what I mean... Outside of our Jesus-centric idea, people might tend toward a purely rational worldview (ie. science, philosophy) or toward a more spiritual worldview (new age, syncretism of many religious ideas and experiences). Dave S, for example, came from a more rational worldview, in the sense where embracing faith in Jesus was a radical heart-opening experience. Hopefully that's a fair characterization. Trish Ryan, frequent notreligious contributor and author, detailed in her book "He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not" how she journeyed through a very different spiritual path to Jesus. She seemed to open-heartedly embrace spiritual wisdom from self-help books and new age gurus. Again, hopefully that's a fair synopsis. So her arrival at faith in Jesus was actually more of a limiting and focusing on what seemed ultimately true. I'm not sure how Trish might respond to your post. Does she still feel more open-hearted than skeptical? Me? For every skeptical tendency I can think of an open-hearted tendency. Not sure I can easily label myself on this, but I want to grow in understanding of friends coming from both the rationalist and spiritualist worldviews. And we might add to Eldredge's caption "Come, D'Artagnan, we are going to save the king!"
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I like that we're discussing emotionally charged issues in the context of trying to live life with Jesus at the center, and allowing for difference of opinion. The whole idea of stage four faith is that we move past our concrete categories and through our rebellion into a broader understanding of what's really important. I hate finding any sort of judgmentalism or legalism (pick any ugly "ism") in my heart, but when I find it I can deal with it and love more purely. Centered set seems to have much to do with leaving room for growth. I appreciate the fact that people of faith don't have to be Switzerland on every issue. Most churches are nearly homogenous on anything political, so you have to pick a red church or a blue church in order to fit in. I hate that.
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From Oswald Chambers' My Utmost for His Highest devotional today: "What is my vision of God’s purpose for me? Whatever it may be, His purpose is for me to depend on Him and on His power now. If I can stay calm, faithful, and unconfused while in the middle of the turmoil of life, the goal of the purpose of God is being accomplished in me. God is not working toward a particular finish— His purpose is the process itself. What He desires for me is that I see "Him walking on the sea" with no shore, no success, nor goal in sight, but simply having the absolute certainty that everything is all right because I see "Him walking on the sea" ( Mark 6:49 ). It is the process, not the outcome, that is glorifying to God." Seems to add another good perspective...
Toggle Commented Jul 28, 2009 on Are You an Idealist? at Not The Religious Type
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Hey Dave, Dan and Brian (and any other notreligious staff), I'm having a reflective moment and feeling very grateful for the opportunity to chat with this wonderfully gifted and caring group. I've learned a lot, continue to learn a lot, and I'm genuinely appreciative. I understand the scope is far beyond my thoughts and my corner of the world, but you've facilitated a process that has hit home and nudged change in me over and over. Thanks for that.
Toggle Commented Jul 27, 2009 on Are You an Idealist? at Not The Religious Type
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Good thoughts Otto. I agree that humility goes a very long way with leadership. God give us more competent, humble leaders! Your amplification of Bonhoeffer seems good. It also reminds me of Jim Collins' book, Good to Great. You might be aware of their "Level 5 Leaders" who statistically turned out to be overwhelmingly effective in business and, to a person, powerfully humble. Perhaps Level 5 leaders are very Stage 4.
Toggle Commented Jul 27, 2009 on Are You an Idealist? at Not The Religious Type
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...and would Bonhoeffer say that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech was a galvanizing moment for positive change or the exposition of a harmful ideal which would cripple the cause of minorities? I don't think I know anyone who would believe the latter. Relevant?
Toggle Commented Jul 27, 2009 on Are You an Idealist? at Not The Religious Type
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Dave, your interaction with Bonhoeffer seems terribly significant. His execution was tragic, but who knows if we'd see his work so compellingly otherwise. As a fellow church planter, this concept resonates resoundingly with me! It gives a framework to the push and pull of the first months and years of a new work. It's widely noted by church planting leaders that the church planting team often functions as scaffolding, which falls away after the plant has been established. That can be accepted in theory, but it's tough when people you're giving your life for have core differences with how a work should begin and proceed. I'm glad you're wrestling with the concept. It seems relevant to the practical matters involved with a broad migration to centered-set faith. One could argue that centered-set theory is an effort to dovetail with Bonhoeffer in setting ideologies and boundaries aside in order to focus on Jesus and love one another. One could also counter that argument by pointing out the great effort we are exerting to detail the ideology of this non-ideological theory. The former seems more true to me. It's hard to separate Bonhoeffer from his circumstance in Nazi Germany. Is it possible that his categorical statement, "God hates visionary dreaming," is colored by the horrific abuse he witnessed through Hitler's charisma? Pastor Cho of South Korea (world's largest church) has written that "dreams are the language of the Holy Spirit." We could blog for hours with quotes of famous leaders calling for and praising visionary leadership. Bonhoeffer's comments ring more true to me when I consider them in the context of old school, authoritarian leadership. I want to hear more of what everyone has to say, but my initial take is that it's healthy to find a midpoint on this continuum between amibition and fatalism.
Toggle Commented Jul 27, 2009 on Are You an Idealist? at Not The Religious Type
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Otto, your comment on mentoring is actually my favorite thought in the whole men and church discussion so far. Gotta check if Gran Torino's available at the Red Box. Thanks!
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Yes, Prashant, so on a broader level we have also chosen the margins and also have the choice of whether or not to isolate.
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