The Joy List; Invitation
A “prosperity-theology” take on what I’l like to blog about this Summer might be to “manifest prosperity.” But that would be selfish and shallow. Another, maybe not churchy angle might be using the law of attraction to bring about happiness and contentment. But for me, that still seems kind of self-centered or immature.
I’d like to look at something anchored in love and that will build relationships and community, not just “actualize” personal peace. What I want to think about and maybe even begin a discussion about will involve wrestling and reflection and maybe even doubt and struggle and emotional and intellectual work- but I don’t want it to devolve into just a self-help practice for self improvement in a secular/philosophical sense or a new kind of piety and purity practice or “works-righteousness” in a theological/religious sense.
I want to keep it real, genuine, authentic, honest, and basically “raw.”
I want to talk to seekers and thinkers, people open to conversation and exploration of philosophy and “spirituality” and basically being human. But I don’t want to hide or water-down my background and faith tradition to do that. But I also don’t want to be judgy or preachy or bossy.
Meanwhile, I also really want to talk to my “fellow believers” in order to encourage them to reflect and reconsider and allow themselves to be vulnerable to conversation without being on the defensive, or rushing to correct every ambiguity or subjectivity.
Mahatma Gandhi lawyer, human rights activist and political founding father or modern India read from the Jesus’ ‘Sermon on the Mount’ (Matthew 5-7) nearly every morning and evening for over forty years. “Christ’s Sermon on the Mount fills me with bliss even today,” he said “Its sweet verses have even today the power to quench my agony of soul.”
Humorist and science fiction author Kurt Vonnegut, famously questioned why, if Americans so often talk about this being a “Christian nation,” so many courthouses and government buildings have monuments to the ten commandments (Exodus 20) and not the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12), after all, these are the very words of Jesus Christ, whereas the commandments come from the Mosaic books of the Jewish Bible.
We live in hard times. Inflation, high gas prices, political polarization, media saturation, school shootings, wars, international tension, the recent global pandemic, a resurgence of racism and antisemitism, stress, anxiety, depression, anger, drug abuse and suicide. Wouldn’t it be nice to find some bliss instead of so much angst?
To be honest, I don’t know whether the Sermon on the Mount is gonna be some kind of panacea. I’m cynical enough to bite my tongue when well meaning but perhaps inexperienced or just empathy-challenged Christians talk about how believing in Jesus made everything better.
Now, I’m also skeptical when non-Christians talk about the power of positive thinking or visualizing their goals or just making up their minds that they deserve better and that’s when things change.
But I also know that just “doom-scrolling” social media or channel surfing cable news (in or out of an echo chamber) certainly isn’t helping me cope or doing my mental health any good.
So, if you want to find out with me what this poor Palestinian preacher was telling people on a hillside why or how they can be blessed (religious jargon for happiness, health, joy, and/or good fortune), join me this Summer on a journey to (hopefully) bliss or beatification (or both?).
Talk to you soon.
I will try to post at least once a week, but I can get both impatient and busy (or lazy) so please be patient with me. Subscribe to this blog on WordPress if you want to be sure to be notified about updates. I hope you will participate in conversation in the comments, but please keep it civil, I reserve the right to delete, block or report trolls.
Need a Summer Read?
No, it’s not like I suddenly wrote four books since March. Actually I’ve been blogging since 2002 and I’m compiling things I’ve written into self-published books you can order on Amazon or Goodreads.
Here’s micro-synopses on each one:
‘Cheesebread & Coffee’ are humor pieces from the Charter Oak-Ute NEWSpaper and Mapleton PRESS 2002-2008. Not political, not too religious.
‘Max Nix’ is a collection of poetry from 1985-2020. I know, poetry isn’t everybody’s cup of tea, but I’ve been told mine is short, approachable, relatable and keeps you reading.
‘Dear John’ is a series of reflections on the book of 1 John. Not exactly a devotional, not exactly a Bible study- somewhere in between. It deals with some current issues though, love and who is our brother?
‘Prophet, Priest & Pirate,’ 2004-2020 essays on politics & religion. Yep, more progressive than most voters in Iowa’s 4th District, but more moderate/conservative than most of the rest of the U.S. Basic thesis: Democrats can be Christian too, and while we’re at it- let’s be careful not to make either political party or their candidates into false idols.
I hope that at least one of these will interest you. I have another three or four “in the pipeline,” but I’d better take a break and focus on school for the rest of the Summer. Hopefully I’ll try to get another one or two out later this Fall of Winter.
Deconstructionist before Exvangelicals
12 “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. ” Philippians 2:12-13
There’s a movement going on in American Christianity today. Many in the Evangelical, Baptist, Fundamentalist, Pentecostal and “non-denominational” communities have been reconsidering their traditions and finding that many of the practices, and teachings they had grown up with aren’t what they thought they were.
They’ve been realizing that Rabbi Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the Jewish Messiah, isn’t a white, American, conservative. They’re discovering that mainline Protestants, Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and Coptics are Christians too and that John Calvin wasn’t the only theologian to ever study Scripture.
They’re learning that faith isn’t a transaction, it’s a transformation.
I grew up Lutheran. In many ways I couldn’t be considered fundamentalist or evangelical. I ‘m not feeling like I’m losing my religion, struggling with becoming atheist or leaving my denomination. But in many ways I’ve always felt like a bit of an outsider .
“How can you be a Christian and vote for Democrats?”
As a child in the 70’s I knew that racism and discrimination were wrong.
As a teenager in the 80’s I was suspicious of televangelists and those who used religion for political leverage.
In the 90’s I was leery that the “pro-life” movement seemed to be more of a political movement than a spiritual or ethical one.
In the 2000’s I was worried about the influence of false teachings about the end-times on foreign policy and the growth of nationalism and “exceptionalism” as forms of idolatry. Etc. etc.
But it’s not social, economic or political issues that are most important to deconstruction. It’s about examining what you say you believe and asking why you believe it. It’s about wrestling with God (Genesis 32:24-31), about “working out your salvation.” Not working FOR your salvation, which is a gift of grace through faith, but letting God work on you.
Really, it’s a fairly Lutheran idea when you think about it. Luther saw the church drifting from the early, pre-empire days into complacency at best and corruption at worst in the days of the renaissance and sought to “reform” it- to deconstruct the hypocrisy it had become and reconstruct the Christ-centered, Cross-centered, Love-centered community it was meant to be.
The first of Luther’s ’95 Theses’ was “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said ‘Repent,’ he intended that the entire life of believers should be repentance.” To turn from “sin” (straying from God’s way), to change one’s mind and get back on track.
That’s not about guilt and shame, that’s about daily discipleship. Continually seeking God’s heart.
If our religion is just going through the motions, if it’s more culture and tradition than learning who Jesus is and how to follow Him and treat others how he treats them (with love). Then it may just be more about us than God.
If you’re interested in the Christian Deconstructionist/Reconstructionist movement, here are a few podcasts to give a try: