I love the idea that there should only be one world. That we shouldn’t see the world as Christian, and non-Christians, but that we should recognize that everything is God’s. That God loves Christians and non-Christians alike.  I hate that the Church sees the world with an “us vs. them” mentality.  We don’t have to protect ourselves from the world or withdraw from it, because God is in the world (maybe even more than He is in our churches on Sunday mornings…) 

When I look at the world, I see God doing some incredible things. I see the One Campaign bringing people together to fight against poverty and I see websites like MySpace and AIM connecting friends together in new ways.  I think these are things that God cares about and is helping make happen.

My question for the rest of us is, how can we work with God to make these things happen even better?

Culture Jam – Book Review

October 30, 2006

Culture Jam: how to reverse America’s suicidal consumer binge – and why we must
Kalle Lasn
Quill: 2000 

Kalle Lasn is a documentarist and an activist, committed to fighting against the effects of popular media. 

Lasn asserts that corporate America is quickly turning us into mindless consumers, and that it is time for a revolution to reclaim our individuality and freedom of speech. 

Lasn begins his book by laying out the symptoms of our down-spiriling culture.  He asserts that Americanism has become a brand that we sell to the American people, and that through advertising, the internet and media, we have lost our individuality and our sense of identity. 

Next, Lasn fleshes out the problem in America.  We have lost our individuality and have become consumers, controlled by the economy and media.  Our identity has been engulfed by the things that we buy, and our self worth is manipulated for corporate gain. 

During the middle part of the book, Lasn offers glimpses of hope to those struggling against the powers that be. He encourages the spreading of “metamemes” such as “True Cost”, “Doomsday Meme” and the “Media Carta” to redefine how individuals view the world (p. 124) and advocates for people to take direct action in order to spread this worldview.  

Finally, Lasn calls for individuals to over throw the systems of consumerism, media and consumption that are holding our society captive.  He demands true freedom of speech and he seeks to redefine progress in a way that is not tied to corporate success, but instead to individual happiness and ecological preservation.   

Maybe it is because I am generally trusting and optimistic, but this book seems to take conspiracy theory to a new level.  While I agree with Lasn’s general observations that consumerism, carelessness for the environment and media over consumption are sicknesses in our society, I don’t immediately assume that corporations are intentionally forcing this upon us simply to make more money.   On an individual level, I would like to think that I am free from the power of advertising, yet I know that I am not.  But still, I have a hard time believing that we are purposefully being made into consumeristic drones by the power of the corporate world. 

Setting the intentions of the corporations aside, I disagree with Lasn’s method of bringing reform.  He seems driven by rage, and at a number of points, advocates his readers to develop for wrath (p. 139).  Many of his actions, such as breaking a shopping cart dispenser or yelling at a telemarketer, are directed at the wrong person. It isn’t the telemarketer who is wronging you, it is the organization that the telemarketer works for.  What gives us the right to attack her, when she is being abused by the system just as much as we are. Our country does not live by an “eye for an eye” and one wrong wont right another one. 

Yes, we need to be bold in fighting against injustice, but maybe the answer is to transform the system from the inside. Instead of attacking it, couldn’t we focus on helping to heal the system that developed corrupt corporations? What if we worked to help people find fulfillment outside of consumerism? Or helped foster empathy and a desire to help others, instead of focusing simply on economic gain?  

I agree with Lasn that it is time for change, but I have a hard time believing that the corporations are the big bad monsters that he makes them out to be, and I certainly do not approve of his methods of reform.   

So for the last couple of weeks I’ve been thinking a lot about what it really looks like to follow Jesus.  I’ve talked to dozens of people, journaled about it, read books on it and studied the life of Jesus in the Gospels.  And I’m still confused. 

I feel like all my life the Church has been telling me what it looks like to follow Jesus.  to be a good Christian, I have to play by the rules. I have to be a nice little girl, I can’t drink, I should never stir things up and I have to read my Bible every morning at 7am. And if I really love Jesus, I won’t question the system.  This makes Jesus feel so weak to me. It reminds me of those pictures of Jesus as a white guy with long hair hugging a lamb.  Have you seen those pictures? Where Jesus looks like the sweetest, most non controversial guy ever? I hate those pictures.  That is not who God is to me.  Maybe Jesus cares if I drink or not, but I don’t think his main goal in life was to keep me out of the bars.  I mean, come on. Jesus wasn’t some yes man walking around telling people how great life was if we could only stay away from the “social evils”. 

No, Jesus was this incredibly passionate, intense and loving guy who went around trying to save the world. Literally.  He saw the poor being beat down, and he stood up for them.  He saw the widows being neglected, and he brought them back into society.  He saw two nations at war, and he encouraged his followers to care for their enemies, instead of killing them.  And he talked about what the world could look like if God was running it.  That’s why he was arrested by the government and killed. Not because he was some meek little shepherd, but because he was talking about a radical new way of living. Because he was challenging the status quo.

I think if we look at Jesus’ life, we get a better idea of how we are supposed to be living. I think that Jesus modeled the right kind of life for us. He shows us who we should take care of, the kinds of things we should be interested in, and how we can fix the broken things in the world.  Jesus was on a mission to make the world a better place, and he invites us to help him in that work.  As I study this more, I am just starting to understand what it really looks like to imitate Jesus.  And even though intellectually I am getting it, I still don’t really have any idea of what it practically looks like for me to follow

I hate the fact that the Church always focuses on the non offensive Jesus, content to look after his sheep and say out of the world’s affairs.  Sure, I think Jesus has something to say about me being nice and if I read my Bible or not, but I don’t think that was the only thing he was talking about. Jesus was trying to change the world.  He was trying to fight against the systems that lead to oppression and poverty and loneliness. He was hanging out with the people who were rejected by society, and he was trying to give us a new way of living life.  Why doesn’t the Church talk about this kind of stuff?  Why do we focus on the well behaved Jesus in the picture instead of seeing Jesus for who he really was?


October 23, 2006

I’ve been thinking about your comments on my last post all weekend. Regardless of what you think about the Religion issue, most of you seem to think that Jesus was a pretty decent guy with something to teach us. Everyone seemed to agree that it is our job to love each other, whether it is the guy that lives next door or some kid in Mexico. I’d personally think that the main job of the Church is to love people, so that they could know how much God loves them. As I’ve been talking to people about this whole idea, nobody really disagrees with me. But that made me wonder, if we are all on board with this whole love thing, why is the American Church failing?

Jesus talks a lot about the idea of repentance. Repentance, simply put, is admitting we did something wrong. In order to free ourselves from the pain that we have caused somebody and to move forward in our lives, we have to be honest about what we have done. And the second part of repentance is trying not to do it again. If I say that I’m sorry for hitting somebody, and then turn around and hit them again, am I really sorry?

I think maybe one of the reasons that the Church is so irrelevant and disconnected to the world, is because we are unwilling to repent.

So let me repent on behalf of the church. I ask your forgiveness for the Church’s sins and for my own. Please help teach the Church how to be free from these sins.

I repent that we have been judgmental. That we think we have all the answers, when really, we are all still on the journey to find God. Teach us how to be humble and how to hear your stories.

I repent that we have cut ourselves off from culture. That far too often what we talk about has nothing to do with real life. Be patient with us as we try to catch up with the world and help us to talk about things that actually matter.

I repent that we have taken the mystery out of God. We offer pre-packaged answers and pretend like we have it all together. Help us marvel at our wonderful, and sometimes crazy, God.

Finally, I repent that we have made God boring. I am so sorry that the God that we try to give to the world is dry, irrelevant, tame. Help us rediscover the passionate, loving and vibrant God who fights against injustice, comforts the poor and invites us to join him on his incredible mission to transform the world.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I really liked how some of you described what Jesus means to you. I love the examples that you gave of how Jesus has shaped you, but the more I thought about the state of the Church, the more I felt like it was important to acknowledge what we are far from perfect so that we have a chance of moving forward. Hopefully this will give us a chance to start over. Then we can get back to talking about Jesus.

Any thoughts on all of this? Anything you want to repent of on behalf of the Church? I know a lot of you out there have been hurt deeply by the Church. Does this mean anything to you? Is there anything we can do to help heal the pain the Church has caused you?

Fences and Windows; dispatches from the front lines of the globalization debate
Naomi Klein
Picador: 2002

Naomi Klein is a journalist and media commentator.

Klein composites a number of columns and speeches to record the ongoing battle against oppressive globalization and overarching corporations between 1999 and 2001. Throughout the book, Klein documents the activists groups that have been forming, their growth and development, as well as the structures that they have been fighting against.

Windows of Dissent
Through a number of dramatic articles, Klein captures the “coming out party of a movement” (p. 3) in which activists boldly challenge the WTO, World Bank and other oppressive organizations. While this movement does not have centralized leadership or any stated plan, it can be seen as a network of causes, working together towards a common goal.
Fencing in Democracy
Klein argues against globalization in the sense that it “gradually swallows everything else” and creates a “one-size-fits-all government”, destroying culture and societies abilities to govern themselves (p. 78).
Fencing in the Movement: Criminalizing Dissent
By recording her own experiences and those of fellow activists, Klein points to a criminalization of dissent. Through police violence against protestors and the increased restrictions on demonstrations, free speech is being denied and democracy is being withheld from those wishing to voice their opposition to globalization.
Capitalization on Terror
In light of September 11th, it has now become American to support big business and branding. To resist globalization, is to be unpatriotic.

Windows to Democracy
In the final chapters of the book, Klein gives us hope by painting us pictures from around the world of people fighting for the right to participate in their own lives. In Mexico, we see a “caravan of renegades” (p. 210) seeking justice and opportunity for economic freedom and in Italy we see a new hope for life. And now, Klein suggests, the task is to move past the details of the globalization debate and look at the real effects of globalization on the lives of people throughout the world. If globalization is limiting democracy, then democracy and people’s universal right to food, opportunity and freedom should become our focus.

This whole book seemed very abstract to me. Activists fought against the general idea of “globalization”, but not against all aspects of it. The nature of the movement, as a network of different movements, made it hard to understand what the protests were against, and to see the end goal of these protests. While I am sure that this book provides an exciting account to the well studied activist, for the casual observer, it is rather hard to follow.

In general, politics is not my favorite subject, and not something that I am passionate about. But, it is the way that our world runs, and because of that, I need to make an effort to care. I like that the activism Klein documents changes things on a broader scale. As an individual, I can easily offer a meal to a homeless person or tutor a low income child, but it is much harder to work towards systematic change. Through politics, one can seek to change a whole system, redeeming a broken practice and bringing redemption on a much larger scale. While I think this type of activism is uncomfortable for many churches, small steps can be made by educating ourselves about social movements, not fearing politics and the power associated with it, and by supporting activist movements whenever feasible.

who i am?

October 20, 2006

Hi everybody. 

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be a 20-something who is trying to follow God.  What does my life have to do with Jesus? Does the church have anything to do with who I am? Does the fact that I say that I believe in Jesus really change how I live my life?  

I just read this book called Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne and it challenged everything I believe about what it means to be a Christian.  Throughout the book, Claiborne shares these incredible stories about his life where he does crazy things for God. He went to Calcutta to work with Mother Teresa. He participated in a sit-in so that a bunch of homeless families wouldn’t get kicked out of this abandoned church they were sleeping in. and he gave up his upper-middle class life in order to move into the ghetto so that he could care for the people in the inner city. 

 What am I doing for God? How I’m I different because I follow Jesus? What does my faith really have to do with my life?  

In Claiborne’s book, he asks, “if Jesus lived today, would he be doing the kinds of things that the church is doing?” I don’t think so. I don’t think that what happens on Sunday mornings has anything to do with what it means to follow Jesus. So where did we go wrong?   

And then it hit me, I have no idea what it looks like to really follow Jesus. The Jesus that I see in the Church always seems so watered down, so sterile, so nice.  There has to be more to Jesus than this nice-guy facade.  I need there to be more.  But what does Jesus have to do with the friends I hang out with, with my social life and with the path I choose for myself? 

I feel like God is messing with me.  Christianity doesn’t make sense to me.  Everything that I’ve been told about what it means to be a good Christian doesn’t really apply to my real life.  And I don’t feel like anybody is talking about what God really has to do with me.  

I would like this to be a space where I can be honest about who I am and the questions I am struggling with.  I don’t think that I am alone in dealing with all this stuff, and I think it is about time that the Church started talking about it.  I also want to hear what you guys think about God, life, direction.  No matter what you think of Religion, I’d love to journey with you as we all seek to discover who this Jesus guy really is. 

So here is your question for the day: What does Jesus really have to do with your life? Let me know! I desperately need to hear about your search for God. (ps. You don’t need a wordpress account to leave a message, so you really have no excuse for not commenting)

Class today was good. I feel like we are really starting to get into the heart of the material. Over the past few weeks, I have been struggling with what it looks like to follow Jesus. Irresistible Revolution by Claiborne and Emerging Churches by Gibbs and Bolger convinced me that the Church’s job is to bring the kingdom, but I have no idea what that looks like. At one point, I even had to put down the book I was reading and go read the Gospel of Matthew because I had no idea what Jesus actually did throughout his life. The Church has made Jesus’ life so nice, so comfortable, so non-threatening. I don’t feel like anybody has really taught me what it looks like to follow Christ, so I am excited that we have begun to look at how Jesus sought to redeem culture.

Tuesday Post – Week 4

October 19, 2006

I really liked out side conversation about emergent churches. It was really helpful for me to see how theology has changed in these circles over the past 20 years, and how churches are living out the missio dei. I love that the message of Jesus was that the kingdom is now, and that we are invited to participate in God’s work in the world. This purpose seems obvious to me now, but seems to be so lacking in the broader church.

I’ve been talking to different people about the whole missio dei thing. Its hard for me to explain something that seems so central to Jesus’ message to somebody who just doesn’t think that way. I wonder what it looks for these two views to co-exist in one local church body. I have no idea what it looks like to work together for God, while having different ideas of what Christ was proclaiming.

Transforming Power: Biblical Strategies for Making a Difference in Your Community
Robert Linthicum
InterVarsity Press: 2003

Robert Linthicum has worked with numerous urban ministries, and is passionate about empowering the poor and transforming communities.

Linthicum argues convincingly that God’s intent for the world is that all people live in shalom. God despises inequality and oppression, but instead seeks peace, joy, community and fulfillment for all people, especially the poor and the oppressed. Linthicum then offers a number of practical methods to transform communities and to empower the powerless.

Transforming Powers is divided into two main sections. First, Linthicum tries to convince us that God is concerned with the social well being of the world, and then he provides us with hands on tools to redeem the world.
Linthicum pulls on numerous biblical passages to establish God’s view of shalom for his people, and to show God’s particular concern for the poor and the oppressed. He challenges the complacency of the modern Church that allows for inequality, and sheds light on the systems that have caused and maintain injustice. He asks the question, “what would it look like to follow the Jesus of the Gospels?” and then lays out a strong vision of leadership that seeks to empower people to bring about change and that is not afraid to confront the systems that go against God’s shalom.

Linthicum then takes his theology of transformation and provides practical tools for both the individual and for the Church. He focuses on the importance of hearing people’s stories and passions, and then bringing people together to take action themselves to fix the problems that they see in the world. The focus is not on the leader creating programs, but rather on raising up other leaders to do the work of ministry in the world. Through doing this, the people can participate with God in redeeming their communities.

At first, I thought Linthicum’s book was nothing new. Throughout the first half of the book, he offers a pretty standard argument for God’s concern for the poor, and the church’s role in bringing change. He paints a picture of God’s shalom, the Jubilee and God’s plan for equality, but it was all stuff that I had heard before. Nothing blew my mind and I didn’t really feel stretched in my view of the poor and of God’s kingdom.

And yet, maybe this is what the Evangelical church today needs. Though it’s not revolutionary, Linthicum does an excellent job of laying out the basic foundation for why the Church should care about the poor and about the oppressed. So often in conservative churches, the idea of social justice as an end in and of itself is left to the liberals and is seen as theologically deviant. Individual salvation is stressed so much that it is almost looked down upon to care for the holistically for an individual or a community. Linthicum manages to make a good case for God’s concern for the whole person, and that Jesus’ was concerned with establishing the Kingdom of God now. Basing his arguments completely from the Bible, Linthicum’s book might just be able to create the foundation needed for the Evangelical church to become involved in social action and allow us to work along side of God as He seeks to redeem the world.

Our discussion on Transforming Powers was really helpful today.  It was fun hearing what other people got out of the book, and to see where people are struggling to grow.  I was particularly drawn to our small group’s discussion about Dr. Stassen’s chapters on non-violent resistance.  All of the people in my group were interested in non violent protest, but none of us really knew how to live it out.  Often times when faced with injustice we feel powerless, and feel called to do something.  Our default response is violence.  I think our group was left feeling helpless and confused.  We want to do something, we want to follow the example that Jesus has left for us, but we don’t know how.