Sunday Asylum with Stanley Hauerwas

This is just the trailer, but it looks absolutely intriguing. The full title is “Sunday Asylum: Being the Church in Occupied Territory” and it is available at The Work of the People.

Anyone else out there find this intriguing? Anyone else out there already used it?

Why I’m taking a (indefinite) sabbatical from Facebook

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I recently decided to forgo my socially networked identity and deactivated my Facebook account. I know, I know; social suicide, right? At least, perhaps, internet-related social suicide. And just writing that sentence makes me wonder about the seemingly obvious paradox found within it. Is there really a society, a community, a true list of friends found on Facebook? Is social connectedness found solely within a list of hundreds of people, some whom are actual friends, others not so much, posting snarky snippets in “status updates”? Or are pictures of people enjoying life chosen to represent the best side of life, faces and figures, reality? (Remember the days when nobody really knew what the internet itself was and we lived in a much smaller world? If not, check out this video from the Today Show in 1994.)

Awhile ago I read this post by one of my favorite authors/thinkers James K.A. Smith. In it he describes his reasons for leaving his Facebook reality and identity behind. He talks about it in regards to his formation and the effects FB was having on him. What he says really does resonate with me and my faults. I, too, have a very addictive personality and have found myself spending WAY too much time on FB. The ease of the accessibility into the lives of people added to the massive wave of information that we all find ourselves swimming in everyday makes it difficult to keep afloat. Sometimes life passes us by without our noticing it.

This is a factor that pervades nearly ever facet of our culture and thereby our lives as well. Step back and think of all the free-floating information that comes across our paths everyday. Television, magazines, Facebook, blogs, phone apps, and a plethora of other media drown us with pummeling waves. The moment we wake up we are engulfed by these things, but only if we let them. There’s a saying, “We make our tools and then our tools make us.” How true is this? Part of my fear is the connection between media oversaturation, which leads to an insatiable appetite for more, and then in turn leads to an apathy towards it all.

Can this happen in regards to people? Could Facebook lead to an unconscious determination to search out and find out things about people and yet miss the people themselves? Are we turning people into mere information containers through our never-ending voyeurism into their lives via images, status updates, and other digital means? I don’t know. All I know is that Facebook definitely has an agenda, whether it recognizes it or not, and if I’m not careful, I could allow it to continually put me on a trajectory that I may wake up too late to.

Facebook isn’t inherently evil. It is not of the devil. It is a tool to be employed for connection and networking, by which it does do a great deal of good. I will certainly miss the ease of writing a few things, sending a few things, or looking up a few things in an attempt to set up a meeting or further a conversation. So much so, that I’m not saying I won’t ever be back. Actually, by the time I decide to or not I may be too late. Check out this article discussing the possible downward trend in FB.

Basically, I don’t want to miss out on my real life because of my FB life. I don’t want to miss out on real connections with people in lieu of the surreal connections FB offers. Most of all, I want to be aware of the person FB, along with every other factor in my life, is turning me into. All of our habits are formational. The question is to what end are they forming us?

These are just some thoughts of mine and the actions I have taken because of them. If these resonate with you, let me know. If not, why not? Do I have a blind spot? Let me know.

UPDATE: Since posting this I came across this article on the Pope’s letter concerning social media, communication, and Christians. Check it out.

Brueggeman on Imperialism and the Church

Below is a portion of The Prophetic Imagination in which Walter Brueggemann compares our cultural context with that of Pharaoh and Solomon. Why Solomon?, you may think. He asserts that Solomon mimicked Pharaoh in his kingdom building and thus erased the counter-community Moses sought to build over against the Egyptians. As a result, Brueggemann sees the following imperial characteristics. Read with an eye for our own (church) situation:

“Passion as the capacity and readiness to care, to suffer, to die, and to feel is the enemy of imperial reality. Imperial economics is designed to keep people satiated so that  they do  not notice. Its politics is intended to block out the cries of the denied ones. Its religion is to be an opiate so that no one discerns misery alive in the heart of God. Pharaoh, the passive king in the block universe, in the land without revolution or change or history or promise or hope, is the model king for a world that never changes from generation to generation. That same fixed, closed universe is what every king yearns for – even Solomon in all his splendor.

This model of royal consciousness does not require too much interpretation to be seen as a characterization of our own cultural situation…It takes little imagination to see ourselves in this same royal tradition.

Ourselves in an economics of affluence in which we are so well off that pain is not noticed and we can eat our way around it.

Ourselves in a politics of oppression in which the cries of the marginal are not heard or dismissed as the noises of kooks and traitors.

Ourselves in a religion of immanence and accessibility, in which God is so present to us that his abrasiveness, his absence, his banishment are not noticed, and the problem is reduced to psychology.

Perhaps you are like me, so enmeshed in this reality that another way is nearly unthinkable.”

– Walter Brueggemann, The Prophetic Imagination, 35-36.

Sound familiar?

“I Believe in a God of Love” – excerpt from The Reason for God by Timothy Keller

“During my college years and my early twenties I, like so many other, questioned the Christian faith I was raised in. There were subjective reasons for my doubts. Christianity just didn’t seem real to me experientially. I had not developed a prayer life and had never experienced God personally. There were also intellectual problems I was having with Christianity, all of which I am addressing elsewhere in this book. There was one, however, I will talk about here.

I was troubled by those Christians who stressed hellfire and damnation. Like so many of my generation I believed that, if there was a core to all religions, it was a loving God. I wanted to believe in a God of love who accepted people regardless of their beliefs and practices. I began to take courses in the other major religions of the world – Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Confucianism, and Judaism. I have profited to this day from those studies. However, my explorations in other faiths proved me wrong on this particular point about the centrality of a loving God.

I found no other religious text outside of the Bible that said God created the world out of love and delight. Most ancient pagan religions believed the world was created through struggles and violent battles between opposing gods and supernatural forces. I turned to look more closely at Buddhism, the religion I liked best at the time. However, despite its great emphasis on selflessness and detached service to others, Buddhism did not believe in a personal God at all, and love is the action of a person.

Later on, after I became a minister, I was a speaker and panelist for several years in a monthly discussion program in Philadelphia between a Christian church and a mosque. Each month a speaker from the church and a speaker from the mosque would give a Biblical and Qu’ranic perspective on a topic. When we covered the topic of God’s love, it was striking how different our conceptions were. I was told repeatedly by Muslim speakers that God was indeed loving in the sense of being merciful and kind to us. But when Christians spoke of the Lord as our spouse, of knowing God intimately and personally, and of having powerful effusions of his love poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, our Muslim friends balked. They told us that it was disrespectful, in their view, to speak of anyone knowing God personally.

Today many of the skeptics I talk to say, as I once did, they can’t believe in the God of the Bible, who punishes and judges people, because they ‘believe in a God of Love.’ I now ask, what makes them think God is Love? Can they look at life in the world today and say, ‘This proves that the God of the world is a God of love’? Can they look at history and say, ‘This all shows that the God of history is a God of love’? Can they look at the religious texts of the world and conclude that God is a God of love? By no means is that the dominant, ruling attribute of God as understood in any of the major faiths. I must conclude that the source of of the idea that God is Love is the Bible itself. And the Bible tells us that the God of love is also a God of judgment who will put all things in the world to rights in the end.

The belief in a God of pure love – who accepts everyone and judges no one – is a powerful act of faith. Not only is there no evidence for it in the natural order, but there is almost no historical, religious textual support for it outside of Christianity. The more one looks at it, the less justified it appears.” – Timothy Keller, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism (New York, NY: Penguin Group, Inc., 2008), 81-83.