Five Reasons to “Animate” Your Church’s Adult Education Program

Tony Jones recently posted some info about a project that I am part of, the new Animate Faith Formation Series, from SparkHouse. I have already been compensated for my part in the project, so my gushing over the project is not so much about sales as it is about hoping people take advantage of this resource that I am truly proud of.

From what I can tell, the folks at SparkHouse wanted to bring together seven of the greatest Christian thinkers in the universe in order to create an adult formation curriculum that was, not only theologically solid, but engaging and thoughtful. As the tagline reads:

Seven leading Christian voices.
Seven big conversations about faith.
All you need is seven weeks.

As it would turn out the seven greatest thinkers were already booked, so they scraped together seven other folks who have been known to flap their gums about God, faith and life:

And over about six months we wrote, procrastinated, wrote, submitted, re-wrote, gathered, critiqued, re-wrote and finally recorded our thoughts on God, Jesus, Salvation, Spirituality, The Cross, the Bible and Church. The results of our efforts can be seen in this first of many teaser videos:

Here are five quick reasons why I think you should order it today:

  • We invite rather than instruct. While we each give our perspective on faith, these are not offered in order convince anyone of anything, but rather to present a compelling reason to think about each topic and then explore what this means for each person.
  • We were allowed to be ourselves. I know this seems like a no-brainer, but we were each encouraged to bring our own stories into this project and the process. The danger in this kind of openness is that our personalities and styles might not always jive with the hearer, but the potential for folks to hear a genuine invitation to conversations about faith hopefully comes through.
  • We modeled what we encourage. Part of the process was to engage with one another through a script read-through and workshop. Gathered in one room over two days, we each read, critiqued, received and eventually left with a better message than we could have developed on our own. This mutuality and respectful exploration was an important part of this project and we hope this same kind of interaction will take place for the participate in the series. And in case you were wondering, YES this was a tad bit intimidating.
  • Not everyone will be happy with what we say or who we are. There will be some who will try to place the seven of us into some theological box from which we are collectively destroying Christendom and perverting the Gospel with our false theology in word and deed. And while there are times when I WISHED for that kind of power, rest assured that I stand proudly with these folks, not because I agree with everything that is said, but because we have each entered into a liberating journey to make faith real in a world where too often Christianity is experienced as anything but freeing.
  • It just looks awesome. Okay, I have to admit that when I was told that there was going to be animation, I thought to myself, “Cool” and immediately hoped for some Speed Racer version of myself. Well, not only is the artwork and graphical layout great looking, after previewing my own segment, folks will be moved by how the animation helps fill and form the words and thoughts that are trying to be expressed. Also, the journal that tis part of the series is one of those rare “workbooks” that people will keep on their bookshelves, not as a reminder of a moment in time, but as a way to look back on their journey of faith.

So, thanks to Tony Jones, Paul Soupiset and Team and the rest of the SparkHouse crew for their vision, leadership and support during this project. It was a blast. For more information about the “voices” of Animate including bio’s, links and trivia, click HERE and here are the various Social Media  links of interest: FacebookTwitter and YouTube.


Faith, Stones and the Top Ten Catholic Teachings Rick Santorum Rejects

[Photo by Gage Skidmore]

If you are one of those who “enjoys” the topsy-turvy nature of the election season, the only real show to watch these past few months has been the Republican Primary. I will say that I have managed only to watch the debates via the filter of my friends on Twitter, but still it has been fascinating. Like every arm-chair political pundit, I too have been wondering who has the best shot at unseating President Obama – for the record, I think John Huntsman was the only legit threat – and now that it’s down to the final four, the past few weeks have been pretty wild.

One of the issues that keep arising is the boldness with which Rick Santorum has been speaking the ways his faith influences his politics and should influence the laws of the United States. I am not a fan, but I get why some people might like him. No one is going to fault him for not speaking his mind including saying that 1960’s John Kennedy’s Speech about the separation of church and state made him want to vomit.  His “throw up” comment combined with his comments about the snobbery of a college education and a growing list of other provocative statements may be moving him closer to the Dan Quale and Sarah Palin Quotable Club than the White House. But I guess we’ll see . . .

In any case, one of the Santorum posts that has been going around is the Top Ten Catholic Teachings Santorum Rejects while Obsessing about Birth Control post by Juan Cole. His list is as follows:

1. So for instance, Pope John Paul II was against anyone going to war against Iraq I think you’ll find that Rick Santorum managed to ignore that Catholic teaching.

2.The Conference of Catholic Bishops requires that health care be provided to all Americans. I.e., Rick Santorum’s opposition to universal health care is a betrayal of the Catholic faith he is always trumpeting.

3. The Catholic Church opposes the death penalty for criminals in almost all situations. (Santorum largely supports executions.)

4. The US Conference of Bishops has urged that the federal minimum wage be increased, for the working poor. Santorum in the Senate repeatedly voted against the minimum wage.

5. The bishops want welfare for all needy families, saying “We reiterate our call for a minimum national welfare benefit that will permit children and their parents to live in dignity. A decent society will not balance its budget on the backs of poor children.” Santorum is a critic of welfare.

6. The US bishops say that “the basic rights of workers must be respected–the right to productive work, to decent and fair wages, to the organization and joining of unions…”. Santorum, who used to be supportive of unions in the 1990s, has now, predictably, turned against them.

7. Catholic bishops demand the withdrawal of Israel from Palestinian territories occupied in 1967. Rick Santorum denies that there are any Palestinians, so I guess he doesn’t agree with the bishops on that one.

8. The US Conference of Catholic Bishops ripped into Arizona’s law on treatment of immigrants, Cardinal Roger Mahony characterized Arizona’s S.B. 1070 as “the country’s most retrogressive, mean-spirited, and useless anti-immigrant law,” saying it is based on “totally flawed reasoning: that immigrants come to our country to rob, plunder, and consume public resources.” He even suggested that the law is a harbinger of an American Nazism! Santorum attacks ‘anchor babies’ or the provision of any services to children of illegal immigrants born and brought up in the US.

9. The Bishops have urged that illegal immigrants not be treated as criminals and that their contribution to this country be recognized.

10. The US Conference of Bishops has denounced, as has the Pope, the Bush idea of ‘preventive war’, and has come out against an attack on Iran in the absence of a real and present threat of an Iranian assault on the US. In contrast, Santorum wants to play Slim Pickens in Dr. Strangelove and ride the rocket down on Isfahan himself.

Read full post by Juan Cole here.

Now when I first read this list, my inside snarky junior high school boy voice was like, “Yeah, Santorum take that, you big mean right-wing hypocrite!” Because, let’s be honest, it does seems like a serious amount of selective faith positions are being used to support political ones. Now I am not Catholic. I personally differ on some social and theological positions that the Roman Catholic church holds and I also agree with a great deal of what the Catholic Church believes and does, but again, I am not a Catholic, so I do not know what the expectations are of the members of the Roman Catholic Church. Should a member agree with everything that the Catholic Church believes in doctrine and practice? Wow, that’s a huge question for Catholics around the world.

I am so very glad that I am a member of the Presbyterian Church (USA) where, in our tradition, every member agrees with every one of the social and theological positions that our denomination has ever taken.

Oh . . . wait a minute.

Dangit, I guess it’s hard for me to really get on Santorum too much because really, is any of us pure of heart and action when it comes to our denominational or religious affiliations let alone the entirety of our faith? I think not. So while I would love to bask the condescending glow of his own inconsistencies and hypocrisy, I keep hearing Jesus scream into my ear,

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Matthew 7:1-2

Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her. – John 8:2-11

Please don’t get me wrong, I am also not defending him, his positions or the tone of the attacks that are coming from the GOP primary. It is probably safe to say that much would have to happen in order for me not to support a 2nd term of Barack Obama. What I am doing is calling on those of us Christians who vigorously disagree with the folks like Santorum, to do so with a little more care than others might, because, while he is certainly opening himself up to public scrutiny by seeking the highest elected office in the land, I do not think Jesus’ would see that as an excuse to unfairly judge or cast any stones his way.

While I would love to be able to keep up with comments on the various blogs that I post on, if you really want me to respond, please comment on the original post on