Love is not our choice, but God’s gift (featuring Simone Weil)

simone weil

One of the most problematic axioms in the popular evangelical culture that raised me is to say that love is a choice, not a feeling. Evangelicals say this to contrast "Christian" love (agape), which is all about arduous self-sacrifice, with "worldly" love (eros), which is fickle and self-centered. But if you asked an orthodox Christian from any other era whether it's proper to call agape our choice, they would say rightly that our ability to channel agape is not something we can do on our own, … [Read more...]

What does a safe and fruitful church conversation about sexuality look like?

The Virginia Conference of the United Methodist Church will be meeting next weekend in Hampton, Virginia. Among our business is a resolution to recommend omitting the Book of Discipline language around homosexuality. I've been dreading the series of angry speeches that will take place in an environment in which it's impossible for authentic prayerful dialogue to occur. My colleague Tom Berlin has proposed that in lieu of the annual predictable polarizing legislative battle, we try to have some … [Read more...]

Stop trolling! Seven ways to be a better internet critic

One of the real poverties of our digital age is the lack of authentic constructive criticism that happens in our online discourse. This is because we have ghettoized ourselves tribally according to ideological litmus tests, so the only interactions we have with people we actually disagree with are psychological warfare meant to rattle them with snarky zingers (a.k.a. "trolling") rather than a genuine attempt to help others get past problems we perceive in their thinking. Imagine if you took … [Read more...]

Jason Micheli on Discipleship vs. Propositional Belief

My friend Jason Micheli blogged yesterday on the anxiety of parents whose kids have fallen away from Christianity. It's a topic I often have in the back of my mind in confirmation season. One of the most painful statistic to look at for our church is the number of kids whose last Sunday in church was the day they were confirmed. We retain about a quarter to a third of the kids we confirm. We've tried a lot of different strategies for addressing the problem. I wanted to share a quote from Jason … [Read more...]

Cut government spending, except when I have to wait in line

A number of people in my church have been impacted by the game of chicken known as sequestration that Obama and the Republicans are playing with one another. Almost everyone either works for the civilian sector of the government, a government contractor, or the military. Several people have lost their jobs; many have been furloughed. And that's why I'm more than a little bit hot about the way that Congress has suddenly bolted in action to exempt the FAA from sequestration rules so that people … [Read more...]

Why I clash with the gatekeepers

I often clash with the gatekeepers of Christian orthodoxy. I'm sure that I get under their skin too. To me, they look like the Pharisees Jesus talks about in Matthew 23:13: "Woe to you [who]... shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying." I wonder what Bible verse they would apply to the caricature of me that they see on their laptop screen. In any case, I thought I would try to express where I'm coming from, … [Read more...]

Interruption, Ideology, and Truth

Amos Yong at the Missio Alliance talked today about "the phenemonology of interruption" in Pentecost. Interruption is how God expresses His sovereignty. Humanity muddles along in our reality that we can't imagine being any other way, and events happen that do not fit "the way things are." Our paradigms are shattered, and we are forced to grapple with the terror that Somebody greater than the projected Geist of our civilization has tinkered with us. Pentecost is the eternal event of the Spirit's … [Read more...]

Do you read the Bible for ideology or discipleship?

When I was in seminary, one of the things that impressed me about Augustine was the way that his language was haunted by the words of the psalms, in particular my favorite one, Psalm 42. Books 11-13 of his Confessions break into one of the most beautiful hermeneutical dances I have ever encountered. I wrote a term paper on his stream-of-conscious, allegorical interpretation of Genesis 1 in which the "dry land" which is eternal life has at its center the spring of living water which that deer in … [Read more...]

A conversation with my favorite Republican uncle

There are two topics you're not supposed to bring up at family reunions: politics and religion. Thus it was unsurprising when my uncle Joel said, "Morgan, I've got a challenge for you. Come up with a sermon comparing the Exodus story to the 2012 presidential election. You have thirty seconds. Go!" In my late grandparents' house in Jackson, MS, there was a picture of Joel grinning widely, arm in arm with long-time Republican Senator Trent Lott. I'm not sure whether Joel pegged me as the kind of … [Read more...]

Trust not opinion

In the information age, people define themselves primarily by their opinions rather than their actual behavior. This is not only the case for hard-core partisan ideologues, but also moderates who define themselves as more "reasonable" by balancing "conservative" opinions with "liberal" ones. While it used to be said that treating others with respect and integrity was the measure of one's character, many today evaluate their moral courage according to how willing they are to stand up for their … [Read more...]