Your Religious Pursuits: Manic Spirituality or Peaceful Intimacy?

Manic: affected with or marked by frenzyCultural pluralism has intersected with capitalist consumerism, and a byproduct of it is what I'm calling spiritual mania.  It happens because the world in which we live creates tons and tons of wasted.  There's wasted packaging, wasted time spent on trivialities, wasted relationships that have become as commodified and disposable as an consumer product, and wasted environments, poisoned as they are by the entire system that has displaced creativity, m … [Read more...]

Torn and Tattered: mutual brokenness as the basis of friendship

"I needed to be back on track. Pity is the last thing you need. Pity is hopeless. Pity is what someone gives you because he is afraid to take care of you. I didn’t need that", said Phillipe regarding why, in spite of 90 highly qualified applicants, he hired an ex-con with no experience to be his care giver after his paragliding accident which left him a quadriplegic.  The story of his relationship with his caregiver, Abdel, nicknamed Driss, is explored in the marvelous movie "Intouchables", pr … [Read more...]

If you fail at falling, you’ll fail at everything.

Eric Fromm, in his classic "The Art of Loving", writes that a healthy environment for growing up would include parents who, between them, would receive both an unconditional love and a very conditional and demanding love.  That sounds controversial of course, and probably is.  But I wonder if there isn't some merit in thinking about it a bit before dismissing it outright.  After all, Jesus, we're told, was full of grace and truth.  He told his followers that they needed to be perfect, and the roa … [Read more...]

Starting Assumptions for Sexual Ethics

This winter I'll be teaching about sexual ethics and intimacy in the church I lead in Seattle.  The sermons and study questions will be available the church website here.  It's an important series for our time and place because cultural factors, both in and outside the church, have conspired to create a sense of what might best be described as sexual and relational anarchy.Churches that offer a clear ethic for sexuality are often more gnostic than Christian, with the result that young people … [Read more...]

The “wish dream” must die! Musings on intimacy from Ruby Sparks

None of you know this, but I write fiction.  Writing bad fiction is a bit like being an omnipotent God, in the most "omni" sense of the word.  I will characters into existence and then shape them to do my bidding, to move my story towards whatever end I desire.  They're protagonists or antagonists.  They're heroes or villians.  They're sexy and alluring or not.  But whatever else they are I know this:  they're boring and predictable. This is because I created them, rather than doing what real fic … [Read more...]

The Piano – and the painful goodness of letting go

I didn't know on Saturday night that they'd be the last notes I'd play on it.  I sat down a few minutes before a woman came in response to our Craig's list ad and touched the keys with a tune I made up on the fly.  It's what I do best with pianos.  Those pesky notes from Bach or Mozart have always felt too confining for me.  So I simply sit and play, letting the music well up from my soul and pour out over the keys.  I've done that multiple hundreds of times on this piano.  It's been a friend.  L … [Read more...]

Sex, Shame, and the Gospel… resources for conversation

We Christians, especially in America, are terrible at having healthy conversations about sexuality and sexual ethics.  The landscape of these conversations are ripe with charges, counter-charges, fear, and sweeping judgements, so much so that when I write about sexuality, I need to read all the comments carefully so as to remove the hateful words that inevitably show up, offered in the name of "staying true to the faith" or "holiness" or some other such nonsense, in much the same way that the … [Read more...]

What are you wearing today?

Warning:  No chicken sandwiches were eaten, or boycotted, in the production of this blog post.  I love this little bit in Colossians 3, which reads: "put on (or 'drape yourself with') a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience."  The author goes on to declare that a community clothed in these will be quick to forgive and also won't be inclined to pick at each other over every little thing (which is the meaning of 'bearing with one another').  It's a wonderful word picture … [Read more...]