Brian McLaren on “The Innocence of Muslims”

Brian McLaren has a new book out: Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?: Christian Identity in a Multi-Faith World. With all of the turmoil in the Middle East regarding the (ridiculous) film The Innocence of Muslims, I thought I’d dial Brian up on Google+ and ask him for his thoughts about what thoughtful Christians can do.

To be honest, I’m feeling downhearted about the whole situation. If someone as gifted and goodhearted at Ambassador Chris Stevens can’t get through to Libyans/Arabs/Muslims, what can I do from my Midwestern suburbs? So, I asked Brian that, and a couple other questions:

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One More Post about Homeschooling

It’s no surprise to me that I stroked the cat’s fur the wrong way with my two posts about homeschooling over the last couple weeks. It’s not popular to decry a trend that is burgeoning among both right-wing and left-wing Christians. But I, dear reader, stand here in the center and attempt to humbly guard our space. :-)

But seriously, I know that my posts were provocative. But they weren’t personal. The fact that so many people took them personally makes me think that homeschooling has, for some, become a little too important. That being said, I have listened carefully to the arguments against my posts, and I am aware that my argument has some weak spots. I am also aware that my children have the good fortune of being in a very good school system.

Lots of vitriol has come my way in the comment sections of those posts, as well as on Twitter (Facebook, on the other hand has been relatively silent). There have also been some smart blog responses, and these three stood out to me:

Danielle Shroyer, pastor of Journey in Dallas:

I don’t believe there’s any way anyone can actually choose to opt out of the social contract. They can be bad at it, but they are in it regardless. (Maybe, Tony, your argument would be better served in saying you don’t believe homeschooling produces responsible members of the social contract, or some other value judgment…but good luck getting anyone to agree with that either!) There is no firm boundary between sacred and secular. There is no outside and inside the system. To say that someone who homeschools or sends their child to private school is not an active member of society is beyond silly.

Larry Sanger, co-founder of Wikipedia:

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The Church and Culture: An Uneasy Alliance

Neal DeRoo, co-convener of a conference at which I am presenting a paper (which is sure to bring Peter Rollins to his academic knees*), writes at Church and Pomo about what elicited this conference:

“Culture” is an amorphous, vague thing that is next to impossible to pin-down. It is only slightly better than a child’s sense of “they”: “But mom, if I do that, they will laugh at me.” Similarly, Christians tend to make a lot of our decisions based on what “culture” will do: “This culture is going to hell in a hand basket and that’s why God is punishing it” or “We have to do this to keep the Church relevant to our culture.” Both the idea that the Church can avoid culture, can hide from it somehow, and the seemingly opposite idea that the Church must engage with culture share a common problem: in both cases, Christians assume a certain distance between the Church and this thing called ‘culture.’

But the Church is not distinct from culture. It is thoroughly infused with cultural products, artifacts and institutions. The Church, any church, requires human interaction, and therefore requires using the products of previous human interactions: language, customs (as simple as a hand-shake or a smile as a greeting and as complex as guidelines for institutional decision-making), reference points (we’ve got to talk about something), and so on. As Christians, we should not call for the Church to engage culture, but rather to engage culture better, which means, in part, to be more self-aware of the ways in which it has always already been engaged by culture, by what Michel de Certeau calls the “practices of everyday life.”

While we tend to think of “popular culture” as referring only to the entertainment industry (films, TV, music, video games, and so on), it more accurately refers to all those cultural elements that are popular because they shape the lives of so many people. While TV shows or movies may be a part of that shaping, formative process, so, too, are our customs regarding food (what we eat, how we eat it, and how we produce it), fashion (what we actually wear, not just what some guy in France thinks we ought [or haute?] to wear), and functionality (what technology does for us, what it doesn’t do, and how we decide on that). As Christians whose lives are thoroughly enculturated, we have not avoided culture so much as we have evaded dealing with it directly and purposively.

Read the rest: Conference: The Christian Evasion of Popular Culture : the church and postmodern culture.

*And if that doesn’t do it, I’m taking Pete pheasant hunting the next day. That will surely cause him to starting praying again.

Are You a Gay P.K.?

My friend Sam Brink, on staff with the American Baptist Church, and his son Andrew are conducting a survey of pastors’ kids who are LGBT. If you qualify for that, please take a few minutes to complete their survey.

Find the survey here.


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