Limping Into the New Year — A Christmas Diagnosis

I am limping out of 2014 and into 2015. One week ago today, I had foot surgery, and I’m just now able to put weight on that foot. I’ll be in a boot for several more weeks as the bone that was cut regrows around the pins that should now keep it straight.

I am also limping out of the year spiritually.

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Who’s Got It Goin’ On? The Gravity Center, That’s Who!

Rob Bell gets me traffic. So does Mark Driscoll. So does any controversy, whether I gin it up purposefully or stumble into it accidentally. But you know what? There are a lot of Mark Driscoll watchdogs out there. There are lots of sites committed to reminding us how shitty the church too often is. And, while I’ll continue to point out theological ludicrousness when I see it, I also want to point out the good things in the world.

As a result of my travels, I meet a lot of great people, and see many great organizations and ministries. I read (or at least skim) a lot of great books, and run across some great blogs. So, beginning today, I’m going to post about one of them every Hump Day. I’m calling it Got It Goin’ On [GIGO]. Here’s the first installment: [Read more…]

Sacred Texts After the Apocalypse

Today, I’ve finished teaching the third in a three-year cycle of classes for a Doctor of Ministry cohort for Fuller Theological Seminary. This year’s subject matter was Fiction, Film, and Christian Spirituality. I presented the following lecture on on of my favorite novels, and one of my least favorite films.

Walter M. Miller, Jr.’s A Canticle for Leibowitz (hereafter CL) is a masterwork of science fiction, standing among the most renowned novels in that genre.[1] The same cannot be said of the 2010 Denzel Washington vehicle, The Book of Eli (BE). While both deal with themes of religion and text in a dystopian, post-apocalyptic America, the former does so deftly and the latter, well, less so.

Miller was a tortured genius. In the 1950s, after serving in World War II, he wrote three dozen short stories for popular science fiction magazines. Three of those, he heavily revised and published, together, as CL in 1959. He never published another word in his lifetime. Always odd, and likely suffering from PTSD, he grew increasingly reclusive in his later years, ultimately taking his own life in 1996 at age 72.

CL’s themes are many and scintillating. Not only did Miller’s own experience in WWII and the bombing of the monastery at Monte Cassino affect him, so did his work as an electrical engineer and, most significantly, his conversion to Roman Catholicism after the war.

The first theme to investigate is technology. At first blush, it would seem that CL, like any post-nuclear-apocalypse story, takes a dim view of technology. But Miller is no technophobe. Here, for example, is how David M. Samuelson compares him to the greatest Christian science fiction writer of the 20th century[2]:

In CL, technology and religion run parallel, as Samuelson notes. But Miller seems less than “technophilic.” Instead, it seems that both technology and religion generate ambivalent feelings for him. On the one hand, the rise of technology destroyed much of civilization, on the other hand, the Simpletons who destroyed almost all human knowledge in the Simplification are clearly portrayed in a bad light. In the middle section of the book, “Fiat Lux,” the (re)invention of the lightbulb is a significant advance, even if it is seen dubiously by some of the more skeptical monks of the order.

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Richard Rohr on Incarnational Christianity

Years ago, I proposed that those of us looking for an alternative to the labels “evangelical,” “mainline,” and “liberal,” instead rally around the term Incarnational Christian. In today’s email meditation, Richard Rohr writes something along those lines:

Paul, a good Jew, quotes Deuteronomy, “The Word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (Romans 10:8), and begins with a challenge that we still need today: “Do not tell yourself that you have to bring Christ down!” (Romans 10:6). He knew that God had overcome the human-divine gap in the Christ Mystery once and for all. God is henceforth here, and not just there.

This is Christianity’s only completely unique message. Full incarnation is what distinguishes us from all other religions. This is our only real trump card, and for the most part, we have not yet played it. History, the planet—and other religions—have only suffered as a result. Incarnationalism does not put you in competition with any other religions but, in fact, allows you to see God in all things, including them! It mandates that you love and respect all others.

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