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When I started as the Minister to Youth & Young Adults at Colonial Church in 1997, I inherited a lot of programs, as most pastors do. Among them were Sunday school for both middle schoolers and high schoolers. Since I couldn’t be two places at once, I alternated weeks between them, and I had other leaders help me out.
The very first realization I had was that the high school students hated Sunday School. I mean they HATED it. Only about half a dozen students came, and they were all sophomores who hadn’t yet gotten their driver’s licenses. (Freshmen were in confirmation class, and they were required to attend worship.)
So I canceled Sunday School for high school students. They were relieved. Some of their parents were pissed. And I announced in staff meeting, “We’d better figure out ways to make our worship services more relevant to teenagers, because they’re be in worship as of next week.”
I’m happy to report that the church staff did up their game. The senior pastor began using more anecdotes from when he was in high school in his sermons. And when he gave litanies like, “This week, when you’re at work, with friends, at the gym…” he now added “at school” to those lists.
The choir director invited high school students into the choir, and I started putting students down to read scripture and lead prayers in the services.
I just got back from a week at a dude ranch in Colorado. It was a celebration of my mom’s 70th birthday, and we gathered 17 Joneses of three generations for a week of horseback riding, whitewater rafting, and eating lots and lots of beef. It was the perfect family vacation (and I’ll post about it more in days to come, including my victory in barrel racing at the culminating rodeo).
I’ve got two brothers, each with a spouse and kids. As in many families, we were raised in the same faith (centrist Protestant), but we’ve gone our separate ways somewhat. Each couple is raising their kids differently, which causes interesting conversations when we get together at times like this.
One of the things that my nieces are particularly interested in is talking about God, especially with a theologian. One of my nieces attended Young Life camp earlier in the summer, so she was particularly keen on talking to me about God and Jesus and faith. She and I chatted a bit, and later she told my mom, “After talking to Uncle Tony, now I’m totally confused.”
This is the first of two excerpts from a book that I happily endorsed: Emerging Prophet: Kierkegaard and the Postmodern People of God by Kyle Roberts. Kyle is a professor at Bethel Seminary and a fellow Patheos blogger.
Doubt is the other side of faith…This ethos may be one of the defining features of emergent Christianity—the willingness to countenance doubt. These doubts can arise from questioning the sincerity of religious faith (i.e. Freud’s “great apologetic challenge” to Christianity), the truthfulness of the Bible, the exclusivity of Christianity, or engaging in philosophical challenges to core Christian doctrines (such as those posed by the “problem of evil and suffering”). The acceptance of a positive role for doubt in the Christian life is consistent with the emergent ethos.
Because emergent Christianity is not terribly anxious about epistemological certainty, such questions are encouraged—or at the very least accepted and engaged. Furthermore, there is no rush to answer the questions in a final, authoritarian way. This openness to the reality of doubt in the Christian journey need not imply a glorification of doubt nor a complete disregard for objectivity (properly placed) in Christian theology…
Since the dissolution of my first marriage, I have been reluctant to give anyone marriage advice. I think most divorcées probably share this reluctance. Fellow Patheos blogger Wendy Murray does, but vulnerably, humbly, and thoughtfully ventures into that space anyway. She has several good pieces of advice in the post, but this is the one that I most resonate with, and the one that I’ve been most careful to attend to in my current, beautiful marriage:
Time is not benign
There is a trajectory being set for your marriage, even in these earliest days — in fact especially in these earliest days. Time will do its work, again — for better or for worse. Right now, patterns are being developed between you and your spouse that will continue to increase in magnitude over time.
Read the rest: Advice to Newlyweds from a (Divorced) Pastor’s Wife.
-Disqus is now fully functional. Thanks to BlogOps at Patheos for getting it up and running. All of your former comments should now be imported into the Disqus system, so please let us know if you see any glitches.
-Disqus allows for some things that I’ve wanted and some of you have asked for. It allows for deeper and more intuitive threads on conversations. And, best of all, it allows you to “like” a comment — comments (and threads) with the most likes get bumped to the top.
-I recommend that you get a Disqus account, or link it to your Facebook or Twitter. I think you’ll like the improvement.
-Patheos is currently working on some other back-end changes that will decrease load times, so thanks for your patience.
-Patheos is also moving to a new mobile platform. That means for the many of you who access this blog via iPhone and Android, the blog will show up in a much more readable format. Again, thanks for your patience during the transition.
-Yes, the pop-ups suck. I hate them. I’ve been assured that they will go away on the new mobile interface. I’ll keep fighting to get them to go away everywhere (at least on my blog).
-I’m getting on a plane to go to Lauren Winner’s wedding (yay!) — I’ll write my thoughts on God’s omniscience en route.
-I’m done quarreling with David Fitch (yay!) — it seems he’s incorrigible.
OK, open thread in the comments today. Do you have any thoughts on the points above, or is there anything you’d like to see addressed in the blog? (As always, shoot me links and questions through my website, Facebook, or Twitter.)
Many Christians struggle to understand this day, Good Friday. We’re told, “Jesus died for you,” and “Jesus died for your sins.” And that makes perfect sense for many years.
And then, at some point, most of us ask, But how does that work? By what cosmic calculus does the death of one man mean that I am not accountable for my sins any longer?
I’ve written extensively about this question, including an ebook: A Better Atonement: Beyond the Depraved Doctrine of Original Sin. And now it seems that my next major, hardcover book with a publisher will also be on this topic (more on this soon).
We also collected some wonderful posts at this season’s #progGOD Challenge, “Why A Crucifixion?” For example,
Kimberly Knight: Washed in His Blood, My Ass:
We are not saved by the crucifixion, we are damned by it – or we could have been. Let us face that shameful dark day and accept our culpability – knowing that if Jesus returned today to preach the gospel to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed His blood would likely run in rivulets once again. And let us move through that desolate Saturday knowing what we have done.
Scott Paeth: The Cross and the Crucified:
Jesus dies, abandoned and alone, forsaken by all, even God, to die the death of a social outcast and a political pariah. But in his death, Jesus reveals that the Good News of the Gospel is precisely that God stands on the side of all of those who are abandoned, alone, and forsaken, that God is with them in their forsakenness, has shared their suffering in the person of Jesus Christ, and in the resurrection of Christ, has overcome and redeemed it.
Denika Anderson: Beautiful Terrible Reckless Love:
Tony asked why a crucifixion is necessary. Ontologically speaking, it isn’t. Even considering the pervasiveness of sin, it still isn’t necessary. But, presented with the choice between being crucified and saving himself, Jesus shows us why choosing the crucifixion is the only choice, and why the resurrection is the only possible outcome.
Greg Garrett: Why Did Jesus Have to Die?
Jesus staked his life on the belief that God’s power is supreme — and his resurrection proves it. The power of the Empire to torture and kill, to impose its will, is nothing compared to the power of God, which will not let sin and death have the last word.
As I sit down to write this, SCOTUSblog has just tweeted that they don’t expect Prop 8 to be overturned:
That’s too bad. Justice Kennedy may not be ready for it — if so, he’s in line with many in his generation (Kennedy is 76). But, as Rob Bell said last week, that ship has already sailed. Frank Bruni basically said the same thing this week in the NYTimes:
Time to talk shop.
Last August, my literary agent and I pitched a book proposal around and, though we got some interest and even a couple offers, we felt that the time wasn’t right. We pulled the proposal and I set about to write the book in full. I also set about to get my traffic up over 100K pageviews per month. I succeeded at the latter, but not the former. The book didn’t get done, and we’re currently shopping a new — but related — proposal around.
But the blog grew, and it continues to grow. Even lacking a breakaway post, Theoblogy is up every month over the previous month. And, even more gratifyingly, the commentary is voluminous, robust, and respectful.
Blogging is a grind. There’s no two ways about it. With the goal of posting 11 times per week, it never stops. It’s disputed about who first said it, but someone famous once said that the study of history is just “one damned thing after another.” Blogging can feel like that at times. That’s what it’s felt like this weekend, facing another new week with few new ideas.
I’m glad to call Frank Schaeffer a friend (and I’m glad that he’s toned down his blog headlines from the FOX News variety that he used to publish). I’m glad to have him on the Progressive Christian channel here at Patheos. But he recently wrote a post about what’s wrong with progressive Christianity, and he’s wrong.
Actually, I agree with Frank’s premise:
We can talk about inclusiveness, diversity and making ourselves vulnerable until the cows come home but that doesn’t make religion more interesting or Christianity stronger it simply changes the labels and the shorthand jargon we talk to ourselves in.
The problem with North American Christianity is not the window-dressing– it’s the whole package.
But I wholeheartedly disagree with what he states as the main problem:
The great weakness of Protestant American Christianity across the board is that by and large it dispensed with liturgy. Having dispensed with liturgy it dispensed with the signposts that point people toward an identity that binds communities together.
To that I say [cough] bullshit! [cough].