Blog Resurrected: Help Me Make Some Choices!

Blog Resurrected: Help Me Make Some Choices! April 1, 2013

It was really good to take a break for Lent. I did a lot of reading, and I even read some fiction (!) by Reynolds Price and Joyce Carroll Oates. I wanted to share some ideas I have for series that I might run on the blog in the next few months and get your feedback on what you want me to write about. I’d like to be a little bit less haphazard with my topics. I’m also going to try to keep my posts shorter (ideally <1000 words) for the sake of my sanity. So please help me decide which of the following series to pursue.

I. Most Abused/Ignored Verses in the BibleWe live in an age of proof-texting when people read the Bible in order to arm themselves for ideological battles rather than discipleship. This happens on all sides of the various debates that take place. “God is love” does not mean that God’s love is a banal benevolence that approves everything I do. “All scripture is God-breathed” does not mean that God is not allowed to breathe through legends and allegories that teach His truth. There are also some verses that have been ignored or dismissed. I may do them all in one series or do two series back to back.

II. The Real Straw Men of Evangelical Christendom
Dissident evangelicals like me are often accused of straw man arguments in which we invent opposing positions that are easy to critique. I always protest that if what I’m critiquing is a straw man, then there’s at least a few million straw men walking around in America today. At the same time, it’s easy to demonize fundamentalist megachurch pastors rather than recognizing that at least some or perhaps even a lot of what they say is solid gospel truth. So I figured I would read Mark Driscoll’s Doctrine to see where we agree and where we part ways. I may listen to some sermons by John Hagee or John MacArthur or John Piper.

III. Sex and Rescue
Just before Lent, I got involved in some drama regarding a book by Yvonne Zimmerman that critiqued the evangelical anti-trafficking movement from a feminist perspective. Dr. Zimmerman sent me a copy of her book and a book by Laura Agustin called Sex on the Margins which is an anthropological study of sex workers. Though I have points of disagreement with both Agustin and Zimmerman, I also think they make a lot of good points. The anti-trafficking movement is very trendy right now in the evangelical church. In what ways has the movement been tailored to appeal to the emotional needs of the activists at the expense of the needs of the victims? What about the majority of trafficking victims who are not female and have nothing to do with sex? Is it okay to admit that there’s a gray area and not every “victim” is a slave and not every “trafficker” is a pimp?

IV. Mondays with MertonOver Lent, I started reading Thomas Merton’s New Seeds of Contemplation and I’ve wanted to underline just about every sentence. It struck me how much I’ve been shaped by what I’ve read from Thomas Merton over the years. He and Henri Nouwen have both been tremendous in helping me discover some beautiful mysteries in the gospel. So I figured I would spend a few Mondays contemplating quotes from Thomas Merton.

V. What the Zizek!
Slavoj Zizek is probably the trendiest philosopher living today among the hipster set. He’s probably too postmodern to accept the label of postmodern. Some of his insights are very useful for understanding the idolatry that gets created by capitalism. He also says a lot of things that are ridiculous and frustrating. He also says a lot of things that I simply don’t understand. Many of the emergent Christians have drawn from Zizek in their theology. I believe that all truth belongs to God, so it doesn’t bother me for Zizek to have some things right even though he’s an atheist. His most recent book Less Than Nothing is over a thousand pages long. I have been struggling through it and writing smart-alecky retorts in the margins when he says something stupid about Christianity. So if I’ve got any readers that are as nerdy as I am, speak up. I don’t want to do this unless somebody out there will appreciate it.

VI. Primitive ChurchMethodism’s founder John Wesley used the phrase “primitive church” to describe the purer form of Christianity which he imagined the church to have in the first several centuries. He was profoundly influenced by a set of homilies he read from an ancient monk named Macarius. I would like to dig into Macarius and some other ancient Christian writers like Basil, Gregory of Nyssa, John Cassian, John Chrysostom, and others.

These are all the possible series I can think of right now. Please speak up if one of these interests you more than the others, or if there’s another topic you would like me to write about. Thanks and God bless!

Ballard Now-Retired Hall

04/01/2013 – The day after Easter. I cannot help but to think about all that I have reflected on this Easter. First, let me start by telling you what an awesome message I received during the Easter church service this year. Pastor Larry spoke about Jesus giving us the opportunity to re-write our lives; and this doesn’t mean just once. Through the love of God, we can re-write our lives as many times as we need to ensure that we are spreading the message that Jesus started. Now this doesn’t mean that we have the right to completely dis-own His word, and then the next Sunday, Monday, or anyday “re-write” our lives. The theory behind the re-write is to notice when God, through the mercy of His son’s death, has given you the vision to see that it’s not over until He wins. No matter the struggle, no matter the hardship, no matter the downfalls we all have, the love of Jesus grants us the ability to “re-write” our lives. Because we are no longer blind to the mercy of God, we can take that symbolic pen, and re-write our lives to serve Him. During the service, Larry told the story of a lady known around the NoVa area who drives a car with a licence plate that reads BLESD 2 (with a handicap symbol) because it was a handicap plate obviously. Larry then continues to explain how the lady isn’t saying that she is just blessed also, but that she is blessed twice. Who knows what happened in her life that made her feel blessed the first or second time. The real matter to the story is that she seen her blessings. She was able to take the pen and re-write her life after the first blessing.

Isn’t that all we want in life; to be able to re-write our life when things are the worst? Since we cannot rewind time, we should all strive to live like Jesus. This is the only way we can truly re-write anything. If you have not seen the series titled “The Bible” on the History channel, it is a must!! It comes out on dvd, April 2, go buy it. Watch it, learn the message and tell the world. Towards the end of the last episode, Peter is called to come see Cornelius (a roman guy.) Cornelius said an angel said to find him (Peter) in order to save him. Peter’s reply was priceless: “I am a man just like you, it is only through Jesus that you can be saved.” We are all just humans, just like the next guy or gal, but we can help those around us re-write their lives. When the last episode ended all I could think about was being a disciple. I’m not talking about being a regular person that goes about life and only talks about Jesus when it is normal or “appropriate,” but all the time. I can’t help but to feel bad for those disciples who also died, just like Jesus, for spreading the truth of God’s message. In fact, Peter was hung upside down and John was beheaded.

To dedicate your life to Jesus is one thing, to be a disciple is another. I vow to be a disciple! Will you join me? This means no more excuses, no more being ashamed, or scared of society’s view on Jesus, no more saying or thinking one thing, but acting in a different way, no more asking for forgiveness for something just to do it again the next day and not feeling remorse for it, and lastly, let’s be like the original disciples, teach the word of God until it kills. This may be a bit extreme for you, but after reading and watching what Jesus went through so that I can sin and be forgiven, was extreme. Serve those who are looked down upon. Be the light of Jesus for those who are blind and cannot see. There isn’t anything in the Bible that says Jesus could only have 12 disciples. “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

(Prayer for all of us)
Thank you so much for your everlasting love for us. As we reflect on what Easter is really for, we thank you for rising from the dead, so that we may do the same one day. Lord, help show us how we can have that immesurable love for those around us. We need your help in seeing how we can re-write our lives, when we see those blessings you provide. Lord, forgive us, for we are all sinners. Help us understand our sins, in a way that we can learn from them. To be able to teach others how to do the same. God, you gave us the ability to love, but we need to love the way your word teaches us. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends, just like our life will never end, if we believe in you. Give us all the courage to teach your word, be a light to those who are blind, and to stand storng even when we are persecuted for doing just this. Jesus, you are so almighty. I ask that you bless my brothers and sisters in receiving this message, your message!

In Jesus’ name,

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  • Some great ideas there Morgan. I’d absolutely love to read the Macarius series, and I think it would be something not typically covered. I think there are a few good posts to be written about the current Evang interest in trafficking – there’s a real Venn intersection between issues of justice and purity which are red-flag issues. Of the others I appreciate the desire to do a really good, close reading of one of Driscoll’s ghosted books or a Hagee sermon, and one which honours their work at various levels, even when its easiest just to laugh at the herneneutics and move on – I think few people could do that as well as you.

    The other stuff I’m sure I’ll read and it will be interesting, but those are the hot items for me. Looking forward to the next season.

    Also some more of the atonement theory stuff and personal theo-biography would also be great – you really struck a chord back there.

  • Liz

    Great topics! I would hate to see any of these ideas relegated to the proverbial ‘back burner.’
    I would say that #2 is something many people will find helpful as they try to digest and assimilate what they are hearing from the sources you mentioned. Personally, I would love to read posts on #1 and #4-6 as part of my daily meditations. Greater awareness and understanding of #3 will help us to be more effective in the ministry of reconciliation in which we all share.

  • Caryn

    Hi Morgan,
    Although I have taken a needed reflection time away from “church” I have deepened my faith and my understanding of the mysteries of life. I enjoy your blog and love your new ideas. I also wanted to let you know I reflected a lot yesterday on our Easter together two years ago in the ICU and how much your presence meant to us… Thank you and know I am still out here on my path, it just isn’t leading me to Burke Church at the moment 🙂 Caryn

  • So far, I like Mondays with Merton and the stuff with the old dead guys like Macarius. I feel like I’ll argue with you less on those. 🙂 Proof-texting one could be helpful too.

    That’s my 3-cents.

  • I like 1, 4 and 6, but the others are also interesting.

  • pastordt

    1, 4, 6 for me, too. You are a veritable fount of ideas here, Morgan. Good on you.

  • 2 and 6 would be my favorites. Do you accept guest posts?

    • Morgan Guyton

      Id be open to that. What would you like to write about?

  • Lori Stafford

    Mondays with Merton would be wonderful. Or the sex trafficking~especially interested in your ideas regarding our propensity to “do” mission and not “be in mission”. I struggle to explain this concept to good-hearted, well-meaning sisters & brothers so that they understand those who are oppressed / exploited usually have very good ideas concerning their needs. Sharing your ideas on how to get well meaning others to listen & not rush in to “fix things” would help me.

  • I always find something interesting to reflect upon in your blogs. The real straw men idea sounds great. It would be very cool to see some analysis of televangelists that would transcend just the common “they’re so silly” reaction.

  • (Also, can’t go wrong with Thomas Merton)

  • Edo

    #4 and #6, definitely. Either 1 or 2 would be neat as well, but #4 and #6 are standouts.

  • I’m sympathetic to Driscoll and Piper still. I see a lot of their work as valuable, but am frustrated by the way things go wrong. I’d love to read your thoughts on that.
    I’m also interested in Zizek, thought I don’t really have time for him right now. A friend of mine, Creston David (who has an amazing story…) has worked with Zizek, and has described a connection between him and Christianity. I personally, work from the opposite direction as Zizek, but along the same dimension (which most people don’t look at). Happy to read about that, too.
    Merton is almost certainly worthwhile as well, though I’ve never dug into him either.

  • “So I figured I would read Mark Driscoll’s Doctrine to see where we agree and where we part ways.”

    Setting aside the man’s character, you will probably find this to be the most confused, ill-informed, and poorly argued book on Christian doctrine you have ever read.

    • Morgan Guyton

      Maybe so. I think my goal is to trace the presumptions and pieties that are at play in his thinking. I want to test my hypothesis that neo-reformed thought is half Kant and half Nietzsche.

      • Nah, this is something new.

        Something my generation will have to deal with.

        New Sincerity.

        Tread with caution.

      • If those are the philosophies at work in American public univeristy communications classes, then yes.

  • Those are all intriguing ideas. Though I’m pretty tired of going round and round with evangelicalism. It may be that I just have the April 4, “shot rang out in the Memphis sky” blues, but I’m pretty much ready to leave evangelicals in the dark ages where they seem to prefer life.

    That said, as a non-evangelical who is heavy in the anti-trafficking movement, #3 interests me the most. I have Lia Scholl’s book “I [heart] sex Workers” but haven’t read it yet. If you do that series, that’ll probably motivate me to get into it.

    Look forward to reading whatever you choose…

    • Morgan Guyton

      Oh I would definitely like to hear your perspective on Lia Scholl’s piece and your experience with the anti-trafficking movement in general! I haven’t been exposed to it directly. The main question I have is: how do churches plug in to real work as opposed to ordering a bunch of bumper stickers and creating a lot of hype? It seems like something that would involve people with specialized training in very particular roles in law enforcement and social work. The Zimmerman book seemed to suggest that there was a lot of bumper sticker-level anti-trafficking “work” going on, but like I said, it’s not something I’ve been directly a part of.