‘And our new religion is All-American!’

‘And our new religion is All-American!’ January 2, 2012

Josh Langhoff of Burnside Writers Collective picks the CCM Album of the Year for 2011: The Book of Mormon:

I don’t want to oversell the spiritual import of a show that’s essentially one hilarious provocation after another. On the other hand, maybe that’s a clue to where more [contemporary Christian music] should aim. Little of the year’s CCM provoked anyone. …

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Tony Jones reads Michael Mooney’s puff-piece on Southern Baptist mega-pastor Robert Jeffress in D Magazine.

From Mooney’s article:

Jeffress has his own radio show, his own television show, and … he’s about to publish his 18th book, Twilight’s Last Gleaming: How America’s Last Days Can Be Your Best Days. … First Baptist Dallas recently decided to undertake one of the most expensive church construction projects in modern American history. At a cost of $128 million, the new campus will feature a glass skywalk, a giant cross-shaped fountain, and a sleek 3,000-seat sanctuary that will rival Madison Square Garden. Jeffress wants it to serve as a “spiritual oasis” in the middle of downtown.

Jones replies:

Mooney might have missed the obvious question, since he’s not a theologian. That question can basically boiled down to this: WTF?!?

Read the whole thing.

I’m still a bit gobsmacked by the unintentional sociopathic candor of the title of Jeffress’ book: “How America’s Last Days Can Be Your Best Days.”

Wow. I wonder if Augustine would have sold more books if only he’d been shrewd enough to have titled his book The City of God: How Rome’s Last Days Can Be Your Best Days.

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On the subject of the continuing devolution of the Southern Baptist Convention, let me highlight another item from Peter Larrman’s Religion Dispatches piece “Top 2011 Religion Stories That Weren’t“:

3. Five-Point Calvinism Inside the Southern Baptist Convention

You’d have to troll through obscure Baptist newsletters in order to see what a big deal this is in the largest U.S. Protestant body: our regular religion writers seem oblivious. While it is certainly true that all traditional Baptists take divine sovereignty seriously, early Baptists in this country decisively rejected the rigid “double predestination” views of the early Puritans who persecuted them. Practically speaking, they were Calvinists only in the sense that Arminius was a (dissident) Calvinist. Now the SBC is increasingly dominated by so-called “Five Point” Calvinists: the same kind I grew up among in a Dutch Reformed milieu. For people who take their Baptist traditions seriously, this is yet more weirdness flowing from the more basic weirdness of Baptist faith becoming doctrinal at all.

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Natalie Burris quotes this passage from Christian Smith’s The Bible Made Impossible:

Why then do so many Christians get so invested in figuring out the intricacies of various biblical and theological matters about which the Bible is not entirely clear when they already don’t and won’t obey scripture on the very clear and simple matter of being generous with money and possessions? How are such believers to expect God to work to deepen their faith and knowledge of spiritual matters when they simply refuse to do what scripture has already made painfully plain and necessary?

Natalie adds:

A hungry person does not care whether I am a Calvinist or Arminian. A person who has more month than paycheck could give a rat’s ass whether I’m a biblicist or a post-conservative Christological-hermeneutic-supporting Barthian student of the Bible (whew!).

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Fr. Richard Rohr writes something that reminds me of the late great Sidney Lumet.

Rohr on “Fear of Self Disclosure“:

The sharing of our inner or interior world … is always a risk, usually a fear of rejection, and thus many of us never go there. It might change our self image. But I am going to make a rather absolute statement: people who risk intimacy are invariably happier and much more real people. They feel like they have lots of “handles” that allow others to hold on to them, and that allow them to hold onto themselves! People who avoid intimacy are always, and I mean always, imprisoned in a small and circular world.

Lumet on Acting and “self exposure”:

Most good work — not just acting, but really any creative work — is a matter of use of self, self exposure. …

I was primarily a theater actor. I knew that good acting, as I say, it is self exposure, to a large degree. And I got sort of embarrassed about revealing those parts of myself to 1,500 strangers a night — if you were in a hit, that is. Otherwise, it was to 50 strangers a night.

The upside of the “embarrassment” that led Lumet to give up acting, of course, is that he became a director, and so we got 12 Angry Men, Serpico, Murder on the Orient Express, Dog Day Afternoon, Network and dozens of other films to treasure.

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James F. McGrath: “Star Trek vs. Star Wars: Exclusivism, Inclusivism and Pluralism

Is being a fan a matter of appreciation, or of exclusive appreciation?

It seems to me that this is a fine example in relation to which to explore the relationship not only between different canons and traditions, but also openness to learning from and appreciating others while also being committed to one’s own tradition.

Also from McGrath, this is what I thought, too, when I first saw this clip from Robertson: “Pat Robertson vs. Doctor Who.”

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