Category Archives: Growth and Discipleship

The Church, Hatred, and The Man in the Mirror

I came across a most fascinating, albeit sarcastic comment on FB today, and thought, wow, how telling.

The church should do only that which makes her feel good. Namely, that is to beat the part of the Law that she thinks she keeps into the church’s parishioners. If the church steps outside of those bounds and reminds her that she is also accountable to God for the Law she fails to keep, the church should be punished and silenced.

The thing is, we have lots of theological theories and models that make it pretty easy to have selective vision and do just as the quote suggests. This is not to say the theories and models are in error, but more so, that they are just models and shouldn’t stand in isolation.

Consider the following:

Luther’s two kingdoms model sounds great, and as a way of sorting out theology, its means of satisfying man’s desire for logical reasoning within the scriptures makes it an exceedingly powerful concept to latch on to. One of its dangers is that it can lead to a form of dualism… where in a second god is created that runs the world and dishes out its assorted evils. The two kingdoms model is also appealing to the old adam, being it can absolve individual Christian’s of the need to engage with the mud and muck of worldly issues. It can also lead too an out of site, out of mind mentality… being the heavenly aspect takes up the entire mind space, as there is little need for earthly concern, short of the needs of ones immediate tribe.

And yet, one doesn’t have to be a full blown dualist to fall into this trap. I think of numerous discussions in my younger days, where in some were so hard core about praying and getting Bibles into folks hands, they considered said folks physical needs to be of minimal importance. It almost seemed that said Bibles got printed without the second chapter of James, at least from the theology of the delivery folks.  In a related vein as to the scriptures,  what about the bit about pulling down folks in positions of power and privilege, sending the rich away empty, and filling the poor and elevating the meek and humble. Is such to be dismissed as the social justice rantings of a naive teenage girl?

The law and Gospel model is pretty well tried and true for bringing about life changes… but if dots get left unconnected, it can easily morph into a matter for the mind exclusively, rather than both the heart and mind. I remember a pastor friend who worried he might have gone too far in connecting the dots after loosing a huge chunk of powerful and wealthy parishioners from his congregation after a rather intense sermon.

And while connecting too many dots is a rare thing, its pretty common thing in some sectors to do the reverse and ignore the dots entirely, or barely connect them at all. Consider a few churches known for pounding sexual matters into the ground. Being such is an easy way to engage folks around a common rally point with only a minimal chance of negative financial or membership declines, it’s an easy temptation to proceed in such a direction. In addition, the emotions triggered are likely to make folks feel like such will making a huge difference in society at large when the sexual sins of folks outside the church are brought to light.

And yet, in matters of justice and power, far too often there are crickets rather than a path of dots.  After all, there are no dishonest or greedy folks in ones congregation… And being the  US economy depends upon year over year growth rates, which requires coveting by great masses of people… moving the dots even a bit could well be playing with fire.

I think a similar parallel can be made with respect to racism, xenophobia, or even hatred with respect to being a subject where crickets exist. In general, folks don’t blatantly display such behaviors, thus making a head in the sand approach, a safe one for the pulpit, or at least safe for the pulpit and the powerful within the immediate local fellowship.

After all, who knows who might be convicted / offended if such were to be connected. Sadly, the implications for potential financial as well as membership declines if the dots ring too close to home could be a driving factor… but what does this silence really say to the victims of such? What does it say about the local church, what does it say when visitors enter in and find said crickets?

This is where another model enters in, the priesthood of all believers. Ie, just because a given pastor chooses to play it safe, does this mean the local church, as well as the individual gets a free pass? If one truly ascribes to this model, then all of a sudden, it comes right back to you and me. The Man in the Mirror

Lyrics from Man in the Mirror

I saw Neal Mccoy perform on Saturday night, where in even he brought up what happened at Charlottesville just a few hours beforehand…  (I wish I would have recorded my own video, but found the above from a few years back on youtube ).

Christian Universities and the Pursuit of Truth

A university can choose to support the pursuit of truth which means many sides of a given idea need to be engaged with, no matter how painful they may be, or it can ignore the pursuit of truth in favor of an ideology. This is a difficult thing to do in general, but for Christian universities especially so as 1: truth and ideology do intermix, 2: time and money are limited, and 3: outcomes are not guaranteed.

Truth and ideology do intermix especially so in the faith arena, and sorting that out can be a good thing… but being time and money are limited, not everything is worth the investment to explore. And at the same time, it can be too politically incorrect within a given faith environment to go very far off ones ideological path. This is where things get tricky. Consider atonement theories for example. Some churches teach only one, and censor out all the others, even the historical theology which led up to their chosen theory. A university should pursue truth in this, and cover every single one of them, such that students can defend what they truly believe in, by testing their beliefs.

However the pursuit of truth presents unknowns outcome wise. Christian universities who pursue truth occasionally produce atheists, much to the chagrin of their supporters. It can also mean a conservative university might end up producing Marxists or Keynesians rather than Hayaks or Randians if the pursuit of truth rather than ideology is their goal.

Alas, one of the huge advantages of pursuing truth vs ideology, is that, those who survive it will be much much stronger and much more prepared to defend their beliefs, as contrasted with those students sheltered in bubble wrap… but what about the students whose faith gets shredded in the process? What about students who are ill-prepared for hard core engagement with their beliefs?

One can argue this sort of thing both ways with respect to stumbling blocks. On the one hand, if a student ventures out into the world with only an ideology and no exposure whatsoever to various means of scriptural interpretation, sooner or later they will hit a brick wall… and then without the requisite support infrastructure, they are likely to fall. On the other hand, a firehose of historical critical methodologies thrown at a 18 year old who has only been exposed to a narrow ideology could easily bring about a faith crisis.

In the secular arena, if a university decides to pursue truth, some of it can be very painful, and even damaging. I think of vet’s with PTSD… truth seeking may well serve as a trigger. Sure, an individual class can probably be worked through, but what if you have a schedule which puts hard core discussions on PTSD triggering situations back to back for an entire semester? That may well be too much for a vet to handle, even with a support group backing them up. 
And then you have folks other than vets who have suffered serious trauma. Some of whom are suffering severe PTSD and under the care of a psychologist. If truth seeking is the telos of a given university, what about these students? Perhaps this is likely where the trigger warning stuff spun out of. Universities have a need to pursue truth,  and yet, they don’t want to harm their students, but they aren’t mental health facilities either.
Conflict is Not Abuse


And then you have the folks who view a mere difference of opinion as abusive. Sure, truth seeking may make them anxious and very uncomfortable, but rather than engaging with it, they run from it, often shouting abuse along the path of their retreat in hoping to squash the discussion. And maybe they do succeed in silencing the discussion… which gives them immediate relief in the short term.  Alas the lack of voice often leads to a form of truth which is lacking, a severe loss of agency on the part of folks holding to said views, and perhaps even a loss of credibility on their parts, no matter where the truth may actually lie.

Outcome wise, when one voice is silenced, the status quo generally remains, as there is nothing  to counter it. Sadly, such also potentially means solutions to prevent such problems often end up being left off the table as the idea has only been partially explored. It may also lead to a very shallow set of beliefs, being said beliefs have not been put through the fire and tested. And when beliefs are shallow, the door is open for the worst case scenario. Namely where paternal and maternal outsiders are free to step in with their own sets of truth and force the issue, perhaps even in a counter productive direction. Such sets the stage for errant decision making such as Canada’s criminalization of HIV.

And yet, there are situations where truth is nowhere to be found in the short term, or maybe even ever. For the injured in such situations, maybe the best thing they can do for their own mental health is just to avoid engagement, even if it means outsiders may screw stuff up, or that the status quo will continue to adversely affect them and related groups. The hope of course is that eventually a few people from the injured side of things will stand up and engage with the idea… but this isn’t something all are capable of doing.

Jonathan Haidt presents a number of examples where conservative ideology is silenced, and the requisite dangers of doing so.  (its about an hour long, but well worth it… and realistically, it applies both ways.

And despite the above arguments for a universities telos of truth, its not cool to cast care to the wind either… there has to be a balance point.

On the Hating of Christians

In John 15:18-24, Jesus talks about how the world will hate the disciples, just as it first hated him. On first glance, I’m thinking why would the world hate Jesus, I mean the Gospel’s a pretty powerful thing, it makes no sense. Or maybe it does… Jesus had a lot of hard words to say to religious folks, he up ended their power structures, he rolled the temple money changers, he stopped a woman caught in adultery from being stoned, he was accused of being a drunkard and a glutton, he worked on Sunday. In other words, he convicted a lot of religious folks that they really weren’t all the righteous. Beyond that aspect… why would he be hated? Verse 25 gives us a clue in this in that it is fullfillment of what is written in the law. That he would be hated without reason.

As such, hate at some point or another should be expected, folks don’t like to be called on the carpet.  Alas, care is also needed in this… Christian’s should not expect to get a free pass from the world when they do heinous things. Psalm 35:19 is instructive in this…

Do not let those gloat over me who are my enemies without cause; do not let those who hate me without reason maliciously wink the eye.

An old buddy of mine lives in Ireland, and his wife shared a news clipping a few days back… and the commentary was filled with hate for Christians. Probably some of the most intense hate I’ve ever encountered which prompted me to crank out this blog posting. The thing is, in this case, the hate of the world was not only reasonable, it was more than justifiable. Christianity did many horrendous things in ages long past… folks may have started out with seemingly good intentions, and then as time passed, they found it expeditious to do more and more evil, so that good would come… except good never came, rather evil enveloped Christianity. And in the case of the news clipping where 800 babies were buried in a septic tank by nuns as little as 50-60 years ago… to say nothing of what appears to be a failure to provide food and medical care, thus leasing to the demise of said children, its plain and simple evil. Considering there were many such homes, with some saying there may be as many as 7000 victims… Well, the world is going to condemn such actions in a huge way.

Sure, the scriptures tell us to flee sexual immorality, but there is NO excuse whatsoever to cast unwed mothers and their babies aside, much less to separate them and deny them food and medical care. I don’t care how much of a prude or sexual control freak one is, there is no place for actions done in the name of Christianity or even humanity for this.

And yet, you have the apologists for such actions saying well, abortion is much worse… but unlike Jesus, where he convicted religious people of their sin and was hated, the world doesn’t see abortion is worse, as many don’t see an embryo as really human. And yet, anyone can see that an unwed mother and her baby are just as human as the pope… and yet by the actions of those Christians,  the unwed mother and her baby must have been considered less than human.

I think its a similar deal with the hate experienced by the anti-biracial marriage folks of the past, or the anti-gay marriage folks of the present. The world says, hey you want to get married, go for it, where as some Christians say wait a minute, this isn’t right… and if it was left at a theological disagreement, there would be no hate in the matter. Alas, a small minority of Christians ie Fred Phelps types go off the deep end, where no fruits of the spirit can be found and hate abounds. Sadly, this small number of folks polarizes things and builds hate up on both sides.

I mean, its crazy making that parent child relationships end when a kid comes out gay and marries his partner. There is no loving God or loving one’s neighbor when a parent child relationship gets destroyed and/or a church or synagoge gets a bullet hole in if after being willing to marry a bi-racial or gay couple… and lots of innocent folks on both sides get caught up in it. Its going to take a long time to rebuild some of those relationships. Alas, I think Psalm 69:4 may be useful  in such… but it is a hard thing to handle too.

Those who hate me without reason outnumber the hairs of my head; many are my enemies without cause, those who seek to destroy me.
I am forced to restore what I did not steal.

Bottom line, hate without reason is what Jesus was talking about. Ie hate due to someone being convicted of sin, leads said convicted folks to hate the messenger… after all its a large part of why folks back then hung Jesus on the cross. Alas, this is much different than hate directed at the messenger for the damage the messenger created apart from the message. There is no get out of jail free card for that.

Random Thoughts on Syrian Refugees

I’ve been pondering this for a couple weeks. It seems there is a lot of diversity in opinion, and likewise a certain level of calling each other out as to what an appropriate Christian response might be. Each respective side think’s their’s is the correct one, and some have gone so far as to raise the “not a true Christian” argument thing. As such, some thoughts.

A small number of folks are convinced that as a nation with a Christian identity/history, to not take them in, would put us in the situation as Sodom (Ezekiel 16:49-50) and potentially bring God’s wrath upon our nation. In opposition, a likewise small number of folks believe Christian beliefs and actions need to be limited only to the church and to the individual. Ie, the entire US should not be put at greater risk by allowing the refugee process to continue.

On the one hand, I very much agree with Jamietheworstmissionary with her post “When we are all priests and levites” in reference to the parable of the good Samaritan. Ie, doing nothing should not be the answer. On the other hand, its a very complex and nuanced issue. The scriptures on innocent as doves and wise as serpents comes to mind.

According to pas of 11/21/2015 there are 4,289,792 refugees from Syria.

If we do bring in 10,000, then what about the other 4, 279,792 people? If we bring in 10,000 and something really bad happens, will we as the American people have the will to bring in more?

It would be disingenuous to state that their is no risk in doing this. Yes, it is very small, and certainly if a terrorist is determined to get on US soil, there are much easier paths than trojan horse action via refugee status., but when the door is opened, even with many checks and balances, the risk level will increase. Bottom line, no government process is perfect, whether it be refugee verification, ebola containment, or even our criminal justice system where innocent folks end up going to prison for many years.

Depopulating a country of diverse beliefs, leaving only Daesh, their supporters, and those neutral to said beliefs behind is likely not going to end well. Left in isolation, such is likely to turn into another conflict that dwarfs Iraq and Afghanistan, once US economic interests in the middle east are threatened, and/or we encounter directly attributable  on shore terrorist attacks.

Some suggest its just too expensive to screen and to receive refugees, especially so when we don’t take care of our veterans, our homeless, and our poor. Then again, should the aforementioned attacks on US soil, and/or our interests be threatened, it seems some will want to go to war over it. Such would likely mean committing 10,000 American lives, and 4 trillion dollars…. assuming double the life loss and costs of Iraq and Afghanistan.  Would not a more responsible choice be to make smaller sacrifices now, rather than waiting to the point that such large sacrifices have to be made?

Each one of the 10,000 is someone’s son or daughter, perhaps someones parent, each person saved is very likely to be someone else’s world.

The US, while having a strong Christian contingent and history is pretty diverse. Should a Hindi, Taoist, or even an Atheist be subject to increased risks, and/or increased taxes to assist the refugees? Even among Christian beliefs, there is a wide range, from pre-Augustines Christianity and its teachings of self sacrifice and pacifism to the point that even self-defense was condemned, all the way to post WWII Christian dominionism which adopts Aquinas views to an extreme and adds tribalism on steroids to the mix. (A contemporary Augustinian struggle on this can be found starting at this comment on John Pavlovitz blog, as well as this posting on pacifism and militarism through the years with the Stone Campbell movement).

Christian views on tribalism are exceedingly diverse as well. Some Christians view super tribalism as near Christian dogma, vs others view the teachings of Christ as anti-tribalistic. Taken to extremes, does Matthew 25 require total submission to Christ, including sacrificing self, as well as family (Luke 14:26), church, and country to assist anyone, even non-believers? Or does Matthew 25 only refer to the least of these as believers in ones immediate faith community, and that family, church, and country should rarely if ever make sacrifices… and that even self sacrifice must be limited.

For Christians who ascribe to pronatalism and see birthrate evangelism as the primary means of fulfilling the great commission, the idea of 10,000 Islamic refugees strikes terror in their heart. Ie, they fear Christianity becoming a minority religion with a correspondingly massive loss in privilege… and considering that recent US history shows birthrate and immigration driven evangelism to be the most effective forms in the US, said fear seems justifiable to folks holding that worldview.

In a similar vein, some are concerned with sharia law. Alas, will 10,000 people really make a difference in a society of 320,000,000? Even more so, would the US seriously consider rolling back gay marriage, women’s rights, and our monetization of sex at every turn? Realistically, even if they found a number of like minded people, the economic powers that be would never let that happen. There is just too much money at stake for it to be considered.

There are no easy answers to this, and a lot of unintended consequences no matter which way we turn. Alas, I don’t think we want to be priests and levites either.

kNOw Jesus kNOw Peace???

I was at a Casting Crowns concert at the WI state fair, and was blown away… it was so cool to see them live. The music was awesome, the messaging was incredible, the energy was amazing. 0810152227a


The only downside was the recurrent struggle I run up against with their theology. Its not just theirs either, but actually a good chunk of contemporary Christian theology.  I’ll go even further and state it was also a theology I lived and promoted years ago. In its simplest form, its probably best demonstrated by the following tshirt graphic from


At the outset, the above sounds great, it seems to make logical sense, and we can find a significant number of scriptures supporting peace coming about from knowing Jesus.

2 Peter 1:2 Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…

John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

The bugger in this, is despite the scriptural support, its rarely lived out as a matter of practice. Many devoted Christians do not have peace, many non-Christians have found peace surpassing the peace exhibited by many Christians. This is a recurrent challenge I run up against with my prior as well as Casting Crowns underlying theology. We’re preaching a message that while true in many ways, ends up not ringing true in practice and thus sends messages which outside of a few theological bubble lands, rarely rings true.

My friend Mike posted some profound stuff on facebook this AM which got me thinking on this.

I was standing in line at Target and in the line there were two Christian women who kept raving about how “stupid, ignorant, and rebellious” non-Christians are.

I walked out of the store, put my Frank Turner album in, and see one of these ladies drive in the same direction in front of me. She has the infamous, “Know Jesus, Know Peace/ No Jesus, No Peace” bumper sticker on her car.

What struck me as I was driving was that a sociopath or narcissist could do horrible things without regret, shame or guilt. While a Christian could give up a destructive life pattern, and because there’s change and repressed emotions, there’s anxiety, stress, and other unexplained emotions. All if these good things but are the antithesis of emotional peace.

So there it is… a glaring example.. and perhaps more so, what about those Christians who choose to maintain sociopathic or narcissistic practices? What about chronic abusers who fail to leave such at the cross? We’ve all heard and many know of the “super Christian” in public thats the epitome of evil in private. Yes, they are forgiven by the blood of Christ… but the carnage and destruction they leave behind to say nothing of the witness they are showing… whoa.

Mike continues:

You can not feel peace or know peace but follow Jesus. You could not follow Jesus and feel completely okay about life. The failure of these women is they don’t see or trust in the Spirit who Comforts in trouble and a God who creates life out of chaos. This is the Presence of God, who is peace.

What these women also fail to see, as Stanley Hauerwas has taught me, the Gospel is more seen than believed in. We come to know the Gospel when we encounter Jesus. We see it when the Church us being the Church. We see it when Christians incarnate the Kingdom in the world. We see it in prayer, the Eucharist, and when we are loved like Jesus loves us. Embodying to someone that they are “stupid, ignorant, and rebellious” does not embody this and allow them to see the Gospel we believe in. Our postures, attitudes, and reflections towards people say a lot about what we know about God and how God works in the world.

Mikes post really resonates with me, as there is a lot of great truth expressed within….

Going forward what to do about this? No Christian is going to be 100% on message 100% of the time, so we will always be falling short and shooting holes in our Gospel witness. By the same token, to throw the baby out with the bath water and not preach about the amazing peace available through Christ Jesus is not cool either. I sort of wonder if the answer isn’t some level of hard core authentic anthropology in combination with the scriptures. Such would create a significant amount of tempering, yet allow the scriptures to remain in full force at the same time. Belinda keyed me into something on this last night… the path is likely nowhere near as narrow as we project it to be, but it certainly can be a very odd and strange one at times.

The above all makes great sense within the confines of a community walking with Christ, its a whole other ball game when it comes to conveying such on a t-shirt or song lyrics. (Perhaps this is why something like the mass grandstand sing of Amazing Grace was so powerful).

Amazing Grace from the Grandstand
Folks singing amazing grace with their cell phones lifted high.

Consistent Ethic of Life?

Brandon stated: Dom Hélder Câmara talked about a ‘consistent ethic of life’, wherein *all* life possesses equal value, and the marked lack of a consistent ethic of life has been one of my long standing critiques of the “pro-life” (or more appropriately: “anti-abortion”) movement.
Links to

When you spit the “anti-abortion” movement into its sexual purity vs the life aspect, the inconsistency almost completely goes away if one looks at the sexual purity side alone. 

Alas, said splitting off often leads to the heart wrenching commentary many of those ladies received post miscarriage. I’m guilty of this too, ie I would grieve for a highly promising youth group leader killed by a drunk driver on the way to church… but for someone who started out with 4 embryos via fertility treatments and only 1 took, not so much. It would be the same lack of grief for the unborn with the young couple who keeps on trying to have children, but the zygote never implants. 

The end state gets really ethically murky, as in the above situations, its no longer a natural or even probability issue… going in, its known that said actions will result in deaths, despite your hope that eventually one might survive. Its a similar murky deal as concerns environmental issues… ie we know with significant confidence that some pollutants and/or specific concentrations result in massive increases to the probability of miscarriage and/or fertility issues. We also suspect a few others, and there are many others which might lead to trouble but we turn a blind eye out of convenience / intentional ignorance. Bottom line, we as society as well as individuals have made the call either by pocket book or by voting that the cost of reducing the rate of miscarriages / infertility is too high to justify.

This then runs into the tribal values… ie a consistent ethic of life for the unborn while it sounds good is anathema to most groups who put a very high value on sexual purity. Environmental issues, reproductive science etc are not only counter to the tribal mores, they are a distraction from the bottom line issue of sexual purity… Ie, we need to stop abortion, we don’t want to splinter our efforts to save zygotes, they workaround it by stating the death of the unborn is by chance, or is natural, and its definitely not by intent… which flies in the face of observational evidence to the contrary.

If one does hold to a consistent ethic of life from conception… things get really sticky too. Ie, contraceptives prevent fertilization, but when you go off them, you now generate a bunch of zygotes of which you play the probability game for one to implant and to survive to birth, leaving who knows how many to die. Its probably a good thing that human nature overruns scientific knowledge or our species would cease to exist, at least within the confines of those who wish to ascribe to a consistent ethic of life from conception.

Ponderings on SSM

As pretty much everyone is aware, SCOTUS ruled in favor of SSM on Friday. Many celebrated with rainbow colored pictures, some expressed sadness and disagreement, and more than a few expressed great hate, anger, and condemnation.  Its ok to disagree with the ruling, but when the fruits of the spirit get cast aside and replaced with hate we (Christianity in general) have a big problem

I wrote on World Vision’s local church SSM autonomy policy and reversal about 15 months ago, where in I focused on folks who possess other than strong faith. Folks responses to Friday’s decision have many parallels to that posting, so I’ll copy a snippet….

The issue of whether SSM is aligned with, or counter to the scriptures is not the big deal. The issue of whether the ancient creeds of the historical Christian faith have been cast aside to the point that SSM is a bigger deal than the trinity is not the primary issue at hand either. This is not to say such is not important, especially over the long haul, but they pale in comparison to something else right here, right now.

The big deal today is the weaker brother and sister as well as those who were trampled upon….

The most disturbing aspect of this is the folks in tears over loosing their faith. It is a tragedy.

The brood of vipers behaviors actions appeared the last straw for many. One person said, “I was hanging onto Christianity by a thread, its now been broken”. There are many similar stories, and no doubt even more that will never be known. I think such is quite likely destroying the work of God which Paul preaches against in Romans 14.

Those experiencing the last straw are not just gay folks, not just young folks, not just old folks, but a wide variety of Christians from a whole multitude of life stories and denominations… this is a much bigger problem than what the govt does, or doesn’t do as concerns marriage.

Lastly, while I am pro SSM, I do allow opposing views on my blog comment stream… barring in mind that I will delete spam, TLDR, and hate comments. If you can keep it pastoral and disagree, do feel free to chime in. You won’t convince me, as I’ve studied this for over ten years, but the dialog may help those on the fence to lean one way or the other.

50 Shades of $500 Million

There is much lamenting and knashing of teeth in my universes over 50 Shades of Grey. As such, I figured this movie would go down like The Interview… but it didn’t. The first weekend box office figures were $85 million, even larger than Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ. Granted, ticket prices have gong up a lot since the Passion, but still the box office shows this to be an incredibly popular movie with world wide figures pushing $500 million this week.

One interesting bit, is that 2 groups who are normally at 180 degrees (feminists and conservative Christians) out of phase with each other are lamenting this movie. Libby Anne noticed this too and has a really cool write up on it. Her summary:

“But in general, what has evangelicals up in arms over Fifty Shades of Grey is its endorsement of premarital relationships and kinky sex, while what has feminists up in arms is its glorification of abuse and its perversion of kinky sex. This disagreement is rooted in a huge divergence in the two groups’ underlying sexual ethics.”


Divergence in sexual ethics makes sense as to the parallel upset, but it doesn’t explain the popularity, unless the groups are much smaller than they are normally sold to be. It would be cool to have audience stats and run some analysis, but such is pretty lacking at the point in the game. I was however able to find some some presales ticket numbers relative to forecasts.

1. Mississippi: 3.9x

2. Arkansas: 2.8x

3. West Virginia: 2.7x

4. Kentucky: 2.1x

5. Alabama: 2.0x

I find this strange in that a high level of teeth knashing seems to be coming out of the evangelical Christian domain, ie the Bible belt… it doesn’t add up, or does it?

I get the forbidden fruit connection to a film derived from lit porn, but in and of itself, I seriously doubt this is the primary driver. Rather, I think despite all of the objections, the film is hitting on right on target. Jamie the Worst Missionary goes into quit a bit of detail in a missionaries position on 50 shades of grey.

The question I keep coming back to, is instead of all the lamenting and/or tsk tsking, why not do something about it? I’m not suggesting shark jumping like a sermon series on kinky sex and the Songs of Solomon, but more so to drill right down to the relationship issues at the heart of things.

I get that such would not be an easy thing… perhaps more so in some theological world views than others… but sweeping issues under the carpet as they are too hard to deal with is not a good answer either.

The Nativity Scene Removal on Facebook

There is an internet meme concerning a nativity scene going around again.


The picture at hand is a shows pretty amazing nativity scene. Despite the low res copy, “No Room for them in the Inn” is quite beautiful, and when one looks at a photo of a signed and numbered print, one can only imagine how much heart and soul the artist put into it.

It was not a simple task to determine who created the art in the first place, as whoever created the meme didn’t include the title of the piece, nor did they give the artist credit. Its almost as if someone found it, said cool, and then took it… with no regard for its creator. If I skip the cynicism bit, it is possible, albeit rare that this was a gift to the world, and the artist wanted to remain anonymous… alas, as an engineer, my cynicism often wins out so, so to prove it out one way or another google image search to the rescue!

Well, that wasn’t very helpful… 60,000+ facebook pages with a copy, and 548 copies on the web as well as some derivatives… and which one is the original one?

Being google imagesearch didn’t help, the next thing was to pull it into my photo editor and blow up what appears to be a watermark. Aha, Copyright Somerset House Publishing 2000.

When art is watermarked with a copyright without any additional licensing expressed, and or a statement used with permission, it is highly likely it is not free as in beer. In other words, its pretty likely whole multitudes of folks are using this persons art  as if it were freely given to them to use as they wish… including derivative works where Jesus is replaced with a football. Somersets terms are pretty clear that such is not cool without permission… and being no statement is include to suggest they have permission, this is a problem.

As such, the potential is there for facebook to receive a DMCA takedown notice from them, with the result that the images would be removed. I get that intellectual property law is a messy deal, so copying someone else’s art without permission to do so may not necessarily be theft in every ones mind. Otoh a common theme throughout both the old and new testament is that the laborer is worthy of his wages. There also the issue of double honor for those who preach and teach…

From the artists bio page at Concordia publishing…

Concordia Publishing House is proud to represent internationally known Christian artist, Tom duBois. A graduate of the American Academy of Art in Chicago, Mr. duBois faithfully and passionately shares the Gospel message of Jesus Christ through his art.

Granted, this is an internet meme hardly worth the time to blog about in isolation, since there has been no DMCA takedown, and I agree with the underlying premise of it. Otoh temptation to short cut, to do a little evil so much good may come is all around us. Politicians lie about each other to get elected. Public servants throw the law under a bus in order to do well. Business push the limits and bend the law to make more money. Folks fire off a quick text, shave, or put on makeup while rolling down the interstate. Its all of us, and in many cases, the little evil bit doesn’t bite, at least not right away… so we go along fat dumb and happy, until that car shows up out of nowhere, and pfft you are gone.

* The artists webpage at is down, but google provided links to some of his art and writinghs. Its well worth taking a look.

Rigging the Game

Its interesting to see how different sectors of Christianity approach a given problem. We see broken folks doing evil stuff and yet good comes about much of the time anyhow. We even see this in the scriptures, going all the way back to Moses, or even David knocking off a guy as he got the dudes wife pregnant, or Rahab lying to protect her guests. One could think the bit about being wise as serpents and gentle as doves, or even the parable of the unrighteous steward, could justify that a good end is all that counts, no matter how much evil needs to be put in motion to get there.

Yet, the scriptures taken as a whole point to a different path, a high road, which might well be much more difficult where in the good is not illuminated until nearly the end, if it is at all. We have Paul’s words in Romans that it is not cool to do a little evil so good may come. Such are hard words to hear, and even harder ones to try and live out when much of daily life is predicated upon any number of evils. Pretty much unless one retreats from the world, and even then, a reliance on some level of evil is likely to remain, as few if any can really be an island onto themselves.

Thank goodness for God’s grace.

I’m reminded of the 1944 Bing Crosby film called Going My Way.

Low res scaled down images of movie films used for commentary are believed to fall under US fair use doctrines.
Going My Way

In the early part of the film, Bing plays a young priest who catches some youngsters stealing chickens, but they get away from him. Later that evening he is treated to a big dinner by an old parish priest who midway through the meal talks about the gratitude he has for the youngsters who gave him a chicken… Bing puts 2+2 together that they were eating a stolen chicken and chows down, all the while you can see the elderly priest fixing to turn green… The proverbial meat sacrificed to idols was on the big screen! Alas, it plays out right here, right now as well. If it had not been for the early days of internet porn, the massive bandwidth we enjoy today would not have been affordable, and might well not have even been possible.

That being said, it is something else to specifically choose evil so good may come. In the case of the above movie, it would be exceedingly evil to entice the kids to steal chickens so the priests could have a good meal once in a while. There in lies the difference and this is what I find disturbing…

If the church is to be presented as the bride of Christ, rigging the game, or manipulating the crowd even with the best of intentions is not cool. There is nothing pure and blameless by using legal, albeit less than ethical methods to gain favor in the worlds eyes. Even more so, when the world can see this plain as day, what sort of message is this really sending? Was Paul really that far off the mark in his letters to Timothy? Did he really mean that its well and good to do *a little evil that good may come? I don’t think so…

* In fairness, some Christians define evil as only things that are explicitly called out in their interpretation of the scriptures. I can understand the allure of that pov as the lack of grey make life a lot easier, but I’m far from convinced such is what Paul was really getting at.