The Great Divide - the greatest cultural challenge facing the church

SSD is the sacred-secular divide: the pervasive belief that some parts of our life are not really important to God – work, school, leisure - but anything to do with prayer, church services, church-based activities is.

Sacred-Secular Divide Syndrome leads us to believe that really holy people become missionaries, moderately holy people become ministers and people who are not much use to God get a job. Bah humbug.

Sacred-Secular Divide Syndrome leads to people in home groups praying through the prayer letters of overseas missionaries and lifting the names of potential converts to the throne of grace but not knowing the name of the boss of anyone in their home group, never mind praying for them.


28.09.2004 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)


Church Marketing Does Suck


Great site, found via

Some thoughts on the ridiculousness of our efforts in church from the Annie Dillard essay "An Expedition to the Pole," which can be found in the book Teaching a Stone to Talk.

She's not talking about church marketing, but she could be.

"A high school stage play is more polished than this service we have been rehearsing since the year one. In two thousand years, we have not worked out the kinks. We positively glorify them. Week after week we witness the same miracle: that God is so mighty he can stifle his own laughter. Week after week, we witness the same miracle: that God, for reasons unfathomable, refrains from blowing our dancing bear act to smithereens. Week after week Christ washes the disciples' dirty feet, handles their very toes, and repeats, It is all right – believe it or not – to be people.

"Who can believe it?" (20)

"Week after week I was moved by the pitiableness of the bare linoleum-floored sacristy which no flowers could cheer or soften, by the terrible singing I so loved, by the fatigued Bible readings, the lagging emptiness and dilution of the liturgy, the horrifying vacuity of the sermon, and by the fog of dreary senselessness pervading the whole, which existed alongside, and probably caused, the wonder of the fact that we came; we returned; we showed up; week after week, we went through it." (27)

"On the whole, I do not find Christians, outside of the catacombs, sufficiently sensible of conditions. Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies' straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may wake someday and take offense, or the waking god may draw us out to where we can never return." (40)

27.09.2004 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)


Dan Rather, CBS News Anchor

given documents he thought were true

failed to thoroughly investigate the facts

reported documents to the American people as true to make his case

when confronted with the facts, apologized and launched an investigation

number of Americans dead: 0

should be fired as CBS News Anchor

George W. Bush, President of the United States

given documents he thought were true

failed to thoroughly investigate the facts

reported documents to the American people as true to make his case

when confronted with the facts, continued to report untruth and stonewalled an investigation

number of Americans dead: 1100

should be given four more years as President of the United States


27.09.2004 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)



Ridge Reports Investments in Homeland Security Contractors
By Tim Starks, CQ Staff

Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge had investments last year in a number of companies with contracts with his department and others who want to profit from homeland security, a new list of his assets shows.

Ridge, a former Pennsylvania Republican congressman and governor appointed by President Bush in 2001 to run the nation’s homeland security effort, held assets valued from $100,000 to $815,000 last year, according to information he supplied in a filing with the U.S. Office of Government Ethics. The Department of Homeland Security’s general counsel eventually must approve the filing.


25.09.2004 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)


Beth points to & analyzes the new U2 single Vertigo:

The night is full of holes These bullets rip the sky Of ink with gold They twinkle As the boys play rock and roll They know that they can't dance At least they know

I can sell the beats
I'm asking for the check
Girl with crimson nails
Has Jesus 'round the neck
Swinging to the music
Swinging to the music

Hello, hello
I'm at a place called Vertigo
Dond' esta
It's everything I wish I didn't know
But you give me something I can feel

25.09.2004 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)


Life = Way + Truth

Had a wonderful breakfast yesterday with a fellow traveller in ministry. We talked a lot about what it means to try to follow Jesus - to lead a life that is spent following this person. So often we want the life, but stumble over the way of Jesus and the truth of Jesus.

This piece by Jonathan Romain frames this struggle from the Jewish context:

For Judaism, it is the practical consequences of belief in God that are important, not the belief itself. If God exists, then the world has a purpose, life has meaning, all people are equal and every individual matters. The prayers, too, are not so much for God's benefit but for ours. By praising God for caring for the living, supporting the fallen and healing the sick, we are effectively saying these are godly/goodly attributes and mapping out our own tasks.

Over the centuries, this has led to an emphasis on action rather than faith, to the extent that the latter has become assumed to the point of neglect. It gives rise to the saying - somewhat tongue-in-cheek but containing a sizable grain of truth - that "to be a good Jew, you don't have to believe in God, just do what He says".

For some Jews, this is a parody of a faith that is brim full of God's glory; for others, it is a welcome description of a religion whose strength is that the heretic is not the person who believes the wrong thing, but who does the wrong thing.

24.09.2004 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)


Mike Todd's friend Robert says it for me:

This election is more surreal than 9/11. How a guy who didn’t go to war and went AWOL has managed to cast doubt on the guy who went, got wounded and came back to say it was wrong is incredible.

24.09.2004 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)



"Let's say you tried to have an election and you could have it in three-quarters or four-fifths of the country. But in some places you couldn't because the violence was too great," Rumsfeld said at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.
"Well, so be it. Nothing's perfect in life, so you have an election that's not quite perfect. Is it better than not having an election? You bet," he said.

Top News Article | Reuters.com

23.09.2004 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

In Out

My wife contends that going to seminary seems a lot like childbirth - it's good that you do not completely understand the pain involved beforehand or you might not actually find yourself in that "position".

The pain of seminary for me is the most acute around community. As an extrovert who is a joiner, the dry river bed of community for me is so painful that sometimes (often) I can be painful to be around. I find myself constantly wondering between being in and being out.

As is so often is the case, Ani Difranco helps me undetsand a bit better:


guess there's something wrong with me
guess I don't fit in
no one wants to touch it
no one knows where to begin
I've got more than one membership
to more than one club
and I owe my life
to the people that I love

23.09.2004 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)


pandagon.net - we only look young...

interview on Daily Show last night:

Mark Racicot, Chairman of Bush/Cheney 2004: This campaign is so focused on being positive-
Jon Stewart: What!? Have you been skipping the meetings?

23.09.2004 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)


Sister Christer

Christine is a hero of mine - check out her blog:

This is what is needed: a Church for young people, which will know how to speak to their heart and enkindle, comfort, and inspire enthusiasm in it with the joy of the Gospel and the strength of the Eucharist; a Church which will know how to invite and to welcome the person who seeks a purpose for which to commit their whole existence; a Church which is not afraid to require much, after having given much; which does not fear asking from young people the effort of a noble and authentic adventure, such as that of the following of the Gospel. --Pope John Paul II, 1995 World Day of Prayer for Vocations

Sister Christer

22.09.2004 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

How do we recover the present?

A new favorite site Godspy has a wonderful piece:

In the aftermath of September 11, the American novelist Don DeLillo wrote an essay entitled "In the Ruins of the Future." DeLillo wrote of the terrorists: "It was America that drew their fury. It was the high gloss of our modernity. It was the thrust of our technology. It was our perceived godlessness. It was the blunt force of our foreign policy. It was the power of American culture to penetrate every wall, home, life and mind."

Humanity needs to re-learn the present. DeLillo intuits this synthesis, vividly experienced in a moment of noting a young Moslem woman at prayer in a Canal Street storefront, faced eastward toward Mecca, crosstown on the Manhattan grid. He writes:

I looked at her in prayer and it was clearer to me than ever, the daily sweeping taken-for-granted greatness of New York. The city will accommodate every language, ritual, belief and opinion. In the rolls of the dead of September 11, all these vital differences were surrendered to the impact and flash... But the dead are their own nation and race, one identity, young or old, devout or unbelieving—a union of souls.

DeLillo places the present we seek, that synthesis of past and future, in eternity—and in this he is right again. But this leaves the temporal present laid waste, a weathercock for the struggling crosscurrents of time, rather than in any way the eye of the storm. How do we recover the present?

22.09.2004 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)


The Age of iPod Politics

Some of the best "pop" analysis I've seen of the current state of US politics:

The great American pacifier is our love of stuff and our ability to fashion our own insular worlds through our staggering selection of things to buy (even if we can't actually afford an SUV). But consumer America is different from political America. In consumer America, diversity of preference is not just tolerated. It is mandatory. The market has created reasons for us to be finicky and dissatisfied about anything — cable TV, pasta sauce, running shoes, yoga programs. It depends on you to like zesty Italian and me to like chipotle ranch and someone else to like low-sodium raspberry honey mustard. Through niche media, niche foods and niche hobbies, we fashion niche lives. We are the America of the iPod ads — stark, black silhouettes tethered by our brilliant white earbuds, rocking out passionately and alone. You make your choices, and I make mine. Yours, of course, are wrong. But what do I care?

TIME - James Poniewozik - : The Age of iPod Politics

21.09.2004 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Dispatches from Conversations

Two people have taken the time to post their notes from recent conversations that seemed so very interesting:

Geoff Hosclaws posted notes here from the Walter Brueggemann Theological Conversation in Georgia. These 19 Thesis are so very challeneging, particularly as I struggle to move to a post-liberal POV.

Will Samson posts some notes from from a discussion with George Barna and Len Sweet here:

Before I break down the information, let me give me a high-level perspective of the data that Barna presented: it’s the end of the Church as we know it.

* Currently only 65% of self-professed Christian in America experience their faith through the local church, and that is diminishing every year. He predicts that by 2025 only about one-third of Americans will experience their faith through what we would define today as a local church.

* There are a multitude of spiritual mini-movements happening around the country totally outside the confines of the institutional church. They are happening through things like house churches, prayer movements, market-place ministries and cyber-churches. None have more than 3 million adherents.

As I reflect on these, these voices strike me as very, very different. Sweet & Barana come from the Evangelical Mafia - one the Tom Peters of the movement, the other a surveyor who gets paid to take the pulse. Many of their points resonate with me, tho at times I get caught in the "worldview" that they come from.

Bruggeman strikes at much less interested in co-oping business metaphors - more academic, more subversive and more a voice in the wilderness calling us out of our bust activities of re-arranging the pews in the cahpel of the Titanic.

21.09.2004 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

The Fear Express Rolls On

All along this strange trip of Bush II: The Empire Strikes Back, one aspect that has concerned me the most is how effective this group of powerful people are at manipulating fear. It is what convinces me that they will win, it is what makes me feel like I live in a different world from the country I live in, it is what makes want to help my daughters cling to the only true secuirity that exists.

Then stuff like this comes out: GOP Mailing Warns Liberals Will Ban Bibles

Two things amaze me:

(1) the Republicans are not even distancing themselves from this.

(2) for all the headlines of Cath Bishops attacking Kerry, no headlines are touting the words (below) of Bishop Grove, a Methodist leader of Mr. Bush's denomination.

Continue reading "The Fear Express Rolls On"

21.09.2004 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)


If Pets Could Blog



19.09.2004 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)


Jumping Off The Log Roll Into The Arms of God

For the last few weeks, I'll be log-rolling in a state of constant crisis "management", followed inavriably by crisis fatigue. Every once in a while, insights just float into our lives that help RIGHT THEN - here's one for me:

Crisis Fatigue is exhausting to continually contemplate potentially massive threats from a place of radical uncertainty littered with certainties that blink on and off...

How does one respond to this in anything approaching a sane way? I struggle with this all the time. At least a few things have become obvious to me. These strategies are remarkably consistent with what you'd expect the requisites would be for living in a complex, chaotic, unpredictable system:

1) Let go of outcome.

2) Come to terms with our own intrinsic participation in Whatever Happens.

3) Look for positive possibilities and ways to partner them into greater probability.

18.09.2004 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)