Month: January 2007

The “Season of unfortunate remarks” continues …

Last week (Wednesday, January 17,2007) The Oklahoman carried this op-ed piece by Dan Thomasson. The opening paragraph, as well it should, caught my attention immediately,

This is the season of unfortunate remarks, and the remarks are likely to get worse as the bickering over Iraq policy accelerates. How could it be otherwise with seemingly half the Senate running for president and the Bush administration hunkered down to fight off those who would derail the latest solution for bringing Baghdad under control?

And if that piqued your curiosity but you have yet to click over and read then maybe the concluding paragraph will get your mouse working,

So from both ends of the government, the word "blight" becomes more intense. Boxer’s tongue won’t be the only one that will get in the way of better judgment, and Stimson won’t be the only senior official to show a complete lack of understanding about America’s principles. We will survive, the songwriter says. Probably. But it certainly gets scary at times.

Since politics run in most of not all institutional structures it should be no surprise when the "Season of unfortunate remarks" surfaces in any given organizational matrix. Recently Wade Burleson noted an e-mail exchange with the Chairman of Trustees at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. In interesting remark lifted from the Van McClain responses has been, "momentary lax of parameters." Seems as though the crossed up private and public votes for seminary faculty offers some now to note they did not vote for Sherri Klouda despite the public unanimity. From this newfound position of moral authority it appears we can justify treating Sherri, well, like she is a woman. A "no" vote in private turn unanimous vote in public (not uncommon as I understand it) now stands as the beachhead from which to launch an attack on former presidents as "lax."

I think Paul may have portrayed the events well. At any rate, you can be sure the "Season of unfortunate remarks" will only continue and as Thomasson notes, we may well survive but it certainly may be scary.

Subverting the Empire … Living Counter-Intuitive Values …

OklahomanAccording to an AP article on the front page of The Oklahoman young people grow more materialistic. Seems since 1966 incoming college freshmen consider financial prosperity very important. Pew Research Center indicated 80 percent of 18-to 25-year-olds ranked getting rich as their top priority.

When wealth becomes the marker of success how could we possibly expect young people today to rank anything higher than getting rich as a top, or the top, priority? The late Leslie Newbigin asks, in Foolishness to the Greeks,

"What would be involved in a missionary encounter between the gospel and this whole way of perceiving, thinking, and living that we call "modern Western culture"? (p.1)

Certainly we must understand what drives the lust for the material. Little doubt we must look to the social environment in which these 18- to 25-years olds find themselves enmeshed. Oprah Winfrey noted in response to a question about building a school in South Africa opposed to the USA,

"If you ask the kids what they want or need, they will say an iPod or some sneakers."

When you compare that to the needs of other young people around the world, the cost for an iPod or sneakers looks like a year’s wages for the family. Recently you may have seen the Global Rich List mentioned here. How often do we talk about a view of the world that takes into account "others?" I know it is on those occasions where we do not want to let go for an iPod and sneakers or we want our children to finish the food left on their plates. But is that really talking about "others" in a way that connects us with the world community? Does it reflect an understanding of responsibility to think in ways that, as Bob Roberts terms it, reflect a local understanding about global realities – "think globally, act locally" or "glocal."

Our common language does not normally include "empire." On occasion we will talk about Walmart or Microsoft as empires. We may consider Buffet and Pickens empires in their own right. Here in Oklahoma City we watch Chesapeake continue to buy and build and may think "empire." Yet, our daily experience does not include references to "empire." However, to approximate what may be needed in our day to help our young people live "counter-intuitive" lives we may need to grasp "empire" as a metaphor to describe the all-consuming "Western cultural complex." If we could view the social structure as something of an empire, and often an oppressive, evil one at that, we may well consider the need to subvert the empire just as the Justice Department considers monopolies and just how to protect the consumer from such oppressive rackets.

Subverting the empire may be helped with bringing the realities of a broader experience for the world’s more than six billion people. Recently we were asked about our regular references to the trouble in Darfur. We are quick to note the terrible injustices surrounding us everyday. But, these are often too close for us to see them as the horrible events they are. We need to associate injustice with the harshest of images so we may be more sensitized to its presence all around us.

Injustices do not only happen to ethnic minorities. Wade Burleson, Marty Duren and Ben Coles combine to point out the injustices taking place in the "empire" that is the "triumphal SBC." I recently spoke with a gentleman who encountered one of our more popular NAMB employees. He came away thinking how "triumphalistic" Southern Baptists sound – as if the only way God will find fulfillment for his redemptive project in the world will come through Southern Baptists. This NAMB representative only echoes Malcolm Yarnell in the recent edition of Southwestern News when he notes anyone who would read the bible would be a Baptist.

Our failure to talk with our young people in a way they understand the "empire" under which they live only results in our young people becoming patriots to that "empire." Walter Brueggemann helps conjure Scriptural images helpful in talking about subversion. His regular reference to "exiles" signals a way forward in subverting the empire. Rather than learn the manners and customs of the "empire" we should hear the prophetic call to remember the manners and customs of the people of God. We are not talking about reading, The New Manners and Customs of the Bible. We refer to the ways in which God intends his people to exhibit the manner of His Kingdom and the customs intended to open up the world to the goodness of God.

Only when we intentionally subvert the empire may we expect to change the statistics that reveal our young people are simply following in our footsteps.

UPDATE – ETREK Comes to OKC Metro!

One week ago I posted on the upcoming ETREK Road Trip here in the OKC Metro. Some updates. The Renovare event at Crossings Community Church is now posted on the Crossings Website. The price for the Road Trip has been REDUCED! Was $249, NOW, $199. E-mail me at for registration.

Formed at the speed of godliness …

Keith Matthews leads our current ETREK course at Biblical Seminary. He led  us through a prayer exercise using the following quote from Dr. James Houston’s response to the question about speeding up the process of spiritual formation (found in an edition of the Denver Seminary Magazine).

SLOWWell, I think the vocabulary is wrong, because it’s all part of living in a technological society. And so processes, procedures, programs are all, in a sense, technical devices or technical mindsay for fixing things. So we want to fix things quickly. But the very nature of integrity is that we have a speed that is appropriate to what we are doing. The speed of gaining information is very fast, but
the speed of godliness is very slow. Or the speed of making a friend is very slow in comparison to other forms. So we lose integrity when we use the wrong mindset of the wrong speed at which we’re operating. My problem is  that I can think faster than I  can speak, I speak faster than I can act, I’ve got ore acts than I’ve got character for … so maintaining integrity is acting appropriately.

Each participant wrote a prayer in response to this quote. The  pictures and metaphors were outstanding. What would your  prayer be?