Kingdom of God

Reading Dead People, Leading Life Giving Community: An Interview with Wade Burleson

Former President of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma and Trustee with the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, Wade Burleson is not currently involved in denominational politics. Church, community and family take up his time. Read More

Evangelicals Need to Be Re-Evangelized!? An Interview with Lance Ford

Who gets to claim Evangelical as their descriptor? The recent revelation that Donald Trump finds Evangelicals among his strong supporters has created any number of explanations. For example, one recent article dissects the numbers and concludes those who support Trump are not, in fact, Evangelical, and may not even be Christian.  Read More

The Oracle On the Surveillance State or, Why Was Ed Stetzer Not Crying In the Wilderness Before Now?

“Repent for not saying a word!”

Well, here is what Ed Stetzer really said,

Either way, part of the role of Christians in any society is speaking up against wrongs committed by their government– and to be wise to discern the potential for such wrongs. We have a responsibility to recognize and respond to unethical behavior and the decisions that emboldened such behavior.

. . .

We’ve already seen too much liberty given away in the name of false security. Furthermore, if/when a surveillance state exists, and such a situation arises per Justice Souter’s description, it may be too late to speak up.

Also, it is important to note we stand on the brink of a technological explosion that will make 1984 look like holding a cup up to a door to listen to our apartment neighbors. With drones, listening devices, and remote heat sensors, there will simply be no privacy unless someone speaks up.

That someone should be Christians.

The Christians who founded this country– and even the deists and others who agreed with the concerns– would be surprised at our naivety.

I wonder where such discerning Christians are today.

Charlie Rose interviewed Larry Ellison yesterday morning on CBS This Morning. Part two runs this morning. My normal routine only includes the segment, “Eye Opener: Your World In 90 Seconds.” My interest to linger a little longer was the Ellison interview. My brothers and I owned Oracle stock together for quite a few years. During that time I read pieces by and about Ellison. Producers teased viewers with bits that indicated Ellison would talk about Apple and Google. Who could resist hanging around for the interview? I could not.

Apple is going down without Steve Jobs and Google is producing Android developed on the back of Oracle’s tools without credit makes them evil. Ellison has opinions. You can be sure these were intriguing but nothing quite like his comments when the conversation turned to the NSA. Ellison thinks the NSA is a good idea and wonders why no one made a fuss about credit card companies spying on us for years before these revelations came via Snowden.

Did you get that? Visa knows about you. They have known about you. American Express knows expressly about you. Information gathering is an economic pastime. My friend Aaron, who works in technology, told me last month after the Snowden affair took off that his greater fear was not the government but credit card companies. He, like Ellison, noted they have known more about us than we care to think about.

We may rightly be calling on Christians to speak out about governmental intrusion into our daily affairs, like where we drive to worship. They don’t need a camera. When churches decide to open up giving via credit card donation they foster intrusion. Stetzer’s words are ringing, Part of the role of Christians in any society is speaking up against wrongs committed by their government.” Why not against Corporate America that appears to be as good or better than the NSA, even preceded the NSA in their activities. Or is it that we don’t really care what credit card companies know about us so long as we may use their money?

Churches opt for credit card donations to make it easier for congregants to give. Declining giving percentages prompt many churches to offer all options available to receive tithes and offerings. Inadvertently we participate in the very surveillance type activities we decry. Economics cut many ways.

The truth is the Mad Men have had a great influence on the church. More subtle than a drone and as adept at shaking down tech companies for email access as the NSA, Mad Men helped create youth culture as a means to access their parents money. Churches responded by creating youth ministries. Getting at your money is a big deal. In fact, if you see things as I often do, that government wants in on your business is not much more than an extension of Corporate America’s intrusion into our lives. Yes, I do think Corporations run America.

Decrying governmental surveillance may be needed. I agree with Stetzer. It just seems that for most government is an easier target no matter where you self-locate on the political spectrum. Denouncing Corporate America appears even less likely. Yes, Southern Baptists, some that is, boycotted Disney. The decision was not on economic grounds but in objection what was deemed not-so-family-friendly decisions. When did greed get a pass? The SBC may have linked the not-so-family-friendly to greed but that was not the way the boycott was taken up.

John the Baptizer called for a turn, repentance, to the Kingdom of God. He cried in the place where there was no word, the Hebrew sense of wilderness, offered about a Divine Kingdom. Jesus announced the Kingdom, described its realities, invoked its practices and spent a bit of time talking about money in the process.

Yes, I believe Jesus addressed politics – government, religious, and economic. We pastors often harangue materialism and then create the materialistic environments that call into question our pronouncements. Is it possible we choose to get on everyone’s bandwagon and assail the government – which certainly needs accountability – and give a pass to Corporate America?

Money makes everything difficult. It is not just the love of money that causes a problem.

My aim here is not to question or undermine Ed Stetzer, and Marty Duren who participated in the piece. No there is a bigger matter. If we are going to call on Christians to be prophetic in the face of actions that call into the question the value of life, its liberties, and such, we need to look deeper and see if there are other systems (economic) involved that fund what we attack (government) on the surface.

“Repent for not speaking a word about the system(s) that fund the Surveillance State!”

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Illusions of Advent

Fr. Rohr offered the following this morning in my Inbox,

All false religion proceeds in a certain sense from one illusion. When people say piously, “Thy kingdom come” out of one side of their mouth, they need also to say, “My kingdom go!” out of the other side. The kingdom of God supersedes and far surpasses all kingdoms of self and society or personal reward.

I was reminded of Bonhoeffer’s Life Together where he notes the effects of the “wish dream” on a local community. Until the “wish dream,” illusion following Fr. Rohr’s language,  suffers a shattering it inhibits relationships rather than provides vision and goals.

Advent may then be an illusion unless we are willing to see the coming of Jesus into our own lives, worlds, and reorienting our passion for our self into a passion for others.

The Scary Other, Or If You Are Not For Me You Are Against Me

Yesterday, Alan commented on my recent post on “Risking the Ethics of Critique.” He did not understand why someone of John Piper’s stature would feel the need to engage Alan Hirsch and Michael Frost so negatively after reading only a paragraph of a referenced book. Maybe, he wrote, it had to do with Piper seeing himself at the headwaters of the Reformed stream and he needed to keep conflicting influences away. Gatekeeping? Could be. Certainty requires me to know the mind of John Piper. Not happening.

But, it appears some know the mind of God better than others. The result is a stridency about his or her position that they frame all others as “scary.” In Piper’s post in question, the “scary other” is euphemistically referred to as, “false to the gospel.” Any good conservative knows false to the gospel could well be short-hand for false teacher – and so scary. What will Piper say of McKnight after reading a paragraph of his new book, The King Jesus Gospel?

My tribe often has high-profile figures who convey that sentiment to others. I recently read a post by John Stackhouse who evidently is aiming at a bit of controversy. Notifying his readers that a book to which he contributed was forthcoming he vetted those who dared to read further.

The book, The Spectrum of Evangelicalism, is one of those “four view” styled books. Out of the gate, Stackhouse admits the writers are far from representative of the diversity found among Evangelicals. Read More