Your Blog Steward

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Omaha, Nebraska, United States
I am more and more convinced that most congregations die from a staggering lack of imagination. Let's change that. Drop me a line on email or leave a comment if you have thoughts on God, Jesus, congregations, the church or whatever.... I look forward to our conversations.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Google This

The other night I was asking a group of artists where they got their theological training...they all laughed. One has once had a class in "World Religions" in college, but the other three confessed they only knew what they had read on the internet in preparation for this work (they had all prepared an artistic piece for the anointing of Jesus at Simon the Leper's house). "I just googled it," said Kris, our poet for the evening.

I was floored. I had spent 25 years of my professional life trying to draw the same conclusions they had read on the internet for a couple of hours. (To be fair, one said, she used my blog as a resource. Nice!)Basically what I dropped $60,000 on for fees, books, and tuitions, these people got for free. Ideas, thoughts, relationships, doctrines, all of it could be had with a quick tour through Wikipedia. Well, talk about humility...

But it got me thinking about something one of my interns said to me. "I don't like to read books." (Paradoxically, her major work for me was collating my library, and organizing my office--which is really just piles of papers and books.) And why should she? If she can get the gist of anything with a quick search on google or whatever, why read a book? She is smart enough to know how to draw conclusions based on rational or relational principles. (As the joke goes: There are two kinds of people in the world; those who can draw rational conclusions from partial evidence, and those.) She was one who could draw such conclusions, and I am not wondering if there are a lot of folks like her, who because of the plethora of information and lack of time to process it, have developed the same skill as well? Could it be that soon we will need only a notation for people to draw conclusions?

My philosophically inclined friends will tell me that the underlying interpretative grid makes for analysis and conclusions, and Google might be hard pressed to develop those. I agree. The underlying interpretative grid is probably going to come from those old, traditional, established places like families, congregations, politics, and economies. So, my doctorate does have some value, but it is not in providing information to the world--rather, it is providing a way for the information to be interpreted. Now, I have to go edit a wiki page on hermeneutics. I'll leave the rest to God.

May your table be full, and your conversations be true.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Reading "Slant"

Last night I got a chance to be some some artists (a painter, a poet, a musician, and an actor) who helped me discern a bit more of the story about Jesus' anointing at Simon the Leper's house. (Mark 14.3-9) What I learned was great. Here's some stuff in no particular order:

1) It never hurts to have people who see the world "slant" (in another perspective) read with you. The actor, for example, brought forth the frustration it must have been to be a friend of Jesus'. The guy never talked straight (especially in the Gospel of Mark where we were reading), and this story of "the poor will always be with you" is just a buzz-killer of the highest degree!

2) The Internet has bought into contemporary biblical criticism; or, at least made it easy for artists to find it. Sometimes I despair when I run into the plethora of literal biblical readers who come into my classes, and wonder how will it ever change? It already has changed! Within 10 years (I'm guessing) it will be impossible to find a biblical literalist that any 5 point Fundementalist would call "literal." Mainline Protestantism no longer supplies "Bible churches" with the de-facto literalists who made up their growth over the past 40 years. (Look up the statistics, most of the people who "grew" Bible churches over the past 40 years grew up in mainline Protestant congregations. Where are the Bible churches going to get their new converts if mainline Protestantism doesn't provide them?) People don't read anymore, much less literally. How does this trend (biblical literalism)survive the internet? (Look for another post soon on this topic.)

3) Never underestimate the power of good leadership. I am not sure how my friend Josh Sawyer pulled this off over the last few weeks, but he is good at gathering this type of celebration together. He's also 20 years younger than me...which means my children may actually have a chance to go to church when I am gone.

4) Lastly, I don't miss preaching...but I would like to have a Bible study class again...but this time with lots of different kinds of folks. Most of my Bible studies have been with the same type of people, and I'd like to have one with artists, literalists, gays, straight, married, single, Black, Caucsian, Asian, Latino--whatever...just people who want to see what God is up to in the world, and how they might--in even just a simple act--help out, and read it "slant."

May your table be full, and your conversations be true.