Saturday, October 27, 2007

Elton John and religion

I think religion has always tried to turn hatred towards gay people. Religion promotes the hatred and spite against gays.

But there are so many people I know who are gay and love their religion. From my point of view I would ban religion completely.

Organised religion doesn't seem to work. It turns people into really hateful lemmings and it's not really compassionate.

The man may have a lovely singing voice, but don't expect "Open the Eyes of my Heart" anytime soon.

These excerpts are from Dick Staub's website(you know, the author of The Culturally Savvy Christian), and are originally taken from an interview with Sir Elton John in the Observer Music Monthly Magazine.

While I don't put much stock in some Sir Elton's other assertions, such as the political ones--I'm reminded of James Caan's words: "Nobody should give a sh*t about an actor's opinion on politics."--his statements about religion I do attend to, as Sir Elton is a person, and even happens to be one of particular influence; his remarks on religion and homosexuality remind me of some of Sir Ian McKellan's, and I can only suppose that there are particular Christians and episodes at the root of these feelings.

It's a common accusation that religion, Christianity in particular(since people find bigger things to rag Islam about), promotes "hatred" towards homosexuals. I have to admit that this is sometimes very much the case... if you don't agree, then aren't familiar with Fred Phelps. The counter-argument is of course that these people are preaching the Christian message, which is true, but they're definitely presenting a religion, even if a disgusting one founded on a depraved perversion of the Word of the Lord.
Almost as frightening as the filth that some people will preach in the name of Christ is that this can be made to seem the norm, so long as people like Sir Elton are willing to make statements such as "religion promotes the hatred and spite against gays." He is not only a well-recognized voice to the whole world, but is an iconic voice to the homosexual populace, and even if they have not experienced such hate themselves(and, sadly, there may be few who have not), they may be prone to trust the words of such a voice.

Now, obviously, the scripture does not encourage ill-will towards anyone on the part of the Christian; those who preach hateful-rhetoric against homosexuals would likely, as a Jew in the 1st Century, have hated the Samaritans as well, despite Christ's revolutionary call to do otherwise. This sort of problem is not new, and Jesus adressed it expressly. Yet people almost expect it of us. They just understand "Christian" as, among other things, one who hates gays.

So what can we do about this? I submit that the church needs to redefine the term "Christian", to the world.
Okay, nice suggestion, but what does that entail? When people think "Christian", they're likely going to call to mind some image from reality as an illustration, a person or people, rather than recall some dictionary definition. Now it may be true that the media will always, true to their sensationalistic roots, focus on the negative news from 'Chrisendom', and we shall always stand at a disadvantage in forming the Christian image there. Nevertheless, the most powerful, the day-to-day encounters that inform this image are always under our control. The worst utterance of one of today's proported representatives of Christianity can be overcome by the simple acts of love that Christ called us all to in our relationships with others. A questionaire developed by Fuller Seminary for converts from Islam shows that the most important influence in the respondents' decisions to follow Christ was the lifestyle of Christians.
Yet it is not always this way. Ghandi famously said that "if it weren't for Christians, I'd be a Christian." Nietzsche said something to the same effect. These things are painful to realize. If we--the Church, down to her last member--would only begin to take seriously the callings of scripture, no longer to "assume the words of Christ to have meant the very least that they could mean", then we won't any longer have to lament the hate that Elton John has seen or received in the name of Christ. It we were to actually be Christians, then what would happen? It's a radical lifestyle, but it's exactly what Christ lived, it's exactly what we see in the book of Acts, and it's exactly what we are still called to.

If anyone thinks he has faith and yet is indifferent towards this possession, is neither cold nor hot, he can be certain that he does not have faith. If anyone thinks he is a Christian and yet is indifferent towards his being a Christian, then he really is not one at all. What would we think of a man who affirmed that he was in love and also that it was a matter of indifference to him?
- Søren Kierkegaard

And he answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself."
- Luke 10:27

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Apologist's Evening Prayer

From all my lame defeats and oh! much more
From all the victories that I seemed to score;
From cleverness shot forth on Thy behalf
At which, while angels weep, the audience laugh;
From all my proofs of Thy divinity,
Thou, who wouldst give no sign, deliver me.

Thoughts are but coins. Let me not trust, instead
Of Thee, their thin-worn image of Thy head.
From all my thoughts, even from my thoughts of Thee,
O thou fair Silence, fall, and set me free.
Lord of the narrow gate and the needle's eye,
Take from me all my trumpery lest I die.

- C.S. Lewis (Poems, p. 129)

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Chris Tilling on Evangelicalism

I nice, recent observation from Chrisendom on the study of scripture in Evangelical circles:

The inability of many Evangelicals to think beyond the 'how does this apply to me now' to consider the larger biblical narratives, and their significance, and how these are rethought and reflected in the canon and in church history, is a crippling and tragic weakness in popular Evangelicalism.

Coming from an Evangelical, in case you were wondering. In the post he included a picture of Osteen's Your Best Life Now, but actually said nothing of the book or the man; I'm sure the point goes without saying.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Kamp Krusty on NCAAF

Have I mentioned yet that I like Letters from Kamp Krusty?
If you missed that, I'm saying it again.

Brant Hansen recently posted, apparently twice, on college football, and I simply love what he says. He gets at, very succinctly here, what I was hinting at in a late-post on the whole us v.s. them dichotomy. His points here aren't scriptural at all, but hopefully this is an instance where, I mean really, can't we handle this topic with common sense alone?

Thanks for this Mr. Hansen.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Hollywood and "Christianity"

It's good for the marketplace, and good for the Christian community.

Producer Ralph Winter on Fox Faith.

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Chariots of Fire was released in 1981, a film about Olympic runner/missionary Eric Liddell. It went on to win the Oscar for Best Picture(among others), notably beating out Raiders of the Lost Ark. Chariots is nothing if not a Christian film. Heck, Raiders itself is all about the Ark of the Covenant, and the third Indiana Jones flick(as I recently blogged on) is an inspired exposition of faith. Of course while these may have much to say to the Christian viewer, they win Oscars and audience approval, because they are still very much secular films. Consider classics like Ben-Hur or Becket, and also recent films like the Lord of the Rings Trilogy or The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, or even Mel Gibson's infamous The Passion of the Christ. I'd even say The Exorcism of Emily Rose. These are some beloved--and just good--films; arguably, they are good for the marketplace and good for the Christian community.

Now let's take a look at Fox Faith.
Here are some numbers from the same CT article as the above quote that should go under the "good for the marketplace" category, though I'm not sure good is appropriate.
Their first release, Love's Abiding Joy, earned a paltry $253,000 in October 2006. Four months later, The Last Sin Eater made just $388,000. In between, Thr3e barely earned $1 million. (Their biggest theatrical hits have been One Night With the King [$13 million] and The Ultimate Gift [$3.4 million].)

They do claim to have strong rental and video sales, but there aren't any numbers for the two.

OK, now that we've dismissed "good for the market" pretty well, how about "good for the Christian community"?

the subculture
You may hear the phrase "Christian subculture" tossed around quite a bit, but in relation to American Evangelicalism, I(having grown up in a small, conservative, fundamentalism, SBC church) don't really think we can mention this too much. This topic came up in a recent post of mine, and, alas, here it is again.
American Evangelicals cringe at the words "a wall of separation betwen church and state", but that seems to be the only wall they don't want up. A wall between the faithful and any music not sold be Lifeway would be nice. If we could get a wall between all of our children, content with their Veggie Tales, and Harry Potter, that'd be great. Oh, and let's make sure we get Thomas Kinkade in before we finish building that wall between the church and artwork, ok?
I could go on, as much as this burns me. We're constantly cutting ourselves off, retreating to what we can call, without a doubt, "Christian", and throwing everything else into one "Bad" category. Dick Staub speaks alot about this concerning Christians and culture. N. T. Wright consistently attacks it as an aspect of our worldview. The fact of the matter is "in the world but not of the world" still means in the world; "Thy Kingdom come... on Earth" really means here, on Earth. Yet some Christians seem really opposed to these words of scripture--not acknowledgedly of course, but practically.

And this is what Fox Faith is a symbol of to me. This represents not only Christians running from the culture around us, but the executives noticing this and deciding to make a buck off of it. There are good movies out there, with good messages. They're thought-provoking or exciting, and you may even have to do a little digging before you can see what God's Truth is in it, but it's there, and it's Good. However, it seems we are just too taken with all the New Testament's marathon metaphors; we've taken off, and we're not looking back.

This summer when a few youth girls at the church where I worked as an intern wanted to start a reading club, they consulted me about some books to read. I gave them some off-the-cuff suggestions: The Hobbit, some of the Narnian Chronicles, Father Brown, and Pride and Prejudice(along with a corresponding Bible study by an author I respect), among others. All of these books are avaiable from Christianbook.com. All of these books, save Lewis, were immediately discounted by the youth minister; in their places went the likes of Ted Dekker and Tim LaHaye. J.R.R. Tolkien, G.K. Chesterton, and Jane Austen were cut, to be replaced by current popular Christian writers(whose books will never touch these classics). That's just how frightened we are.

I find these two situations analogous(obviously).

The "Christian community" is slowly sinking into this pit of rejecting what is good--compare that to 1 Thessalonians 5:21--in favor of what they view as safe... and just compare that one to Lewis's(or should I say Mr. Beaver's) famous description of Aslan: 'course he isn't safe, but he's good.
Christianity isn't about running from the world or about safety, about hiding God's light under a basket for fear that the darkness will... hell, what are we afraid the darkness will do to light? No, it's about Life, Truth, and Righteousness. We are to glow with God's Life, Truth, and Righteousness in the darkness that's out there. And once--if--we start wading out into the darkness to see God's Kingdom come there, we'll start to see the little divine sparks that are in so many things, things that we in our hurry to hide within our man-made bulwarks of "Christian entertainment" or "Christian product" usually miss. But they're right there, ready to speak to our souls, ready to be the LORD's vessels, Good, and ignored--even feared--by, of all people, the people of God.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Erasmus gets two thumbs up!

Researching for my recent paper on Calvinistic determinism has been a really educational experience, with one major perk being that I find myself reading Luther, Calvin, Erasmus, and even Barth all for the first time.
As a result, I've discovered over the last two weeks that when it comes to Desiderius Erasmus, apparently I'm a fan. I'd even go so far as to add him to the list of 'people whom I'd like to think I'd be friends with', along with G. K. Chesterton, and of course Jack Lewis, among others.

The further into his On the Freedom of the Will I get, the more I realize that my whole paper was apparently just a shorter, less thorough version of his argument. Oh well. The man's theology, I've found, is well-founded in scripture, well-reasoned through, and often presented with a level of sarcasm and cheek that I of all people can very much appreciate.

If you've not read Erasmus, or some of the other big names that are oft-referenced but never read (as Mark Twain might remark), I certainly commend them to you. And for the vast majority of you who already have, just be happy for me, and try to take everything I've said on the blog prior to two weeks ago seriously nonetheless.