Tuesday, July 29, 2008

How About This!

Way Back in 1884

"Republicans, entrenched in power, cynically abused it; they subverted the integrity of the vote, and of the press; they mocked the spirit of the Constitution through partisan legislation, and copying the tactics of tyrants, used overseas wars to deflect attention from their actions" -- Jose Marti, Cuban nationalist hero, in New York, observing the US Presidential election of 1884


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

HANCOCK - Jesus and the American Hero

I saw Will Smith's lastest movie, HANCOCK, this afternoon. It seems a very conventional movie. It has the makings of a provocative exploration of love and power, duty and self-denial, saving and serving, along the linbes of Smith's recent efforts in PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS and I AM LEGEND. I won't spoil it by describing the plot, but it forfeited that promise by devolving into a stock and quintessentially American version of heroism, salvation, and saviors. HANCOCK plays off love/vulnerability/relationships/powerlessness against duty to others/invulnerability/strength/solitariness. Drawing close in love meant forfeiture of super powers and thus of the call to be a savior of others. Saving and serving, which belong together in Christian theology are played off against one another here. Love and power are split apart and never the twain shall meet, so it seems. It is almost as if Jesus and John Wayne face off in this film, and John Wayne emerges the real hero.

There are some useful insights in identity formation and self-denial in service to duty, but they ultimately serve, from a theological perspective, a distorted identity and finally unhelpful duty. I mourn for what might have been! LEt me know what you think!


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Shack

I read THE SHACK by WIlliam P. ("Paul") Young last Saturday. What an experience! It's a must read for everyone. It will lift you to the heights, drive you to your knees, thrill you, chill you, make you cry and burst out in praise (sometimes at the same time!) as it ushers you into the presence of a genuinely "gospel" view (and experience) of God.

Responses to THE SHACK have ranged from glowing (as mine) to its being a "trojan horse" through which heresy is being smuggled into the faith (a vast number of responses are posted at the book's website theshack.com, I believe). The more negative responses tend to lift up the theology in the book (of which there is plenty) and subject it to the usual process of theological review and critique. Yet I suspect this is not the most helpful (of fair) way to treat a piece of fiction. You can be being "right" but miss the whole point of the story!

Any piece of literature ought to be first held to the standard it sets for itself. And in the case of THE SHACK, the repeated leitmotiv of the author is that we do not trust GOd because we do not really know who God (the biblical God) is. Young's intent is to tell in fictional form how he discovered and has been transformed by coming to know the biblical God. As a paastor I frequently (far too frequently) watch and hear people describe God in unbiblical ways and suffer tremendously for so doing. Young frames his story in such compelling and winsome ways that the reader receives the gift of experiencing a fresh vision of God, the triune God, as the deity the scripture proclaims him to be - "God is love" (I John 4:8) - unconditional love, no qualifiers, exceptions or small print loopholes.

Now, in a world like ours and people like us, it is hard enough to believe in and follow such a God of love. Imagine then the impossibility of believing in and following a deity whom we are NOT sure loves us that way. And that's precisely the God much traditional Christianity has given to disciples and to the world at large. A God who is power-hungry, obsessed with our obedience/performance, enjoys meting out punishment, is responsible for the tragedy and turmoil in life because "all things unfold according to his will" (so we are told), and is divided within himself - the demanding Father who compels our fear and the loving Son to whom we cling hoping against hope that he has and will continue to placate his "mad Dad." If you think I exagerrate, you should sit in any pastor's study or counselor's office and you will be astonished at how pervasive and debilitating this view of God is! THis is the "god" Philip Pullman "kills off" in his DARK MATERIALS trilogy - a god to whom we should say "good ridddance," but. alas and unfortunately, one to whose defense too many Christians rallied in opposing Pullmann's work.

As a disciple and a pastor I cannot live or do my work without the kind of God found in the Bible and reflected in Young's story. That's why I am so exceedingly grateful for his work. And it saddens me to see it picked at by theologians who seem to forget what Yound's stated aim in the story was in the first place - you can't trust a God whom you don't kow truly and fully loves you, is delighted in you, seeks your compant, and has done everything possible to let you know that!

By the criteria of this, his own stated aim, Young is a rip-roaring success!! You cannot with any sympathy at all read his story without finishing it with a new or renewed sense of God's love for you, God's understanding of who you are, what you have gone through, and where you are now spiritually, God's delight in you, God's deep passion for relationship with you, and . . . Some however have apparently read with so little sympathy for the subject matter or the genre of the book that they have launched theological critiques that, in my judgment, ending up reflecting more on them than on THE SHACK itslef.

A few examples I am aware of:

-some complain that Young failed to adequately balance the one and the three of the trinity, highliting the three at the expense of God's unity. Come on - who doesn't fail on this score in talking about the trinity. Heck, the church itself is divided east and west on where the emphasis should lie - and they're both right! All this critique says is that Young's view of God is more in the eastern tradition of Christianity than the western (to which presumably his critics belong)!

-others have complained that Young's showing of "Papa" (God the Father) bearing the same scars on his wrists that Jesus bears is inappropriate - smacks of patripassianism. After all, only Jesus the Son suffered and died (so they say). While this might be theologically correct (if Young had written a theological treatise), there is no more powerful way I can think of that Young could show the shared love of the Father and the Son for humankind and creation than by this literary device. And such assurance is what many/most of us need to hear and such assurance was what Young set himself to deliver. The theologians are right, perhaps, if you lift the incident out of the story-line but terribly wrong about its appropriateness and power within the story.

-another complaint is that Young is dismissive of the value of institutions - church, government, economics, etc. and fails to reflect a balanced theological assessment of the possibilities and pitfalls of such. Right, again, theologians; and wrong! As an issue for theological discussion, they may be right (though I'm not sure about this myself). But the reality to which Young writes is that churches by and large alienate not only the world but even many within its number from a real relationship with God, and few experience other corporate entities as supportive, trustworthy, believeable, or nurturing places. As a pastor of one of those churches, I have little or no problem affirming Young's portrayl within the context in which he writes.

Well, enough! I've gone too long already. I simply want to encourage peole to read this book for what it is - a wonderful testimony to the gracious, transforming love of God that resonates with the realism of the lead character's struggle, the depth of his pain, the psychological and emotional knots into which he is tied along with an equally realistic (theological and otherwise) portrayal or the relational and tranformative reality of the kind of relationship to which the biblical God calls each and all of us. Such gifts come along all to rarely. I hate to us squander this one by burying it in theological (mis)analysis like the above. Any such reflection, I would suggest, follows only after a deep, prayerful, and appreciative pondering of what Young (and God!) are doing in and through THE SHACK.


Thursday, June 12, 2008

"The Fidelity of Betrayal"

I just finished Pete Rollins "The Fidelity of Betrayal." I had a similar response to it as I did his "How (Not) To Speak of God": more style than substance, and the substance was said earlier and better by Karl Barth and Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

In particular,

1. Rollins' interpretation of Judas in the Biblical text seemed sophomoric and implausible. Barth's effort to offer a similar kind of reading of Judas is far more sophisticated and plausible (though, perhaps, not finally convincing).

2. his efforts to debunk the fundamentalist-evangelical/liberal-historical-critical commitment to modernistic assumptions in reading Scripture, while on target, seems a bit unnecessary at this point in time. It has been done repeatedly and well bu many others in the last twenty years. Perhaps, though, Rollins still encounters this enough to make it worth his while to go through the exercise.

3. his efforts to forge a "religion without religion" and his ideas on revelation as an experience on concealment that is finally ineffable again sounded like a postmodern version of Barth's attack on religion in his Romans commentary. Barth however employed a dialectic view in which revelation was a concealing/revealing event that allowed for both content and mystery, truth and provisionality that seems more helpful than Rollins' approach. Further, in the light of Bonhoeffer's criticisms in "Act and Being" Barth reworked his conception of God as pure act in a way that more satisfactorily accounted for continuity in God's being and revelation, an issue that plagues Rollins' account as well.

4. finally, in practical terms, there seems to be little advance beyond Bonhoeffer's "Letters and Papers" in fleshing out a religionless Christianity or nonreligious interpretation of Christianity.

In sum, if our generation needs a rehearsal of these matters and will not read Barth and Bonhoeffer, then Rollins will get them into the issues (though with less depth and nuance!). If one has read Barth and Bonhoeffer, there seems little in either work that advances our understanding.


Monday, June 2, 2008

The Impact of Entertainment - St. Augustine

I was reading in Augustine's CONFESSIONS today and ran across his reflections on theatrical entertainment in III.ii(2). After confessing his own attraction to such entertainment Augustine reflects on the impact these shows have on him (and on all of us). Attraction to this entertainment is "amazing folly" for him because it erodes the spectator's ability to withstand the passions enacted in front of him or her. In fact, they become a source of pleasure, this vicarious experience of "grievous and tragic events." It seems he is suggesting that such events have the capacity to shape us thorugh passive viewing in ways we may not find healthy.

A further conequence of this kind of entertainment that Augustine observes is that it corrupts the quality of mercy. Aroused to such passion by the events happening on the stage the spectator is moved, not to action, but only to grief; and a spurious grief at that because the feeling of the pain that arouses this passion is the source of his enjoyment! Thus not only does this feeling of "mercy" not provoke us to sct (presumably in real life as well as in the theater) but it becomes absorbed into our own search for enjoyment and pleasure.

In light of our preoccupation with such visual representations of all manner of "grievous and tragic events," and our national debates over the impact of such on the minds. hearts, and wills of their consumers, it might repay us to reflect on Augustine's reflections on this matter!


Monday, April 14, 2008

Ramblinga and Ruminations on John (4)

04.Ramblings and Ruminations on John
John 1:6-13

The soaring rhetoric of vv.1-5 lands firmly on terra firma beginning in v.6 with the introduction of John the Baptist. Over the desk in Karl Barth’s study hung a print of the Isenheim Altarpiece painted by Matthias Grünewald. Jesus hangs on the cross, agonized in body and soul. On the right side of painting stands a gaunt but fierce-looking John the Baptist whose long bony forefinger points to the dying Jesus. At the foot of the cross, between the Baptist and Jesus is a lamb with blood pouring out from it heart into a chalice. Grünewald has captured perfectly the role of John the Baptist in John’s gospel. He is a witness (marturia) to Jesus. This is his sole and only function in John. Karl Barth believed this portrait of John the Witness to Jesus was also the proper role of theology. And Barth strove to fashion his theology likewise as a witness to Jesus Christ, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” as John will call him later in John 1.

Witness to Light so all may come to believe in this Light (v.7) – that’s what John is. Witness – no less but also no more. John takes pains to differentiate John as witness from Jesus as the true Light. Probably some of John’s disciples had begin to give him a more exalted role than witness, perhaps even calling him messiah, and John had to set his readers straight about that early on in his story.

Witness to Jesus as the Light and Life of the world – such is our role too. We stand with the Baptist pointing to the One on the cross as the focal point and hope of all God’s dealings with the world (John 12:32). Witness – no less, but also no more. In John “witness” language is law court language. We are the ones called to give testimony on Jesus’ behalf before an accusing world; first-hand testimony as to what we have seen and heard Jesus do for us and others.

Here I give postmodernism its due, whereas I critiqued it a bit earlier. This role of witness is precisely the role into which we have been cast by postmodern thought. Nobody stands outside the human condition to give a god’s-eye perspective on things, undimmed by time, place, experience, et al. Rather we all stand “somewhere” and what we see and here and believe and think are profoundly influenced and conditioned by that “somewhere.” “Witness” is all we can be – what we have seen, heard, experienced, believed about Jesus is what we are called to announce and share with the world. And God seems pleased to work through our witness from “somewhere.” We have not been given a “knock out” argument or clinching declaration that compels others’ acceptance. We cannot “prove” God or the resurrection or anything else. We can, however, and must share what we found and Jesus and who we have discovered him to be. And that means acknowledging that we have been shown these things by God rather than come to them through our own native talents. D. T. Niles said somewhere that sharing our faith is best likened to one beggar telling another where he has found food. I like that. I think John would like that. What do you think?

That the world will not always (often?) credit our witness is no less than what the One to whom we witness experienced when he came into his own creation (vv.10ff.)! “He was in the world, and the world came to be through him, and the world did not know him” (v.10). The mission of the “true Light” is rejected by those who received their very life through him!

Some did believe, though, and through their faith in his name, became part of God’s family, sons and daughters, and this was God’s work from start to finish. Jesus “authorized” (v.12) these to be his appointed witnesses, taking his message to the world whose darkness would contest their efforts but would not ultimately prevail.


Saturday, April 12, 2008

Ramblings and Ruminations on John (3)

03.Ramblings and Ruminations in John

John 1:1-5 (cont’d)

This Word is both co-source (identity, v.1) and agent of creation (v.3). John is emphatic about the Word’s agency in creation. It, the Word, is not a “mere” Creator, however. “Life” (another of John’s theological key-words), the animating power of God’s own presence, is imprinted or embedded in the creation by the Word. And this light was to enlighten humanity (v.4).

All is not well within the creation, alas. There is a “darkness” loose within it that is no part of the Word’s creative work. John will finger human disbelief as one source of this darkness in a few verses. Later on, he reveals the devil as another, even more powerful source of darkness. Even with this, however, ambiguity shrouds this darkness. For the devil too is but a created being, under the authority and certainty of defeat by the incarnate Word. The Whence and reality of this darkness remains shrouded in primal shadows.

Whatever the case with that, this darkness does battle with the Light seeking to “comprehend,” or “overcome,” or perhaps even “extinguish” it. The Greek word katalambanō can bear any of these senses. At any rate, the darkness strives to get the upper hand on the Light and somehow thwart its illumination from shining out. That means this non-created darkness is anti-creation, always using its power to defuse, diminish, and defeat the purpose and work of the Light, the Word, God’s agent in creation. This suggests that the integrity of creation, in every aspect, is always at issue in this contest between the darkness and the Light. This entails a concern for the environment and all that enhances or subverts its proper functioning. I suggest that John’s gospel is “proto-green,” an intuition that seems confirmed by John’s resurrection story in ch.20. But we’ll wait till then to spell this out!
John’s verb tenses highlight the Light’s defeat of the darkness. V.5 could be translated, “The Light keeps on shining (present tense) in the darkness, and the darkness was not able to comprehend/overcome/extinguish it (past tense).” The alternation of tenses suggests that darkness has given Light its best shot and that naught came of it. John nuances this summary judgment in the course of his story, but nonetheless, this is the non-negotiable good news of John’s story announced right here at the outset!


Friday, April 11, 2008

Ramblings and Ruminations on John (2)

02.Ramblings and Ruminations on John

John 1:1-5 (cont’d)

“Word” (logos) –is a key word in John’s theological vocabulary as well as the wider religio-philosophical world of the time. It resonances are varied and allowed John to converse with these varied religions, spiritualities, and philosophies. I suggest it continues this function in our world and I believe the best of its translational possibilities for our time is “meaning.” “In the beginning was Meaning.”

Meaning seems to be the primary quest of our postmodern world. Great skepticism attends many of these quests. Some have given it up, embracing or bracing themselves for life without meaning. Most, however, continue to the search and to them John makes his claim that “Meaning” is indeed a reality, a reality writ into the fabric of the world and life in this world. But I get ahead of John here.

This “Meaning” or logos, John asserts, is both intimate with and identical to God. “Meaning” is “face-to-face” with God according to the Greek John uses (pros ton theon). God and “Meaning” are in close relation to each other (see Proverbs 8 on “Wisdom”). God and “Meaning” converse and commune throughout eternity (recall earlier questions raised about this).

Then John takes the daring step of internalizing this conversation and community within the very being of God! “’Meaning’ was God.” “Meaning” is thus a self-expression of who God is.

In our context, then, John affirms the existence of meaning and the legitimacy of the quest for meaning. Later in this prologue to his gospel (1:1-18), John will identify “Meaning” with the historical figure of Jesus of Nazareth, whose embodiment and reflection of “Meaning” is the decisive and clearest picture of God we have (or will have).

Part of what this means, I think, is that the most direct and provocative claim the Christian faith makes is not about how “god-like” Jesus is (as if we already knew who and what “god” is), but rather about how Jesus-like the Bible’s God is! The word “god” is, of course, the most ambiguous and diversely-used (not to mention dangerous!) word in the world. We must always be clear about which God we mean when we speak with others about God and inquire of them what God they are speaking of when they use the word. “God” is not a univocal word!!

And for us, we spell “God,” JESUS CHRIST!


Thursday, April 10, 2008

Ramblings and Ruminations on John (1)

01.Ramblings and Ruminations on John

Shallow enough for a babe to bathe in, deep enough for a elephant to swim – this well describes the Gospel of John! Its waters run deep yet never mock our inability to negotiate these depths and remain in the shallows. Wherever we are with God there is something for us in this magnificent story. There is always more for us here; we never exhaust its depths. This is so in part because of the author’s insight and subtlety in telling a multilevel story in a variety of hues and textures that continually invite us to go deeper and deeper.

I don’t know where I am with God as I encounter John again. We are never good judges of these things about ourselves. I only know I feel it beckoning me to swim again in its waters and discover what is there for me to find. These notes are my report on what I find. They take no systematic shape; traverse diverse grounds from points of Greek grammar to reflections on Christian faith and life in our postmodern world. That’s why I’ve entitled these notes “Ramblings and Ruminations.” They are the notes of a way-farer seeking sustenance and direction wherever he may find it.

John 1:1-5

“In the beginning” – radicalizes its Old Testament prototype, Genesis 1:1. John begins with claim that deconstructs the orthodoxy of our postmodern world. “In the beginning” rather than “once upon a time” frames John’s and the Bible’s story as a claim to reality, not simply an “as I see it” story constructed from the thought and experiences of its author.

I don’t mean this as a naïve claim to “historicity.” My point is hermeneutical – regardless of our ultimate evaluation of his work, John thinks he addresses reality in its deepest and profoundest form. A hermeneutics of respect must precede a hermeneutics of suspicion. This claim to reality, I believe, cannot be deconstructed a priori by application of a hermeneutics of suspicion. Rather, if it be deconstructed, that can only come a posteriori, after John has been engaged on his own terms with at least a theoretical openness to his claim’s truth.

John’s use of "arche" (“beginning) radicalizes the same word used in the Greek Old Testament of Genesis 1:1 by pushing it back to the absolute beginning. Yet at the same time, by using the same word is it possible that John means us to understand a degree of continuity between the two “beginnings,” between what we traditionally call eternity and time?

-Perhaps “eternity” is not timeless and there is something analogous to what we call “time” in God’s own being and experience?

-Perhaps understanding God as triune, a community of shared love throughout all “eternity,” allows us to posit a “timefulness” in God that enables this divine relationality to be echoed in our own human experience of relationships?

-Perhaps being made in God’s “image” (Genesis 1:26-28) implies something like this?

More on John 1:1-5 next time. This has been pretty “heavy” stuff, I confess, but that’s because John is at times a “heavy” writer. Give him his due and think with him (and me) about these things.


Thursday, February 7, 2008

A Modest but Unconventional Proposal for Lent

No shortage of proposals and plans for observing Lent exist. So why do I feel compelled to offer another? Three reasons:

1. as a psstor I know that at least in my circle of awareness few people actually use these plans and programs;
2. most that I am aware of are too "religious" or "spiritual" and fail to engage participants at the most visceral levels;
3. there remains, as far as I can tell, a genuine hunger for an authentic observance of Lent (i.e. a way to truly experience God).

I propose the following as ways toward a more fruitful experience and observance of Lent:

1. eat a pinch of dirt every day during Lent (and let the taste linger before you drink something to wash it down).

"Remember, you are dust, and to dust you shall return." This traditional Ash Wednesday" affirmation accompanies the imposition of ashes on the forehead. My proposal is a variation and extension of the intent of this liturgical action throughout the season. I'm tempted to call this "a sacrament of dirt." The handling and taste of dirt brings home in a memorably visceral way the Christian call to humility. Humility, from the Latin "humus,"ground" or "dirt," calls us remember who we are, whose we are, and from whence we come. And to thank God for being God, our Creator and Redeemer.

2. Find a replica of a skull (or the real thing if you have access to one!), place it as the centerpiece of the table you gather at to eat or the coffee table in the room your family regularly gathers. Place under the skull a symbol of your financial
life (currency, a checkbook, a bank statement, stocks, bonds, etc.). In ritual and less formal ways, train yourself to say aloud "Lord, have mercy" every time you see the skull and what lies under it. Include your children.

This is actually a variation of an early church ritual designed to confront and counter greed. In my judgment, our relation to money is and will continue to be the most potent and powerful idolatry Christians in North America have to contend with for the foreseeable future. A regualr diet of affirming again and again our vulnerability to the lures of "mammon"(our money and "stuff")and need of God's help to handle it faithfully can only be to the good. TO have the image of that skull, seared in our hearts and brains may provide the ballast we need to grow in grace in this area of our lives.

3. Watch every episode of "House" during Lent.

No show, in my judgment, better captures the dilemma and difficulties of ministry in our time. Ron Heifetz (Leadership without Easy Answers) has taught us that the challenges we face in the changed and changing world we live in are largely adaptive rather than technical. Technical challenges are life changing a light bulb. We know what the problem is and how to solve it. We just have to do it. Adaptive challenges are those for which we do not know exactly what the problem is or how to solve it; and further much of what we know, being oriented to techincal challenges, will mislead us in addressing adaptive challenges. To further complicate things, the rapid pace of change in our world means that we have to think, plan, and implement "on the run" (as it were).

"House" depicts just this challenge of adaptive change in a medical setting. The genius diagnostician, Gregory House, leads his team each week in dealing with a new adaptive challenge, i.e. a medical situation that defies traditional accepted diagnoses and procedures. House and his team are forced to think and act outside the box, fully aware that they might be wrong; and in most cases, their errors place the patient in mortal danger. Time is of the essence; a diagnosis and prescription that comes too late is of no help. This is just where we are in the church today. Attention to "House" with this in mind can be an extrememly instructuve exercise for us who care about and/or have some responsibility for leading the ministry of God's people.

4. During Lent, read and reflect on a poem (any poem) by Emily Dickinson once a week and read two (any two) short stories by Flannery O'Connor.

No poet better captures the many moods and seasons of the continual struggle between belief and unbelief than Dickinson. And no writer better shatters our easy convictions about things Christian than O'Connor. "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you odd!" is one of her characteristically pungent and mind-opening deliverances!

5. Continuing with O'Connor, every time you celebrate the Eucharist (which I hope is often) during Lent, remember O'Connor's response to a dinner party discussion of the Eucharist in which some of the socialites gathered there were reflecting urbanely on the "symbolism" of the Supper. Asked what she thought, O'Connor replied, "If it's only a symbol, to hell with it!"

Enough said, I think!

6. When you retire at night, say "Good Night, God (Lord/Father/Mother/Holy One . . ) and recite the Apostles' or Nicene Creed. When you awake in the morning, say "Good morning, God (Lord/Father/Mother/Holy One . . .) and recite the Lord's Prayer.

The rhythm of "evening and morning" reflects the Jewish reckoning of time and carries with it the important truth that we began and begin our lives at rest, asleep, and inactive, trusting the providence and mercy of God to "raise" us (in every sense of the word)the morning. Our life of work and productivity is the latter part of our day, lived by the grace of daily "resurrection" and a reaffirmation of our commitment to God through the creeds.

This will be my Lenten journey this year. Perhaps it may strike others as something they might want to try.


Friday, January 11, 2008

Will Anything Ever Change?

As I read Brian McLaren's EVERYTHING MUST CHANGE I had a profound moment of deja vu. I felt like it was thirty or so years ago and I was reading Ron Sider's RICH CHRISTIANS IN AN AGE OF HUNGER. The similarities between the two books far outweign their differences. Though McLaren is more widely focused than Sider, Sider brings in most of the concerns Mclaren articulates through his focus on hunger. Both bemoan the insensitvity of the church to their respective concerns and provide a theolgical framework for a different approach (Sider is better on this point than McLaren). Both attempt serious analysis of the issues and provide some ways that Christians and churches can begin to respond. Both are optimistic that there is already a core of folks alert and responsive to their concerns and they form the nucleus of what can (and must) become a worldwide response of the church. All differences aside, and regardless of what you make of thier analyses and prescriptions (both have been criticized for over-simplifying and somewhat superficial analytical work, probably fairly so), both called for a "revolution" in church practice and mission.

with thirty or so years hindsight, I have to say that Sider's call has gone largely unheeded. There is a greater awareness of hunger and related issues now, due in some measure to his work, but there has been no significant revolution in church practice and mission. Many are now breathlessly embracing McLaren's book as a new revelation, however Sider teaches us that little has been learned and internalized by the North American Church in general, for McLaren says nothing really new that Sider did not say or imply about the theological and missiological aspects of his discussion. Perhaps EVERYTHING MUST CHANGE is this generation's RICH CHRISTIANS, but if so, I hope it substantially more groundlevel impact than its predecessor.

Perhaps I am simply getting older without a correlative increase in wisdom. But I cannot help but suspect that McLaren's message will have as little long-lasting impact as Sider's. One ray of hope: Sider is an academic, McLaren a pastor. Perhaps he has a bit surer sense of how to communicate with church people than Sider. I beleive the problem is more deeply rooted than just that though. Maybe Christians in other countries and parts of the world will take to his message more readily than we North Americans will. I hope and pray so. But, for us in this country, I have to confess a prevailing doubt about whether anything will ever change in our churches here.

On that cheery note,

Lee Wyatt