Head First: May 2006

Sunday, May 28, 2006

A Hot Cup of Coffee in My Name...

If you listen to Steve Brown or (the late?) Godscrum, you've likely heard of Sandy Johns and In The Name of Jesus. I have been blown away by this chick since January, when Zeke first brought her to our attention. For all the details of her group, I'll refer you to her site. But the idea is to do acts of kindness in Jesus' name, without further agenda nor personal recognition, especially to people who likely have a distorted impression of Jesus because of the actions and attitudes of His (ahem) followers.

Nashville-based In the Name of Jesus seeks out prostitutes, the homeless, homosexuals, abortion-workers (gulp!) and others who have been beaten up and rejected by the church, and give thoughtful, useful gifts with no strings attached, except a card that says "This kindness is being shown to you in the name of Jesus." This is done in hope that the recipient might be provoked to reconsider his/her perception of who Jesus is. This is in addition to random acts of kindness done spontaneously whenever an opportunity presents itself.

It'll never work. It's too easy.

I think not. It's simple and straightforward, and it's a great way (to borrow a vintage phrase from Josh Sager) "to show Christ's love in a tangible way."

Well, color me inspired. My buddy, Mike, and I have been talking this over and plan to attend Philadelphia's Pride Day 2006 Parade and Festival on June 11, where we will reach out to our GLBT friends with a small gift in Jesus' name. We will purchase $5 gift cards from a specialty coffee store (who has asked that I do not use their brand name on my site).and hand them out to people at the event. Inside the cardholder will be another small card. On one side, it will say, "This kindness is being shown to you in the name of Jesus." On the other side will be our brief statement of apology for our participation in the judgmental attitudes that have hurt them and misrepresented the message of Christ. I'm still working on this statement, but will share it when I'm done.

Whatever your theological position on homosexuality, you'd have to be in some serious denial not to acknowledge that many in the church, especially fundamentalist and evangelical churches have been harsh in both their judgemental rhetoric and exclusionary behavior towards gay people. If you ask me whether homosexuals will go to hell, I will tell you that it has nothing to do with the way Christ commands us to love. And love we must.

As of now, we have 300 gift cards (counting the 100 cards that In The Name of Jesus has generously committed to give us). Two guys will be able to give away that many cards in pretty short order, so I'm hoping that my friends will want to get involved. If you're willing to help, you can do it a couple different ways.

-- click the button to donate via PayPal (NOTE: This method is NOT tax-deductible, and is, therefore, far more spiritual).

-- send a check to In The Name of Jesus at this address. Sandy will buy the cards and send them to me (NOTE: This method IS tax-deductible, and is, therefore, far better stewardship of resources).

-- buy some $5 gift cards (in the paper card carriers) and mail them to me (NOTE: This method seems like a waste of time, but whatever makes you comfortable).

If you elect one of the mail options, you must act pretty quickly (like today), and drop me an email to let me know how much you're sending, so I can plan accordingly. If you're one of those who has to have some sort of incentive to give, then ask for offer L3J254 and I'll send you a miracle prayer cloth that I've blessed with my own touch (it's 2-ply, only the best).

I'm very excited about this. I mean, I've been sitting on my ass bitching and blathering on about this and that for the better part of a year. It feels good to do something. Hopefully this will be the first of many such outreaches.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Everyone in Cannes Must Be Catholic.

I saw "The Da Vinci Code" this morning. I'm leaving for a weekend getaway this afternoon, and I didn't want to wait until next week, so I caught the early show (10:15am) at my local cineplex. Contrary to what I had read, this movie did not suck (not a lot, anyway). No, it wasn't a great art film, and it certainly wasn't Tom Hanks' best performance, but it was still a fun ride. I didn't really notice whether Audrey Tautou acted well or not (when you're that cute, does it really matter?). As advertised, Ian McKellen was brilliant, and the albino killer-monk was scary as hell.

The short version of my thoughts on the movie's implications (yes, I do have a short version):

The book was a novel. The movie was, well, a movie. I suspended my disbelief for two and a half hours and enjoyed a hell of a good story. I even found myself rooting for them to find the tomb of Mary Magdalene. But when the movie was over, guess what? My beliefs were intact. Jesus is still the Son of God. He died and resurrected. He made everything new. He saved my ass. I don't doubt that one tiny bit.

But I have to tell you this. As I was leaving the theater, I rounded a corner and (I am not making this up, I swear) found myself standing face to face with a 6'4" albino guy talking on a cell phone. It scared me so bad, I think I peed myself a little.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

The Point of All This.

Mine is kind of a weird site. Unlike some, I don't think I really have a theme to speak of. I just post whatever's on my mind, a lot of complaining and scattered silliness, with an occasional point. To tell the truth, most of my best writing gets done commenting on other people's sites (you're welcome).

JimmyBob raised an interesting question about whether all this bitching does any good. Maybe not the bitching so much as the way we do it. He specifically questions the use and purpose of ridicule as an effective means of addressing "a church gone astray." As I responded with a rather lengthy comment, some things began to coalesce in my thinking regarding just why I do this.

I need to stop here and say that I love JimmyBob. We look at a lot of things from two very different places these days, but I know he loves God and I know he loves people, and that's the common ground from which we can build a conversation*.

Here's my comment to his post:

"Interesting point, JimmyBob. And I absolutely agree that faith can endure any attack. As my brother always says, If my faith can't stand up to the questions, then it's not a faith worth having. But let me challenge your perception of those "on the outside" a little.

I certainly don't speak for everyone who has left the church for whatever reason, but I need to say that I no longer consider ANY of my opinions nor methods the answer to "a church gone astray." I don't consider my use of satire and parody to ALWAYS constitute ridicule, nor do I employ such in an effort to induce change within the church. I have spent YEARS (as you know) attempting to impart and induce sensible scriptural perceptions among the brethren. And to some degree, I have succeeded (except with the brethren who hold the power of change in a religious death-grip).

Now I find myself on the outside--my sincere and loving (I believe they were--at first, anyway) attempts to provoke broader thinking and effective praxis now vilified as rebellion and conspiracy (they were certainly neither).

My use of humor, however biting (and it only bites because of the truth of it), is not aimed at causing church leaders to recognize their apostasy. I consider many of them to be irretrievably delusional. I'm looking more to connect with others who have read about Jesus from the gospels, listened to His words, and recognize the great distance that exists between that and the American church. My message is not just bitterness and resentment (although I admit it's there), but hope that we can find some form of fellowship that revolves around the real Jesus, not the American flag-waving Republican caricature of Jesus that I was offered Sunday after Sunday.

You seem to suggest that those who criticize are likely on the road to rejecting Christ. Not so. Here on the blogs, there have been several instances that I have responded to a mischaracterization of Jesus, by saying something like, "If that's who Christ is, then I want no parts of him." Please don't mistake the meaning there. Such a comment does not mean that I'm might reject the real Jesus. All it means is that I want no part of THAT misrepresentation of Christ.

Unlike Voltaire, my aim is not to discredit the truth about Christ, but to redeem it from those who have manipulated it into a self-serving entity whose primary purpose is to keep itself going.

Personally, I don't hold out much hope that the institution-at-large can be brought into line with what I perceive to be scriptural priorities, but that is not to say that no good thing happens there. For all its shortcomings, the church (small c) gets some things right, and bears some fruit. That's fine. But a lot of people think Jesus is way bigger and His message way broader than that to which the church has confined them.

To answer your question, though. Pointing out hypocrisy and unscriptural practices does not necessarily constitute ridicule. Even if it does, such commentary is not offered in an attempt to correct. It's too late for that. It's offered as context for the rest of us. We must be self-aware as we proceed.

And a lot of the time, it's just venting steam, to keep my head from exploding."

* ©2005 Emergent. "Conversation" is a registered trademark of the Emergent Theological Conversation. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Friday, May 05, 2006

I Got an MRI for My Birthday.

Since my brother outted me already, yeah, I'm 43 today.

So I went in for an MRI on my shoulder this morning. I've never had one, but I've heard that some people get uncomfortable. I've never been particularly claustrophobic (until today), but how bad could it be? Besides, I've heard that they give you headphones to listen to music or even an angled mirror pointed at a TV.

So the gal in the scrubs has me empty my pockets, put in some foam earplugs and lay on a foot-wide table. Without any preparation for what to expect (like how many eternities it will feel like before it's over), she tells me to be absolutely still. The table rises, and begins sliding backwards. Suddenly, I'm understanding why I want to be cremated and not placed in a coffin when I die. Let me see if I can explain this any better:

(these are actual measurements)

You do the math. Although I must admit, the Freudian implications of squeezing a man my size into an opening that size are noteworthy.

Then the scan commenced. I knew it would be loud, but holy sweet mother Mary! And where are my headphones? After a few minutes (2 eternities in MRI time), my right arm, wedged between my body and the tube, began to lose sensation from loss of circulation. I tried to say this to the person on the other end of the little speaker, but apparently, the speaker on her side wasn't working, or the sight of me stuffed into her little tube prompted her to step out for a cannolli.

Eventually (about 18 eternities later), she came back and announced that we're almost through. Trust me when I tell you that her idea of almost through means "That cannolli was delicious. I think I'll have a coffee to wash it down. There's a Starbucks on the other side of town. Be right back!"

It was about this time I realized that I could never be a government agent, because I would hand over the keys to every nuke in Iowa, even press the red button myself, to get out of this contraption. I was able to endure the last few eternities by promising myself over and over that I was NOT going to beat the hell out of this chick the minute she let me out of this thing--but only because I couldn't feel my arms, and she'd likely kick my ass.

Obviously, I made it out alive. I stopped for some breakfast, and then came home to lots of well-wishing birthday emails and phone messages. Knowing you have friends makes everything ok, doesn't it? And tomorrow, Mrs. Dorsey is taking me to the Big Apple to see Spamalot at the Shubert Theater (WOO HOO!)

But it goes without saying that you're more likely to find me manning the pledge-lines at TBN than ever again darkening the doors of Booth Radiology, Severan Professional Center, Suite 105, Hurffville-Cross Keys Rd. ,Sewell, NJ 08080.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Pour me some of that, Bill W.

I really enjoy reading Rick's blog, New Life Emerging. Rick has a way of stating very poignant truths in a sort of soothing, laid-back manner that makes me feel the way I do when I read Donald Miller. I especially relate to this line in his profile: "Personally, I don't have the guts to follow Jesus, so I ofen settle for being a Christian." Solid gold.

His latest post, Heart to Heart,really struck a chord with me. It's not long. Read it. Here's an excerpt:

"...I like to hear more about folks' experiences of God more than the latest theologian they have just read. What's God doing in your heart? That seems to be real.

Heart to heart seems to always work while belief to belief makes people act as if they have no heart.

Heart to heart is not much in the way of doctrines but more in the way of experiences. I think that is why I like 12-step meetings so much; folks are talking about their experiences of God more than they do their beliefs. They speak from their heart, and because they do, they speak to my heart.

It's very tempting to argue the jot and tittle of our respective theologies, but in so doing, it's all too easy to miss the heart connection. Why is it so easy to skip the love part? If Jesus were here today (physically, I mean), I think He'd look at most of us with sad eyes as we tried to pin him down on the issues.

Now I gotta find me a 12-step meeting. Sounds way more like my idea of church.