Monday, January 29, 2007

Things I Love about the South

Being a Midwestern boy, I have found several things about the South, particularly western North Carolina, rather appealing. Here are a few of them:

  1. Bojangles' biscuits - KFC has nothing on these biscuits.

  2. Weather - just enough snow to scratch the itch, but it only lasts until noon!

  3. Mountains - there is just something comforting about being surrounded by mountains.

  4. Bluegrass and Mountain music - while some find the banjo appalling, I rather like it.

  5. Time - early morning is 9:00 am. Can't beat that.

  6. Love for the past - they are still stewing over the Civil War.

  7. Waving - when driving, you wave at people whether you know them or not.
  8. Sweet tea - need I say more?

Friday, January 26, 2007


This video is for Laci. If you listen closely you can hear the dogs crunching on their treats. Enjoy!

The Church, Legalism, and Hauerwas

As compared to my most recent posts, this one is quite serious. The following thoughts are in regard to Keith Drury's "Legalism Scale," and the various responses to it. It can be found at this address, under the heading "I dare you to take this Test: Legalism Scale." Be sure to read the "Responses." Bascially, the conversation comes down to this: does a commitment to holiness make one a legalist? Let me make clear that I am not interested in any discussion on whether or not certain denominations are legalistic or have been in the past, but should a church that promotes holiness deal with personal conduct (for my Wesleyan tradition compadres)? Can a church, or should a church, address issues such as homosexual and adulterous relationships, pornographic material usage, divorce, materialism, etc. among its members? To summarize the responses to Dr. Drury's 'Scale,' quite a few people said "no," personal conduct issues are simply between the individual and God. Thus many of the respondents reported a 'level-zero' on the scale: "We just love people - it isn't about rules it's about relationship." Now for my humble thoughts, and I must say up front that I probably rank somewhere between level one and level two on the Scale.

First, I agree with Dr. Drury that a church has an obligation to set certain standards of conduct for its members, based upon biblical foundations and presupposing conversion. I have yet to see any biblical argument against this and Saint Paul seems to argue strongly for it. Related to this, a church has an obligation to take stands on conduct that are not explicitly mentioned in Scripture as well. Dr. Drury's example of slavery works well, and we could include abortion, cloning, use of illegal drugs, etc. In my opinion, it is not legalism by asking people to refrain from particular behaviors, whether explictly or implicity biblical, but I am certainly open to your thoughts and corrections on the matter. Obviously certain issues exist that are not matters of salvation, but still concern some denominations (e.g. alcohol and tobacco). I also think a denomination can address non-salvific issues as well and still refrain from legalism.

Secondly, my theology has been shaped, to a great extent, by the writings of John Howard Yoder and particularly Stanley Hauerwas. I find that Mennonite theology (although Hauerwas is Methodist, but was under the tutelage of Yoder) challenges me spiritually in a way most Protestant theology does not. I think the Mennonites have a better grasp on the church, community, and culture, than do Protestants, generally. What certain segments of the 'emerging church' are talking about now, the Mennonites (or at least Yoder) had figured out sixty years ago. By the way, I am not emerging, but do find some of their stances valid. So, where is this second point going? It is going to the point Hauerwas and Yoder make (primarily in The Peaceable Kingdom and The Politics of Jesus), that being a Christian cannot be separated from the being the Church and that the Church, by definition, is public and counter-cultural. The Church itself is a "social ethic," a "servant community," and all Christians are called, unconditionally, to follow the teachings of Christ as a public witness (yes, even in the commitment to nonviolence). Hence the only way the Christian life can be lived out is through community (no 'what if a person was trapped on a desert island' stuff); the Christian life and Scripture is more complex than simply 'relationship,' as is currently popular. Any person (i.e. Jesus Christ) that is not concerned with what I do (as opposed to simply 'heart matters') is not worth following. The quip, "a right heart leads to right action" is partially correct, but it grossly underestimates the sinfulness of humanity. Personally, I don't trust myself enough to leave my religious convictions or Jesus' teachings to my conscience. My conscience deludes me far too often; I need the Church. So, my answer is no, a commitment to holiness does not make one a legalist. It is this very commitment to Christ and the Church that define us. Hopefully this will start some conversation. Let the tomatoes fly! Yee-haw!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Po-ta-to or Po-tot-o?

Since moving to the South, I have noticed several pronunciation differences in various words, as well as usage differences. Here are a few:
  • Rastlin' (rass-lin) - a variant form of 'wrestle'
  • Shurf (shũrf) - a person who wears a badge; also known as 'sheriff'
  • Chile (chīl) - a small baby; with the 'd' left off; also called 'child'
  • Toboggan (te-bog´en or toe-bog΄en) - typically understood as a type of sled elsewhere in the United States, but here, apparently, a stocking cap
  • Vul - as in Asheville or Louisville; in the North, preferrably pronounced 'ville,' not 'vul'

More to come...

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Men and Their Bodies

What is it with men who do not know the names of their own body parts? I am sure there are many misidentified body parts, but the one that drives me nuts is the 'prostate,' or 'prostrate,' as it is more often called. When a man tells me he is having 'prostrate problems,' I want to ask, "Oh? Are you having trouble lying in the prone position? Try sitting in a chair instead." I mean, come on! If you are having problems with a body part, at least get the name right. I had a former pastor who referred to the prostate as the prostrate from the pulpit! This doesn't exactly instill confidence in the pastor's abilities. Yikes!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Micaiah and Jesus

We were studying 1 Kings this week in our Sunday evening service and we spent a bit of time on the story of Ahab, Jehoshaphat, and Micaiah, in 1 Kings 22. I love the part where Jehoshaphat asks Ahab if there are any prophets of which they can inquire. Ahab reponds: "There is one man...Micaiah...but I hate him, for he never prophesies good concerning me, but evil." I find this statement rather humerous, but also profound, and this is why.
In speaking with other Christians, I find we do the same thing with the teachings of Jesus that Ahab did with Micaiah. When dealing with any given issue, the answer I often get, typically disguised in some other wording, is, "Why would I consult the Bible and Jesus' teachings? Jesus never tells me what I want to hear! Tell me something else (I don't want to pray for my enemies, turn the other cheek, honor God with my finances)." How easily can pastoral advice dissolve into ear-itching.

The Rise of the Chicago Bears

As I wipe a tear from my eye, I am proud to announce that the Chicago Bears are finally returning to the Super Bowl. It has been this thought that has nursed me through these past twenty-one lowly years of Bear mediocrity. To have both the Chicago Bears and the St. Louis Cardinals at the top of their games in the same year is almost too much for words.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Greed for the Apostles' Creed

I began a new Wednesday night devotional study this week. I hesitantly decided to walk through the Apostles' Creed with our group, quite certain that I would receive baleful glances and bored yawns. We started by discussing why the Apostles' Creed is important and why we should learn it. We then delvelved into the first words of the Creed, "I believe." We discussed the question, "What does it mean to believe?" I was flabbergasted with the intensity and interest shown by the group for the Apostles' Creed. This was the most interactive and exciting group I had seen in quite some time. Needless to say, I was the one left with my mouth open, not with a yawn, but with astonishment. Who would have thought the Apostles' Creed would be so interesting?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Christian Book Stores?

I was perusing through a Christian book store the other day and it was fairly obvious that the store was no longer a 'book store.' It should be called a 'Christian knick-knack store.' Percentage-wise, only 5% of the items in the store were books, maybe less. The remaining 95% was total junk: cheesy t-shirts, necklaces, ornaments, stuffed animals, and the like. Half of the junk for sale I daresay Goodwill wouldn't take. Furthermore, the books in the book store were nearly worthless as well. No theology, history, leadership, or spiritual disciplines books are to be found. Instead, one can find Christian romance, Christian fiction, fluffy devotionals, and a few biographies (of G.W. Bush, Condolezza Rice, and Billy Graham). That is all.

Of course, maybe I shouldn't be so hard. Perhaps Amazon has run book stores out of the business. On the other hand, getting people to read is nearly like pulling teeth. Or maybe these 'book stores' are simply supplying what the Christian consumer wants, which is really scary. But let's not call them 'book stores,' but 'knick-knack stores,' or perhaps 'Christian junk stores.' That felt good to get off my chest.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Theme Songs

Here is a list of my favorite film scores, in no particular order (as you can see, I am partial to John Williams):
  1. Raiders of the Lost Ark (Indiana Jones)
  2. Jaws
  3. The Pink Panther
  4. Close Encounters of the Third Kind
  5. Star Wars: A New Hope
  6. Superman
  7. The Magnificent Seven
  8. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
  9. Dr. No (James Bond)
  10. M*A*S*H

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Church Architecture

The other day, I was listening to a sermon by William Willimon, former Dean of chapel at Duke. The sermon was delivered on the anniversary of the completion of the Duke chapel. The sermon got me thinking about church architecture and the message it sends to our people and the community. First of all, does it convey a message? If not, this is a moot point. But, I think in most cases the answer is yes, our architecture does convey a message or messages. Willimon makes the argument that the church stands up and out against the surrounding culture, and therefore our architecture should do so as well. Going beyond this thought, what does our architecture indicate about our theology of God? Who is the God we worship and what is he like? It is certainly in error to say that we can come to him in any manner we please (our church had a good discussion about this during our Sunday night study of Leviticus), but this is digressing. I think our architecture says quite a bit about our theology and how we view God. Is God, as Joan Osborne puts it, "one of us?" or is he other? Furthermore, what does our architecture say about how we worship God? Unfortunately, I think we pass over many of these issues without ever thinking about them. Of course, then again, maybe I have too much time on my hands... Any thoughts?

Monday, January 01, 2007

Home Projects

Over the New Year break, BreAne and I did some small projects. The top picture is of the dining room set (given to us by our senior pastor's son) that we reupholstered. The second picture is of the wardrobe closet courtesy of IKEA (Burly will be happy); we spent Saturday in Atlanta and on the road picking up the closet. The bottom picture is a 'before' photo of our bathroom (with the previous cabinets removed) and the middle photo is the 'after,' the cabinet also courtesy of IKEA.