Relevant?

Relevant Magazine recently posted this article on their website. The article is written by a woman named Tara Leigh Cobble who had a bad experience at a U2 concert. In a nutshell, she was shocked by Bono’s saying over and over ““Jesus, Jew, Mohammed-all true. Jesus, Jew, Mohammed-all true.” This made her feel as though Bono was promoting a universalist mindset when it comes to faith. Bono, being someone many christians look up to, seemed to be promoting something that makes many christians uneasy. The problem with this article was that she didn’t understand clearly what Bono was actually saying and she didn’t do much research to support the point of her article. Based on the show I personally witnessed in Las Vegas and the live dvd of their Chicago show Bono was saying “Jesus, Jew, Mohammed…it’s true… all sons of Abraham.” That statement is actually true and doesn’t promote a universalist agenda but rather it points out that these faiths have a commonality and that we should build upon that common bond in peace rather then continuing to blow each other up.

Just as one would expect, the writing and publishing of this article on Relevant’s website has caused quite a stir. People who embrace Bono are defending his statement and those who are simply sick and tired of the idolizing of Bono are generally supporting her concerns. Needless to say, it’s become a very heated and much talked about piece. The blogosphere is having at it, much like me, and the Relevant.com message boards are on fire with activity with people expressing their views.

What’s very interesting about all this is that this article is not the first offering of an opinion on Bono and U2 by Relevant Media. They published a book by Steve Stockman entitled “Walk On” which chronicles the spiritual journey of U2, but focuses heavily on Bono and his Christian faith. This book seems to fall in direct opposition to this recent article because it makes a very strong case for the genuine Christian faith that Bono indeed promotes and does his best to practice. Steve Stockman, on his website, released a very well written response to the Relevant piece and I highly recommend it. Here is an excerpt:

Just one last thing and I promise I don’t mean it to be a cheap shot. Tara says of this rock concert moment, “It was, without question, the most disturbing experience of my life; I felt like I’d been covered in bile.” We have thousands of children dying because they don’t have the water and drugs that we take for granted. We have three people having more control over wealth than the sixty poorest nations. We have wars raging, some of us involved in the killing of thousands of civilians for the most dubious of reasons. We are raping the creation of our God and Father and it is causing catastrophic “natural” tragedies. In the season when God made himself poor, we are lavishing one another with joke presents and gratifying our sick materialism while people die of hunger. Only 13% of evangelical Christians in America are interested in helping with the HIV/AIDS pandemic in southern Africa. Anti-Christs are rampant and ravaging the world and the most disturbing thing is a misquote from a rock star. God forgive us. At least Bono believes He will!

I realize that although this was very poor display of journalism, it was an honest mistake by the author of the article. She misunderstood the concept Bono was trying to communicate and her article was written out of that misunderstanding. But what I’ve had a hard time understanding is why the editors of Relevant Media would allow this story to be published in the first place. With some simple fact checking, which is a very basic practice for any credible journalistic effort, this confusion could have been avoided and Bono would have not been represented in a false light. Whether we love or hate Bono, none of us would want to be falsely criticized due to misinformation like he has been by this Relevant article.

If Relevant Magazine wants to remain true to their name, they must do better than to allow this story and stories like this to appear under their banner of “relevance”. They’ve set the bar high for themselves as simply being “Relevant” at all times is not easy. Nevertheless, this is what they are striving for and I wonder why they don’t consider that this story and others like it will work towards the undermining of their overall effort. Yes, this story has caused quite a stir and has brought with it a huge amount of attention and debate. I’m sure that relevant.com is experiencing a spike in traffic and more attention for their book “Walk On”. I’m sure they will sell a few more cute t-shirts with witty christian sayings on them. These are all great things to happen when operating a for-profit business but they come at the cost of a hollow relevance.

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Wallis and West

Last April Jim Wallis, auther of “God’s Politics, and Cornell West, professor of Religion and African American Studies at Princeton University, came together in a panel discussion at Princeton University to address “the role of prophetic religion in America”. I am a huge fan of Jim Wallis, but had only heard of Cornell West….until now. This is an amazing coming together of religious minds. I cannot recommend highly enough that you take time out to view to this dicussion. I brought up the saying, “We are the one’s we’ve been waiting for”, in my last post but after viewing this event I am reminded that those are the words of Jim Wallis.

Click here to view the site where you can launch the video. Scroll down a ways on the page to April 26, 2005 and it’s available in Real Player or Windows Media.

Providing the Proof

I am a very messy reader of books. I tend to jump around from book to book while reading multiple books at a time, rarely finishing a book I’ve started. I realize this is not the best way to approach reading, it’s just the way I do it so I’ll have to live with the consequences. But occasionally there are instances where my method happens upon a beautiful literary harmony.

I’m currently on a plane traveling from Sydney to Los Angeles doing everything I can to pass the 14 hours as quickly as possible. On this trip to Australia I’ve been ping-ponging back and forth between two books that I’ve been enjoying a great deal. One, written by Bruce Feiler, is titled “Abraham” and the other is Brian McLaren’s yet-to-be-released book, “The Secret Message of Jesus”.

Bruce Feiler is the same writer who wrote “Walking the Bible” and “Where God Was Born”. He is a journalist that has covered a wide variety of topics during his career but lately has dug in deep into the Jewish historical aspects of the Old Testament that has been the result of several books. He was raised in the south and comes from a Jewish family. In the book “Abraham”, Feiler takes an in-depth look the massive significance of the story of Abraham in regards to three faiths: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

Brian McLaren is a writer and pastor who is heavily involved in the Emergent Church. I’ve read several of his books in the past and have found him enormously helpful in my own Christian Faith. “The Secret Message of Jesus” focuses heavily on the life of Jesus in the midst of the political, social, and cultural backdrop of the first century. To me, it’s been a favorite of the McLaren books I’ve read. It peels away the noise and clutter that is so often found when learning about the life of Jesus and I think it will be a very significant book for anyone who reads it. I got a hold of this book from some Christian publishing elves who I hooked up with Green Day tickets; they are really big fans of bay-area punk rock.

Both of these books intersected unexpectedly for me today. Here’s where they seem to join together in an unlikely but illuminating union.

Feiler writes about the importance of “The Call” of Abraham by God:

“This is the ultimate power of the Call: It’s a summons to the world to devote itself to God. God once again sends out an olive branch to humanity. If you put your life in my hands, he suggests, you will be rewarded. Since humans have flouted this branch in the past, God now requires a down payment: Do this today so you can get that tomorrow.
This demand for proof introduces a terrifying gap. In God’s beckoning, the sacrifice is known, even the reward is known, but the route, the location, even the deliverer of the message are unknown. To be a descendant of Abraham is to live in that gap-to glance back at your native land, to peer ahead to your nameless destination, and to wonder, Do I have the courage to make the leap?

Abraham makes the leap and thus secures his reputation for all time. The text is so matter-of-fact it almost masks the significance: “Abram went forth as the Lord had commanded him.” He does so silently, joining the covenant with his feet, not his words. The wandering man does what he does best, he walks. Only now he walks with God. And by doing so, Abraham leaves an indelible set of footprints: He doesn’t believe in God: he believes God. He doesn’t ask for proof; he provides the proof.”

McLaren writes regarding the daily outworking of those who follow Jesus into the Kingdom of God:

“The same thing happens with teacher, politicians, lawyers, engineers, and salespeople who take seriously their identity as participants in the kingdom of God. The way they teach, the way they develp public policies, the way they seek justice, the way they design and work with resources from God’s creation, the way they buy and sell…..all of these are given the dignity in the context of God’s kingdom, and soon, transformation begins to happen. After all, when you see your students, constituency, clients, or customers as people who are loved by God and as your fellow citizens in God’s kingdom, it becomes harder to rip them off or give them second best. And when enough people begin to live with that viewpoint, in little ways as well as big ones, over long periods of time, things truly change. Education as we know it evolves, as do public policy, law, manufacture, and economics. In this way, each of us not only prays, “May your kingdom come,” but we also become part of the answer to that prayer through our sphere of influence.”

I read both of these amazing insights within minutes of each other and it seemed to me that these books were working in tandem to really drive something home. I’ve heard the saying “We are the ones we are waiting for,” and both of these writings presented the same reminder in two separate but very harmonious and powerful ways. I pray we have the faith of Abraham to attempt to be the “proof” to others of our covenant with the Creator. I also pray that we can accept the responsibility given to us by Jesus to take a part in the answering of our prayers to heal this broken world in big and small ways within the kingdom of God.

TheoHacks #2 Has Arrived

Check out the most recent TheoHacks episode here. We’ve made a few changes to the process and we feel it’s evolving nicely, especially the audio quality. It’s just kind of cool to think we can continually do these while literally being thousands of miles apart. This episode was recorded while I’m in Australia and John is at home in Seattle. Technology is pretty sweet! Give it a listen if you are curious and leave whatever comments, questions or suggestions you may have in the comment section at TheoHacks.com.

Sydney

I am currently in Sydney. It’s kinda of weird to experience summer in December, but it’s really cool at the same time. The weather is really mild so far, a little warm but overall very nice. Me and a few friends of mine went to a local bar across the street from the hotel last night and I ended up talking for a while with a local businessman who was winding down from a days work. He was raised Catholic but is now Agnostic and it was really interesting to see his perspective on Americans and American Christianity. I think he was a bit confused by the fact that I was a Christian, that I was in a rock band which his 13 year-old daughter was a fan of, and American. His picture of an American Christian was pretty specific, but my profile didn’t seem to match any of his criteria. Maybe that’s a bad thing, maybe that’s good. We ended up talking about politics, religion, capital punishment, abortion, Jesus and drums. It was a great conversation and I think we both walked away with a better understanding of each others world. This is one of the best aspects of my profession. I am constantly meeting people all over the world and having really interesting conversations and learning so much about our world and the people in it. Playing music for a living is awesome, but long after the music is over I will take away with me the experience of encountering the outside world. That, more than any musical experience, is what has helped shape me for the rest of my life.

Also, yesterday we visited the Botanical Gardens in Sydney to experience the flight of the bats. For some reason, I’m not sure why, thousands of bats have made their home in this public garden and every evening as the sun goes down, they awaken and circle the entire garden like a huge black cloud. It was incredible. Not only were the bats amazing, but this park also was home to some of the most impressive spiders I’ve ever seen. This park was like a gothic animal kingdom. Click here to check out the photos from our visit there.

God In Search of Man

Over the past few years I’ve been digging into a fair amount of Jewish theology. For me, this has been massively helpful in journeying through my Christian faith. To be able to view Christian spirituality through a lens of Jewish history and culture has seemed to add a depth I never really experienced before. The coming of Jesus into this world is such a huge event for all Christians, past and present, and rightly so. But I’ve wondered if our emphasis on the story of Jesus and what followed it has in some way blocked our view into the importance of Judaism and the Jewish bible. It’s as if we are further along on our road and if we are to look back, we see this incredible mountain range that just takes our breath away. But if we were to backtrack, past the mountain and into the land on the other side, our view of the same mountain range would become even more amazing than before. We could have never imagined it looked that way-even better than what we’d become accustomed too. This is how I begin to feel as I discover more of the story and historical context of Judaism. It’s shown me more clearly the arc of the biblical narrative and has made the story of Jesus even more powerful than I had ever encountered before.

One of my favorite Jewish writers and theologians is Abraham Joshua Heschel. I just recently began reading his book “God in Search of Man” which is considered a “classic of modern Jewish theology”. I opened the first page and began to read the first paragraph. It was the harsh slap in the face that I desperately needed, and still do need….daily. Here it is:

To Recover The Questions.
It is customary to blame secular science and anti-religious philosophy for the the eclipse of religion for its own defeats. Religion declined not because it was refuted, but because it became irrelevant, dull, oppressive, insipid. When faith is completely replaced by creed, worship by discipline, love by habit; when the crisis of today is ignored because of the splendor of the past; when religion speaks only in the name of authority rather than with the voice of compassion-its message becomes meaningless. Religion is an answer to man’s ultimate questions. The moment we become oblivious to the ultimate questions, religion becomes irrelevant, and its crisis sets in.

Ouch….and Amen.

Salon on Narnia

Head over to Salon.com for a decidedly non-Christian perspective of the upcoming film “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”. Even though some may disagree with the piece, it’s always interesting and informative to see how this type of movie release affects those outside the Christian perspective. Also, for a decidedly “Christian” view of the movie, there is a fairly interesting lecture regarding this film at the Veritas Forum website. I’ve read both the article and have listened to the Veritas lecture and I think there is one issue where they would both agree: C.S. Lewis himself would, more than likely, not be very enthusiastic about the release of this movie. Although I haven’t seen the movie yet, I’d have to say I agree with Lewis.

Great Food In The East Valley……

…..is rare. There’s not a whole lot in terms of great food. Of course there’s always the major chains and overall the selection is pretty decent. But very rarely do you come across a place that is great, unique to the area and independently owned and operated. We’ve come across a place that fits the bill on all categories. It’s an Asian cuisine place called Mei Xiang. It’s located 1534 East Ray Road in Gilbert. The only reason we found it is that our daughter takes ballet lessons next door. Otherwise, I don’t think we would have happened across it. The Spring rolls with spicy mustard sauce are amazing and our favorite dish is the Mei Xiang fried rice. If you live in this area, it definitely worth checking out.

Anyone else have any tips on other places worth checking out?