Distinguishing the Political from the Spiritual

Phyllis Tickle is absolutely wonderful. She has a wonderful little talk about how we live as spiritual beings in a political world. Her words are so poignant for leaders and believers of all walks. It’s also a good reminder for people like me who tend to be agitated by the spirituality of politics (or vice versa). It’s about 6 minutes long, but I would encourage you to watch all of it and listen to some of her stories. They’re very powerful.

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/29372857]


Did anything she say stick out to you? What did you think of what she had to say?

If you’re interesting in checking out any of her books (which I would highly recommend)… I’ll post links to three of my favorites.



How Does Halo Inform Our Youth Ministry?

Now, before I get too deep into this, let me say just one thing. I’ve played Halo twice. And I really suck at it. Like really, really suck. I’m pretty sure I’ve killed myself more times than I’ve killed anyone else. That being said, I think it has an incredible capacity to teach youth directors and pastors (who may be as awesome at it as me) a lot about the connection of narratives.

I heard Pepperdine professor Craig Detweiler give a talk this weekend on how video games can and do impact the lives of the millions (even tens of millions) of kids who play these games on a daily basis. First-person gaming is so significant because it not only allows youth to participate in a narrative, but it allows people to create the narratives that play out in front of them. Kids can create avatars and characters that look exactly like they do, but the adventure narratives playing out on the screen are drastically different than their everyday life. The connection of these narratives is what drives the desire to keep playing video games for hours and hours (and hours) on end.

Believe it or not, this is a lot like the Bible, particularly the end of the Gospel of John. Even more particularly, with the character of Thomas. Thomas refused to engage in the preaching of the resurrection until he could see the connection between what he saw on Friday, and what the disciples were telling him now three days later. He refused to engage in the hope of the resurrection until the two narratives connected for him. This is why it’s so important that the Jesus in the Gospel of John is wounded.

The resurrected Christ appeared to Thomas with the wounds from his earthly life. The narratives of heaven and earth were connected in Jesus. Thomas stayed disengaged and skeptical until he could see those connections. Once Jesus appeared and Thomas was confronted with these connections, he made one of the most profound confessions of the early church.

So what if… as a confirmation or Sunday school exercise, we asked kids to imagine Biblical stories as video games. What would it look like if Mario and Luigi were Moses and Aaron running from Pharaoh Bowser? What if we took the narrative of our personal experience, the narrative of the Bible, and the narrative of video games and saw the intersections? What would a video game faith look like? What are its advantages? Disadvantages?

If a youth ministry is going to thrive in the future, it will have to connect the variety of narratives that we experience in culture on a daily basis. We either do this, or risk kids abandoning youth group to stay home… and play Halo.


What Does “Love Wins” Really Mean?

Apparently a good way to piss off a good number of Christians is to start asking questions.

If you really pay attention, that’s pretty much all Rob Bell does in his newest video and has caught all kinds of hell because of it. His newest book, “Love Wins”, isn’t slated to be released until the end of March, but it’s already causing an uproar. When Bell starts to ask questions about what kind of loving God would send people to an eternity of torment, people get all kinds of pissed.

A lot of conservative Christians with Twitter accounts felt the need to completely lambast Bell on charges of universalism. But if you pay attention to it, that’s not what he’s saying at all. Before we go any further… Take a look at the video in question.

It’s a pretty compelling piece. The music swells at just the right time and the thick-rimmed glasses are never out of place. But behind that is a pretty intense message. And, really, is this not the message we preach every Easter? Don’t we preach that “love wins”? That through Christ’s conquering of Hell we are reconciled back into relationship with God?

To that point, I think it’s important to get to the bottom of what “universalism” really means. Universalism has tended to be [warning: broad generalization ahead] a passive, anything-goes, whatever-path-up-the-mountain sort of mentality. Universalists emphasize the universal principles in any/all religions. Usually a belief in one common truth is an important tenet to what Universalists believe.

But this isn’t what the phrase “Love Wins” is talking about. It’s not saying any way that we choose will get us to Heaven. It’s saying that the cross and resurrection is a once-and-for-all, saving act of God for us. I forget which theologian said this, but at some point, someone said “God’s yes is stronger than your no”. We can resist. We can fight. But God’s yes on the cross is stronger than any resistance we can muster.

Do you see the difference? It’s not because anything goes. It’s because Christ has already gone. He’s gone before you into into the depths of Hell to bring you back to where you belong. Back into community with God.

I have no idea whether this will actually be in the book. But this is what “Love Wins” means to me.


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