Letters to U.S. Christians

Brian McLaren has invited Christians from around the world to write letters to Christians in the U.S. The effort is just getting started, but there are already some thoughtful insights from the UK, Malaysia and South Africa.

46 thoughts on “Letters to U.S. Christians

  1. Melody

    Sounds like the TWO letters from the ‘many’ Christians around the world came from two guys who were educated in liberal American Universities. They were so biased and ignorant of real American history that it’s hard to impagine they didn’t grow up in our public schools. The only people Brian McLaren is likely to encounter in other countries are people on the same page as he is, i.e. the intelletcual elite. Send a conservative to the same countries and they will come back with an entirely different response. Sorry Brian. No credibility here.

  2. Chad

    I might be wrong, but it’s still at least three. There’s no credit for the letter “Storytelling in Iraq,” so I don’t know if that’s McLaren or another writer.

  3. Chad

    Melody, sorry to keep hollaring on this… but man… I gotta.

    Do you have any commentary about the content of the letters? Do you have any information to back up your assertion that they were educated in liberal American Universities? Where exactly do they comment on our history? Do you know now annoying it is to hear someone basically call me (a public HS graduate) stupid, ironically in the same sentence with a misspelled word?

    Sorry… but I deal with people A LOT in the real world who refuse to address the actual content of what guys like McLaren have to say. They do it by emailing me articles by guys like John MacArthur, and they refuse to make an actual argument themselves. Nor will they take the time to hear why that is so annoying to me. I don’t regurgitate ANYONE. I assimilate, ponder, and come to my own conclusions.

    I often disagree with Phil, and I don’t often care for his tone, but I’ll be darned if I don’t respect him for actually making the argument himself. THAT means a lot to me. It’s not about conservatism and liberalism (I vote Republican/Libertarian. I have never voted for a Democrat. Ever.) It’s about The Kingdom. The idea that either the politically liberal or conservative have a corner on righteousness is insane to me. Both sides have their points, and both sides have their BIG weaknesses.

  4. aly hawkins Post author

    Also, how can they be both public-school ignorant and intellectually elite? Sounds like a bit ‘o ye olde reactionary demonization, Mel. It’s much easier to make assumptions about a writer’s character than contend with their content…but only if you can keep your assumptions straight.

    Then again, I went to public school, so what do I know?

  5. harmonicminer

    Hi Chad,

    I don’t recall reading that anyone claimed that liberals/conservatives “have a corner on righteousness”. Did someone say that?

    It is somewhat clearer, however, about which group, on average, has perspectives that align with any kind of traditional Judeo-Christian morality. In fact, it’s a LOT clearer. Stats are available, and very clear.

    Melody said “Sounds like” regarding the education comment, not “They were”. Why would you turn her statement into something she didn’t say, then slam her for it?

    Re: the public school comment… you perhaps just aren’t aware of how little actual history H.S. grads actually know these days… and how left the slant is on what little they do get, on average. I can send you stats, if you want… they’re available.

    Chad, is it just a LITTLE mean to accuse someone of being too stoopad to spell correctly when it’s just a typo?

    Maybe this is what Melody means:

    “….one need only to look at the situation in your
    Deep South and elsewhere to see the unequal balance still existing
    between the different peoples and races within your country, as well
    as the tremendous resilience, at least on the rhetorical level, of
    attempting to right some very grave historical wrongs.”

    This was a quote from the gentleman in Malaysia…. who is clearly ignorant of the actual facts in our “Deep South”….. but who is undoubtedly responding to the flood of left media that basically paints every social problem in the USA as far worse than it is.

    I think it wouldn’t be too hard to show that the letters mostly reflect a leftish bias, one reinforced by the media, news channels and TV shows leaving the USA.

    Tutu is not a saint, nor has he maintained his “prophetic distance”… he’s simply a leftist, now, and has been for a long time. He has the courage of his convictions. But the notion that he has kept some kind of “distance” that Bush hasn’t is ridiculous on its face. In the meantime… things in South Africa are very bad, getting worse. They basically destroyed the economic infrastructure of their country in a quest for some elusive racial balance… and are now busily trying to find a way to redistribute what’s left.

    Pretty words of brotherhood are OK, I suppose.

    Another:

    “And how can they be expected to embrace the storyline of freedom, rights, and the rule of law when the back-story includes warrantless wiretaps, abuse, torture, rape and extraordinary rendition?”

    Can’t deny that a small amount of this has happened, relative to the size of the overall force in Iraq. But: (pardon me while I deconstruct) there is an implication in this entire letter that a personal failure, on the part of any member of a group that’s trying to do basically a good thing, is automatically evidence of the moral vacuity of the entire enterprise. There is also an attempt to paint those failings as common in the entire enterprise. There is an implication of moral equivalence between the two sides. To be blunt: it reads like a New York Times editorial, or possibly a professorial rant in a Global Studies class at any US university. I am very careful about believing anything that sounds like it could have been in a press release from the Iranian official news agency, or TASS (remember them?), or…. you get the idea, right?

    And, this is not deconstruction, but just fact: the “warrantless” wiretaps were not “illegal”. US military people who abuse, torture and rape are punished, severely. (And what they call “torture” these days results in no permanent harm to the “tortured”… just some discomfort. Doesn’t necessarily forgive it… but the word torture is deliberately inflammatory, and leaves no remaining term for the “real thing” that maims and truly injures. “Extraordinary rendition” is used on people who KILL innocents… not on pharmacists. Or people standing in line to get jobs.

    It’s like tarring the entire organized church movement with the sins of a pastor…. and including in that list some things of which the pastor is merely accused, but not really guilty. Close the doors, fire the staff, and sell the property, folks. It’s over. Oops, pardon me. We’re just going to do a redeployment. We’ll just relocate the church and staff to the next state.

    Forget that the church is doing a lot of good stuff… a few of its members did some bad stuff… so let’s just all dissolve in a wave of collective guilt and quit the whole thing.

    If we went throught the letters, para by para, this would be a very long response.

    So I’ll chop it for now: but what isn’t a “glittering generality” is mostly just wrong. That doesn’t mean it isn’t interesting to read what some of them think… but it doesn’t mean I have to take it seriously as telling me something about US, other than the vapidity of the media that leaves our shores, and the utter corruption of what passes as “news agencies” in most of those places.

    And seriously: exactly what group of people WOULD McLaren touch when he goes overseas? Which people will be attracted to him, and his perspectives? And so which people will send letters back?

    I’ll have to look up John MacArthur… didn’t know the name. When you referred to “MacArthurites” pejoritavely in an earlier post, I thought you were talking about General MacArthur, and were linking that to fascist military types or something…. so the joke was definitely on me! I really was confused… I didn’t know the General had done something to rouse your ire.

    Oy vey

  6. harmonicminer

    Hi Aly,

    Taking a break from arranging for a minute:

    “Also, how can they be both public-school ignorant and intellectually elite? ”

    Easily. Many people went to public school, then to university to become “elite”… and learned history at neither place, though they may be well-indoctrinated. It was two separate sentences, with two separate conjectures. No logical connection was made between the two, and no assumption that ALL they had was public H.S.

    Don’t confuse “intellectually elite” with actually knowing what you’re talking about. The Soviets had an “intellectual elite” who “knew all about capitalism and its failings”…. NOT.

    “Sounds like a bit ‘o ye olde reactionary demonization, Mel.”

    Uh, sounds more to me like uncareful reading.

    “It’s much easier to make assumptions about a writer’s character than contend with their content”

    What, exactly, was the content? I couldn’t really follow it, except as pretty sounding generalities and inaccurate assumptions/assertions.

    How would you summarize it? What’s the “take away”, as content, as opposed to mere “feeling tone”?

  7. Chad

    Uh. Hmm.

    So… I can’t help but note the amusing nature of this. You did exactly what I said you do, which is make your own argument. Melody’s post still reeks of tired rhetoric, sorry. You’re going to hammer me on the typo thing? Do you really want to get into a “Sarcasm-off” where we quote each other to see who has the more consistantly condescending tone? I’ve gone after Melody a couple of times, because she comes to a blog that’s CLEARLY designed to actually discuss things, and blows them out of the water with the same tired lingo my Gramma used to use when talking about Rush Limbaugh (good) and Bill Clinton (man whore.)

    When are you guys (and by “You guys,” I am generalizing your entire generation with one broad brush, just so there’s no mistake) gonna get hip to the fact that we’re not having the same discussion? Quoting endless promised facts is not a discussion.

    The recurring theme of your arguments here at Addison (and… I’ll be honest in that one of the things that makes it hard for me to digest is the sheer volume of them) seems to be that the liberal leftist media blows everything out of proportion to set up straw men for the express purpose of ratings and political gain. I actually agree, but I think the idea is applicable to all forms of media on all sides of the political spectrum. I think it’s a human problem, rather than a politically ideological one, and it’s difficult for me to take you seriously when you insist upon presenting it that way. The whole idea of “liberal Bias” in the media is an idea whose time has come and gone. The market has responded with Fox News, talk radio, bloggers, etc. This of course, has just resulted in more demonization and more innuendo, it’s just coming from “their side” now.

    Of course, we’re not really having the interesting discussion, which is the examination of why YOUR generation abandoned the conservative values of your parent’s generation… only to lecture my generation about the sorry state of affairs we find ourselves in. Sorry… boomers lecturing Xers about conservative values never ceases to amuse me. It happens… a lot.

    The “Deep South” comments have stuck out at me. When was the last time you actually visited the deep south? It was two years ago, for me. My mom’s side of the fam is centered around Baton Rouge, and I spent a fair amount of time around that culture growing up. I found, in my actual experiences that I didn’t have fed to me in a classroom or pundit-orgy, that if anything, things in the Deep South were more backwards then the media liked to portray them. I heard lovely conservative Christian white folk talk about black people in a way that made my young hair stand on end. Did ILM digitally create all those Katrina videos? You don’t think we have serious issues there in that region stemming from two hundred years of systematic abuse? About which part of our history was our writer so ignorant?

  8. Chad

    Also,

    John MacArthur is the pastor of Grace Community Church in Sylmar, CA. He is a well respected Bible teacher and commentator. I harass him because it seems that people who admire his teaching are regularly difficult to converse with about anything John MacArthur has already put to rest in his magnificent wisdom. They won’t even participate in a discussion because he has already spoken.

  9. harmonicminer

    Ah, he’s John “the Baptist” MacArthur to them?

    Is this the same John MacArthur who is very strongly anti-Catholic? That’s what came up on my google.

    Chad, the issue of liberal bias in media is not anywhere near being “put to rest”. You’re just tired of hearing about it maybe…. but it is still the crucial determiner of the quality of perception of people off shore about the USA. The problem hasn’t gone away because it has been repeatedly aired, any more than poverty and injustice have disappeared.

    For the most part, those correctives you mentioned have most of their effect in the USA, because conservative talk radio just doesn’t make it off our shores. The majority of the center-right blogs are FOUND by people listening to the radio first… so people who aren’t in those talk radio markets frequently don’t even know of the blogs, even if they’re looking for them. FOX does have an international arm… and it is far more left than it’s USA version.

    The media from the US that gets most attention off shore is the NYTimes and CNN. Both FAR left, just in the bag, in what stories they chose to cover, and how they cover them.

    The dominant opinion makers for people out of the USA are overwhelmingly (I feel like I need to underline, bold, and make font size 72 on that last word) LEFT. In the Muslim world, Al Jazeera is the “moderate” voice… the official government organs that control much media are far worse. European “journalism” is so for left that it makes the NYTimes look centrist.

    That’s why observations from non-USA folks about the USA just tell us what the image is that reached them… but there’s very little we can do about that image.

    Chad: “Do you really want to get into a “Sarcasm-off” where we quote each other to see who has the more consistantly condescending tone?”

    Touchy, aren’t we? I have absorbed countless comments about my “tone” here without much response…. I just stay on the topic, mostly. I simply commented that you DID the very thing I rarely do, but am constantly accused of doing. There was nothing wrong with Melody’s observations. You put words in her mouth and then criticized. You implied she said things she didn’t. Then you called her stupid because of a typo (by implication). Then when I point it out, you call it a “sarcasm off”.

    Chad, help me here, I truly do not understand. How could I have phrased my observations of your reactions to Melody in a way that would NOT have been condescending, would NOT have been “bad tone”, would not have been “sarcastic”, and still made the point, and gotten you to actually read carefully what she said?

    I’m asking you: put yourself in my shoes, desiring to make that point, and write what I could have written to make it, in such a way that it would have been effective and not blown off, like you just did me.

    It looks suspiciously to me like there are “certain things that must not be said”, and whenever they are said, we’ll call it bad “tone”, so that we don’t have to deal with the content. You can disabuse me of that impression be providing an alternative model I can use to frame such comments and not be accused of “bad tone”.

    I know I’m not dealing directly with your deep south observations here: that’s an entire interesting discussion in it’s own right. But you can probably guess what my perspective will be. See Aly’s Dementape Five post and discussion following. I think it applies.

  10. harmonicminer

    Nah, I had in mind more of a pie fight… you know, the old fashioned kind. With cream topping!

    Except: I get to wear a rain coat. My expensive, stylish clothing just costs too much to clean.

    Food fight!

  11. Chad

    Phil,

    There is nothing that can’t be, or let’s face it, hasn’t been said on this blog. I mean… people who come here expecting an emerging church blog are really really in for a bad time.

    I smacked Melody, and I shoudn’t have. Plain and simple. I disagree with you that there was nothing objectionable in her original post, but I still shouldn’t have gone after her. It just rubbed me the wrong way, and I got all carnal in this hizzy. If you read this, Melody, I’m sorry. I’ll try and be a better model of what I’m trying to talk about.

    You (and in this case, Melody) get hammered on tone because you’ve still not absorbed what The Roadhouse is all about. It’s a backyard BBQ with typing. Sometimes politics come up, sometimes movies come up, sometimes music comes up, sometimes church life comes up and often beer goes down. In all things, there’s a hug or a handshake at the end of the night and an assurance that the people invited are valued. That is what this blog IS. I didn’t make it up, Mike did, and he pays for the server.

    I think that the three of us who were invited to initially join in on this thing are SO TIRED of the left / right debate, or at least a rehashing of the debate we’ve heard since we were children. We’re especially tired of it when the topic of Jesus and his teachings is not a part of the discussion, or seem to rarely enter into the discussion. We’re so weary of the idea that one side is all right and the other is all wrong. I’ve just known too many smart people on both sides who have interesting things to say and hold interesting perspectives that make me think and rethink and consider and reconsider.

    You make me think, and rethink, consider and reconsider. I was actually trying to give you some props earlier with my “At least he makes his own arguments,” comment. My beef with you is not that I think you’re an idiot, or that you don’t have anything to teach me. It’s that you seem to refuse to get a friggen virtual beer and chill the hell out from time to time. Seen any interesting movies? What are your kids doing? How’s church? I think you’ll notice that I’ve thrown out some pretty spicy meatballs (political, social, otherwise) and get away with it. The reason for that is because for every one of these…

    http://addisonrd.com/WordPress/2006/05/22/yup-its-a-turd/

    …there are about six of these…

    http://addisonrd.com/WordPress/2006/10/19/whats-the-deal-with-gigs/

    I don’t know how to make your comments more “acceptable.” It’s not my place to decide who gets to say what and how they say it. If you really care, I guess I could (at a later time) pick a particularly prickly paragraph and re-write it in language that I think would play around the fire-pit. The only thing that I think I have to teach you is that tone is important, at least if you really want your words to hit their mark. Is that important to you? I’m not being sarcastic, I really want to know. Do you want your words to actually impact the thought processes of guys like me and gals like Aly? The medium is the message, Phil, for better or worse. Most likely worse, but it is what it is.

  12. harmonicminer

    Hi Chad,

    Thanks for your response. I appreciate it. I truly do.

    I want to be part of your online community.

    I don’t want to be like you. I want to be like me.

    I want to listen to you. I want you to listen to me.

    I think about what you say. I want you to think about what I say.

    I find some of you annoying at times. I find some of you interesting at times. Some of you both things at the SAME time.

    You’ve said as much about me.

    “We’re so weary of the idea that one side is all right and the other is all wrong.”

    Chad, I’ve simply never said this. I don’t believe it. The most I’ve said is that one side is more likely to support traditional Judeo-Christian values than the other. I observe that you often seem to hear what I did not say. Are you hearing somebody else when I speak?

    Did I say I want to be part of your online community? I do. I can’t come hang around with you… I live on the bloomin’ other end of the world from most of you. But I remember you, I like you, I respect you, and I want to understand you as best I can, and for you to understand me as much as possible.

    The plain fact: I have been told, in word and deed, to shape up or ship out…. or maybe that you just WISH I’d ship out, if I don’t shape up. That you don’t really want to hear what I think, the way I think it, or the way I express it… which is just plain me. Not a style, not a manner, not a tone, just me. This is the way I am. Ask around. This is how I think, and the terms in which I think it. Not massaged, not filtered (well… not too much). Authentic.

    It is your conundrum, you post-moderns, self identified: do I have to become like you to be acceptable to you? Do I have to get hip? Know the lingo? Know how to say what I think, but without sounding like I really believe it, just in case someone is reading who might disagree and feel pushed?

    To be acceptable, do I have to accept ad hominem as the price of admission? I have never been called as many names as by you folks, nor had as many perspectives attributed to me that I don’t share. I’m not totally sure just why I continue to deal with it… except that I think there is something interesting for me to learn and understand here. That doesn’t mean it’s what you think I should learn and understand… so don’t get too hopeful. But I am reading Scot McKnight and McLaren, little by little.

    Do I get in the way of your backyard BBQ? I don’t mean to. When you post something utterly light, I don’t respond, or respond lightly, I think. It’s when you post something serious that I’m more likely to be interested, and take the time to respond thoughtfully… the only way I know to do.

    I’ve stopped posting. I’m only commenting these days, on Gretchen’s specific order. You’re right, it’s Mike’s blog, and they pay for the server. Not very post-modern of you to point it out (stressing power relationships as it does), but…. that really does play in MY world.

    However… if this is to be about the big three and what they think is cool, and deviations aren’t permitted… well, maybe you should stop taking comments. Or send each other group email. Or simply filter comments from commenters you don’t want. If I found one day that no comments from me were being accepted by the system, I would assume I had learned what I was meant to learn, and move on. (In fact, I suspected that, at one point, when my comments kept getting caught by the spam filter.) ;-) Really.

    In the meantime, ask yourself this: If you were agreeing with every single thing I said, and saying to yourself, “Yeah, he’s absolutely right, and I’ve been waiting for somebody to say that!”, would you be thinking that my “tone” was bad? Come on… really? It’s hard not to suspect that the issue is that I make my points with some determination, and if you disagree, then my tone is bad on that day… But not so bad on the day when I’m “right on”, by your lights.

    Well… here I am with another relatively rare self-indulgent comment where I just talk about me, and a little bit about you. Sounds like a country song.

  13. aly hawkins Post author

    I want to jump on the “I was an ass, please forgive me” bandwagon. Melody, if you ever come back here, I’m sorry for doing to you exactly the thing that pissed me off about what you did: assuming. Mea bad-o.

    Phil, I’m sure Chad can respond to you all on his own (quite, quite sure), but for my part I want to say a) I’m not sure why’d you want to hang out with us either — we’re a little arrogant, a smidge ignorant, and just the tiniest bit smelly — but b) I think it’s great that you do. I’ve said before that I respect your intelligence, but I also respect your tenacity. I’d have high-tailed it to the desert long ago if I was confronted with a passel of snot-nosed kids whining about my tone. (“Tone” is so…Bonner-esque. “Can you make it sound more green?”) You’re a trooper. And I say that with absolutely no condescension.

    You said: “I’m not totally sure just why I continue to deal with it… except that I think there is something interesting for me to learn and understand here.” I think there may be, too… but I don’t think that’s the point, and therein may lie one facet of the ragged and persistent communication breakdown in which we keep embroiling ourselves. Addison Road may be a lot of things, but it’s not a great source of information. Which doesn’t preclude learning, of course, but what I mean is that mostly what’s here to be learned aren’t facts, but people… and people are just not as easily categorized, pigeon-holed and taxonomized as information. Liberal… conservative… fundamentalist… progressive… left… right… emerging. None of these words tell the story of who people are, and the story of people is THE THING.

    That’s pomo. That’s emerging. I know it’s not what the textbooks say. But it’s the truth, when you boil down all the facts. Scripture as narrative, trajectory of redemption, whatever… story is the reason these theological ideas are important to the emerging church, and that’s why they’re important to me. (I want to say “we,” but I should only speak for myself.) It’s the reason LOST is such a big hit among my demographic (someday I’ll do a post on this): finding out the story of HOW people came to be who they are is the importantest thing… or at least equally as important as finding out who they WILL be in the next chapter.

    All this to say: No, you don’t have to become like me to be accepted. I accept you. I just don’t GET you. And I want to, really. The way I might be able to do that is if you could write more “country songs” like you did above. You don’t have to become like me to be accepted, but you do have to speak the language to be understood. It’s not inside lingo or clique-ish slang, but it may feel a little foreign until you get the hang of it. The translation dictionary is short and sweet. It’s this: What’s the story behind this information? (i.e., What does it mean to me, and how do I interpret the stories of the people involved?)

    Information doesn’t speak for itself. That’s why we have hermeneutics, and that’s why it’s important for me to know how you’re seeing and assimilating and experiencing the information you share. I value information, but I value meaning much, much more.

    I don’t want to make this into a criticism sandwich, but it looks like it’s going that way by default, only because I want to reaffirm that you’re the tops, Phil. You’ve got guts sticking around this den of iniquity, and I give you respeck. (Or “the ups” as my peeps like to say.) I look forward to many meaningful (and informative!) conversations to come.

  14. harmonicminer

    Hi Aly,

    Thanks for the very kind response. And yes, Chad can
    definitely respond for himself without help! :-)

    Actually, the kind of learning and understanding I had in mind when I used the term was both informational and personal (maybe something like what you mean by narrative… not too sure about that). I think I’m getting my wish. I’ve been introduced to some authors I might not have heard about, at least not as soon. I’m absorbing aspects of your various perspectives that I’m still digesting.

    You have to understand, though, that when I use the term “learn” it means “change”.

    I literally believe that to learn is to change. “Understanding” sometimes comes a bit later than “learning”… which is why I said “learn and understand”. It’s like this: you can “learn your scales”, and be able to play them, and maybe be able to sing them, and then to play them in different patterns, and then create harmonies from them, and on and on… and each of those is a new “learning” that changes you. You develop “understandings” that connect “learnings” as you go…. but you’ll spend your entire life understanding what you’ve already learned. Music Theory class, for example, is about understanding what we hope you’ve learned before you got there.

    My point: I’m not on a quest for “information” particularly, though of course that happens. I am interested in “learning”, which to me means changing. Obviously, I want that to be in good directions, whatever that may mean. Addison, the things we discuss, the responses you give me, the directions you point, etc., are part of a much larger project I don’t really “understand”, but am involved in “learning”. If that’s vague, so be it.

    I’m all too aware that you can “understand”, maybe a fair amount, without “learning”. I’ve had students get A’s on music theory tests who still can’t really make music, as players or writers.

    And, just a side note: you’ll rarely see me use the terms “liberal” and “conservative”, “progressive” and “fundamentalist”. I agree, they’re colossally ambiguous, most of the time.

    I tend to use the terms “left” and “right” for politics, to define a spectrum of belief in the efficacy of government action in various arenas. Those are pretty well-defined by arena.

    I don’t use those terms much about religious matters, except insofar as a particular religous perspective seems mostly to lean one way or the other politically, most of the time. For example, as an institution, the Southern Baptist church is more “right” and the Evangelical Lutheran Church is more “left.” That doesn’t automatically describe any particular individual or local body, of course.

    It seems to offend some of you when I point out the leftish tendency’s in the EC and POMO in general, and the ways in which common EC/POMO polticial perspectives are hard to distinguish from the mainline protestant denominations’ leftness. And it has been those same mainliners who reflect much less traditional interpretations of scripture, the role of religion, the nature of God, morality, etc., than the Catholics, Reformed, Wesleyans, etc. This tends to create the impression, for me, at least, of “nothing new here but the lingo”. I have a hard time seeing the difference between the “social gospel” and the EC, lots of the time. German “liberal” theology is very old news. But as I said: this is only an impression. I do learn, or try to. I’m actively looking.

    I’m actually close to being an “old fashioned liberal” in the 18th-19th century sense, but the term has lost so much meaning that I don’t use it.

    There’s nothing wrong with a criticism sandwich… it’s a good way to teach. And who knows… I may learn.

  15. aly hawkins Post author

    After all of my ruckus about AddRd not being a good source of info, I thought of another book that might be helpful to you as you try to get a picture of what the EC is on about. It’s called The Church in Emerging Culture and it was edited by Leonard Sweet, the evangelism prof at Drew University. Sweet brought together 5 thinkers / pastors / scholars and sat them down to chat about what they believe the Church’s response should be to changing culture. (The idea was based loosely on Neibuhr’s Christ and Culture.) The contributors are Andy Crouch (Christianity Today), Michael Horton (Westminster Theological Seminary), Erwin McManus (Mosaic), Brian McLaren, and Frederica Mathewes-Green (writer and Orthodox Christian).

    What each contributor has to say about both the Church and culture is compelling, but the thing I find most interesting is HOW each contributor chose to say their piece. Their chosen forms of communication are quite telling about what each considers important, and the responses to the different forms by the various contributors is a case study in clashing cultures.

    The format of the book can get a bit tedious — each contributor wrote an essay, the other people’s responses are printed within that text, and then the contributor responds to the responses at the end — but I’m not sure how the publisher could have done it differently and gotten the same effect (= conversation).

    Anyway, I know your reading list is getting a bit long, but you might find it helpful.

  16. Chad

    Sorry for my latent response.

    The problem that I have had with your pieces is that there’s not enough of Phil the man, beyond Phil the intellect.

    The thing I’ve been sorely missing from you, and the thing that has separated you from us (at least as writers) is a straight forward expression of your heart. That sounds cheesy, but it’s the dog-gone truth. Your responses in this thread, at least the latter ones, address and correct this, in my opinion. You’re speaking plainly with us. Now I can respond because I don’t feel like I’ve been browbeaten. I know that you don’t feel like you’re a browbeater, and I know I KNOW FIRST HAND how frustrating it is when you feel like perfectly normal behavior gets you in trouble with the locals. I work for Baptists, dammit, I feel your pain.

    I would expect a browbeating from Huffington Post or Little Green Footballs or what have you, where, at least in theory, the quick eat the weak, but not here. Here we talk as brothers and sisters, even with Zack and Corey, in spite of the fact that they’re from Texas, and even with Cerise even though she’s a crazy hippie from Seattle. Even with Chad, who’s fried on just about everything and thinking about taking his wife and kids to a hidden bunker with an internet connection and a 50 year supply of ChapStick.

    You should know that one of the recurring themes in my life is older men in leadership who put the intellectual ka-bosh on troublesome (or even fool-hardy) conversations without the benefit of a real conversation in the context of relationship. A real conversation, IMO, is rooted in acceptance and deep affection for the other person, even if you think they’re totally friggen nuts. This is a real world issue for me, not an abstraction. I am watching relationships between the generations breaking down. There are wise men, wiser men then me, who are blowing their leadership responsibilities because they refuse even consider changing their methods to change our minds. It’s the responsibility of the wiser person to beat the young fools at their own game, otherwise I believe they are unfit to lead.

    I tell you all of this just to confess that I totally project this crap on you. It’s not even remotely fair. Who really knows what we all project on each other. I think you’re smarter then us. Some people here don’t know that, because they’ve never sat in your Theory 2 class, but you’re smarter then them, as well. You have a command of The Facts (presumably at your fingertips) that simply short circuts the old mental fuses. You have 25 years on a lot of us, and you aren’t screwing around when it comes to your thinking. Since you hold your positions strongly, it’s intimidating and ultimately repelling. This is just my take, dude. Have a Sam Adams on me.

    You say that we assign you positions that you do not actually hold. I think that’s a true statement, at least part of the time, and I will attempt to do a better job at asking clarifying questions in an effort to better understand what your position actually is.

    You said:

    “In the meantime, ask yourself this: If you were agreeing with every single thing I said, and saying to yourself, “Yeah, he’s absolutely right, and I’ve been waiting for somebody to say that!”, would you be thinking that my “tone” was bad? Come on… really? It’s hard not to suspect that the issue is that I make my points with some determination, and if you disagree, then my tone is bad on that day… But not so bad on the day when I’m “right on”, by your lights.”

    Brother, there are people with whom I fundamentally agree whose voices make me physically cringe. I heard a pastor take a cheap shot at homosexuals from the pulpit recently. He played it for a laugh and he got it. Sitting four rows behind me were a couple whose eldest daughter has revealed to them that she’s a lesbian. They’re daily seeking prayer and guideance from their Lord and friends and church as to how best to love her and deal with the fact that she’s chosen a life that they believe is hopelessly sinful. The pastor got his laugh, and their day got blown.

    I don’t think you take cheap shots, Phil… well… not any more then the rest of us, at least. Your voice gets wrapped up in a clusterbomb of conservative voices I’ve heard my years and the voice has begun to just.. sound…. so…….. shrill. I’m a musician, man. It’s all tone. God is tone. Truth is tone. The tone tells me if I can trust the information. A good musician will not allow a bad tone, period. If Mike gets stuck on a shit piano, he still figures out how to make that girl sing.

    I lead a youth choir at church. I can bombard them with information about music. I can harass them for not taking the initiative to learn it on their own. I can remind them of my superiority. If I can’t get them to want to sing better, then the joke’s on me, and all my talent is a clanging gong and crashing cymbal.

    Your pitch is spot on, man. Gimme tone.

    P.S. Oh man I’ve been up a long ass time today. This is perhaps the most insane masterwork that I have ever put on this blog, but I trust the community with my totally unedited heart. Be ye gentle.

  17. Chad

    P.P.S.

    My tone sucks sometimes, too, or, at least, what I think is warm and euphonic will ring shrill in some ears. I guess it’s life. I read this back (three hours on) and can think of a zillion less inflammatory ways to say it. Does covering a multitude of sins include blogging? One can only hope.

  18. Chad

    I feel as if I have shut down what was a fruitful conversation. Did I do that? I really didn’t mean to. Phil, I’d love to hear back from you. I felt like we were headed towards something. I know everyone’s busy, and I don’t mean to be egocentric.

    I just hope I didn’t offput everyone with my emotional / personal observations. I realize I write in an impassioned voice.

  19. Sharolyn

    Chad, my internal response was, “Where does he come up with this stuff?” with a smile on my face. I love impassioned people. Sometimes I wish I could become more impassioned. And I agree that pianos are girls.

    The cheap shot at homosexuality makes me cringe. I asked your mom if she knew Lonnie Frisbee, because I watched a PBS documentary on him. He was a hippie-Christian in SoCal. Well, I’ll give away the end of his story. He died of AIDS in the early ’90s. He was sexually abused as a child, and had some encounters with men in adulthood (although he was a married pastor). Part of his funeral was shown in this documentary, and one pastor used that venue (the FUNERAL) to preach against homosexuality. Our jaws dropped. My husband and I instantly diagnosed this second pastor’s JEALOUSY.

    Phil, if you are really trying to grow (which I think you are), I resonated with Chad’s word “intimidating”. That is why I don’t respond to you online. You are brilliant, I am intrigued by your thoughts, but I am intimidated to respond.

  20. aly hawkins Post author

    Chad, I don’t think you put the brakes on the conversation, I think it was just petering out all on its own. I appreciate your from-the-gutness, as usual. I just don’t have a lot to add.

    And yes, pianos are girls. Like sailboats and luxury cars. There’s a gender post in there somewhere.

  21. Melody

    Wow! Imagine my surprise when I came home from a trip to see that a small aside comment I made on a three week old blog that had garnered nary a comment had created such a firestorm. I feel honored.

    Chad, you certainly are a colorful character. Though I can only interpret what you are like by the words you use in print, my guess is that your personality is what my daughter lovingly terms “high-maintenance”.

    Aly seems to be the professional wordsmith on this site but you really gave her a run for the money with this line; “Your voice gets wrapped up in a clusterbomb of conservative voices…” I really like that. Please don’t think I’m being sarcastic; I wish I had thought of it. It is the kind of prose really good writers use.

    Phil, thanks for sticking up for me, even though you don’t know me. You did it real good, too.

    As to the whole Brian McLaren thing, I wouldn’t have even said anything here except there was no place to do so on Brian’s site. Let that be a lesson to me.

    And now, onward to two very full weeks of school Christmas concerts.

    P.S. Chad, I proofread this comment for spelling and grammatical errors so if you find any, please overlook my bad. Thanks

  22. Chad

    [quote comment="28699"]

    Chad, you certainly are a colorful character. Though I can only interpret what you are like by the words you use in print, my guess is that your personality is what my daughter lovingly terms “high-maintenance”.

    Aly seems to be the professional wordsmith on this site but you really gave her a run for the money with this line; “Your voice gets wrapped up in a clusterbomb of conservative voices…” I really like that. Please don’t think I’m being sarcastic; I wish I had thought of it. It is the kind of prose really good writers use.
    [/quote]

    Thanks, I think.

  23. michael lee

    Let me add this to the conversation. It was originally posted here, in response to a birthday hang at the Getty. I think it pretty well sums up how I’d like to spend my life, and how I view the relationships that are carried on through this blog:

    May you live in the company of friends
    Where you have nothing to prove
    And nothing to gain by trying

    May you live in the company of friends
    Where their joy is your joy
    And your sorrow is theirs too

    May you live in the company of friends
    In easy company and quick laughter
    Enduring love and slow offense

    May you live in the company of friends
    And may you be to them
    As they are to you

  24. harmonicminer

    [quote post="1005"]Brother, there are people with whom I fundamentally agree whose voices make me physically cringe. I heard a pastor take a cheap shot at homosexuals from the pulpit recently. He played it for a laugh and he got it. Sitting four rows behind me were a couple whose eldest daughter has revealed to them that she’s a lesbian. They’re daily seeking prayer and guideance from their Lord and friends and church as to how best to love her and deal with the fact that she’s chosen a life that they believe is hopelessly sinful. The pastor got his laugh, and their day got blown.[/quote]

    Chad, my friend, let us reason together. This story is unfortunate, and I think the pastor was, at best, impolitic to make such a joke, particularly if it was a “cheap shot”. But this has nothing to do with our discussion, I think.

    This was your response to my assertion, repeated below:

    [quote post="1005"]“In the meantime, ask yourself this: If you were agreeing with every single thing I said, and saying to yourself, “Yeah, he’s absolutely right, and I’ve been waiting for somebody to say that!”, would you be thinking that my “tone” was bad? Come on… really? It’s hard not to suspect that the issue is that I make my points with some determination, and if you disagree, then my tone is bad on that day… But not so bad on the day when I’m “right on”, by your lights.”[/quote]

    The issue here is not your assessment of my tone when I say something that “makes you cringe”, it is your assessment of my tone when I say something with which you agree, and maybe even think needed to be said.

    Here’s my suggestion, if you’re interested in helping me understand you as meaning something other than “don’t say things I don’t agree with so well”.

    Pick a comment, any comment, with which you strongly agree. Now tell me what was wrong with my tone when I said it. Can you find an example where you strongly agree, but object to my “tone”? If so, can you rephrase my comment in a way that makes the point AS CLEARLY but with better “tone”? Maybe even make your own strong statement on the matter, so you can establish your credentials as someone who strongly agrees with me?

    Truth is not tone. And the best way to LIE is with good tone. In the meantime: if I have a choice between listening to people singing with good tone, but the wrong notes, and vica versa, I know which I’ll pick. History tells me that the definition of “good tone” has changed and changed and changed… but the “right notes” are still here, and while the universe of “right notes” has expanded a bit, there are still MANY more wrong notes than right ones available… and if you sing them with lovely tone, you’re fired, man.

  25. harmonicminer

    the text I had already typed in the comment window. Maybe I had the cursor in the wrong place or something.

    And it was a really brilliant comment that got mashed, too.

    It integrated quantum theory, molecular biology, dianetics, fast food and jazz into one coherent synthesis of human reality.

    Sadly, I can’t quite remember it now.

    sigh… the wonders of vicodin

  26. harmonicminer

    The only true part is the vicodin, which is indeed a wonderful thing when the fates have reached their grasping, cronelike hands into the interstices of your spine and rearranged the flow of electrical impules with an eye towards causing every single blooming muscle in your lower back to attempt to relocate itself to Beijing via hypersonic flight, one with no movie, no music, and horrible little white castle cheeseburgers for dinner in first class, which have secretly been injected by terrorist flight attendants with a radioactive substance that leaches all the calcium and phosphorus from your bones, leaving you with no option but to think positively and rise above petty egoistic concerns. (Not to be confused with egotistic, which I am, but that’s irrelevant just now.)

  27. Chad

    [quote comment="28870"]
    The issue here is not your assessment of my tone when I say something that “makes you cringe”, it is your assessment of my tone when I say something with which you agree, and maybe even think needed to be said.

    Here’s my suggestion, if you’re interested in helping me understand you as meaning something other than “don’t say things I don’t agree with so well”.

    Pick a comment, any comment, with which you strongly agree. Now tell me what was wrong with my tone when I said it. Can you find an example where you strongly agree, but object to my “tone”? If so, can you rephrase my comment in a way that makes the point AS CLEARLY but with better “tone”? Maybe even make your own strong statement on the matter, so you can establish your credentials as someone who strongly agrees with me?

    Truth is not tone. And the best way to LIE is with good tone. In the meantime: if I have a choice between listening to people singing with good tone, but the wrong notes, and vica versa, I know which I’ll pick. History tells me that the definition of “good tone” has changed and changed and changed… but the “right notes” are still here, and while the universe of “right notes” has expanded a bit, there are still MANY more wrong notes than right ones available… and if you sing them with lovely tone, you’re fired, man.[/quote]

    I will search for a point you’ve made and see if I can… hehe… deconstruct it for you.

    As for your comments on truth vs. tone… I hear what you’re saying. I know the enemy deals in the business of selling lies with a sweet tone…. “Thou shalt not surely die…” and the like. I think that with a little discernment we can all tell when a sweet sounding song has all the wrong lyrics.

    I guess I’m more concerned about those who have the right lyrics and no flair for expressing them. That’s the world I inhabit.

  28. phil

    Does anyone here know of any info on demographics and the EC?

    Particularly, I’m curious about child bearing rates among those who identify with the EC, as compared to “traditional” churches. It would have to be corrected for age range, of course, since the EC tends to be younger.

  29. Morphea

    Hippie from Seattle checking in. Sorry I was gone so long – the good news is that I have a brand-new nephew to show for it and he is a little Killer.

    Just one thing to say before I go back and read the rest of this: Melody actually called Chad ‘high-maintenance’?

    Wow. Not good, and I disagree with all my heart. However, he may or may not have had it coming. But geez.

    Nice to see you all again.

    Cerise

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