culture

"Dearly Beloved, we are gathered here today, to get through this thing called life."

By Rev. Mindi

I was sad when David Bowie died, and Alan Rickman, and Glenn Frey. Each death made me reflect on their contribution to culture and society.

But Prince’s death is still rattling me. Maybe because it was so unexpected. Maybe because he was younger than the other three, although not by much. Perhaps, because, as a late Gen-Xer, his music was the soundtrack of my childhood in the 80’s.

It’s more than that. Prince was an artist that couldn’t be captured in a single genre, an activist through music and art. A hell of a guitar player—one of the best. And someone who celebrated sexuality and faith, writing “Sexy MF” and “The Cross.” Prince transcended social and musical boundaries.

And while I was sad on Thursday, it was the public singing of “Purple Rain” and the purple tributes across the world that got to me. Public mourning is something that brings us together, that unites us.

We have had too many communal tragedies in the last fifteen years, from 9/11 to Sandy Hook, to Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown and beyond, in which we gather in our sadness, but we are also angry. We grieve and we demand justice. We cry out to God and to each other as to how this could have happened again.

With Prince’s death, for now, we simply mourn. And while we ask why and what happened, and we experienced at first the shock and numbness that comes with a sudden death, we are also free to grieve together, and to celebrate his life. The public celebrations and singing, even the thousands of purple balloons outside of Paisley Park, point to a life well lived, something worthy of admiration, and grief at its brevity.

What we’ve learned since Thursday is that we need to collectively grieve, and Prince has given us the freedom to do that, without the anger and shame that has come from so many other collective memorials in the last fifteen years. Think of all the roadside memorials after car accidents and school shootings. Even when we have come together, it has been incredibly tragic, our feelings of grief meshed with cries for justice. We need a public mourning that frees us to grieve, as well as to celebrate, life.

Maybe that’s why so many churches posted the opening lyrics from “Let’s Go Crazy” on their sign boards. But better yet, we ought to have invited folks to public singings of “Purple Rain,” or at the very least, “The Cross.” Because the church needs to be joining in, if not leading, in collective mourning and celebrating life, death and resurrection.

Cause in this life
Things are much harder than in the after world
In this life
You're on your own.

Looking For Jesus In All The Wrong Places

By Rev. Evan Dolive

(This post originally appeared at evandolive.com)

Starbucks has been in the press a lot recently over a design choice. Traditionally November is the start of “red cup” season at Starbucks as they begin their journey into the holiday season. This year, however, is causing a stir.

Joshua Feuerstein is a minister and has millions of followers on Facebook and Twitter. He and his backward red MLB hat take to the Internet in an effort to “rally” others to his point and his theological framework. He has ranted on subjects like evolution, same-sex marriage and even Target’s decision to make their toy section gender neutral.

Recently he took to the Internet to complain about Starbuck’s “attack on Christianity” in this so-called “era of political correctness.”(video above)  In Feuerstein’s mind, the removal of snowflakes, reindeer, snowmen and the like is akin to trying to remove Christianity from the public sphere. His solution? Instead of telling the barista your actual name, tell them your name is “Merry Christmas” (so lying is ok?) in an effort to “force them” to say “Merry Christmas” to you.

This argument of a hostile corporate removal of Christianity is one that has no basis; Christianity is not under attack from a coffee company or any company for that matter. Sure I do not like the commercialization of Christmas but not having “Merry Christmas” on a cup or a Christmas tree in the mall is not something I worry about, it doesn’t prove or disprove my faithfulness, it is not a threat to my relationship with God and Christ.

The story of the birth and ministry of Christ is not Starbucks’ (or any corporations) story to tell. This story of the coming of the Messiah is one of all people of the Church to tell through their life, their sharing and their embodying the teachings and actions of Jesus.

Starbucks’ previous red cups did not have “Merry Christmas” emblazon on them and the company still sells “Christmas Blend” coffee and even has a Advent Calendar. So just because the words “Merry Christmas” do not appear on the actual cup, this is an attack on Christianity?

The problem is Jesus is not found on the outside of a red cup from a multi-national coffee chain. If Jesus and all that Jesus stands for is not found at the bottom of a bottle or in prescription medications, then why would Jesus be found on a cup?

Jesus is found in places we would never expect.

Jesus is found at bed 57 at the homeless shelter.

Jesus is found at the bedside of an ICU room or at a hospice.

Jesus is found in the glassy eyes of a single mom receiving food assistance for the first time from the local food bank.

Jesus is found in the undocumented worker who harvested the food we eat.

Jesus is found when people of faith set aside their theological differences on Sunday mornings and strive for a more just and loving society.

Jesus is found in the laughter of children.

Jesus is found in the cool wind of fall.

Jesus is found where ever the faithful for God gather to worship.

Jesus is found when we give.

Jesus is found when we serve.

Jesus is found when we love unconditionally.

Jesus is found when we liberate.

Jesus’ love, grace and mercy cannot be confined to a single Sunday or even a red paper cup.

We cannot and should not limit the movement and presence of Christ to the four walls of a stained glass building or even a red paper cup.

If we are going to claim to be Christ’s followers then how we work, where we serve, the things we give need to emulate the ministry and movement of Jesus the Christ.

Having a barista write “Merry Christmas” as your name on a red paper cup for your triple venti toffee nut latte is not helping the cause of Christ. Rather take the $5 you would have spent on yourself and give it to someone who needs it is the definition of selfless giving and the gospel.

So the next time you are in Starbucks and you order a drink in their pretty red cups, do not look for Jesus on the cup, look for the Jesus in the world around you; you never know where you might see him.

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

OCCUPY ROME

The great crime against the Roman Empire by the early churchwas neither political opposition nor armed insurrection – it was much worse.

The great crime of the early church was to ignore and sidestep the Empire proving that The Way of the Empire was not absolute making The Way of the Empire irrelevant.

The Way of the Empire is piety, war, victory, peace the Emperor is Lord relational complexity relations as conquests and politics.

The Way of the Empire is, for the individual, success or failure failure as poverty, hunger, nakedness, powerlessness, servitude, slavery, early death success as wealth, well-fed, fine clothing, political influence, military command, long life.

The Way of the Empire is inevitable, inescapable, singular, myopic – there is no other way.

The Way of the Good News is the personal and persistent unrestrained love and unconditional grace of God and the feeding quenching clothing healing visiting welcoming compassion and the reparative rehabilitating restorative justice of the Community and the inclusive hospitality and joyous generosity and healthy service of the Individual.

The Way of the Good News is an earthly life of divine wisdom centered in the perpetual presence of God requiring no piety, no war, no conquests requiring no militant victories, no war-won war-worn peace requiring no Empire ignoring Empire responses, dismissing Empire demands making Empire expectations, attitudes, values, requirements irrelevant negating Empire culture, dismantling Empire government displacing The Way of the Empire with The Way of the Good News living fearlessly and simply and together as a sharing Community and a loving Family and a grace-full Kingdom of God.

I am invited to commit the same great crime. The Way I choose is...?

RECLAIMING SCRIPTURE

The scripture was written to and written for and written by ancient people of an ancient culture living in an ancient time. The scripture was written as a metaphorical and thoughtful and faithful record and narrative and explanation. The scripture is how they perceived the presence and influence and actions of God in their lives and history, individually and communally. Those ancient people and that ancient culture and that ancient time are gone, never to return. It is impossible for that ancient culture and that ancient time to be recreated and it is impossible for us to be that ancient people or to live as did that ancient people. In the same way that we are ignorant of our distant future; they had no knowledge, no idea, no vision, no dream, no fantasy that two millennia hence there would be an increasingly global and interconnected culture and economy of 7 billion people, world wars and holocausts encompassing and killing and making refugees of millions, staggering accomplishments in medicine and engineering and transportation and communication, and the development of sciences and mathematics and technologies that did not and could not exist in their time and that they could not have comprehended. Because we have had these experiences and live with these developments and because these experiences and developments cannot be erased or quarantined from our perceptual and analytical processes, we are not capable of developing an adequate or reasonable comprehension of ancient times, cultures and people. We cannot understand an ancient existence devoid of our experiences and developments and knowledge and assumptions and expectations and view of reality and we will never be able to understand an ancient existence because we can neither interact with it nor live in it. Their ancient time and existence are irreconcilably separate from our contemporary time and existence and irreconcilably different than our time and existence. What is "ancient" and what is "contemporary" are mutually incomprehensible. In terms of the original ancient audience and the original ancient purpose and the original ancient usage, the scripture is not ours. The scripture was not written to us, the scripture was not written for us, the scripture was not written about us. Because the scripture is not ours, we are neither bound by it nor obligated by it. We can faithfully use the scripture as a source of inspiration and wisdom, as a way of connecting to or mediating the sacred, and it can become a path to spiritual revelation and epiphany that can be instructive, nurturing and transforming. Whatever understanding we have of that ancient time and ancient culture and ancient people is unavoidably imperfect, incomplete and inaccurate. Whatever understanding we have of any ancient people in any ancient culture in any ancient time is wrong in ways in which we will never be aware and in ways we will never be able to discern. Whatever understanding we have of the scripture, and no matter how comfortable or confident we are with that understanding, it will always be unavoidably imperfect, incomplete, inaccurate - it will always be a wrong understanding of the original intent, delivery, reception, social and theological understandings and implications, cultural incorporation and personal use of the scripture by the authors and original audience. The reason is three-fold: 1) we cannot have a conversation with them - the members of the original audience or the authors. 2) We cannot experience it or witness it in its original setting, transmission, reception, response and usage. 3) We cannot comprehend it because the way we use and interpret our physical senses - the way we see, hear, feel, smell and taste - and the way we use and interpret our basic knowledge and our basic expectations and our basic assumptions and our sense of normalcy have been so completely shaped and infused by our contemporary environment that it is impossible for us to construct a usable comprehension of an ancient environment. All we have for ancient evidence is the silent tombstones of archeological discoveries and an inadequate and incomplete and imperfect written record and our own unconfirmed and unconfirmable interpretations and conclusions. All that we are left with and all that we will ever have is our own immediate understanding which is inescapably influenced by and attached to our time and our culture and our experiences in our culture in our time and our assimilation of and our assimilation by our culture and time. The value and truth of the scripture is not in what it was. The value and truth of the scripture is in what it is – for us here and now.

The truth of the scripture goes beyond and is more than any attempt to limit the scripture to historical fact. The truth of the scripture goes beyond and is more than any attempt to limit the ancient languages of the scripture to an arbitrary single "literal" definition or to an arbitrary single "literal" translation. Either attempt would be unfaithful and disrespectful, even abusive, toward the scripture. The truth of the scripture is more than factuality, physicality, requirements and restrictions, legally acceptable objective evidence, peer-reviewed repeatable scientific experiments, statistical analysis or mathematical proofs. The foundational and eternal truth of the scripture always involves “the more” – that which is beyond life, beyond the universe, beyond physicality, beyond factuality, beyond objective evidence and beyond provable theorems. The foundational and eternal truth of the scripture always recognizes “the more” as a perceivable presence and a knowable consciousness that is grace-full and loving and relational and even dialogical. The universal foundational and eternal message of all ancient scripture is that it is possible to live in synchronous harmony with "the more" by living "The Way."

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Doug is a member of Central Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), 4950 East Wabash Avenue, P.O. Box 3125, Terre Haute, IN 47803-0125 (812-877-9959). Central Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is an open and affirming congregation where Doug has served as Elder and Treasurer and enjoys his continuing membership in the choir as the lowest voiced bass. He graduated in 2009 with a M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction from Indiana State University and a BS in Management Information Systems from Ball State University in 1997. Since August 2005, he has been a member of the CIS Adjunct Faculty at the Terre Haute campus of Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana. He has been published in DisciplesWorld and Encounter: Education for Meaning and Social Justice. In the summer of 2010, Doug became a contributor to [D]mergent. Of the 9 articles he has written, 5 are in the top 10 all-time most-viewed articles at [D]mergent. Doug is married to Carol, a First Grade teacher, and is the father of two sons. Jason is a professional musician (oboe, flute, English horn, and piccolo) who is working on a Master's degree and licensure in Special Education.

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The previous [D]mergent articles by Doug Sloan are listed here in order of publication: ..........RECLAIMING CHURCH ..........GOD IS... ..........RECLAIMING GOD ..........RECLAIMING MIRACLES ..........RECLAIMING NOT ..........RECLAIMING the GOOD NEWS - an epistle ..........RECLAIMING FORGIVENESS - it's personal ..........REFORMATION II ..........GOD IS - an update