07 November 2012

Obama's Re-election Does Not Mean Jesus is Coming Sooner

To my fellow Adventists and other eschatologically minded Christians:
          The parousia of Christ is not catalyzed by the degradation of morality, and especially not the re-election of President Obama.

          Rather, the eschaton is dependent on our own execution of personal and global evangelism.

          And why is it that we are so concerned with the decline of morality in the world around us, when we actually pay so little attention to the degradation of ethics? Isn't that what Jesus is saying in Matthew 24:12 ("because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold," KJV) and what he says to the Pharisees when they know what is lawful but not what is right?

04 November 2012

On a church spire

     "When I look up at the spire, do you know what I see? This is my interpretation:
     The great Adventist Christian posture, my friends, is not kneeling, sitting, or standing. It's looking up
     And when I look up at that spire, when I walk in front of this church, and I look through it to the very clouds, the skies, and the heavens - I look up to the place where I look forward to the coming of Jesus." 
— Alex Bryan, pastor of the Walla Walla University Church, sermon "Rock Solid Religion: History. Seriously.", 20 October 2012.

30 October 2012

We are the sole survivors of a world no one else has ever seen

            I have just finished reading Colum McCann's "Let the Great World Spin". I cannot help but use the trite description that it is indeed masterful. Colum is one of us New Yawkers; he captures the city from within the heart of the town, not as an outside observation (ick). In this piece for The New York Times, McCann writes of the dog days of baseball in New York, expressing a very spiritual sentiment for such an Earth-based game.
          To finish a book such as this is to end a poetic journey that makes you want to linger over the last dozen pages longer. You identify with the spirit of the book, with the character, and you wish you could be pals with the author (a la "The Catcher in the Rye") because they are the only connection to this world of which no one else has ever seen. I might mention that moment when you finish a book, look around, and realize everyone is just carrying on with their lives as though you didn't just experience emotional trauma at the hands of a paperback. 
Random House, published 2009
          "Let the Great World Spin" belongs to the newly forming genre of post-9/11 arts, literature, and music. Post-9/11 is a largely retrospective genre. I would define it as an art made as a reaction to or influenced by the events of September 11, directly or indirectly. The films "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close", "The Hurt Locker", and to an extent (one of my favorites with George Clooney) "Up in the Air", as well as the books "Three Cups of Tea" and "Someday this Pain Will Be Useful to You", and several pieces by the American composer Rene Clausen are all considered a part of post-9/11 art. So is the children's book and Caldecott Award recipient "The Man Who Walked Between the Towers", which in fact is related to McCann's novel. It is quite amazing to see this timely thematic genre form within the dawn of my lifetime.
          The arts created in response to September 11 I perceive to be usually unafraid to reveal the brokenness of the world. We have become distrustful of each other on the outside as we line up at airport security checks, walk past each other in the city at night, or wear apparel of cultural nature, be it the hijab or a chained cross.  But within ourselves we know we want to trust our neighbor, we want to embrace anyone else who seeks peace.  

28 September 2012

Another Article: Bill Gates on life and death

Bill Gates wrote a letter to Steve Jobs, who kept it by his bedside as he lay dying. In this profile by Mary Riddell of The Daily Telegraph, Gates addresses economic fairness, philanthropy, his friendship with business rival Jobs, and what will become of himself and his legacy.
Though not especially religious, and far from pious (“People on the front line are the saints”), Bill Gates is driven on by faith. “I believed in the personal computer and I devoted my life to it,” he says. “If you have a dream, and it comes true, it’s a very cool thing.” Now he extends the passion he once expended on enterprise to ending disease and starvation. The man who changed the way the rich world lives is equally determined to change the way in which the poor world dies.

21 September 2012

The Word became cloth-bound and republished

          Never have I been so excited for a new Bible (a theologian problem) as today when I was able to find a copy of The New English Bible at a used bookstore in the university district. Aptly I dub it "the English major's Bible," particularly because of how it is an example of how the English language, despite its faultiness, is able to translate essence and devotion across cultures and eras into the present day. The British theological commitment to emphasizing beauty in scriptural wording is probably a reason people still use Biblical excerpts as a text for hermeneutical approaches in a public setting. You cannot say that about the New International Version or the New American Standard, even though they may be accurate in doctrine. It is audibly comprehensible while maintaining the distinctiveness and reverence found in King Jimmy's translation. I think it is perfect for scripture reading in church or meditation on a lazy Sunday, be it a rainy or golden morning. Completely published in 1970 by the universities of Cambridge and Oxford, it isn't quite popular in the U.S. as it is primarily accessible by British influenced ecclesia (don't call it a hipster version, even though the NIV is too mainstream).

Expect to see readings from this new book of scripture here.

20 September 2012

On the God who cries with us

Jesus’ outcry ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ echoes every victim’s outcry. When a hungry child cries in starvation, a child is sexually or physically abused or molested, a child is despised and discriminated against because of the color of his or her skin, a woman is raped, a homosexual person is murdered, a poor person shivers in the cold, a prisoner in a dungeon is tortured, a person is injured or killed in a war, or an AIDS victim dies, Jesus’ shrill outcry ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ reverberates across the valley of the shadow of death.  
—Andrew Sung Park, "Triune Atonement"

13 September 2012

On God and our political platforms

         "There seems to be a misconception among many American Christians that fighting the good fight of faith means keeping God’s name on our money, in our speeches, in our pledge, and on our bumper stickers. 
         But this is the danger of civic religion: it convinces us that God’s name is the same as God’s presence; it convinces us that we’ve “won” when we hear the right words, regardless of whether we’ve seen the right fruit. But God’s name is not enough, and America has a troubled history of slavery, ethnic cleansing, and the destruction of creation to show that invoking God’s name is not the same as earning God’s favor. 
          As Susan B. Anthony so wisely put it, “I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do because I notice it always coincides with their own desires.” Ironically, we render God’s name more meaningless each time we use it carelessly to advance our own agendas." 
 Rachel Held Evans, Christian columnist and writer.

07 September 2012

The kingdom of God is near

           Of course a number of issues bother young people today, among them sex, relationships, academic and career options, etc. So for anyone of us with a faith background, we deal with the relevance of faith in our lives, as well as one other question that becomes pertinent with maturity into adulthood: What is the will of God in my life?

17 August 2012

Go west young man

          After work today I had this impulse to drive towards the sunset, and that led me to the Edmonds beach. I figured I could use this solace opportunity to figure some things out in my head. I wandered the around the little downtown area with its cute little shops and sidewalk cafes and street entertainment, feeling very obscure and unsure of my intentions. Do I want fish and chips or do I want coffee? Ice cream? No I had my share last week; perhaps I should go to Starbucks for internet, but I'm supposed to be figuring things out in my head...
          Eventually I wandered down to the beach landing next to the ferry dock. There were a few people sitting on the jetty staring down the sun as it set, and I found my own seat on a rock. Middle aged hipsters and old people were doing their walkabouts. I took my turn at sun staring when a Carl Fredrickson-esque man came up next to me and spontaneously yet intently queried, "So, are you still in school?"

02 August 2012

Another Article: Chick-Fil-A and Christ

"The religious stood together today outside of Chick-Fil-A’s nationwide. 
More, in fact, at one time than we’ve ever seen waiting for a chance to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, or stand up for social outcasts whom society has marginalized. . .
You know, things Jesus actually told his followers to do."
From Some Chick-Fil-A Appreciation from an Unlikely Source by Anthony David Jacques in An American Atheist.

24 March 2012

It's up to you -- New York, New York

One World Trade Center
     I am riding back from New York this evening. It really was a sacred pilgrimage for me. New York is a tough city, and I feel empathy for those who live there. I can see why mother wanted us to leave. I imagine I would have become a strangely different person, perhaps more intimate with the streets and the darker side of life. I don't know if I would possess the knowledge I have now, or if I would be spiritual at all.
I wonder what it is like to be in active ministry in the city. I imagine it must be very challenging, but I wouldn't mind. If it's not challenging, it's not the work of God.
St. Patrick's Cathedral
     I've been thinking about education, and how I could be in a state school right now. I don't like how Adventist institutions are so far away from the city. People become superficial and complacent. I hate that. As a minister and educator in training, I need to be where the dirt is. I'm not upset that I haven't been able to experience the tougher side of life, but I'm upset I've been oblivious to the reality of life. In most cases, Adventist Education does not prepare one for real ministry. People will keep living in their white washed worlds but they are not aware of the social problems people face. We address gay marriage and abortion, but what about poverty and homelessness and hunger? Surely I know this isn't the first time Christianity has been called out for forgetting the men and women with whom Jesus lived.

16 March 2012

If I can make it there, I'll know I can make it anywhere

          I'm about thirty minutes north of the city now and for some reason I am fearful and anxious. The last time I was here was after September 11. Father was with me, and I safely knew he knew how to handle the city. As indepndent as I think I am, I'd rather not see this city alone this time either.
          This is a great problem I have. Back at Auburn I thought myself so mature I didn't think I needed my parents (on an emotional and social level). I was fine in boarding school, but I knew I really wasn't on my own. I was with colleagues. Now in college, there are times when I feel like a little boy, and I long to go back to mother and father.

The Hudson River
Midtown from the Queensboro Bridge

I'm going to be a part of it -- New York, New York

     I've been on a train headed to New York since midnight last night. I've passed through Ohio, Pennsylvania, eastern and upstate New York. It's been feeling like a sacred pilgrimage to my birthplace. I haven't been out here in the East in a decade. Passing through these farmlands and rural towns has given me a perspective of a middle America I haven't seen in a long time.

28 January 2012

But Ham protested unto Noah

     Three African-American young people came and sat down in the pew in front of mine, next to an aged woman and two bored children. The woman looked uneasily, disdainfully at the late-comers.
     My colleague next to me asked me a question and I was whispering something to him. It was during the offertory and people do briefly converse during this time. The old lady in front of us turned around, looked irately at me and cantankerously huffed in my ear as I leaned in, “I’ve trained these children for years to be quiet in church and YOU’RE NOT SUPPORTING.”
     And I said, “Sister, if you’ve been teaching these children for years to be quiet in church, you should’ve been teaching them to love Jesus. And I’m not sure if you’re even capable of that." (Ok that's what I was thinking. I kept my mouth shut.)

14 January 2012

On doctrine and covenants

"When I started to preach at twenty-five years of age, I held to one hundred doctrines; at thirty-five, I had fifty; at fifty, only twenty-five; later on, there were but ten; and now as I am facing eternity I hold only this one: I am a great sinner, but Jesus is a great Savior."
— Thomas D. Talmage