Tuesday, November 30, 2004


I read a great story today. Check it out: http://killingthebuddha.com/confession/fresh.htm

Here is my story that is similar:

When I was at Wheaton I was involved in the theater group. We would go on retreat every year, and as arty people do, we'd have a service to close the day that was spontaneous and free, involving a lot of candles and people piping up in prayer or song and others joining or sitting quietly or whatever. My freshman year, it was one of the highlights of the whole year for me. But my sophomore year, something very strange happened.

The service was going along fine, when all of a sudden we heard what sounded like screams coming from the basement of the church. A few moments later, the doors to the chapel burst open and a huge commotion entered the room. Running up to the altar were several of my peers, carrying one of the girls from the group. She was the person screaming. They threw her down on the altar and began yelling all these rebukes against unseen forces. Her eyes were wide, then rolling, and she was flailing all around. Those around her were responding to her every move by yelling at whatever they thought was causing it.

It should be noted that this girl wasn't exactly 100%. She had mental problems, and she was known as an attention seeker and something of an exaggerator. Sadly, the most obvious thing I could see going on as I pondered it later was a desperate plea for the attention that had been focused on God to be moved in her direction.

But at the time, I was simply choked with terror. A strong feeling of something evil and dark had filled the room upon their entry, and everything had been thrown into utter chaos. People were screaming and jumping over pews and acting completely crazy. It was complete pandemonium.

I slipped out (stepping over bodies on the way) and went downstairs. There I found a group of my friends, all with fear in their eyes, shaking and trying to process what they'd experienced. We talked about our mutual sense of dread and doubts about the authenticity of what was going on. We tried to pray or at least sit quietly waiting for it all to pass.

Then the lights went out, everyone screamed, and the fire alarms went off. That was about the maximum any of us could handle, and adrenaline got me outside somehow. Instead of the usual passing of the peace and warm tidings as we took our leave, people left in groups, some sullen, some still crying, some joyful. I got out as fast as I could.

Later that week we received a letter from the program director stating that the Spirit had moved, but he understood that some of us had not experienced this and needed counseling. Huh? Apparently those of us who were disturbed by the drama were simply screwed up in the head. Otherwise we certainly would have recognized the Spirit at work.

So I decided that if that was God's spirit at work, I wanted nothing to do with it. I hated the chaos and the fear that came along with it. I hated the privelege of only a few to be included in the work, while the rest of us just had to take it on faith. For years, any time someone would begin anything remotely charismatic (even just lifting a hand during worship), I would beat it out of there as quickly as I could.

Take what you want from this story. It's mine and a few others'. We share it to give insight and warning and reminders. I came back, but not everyone will.

Saturday, November 27, 2004


Here are some excerpts from this paper...

A Church Autobiography

I am a pastor’s kid, and was literally raised at church (I even took my first steps on the youth group bus). My parents spent my first two years with a hippie congregation in the mountains of Santa Cruz, and then moved to Illinois where my dad was youth pastor with an Evangelical Free Church (very fundamentalist, very Swedish) for 19 years. I was heavily involved in everything I “should” be as the pastor’s daughter.

I was at Wheaton College during the Big Revival, but I honestly thought it was a bunch of hooey. After moving to LA, I grew out of evangelical-style worship (especially the music).

Growing up I was badly damaged by fundamentalism and left my youth with a pretty messed-up view of the church. It didn’t help that my formative church had always treated my father horribly. He was judged by our actions and we were all held to a ridiculous standard. I was very confused about what God wanted from me. I really believed that the purpose of the church was two-fold: to get people to “ask Jesus into their heart” and keep Christians in constant reminder of how to act and think the way that a Christian is expected to.

Oddly, I was never turned off of Jesus, just the church. That’s why for most of college I avoided any big commitment to a church body, but remained very close to God.

My church experiences have been something of a roller coaster, but I believe they add up to creating strong character, a healthy cynicism of both emotionalism and Pharisee-ism, and a clear knowledge of what I am looking for both in terms of worshiping God and the place in the body where I am comfortable. I have learned that I don’t belong in a church that is too rules-oriented, and certainly not one that tells its members what to think.

I’ve been in some sick churches, and through those bad times, God showed me just how much the people inside the church need saving too. To finally find a church that stresses the welcoming nature of God over His judgment has been truly eye opening and refreshing. I have perhaps gotten a little lax about holding others accountable, but I’ve learned the hard way how easy it is to go overboard when trying to be helpful. I would rather err to the side of being too accepting and too loving.

I would say that the Scriptures that most directly form my hopes for the Church and my role in it are the Ten Commandments, the Sermon on the Mount, and the 23rd Psalm. I know they are common, but there is good reason: they are seminal for understanding the proper human relationship to God and with one other. I want to see the Church as the place where God’s mercy is wide, our love for him and for one another is deep, and our cares and concerns are no more. These three biblical passages offer the true Meaning of Life.

Obviously the biggest turn in my ecclesiology was moving into the Anglican church. I was seeking a reconnection with mystery, history, and deep thought. The Episcopal Church emphasizes the ineffable, it connects directly to 2,000 years of Church (I think the line of Apostolic Succession is the coolest thing ever!), and it celebrates the diversity of ideas within its members. I went from denominations that focused primarily on salvation to one focused on discipleship. From “fire-insurance” evangelism to transformation of the world through the Church of Christ. From wrapping up our faith in Christ’s death to cementing it in his Resurrection. The Church is made up of many fallible and weak human beings, to be sure, but together, blessed by the Spirit, we are able to be partners in ushering in the Kingdom of Heaven.
I am greatly relieved to see that professors and students here are largely thinking the same way as me. It makes me realize that I did indeed choose the correct seminary.

If anything, I have been taken aback by the huge diversity that exists here, especially among the student body. We all come from so many wildly different backgrounds and are in such flux right now. But if anything is consistent, it seems to be that most of us are questioning, and most of us are more than ready to listen to new ideas.

Nearing the end

It's almost over, this first quarter of mine. I can't believe it's nearly December. They said time would speed up but jeez!

I feel like I know less Greek every day. The cramming style of "firehose greek" keeps anything from sticking too long in my brain. I just have to make it through one more week, a few new concepts, get to the final next Monday, and it's over. Until Exegetical Methods next quarter.

I finally did all the homework for my other class yesterday. That consisted of writing reactions to each of my small group sessions (and yes, I had been keeping up with those), writing a "spiritual autobiography" which I suppose I'll post on here, and reading an incredibly boring book. I read every page and wrote down 100 in the "% read" thing I have to sign. But man, it was dreary. And I told my husband that I had hoped grad school would involve reading interesting things, but I fear now that I'm going to be reading a bunch of crap from the Christian bookstore. He said I was in seminary, which is different from grad school, and I should have gone to an Ivy if I wanted to read something scholarly. Ah, yes, he is probably right, but then I would have missed out on learning about, you know, God.

A professor told me that he'd heard that Yale's program in liturgy is like a museum, a study of things past with no instruction on relating it to the present. Anyone reading this have an opinion? I was considering their post-MDiv certificate in liturgical studies, but maybe it's no good?

It's raining in Los Angeles today. That is a rare enough occurrence that most people like it. It's too bad that it's mucking up the field at the Coliseum, though. Still, I expect the fighting Methodists to defeat the Irish handily. And if you got that reference, then you are a good scholar of So Cal Academic History.

Monday, November 22, 2004

The Fetal Position

Today it happened: the moment that may just go down as my favorite thing that ever happened to me in grad school. It was classic. It was incredible. It was so archetypical.

My teacher actually hit the floor. In response to the repeated questioning of a certain person in my class (about whom I wrote way back when class started), he literally turned red, fell down on the floor and curled up. It was shocking and beautiful. It was the dream of every person who has ever tried to get a concept through another person's head.

And this is what he said:

"God doesn't give a freaking rip what grade you get in this class. God has more important things on his mind."


Sunday, November 21, 2004

We deserve it. The world does not.

One of my favorite blogs, Jesus Politics, turned me to this website: http://sorryeverybody.com/. I have been on it for an hour and I cannot look away. I am most encouraged and I feel less alone. Way less. Plus I love the messages from people in other countries.

Here is the picture that started me on it - visit the site for more:

Friday, November 19, 2004

I'll have your spam, dear....

A few random thoughts:

I met a person who does not believe in free will. And to my protestation she replied that God simply had not revealed His truth to me yet.

Why would she pray?

For that matter, why does anyone who doesn't believe God can change his mind ever pray? I mean, if He's the same yesterday, today and forever - if he's already seen the future and knows what is going to happen - then why bother praying?

And why would Jesus tell the story in Luke 18 about the widow who bugs the judge until she gets what she wants? Can we really apply that concept to God without starting to question our stand on His nature? Does God bend to human will when people bug him enough?

Also I read today a passage in Isaiah that says the rain and snow come down but they do not return to heaven again, but rather water the earth. So if one believes in biblical inerrancy, would one have to deny the cycle of precipitation?

Finally, on sin again: if one is concerned solely with sin avoidance and repentance (so as to secure one's place in the hereafter), how does that make Christianity attractive at all? Which is more appealing: telling a person that they are a sinner and need to repent or they will go to hell, OR telling them that Jesus was a pretty smart guy and a great moral teacher who offered us the best way to live our lives. Making Christianity a philosophy of living well (the "good life") makes it a lot more palatable.

And all that about Jesus being God and repentance and etc. will come later, because they follow naturally once you are a disciple. I think we do things backwards sometimes.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

More on sin

I remember now what brought this all up. On Sunday we were saying the baptismal covenant and we got to the part about when we sin "repent and return to you" or whatever it says. And I was thinking, wow, that is so simple. The covenant is mostly about the person we're becoming in baptism, and about what we believe. It's not about dwelling upon our sins. We sin, we repent, we move on, and it warrants only one sentence.

I am troubled by the emphasis put on sin in many churches. I am bothered that I hear things like, "Well I sin every day" "I always have to be on my guard" "I'm just a sinner saved by grace". What kind of life is that? To always be on eggshells, always aware of your status as a disappointment to God?

What if sin is merely being out of touch with reality - I mean by that out of touch with God. it's not necessarily a certain list of do's and don'ts - it's when something we believe or are or yes, are doing, is placing us back in the false reality of the world.

When you think about it that way, you realize that it is actually possible to live sinlessly a lot of the time. In fact, perhaps we are supposed to actually do that. Perhaps it's not an afterlife only thing. If we are living in the Kingdom reality then we are not sinners. We are no longer sinners.
We are saints.

Am I being totally heretical?

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Were the wages of sin really death - for Jesus?

I've been thinking a lot about sin lately, and about atonement. About what the crucifixion is really all about. What it accomplished. What would have happened if it hadn't. And I'm coming to some weird conclusions.

Like I am thinking, the point of the crucifixion and resurrection was that Christ conquered death, right? So if he'd been killed another way at another time, he still could have risen and conquered death. And if he hadn't been killed at all, would he have died of old age? Or would he have just gone on living? In the latter scenario, he still would have conquered death!

Was he killed as a necessary blood sacrifice for the atonement of our sins? Or did he just piss off the establishment to the point where they were fed up enough to kill him? If he didn't come expressly to die, but rather to live (live the "eternal kind of life" as Dallas Willard puts it), then that would put to bed a lot of troubling things in theology. Like whether he had a choice, whether Judas had a choice, why God would demand such a sacrifice, and how in the world does God killing Godself do anything for us anyway??

It's like God set up this system and then he was bound by it? It just doesn't seem right. People are fine with him being unbound by logic, time, etc. (which, by the way, I don't agree with), but somehow they think he is stuck in his own outdated sacrificial rules. Hmmmm. Does that really follow?

Anyway this isn't really advent thinking, is it? I should ponder this during Lent. I should also wait until I'm in a sotierology class so I can get some assistance from outside my own head!

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

I'm buzzin', buddy!

We had the BEST small group today!! I invited a friend who is an Episcopal priest, from a Roman Catholic background, who happens also to be gay. He shared his incredible story of faith with our little group. Everyone loved him. At the end, one of the members even said that he could no longer believe the same things he believed before about gay people. He said now he would have to rethink his stance on things. WOW!!

This is exactly why I want to make my documentary about gay Christians. When you meet a person of faith who is homosexual, you can no longer lump him/her into some group opposed to yourself. She becomes a person to you. He becomes a child of God.

I'm totally having a God buzz.

(thanks to my friend Jess for that little phrase)

Whither the Church?

One of the things that is becoming apparent to me as I'm interacting with those at seminary is that the Church is something different than what I was raised to believe. In my formative church, emphasis was placed on a personal relationship with God, and that relationship's strength (as evidenced by prayer and Bible reading, mostly) determined whether one was a member of the Church (speaking of the true Church - which there meant "those who are going to heaven").

One of the basic questions of evangelism was "If you died tonight, do you know for sure that you'd go to heaven?" and you were supposed to be able to answer "yes" if you'd prayed a certain prayer, which I guess contained magic words that automatically inscribed your name on the rolls up yonder. But I was thinking about this question during church on Sunday, and I thought, you know, it's really up to God who gets into heaven and who doesn't. Doesn't it show an awful lot of hubris for us to claim we've done something that has cemented us in heaven?

But I digress. The point here is that I am starting to see that there are a couple of different kinds of Christian, and I believe they are all legitimate. There is the born-again kind, saved from a life of sin by someone who witnesses to her. This Christian is focused on the hereafter, Jesus's death covering her sins (though not necessarily his resurrection, because hey, the work was done on Calvary, right? This is what Dallas Willard calls the "Gospel of Sin Management"). The point is to keep a strong personal relationship with God. You are constantly aware that you are a sinner, and you "sin every day", but you are happy because you know that you are saved by grace, not works, and thus you just have to confess your sins and your slate is clean. Plus, your name is written in the book of life thanks to that magic Jesus prayer. This is pretty much the evangelical church today: made up of people who have made some kind of personal commitment to Christ, believe that is what has saved them, and make it their goal to get other people to make this same sort of personal commitment. The Church, then, is made up of the people who've made this commitment and who are of like mind about it. They gather together based on their common beliefs and exclude or include others based upon each person's personal beliefs.

Another kind of Christian is someone who belongs to a church. That's really a simple way of putting it. But basically it is a person who worships, fellowships, and recites the articles of faith as contained in the Creeds in communion with others. The "others" can be formed geographically, or theologically, or based on worship method. In this community, the faith of the whole is greater in importance than the faith of the one. You are, quite literally, born into this church. As an infant you are accepted into the family of God by baptism, and the Church commits as a whole to bringing you up as one of its own. (of course, there is also adult baptism for those who choose to commit later in life) People are in the body of Christ not based on anything they have done or are currently doing, but because they have chosen to follow Christ's teachings while identifying themselves with a communion of believers. Thus, the articles in the creed are not necessarily believed by each individual to the letter, but the community as a whole can recite it as their belief. Personal prayer and bible readings are based upon texts that are read by the communion as a whole: that is, the prayers are written in a book so that everyone says the same ones, the lectionary provides scripture that everyone is reading at the same time. Again, this is emphasizing the community of faith.

There is a third kind, and this one gives me the most trouble, but my husband brought it up and I think he's convinced me it's legit. That is, a person who believes that Jesus's model of living was the best possible life, and thus commits himself/herself to living in that way, following Jesus's teaching and example. The person need not be part of a faith body. They need not have made a commitment to Jesus Christ by name. They simply follow his teachings. In this category, you have your monastics, your desert fathers, your Gandhi. It's pretty hard to say that most of our saints were not Christians and yet many of them did not associate with a church body. Perhaps you could say they had the personal relationship that is part of the first type, but it's doubtful they ever prayed a prayer that made that commitment. Some of them manifested their love of Christ by loving others, by serving the poor and oppressed, not just by spending time in contemplation and prayer.

This has dragged on a long time and I need to be about the business of life. These are just my initial musings on the topic. I think a lot more will come up. I welcome your comments.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Democrats need Christians more than Christians need Democrats

The Democrats need to start putting Evangelical Christians in their party's ranks. Christians believe the Democrat platform more than the Republican; they have just been brainwashed by the RNC. If Dem's would get over their prejudices about Christians (and there are plenty of prejudices to go around on both sides), and start listening to someone like Jim Wallis or Amy Sullivan or any of the other several bright, Christian Democrats, they could easily sway things.

The fact is something like 90% of this country identifies itself as Christian in one way or another. Many more Christians are moderate than are conservative; they just need guidance. That is, the DNC needs to reach out to them - to recognize that Christians have been at the forefront of most major liberal social change in our country, and respect that, and remind Christians of who they are and their glorious heritage of fighting for justice (and I don't mean in wars) and the dignity of every human being.

After all, it was their teacher Jesus who popularized the whole "love your neighbor as yourself" idea.

People saying it better than me

Check out Jeff Sharlet's very interesting and provacative thoughts on why the election swayed right: http://www.therevealer.org/archives/main_story_001143.php ("Gay Marriage: The GOP Secret Weapon")

Also, Salon had some great reader letters yesterday. I can't retype all the good ones, just go check it out (watch a commercial for a free day pass). I especially liked the electoral haiku.

Finally, I get a daily email meditation from a priest named Barbara Crafton (www.geraniumfarm.org) and here was yesterday's:

Moral Values

Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man's brother dies, having a wife but no children, the man must take the wife and raise up children for his brother. Luke 20:28

"Moral values" was the phrase the exist pollsters used: they asked people who had just voted which issue had most informed their votes. Was it the war? The economy? Jobs? Or was it "moral values." And of the first-time voters who swamped the polling stations, "moral values" was the reason given most often for the vote cast.

It was a phrase at once narrow and vaguely defined. It seemed to confine itself to sexual concerns -- moral concerns were gay marriage and abortion. Oh, and stem cell research, the discussion of which relates to abortion. But the poor, and the war, and fair access to health care -- these were not moral concerns. Neither was the budget deficit. Neither was Social Security. Neither was our relation to other countries and other cultures.

I see. I guess you don't learn everything there is to know about morality in seminary. Or maybe you learn too much.

There is a moral theology of sexuality, a discussion that has been going on for thirty years and more. But there is also a moral discussion of war and peace, of the dignity of human labor -- read the eloquent letters of the assembled Roman Catholic bishops on these subjects: they do often express their views on issues other than sex. Capital punishment is a moral issue, especially for those who claim to value the sanctity of human life. Good Lord.

Stand up. Stand up for morality in all its rich dimensions, for the love of God that soaks every human encounter with the wine of eternity. Don't let small minds shrink the arena of God's mercy and power to fit our prurient interests. It is not fitting. It beggars God's greatness. And puts our own further and further off.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

So much for a young woman's hope...

I am sorry that in my country, people care more for an unborn child than for an 8-year-old who doesn't have health insurance. We care more about the health and rights of the unborn than we do about the health and rights of our children out of the womb.

I am sorry that in my country, people care more about policing the world than keeping enough police on our streets at home.

I am sorry that in my country, people care more about protecting their own wealth than loving their neighbor. People care more about being able to shop for Rolled Back prices than they do about keeping good jobs in their own communities.

I am sorry that in my country, people care more about preventing gay marriage than they care about making sure people have tools that help their marriages survive: financial helps such as daycare, tuition assistance, and yes, even welfare - these things take the stress of money away to a degree and most likely help some families stay together.

I am sorry that in my country, people will let gross injustices stand: tax breaks for the extremely wealthy, no-bid contracts for companies in bed with the government, and even the reconstruction of another nation when our schools and inner cities are falling apart.

I am sorry that in my country, people are so terrified of change that they will do anything to keep things as they are. People are so terrified of the "what if" that they resist any forward motion. People are so terrified of terrorists - people in the midwest which, I'm sorry, the terrorists could care less about - that they will keep in power, and even bring more power to, a government that is sucking them dry.

I am sorry that in my country, people will stick with the party that promises nothing new. People are so afraid of things getting worse (what if gay people got married?! what if we're attacked again?!) that they won't even think about what could be done to improve the status quo. Because the whole country is going to hell in a handbasket, so we better just vote for the guy who won't try anything progressive.

I am sorry that in my country, people care more about being protected than about being lied to.

I am so disappointed. I am disappointed in my country.

This is truly a sad day for America. But at least we know things won't get any worse.


Tuesday, November 02, 2004

In a perfect world...

Seminary students would have their way paid by churches. Not because they make a promise to come work in the church (although that is certainly a goal), but because the Church sees the theological education of its members as a mission to the world, regardless of what they end up doing with it.

I would live right by campus and go to church nearby and walk to everything and get rid of my car. I could be involved in everything I wanted to be at school.

I wouldn't have to work.

I would understand Greek verbs.

There would be more than 2 political parties.

Everyone would listen to good music.

Christmas wouldn't start until December.

Churches wouldn't be territorial, but recognize that their worship style is unique (if it is), and therefore feeds a certain segment of the Christian body. Those who are not speaking the language of a particular church are encouraged to find one where they can groove with God.

There would be more silence and less TV.

Someone would pay for me to study Anglican worship in England.

I would know in advance which classes are going to rock and which will suck and thus can make informed choices instead of guessing.

People would be able to disagree and still be friends. They would be able to agree without being hostile to others.

I would have time to pray and work out.

And blog.

Prayer for Today

Almighty God, to whom we must account for all our powers and privileges: Guide the people of the United States (or, of this community) in the election of officials and representatives; that, by faithful administration and wise laws, the rights of all may be protected and our nation be enabled to fulfill your purposes; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

(thanks to http://www.missionstclare.com/ for the prayer)

And a different sort of prayer: