Few performances I’ve ever seen have been as palpably passionate as Arcade Fire’s performance of Intervention on Saturday Night Live in 2007.
You can visibly see the intensity on Win Butler’s face. Neon Bible is an album swirling with references to religion, corruption, family, darkness, and light. Who among us doesn’t brim with emotion as we wrestle with these ideas?
Stick around until the end to see Win smash the guitar and in a visceral way release the emotions we keep inside of us all the time.
May we all ‘smash our guitars.’
A couple weeks ago with students at the American Church in Paris we looked at the endless ways that God speaks to us through culture, from music to film to the visual arts.
One thing culture does it help us to see the pulse of society. The things that people are wrestling with. I’m not talking about your contemporary christian music (some of it is okay, but most of it is merely mimicking the wider culture, which is at best not very creative, at worst capitalistic) but about the vulnerable words of people hurting, hoping, anxious, and loving. Continue reading
The past few weeks I’ve begun to fall in love once more with Father Richard Rohr. If you’re unfamiliar with his work do a quick search on Google and you’ll find lots to digest.
Lately, the Enneagram has been popping up with more frequency into discussions I have been having with people. I’m excited to dig into his book on the topic from 2001, The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective. Rohr has been a champion and evangelist of the ways that Christian spirituality can benefit from the Enneagram, but Rohr is also known for his work with contemplative habits and patterns.
Here he addresses what I believe to be one of the central questions the Church must face head on in the years to come – how to read the Bible.
It’s a Wednesday afternoon and I’m sitting in a coffee shop in Paris called Craft (www.cafe–craft.com). It’s a nice little space with minimalist design and plenty of outlets for all our gadgets. Around me are about a dozen or so people who are doing the same thing. They’re on their laptops, mostly MacBooks because duh, and they’re sipping on some single origin coffee which they have received in a repurposed scientific beaker, now more known for pour over coffee containers than actual scientific experimentation.
Some have headphones in their ears listening to whichever streaming service they fancy. I prefer Spotify, but in France it’s mostly Deezer. Others, like the group of six people next to me are using this place as a coworking space. They are working. And still others are here with a friend, a partner, a colleague, to share some caffeine and conversation.
Later this evening I will make my way over to one of my favorite breweries in Paris, Paname Brewing Company (www.panamebrewingcompany.com/en). Truth be told there are not many. Paris is still working on it’s craft beer scene, but it’s coming! I’m going to meet a friend of mine for a different type of libation, but surely good conversation. And all around me, just like every evening in pubs all around the world people will gather together to unwind.
Welcome to the “third place.” Continue reading
I’m endlessly fascinated by the ways that our devices shape us in ways that we often do not notice. I do not claim to be immune to this phenomenon. I say this as someone who feels the lure of technology. I have an iPhone. I’m typing on a MacBook Pro. I use a myriad of social media platforms. Most of us can agree that technology is a gift and I suspect most of us are now slowly realizing the shadow side of our technologies as well.
Shane Hipps writes in his book Flickering Pixels: How Technology Shapes Your Faith,
“Every day we are entranced by a mosaic of flickering pixels. These little dots of light are practically invisible so minuscule that we often ignore them.
Never the less they change us.
These pixels compose the screens of life, from televisions to smart phones to computers. These screens regardless of their content, change our brains, alter our lives, and shape our faith, all without our permission or knowledge.” Continue reading
Living in Paris has introduced me to the joy of good cheese. The French are proud of their cheese (as they are of their wine and of course their haute couture). And really they should be. It’s damn good. I’ve particularly fallen in love with a cheese called camembert, which I did not know existed until moving to France in August 2015. I’ve mourned the fact that I’ve missed out on this pleasure for most of my life. It’s a soft and creamy cow’s milk cheese first made, you guessed it, at Camembert, Normandy in the north of France.
But what you really need to know is that it is as delicious as it is smelly. Which makes it hard to gauge when it has run it’s course and needs to be thrown out. Though I can’t imagine a scenario when I wouldn’t eat it before this happens. Because that’s what you do when you are a bachelor responsible for feeding yourself. You smell things… because things typically smell bad when they are no longer good for human consumption.
Cheese might be a confusing example, but we do this all the time with food. We test it. Does it smell right? Does it look right? And finally, if you’re brave enough, does it taste okay? These tests gives us clues to whether something is potentially harmful to us. Maybe it works this way with theology as well. Yes, I went there.
Lately, I’ve been reading Tony Jones’ book, Did God Kill Jesus?, tackling the Christian doctrine of atonement and looking for new alternatives. Near the beginning of the book Tony describes his own smell test when it comes to our theology. And for Tony it really matters what your theological positions are aside from personal conviction.
“That may seem an odd way to measure a faith system. We are used to matters being true or false, right or wrong, not beautiful or ugly, sweet or sour. most prefer a more forensic approach: she who has the most logical doctrine wins. But… many religious systems that are perfectly logical are nevertheless downright ugly. They’re bad for the world and bad for people. In other words, you can devise a system of doctrine that makes perfect sense within its own little self-inscribed world, but when you take it out into the broader marketplace of ideas, it spoils, like dropping a teaspoon of vinegar into a gallon of milk.”
The more I’ve thought about the theological smell test, the more I’ve resonated with it. Jones reminds us that “Bad theology begets ugly Christianity. Good Theology begets beautiful Christianity.”
As you think about what you believe about God, Jesus, sin, or any number of things ask yourself if what you believe is shaping your behavior and your relationship to others in positive or negative ways?
Because, as Jones writes, “it doesn’t matter how logically airtight some doctrinal system is if it results in an army of jerks.”
If you tend to see God as wrathful, bound primarily by supreme laws of justice, then chances are your life will model this. Think of Westboro Baptist Church. We use them often as a case study for religion gone awry, but think about their message. God is angry, God is full of wrath against sin, and God wants the world to know it. They delight in their message, which the rest of us, including most Christians, see simply as hate. But their theology comes from the same pages that all Christians read.
Bad theology begets ugly Christianity. I would say that “God hates fags” is bad theology and doesn’t pass the smell test.
Next time you come across a group of people attached to a particular theology or doctrine, notice what kind of fruit it produces. Does it breed love? Does it breed compassion? Would it mesh with the kind of life that Jesus lived and taught others to live? If it doesn’t pass the smell test, it’s time to think of better alternatives more akin to character of God exemplified in Jesus who as Paul describes in Colossians is, “the image of the invisible God.”
So many people don’t bother too much with theology, thinking it is the job of the pastors and leaders in their church to decide and share with the congregation. I think that’s a shame. It matters what you believe because what you believe shapes you.
The question is how? Will your theology propel you towards love or legalism?