Monday, June 30, 2008

Kim Phuc on her Conversion

Kim Phuc, the subject of the photograph that came to symbolize the atrocities of the Vietnam war, (I'm not putting the picture on the post but you can find it by clicking here) was recently invited to take part in the NPR "This I Believe" program; a show which ranges across the panoply of american worldviews.

In her few minute testimonial Phuc gives us a typical evangelical conversion narrative including such themes as Jesus Christ being "her personal savior" and extending forgiveness to both the Vietnamese government--who wanted to turn her into a symbol of the state--and the soldiers who dropped the napalm.

To catch the poignancy and power of what God did in her life I recommend listening to it while looking at the picture. To listen click here.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

N.T. Wright Under Fire

N.T. Wright has never been one to evade others' critical reflection. First it was some crispy and caustic reformed Christians with an endless slough of uncharitable jeremiads. Now he's taken heat, on his latest Surprised by Hope, from that wily neo-con priest Fr. Richard Neuhaus (here's the article). Part of the dilemma, I fear, is the nature of Wright's Surprised By Hope which is popular and, therefore, requires simplicfication.

Also, though more comically, Bishop Wright ended up on the Colbert Report. It's clear from the video that Wright, more use to the sermon and lecture, had trouble getting in a word edgewise with Colbert's overbearing persona (find the link here).

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A Commandment and Catechesis

"You shall not covet [...]" (ex 20:17, Deut 5:21)

And here's what the Catechism of the Catholic Church maintains:

Envy is a capital sin. It refers to the sadness at the sight of oneself, even unjustly. When it wishes grace harm to a neighbor it is a mortal sin:

St. Augustine saw envy as "the diabolical sin." "From envy are born hatred, detraction, calumny, joy caused by the misfortune of a neighbor, and displeasure caused by his property. (St. Gregory the Great)

Envy represents a form of sadness and therefore a refusal of chairty; the baptized person whould struggle against it by exercising good will. Envy often comes from pride; the baptized should train himself to live in humility:

Would you like to see God glorified by you? Then rejoice in your brother's progress and you will immediately give glory to God. Because his servant could conquer envy by rejoicing in the merits of others, God will be praised. (St. John Chrysostom)

It has a lot more to say about the tenth commandment but I found the Augustinian roots of this section particularly scintillating. How challenging and refreshing to be told that inordinate desire, and/or consumption, is a form of sadness.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Another Post on a Urgent yet Pedestrian Topic

So there was a post I found helpful on the topic a few posts down (should Gospel proclamation take priority in the Missio Dei?). I'd recommend a perusal. Check out this blog for the post.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

This American Life

What do Joshua Harris, Ira Glass and the Catechism of the Catholic Church have in common? The answer: last weeks This American Life. It was a show on the Ten Commandments, and it's worth listening to.

Saturday, June 14, 2008


So after much ado I'm recanting the previous post. If you haven't perused it, please do, then offer your thoughts.

Something that kept bugging me was what it would look like in practice. If the Missio Dei involves the integration of evangelism and social action, as Luke 4 seems to attest, then it seems silly--as I now believe--to methodologically privilege either evangelism or social action. It would require my theory to be different from my practice--often a troublesome sign.

However, I think I had some valid concerns firing my original argument. My main worry is that young evangelicals are beginning to throw the proverbial baby out with the evangelical bath water. In the public sphere it is much more popular to be pro-social action than it is to be evangelically pro-Christ. I'm not saying the two aren't compatible. Instead, I'm saying that you can give all you have to the oppressed while forgetting to give all of who you are to Christ. I worry that young emergent types forget the great commission and therefore concede to the subtle hegemonic un-evangelism of western secularism. The call of Christ is towards mission, evangelism and social action.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

By the Renewing of Your Minds

A while ago I had a conversation with a few friends about whether evangelism should hold the primary place in Christian mission. To my friends jeers I played the outspoken contrarian by maintaining that evangelism (Gospel proclamation) should hold a primary place in Christian mission.

My argument was that it is specifically the Gospel that transforms hearts and provides a narrative identity (worldview) for action. I was basically holding to a hierarchy within Christian mission, caring for creation, justice ministries need to be done with and alongside evangelism but we should not expect creation care and justice ministries to develop strong roots unless they are preceded by renewed hearts (Rom. 12:2). It is the Christian identity of Philemon that allows Paul to exhort him to call his former slave Onesimus a brother. Perhaps I'm a bit of a sluggard but it seems that true orthopraxy flows from orthodoxy. I realize this isn't popular especially with some aspects of liberation theology, but, alas, it seems biblical. Again, justice and creation care are inextricably bound to evangelism (Luke 4) but it seems that the biblical witness demonstrates their instability apart from the redeemed person. It was because of the Gospel that Philemon welcomed Onesimus as a brother; it was because of Gospel proclamation that Onesimus became a bishop and a martyr of the early church.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Contractuality and Marriage

I usually don't wax political here, partly because I feel like I don't have the tools to do so. However, after a few good conversations I feel a little 'tooled up.'

Many folks have noted the current 'contract' nature of contemporary married life, and how it differs from the biblical idea of covenant. Covenant, in biblical perspective, is fundamentally personal--that is it's a commitment to a person. Contract, contrastingly, is a commitment to an understood agreement, it has more to do with imagined rights--if a person does not fulfill the agreement then the other can repeal the contract. Contract cannot help but to wax utilitarian as it rests on the assumption that a husband or wife will produce results fitting certain expectations. Covenant, lives with the other--husband or wife "in sickness and in health," and remembering YHWH and Israel covenant even lasts through sin, covenant is consequentially anti-utilitarian.

For a while now the language of "partner" has been employed by all (left and right) as an apt description the married other. Partner language has, seemingly, provided an opportunity to understand marriage in more egalitarian terms, partners working together in similar tasks. Whatever the benefits of partner language, and for many it is interchangeable with husband and wife, it seems to provide more contractual language for marriages. After all one of the meanings of partner comes from the business sphere, as in "business partners" and has strong contractual roots. Another sign of the codification of contractuality can be seen in the the recent advances for same-sex couples, albeit as a byproduct. The new marriage licenses don't say "bride" and "groom" but rather "party A" and "party B."

There is of course a dialectical relationship between language and action, but these are signs that the contractuality of marriage is becoming publicly codified.