Big Tent Sexuality with Brian Ammons & Richard Rohr

At the first two Big Tent Christianity events Brian Ammons became the attendee favorite!  On top of being a Duke professor, progressive Baptist church planter, blogger, and tweeter, Brian is a wonderful friend I am pumped to play a part in getting his voice out and about.  Here Brian drops a guide to a Big Tent Sexuality that is post-gay. (Judith Butler would have been very pleased with this pitching of the sexual Big Tent.) After he gets crazy awesome Richard Rohr follows it up with a contribution to the conversation with a little post-Flesh VS Spirit binary.

Ohh I got one more Brian Ammons surprise for you soon….. a chapter that was banned from appearing in the Baptimergent book which did include my very straight chapter.

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Coffee House Theology with Ed Cyzewski: Homebrewed Christianity ep.32

Ed Cyzewski joins us this week on the HBC podcast, fresh off his whirlwind blog tour for his newest book ‘Coffee House Theology: Reflecting on God in Everyday Life.’  I blogged about the book previously, so I will just say that Ed keeps getting cooler in my mind and this interview was tons of fun, SO much fun I had to edit about an hour and a half of it out. As you will hear in the interview, Ed and I are far apart from each other along traditional baptist dividing lines, yet we had a passionate and engaging conversation about theology, mission, and his book.  I am very grateful to have talked with Ed and am glad to have him as a Baptimergent friend. I hope you enjoy the conversation.

I would also like to thank baptimergent Dave from South Carolina for giving the HBC podcast a super shout out. Keep on brother. We appreciate feedback from our listeners, even if you deduct a star from our rating on itunes because we do not always use complete sentences. Thanks for caring enough to listen and respond. Brew On!

Other Blog Reviews: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16,17,18

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The ‘gay-friendly’ Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and the Associated Press

I am not in North Carolina any more, nor am I even working at a Baptist church, but I am pretty sure I am as much of a North Carolinian and Baptist as ever.  Of late, the yet-to-be-fully-separated Baptist State Convention of North Carolina has set in place the last measure to force the churches that support the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship out.  For non-baptists this means the very conservative SBC churches within NC are going to eliminate the means by which more moderate (and often just mildly conservative) churches can join other baptists in serving the state together.  The state convention spent money on things such as orphanages, disaster relief, and college scholarships for in-state students to baptist schools.  I always assumed it would eventually happen and personally I think the fundamentalists’ thieving procuring of the national and state infrastructure may turn out to be a fight for a millstone too heavy to carry for postmodern ministry.  For this reason I am glad that the Cooperative Baptist is a Fellowship.

Any way, at the recent NC State Convention where the measure was passed the AP decided to do some great reporting and once again demonstrated major media outlets inability to discuss religion sensibly. Since the actual story did a horrible job explaining the events and articulating the position of CBF, I thought I would assist the AP and give them some questions to think about next time. [Read more…]

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Caffeinated God-Talk for Everyone

Ed Cyzewski is not only cool because he is a Baptimergent, but he has done something many people will benefit from, namely he wrote a great book for a wide audience. His new book ‘Coffeehouse Theology: Reflecting on God in Everyday Life’ is actually readable for people without graduate degrees in theology.  Now, I know that isn’t hard to believe for your average book in the Christian book section at Borders, but for one that is packed full of good content, inspiring moments, and actual faith-filled passion, it is.  Ed’s book is a work in contextual theology for evangelicals interested in a conversation about theology that broadens and deepens the landscape of the evangelical community.  Outside of laying out a clear exposition of contextual theology and equipping the reader to turn on their own theological imagination, the book addresses two areas from a unique perspective.  As many theologically interested people know we are in the middle of a Trinitarian revival of sorts and Ed not only joins the revival but talks intelligibly about the Trinity (as in your friend who keeps rolling their eyes when you bring it up could understand it as a substantive and positive contribution to theology).  He does this by developing a rich missional approach to theology and examining how it is informed by God’s own nature.  Ed’s missional focus is on the forefront throughout the book as he discusses other topics like scripture or culture.  I just finished the book and know a number of people who would enjoy it, so check it out.  If you have read the book, are interested in missional thinking or contextual theology, or wonder just what kind of coffee Ed drinks when he is talking theology, send me your question and I will be sure to ask it when I interview him for Homebrewed Christianity next week.

Other Blog Reviews: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14

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A Refreshing Debate…Brian McLaren and Richard Land


I think this might be the most refreshing political discussion with religious leaders in a long time.

Richard Land says, ‘Conservatives too often think God is on their side….doing so is idolatry….Liberals too often think God doesn’t have a side.’

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Brian McLaren is “Serpent-Sensitive?”

Russell Moore, a president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, came up with a spicy bit of slander when he called Brian Mclaren ‘serpent-sensitive.’   The Baptist Press has an article on this gem of an observation that you can read.  When I read it this is what I thought.

Russell Moore Thought:

1. Brian McLaren is a close to being an Anabaptist.

2. Brian sees violence as contrary to the Gospel of Jesus Christ (hardly a new or radical idea for a Christian in any era and especially a  member of the Free Church, but I don’t know how free the Southern Baptists are.)

3. Brian wants an understanding of eschatology without divine violence and coercion so it coheres with his understanding of the message, cross, and resurrection of Jesus. (We talk about it during the podcast)

THEREFORE:  Brian McLaren is ‘Serpent-Sensitive’ because he is showing ‘hostility to the most basic aspects of the Gospel message.’

Then he has asks Willow Creek a good question, why would you invite Brian to speak when you are part of a movement that desires to reach seekers?

Here’s my response:  Brian does a great job communicating the message of Jesus and the church’s message about Jesus so that they are connected and serve as an invitation to follow God in Christ.  Willow Creek recognizes that there  thousands of people who take their faith seriously, have growing relationships with God in Christ, and are seeking to participate with God who is at work in the world because of the conversation Brian is a part of and for many because of his books and speaking.

Moore on the other hand, cannot see how a Christian could legitimately think that God could be as loving and as compassionate as Jesus or that God might even love all God’s enemies or that God’s eschatological triumph will come through the same method as the self-revelation of God in the incarnation of God, namely self-giving love.

I know it is important for certain Christians to preserve the idea that God can only be God if a bunch of people get thrown in hell and that after Jesus raptures his friends off the planet God opens up a can whoopin’ on all the sinners who are left in God’s angry hands, BUT can’t y’all just say that those of us who believe the hands of God are eternally loving and bear the marks that demonstrate the end of coercive violence and God’s refusal to do so a break.  Maybe we are theologically deformed and get too excited and over-emphasize when Jesus preaches about a non-violent reign of God that is present and coming, BUT can we please just be deformed Christians who took the Sermon on the Mount literally and not ‘Serpent-Sensitive?’

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The Driscoll Train and The Invite Person or Dude

Steve Knight posted a giant summary of the responses to Driscoll rolling around the internet. Also a little FYI, The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina has canceled their invite of Doug Pagitt to an event later this month. Outside of not being surprised, thinking they are still going the way of the buffalo, and desiring to avoid using bad language I want to say something to whomever initially invited Doug. I am glad you are still in the NCBSC. I am also glad you thought about trying to get new voices in. I am sorry your attempt failed because Driscoll called out your invite of his heretic friend, who is probably out a couple thousand for the canceled speaking engagement, during his guest lecture at SEBTS. I am glad that you are there invite dude. If you are down right now remember the ‘p’ of tulip and keep on chooglin. (p=perseverance of the saints)

UPDATE: here is a great post by Tony Cartledge that explains what happens. also, steve knight was right the invite person was apparently Chad Hall and he is no longer a NCBSC employee……

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Rauuuuuschenbusch!!!

I am participating in a Blog-o-riot based on Walter Rauschenbusch’s classic Christianity and the Social Crisis. Being its 100th anniversary, my love for Walter, and his sweet Baptist skills I hope you go take a look at the series over at the Pop Theology website.

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Emerging Fear and the SBC

How do you draw more attention to the emerging movement? Like This. If you say blanket statements like the emerging church is ‘one of the most dangerous and deceptive movements to infiltrate the ranks of Southern Baptist life,’ you could think that might be an overstatement of fearful dread over the unknown, but I think not. The SBC should fear the emerging movement, because emergent types do two things that can ruin the SBC. 1-Talk 2-Think And they do these at the same time. What happens when these two powerful forces join hands, thinking and talking, you realize you don’t need to continue to be subject to the fear mongering of modernity in its worst form. Hell is the religious fear-bearing motivation and Islamo-fascism is the political form. (Well there are more like French atheists, homosexuals and liberals.) So I agree with Roger Moran, the SBC should fear the Emerging movement. Moran is not moron, just observant. Well I would say those baptists who were exiled from the convention with emerging leanings don’t want the bureaucracy back. Keep all you stole or won. I think the baptist Fall or Ascension in 79 may have been the best thing that could have happened for real baptists (other than the bitterness part). Power corrupts and convention power corrupts the gospel into conventional fluff.

Bill Leonard makes a good observation, ‘The Southern Baptist Convention is growing increasingly terrified that they’ve spent all this time recreating the denomination in this (conservative) image, and now nobody cares,’ he said. ‘Young seminarians are challenging them on issues and saying, ‘Your vision of reality is not ours.” OH how I hope this is true.

[an aside] I know the SBC is the Southern Baptist Convention, but I decided sometime in high school always to use SBC instead. I think it parallels Kentucky Fried Chicken’s switch to KFC because they had genetically altered their chicken so much they couldn’t keep it in the name. I bet the KFC story is an urban legend, but I think it works well with the SBC.

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Friendship as Missional Foundationalism Pt 3

‘Zacchaeus stopped there and said to the Lord, ‘Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.’
Luke 19:8-10

salvation\the movement of God in the context of friendship
Zacchaeus responded quickly to Jesus’ proclamation of belonging and despite the protest of the holy grumble Jesus came as a guest and friend to the table of Zacchaeus. There is some space here in the story. We do not know what the decision of the grumblers was. Did they stay outside in the holy huddle even though Jesus would be leaving them behind, did they stomach becoming a guest of Zacchaeus’ too, or maybe they even realized what was going on and stayed in the company of Jesus by participating in the friendship of the God Movement. While we do not know what happened with that particular crowd, it would not be far fetched to imagine their response was as varied as our own today. Yet these verses are no longer focusing on the conflict between the crowd’s vision of Zacchaeus and that of Jesus’, but instead the transformation of Zacchaeus as a new friend of God.
The text emphasizes the radical and quick response of Zacchaeus to his new found circle of friends. The divine initiative and proclamation of belonging shakes Zacchaeus to his core. Before they even make it to his home he stops and voluntarily offers half of his possessions to the poor and promises to make four-fold restitution to all he defrauded. Surely this was good news for those grumbling minutes before. Those to whom Jesus most identified with and called blessed, the poor, hungry, and weeping, were frustrated by Jesus’ movement towards the exemplar sinner and recipient of prophetic woes – the rich, full, and happy. What occasioned this radical transformation is the embrace of God through the person of Jesus. Zacchaeus as rich, tax-collecting, poor exploiting, empire supporting, sinner was embraced into the friendship of God. In response to his new friendship and not prior to it, Zacchaeus repents in the fullest measure. The teachings of Jesus never fare well for the rich and Zacchaeus and Levi are the only ones who respond favorably. Why would friendship with God be so difficult that it would be easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God? This is not only a perplexing question, but one the affluent church of the first world should attentively listen to. The response of Zacchaeus is revealing, because moments after entering the friendship of Jesus he entered into friendship with the people of Jesus. The overwhelming majority of Jesus’ people were the poor, oppressed, and marginalized. Jesus’ preferential option for the poor creates a dilemma for the rich and this dilemma is one of friendship and not obligation. Obligation is not a category of friendship, because friends are attentive to the situation of each other and respond out of love for the other. When Zacchaeus entered the belonging friendship of God he was now attentive to the situation of his new friends. They were no longer people to be exploited and bled for his own gain, but people he was now going to live with in the presence of Jesus. The repentance of Zacchaeus was not first to God, but the people of God – the friends of God. In the context of these relationships the sin of Zacchaeus is revealed as social and not simply private and individual. The salvation Jesus identified and proclaimed was then as social as the sin. The gospel is social, more social than sin because in the consummation of the God Movement creation will find its intended identity in the friendship of God.
The condemnation of the injustice practiced by Zacchaeus comes when his oppressed Other is no longer dehumanized. In the presence of Jesus they too are given names, identities, and the God given value of life is made known. The dichotomy of oppressed and oppressor is over come in the bounds of friendship in God. The evangelization of the power wielders is a liberating one, but not in a detached way. Friendship as the foundational context of the gospel helps Zacchaeus and his contemporaries in every age realize that “only by participating in [the marginalized] struggles can we understand the implications of the gospel message and make it have an impact” in our relationships with them. Those who enter into the friendship of God “do with their own resources what God has been doing with God’s, that is, [empowering] those who are powerless.” It is important then to notice, as members of the contemporary church of Zacchaeus, the nature of his response which is two fold. His first response is to shed his abundance. In light of his new friends struggling to have their own necessities met Zacchaeus rids himself of his gluttony of mammon and simply gives half of his possessions to the poor. The realization in the context of friendship is that much of his impressive pile of stuff was in fact not his own. In response he gives half of his possessions to the dispossessed around him because he was no longer going to be possessed by his possessions or continue to perpetuate the lie that he in fact had the right to wealth while his friends struggled for necessities. What this first act is not is charity. This act was not detached from his inclusion into the friendship of Jesus and Jesus’ ensuing pronouncement of salvation. It is only in the context of friendship and repentance that the God movement “becomes Good News for Zacchaeus and salvation enters his house.” When one on the take from Rome became friends with Jesus, when he experienced the presence of the God Movement in real relationship, he recognized his sin and did more than give charity. He repented for having extorted what was not properly his. When the wealthy and powerful enter the God Movement they see a friend in need as a call to confession for having taken more than their share and justified their thievery by adopting the dehumanizing world view of Empire – here Rome. The lesson learned is simple, “the ultimate evil of riches is relational: the oppression of the poor.”
The second voluntary act of Zacchaeus is even more telling if our comfort and imperial hermeneutic led us to interpret the first as simple charity. Here Zacchaeus promises to make a fourfold restitution if he has cheated anyone. The ’if’ here is conditional only in the sense that specific acts of extortion will come to light as he lives in relationship to his new friends. What he is committing himself to is the most stringent demands given in Torah for stealing. The conditional form of his statement is connected to having never seriously thought of life otherwise. In the past, like many of us privileged people, he did not think twice from reaping the benefits of a system that culturally marginalizes, economically exploits, and politically oppresses a majority of the human population. Since it was his job and he broke no laws he was not stealing, but playing fair by the rules making all his wealth his own earnings. After entering the friendship of God this previous determinative reality is revealed as an idolatrous interpretive reality whose God is mammon. The rich are those left to chose who they will serve, for you cannot serve both God and mammon. When Zacchaeus says ‘if’ he is in effect admitting he does not know what it would look like to give himself to the God Movement and live in the loving mutuality of friendship with those who now have a name. At first glance he knows it requires a shedding of wealth, but immediately after that realizes that as he comes to be shaped more fully by his new relationships he may, and more than likely will, realize he has extorted someone. If he
discovers this while living his life with the marginalized he will repay them fourfold. Zacchaeus has publicly committed himself to the God Movement and is in the process of being shaped by its vision or better yet, he is being converted. Today in the 21st century the affluent first world church also needs friendships that bring relational accountability “to those who are forced to provide us with “the good life” at their expense,” because abstract ethics are not only contrary to the nature of friendship, but easily manipulated. Manipulation is contrary to true friendship, for in friendship there is an unforsakable solidarity funded by the love of God. The ‘if’ of Zacchaeus is a commitment not to defend his privilege, he will not blunt the gospel to a spiritual language with no consequence in the world he and his friends live in. The repentance and new found stance of Zacchaeus “leads to a redistributive form of justice in which those defrauded by an exploitive system are repaid fourfold…The restoration of kinship status involves repentance, and repentance involves redistributing what has been taken falsely.” Zacchaeus took on a new interpretive frame work, the God Movement. In the framework of human empire, “the rich are all the people who live with tightly clenched hands. They are neither dependant on others nor open for others. The rich can only be helped when they recognize their own poverty and enter into fellowship with the poor.” Zacchaeus made this transition and joined the Movement. At this point, and not earlier, does Jesus say “today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.’
What does salvation mean here? It is clearly contextual, social, and a far cry from the individualist gospel present in church today. It does not promise security or prosperity in any worldly fashion and is decidedly obtuse and backwards to the logic of success and empire. The salvation of Zacchaeus is multifaceted and cannot be limited to a question of eternal destination. When Zacchaeus joined the God movement he claimed his identity as a son of Abraham, he came to be identified by his blessing of others. Zacchaeus’ blessing of others is not in his giving of material wealth and restitution, that was part of his relational repentance, his blessing of others comes in the reorganization of his life and relationships to no longer be a slave of mammon, but a friend of God. He will bless others by living for the common good of his friends and not preserving the good life for himself.
Just before arriving to Jericho and healing the blind man Jesus was asked a question that assumed a very impoverished view of salvation, one that we will see is foreign to the gospel. A rich ruler asks ‘What must I do to inherit eternal life?’ It is no surprise that the rich ruler wants to discuss eternal destiny with economic terms of inheritance, because he envisions salvation as a possession given by God to individuals. The poor experience inheritance as the preservation of the oppressive system which ensures longevity to the gains of the wealthy. Jesus then asks him if he knows the commandments related to inter-human relationships – “you shall not commit adultery; you shall not murder; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; honor your father and mother.” All these inter-human commandments the rich ruler reports to have kept since he was young, but Jesus knows that there is still one thing a miss so Jesus says, “Sell all that you own and distribute the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” Jesus was not using hyperbole to point out some spiritual struggle between his wealth and belonging to God, it was clearly physical. The commandments Jesus listed, and he did know them all, were those centered on human relationships. He then says one thing is lacking. The rich ruler thought of these categories in very individualistic terms and missed the point, just as he did when he started the conversation about eternal destiny. Sure he had not personally broke the law and stole from the poor directly, but this is not keeping the commandment of God not to steal. As we have seen in the salvation story of Zacchaeus the relational notion of theft only becomes clear to the rich when they are friends with the oppressed. In order to both answer the Rich Ruler’s question and not compromise the integrity of the God Movement, Jesus is left to offer him what he needed but could not fathom due to his love of stolen wealth. The Rich Ruler was after one thing only, confirmation of his current life style’s compatibility with an eternal inheritance. Outside of joining the friendship of God, Jesus could not give him what he wanted; a neutered gospel of confirmation that keeps the affluent happy, healthy, and heaven bound without one having to every enter into the friendship of God which will transform all who dare to enter. The Rich Ruler however does understand Jesus, since on hearing this he was sad because he was rich. We do not know what happens to this Rich Ruler, he may have responded later in life. We know the friendship of God is as near as the marginalized and the offer is always open.
In response to this direct confrontation with wealth the disciples ask just who then can be saved to which Jesus replies, “What is impossible for mortals is possible for God.” This question was more than a question of the salvation of the wealthy but of anyone. Jesus’ answer leads us back to where we started, friendship with God. Salvation is impossible for mortals, but for God it is friendship. Salvation for one and all is then joining the movement of God in friendship. This truth will surely revolutionize our theology, but more than that our mission. As the church most akin to Zacchaeus we must refuse to describe friendship as something that can be had without the inclusion of our Two-Thirds world sisters, brothers, and enemies. We must take the advice of Martin Luther King seriously who said that “we will either live together as sisters and brothers or perish together as fools.” How would our relationships change with the marginalized should be become friends and realize that they are the global majority who live in poverty and we are the affluent global minority? We must also refuse to be ministers who preach a sermon that leaves Zacchaeus in a tree and the Rich Ruler happy. If we are to be a Jesus’ church, then we will share in the mission of Jesus and preach the message of Jesus. At the foundation of the God Movement which we hope to be a part of is friendship. Friendship is the only foundationalism that can support the Good News, because friendship is the only relational structure that can begin with love for the Other in every varied form.

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