We’re BAAAAaaaack (Homebrewed CultureCast)

heres johnnyIt’s been a while, but the CultureCast crew is back in action. Jordan, Christian, Amy and Jess the Intern set up and knock down all the stuff that’s been going down in our lives and in the cultural landscape in our absence. Or at least a few things we found compelling enough to distract us from the pretty, shiny things that otherwise occupy us.

Jordan catches us up on what life is life after the passing away of his wife, Mindy. He’s coming to terms with being a single dad, picking up the financial slack and figuring out who he is as an unmarried guy for the first time in a decade or so. And so of course, we respond by giving him big bottles of alcohol.

Thanks to the generosity of the Homebrewed Listeners, we raised enough money to buy Jordan one of the rarest bourbons on the market: a ten-year-old Rip Van Winkle. Thanks to Tripp for gathering the funds, and to Timothy Burnette for providing the bottle, along with a little bonus bottle of Dissident Noel Belgian Ale. Nom nom nom.

We chat up a woman’s article from Mars Hill (the Driscoll one, not the Rob Bell one) about what it means to be a woman today (hint: we don’t agree with her), and Christian is the lone dissenting voice in the debate about geographically-exclusive NFL Playoff ticket sales. No justice, no peace!!!

Finally, we lay out all the best TV and movies you should be checking out right now, as well as some mad props for a new George Jones tribute album you need to get your groove on with.

Oh, and thanks to the Slow Church Conference for being one of our first sponsors on the show! Check out their conference coming up in Indy in early April, and tell ’em the CultureCast sent you. And if you have something you want to promote on the show, hit up Christian with an email to find out how it’s done.

Not All Differences Are The Same

There are two distinct kinds of differences (among many) that show up in my dealings across the religious landscape. The first kind of difference is a seemingly superfluous, ‘icing on the cake’ kind of difference. This is when you share a large majority of opinion or agreement with someone but in the end you diverge and there is some significant application or implication that really provides a contrast.

For instance: you can have a great conversation with someone or a friendship where there is great connection and resonance, but there is something like … they think that communion elements are really sacred, or that a specific translation of the Bible is superior or that one kind of music makes God happier than another.  It’s not a deal breaker, it’s just a difference – not the end of the world.

Then there is another kind of difference – the kind that exposes the root of the problem, that provides a missing key that unlocks the rest of the mystery. Sometimes your hear someone say something and it stops you in your tracks.

You think “Wait! Is that what you’ve been doing this whole time? Is that what is driving these other things we disagree on?”

This kind of a difference is most often exposed when someone takes something you have encountered before – only they take it way too far. It is in the excess (or extreme) that the pattern is exposed and you are suddenly able to see it  in smaller or more subtle way where you have never been able to discern it clearly before.

This has happened to me in the areas of

  • PMS cramps – Maternity Leave (Eve ate the apple)
  • The war in Iraq (angels with flaming swords guarding Eden)
  • Africa’s poverty (Noah cursed his son who then went to Africa)
  • Racism (we have a black President)
  • Global Warming (God promised Noah never to destroy the earth with a natural disaster)

and far too many other examples to list here. I could talk about topics ranging from dinosaur bones planted by the Devil to ‘Manifest Destiny’, from open parking spots at the mall to Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who fulfilling the book of Ezekiel.

Sometimes it takes someone saying something so outrageous or outlandish that you are smacked out of your naive fantasy that we are all basically doing the same thing as Christians – or that Christianity is one thing, even if it is a diverse thing. 

A while ago I wrote a little blog about John Piper and his horse like faith. It got quite a good readership at first and then, as most posts tend to, faded into the shadows of the archive. Recently, however, this post has been getting tons of clicks and sometimes is getting more reads in a day than the new stuff!  So I went back to read ‘Horse Gods’ again to see what might be causing the comeback.

While I was there, I noticed in the comments section, someone had asked me to distinguish my view of God from someone like John Piper or Mark Driscoll. My original response seems more interesting with recent developments:

Actually there is quite a substantial difference. Let me point out just a couple of things to start:

1) I don’t believe that language about God is univocal (a 1:1 equation). SO we begin in humility understanding that all our words, metaphors, and concepts are OUR best attempt.

2) I believe that langue (since it is not univocal) functions relationally. When Jesus uses ‘Father’ language, he is talking about the WAY in which relates to a father. Not that God’s ontological being is Father in an exacting and representative way. It is an expressive use of language. That is the nature of language.

3) The way that Scripture is expressed is historic. I believe that the Bible is Inspired by Holy Spirit. That means that Holy Spirit was at work in the authors and ultimately in those who collected and validated the canon. (I confess this by faith). Those authors were historically situated and particularly located. They expressed their thoughts in their best language in their best frameworks. We see that historical locatedness and account for it when we engage their writings.

4) Whether you call it ‘original sin’ (I don’t) or ‘human nature’ or (my favorite) relational brokeness and conflicting biological impulses … humans have a problem. We are not 100% whole. Something is wrong (we don’t even do the good we WANT to do). That means that in every epoch and era there are things in place that are not perfect. Those show up in scripture – since it is a snap shot of its environment. The Bible is fully human (and I believe fully divine in a Process sense) but it is not ABSENT of humanity. It is full of humanity.

So If you take just those 4 things in contrast to Piper and Driscoll, then my God talk is:
A) In humility not certainty or pushy
B) Relational not static or exacting
C) Historical not trans-historic
D) Human not un-human

That is my starting point. From there I diverge wildly from  those two.



Extremely White Male & Incredibly Homophobic

The news is wild these days! Its almost as if there is a cultural shift underway!
Let me just highlight 4 news stories from the past week:

1) The Pope: Gay marriage threatens humanity’s future

2) Pastor Joel Osteen to Oprah: Homosexuality Is Sin — But Gay People Will Get Into Heaven

3) Rick Santorum: A Straight Dad In Prison Is Better Than Two Gay Dads Who Aren’t

4) Pastor Mark Driscoll’s book on Marriage hits the shelves

It is interesting that all four of these stories have come to my attention in the past week. What most people will focus on is whether there is a Bible verse to back up what they are saying or not.

What needs to be stated before that is two-fold:

  • All four are white males. Somebody may ask “are you implying that their gender or race somehow diminishes their right to speak with authority?” and I would answer “No – I just think that it is worth pointing it out in case later we wanted to examine how people come to power and in what ways authority is constructed, bestowed, or recognized.”
  • When you have the leader of all the world’s catholics, a guy who is renowned for not speaking up about anything or coming down on anyone, a presidential candidate, and one of the most influential evangelical pastors in America saying the same thing… one of a couple of things has to cross your mind.

a) they are all sticking up for the truth or
b) they are all sticking up for an antiquated perspective of the past

The reason that this issue has grabbed my attention is that many are calling it ‘The Last Taboo”. In the past 2 centuries, the issues of race (civil rights) and gender (women’s lib) have advanced to the point the if anyone held an opinion from a century ago about either issue – the people around them would say “what is wrong with you?” or “wake up man, its the 21st century.”

I asked Tony Jones, Lauren Winner and Phyllis Tickle about this issues last year.  Only Phyllis was willing to tackle it.

No matter which side of this thing you are on, it is worth noting that the ‘last taboo’ is predicted to be the worst and most vicious. The problem with the last of anything is that when it is over … it is really over.  We tackled the race issue, we overcame the gender barrier, and now the sexuality issue is front and center.  We can’t go back. This is the last taboo. Once we have dealt with this, there are no more big ones to fall. This is kinda it.* 

I just think that it is worth noting A) who is framing the conversation and B) who is charge of the information and how the process is to be handled.  There might be more going on here than simply the rightness or the wrongness of any given issue or the interpretation of 6 bible verses. 

This will most likely be decided in our lifetime. Denominations will split over it. The future of the faith will be challenged because of it. Like race and gender before it, history will evaluate how we participate in it.  


* somebody might say ‘economics’ or some form of disparity, but that is not really in the same category as it is not inherently value laden .