Is Shane’s Sail Analogy A Good One?


Earlier today we put out a fantastic interview with Shane Hipps about the new book “Selling Water By The River”.Selling Shane

The interview is pretty fascinating and after about a half hour Shane and Tripp move on to talk about spiral dynamics, pastoral leadership and the difference between a menu and a meal. It will be a good listen.

That is not my concern today.

In the promo video for the book, Hipps uses an analogy of the wind & the sail. Watch the video here.

He says that it is a one way relationship. That a sail without the wind is just a limp flag. But the wind without a sail is still the wind.

I’m not sure about this analogy. Before I say why, I wanted to see what ya’all thought.

Is Shane’s sail analogy a good one? Watch the video and let me know what you think.

Kony 2012 and Apple’s Mr. Daisy

There were two stories in the news last week that fascinated me as I watched them unravel. The first was the meteoric rise of the viral 30 minute video Kony 2012 that took over Twitter, Facebook and Youtube. The second story was an NPR radio episode of This American Life about working conditions in the Apple factories in China. The story centered around a play/monologue by Mr. Daisy about his trip to China to investigate the matter. Over 1 million people had downloaded that NPR podcast – by far an all time record.

Both stories turned tragic last week. Invisible Children, the group responsible for Kony 2012, came under heavy criticism. It turns out that the conflict as it was presented was not all that accurate – It had been accurate in the early 2000s but after 2004 no longer represented the true affairs of the country and Joseph Kony himself had left Uganda and migrated to a neighboring country.

People accused the film’s star Jason Russell  and his Invisible Children crew of knowingly misleading people and falsifying content in order to elicit a greater emotional response.

The Apple story went down a similar road for Mr. Daisy. It turns out that he had taken some artistic license in presenting his one-man-show and that not everything he claims would qualify as ‘journalistic standard’ of truthfulness. For instance, while he was in China for that week, he saw a news story about some factory workers in another province suffering horrible effects from a chemical. He never went to that province nor talked to those workers but just imported that story and connected it to his subject. The result was that this one factory seemed to be layers and layers of horrific working conditions – but in reality what was presented was an amalgamation of many factories in several provinces.

In the follow-up  interviews this weekend Mr. Daisy said that he took license with the facts because he wanted people to care about this. He knew that the conditions were bad and so orchestrated the story to draw a response.

 These two stories, taken together, point to a series of issues that are relevant to the church and her theology.


The first issue is complacency. Both of these ‘presenters’ knew that some tweaks and modifications needed to made in order to overcome our collective complacency. We see  so much bad, that unless something is really bad – it just doesn’t register. We are so overwhelmed with images, adverts, messages and pleas that unless something is sensational or horrific, we have evolved mechanisms and filters to catch it and screen it out.  The result is that we become complicit in maintaining the status-quo and passive participants in the system, structures and institutions that comprise the ‘Powers the Be’ that Paul reference in Ephesians 6.


The second issue is Paternalism. At some point white people from the West are going to have to stop thinking that the solution to what ails Africa or Asia is us coming over and fixing it.  Now, I applaud the generous heart behind both Invisible Children and Mr. Daisy but until we repent of our Colonial impulse and step away from that model of missions, we are going to continue to run into problems and run over the very folks we purport to be helping.

  • We want to help – that is great.
  • We do it in our way – and that is hurtful.

There is no doubt that in global system of international trade and foreign policy that the church must come to terms with our inter-connectivity and inter-relatedness in a way that transcends outdated clichés and antiquated platitudes of centuries past. We live in an evolving world that is experiencing exponential and radical change.

I love that good folks want to care about that and not just go shopping to bury their head in the sand. BUT until we repent of our ongoing paternalism and acknowledge the devastating effects of our colonial missions we will continue to replicate the harm and multiply the devastation.

As Christians, do we need to think through and address our participation in the global market and international structures that dominate our contemporary economy? Yes.

If, however, we do not first repent of our Colonial missions mentality, we will continue  the pattern of paternalism and Imperial impulse that has created these very situations we want to address. 


p.s. I know about Jason Russell’s arrest episode this weekend but did not want to distract from the bigger issue. 


Why I hate religion but love Jesus & the missing ingredient

Jeff Bethke has created quite a stir with his YouTube video that begins “Jesus came to abolish religion.”  Many video responses have followed (including a Muslim response) and  some bloggers have meticulously  attacked the logic behind his poem point-by-pointThis past week he was in Time magazine.

This whole controversy gets to me at two deep levels:

  •  I used to say those things. Just 4 short years ago I was an evangelical church-planter who regularly contrasted Jesus’ message to ‘religion’.
  •  I am shocked at how dismissive so many educated and/or mainline folks are being to Bethke’s poem.

I have heard many people just brush aside his use of ‘religion’ as ignorant, immature, stupid, uneducated, silly, shallow, un-historic, and false. The thing that I want to yell is

“YOU FOOLS – like it or not, that is how people use the word religion in our culture.”

If you asked A) people under 40 and B) evangelicals to define religion you would get a picture that is almost identical to Bethke’s .

I now hang out with mainline folks and people who read books on theology. They are  quick to say

  • that shows a poor understanding of religion
  • that is a silly/stupid/shallow definition of religion
  • that shows little historical perspective on the role that religion has played

Like it or not – this is the definition that many young people are using for religion. When they say (increasingly) that they are spiritual-but-not-religious , this is what they mean.

I am pursuing a PhD in the field of Practical Theology for the very reason that I want to engage how people live out their faith – practice it – in particular communities. The two things that I am willing to concede up front are that

  • Many North American Christians and most Evangelicals utilize simple dualism (Physical v. Spiritual, Natural v. Supernatural, Temporal v. Eternal, Secular v. Sacred, Old v. New Testament, Law v. Grace). This is how they think.
  • Religion is conceptualized as the man-made structures that attempt to facilitate, replicate, and falsely imitate the real thing that God does/wants-to-do in the world.

It is popular to say in these circles “Religion is man’s attempt to connect with God. Jesus is God’s attempt to connect with man.” *

I know that there are many good attempts to connect with religious tradition. I have heard many addresses regarding the root of the word religion and how the ‘lig’ is the same as ligament or ‘binding’ and how it is an attempt to bind us together – not to have us bound up in rules! My question is this: Are you willing to engage this dualistic and uniformed populist definition of religion that is in place OR would your rather hold to your enlightened and informed historical perspective and allow a conversation to happen without you because you are above it? **

I know that it can be frustrating to circle back and entertain naive perspectives. But if the alternative is to let the conversation happen without a historically informed perspective, then I think we have no choice but to concede the initial conditions of the dialogue in an attempt to express an informed/educated alternative.


*   there are alternatives like “Religion is our attempt to connect with God, Christianity is God’s connecting with us.” 
**  I have intentionally provided two alternatives to honor the dualistic nature of this mentality.