Receiving WordPress’s latest auto-reminder email that suggested I need to renew this blog made me feel like WP was growing impatient and about to put another persuasive turn into the vice. That said, I gave in, spilled the beans, forked over the cash–however you want to think of it–I succumbed to the belief that my words might matter. Here is an overdue post to mark the occasion.
My Evangelical, protestant, Christian seminary might just embody the most defeatist attitude I have ever seen.
As some of you know, I began to notice this after the Pulse Nightclub massacre in Orlando (which occurred after 9/11, which occurred after the first attempt to knock out the Twin Towers in 1993).
As well-read academics, the professors and most of the students are aware of the English language’s five letter word “dogma.” But I am convinced they do not know what it means. Do you?
All I would like to suggest here is that dogma has nothing to do with giving up. Here at school, dogma is treated as the thing at the end of the argument. The fail-safe. When all else–when all logic, when all argumentation–fails, the Christian simply declares, “dogma.” Come to think of it, it’s almost used like saying “uncle” when wrestling around with older siblings or cousins. (Or Uncle Bob).
This approach, dogma as the fail-safe, is a grave, grave mistake. Ohio State was another data point.
The Christian knows we have the victory in Christ. That’s primary and ever will be. Start there and end there. Never stray from there.
The tangible way to do this is with Christian love. With the only real love. With the love that is rooted in the Cross.
The conversational way to do this is asking questions until you demonstrated that you actually are listening and curious to discover what he or she thinks. Don’t stop when he repeats Wolf Blitzer or Obama or Trump or Clinton or Megyn Kelly (why is she in the headlines so much?) or John Stewart or Trevor Noah or John Oliver or whoever. I don’t even watch TV and I can’t help but hear what these people think. And I don’t care what they think. I don’t know them. Neither does the person you’re talking to. Keep questioning. Become an expert in listening.
It is our Christian duty to restore dignity to people. It is our Christian duty to announce the available redemption. This starts with Christ, not fails with Christ.
Being dogmatic does not mean giving up. It means honesty. It means integrity. It means that from the ‘get go,’ you proclaim, “I know my assumptions. Do you know yours?”
One final way I can offer to help re-frame ‘dogma’ in your mind is by comparing it to confidence. Think of any person you would call confident. Then ask yourself, “Would anything meaningfully different be communicated if I called them dogmatic?”
Michael Jordan = confident or dogmatic? Trump = confident or dogmatic? Obama = confident or dogmatic? Your pastor = confident or dogmatic? Your military members = confident or dogmatic? Joel Osteen = confident or dogmatic? Moses = confident or dogmatic? Muhammad = confident or dogmatic? Paul = confident or dogmatic? Martin Luther = confident or dogmatic? Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Richard Branson, any A-List Actor or Actress etc.
Confident living is not silent. Dogmatic living is not giving up.
Being dogmatic is not giving up. Christians, don’t give up.
I don’t care if any of you watch Whiplash—I care if filmmakers do.
Sure, it could’ve been better. I have no context for jazz music. I want to like it and know why I like it, but I don’t. Adding a few scenes which dropped subtle hints that answered “why jazz?” would’ve only made it better. But when I grin like a fool, shake my head in disbelief, write when it is past my bedtime, and what’s more, when I only gave half my attention to the film’s last forty minutes because the other half was busy re-budgeting my time and money towards future music instruction, I know someone just made an effing fantastic movie.
An odd group, certainly. The worst men make ritual disembowelment seem like the only sensible thing to do, while the best men…well the best men inspire us to become better men.
Like hitch hikers just dropped at a truck stop, we look around and evaluate the passing scene. Too often we are surrounded by mediocre men.
As constant evaluators, we sometimes forget to report our findings. This is undesirable and unproductive. We can forge a better life through regular highlighting of qualities the best men put into practice.
To begin, they are flawed. More to the point, they recognize they are flawed, and they do not hide it.
Next, they possess a humility that my own awesomeness seems unlikely to ever achieve.
They are genuine, or perhaps authentic works better. You cannot catch them off guard. They are who they are, no apologies, and who they are is worth noting.
They are well-read. Life has seasons, of that there is no doubt. But these men and television divorced a long time ago.
Lastly, for today, they are ready and willing to help, if we’ll only just ask. By help, we mean nothing more than them choosing to spend their limited time on us.
Let us not forget, then, that even great men need encouragement. Let us not forget that these men still exist in this world, feel its pressures, and are pulled daily by the temptation to give up. Let us not forget to say thank you when their life enhances ours.
David: Thank you.
How can He hear us, if I can’t?
You should understand that I believe that in this world that God created, everything that happens is part of God’s plan. Everything. The good, the bad — everything. How could it not be? The catch is we, the humans, are always able to change what is happening, to improve it or maybe to take a step back and say, “Hmm, maybe this was a mistake.” It is an enormous amount of responsibility.
Anyone who knows me knows I love Metallica. Their music demands to be performed on electric guitars and amplified drums. I think most would agree that all heavy metal should be amplified. It’s kind of the nature of the beast.
Anyone who knows me knows I also love classical music. Classical music (classical meaning ‘the best’) is written for acoustic instruments, and rightly so. Something magical happens when music is acoustic. Something so magical, that over the years many have remarked that classical music is surely the voice of God. I have always liked this metaphor if only because it highlights that music is a universal language.
I’d like to take the metaphor a bit further. If mankind was created in God’s own image, and music can have the effect of sounding like the voice of God, what about when we sing? Wouldn’t our “made in God’s image” voices actually sound closer to how God’s voice sounds? (Assuming of course, that He has a voice.)
I point this out because, again, in my recent visits to a church, I have been perplexed by the changes. There is an amplified band singing, words are displayed on the screen, no written music is anywhere to be found, and I can hardly hear anyone over the band, save the person standing next to me. (Great voice, btw.) It most certainly is not music to my ears.
Worship via music is one of the main reasons I see for going to church. I have always liked singing in a large group. I liked it as a kid at church, I liked it in the Air Force on those special occasions, and I like the idea of it now. I think singing, especially large groups of men singing, is just great. Doesn’t everyone?
I think I know what is going on. I bet that over the years, like in all other areas of life, people’s enthusiasm has been waning. Who wants other people to hear that they can’t sing a note? It does take some energy to sing, too, and we’re inherently lazy. So at first the music leader’s volume gets turned up, the thinking being that it might encourage more people to sing if they aren’t afraid of being heard. Then a band is introduced instead of a piano or organ. Now we can all pretend that we’re singing, and no one will ever know the difference. At least that’s how I see it.
As for me, I want people to sing out loud. I want to sing out loud. I want to feel the power in the music. I want to hear the voice of God. I want guests to visit and feel the inescapable love that is expressed when a group of like-minded people worship with music.
The easy answer is to find another church. Should this be about easy though? I don’t know. I just don’t know.
If I was a pastor, I’d want to hear the congregation sing. I’d use it like a thermometer. I think even the most accurate digital thermometer would tell a pastor of churches like I described above, “Meh. Lukewarm.”
But that’s just me. What do you think?
I don’t mind admitting that I was one of the suckers who left the church after I cracked The DaVinci Code. A decade has passed since then, along with a lot of livin’ and learnin’. Since I was young, my mantra has been, “Life is funny, I’m serious.” The older I get, the more I find it to be true.
While it was reading that caused my faith to falter, it has also been reading that has guided me back to faith. I don’t think it is too much of a stretch to say that in the couple of times that I have been back in a church, I have felt the prodigal son’s father’s arms around me. I am unable to dive back in devoid of all skepticism, but I’ve seen enough over the years to recognize the simple truth that good people are good people. And good people are rare.
I can’t help but feel like something is amiss though. In the time I was away, a shift has taken place.
As I write this, I feel like an old timer longing for a past that probably never existed. We’re all more than familiar with the rather cliche critique of modern churches, “they are too feel good.” Maybe, maybe not. Either way, I’m not interested in joining that chorus. Instead, what I am interested in musing about is the amount of comedy that has been interjected into sermons.
Comedy in sermons interests me because of the subject matter. For all communication, save sermons, I believe the speaker’s first step is to recognize his or her audience. Sermons dealing with ‘the Truth’ are different. By definition, if one person is going to communicate that they really know the nature of human existence, the audience has the responsibility to adapt to the speaker. The Truth is fixed, it doesn’t bend or change. It is universal. On top of that, it simply becomes too difficult to discern why someone is listening and/or why the speaker is popular if the sermon is built around the audience.
Did Jesus of Nazareth ever purposefully try to keep his listener’s attention? What do you think? Can you picture Him ever caring about whether the audience felt entertained? Would Jesus have ever removed some Truth from his message in order for it to meet expectations, or to gain a follower?
I know life was fundamentally different back then. I get it. But they killed Him via public execution. Whoever “they” actually were is irrelevant to this point. An organized ‘they’ killed Him.
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this and I’ve concluded that it would be very difficult to give a sermon today that would incite some group of people to that amount of passion; enough to call for a capital punishment proceeding.
(This is where my respect for Him grows tremendously.)
Let’s say I did develop this sermon. Could I give it? Perhaps.
I guess I would have to believe it was the Truth.