Sunday, March 25, 2007

Churches Alive and Dead

My wife and I have been visiting new churches lately. In fact, we've become quite regular attenders at one of them, and we don't even have to miss our current church! The new Church meets Friday night, Saturday night, Sunday morning, and Sunday night!

Why are we visiting new churches? It's very simple, we are tired of contributing effort to ours to just watch it waste away.

For instance, I started an Alpha course at our Church. It went well, but there was NO ONE who would help. I had ONE consistent helper. It frittered off because I didn't have anyone who could help me, and got tired of doing all the work myself.

A lot of other ministries in our church are like that -- no one will help out. We have a tough, tough time coming together and doing something great.

And, worship is terrible. Now, I do like contemporary worship. I like crunchy guitars and loud drums. That is what gets me in a worshipful spirit. But even with the old hymns - they don't have to sound like dirges.

I understand that a lot of people have very busy lives, for which Church is the one stable element. I understand that for Church to be changing, it means that these people who are often having frustrating lives as it is have to have one more frustration in their life. But here's the question - are people meeting God at Church.

So I've been going to a church on Sunday nights that offers a lot of what our church is presently missing. And that's not to say that the new church doesn't have its own problems. But it's like the parable of the talents. One group is _using_ it to make back an investment, and the other church is simply burying it in the sand.

Here's the sad part. My home church has so much more possibilities than the new church that I'm going to. They are just so stuck in the status quo that they can't see their way out. My home church could do everything even better than my new church. They have fantastic worship leaders, in fact every aspect of church life there is someone talented beyond measure within the Church.

So what's holding us back? There are several issues, but I think that it boils down to (a) leadership, (b) having the whole congregation willing to help out, (c) focus [which comes back to leadership], and (d) willingness to change. The talented folks are spread too thin on too many projects. The projects which are visionary are not planned into the way the church as a whole operates.

And so we run in circles. And die.

You can make up for a lack of talent with proper vision. You can't make up for a lack of vision and will.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Tinker's Missionary Conquest

My midterm paper was on Tinker's Missionary Conquest. The end result -- Tinker undermines his own argument by letting his propaganda interfere with his scholarship.

In the first place, he notes on the outset that he, in the book, was free to "reinterpret" (i.e. rewrite) the Native American side of all exchanges without telling us. I can see the reason for this -- if the story is told by the oppressors, it is easy to see how the oppressed's story could get misinterpreted.

However, it goes further than this. It turns out that there isn't any part of history he doesn't feel free to rewrite to make his point. I only looked up one of his primary sources in the book to check him out, and it turns out that Tinker rewrote both sides of the exchange to make the missionary look bad.

The specific case is that of De Smet. Now, I must say, I had never heard of any of these missionaries before, so I felt no implicit need to defend them. I was fully ready to believe that they were the bastards that Tinker portrayed. However, I kept on noticing that in De Smet's case, Tinker was relying almost entirely on innuendo to make his case. Then, in his clenching argument, he notes a story about De Smet praying for rain. Tinker portrayed the situation as if De Smet was mocking the Indians. He basically said that De Smet had put on a false rain dance, took credit for it in front of the Indians, and then told his friends in private that he had hoodwinked the Indians.

But in fact, if you look at Tinker's primary source, this is what happened:

  1. The Indians asked De Smet to ask God for rain

  2. De Smet gathered the leaders and prayed for them, and told them that if God was pleased with them, He would send rain.

  3. It rained that day.

  4. De Smet told his friends that the Indians would not believe that it was God who did it, but rather think that De Smet had some secret trick for making rain that he was not telling them.

  5. Sure enough, one of the Native Americans offered De Smet 10 horses to tell what his secret was, and never believed De Smet no matter how many times De Smet told him that it was based on being a Christian and praying.

  6. De Smet said "Did I not tell you that they would say I did it?"

Tinker tries to convince the reader that this last quote was him taking credit for successfully pulling off a mockery of the Native Americans, but in fact it was that the Native Americans would not believe the truth that De Smet kept trying to tell them!

Anyway, it is clear that this book is pure propaganda. I'm sure a lot of the things it says are true, but it is tough to take anything at face value after that! I mean, really, how do I know he's not BS'ing on the other stuff, too? Anyway, if someone knows of a more academically honest person who has written on this issue, please let me know.

Another thing that annoys me about the book is the co-option of the word "genocide". There are a few instances in the book that truly count as "genocide", but Tinker's definition would actually make any successful conversion of a whole culture equivalent with genocide! That is unjust to true instances of genocide.

Tinker also fails to present a positive model for how missionary work should work. He rightly criticizes the missionaries for confusing culture and gospel, but offers no opinion on where that line should be drawn.

Finally, for people who want to read about a missionary who respects culture, take a look at Bruchko, and also the followup work (though I haven't read that one). It is a great read on how to reach a culture for Christ without forcing them into a Western mold.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Dear Republican Hopefuls - You Better Believe We Care About Your Personal Life

It seems that the new set of Republican candidates for president think that we shouldn't be looking at the private lives of candidates. Well, all I can say is that this is TOTAL B.S.

I once heard someone say, "A man who will cheat on his wife will cheat on his men." I'm glad that Newt confessed his sins, but he's crazy if he doesn't think I'll take his philandering into account when he runs.

What scares me most is that there is not a single presidential front-runner who I would even _consider_ voting for. I like Giulliani, but not as a president. Chris Rock had an amusing comment which I think is true. It was something like "he's like a bulldog -- great to have in a crisis, but otherwise he'll eat your children."

There's one person who I don't know much about that I _might_ be interested in voting for. As I said, I don't know much about him. But it's Sam BrownBack.

If it comes down to Giulliani or Gingrich versus Obama, I'm going Obama. If it's Giulliana or Gingrich versus Hillary, I'm voting libertarian. Or just writing in someone that I _do_ think would be good for president.

As a conservative, the Republican party is starting to scare me. For information on why, you should check out Breach of Trust: How Washington Turns Outsiders into Insiders. Tom Coburn is a stand up guy. He was the ONLY member of the Republican revolution to uphold his promise of voluntary term limits, and is quite critical of Republicans from a conservative perspective.


Saturday, March 17, 2007

What annoys me about Creationists

I thought I'd spend this blog post criticizing conservatives for a change :) Not that there hasn't been plenty of annoying stuff happening in seminary (for instance, Intro to Theology should be renamed to "why we shouldn't trust theology done by white people because of 'white privilege'"). However, my particular beef today is with Creationists.

Now let me start out by stating that I am, in fact, a Creationist. However, that should be read primarily as a statement about God, not a statement about evolution. Certainly there is much in evolutionary theory that is against the Bible (and against common sense, or even technical sense). However, I get annoyed when people who claim that they are "Creationists" want to spend all of their time talking about evolution!

Look, if you want to be an "anti-evolutionist", by all means do so. But please don't label yourself a "Creationist" if all you want to talk about is negative things about evolution.

For instance, we work hard to get reasonable things for our children to watch. One difficult thing is to get good nature shows that aren't peppered with mindless evolutionary speculation. However, the Creation nature videos talk about evolution _more_ than the secular ones! My wife brought home a fairly well-produced one, which will probably get some playing time in our DVD player. But even its title - "Incredible Creatures which Defy Evolution" -- incredibly annoying! Evolution gets play even in the title!

Why can't they call it "Incredible Creatures of Creation"? Wouldn't that honor God more than talking negatively about evolution? Yet that seems to be all a lot of Creationists are doing these days -- just talking up negative things about evolution rather than exploring what God has made under a paradigm that honors Him.


My wife recently brought home the Marvels of Creation book series by Buddy Davis. This includes Breathtaking Birds, Sensational Sea Creatures (my favorite), and Magnificent Mammals. I am happy to say while it does discuss evolution in the books, it is only a tiny, tiny bit in the introduction. The book as a whole serves to be God-honoring rather than evolution-bashing. Fantastic series to educate my children with God's creation!