Sunday, June 25, 2006

Gold's Community Church

I was talking to friend about his perspectives on his church. He mentioned how he felt that most individuals at his church belonged because that is what people did in that town. He gave numerous examples of what this looked like in the form of stories of those he encountered each week. If he hadn't stated that he was talking about a church, then I could have easily substituted Gold's Gym (or any other workout facility) in place of the church.

Is that what the church is supposed to be, another Gold's Gym? If so, then the future generations would rather go to Gold's... that is exactly what is happening. I will write some specific ideas on this in the coming posts. This one has been brewing for awhile.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Proof or Story?

I have encountered no less than 10 sermon series, seminars, or pamplets on the Da Vinci Code. Initially, I was on the bandwagon (what is a bandwagon anyway?) that saw this as a point of connection with those who do not consider God or Christianity in their daily lives. My question now, however, is have Christians missed the point by focusing on logical proofs that seek to respond to every single point made by Dan Brown in his novel? In other words, are Christians asking the wrong question? I believe that they are. The question that I do not hear being asked is what does the success of the Da Vinci Code reveal about culture and the role of narrative in relating truth? In other words, what does the success of the Da Vinci Code reveal about today's consumer culture and how methods are used to reach it with a message?

One thing is certain, Dan Brown composed a compelling story and many have read it. What would have happened if Dan Brown selected a different medium for his material. If Dan Brown published a study with a point-by-point analysis of Mary Magdalene, then would he have sold as many copies as the Da Vinci Code? Absolutely not!

The irony is that Christians have responded to the novel as if he composed that very study. In other words, Christians have missed the point. I believe that the Da Vinci Code has exposed the church's weakness in sharing the most compelling story - the story of God's love for humanity in the life and work of Jesus Christ. Dan Brown told a story, Christians have responded with point-by-point counter-proof. Going forward, I believe that Christians are called to bear witness to the compelling story that God loved humanity, even though humanity didn't care at all about God, and sent his Son to make a way for us to be known by God and know God and to experience life in the way of Jesus. As we replace that story with point-by-point lectures that give 3049304983408 reasons why the Bible is true, then I think Christians are missing an opportunity to respond. Even better, Christians are missing an opportunity to share THE compelling story (that story by the way has outsold the Da Vinci Code this year)...

Blogger death

The best way to kill off a mediocre blogger (me) is to have an unsuccessful post. I just spent 30 minutes writing up some thoughts on how the church has missed the point with its response to the Da Vinci Code. I attempted to post but I lost my internet connection AND the content of the post. For someone who has been posting every 2.65913 weeks, that is DEATH...

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Interfaith conversations

I continue to notice a pattern in "interfaith" conversations and settings. The pattern is this - more often than not, interfaith equals no Christian references. I attended an interfaith prayer service today and I anticipated a mix of prayers and faith perspectives. Instead, I witnessed a list of references to every faith besides Christianity. A few Psalms were included in the prayer service but there was an obvious omission of any New Testament references.

Why does this pattern exist? Many would try to cite that Christians have taken advantage of their majority status to push back other faiths. Is this completely true? My observation is that Christians have often subscribed to a guilt complex that is shaped by Christianity's connection with colonialism and anything else that is related to the forcing of the Christian faith on others. I have a question in response to this connection. Why do other faiths fail to have the same guilt complex? Why is it that Christians always have to back out from asserting anything in "interfaith" conversations and prayer services?

I worked with numerous Muslims in my last software development job near Washington DC and I often had religious conversations throughout the day at places like the coffee maker. I had the opportunity to attend a Friday prayer at a local mosque with these friends and I received numerous insights from the experience. One of my closer friends was open to seeing the commonalities between our faiths but the majority of others had little to no interest in that kind of 'dialogue.' They made it clear that they did not have any form of guilt complex for the uniqueness of their religious claims.

Am I the only person who notices the pattern of Christian references being absent from "interfaith" conversations? Or am I one of the only individuals who is willing to point it out?

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Tale of Two Cities

3+ weeks have gone by since I finished up my second year at Princeton Theological Seminary. I have had a refreshing time with family and friends. I feel completely "detoxed" from the year and I can see how much God taught me this year through my classes and my relationships. A lot has happened this year.

Two weekends ago, I had the opportunity to go on a road trip with two friends (with the same name = Corey). I mistakenly thought that trips like this one were not possible after having 2 kids... We went to church at Presbyterian Church at New Providence on Sunday morning and then headed into NY City. Little Italy, China Town, a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge and then a subway trip led us to Shea Stadium for the Mets/Yankees game. It was freezing but the game and the crowd kept everything heated up. I love New York. I was born 20 miles from the city and its rhythms are built into my being. The intensity of the crowd was everything that I had anticipated. I would never bring my 3 year old daughter to a game like this one due to the profanity and constant fights but I took in the craziness with a smile. The Mets won and that made it even better...

We left from the Shea around 11:30 and drove up to a state park in Sturbridge, MA and had our tent set up by 4 AM... Around 10:30 AM, we woke up and found our way into a freezing cold lake to wake up. A grease-filled Cracker Barrel breakfast and drive led us to Boston where we hit up 2-3 pubs before the Red Sox/Yankees game. We arrived at Fenway early and stood near the Green Monster seats (hence the picture). As we talked, I heard someone yell "Heads up!" and then a baseball came flying by my head. I fought off another fan for the ball and took into possession my second official American League baseball. Fenway Park was incredible but the fans were a major disappointment. This was supposed to be the "most hate-filled rivalry in baseball" but I couldn't tell that from the slight chatter that marked the crowd volume all game long. The number of standing ovations at the Mets/Yankees game had to be near 50. The Yankees/Red Sox game featured 1. The boos for Jonny Damon lasted a mere 2 seconds and nobody seemed to care when Curt Schilling had 2 stikes on a batter. It will take a lot for someone to convince me that Red Sox fans are passionate after what I witnessed that night...

We returned to the camp site by 1 AM and talked over a cigar until 3 or 4 in the morning, woke up at 6 AM and drove south back to Jersey. I was exhausted but it was the perfect kind of exhaustion - one that was caused by a series of memories that only God can provide with close friends.