Monday, November 27, 2017

Planting a Church that becomes an Institution

I've been listening to a set of talks given by Richard Rohr entitled "Letting Go: A Spirituality of Subtraction."

He says: "As soon as you have even a so-called renewed group, within five years, it's an institution, Here I thought I was the founder of New Jerusalem and very quickly it became an institution.  And I thought 'well, this certainly won't happen to us, I'm the founder! I'm just gonna keep it reformed." It doesn't happen! The very nature of a group is it institutionalizes itself.  Then it protects itself.  It seeks the level at which it wants to live and then it sort of digs its heels in and says 'it's nice here.'"

Wow, mind blown!  Do you see what I see here?  Can you see in your past what he's talking about here?

Have you ever been part of a church plant or came in during the early stages?  I have, I came in in the relatively early stages of New Heights Church in Fayetteville Arkansas.  And it was great, fantastic dynamic teaching, good music, living and lively small groups.  When we joined, membership was around 200, I think.  The church was fairly new, just a couple years old.  It was incredible, we loved it so much.  Later that year, we moved to the nearby Boys and Girls Club, where the church continues to reside to this day.  And the growth continued.  When I left, membership was in the 2000 range, with weekly attendance well over 1000.

But even well before that time, things had started taking a turn I was unhappy with.  Over the years, the church had hired more and more "pastors" and other full time staff.  I had taken over setting up and tearing down the sound system in my first year and in the beginning, that was a vital job and I was invited to staff retreats and Christmas parties and the whole bit.  But at a certain point, part time staff like myself were no longer invited to staff events.  Was my job any less important?  I was managing a crew of five people.

The church officially started to support and oppose political things.  Agree or disagree with these stances, I am not okay with a church literally taking sides in political issues and allowing staff to support partisan political efforts on company time.

Let me give you a third example from one of my favorite speakers and writers, Rob Bell.  He founded Mars Hill Bible Church in 1999.  It quickly grew to be huge and got a big building and hired staff and did all the other stuff.  I listened to Rob's sermons for years, right up until he had to leave in 2011.  You see, Rob was an excellent dynamic and powerful speaker.  But he continued to evolve and grow and the church he founded was amazing and from what I heard was doing amazing renewed things.  But pretty quickly it institutionalized.  And when Rob continued to grow, he couldn't bring it along with him.  Of course I don't know all the details, but I do know that he ended up leaving after publishing Love Wins, which was a book pointing out that the eternal destination of all people is not as certain as many think.  One of the stories Rob is fond of telling is that at one point some people in his church tried to have his ordination revoked, just for believing that women could be pastors too!

So the reason why what Richard said blew my mind is that for many years now I have had it in my head or heart or whatever to start a church.  And I want that church to be renewed and revolutionary and revived and the whole thing.  But, this principle means that eventually it will become my job and as I continue to grow and evolve, the church will start exerting more pressure on me than I can on it.  And knowing me, eventually I'll have to leave.

So the challenge is, how do I (we) subvert that institutionalization?  How can we create a community that continually destroys and rebuilds itself so that it never becomes stuck in a building?  How can we avoid creating a cultural ethos that will eventually backfire on me as it desires to stand still while I desire to keep walking?

I don't have the answers here, but knowing the question is a step in the right direction.

Monday, September 26, 2016

I Don't Believe...

I don't believe in luck. I believe in chance and skill.
I don't believe that demons are expelled when you sneeze, so there's no need to say "bless you."
Homeopathy is bullshit.
Everybody is "aware" of breast cancer.
"Engagement rings" are a scam cooked up by DeBeers to sell diamonds.
Bigfoot IS out of focus.
Kim Kardashian is out of proportion.
For profit charities bring in more money than not for profit ones.
Drink whatever tastes good, wine connoisseurs are con artists.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Upcoming adventure: Skoolie

A skoolie is a used school bus converted into a motorhome (or some other vehicle) which extends the useful life past the 15 or so years that school districts use them.

I want to take something like this:

...and turn it into something like this:

...on the way to becoming a finished motorhome.


Friday, August 19, 2016

Another Blog Reboot

Dear followers, those of you that still exist.

Congratulations!  You've managed to still be following this blog more than two years after the latest post!

I've gone through a lot of emotional and life changes in the last few years.  I moved to Denver, then now to Medford Oregon, and then again to another place in Medford Oregon.  I lost a job, got a new job, quit that job and now been unemployed for almost a year.

And that's caused a few changes in life.

So, I call myself an Adventurer now, and a stay at home dad, and a beekeeper too.  My idea of this being a politics blog never took form.  And before that, a religion blog, and a renewable energy blog, and pretty much a lot of other topics.  Just look at the word cloud to the left.

So this is my adventure blog now.  These are my adventures.  All the time I try to do new things, experience new experiences, enhance my intellect by simply taking actions that I've never taken before, eating new foods, visiting new places, jumping off new bridges, driving new routes, sitting on new toilets.

So come along with me.  Maybe you can live vicariously through me.  Send in suggestions, I will do as many things as I can.  And if you help me get there and pay for them, I'll be that much more likely to do them.

And this being about me stuff, that's a new thing too.  This blog used to be anonymous.  Now it's me.  Let's try that.

Friday, July 11, 2014

British Vs. American Electrical Plug Systems

I love electricity.

I think it is the best way to do lots of things.  There are loads of ways to make it, even more to use it.

After reading this post on Treehugger:  ... well, I guess they deleted it because it was in ignorant piece of crap journalism.  It was written by Lloyd Alter by the way.

And seeing other posts in other places, like this video: 

So I want to weigh in.  Because our system here in America is a good system, but nothing is ever so good that it cannot be improved upon.

Look at the following picture:

As you can see, there are many different sorts of plugs.  Not only are the plugs different, but they use different voltages.  If you were to look at a nearby iPhone charger or wall wart of some other sort, you'd notice the input voltage range.  I happen to have a Kindle charger right here, the input range says 100-240 volts, 50-60 Hz.  That range covers the entirety of the standard available voltages and frequency of AC electricity.  That means, this little piece of electronic contraption can take any standard available form of electricty and convert it into 5 volts to charge your phone or tablet or whatever else.  And as you surely know by now, most electronics are like this, computers, monitors, receivers, TVs.  So they are all very adaptable.  In fact, a couple years ago, my church bought some subwoofers and they actually came with two plugs, one American plug and one from Germany.

Let's look at the benefits of the American plugs first.  The number one benefit is probably that they are cheap and simple.  They use no special contraptions, they use a minimum of metals, and they are very inexpensive.  They have small holes which prevent larger objects from being inserted.

Some downsides, you can zap yourself if they are not completely plugged in, and most of all, they run 120 volts.  In electricty, amperage, or the volume flow of electrons, is what is dangerous.  You can have millions of volts run through your body at a low amperage and you can survive, not that it won't hurt.  But if you have just enough voltage to pass through your skin, and plenty of amperage (or amps), it can kill you dead.  The higher the voltage you have available, the lower the amps can be to produce the same amount of power.  Volts times amps equals watts.  For instance, if you are using a vaccuum that uses 10 amps, you are drawing 10*120=1200 watts.  That same vacuum were it using 240 volts would only use 5 amps while drawing the same 1200 watts.  So you can see, a higher voltage supply means lower amps, and that would mean lower amperage breakers so then when you get zapped, they will be more likely to trip before killing you.  Another downside is since the voltage is lower, there are greater line losses, half the voltage means four times the loss.

I have zapped myself a number of times, and almost always it has been when I was messing around with bare wires.  The available plugs are generally safe.  But they can get better and could do so without much added expense.

The first thing I'd say to do is switch to 240 volts immediately.  We all (in America) already have 240 volts coming to our house.  Most of us have one or more 240 volt plugs also, used for dryers, ovens, stoves, furnaces, or other high power receptacles.  I have a small one, virtually the same size as a typical 120 volt outlet, in my garage from which I charge my electric car.  Our wiring can already typically handle 15-20 amps, and is rated for 600 volts so wiring does not need to be replaced.  The plugs would need to be replaced and light bulbs would need to be replaced, as well as a few other applicances.  However, simple transformers could be used to step the voltage down from 240 to 120.

I don't know if you think any of these suggestions are useful, but that's my view.  The plug we have in the US is the result of many years of market forces.  The British plug which is large, complicated, and relatively expensive, is the result of WWII materials shortages, and a more controlling government that can do things like mandate how things are wired.  I'm not saying this is a bad thing, it's just the fact of the matter.  At any rate, I seriously doubt there will be any change in US plugs any time soon, if ever.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

There is No Such Thing as “Judeo-Christian!”

I have been listening to the Phil Vischer podcast lately and doing as I do, I have to go back and listen to ALL of them because that’s the sort of thing I do.  Phil is the creator of Veggie Tales and though the entire company was wrested away from him some time ago for many reasons of which you will read in his book, “Me, Myself, and Bob” he has started afresh with a new project called Jellyfish Labs and its internet channel (?) Jelly Telly through which he has promulgated new characters, shows, books, and games.

The podcast’s description includes the following:  “a fast-paced and often funny conversation about pop culture, media, theology and the fun, fun, fun of living a thoughtful Christian life in an increasingly post-Christian culture.”

Now don’t misunderstand my purposes here, I am all for this post-Christian proposition, all for it, 100% on board.  I totally support the abandonment of the fundamentalist and especially unthinking cultural Christianity which causes liberals, atheists, other religions, and basically the rest of the world to look at America as backward.  I would perhaps say that a fundamentalist asks “what does the Bible say?” while the Christian life begs the question “What does the Bible mean?”  It’s the difference between a literalistic legalistic litigious religious framework and what Christianity really is.  We absolutely need fewer fundamentalist culture-warrior cultural Christians and more Christians who take the meaning of the Gospel and the Christian life seriously and follow Jesus in humility and contemplation.

And in large part I say that Phil is doing this and doing a wonderful job.  However, as with many a good thing, there are some hiccups.  One is that all three hosts seem to be conservatives, or at least moderately conservative and one of them is very much so, having worked in Washington D.C. during the Reagan administration.  I have found Phil Vischer and Skye Jethani  both to be a breath of fresh air (myself having just lived for eight years in Arkansas) though perhaps not going quite far enough in my non-Bible Belt personal view.  Christian Taylor (the Mississippi born Republican) however has been a regular source of frustration for me because she seems to hold the traditional (and I mean American Bible Belt traditional) views on things, the culture warrior, the government is too big and bad at everything, politically Republican views that have nothing directly to do with being a Christian yet are often preached as if they are one in the same.  Sorry Christian, I am certain you are a wonderful person but your political views make me want to weep and gnash my teeth.  On the other hand, the thought occurs to me, if the reader is one of my very many politically conservative friends, you’ll probably identify with her and hopefully be indoctrinated to some of the more introspective and less overtly political views of Phil and Skye.  At any rate, please do subscribe to the Phil Vischer Podcast, watch the podcast on YouTube, or find it at Phil’s website at  I wholly support Phil’s work whether or not I wholly agree with him or his co-hosts on every point.

Okay, so I got way off topic there, but I want to bring it back around with the number two hiccup with the Phil Vischer Podcast which is related to number one and that is the constant callbacks to that American Cultural Christianity, specifically the idea of “Judeo-Christian” things.  And understand, I’m not criticizing Phil (and particularly Skye for constantly using this term) and the podcast.  This is an issue that has been stewing in the considerable volume of my brain (I have a very large head) for quite a number of years.  Skye’s use of the term has caused me to revisit the idea and hopefully to formulate a good case for my point of view.

As in my usual poor form, I’m going to state the conclusion first and then make a case to back it up.  This has gotten me into trouble in the past because people think “hey, you’re working from a preconceived conclusion and just trying to make the facts fit your case.”  No, that’s not what I’m doing.  Usually what happens is that the conclusion will be in the first paragraph because usually nobody reads very far in so I put the conclusion at the top so you know what I think and if you are a thinking person you’ll continue reading whether or not you agree, and if you are not a thinking person, you’ll probably disagree and quit reading and I’m okay with that.  No need to make you read into something to which your mind is not open.  I can’t open your mind.  Anyway, since we’re already in the middle of this already lengthy post, I guess it doesn’t matter.

Okay, so here it is.  If you live in the USA and have any sort of engagement with people or media or read books or anything, you have probably come across the term “Judeo-Christian” in some sort of context with values or laws or morality.  It is used extremely commonly especially in Christian and conservative (not the necessarily same thing) circles.  But my case is this:

There is no such thing as “Judeo-Christian.”

While I cannot be sure at this point, I believe the term is birthed and rebirthed in the Christian Zionist and Christian fundamentalist movements.  If it did not originate with them, it is certainly where it is most often repeated today.  There’s this idea that Christians are the new Jews or that Jews are incomplete Christians, and so if we lump them together, we can gain rhetorical force for our arguments.  Or the case may be that we are Christians and parts of our scriptures are the Jewish scriptures.  In any case, I want to say that there is no such thing as “Judeo-Christian” because Jews and Christians are fundamentally different things.  And I want to do it partially by comparing Islam to Christianity as Christians compare Christianity to Judaism.

Okay, so let’s look at it like this:  Islam teaches that Jesus and all the Old Testament patriarchs and prophets were Muslims and prophets of Islam.  In a way, just as Baha’ism claims to be some sort of continuation of Islam and Christianity and Judaism, Islam claims to be the true and undistorted extension of Christianity and Judaism.  And I say that the term “Judeo-Christian” is the Christian’s attempt to be the continuation and perfection of Judaism.  Now I am not going to explore whether or not that point is true, because as a Christian, I do believe that Christianity is the fulfillment of what was the original Judaism.  But that doesn’t make me a Jew, and that doesn’t mean I believe the same things Jews do and therefore the term Judeo-Christian is entirely inappropriate when describing any part of my Christian belief, just as a Muslim would be totally wrong in describing Jesus as a prophet of Islam and a Muslim.

Trying to rope Jews into the belief-net of Christianity is something many Jews are very uncomfortable with.  They are fundamentally different things.  A Muslim believes he is correctly worshipping the Christian and Jewish God.  A Christian believes he is correctly worshipping the Jewish God.  But the Jew says “Hey, that’s not the God I worship.  My God is not Jesus and never spoke to Muhammad.”  The Christian says “Jesus is God, and God didn’t speak to Muhammad, and Jesus’ death on the cross means Christians are not under the Jewish law.”

A Christian doesn’t think a Muslim’s claims about Christianity are legitimate, what makes a Christian think they can claim their views about Judaism are legitimate? 

We know those claims exist, but please join me in understanding that the term “Judeo-Christian” is an imposition and an interpretation.  From my research on the topic, I know for a fact that there are Jews who do not like it.  So let’s have the humility to understand and communicate that a Christian is a Christian, a Jew is a Jew, and a Muslim is a Muslim, and the claims of each are mutually exclusive. Do you think in a majority Jewish country that the Jews use the term “Judeo-Christian” or perhaps “Christo-Jewish?”  No.  The term is one of power, position, and culture.  It only works when the majority is Christian.

We are entering the post-Christian era in the United States.  And conservatism being what it is by simple nature is clawing tooth and nail to try to maintain its privilege and influence and if we are to be the cultural influencers that Christ and the Apostle Paul called us to be, we must learn to live in the same sort of milieu that they did, being the minority with no political or coercive power and yet all the ultimate power.  The more we grasp for the political and coercive power, the more we lose the ultimate power.  Part of living in a post-Christian society correctly is embracing post-Christianese.  In doing so, we must abandon the term “Judeo-Christian.”

In closing, let me relate an old Jewish joke:

A gentile professor of Judaic Studies in Iowa finds out that to really learn the Talmud he must go to the Boro Park section of Brooklyn and find himself a teacher. The professor flies over and knocks on a basement door and this little Jew comes out. Upon seeing him, the professor asks to be taught the Talmud, but the little Jews says, “I can’t teach you Tal-mud, you got a goyeshe kop (literally “non-Jewish head”), you just don’t think Jewish.”
The professor insists. The little Jew says, “OK, solve this problem, and I’ll teach you:
“Two people go down a chimney. One stays clean, the other gets completely schmutzig, filthy. Which one washes up?”
The professor eagerly answers, “The dirty one, naturally.”
The little Jew wails: “Goyeshe kop, goyeshe kop! I told you I can’t teach you anything. Listen, the schmutzig guy sees the clean guy. Schmutzig doesn’t see any problem. But the clean guy sees the schmutzig guy and figures he must be just as dirty, so he goes and washes. I told you, you got a goyeshe kop. I can’t help you.”
The professor begs for another chance, and the little Jew gives in, suggesting a new problem to solve:
“Two people go down a chimney. One stays clean, the other gets completely schmutzig. Which one of them would wash up?”
The professor says, “Sure, I know this one, it’s the clean fellow.”
At this, the little Jew wails, “Goyeshe kop, the clean one takes a look at the dirty one and says, Moishe, you’re all schmutzig, go wash already! Enough. I really can’t help you, mister, you got a goyeshe kop.”
The professor begs for one last chance, and the little Jew says, “Fine, one last chance, I’ll give you a completely new problem, then you’ll leave me alone:
“Two people go down a chimney. One stays clean, the other gets completely schmutzig. Which one of them washes up?”
At this point, the poor professor from Iowa freezes, unable to decide which of the two conflicting solutions to choose. The little Jew can’t stand it anymore and interjects, “Goyeshe kop, who ever heard of two people going down a chimney and only one of them gets schmutzig?”