Posts about Religion

What Would God Do?

Coming full circle, I’ve seen a fair number of religious folk responding to What Would Google Do? and wondering what its laws and lessons mean for their churches. What would, uh, Jesus do?

Ron Smith, pastor of a church in San Diego, took my rules about the new ethic and reinterpreted them biblically. The gospel according to Google:

Make mistakes well. As I write my Doctorate I am learning that one of the most detestable things about the church is hypocrisy. When we as “believers” make a mistake we should admit it. Admitting errors makes you believable.

Life is beta. Life is a test. We, Christians, of all people should know this one. Life is dress rehearsal, quit acting like you have it figured out. Marrissa Mayer, VP of Google stated, “Innovation, not instant perfect perfection.” That should be our message. Sanctification, not perfection. I have not arrived. I am still learning about faith, life, marriage, hope, joy, peace, love. Just when I think I have mastered the fruit thing, I find myself out of season. Then I have to wait for the next growth opportunity to sprout fruit.

Be Honest. No comment on this one. Tell the truth!

Be transparent. Admittedly I was hesistant to blog, Twitter or Facebook. I mean how far do you go telling everybody exactly what you are doing at every moment and how long can we post the most creative stuff for the social platform world to be amazed. Well, soon I learned that all knowledge may be helpful but it may not be appropriate. Point: Let people know you struggle, hurt, or that you just don’t have it all together. Let people know you are happy, full of joy, excited and ready to tackle the world.

Collaborate. The beauty of the body is the body working together. Thank you Lord my toes don’t compete to be fingers. Can you imagine the war when it came time to type, or eat?

Don’t be evil. Treat others like you want to be treated.

What would Google do? Well, I think Google just reinforced the teachings of Christ.


Chuck Warnock, who blogs as a small-church pastor, has the courage to face what newspapers, book publishers, car companies, and other industries (is religion an industry? sure) won’t: their disappearance in current form and replacement in new form. Warnock could give this sermon to newspaper executives (sadly, they wouldn’t listen – and wouldn’t be saved); the impact of change is similar and the need for innovation exactly the same. He says:

I have been saying that we’re counting the wrong things in church (attendance) when we should be counting community engagement. I’ve also said that church attendance will decrease (this is not an original thought), and we’re moving rapidly toward a post-Christendom era like Europe. . . ..

We can be certain of this — we live in an age of discontinuous change and unexpected consequences. Nobody knows exactly what church will look like in the future because we’re not there yet. But I have a feeling it will be multiple models, not one predominant model like we had from WWII until about 1985. . . .

We’ll still have bricks-and-mortar churches, but also house churches, coffee shop churches, outdoor churches, churches that meet once a month, churches that meet online, churches that consists of groups which interact frequently, and churches that we can’t even imagine yet. We will also see ’single market’ churches that focus on the homeless or the physically handicapped or the poor or any niche group you can think of.

In other words, the same thing that is happening in the broader culture will happen in churches, too — more options, more models, a network of niches, rather than a predominant church form.

I am also certain that whatever emerges, church will not ever be the same again. By extension, neither will denominations, cross-cultural missions programs, or Christian education programs be the same again. These will all change radically, because the current models are unsustainable in today’s culture.

And then James (can’t find his last name), a Texas pastor, tries to adapt the rules of Google’s age to his Presbyterian church:

Free is a business model: . . . Still, many churches have a mentality in which they hoard the blessings which they have received. For example, a church building that remains empty most of the week is a waste of resources. Sermons, curriculum, writings and even music (within copyright restrictions) should be made available to the widest audience. . . .

Life is a beta: This speaks more to culture rather than policies and procedures, but a Church who expects mistakes fosters a spirit of forgiveness and humility. There is willingness to try new things, to ask tough questions, and to realize that we never achieve perfection. . . .

Your worst customer is your best friend: The Church should be willing to listen and respond to the misfits and the critics.


God on Huckabee’s side?

Incredible that this has gotten next-to-no coverage but at Falwell’s Liberty University, Mike Huckabee claimed divine providence as the reason for his rise in the polls. More and the video at Prezvid.

: LATER: Lots and lots of comment over at Comment is Free.

At the gates of Hitchens

God bless Christopher Hitchens calling Jerry Falwell just what is was on the No. 2 Viral Video:

And that’s the way it is, spake the Lord

Fox News is airing the church service and sermon by the scary — for me — Rick Warren, CableNewser tells us. Of course, TV stations air services at Christmas but not as news events. Is this news? Or is it proselytizing? Will they air Friday services from a mosque in Ramadan? A service from a synagogue in the high holy days? A service from a liberal church on Christmas Eve? Where’s the news?

: LATER: I watched his service when I got home from my own. What platitudinal pop pap. With really irritating music. And Fox selling DVDs of the thing.

Moral leadership

The former Archbishop of Canterbury speaks out against Islamic violence:

Lord Carey said that Muslims must address “with great urgency” their religion’s association with violence. He made it clear that he believed the “clash of civilisations” endangering the world was not between Islamist extremists and the West, but with Islam as a whole.

“We are living in dangerous and potentially cataclysmic times,” he said. “There will be no significant material and economic progress [in Muslim communities] until the Muslim mind is allowed to challenge the status quo of Muslim conventions and even their most cherished shibboleths.” . . .

Lord Carey went on to argue that a “deep-seated Westophobia” has developed in recent years in the Muslim world. . . .

He said he agreed with his Muslim friends who claimed that true Islam is not a violent religion, but he wanted to know why Islam today had become associated with violence. “The Muslim world must address this matter with great urgency,” he said.

The Pope wimps out

It is high time that religious and political leaders call out Islamic leaders for not calling out Islamisits for their use of violence in the name of religion. The Pope did so last week but then promptly wimped out, apologizing for hurting anyone’s feelings. Didn’t know the Pope was from California. Feelings? Since when did the Pope turn PC?

Media have not helped. They have quoted one line the Pope quoted and put that forward as an insult to Islam. Well, far be it from me to defend the Pope who does not defend himself, but read that line — from Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus in 1391 — in context and it is an important statement about both violence and rationality and religion:

The emperor must have known that surah 2, 256 reads: “There is no compulsion in religion”. According to the experts, this is one of the suras of the early period, when Mohammed was still powerless and under threat. But naturally the emperor also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Qur’an, concerning holy war. Without descending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded to those who have the “Book” and the “infidels”, he addresses his interlocutor with a startling brusqueness on the central question about the relationship between religion and violence in general, saying: “Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached”. The emperor, after having expressed himself so forcefully, goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. “God”, he says, “is not pleased by blood – and not acting reasonably is contrary to God’s nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats… To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death…”.

The decisive statement in this argument against violent conversion is this: not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God’s nature. The editor, Theodore Khoury, observes: For the emperor, as a Byzantine shaped by Greek philosophy, this statement is self-evident. But for Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent.

Transcending law, even reason.

I think it’s ironic that the Pope then goes on to try to expand the definition of reason beyond that accepted in the West because he wants to portray religion as reasonable.

We will succeed in doing so only if reason and faith come together in a new way, if we overcome the self-imposed limitation of reason to the empirically verifiable, and if we once more disclose its vast horizons. In this sense theology rightly belongs in the university and within the wide-ranging dialogue of sciences, not merely as a historical discipline and one of the human sciences, but precisely as theology, as inquiry into the rationality of faith.

And he seems to be arguing that there — under a larger umbrella of reason — there is a meeting point for the religions to meet. I would say that defines optimism in our age.

So the Pope’s point was not to attack Islamic jihad but to use that as an illustration of fundamental differences. Still, he did attack violence in the name of religion. And I believe he should have stood by that firmly, for that is the discussion we must have. But instead, he wimped. And I believe that Islamic leaders should be standing firmly in the same spot, condemning violence — political violence, let’s be honest — in the name of their religion. But instead, they whine.

Where the hell are the moral leaders for our age?

: LATER: We should dread the aftermath. A Turkish paper reports that a church in the West Bank was attacked. Make that two churches. The Guardian has a picture of angry Muslims in India burning the Pope in effigy. Is this the sequel to the Danish cartoons? Let’s hope not. There are a lot more Catholics and Christians in the world to fight than there are Danes. But do note the terribly irony: The response to words condemning violence is violence.

: The Times writes a simplistic editorial calling for the Pope’s apology. But German Chancellor Angela Merkel defends her Landsman:

“What Benedict XVI emphasized was a decisive and uncompromising renunciation of all forms of violence in the name of religion,” she said.

Yes, and it is tragic that others do not join in that renunciation.

: MEANWHILE: In Australia:

The Howard government yesterday challenged the spiritual leaders of the nation’s Muslim community to reject terrorism.

In a firm address, Andrew Robb, Parliamentary Secretary for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, told a conference of Australian imams in Sydney that they had a responsibility to “quarantine Australia from the extremist elements who are tormenting the world, masquerading in the name of Islam”.

: Says the Sunday Times of London, God bless them:

The clash of civilisations is not between Christianity and Islam, it is between nations that encourage religious diversity and those which practise religious intolerance. It is between those who favour open debate and those who think free speech is anathema. The Pope may or may not have known what a hornets’ nest he was stirring up. Even if he did, there was nothing inappropriate, within context, in what he said.

The Vatican has said he is very sorry his speech caused such offence to Muslims. That is fine but it should not go further than that. He should certainly not be pushed into withdrawing his remarks. As in the case of the Danish cartoons, Muslim zealots are trying to impose their restrictions of free expression on the West. Mindful as we should be of religious sensitivities, that cannot be allowed to happen.

: And meanwhile in Iraq:

As security was beefed up around Pope Benedict XVI on Saturday night, the Mujahideen’s Army movement in Iraq threatened to carry out a suicide attack against the Pope in revenge for his comments about Islam and jihad.

On a website used by rebel movements in Iraq, a message posted by the Mujahideen’s Army said members of the organization would “smash the crosses in the house of the dog from Rome.”

As the Pope was saying….

: LATER STILL: Glenn Reynolds has a major roundup of opinion on the Pope.

What a friend we have in…

Jesus has a MySpace account. He lists his hobbies as “beard care, extreme waterskiing” and his favorite film as “The Life of Brian.” Last I looked, poor bloke has zero friends. In fact, He needs to advertise for them. But does He pirate videos?

Thank God for small favors

Well, there’s some good news on the religious front, as far as I’m concerned:

: The Presbyterian Church USA opened up a loophole to allow the ordination of gays. This was one of the reasons I left the Presbyterian Church. Though the morally noxious rule against gays stands, local congregations are now allowed leeway. Even gays’ opponents are tired of the fight:

But Marj Carpenter, a former moderator, or elected leader of the denomination, told the assembly: “The middle — the big part of the church — is worn out with this 28-year-fight. It’s starting to affect missions. It’s starting to affect what we do for youth. It’s starting to affect evangelism. It’s killing us.” Carpenter, who said she opposes ordination of gays and lesbians, said she is “ready to compromise.”

: Meanwhile, American Episcopalians found balls and fended off pressure from Anglicans elsewhere on the issue of ordaining gay bishops, refusing to recant.

Canon Martyn Minns, a conservative leader and rector of Truro Church in Fairfax, Va., said the deputies’ vote showed the impossibility of reconciling Anglicans with different views about the Bible and homosexuality.

“It’s too hard. It’s a gap too wide,” he said.

“Unhappily, this decision seems to show that the Episcopal church has chosen to walk apart from the rest of the Anglican Communion.”

But Rev. Susan Russell of Integrity, the Episcopal homosexual caucus, said she felt proud the church was willing to affirm its commitment to fight injustice.

“The vote says we’re not willing to make sacrificial lambs of our gay and lesbian sisters and brothers and that has to leave me feeling pretty grateful and very proud,” she said.

: And back at the Presbyterian ranch, the General Assembly backed away from its — let’s call it what it is, antisemitic — push to divest Israeli investments. Now they just want peaceful investments. Drat, they’ll have to sell those Hamas futures.

The issue had divided the church, where some members thought the divestment threat was anti-Jewish, and it damaged the church’s relationship with Israel.