Monday, June 27, 2005

Scientology Meme: Fun with New Religious Movements

My friend Adrienne insisted I do this meme, and made it so easy by linking to my blog, that I decided I'd do it. That, and I need the stress release. For those of you who don't know, my father-in-law is having neurosurgery for a cancerous lesion on Wednesday morning, and then my inlaws are moving... Pray for him, dear readers...
And now, from the sublime to the rediculous...
I present to you: 20 Questions they ask you when joining the (cult) Church of Scientology.

Have you driven anyone insane?
Other than my mother? Umm... probably my wife, and maybe a few other people, but so far they've all recovered...

Have you ever killed the wrong person?
As I haven't killed anyone, uh... no. What kind of question is that? The wrong person? As a pacifist I can't say as I think there is a right person to kill...

Is anybody looking for you?
Shhh... hide and seek isn't as much fun when someone like you keeps trying to help the seeker!

Have you ever set a poor example?
More often than I'd care to admit.

Did you come to Earth for evil purposes?
Didn't everyone???

Are you in hiding?
You're really making this game of hide and seek less fun than it was before you got here!

Have you systematically set up mysteries?
Yes, I keep a blog with minimal personal information.

Have you ever made a practice of confusing people?
Yes -- there have been times when I believed the most effective way for me to follow Paul's advice to be "all things to all people," was to avoid stating my position on controversial matters.

Have you ever philosophized when you should have acted instead?
Yes... philosophy causes far less sweat and back strain!

Have you ever gone crazy?
There was this one time when I was working on the supply train for the French army and caught something that gave me an awful fever, so I crawled into a brick oven... oh, wait, that was Descartes! I always get confused by that sort of thing...

Have you ever sought to persuade someone of your insanity?
Umm... please see the previous question.

Have you ever deserted, or betrayed, a great leader?
Only by imitating Peter in the courtyard of the high-priest's house... but that's more than enough for a resounding Yes.

Have you ever smothered a baby?
What is wrong with you people? Have you ever considered that questions like this might be why people don't trust you?

Do you deserve to have any friends?
Why don't you ask the ones I have? My guess is their answer would be "on the whole, yeah."

Have you ever castrated anyone?
No, no, no, no, no... And eeww!

Do you deserve to be enslaved?
Please see the answer to the question about smothering babies -- OK, I'm convinced, you people are nuts.

Is there any question on this list I had better not ask you again?
That one about castration... Eeww!

Have you ever tried to make the physical universe less real?
Never permanently.

Have you ever zapped anyone?
Frequently in childhood -- I'll admit it, I was a sci-fi geek once... well, maybe I still am from time to time.
Have you ever had a body with a venereal disease? If so, did you spread it?
Darnit! You heard about the gerbil! I could've sworn the hamsters would've kept their mouths shut! Who would believe a bunch of rodents who claim to have syphillis anyway? You people have issues!

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Result of Quiz :: What's your theological worldview?

Thanks to John Wilks who blogs at A Preacher's Journey for taking this quiz. After seeing it on his site, I just couldn't resist...

The only problem with this quiz is that it completely ignores Eastern Orthodoxy... I have a feeling that if it was recalibrated to include Orthodox Christians I'd score pretty high in that category.

You scored as Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan. You are an evangelical in the Wesleyan tradition. You believe that God's grace enables you to choose to believe in him, even though you yourself are totally depraved. The gift of the Holy Spirit gives you assurance of your salvation, and he also enables you to live the life of obedience to which God has called us. You are influenced heavly by John Wesley and the Methodists.

Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan


Neo orthodox






Roman Catholic


Reformed Evangelical


Classical Liberal




Modern Liberal


What's your theological worldview?
created with

The Hope for the UMC -- its roots as a movement

Shane Raynor at Wesley Blog recently had some interesting things to say about the UMC as an institution and a movement in a post entitled "Making Methodism a Movement Again." Shane draws on an article in the United Methodist Reporter, and draws the conclusion that we need to focus on reinvigorating the Methodist Movement and focus less on saving the institution. According to Shane: "Of course, no one says we can't do both, but I have a feeling that the UMC will take care of itself if we simply recapture the power of 18th Century Wesleyanism."

The string of comments that follow Shane's analysis are also worth reading, but I want to focus on Shane's post and the New England Annual Conference session that met a week ago in this post. I wrote earlier about being reinvigorated after Annual Conference, and one reason for that was Bishop Peter Weaver's repeated insistence that what we should be doing was focusing on the United Methodist Movement, not the institutions of the UMC. The movement has been reaching individuals with the good news of Jesus Christ long before there was a UMC or even a Methodist Episcopal Church. The movement has been bringing together the best of personal and social holiness longer than the church has existed, to transform both individuals and the world. In the end, it is the movement that is the real church (in the sense of the Body of Christ), and the institutional church and its boards and agencies are just the tools that the real church sometimes finds the ability to use.

Unfortunately, when any institution becomes focused on maintaining its place in the world, its power and authority, then the institution often eclipses the movement and stifle's the Holy Spirit at work in the Body. Institutions try to transform society without first focusing on the work of Jesus to transform lives -- Christian movements, at least in the case of Methodism in Wesley's day, focus on making disciples of Jesus Christ, and because lives are transformed by God's Grace, society changes with them.

Monday and Tuesday my wife and I babysat our friend's one-year-old son. He's never spent 24 hours away from his parents before, because their family isn't nearby -- but for Christians that should never be true! When the church is the real church, when Methodism is a movement, it's not about the building, or the worship program, or any of the institutional focus, but primarily about being part of the Body of Christ, a new people transformed by Grace and interested in each others needs -- a new family united by Jesus Christ. Instead of focusing on the institutions of the UMC let's focus on making our local churches movement centers where we make disciples of Jesus Christ and follow the new commandment to love one another... by giving an exhausted mother a day off, visiting a shut-in elder of the community, praying for each other, and spending time together as Christian people in holy conversation. Don't wait for the pastor, just start doing it, and invite others to do the same.

Sunday, June 12, 2005


Sorry, dear readers, for my continued sparse postings... I've just returned from a blessed and refreshing few days at the New England Annual Conference. I'll say more later, but for now I just want to confess Jesus was central and the Holy Spirit was moving. Thank God for giving us a Bishop who pushes us to keep personal and social holiness together, and to keep our eyes on Jesus Christ!

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Holiness: How the corporate actions of the Body of Christ can transform the world... And why the goal for Wesleyans can't be social justice.

My friend at Theologygirl recently called me out in a post entitled,
The post in which she actually mentions theology (but imagines she'll live to regret it)." Adrienne raises an important set of issues about what it means to be a Wesleyan Christian, and while she never uses the term, spends a great deal of time talking about the implications of holy-living in the contemporary world. While the source of her angst is a bit foreign to me, the content should be familiar to all of us who take seriously the call to live Christian lives in this fallen order. Better yet, we have a rare instance of Adrienne admitting that she is actually Wesleyan -- welcome to the fold, sister!

See now, as much as I try to tell Kate and David I'm not Wesleyan (mostly because I think it is fun to annoy Kate), here is where my boy John Wesley had it right. He was all about moving on to perfection in this life, all about social justice in this life. Oh sure, there was talk of hell and such. But was that really the point? No. No it wasn't.

How do I say this... for the most part I agree with you. Wesleyan Christianity is very much now-focused (just for the record, I think most critiques of pie-in-the-sky Christianity are attacks on straw-men, but I digress). However, regardless of how now-focused Wesleyan Christians might be, focusing on going on to perfection in this life, and personal and social holiness in this life, Wesley spent significant time talking about justice anjudgmentnt -- and usually used them as calls for people to "flee from the wrath to come."

Don't get me wrong, much of the work done in the name of social justice is both good and right -- but it's mislocated. For Wesleyan Christians, and Christians in general, trying to make the world just is the ultimate act of hubris: Justice, judgment, and the New Creation are God's business. However, much of what we call social justice might be slightly refocused and fit into the category of social holiness -- living lives according to God's ways and God's will, as Christians are both called and empowered to do. As one of my former professors often said -- it's ALL about Grace.

When we try to make the world just, we might depend on God's Grace to help us, but it's about systems and structures, and about judgment (justice, after all, is about how well things fit right and wrong ideals), not primarily about grace and mercy. Holiness, however, is a way of life, dependent on God's Grace and mercy, to allow broken sinners (who are every bit as much responsible for the sin in the world as everyone else) to live as God calls us to live. It's not about making the world right, but about being God's holy, set apart, priestly people in the midst of the old creation while awaiting the consummation of the New Creation. Practically speaking, the issues are similar, whether we use the term holiness or justice, but I'm convinced holiness is far more appropriate (especially for Wesleyan Christians).

Adrienne raised some important practical considerations as well:
However, all affirmations of my Methodism aside (I can't believe I'm doing that. Clearly I got too much sun over the weekend), this leaves me with a few practical ethical dilemmas. Unless I decide to buy land, build an environmentally-friendly bio-dome, raise non-oppressed animals, produce non-oppressing food, weave non-oppressing clothing, consume only what I can live on, recycle everything and somehow produce an income to support others less fortunate than myself, then I am very much a part of the web of sin that keeps everyone captive. ...Oh sure, there are little changes I can make, better habits to hold. I could probably buy only second hand clothing, which several people in my "Theology of John Wesley" assured me was socially just. I could buy organic food (which is unfortunately expensive). These ways of living would cease to be even inconveniences after a while, I imagine.

But, would that really do any good? I mean, really. The whole thing seems too big. So should I buy the books that kill the trees, even if I keep them for the rest of my life? Do I just go on happily consuming oil based energy with wild abandon?

If anyone has any good ideas how to, say, exist and not hurt at least half the world's population, I'd be open to hearing your suggestions.
That's the part of Wesley we rarely discuss, largely, I think, because it's overwhelming. He would say you should live as simply as possible in the world (so the biosphere's out), trying to do what you can to make the lives of those around you better. Regardless, you ARE captive to the web of sin that holds us all captive, we all are... and we all will be until the eschatological consummation of All Things and the completion of the New Creation -- at least that's the classic Christian response. Focusing on what we can't do to fix the created order turns us inward and away from God -- focusing on God's Grace at work within us and through us in the world allows us to do what we can, without being oppressed by the guilt of our inadequacies. My father likes to remind me that none of us can minister to everyone in all situations -- the only One who can do that is in heaven. While the Church might be the Body of Christ at work in the world, we need to remember we are NOT messiahs, but only called to live within the community of faith dependent for our existence and power to live holy lives upon the messiah's power.

What I learned from my time among the Nazarenes was that holiness isn't about following all the rules -- though rules can sometimes be helpful -- but about becoming dependent on God's transforming Grace to live differently than we can without it. If we all follow God's calling to be the best we can in the circumstances where we live, and if we are willing to be trasformed continually into Christ's image and likeness, then we are going on to perfection. If you have options, don't shop at Walmart, buy organic food (or better yet, anything grown within your community), live simply, and give abundantly -- but if you have no other choices, live in God's Grace, and know that that Grace is sufficient to make up for our deficiencieses. In a consumer culture like ours, we should all be more conscientious about reading labels, and making the best choices we can afford -- but we need to remember that if we live in Grace, and we are willing to live for Christ, and not for ourselves, then almost anything is possible, and our small, local decisions can cause tremendous collective effects.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Home again...

Sorry, dear readers... Last week my wife and I celebrated our third anniversary by taking a trip to Florida. The weather was great, and a good time was had by both of us. We returned yesterday -- truly exhausted, but also refreshed.

In other news, we went to see Star Wars: Episode III, Revenge of the Sith. Definitely worth the price of admission (especially for the midday matinee). This was definitely the best of the new trilogy -- and I think it helps redeem Episodes I and II by resolving most of the issues they raised and connecting them to the original trilogy.

The moment Anakin Skywalker's transformation into Darth Vader -- complete with the familiar black body/suit, and James Earle Jones' voice speaks through it for the first time gave me the chills. Well, looks like lightning, beter quit for now, dear readers!