Archives For Culture

lone soldier

It was the day after Christmas, 1944. In Europe, the Battle of the Bulge was in full swing. On the other side of the world Hiroo Onoda, an elite Japanese soldier and intelligence officer, was dropped behind enemy lines on Lubang Island in the Philippines. His mission was to link up with a small group of soldiers already on the island and conduct guerrilla warfare and covert operations. The departing orders from Onoda’s commander, Major Taniguchi, were clear:

You are absolutely forbidden to die by your own hand. It may take three years, it may take five, but whatever happens, we’ll come back for you. Until then, so long as you have one soldier, you are to continue to lead him. You may have to live on coconuts. If that’s the case, live on coconuts! Under no circumstances are you [to] give up your life voluntarily.

In February of 1945, Allied forces took the island, forcing the Japanese soldiers to split up and flee into the jungle mountains. Over the next several months most of them were killed off. But not Onoda.

Teamed with three other soldiers, Onoda continued to carry out his mission. They ate whatever they could find in the jungle or pillage from farms and villages. They plundered enemy stockpiles to refill their weapon stocks.

August 15, 1945, Japan surrendered to Allied forces ending World War II. No one ever told Onoda and his compatriots. They’d heard nothing of the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by atomic bombs. No news of the fall of Berlin had reached them. As far as they knew, the war was still on. . . .

This is an exclusive piece I wrote for The Antioch Session. Read the rest and join the conversation there.

Image by Davidd, CC BY 2.0 via Flickr

Photo by Ed Ouimette (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Photo by Ed Ouimette (CC BY-SA 2.0)

HUMBUG WARNING: If Buddy the Elf best describes you during the holidays, you’re gonna hate this post.

Have you ever paid attention to the lyrics of the songs that are played around the holidays? I mean, really listened to them and considered their meanings? While many of them do a fine job and bringing glad tidings and cheer, some of them are just awful. Here are 10 Christmas Songs Whose Lyrics Are The WORSTContinue Reading…

Photo by gabrieleventi (CC BY 2.0)

Photo by gabrieleventi (CC BY 2.0)

I’m co-teaching a master’s class with Leonard Sweet for George Fox Seminary students called “Communication in Christian Ministry.” One of the things we want students to come away with is a better understanding of how to strategically integrate online communication and social networking tools into their ministry contexts. The students design a short-run social media project, track and assess interaction, then write up a report on their findings. Their projects are currently underway (check out Ed Pagh’s twitter hashtag #ExtendWorship and Tobyn Bower’s facebook group, “On the Trail” for great examples). Any foray into social conversations online quickly reveals the sometimes hostile grounds that exist “out there.”

With more people and more people joining social media conversations each year, have we lost our manners? In the midst of all the tweets and retweets, likes and status updates, pins, posts, comments and replies, upvotes and downvotes, is there a place for civility online? How can we make our virtual interactions more hospitable?  Continue Reading…

In this video from The RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce), Roman Krznaric talks about the importance of outrospection and empathy when it comes to social, political, and economic transformation. I think that the same empathic imagination is needed in the church as well.

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A couple nights ago, I received a call in the early evening from a prominent speaker and writer here in the Portland area. He was having a dinner party and wondered if I was free to come and join him and his other guests. He said that most of the people at the party were, like him, from the area and he thought that having me, a Southerner now living in the Pacific Northwest, would add a different voice to the conversation. Though somewhat unsure about what he meant by that, I rearranged my plans for the evening and drove across town to his house.

When I arrived, it was immediately clear that I was late. Everyone else was already seated at the table and finishing up the salad course. Still, I was welcomed and introduced as guest of the host. I looked around the table and noticed that there wasn’t an empty place setting. All the seats were occupied. Slightly embarrassed, the host quickly had people rearrange their chairs and make some room as he retrieved a folding chair from his garage.

I sat down, a little bit lower due to the height of the cool, metal chair, and began to eat the salad placed before me. The shorter chair meant that the surface of the table came up to my mid-chest. I felt a little ridiculous sitting a full head lower than everyone else, like a child invited to sit with the grown-ups. The party staff cleared everyone else’s empty dishes. I shoveled the greens into my mouth, trying to catch up. In between bites, I tried to politely answer the other guests’ questions about my upbringing in Georgia. Continue Reading…

label maker

This week Dave Fitch wrote a post in response to Tony Jones’ and Doug Pagitt’s frustration with Fitch labeling them, and Emergent, as part of the protestant mainline. In the post, Fitch responds to their objections and defends his choices. Regarding the act of labeling he writes, “labeling, carefully and generously done, is an exercise in furthering the conversation.” In response to his specific labeling of Jones and Pagitt as mainliners he writes, “[l]ooking at their theological positions as articulated over the last 10-15 years, especially when we were reading/listening to them more carefully, I still think theologically they both lie comfortably in this camp” (emphasis added).

First off, allow me to admit that I have not read the book in which this labeling occurs (sorry Fitch and Holsclaw!), so I may be missing some pieces here. Even so, I submit that Jones and Pagitt are not as offended by the label as they are by being labeled. Let me explain.  Continue Reading…

That's me, moderating the question and answer time with Rachel Held Evans and Roger Olson.

That’s me, moderating the question and answer time with Rachel Held Evans and Roger Olson.
Photo credit: Loren Kerns. See the original image.

Yesterday I had the honor of being part of a seminar called “Does Evangelicalism Have a Future?” put on by George Fox Evangelical Seminary as a part of their Ministry in Contemporary Culture series. I first proposed this seminar a year ago, for somewhat selfish reasons. I wanted to get two people that I greatly respect (Roger Olson and Rachel Held Evans) in a room together to hear them talk about a question that I’ve been struggling with for the past several years. In the marketing for the event I wrote,

In a time when “evangelical” has more of a political connotation than a convictional connotation, we need bright voices that can help sort through the noise and imagine a way forward for those who call themselves evangelical.

I still call myself evangelical, but find that I must often follow that with “but let me explain what I mean by that.” In the US, and likely elsewhere, the word “evangelical” has become synonymous with white-male-fundamentalist-Republican-Christian. Those of us who don’t fit that description often find ourselves using the evangelical moniker to our own detriment. It would be so easy to just stop using the word, but I’ve found that problematic as well.

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Lent for Newbies

February 12, 2013 — 6 Comments

lent_ash_cross

I didn’t grow up in a high church liturgical tradition, so I knew little about Lent until I was in my twenties. Each year, it seems, I hear of friends and relatives who want to give up something for Lent, but aren’t really sure what, how, or why. So, they usually give up chocolate or beer or smoking and then complain about how hard it is. If you, like me, didn’t grow up in a tradition that observes Lent, but you are intrigued by what you might be missing, I hope you find this post helpful.  Continue Reading…

sistine_smoke

So, Pope Benedict XVI is resigning. The last Pope to do so was Gregory XII in 1415, but his resignation was more of an abdication than a voluntary retirement. The Church was in the midst of the Western Schism. There were three claimants to the papacy and, in the end, Gregory XII resigned under pressure and made possible the election of Martin V two years later.

One must travel back nearly 750 years to find the last time that a pope voluntarily resigned. Pope Celestine V resigned his post in 1294, after filling the See of Peter for a mere five months. Interestingly, one of his most notable contributions during his tenure was declaring that any pope had the right to resign or retire. He then utilized that very declaration to leave his position and return to his pre-papacy life of solitude.

Now, for the second time in a decade, the College of Cardinals will convene to vote on the next man to step into apostolic succession. Beginning in March, the world will turn its collective eye to Saint Peter’s Square and watch until the smoke rising from the Sistine Chapel changes from dark to white, signaling the election of the next pope.
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crisis chinese

Popularized in a 1959 speech by President Kennedy, it is said that when written in Chinese, “crisis” is composed of the two characters meaning “danger” and “opportunity.” Though the actual linguistics of such a translation are a bit shaky, the sentiment is a good one: crises are crucial moments with high stakes.

The church is not unfamiliar with crisis. Throughout its long and storied history, the church has faced despotism from within and from without. She has been both the persecuted and the persecutor. She has been both endangered by standing against kings and kingdoms, and she has been endangered by playing bedfellow to Presidents and Prime Ministers.

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