Monday, July 30, 2007

Alternative Festivals, and Us

Thursday we head off to the UK. Well 6 of us are leaving. We will land at Gatwick Airport south of London, and head to South Oxfordshire to the Lammas Games. At the Lammas Games we will offer free Dream Interpretation. The Lammas Games are organized by the Druid Network run by Emm Restall Orr (aka Bobcat).

On the issue of ministering at alternative festivals such as the Lammas Games, Matt Stone has a nice post on his blog from yesterday. Check it out, and get a feel for the places we like to bring our faith.

Following the Lammas Games we will head to the Eisteddfod in North Wales, and work there for a week. I'm looking forward to being in a place I love so much.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Blogger Layout Problems - any ideas?

So here's the deal: I have this cool looking 3 column layout when I open it up on my Mac in Safari or Netscape, but if you are looking at on Explorer right now it might be one column, and extra large letters at that. Do any of you blog-meisters know how to fix this? I would really like to keep the three column set up, and not go back to the basic black two column design. If you know how to make this work in both Mac and PC platforms, and through different browsers let me know.

This question has been sent to Blogger Help as well.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Tammy Faye: Once Again Reminded of the End of an Era

Jay, my heartfelt condolences go out to you. Grace on you as you walk through what it means to walk in faith post-mom.

Having had Jay Bakker here at The Gathering a couple months ago, I got a sense of Jay's respect for his mother, and felt as though I myself softened a bit toward some if those elements of my Pentecostal background which are troublesome, or strange to myself, and many people in our society. Tammy Faye exuded love, and acceptance, and it was not only something seen on TV, but I discovered that her son thought of her as a saint as well. Now that speaks volumes.

A short time back Jerry Falwell died, and I mentioned that it felt as though we had come to the end of an era. I am neither happy nor sad for that era ending, but I am impacted deeply, and thoughtful about it.

An era does not end in a single action, or blip off the screen in a day. Eras fade. They transition like mood rings, marking temperature differences which slowly occur.

With the death of Tammy Faye an era evolves toward extinction. Not the loss of Christianity, but of a specific season of American church life. It is not dead, but perhaps still being in it's peak begins to gently ebb, and Tammy Faye may be one of the more simple, ingenuous waves of that season. Her name sweetly laps up on the shore one last time, and reminds us of a Gospel we grew up with (whether aplauded or reviled) in almost every American home, and of her kind there are few left, and certainly none who have held our enraptured attention like Tammy Faye. Some will take this time to mount their soap box, and speak ill - shame on you, if you do.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Nudity, Innocence, and Christian Distopia

This is my contribution to today's SynchroBlog on Utopia. It is also part of an ongoing development on the subject of Christian Sexuality.

As early as the second century, while Christianity was still in its infancy, an obscure sect arose called the Adamites. They believed in returning to the innocence of the Garden of Eden, and this included "holy nudity" - social nudity including in the place and time of worship. Their gatherings were named "Paradise," and as might have been expected they were considered outside the realm of orthodoxy.

Among the early church fathers there is some question as to the Adamites actual practices. Some Church Fathers have asserted that they lived in unabashed licentiousness practicing polyamory, and mystic sensuality. Others believed that they were simply misguided ascetics attempting to rid themselves of sin through a return to Edenic innocence.

Through church history the connection between Edenic perfection, and social nudity in worship and in fellowship would rise and fall through seasons of renewed interest followed by persecutiuon.

In the 13th century, some antagonists of The Brethren of the Free Spirit accused them of gross sexual immorality, while others accused them of a waywardly strict acseticism. Social nudity appears to have been a practice of this group. In the 15th century the Taborites in Bohemia claimed the milennium had arrived, and that the time of return to the innocence of the Garden was upon them. The Taborites apparently were religious zealots who believed in slaying all heretics, and broke the tradition of Edenic perfection and passifism.

In 1641 a group calling themselves the Adamites surfaced in London. Meeting in homes they appear to have gathered for Bible studies and fellowship in the nude to rid themselves of the restraints of society's false modesty, and regain the innocence of the Garden. They are not likely to have survived beyond 1660.

In the US, Baptist Minister Ilsley Boone founded the organization which would later become the AANR (American Association for Nude Recreation), and began publishing the first Nudist magazine in 1933. The early days of social nudism in the states was marked by strict codes of sexual moral behavior. Even such activities as holding hands was often prohibited for fear of inspiring public outcry of immorality.

The YMCA (Young Men's Christian Association) typically swam in the nude (both the young boys and the leaders) until it became co-ed organization in the 1960s. This rule was due to clogging of filters in pools, but it shows a change in attitudes on social nudism.

Nudism as a social practice with religious affiliation crosses the boundaries of denomination, and religious groups today. Such divergent Christian groups, and Non-Christian Religious Movements as Pagans, Mormons, Baptists, Quakers, and Catholics are defenders of this lifestyle. Insistence on nudism as a mark of Edenic perfection and innocence is less a mark of today's Christian nudist proponents, but physical, psychological and social health benefits are sited as reasons for social nudism by its practitioners. Even sanctification benefits have been addressed by more than one source. I have met men who assert that their deliverance from addiction to pornography has been affected by the practice of innocent social nudity.

With the growth of social nudism as an indusrty, religious affiliation has become less important in recent years. In the last couple decades there has arisen sharp controversy in the nudist community. Many nudist retreats, and recreation areas have retained a family-focused priority, but newer facilities and vacation sites have catered to a growing sexually promiscuous clientele. Even among Christian naturists (another term for nudist) polyamorous, and Christian Swinger groups are randomly occurring. This is the kind of activity addressed and denounced with judgment in the letter to the church at Pergamos. (Revelation 2:14)

This brief history of nudism in Christianity does not attempt to prove, or disprove any point of doctrine, or morality about the issue of nudity and social behavior. I do not assume the innocence or licentiousness of any individual apart from the obvious practices of sexual immorality, and infidelity. But, I do believe the history of nudism in Christianity reasserts a basic lesson of the Christian life: Though physical activities may at times benefit individuals in their personal health and their walk of faith, there is no specific behavior or community practice which will institute Utopian, or Edenic perfection. We live in a world of sin, and our best efforts to achieve Heaven now will always fall short. Communities seeking to create Utopia now will always sway in one of two directions: that of strict legalism to maintain the status, or approval of Hellish actions as acceptable behaviors of Heaven. Earthly Utopia is a temporary glimpse of Heaven. Any attempt to maintain it by human effort becomes a hellish Distopia.

Clothes on or clothes off the way to Eden is still blocked until the return of Christ.

Dozens of links could have been provided on the history, and doctrine of Christian social nudism. I have purposely refrained from providing them on this post.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

SynchroBlog List for July 12th, 2007

This month's SynchroBlog is a series of discussions on Utopian ideas. As is a perfect Utopian concept, we have not mandated the topic on Utopia to be specific to any one concept, or dogma. So, come back Thursday, July 12th. and follow the links to check 'em out.

Steve Hayes at Notes from the Underground
John Morehead at John Morehead's Musings
Nudity, Innocence, and Christian Distopia at Phil Wyman's Square No More
Utopia Today: Living Above Consumerism at Be the Revolution
Nowhere Will Be Here at Igneous Quill
A This-Worldly Faith at Elizaphanian
Bridging the Gap at Calacirian
The Ostrich and the Utopian Myth at Decompressing Faith
Being Content in the Present at One Hand Clapping
Eternity in their Hearts by Tim Abbott
Relationship - The catch-22 of the Internet Utopia at Jeremiah's Blog
U-topia or My-topia? at On Earth as in Heaven
A SecondLife Utopia at Mike's Musings
Mrs. Brown and the Kingdom of God at Eternal Echoes

Missional Concepts Consulting

John Smulo and I are forming a consulting group with the vision of helping leaders, non-profit organizations, businesses, churches, and community groups navigate the difficult to follow and often misunderstood world of New Religious Movements (NRM's), and similarly help give guidance toward becoming missional in the 21st century.

Missional Concepts Consulting has the following goals: mapping popular trends in occult and NRMs among youth and adults, allaying fears and misunderstandings surrounding unique religious expressions, giving sensitivity training toward religiously diverse individuals, and groups, identifying legitimate concerns attached to occult practices, understanding the worldview and the subculture of NRMs, and creating an effective evangelistic model towards the occult and NRMs.

We will be making ourselves available to denominational groups, churches, schools, and any group or organization which has concerns about the rise of NRMs and desires to form a healthy response to those who are involved with them.

Although New Religious Movements are our specialty, we also will be working to help churches navigate the issues of defining what it means to be missional in the 21st century, and engaging emerging church culture. Pastoring a small church with an enormous evangelical outreach in Salem, Massachusetts has given me a unique perspective on retaining a missional stance while navigating the turbulent waters of change.

Should you know churches whose needs and concerns can be addressed by this service feel free to contract us:

John Smulo -
Phil Wyman -


So, Benedict is once again stating clearly what he (and the church he serves) has always believed, and people are getting a bit upset about it. On the one hand, I wonder why they are upset, because nothing has changed in his doctrine, or that of the Catholic Church of which he is the head. On the other hand, this is a move toward asserting the late doctrine of papal infallibility which was not defined dogmatically until 1850.

In the release of the paper "RESPONSES TO SOME QUESTIONS REGARDING CERTAIN ASPECTS OF THE DOCTRINE ON THE CHURCH" Pope Benedict XVI asserts some things, which we non-catholic Christians thought they still believed all along, such as: 1) Roman Catholicism is the only, one and true church established by God, 2) Other Churches are either faulty, or they are not really church at all, because they do not have the necessary apostolic succession in leadership.

As to the second point, Orthodox Denominations are considered faulty because they "lack something." Protestant, and other non-Orthodox Churches fall short of even being worthy of the title church, because "[a]ccording to Catholic doctrine, these Communities do not enjoy apostolic succession in the sacrament of Orders, and are, therefore, deprived of a constitutive element of the Church. These ecclesial Communities which, specifically because of the absence of the sacramental priesthood, have not preserved the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic Mystery cannot, according to Catholic doctrine, be called "Churches" in the proper sense.

Otherwise, Protestant churches may have some semblance of Christian behavior in them, but they have no chance of being real churches according to Catholic doctrine.

A real Church according to Catholicism exists on the basis of these points: 1) Peter laid hands on some guy in the first century and passed apostolic authority on to him. This in turn has happened successively through the generations down to today. and 2) Because this occurred today's priests have the ability to say the words of Jesus over the bread and the wine, and turn the elements into his literal body.

Because Protestant, and non-Orthodox Churches are not really churches they do not have the ability to offer true salvation to people according to the Catholic Church.

I am not sure I would call myself a Protestant, but I do call myself a Christian, and I do believe the church I pastor opens a clear pathway for people to find God, and salvation. I also believe that the doctrine of apostolic succession places the Will of God into the hands of failing men, and negates it power. Furthermore the teaching of transubstantiation appears as a form of magic, and I do not find sufficient support for it in scripture.

Having said this, I have wonderful committed Christian friends who consider themselves Catholic. As for Benedict: His words make me want to take up the word Protestant. Now I know what Luther was mad at. Does anyone wonder why we held a conference entitled, "God for People Who Hate Church?" Perhaps it's time for some good ol' apostolic secession.

Whadaya think?

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Emergent: Too Utopian?

The SynchrBlog release in two days deals with the subject of Utopia. This set of articles from Kevin Brewster asks if the Emergent Church is too utopian. A good read as we start writing on utopian ideas.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Things Look a Bit Different Around Here

Hi Friends,

Yep, there is a slightly new look to this blog. I am far too bumbling in figuring out these new things, but I finally discovered how to get three columns instead of the typical two, and I've been wanting to do that for awhile. I also figured out working with Amazon so that I can recommend books, and even make a few pennies from the process if you think the book looks like something you should buy. You know how it works - if you click through to Amazon and buy the book on that click I get credit. Then the money can be used to buy more books, or can just come to my bank account. I am sure some of you should be signing up with Amazon to try and cover your own book habits. Please note the book to the left "Wicca and the Christian Heritage." I recommend it as a quite scholarly and fine read. It is a unique perspective on the historical origins of modern Wicca written by a Methodist lady. Want to understand what's going on in Neo-Pagan circles? Then click on the box and check out the book. It's brand new and hot off the press, so you won't find any used copies around.

Let me know if this page layout is acceptable and readable to you, or if I have confused what was once a simple to read layout.

In the World?

Among the most common quoted references which is thought to be in the Bible is this quote which tells us we should be "in the world but not of it." It is extrapolated from John 17:14-15, but as quoted is not in the Biblical text. A quick Google search of the phrase highlights some interesting groups which utilize this quote as wisdom from their own religious tradition: Christianity, Sufism, evolutionary spirituality, the Yoga Sutras of Patanjal, and even a Channeling Course.

So, how does this concept apply to us? How does it relate to our engagement with the cultures of this world? and how do we understand it in respect to being missional?

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Brain Cool Down

So, I was sitting here yawning, and I came across this interesting piece of news. My problem is not that I am exhausted, or that I need more oxygen. The problem is that my brain is overheated, and needs a cool down. So I am yawning to cool down my overheated brain, and to keep myself alert. Well, that's what researchers at the Unversity of Albany tell me. See full report here.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Next SynchroBlog - Thursday, July 12th

All Synchrobloggers Unite! Put on your idealistic headgear.

On July 12th we will do a release of the next SynchroBlog session. The topic this month is Utopia. John Morehead posted about this topic last week, and it has become the rallying point for all of us to write about the subject. "The guidelines for posting about Utopia," you ask? None other than make it something about Utopia. It might be nice to tie it into your Christian worldview. So - start greasing up your brains on the subject of Utopia, Shangri-La, Eden, Heaven, or California - whatever you discover as your Utopian theme.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Discussion at The Ooze

I have started a discussion at The Ooze on topics related to engaging those who are involved in the occult. It has been going for a few days, and has hit the hot topic level. Come on in and join the discussion at The Culture Discussion Board at The Ooze. I'd love to see you there.