Evangelicals have an above-average divorce rate (at 54%, higher than atheists and agnostics). This might be somewhat surprising considering the Bible's rigid stance against divorce, and the evangelical's profession that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God.
Another factor makes this even more surprising. A distinctively evangelical practice, many engaged couples go through pre-marital counseling. Usually done with their pastor, it is supposed to help divorce-proof Christian marriages. After weeks, even months, of counseling, the pastor almost always put his (rubber) stamp of approval. Then he officiates the wedding (and collects his $).
Mathematically, pastors - who are supposed to have keen insight into peoples' character - are thus wrong more than 50% of the time. In other words, a chimpanzee flipping a coin would be a better predictor of a marriage's success or failure. Tsk tsk, pastors, we say to ourselves.
But maybe that is unfair. Pastor are put (or put themselves) in an untenable situation. Either give the green light (despite personal reservations) or royally piss off the engaged couple (who will go to a less "judgmental" pastor, or none at all). In other words, damned if you do, damned if you don't.
The problem, as I see it, is that pastors get into the game way too late. The couple has already fallen in love. Nothing you say will dissuade them at this point (especially if a down deposit has been made, if invites have been sent out, a wedding website has been ... etc. etc.). Nothing we say makes a dent.
The solution is to get in the game much, much earlier. To even before the couple meets. Yes: before the couple even meets. I propose that pastors should be a lot more engaged in cross-church arranged marriages.
Pastors, especially of young single urban churches, know that the 20/30-somethings are on the hunt. But they also know that for these marriage-seekers, dating within the church feels a little like spiritual incest. And the ramifications to the church as a whole if the relationship sours can be devastating and divisive.
Inter-church dating, however, is ideal. If the relationship eventually ends, no harm, no foul. Each person can retreat to his/her respective church, now with a sob story that adds gravitas to the person (however deserved). If the relationship succeeds, their wedding turns into a veritable hotbed for young Christian singles from the two churches to meet. Oh, the Bestman&maid-of-honor possibilities!
For this to work, though, pastors need to work together. It's simple. Pastor Alex meets with Pastor Bob for a long lunch. Together they discuss the (participating) singles in the church and cross-match them based on compatible levels of (in no specific order): age, looks, intelligence, pedigree, spirituality, interests, emotional attractiveness, income-expectations, etc. Then they give out facebook/email to the matches, and away they go. If the first date(s) doesn't work out, the my-pastor-was-wrong is a convenient outie. No harm, no foul.
For this dating scheme to have any integrity, however, there must be certain preconditions. Participation should be limited to: (1) only church members with demonstrated commitment; and (2) only those who are intent on seeking a spouse - this is not a casual dating service.
To me, it's a brilliant scheme. Untested, I'd be the first to admit, but brilliant in its simplicity. What say you?
That's the lesson to be learned from the Batman franchise. We went from a corny Batman in tights and external jockstrap(see above) to a stiff Batman with nipples (Clooney). Holy Cheese!
Then we got the Dark Knight (see above). Layered. Dangerous. Edgy. This we got. This was good.
James Bond got it, too.
Back when, he had a kitschy cool that came off a little goofy (see above). In his impeccable tuxedo, he played women like dominoes, always with a plastic smile that made you think of kitchen linoleum. He had his practiced one-liners, chock-full of hokum. He tried too hard.
Then we got Daniel Craig: cratered, craggy, crackling. A Bond with a past, with gravitas, a heart of darkness, a tortured soul who didn't let on. This we got. This was good.
Like Batman and Bond, Jesus needs a renovation. He needs to be darker.
This is Jesus today:
It's not that we need to create a new Jesus. But we do need to draw out a Jesus of the gospels who has gravitas and raw soul. Because the current evangelical Jesus does not inspire. This Jesus is an embarassing conglomeration of Homer Simpson and effable Buddha. He is insipid, irrelevant, clueless, naive. Holy cow, he would make for a great kindergarten teacher! Oh! the practical jokes we could play on him! But savior of a dark, damaged, deranged world and people? This Jesus? Not so much. This Jesus mollilfies the naive and sweety-sweet, yay Jesus church, but not so much the mud-covered urchins that most (all) of us are.
As your Jesus is, so your heart is. A blissfully clueless church has created a blissfully clueless Jesus (see above).
Fact is, the gospels depict a Jesus much, much darker and edgier than evangelical Jesus. One who is not quite so nice. One who has plumbed the depths of hell (literally), one who has stared evil in the eye and did not buckle, street-smart and people-wise, unwilling to entrust himself to anyone, lonely, brutal, prone to get into verbal and physical fights (he used a whip, maybe because there wasn't a switchblade on hand). There was a deep, dark side to him, one that would freeze your blood had he ever let it show. This is a Jesus who instills fear and awe in me.
I need less of the sweet-sunshine and more of the dark side of the Son.
It's been quite an election season. It's even had an adverse effect on ... my church. This election has turned a politically diverse church (that mine is) into a politically divided church. Theological differences don't hold a candle to the impassioned and, at times, embittered political differences dividing the pews. The Calvinism v. Arminianism debate is a snore-fest compared to the Obama v. McCain vitriolic arguments breaking out in "fellowship" groups.
It strikes me as a little ironic. The Christians at my church stand hand-in-hand on the grand, all-important, eternity-weighing issues: God, salvation, heaven, etc. But on the "smaller" issue of who to vote for, there is raving, rabid, rejection of one another. Or, total condescension: like the college freshman who told me that I was entitled to my "idiotic" position (I took the high ground: I told him that I would fast and pray for him until God showed him the light). But hey, we love each other. 1 John 4:9.
There is not much more to say which hasn't already been said about the election. Here are some random things I've overheard and (for one reason or another) has stuck.
Somebody told me that she could not vote for Obama because of the mole by his nose. Excuse me? Because, she said, every time she saw the mole, it reminded her an equisized, unborn fetus.
Sarah Palin has turned Christian conservatives into total hypocrites. At least those evangelicals who espouse the woman-cannot-lead-or-teach position. The contradiction of this conservative Christian belief and with the wholesale lovefest for Palin by evangelicals (who will vote to put Palin one heart beat away from being the leader of the free world) stinks of rank hypocrisy.
The leftist bias in the media is appalling. When even Dan Rather thinks so (here), you know there's got to be some basis for republican gripe. And if you disagree, well, you've been had, my friend, hook, line & sinker...
Obama got a pass on the Jeremiah Wright controversy. So did the highly-regarded evangelical preaching website Preaching Today (a subsidiary of Christianity Today), which had years ago published one of Rev. Wright's sermons.
Perhaps the Republicans overplayed the William Ayres card. Maybe. But one thing is for sure: if McCain had a similar relationship with a member of a white supremacy group, his campaign would have been decimated within two days. Make that two hours.
When your church pastor prays "for the upcoming election, for His will be done" what exactly does that mean? That one candidate is in God's will, and the other is not? Hmm...that really makes you stop and pause.
There are all kinds of daffy ideas coming from
that segment of christians that views itself to be
the epitome of avant garde christian-cool because it loves Christ and
votes obama. For example, Shane Claiborne suggests that one way we can practice racial reconciliation
is by asking a black person who we should vote for. And then to vote accordingly. Err...Mr. Claiborne, how exactly is handing over to another
person - carte blanche - my intelligence, my opinions, my sense
of right/wrong re: political issues, my independent thought,
etc., supposed to bring about racial reconciliation?
the vast majority of people - even the most ardent supporters - have scant idea what their candidate really stands for, and how that position practically differs from the other candidate's respective position. Deep down, most people have little more patience or want for anything more than bumper sticker slogans and soundbytes. It's a little like christians. deep down, we are not theologically-inquisitive, and prefer the WWJD-like soundbytes and slogans. Obama! McCain! Jesus!
And finally, I would like to say this. I have a deep respect for those people who have refused to see this election as just an entertainment spectre or as an excuse to have a debate or to "join a cause" or to have an opinion because it is suddenly chic to be politically-minded. To those conscientous men and women, Republican and Democrat, who have an ernest appreciation of the political issues, and, more than anything else, who have a deep-seated, yet unshowy love for this country, i thank you because the way you love something bigger than yourself is inspiring.
There are some people who are universally beautiful.Across ethnic and demographic lines, they are considered to be stunners.For example, during the Olympics, my non-Asian colleagues at work were gushing about Chinese diver, Guo Jingjing (above).Maybe it was because she was in a swimsuit, maybe it was the sleek-dolphin-like way she emerged from the water, maybe it was the shower, but they were all agog about her.Guo has universal beauty.
Then there are some who have an ethnic beauty.These are people who are considered beautiful only by members of their own ethnic group.Their appeal is in-group: outsiders just don’t get it.Korean actor Bae Yong Joon (above) of Winter Sonata fame has ethnic beauty.Asians look at him and see a serene and assured beauty topped by glowing passion simmering in his hair.Non-Asians see a wimpy dude in a turtleneck with orange hair.Bae has ethnic beauty.Reverend Eugene Cho (below) is another example.Although he often self-deprecates his own looks, he has an undeniable Asian masculinity-beauty about him.Non-Asians don’t see that, though.Cho is an ethnic beauty.
The same applies to spirituality.There is universal spirituality and then there is ethnic spirituality.Universal spirituality is that which is recognized and praised across ethnic-demographic lines.These are people with Mother-Theresa-like qualities, who have an overabundance of the fruits of the Spirit and a life of undeniable sacrifice and goodness.A person with universal spirituality is deemed by all ethnicities as holy and godly.
Ethnic spirituality is different.Only members of the same ethnicity recognize it for what it is: holiness expressed through the pores of ethnicity.There is an Asian-spirituality just as there is a latino-spirituality and a black-spirituality.A person with ethnic spirituality will likely not be viewed by a different ethnic church as the spiritual saint that he is in his own ethnic church.For example, an Asian Christian might be praised for his control over his tongue, his humility, and for being a great listener.Plug this person into a non-Asian church, and suddenly all these attributes are flipped on their head.Instead of a spiritual giant, he is viewed as sullen, a mere follower, a dullard with nary an opinion.In the same way, the white Christian leader, plugged into an Asian church, is often viewed as brash and a loudmouth.
The fact of the matter is this: every ethnicity measures holiness in a different way.This is not a bad thing or even something which should be done away with.But the sooner the church grasps the extent to which ethnicity is more part of the warp and woof of the church than e.g., its denomination, the faster the acceptance of monoethnic churches will flourish guilt-free.