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April 30, 2008

Jesusmanifesto.com is now easier to read in your mobile device. Check it out!

Submergent Update

April 29, 2008

Jesus Manifesto is just one of the projects aimed at fostering Jesus-like subversiveness of which I am a part. I also have been helping get a network of Anabaptist leaders, called Submergent, up and running. The goal of Submergent isn’t so much to try to get something new started, so much as to network existing Anabaptist voices and groups so that we can all better be a part of what God is already doing in the world. Once we’re better connected, THAT is when folks can begin to scheme and dream of new things.

Currently, the goal is to have a gathering in late 2008. In the meantime, a handful of us are connecting with folks all around the world to discern what is already stirring…so that we can carefully move forward with this rag-tag network called Submergent.

Recently, I redeveloped the website due to some technical difficulties. To make Submergent.org useful, I encourage you to visit the site and check it out. If you have a blog or organization or church that you think fits with the Submergent vibe, use the contact form on the site and share your info.

We’ve also added a discussion board at Submergent.org. This will help people add info and content on the fly. It is a great way to decentralize the sharing of upcoming events or service opportunities, as well as a way of fostering conversation around issues. For example, the first conversation to start up is over the origin of the name “Submergent.”

You can find the discussion board here.

You can subscribe to the discussion board feed here.

And you can subscribe to the regular site feed here.

The Myth of Progress

April 29, 2008

A few months ago I e-mailed one of my pastors at my church after he gave a sermon on the Kingdom of God. As part of a long, frustrated e-mail, I wrote the following:

My biggest question is, why aren’t we seeing the progress on earth? Why haven’t the cosmic changes that Jesus’ coming brought turned into real changes on earth? I know that the Kingdom of God is a long work in progress, but why can’t I see any big concrete changes towards the Kingdom of God? I know there have been many many many little things that Christians and churches have done over the past 2000 years to make earth a little more heavenly, but it doesn’t seem like there has actually been a mass movement forward, even if it is just a little bit more forward. Instead it seems like we are in much the same place, if not in a worse, more sinful, and evil condition. Now I definitely can’t grasp the whole scope of history around the world in the past 2000 years, but it doesn’t seem like the world is moving towards peace as we are building up larger militaries, amassing nuclear weapons, and fighting over ever more dwindling resources. It doesn’t seem like we are moving towards the end of poverty as the gap between the rich and poor is growing ever larger still, and the Christians around the world have the resources to end extreme poverty on their own, yet aren’t doing it. It doesn’t seem like we are moving towards authentic loving communities as our lives become more and more individualistic and media-based. Is it getting better and I’m just not seeing it?

My longing for the Kingdom of God led to deep frustrations when I couldn’t see it coming. I wanted tangible examples of the redemption of God here on earth. Small examples wouldn’t do; I wanted to see progress towards the glorious return of Jesus, when there would be a new heaven and new earth, and all of creation would be redeemed. I believed that if the Church just got it’s act together, and we all agreed that we needed to end injustice, love our neighbor, and overthrow the Empire, we could do it. I believed that the Church could usher in the Kingdom of God through strong effort and unity.

I realize now that I started believing in the “myth of progress.”

N.T. Wright, in his book Surprised by Hope, explains the myth of progress:

“[The myth of progress is] the idea that the human project, and indeed the cosmic project, could and would continue to grow and develop, producing unlimited human improvement and marching toward a utopia…. This utopia dream is in fact a parody of the Christian vision. The kingdom of God and the kingdoms of the world come together to produce a vision of history moving forward towards its goal, a goal that will emerge from within rather than being a new gift from elsewhere. Humans can be made perfect and are indeed evolving inexorably toward that point.”

We believe this myth when we believe that the next political leader will finally solve some the world’s problems once and for all. We believe this myth when we believe medical advances will eventually rid the world of disease. We believe this myth when we believe economic growth will eventually end world poverty. We believe this myth when we believe the Church can build the Kingdom of God

When we stop believing in this myth we see that it is no longer our responsibility to build the Kingdom of God, but that doesn’t mean that we should try to slide through this life as painlessly as possible, waiting to go to heaven or until Jesus’ return. Please don’t get me wrong, we have a very real work to do here on earth, building for the Kingdom of God. We are not going to build the kingdom on our own; it will come from God as a new creation, as an act of redemption, not as the final conclusion to the progress we are making here on earth. Yet every work of grace, every work of love, justice, and compassion, is building for the kingdom, and will be part of the kingdom when it comes in full. In 1 Cor. 15, Paul speaks about the resurrection of the dead and the coming new creation, and he ends the chapter in verse 58 by saying, “Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” We may not be able to build the Kingdom of God on our own, nor will we slowly progress towards it, but let us be assured that our work here on earth is not in vain, that we really can build for the kingdom, with the assurance that in the end God will redeem all of creation.

I encourage you to read N.T. Wright’s Surprised by Hope to explore more of this idea.

Author Bio:: Maria currently lives in Chicago with her husband and works with teenagers. She always has more questions than answers, but is hoping to find a few more answers next year when she goes to seminary. In the mean time you can find more of her questions at www.mariadrews.wordpress.com.

Skeleton Kingdom

April 29, 2008

skeletonInspired by rumors of mansions in heaven
Building begins for his kingdom on earth.
Supplies pile up; workers are gathered,
Trained, and put to different tasks,
Each with a niche, an itch, a handful of tools.

But as the castles receive their finishing touches,
No one comes to live in them, instead,
The workers all go home to their own beds for rest.

Subdivisions, cities and zip codes,
Cranked out by the labor of dreamers
Who are building the kingdom here on earth
Just as it is in heaven, or perhaps a little altered
Only because dreams are often skewed, or
Hard to understand because they are views of
What hasn’t yet been done or even seen,
A revelation of the invisible.

And one mans edifice, results in another mans’.
As reactions zig-zag across the landscape,
Competition interrupts the dream world.

The walls keep being raised, the ribbons
Keep being cut, but the neighborhoods lie
Desolate with no one to take up residence.
All the workers return to their beds for rest,
Only to rise again, build again, rival again.

All the mud, bricks and mortar, all the blood
Of friends and enemies, all for a kingdom
That no one wants to live in, a skeleton kingdom.

 

photo by Anim8ir

Author Bio:: Emily Miller lives in Durango, CO with her husband Brian. She enjoys Argentine malbec, good books, watching River Plate futbol, cooking, and both dreaming about and living presently the incarnation of Christ through his Body and the Kingdom which has come.

Onward, Christian Soldiers

April 27, 2008

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WHAT did you just call me?

April 25, 2008

Subversive?
yeah it’s a compliment.
to be compared to Gandhi
or John Wesley
or Martin Luther King
(though to some it sounds more
like Guy Fawkes
or Che Guevara
or someone like that)
to me it just means
you’re not ready to sign up
for the standard plan.
the basic introductory package.

I’m trading comfort for awareness
suburbia for community
middle class for creative class
American for Earthian
Evangelical for Christ follower.
Conservative for
Liberal for
Progressive for
fearlessly independent

It’s not about who you read
or where you shop
or what you drive
or even what you believe
it’s about all doing all of those things
and everything
with meaning and passion
and a conscience.

walking when you could drive
not because it saves you money
not because of global warming
not because of traffic
but because you like the flowers
and walking helps you think.

it’s learning from children

it’s peace like a tree
unmovable, growing in all directions

it’s the slow, painful process
of resensitizing.

It’s a strange life
it makes some people cringe
but to whom shall we go?

Author Bio:: Ted is currently working as a Youth Pastor in Kansas City and putting his wife Sarah through Nazarene Theological Seminary. They both like barbecue and Indian food. Ted blogs a lot, and sometimes Sarah doesn’t get his poems.

Buddhist Follower of Jesus?

April 24, 2008

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Soundtrack for Subversion: Suburban Pipedream

April 22, 2008

suburban pipedreamInspiration for subverting the empire can be found in the darndest places. Take, for instance, my road trip to Dallas a few weeks ago, which included an opportunity to join dozens of people in a basement coffee house for a live show including Ronnie Fauss. Ronnie is straight out of the Republic of Texas, and his music reflects that. But his fan classic, Suburban Pipedream, is an incomparable reflection on the strange bedfellows the American church and culture have become:

 

 

let’s move out to the suburbs
we could buy ourselves a home
where the floors are made of granite
and the sinks are made of chrome
and our children will play soccer
and we’ll join the PTA
and we’ll never have to deal with democrats
and we’ll never have to deal with gays

we can join up with one of them churches
that looks like a shopping mall
where the wallets are the biggest
and the hearts are so damn small
and we’ll go to lunch on Sundays
in our Lexus SUVs
and the men will compare portfolios
while the women watch the babies

I don’t mean to put you down
or the life you choose to live
God knows that I curse way too much
and take more than I give
but when I’m on my deathbed
and I start to reminisce
tell me there’ll be something more than this

my boy, he’ll play football
whether he wants to or not
and we’ll bug him about his homework
until we drive him to smoking pot
and our daughter will be so pretty
and on Friday she’ll lead cheers
until 11th grade when she gets pregnant
after drinking too many beers

my practice will be the envy
of all my business school friends
we’ll have more debt than you can imagine
but at least you’ll drive a Benz
you will keep my stomach happy
twice a year we will make love
we’ll have everything our parents
have been dreaming of

I don’t mean to put you down
or the life you choose to live
God knows that I drink way too much
and take more than I give
But when I’m on my deathbed
and I start to reminisce
tell me there’ll be something more than this

pretty soon we’ll stop talking
when the trying gets too forced
and when the kids go off to college
we can finally get divorced
and our children will do cocaine
and I’ll screw my neighbor’s wife
everything will be perfect
in our Republican… fundamentalist… Christian…
college educated… I know I’m so jaded…
pipedream suburban life

Kimberly Roth is a co-editor for the Jesus Manifesto. She over-thinks and cares way too much, so she rambles on at www.barefootbohemian.blogspot.com.


I no longer blog here…

April 22, 2008

I blogs here. You see, I’ve decided to start a blog.

You may be thinking: “Wait a second, Mark! You already blog [too much] at Jesus Manifesto!”

By no means. Jesus Manifesto isn’t a blog anymore. Technically, it is a webzine. One that I edit. So technically, I don’t blog at all anymore.

Unfortunately, I have all kinds of family and friends that wish they could skip all that radical Christian junk and just read updates about my ministry, my family, and my life. Slowly, that sort of content has dried up at Jesus Manifesto. It just doesn’t fit to share that stuff anymore.

Thus I am blogging again. Markvans.wordpress.com is my new blogging home. That is where I’ll share updates, cute anecdotes about my baby, rants about how hard ministry is, and the sort of rambling thoughts that simply aren’t appropriate for a webzine.

So add me to your blogroll. And if you already have me in your blogroll but it points to Jesus Manifesto… well, then I suggest you update that info and add Jesus Manifesto elsewhere. Heck, if you want to be REALLY supportive you can add a cool-looking Jesus Manifesto banner image to your site (which you can see on our sidebar).

The Faith of Our Fathers

April 22, 2008

I usually write out of the themes that swirl around my brain for a while. This time is no exception.

For some period in my life I have been wondering about where I fall in this thing called “The History of the Church.” Am I a heretic? I’ve been called that. Am I progressive? Conservative? Feminist? Liberal? Anabaptist? Open-Theist? I have been called all of these and called myself all of these at various stages along the way.

Most of these classifications have served to include or exclude me from some group of people that were either preferred or not–depending on the context. These words typically refer to specific views I articulate from time to time. Sadly, I am not often known for what I do.

When I wrestle with the feeling of being a theological bastard–wondering what congregation would ever openly accept me into their community–I am struck by how askew our perspective has become. most church folks I am around want to talk about church backgrounds: “What denomination did you grow up in?” seems to be the question that reigns supreme.

Whatever happened to “you will know a tree by its fruit”?

I think it is important to articulate what I believe about Jesus, the incarnation, God, Trinity, baptism, communion, the body of Christ, Justice/justification/righteousness, and the kingdom of God. I think this is important because in talking it out, I iron out the ethics that I hope to hold as a measure of the fruit of my life. I hope to read the scriptures, the culture, my experience, and the voices of my community with the intent of letting them shape me into a follower of Jesus. In reading all these things, I try to hold Jesus and his message about the kingdom of God at the center.

Too often, these things have been left up to only a few people in the church–most of them white men, with the exception of Augustine who was African (thus the title of the post’s lack of reference to mothers). This is another reason I think theology is important. It is important for us in our rising global context to continue to articulate our faith in shifting situations and with the inclusion of a diversity of voices (on this point I am keenly aware of my status as a white man in usamerica).

So, I hang on to the importance of theology.

At the same time, I am sick of doctrines determining communities of faith. What will it take for us to congregate based on geography instead of on socio-cultural, economic, ethnic, and doctrinal sub-groups? Maybe, once we have sucked the earth dry of oil and our cars are rusting in our driveways and we have to walk everywhere, we will be forced into rethinking our understanding of who our sisters and brothers are in “local” communities.

What if our faith was “articulated” in our actions, our artistic expressions; the fruit of the Spirit playing out in our relationships, economics, ecological impact, and our politics?

What if I don’t label people I don’t agree with theologically, and instead try to come alongside them to work with them in embodying the kingdom of God? What if they don’t believe in the kingdom of God that I articulate? Can I still love them and encourage the areas I see them participating (even unknowingly) in the kingdom life?

As I write this post I think about my own father and mother. These two folks have a very different picture of a lot of the doctrines that I hold as central to the Christian faith. We disagree, yet I see them loving people, living sacrificially, serving with humility, and finding their own ways of articulating their faith. While I don’t always like their articulation, I love the Jesus that shows through their lives.

What if our faith is less our words and more our actions? After all, I don’t think Jesus ever mentioned “wrong” doctrines as keeping anyone out of the life of God’s Kingdom (for that matter, right doctrines don’t seem to get anyone in–though they may help a little along the way).

A couple of days ago I was at an “emergent-ish” conference. I was disappointed when applause followed a clarification about the school I attend. A speaker made note that my school was certainly not affiliated with a more conservative evangelical church of the same name. I appreciated the clarification, as there is always a lot of confusion concerning this topic. But I was appalled that there was a sort of pride in the audience’s response to this declaration. Where was the humility and kindness that we had been articulating throughout the conference?

As we stumble toward different articulations and embodiments of God’s kingdom, I hope that we can maintain integrity between our words and actions. Without this integrity we are simply putting a different face on the same old song and dance that we say we are sick of. What will it mean for us to hold the same openness and humility toward those in the communities we have emerged from as we hold for those who sound a little more like the communities we want to become? Can we have the humility to see everyone, no matter the theological articulation, as siblings?

Aren’t we all, more or less, just messed up daughters and sons of the same God? When Jesus talks about the kingdom as here among us, I don’t think he means among the ones who “get it right theologically.” I think he means, it’s here for, in, around, and through us all. None of us is completely “in” the kingdom. We all need grace to come alive to the rebirth and redemption that God is working on behalf of the entire world. If this sounds a little too “universalist” for some, please don’t judge me by my articulation…

Peace.

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