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group of white men around the age of 30 challenge “everything”

July 29, 2008

(what follows is a work of satire…a work of satire that also works as a bit of self-deprecation)

A group of white men around the age of 30 launched a new network yesterday that sets out to challenge “everything.”

Jarrod Lewis, one of the coordinators for the network believes that people are looking for “something different.” Says Lewis: “A few years ago, I started looking around and noticed that there are a lot of Churches, but not a lot of people actually living in the way of Jesus…I mean REALLY living the stuff, you know?”

And so, Lewis began blogging on his site “Breaking Lewis” about the need for radical change. Armed with Apple laptop, he would go to his local Starbucks, order a machiato macchiato and proceed to challenge the status quo. Over coming months, his readership grew into the hundreds, and be began to connect with folks who shared his concerns–and hopes–for the church.

As the group began to conspire, they realized the need to have some face to face time if they were REALLY going to spark ecclesial revolution. Last month, in a secret meeting near Seattle, Lewis met with 20 other men near the age of 30. Sipping their expensive coffee, wearing their snappy hats, and sporting slightly unusual facial hair, they began to scheme a revolution.

The first thing they did was to name their new movement and come up with a cool website. The new movement, called “The Revelation 21 Cohort” (www.rev21cohort.com) will continue to mostly be an online network…though the idea of a conference is being kicked around.

These young men, though all around the age of 30 and white, are diverse in other ways. “We value diversity. In fact, we’re theologically diverse. We’re all from different denominational backgrounds within evangelicalism,” says Lewis, who is a pastor of “Aquatic Community” in San Francisco.

Aaron Johnston, pastor of the Journey Community in Ann Arbor, Michigan, believes that even greater diversity lays ahead: “We’ve made it a point to say that we’re open to women and people of color. In fact, there is a Latino guy who is interested in joining us, I think.”

Mark Van Steenwyk is the editor of JesusManifesto.com. He is a Mennonite pastor (Missio Dei in Minneapolis), writer, speaker, and grassroots educator. He lives in South Minneapolis with his wife (Amy), son (Jonas) and some of their friends.


A Vote for Barack Obama is a Vote for Jesus

July 18, 2008

Editorial disclaimer: It is hard to write satire about Barack Obama. Why? Because even if you use ridiculously positive language about Obama, his supporters won’t think it is satire. For example, if someone says: “Obama incarnates the perfect love of Christ,” I will chuckle at the absurdity of such a statement. But one of my friends might go wide-eyed and nod their head in solemn agreement. Conversely, the New Yorker demonstrates the challenge of using negative imagery for Barack. Nevertheless, I offer this feeble attempt at satirizing the Barack Obamenon.

A vote for Barack Obama is a vote for Jesus…not that I agree with everything he stands for. I mean, I am an independent sort of thinker. I am firmly convinced that God is neither a republican or a democrat. But Barack Obama transcends such distinctions. He flies high over such petty concerns on shimmering gossamer wings. Golden light emanates from his perfect form. His smiling eyes looking down upon me with a look that pierces my soul! I get lost in his smile, and long for one of his chiseled arms to hold me close while the other smites a damning blow to poverty and oppression.

Don’t get me wrong. As a Christian, my ultimate hope is in Jesus alone. I don’t trust in politicians or the State to accomplish what the church is called to do–that is to bring transformation and true freedom.

But Barack is a Christian. And I believe that Jesus is pouring his Spirit upon Barack Obama for a time such as this. Barack brings hope in the midst of darkness. He himself is our peace, who has made Republicans and Democrats one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility. He is like a father to the fatherless and a defender of widows!

Don’t get me wrong. There are things I don’t like about Barack. For example…he isn’t bold enough in speaking what is on his mind–his illuminated, brilliant mind. It is almost bordering on sinfulness for him not to share his thoughts, for his voice is a gift from heaven. His booming baritone bellows soft mysteries that only angels can truly comprehend. When he speaks, possibilities open. New futures are made possible. Women weep for joy and children laugh with gladness. Wicked men mourn their transgressions and hardened men melt like ice on a hot spring day. Every one of his delicately formed words is its own tender miracle. Why should he hold back a treasure that was meant as a gift to the whole world?

As you can see, I have thought this through. I have weighed the pros and cons and made the choice to vote for Obama–warts and all (of course, I’m being metaphorical, since I am certain no blemish or corruption has ever touched his gorgeous frame).

I encourage you to vote for Obama too. I’m not saying that voting for McCain would be a sin. Nor am I saying that it would be a horrible, disgusting sin for you to not vote at all. But I am saying that to vote for Obama is to vote for Jesus. And to NOT vote for Obama would mean that you don’t love Jesus, the poor, or your own mother. To NOT vote for Jesus would be to render Jesus’ life and message meaningless. That’s all I’m saying.

Mark Van Steenwyk is the editor of JesusManifesto.com. He is a Mennonite pastor (Missio Dei in Minneapolis), writer, speaker, and grassroots educator. He lives in South Minneapolis with his wife (Amy), son (Jonas) and some of their friends.


Challenging Fathers

June 23, 2008

BCRFRecently, many in our nation joined together to celebrate an event commonly known as “Father’s Day”. The popularity of this pagan holiday has become a concern to those of us here at Jesus Manifesto, and we wanted to make you aware of an organization that is looking to bring some solid Biblical teaching back to the forefront of our civic, government and congregational leaders:

The BCRF is a group of Biblical scholars, Church leaders and concerned individuals addressing the growing influence of “fathers” in the Church and in the larger culture. The council was established in response to the dangerous and widespread effects that reinterpretation of Biblical teaching on “fatherhood” can have on our congregations and on our households.

Opposing the growing “fatherhood” movement, which encourages men to take an active leadership role in the lives of their children, a Biblically accurate Parential position was established which acknowledges the necessary and essential role a man plays in the production of offspring, but maintains a rejection of his role as a “father figure”. In the home, men are to cling to their wife, become one and fruitfully multiply, while not usurping the role of the One Father or becoming over attached to their children.

The need for an organization like BCRF is clear because of the complexity of “fatherhood” issues and because of the devastating effects of misinterpreting Biblical teaching in the area. It is our prayer that what is shared through our organization will benefit individuals, families, congregations and communities dealing with this critical concern.

Based on our understanding of Biblical teachings, we affirm the following:

  1. Rejection of earthly “fatherhood” is an express Biblical command (Matt 23:9, 2 Cor 6:18, Eph 4:6)
  2. The Fall introduced distortions into the relationship between people and the One Father (Gen 3-5)
  3. Redemption through Christ removes the distorted role of an earthly “father” introduced by the curse and restores the Solo-Fatherhood of God established at creation (Acts 13:32-33)
  4. Jesus began his earthly ministry by calling men away from their earthly “fathers” (Matt 4:21-22, Matt 8:21-22, Mark 1:19-20, Luke 9:59-60)
  5. Jesus himself rejected his symbolic earthly “father” as a demonstration to his followers (Luke 2:48-50)
  6. Rejection of earthly “fatherhood” is a prerequisite for discipleship (Luke 14:26)
  7. Rejection of earthly “fatherhood” is a prerequisite for attaining eternal life (Matt 19:29, Mark 10:29-30)
  8. One of Jesus’ express reasons for coming to earth was to turn men against their “fathers” (Matt 10:34-36)
  9. Jesus taught that there would be further rejection of “fatherly figures” (Luke 12:52-53)
  10. Despite the intensity or sincerity of a call to “fatherhood” that a man might feel, clear Biblical teaching on the One Father must never be set aside as the objective test for discerning God’s will (Rom 8:14-16, Gal 4:6-7)
  11. BCRF is convinced that neglecting or outright denying the principles set forth in this document will lead to devastating and destructive consequences in our families, our congregations, and the communities we seek to impact (John 8:41-42)

For more information, or to purchase copies of our affirmations for friends and family, please contact the Biblical Council Rejecting Fatherhood’s home office (a.k.a., your sarcastic friends here at Jesus Manifesto).
 

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.


Local Mennonite Church Service Disturbed by Strong Wind

June 19, 2008

Editor’s Note: Below is the 2nd Prize winner in the satire category for the Stepping into a Violent Wind Writing Competition:

The members of a local Mennonite church reported that their service this past Sunday was disturbed by strong winds.  Although no one in the surrounding suburban area could confirm the report, the storm appears to have begun soon after the start of the service at Decently and In Order Mennonite Church and continued until the service ended - some forty-five minutes later than usual.  No injuries were reported, but many of the service’s attendees remain shaken by the ordeal. Read more

An Open Letter from a Post-Loving Emerger (of course it’s an open letter, I’m post-foreclosed!)

June 15, 2008

Dear Modern Church,

Well, it comes to this. I’ve been reading a bit of emerg(ing, ent, ish) stuff lately, and I’ve come to embrace myself as a post-modern, post-evangelical, post-protestant, post-propositional language, post-Christian, post-backwards, post-irrelevant, post-anything-I-think-has-to-do-with-you, person of faith. It’s not that you are meaningless to me anymore. I mean, you served your purpose, transmitting the gospel to me (though I have to say, it’s been pretty difficult sifting it out of the completely outdated packaging that you put it in when you thought you had to speak to a modern world! Good thing I can go back and cherry pick from the ancient church—those dead guys don’t complain about us emergent types nearly as much as you do.), but it’s time for me to move on. I’m just not like you anymore. I’ve outgrown your outmoded notions of truth, simplistic understandings of the gospel, and unwillingness to openly dialogue. I just want to talk and create room at the table for people to come around and converse in the love of Jesus. This isn’t about putting up borders, it’s about inclusion. But you don’t seem to get that. You just want to tell me what I need to believe about the atonement in order to make sure I get into heaven. How unloving. Just stop trying to save my soul, already.

I just want to be open to different perspectives and ways of knowing. Can’t you see that? This whole post-modern thing must be going right over your head. I have the ability to hold onto to very different positions, letting the tension bring me into real dialogue where I can learn from others. I just wish you would be more like me and learn how to do this, maybe then we could talk things out.

I would tell you these things in person, but I really can’t stand to be around you anymore. If you could just open yourself up to those who aren’t like you and learn to really talk with other people (people who happen to be trying to follow the same Jesus you are!), then maybe I could just sit down with you instead of having to write this letter.

As it is, you’re just too pissed off for me to deal with. I mean, what is the deal? Just because I define myself as having moved past all of your categories doesn’t mean I think I’m better than you. In my post-everything state, I’m really humble and open to everybody. That’s how I can see that you really need to change because you are so irrelevant and unable to show the love of God to other people like I can.

Finally, about your complaints about how we use language. This deconstruction thing is so great. You should really try it out. You just have to put “post-” in front of anything you don’t like anymore, and you are instantly more accepting, loving, and open to hearing from others.

Striving to walk in the love and humility of Jesus,

Your Emergent Brother.

Daniel lives with his wife Jocelyn in the Belltown neighborhood of Seattle. He is an occasional blogger, poet, artist, baker, and student. He hopes to have a few kids, plant a few gardens, teach a few students, live in a few countries, and learn how to live hospitably before he reaches his 75th birthday (a lot to do in the next 52 years).


38 Injured in “Pentecost Pageant”

June 13, 2008

Editor’s Note: Below is the first place winner in the satire category for the Stepping into a Violent Wind Writing Competition:

Bismark, ND

Severe property damage and several emergency hospitalizations for variously acquired injuries were the sad result of a “Pentecost Pageant” held by Timber Creek Ridge Baptist Church just outside of Bismark, ND last weekend. After over ten years of successful Easter pageants both in audience size and subsequent boosts in attendance for the congregation’s Sunday services, Timber Creek Ridge Baptist Church, led by senior pastor Greg Danielson, had hoped this recent effort to “branch out” in the pageant genre would yield similar results. Read more

Homeland Security.

June 3, 2008

Sticking it to the Man

June 2, 2008

Not as much as I do (A response to Chad Ellens)

May 15, 2008

Dear Pastor Ellens,

I read your recent article...and could remain silent no more! Suburban-dwellers like you grieve me. I too was a suburbanite once. But two years ago, I moved into the city to embrace a radical life of solidarity with the poor. My hope is, that in response to my response to your article, that you too will leave your wicked suburban ways and move into the city. Jesus loves you too much for you to remain in the suburbs.

A couple years ago, I head Shane Claiborne speak. Man, he opened my eyes to what it REALLY means to follow Jesus. And so, I decided then and there to make a radical change. I cashed in some of my frequent flier miles and went to the Simple Way in Philadelphia (though people in the neighborhood call it “Philly”).

After a couple of weeks of living in solidarity with the poor, I decided to help start a new monastic community in the City so that the people of America would see what Jesus REALLY looks like. My wife and I, and some of my friends from my Christian College, bought a house in a really dumpy part of the City and began our work. We call ourselves the 23rd Avenue Radical House Collective. I’m the lead member…which is kinda like the pastor, but I don’t believe in pastors, so I call myself something different.

It has been a hard couple of years, but I think we have learned some lessons that if everyone would take seriously would radically change our nation forever:

  1. Stop eating meat. Meat usually takes up a lot of space. Plants don’t need as much space. So by eating veggies, we’re freeing up a bunch of space for poor people to move into. And then we won’t need 9.2 earths per USAmerican to sustain the world.
  2. Garden. Growing stuff yourself saves you money, and provides vegetables so that you can make vegan soups for homeless people. They don’t usually like the taste, but it is good for them.
  3. Bicycle everywhere. Hey, when you ride a bike, you are resisting the military industrial complex, man, and its dependence on foreign oil. That helps the poor because they will have cleaner air to breath and by spending less money ourselves, it somehow translates into more money for them.
  4. Wear dreadlocks. Sure, dreads are high maintenance at first…but after a while they take care of themselves, giving you more time to spend praying or bicycling or being in solidarity with people.
  5. Don’t worry about smelling. Part of our problem in the US is that we care too much about grooming and looking respectable. By remaining unwashed, we stand in solidarity with the homeless, who are unable to bathe regularly. I think they really appreciate that.
  6. Make things yourself. For example, I don’t buy regular coffee…even buying fair trade coffee is for poseurs. What I do is buy green organic fair trade beans and roast them myself using a popcorn popper. There is nothing the poor like better than really excellent coffee. Or other hand-made stuff.
  7. Live with friends. By living together, you save money that you could theoretically give to the poor, if you have jobs. And you can pray together more from prayer books that are cool because I grew up in a church that ripped on formal prayers.
  8. Do art projects with neighborhood children. We have an artist in our community, so we do art projects with kids. We believe that training young poor kids how to do art will give them hope. And when they grow up, they’ll be able to get a job as artists, instead of living a life of poverty.
  9. Protest stuff. The marginalized need empowered white folks to protest stuff. By adding our powerful voices with their weak voices, we can stick it to the man, and as a result, the man may change his ways.
  10. Vote for Obama. We have common ground on this last on, Pastor Ellens. You see, Obama fills me with hope too! A vote for Obama is a vote for hope. If you vote for anyone else, you don’t care about poor people.

So Pastor Ellens, I hope you can see that we offer a better way. An incarnational, radical, missional way that follows the way of Jesus. Unlike your hollow mega-Christianity.

Peace to you,

Derrick “Street Prophet” Andrews

Editor’s Note: This is a work of (self-depricating) satire. Its funnier if you happened to have read this first.

Derrick Andrews lives with his wife Anne and five of their friends in the 23rd Avenue Radical House Collective, a new monastic, neo-Anabaptist, Celtic Catholic evangelical community of resistance.


Hey, I care about those poor people too!

May 6, 2008

I’m tired of being accused of indifference to the poor. Fringe folks and radicals (like the readers here) usually give me a hard time. Sure, I’m wildly successful. Sure, I wear $140 pants. Yes, I drive an Audi and/or my wife’s Lexus SUV. But just because I am the affluent pastor of a suburban megachurch doesn’t mean that I don’t care about poverty. I care about those poor people too!

Every week, I look over thousands of faces…looking to me to help them understand what it means to follow Jesus. We all know that Jesus cared about poor people. And in my own way, in my own suburban context, I too have a ministry to the poor.

Hey, maybe it works for some of you to live among the poor in urban neighborhoods, doing your gardening, protesting, letting people in off the streets, or whatever-else-it-is-you-folks-do. But the rest of us are looking for more practical, mainstream ways of caring for the poor. Here are 10 things I, or my church, have done in the last year to help alleviate poverty:

  1. Invite high profile speakers and or musicians to help raise awareness. Last week we had a huge youth concert at church featuring Derek Webb. That guy is ALL ABOUT caring for things like poverty. In the past year we’ve had guest speakers from Bread for the World and Evangelicals for Social Action. We even had Shane Claiborne come speak at a special youth and young adults rally last year. Sure, these sorts of events are expensive. But you can’t put a price tag on awareness.
  2. Promote the One Campaign. In the southwest corner of our lobby (by the E parking lot), we have an information kiosk where people can learn more about the One Campaign. And every quarter, we include a blurb about the One Campaign in our projection announcements.
  3. Give some of your church budget to global poverty. We set aside 1% of our multi-million dollar budget for World Relief. That ends up being a lot of money. And when we spent $19 million on building expansion last year, we put $190,000 towards organizations like Compassion International and Bread for the World. At our church, we have particular concern for foreign poor people.
  4. Do a sermon series. Last year, I did a sermon series called “Poor People of the Bible.” Each sermon began with a hilarious little skit featuring different poor Bible characters. At the end of each sermon, I offered practical steps for faithful living. Sometimes it was a hard task…especially with the teachings of Jesus. Jesus overstates things a lot and it takes serious translation work to help it apply to my congregation.
  5. Serve the poor. Since there aren’t any poor people in our suburb, we have built partnerships with urban soup kitchens and shelters. My small group, for example, helps serve breakfast to the homeless every month. It makes my heart feel warm to help out. Afterwards, as a reward, we treat ourselves to a swanky brunch at our favorite restaurant.
  6. Buy Fair Trade. Most people are poor because of bad choices. But some people are poor because they can’t get a decent wage. That is why it makes sense to buy Fair Trade goods on occasion. For example, whenever I order a double mocha at Starbucks, I make sure that they use Fair Trade Coffee. My wife could spend hundreds on new purses, but sometimes she make a sacrifice by making hand made purses from women in Peru. Since they only cost $90, she usually buys two at a time.
  7. Put pocket change into those little cans at grocery checkout lines. I think that money goes to alleviate child homelessness. Every little bit helps.
  8. Create jobs. Most of our janitors at church were unemployed for a long time before we hired them. Sometimes people need a helping hand. And personally, by utilizing a gardening service and a maid service, my family is employing exactly the sort of person who would be poor without a job.
  9. Don’t throw it away, donate it. It may be junk to you, but often times, poor people aren’t that picky. Consider donating it to Good Will. After all, one man’s junk is another man’s treasure.
  10. Vote for Obama. While I can’t official endorse a candidate as a pastor, as a person, I am endorsing Barack Obama. In the past, I’ve always voted Republican. But Obama fills me with such hope. A vote for Obama is a vote for hope. If you vote for anyone else, you don’t care about poor people.
Pastor Chad Ellens doesn't exist. He is the satirical creation of Mark Van Steenwyk. Fictionally speaking, Pastor Chad is lead pastor of the Crossing Pointe Community Church in Brook Springs, Colorado (a suburb of Denver). His 5,000 member church is pushing the envelope on what it means to follow Jesus in large buildings with a large budget. Ministry is his passion, but his wife Tammy and their 2.5 kids is his life.


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