Thursday, April 25, 2013

Roger L. Connelly Sermon Collection Project Blog

In case you haven't already checked it out, I have started a new blog where I will be posting my progress and the curiosities I have encountered while scanning and archiving my great-grandfather's lifetime of sermons (for more info on that, see the "Roger L. Connelly Sermon Collection" tab at the top of this page).

Please take some time to check it out, if you get the chance.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Why I Am a Mennonite

For those who are interested, I've posted a little bit about my personal journey that led me to the Anabaptist/Mennonite faith over on Near Emmaus. Check it out, and while you're there, check out my friends' posts, as well, and be sure to keep up with the series:

1a. Why I Am An E/evangelical
1b. Why I Am A Catholic
1c. Why I Am A Mennonite

2a. Why I Am Not A Catholic
2b. Why I Am Not An Evangelical (forthcoming)

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Christian Forum Posts Performed By Actors

A friend of mine recently pointed these out to me. Hilarious, but also slightly disturbing. Someone actually wrote this post, and actually believes these things.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Questions in the Gospel of Luke?

Just out of curiosity, and partly inspired by Douglas Estes' new book, The Questions of Jesus in John: Logic, Rhetoric, and Persuasive Discourse, I've been snooping around the Gospel of Luke and taking note of all the questions/nondeclarative sentences. After counting them all up, I color-coded and categorized each question according to who spoke it.
  • Angels/heavenly messengers ask only one question in the entire Gospel—Luke 24:5. Interestingly though, this question is somewhat mirrored in Acts 1:11, which raises the question of what the author was trying to communicate by using these angelic rhetorical questions.
  • Demons and the demonically possessed ask three questions of Jesus (two in 4:34 and one in 8:28).
  • Disciples (including those who are not part of the Twelve, like Mary/Martha) ask a total of ten questions variously among themselves and directly to Jesus.
  • I lumped several characters into a single category of miscellaneous, generally "good" characters (including Zechariah, Elizabeth, Mary, John the Baptizer, and Jesus-sympathetic crowds). This category comprised eighteen interrogatives.
  • Those who challenge Jesus and are otherwise adversarial in their question-asking (including the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Romans) account for nineteen total questions.
  • Finally, Jesus takes the cake with a whopping one-hundred and six questions.
All in all, the Gospel of Luke features a grand total of 157 questions/nondeclarative sentences—an impressive number for such a relatively short piece of literature, to be sure. 

Curiously enough (and unlike his character in the Gospel of John), many of the questions asked by Jesus in the Gospel of Luke are spoken as the words of someone else—i.e., characters in parables (including "bad/evil" characters!) and, in at least one case, God.

I have also tallied the number of questions in The Acts of the Apostles, and will post the results as soon as I've finished categorizing them.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Pat McCullough on Why NOT to Blog

Just came across Pat McCullough's (Kata ta Biblia) post this morning about reasons why students and scholars shouldn't blog. He raises some good concerns.

He ultimately settles on the idea that blogging is actually a good thing, but that there should be more blogs out there that focus on method and theory rather than addressing whatever controversial sandwich Rob Bell had for lunch that day. I think he's right, but does that mean that my post about his post is pointless? Probably.

Monday, April 15, 2013

On Biblioblogging, Part Four: How Biblioblogging is Like a Mel Brooks Movie

Note: Over past few days, I have been posting a series of thoughts on biblioblogging and New Media. I have become more active as a blogger over the last year, and thought that some of my regular readers would like to know why I consider myself a biblioblogger, and what it means to operate a biblioblog. For my working definition of a biblioblog, see Part One: A Definition. For a list of reasons biblioblogging can be a useful tool to the student and scholar alike, see Part Two: Advantages. For a list of drawbacks to biblioblogging, see Part Three: Disadvantages.

“The Gospel of Jesus’s Wife” (R.I.P.)
One of the most pertinent recent examples of the usefulness of biblioblogging to scholarly communication as a form of New Media is the case of the so-called Gospel of Jesus’s Wife papyrus fragment. The fragment, which features Coptic text that includes the phrase, “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife…’” was revealed to the online world on September 17, 2012 by Dr. Karen King, Professor of Ecclesial History at Harvard Divinity School. Along with the photograph and text of the papyrus fragment, it was also revealed that King would be releasing a journal article on her analysis of the piece, to be published in January 2013 by The Harvard Theological Review. The discovery caused quite a stir among major cable news outlets, who in turn erroneously reported that “solid evidence” of Jesus’ marital status had been unearthed! A sensationally titillating story, to be sure.
By the next day, however, the blogosphere was already hard at work scrutinizing and sharing the little knowledge that was available to the public. Dozens of scholarly biblioblogs referenced the find, dialoguing, referencing, cross-referencing, and debating on the authenticity of the fragment and its implications for the world of biblical studies. Upon closer inspection, several academic bloggers—descending upon the find like a school of highly educated piranha—confidently declared the fragment a modern forgery.[1] Within the space of two weeks, the breaking news of the Gospel of Jesus’s Wife fragment went from being an international media sensation to getting tossed on the junk pile as another over-hyped academic dud. Within a month, Jesus’s wife (may she rest in peace) was all but dead and buried. As of the posting of this blog in mid-April 2013, The Harvard Theological Review has yet to publish Dr. King’s article.
What is most remarkable about this whole spectacle is not only the astounding speed with which the fragment was addressed by a community of King’s peers, but also the efficiency with which scholarly dialogue was facilitated by use of the online medium of blogging. While I am firmly convinced that biblioblogging will by no means take the place of rigorous academic peer review and publication, it has nonetheless captured the attention of the greater academic community and given pause to those who might dismiss blogging as an inferior mode of scholarly discourse. In less time than it would normally take for one scholar to write, edit, submit, and publish a peer-reviewed article, a large community of corresponding bibliobloggers could quite possibly render the very subject of his or her study completely obsolete.
Conclusion, or How Biblioblogging is Like a Mel Brooks Movie
Perhaps a good illustration of the speed and efficiency with which biblioblogging catalyzes academic ideas is this very series of posts, which has utilized the writings of fellow academic bloggers to illustrate biblioblogging’s place within the culture of New Media. With relatively few published scholarly articles available on the subject (though the number is growing, even as I type these words), the most reliable data is currently found in the field itself, especially in the work of metablogs such as The Biblioblog Reference Library (currently under construction), which tracks and documents data pertaining to registered biblioblog traffic. The speed and accessibility of information that have facilitated biblioblogging as a legitimate scholarly exchange have nearly erased the typical waiting time that used to be the norm for academic progress. In a way, what biblioblogging does for the New Media might be compared to a famous scene from the Mel Brooks comedy, Spaceballs. Near the climax of the movie, the villainous character Dark Helmet—a parody on Darth Vader—attempts to locate the whereabouts of the hero of the film by watching a straight-to-video version of the movie itself, even while it is still in the process of being made. While fast-forwarding through the first half of the picture, Helmet pushes ‘play’ only to find himself watching the very scene he is currently acting in. He raises his arm and waves at the camera, and precisely at the same time, the Dark Helmet on the screen raises his arm and waves, too. This ultimately leads to confusion, and a frenzied series of questions culminating with the villain asking emphatically, “When will then be now?” If biblioblogging has any lasting effect at all on the intersection of theological scholarship and New Media, the answer is most assuredly “Sooner than you think.”

[1] Most notably Francis Watson at Durham University, who determined that a mistake in an online translation of the Gospel of Thomas was reproduced in the text of the Jesus’s Wife fragment. See Francis Watson, “The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife: How a fake Gospel-Fragment was composed.” Sept. 20, 2012.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Sermon [with audio]: "Worthy is the Lamb"

Delivered at Rainbow Mennonite Church, Kansas City, KS
April 14, 2013.

Scripture: Revelation 5:11–14

In May of 1757, a promising and precocious 35-year-old poet and writer by the name of Christopher Smart was committed by his father-in-law to St. Luke’s Hospital for Lunatics in Bethnal Green, London. Though it was initially intended that Smart would only stay for a short while, the conditions of the sanitarium ultimately took their toll on his mental health, and he would spend the remainder of his life in and out of what were in those days called “madhouses.” Smart’s condition was marked by frequent periods of prolonged religious ecstasy, and he was often seen wandering the streets alone or cradling his cat Jeoffry. Over the course of many years of deplorable living conditions, his health steadily declined. This was back before the days of counseling, psychiatry, and mood-altering medication. In one of his poems, Smart wrote of his “caretakers”: “For they work on me with their harping-irons, which is a barbarous instrument, because I am more unguarded than others.”

He was eventually released from the asylum in 1763, spending seven short years in freedom before some previous financial debts caught up with him and he was arrested in 1770. He was imprisoned early in January 1771, but succumbed to pneumonia alone in his cell just a few months later in May of that same year. He died miserable and utterly alone, abandoned by his family.

Over the course of four years between 1759 and 1763, during his confinement, Smart penned seven hefty fragments of poetry that later came to be collectively known as Jubilate Agno, or Rejoice in the Lamb, which went unpublished until 1939, almost 200 years after its composition. At first glance, Jubilate Agno appears to be little more than the frenetic ramblings of a seminary student gone mad. However, a close reading reveals Smart’s mastery of liturgical style—being himself a high church Anglican—in addition to some fine wordplay. Still, with all of its liturgical grandeur, the poem reeks of mental, emotional, and spiritual anguish.

The lengthy poem is written in a sprawling call-and-response form, and begins on a cosmically tremendous note:

Rejoice in God, O ye tongues!
nations and languages and every creature
in which is the breath of life!
Let man and beast appear before him
and magnify his name together!

The most striking thing about this poem to me is the sheer joy welling up in Smart’s writing through the depths of his despair. Though his family had left him, though he was under great financial stress, though his health was failing and though everyone around him thought he was a fool, Smart found hope in his cat Jeoffrey. He found hope in the characters of the Old Testament, found hope in the apocalyptic image of the lamb, and found himself in a state of mind that allowed him not only to rejoice in the lamb himself, but to envision all of creation joining in with him, even as his own caregivers beat him with iron tools.

Like Jubilate Agno, the Book of Revelation emerged at a time when the Johannine community—the group of early Christians for whom it was written—was under an extreme amount of duress, persecution, and hopelessness. Revelation is not a book that was ever intended to “predict” the future, to be milked into a profitable series of 16 novels, or to be made into a really bad Kirk Cameron movie. Instead, this “apocalypse,” or “revelation” was written as a polemic against the Roman Empire, but also as a message of hope to those Christians suffering at the hands of Caesar. These Christians not only suffered the violence of physical persecution, but also the indignity of what appeared to be their philosophical error—this was almost a century after Christ; surely God was not coming back to establish God’s reign on earth if it hadn’t already happened by now.

And then John has this vision. This revelation.

To get you up to speed with where we are today: John is whisked away to heaven in a vision, and at one point he sees this scroll, and all of heaven is mourning because no one can break the seal on this scroll that holds the great mystery of the universe. But then, just as the Revelator himself begins to weep, he hears a lion roar with a ferocious bellow. But when he turns, he sees not a lion, but in fact a little slaughtered lamb. Now, the lamb is slain, but for some reason is yet alive—still bears the marks of his wounds from death—and stands in the presence of the throne of God. And it is seemingly because of these wounds that the Lamb is “worthy.”

But I want to draw your attention to what exactly the Lamb is worthy of:

[Read Revelation 5:11–12]

Power, wealth, wisdom, might, honor, glory, blessing—what’s wrong with this picture? The slaughtered lamb has none of these things. Even as all creation is singing its praise, the bloody, mangled, victimized lamb is the very definition of weakness, of poverty, of foolishness, of dishonor. The real, proper response for such a sight should be laughter, not praise. And yet, the lamb is the only one with the power to open the scroll, and ultimately the only one with the authority to establish God’s reign on earth as it is in heaven. A place of justice and mercy, where the trees grow leaves for the healing of the nations.

See, the Lamb defies our worldly expectations of glory and redefines these terms. No longer is power defined by politics and intimidation, but now by humility and self-sacrifice. No longer is wealth associated with monetary gain—what would the lamb need with money?—but now by poverty, empathy, and by love. No longer are might and honor defined by getting the upper hand against someone and forcing others to submit to your will, but instead by binding up the broken hearted and by setting the captives free. No longer is wisdom defined by gray hairs, by theologizin’ and philosophizin’, but now by the very foolishness of the cross. Just as Jesus in the Gospels heralds the reign of God as the anti-Rome—where we turn the other cheek after being struck, where we walk the extra mile when forced to carry the gear of our oppressors, where the poor are exalted and the rich are sent away empty-handed—so do these anti-values become values under the Reign of God. We look for Jesus expecting a lion, instead we get a lamb.

And it is in the lamb’s weakness that we see true strength.

One of my favorite movies when I was a kid was the 1984 film, The Neverending Story. In the movie, there’s a character called the Rock Biter, whom the hero Atreyu encounters early on. The Rock Biter is called the Rock Biter because he is basically this giant mountain with arms and legs and a face, who eats rocks (which is kind of weird, if you think about it) and rides around on a big stone bike, and he has these tiny friends that travel with him—a guy with a “racing snail” and a guy who rides around on the back of a giant bat. But at the end of the movie, when an approaching darkness of nonexistence known as the Nothing is eating up everything in its path and threatens to rip the world apart, Atreyu runs into Rock Biter once again, and this time, he sits alone, staring at his hands that are as big as houses, waiting for the world to end. “They look like good, strong hands, don’t they?” the Rock Biter says. “My little friends. I couldn’t hold onto them. The Nothing pulled them right out of my hands. I failed.” The Rock Biter’s admission is one of the most empathetic, heartbreaking moments of the whole film, because we look at this giant mountain of a creature, we see his monumental strength, and yet in his inability to save his friends we see something of ourselves—we see our own weakness and vulnerability. How many friendships have we let slip through our fingers because of things we have done or haven’t done? How many loved ones have died of illness, despite our best efforts to take care of them? How many times have we failed, picked ourselves up, and failed again?

Canadian theologian Jean Vanier says that “the greatness of humanity is that we are programmed to become weaker, that we all ultimately become conscious of our own fragility.” When we fully reveal ourselves to one another in all our brokenness, we catch a glimpse of Christ. We catch a glimpse of the lamb who redefines weakness as power, poverty as wealth, foolishness as wisdom, frailty as might.

In our weakness, we find strength in one another. In our despair, we find joy. In our brokenness, we encounter God.

So we see in this passage that the Book of Revelation doesn’t predict the future. It eternally informs the present.

Like the Rock Biter who finally has to admit his own weakness, like those who praise the upside-down values of the Lamb in John’s vision, and like Christopher Smart, who discovered joy even in his suffering, we must find each other in our vulnerability. It’s just like in our celebration of the Eucharist—we not only recognize Christ’s brokenness in participating in the Lord’s Supper; we recognize that breaking the bread together in some way recalls our own brokenness before one another. And in that mutuality is power. We see that in Christ’s brokenness, we are to follow suit.

The emblem of the Moravian Church is the image of a slaughtered lamb surrounded by the motto: Vicit agnus noster, eum sequamur. “Our Lamb has conquered, let us follow him.”

Let us follow the Lamb into weakness.
Let us follow the Lamb into vulnerability in our relationships with one another.
Let us follow the Lamb into the spiritual poverty that cultivates true humility.
Let us follow the Lamb into the Lamb into the community of the broken.
And may we all join those myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands in the unending cosmic hymn of praise for the foolishness of Christ.

On Biblioblogging, Part Three: Disadvantages

Note: Over the next few days, I will be posting a series of thoughts on biblioblogging and New Media. I have become more active as a blogger over the last year, and thought that some of my regular readers would like to know why I consider myself a biblioblogger, and what it means to operate a biblioblog. For my working definition of a biblioblog that I will be using over the next few posts, see Part One: A Definition. For a list of reasons biblioblogging can be a useful tool to the student and scholar alike, see Part Two: Advantages.

            Following up on his post on the advantages of biblioblogging, Brian LePort has also commented on the disadvantages of the discipline, as well:

  • Public Reputation. Developing a Web persona is a tricky business, and may inadvertently give readers a distorted impression of one’s real-life personality.
  • Tone of Voice/Confronting Trolls. One of the few drawbacks of online written media is the difficulty of carefully confronting commenters who repeatedly and obnoxiously say things to purposefully annoy those engaged in earnest dialogue. These pesky muckrakers are known as “trolls” in the blogging community, and in the same way bears should not be given food at a wildlife reserve, trolls are not to be fed. Sarcasm does not translate well via online communication, and clear outrage—depending on the extent to which it is carried—can be damaging to one’s public reputation (see above).
  • Offending Potential Educators/Employees. While many employers are turning to Facebook to gain a cursory idea of potential employees’ hireability, blogs are serving the same capacity in the academic world. Students who wish to proceed into higher learning institutions may face rejection by professors or admissions boards who have read dubious posts from their blog. However, it should be noted that this point also has a positive corollary—it is theoretically possible for one’s experience and notoriety as a biblioblogger to aid in their acceptance into a doctoral program or teaching position, also.
  • Time Management/Prioritized Writing.  Le Port rightly notes that many perceive blogging to be a waste of time that could be spent doing more rigorous academic work, such as publishing books or journal articles.
In addition to LePort’s observations of possible drawbacks for bibliobloggers, we might also consider the following disadvantages:

  • The necessity of an Internet connection. Though the possibilities for communication offered by blogging are plentiful, they begin and end with a working Internet connection.
  • Anybody has access. On the other hand, with the worldwide ubiquity of places to connect to the Internet (especially in the so-called First World, but also increasingly within developing countries, as well), anyone with an email address can start a blog or become a regular commenter on an existing one. This means that serious students and trollish charlatans alike have access to the same material.
  • Readers have access to a vast cross-section of one’s ideological evolution. This appears to be one of the greatest disadvantages of the New Media. With so much information readily available online, older posts can easily be taken out of context and inappropriately assumed to be the current opinions of the author. Outside of the blogosphere, this phenomenon can be witnessed in the “sound-byte culture” of cable news and Twitter feeds, in which politicians and celebrities can be criticized for something they said or wrote months or even years in the past. This is an unfortunate and grievous fallacy that desperately deserves recognition—people change with time, and their beliefs and arguments evolve right along with them. 

Saturday, April 13, 2013

On Biblioblogging, Part Two: Advantages

Note: Over the next few days, I will be posting a series of thoughts on biblioblogging and New Media. I have become more active as a blogger over the last year, and thought that some of my regular readers would like to know why I consider myself a biblioblogger, and what it means to operate a biblioblog. For my working definition of a biblioblog that I will be using over the next few posts, see Part One: A Definition.

Not only is academic interest in blogging as a viable method of scholarly communication on the rise, but also an increasing number of scholars are turning their attention to the study of the phenomenon of biblioblogging itself. In recent months, students like Brian LePort, Joel Watts, and others have compiled and presented papers at academic conferences examining the merits and disadvantages of the use of biblioblogging as a form of New Media communication among students and professors alike. In a recent post on his blog Near Emmaus, Brian LePort lists five advantages offered by biblioblogging to the academic community, particularly students:

  • Broadened Learning Circles. Bibliobloggers are not confined by their geographic location or lack of access to a decent theological library. Productive scholarly communication can take place between a scholar and a student who have never met and who conduct their studies on different sides of the country or even on different continents.
  • Networking. Since becoming a frequent blogger myself, I have had the opportunity to stretch not only my mind, but also my academic social network. Due in part to my own experiences with biblioblogging, I have recently made connections with several other scholars, and found a few different ways in which I could contribute to their ongoing work. Within the last year of my increased posting, I have been invited to regularly contribute to Brian LePort’s widely-read biblioblog, as well as collaborate with Historical Jesus scholar Anthony Le Donne on a working bibliography of the application of Social Memory Theory to Historical Jesus studies.
  • Feedback. Biblioblogging has cleared the way for quickly and efficiently providing feedback to the ideas of scholars and students alike. It serves as a form of basic and immediate peer review. As iron sharpens iron, bibliobloggers have ready access to “proof-readers or conversation partners…to inform, support, or challenge ideas that may have gone into one’s [academic work] unrefined.”[1]
  • The Discipline of Writing. For the would-be scholar, writing frequently and writing well are important attributes to possess, and prepare students for the rigors of academia. Operating a biblioblog encourages students to form good regular writing habits.
  • Educating Religious Communities. Because of their accessibility, biblioblogs offer a prime learning opportunity for pastors and laity with a non-academic focus. One doesn’t have to hold a doctorate to understand or contribute to the biblioblogging community. The rise of blogging as a preferred genre of the New Media has opened the learning field up and initiated a form of guerrilla education in which anyone is free to participate.
In addition to LePort’s pluses, we might also consider the following advantages for those who wish to engage the field of biblical studies by blogging:

  • The option of anonymity. If the author of a blog or post wishes to present his or her thoughts anonymously, that is his or her prerogative. In fact, many writers embrace the freedom of opinion offered by anonymous blogging. One notably successful example of this phenomenon is the brutally frank, highly educated and sardonically satirical blogger N.T. Wrong, whose identity persists even today in eluding some of the most astute biblioblogging researchers, even though his (or her) blog site has been defunct for over four years.[2]
  • Biblioblogging demystifies the process of academic dialogue. In the simple process of creating (encoding) a blog post and engaging the comments of those who have questions or criticisms of the author’s ideas, biblioblogging breaks scholarly communication down to its most basic components and allows students to see that the “man behind the curtain” is really just a bunch of fancy smoke and mirror work. There is nothing to be afraid of in academia—it is simply a free exchange and dialogue of ideas. Its informality is a boon to those beginning students who may be intimidated by the verbose arguments of more experienced scholars engaging in formal discourse.
Up Next: Disadvantages of Biblioblogging

            [1]  Brian LePort, “The Pros of Blogging as a Student.” Near Emmaus. February 18, 2013.
[2] However, the entire contents of N.T. Wrong’s blog from April 2008 through January 2009 can be found archived at

Friday, April 12, 2013

On New Media & Biblioblogging, Part One: A Definition

Note: Over the next few days, I will be posting a series of thoughts on biblioblogging and New Media. I have become more active as a blogger over the last year, and thought that some of my regular readers would like to know why I consider myself a biblioblogger, and what it means to operate a biblioblog.

The rapid growth of the Internet in recent decades has in turn brought about an explosion of the free and public dissemination of information online. Wikipedia, for instance, comprised roughly 100,000 articles (English) in 2003[1]; in 2013, however, the popular online encyclopedia crossed the threshold of 4.2 million articles (English), an average annual growth rate of more than 410%.[2] To keep up with the growing interest in social and professional networking that has accompanied this information boom, new forms of communication have arisen to meet the challenges offered by the demands of a largely digital society. Of all the so-called “New Media” birthed out of these demands—Facebook, Twitter, websites for 24-hour news outlets that feature video streaming—of particular interest to those in the field of biblical studies and theology is the rise in popularity of the weblog (or “blog” for short) as a quick and practical form of scholarly communication. In turn, academics who specialize in theology and the Bible have developed and refined the specific genre of weblog known as the biblioblog, which will be the focus of this blog series
What is a Biblioblog?
For the purpose of this blog series, I will operate under the following working definition of a biblioblog: A biblioblog is an online source of regularly updated information (i.e. a blog “feed”) with content generated by one or several scholars, students, and/or hobbyists whose primary academic emphasis and writing focus is the Bible—both the Hebrew scriptures and the Christian New Testament—as well as appropriately related texts. Those who blog primarily on theology might comprise a separate genre known as theobloggers; however, most bibliobloggers often post variously on issues of biblical studies as well as theology, so there is no need to make such a distinction for the purpose of this post and the posts to follow.

Up next: Advantages of Biblioblogging

[1] Wikipedia contributors, "History of Wikipedia," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed April 9, 2013).
[2] Wikipedia contributors, “Wikipedia: Size Comparisons.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed April 9, 2013).

Thursday, April 11, 2013

"Facts" About Fallout Protection

In rifling through some of my great-grandpa's old sermons, I found one delivered at Williamsville United Methodist Church (the church where I grew up) dated December 9, 1945—just a few short months after the U.S. bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan—entitled "Atomic Power." In the sermon, my grandpa preaches about the need for kinship and unity of humankind, so that such a catastrophic event might never take place again.

Many of his sermon folders include supplemental materials in them—presumably materials that he used in various sermon illustrations. Included in this folder was a government-published pamphlet entitled, "Facts About Fallout Protection," published April 1958 by the Office of Civil and Defense Mobilization. I hope you are as amused by its antiquated "facts" and illustrations ("Radioactivity Is Nothing New!: The Whole World Is Radioactive!") as I was.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Wouldn't It Be Great To Be A Dog?

Well, in Snoopy's defense, sometimes I feel like I don't know anything about those things, either.

3eanuts is a blog dedicated to exposing the despair in the first three panels of Charles Schulz's beloved cartoons. According to the website, Schulz's Peanuts comics often conceal the existential despair of their world with a closing joke at the characters' expense. With the last panel omitted, despair pervades all.

Post #200

So...this is officially my 200th post. Looks like I'll be celebrating by writing a sermon on Revelation. Wish me luck.

Monday, April 8, 2013

What Does It Mean To Be An Evangelical?

Brian LePort has begun an excellent discussion over at Near Emmaus on reasons behind one's choice to identify as Roman Catholic/Evangelical. Brian describes himself somewhat ambivalently as an "E/evangelical," characterizing evangelicalism as more of an ethos than a particular denominational affiliation. He has invited me to contribute a post from my newfound perspective as an Anabaptist/Mennonite, and I will be offering my thoughts sometime in the next few days.

I personally have great difficulty self-identifying as an evangelical, primarily because I feel that no clear definition of the term exists anymore. At one time, perhaps, evangelicalism was most readily identifiable as the Christianity of Billy Graham, Jerry Falwell, Oral Roberts, and others. But no longer. Now, Christians from John Piper to Rob Bell self-identify as evangelicals—with such a diverse range of adherents, what are the commonalities that might contribute to a working definition of evangelicalism?

In what tradition do you feel most at home? Why do you choose to identify with your particular brand of Christianity, either Roman Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical, Orthodox, etc.?

Thursday, April 4, 2013

What Was Jesus' Social Status?

Chris Keith over at The Jesus Blog questions whether or not Jesus was a "peasant." I've long been interested in this question—even in high school I wondered how a first-century carpenter might also be literate (see Luke 4:16–19, John 7:57–8:11, etc.) in a time when only the wealthiest elites had access to education and literacy. It seems that either Jesus was a tekton ("builder," often translated as "carpenter"), or Jesus was literate, but unlikely—given his historical context—that he was both.

However, I wonder about the possibility (and granted, I have no historical or scriptural evidence for this) that Jesus may have in fact been a relatively comfortable tradesman living on inherited land (see Richard Bauckham's chapter on the family of Jesus in Jesus Among Friends and Enemies), but that he divested himself when he began his public ministry as an attempt to show solidarity with the peasants. This is not an unfamiliar practice among history's most recognizable spiritual giants. For instance, Siddharta Gautama (who later became the Buddha), was said to have been an ivory-tower prince before he escaped the walls of his family's castle and experienced suffering and death in the world around him. Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone (St. Francis), the son of a wealthy textiles merchant in Assisi, Italy, stripped himself naked in the town square in front of the Roman Catholic religious authorities as a display of his identification with the poor. More recently, a young, highly educated lawyer named Mohandas Gandhi gave up his worldly possessions to live in an ashram community with other societal outcasts.

The facts are admittedly much more complicated than the brief thoughts I have presented here, and I'm not saying that Jesus was without a doubt a person of means who eventually rid himself of all possessions to pursue his ministry. But it is curious to consider his emphasis on divestment (see Matt. 19:21 and Luke 18:22; Luke 9:3; Matt. 8:20 and Luke 9:58; etc.), and whether or not this was a direct result of personal experience.

The Oldest Known Christian Hymn?

Thanks to James McGrath for posting on the oldest known Christian hymn with musical notation. 

According to the Ancient Peoples blog, the hymn, discovered on a papyri fragment in a garbage dump near Oxyrynchus, Egypt, reads:
...Let it be silent 
Let the Luminous stars not shine, 
Let the winds (?) and all the noisy rivers die down; 
And as we hymn the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, 
Let all the powers add "Amen, Amen." 
Empire, praise always, and glory to God, 
The sole giver of good things, Amen, Amen.
There is something bizarre and mystical about the piece. Music has a unique way of connecting us to the past in ways that other media—even the written word!—cannot. To listen to this hymn is to hear what the ancients heard, and to somehow witness a transcendence of time and culture in the worship of God.