Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Twitter and Facebook

Well I just updated to actually use twitter. . . we will see how that works. . . 

or should I say:  wl c how tht wrks. . . ?

I have to learn this new language.  I also began looking at how we use facebook at an organizational level for both Sunshine and Bridge Builders.  I sense that short (twitterish) messages via facebook will be a good way to connect for missions teams as youth leaders are in that next generational communication trend.  

you can follow me (that sounds weird but maybe that makes me old?!)


Sunday, April 26, 2009

Homeschoolers, Hitler and Obama

We are a homeschool family.  We've had at least one of our kids in homeschool for the past decade.  We are not a die-hard homeschool family, but we do see and have experienced the benefits.  We've tried to overcome some of the obvious short-comings and argued with those who sometimes suggest that homeschooler are inherently socially inept, short-changed and culturally unawares.  These criticisms are normally overblown hyperbole from folks who have either been exposed to a few extremists, or are not plugged into the homeschool community and speak from prejudicial ignorance.  

So I've been a homeschool defender, until now.  I'm shaken.  

This week I was at a speech and debate regional tournament in which my wife and I had several experiences listening to a line of reasoning that says we as a nation, having fallen in love with a Hitlerish figure who has no substance but is a seductive soothsayer full of promises of a brighter future and willfully lulled an apathetic nation under his spell.  Just as the apathy of the Germans allowed them to blindly fall in love with and under the spell of a charismatic leader only to suffer the consequences, so too the United states is headed for a genocidal future. 

The assumption here, which is uniquely white, republican (and includes almost all self described evangelicals) is that the election of President Obama signals God's abandonment of our country into moral decline and debauchery.  Of course this was the same thing people felt about the election of JFK and Clinton and in the intervening years Reagan and the Bushes amounted to a reversing of courses.  

There is a clear association for many of my fellow-evangelicals of defacto equality between Christian virtue and Republican ethics. Yet literally 90% of our fellow members of the body of Christ around the world, and a similar % of our non-white brothers and sisters in the US, do NOT see it this way.  They spoke out almost universally against the war against Iraq, they developed deep distrust of our last President and welcomed with tears of Joy the present administration.

So the general view of US evangelicals rejects the outlook of the body of Christ around the world.  Now, within one of the most culturally isolated (yep, I said it) sub-cultures of US evangelicalism a new line of reasoning, a new line of rhetoric, a new line of hysteria, is developing as Obama is directly identified as a 21st century Hitler.  

As I mentioned a couple of posts ago, I was recently at the National Association of Black Evangelicals annual conference.  Let me just say for the record that these folks did not vote in lock-step for Obama, but these fellow believers would likely consider this race-baiting dialogue that I witnessed as a return to overt, explicit racism.  You can disagree with him but do it in substance on issues rather than in racially based fear-mongering.  To do that is to foment racist overtones to supplement the already ubiquitous "racialization".  

I have personally both admired and been dismayed by our new President.  My goal is is not to argue for his public virtue, but as I said a year ago, the current election cycle and administration is virtually guaranteed to create further, deeper divisions within the body of Christ. . . that for Christians should be a paramount concern.  

My question is:  Is this a homeschool (white-republican-evangelical) phenomena?  Or is this a larger Evangelical theme building upon the "socialist" labels being applied to the administration?

Friday, April 17, 2009

Mobile blogging from my blackberry?

Mobile Blogging from the NBEA

I've been blessed to attend the National Conference for the National Black Evangelical Association here in Chicago (Oak Lawn) yesterday and today.  

The conference is the beginning of rejuvenating a movement within the black church. I've been really blown away by the sessions I've attended so far and really blessed to be introduced to some new teachers/thinkers as well as reacquainted with some folks I've already been familiar with.  

Carl Ellis is an amazing thinker and teacher.  He's the author of Free at Last (highly recommended) which helps enormously to understand the story of the descendants of Africans within the US who have trusted Christ.  He taught yesterday through a cultural analysis of the black community and its subcultures as well as the role of the black church in this time period.  (the role of the black church in the Age of Obama). . .  he team taught it with theologian/teacher  Mr. Potter.  Very powerful.  Both of these guys are in the PCA which adds a layer of interest for me!

I was also really blessed by the workshop that Dr. Trulear presented yesterday on prison ministry.  He has worked with the Annie E. Casey foundation to develop a program that includes churches engaging before and after those that have been incarcerated return from prison.  It was a really enlightening thought process in which the church is encouraged to consider this type of ministry beyond what is normally just an evangelistic service.  They've developed a set of materials, available for free, that can empower literally ANY church to be involved in this highly important work.  Click here for information on working with children whose parents are incarcerated as well as a larger prisoner outreach ministry.  well researched, great, great info!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Next Evangelicalism, a review

I have listened to Prof. Soong Chan Rah of North Park College and Seminary for about two years.  He has spoken most often on the topic of this new book, published by IVP.  The first time I got a recording from my young staff, it created a sensation of sorts.  

He had asserted that "If you plan to be a missionary and you enter another culture to carry the gospel but you have not ever had a non-white mentor or spiritual leader you will not be a missionary but rather a colonialist"  (my approximation).  Strong stuff!

This new book builds on themes that are in my estimation undeniable.  First, that the growth within Evangelicalism in the present and future is largely within minority, poor and immigrant communities.  Citing statistics based in the Boston area, I think this assessment has proven to be quite accurate.  

If the overall argument of the book is that (a) the US evang. church is changing demographically and (b) that the leadership and primary influence of the church is held tightly in the grasp of white evangelicals, then I think it is hard to dispute.  Next, Rah critiques the central weaknesses of the cultural realities of a white/western dominated evangelicalism; namely materialism, individualism and racism. Finally, the author asserts that those who make up the future of this church have exceptionally important perspective and value to add but are too often marginalized.  

The central value to this book is in its description of the coming reality of the future of Evangelicalism and the cogent articulation of the unique weaknesses of the church especially as explored through the immigrant/non-white perspective.  These twin ideas that the future of the church is non-white, and from a non-white perspective the evident weaknesses in our church are strategically and relationally insightful.

A perhaps secondary but I think great contribution to literature available to white churches and church leaders is the description of the role of the ethnic minority or immigrant church. Rah's telling of his own story and lacing in the role the church played in his life and that of his friends was captivating.  It's almost like I knew my brothers in the Korean church played a unique role within US society but I couldn't tell the story (of course!).  This is just a beautiful chapter and made me want to more closely identify with the role of the outsider to US culture that our immigrant believer brothers and sisters play.  

As someone that lives as a minority in my community and church, this really resonated with me.  For about 10 years I was in a denomination that had a huge Korean presence (PCA).  My current reality has changed the way I reflect on the reality of my former denomination.  I hope my brothers in the white church that seem to "humor" the Korean presbyterians will read this and gain a new admiration for our korean brothers!  

The weakness in the book, in my mind is the too often repeated phrase "white western captivity of the evangelical church".   As I read the book I realized that Rah regards himself in the role of a prophet rather that "bridge builder" per se.  In other words he's not concerned with those who may be offended.  That's what prophets do.  The downside to prophets, however, is that they don't make very good teachers, which is where I think Rah is actually strongest.  I think he wants to be both but can that work?  Will he actually persuade someone who doesn't basically agree with him already?  I'm not sure.  

One last point:  Rah partially unfolded an expansion of his thinking (which builds on the work of Walter Bruggeman in Peace) about the differing perspectives on the culture of "suffering" vs. the culture of "celebration".  This too needed further development. .  needs. . . I should say.  I hope he writes more about it in the future.  

All in all, a strongly recommended book. . .  but with my own bent toward bridge building vs. prophesying  I would just caution the reader, don't let the use of the phrase "white western captivity" distract you from hearing the substance behind the provocative wording. 

Who is Joel Hamernick?

I had the privilege of sharing my story at a downtown men's bible study recently.  If you've wondered how a suburban white kid ended up serving Christ and living in the city. . . here it is:

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Getting the Blues

The experience of Adam:

"cursed is the ground because of you;
in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life. . . 
by the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, 
till you return to the ground. . . "

The experience of John Milton as expressed in Paradise Lost:

"O miserable of happy! Is this the end 
Of this new glorious world, and me so late
The glory of the glory, who now, become 
Accursed of blessed.

What Can I increase, 
Or multiply but curses on my head?"

The experience of Muddy Waters: 

"Well if I feel like tomorrow, like I feel today
I'm gonna pack my suitcase, and make my getaway.
I be troubled, I'm all worried in mind, 
And I never be satisfied, And I just can't keep from cryin'."

"[The]Exile [we find in scripture] points us to our lostness, wandering. . .  We want to rush on in the biblical story. We want to rush on in our lives.  We want Easter Sunday, when the sun rises and the morning returns the light.  The blues makes us wait in darkness."

Adapted from Stephen Nichols "Getting the Blues, what blues music teaches us about suffering and salvation" Brazos Press, 2008.