Archive for November, 2008

Cathleen Falsani has released her complete, unedited interview with Barak Obama on his personal faith from back in 2004 (all quotes are from that article).  Nothing he says should preclude him from being President, in any way, shape or form.  But much of what he says should preclude him from being a member of any evangelical church I know.  I’ll summarize it, but my goal is not to skewer him or correct him (ok, once or twice).

He denies the exclusive claims of Jesus Christ.

So, I’m rooted in the Christian tradition. I believe that there are many paths to the same place, and that is a belief that there is a higher power, a belief that we are connected as a people. That there are values that transcend race or culture, that move us forward, and there’s an obligation for all of us individually as well as collectively to take responsibility to make those values lived. …

I find it hard to believe that my God would consign four-fifths of the world to hell.

I can’t imagine that my God would allow some little Hindu kid in India who never interacts with the Christian faith to somehow burn for all eternity.

That’s just not part of my religious makeup.

Faith for him is more about living values than trusting a person (Jesus) and believing certain truths about him.  These are values that many religions have in common, rather than reflecting the character of God.

I’m a big believer in tolerance. I think that religion at it’s best comes with a big dose of doubt. I’m suspicious of too much certainty in the pursuit of understanding just because I think people are limited in their understanding.

I think that, particularly as somebody who’s now in the public realm and is a student of what brings people together and what drives them apart, there’s an enormous amount of damage done around the world in the name of religion and certainty.

He’s pretty vague on Jesus beyond the fact that Jesus really existed.

Jesus is an historical figure for me, and he’s also a bridge between God and man, in the Christian faith, and one that I think is powerful precisely because he serves as that means of us reaching something higher.

And he’s also a wonderful teacher. I think it’s important for all of us, of whatever faith, to have teachers in the flesh and also teachers in history.

The guys who keep him straight probably need to be straightened out.

Well, my pastor [Jeremiah Wright] is certainly someone who I have an enormous amount of respect for.

I have a number of friends who are ministers. Reverend Meeks is a close friend and colleague of mine in the state Senate. Father Michael Pfleger is a dear friend, and somebody I interact with closely.

For a constitutional law professor he doesn’t understand the Constitution.  1st, the Non-establishment Clause means no Church of America, or state church.  2nd, the Free Exercise of Religion which guarantees both Obama and I can freely exercise our faith here in America.

Alongside my own deep personal faith, I am a follower, as well, of our civic religion. I am a big believer in the separation of church and state. I am a big believer in our constitutional structure. I mean, I’m a law professor at the University of Chicago teaching constitutional law. I am a great admirer of our founding charter, and its resolve to prevent theocracies from forming, and its resolve to prevent disruptive strains of fundamentalism from taking root ion this country.

Fox News and talk radio confuse well-meaning Americans.  They apparently invented the pro-life movement.

Like the right to choose.

I haven’t been challenged in those direct ways. And to that extent, I give the public a lot of credit. I’m always stuck by how much common sense the American people have. They get confused sometimes, watch FoxNews or listen to talk radio. That’s dangerous sometimes.

He doesn’t seem to get grace.

What I believe in is that if I live my life as well as I can, that I will be rewarded. I don’t presume to have knowledge of what happens after I die. But I feel very strongly that whether the reward is in the here and now or in the hereafter, the aligning myself to my faith and my values is a good thing.

Sin is …

Being out of alignment with my values.

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I’m struggling with my sermon for Sunday.  I’m struggling because I know the sinful, legalistic tendencies of our hearts.  I’m struggling with communicating the truth in such a way as to reveal our idols/substitutes in a more concrete way without establishing “man-made” rules which we use to attack others or exalt ourselves.

In Nehemiah 13, Nehemiah returns from Susa to discover that Israel has broken all the promises and oaths they had made to God.  They were once again becoming like the nations, being assimilated, instead of honoring God with their money, time and relationships.  They were not providing tithes & offerings for the worship of God, they were breaking the Sabbath, and they were taking foreign wives.  They had lost their saltiness.

And so have we.  The Church in America struggles with assimilation- being squeezed into the world’s box, conformed to their values rather than conformed to Christ and His values.  We start to worship self and success.  Here’s a chart I put together to summarize it:


Love God

Love of Self


Joy in Christ => simplicity + generosity

Covetousness => status symbols + luxuries


Boundaries + balance

Excess to fulfill my agenda


Kingdom building + character

Focus on beauty or economic advantage

Church Leadership

Biblical (gospel) principles

Business models (control)

We have a tendency to want to make this clearer so we can better know (we think) if we are being obedient.  This way we can establish our righteousness over our less obedient brothers and sisters.  This permits us to criticize them.  Sometimes they need to be confronted by their own worldliness- but I can’t be the standard by which they are measured.

We also do this so we can play the martyr.  I think of this primarily financially.  We can point to our simplicity- “see what a junky car I drive because I love Jesus”- to show how much more we love Jesus than our brothers.  We aren’t content to say “don’t covet, be generous and keep your treasure in heaven.”  We want to know what that looks like, and we start this Pharisaical process to gain credit instead of relying on Jesus, His work for us, and to work in and thru us.  Or am I the only one whose heart is so twisted by indwelling sin?

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Remains to be Seen       Globe Staff (Jim Davis)

Remains to be Seen Globe Staff (Jim Davis)

A second Red Sox post in 2 days?  Yes, because the Hot Stove is overheating!

Coco Crisp is now a Kansas City Royal (sorry, dude).  I’ll miss his superb defense despite his weak arm.  Obviously Theo and Terry think Jacoby will make the necessary adjustments to return much better next season after going through some disappointing slumps this season.

Ramon Ramirez is now a Red Sox.  He pitched well in relief for the Royals last year with a 2.64 ERA and 70 Ks in just over 71 innings of work, giving up only 2 HRs (a key stat).  He can help solidify that Red Sox bullpen which struggled before Justin Masterson joined it.  The Sox may have plans to return Justin to the rotation (I wrote this before reading the Buzz).  But maybe not…

Reports are that the Sox are making a run at A.J. Burnett, a John Henry favorite from his days as Marlins’ owner.  This may trigger a bidding war, which may be exactly what the Red Sox want (though the Yankees may return the favor over Teixeira).  I’m not sure why the Sox want him.  He’s often injured and can’t seem to put it together despite having great stuff.  Without ‘Tek, this would be an even riskier move.  I’m not so wild about this.

Nothing yet on the rumored trade of Julio Lugo to the Tigers for an equally bad contract on a pitcher.

Tony Mazzarotti thinks the Red Sox will offer Mark Teixeira the biggest contract in Red Sox history.  The Red Sox want him.  Afterall, they once drafted him.  He is productive, patient, a great defender and a great clubhouse guy who can lead.  In other words- Manny without the baggage.  This is why they didn’t pick up Manny’s option- they’d rather spend $20 million on a guy who is younger and low maintenance.  They might not get him, but it won’t be for a lack of effort and resources.  Both teams remain mum on Teixeira.  They want to work behind the scenes, much like the Yankees did with Damon.  That’s how Theo likes things too.  The Yankees have far more to spend, even if they drop $150 million on pitching.

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Considering Size

Today, the “miniscule” Dustin Pedroia (whose heart is like the Grinch’s post-Christmas) won the AL MVP.  He’s the first “small” guy to win the award in quite some time.

Jared Wilson has a great post today on whether size matters in churches.  He was attending a conference, noticing that all the speakers had BIG churches, which is why they were invited to speak.  Here’s one part of the struggle all of should reckon with:

One of the Catalyst speakers in his address said that every church has the Holy Spirit but that some churches have that something extra that makes them special. The crowd ate this up, and indeed, this seems to be the implicit message of all conferences, kits, consultations, and systems of this kind: You may have the Spirit, but do you have _______?

This not only implies that God isn’t enough, it only feeds and stokes the insatiable idolatry for that “x factor” the fans of these programs are operating out of. “Sure, I’ve got Jesus. But I need the tips, techniques, and know-how to take it to the next level!”
The level above Jesus? There is a place that is better or more “successful” than having Jesus?
Do we need the Spirit plus something?

Similar to the Galatian heresy: turning Christianity into Jesus + __________.  The difference being that in Galatia it was about being a Christian, and here it is about “growing a church” but the implications are pretty much the same.  Who gets the glory?  We are all too ready to give credit to the pastor if the church grows (and blame if it doesn’t- does a congregation repent because they didn’t take the Great Commission seriously or just fire the pastor?).  We worship success in this here country, and can’t understand why a church doesn’t grow.  So we add all kinds of things to the gospel, and often obscure the gospel, so the church will grow.

He was told about a small church conference which which wasn’t really a small church conference.  I’ll let him explain.

And then the respondent recommended we small church dudes check out The Sticks Conference. And he elaborated. The Sticks Conference is for pastors in small towns.

What wasn’t said, but was nevertheless something I “heard,” was that small church equals small town. Because, again, if you have a small church in a big town, it is not successful. The implication is that the only acceptable reason for having a small church is that you are in a low populated area where there aren’t a lot of people.

So I checked out the website for The Sticks. It is indeed for pastors of small churches in small, mostly rural, towns. And the speakers are all pastors of megachurches that are in small towns. Each of the speakers’ bios glowingly related how large they had grown their churches, as if that is the point of the conference: get big.
<> Thanks, Sticks, for dispatching with the preoccupation with size.

Even the concept of The Sticks, which was suggested as an alternative to the success-obsession of the other conferences, is that if you are in a small church, your job is to get bigger.

Justin hits the nail on the head in what follows- we worship numbers.  There is a whole “industry” designed to feed our idolatry.  We ignore blatant heresy because the “pastor’s” church is big.  You can’t argue with success, right?  Yeah … what does it profit a man to gain the whole world but lose his soul.  This is what many of us are doing- losing our grip on the gospel (and our soul) so we can gain a big church, becoming famous.

But it isn’t just pastors and church leaders.  The average search committee worships success.  They want the guy with the “proven track-record.”  Godly men are passed over because they don’t pass the success test.  You can talk about this in terms of providence if you want.  Okay, God often gives churches over to their sin just as he does individuals and cultures (Romans 1:19ff). In their quest for successful men, the church suffers extended periods of time without a godly shepherd.  And often the mini-messiah is not what the Shepherd ordered.  Churches around our land have been ravaged by moralism and pragmatism in this worship of success.  Where is the gospel?  Why do we think the gospel is insufficient?  Obviously we need means to present the gospel (small groups, SS, youth groups etc) but they are a means to the end of preaching and applying the gospel.

Whether you’re a tall, grande, or venti church, if your overriding concern is numbers, you’re an idolatrous church.  Be faithful, and God will give the increase in his measure and in his time.

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Reason to Smile         Globe Staff (Jim Davis)

Reason to Smile Globe Staff (Jim Davis)

Dustin Pedroia’s professional career so far.

  • May 2007- fans want rookie Dustin Pedroia benched for lack of production.
  • 2007- World Series Champion
  • 2007- A.L. Rookie of the Year
  • 2008- One win away from the 2008 World Series.
  • 2008- Golden Glove Award: best fielder at his position in the A.L.
  • 2008- Silver Slugger Award: best hitter at his position in the A.L.
  • 2008- A.L. MVP

Not a bad way to begin your professional career.  Perhaps Dustin is the new Derek Jeter, without the glitz and girlfriends.  I’m talking the guy who makes a team go, who works hard and is just plain a winner.

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Back to working my way through Steve McCoy’s Big 5 Books, today the Cross.  As Spurgeon once said:

“Endeavor to know more and more of Christ Jesus. Endeavor especially to know the doctrine of the sacrifice of Christ.” C.H. Spurgeon

Here are the best books I’ve read:

The books I have yet to read, and hope to:

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The wife and I enjoyed the new James Bond thriller, Quantum of Solace.

quan-tum  (noun)

1. quantity or amount: the least quantum of evidence.
2. a particular amount.
3. a share or portion.
4. a large quantity; bulk.

The movie begins shortly after the end of Casino Royale, and is about Bond seeking a measure of solace after his betrayal by Vesper.  He has kidnapped the man directly responsible and is being chased by his hired men trying to retreive, or kill, him.  In the process, Bond discovers an underground network that has avoided detection by all the intelligence networks called Quantum (at least I think I heard that).  In the process, Bond draws the ire of the CIA, the PM of England as well as the front organization Greene Planet.  M is not sure if she can trust Bond.  She thinks he is just a loose cannon seeking revenge.  But in following the trail of those who blackmail Vesper, he uncovers a plot to overthrow a government or two, and more importantly to monopolize our most important resource- water.

Both of us give the movie a thumbs up.  It was filled with action.  The increase in violence has drawn disappoval by critics like Roger Ebert.  I think he fails to recognize that this is a Bond for the new times.  Connery and Moore were Bond during the Cold War.  Connery was more physical than Moore, and certainly more believable.  Roger Moore was a more sophisticated Bond.  Daniel Craig is more like Sean Connery- very physical.  He is a War on Terror kind of Bond.  His sense of urgency is much greater.  He must dole out his countries wrath.  Afterall, he is an assassin as well as a gatherer of intelligence.  This Bond is less of a womanizer.  He “only” bedded one woman in this movie.  So while there is more action/violence, there is less sexual immorality.  The former is not always a sin, the latter is.  The violence here is the attempts to stop evil people from perpetrating greater evil.  But his government doesn’t always approve of his actions.  Eventually they see that he is right, and they were very wrong, in his assessment of the situation.

Quantum is not as good as Casino Royale.  It suffers a tad from the Bourne-syndrome.  The action is filmed too tight, so you aren’t sure what is actually happening.  That catches the speed at which things can happen.  But if your wife asks you, “How did he kill him?”, it is happening TOO fast.  The movie could have stood to have a few slower scenes to develop the plot line.  It was under 2 hours, and it felt as if there were a few leaps in the plot line.  These shortcomings do not ruin Quantum of Solace, but we see Bond move on without exacting revenge as we, along with M, feared.  Bond is not out of control, but using the correct quantum of violence to meet the circumstances in which he finds himself.  I look forward to his return.

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