Friday, October 28, 2005

Shooting the Wounded

Had another important long-distance phone conversation the other night with an existing church leader trying to make sense of emerging church. Sigh. If I could get the sneaking suspicion that some evangelical leaders think that the only way to attain unity or maintain standards is to circle the wagons, and that the only way to get the wandering herd of cats which is evangelicaldom to circle wagons is to scare or anger everyone by some outrageous betrayal in the ranks or some conspiracy of harm from outside--in other words, by entirely worldly means familiar enough from The Prince--it would be easier for me. Someone worthwhile--Swift, I think, said patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels, and someone else worthwhile--Mark Twain, maybe?--said he begged to differ: for patriotism is in fact the first refuge of scoundrels. If the cultural captivity of the modern church is the biggest issue facing the American church, why are its leaders spending so much quality time shooting its black ops troops in the back? Because they mowed down all the open theists, and the emerging church seemed like the next likely target-rich environment?

The existing church is of course eminently critiqueable. But critiquing the existing church is not what I do. Because it is not my primary intended audience. And granted, the emerging churches will not necessarily be a lot better than modern churches, although they will be better for emerging-culture people. (Although I'm not so sure why it's an especially good idea for existing leaders to make sure that everyone knows that emerging churches aren't any better than theirs. Is it sensitivity to their own Achilles' heel at work, or are they the sort who would rather no one succeed than someone other than them doing so? Surely they don't want the emerging churches to fail to honor God and reach the culture, do they?) And I may well be wrong about my reading of intellectual history or the movement of worldviews and society. I don't care all that much whether I'm wrong about my predictions about the directions of American (and world) culture: if I turn out to have served a fringey-edge, rather than the cutting edge, that's alright with me. And you'll get no disagreement from me that emerging leaders are, taken as a group, bright and clever and determined but messed-up people. After all, it is we emerging leaders, by and large, who frankly and forthrightly admit, in a way that existing leaders, by and large, do not, that we are at best wounded healers and compromised guides, whom no one should trust very much unless God is in this.

In other words, up to a point, all this criticism is all right. What is not alright is generals shooting privates in the back.

Friday, October 21, 2005


Had a nice conversation with Rob Pepper and Aimee Littler the other night. There were lots of parts to it, but it seems to me that one thread that ties artists and theovangelists together is that we both find ourselves in the somewhat awkward and occasionally unintentionally misleading position of saying, in effect, "pay attention to me as I tell you to pay attention to Someone (the theovangelist) or something (the artist) else." Not surprisingly, people are confused. They don't really believe in God or in Jesus, say; well, then, they think that what I mean when I say "trust Jesus" is in a very obscure way I'm saying "trust me." I suppose also, not getting or trusting in the truth of art, or being unused to being affected significantly by beauty, they assume that the artist is just trying to get people's attention for herself.
But au contraire, Pierre: artists are just those people who think that beauty is more than decor, and theovangelists are people just fundamentalist enough to think that Jesus is actually there.
Now: how do we communicate that when any straightforward attempt to do so runs in to this communicative complexity that looks like a sleight of hand, and hence like either a claim to positive magical abilities, or a cover-up of some agenda more sinister?

Friday, October 14, 2005

Whether I Need to or Not

Hey, it's mark, blogging once a week whether I need to or not.

Well, Doxology was good. The turnout wasn't what the artwork deserved, maybe sixty or eighty, but then frankly, if we'd had even twice as many people, I don't know how we could have accommodated them. Ecclesia's gallery space is cool, and large, but the patio is not gigantic nor the coffeeshop, the kitchen is small, and Dawn and Beth basically made and presented all the food. So we would have been overwhelmed or run out of food or both if there had been a huge crowd.

I was hoping Chris would be there, as I have not seen him in several years. But it was fabulous to have a moment when Brad and Debbie and Andrew and Dawn and me and Shannon were standing around a table together. It was also a little weird but kind of nice that Lower Greenville-related people made up like 20% of the crowd. There was all of us except Jonathan (sadly, since it would make a difference for him to see more of that world), the Rudds including The Ruddlette, some Millers, Jenny and her roommate Kristin--and then Phil and Kathleen, the Young Fungs, came down, and Dave and Naomi staggered over from residency--like 15 Lower Greenville-related people at an art opening in Houston. Wowsers.

Probably the nicest bits were some small moments. Aimee got to meet Beth, and they bonded over Eowyn and Arwen. Aimee was also apparently really pleased by Dawn's catering, and that just meant a ton to Dawn. And Brad Sargent gave all the Thameses special gifts--Lord of the Rings posters and cards and stuff--because, well, because Brad rocks.

Back here at the ranch, it's more of the usual: searching for signs of revival in hell. But at least we're headed out camping this weekend, and finally I've scheduled a campout that is both during a full moon and not raining. We're going to Robbers' Cave in Oklahoma, which I've never been to, so we'll see--but it's gotta be better than more concrete and carpet-covered cubicle partitions.
Stuart came through on his way to New Orleans, and then called when he hit his 'hood. The first sign that something might be slightly amiss amongst the bougainvilleas was the tractor-trailer truck laying on top of an apartment complex around the corner from his place. Maybe he'll salvage some camping gear and tools.
I'm juicing up my dossier at the career office at UTD. I've sent a couple of applications off for fall 06, which is good just as an exercise even if nothing comes of it. I've also finished Habermas's On the Logic of the Social Sciences, yet another gripping title from the master of suspense.
Which of course raises the question of which bodice-ripping page-turner I will take on the campout for hammock-reading: The Past as Future or The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere? Mmm, can't wait to sink my chops in...
Well, gentle reader, three truths emerge from the week: Rod rocks, differently from Brad, kind of like how Mick rocks different from Paul, but still, Rod rocks, and hence my computer lives; secondly, my kids are sensible sorts who have little time for my shenanigans--this means they have a future; and third, when all else fails, just remember, it's never more than twenty-three days til the next bulk pickup week, and if worse comes to worst, you can always just rent a BobCat, push whatever it is out to the curb, and be done with it.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005


We'll be heading down to Houston Friday for the Doxology opening at Xnihilo gallery in Montrose. Lots of people coming in from all over; it should be good. It'll be nice to see some of the people I got to meet in England this summer, and to put some of my English and American worlds together. And it's always good to put Dawn and Shannon in the same space.

The Rudds got a cool new Coleman tent today, just perfect for car camping with their family. It's wild to see stuff on a $60 tent that only came on $300 tents just five years ago: trekpole-supported porch roof, acrylic windows, high-low cross-flow vents, attic attachment points, bathtub floor, clip frame, moonroof, etc.

Went to healingroom tonight and had really good prayer time. There's a lot to pray for, and against, and about. Six impossible things before breakfast? well, maybe: Augustine said that God is perfectly happy to command us to do things that aren't possible, just so we will make sure and look to God in prayer.

Started teaching the med students how to give a "spiritual." I think it got off to a great start. I submitted a couple of article outlines to Stan Cobb of CMDA a few days ago, so all the med stuff is starting to seem real again after losing the Loyds and Willies and Adam Stone.

Dawn and I rode bikes (mirabile dictu!) to Minyards and got groceries this morning. Well, it's something. And the weather is supposed to finally break tonight.

Dawn and I also met with Elaine and Tommy Goode at Urban Market yesterday morning at like 7--a major feat for Dawn. The get-to-know part was good, and the place is amazing. That they have something like that in Dallas now is hard to believe: second-level free parking in the adjacent garage, with a dedicated stair down to the market, which has a patio, a deli, a light restaurant, a lounge-type seating area, and a grocery store. Wow. It might yet become a city around here.