For the past few years, I’ve been posting quarterly updates of what I’ve been reading on Facebook with little two- or three-sentence reviews of what I thought. And now I transliterate it here, so that the five people who read me on my Facebook page can see the same post on my blog! It’s called cross-promotion or something. Deal with it. (Links go to my typically more in-depth Goodreads reviews.)
1. Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis (1956) – This retelling of the myth of Psyche and Cupid is quite good. It gave me a whole new respect for Lewis as a writer of more than “just” children’s fantasy and Christian apologetics. If you liked Gaiman’s Norse Mythology, you should give this a read because it’s better. *ducks*
2. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (2017) – Easily one of the best novels of 2017, if not the entire decade, if not this generation. Everyone should read it. Everyone.
Continue reading Quarterly Book Update: Tolstoy, Levine, du Bois, Etc.
I think about health care a lot. We are blessed with three healthy children – but not so healthy that there haven’t been scares and emergencies. We’ve been to the hospital at least once with each child in the last five years, not to mention the hospital visits to actually give birth.
So I think about health care a lot. Because many families are not as lucky as we have been. Their children need many more hospital visits, or round-the-clock care, or expensive medication taken every day. And that’s expensive, more than they can afford.
Continue reading Why the Government Shutdown Makes Me So Mad
Last year for International Women’s Day, I wrote a letter to my three daughters. International Women’s Day was last week, so here is a slightly edited version of that letter.
Dear J, G and H,
This world will tell you lies. It will lie to you about your value, about your appearance, about your place. It is filled with people who will see you as weak, who see you as less valuable – to them and to God – and who see you as an object, all because you are female.
I pray you keep this letter in mind when you hear those things. I am afraid that, though the world is changing, it will not do so fast enough to spare you from the warped wisdom and twisted value system that prioritizes, above all things, the gender of a person.
Because you are more than women, as I am more than a man. We are children of God, three daughters and a son. We are loved, valued, respected, prized by the one who made us – the parent of the entire world, the one who is big enough to breathe life into existence, small enough to weep with us when that life goes awry.
But you are, in fact, women. And you should be proud of that. I pray you never accept the attempts of men to make your gender a cause for shame, embarrassment or pity. You are women. Congratulations!
This is my prayer for you:
Continue reading A Letter to Three Daughters
You might recall that way back, at the beginning of this blog, I compared the Old Testament to an embarrassing family member for whom one must frequently apologize. While I don’t feel that’s the case anymore, there remains a problem: How to teach it to children.
My wife and I have gone around this issue a few times since we had our first daughter more than four years ago, and our struggles have led us to Peter Enns, a biblical scholar we both respect for his willingness to both love the Bible and present it as it was intended to be read – as opposed to how modern-day Christians might like it to be read.
The problem as I see it with presenting the Old Testament stories to children is three-fold:
Continue reading Telling God’s Story, Not the Old Testament’s
For all of the mass shootings that have plagued our country over the past 30 years – and even moreso in the past 15 – why does this one in Connecticut, the eighth of 2012, hit so hard? Because of one number. Twenty. The number of children age 7 and under killed in a simply incomprehensible attack.
Like many of you, I thought about those 20 (and the eight adults who died trying to protect them) in church yesterday. We opened the service with Joy to the World and its lyrics, “Joy to the world! The Lord is come!” and “Joy to the earth! The Savior reigns!” Does he?
We followed that up with Sing to the King, which states: “Satan is vanquished, and Jesus is king!” Is he?
Next was O Come All Ye Faithful, which follows up its title lyrics with, “Joyful and triumphant.” Are we?
It was a bold move to speak the hope, faith and expectation of Jesus’ reign during a weekend when any sign of it seemed so scarce. And, for me at least, it was a needed one. Advent is about acknowledging the wrongness of this world while also declaring the hope we have of its future rightness. In a weekend where the former was so clear, I’m thankful for our church leadership’s call to focus on the latter.
I’ve written a lot about theodicy on this blog (there’s a whole tag devoted to it, if you’re interested), so I’m turning the rest of this space over to folks who worked through this much more eloquently than I could.
Continue reading Twenty
Tony Jones has issued another call for progressive theological bloggers to join in a conversation about the nature of God. He’s calling it #progGod, and last time I talked a little bit about the human inability to fully grasp who God is – including but certainly not limited to those humans who recorded their thoughts about God in the texts that now are called the Bible.
This time I want to revisit a post I wrote almost exactly one year ago. Liam, the son of some friends of mine and the focus of several posts on this blog, had just died, and it led to a lot of questioning. The post references a coworker whose son had brain cancer. That was Rex, who just died last month. He and Liam were diagnosed at nearly the same time, and died within a year of each other – despite countless prayers lifted up by thousands of people, many of them children.
That post from last year seems just as relevant today as it did back then, as we celebrate the miracle of God-with-us, the incarnation.
Continue reading What Does it Mean to Celebrate Immanuel?
Seemingly since the moment we’ve moved back to town, our faith community has been deep in prayer for two little boys fighting against cancer for their lives.
Liam and Rex. Their names were tied together for month after month. One with leukemia, the other with a brain tumor. Their stories moved people from across the city to organize vigils and cover them with thousands upon thousands of hours of prayer.
Until Liam died. We’ve talked about that.
In the months since, Rex’s battle has taken center stage. It looked like he had beaten it, thanks to surgery, radiation and chemo, but after several cancer-free months, the tumor returned, this time in a place where surgery would do more harm than good. And yesterday, an MRI showed that the last-ditch experimental treatment Rex had been taking has failed to check the tumor’s growth.
After 10 years of life, Rex has four to six months of it left.
Continue reading The Betrayal of God’s Silence
We’ve had some birthdays in the Disoriented household this month; I have now been a father for four of my 30 years of life. I was not prepared for the numerous ways in which fatherhood changes a person. It’s not the same for everyone, I’m sure, but having children, especially daughters, changed the way I look at everything from movies and advertising to the Bible and God.
The latter is especially significant. The Bible describes God as a parent numerous times, ascribing to him the characteristics of both mother and father (we tend only to focus on the latter, to our discredit). Certainly, we have picked up that mantle. We often address God as “Father,” we talk about divine correction, we often analogize God’s actions with the actions of a parent.
But I don’t think you can really get a handle on God’s love until you experience what it’s like to love unconditionally as a parent – at least I couldn’t. My view of God has been radically reshaped by finally understanding the parental perspective on the actions of my children.
Perhaps one of the most damaging doctrines with which I was raised is the notion that God does not hear/listen to the prayers of those who have sinned. This notion is taken, as far as I can tell, from a single verse, Isaiah 59:2: “Your misdeeds have separated you from God. Your sins have hidden his face from you, so that you aren’t heard.”
Continue reading God Keeps Choosing Us
I was doing a quick shopping run the other day for my wife when I ran into this set of books prominently displayed at our favorite grocery store:
I was immediately leery, as book publishers seem to have certain ideas about what boys need to know versus what girls need to know about the same general topics. The covers are fairly innocuous – sailboat versus horse, diving versus jumping rope – nothing too offensive. Of course, inside the books was a different story:
Full disclosure: That’s the first page I opened to in the boys’ book. I flipped around the girls’ book briefly to find a page that corresponded – fun summer idea on one page and an activity on the other.
So boys are told they can skip stones and solve puzzles, and girls are told they can look good … and lie on the beach. Note also the actual text – “a girl has her image to think of” … “be a beautiful beach babe” – and the unnaturally skinny, bikini-clad preteens in the girls’ book, as well. And I would be remiss as a typographic nerd if I didn’t point out that the boys’ book has a strong, bold headline font compared to the girls’ frilly, cutesy font, which along with giving the boys’ book a better design also reinforces the subtle message that boys are to be strong and adventurous while girls should look pretty.
Continue reading Capitulating to Our Culture
I have birthday money, so I’m thinking about what books I should get with it. Right now, I’m thinking King Jesus Gospel by Scot McKnight, How God Became King by N.T. Wright and A Better Atonement by Tony Jones.
You might notice a trend, but all three of these books argue that modern-day American Christians have lost the true meaning and method of salvation. Most Christians grow up with the concept of penal substitutionary atonement – Jesus died to save me from the wrath I deserve; he bore it in my place. McKnight in particular argues that when we look at the first statements of the gospel – the writings of Paul and the sermons of Acts – a heavy focus on the individual and the wrath of God is not in sight.
In fact, although atonement is clearly a piece of the salvation story, I would argue that the penal substitutionary variety creates a distorted view of God. Rather than seeing a God who loves the world so much that he would sacrifice anything to bring humanity back to a sin-free Eden, we see a God who is so angry, Jesus had to die to save us from him. And we can see how many Christians’ view of grace, sin, judgment and the end times all grow out of this view of God, which I would speculate is the result of misguidedly attempting to reconcile the incomplete, even inaccurate, description of God in pieces of the Old Testament with the much different descriptions of him provided by the New Testament.
So I look forward to getting and reading those books because, frankly, theology blogs sometimes feel a little over my head, and I haven’t given this issue enough thought. But I’ve been thinking about it a little more lately thanks to the work of another theologian, who treats the issue of salvation and atonement on a level I can understand.
I’ve been reading The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis to my oldest daughter the past few weeks. We just finished the part where Aslan, the Christ figure of Lewis’ fantasy world of Narnia, dies and rises again. And I can’t help but think how much better all of us would be if we grew up learning about God the way we learn about Aslan.
Continue reading Aslan and a Better View of God