Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Corporate Christianity (PMC - Part 2)

Recently I attended a fund-raising campaign at our church. The speaker (a consultant from out of the area) spoke about the McDonalds story, and drew some of the following conclusions:

Like McDonalds, we have a product to sell. We need to feed a hungry world, and Jesus is our product. And, just like McDonalds, we need a marketing strategy.

Let me first say that I completely disagree with this statement - I was actually kind of shocked that he said it. However, I think I understand why many churches mimic corporations, using business strategies, business leadership principles, even business organization structures. I think the reasoning goes something like this: If we really believe all this - which is a funny question for christians to ask; does it seem to anyone else like we need to convince ourselves? -
anyway, the thinking goes if we really believe all this gospel stuff, then shouldn't we be doing our best to be excellent? And actually I believe we should - the non sequitur is that we need to be excellent at the same things as the business world - sales, marketing, leadership, etc - when in reality we need to be excellent at the same things that were at the center of the person and ministry of Jesus - graciousness, forgiveness, inclusiveness, justice, and ultimately love. That, I think, is what postmodern christianity is about - finding ways to recapture the heart of Jesus' life and live it out now, in our time and place.

The unfortunate thing about churches mimicking corporate excellence is that it leads to an in-authentic sales pitch type presentation - everything seems "slick" and polished. That undertone doesn't jive at all with the authentic desire of our Lord to see each of his children return to him, no matter what their social or economic situation. The other unfortunate thing is that most churchgoers buying into this misguided corporate philosophy are doing so with earnest hearts and good intentions - they just haven't really thought about it.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Postmodern Christian - Part 1

I consider myself a postmodern christian, but I've been struggling with how to explain what that means. One of the things it means is that I'm going to strive to remain as open and gracious as possible to new variations, ideas, and interpretations of the christian faith. I'm convinced that one of the mistakes we've made over and over again in church history is passionately embracing a new, revolutionary, reactionary (and very good) version of our faith - only to become as entrenched and rigid as the version we replaced. I'm going to try to understand that interpretations of our faith for different contexts cannot be evaluated or compared to one another - they are neither more or less right, so long as the pillars of the faith that make it what it is remain. Post-modernism and more specifically the Emergent Church are a reaction to modern, seeker sensitive, sunday-centric, uninvolved christianity - but the emergent church will itself be replaced someday (maybe soon!), and I want to be gracious enough to let go of the principles and ideas I'm embracing now to learn and grow from whatever might be coming next...


I am interested in politics. I've been watching the early primary races, as well as reading biographies of Ronald Reagan and Winston Churchill. In particular the account of Reagan's presidency contrasts with the current political race. It seems like the candidates in both parties for the 2008 race are molding their views and appealing to the majority - essentially doing whatever they can to get elected. And in the process, none seem to have a clear, articulate, passionate vision of the future. Accurately or not, (I suspect Kuhn's portrayal of Reagan is a bit rosy) Reagan comes across as an individual with a vision of what America could be, and a personal dedication to that philosophy - the fact that it resonated with voters was because he was the right man at the right time - not because he changed to fit the voters. He had authenticity. I don't see a lot of that in the 2008 candidates.

I wonder if the 2008 candidates aren't struggling a bit because they're trying to be what the voters want, but maybe the voters don't know what they want. Here's my appeal: this vote is yours if you can present me with a vision of the future I can believe in, some strong, sensible strategies for the problems we're facing (immigration, nuclear war/weapons, economic development and ecological protection, foreign affairs, etc). Give me something I can hold onto, something I can invest myself in. Otherwise, I'm not sure I'll be able to find a candidate worth my vote at all.

Sunday, October 21, 2007


Yesterday Michelle and I went to Stoney Ridge Farm with a group of our friends. It was one of several experiences I’ve had since moving to Washington State that have been quintessentially American. Born of American parents but growing up in Canada I’ve never really been able to relate to Norman Rockwell paintings or Readers Digest articles. Yesterday, all I knew was we were going to pick a pumpkin right out of the field and then come back and carve it. I asked Michelle how long we’d be gone, thinking it would probably take me 15 minutes tops to pick and harvest a pumpkin. Little did I know, it was all about the experience. The farm has all kinds of things to do. We took a hay wagon out to the pumpkin field right away – after all that’s why we came. As advertised, we found a field full of pumpkins, an apple orchard full of fruit, and a corn maze. We wound our way first through the corn maze, then picked out a bag of right-off-the-tree apples (I ate one right then and there – they’re free if you eat them in the orchard), and finally we scoured the pumpkin patch for the perfect pumpkin (Michelle had spotted it from the wagon). Later, after paying for our farm fresh produce, we proceeded to the ranch house-turned cafĂ© for fresh caramel apple pie and fresh pumpkin pie. So good! By this time I was reveling in my all American Saturday, and suggested we get the apple cider donuts to top it off – after all, what’s more American than being stuffed full of great food? Later we previewed the Christmas trees and checked out the farm animals. It was a cool day, and I really felt like I was experiencing an American tradition – the harvest.

Earlier this summer for Memorial Day the town of Ferndale, where Michelle’s parents live, lined main street with American Flags. Ferndale IS the American town. Main street crosses a little river and then intersects 1st, 2nd, and 3rd avenues, and that’s about it – my Brother-in-law lives in a little house just past 3rd avenue. When I’m out on Saturday mornings at garage sales in Ferndale I can’t help thinking the very same thing is happening in literally thousands of small towns across the US. Americana also came to me when I spent a Saturday morning repairing Michelle’s rear drum brakes. I stopped at the Ferndale auto parts store to pick them up, then headed up to my father-in-law’s place. We spent several hours taking apart and then rebuilding the brakes in the driveway. Again, I felt the warm feeling that I was participating in a great tradition – that millions have had this experience, many were having it that very day, and many would have it in the future. There’s something about these activities that unites Americans in the city and in the country, in the east, west, north, and south, on the coast, in the mountains and on the plains. It’s a neat feeling to be a part of something bigger than myself and to share a heritage with so many…

If you’ll excuse me I need to peel and slice some freshly picked apples for an apple pie – what could be more American?

Friday, October 12, 2007


I've been reading "Tuesdays with Morrie" by Mitch Albom and a few things strike me. First, for all the author's quasi-humble first-person bashing of ambition, the book was carefully crafted to appeal to the broadest masses. Plenty of the heart warming inspirational stuff we can all feel good about with no religious or political affiliations to offend or put people off.

Moving past my cynicism with regard to Oprah-culture, some really good things were said in this book. Morrie's comments on the value of family when facing sickness and death really struck a chord with me. A friend and I used to visit a man named Bill who was also facing sickness and death, only he had no family at all. No children, no wife, no brothers or sisters that I knew of. He did have friends, including myself, but it wasn't the same. There was nothing ultimate or permanent holding us there, guaranteeing that we'd be there through the whole ordeal. As a result, Bill dealt with his struggle by denying and ignoring it. Morrie's love and enjoyment of physical touch also stuck out as strange to me - just reading about how he longed for it and needed it made me uncomfortable. Human touch must communicate something more than can be communicated audibly.

I haven't finished the book yet, but it's been worth my time so far.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

What’s in a name?

Tension – Magellan – Philosophy: all names I considered for this blog (and, consequently, all taken). One of my distinct characteristics is the flight from one excitement to the next – if I were to compare myself to combustion, my life would be a series of fireworks rather than a slow-burning hardwood fire. Given this, I should probably just pick a name and get on with it – I’m liable to forget why I was so excited about blogging in a week or so. Even so, names are very important to me. They are permanent and I can’t help feeling they play a role in determining the fate of they're owners. I'm pretty sure choosing the correct name may contribute to the success or failure of this blog. On the other hand, since I tried all the wonderful, succinct, symbolic names above and none of them had been updated since 2002, maybe I should just get on with it. Well, it looks like “get on with it” wins it, 2-1.

OK, I lied – my idealism, as it so often does, won out. I couldn’t just name it anything, so I came up with It comes from a philosophy class I took at the U of C. A strict logical interpretation of identity would not allow me to say that I am the same person I was a year ago, nor will I be the same person in a year’s time. I will have changed maybe learned, maybe grown but definitely changed. Don’t tell my wife – I’ve been doing the dishes a lot lately.