It has been a crazy few months, as I was invited to take a leadership roll with the newly created Friends of Munster Schools, as we sought to pass a referendum in our community to support the school. Funding to many public schools in the State of Indiana has been drastically cut, by the State Government with the attitude that if the money they provide isn't enough --- then the community needs to raise more money through a referendum The crazy part of all this is that the state funding is not at all equitable. If Munster were to at least receive the state average of $,5707.10 per student this would not be an issue; instead Munster receives $4,776,12 which ranks Munster 355 out of 363 school corporations.
Now that the referendum has passed, it is time to begin the difficult work of trying to get the State of Indiana to change how it funds education.
I want to thank all those who helped to get this referendum through! Those who served on the committee, and to everyone who volunteered, contributed, talked to their friends . . . We could not have passed this with such overwhelming support without all of you. I feel privileged to have joined up with so many wonderful people (many who willing supported higher taxes despite the fact that they had no children or grandchildren in the schools).
The sad part about this whole experience is that many people lost sight of the issue --- providing excellent education for the students --- and made it about personalities. Crazy! This isn't about the administration, although Munster's Administration must be doing something right since Munster is one of the top schools in the state, and recognized as one of the best in the nation.
I want to thank Richard Sopko, the Superintendent of Munster Schools! Rich has served as Assistant Superintendent responsible for finance for the last number of years, but with the retirement of the former Superintendent, Rich was hired to get Munster through this crisis. He did not take the former Superintendent's pay scale --- nor did they hire anyone to replace him. Thus, he took on a new job, while keeping his former job without an increase in pay. Not only that, but he understood what the School Town was facing and was willing to deal with the personal attacks that would come. Rich could have retired and left this mess to somebody else --- but instead he knew what had to be done, rallied the School Board and the Community and got the job done. Well done, good and faithful servant!
I hope that, if you live in Munster and read this, that you will take a moment and write Rich a letter thanking him for his leadership!
Munster Schools are great because the parents care! But not just the parents, the community cares and knows that what makes Munster special is an excellent school system.
Monday, February 25, 2013
Everything Must Change
The Prosperity System
Do you have any idea where the products that you buy come from?
Does it make any difference to you?
Would you avoid companies that use sweatshops or unfair practices?
McLaren begins this section by saying:
While to outsiders, economics may seem like an objective discipline of science, numbers, statistics, and other hard data, there are many reasons to look at the economic sector of the suicide machine --- what we are calling the prosperity system --- in a religious light. It is, after all, ultimately about the immaterial currency called desire. (p190)
What do you think?
Do you agree or disagree?
What is of "true value" to you ---- what is worth desiring? (p190)
How would you define theocapitalism?
Did you agree with his FOUR SPIRITUAL LAWS OF THEOCAPITALISM?
1. The Law of Progress Through Rapid Growth
2. The Law of Serenity Through Possession and Consumption
3. The Law of Salvation Through Competition Alone
4. The Law of Freedom to Prosper Through Unaccountable Corporations
What to you is a good and positive kind of prosperity?
How does Jesus answer these Four Laws?
1. The Law of Good Deeds for the Common Good
Fruitfulness not consumption
2. The Law of Satisfaction Through Gratitude and Sharing
3. The Law of Salvation Through Seeking Justice
4. The Law of Freedom to Prosper by Building Better Communities
What did you think of Rene Padilla's analysis of Capitalism and Communism?
Communism specialized in distribution but failed at production. As a result, it ended up doing a great job of distributing poverty. Capitalism was excellent at production but weak at distribution. As a result, it ended up rewarding the wealthy with obscene amounts of wealth while the poor suffered on in horrible degradation and indignity. Latin America is still waiting for a viable alternative, as is the whole planet. (p 220)
McLaren goes on to say:
The story of the coming century will likely be the story of whether a sustainable form of capitalism can be saved from theocapitalism, or whether unrestrained theocapitalism will result in such gross inequity between rich and poor that violence will bring civilization to a standstill, or perhaps worse.
What do you think?
Monday, February 18, 2013
According to Will Durant: “there have only been twenty-nine years in all of human history during which a war was not underway somewhere.”
Why are we so enamored with War?
World wide spending on military 1.7 trillion dollars
USA 711,421 Billion
China 143 Billion
Russia 72 Billion
England 63 Billion
That calculates out to $2 billion dollars per day on military.
Just to put it in perspective, in 2011, the USA spend $23 billion on Foreign Aid
Is the world a safer place?
Some argue that the Bible is a violent book, how do you respond?
At the start of Chapter 19 McLaren uses the terms derangement and dislocation to describe our situation today. (p 151) Do you agree with him?
Sam Harris has written a couple of very provocative books (The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation), in which he challenges the way religion aids and abets the violent side of human nature. Have you read either of those books? How do you respond to his arguments? (p 152f)
William Fulbright, in his book The Price of Empire writes:
Violence has become the nation’s leading industry. It is not an enthusiasm for war but simple economic self-interest that has drawn millions of workers, their labor unions, and the elected representatives into the military-industrial complex. To those who build them, weapons mean prosperity, not war. For the industrialist they mean profits; for the worker, new jobs and the prospect of higher wages. And for the politician, a new installation or defense order with which to ingratiate himself with his constituents. . . . Weapons are not reproductive; they are sheer nonproductive assets. They do not contribute to the welfare of the country in any positive way. On the contrary, they drain resources --- human as well as material --- that could be applied to making our consumer products competitive, or to restoring the infrastructure that has been so rapidly deteriorating. (p163-164)
Is Fulbright correct?
It happens that defense is a field which I have had varied experience over a lifetime, and if I have learned anything, it is that there is no way in which a country can satisfy the craving for absolute security --- but it can easily bankrupt itself, morally and economically in attempting to reach that illusory goal through arms alone.
Is the USA threatened with moral bankruptcy in our search for security?
At the end of Chapter 20 McLaren makes illusion to trying to get on God’s side, rather than trying to get God on our side.
What does he mean?
How can we tell which side we are on?
In chapter 21 McLaren uses very strong language (suicidal, idiotic) when he describes our culture’s love affair with war.
Is his language appropriate or excessive?
Desmond Tuto is quoted (p172) saying: “no longer should the peace business be undermined by the arms business.”
What do you think?
In Chapter 22 McLaren talks about developing a “craving for justice”, what would that look like in your life?
In the life of our church?
In our nation?
Donald Rumsfeld said:
We have a choice, either to change the way we live, which is unacceptable, or to change the way that they live, and we choose the later.
McLaren believes Jesus might have said it a little differently:
We have a choice, either to change the unacceptable way we live, or to change the unacceptable way that they live, which is impossible to do against their will --- without stooping to ethnic cleansing so they don’t love at all. So, we choose the former, in the confidence that a voluntary change in our behavior will precipitate an unexpected change in their behavior.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. . . . Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction. . . . The chain reaction of evil --- hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars ---- must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.
. . . Violence merely increases hate.... Returning violence for violence multiples violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
Monday, February 11, 2013
The Message of Jesus
Have you ever struggled with the tension between generosity and greed? What was your experience with that struggle?
McLaren writes on p 119
Fundamentalist religious movements . . . take words spoken five hundred or fourteen hundred or two thousand . . . years ago and apply them, sharia-style, as if they were intended to serve as today’s annotated legal code, today’s constitution, today’s how to manual. They underestimate how the original words and teachings were rooted in gritty contemporary problems and human social contexts; instead, they see their sacred texts as timeless, placeless utterances coming from an arid, Platonic plan of universal abstractions.
How do you react to McLaren’s assertion about how fundamentalist have abused sacred texts?
Have you experienced religious people abusing sacred texts?
How do you think this kind of abuse can be overcome?
How can we help everyday Christians learn to read the Bible correctly?
And by that I mean “we must carefully seek to determine not just what Jesus said, but what he meant, and how he would have been heard by his original hearers. Only then can we venture to explore what his original meaning would mean for us today, and even then, we must do so with great humility and awareness of our amazing human capacity to be wrong.” (p121)
Jesus speaks repeatedly of “the Kingdom of God” (sometimes called Kingdom of Heaven), McLaren argues that Jesus would not use that language if he were speaking today. Do you agree or disagree?
What do you see as problematic about the language of kings and kingdoms today?
How do you think Jesus might do it today?
McLaren offers 4 alternative approaches (Chpt 16 p 128ff)
1. God’s love insurgency
2. God’s un-terror movement
3. Global love economy)
4. God’s sacred ecosystem
How does creation teach you?
In chapter 17 he focuses on the Divine Eco-System he asks us to try and describe what it would be like to decrease our distance from creation and see ourselves as part of God’s sacred ecosystem --- can you do this?
What are some of the various views of Jesus that you have heard, read, seen, ect.
Which Jesus do you follow?
What have you struggled with up to this point?
Monday, February 04, 2013
What was the mission of Jesus? Can you describe it in five words?
McLaren suggests two different ways of understanding the "Good News" of Jesus.
One view he calls the "conventional view"
The other he calls the "emerging view"
Summarize these two views.
How is your view of Jesus changed when you understand that he lived under the rule of the Roman Empire.
What did the cross mean in the Roman Empire?
How does it compare with how we understand the cross today?
McLaren says that the emerging view can "help us face and then turn away from at least some of the more disappointing failure that have plagued the Christian religion in its first two millennia" --- do you agree?
What are some ways that it can do this?
In Chapter 12 McLaren introduces the idea of "junk DNA". What does he mean as it relates to the Bible?
Starting on page 105, McLaren retells the story of Jesus in Nazareth. Imagine you were there that day, when you came home and told a family member who wasn't there, what would you tell them?
What does Kingdom of God mean?
Has there ever been a time in your experience when it seemed like God's kingdom lost and other forces won?
Monday, January 21, 2013
I am going to do this a little different than I did last week. Last week, I broke all the questions up into separate posts. This week I am going to put them into a single post. If you would like to comment, just click on the comment button and join our discussion.
Two quotes to think about as we begin this afternoon. Feel free to reflect on them.
"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
“When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said, ‘Let us pray.’ We closed our eyes. When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land.”
McLaren suggests that the “world’s most serious problems are linked in a vicious, self-reinforcing cycle. The global problems I had been studying weren't like an uncoordinated herd of stampeding buffalo or a flotilla of stinging jellyfish; they were like a single system, a single mechanism of awe-inspiring engineering and roaring power.” (p. 52)
He calls this cycle that we have created a metaphorical suicide machine.
(Taking this term from Jared Diamond, David Korten and Leonardo Buff.)
He says: “I hope that suicide machine can serve as a hopeful metaphor (among others) for the systems that drive our civilization toward un-health and un-peace. It can help us visualize the way several facets of contemporary life connect, gear in gear, to destroy good and living things, devalue what is precious, overvalue what is worthless, foul up the results of millions of years of evolution, and so desecrate and frustrate what I believe is a sacred and ongoing world of the Creator, in us, among us, and through us.” (p. 53)
Does this metaphor of “Suicide Machine” work for you? Why or why not?
McLaren suggested that there are four cogs or wheels in the metaphor of the “suicide machine”. What are they? Do you agree with them?
How does it feel to consider yourself as part of a social machine?
What experiences make you feel this way?
When do you feel free from the machine?
When do you feel free from the machine?
What do you think are the three biggest crises in the world today?
Do you see any spiritual dimensions that help you to better understand how the world works?
Beginning in chapter 9, McLaren develops the idea that stories that we tell ourselves “frame” how we look at things.
He writes: “If our framing story is wise, strong, realistic, and constructive, it can send us on a hopeful trajectory. But if our framing story is dysfunctional, weak, false, unrealistic, or destructive, it can send us on a downward arc, a dangerous, high-speed joyride toward un-peace, un-health, un-prosperity, and even un-life.” (p. 67)
On page 67 he suggests how a framing story affects us and our community.
Do you agree or disagree with him?
Beginning on page 72 he suggests that we need an alternative framing story. In order to develop that alternative framing story we need look at Jesus differently. McLaren writes: “For Jesus to save the system, we must first, in a sense, save Jesus ---- by reframing him outside the confines of our dominant and largely unquestioned assumptions.” (p. 73)
Do you agree that we need to “save” Jesus?
We will not meet next week (I will be at Stetson University at their Winter Pastor’s School, hopefully on Monday playing a little golf --- forecast right now is for the weather to be in the 70’s).
We will continue on Monday, February 4th at noon at Ridge Church. We will be looking at part three of Everything Must Change, chapters 10-14). Bring a lunch and join us, or follow here on my blog!
Thursday, January 17, 2013
I have read many of Leonard Sweet’s books in the past and often find them provocative and challenging (and at the same time a bit wordy and flighty) but have always finished feeling I got something out of it. I can’t say the same with JESUS by Sweet and Viola.
The purpose of this book is to reclaim the entire Bible as a gripping narrative about Jesus Christ. It is a loft goal that many Christians have attempted to do in a small scale but I have not seen it attempted like this before.
Unfortunately to accomplish their goal they are forced to take scripture out of context and use a translation that suits their purpose. I have to admit, I got angry and frustrated at their manipulation to make it serve their purpose.
After a while, I finally put the book down and said enough.
This book is so different from the approach that Sweet has taken in the past in works like The Gospel According To Starbucks, Aqua Church, SoulTsunami, etc.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Monday, January 14, 2013
In chapter 4 (p 45ff) in Everything Must Change, McLaren tells the story of a health care worker in Khayesitsha, South Africa. He he were to show up at Ridge Church this afternoon what do you think he would say to us. What would he say to other Christian Churches in the USA?