Archive for February, 2008

Dickhead Evangelism

Posted on February 16, 2008. Filed under: Spiritual Musings |

Dickhead Evangelism:  Is it “Jesus” or “Geez, Ass”!

Evangelism is the word for the tool which Christians use to reach out and make disciples of the world.  There are many techniques used in evangelization and about as many styles as there are evangelizers.  For those not accustomed to using the word in their daily vernacular it can at times mean something negative.  It can invoke feelings of unease and anxiety while some may feel as if it has at times put them on the spot, never a comfortable situation. 

For those doing the evangelizing, for the most part, it is not something that is to be meted out in a negative way.  After all, you’re looking for a positive outcome:  the creation of a new disciple of Christ.  You’re looking to bring someone into the peace and love of the Kingdom of God and to do this they put in to practice that very same peace and love. 

However, there are those that don’t realize how they are coming across or poorly judge what they are saying.  I’ve come to call this “Dickhead Evangelism”.  There are a couple of examples of which I can recall that exemplify this.  The first is from a church I once belonged to.  They’ve adopted a more confrontational sales type approach to spreading the gospel.  Now many of the people in this rather large faith community own their own businesses or are executives in different corporations where these kinds of tactics are commonplace.  This may work in the business world but it doesn’t necessarily translate well in the spiritual realm.

One particular instance of this happening was some friends of mine had invited a couple(who were living together in what would be considered a sinful relationship) over for what appeared to be a friendly dinner.  As it turned out, it was a calculated sales pitch for Jesus.  Tracks were passed out, the gospel was shared and the couple was told that they were living in sin.  WOW!  Where can I sign up to be subjected to that?

The second example was when I was eating lunch at a work cafeteria one cool spring afternoon.  He came up to me and asked me where I was going to church now and I told him the name of a Catholic Church that I was attending.  Well, he exploded, his whole face changed as he pointed his finger at me picked up the theology book I was reading and said, “It’s because you’re reading crap like this!”  It was a copy of N.T. Wright’s The Climax of the Covenant.  Aside from the fact that most people wouldn’t call anything that Wright’s written crap, I was taken a bit aback by the way he came off to me.  I thought that perhaps he was just a little angry at not knowing that I had become a Catholic so I agreed to go to lunch with him later in the week.

I show up and he’s got copies of the bible and The Catechism of the Catholic Church lying open in front of him as he’s furiously writing away and flipping pages.  Upon seeing what was awaiting me, I knew how this was going to go.  He’s a Reformed guy and I know many folks of that ilk have no tolerance or appreciation of anything remotely Catholic.  After a brief hello he started in on me.  The questions he asked didn’t want an answer.  It seemed that he was only asking to confirm his suspicions.  The leading of the questioning was along the lines of the tactics of Jehovah’s Witnesses yet they were also extremely hostile.  The nastier he got, the more I smiled and nodded until I was forced to say, “You know what?  I really don’t care.”  There just comes a point where no answer would ever be good enough.  He kind of smirked and said that over the years he’d become even more Reformed than before.  I figured he’d had to have broken every metaphysical law and become a Reformed black hole where not even common sense can escape. 

In situations like these, there is no intention on the part of the evangelizer to develop a relationship or for the possibility of mutual learning.  I give and you give, you take and I take, we both walk away having grown in appreciation for the other’s belief system.  If you listen while you evangelize you may actually become edified by the person you are trying to talk to.  Who knows, they may even have some spiritual insights you would never have dreamed of. 

Sometimes people just aren’t given enough credit for how smart they are.  Your average person can spot a fake and see right through what they’re trying to do from over a mile away.  There’s nothing genuine in what is being peddled to them so of course they’re not going to buy it.  You pretend to give a crap for the twenty minutes it takes to talk to someone but have no intention of ever actually caring about this person.  But that’s one thing.  Being confrontational and superior is never the way to go.

 I once heard a martial artist say that the western fighting styles are about imposing your will on your opponent, whereas in the east it’s about helping take someone to the ground who’s already on his way down.  Hostile evangelization techniques are all about imposing your will on someone else (although some who have only ever used those styles may see it as God’s will being imposed).   Being someone’s traveling  companion through their spiritual journey is more of the eastern method of just helping someone who’s already moving. 

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The Universe – A Review

Posted on February 7, 2008. Filed under: Reviews, Spiritual Musings |

  The Universe – A Review

As I was growing I held to a deep fascination with space.  I would buy books filled with artist renderings, I would attend some club meetings (like the Orange County Astronomers), I would even take as many opportunities as I could to go star-gazing with my friend (he had this immense telescope that took three people to lug around and put together).  Something about it all helped to put into perspective how small, how much of a tiny blip we really are.  It was a story unto itself.  Endless abysses, roiling tempests of fire, soaring vistas, all bigger than imagination itself the universe held so many mysteries left to be discovered.

The History Channel’s series The Universe is one of those great outlets for the imagination.  Though it is a show based on science and facts it truly lends credence to the phrase “truth is stranger than fiction”.  Each episode explores new vistas and new ideas as it takes us on a field trip beyond our own backyard.  From planets in our solar system, to dark matter, to the life and death of stars, each show helps us to realize how much more is truly out there to be discovered.  Each hour long episode reminds us how much we don’t know or understand about the existence of all things, let alone our selves.

For every new subject tackled, experts in each field add their two cents to the bigger picture.  Each guest has the knowledge AND charisma to help us to understand some of the harder to grasp concepts of astronomy and astrophysics.  Along with the professionals The History Channel illustrates via computer animation what these different things would look like.  When available, photos from different observatories and satellites are used to help propel our imaginations through the stunning array of canvases the show is painting for us.  This is all done in such a way that whether you’re an auditory learner or a visual learner, you’ll walk away more educated and inspired.

As I watch each episode, I can’t help but feel stunned by it all.  There are times when I have to pause my DVR, close my eyes and imagine what it all is like.  The sizes and distances that are spoken of are blindingly incomprehensible.  The odd things that happen which defy all sense of our own physical reality (like something which is measured in miles spinning 11 times every second) boggle the mind.  It can almost leave you mad if thought about for too long.

But with all of the immensity, all of the destructive power the universe holds there is a depth and beauty to it that defies speech.  I can only think of one word to even describe what I think and feel, “God!”  I don’t intend for that to mean some sort of pantheistic idea where everything is god and god is in everything.  I simply mean that as I ponder it all, the first thing that comes to mind is that this has all been touched by God.  Too often when I’m praying or reading scripture I forget just how BIG God is, how utterly “Other Than” he is compared to me and all that I know. 

God is the God of the universe.  Too often I see that as God is the God of my little world that lives in my head.  Every so often, something comes along to help put into perspective just how wrong I am and just how small I’m thinking.  I know it may sound odd but the show The Universe is almost like a catalyst for a mystical experience with God.  Sometimes you become so in awe of the power of God and his creative abilities that you have to lock yourself away in your prayer closet and bask in the glorious mystery of it all.  I know that everyone who watches this show will not be affected in the same way (heck, my wife thinks I’m a nut for watching it all the time) but I hope that as your surfing through the channels looking fro something to watch, you’ll stop for a moment and enjoy a guided tour through the amazing universe.

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John Constantine Hellblazer: All His Engines – A Comic Review

Posted on February 3, 2008. Filed under: Reviews, Spiritual Musings |

  John Constantine Hellblazer:  All His Engines – A Review

Many great writers have given us the stories of John Constantine (Alan Moore, Garth Ennis, Warren Ellis) each taking turns at spinning yarns about the dark, brooding bane of Hell.  For those worried that Mike Carey (Ultimate Fantastic Four, X-Men) wouldn’t be able to carry such a heavy mantle, put your minds at ease.  All His Engines is a well thought out story of salvation, turf wars, and old gods. 

When a strange disease that causes children to fall into comas claims Chas Chandler’s grand-daughter Tricia as its next victim, Chas turns to his best friend John to help save her.  As the story begins to unfold we learn that Tricia is being held hostage by a demon with plans to take over all of Los Angeles as his own territory.  The demon’s scheme is to force Constantine into working for him to chase rival demons out of L.A.  Constantine reluctantly agrees, knowing full well that the demon has no intention of releasing Chas’ grand-daughter after he’d fulfilled his part of the deal. 

Carey’s idea behind this tale is great.  I mean, come one!  A demon gang war in Los Angeles for the control of lost souls?  Fantastic!  The way that Carey lets the story unfold allows it to keep its secrets close to the chest.  I can’t begin to even count how many twists and turns were involved as it all comes to a rather climactic finish.

I think what truly makes me enamored with the character of John Constantine is what he is underneath the surface.  Sure he has the airs of someone who has seen and been through too much to want to care anymore.  Sure he has his own scarred and checkered past and don’t forget the trench coat and chain smoking that lend itself to the sense of John being more dark than he actually is.  But I would like to offer that with all of the occult stuff aside, John Constantine is quite Christ-like.

I don’t mean that he is Christ-like in a Messianic way.  He is Christ-like in the way that we as followers of Jesus are called to be.  He takes up the cause of the weak and downtrodden.  Even though he comes off as someone who is solely self serving, almost everything he does is for the greater good.  Mostly, it’s because he does in the physical what we are called to participate in among the spiritual realms.  The way that Constantine faces down and is willing to deal with the frightening manifestations of the demonic realms are much akin to what we are called to do in our spiritual lives.

Constantine is a shining example of what a gruff Christian would probably look like:  a little world weary and weather worn, sometimes a bit rough around the edges, but always TRYING to do what is right, whether even if it means sacrificing things greater than he could have imagined.  John Constantine may unwillingly be a great Christian example for us to follow.  Is it any wonder?  After all, his initials are J. C.

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