Friday, July 29, 2005


Man, I can't seem to focus on getting anything done.

I'm staying up too late at night reading, I'm getting up late in the morning. I'm not eating right.

I have some serious work to do in the month remaining before the start of school. I have LOTS of writing to do. But I can't seem to get anything started--it's like I'm in one of those dreams where a train is roaring down the tracks toward me and I'm paralyzed. I can't move, can't move, can't get my stuff together enough to get started on ANYTHING.

I've moved everything!

For now, at least, I've moved all blogging activity to my typepad site. Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Potholes (and worse) in the Road Ahead for Emergent

I've spent several months reading about Emergent. I've watched the PBS reports on Emergent several times over the past week, read the transcript of the first installment, etc. I've read the blogs, etc.

I'm still excited about the Emergent conversation/movement. I think that, in contrast to mainstream Evangelicalism, we are trying to answer the right questions. Honestly, the world around us is asking questions that traditional Evangelicalism is not prepared to ask or answer.
But I see some dangerous bumps in the road ahead. Over the coming week, I will write in this space about some of the potential crises I see in the road ahead.

Anyway: on to the Potholes

I guess the easiest way for me to begin describing the dangers I see ahead is to begin with the Religion and Ethics Newsweekly pieces. I have some REALLY mixed feelings about how they made Emergent / emerging look.

They played up the edgy, new-agey, anti-authoritarian aspects of the "movement." They made it look like our raison d'etre is to cater to selfish, self-absorbed 20-somethings (and unreconstructed hippies like myself) who want a "smorgasbord" Christianity: "a little bit of this and a little bit of that and I get a Christianity that doesn't offend me or make me do things I don't want to do."

I KNOW that the conversation/movement is about more than that. Do most of the people in the movement have yoga in church? A DJ mixing Sinead O'Connor hymns with Afro-Cuban rhythms? Couches instead of seats or pews? The conversation/movement is not about those things--they're trappings.

It's about an ethos of openness and complexity and ambiguity.

It's about accepting the multivalence (but not omnivalence, I would argue) of biblical texts.

It's about Christianity that is relational AND experiential AND historical & biblical--and a few other things that end in -al as well that I can't think of at the moment.

It's about community, relationships that go deeper than the surface.

It's about Christianity that is NOT so permeated with (Brueggemann's term) "the script of technological therapeutic militaristic consumerism" that it is inseparable from conservative Republican evangelicalism.

(And HEY! I AM a conservative Republican evangelical, I like "technological therapeutic militaristic consumerism". But I don't let that be the script for my life, I just happen to think Christianity is bigger than my individual political philosophy.)

That's enough to get me started. More tomorrow.


Monday, July 18, 2005


Yesterday afternoon I watched Donnie Darko for the first time--after months of urging from friends and students (and my daughter, who went out and bought a copy just so I would watch it.)

I found it fascinating, disturbing, brilliant. The people who urged me to see it had already provided me with an interpretive framework (i.e., "it's a story about time travel," "find The Philosophy of Time Travel on the web before you watch," etc.), so I wasn't quite tabula rasa when I sat down in the recliner yesterday. But I was prepared to be dazzled and puzzled, and the movie lived up to my expectations.

I'm still working through the connections, but two parallels came to mind as I finished watching the movie, and they represent two completely different readings of the movie. The first is Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five, where Pilgrim becomes unfixed in time and moves back and forth between the events of his life. If we take this as a parallel, we "read" Donnie Darko in a fairly literal way--it's just a story about time travel, how a paranoid schizophrenic loved and saved his family and girlfriend by (unwittingly) offering himself in their places. Other than the obvious parallels, I don't see this comparison as particularly fruitful.

The second parallel, which I DO find fruitful and suggestive, is Ambrose Bierce's "Incident at Owl Creek Bridge," set in the Civil War. As I remember the story: a Confederate soldier (Peyton Fahrquar is his name, I think) is executed by Union troops, who hang him from an improvised gallows. As the soldier dies, his mind creates an escape narrative--the rope breaks, he falls into the water below Owl Creek Bridge, escapes from the Union patrols, hides, and some 24-48 hours later, returns home to the woman he loved and left behind to join the conflict.

This entire scenario plays out in his mind, real as life, in the seconds it takes for the Union rope to break his neck and kill him. The story is told as if the escape narrative was "real"--first time readers don't know until they finish the story that it was all in Fahrquar's head. The last scene of the story is the conclusion of the first scene of the story--the rope didn't snap, Fahrquar's neck did.

Can we "read" the narrative of Donnie Darko as the final spasm's of Donnie's consciousness as he is crushed to death beneath a jet engine? In other words: the final few minutes of the movie would be all that "really happened," everything else--from Donnie waking up in the opening moment of the movie to him kissing (?) his sister and falling asleep, having set things to right--is an escape narrative created by his mind as a way to deal with death?

Donnie is told during the movie that, "Every living creature dies alone." This seems to be his bete noir. By inventing the story of Frank, saving Gretchen, etc., his mind makes sure that he does not die alone. He gets to be a Savior, and the hero of the story he's created.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Mrs. Benny Hinn on "The Holy Ghost enema"

Offered without comment. Enjoy!

Friday, July 08, 2005

Every morning, I spend 20 minutes . . .

Every morning, I spend 20 minutes at This is a fabulous daily devotional website, run by Irish Jesuits.

It may be too "new-agey" for some of my friends, but I love it. "Joe Bob says, 'Check it out!' "

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

I want a fricking MOTORCYCLE!

Really, really bad. I'm obsessing: the family and I went on vacation a couple of weeks ago, and saw all these people driving their Goldwings and BMW's through the mountains of E. Tennessee, and it struck me: THAT'S what I want.

I want to be sitting on a big cruiser or touring bike--Valkyrie? Sportster? even a Goldwing?--flying down the road, with my wife snuggled up to my butt.

Friday, July 01, 2005

To Be Made New

(in progress)

To Be Made New

My deepest need, my darkest fear, my strongest desire
Is just one thing:

To let go of what I am, the self-made man
The things I use to create the illusion of safety and security
The things of which I am proud (my delusions of achievement)
The things I cling to in order to preserve the chimerical semblance of peace, satisfaction, warmth

To release the phantom things I cannot release . . .

(these things to which I cling, all the while knowing they are but air and dust and shadows)

. . . and rest on your knee,
And be made new.