Strengths and Weaknesses: redux
January 25, 2007, 8:39 am
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As a follow-up to yesterday’s post about my lovely personality profile as “pessimistic, cynical jerk,” I thought I’d project my faults onto others for a moment. Would you like to join me? I thought so . . . aaaand off we go.

My cynicism toward the powers that be – especially the powers in the church of the Western world (I won’t bring the rest of the world in just yet) – is largely an attitude I share with many people in the so-called emerging church scene. As I said yesterday, in some ways, this is a good thing, because it helps me (us) see through a lot of the broken rhetoric, hypocritical power plays in denominations, screwed up understandings of church structure, and self-serving/consumeristic teaching . . . much of which masquerades as “theology.” But, again, much of it not so good, because of the bad attitude that goes with it. As a further indictment, I am often guilty of talking a good game about all that’s wrong with this institution or that, but not living out the kind of change I want to see in the world (as Gandhi might say).

This has brought to mind a memory that goes back ten to fifteen years ago – back in the day when I used to listen to (and largely buy into) conservative talk radio. One of the labels that the hosts of said shows used to use when talking about their political opponents was “the liberal elite.” I don’t think I ever pondered that description much. I think what they were trying to get at was a description of intellectually gifted, highly educated, well to do, idealistic people who argued on behalf of the rights of the poor, downcast, etc. but never cared enough to get their hands dirty.

So now I’m wondering if my cynicism has put me into that kind of territory where matters of church and faith are concerned. I’m intellectually inclined (perhaps not “gifted,” but I think a lot), well educated, financially comfortable, and idealistic . . . and I regularly take mental and/or verbal pot shots at “the establishment.” I do so with good intentions most of the time – saying things I fancy as prophetic calls for change. But so much of the time, my talk is as far as it goes. I fail to get my hands dirty – at least dirty enough.

Scot McKnight’s recent article, which is getting linked a lot around the blogosphere (for good reason) references the reactionary nature of one of the streams of the emerging church. To those in this stream, I’d ask, “How dirty are your hands?” In many cases, I’m happy to say that I’ve seen some filthy dirty, muddy up to the armpits hands. In many many others, though, I’ve seen hands that look like they just spent quality time under the care of the local manicurist.

I’m ready to turn my prophetic calls back on the emerging church and try to get more people to really do the stuff we all like talking about.


Strengths and Weaknesses
January 23, 2007, 10:52 pm
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I just spent the past two days at an in-town (as in, not a sleepover type) staff retreat. It involved some team oriented discussions around the DiSC assessment. Given my counseling education and work experience, I’ve taken and administered a ton of personality inventories, and by now, I can usually predict what the inventory is going to tell me about myself.

This time, though, it’s been at least a few years since I’ve taken an inventory of any kind. A lot’s changed since the last time I did one – I launched out into church planting, I put an end to my church planting efforts, I moved to the Seattle area, I went into collegiate ministry and began developing a dream for an experiential learning process for young adults. All the while, over the past few years, I’ve deconstructed, partially reconstructed and then re-deconstructed most of my assumptions about faith, church, scripture, leadership, vocation, etc.

I can’t say that I was super surprised by the results of the inventory this time around, but the profile was significantly different – in some good and not so good ways. I came out as a much more entrepeneurial, adventurous, creative type fellow . . . with a strongly pessimistic, cynical outlook on life. Interesting combination – I’m energetic to go start new things, but apparently doubtful that anything worthwhile will come of them! O.k., so perhaps that’s not really what it said, but you get my drift.

When I read the part about my cynicism, I smirked and later laughed – mainly because that’s a fairly new description for me . . . and yet it’s really quite correct. For a few minutes there, I have to admit that I had a smug attitude about it – sort of a prideful thing, like, “Yeah, see, I’m this fring-y rebel punk rock guy that doesn’t buy into the system and wants to change everything.” This morning, I thought and prayed a good bit about this, though, and realized the ways in which this is both a good and bad thing. Cynicism isn’t typically a complementary word – why should I view it as a positive? Well, mainly because I think I see more deeply into issues of culture, theology, and praxis because I don’t automatically swallow what everyone tells me. I think I have a sharper edge and can speak more prophetically to the church and culture because of it. But, it’s definitely a dangerous thing. Just because I can see the dark spots in the rosy pictures of life doesn’t mean that it helps anyone for me to go around being a whiny jerk. My cynicism is often arrogant and unkind. As if that’s a terrific way of helping people see the Kingdom of God at work around them.

I honestly can’t say that I want to leave my cynical, critical thought processes behind me. I do think they serve me well . . . except when they don’t. So, I need to become more self-aware when I’m being overly critical, overly demanding, and borderline hopeless. Time to put away the Depeche Mode and Morrissey CDs for a while.

Is it o.k. to like sports?
January 9, 2007, 1:35 pm
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I have to confess here that over the past couple of years, I’ve become a somewhat more intense NFL fan. Compared to many many people out there that can quote you player stats from the past 15 years, and many many others who enter elaborate multi-level marketing type fantasy football leagues, I’m no true fan. I’m just comparing myself to myself – and 5 years ago Steve didn’t watch as much football as present day Steve. Now, it does help that Michelle and I aren’t exactly in traditional church environments, so I can actually watch the 10am (PST) games.

Over the years, I’ve always had friends in the alternative and/or punk scene, who almost never enjoy playing or watching sports. Nobody has said anything outright to me, but for some reason, I always felt like a sellout for liking sports. Is it that major media sports are part of the Western Industrial Complex that represents all that is wrong with the world? I don’t know. Somehow I doubt that my friends who dislike sports are appalled at the beer commercials. Not sure what it is.

I do know this – as my own level of interest and attention to pro football has increased, so has my level of fascination with the metaphors and cultural significance related to it. It’s wacky how I can walk down the streets of Seattle and go from elation when I see a fellow Chargers fan sporting his hat/sweatshirt/jersey to absolute disdain when I see a Raiders fan with his gear. I can be in a sports pub high-fiving a guy I don’t know, simply because he wears lightening bolts on his clothing. What’s that about?

Is it just me, or is Super Bowl Sunday a bigger national holiday than Presidents Day, MLK Day, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and maybe Labor Day? All of the above are “stay-home-from-work” days for many people, but they’re not as big a deal as the Super Bowl.

I remember meeting Rick Bennett back in May of 2002. At the time, he was doing church planting in Boston. He spoke with an intense love for his city, and wept at how deeply grieved people were after 9/11, because the airplanes that the terrorists used had originated in Boston. He then said what a major source of relief/joy/unity it was when the New England Patriots won that season’s Super Bowl. People were desperate for something to feel good about. And they felt good about football.

I’ll say that I’m not a big fan of publicly financed sports stadiums (stadia?), and I do think many people go way overboard in their affection for their chosen teams. But there’s something about sports that has cultural power. I don’t think that should be dismissed. Frankly, I’m more than a little surprised that there hasn’t been some church planting movement surrounding sports metaphors. I’m not inviting one, mind you, I’m just saying.

O.k., with all that said, I’m a particularly chipper sports fan right about now. The San Diego Chargers have returned to greatness. I’m certainly not assuming that they’re going to the Super Bowl this year. But they played a darn good season, and made football a blast to watch for me. Oh, also, the San Diego Padres are the National League West Champions – not nearly as dominant in their sport, but still fun. So, until early February, when I go into sports hibernation, I’ll be singing that funky disco crap song “San Diego, Superchargers, SAN-DEEE-AYGO . . . CHARGERS!”

Coffee Extremism
January 3, 2007, 9:28 am
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Compared to most coffee-drinking people I know in Seattle, I’m pretty normal (if not below average).  Compared to most coffee-drinking people anywhere else on the planet, I’m a coffee geek.  But after reading this commentary on Wired this morning, I’m feeling a bit better about the amount of control I have over my habit. 

O.k., off to my third Americano of the morning!

January 2, 2007, 8:42 am
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And a Happy New Year to you, too!  Hopeless does not describe my feelings, heading into the next 364 days . . . but it does pretty much sum up the likelihood of catching up with the past few weeks of non-blogging.  I’m pretty sure that this is the longest I’ve gone without posting in the nearly five years that I’ve blogged here.

Oh sure, I could try to describe to you what’s happened since I last posted – the big school project, the windstorm in the Northwest that knocked out power at our house for three days, the 2500 mile holiday road trip, the Christmas fun (and frenzy) . . . but even typing that much has me a bit overwhelmed.  It gets even worse when I open my blog feedreader, and see the hundreds of posts from people I value that will almost certainly go unread.  Oh well.

I hope to make some changes ’round here in the next few weeks.  I’m way overdue for some sprucing up.  I doubt that my posting frequency will significantly increase any time soon, but I do hope to add more substance to what I do write.