Technological Fundamentalism

Technological fundamentalism, fueled by the industrial mind, is now worse than any religious brand of fundamentalism. The industrial mind has increasingly dominated during the last 250 years and is largely a product of the fossil fuel interlude. Eventually it will give way to an ecological worldview, the sooner the better.

Wes Jackson

Love Wins

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A 20 Point Plan for Church Renewal

A 20 Point Plan for church renewal via When Love Comes to Town via Diana Butler Bass.

1.  Be genuine. Do not under any circumstances try to be trendy or hip, if you are not already intrinsically trendy or hip. If you are a 90-year-old woman who enjoys crocheting and listens to Beethoven, by God be proud of it.

2.  Stop pretending you have a rock band.

3.  Stop arguing about whether gay people are okay, fully human, or whatever else. Seriously. Stop it.

4.  Stop arguing about whether women are okay, fully human, or are capable of being in a position of leadership.

5.  Stop looking for the “objective truth” in Scripture.

6.  Start looking for the beautiful truth in Scripture.

7.  Actually read the Scriptures. If you are Episcopalian, go buy a Bible and read it. Start in Genesis, it’s pretty cool. You can skip some of the other boring parts in the Bible. Remember though that almost every book of the Bible has some really funky stuff in it. Remember to keep #5 and #6 in mind though. If you are evangelical, you may need to stop reading the Bible for about 10 years. Don’t worry: during those ten years you can work on putting these other steps into practice.

8.  Start worrying about extreme poverty, violence against women, racism, consumerism, and the rate at which children are dying worldwide of preventable, treatable diseases. Put all the energy you formerly spent worrying about the legit-ness of gay people into figuring out ways to do some good in these areas.

9.  Do not shy away from lighting candles, silence, incense, laughter, really good food, and extraordinary music. By “extraordinary music” I mean genuine music. Soulful music. Well-written, well-composed music. Original music. Four-part harmony music. Funky retro organ music. Hymns. Taize chants. Bluegrass. Steel guitar. Humming. Gospel. We are the church; we have a uber-rich history of amazing music. Remember this.

10.  Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

11.  Learn how to sit with people who are dying.

12.  Feast as much as possible. Cardboard communion wafers are a feast in symbol only. Humans can not live on symbols alone. Remember this.

13.  Notice visitors, smile genuinely at them, include them in conversations, but do not overwhelm them.

14.  Be vulnerable.

15.  Stop worrying about getting young people into the church. Stop worrying about marketing strategies. Take a deep breath. If there is a God, that God isn’t going to die even if there are no more Christians at all.

16.  Figure out who is suffering in your community. Go be with them.

17.  Remind yourself that you don’t have to take God to anyone. God is already with everyone. So, rather than taking the approach that you need to take the truth out to people who need it, adopt the approach that you need to go find the truth that others have and you are missing. Go be evangelized.

18.  Put some time and care and energy into creating a beautiful space for worship and being-together. But shy away from building campaigns, parking lot expansions, and what-have-you.

 

19.  Make some part of the church building accessible for people to pray in 24/7. Put some blankets there too, in case someone has nowhere else to go for the night.

20.  Listen to God (to Wisdom, to Love) more than you speak your opinions.

This is a fool-proof plan. If you do it, I guarantee that you will attract young people to your church. And lots of other kinds of people too. The end.

Love Wins

Hope

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune–without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I’ve heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

Emily Dickinson

Love Wins

Good Shepherds

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.  The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

I am the good shepherd;…and I lay down my life for the sheep.

Jesus compared himself to a “good shepherd.”  Over the centuries these words have become so well-known that for most of us they have lost their force.  And our cultural disconnection to animal husbandry takes away much of the impact as well.  How can we be expected to fully appreciate a comparison to a shepherd if we don’t really know anything about sheep and shepherds? 

But taking what little we do know in contemporary culture about raising animals, this passage brings to light some dramatic changes that have occurred in in how we think about that.

Jesus compared himself to a good shepherd.  A good shepherd, he says, loves his sheep so much that he risks his own life to protect and save them.  If a wolf attacks, a hired hand will run away, but a good shepherd will defend the sheep at the risk of his own life.

In our time, would we think a “good rancher” or a “good cattleman” would risk his life to protect his herd?  Would a “good farmer” risk his life to protect a pig or a chicken?  Wouldn’t we be far more likely to consider such a person reckless or foolish?  Wouldn’t we consider the life of the shepherd so much more valuable than that of his sheep that a “good shepherd” would never take those kinds of risks to protect a mere commodity?

Of course Jesus’ metaphor would have made no impact on his audience if it was nonsensical.  If Jesus said a good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep, and his audience knew that just wasn’t true, then his point would have been lost.  It seems reasonable to assume that in his culture a good shepherd would indeed risk his life for the sheep.

If a sheep, a cow, a pig or a chicken has no value beyond eventually becoming human meals, then how could a farmer, rancher or shepherd come to love them enough to risk his life for them?  Why would he or she do that?  And if that could only be irrational, why did Jesus choose to compare himself to such a person?

Of course it is natural for us, as products of a capitalist worldview, to respond that such a shepherd would be protecting his investment.  But in another place Jesus says a good shepherd will leave his flock in search of a missing sheep.  Clearly, it seems to me, he isn’t comparing himself to a financially prudent agribusinessman, but rather to a compassionate man devoted to the animals entrusted to his care.

In a society in which we enable and implicity encourage the abuse and mistreatment of farm animals, destroying the concept of husbandry and replacing it with a system whose sole purpose is to deliver meat to our plates as cheaply as possible, we make Jesus’ metaphor quaint, at best, and ridiculous, at worst.

How would Jesus farm?  What would he eat?

Love Wins

Leisure is bad for business

With all the amazing technological achievements of our generation, do you ever wonder why Americans are nevertheless working more hours than ever?  Do you ever wonder why all these amazing devices and machines seem to have increased our need for more stuff rather than to have decreased it?

Our economic system depends upon discontent and perpetual dissatisfaction.  The economic engine depends upon us always wanting more and newer stuff.  The very purpose of advertising is to keep us unhappy with the status quo and to leave us feeling we’re missing out on things that would make us happier.  So, now matter how much stuff we have, we continue to work and borrow and spend and consume–and we stay discontent, unhappy and unsatisfied.  We become slaves to consumerism and mere revenue generators for those who profit from our unhappiness.

Capitalists figured our long ago that if our prosperity should result in more leisure, that would be bad for business.

Consider this, from the book Affluenza (via What Would Jesus Eat?) 

But industrial leaders in the 1920s had their own religion, the gospel of consumption. A reduction in working hours, they believed, might bring the whole capitalist system to its knees. Increased leisure, Harvard economist Thomas Carver Nixon warned, was bad for business: “There is no reason to believe that more leisure would ever increase the desire for goods…If it should result in more gardening, more work around the home in making or repairing furniture, painting and repairing the house and other useful avocations, it would cut down the demand for the products of our wage paying industries.”

Our society’s downward spiral toward bankruptcy by overconsumption will continue unless and until we figure out that we are just chasing the wind.

Love Wins

A Helpful Shot

Yesterday Cherie and I attended a meat goat expo at Virginia State University.  We came away with a lot of good information which I hope we can use to the benefit of our farm.

Best of all, we connected with some folks who, like us, are trying to get quality locally produced food onto plates in our community.  It seems so hard to convince people around here how important that is, even as much of the rest of country is discovering the benefits of eating healthy, locally produced food.  That can be discouraging.  So meeting others on this journey provides a much-needed shot of hope and enthusiasm.

Love Wins