Pastoral Backstory – September 1st, 2016

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September 2nd, 2016

 

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We’re studying this week in anticipation of the fall and Advent. So for this week’s Backstory, we share a few odds and ends. None loose–all related.

So let’s begin with where we left things Sunday. Rectitude–its reimagining and redemption–was our focus.

We began that sermon with the candid reflections and, at least in view of his audience, radical recommendations of psychologist and author Dr. Jonathan Haidt. His his keynote address to the American Psychological Association last month was trying to explain how we’ve become so polarized as a nation, and what are some first steps toward ending the vitriol. Here are those remarks, the most pertinent commentary beginning around the 29 minute mark. (His slides can be downloaded here.)

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In that pointed, somewhat comical passage we covered Matthew 7, Jesus warns his disciples of pushing their message upon those who have no palate for it presently. He goes so far as to liken them to the dogs who become belligerent when they find distasteful what you offer.

It’s a slightly different spin on Jesus’ words. But just as we’d best not give what gospel wisdom we have to those who will only act like menacing mongrels, so we ought not give what we have as if they already were.

What do I mean?

This variation requires a bit of updating to the reputation of dogs than how Jesus characterizes them. Canines don’t come off well in the biblical canon–a far cry from the practical family status we ascribe to our dogs today. Today’s family dogs are known almost invariably for their fealty and submission. They come when you whistle. They respond to your facial expressions. News out this week reports they may even know what you’re saying (though I’m betting our always interprets our words as “food.”) There is no need to reason with you dog; they simply go on what you say.

Melinda Selmys writes this week about a new app that’s designed to train atheists in how to respond to theistic arguments for the existence of God. It’s called Atheos and it’s organized around a series of increasingly more complex claims used to justify faith in God that the user must respond to. It’s like you’re on a quest to outwit brigands for the supernatural.

Intrigued by the whole concept of discipling atheists in naturalistic apologetics, she nevertheless finds its content guilty of too much caricature and disingenuousness. But its the app’s liabilities, she laments, that sadly mimic some of the features of Christians’ attempts at arguing for the counterpoint. Rather than try to enter into a frank and clear discourse, both the app and too many Christians try to score points or only show their hand when it suits their point. Which gets me to my spin on Jesus’ original metaphor.

There are some folks who would treat you like feral dogs and ravenous pigs if you were to advocate for the kingdom to them. But when it comes to being strategic in our expression of rectitude, there is a way of advocating for the Kingdom that demeans people as if they were dogs. We think if we just say, “well the bible says so,” they’ll come over, be persuaded, as if we’d whistled to a dog to come here. But people won’t bite (sorry) on your logic if all you do is use appeals to authority that don’t respect where they’re coming from. The strategic application of our rectitude means dignifying, not demeaning, people, and that by way of trying to understand their point of view, their history, their belief system–well before we start laying the pearls of our hope before them. We must treat people like people, rather than dogs. We do that by honoring their dignity by listening to their history and their version of hope.

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Our Q&A following the service provoked terrific discussion about the nuances of the notion of judgment. When someone says, “don’t judge me,” what do they mean? Why are they saying that? What is it to respond with grace and clarity? Two subsidiary topics formed the grist for that larger conversation, one about the so-called millennials. That there is a word for that constituency born somewhere during the late 80s and 90s makes the designation ripe for generalization. But Jon Nielson does a nice job of finding some commonalities among the rising generation.

The other topic had to do with dress, expressiveness, and modesty. We heard from several about what some forms of style communicate, wittingly or unwittingly, and how those expressions are variously interpreted or misinterpreted. Over at Christ and Pop Culture, Amanda Wortham offers her take on what must circumscribe any and all forms of attire. Modesty, rather than a mere form of constraint is in fact, she argues, a form of clarifying how and where attention is meant to be directed.

 

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This year marks our third for cultivating faithful presence among our body through Community Groups. Four groups will begin meeting–some picking up where they left off late last spring–in mid to late September. You’ll hear more about these groups in the coming weeks, but here’s a quick list of the particulars. If you have questions about any of the groups, please contact the facilitators.

CtK CGs Winter/Spring 2017

Group TypeFacilitator(s)Day/TimeLocationContact(s)/Notes
a Precept Ministries study of 1 Peter PUP_Cover_1Peter.inddwomen'sCarla EllisonTuesdays, 7-8:30p, resuming 1.24the home of Barbara Byron - 7415 Flameleaf Pl, Dallasemail Carla, or call (817-548-4279). Materials are $28.
A Kathleen Nielson study of Isaiahisaiahstudywomen'sKarla Pollock & Debby Comer (morning)

Karla Pollock & Cathy McAndrew (evening)
Tuesday evenings, 6:30-8:30pthe home of Cathy McAndrew,
1215 Rita Ln., Duncanville
email Karla and Cathy
a Redeemer study of Living in a Pluralistic Society [Group is now full for the fall]Screen Shot 2016-09-01 at 9.51.17 AMmixedMargaret Doria, Hugh Comer, Mark & Rachel Kull, Jonathan & Liesl RaikesThursdays, 7-8:30protating locations in N. Oak Cliffemail Margaret [Group is presently full but may have room in the new year]
TBD (but a study of a particular book of the bible)mixedBill & Robin HarrisMondays, 7-8:30pthe home of Bill & Robin Harris 1369 Green Hills CtEmail Bill Harris
A study of Paul's letter to the Galatiansmen'sPatrick Lafferty & Kevin GladdingWednesdays, 7-8:30p
Resuming January 18th.
the home of Mark Rustine - 627 Little Creek Dr, Duncanvilleemail Patrick & Kevin

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We’ll end this briefer missive where we began last week: the intersection of art and faith. [oh, and before we forget, anyone want to join the growing list of folks planning to help out at the DeSoto Arts Fest this Saturday?] Andrew Wilson lets Dorothy Sayers say her peace about how Christians must shake the inclination to see their whole burden as a matter of problem-solving. Are there problems to be solved? Of course. But is tacking issues the primary work of one made in the creative image of God?

Sayers argues that Christians, and artists in particular, are commissioned to make something new, as a statement of what can be and of what will be. Their expressions may be disruptive and disturbing, or serene and consoling. But they all serve to offer a view of a world that is, while not yet, worth hoping in nonetheless. You can read his brief essay on Sayers here.

 

Author: Patrick

Pastor of Christ the King Church (PCA)

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2 Comments

  1. I loved the blog post about Sayers! Thanks again for your writing on the arts. As an advocate for the arts, I always seem to need to hear it again.

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  2. We create because we reflect the image of our Creator. This is the only one others may see.

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