Friday, May 18, 2012

Jesus Versus Diablo or What Would Jesus Play?

You Can't make this stuff up.

A new video game is being released this week that allows Facebook members to click their way through the life of Jesus. Here is the description of the new Journey of Jesus game.

The game asks players to click, click, click their way through an adventure which sends you on various missions that play through the story of Christ. You start by chopping down trees, repairing an overturned cart and calming a dispute to reach the Messiah and John the Baptist in the Jordan River. As the story progresses, you'll have the chance to speak to various ancient peoples, hunt for artifacts, obtain coins and, of course, send Bible quotes to all your Facebook friends.

Apparently the Christian video gamer company Lightside Games already has a Journey with Moses game, but I think I missed that one. I suppose I will soon see invites from my Facebook "friends" who want me to join in with them in another app designed to steal my time, personal information and soul. Is Farmville dead now? I don't see many requests for sheep and hay anymore?

The developers of the game are quite happy about the circumstances of the release. Another game, Diablo 3, was also released this week, but with some significant programming errors. The Jesus Journey fans are claiming a point for the forces of good. I guess in the case we would ask "could it be Jesus?"

Below is a video of the game. Please don't send me any Facebook requests to play. I will delete you from my "friends" list.

A few things I noticed while watching.

  1. Why does everyone have such big heads?
  2. They all look to be about the size of an average smurf.
  3. Why does the devil have blonde hair? 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Blog Roundup on Homosexuality and the Bible

Well, it's been a busy week in most corners of the USA when it comes to homosexuality and the Bible. Ever since amendment one was approved in North Carolina and the president announced that he thinks gay couples should be able to marry, it seems everyone including myself, have stuck in their two cents worth. I have seen a number of posts out there this week, some thoughtful, some hateful, others somewhere in between. I thought I would provide a roundup here with some of the more interesting and thought provoking conversations.

On Monday I asked when the church was really going to have a conversation about homosexuality. For the most part the comments have been affirming about the need to talk without trying to debate, but rather to explore together. There have been some comments, however, that still seem to miss the point of what it means to dialog with one another. I suspect they weren't interested in the first place.

At the Deeper Story, a post is up by an Evangelical Christian in Canada who thinks that gay marriage should be legal. Sarah has some interesting thoughts.

Jim West comes out fighting, as usual, and suggests that statements about homosexuality and slavery in the Bible can't be compared. He argues that it is poor hermenutics and that those who think that if you apply one OT law you must apply all OT laws miss the difference between ritual and moral laws. But in response to Jim, Tim at Sansblogue suggests that Jim is splitting hairs and using a tired, worn out argument that suggests one can differentiate between civil and moral law in the OT.

At the NT/History Blog Bill Heroman declares that he thinks that homosexuality is a sin, but that Christians should not stop gays from marrying.

In a completely different direction, Bob Hyatt suggests a once and forever solution to the problem. He says that the state get out of the marriage business.

And finally, Jonathan Robinson at Zenos provides a nice round up including some I have here and some others.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

On When and How to Thank God

I saw this meme over on the Naked Pastor and it struck a chord with me. Over the years I have struggled with knowing how or if to give thanks to God for what I perceive to be blessings in my life. I hear people who act as if God has answered everything that they ever asked for. And on the one hand I am happy for them and want to join them in thanking God.

I have heard people thank God for giving them a job just before their last pay check ran out. They thank God for giving them a child when they were just about to give up. They thank God for healing them or a loved one. And some thank God for what appears to be quite trivial matters. They thank God for finding them a parking space at the market or helping them to find a good deal on a new computer. “It was certainly the Lord at work,” they say, “how else can we explain the way that everything worked out.

And then I think about all of the people that do not get their prayers answered. The person who doesn’t get a job and is now living homeless. The couple who are never given a child or, as in the meme, the person who does not see a loved one healed or spared.

I also wonder about people living in poorer, oppressed economies who pray the same prayers and yet God does not seem to answer their prayers. I wonder how I can be thankful to God for hearing my prayer for say a job or to heal me of a minor aliment, but they are asking God to give them their next meal, a drink of water or protection from their enemies.

I wonder if God only hears my prayers and not theirs or if my socio-economic situation is really what is helping me and not God.  Numerous times my wife and I have been provided for and directed in ways that seem to only be explainable as divine providence.  But then I consider all of those who live in circumstances less fortunate than me and I wonder if God has anything to do with it and whether it is more a result of my being a white, middle class American. 

In the end I tend to be thankful for what I have, but I also am a bit shy of giving God direct credit as in “look what God did for me” because it is hard for me to understand let alone explain why God didn’t do it for someone else. This meme does a good job at illustrating the paradox I feel.

How about you? Do you ever experience or think about this tension and how do you deal with it if at all?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Homosexuality: When will the church really have a conversation?

On Friday I had the opportunity to take a road trip with some of my students. We travelled from Ashland to Cincinnati to view the Pompeii exhibit at a Cincinnati museum. The trip was 3 hours down and, because of traffic, about 4 hours back. So there was plenty of time for conversation.

While a variety of topics were discussed, the topic of homosexuality dominated most of the time. The students sitting behind me in the van were discussing their scriptural understanding, the president’s recent announcement, and how they do or would interact with homosexual Christians. There were a number of anecdotal stories along the way.

I drove and listened. I didn’t engage since the voice of a professor tends to be a student led conversation killer. And I must say that I was very pleased and proud to listen the way they talked. There was no hint of hate or homophobia. No indication that they were looking to ostracize gay Christians. There wasn’t even a suggestion that being gay made it impossible to be a Christian. Rather, they were attempting to have a serious, theologically informed conversation on the topic. And while I don’t think they reached any definitive conclusions and they certainly didn’t all agree, I was pleased to hear them engaging the topic.

As I reflect on the trip l am both heartened and disappointed. I am heartened because a group of students preparing for the ministry (ages 20s to 50s) were seriously engaging the topic of homosexuality and were seeking answers in a way that rejects much of the way the topic was handled in the past and even today.  But I am also disheartened because, at least from my own experience, many in the church and in seminaries are not talking about homosexuality and if they are it is quite often talk that is rooted in fear and misunderstanding. It is still very much an “us versus them.”

I wish that churches and seminaries would engage in a serious conversation about sexuality. I am not suggesting that everyone would end up on the same page. But I wish that an honest conversation was being had rather than dividing us into those who are for and those who are against. I wish that Christians would look harder at what the Bible does and doesn’t say about sexuality and ask to what degree some of those ideas are cultural and time bound and others more lasting. I wish pastors were doing a better job of educating their people and engaging them in intelligent conversation that encourages them to love everyone, even those they don’t agree with our understand. I wish the church would not react out of homophobia.

I am reminded of what it was like growing up in the church when divorce was still taboo. Preachers often railed against it in sermons. We were taught that it was wrong, period, nothing more. But we never were asked to look at all that the Bible has to say nor did we ask how we should understand it in our modern culture. Those who did get divorced often found themselves shunned with little support and it was not unusual for a divorced person to leave a church for another or none at all. We never really talked about it. All we did was say it was wrong and whispered about it when it happened. And the result? According to most polls divorce rates are just as high in the church if not higher than those outside the church. Couples are getting divorced regularly and while the church may provide support groups and are more accepting of the divorced person, the divorce is always the theological elephant in the room because most Christian people are not prepared to think about it theologically. They can react emotionally, even politically, but they don’t know how to process it theologically.

I suspect that we are heading in the same direction with homosexuality. Many are using it as political wedge and are not even considering that gay Christians are human beings loved by God. Some even think God hates gays. I so wish that our churches and seminaries would have an honest conversation on the topic. Again I don’t presume that everyone will agree. But I would like to see us be able to talk in a way that fosters love all around instead of hatred and fear. I wish we would learn to talk.

In the mean time I am proud of my students for honestly wrestling with this topic and not being afraid to ask the hard questions. I don’t know where they will land on the spectrum, but I am glad to see that they are talking and thinking together. May they inspire a new generation of leaders.

*Note: The reflections above are mine and based on my experiences. I realize that not every ones will be the same. Also, please note that I am not taking sides in this post. I am merely asking for a conversation. I realize that some churches and seminaries are having the conversation, but many are not. They are only reacting.