// saturday round-up (29/01)

Sorry about the lack of the Saturday round-up last week – things got really crazy and there just wasn’t space in my timetable to fit it in. Anyway, hopefully this week’s selection should make up for it, with a whole lot of controversy from a whole lot of sources:

* * *

ARTICLE OF THE WEEK: Russell D. Moore: “Is facebook (and your church) making you sad?” – A fascinating article linked to by Tim Challies, coming at the question of whether social media is making us depressed from a different (and welcome) angle. The article itself is here and I like Russell Moore’s call to integrity, to not wearing a shiny, happy mask at church even if you feel constrained to do so online…

// what happens when you get what you want? – Controversial philosopher Peter Rollins has started blogging regularly again over the past few weeks, and his reflections on desire, the topic of his next book, are thought-provoking reading. Most of what he’s written over the past couple of weeks is worth looking at, but this article in particular tied into a lot of the themes that I liked in his book How (not) to Speak of God. Check it out here – it even has a clip from Family Guy in it.

// for a creator, there’s no benefit to romantic preoccupations – Don Miller also started writing more regularly on his blog again this week, reflecting on the nature of the creative mind and what it means to be created in this way. Two articles that are well worth looking at – the first is here and the second, entitled “the creator must believe he has authority to create”, is here. If you’re a long-term Don Miller fan, it should get you excited about the prospect of a new book in the works…

// the Osteen moment – This week Piers Morgan repeatedly pressed Joel Osteen (the much-debated pastor who seems to preach an updated prosperity gospel, complete with sharp suit and shiny white teeth) about his beliefs on homosexuality, something that Osteen has been notably elusive about in the past. Remarkably, Osteen gave him a straight answer (no pun intended), and the debate has been raging across the internet for the past week or so. I don’t love the tone of Al Mohler‘s article, but I do think he makes some good points on this. Check it out here.

Incidentally, if you want to follow up on this issue further, Jesus Needs New PR has had an absolutely fascinating thread going this week, starting here and with two updates here and here, with MPT getting really (justifiably?) angry about an edited video of Sean McDowell that was sent out by a particular youth organisation this week and that came across as hateful, hurtful and ignorant. MPT is pretty vocal about this debate, and I’m not sure I agree with his conclusions, but he is right to point out the language used by the Christians in all of this is, for the most part, just plain damaging.

A few people, including Matt at the Church of No People have talked lately about how the issue of how the church handles homosexuality is going to become massive in the next few years. For my part, I think they’re right, and these debates (as well as what’s currently going on in Uganda) are arguably just the first of many to come – so the church really needs to develop a better vocabulary on these things, and fast.

// not finishing what we started – A brilliant, brilliant post by Jon Acuff. Personal and heartfelt, it’s essential reading.

// Jesus hates Obama – This is from last week, but fortunately Fox outlawed it being shown during the Superbowl. That said, you have to laugh:

// Michael Scott vs David Brent – When I saw this clip this week, I nearly fell off my chair. My brain just couldn’t accept it.

// the Saturday Sessions – Dermot O’Leary Presents the Saturday Sessions is £5 on Amazon MP3 until Thursday. It’s here, and if you love acoustic, stripped-back covers of pop songs that were once upbeat, then you can’t really go wrong!

* * *

And that’s it for this week’s saturday round-up. As ever, I’d love to hear your comments. Some controversial stuff today.

See you tomorrow for sunday music!

    • JJ
    • January 29th, 2011

    A thousand YESes to your first link. A few years ago I was going through a really tough period, and it completely changed my attitude to both the Bible and the church. When I read the Bible, especially the Psalms, I found real people who were going through exactly the same thing as I was – people who said things like,

    “I am worn out from my groaning.
    All night long I flood my bed with weeping
    and drench my couch with tears.
    My eyes grow weak with sorrow.”


    “I am poured out like water,
    and all my bones are out of joint.
    My heart has turned to wax;
    it has melted within me.
    My mouth is dried up like a potsherd
    and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;
    you lay me in the dust of death.”

    I read those verses desperately. They gave me confidence that it wasn’t wrong to feel like this; that God knew how I felt; that other people had felt the same way (even heroes like David!); and that God had helped them and could help me. My suffering was important to him: here were vast tracts of the Bible describing it! The Psalms always ended with encouragement that God would be faithful, but they didn’t diminish present suffering in the slightest.

    When I went to church, on the other hand, it was a different story. Yasmin Alibhai-Brown once described going to a mosque and feeling like she was at a party where everyone else was drunk, and that’s exactly what walking into a church felt like for me. Everyone else was having this wonderful experience where they were HAPPY about God and HAPPY about each other and HAPPY about their lives, and I was sitting in the corner feeling sick and alone, and guilty because I was entirely unable to work up any of the joy everyone else was radiating.

    Yes, the songs occasionally mentioned that we might be going through hard times, but it was all glossed over pretty quickly so we could move on to how HAPPY we were about Jesus. If sins and sorrows were mentioned, it’s because he’d taken them away. If there were tears, they’d been wiped away; if there were chains, they’d fallen off; and if there were dangers, toils and snares, we’d already come through them. Suffering only got a line or two when it was lucky, and it only seemed to be stuck in to demonstrate how great our faith was at enduring everything: “I LOVE YOU GOD AND I’LL LOVE YOU EVEN WHEN THINGS ARE A LITTLE BIT SCARY BECAUSE YOU ARE TOTALLY AWESOME FOREVER AND YOU’LL NEVER LET ME DOWN!”

    Needless to say, I did not feel like this at all. I felt like a screaming ball of nerves and fear, and I was clinging onto God because he was all I had left to hold on to. I’ve always thought it telling that when Paul was begging God to take his pain away, God simply told him, “My grace is sufficient for you.” He didn’t say, “My grace will make your life wonderful!” He said it’s enough, just enough to keep you hanging on by your fingernails, enough to let you survive. Yes, sometimes your joy is overflowing, but sometimes his grace is just sufficient. And I’m certain that I wasn’t the only person there who felt that way, even though to me they all looked like beautiful shiny people with absolutely perfect lives. I wonder now how many of them were pretending too.

    Things are better for me now, thank God, but I’m sure there are people like me in every church in the world, people who are smiling and singing on the outside but howling in their hearts. And I’m sure many of them give up entirely after spending countless Sundays looking around and thinking, none of these people are like me. This place isn’t for me. Jesus wept with Mary and Martha; I don’t think he’d want his church to become a place full of happy people. I wish we would take a leaf out of the Psalms and appreciate how devastating life can really be.

    (Sorry for the essay, but I’ve been thinking about this for a long time, and I needed to get it out of my system.)

  1. JJ,

    Please don’t feel like you need to apologise for the length of this. It’s brilliant, and it needs to be said. Thanks for your honesty.

  2. Hey Tom, I like your round-ups. They are well-chosen, fun and introduce me to new blogs,

  3. Thanks Anita, I appreciate that – I’m glad people have found them useful. I’m always on the lookout for new blogs, too, so if you come across any that are worth looking into, I’d love to hear of them!

    • JJ
    • January 30th, 2011

    Thanks, Tom! On re-reading, I realise I was rather snide about some amazing hymns whose words I’ve actually found very comforting. Even when you feel terrible, it’s good to know that this isn’t all life is or ever will be. I suppose I just think that the church tends to err too far to the other side, and leads us to pretend that we never do feel terrible. And if everyone’s pretending they’re fine then no one ever admits they need help, which means that we can’t help each other and the church isn’t functioning as it should be.

    On a less wildly personal note, have you ever read Internet Monk? They usually have some pretty interesting articles: http://www.internetmonk.com/

      • Tom
      • February 4th, 2011

      JJ, sorry i didn’t reply to this comment – for some reason wordpress put you in my “spam” folder this time round. Thanks for the tip on internet monk, though, I’ll give it a look.

      We always walk a tightrope between stubbornly clinging on to what we believe we should have and believing that God just gives us the strength to carry on in less-than-ideal circumstances. I’m more towards the “strength to carry on” end of things personally but I think the tension is useful – it keeps me exploring and seeking after God – and I think the nature of church structure makes it hard to live in that tension, because of the need to plan programmes and to know what you’re saying…

  4. http://revdlesley.blogspot.com/
    Lesley’s blog is one of the few I follow faithfully, though she is closer to my generation than yours,

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