7 Quick Takes Friday #…Errr…5?

Click the image above to see how this all got started.


I’ve had several posts this week on the topic of reading and or writing.  The two are so related I tend to think of them as a single unit.  Having had the opportunity to spend several nights in extremely fine and ultra-affordable hotels over the past few weeks, my kids have been thrilled about the opportunity to watch television – since we don’t have TV service at our home.  Each morning in the hotel they are clamoring for the animated PBS shows that they have been woefully deprived of. 

Yes, there’s a connection in that paragraph.  Wait for it…wait for it…

Most of the shows are educational.  Most are aimed at very young children – perfect for our youngest two, though a little young for our seven-year old.  And they’re all about reading.  However, they’re also all about fantastical skills and abilities that are extraneous yet linked to the idea of reading.  Super Why is one example.  Four species, gender and ethnically diverse characters on reading adventures.  To read a book, they turn into young super-hero types and enter the story literally to seek out clues and letters and solve amazing puzzles.  Cute enough.  Another older example is WordGirlDragon Tales is another one. 

They’re all wonderful enough shows.  But it struck me the other day if perhaps they aren’t contributing to falling interest in books?  What if kids – after being pumped on shows like this, are bored when they actually begin reading?  The book just sits there in your hands (or the Kindle, for you techno-geeks).  The pictures are static and unmoving.  The characters don’t come to life in a real way.  The reader is not sucked somehow into the pages/screen to interact with the characters in a fantastical way.  The only magic that goes on happens in the reader’s head.  They have to try and imagine and interact that way.  Compared to the TV shows, it must seem very dull and boring and exhausting.  It requires effort of the most mundane sort, rather than having fantastical adventures or deploying super-human abilities.

Just a thought.  I’m not ready to scrap the hyper TV shows, but it makes me wonder if we aren’t setting false expectations in our children’s’ minds.


I’ve had some wonderful conversations again of late with folks who make the comment I like the Bible and Jesus, but I have a problem with ______________.  Where _____________ could be any number of things, but often comes down to something related to the Biblical stance on homosexuality issues or gender roles. 

We all come to the Bible with certain ideas about how the world should be.  If we’re very blessed, many of these ideas were formed by the Bible itself when we were young.  Otherwise, the ideas may have come from other places.  They may be good ideas.  Very good ideas.  Their intentions may be very good.  And yet when they are held up against Scripture, there’s some sort of disconnect.  Either Scripture doesn’t seem to address it, or, more often than not, Scripture takes a position that could be contradictory, or at least not as supportive of our good ideas as we would like.

The natural tendency is then to simply say well that was then and this is now.  Or the Bible is just a bunch of stuff written by men so we can take the good and leave the inconvenient or outdated stuff.  It’s a natural reaction.  We are convinced that we know what is right.  We are convinced that we understand the meaning of justice, or fairness, or kindness, or equality.  And if the Bible challenges us on those definitions, or how we apply them, it seems a lot simpler to write off that portion of the Bible. 

We all do this in some way – we all assume we know what the Bible really means, how best to read it and understand it.  And yet we are called to hold this in tension, or more accurately submission, to the reality of God speaking.  And when God speaks, all we can do is try to listen the best we can.  When God speaks, there isn’t room for us to hold up our particular issues and say But…but.  And it means that as we dialog with people who come to different conclusions than we do about what the Bible does or doesn’t say, or does or doesn’t mean, we are required to listen very carefully.  To make sure that we understand what they are saying and how they see that from Scripture.  And then to dialog and to seek to come together towards the best understanding possible. 

It’s a threatening process, but a necessary one that shouldn’t be skipped over, but usually is.  And in that process, we have to be willing to admit that we’re in error, to have our ideas reshaped and our beliefs reformed by the power of God at work in His Word and through His Holy Spirit.  I pray that I will remain open to the working of God in my life, just as I pray that others will be as well.


If you’re looking for a book recommendation – I strongly recommend N.T. Wright’s Surprised by Hope.  A fascinating and very helpful book on clarifying what we look forward to either after death or when Jesus returns in glory. 


This Washington Post story from a few weeks ago should outrage both men and women.   A recent study by Baylor University found that 1/3 of women who attend worship services regularly have been the target of sexual advances by a religious leader. 

If this is happening to you, please find a way to let someone know and to escape from the predatory situation. 


So one of the gurus of the whole emergent church movement has decided to observe Ramadan as a “God-honoring expression of peace, fellowship, and neighborliness.”   Not that much this gentleman does surprises me, per se.

My question is whether or not he seeks the forgiveness of his past sins through this observance.  In other words, is he participating faithfully in Ramadan, or simply not eating in a certain fashion for a month?   While McClaren states that he seeks to not be disrespectful to his own faith in the process, if the very reason for Ramadan violates the core of Christianity – that the Son of God has already taken our sins away – then is he misstepping already?

I think that fasting is an under-utilized aspect of Biblical Christianity.  But I find McClaren’s binding of this idea to the Muslim observance of Ramadan to be deeply disturbing at a core theological level.


I read today of a plan in California to try and prevent the sale of energy-demanding television sets as a means of reducing the overall demand for energy in the state.  The story claims that 10% of all energy consumption in the state is attributed to television sets, which I find in and of itself both frightening and believable. 

The interesting part of the story is the statement that such a move would “head off the need to build more power plants just so residents can watch ‘American Idol’ and other shows.” 

So, ‘splain to me.  Why are we attempting to save the utility companies from expanding their ability to provide power, since we’re the ones paying for the power in the first place?   Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for conservation and reducing energy consumption.  But the tone of condescension in this article really struck me hard. 

Anybody else find this curious?


To end on a lighter note, this video is just hilarious


6 Responses to “7 Quick Takes Friday #…Errr…5?”

  1. JP Says:

    3. Glad you enjoyed Surprised by Hope. I find myself coming back to that book often, and the way I read Scripture has changed, too. The implications for how we interact with the world are staggering. Good stuff. 5. I completely agree with you that this is dangerous ground. In seeking to learn and “come close” to the Muslim people, how close is too close? At what point does their participation in the event cloud their witness to Christ, whose death has covered all our sins and makes fasting for atonement unnecessary (as you pointed out, Paul)? I wonder what their Muslim friends think about their participation, especially given McLaren’s stated four commitments. McLaren’s assumption is that he can celebrate Ramadan and understand it one way while his Muslim friend’s understand it a different way. Thus, the only unity between the two groups is in the outward act of fasting. On a deeper level, the two groups’ understandings are miles apart. What, then, does this accomplish except a warm, fuzzy feeling based on a false unity? The LCMS has similar issues with regards to altar fellowship in the Lord’s Supper. Moreover, McLaren cites the story of the Syrophonecian woman as inspiring this whole thing–“Just as Jesus, a devout Jew, overcame religious prejudice and learned from a Syrophonecian woman and was inspired by her faith two thousand years ago (Matthew 15:21 ff, Mark 7:24 ff), we seek to learn from our Muslim sisters and brothers today.” Reading over this story, I cannot understand how thinks this story supports his acts. Jesus was not inspired by the woman’s faith in some local religious practice, he was moved by her faith in him. It was her faith in him that led him to such compassion. Jesus did not in any way participate in her religious practices, but called her to faith in Himself. Is that what McLaren and his friends are doing? It sure doesn’t sound like it.

  2. Paul Nelson Says:

    I’ve almost finished Surprised by Hope.  It’s been a good read, and perhaps it’s my peculiar quirkiness, but I haven’t found it to be overly surprising stuff.  It all makes a great deal of sense if we attempt to keep the Bible as a whole rather than getting obsessed with individual verses or theological concepts.  It also grounds Christian moral and ethical traditions in a far greater reality than the simple “Thou Shalt Not”.  They become not somewhat arbitrary maxims or threats, but rather the way we carry out the duty that was first given to Adam and Eve in the garden.  And our fulfillment of those duties (imperfectly, of course), becomes not simply a pointless exercise for the short span of our lives, but real and true practice for the duties we will continue to carry out in the recreated universe.As for McClaren, I see this as just another grandstanding effort to push the theological envelope and demonstrate how out-of-the-box he is.  I’m sure that his Muslim friends are very pleased with his decision, as any good and faithful Muslim would be fervently praying that through this experience, McClaren would come to see Islam as truth, and reject his Christian roots (however twisted and convoluted those roots may now be).  I wonder if McClaren is praying the same for his Muslim friends?  And if so, I wonder if he will invite them to a traditional Christian observance of Advent or Lent?  Oh wait, McClaren thinks Christian traditions are outdated and wants to reinvent the Church.  Hmmmm…that’s problematic then.
    And I agree that his take on the Syrophoenician woman is stretched beyond the point of credibility.  What did Jesus learn from her?  How was He inspired?  Did she inspire Him to heal her?  Wasn’t Jesus’ point in rejecting her requests initially that He was focused on the task He was called to – the task that would ultimately provide for her healing – and all the world’s?  You hit it on the head – Jesus wasn’t impressed by her exercise of faith in some task, but rather by her persistence of faith in HIM.  And she experienced directly the healing that all who place their hope in Jesus will receive, whether today or in eternity.I’m all for understanding and building bridges with those around us who do not share our hope in Jesus Christ.  I’m willing to consider almost any opportunity to share the Gospel.  But I also need to think very carefully about why I pursue a certain action, attitude, or opportunity.  What am I saying – literally – to others by doing or saying or practicing something, particularly something that isn’t part of my faith tradition, and that blatantly contradicts the Biblical witness to the sufficiency of Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection?  Biblical Christians need to be very clear that ours is the rather unpopular task of seeking the salvation and conversion of every person on this earth, no matter how good or nice or devoted to their particular religion they may be.  Understanding is important, but it is misplaced if it becomes the final goal rather than a means towards conversion.  This doesn’t mean that we are to be insincere in our relationships, but it calls us to clarify carefully what we do and why we do it. 

  3. Marie Says:

    LOVE the marshmellows.Kids shows — I’m not overly fond of them. Dragon Tales makes me want to tear off my ears. Mostly the problem I have, though, is that they are so content poor. It could be just a style preference, but I think of Sesame and Electric Company and there was so much reading in those reading programs. Now, each half hour program fits maybe half a dozen actual readings of words into it. Between the Lions does a better job, I think.My kids love hotels for their tv’s, too — we do have plenty of video watching at home (too much) but at the hotel the tv is used to glue them down while I unpack, etc., so there is just a free joy in that for them. . . .Story about harrassment, yeah, there are creeps everywhere. Sometimes I think it is so bad in religious communities because everyone thinks it is so important to be nice to each other. I’ve run into several people working in ministries that definitively gave off the creepy vibe — socially miscuing, arms around shoulders when it was clearly bothersome to the target, etc. — this can happen in a roomful of people, but no one wants to be the big meannie that stands up and says, hey — we can’t let Joe be in charge of program X any more.We had a visiting priest from Pakistan, he told us he believes every true Muslim is a fundamentalist — not an extremist, etc, but certainly a fundamentalist. This is de facto true — the Qu’ran is central to Islam. I’ve heard a quote that in Christianity the Word became Man, in Islam it became a book. I would think that any Muslim who took his faith seriously would be insulted by this pastor’s attempts to glom on to their tradition, because the pastor is not taking it seriously. I also think it is an article of faith for most Muslims that an infidel is not an unbeliever — it is an apostate. They are good with friendship with “people of the book” (Christians and Jews), but if a Muslim converts away, he is an infidel and very probably deserving of death. What does this mean for a man who practicees Islam and yet at the same time does not? Seems almost worse than an infidel. . .I won’t speculate on this man’s intentions, but I will give the opinion that his actions seem at least misguided and certainly appear disrespectful to all who believe deeply in their faith.

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