Wednesday, December 12, 2012

started a new blog about pipes and pipe making

Please check it out, follow me, blah blah blah

I am now trying to get a new business started making custom pipes.   This blog will be a small part of that, but I hope you enjoy some of the crazy pipes that I will be putting up.  Today I posted some pictures of Christian Wolfsteiner's work, and man do I love it



Friday, November 30, 2012

My interview on Christian Anarchy with Whiskey Preacher


Thursday, July 05, 2012

What is best in life

Genghis Khan
The greatest pleasure is to vanquish your enemies and chase them before you, to rob them of their wealth and see those dear to them bathed in tears, to ride their horses and clasp to your bosom their wives and daughters.

This man conquered much of the world of his time.  His dna is scattered very wide.  But I think, of course that this statement is not only wrong, it is horrible and inhuman.

I am asking myself this question, What is best in Life? and I find that what is truly best in life is actually pretty simple.  The love of friends and family, security and met needs.  The best in life includes the ability to practice creativity, to do good work, to practice real rest, and to feel needed.

What is disturbing to me is that much of the world does not have this.  That much of the world actually has all it needs to have this, but creates desires and problems that keep it from experiencing this in order to sell things.  That we manufacture insecurity, needs, and problems to keep us from good work, and creativity and proper rest. And in living in this way we continue a cycle, and a structure that insures the unhappiness of billions of people.

I pray that we may learn to live differently, and to truly enjoy life, while providing for others liberation from a system, that prevents them from living differently and enjoying this precious gift.


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The problems with the church (an arrogant series of cynical genius) the upside down kingdom

The church as we have been taught is an organization.  It is modeled after all of the organizations that we see in the world.  Whether we are talking about the CEO on top of the international corporation, or the boards that run similar ones.  Whether you are talking about Governments that run based on democratic rule, or despotic dictators, our church has been modeled after these worldly organizations.

This is not as it should be.  The church of God should not be a pyramid of power, with Jesus at the top and the great "leadership" just under him.  What we have there is the mimicry of a system of oppression.  Oh sure, as long as the "leaders" are benevolent, this might work ok.  In fact, it might even be more expedient, and less chaotic that the alternatives.  But it is not God's revealed way.

Now as this is a blog, not a treatise on the issues of leadership and structure, we will be approaching this subject with a bit of simplicity.  I have found that of all my "weird" ideas, this one seems to get the most resistance.  I believe this is because the structure of our entire life is based around the idea of top down, oppressive leadership and ministry.  We are so stuck into this system that anything else seems incredibly subversive and wrong.  That our deep involvement with the culture and structures of our day not only hold our imaginations hostage, but they seductively inspire our treatment of the scriptures.  We do not see the truth, even though God lays it out before us so powerfully.

In order to grasp what I am talking about there must be a breaking of supernatural power upon our minds.  We must be able to see how the powers that be use our marriage to these structures of hierarchy to not only keep us bound up, but to keep us supporting those structures that are outside of the church.  We become upholders of evil, as we practice systems and structures that are in themselves the tools for the oppression of the entire world.

Like I said, I am going to keep it simple, I could go through the entirety of scriptures, and tear our systems to shreds, but I will instead just share two scriptures here, and if you need more, we can speak of that in the comments.

The first scripture I would share with you comes from the 1 book of Samuel chapter 8  7 The Lord told him, "Listen to everything the people are saying to you. You are not the one they have turned their backs on. I am the one they do not want as their king. 8 They are doing just as they have always done. They have deserted me and served other gods. They have done that from the time I brought them up out of Egypt until this very day. Now they are deserting you too.

The Lord goes on to explain how a king will tax them, take their sons and daughters into service and slavery, rule over them with an iron fist and make his own house great.  Yet the people wanted a king so they could be like other nations.  Now please hear this, to God this was rejection of Him.  The rest of the scriptures speak of the horrible atrocities that accompany kingship, even a "good" king like David winds up in the midst of civil war, murdering a man and taking his wife, and practically destroying the nation all the while building up a huge monument to himself.  The fact that God loved David, does not take away from the fact that God did not desire a king, in fact it shows that even with a man as good hearted as David, power corrupts.

The next scripture is repeated in the gospels, but lets look at Mark 10
James and John Ask a Favor of Jesus
 35 James and John came to Jesus. They were the sons of Zebedee. "Teacher," they said, "we would like to ask a favor of you."  36 "What do you want me to do for you?" he asked.
 37 They replied, "Let one of us sit at your right hand in your glorious kingdom. Let the other one sit at your left hand."
 38 "You don't know what you're asking for," Jesus said. "Can you drink the cup of suffering I drink? Or can you go through the baptism of suffering I must go through?"
 39 "We can," they answered.
   Jesus said to them, "You will drink the cup I drink. And you will go through the baptism I go through. 40 But it is not for me to say who will sit at my right or left hand. These places belong to those they are prepared for."
 41 The other ten disciples heard about it. They became angry at James and John.
 42 Jesus called them together. He said, "You know about those who are rulers of the nations. They hold power over their people. Their high officials order them around. 43 Don't be like that. Instead, anyone who wants to be important among you must be your servant. 44 And anyone who wants to be first must be the slave of everyone. 45 Even the Son of Man did not come to be served. Instead, he came to serve others. He came to give his life as the price for setting many people free."

The disciples John and James want to be at the top of the pyramid.  The other disciples get mad, probably because they didn't think of it sooner.  They understand the way leadership and power work in the world, and they would like to be at the top end of the pyramid.  But Jesus explains that in his kingdom, things are not as they are in the world.  The leaders are those that give up everything and serve others, not those that have authority.  We in the church are called to a different understanding of structure and leadership.  We are not to be a hierarchy, but a place that truly practices "the first shall be last and the last first"

Another problem with the church is our refusal to abandon the ways of empire in our structure.  To elevate people, usually professionals into places of authority.  For the incredible majority of people to give away their own power, their own responsibility to someone else.  And what is very disturbing to me in this culture of consumerism, people pay others to live out their discipleship. One of the problems with the church is we have a structure that allows a dereliction of discipleship by the majority, and an acceptance of power and authority that is unbiblical by the leadership.

How this is remedied is by the first relinquishing their thrones and serving the last.  By smaller groups, allowing, in fact requiring, that all share their gifts, their talents, their thoughts and practices.  That once again all of the church becomes the reflection of God, and the dazzling presence of Jesus is found not at a service where the hierarchy is in full effect, but in the everyday life, where every single joint supplies.


Monday, June 18, 2012

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Tomorrow live streaming video from my backyard

Tomorrow night at 6:30 pm pacific time Dave Andrews author of Christianarchy, Not Religion but Love, and We Can Be will be sharing with some of my friends and neighbors at our house.  We will be streaming this talk on community, Christian anarchy and whatever else comes up so that you can enjoy it as well.

The stream will be on on channel rev3j please join us if possible, and share this with whomever you can.

Dave has been an incredible influence on my life and ministry.  In fact he has profoundly shaped the way we understand and do "church"  Here is a quote about him:

"There is one thing you need to know about Dave Andrews. He is dangerous. For example, after Indira Gandhi was shot, two or three thousand people were killed in twenty-four hours in the riots that followed. Mobs rampaged through streets looking for Sikhs to murder. Dave convinced Tony, a friend , that it was their job to go out and save these Sikhs. Finding a besieged house, they put themselves between an armed mob and a Sikh family and saved them from certain death. That's why Dave Andrews is dangerous. He is ordinary, yet believes ordinary people should take extraordinary risks to confront the cruelty in our world."

so be afraid, be very afraid :)


Friday, May 25, 2012

An Alternative to singing songs for worship

In our group we have people from many points of view, some are not even theistic.  This makes worship time a bit difficult, but we have tried to be creative.  When seeking for a common ground we have found that appreciation, awareness and thankfulness are all ways that we can take part in an activity that is meaningful for everyone.

As is our tradition everyone takes turns with things.  So each night we have a dinner, and a discussion around the scriptures.  We all take turns with this.  But then we have four traditions that we do monthly, one per week.  Those are confession, prayer, worship and communion.  Since we take turns these can turn out to be very different from one week to the next.  This week one of our members, Ted, wanted us to focus our understanding of worship on being present in the now, of seeing the wonder of God's good creation.  So we wrote haiku and shared.  This exercise was a great way to allow everyone to participate, and is not exclusive.

Here are a few of the them:


Blinding afternoon
Dark moon slides quietly in
Corona extreme


bye bye, Hi, bye bye
Joy and innocence and fun
run for the kitchen

Days swarm the sweet sage
life is trapped sun energy
they store and prosper


Papyrus for us
hidden treasure fierwork top
beneath your green skin

With love all around
laughter sits at the center
acceptance abounds

easy, hard, noisy
exhausting and wonderful
love becomes alive


Saturday, May 19, 2012

I love my dog

he is wonderful

winston is wonderful


Monday, May 14, 2012

Problems With the Church 3 (an arrogant series of cynical genius)

The church has handled truth in a number of ways.  In the older traditions the church hierarchy was called the holder of truth. In the extremes the church did not even let the scriptures be in a common language so that unskilled, uneducated people would not even have access to them, but the scriptures would only be explained to them by the church.  The Waldensian's died because they began to teach outside of the authority of the church.  In many newer church groups everyone can interpret scripture as an individual, which some point out as the reason for so many denominations, or the quote "you have made every man a pope".  I think at the heart of much of the problems with the church stands an inadequate way in which we might process truth.

Truth, and specifically scriptural truth tends to be addressed in between these extremes.  There are some notable distinctions in some groups however.  In some Quaker groups they highly value the idea of a communal interpretation.  In other words as the church silently waits for the leading of the Spirit, they are lead to an understanding of truth.  In the liberation theology camp they talk about action reflection.  In other words, as you are part of the struggle for liberation, and freedom from poverty and oppression in real life activities, you are then able to reflect upon the scriptures from a proper alignment. 

Let me say that I believe there is much that we can learn from all of these traditions particularly the last two.  But the problem I see with the church today, is they miss a very important principle.  In fact, I would say that all of these traditional methods have merit, and should be combined to give us the best understanding of scripture, yet if we did this well we would still miss the most important aspect of our faith, and what it means to be the church.

What is this little secret?  It is that Jesus, is actually the center of our knowledge, not the bible.  Now I am well aware that without the bible we don't have a Jesus.  But lets look at how we approach scripture.  In most cases we do not approach it as a narrative, though that is what it is.  And we take it in pieces, using all pieces equally, (unless they disagree with out lifestyle or dogma in which case they are just figurative, or not in proper context).  But this is a problem, because the bible is not THE WAY, THE TRUTH AND THE LIFE.  The bible is not the EXACT REPRESENTATION OF GOD'S BEING, nor is it THE LOGOS BECOME FLESH.  Nor are we known as biblians.  We are called Christians, which means we are to be followers of Christ.

This radically effects the way in which we view truth, or interpret scripture.  If we are to be true to our name, and discipleship, then first and foremost we must acknowledge Christ.  So in order to understand all of scripture, we must first understand Christ.  What Christ did, what He said, and how He died and rose again, is the pinnacle of our understanding of God, and scripture.  Far from meaning the other scriptures don't matter, or even that they matter less, it means that all scripture comes alive when viewed through the lens of Jesus. 

The problem has been that we have not followed Jesus.  In fact, most of the time we elevate Jesus so high into the clouds that we forget he actually asked real live men, to follow him in the real live earth, and entrusted the real live church into their hands.  We do not read Paul in light of Jesus, but we read Jesus in light of Paul.  We do not take the Jesus of the gospels as the one true God, but we say, "well he was just a nice guy back then but in Revelations he is gonna wreck shit"  We say, "well look at Joshua, God is not just love He is just".  But the thing is Jesus shows us what God's justice looks like "neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more".  God is revealed truly, and perfectly in the actions, and teachings of Jesus, and the scriptures bow to Him, not the other way around.  This is the actual meaning of Jesus statement in the sermon on the mount, "not one tiny little morsel of the law will be done away with until it is all PERFECTED"  Jesus comes to make the understandings of God, and scripture perfect. 

A problem with the church is we look every way we can besides the actual example of Jesus life, the powerful teachings he gave us, and the invitation to join in His death and resurrection.  If Jesus is the Way, Truth and Life, then we should be about that.  Isn't it funny that the only people Jesus really tore into were those that already figured it out, had all their doctrines and dogmas straight, and used them all as currency to buy and sell power and influence over others.  What He spoke of was the kingdom, a way of acting, and living, a way of being the community of God, and in the midst of this community His very presence lives.  Truth is not a book, nor a method, it is a person, the person of Christ.

All of our interpretive methods must be engaged, but more importantly, we must set our sight firmly on Christ the man, and His call to follow Him.


Thursday, May 10, 2012

Another problem with the church (an arrogant series of cynical genius)

In this series I am addressing a number of things that I believe are big problems in the church.  Before I go much further I must just say that I do believe that many church people and leaders are in fact good-natured. The people in the church are trying to do the right thing, they are trying to do God's thing, and many of them are warm, wonderful and loving people.  They are just caught up in a system that is very, very messed up.

What I would like to address in this post is an issue that is probably gonna piss off some of my friends.  I would like to talk about the idea of clergy laity distinction, and particularly the idea of paid ministers.

In the church of today we have a structure that operates like either a business or a government.  There are experts and professionals at the top, and there are the rabble on the bottom.  Like I showed in my previous post we have adopted a system that allows and encourages this kind of structure, and the values that come along with it.  We in most cases require our leaders to have degrees of some sort, to have aptitude in "running things" or incredible charisma.  The greater your schooling and gifting, the higher you rise in the chain of command.

It is sad to me that in much of the "emerging" church, we have not really dealt with this issue at all.  We might have different things that "qualify" the person at the top of the heap, but we still have heaps.  We talk about how many people come to our church, how many books we have read, how many conferences we have been invited to speak at, or how many cool innovative worship ideas we have incorporated into our church.  We have traded one hierarchy for another.  We have made church "cooler" but not actually emerged into something that is different.  For all the talk of a new reformation that addresses more than just doctrine, we have not really addressed much more than doctrine, and tried to make church culturally more fun for ourselves.  This is simply not good enough.

At the heart of this hierarchy is this idea that certain people should be paid to be the ministers, while others are only volunteers.  We like to talk about the priesthood of all believers, but like the saying goes, "money talks, bullshit walks"  If we truly believe that we are all equally called to share our gifts within the body, that in Christ there is no Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female then why are some paid and some not?  If we truly believe that every joint in the body is of equal importance, then why do some people get paid for it?  Why are those people expected to have degrees and qualifications that allow them to hold these positions? 

Now I know that once again I am the minority position here, but let me just list a number of reasons why our system is broken, and needs to be torn down and rebuilt not patched up:

In a consumerist culture, paying for experts, keeps us from learning and growing ourselves
In a consumerist culture we must resist the current of our culture and not cater to a consumer mindset that com-modifies religious experience 
When your degree and income are based on "religious" studies what happens when you need to step down or leave the ministry?
How do you relate to your neighbors when they work "real jobs" and you get paid to read the bible and pray for people?
How do you relate to the people in your congregation when you get paid to do devotions and bible study, and have a good marriage, and kids under control ect.
How much of church budget that could go towards helping the poor and marginalized goes towards paying salaries?

Now are their scriptures that back certain people getting paid? yes, but I believe they are the exceptions, not the rule.  Paul, a far more accomplished church man than many today, worked making tents so that he wouldn't be a financial burden.  He said Peter did get supported by the church, but Peter was not the pastor of a church in a city, but rather the traveling apostle, providing leadership (I will talk about leadership without hierarchy later) over an entire movement.  There is an excellent resource by Frank Viola called straight talk to pastors (free online) that goes into the scriptural support for what I am talking about.

 When Christ was walking along and hears the disciples arguing about who will be the greatest in the kingdom, he stops them and explains, "if you want to really be great in my kingdom, you will be a slave to everyone:"  We have twisted that to this abomination, "well to be a servant to everyone, I need to be more able to care for the needs of the sheep, and paying me a salary, and making me their leader, and giving me authority over them will help me serve them better".  And I know why we do this, it is more expedient, it makes more sense the only problem is, it isn't the way of Christ.

Ultimately, the gathering of God's people for a new politic should not follow the paradigms of business, or government, or even religion. The gathering of God's church should be one of unparalleled equality,, anarchic in its nature, and radically communal in its economy. The church practiced much like this for three hundred years, until it became married to the government, and Rome needed priests and bishops of the stature and quality worthy of their great empire.  And the leadership of the humble laborer, who though being God says later in his ministry, "I call you all now my friends" gets forgotten, as we grab a hold of an ideology that is far from that of Christ. 

So we must do away with titles, and salaries, and hierarchy, we are a kingdom of priests.


ps. reverend is an ironic nickname, not an official title, please feel free to call me john, or friend, or brother, or asshole, I answer to all of those

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

The Problems With the Church (an arrogant series of cynical genius)

There are churches that are doing their best to do good work, to create disciples not converts, to take part in movements of social justice, and relational integrity.  They try and promote many good things like mission, community, prayer, self discipline and morality.  But I would suggest that the very structure of the church, is a horrible handicap.  That those that succeed in small ways in these endeavors do so in spite of these horrible structures.  And in fact that these structures are not only incapable of truly doing what God calls the church to do, but they are (the structures) an act of disobedience and idolatry.

Oh no, did he really just say that?  Yes I did.  Over the next few weeks I will explain the many ways that I think the structures and very nature of the church is corrupt and explain why I believe that we cannot seek to effect change from within, but can only truly grow into our calling by coming out from her (pardon the apocalyptic smart assery)

Let me start with a little picture.  I am a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.  I often teach others this amazingly effective martial art.  Let me explain how I do this.  I spend very much time reading books about BJJ.  I watch the Gracies in Action videos.  I study how other people have applied this teaching in their lives.  And then once a week, I gather all of the students.  Now some of my students are also musicians so we have written some songs that sing our thankfulness for such a wonderful art.  We sing about how much we love Rorion and Helio Gracie for bringing this art to America.  And we even have some songs that teach us in rhyme important truths about grappling.  I then collect the dues for the rent on the dojo, which is only used this one day, and for my salary.  Then... I stand up and I begin to talk to them about the importance of BJJ, about how we are to follow the example of Royce, who came to this country and even though he was small and skinny, he conquered all of the foes that he encountered.  I talk about times in my life that I have had to apply some of these techniques, and I encourage you to apply them as well.  And then we all bow our heads, and I ask if there is anyone who has never accepted the truth of Brazlian Jiu Jitsu, and would like to begin training. 

How many of you would go to that school?  That is not the way I learned jiu jitsu, it is not the way I learned how to wrestle, how to paint, nor how to do drywall, carpentry or roofing.  I learned how to do these things by having a small group of people, actually do these activities with me.  Oh, there were experts of course.  People that I may never measure up to, but they actually got on the mat and wrestled with me, swung a hammer with me.  Sometimes they even slowed down so I could keep up.

Well, that might just be my smart assed brain trying to make everyone do it my way.  Pastoring is different.  But... it is the way Jesus did it.  Jesus says, "come and see"  Jesus says come and follow me.  When Peter prays for a dead person, he does the exact same thing Jesus did when he was with him earlier.  Jesus shows us that we are called to live our discipleship in a community.  To learn a new way of living, believing and relating.  And those most qualified to teach us these things are truly experts, but not because they learned to read Greek, (though that is a wonderful helpful thing), but because they have been following Jesus, forgiving and loving their brothers, and practicing the kingdom for longer than we have.

As long as worship is entertainment or classroom, discipleship will not be apprenticeship. 


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The hypocritical hypocrite is hypocritical (Long Beach Grand Prix)

So... there are many reasons to point out my hypocrisy.  I am no where near where I desire to be in my discipleship.  But it was interesting my reactions to some stuff this last weekend during the Grand Prix of Long Beach:

I live in Long Beach, as many of you may know.  And I hate that damn race, for many many reasons.  Some of the less consequential ones are that it makes traffic bad, even further away where I live, as people need to come down through my neighborhood to get out of Long Beach.

The noise, all day long the screaming of engines.  I am two miles away and it was this constant droning noise, I hated it.

But the more serious issues:

The incredible waste of fuel for what really is no more than entertainment

The incredible damage to our environment for again, what is actually no more than entertainment.

The celebration of sponsors and the plastering of logos everywhere as we worship at the altar of consumerism.

But the worst part is the displacing of homeless people.  To  their credit there are many organizations that try and help these friends of mine during this weekend.  But the common practice is to give them tickets at every opportunity all year round.  Guess what, they cannot pay the tickets, and often do not have the ability to even show up at the court.  They turn into warrants.  Then during the Grand Prix, or the Marathan, or July 4th they go round them up and put them in jail for the weekend so they don't put our city in a bad light.

This race does bring business to our city, and provide at least temporary jobs, but over all I hate it.

As I was sitting in my self righteousness, smoking a cigar and reading a book in the sun I realized...

If someone asked me if I wanted to drive one of those cars...

I would be in that driver seat faster than you can say, "what a f'n hypocrite"


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

How therefore shall we live? (last question in my series)

4) Finally, I wanted to ask what it means to live this stuff out.  Are there different approaches for Kingdom living?  How do we work on becoming a part of God's Kingdom?  Any thoughts or advice you have would be great.  

Well this is the issue isn't it?  How do we do this?  If you ask me how does my community live this out I would have to answer honestly... not very well, but we are trying to get better.

There are many different approaches, and many different avenues.  What we have decided to do is to go down a weird hybrid of the house church network, and the intentional community path.  Others have chosen to focus on intentional community and monastic practice, while everyone attends different churches.  Some have chosen to stay completely committed to their denominational church, or the Catholic church while practicing radical community and social justice like the Catholic worker communities.  Some have decided to continue their work in the midst of the city, or the suburbs.  Some have decided to move out of the mainstream and try to live off the grid.

The issues are so very complex, that it is never easy to make a clear answer to what should anyone do.  We can hardly figure out what we should do, which makes it very ridiculous to give much advice to others.  But we have learned some principles that have helped us along the way.  The first is that we need to realize that we are stronger, wiser and more complete as a group than as individuals.  We should spend the time to talk, to discuss, to sit in silent waitfulness, and then to make a decision as a group.  I even let my group decide which speaking engagements I should take, or even if I should take a long vacation.  Why? because I can figure out lots of reasons to make my own desires sound the most efficient and credible path, I need others that are just as committed to the path to help me figure it out.

A perfect example is worship.  We meet on Monday nights for a communal meal, and a discussion or some kind of reflection upon the scriptures.  There are mostly Christian people (though from radically different perspectives), but a few non-theists that are with us regularly.  So we talked about worship as something we would like to consider a part of our regular practice without being alienating towards those that don't recognize a personal deity.  We talked about it, and came up with this idea:  We can all realize the good that comes from being thankful, and from appreciating the wonder and beauty we see in life.  So let us take time to reflect and share about things we are thankful and in awe of as a regular part of our time together.  It is all about learning to grow together.

The best advice I could give is that we first need to recognize the upside down nature of all Jesus says.  Don't take revenge, forgive.  Don't seek for security, but trust.  Don't seek fortune, but be stupidly generous.  Do not accept injustice, but resist it non violently even if it means your death.  It is not the people that are most talented, wealthy, or holy that are blessed but those that learn to serve the poor, the marginalized, the sinners the heretics, the sick, the imprisoned ect. is completely at odds with how this world operates

Secondly we need to recognize we have a whole system that is built to teach us, to pull us, to push us and threaten us to continue in the hierarchical structure of oppression.  Whether it is the lies of consumerism, or the fear of violence from bad men, everything in our society is designed to support the structure of power and hierarchy.

And then realizing these first two, we must also realize that we need a community to both live an alternative to this hierarchy, and to see clearly how we must address the needs of our current world, thinking both globally and locally if possible.  It is in these communities that we practice the ideals that the world needs in order to move past the hierarchy of power and wealth.  But it is also in these communities that we figure out how to live as a community to address some of these issues in ourselves and our neighborhood.  It would be my goal in our "network" that we would have many small groups that have different flavors of the revolution.  Some might be more concerned with economic justice, some with restorative justice through the penal system, others might be focused on racial reconciliation, others might have radical anti war and non violence activists, ect.  That we would all support, and encourage one another in all of these kingdom tasks, as well as be educated by each other as to how our everyday lives can help us to address these concerns.

I have an amazing vision of several community houses that take in those in need, that share food, and that grow it as well.  Of small groups that meet in homes to eat together and learn how they can begin the journey towards a new way of being human, living in this kingdom of God.  Of places where people can come to learn trades, good work, work with integrity and value.  Building things, growing things, helping people rather than just making money for its own sake.  Of studios where we can practice the creativity that is in each of us, making art and healing in the process.  I have a vision of a group of people that are as committed to each other as they are to changing the world.  I am a dreamer, I have lived 45 years, suffered much failure, little success, and quite a bit of ridicule, yet I still believe.


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Question 3: Kingdom of God?

3) Another thing that's come up recently is what the Kingdom of God means.  I used that phrase a few times in my blog, and didn't realize that others might hear it very differently than I do.  What does the Kingdom mean for non-believers?  How do people who are trying to set it up here on earth share the Kingdom, or even the Kingdom work, with those who don't believe in God?  Should the goal of Christians be to convert them so that they can be saved, and share in this Kingdom?

So... this really is one of the most important parts of this whole discussion.  What does the kingdom of God, or the kingdom of heaven mean?  It is the essence of almost everything Jesus said, it is what the parables are meant to illustrate.  A good friend of mine suggests that from a marketing stand point, if you were to break Jesus' message down into a bumper sticker it would be "the kingdom of God is in your midst".

Now there have been countless volumes written about the kingdom of God, or heaven (Matthew uses this phrase more often).  I could not and will not come close to touching all of the intricacies of exactly what it means, and how it effects us.  I will offer up some very basic understandings of what I have learned over the years, and what I believe to be true.

First off it is important to look at the word kingdom.  The word kingdom doesn't have a very modern ring to it.  When we think of kings and queens we are just as likely to think of knights and dragons and damsels in distress, as we are to think of the royal family in England with all of their scandal and opulence.  But for us the understanding of kingdom would not really have a very concrete meaning.  It would have had a more concrete meaning when it was originally translate into English however.  But what is interesting is the word used for kingdom in the scriptures, was not the word kingdom, it was the word empire.  And in Jesus time, this word would have had huge implications.  As the empire was quite literally the oppressive super power government that was in charge of the known world at that time.  Jesus begins talking about an empire that belongs to God, not Caesar.  An altogether different political reality than the one that existed.  And what is even more revolutionary is Jesus seems to say that this kingdom is here in His person, but is also to be lived out, and also coming.  We will get to this a bit more later

Now we have to contextualize things.  What exactly would Jesus mean in our day and age?  We don't really talk about kingdoms, nor is the idea of empire really one that we understand much since the hey day of the English Empire (though many rightly point out the empirical nature of the United States).  If Jesus were speaking to us today what word would he use instead of empire? As an American I would suggest two different terms.  Those of you in other countries can apply your own contextualization.  I think nation, would be a possible word in America.  Since America as a nation is a cultural melting pot to some extent it could work.  So Christ could talk to us today about the nation of God.  But I think a better phrase in todays world, would focus on the worldwide global economy.  I think that the global economy actually is more of the "powers that be" than even the mega power US.   So Jesus would speak to us today about the "economy of God"

So Jesus comes into the world speaking of the economy of God, he then explains it and lives it.  It is not a future tense destination, but a journey towards the ultimate reality.  It begins in Him. It is looking at the way God means things to be, and beginning to live like God's will is reality, even in the phase face of the economy of the world.  And it affects everything.  Economy is essentially about power, and value.  In todays world the stories of Jesus would be incredibly subversive.  They would speak about the idea that in God's economy it is those that are undervalued, that have the greater value in God's.  It would talk about the injustice that keeps those that are more powerful on top of those that have no resource to grasp power.  And just like Jesus quite literally did in his time, would say in our time, "you cannot live in the worlds economy, and in God's, as God's economy does not value the same things, so get rid of your economic comforts and follow me into a new world of sharing, and forgiving, and loving even those that might try and harm your economic status through an oil monopoly"  What Jesus tells us is stories that explain how Gods desires for our world, can and must be lived out here and now, as a prophetic act of faith.  It's ties to the future is simply this, in the redemption of all things, this is how we will live... so believing this is true we will start living in this reality here and now.

I personally believe that the disciples did not believe all of the things we say are essential Christian doctrine until much later.  But they began to walk with Jesus, and take part in that ideal of the economy of God.  They were called disciples for beginning to walk in "the way" so why do we think conversion is the necessary first step?  Lets walk together and live out this kingdom (which by the way is pretty much the teachings of all the major religions, and thoughtful secular humanism) and leave conversion up to God.  It is my hope that everyone believes as I believe, as I find much comfort, and joy and challenge in it, but that does not mean I cannot work with others, nor does it mean that my ulterior motive is to convert them.

Ultimately I think we need to follow the example of Jesus.  Jesus pulled together a community of very diverse people, and began to live out the kingdom.  His words and teachings had power and authority because of the integrity of his life.  When you live what you say, it matters.  Jesus lived, in this community, an ethic that said the people who are considered least valuable... these will be our friends, and focus.  The people that are not only considered most valuable, but hold that value with deceit and violence we will call to repentance.  We will care for the sick, we will share our resources with each other, we will not engage in us and them mentality.  We will practice non violent resistance towards oppressors.  And most of all we will live a life of love.  It is my belief that we need everyone who is willing to join us in this new economy, regardless of "spiritual" belief system.


Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Question number 2 in my interview with Larry

2) Another question people have asked, and that maybe ties in, is the idea that Anarchy means chaos, lawlessness, and rebellion against the established order.  A few people have asked me how that can be compatible with the kind of communities you've been a part of, which seem to be about loving and serving those who have been marginalized by society.  

There is a difference between a Christian anarchy and a non Christian one, though not always, and I will get into that.  But before we do we must look at what anarchy is and isn't.  Anarchy, as a word, means against the powers.  It does not mean chaos, lawlessness or no order.  Anarchy means simply a stand against systems and structures of power. 

There are many different ways in which this belief is manifested.  There are some that believe we need to go back to more tribal, live off the land nomadic lifestyles.  There are some that believe we should have a communistic, or socialistic economy, with an anarchic structure of governance.  Some would say that true democracy (as opposed to representation democracy) is anarchy.  But the idea is that the power resides either in the individual, or in the community, not in certain individuals whether elected or chosen in some other manner.

Then we get to the manner in which this should come to pass.  There are in an oversimplified view three ways:
Overthrow the established order
Work within the established order for change
Ignore the established order and become "off the grid" as much as possible

Which brings me to my beliefs about a Christ centered, and biblical anarchy.  I believe that Christian anarchy focuses on a few ideas that address the above comments in a unique way.  This does not mean all forms of non Christian anarchy cannot address them in similar ways however, nor that we have a different practice.  

As I have followed Jesus, and studied the scriptures I find that we are called to live in a covenanted community.  One that is covenanted to the ideals of Jesus, and the belief that love, and the holy spirit can guide us towards correct living.

That we are to live in a tension that says we are not here to overthrow the powers that be, but to basically live an alternative to them.  To stand against the injustice and pain caused by them.  And to offer a refuge from them to those trampled under its machine.

As a covenanted community we are told that withing the community dwells the power to "bind and loose".  Which in ancient times was the application of laws, punishment, retribution and forgiveness.  This means that the power does not reside in a hierarchy, in "the professionals" or the "leaders".  But that small groups, of people covenanted to look out for one another, to follow Jesus, and to stand against the powers, can through discussion, and action/reflection, support one another in "figuring it out".  That we provide a mechanism for working out issues between members, and living a life of forgiveness and mercy, rather than punitive justice.  This is not disorderly, nor is it always efficient, but it is good.  This recognizes that some might actually be gifted leaders, but these leaders are situational, not positional. And that these leaders would be just as submitted to the covenant as the others.

So a Christian anarchy would say that any system or structure, (including the religious or church structures), that holds power over others, is to be rejected and stood against.  That we live an alternative based upon the teachings of the non violent, and liberating Jesus.  That we practice anti hierarchical living, which prioritizes those that are on the bottom of the powers hierarchy.  That we see the spiritual force behind those powers that seem invisible, like greed, and consumerism, and retribution, and amidst those powers we stand firm in opposition.

Please feel free to ask any questions, or help me to clarify what I have said so that it can be more widely understood.


Thursday, March 29, 2012

Celebrity Christianity

Despite having been written over three years ago my post was very angry with Chuck Smith from Calvary Chapel yesterday was the number one viewed page on my website last month.  Number two was my letter to Pastor Mark Driscoll, which is almost a year old.  Now granted, I haven't been writing much so that is part of the reason why they are at the top of my most viewed list, but the truth is, no matter what, they would have been in the top ten, and most likely the top five.

Why?  Because people google search these people.  They are big names, who have done big things, and people want to know more about them.  They are Christian celebrities. This is however not a new issue, its just a different mechanism.

Paul, sees this as a problem and addresses it in his letter to the Corinthians.  "One says he follows Paul, another Apollos, and another Cephas and another Christ".  And then he gets to the core of the matter... "Is Christ divided?  Did Paul die for you? Were you baptised in the name of Paul?"

Is Christ divided?

What is interesting to me is that Paul seeing the celebrity thing going on, addresses it in this way:

This causes division
I must put myself in the problem and address my part in it
I must be humble and point others away from me, and towards Christ
I must explain that no man is above another man

This does not seem to be the way with Christian celebrities these days.  It is usually some form of "well I am being blessed for not compromising the truth"  While the others compromise and are "being followed by people with itchy ears,  There is usually a subtle, sometimes a direct refutation of the other leaders.  And the statement "follow me while I follow Christ"

The question we must ask ourselves in a world that worships celebrity, is, how are we to respond? 

I think the church needs to stop building celebrities.  I think the ones that are there need to give serious thought to their ability to deflect that position, and work for unity within the body.  I think we who are not celebrities need to stand up and be who God called us to be, to hold even the big shots to the same accountability we submit to in our body. 

But what do I know, I don't even have a weekly podcast


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Question number 1.

1) Rev, a question that has come up a few times after the blog I posted, and after I put a documentary about you up on Facebook a while back, is what you mean when you say that as a Christian Anarchist you "submit your life to the teachings of Jesus, and not to anything else."  Aren't Christians taught to submit to the leaders of the Church?  Didn't the early church have Bishops, Apostles, Elders, and Councils?  

I am gonna give you the medium length answer on this one.  The short one is probably too short, and the long one is a book or two.

Let me clarify something at the start, if I said I do not submit to anything else then I misspoke.  I do in fact submit myself to others, and I think it is right and correct to do so, and in fact it is impossible to do otherwise.  What I believe is that we should submit ourselves to one another as a community of people.  This is clearly taught in scripture.  "Submit yourselves to one another".  I have found this very helpful in my life, as I realize that I am not always able to see my own weakness.  In addition, if we are all submitted to one another, than one person cannot become above others.  This keeps us all in loving service to each other.

Which works perfectly with the actual concept of anarchy.  Anarchy is not Chaos, nor is it disorder.  Anarchy means, literally, against the powers.  What I take that to mean in a Christian context is that we are to resist the "powers".  The structures that are oppressive and hierarchical.  The social, political and religious structures that keep certain people at the top and others at the bottom.  These structures are to be rejected.  This does not however mean that we cannot have laws, rules, and covenants with each other.  What it does mean is that we do not create a structure that empowers people to have power over others.

Does the church teach submission to the church leaders? Even the doctrines of past leaders? yes it does.  Is that the teachings of Christ or the bible? They say so, I am not so sure.  What we must remember is that what we see as the church now, is much much different than what we saw for the first few hundred years.  In my opinion we see a very significant change in the church with the "conversion" of Constantine, and the legitimizing of Christianity in the early 300's.  It was at that time that church became part of an unholy alliance of church and state.  Where leaders in Christian community became men of power, and riches.  Where the faith was codified and that codification was enforced.  We have adopted a system that has mimicked government ever since.  In this system, you obey in the chain of command, but this was not the early way.

The early church recognized people with giftings.  Some people were good at leading, some at teaching, some at starting up new faith communities and so on.  These individuals were sometimes but not often taken out of a "normal" life to be allowed to focus on these things.  But in the church their opinions were just counted with double honor.  They werent even "elected officials"  The church community was to submit to the church community, not bishops or elders.  But bishops and elders had a few more miles on their tires so their opinions held a bit more weight, which is all fair and good.  The church did not submit to the Bishops and elders, the bishops and elders submitted to the church.  Though like I said their opinion had extra weight, it was the community that was entrusted with power, not people.

We see this played out very well in the first council.  There was a little controversy around circumcision.  Those that were not born in the Hebrew culture were being pressured to be circumcised. Understandably, they said, "um... I like this Jesus dude, and I want to follow in the way, but is cutting off a piece of my junk really necessary?"  Everyone got upset.  So all of the churches sent some representatives to the church as Jerusalem.  Why?  Because they were the most well established and had the most people that actually had walked with Jesus?  Nope, it was because the people causing the problems came from the churches in Jerusalem.  They talked and argued.  Now look at who was on the guest list?  Peter, the rock of the church, James the actual brother of Jesus, Paul the guy who started most of the churches around the world and wrote most of the new testament, as well as a number of other apostles, bishops, ect.  And what is the response?

"we the church at Jerusalem, (recognize that in this time the first mentioned person or group had more weight) and the apostles that are here with us want to clear this up.  Sorry that these people from here made things all messy.  But the church here would give you this advise" Now look at what we have, not hey we need to go to Jerusalem and appeal this all the way up to the supreme head honcho Peter the rock, work through the hierarchy and have an official proclamation that this is the Christian perspective on the matter! If you do not believe and practice this Peter declares you will not be going to heaven and are not "really" a Christian.  No, we all got together and talked, in the end our community would give this advise to your's.

to me this is a different way of life, not hierarchy, but relationship, and empowerment.  Not power over, power alongside.


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Bio part 2

So while all of this was happening I got married to the best woman in the world, Raquel, and we had two beautiful daughters.  The interesting thing is that we didn't pull away from our world, or our ministry to focus on our family.  We made sure our children were part of our lives, that we didn't neglect them, but we also wanted them to grow up knowing that the world is too big for it to revolve around them. Remember this is a summation so as blunt as that sounds it was lived out in the midst of caring, compassionate love.

Buddy Suitor at the leading of many people decided to move to another city and start a new church.  Raquel and I went with him and were his youth pastors.  Only there weren't many youth.  We would hang out, get sodas, and talk.  Slowly we wound up attracting a group of about thirty young people many if not most of whom did not have parents at the church.  We did normal church stuff, went on church camps, and learned to love each other.  This was very formative for us.  When we had thirty kids in our group 27 came from broken homes.  We were learning the healing power of community, and we were also learning what it meant to have an "open house". 

I began learning about "cell groups" and "house churches" and how they were important because they taught community, involved everyone, and were the best mechanism for growth.  (I will address this later, but at that time we still believed it was our call to convert everyone so they would not burn in hell forever, or the more pleasant way of looking at it was so they could go to heaven)  I also realized that the man up front talking, while everyone else sat and listened was not a very healthy model. 

Through much scheming we came up with a plan.  We would start a church service that had "cool worship music", had a Christian rock band play a set, and then I would teach a very short message that is applicable to anyone whether they were Christian or not.  The idea was to make a very fun night, where non Christian people would enjoy hanging out, and then through relationships with people in the group, not any altar call from the stage, people would be drawn into a relationship with Jesus and join our real church which was the small group.

It kinda worked.  It wasn't long before we had a church full of people.  Sometimes as many as 150 kids rocking out.  Thing was they were all Christian kids from other churches.  Took a lot of pain and soul searching before I realized that most Christian young people don't really want to hang out in church, why would someone who is not a Christian want to?  So we shut it down for good.

We then took our youth group and started a church with them.  It was a good thing, the church realized we were becoming something different, and they wanted a more traditional youth ministry.  They helped us and blessed us, it was not a church split at all.

It was around this time I started understanding a bit more about how this all worked, why community was important.  I began to understand that what Jesus was on about was more than just fire insurance, but teaching us a way of living that could change things in the here and now, not just later. 

There were two major influences in this way of thinking.  The first was the book "Anarchy and Christianity" by Jaques Ellul.  This book really resonated with what I had seen and lived.  It made sense, and seemed biblical to me as well.  The other book was by Jan Hettinga, I think its title was Follow Me.  This talked about the idea of the kingdom of God being the focus of Jesus message.  Now Jan might be a bit upset at where I took all of that... but seeing that Jesus was talking about the kingdom of God as a present reality not just a future destination that really got me on a radical path.

We began to take steps in this direction.  We tried to have less hierarchy.  Less issues of power.  We tried to see Jesus in community, in our neighborhood.  It was a wonderful experience.  Our first church plant was called the Belonging, and the name has set the tone for our whole life.  We should be a community that allows people to belong.

I then began reading more and more Christian anarchist stuff, writings of Dorothy Day of the Catholic Worker, Tolstoy's the kingdom of God is within, and most influential to me was Dave Andrew's books "Christianarchy" and "Not Religion but Love".  These latter two took all of the theory, and showed us how to live it out... well atleast how to fail gloriously trying to live it out :) 

During this whole period of time we also were continually confronted with the fact that Jesus seemed to base his time on earth among the dispossessed, the poor, the marginalized.  He talked about a down is up way of living.  We began to see that a call to follow Jesus is a call towards downward mobility.  Living sustainably on less, in an economy of enough.  An economy that says there is enough for our need but not our greed.

Two more big influences on my life happened while we were in Australia.  The first was a young man named Jarrod McKenna, who took me down the road of non-violence.  I added to his voice the voices of Dorothy Day, Shane Claiborne, and Fr John Dear, as well as the crazy revolutionary activist Ciaron O'Reilly  To love your enemies, and do good to those that do bad to you takes away the possibility of violent reaction.

The other was the works of Walter Wink in Engaging the Powers that speak much about non violence, but also the idea of spiritual warfare as seeing the spiritual behind the physical.  This is very powerful because we begin to really see the corrupting influences of things like consumerism, individualism and nationalism. 

Now we are living in Long Beach California, trying to sow all of these fragments together.  How can we be an authentic community following Jesus, by entering into the plight of the oppressed, living simply, and non violently as we stand against a world system that is bent on destruction.  Ched Myers is currently my mentor, and he seems perfectly suited for tying this all together, and we are so thankful for Ched and his wonderful wife Elaine Enns.

Things learned in part two:

the importance of community to growth as a human being

we weren't supposed to call people into the church, but live out the church in our neighborhoods

That just as Christ prioritized the marginalized, we should be found with them, standing for justice.  Not reaching down to help, but climbing into solidarity.

That we are called not to have power over others, but to empower others

That we are called to be non violent resisters

that the kingdom of God is now and not yet, and we must be the change we want to see in the world as Gandhi put it

And that there are powerful forces in the world that shape policy, and even our own thoughts, and that these must be seen, and resisted.

Anyways, that was abrupt as could be, please feel free to ask any questions


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

My bio part 1

Here is the bio portion part 1,

John and Raquel and a couple of kids

Decided the make this in two parts, and to make it fairly brief.  If anyone has any questions, please feel free to ask them.  The truth is, the 27 year journey from born again, Pentecostal evangelical, conservative to post evangelical, house church, pacifist, Christian anarchist, is hard to "sum up".  But I will do my best.

I was raised as a Easter and Christmas Catholic.  We really didn't have that much to do with the church, but we did the minimum.  Both of my parents were concerned that I got a good education however, so I went to Catholic Jr. and Sr. High School.  Net effect on my spirituality?  Not a whole lot, I learned a lot about church history, both the good and the bad, I learned the bible pretty well as we were tested on this, but as to how it effected how we lived our lives... well it didn't really.  Even in our morality class the practical application was pretty void.

While I was in high school my mother started going to a pretty conservative, but a bit out there church.  Every once and a while, to get in her good graces I would go, but again, not much impact.  Then one Thursday night a gal from the "sister" church in Pasadena came out.  I thought this girl was not hard on the eyes, and my mom saw a golden opportunity.  She hosted a few "young adult" meetings at our house, and I asked this girl out.  She said yes, and on our second date something very different happened.

It was a New Years Eve party, there were thirty to forty people there, and I was just amazed at the way they seemed to genuinely love and care for each other.  And not only that, but they seemed to love and care for me as well.  I liked that.  Then at midnight they sat in a circle and talked about how they had seen God work in their lives the previous year.  This was sometimes joyous, sometimes painful, and always honest.  I was blown away.  This actually was spiritual, it was real, it had practical implication, and I felt a "tugging" at my heart.  By the time it was my turn to share, I had decided whatever they were into I wanted in on it.  And that was my "conversion" story.

This is actually very important, as at a foundational point in my spiritual life it was not a traditional gathering, or ritual, but a group of people, meeting in a home, being honest about their lives, that made me take notice.

It wasn't long til I was listening to seven sermons a day on radio, reading countless books, and the bible from cover to cover.  I wanted to be a preacher, and I was gonna be ready no matter what.

For some complicated reasons I wont get into here I wound up going to another church that was a bit more traditional in its structure, but not its ideology.  The pastors there took me under their wing, and started mentoring me.  Butch Pluimer and Buddy Suitor changed my life, they took me in like a son. This was another thing that was very formative.  I was not sent away to bible college, but I was apprenticed.  It was, lets just do it together, until you can do it alone. 

At this church I really learned a lot.  I learned some great stuff.  I learned some not so great stuff.  I learned about church politics, and what happens when people have "spiritual" power.  I noticed it, but didn't understand it.

Then I met another great man.  Dave Everritt was this very quiet humble man who came to me for prayer for his neighborhood.  He lived in a ghetto that served as a war zone between two Latino gangs and three Cambodian gangs.  The gang kids were starting to come to his bible studies and the church kids didn't like it, and he said he didn't know what to do but if he had to choose he was choosing the gang kids.  I liked this guy and asked if I could come and see, and boy did I see.  He had been a commodities broker with a porsche and a high priced condo, and when he became a Christian he sold it all, which caused his wife to leave him.  Now years later he lived in this slum with his new wife trying to care for those most people were afraid of.  He asked me if I wanted him to be my mentor.  I said yes please.

So far in the story I have experienced a few things that are of note:

I experienced a practical, real, spirituality not part of a ritual, but part of community in a home.

I learned that apprenticeship and mentoring were of immense value.

I learned that people actually did take the call to get rid of it all and follow Jesus seriously.

I learned that social outreach need to go in and stay, not try to work from outside.

Part two will be tomorrow, and then we get into some of my more radical ideas :)


Monday, March 19, 2012

I am back with a vengence :)

So a good friend asked me if I could answer some questions on his blog, I figured I could do that, and I could do it here as well since I am writing:

I am going to put up the whole email, but take only a portion at a time, probably once a week.

I thought for the blog I'd give a brief intro about you, for people who don't know, and then ask if you could tell a little bit about how your journey led you to the kind of community you're a part of now.  Here are the other questions I had, stuff people have been bringing up and discussing with me as I've shared you're blogs and other things.  I've had long back and forth discussions with a couple Pastor friends about the first one, and after our meeting this Friday, I spent a lot of time discussing what the Kingdom means with people who were worried I was basically setting them up, or trying to work on them with an agenda to convert them.  

1) Rev, a question that has come up a few times after the blog I posted, and after I put a documentary about you up on Facebook a while back, is what you mean when you say that as a Christian Anarchist you "submit your life to the teachings of Jesus, and not to anything else."  Aren't Christians taught to submit to the leaders of the Church?  Didn't the early church have Bishops, Apostles, Elders, and Councils?  

2) Another question people have asked, and that maybe ties in, is the idea that Anarchy means chaos, lawlessness, and rebellion against the established order.  A few people have asked me how that can be compatible with the kind of communities you've been a part of, which seem to be about loving and serving those who have been marginalized by society.  

3) Another thing that's come up recently is what the Kingdom of God means.  I used that phrase a few times in my blog, and didn't realize that others might hear it very differently than I do.  What does the Kingdom mean for non-believers?  How do people who are trying to set it up here on earth share the Kingdom, or even the Kingdom work, with those who don't believe in God?  Should the goal of Christians be to convert them so that they can be saved, and share in this Kingdom?

4) Finally, I wanted to ask what it means to live this stuff out.  Are there different approaches for Kingdom living?  How do we work on becoming a part of God's Kingdom?  Any thoughts or advice you have would be great.  

so, I will start with a post about the story of mr and mrs rev and how we got to where we are now.  I will post this tomorrow.  And then I will get into those questions.  Hope you will join in, and ask questions of your own as we go.


Monday, February 06, 2012

sorry I haven't posted much

And we were switching to a new host for the domain as well.

I hope to post more this year, but don't really want to write unless I have something to say.  I have been working on my book, and will perhaps post some excerpts here from time to time.  Fight the powers