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About to have a brain meltdown...

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  • eacaton@aol.com
    Dear Fellow Postmodernist Christian Thinkers, I am currently about halfway through A New Kind of Christian and have realized that if I don t find someone to
    Message 1 of 5 , Nov 7, 2001
      Dear Fellow Postmodernist Christian Thinkers,
      I am currently about halfway through A New Kind of Christian and have
      realized that if I don't find someone to process this book with soon, I will
      have a mental breakdown. I imagine (and hope) that this is not an entirely
      foreign sensation to some of you. For me, it stems from finally reading and
      having presented to me in a fairly succinct and cohesive way, a lot of things
      I have been wrestling with and mulling on for a long time. I am a recent
      graduate of Smith College in Northampton, MA, which is a women's college and
      a renowned haven for homosexual and extreme liberal thinking. I am a
      heterosexual Christian from an evangelical background, but socially I tend to
      be fairly liberal in terms of social justice, the responsibility of
      Christians to their community, etc. Although I was in the vast minority at
      Smith (a sometimes highly persecuted minority at that) I grew tremendously
      from the challenge of learning how to deal with lifestyles I totally disagree
      with and how to be a believer in the context of it not being the social norm
      as it is in much of this country. Smith is also a very challenging
      institution academically (ranks generally as the best women's college in the
      world) and so I had a wonderful opportunity to study Christianity from the
      academic perspective- socially, historically, and even theologically to an
      extent. It was an enormously enlightening experience.
      Now I am graduated and living in Northampton, which embraces Smith in
      terms of its "alternative lifestyles" and is very similar in this way. I
      love being here because things are not stagnant- because there is no sitting
      on the fence. You either are really a Christian, putting your neck on the
      line for Jesus, or you aren't. There's no time for putzing around about
      silly theological stuff that, when the pressure's on, completely doesn't
      matter. I have tried to grow (and will readily admit this is an ongoing
      process) into someone who can live in the real world, getting into the
      trenches with people and being very real with them in such a way that they
      see Jesus as a viable option for their life and not just the figurehead of
      some "old, dead, white man's religion" as I have come to think of it. This
      latter description is the way I have discovered many of the people where I
      live, especially women and double especially lesbian women, look at
      Christianity which is like a quadruple strike against it. They dislike it
      because it's old, they dislike it because it's dead (let's face it, a lot of
      people in the church these days are pretty stagnant), they dislike it because
      it's white (multiculturalism is all the rage these days), and they dislike it
      because it's generally patriarchal and many of these women HATE men. Even
      those that don't hate men hate institutions that are run by men.
      In trying to be a light in this community for my faith, I have struggled
      with a lot of questions throughout my life that have been compounded by
      living in this setting for almost five years. (I came from a very rural town
      in western New York. Going from there to Northampton... can you say culture
      shock! Fortunately, I never fit into Oakfield either because my parents were
      wonderfully unorthodox thinkers and prepared me well, so it wasn't too bad.)
      How do you share Christ in a way that is relevant to a fairly young, totally
      postmodernist society? How do you get past the generally held preconceived
      notion of Christians being a bunch of judgmental bigots? How do you deal
      with the totally legitimate question of what to do with other faiths and how
      to live with those people of other faiths without being holier-than-thou or
      judgmental, but still maintaining integrity? How do you interpret the Bible,
      including all its hard parts? And on a personal level, what do I make of
      this whole Christian thing? What has being part of the traditional church
      culture for all these years done to my perception of Christianity? What's
      God really all about? How do I answer the questions of my boyfriend, who is
      not a believer but is searching for answers and is posing some questions that
      stump me? Obviously, this book is hitting my buttons.
      Okay, I'm done rambling. I think my point to all of this is to see if
      there is anyone out there who would want to be my Neo... maybe not have all
      the answers, but at least be willing to have a wonderful Socratic dialogue
      with me about my questions. I'm obsessive compulsive emailer, so that would
      be a fine way to go. Please!!!! I need help.

      In Christ's Love,

      Beth
    • Caroline Wong
      Dear Beth; There is a great theologian called Stanley Grenz who writes about postmodernity as well as homosexuality and women. I m just starting to work
      Message 2 of 5 , Nov 7, 2001
        Dear Beth;

        There is a great theologian called Stanley Grenz who writes about
        postmodernity as well as homosexuality and women. I'm just starting to work
        through his works.

        > How do you share Christ in a way that is relevant to a fairly young,
        totally
        > postmodernist society?

        I guess it'll have to be the message that Philip the evangelist was sharing
        in Acts 8:12 which is the Kingdom of God. It'll have to be a message of
        love and power and not just of words. We've been working on that message
        for a while at our church and have headed in a two prong direction. One,
        talk about the Trinity and how all encompassing our lives are in the
        Trinity. Two, the economy, culture and government of the kingdom of God.
        Of course I hope you know I'm just using all those terms as a short hand way
        to pass information. We don't use those terms when speaking to a seeker.
        We're still in the process of trying to work out a new "sinners" prayer
        signifying conversion or when a person leaves their old life and enter the
        Kingdom of God. Mostly the prayers we come up with are too complicated (in
        theology).

        >How do you get past the generally held preconceived
        > notion of Christians being a bunch of judgmental bigots?

        Well, we acknowledge our past (from Crusades, Luther, Southern Baptist and
        onwards) and apologize. We also talk about the various reconciliation that
        we've been involved personally with our native people and with Israel. We
        then tell about other groups apologizing for past errors. And then we try
        to demonstrate that we (perhaps the only flesh-and-blood Christian they
        know) are not judgmental or bigoted.

        >How do you deal
        > with the totally legitimate question of what to do with other faiths and
        how
        > to live with those people of other faiths without being holier-than-thou
        or
        > judgmental, but still maintaining integrity?

        McLaren says it's nobody's business who goes to heaven and who doesn't make
        it. I just present my faith as real and life changing. In a postmodern
        society that is totally cool because truth is relative and experience is as
        valid as rational argument. McLaren also likens evangelism to inviting
        people to dance with us so if anyone became interested in my faith
        (hopefully because they see love, grace, truth and power in it), then it'll
        be like they accepted the invitation to dance.

        >How do you interpret the Bible,
        > including all its hard parts?

        You join 2,000 years worth of debates and conversations and agree that some
        things are plain weird and are best left alone or poked at with ten foot
        poles every couple of years or so. They are not central to the faith.
        Modern thinking says that given time and persistence we can understand
        everything and knowledge is king because knowledge is power. We master our
        universe by totally breaking it down into mathematical formulae.
        Postmoderns are way more accepting of mystery and quirkiness. They are also
        more willing to say that culture and history shade truth. That is truth is
        not objective but exists in our minds and we're cultural, historical and
        social creatures. Ergo no problemo with ancient strangeness.

        > And on a personal level, what do I make of
        > this whole Christian thing? What has being part of the traditional church
        > culture for all these years done to my perception of Christianity? What's
        > God really all about?

        Modern thinking says we study something from an objective viewpoint. I say
        lets be post modern and understand by developing a relationship with the
        object we're trying to understand. In this case, it's the person of God.
        Try to approach God via different church traditions (liturgical,
        evangelical, charismatic) and different approaches (prayer, worship,
        reading, meditation, contemplation etc)

        Neo is my hero but I'm no Neo although I hope to be someday when I'm ninety
        or so. My greatest luck is that I belong to a post modern church whose
        pastor is a total McLaren fan and who has sweated blood in trying to get his
        church to think postmodern.

        Caroline
      • Les Klassen
        Dear Caroline, Beth and all those out there: I read A New Kind of Christian about 3 months ago and I ate every word of it up. I relished every moment of it.
        Message 3 of 5 , Nov 7, 2001
          Dear Caroline, Beth and all those out there:
           
          I read A New Kind of Christian about 3 months ago and I ate every word of it up.  I relished every moment of it.  It was the first book I've read with a Christian theme that I couldn't put down.  In fact I was sold on everything.
           
          Since I've had time to reflect on the book I have come to some conclusions. 
           
          1) I hate the word Post-Modern.   It has become the new answer.  How do you connect to young people?  Hey let's get post modern.  It's leaped up from humble beginnings and is now it's on the cover of Worship Magazine (why do we even have a worship magazine?)  It's frustrating.  In fact, we now have great new label "PoMo" and we have compartmentalized and put post-modernism in its "right" place. 
           
          2) "Post-modern" thought seems to simply things.  Or maybe it doesn't but is seams to.  You can only make reference to this imaginary line that hovers over the societal spectrum so many times.  How do you fight for justice if you just keep point to this imaginary hovering line.  How do you make a stand on anything if we all say, "truth is subjective and relative."
           
          3) The idea that any stream of thought can provide answers also frustrates me.  When we search for answers we really don't want any human being to tell us the answers.  It would be a disappointment if a question you have been mulling around in your heard for years was suddenly answered in a simply conversation.  If the process of finding these answers that makes life worth living.  It's the relationships along the way, and self-realizations or spiritual realization or even Godly realization that make you go yeah!  I get.  If I really think about it, I'm actually searching for questions rather than answers.
           
          These words are a true reflection of where I am at right now.  Who knows what I will be thinking about post-modern thought 10 days from now.
           
          Just adding to the conversation,
          (and trying to grow in Christ)
           
           
          Les
           
          Les Klassen
          Technical Director
          Centre for Education and Work
          e: l.klassen@...
          p: (204) 786-9495
        • Curtis and Rachel Ramer
          Beth, I just want to comment on the male/female issue in Scripture, since many of the people you are talking to have a reaction of the patriarchal parts of the
          Message 4 of 5 , Nov 7, 2001
            Beth,
            I just want to comment on the male/female issue in Scripture, since many of
            the people you are talking to have a reaction of the patriarchal parts of
            the Bible. I have recently read Good News for Women, by Rebecca Merrill
            Groothuis. It's the best book I have come across that explains the
            egalitarian view (versus the hierarchical view) and it helps explain some of
            the more difficult passages in Scripture that are hard to understand
            concerning this topic.

            Please understand that this book is written for evangelicals, so I wouldn't
            be one to just pass it on to your friends there. Rather, it may help you to
            help them process this issue. Also here is a web site that might help.
            www.cbeinternational.org
            In fact, some of Groothuis' articles are on this web site, but the book is
            comprehensive.


            Rachel
          • hagenme@netscape.net
            Dear Beth, Great post! I empathize with your reaching out to a community that is not an easy sell --too often these people are treated with contempt instead
            Message 5 of 5 , Nov 7, 2001
              Dear Beth,

              Great post! I empathize with your reaching out to a community that is not an "easy sell"--too often these people are treated with contempt instead of reached out to with Christian love.

              This summer there was a great discussion of "A New Kind of Christian" at nkoc@yahoogroups.com. You can still join this group. You can look at the posts to see where others are/were at. I would suggest posting the post you wrote to this group. Although most of us are no longer actively participating, there are always newcomers with whom you might start up a conversation.

              May the love of Christ always encourage and empower you!

              Maureen Hagen
              PS: I grew up in western NY as well (Spencerport, near Rochester) and went to grad school at Columbia, so I understand what you mean by culture shock.


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