Monday, July 31, 2006

Sweet Unbeliever

I suppose this is my way of doing evangelism, though some might find it more anti-evangelistic than otherwise. I really ought to split off all the lyrical content from this blog and put it somewhere else -- another blog of its own? -- but don't have the energy for that. Besides, all three of you reading this expect these abnormal lyrical outings.... don't you?

Sweet Unbeliever

Jon Trott © ShonkinTunes, 2006

You’d like to spit me out of your mouth
Step on me like an insect
I’m the virus that infects your dreams
I’m the love you now regret
I’m the music that’s too syncopated
The dance that’s too erotic
Am I preaching with a southern twang?
My truth makes you psychotic

You’d like to spit me out of your mouth
You’d like to spit me out of your mouth
Oh, yeah.

You’d like to wipe me up like someone’s puke
Find new ways to make me die
I’m the sweat beneath your well-dressed arm
I’m the tear you cannot cry
I’m music you can’t use to sell things
The story you know but ignore
I’m your lover – drink my blood, now
You can’t run anymore.

You’d like to spit me out of your mouth
You’d like to spit / split / hit me… oh, yeah.
You’d like to spit me out of your mouth
But I know your heart is breaking
Sweet Unbeliever.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Watch Israel's Actions, Not Their Excuses

Today Israel killed 36+ Lebanese children and 12+ Lebanese women, and approximately sixty people overall, in a bombing they now call a "tragic mistake." Trouble is, as nearly every nation in the world other than America has been saying, Israel's sloppy approach to making war with Hezbollah was doomed from the beginning to kill many civilians. And Israel will continue to do so; why not? The Lebanese crowd that assaulted Beruit's U.N. offices understands all too well how important they are to the U.N., which of course is held in thrall to America's veto power.

The Israeli public relations rhythm of bomb, kill innocent Lebanese, apologize (though with the caveat that "They should have moved -- we dropped leaflets warning them!"), seems to work in the United States. At least, for the present. Besides, it allows Bush to hide his own disasterously out of control mess in Iraq behind the fresher (and therefore more interesting to watch) coverage of Israel and Hezbollah.

But watch Israel's actions. How many more Lebanese will die? That, and not the burblings about a "tragic mistake," will determine world attitude toward not only Israel, but the United States. At the moment, it seems to this powerless pundit that the two nations are in moral free-fall, embracing one another in their mutually-agreed upon course of death-dealers.

Should Hezbollah stop what it is doing? Of course. But how likely is that, when if anything what Israel is doing right now actually strengthens Hezbollah's hand politically in Lebanon and gives it new recruits?

As a Christian on the non-right wing, and on this topic, not having much respect for the Democrats' cave-in to Israel either, I find myself praying for Christian believers in Lebanon and Israel, hoping that their witness will not be completely eclipsed by our $30 million anti-witness of weaponry rushed to Israel during this conflict. It sickens me that American bombs are likely the ones that killed those children, women, and men. Each of those Lebanese faces was the face of Jesus. And as we did it to them, by Israel our proxy, we did it to Him.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Anti-Semitism and Mel Gibson: From the Abundance of the Heart?

Mel Gibson has repentant words (see below) after reportedly making anti-Jewish comments while being booked for a DUI by police. But as the good book says, out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. And here's what Mel said according to Police reports: after referring to “f****** Jews” he observed that “the Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world.”

Mel, who self-financed the movie "The Passion of the Christ," has, one suspects, submarined his links with Christians worldwide. He nearly certainly will get a cooler reception from American evangelicals should he ever produce a sequel to that blockbuster.

Words do matter. And those words, from the mouth of the director of a movie already held in suspicion regarding anti-semitic content, will damage his reputation severely as both a Christian and as an artist.

And frankly, that's as it should be.


Mel Gibson's statement regarding his arrest Friday on suspicion of DUI:

After drinking alcohol on Thursday night, I did a number of things that were very wrong and for which I am ashamed.

I drove a car when I should not have, and was stopped by the LA County Sheriffs. The arresting officer was just doing his job and I feel fortunate that I was apprehended before I caused injury to any other person.

I acted like a person completely out of control when I was arrested, and said things that I do not believe to be true and which are despicable. I am deeply ashamed of everything I said, and I apologize to anyone who I have offended.

Also, I take this opportunity to apologize to the deputies involved for my belligerent behavior. They have always been there for me in my community and indeed probably saved me from myself.

I disgraced myself and my family with my behavior and for that I am truly sorry.

I have battled with the disease of alcoholism for all of my adult life and profoundly regret my horrific relapse. I apologize for any behavior unbecoming of me in my inebriated state and have already taken necessary steps to ensure my return to health.

Friday, July 28, 2006

System Administrator Day

This is a tangent. But today is System Administrator Day. So in honor of all system administrators, from blogger's to JPUSA's (my) own internal system op, Rick Mills, I offer this bit of silliness:

Oh He Who Makes the Routers Route
by Jon Trott

Oh he who makes the routers rout
Gets wiring in and network out
He who dirty virus cleans
And blocks what’s icky from our screens
Slaying spam and junk email
Lightning strike or mouse detail
Lovely Apple, Lowly Dell
Rick’s SysAdmin., all is well.

Change 'he' to 'she' if applicable, and replace 'Rick' with your SysAdmin's name...

Thank your System Administrator today, if you're lucky enough to have one.

George Macdonald & The Inevitable Failure of Mere Morality

Though the below quote has to do with one man, its resonance keeps reverberating.... In this age where Muslims are shooting missiles, Christians are dropping bombs, Jews are building concentration camps, and everyone is intent on morality being "Ours" vs. "Theirs," the quote startles and scalds. (Bolding added.)

I will attempt no historical or theological classification of [George] Macdonald's thought, partly because I have not the learning to do so, still more because I am no great friend to such pigeon-holing. One very effective way of silencing the voice of conscience is to impound in an Ism the teacher through whom it speaks; the trumpet no longer seriously disturbs our rest when we have murmured '..Thomist', 'Barthian', or 'Existentialist'. And in Macdonald it is always the voice of conscience that speaks. He addresses the will: the demand for obedience, for "something to be neither more nor less nor other than done" is incessant. Yet in that very voice of conscience every other faculty somehow speaks as well -- intellect and imagination and humour and fancy and all the affections; and no man in modern times was perhaps more aware of the distinction between Law and Gospel, the inevitable failure of mere morality.

... C. S. Lewis (1898-1963), preface to George Macdonald, an Anthology

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Meme Attack!

Who ever thought they could be tagged by a meme? Well, I was. See The One Book Meme for details.

So here we go:

1. One book that changed your life:
John's Gospel (NRSV preferred)

2. One book that you’ve read more than once:

Walker Percy, The Second Coming

3. One book you’d want on a desert island:

The Holy Bible (NRSV), I know, how boringly predictable, eh?

4. One book that made you laugh:

Booth Tarkington, Penrod

5. One book that made you cry:

Elie Weisel, Night (Francois Mauriac's introduction did it even before I read the rest!)

6. One book that you wish had been written:
How Human Beings Screwed Sex, by someone smart enough to really explain it.

7. One book that you wish had never been written:

The Protocols of The Learned Elders of Zion (Lots of folks died as the result of this anti-semitic idiocy, the granddaddy of conspiracy theory books.)

8. One book you’re currently reading:
Wendell Berry, Sex, Economy, Freedom & Community

9. One book you’ve been meaning to read:
The Bib... just kidding. Sorta. Nah, I'd have to say any one of a number of Soren Kierkegaard's non-pseudonymous writings (no one in particular, I have a shelf of 'em sitting in my room waiting.)

10. Now tag five people:
I have to pass on this one. Especially because others have already tagged 'em! Guess I was at the end of the food chain. No more ameoba near enough to me (with blogs) to annoy.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

News and Notes

Christians for Biblical Equality (CBE) has published an edited version of my admittedly existential presentation from Cornerstone Festival 2005, "Are Men Really Human," in the latest issue of Mutuality magazine. Needless to say, I'm quite honored to be of help in CBE's outreach. And I really liked how they used some photos of mine... though for those, you'll have to buy the mag, I guess, or join CBE and get the mag as part of the deal.

An unedited (pretty long) version of "Are Men Really Human" exists on my blog of the same name.

Other notes: I've made a few minor additions to already-existing blog entries. Notably, I put a short addendum on birth control to the Rock for Life entry, and a couple additions (incl a new quote from her) on the Dwayna Litz controversy post.

So Much Smarter Now

And in my continuing drive to annoy people with homebrew lyrics, this one has to do with a conversation I had with an older believer. She said to me a very wise thing. "Jon, in all your angst over evangelicalism, don't forfeit your first love." In honor of that truth, which I definitely take to heart (and am taking, present tense):

So Much Smarter Now

I sometimes tremble in frustration
To speak your name makes people turn their heads away
I wish it were because they hate you
But it is because of things we do in your name while we pray,
I pray.
I want to tell the world I love you
That my passion burns within like red-hot coals
But whatever can this fool say or do
To prove my Blessed Hope is real and can indwell their souls
Sweet souls.

Jesus, forgive me for my failure.
Jesus, forgive me for my sin
Jesus, forgive me for not believing
That love's gospel still will touch the broken heart within

I remember how it was at sixteen years
I was so broken empty screaming for an answer,
But now I’m clever, know so much nothing
Forget that first love’s desperation and the conflagration
Pure fire.
I will tell the world I love you
Precious gold in cracked and ugly earthen pot
Better to fail at love than never love at all
Dear One help me cuz I fall a lot

Jesus, forgive me for my failure.
Jesus, forgive me for my sin
Jesus, forgive me for not believing
That the gospel still will touch the broken heart within

I refuse to mock the lovers as they kiss your lips
I refuse to walk away from homeless souls
I refuse to be my own worst enemy
I learn to obey the still small voice inside me
That says…

I love you, won’t you love me too?
I love you, won’t you love me too?
Love yourself enough to believe what's true
I love you, dear one… I love you.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

That Cornerstone Festival blog

Just a quick note to note (haha) that though notes are mostly what is discussed on the official Cornerstone fest blog, it does hit the seminar topics a bit also. Read about Mute Math and Kierkegaard in one place.

Or just stay here for a listen to Mute Math playing the fest.

Progressive Pro-Lifers? Rock for Life's New Faces

A Rock for Life Sign / Sticker, (c) Rock for Life

Cornerstone Festival this year had some highs and lows for me emotionally--both being God-caused. Along with Sarah Sullivan's heart-breaking story of rape and rape's aftermath, which she presented at the Gender Revolution Tent, the Rock for Life folks' presentation of a real abortion on video was one of those God-sent "low points" that readjusts one's heart and mind.

My wife, Carol Elaine, asked to stop at the booth when she noticed a sign offering video of an actual abortion. One had to step behind their counter to see the video, which was a good idea due to small children walking around inside the larger Cornerstone Exhibition Hall where the RforL booth was. I believe there were three different abortions filmed, the first being a fairly early one, the second being late term, and the third (I think) being a partial-birth.

I warned my dearling this was not likely going to be a good idea for her emotional well-being, as she weeps both while worshipping God and over the nightly news horrors from Iraq, Lebanon, and Israel (a heart so tender to Christ and so to those who suffer!). And sure enough, we got only about 10 to 20 seconds into the first abortion, where a preborn child's limbs were torn off and pulled from its mothers' womb before our eyes, when Carol burst into tears and clung to me saying "I can't take any more!" I was sure glad, because frankly I felt the same way!

This led to an animated discussion with the young man at the booth about the videos (they are online, and if I find them [or someone else who knows where they are can comment in the link] I'll publish it --but they are GRAPHIC and REAL recordings of murder, so be forewarned.) I think where they would do the most good is with someone not convinced that abortion is the taking of a real human being but rather only "fetal tissue." If they didn't get it before seeing this, they hopefully would afterward!

Rock for Life sponsors a stage at Cornerstone Festival and also offers seminars (here's one list I noted of the bands that played this year.)

In the past, I confess that though I've always been pro-life, Rock for Life's seeming political allegiance to the hard right was a turn-off. Unlike groups such as Feminists for Life, RforL seemed a bit dense in regard to abortion's linkage with other issues such as women's rights, poverty, housing, and other threads of the social fabric. As with many pro-lifers, it seemed their issue was the only issue--and they voted, acted, and lived by the one issue alone. As important an issue as I think abortion is, I've increasingly been unable to vote for allegedly "pro-life" candidates who seem pro-death in so much of the policy they create and enact.

This year, that rightist slant seemed far less the case regarding Rock for Life. The young man, noting my "liberal" comments on a form I filled out supporting South Dakotans for Life, explained that Rock for Life was undergoing a metamorphosis on progressive issues. (I'm sorry to report I lost the piece of paper I'd scrawled his name on.) It turned out he was not a fan of the current administration, the War in Iraq, Capital Punishment, the subordination of women, and various other causes normally (though illogically in my opinion) linked to the pro-life community. And according to him, he is not alone in this paradigm shift among Rock for Life folk.

But perhaps the seeds for progress were there in part due to who sponsors Rock for Life, namely, the Catholic organization American Life League. The idea of the seamless garment, while embraced by some evangelicals, was originally (or at least most articulately) postulated by Catholics. So kudos to those bishops.

And kudos to Rock for Life, whose work I believe will be greatly enhanced as and if they continue in a more progressive, wholistic direction linking abortion to other evils against humankind.

A friend, after discovering my post here, mentioned his concern that Rock for Life (as does Roman Catholicism) seems to intermix abortion and birth control. This is a valid concern for me as well; like most Protestants, I don't see non-abortive forms of birth control as being immoral within the marital context. In fact, I've posted some pretty forthright stuff on this elsewhere. That said, my Catholic sisters and brothers are like me trying to walk in the Lord's will, and I would only hope they could differentiate between birth control and abortion even while themselves holding the opinion that birth control is wrong.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Hezbollah is an Idea

I'm no fan of Hezbollah, but let's get real. Hezbollah is not a person. Hezbollah is an idea. With that in mind, let's consider the current Israeli/United States venture to stamp out this idea.

Can an idea be killed with a bomb?
Can an idea be suffocated, burned, or dismembered?
Can you ride over an idea with an Army Tank?
Can you crush an idea with a bunker-buster?

Take a hammer and smash an idea, and it will fragment into tiny pieces, all of which will grow and strengthen.
Take a knife and cut an idea, and its blood will fill the veins of all who see.
Take a rifle to assassinate an idea and it will walk away. Or shoot back.

Ideas rarely die by violence.
Only people -- often mothers and children -- can be killed.

And so they are, and always will be, when people think they can kill an idea.
Bloody day after bloody day, any other idea will be disproven.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Advice to the Middle East


"It's simply not the same thing to say that it's the same act to deliberately target innocent civilians, to desire their deaths, to fire rockets and use explosive devices or kidnapping versus the sad and highly unfortunate consequences of self-defense."

John Bolton, U. S. Secretary to the United Nations, commenting on the deaths of an entire Canadian family via Israeli bombs in Lebanon.

If we do it, it is freedom-fighting.
If you do it, it is terrorism.

If our friends do it, it is defending their borders.
If our enemies do it, it is an unprovoked attack on a sovereign nation.

If we bomb cities, it is a measured response.
If you bomb cities, it is targeting the civilian population.

If we kill innocent civilians, it is regrettable.
If you kill innocent civilians, it is monstrous inhumanity.

If Israel does it, it is God’s Will.
If Palestinians do it, it is Satanic Evil.

In other words, our words are the only words that count.

So shut up and bleed.


Lebanese child killed by an Israeli bomb, July 17, 2006. Over three hundred Lebanese have been killed so far.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

"Discernment Ministry"? Dwayna Litz Defends Warnke and Stratford

I should leave this silliness alone, but I.... just.... can't.... resist!

I suppose it had to end up here when all was said and done. Ms. Dwayna Litz of recent "secret spy" at Cornerstone Festival fame, who continues falsely accusing Christians for Biblical Equality of goddess worship and Jesus People USA of various nefarious theological crimes, is now defending Mike Warnke and Lauren Stratford. Warnke and Stratford are, of course, the individuals that JPUSA's Cornerstone exposed as frauds years ago. No one has ever seriously challenged our findings.

Yet she writes in support of virually the only website that still maintains belief in Warnke and Stratford:

Here is an article about the "Jesus People," including information about one of their teachers at Cornerstone, Gretchen Passantino (CRI apologist) and her reported false teachings in a paramount arena. Her disregard for some very important, weighty facts has had a traumatic effect consequentially on people and hurt them. Please take a look at this article from my friend, Greg. It is telling. He asked me to forward this especially to pastors and youth pastors.Emails are sent to me daily with documentation about how the "Jesus People" have hurt people...
And Dwayna quotes Reid directly regarding Stratford:
The Cornerstone Offensive

It began around 1990 with an extensive article written by Bob & Gretchen Passantino and Jon Trott in Cornerstone Magazine, the official publication of Jesus People USA, or JPUSA. It was a full scale, devastating attack on the testimony, character and ministry of Lauren Stratford, author of SATAN'S UNDERGROUND. The book was a detailed and deeply disturbing account of victimization by organized satanists and child abusers. It was followed up by a wonderfully healing book, "I KNOW YOU'RE HURTING". Then, Cornerstone dropped the bomb with their written attack on Lauren Stratford.
Here's the whole page or two of what Mr. Reid says about our Warnke, Stratford, and other SRA investigations, just to put a few more nails in the coffin:

I'm trying not to smile bemusedly here. First, before looking at Mr. Reid's "information" regarding Gretchen and myself (who was co-author with Gretchen and Bob P. on the Stratford bit, and co-author with Mike Hertenstein on the Warnke bit), let's review what we offered in the nature of discernment regarding both Warnke and Stratford.

See the article on Mike Warnke's false satanism testimony here:

We expanded the Warnke article into a book, Selling Satan: The Evangelical Media and the Mikek Warnke Scandal:

The article on Stratford's tale of Satanic Ritual Abuse:

And when her career as an alleged victim of Satanists was exposed as a sham, she began a new career as an alleged survivor of the holocaust:

Now. What does Mr. Reid offer for his evidence against these articles?

Nada. Go look for yourself on his website, using the links above. Is one iota of information offered? Is any of the historical, photographic, and eyewitness information we offered in those articles refuted, or even dealt with in any way? Again, no. He ends up trying to involve us in his conspiracy theories, to my mind implying we ourselves are occultists, even Satanists. Pretty serious judgements going on there, judgements Ms. Litz also seems willing to make. I'm trying not to be testy here, but c'mon!

If Dwayna really believes Reid's "defense" of Warnke and Stratford (in Stratford's case, one has to choose between two completely contradictory, equally false, life stories) then I'm afraid the word "discernment" is not one she should be using. And I hope those who've been uncritically accepting Ms. Litz's word regarding Cornerstone Festival, Christians for Biblical Equality, and likely any other topics she "covers" on her various sites, will reconsider what they're consuming so avidly.

Okay. I'm really going to try and be done with this topic for a bit. But remember -- discernment starts with being able to discern what one's own misconceptions and biases are. We listen to the Litzes of the world because they tell us what we want to hear.

Isn't that sad?

[edited again July 25 to add Reid's quote used by Dwayna Litz on her blog.]

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Cornerstone Festival and Christians for Biblical Equality

As I helped the CBE (Christians for Biblical Equality) team set up the Gender Revolution Tent for this year's Cornerstone Festival "Cstone yoU" Seminars, I looked forward to what promised to be a great time together. And in fact, that is precisely how things turned out.

Aida Spencer’s incredible in-depth Biblical study on women in leadership roles made this year worthwhile all by itself to me. I've deeply appreciated Linda Belleville's biblical exegesis over the years, as well as (in years past) Ruth Tucker and others who've dealt as speakers at Cstone with egalitarian vs. hierarchical views of women. But Aida seemed to really have a handle on not only the theological, but also the historical, elements from the Scriptures regarding women leaders. And she harmonized them in an easily accessible, thoroughly convincing way.

My fellow-JPUSA member Sarah Sullivan’s journey (above) through a horrendous multiple rape, cold and skeptical treatment by police, further abuse leveled by defense lawyers and even the judge (who literally did not believe rape was possible), left me shaken and pondering. Her story was not one with a neat, happy ending. And frankly, I feel that our journey toward a truly biblical mutuality is not an easy story, either. Yet Sarah’s story did offer hope, as she told about her own ministry, Threads of Compassion (

Being asked to participate on the marriage panel was, as usual, a great blessing to me. I was deeply impressed with the honesty and transparency shown by the other couples participating, particularly (though not exclusively!) Tim and Heidi Vanderpool.

The discussion led by Julia Butcher (above) on the “Wild at Heart” books by John and Staci Eldredge seemed key to me, somehow bringing together my own deepest anxieties about evangelical mistreatment and misbeliefs regarding women. As both Julia and some seminar participants noted, these books have truly helped some people. Yet my own anxieties regarding them seemed justified further by Julia's careful, gentle yet ultimately critical analysis. For instance, Julia's citation of a lengthy quote from the book regarding men as "strong" and women as "beautiful," complete with descriptions of females passively lying about while the men actively did what men are "supposed" to do really -- ahem! -- frosted my cookies. Julia was a whole lot nicer in dissecting these books than I would have been... which is why it was lovely she did in fact do that. I guess she was just being beautiful AND strong?

My own angst regarding real anger toward the evangelical Church for its treatment of women had been brought to the fore by Sarah and Julia. I found myself deeply pondering the role of anger in being a prophetic witness. I've never been a big fan of human anger, as it almost always ends in someone being injured (either physically or spiritually or both). In my own case, my anger seems more often to end in something destructive, esp. when I think I'm right about something. But after listening to Sarah, and then during Q and A offering what I (and not Julia, so she doesn't get in trouble) called "the evangelical enablement of a rape culture," I was left thinking about anger's positive aspects. As one friend (a woman pastor, appropriately!) told me later after listening to my reflections, William Barclay writes regarding Jesus' words on anger in the Sermon on the Mount that (her words), "When we are angry on behalf of someone else, there's a much better chance that anger is constructive, godly anger, than when we're angry on behalf of ourselves." Yes, something like that. I'm still pondering this issue...

In the end, I could again only thank God for the powerful witness of CBE and the Gender Revolution as it impacts the Church and celebrates our oneness in Christ. I was sorry indeed to see ultra-fundamentalist fliers handed out by self-described “spies” in what to me appeared the bad spirits mentioned in Galatians 2: 4,5: “But because of false believers secretly brought in, who slipped in to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might enslave us--we did not submit to them even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might always remain with you.” I would not dechristianize these people as they apparently were doing to CBE, JPUSA, and Cornerstone fest-goers overall. But they were indeed behaving as legalists intent upon taking our freedom in Christ and replacing it with bondage. For that reason, I all the more celebrate my sisters and brothers in Christ who so eloquently, gracefully and gently, stand for the truth of the gospel and the unity of believers reflected only a few verses later, in Galatians 3:28: “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”

I bless God for CBE’s positive role in my mind, my heart, my marriage, my church, my family, and my spiritual life. And I am as always glad that Jesus People USA Covenant Church (my community and fellowship for the past 29 years) co-sponsors the Gender Revolution Tent with CBE.

A final thought: It is very sad to me to hear CBE bashed as being goddess-worshippers, or uber-feminists. I honestly have never met a people less angry, yet gently prophetic, than the staff and leaders of Christians for Biblical Equality. These are Christian women and men on fire with a desire to share Jesus' gospel, eager not to "usurp power" but rather eager to serve whole-heartedly together the cause of Christ. These women challenge me, provoking me to good works of love. I think they make Jesus smile.

I apologize for the poor photography, and for the writing itself here which is rather hurried. But I hope the heart of Cornerstone Festival, Jesus People USA, and the CBE folk comes through. It's about Jesus.

Added July 25

CBE's Statement of Faith (see their website for more info)

We believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God, is reliable, and is the final authority for faith and practice.

We believe in the unity and trinity of God, eternally existing as three equal persons.

We believe in the full deity and full humanity of Jesus Christ.

We believe in the sinfulness of all persons. One result of sin is shattered relationships with God, others, and self.

We believe that eternal salvation and restored relationships are possible through faith in Jesus Christ who died for us, rose from the dead, and is coming again. This salvation is offered to all people.

We believe in the work of the Holy Spirit in salvation, and in the power and presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of believers.

We believe in the equality and essential dignity of men and women of all ethnicities, ages, and classes. We recognize that all persons are made in the image of God and are to reflect that image in the community of believers, in the home, and in society.

We believe that men and women are to diligently develop and use their God-given gifts for the good of the home, church, and society.

We believe in the family, celibate singleness, and faithful heterosexual marriage as God’s design.

We believe that, as mandated by the Bible, men and women are to oppose injustice.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Da Pix 2006: Cornerstone Festival and "Cornerstone yoU"

Look who showed up with two Cornerstone fest-goers (one visible to the right)!
Showed up in cardboard form, that is... what's that?
He ALWAYS shows up in -- stop that! Sadly, I think the sign was a bit tongue-in-cheek.

It was a great one this year. As the guy dealing with Cornerstone yoU, our seminars, speakers, and tents, it was pure pleasure to watch the interaction between speakers and fest-goers. While dashing about doing this and that, or taking in a seminar, or even participating as a speaker, my experiences were uniformly memorable.

Here's a few more pictures from an admittedly sub-par photographer.

These guys were the numbskulls waiting around in the Imaginarium
before the festival actually started. They ended up pretty controversial, though
I thought them quite well behaved. For those who want to build their own
paper mache skulls, Mike Hertenstein used a balloon to start things off,
pasting the glue-soaked paper to the balloon thereafter. Cool faces?
Ya gotta be a better artist than I am; Mike did a great job!

Steven Evans explores the meaning of Soren Kierkegaard's critique of the Church
in his day to our Church in our day. The audience interaction during
this "tent filled to capacity" seminar was absolutely amazing; you haven't
lived until you've watched a twenty-something punker interact with a philosophy prof
on the meaning of Kierkegaard's concept of dread.

Like I said about the Project 12 Tent... filled to capacity. These folks are listening
to Glenn Kaiser and Tom Cameron discuss music, the web, and related media outreach.

The "Gender Revolution" Tent may be controversial to some, and that's alright. We
had a spirited discussion over various issues related to women fully expressing their
gifts and callings, and the tent often filled. I spent much of my time here, as I often do.

A few of the many small signs posted on the back wall of the
Gender Revolution Tent; sobering reminders of women's fate since the Fall.

I'm going to post a seperate bit on Christians for Biblical Equality,
the Gender Revolution
Tent, and my experiences there.

Christine Sneeringer (pictured), John Smid, and others who've left gay lifestyles
testified to Christ's ongoing work in their lives at the Passages Tent. We're
blessed by their witness not only to others struggling with homosexuality, but
also to those of us heterosexuals struggling with sexual wholeness. As I told Christine,
"I think the so-called 'ex-gay' community can -- and does -- teach us so-called
'heterosexual Christians' a whole lot about sexual temptation, sin, and purity."

Cliff Kindy of Christian Peacemaker Teams talks about his experiences in being
a nonviolent witness and minister in Iraq. The "Court of Miracles" (social issues) Tent
remains one of the Cstone yoU's most vital elements.

Sorry I didn't get more photos, but I hope this gives a taste of what you saw,
or missed. Don't miss it next year!
I will next post the CBE/Gender Revolution reflections,
when I'm able to get to it that is.

Cornerstone Festival 2006 and the Fundamentalists

As a main director of "Cornerstone yoU" -- the seminar tents offered at our yearly Cornerstone Festival -- I had a wonderful time this year. Fantastic speakers, great Q and A, and much edification, exhortation, and encouragement. On that I'll post shortly. But first let me get a little of the sad, though unintentionally humorous at points, part of the program out of the way.

It seems two groups of folks this year felt the need to protest Cornerstone Festival.

The first, Pilgrims Covenant Church of Wisconsin, has no affiliation whatever with the Evangelical Covenant Church (a denomination which Cornerstone Festival's parent organization, Jesus People USA, belongs). Apparently, the PCC folk objected to us on various levels, including our dress, music, tattoos, and choice of movie topics. Or as they picturesquely put it in the flier they handed out, "Cornerstone Festival is represented as a Christian event, but in reality, it is a profane, worldly carnival which promotes false doctrines and dishonors God." There's an entire sermon against us on their website; if someone else has the inclination to listen to it they can let me know what it says. Briefly.

The PCC folks showed up on July 4 to protest outside the front gate of Cornerstone. We did attempt to take water to them (which was refused), and a few hardy souls also tried a dialogue with them, also to no avail. Apparently, the PCC is a "King James Only" church, as exhibited by articles on their website. KJV Only folks believe that the King Jimmy is the only authorative, accurate, translation, and that the rest of the English translations are pretty much Satanic. I'm an NRSV-only kinda guy myself, so I probably am doomed to hellfire.

One comment made on the PCC site, if true, was sin on whosever part did it. "During our six hours at the front gates of Cornerstone, we had things thrown at us and obscene gestures directed our way. We were called 'fagots' [sic] and 'fascists.'" I know for a fact that our staff took water to the PCC protestors, who were exposed in the hot sun and dust. They rejected the offer of water, unfortunately.

The use of hate language is flat-out wrong, as Jesus clearly indicates when he equates calling a man a fool with murdering that man. Man's anger doesn't work the righteousness of God (though there is a righteous anger I'm going to post some ruminations on soon; it will have little to nothing to do with this silliness, however). Finally, if someone called these folks a 'faggot,' he/she was committing a double sin of hatred, both against the PCC folk caught in the sin of legalism and against any individuals caught in homosexual sin. Dunno, but sometimes sin is never closer to us than when we feel the most self-righteous. I try to regularly remind my own arrogant self of this fact. Again, from my limited personal observations, all the people who attempted dialogue with the PCC were in fact very respectful and were trying hard to exhibit the patient love of Christ.

I'd go ahead and talk about more of what the PCC complained about regarding Cornerstone Festival, except that the same topics came up with a second group as well, one which unlike the PCC folks' forthright, upfront protest chose instead to play a sort of absurd spy game.

Ms. Dwayna Litz, whom I've written about before, continues repeating the same untruths about others' beliefs. But this time, the whole thing took on the air of bad comedy as she donned a wig for a disguise and brought a crew of others (wigged or not, I don't know) to "infiltrate" Cornerstone with fliers aimed at our Gender Revolution Tent, co-sponsored by Christians for Biblical Equality. I just can't explain how truly wierd this incognito thing was. Cornerstone is about the most wide-open, no-questions-barred, place there is for intellectual discussions on anything. If Dwayna had so desired, she could have engaged any of the folks at the CBE/Gender Revolution Tent, or at the Imaginarium Tent, with her doubts. As long as she exercised the spirit of Eph. 5:21, of course: "Defer one to another out of reverence for Christ." But there must be some sort of pychological pay-off for acting out this way, approaching fellow Christians not openly but rather deceptively.

This spying business inspires me to quote Galatians 2:4,5:

"But because of false believers secretly brought in, who slipped in to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might enslave us--we did not submit to them even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might always remain with you."

Paul is riffing there on the legalists who want to make circumcision necessary for new Christians, and his point is that if this were to occur, it basically negates salvation by faith. The parallels to the two situations -- Paul's and ours -- seem obvious. I'm not suggesting Dwaya and her friends are not believers -- that's God's business, not mine. In fact, I'll step out on faith and state I do think she believes, even if her practice of agape seems to me highly deficient at present. (So, too often, is mine!) But I do think, regardless of Dwayna's own understanding, that she and her friends came to steal away our freedom in Christ and attempt to replace it with legalism and literalism, the dead letter of the law. It makes me sad for Dwayna, truthfully. She attended a celebration of Christ's creativity, His redemptive power, and his love, and went home with nothing. It was as though she'd placed a lid on her heart and blinders over her eyes. So her heart remained untouched and her eyes saw nothing -- nothing, that is, except what her vision, distorted by her own misbeliefs and preconceptions, expected to see.

Particularly bothersome to her was our "Day of the Dead" celebration which took place in the Imaginarium Tent. I wasn't there myself during the actual festival, as the Gender Revolution and Project12 Tents demanded more of my time, but did get a few cool pics before the fest's official start. In a nutshell, I'd say that Mike Hertenstein and his fellow Imaginarium staffers were trying to discuss death, mortality, suffering, lives of the past Christians who mean so much to each of us yet living, and much, much more. The symbolic use of skulls, bones, and even a (gasp!) coffin came it for much critique from Dwayna, who apparently failed to grasp the symbolic significance behind any of this. She, for instance, thought we were actually praying to the dead. Nope.

For further riffs on the Day of the Dead, I'd direct you to Mike Hertenstein's write-up on the Imaginarium site, and also co-participant John Morehead's riff on his blog (linked to later on).

There must be tremendous pain involved behind the anger and desire to define for others what orthodoxy is. I'm not saying, by the way, that orthodoxy does not need some defining. But it is a task best done together with others rather than alone, and with a tremendous, humbled grasp of our universal failure to be "perfect" in either our beliefs or our practice. Taking a larger view, fundamentalism itself seems to be rooted in anger, but an anger which covers the tremendous anxieties and fears which only love perfected can deal with. "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love." 1 John 4:18 (NRSV).

All I can say or do is to keep doing and saying what I've done and said all along, relying on God's chastisement through the Word and other believers whom I can trust.

Cornerstone Festival, Cornerstone magazine, and Jesus People USA remain essentially rooted in the gospel story. Our mistakes have been many, and will likely number many more. But our allegiance to the gospel itself -- the "Good News" of Jesus Christ so painfully, beautifully rendered in Phillipians 2 as well as the gospels and even in our own lives -- remains. This allegiance has been questioned not only by Dwayna but by some of her respondents.

I think, again, that the real issue here is one of exclusion vs. inclusion. That is, as John Morehead (who spoke at the Imaginarium on these very issues) put it:

In our knee-jerk Reformation reaction against ritual and symbolism we are missing important aspects of expression, not to mention a lot of fun. In the process we end up missing out on participating in the fullest dimensions of the human experience, and we deny the full implications of the incarnation. The Word came in the flesh to live among us and to participate in culture, including its ritual and symbolism. Evangelical overemphasis on the rational and the textual ends up denying the fulness of the incarnation that also embraces the imagination.

As an experiment, imagine having someone looking at someone else through a thick piece of frosted and distorted glass. Then imagine your task is to explain to them what that person really looks like. Now imagine that you have to explain this to someone who has been looking through that glass all their lives, and who is very afraid that if they put down the glass, they will be lost in the dark forever. Your assurances that in fact they will finally be able to see things more clearly than they've ever seen is met with wild-eyed fear.

I'm not sure there's more to be said about all this at present. If some others -- including Dwayna and friends -- wish to dialogue, I promise to engage for at least a little while. But some sort of cyberwar will remind me too much of what's going on in the Middle East. Lots of chest-beating, lobbing of bombs, and destruction of innocent civilians... all to what end?!

An addendum as of July 19... if folks really want to get an idea of what goes on at that nefarious Imaginarium year in and year out, check out the archives pages, newly updated by Mr. Hertenstein. Various links to speakers presentations and/or books are also listed. And make sure to listen to the 1999 version of "Gopher Guts" recorded at the Imaginarium that year; I expect some theological dissections of both GGuts and "My Dog Rover," also included in the same clip.