The Journey

ipp-summer-1

I was taken back into the past
And all I saw was darkness and struggle
Violence, hatred, and bigotry

I yearned for an all-consuming remedy
A harmonic, unrealized, idealized system
That would turn the tides of history

So I turned where all turn when they lose hope
I found a Political Man
A man with the perfect system, policies, and ideologies

But as my allegiance grew
I began to realize that the policies I had once idealized
Were not so great after all

I saw the bombardments continue
I saw greed prevail
While humans were no more than a pawn in his game

I grew weary of the Political Man
And after a short time I met the Consumer Man

The Consumer Man had it all

I wanted to be the Consumer Man
I wanted to look quick, sleek, and advanced
I wanted the iPhone, the house, the car, the family

Surely it would make me more happy?

But by iPhone 25
The new gadgets began to seem futile

The more perfect cars I bought, the less perfect they seemed
The house had three stories, but rarely witnessed a happy morning
And as perfect as Facebook made my family seem
Deep wounds appeared beyond the screen

I ran into another man, a War Man
His guns, his patriotism, his dedication to military
Would never budge under any circumstance
Surely he would bring me ultimate security?

I watched him sing the praises of the machines of war
In awe we stood,
But I quickly realized
“Security” was just a word
A word to make me feel safe
A word I could use to justify murder

Somehow it became real to me
The more security we were given
The more violence became our reality

So I found an Intelligent Man
With an unrivaled logical, factual, practical coherence
That rendered his opponents voiceless
And persuaded me instantaneously

But no matter how correct he seemed
Something was missing
A body can do good work with a brain
But without a heart how will it function properly?

So I searched out the heart of a Religious Man
To get me back on track

He was a righteous man
A man of authority
Who knew all the right answers

But the questions I was asking
Deserved patience
They deserved the deep, long struggle of searching
With the reality that perhaps I may never know
And maybe that is okay

He knew who was in
He knew who was out

I don’t know where to begin
But I just want to shout

I abandoned the Religious Man
I was hurt

So I found the Spiritual Man
Who’s life was an expression of emotion
Who was on top of the world singing the praises

But when struggle was realized
He couldn’t escape life’s mazes

Being built on emotion can be a powerful thing
But I wonder how long it can last?

Why am I lost?
Why can I not bring harmony
To a world that doesn’t know the cost?

Am I stuck?
Am I enslaved to one man or the other?
Show me where hope is!

Out my door I went
Head down
Face wearing nothing but my frown

When out of the corner of my eye
I saw a stranger pass by
“Why do you frown,” he asked
“When all the world is shining around you?”

Suddenly, a vision fell upon me
Of Christ upon the cross
Of the man sabotaged by the Political Man
The Consumer Man
The War Man
The Intelligent Man
The Religious Man
And the Spiritual Man

Yet what I heard was not words of anger

The man who knew
That politicians could never save us
That consuming material goods
Would only create in us an unwillingness to love
That swords saving us from swords
Would only give rise to more swords
That mind over heart
As correct as it seems
Is not the way of heaven
That righteousness
Is the surest sign of the lost
And that deep roots are not reached by the frost

This man on the cross
Murdered by a collection of these thoughts
Decided to forgive us
We don’t know what we do

I guess I agree with you

 

The Journey

ipp-summer-1

I was taken back into the past
And all I saw was darkness and struggle
Violence, hatred, and bigotry

I yearned for an all-consuming remedy
A harmonic, unrealized, idealized system
That would turn the tides of history

So I turned where all turn when they lose hope
I found a Political Man
A man with the perfect system, policies, and ideologies

But as my allegiance grew
I began to realize that the policies I had once idealized
Were not so great after all

I saw the bombardments continue
I saw greed prevail
While humans were no more than a pawn in his game

I grew weary of the Political Man
And after a short time I met the Consumer Man

The Consumer Man had it all

I wanted to be the Consumer Man
I wanted to look quick, sleek, and advanced
I wanted the iPhone, the house, the car, the family

Surely it would make me more happy?

But by iPhone 25
The new gadgets began to seem futile

The more perfect cars I bought, the less perfect they seemed
The house had three stories, but rarely witnessed a happy morning
And as perfect as Facebook made my family seem
Deep wounds appeared beyond the screen

I ran into another man, a War Man
His guns, his patriotism, his dedication to military
Would never budge under any circumstance
Surely he would bring me ultimate security?

I watched him sing the praises of the machines of war
In awe we stood,
But I quickly realized
“Security” was just a word
A word to make me feel safe
A word I could use to justify murder

Somehow it became real to me
The more security we were given
The more violence became our reality

So I found an Intelligent Man
With an unrivaled logical, factual, practical coherence
That rendered his opponents voiceless
And persuaded me instantaneously

But no matter how correct he seemed
Something was missing
A body can do good work with a brain
But without a heart how will it function properly?

So I searched out the heart of a Religious Man
To get me back on track

He was a righteous man
A man of authority
Who knew all the right answers

But the questions I was asking
Deserved patience
They deserved the deep, long struggle of searching
With the reality that perhaps I may never know
And maybe that is okay

He knew who was in
He knew who was out

I don’t know where to begin
But I just want to shout

I abandoned the Religious Man
I was hurt

So I found the Spiritual Man
Who’s life was an expression of emotion
Who was on top of the world singing the praises

But when struggle was realized
He couldn’t escape life’s mazes

Being built on emotion can be a powerful thing
But I wonder how long it can last?

Why am I lost?
Why can I not bring harmony
To a world that doesn’t know the cost?

Am I stuck?
Am I enslaved to one man or the other?
Show me where hope is!

Out my door I went
Head down
Face wearing nothing but my frown

When out of the corner of my eye
I saw a stranger pass by
“Why do you frown,” he asked
“When all the world is shining around you?”

Suddenly, a vision fell upon me
Of Christ upon the cross
Of the man sabotaged by the Political Man
The Consumer Man
The War Man
The Intelligent Man
The Religious Man
And the Spiritual Man

Yet what I heard was not words of anger

The man who knew
That politicians could never save us
That consuming material goods
Would only create in us an unwillingness to love
That swords saving us from swords
Would only give rise to more swords
That mind over heart
As correct as it seems
Is not the way of heaven
That righteousness
Is the surest sign of the lost
And that deep roots are not reached by the frost

This man on the cross
Murdered by a collection of these thoughts
Decided to forgive us
We don’t know what we do

I guess I agree with you

 

Who is God?

Gregory of Nyssa (335-394), for example, describes the divine life as an eternal act of knowledge and love, in which the God who is infinite being is also an infinite act of consciousness, knowing himself as the infinitely good, and so is also an infinite love, at once desiring all and receiving all in himself.

-David Bentley Hart, The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, and Bliss

hero@2x

There are two ways that we as humans can “see” love. One is by receiving a gift or an act of love. Somebody gives a hug, words of encouragement or acknowledgement, a gift, perhaps even something the giver had created.

The other way love can be “seen” is by one not just presenting an act of love unto another, but by being the very embodiment of love. This cannot be done by one simple gesture or act. To be the embodiment of love means to actually form oneself into a complete dedication to another. To be the home, the energy source, the peace, the servant, the friend of another.

In his book, The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, and Bliss (if you are up for a challenging but really awesome read I would highly recommend it), David Bentley Hart (an Orthodox Christian philosophical theologian and cultural commentator) tries to clear up the question of who it is we are talking about when we talk about God. For him it is both for the progressively popular New Atheists like Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and so on, and also many Christians who don’t really have a full understanding of who God is. To Hart, most debates regarding the existence of God are pointless because neither side understands what god is actually being talked about.

Many of us disregard theology, philosophy, and history, seeing them as harmful or unworthy of our time in the modern, technologically advanced society we live in. We have little need for exploring the depths of the divine when we have churches that are powerful and emotionally charged, and a Bible that tells us everything we need to know. We don’t need to explore philosophy and its deep and often circular questions regarding our existence. We exist. So what? And in our advanced scientific age we have no need to listen to the voices of the past. We’re doing pretty good today, and we would have little to learn from those of the pre-tech societies.

But what this has really done is made us a very shallow bunch, so inclined toward the practical and simple that all our understanding is embodied in utilitarian ideas of how the world and us as humans should function. Which makes us overly materialistic and redefines success in ways I believe are not as beneficial as they might immediately seem. Which is why the question of God is one of many important questions that needs to be addressed.

What we forget is how we see God, how we see the Bible, how we see our past, how we answer the deep questions about human existence, actually has a huge impact on the way we act, think, what we value, and our morals. It really is quite important. And so it needs to be talked about. And with regard to the question of who God is, I believe David Bentley Hart gets at something truly profound. Something worth exploring for Christians and atheists alike.

What Hart finds troubling from groups like the New Atheists, but also more and more Christians is the view of God as a sort of demiurge in the mold of Ancient Greek mythology. Demiurge, meaning a sort of divine “world-maker.”

Personally, I have to some degree viewed God as a more advanced Ancient Greek demiurge. And I believe a lot of other Christians have also done this. In awe, we examine the astonishing aspects of the world we live in and ask ourselves how this could be anything but an act of God. It certainly could not be some random act of science. And so we declare it the design of God.

This brings us to the understanding of God as the Intelligent Designer of the world. But when we see God as a creator it opens up the idea that some of what God created, over time became not so great. Thus making that thing or person expendable or able to be grouped aside. We have an understanding of God as a being outside this earth, up in the heavens. Which for humans, though we would never say it, makes the earth a little less Godly.

What Hart suggests is that God is not some divine old man up in the clouds that created earth at a particular moment in time and occasionally interrupts the natural flow of earth with his divine love. According to Hart,

To speak of “God” properly, then is to speak of the one infinite source of all that is: eternal, omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, uncreated, uncaused, perfectly transcendent of all things. God so understood is not something posed over against the universe, in addition to it, nor is he the universe itself. He is not a “being,” at least not in the way a tree, a shoemaker, or a god is a being; he is not one more object in the inventory of things that are, or any sort of discrete object at all. Rather, all things that exist receive their being continuously from him, who is the infinite wellspring of all that is, in whom (to use the language of the Christian scriptures) all things live and move and have their being.

For some Christians, this understanding of God might strike as uncomfortable or unsettling, but as Hart explains this is not some “new-agey,” “treehugger” understanding of God but has always been the traditional understanding of God in the Church back to the original Church Fathers. However, with the rise of fundamentalism in 20th century this notion of God is being replaced by the “Intelligent Designer God” or the “demiurge God,” which has become harmful both for Christians and Atheists alike.

When we see God not as the imposer or creator of all things but the infinite source of being that gives all reality its life and meaning, it becomes challenging or perhaps impossible to praise the strongest military force in history as it commits “successful” bombardment of a foreign enemy, with or without all its “collateral damage.” It becomes difficult to see children ripped from their parents. It becomes difficult to see rivers polluted, mountaintops destroyed, and forests decimated in the name of progress and wealth.

God is the love source that equips life to each of us, regardless of the creed, group, or flag that is claimed. God is the wellspring of fresh water that provides us with life. This is what the first Americans understood so well. By “first Americans” I mean American Indians, not Pilgrims at Plymouth.

This is what the great mystics always understood, and it is what all of the great religions have always understood as God.

For Christians it is this reality of God we must learn to regather, for those that have lost it.

 

Who is God?

Gregory of Nyssa (335-394), for example, describes the divine life as an eternal act of knowledge and love, in which the God who is infinite being is also an infinite act of consciousness, knowing himself as the infinitely good, and so is also an infinite love, at once desiring all and receiving all in himself.

-David Bentley Hart, The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, and Bliss

hero@2x

There are two ways that we as humans can “see” love. One is by receiving a gift or an act of love. Somebody gives a hug, words of encouragement or acknowledgement, a gift, perhaps even something the giver had created.

The other way love can be “seen” is by one not just presenting an act of love unto another, but by being the very embodiment of love. This cannot be done by one simple gesture or act. To be the embodiment of love means to actually form oneself into a complete dedication to another. To be the home, the energy source, the peace, the servant, the friend of another.

In his book, The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, and Bliss (if you are up for a challenging but really awesome read I would highly recommend it), David Bentley Hart (an Orthodox Christian philosophical theologian and cultural commentator) tries to clear up the question of who it is we are talking about when we talk about God. For him it is both for the progressively popular New Atheists like Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and so on, and also many Christians who don’t really have a full understanding of who God is. To Hart, most debates regarding the existence of God are pointless because neither side understands what god is actually being talked about.

Many of us disregard theology, philosophy, and history, seeing them as harmful or unworthy of our time in the modern, technologically advanced society we live in. We have little need for exploring the depths of the divine when we have churches that are powerful and emotionally charged, and a Bible that tells us everything we need to know. We don’t need to explore philosophy and its deep and often circular questions regarding our existence. We exist. So what? And in our advanced scientific age we have no need to listen to the voices of the past. We’re doing pretty good today, and we would have little to learn from those of the pre-tech societies.

But what this has really done is made us a very shallow bunch, so inclined toward the practical and simple that all our understanding is embodied in utilitarian ideas of how the world and us as humans should function. Which makes us overly materialistic and redefines success in ways I believe are not as beneficial as they might immediately seem. Which is why the question of God is one of many important questions that needs to be addressed.

What we forget is how we see God, how we see the Bible, how we see our past, how we answer the deep questions about human existence, actually has a huge impact on the way we act, think, what we value, and our morals. It really is quite important. And so it needs to be talked about. And with regard to the question of who God is, I believe David Bentley Hart gets at something truly profound. Something worth exploring for Christians and atheists alike.

What Hart finds troubling from groups like the New Atheists, but also more and more Christians is the view of God as a sort of demiurge in the mold of Ancient Greek mythology. Demiurge, meaning a sort of divine “world-maker.”

Personally, I have to some degree viewed God as a more advanced Ancient Greek demiurge. And I believe a lot of other Christians have also done this. In awe, we examine the astonishing aspects of the world we live in and ask ourselves how this could be anything but an act of God. It certainly could not be some random act of science. And so we declare it the design of God.

This brings us to the understanding of God as the Intelligent Designer of the world. But when we see God as a creator it opens up the idea that some of what God created, over time became not so great. Thus making that thing or person expendable or able to be grouped aside. We have an understanding of God as a being outside this earth, up in the heavens. Which for humans, though we would never say it, makes the earth a little less Godly.

What Hart suggests is that God is not some divine old man up in the clouds that created earth at a particular moment in time and occasionally interrupts the natural flow of earth with his divine love. According to Hart,

To speak of “God” properly, then is to speak of the one infinite source of all that is: eternal, omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, uncreated, uncaused, perfectly transcendent of all things. God so understood is not something posed over against the universe, in addition to it, nor is he the universe itself. He is not a “being,” at least not in the way a tree, a shoemaker, or a god is a being; he is not one more object in the inventory of things that are, or any sort of discrete object at all. Rather, all things that exist receive their being continuously from him, who is the infinite wellspring of all that is, in whom (to use the language of the Christian scriptures) all things live and move and have their being.

For some Christians, this understanding of God might strike as uncomfortable or unsettling, but as Hart explains this is not some “new-agey,” “treehugger” understanding of God but has always been the traditional understanding of God in the Church back to the original Church Fathers. However, with the rise of fundamentalism in 20th century this notion of God is being replaced by the “Intelligent Designer God” or the “demiurge God,” which has become harmful both for Christians and Atheists alike.

When we see God not as the imposer or creator of all things but the infinite source of being that gives all reality its life and meaning, it becomes challenging or perhaps impossible to praise the strongest military force in history as it commits “successful” bombardment of a foreign enemy, with or without all its “collateral damage.” It becomes difficult to see children ripped from their parents. It becomes difficult to see rivers polluted, mountaintops destroyed, and forests decimated in the name of progress and wealth.

God is the love source that equips life to each of us, regardless of the creed, group, or flag that is claimed. God is the wellspring of fresh water that provides us with life. This is what the first Americans understood so well. By “first Americans” I mean American Indians, not Pilgrims at Plymouth.

This is what the great mystics always understood, and it is what all of the great religions have always understood as God.

For Christians it is this reality of God we must learn to regather, for those that have lost it.

 

What Do You Need?

We’ve acknowledged that the problems are big, now what is the big solution? When you ask the question, “what is the big answer,” then you are implying that we can impose the answer. But that is the problem we are in to start with. We’ve tried to impose the answers. The answers will come not from walking up to your farm and saying, “this is what I want, this is what I expect from you,” you get up and you say, “what is it you need?” And you commit yourself to say, “alright I’m not going to do any extensive damage here until I know what it is you are asking of me.”

-Wendell Berry

field-858650_1280-940x300

“What do you need?”
Is a question that often eludes us
Yet, it is all around us
But we cannot see it
We are too busy
We are too important
We are too righteous

In a world full of problems
Asking questions is far too difficult a task
It requires too much patience
We are too busy
We are too important
We are too righteous
For “what do you need?”

Why should one ask such a question
When they know for a fact the answer
We don’t need to ask questions when
We are too busy
We are too important
We are too righteous
For “what do you need?”

We are creative, innovative
At times, perhaps too much so
That we have neglected the ever-important question
“What do you need?”
In favor of fixing the problem ourselves
Without regard for the crier’s plead
We are too busy
We are too important
We are too righteous
For “what do you need?”

Well then, where in the world is “what do you need?”
Isn’t it everywhere?
In all that is sacred
In all that has been created
From the voices of those behind bars
Those on the street corners
Those who are sick
To the voiceless trees in the woodlands
The swarms of fish in the seas
The beautiful wings of the air

Surely we must ask the sacred what they need
We think we are too busy
We think we are too important
We think we are too righteous
For “what do you need?”
Yet we forget we are but dust
And to dust we shall return

So next time you are creative
Next time you want to do the fixing
Next time you want a solution
Ask the sacred what it needs
For it might be far different than you perceive

And remember, next time you think you are
Too busy
Too important
Too righteous
Next time you see yourself as king
I’ll let you in on a little secret
Dust ain’t too busy for anything

What Do You Need?

We’ve acknowledged that the problems are big, now what is the big solution? When you ask the question, “what is the big answer,” then you are implying that we can impose the answer. But that is the problem we are in to start with. We’ve tried to impose the answers. The answers will come not from walking up to your farm and saying, “this is what I want, this is what I expect from you,” you get up and you say, “what is it you need?” And you commit yourself to say, “alright I’m not going to do any extensive damage here until I know what it is you are asking of me.”

-Wendell Berry

field-858650_1280-940x300

“What do you need?”
Is a question that often eludes us
Yet, it is all around us
But we cannot see it
We are too busy
We are too important
We are too righteous

In a world full of problems
Asking questions is far too difficult a task
It requires too much patience
We are too busy
We are too important
We are too righteous
For “what do you need?”

Why should one ask such a question
When they know for a fact the answer
We don’t need to ask questions when
We are too busy
We are too important
We are too righteous
For “what do you need?”

We are creative, innovative
At times, perhaps too much so
That we have neglected the ever-important question
“What do you need?”
In favor of fixing the problem ourselves
Without regard for the crier’s plead
We are too busy
We are too important
We are too righteous
For “what do you need?”

Well then, where in the world is “what do you need?”
Isn’t it everywhere?
In all that is sacred
In all that has been created
From the voices of those behind bars
Those on the street corners
Those who are sick
To the voiceless trees in the woodlands
The swarms of fish in the seas
The beautiful wings of the air

Surely we must ask the sacred what they need
We think we are too busy
We think we are too important
We think we are too righteous
For “what do you need?”
Yet we forget we are but dust
And to dust we shall return

So next time you are creative
Next time you want to do the fixing
Next time you want a solution
Ask the sacred what it needs
For it might be far different than you perceive

And remember, next time you think you are
Too busy
Too important
Too righteous
Next time you see yourself as king
I’ll let you in on a little secret
Dust ain’t too busy for anything

Spiritual, Not Religious

By listening to the echoes of an older Christianity, we gain a better sense of our own place in the long history of the church. We are not chained to the past, we are free to innovate. We must constantly translate Christianity into contemporary culture, but we do so by maintaining a conversation with our mothers and fathers, with our older sisters and brothers. Their echoes are important, their voices need to be respected. Christianity doesn’t belong exclusively to the living, but is the shared faith of all who have confessed Christ. This is why tradition matters. G.K. Chesterton called it “the democracy of the dead.”

-Brian Zahnd

eucharist-800x500

Most young Christians today, scarred by the long, questionable history of Christianity, and embarrassed by modern evangelicalism and fundamentalism have begun to either deny Christianity itself, or disregard the religious and traditional aspects of it in favor of it’s state of being. Thus rendering themselves “spiritual, but not religious.”

At first glance, this is an attractive idea. The religious aspects of Christianity are rather boring and unattractive to the modern individual. We really don’t want liturgies or traditional prayer. We don’t want songs and chants from the Medieval Age. The sacraments are nothing really important. Many protestants and evangelicals have realized this. In these circles, music is fun. Music rocks us and excites us. We also really only have a need for communion once a month, and the liturgies and creeds are merely nonexistent. And the saints, well they hold virtually no value.

So what are these churches left with? Well, pretty much the Bible and a pastor. So from these two things come all authority. This is what constitutes the majority of American Christianity. The Bible and a pastor. Having a strong emphasis on only these two things leads to vastly over-emphasizing the importance of them.

And so, protestants and evangelicals construct their faith from the Bible and their pastors. But we seem to forget that Christianity has a long historical tradition that consists of so much more.

Unfortunately this can lead to troubling situations for those coming out of these churches. Not the parents and grandparents, but the youth. The generation that leaves the house and their former church to become exposed to the secular world in which a vast range of beliefs exists.

So, when a child raised in a family that has constructed their Christianity merely from the Bible and a pastor, and goes on to graduate high school and enter into college, they have but one stronghold to their faith: Biblical fundamentalism. And in college, when they take a history course and hear about some of the terrible things that have been done in the name of Christianity, or take a Bible course and hear about the drastic contradictions within the Bible, or a biology course and realize the world is actually 4.5 billion years old rather than 6,000, they become embarrassed of what they have always believed. All of the sudden their entire Christian faith structure is falling apart.

To any thoughtful person, these are tough things to deal with. For some it can become so embarrassing that they choose to deny their entire belief in Christianity. For others, unwilling to completely give it up, they resort to a new spiritual kind of Christianity. One that is formed through their own thought and their own personal life. This is fun and intriguing. It is freeing in the sense that any of the problems of religious Christianity can simply be washed away in a denial of the religious, and an embracing of the spiritual.

The spiritual doesn’t have problems. It has no history. It is your perception of reality. It is how you feel in the moment. How you are moved. It doesn’t have dogmas, liturgies, chants, sacraments, rules, fundamentalism, or any of the other boring and frustrating things about Christianity. It simply embraces the moment and offers the occasional and very personal prayer. Religious Christianity however is not suitable enough to amuse ourselves in the age of personal satisfaction, entertainment, and consumerism.

First, I want to say to those who have gone down this rode, I understand. It is hard to not be bitter about a significant chunk of Christian history. It is hard to feel like at times you have been fed a lie. I would like to offer a few words of encouragement to help you through this process and maybe allow you to rethink abandoning Christianity or religious Christianity.

Before we address this I would like to examine the Christian religion and what exactly makes it up. It is important to always understand that at the center of Christianity is Christ. Not the Bible, not prayer, not your pastor. Christ. And this really is a great thing. It is nothing to be ashamed of. Virtually everyone admires Christ. As Brian Zahnd says,

One of the most astounding things about Jesus is that virtually no one is a critic of Jesus. Critics of the church yes, indeed. Critics of Christianity as it has developed, absolutely. But Jesus himself remains deeply admired. I don’t really know of any serious critics of Jesus. As they begin to criticize Jesus they begin to sound silly even in their own minds. Nietzsche tried. Nietzsche would try to rail against Christ and then he would change his mind and think he was the greatest man that ever lived and he just kind of bounced back and forth. He could never truly convince himself that he ought to be attacking Jesus.

No one can truly accept the fact that Jesus was anything less than a great man. So the idea that Jesus is at the center of our faith is a pretty great thing. Not just for us individually, but for all of Christianity.

Now, with our understanding that Christ is at the center of Christianity, anything that is truly Christian should in fact look “Christ-like.” Just because horrible acts have been committed and are still being committed in the name of “Christianity” doesn’t make those acts “Christian.” In some cases, far from it.

Here’s what we Christians need to remember. Before the rule of Roman Emperor Constantine and the converting of Rome into a Christian Empire in the 4th Century, Christianity was a radical pacifist religion of people oppressed by the powers of empire. And thus, it was not only a religion of the oppressed, but for the oppressed.

But things changed with the reign of Constantine. Now Christianity transitioned from the religion of oppressed and radical pacifists to the very oppressive empire that it had previously been oppressed by. It became the oppressors. And in this process, it lost sight of the central figure of Christianity. (This whole idea is brilliantly portrayed in Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov.) Since this moment, Christian Empires have engaged in horrific crimes against humanity in the name of Christ and “Manifest Destiny,” while completely disregarding Christ’s radical teaching.

So if we are to understand what is Christian, well, it is Christ. And be careful when someone claims to be doing something in the name of Christ. All too often they fool us, and are really doing something in the name of “empire,” or “consumerism,” or “republicanism,” or “fundamentalism.” It is surprising how we Christians fool not only others, but also ourselves. In America, the majority of Christians have convinced themselves that Jesus is republican. And without further ado, are now capable of sitting in a church pew on Sunday and going out the next day to cast a vote for a man who brags about “grabbing women by the pussy,” lies without constraint, has had multiple affairs with porn stars, loves to flex America’s military might, constantly demonizes groups and individuals, and is the physical embodiment of American wealth and power. It takes a complete reformulation of the Christian religion to convince oneself that this decision is in any way “Christ-like.” Yet, this is where Christianity stands in America.

Keep in mind, this is not saying that those who engage in particular acts like the one above or other acts throughout history are not Christian. It is simply saying that the acts themselves are not Christian, and they are extremely harmful to the Christian body as a whole. But as we all know the great thing about Christianity is you don’t have to be very good at it. If we did, we might all be doomed.

While Christianity has had its moments of completely losing sight of it’s central character, Christ, it also has had its times where it has engineered some moments of the most supreme beauty. Moments like Saint Francis fighting for an end to the crusades. Or the Catholic liberation movement in Latin America. Or Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin starting the Catholic Worker movement. Or Dietrich Bonhoeffer fighting for the Jewish people and against the Nazi regime. Or Martin Luther King Jr., fighting for an end to racism, militarism, and poverty. This past Christmas I saw a video of a group of Christians, led by Shane Claiborne, protesting for DACA members by standing outside Speaker Paul Ryan’s office holding hands and singing “Silent Night.” The video ended by showing them still singing “Silent Night” as they were handcuffed and sent to prison.

What I’m saying is that yes, Christians have engaged in embarrassing acts. But these acts were not truly Christian acts. And when we examine Christianity in light of its true tradition, we see the profound beauty of it.

One of the major aspects of being a part of this religion is not only engaging with it in the present world, but also in its rich historical tradition. This is why when we take communion and eat the body and drink the blood of Christ so that we can embody the love and forgiveness of Christ, we are not just doing so as a single church but as an ancient historical tradition in which Christians have collectively engaged in for 21 centuries, all with the same goal in mind. To become as a people the living embodiment of our redeemer.

The same goes for all the sacraments. The same goes for the Scriptures, the prayers, the psalms, the creeds, the liturgies, and the saints. These are not just mindless practices that we engage in occasionally because we call ourselves “Christians.” They are part of the rich historical tradition that shapes us and connects us to all those throughout history who have confessed Christ as King, back to the very man himself.

This is what it means to be a religious Christian. For some reason, modern versions have turned Christianity into solely an individual religion about personal salvation, personal sin, and prayer for God to do what we want, rather than prayer as formation. But Christianity is so far from that. We are a body of believers, and have been so for 21 centuries. 2,000 years. And if you count our Jewish roots, which you should, probably something more like almost 4,000 years.

If we choose to deny Christianity because of cowardly imposters of the religion we will allow the slanderers, the hypocrites – the Pharisees, if you will – to absolve us of the most beautiful and gracious message of Christ.

So keep your spiritual, cause you need it. But don’t loose your religious. I truly believe it will benefit you if you allow it to. And perhaps more importantly, may be the saving grace for the Christian church’s survival.

 

Spiritual, Not Religious

By listening to the echoes of an older Christianity, we gain a better sense of our own place in the long history of the church. We are not chained to the past, we are free to innovate. We must constantly translate Christianity into contemporary culture, but we do so by maintaining a conversation with our mothers and fathers, with our older sisters and brothers. Their echoes are important, their voices need to be respected. Christianity doesn’t belong exclusively to the living, but is the shared faith of all who have confessed Christ. This is why tradition matters. G.K. Chesterton called it “the democracy of the dead.”

-Brian Zahnd

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Most young Christians today, scarred by the long, questionable history of Christianity, and embarrassed by modern evangelicalism and fundamentalism have begun to either deny Christianity itself, or disregard the religious and traditional aspects of it in favor of it’s state of being. Thus rendering themselves “spiritual, but not religious.”

At first glance, this is an attractive idea. The religious aspects of Christianity are rather boring and unattractive to the modern individual. We really don’t want liturgies or traditional prayer. We don’t want songs and chants from the Medieval Age. The sacraments are nothing really important. Many protestants and evangelicals have realized this. In these circles, music is fun. Music rocks us and excites us. We also really only have a need for communion once a month, and the liturgies and creeds are merely nonexistent. And the saints, well they hold virtually no value.

So what are these churches left with? Well, pretty much the Bible and a pastor. So from these two things come all authority. This is what constitutes the majority of American Christianity. The Bible and a pastor. Having a strong emphasis on only these two things leads to vastly over-emphasizing the importance of them.

And so, protestants and evangelicals construct their faith from the Bible and their pastors. But we seem to forget that Christianity has a long historical tradition that consists of so much more.

Unfortunately this can lead to troubling situations for those coming out of these churches. Not the parents and grandparents, but the youth. The generation that leaves the house and their former church to become exposed to the secular world in which a vast range of beliefs exists.

So, when a child raised in a family that has constructed their Christianity merely from the Bible and a pastor, and goes on to graduate high school and enter into college, they have but one stronghold to their faith: Biblical fundamentalism. And in college, when they take a history course and hear about some of the terrible things that have been done in the name of Christianity, or take a Bible course and hear about the drastic contradictions within the Bible, or a biology course and realize the world is actually 4.5 billion years old rather than 6,000, they become embarrassed of what they have always believed. All of the sudden their entire Christian faith structure is falling apart.

To any thoughtful person, these are tough things to deal with. For some it can become so embarrassing that they choose to deny their entire belief in Christianity. For others, unwilling to completely give it up, they resort to a new spiritual kind of Christianity. One that is formed through their own thought and their own personal life. This is fun and intriguing. It is freeing in the sense that any of the problems of religious Christianity can simply be washed away in a denial of the religious, and an embracing of the spiritual.

The spiritual doesn’t have problems. It has no history. It is your perception of reality. It is how you feel in the moment. How you are moved. It doesn’t have dogmas, liturgies, chants, sacraments, rules, fundamentalism, or any of the other boring and frustrating things about Christianity. It simply embraces the moment and offers the occasional and very personal prayer. Religious Christianity however is not suitable enough to amuse ourselves in the age of personal satisfaction, entertainment, and consumerism.

First, I want to say to those who have gone down this rode, I understand. It is hard to not be bitter about a significant chunk of Christian history. It is hard to feel like at times you have been fed a lie. I would like to offer a few words of encouragement to help you through this process and maybe allow you to rethink abandoning Christianity or religious Christianity.

Before we address this I would like to examine the Christian religion and what exactly makes it up. It is important to always understand that at the center of Christianity is Christ. Not the Bible, not prayer, not your pastor. Christ. And this really is a great thing. It is nothing to be ashamed of. Virtually everyone admires Christ. As Brian Zahnd says,

One of the most astounding things about Jesus is that virtually no one is a critic of Jesus. Critics of the church yes, indeed. Critics of Christianity as it has developed, absolutely. But Jesus himself remains deeply admired. I don’t really know of any serious critics of Jesus. As they begin to criticize Jesus they begin to sound silly even in their own minds. Nietzsche tried. Nietzsche would try to rail against Christ and then he would change his mind and think he was the greatest man that ever lived and he just kind of bounced back and forth. He could never truly convince himself that he ought to be attacking Jesus.

No one can truly accept the fact that Jesus was anything less than a great man. So the idea that Jesus is at the center of our faith is a pretty great thing. Not just for us individually, but for all of Christianity.

Now, with our understanding that Christ is at the center of Christianity, anything that is truly Christian should in fact look “Christ-like.” Just because horrible acts have been committed and are still being committed in the name of “Christianity” doesn’t make those acts “Christian.” In some cases, far from it.

Here’s what we Christians need to remember. Before the rule of Roman Emperor Constantine and the converting of Rome into a Christian Empire in the 4th Century, Christianity was a radical pacifist religion of people oppressed by the powers of empire. And thus, it was not only a religion of the oppressed, but for the oppressed.

But things changed with the reign of Constantine. Now Christianity transitioned from the religion of oppressed and radical pacifists to the very oppressive empire that it had previously been oppressed by. It became the oppressors. And in this process, it lost sight of the central figure of Christianity. (This whole idea is brilliantly portrayed in Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov.) Since this moment, Christian Empires have engaged in horrific crimes against humanity in the name of Christ and “Manifest Destiny,” while completely disregarding Christ’s radical teaching.

So if we are to understand what is Christian, well, it is Christ. And be careful when someone claims to be doing something in the name of Christ. All too often they fool us, and are really doing something in the name of “empire,” or “consumerism,” or “republicanism,” or “fundamentalism.” It is surprising how we Christians fool not only others, but also ourselves. In America, the majority of Christians have convinced themselves that Jesus is republican. And without further ado, are now capable of sitting in a church pew on Sunday and going out the next day to cast a vote for a man who brags about “grabbing women by the pussy,” lies without constraint, has had multiple affairs with porn stars, loves to flex America’s military might, constantly demonizes groups and individuals, and is the physical embodiment of American wealth and power. It takes a complete reformulation of the Christian religion to convince oneself that this decision is in any way “Christ-like.” Yet, this is where Christianity stands in America.

Keep in mind, this is not saying that those who engage in particular acts like the one above or other acts throughout history are not Christian. It is simply saying that the acts themselves are not Christian, and they are extremely harmful to the Christian body as a whole. But as we all know the great thing about Christianity is you don’t have to be very good at it. If we did, we might all be doomed.

While Christianity has had its moments of completely losing sight of it’s central character, Christ, it also has had its times where it has engineered some moments of the most supreme beauty. Moments like Saint Francis fighting for an end to the crusades. Or the Catholic liberation movement in Latin America. Or Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin starting the Catholic Worker movement. Or Dietrich Bonhoeffer fighting for the Jewish people and against the Nazi regime. Or Martin Luther King Jr., fighting for an end to racism, militarism, and poverty. This past Christmas I saw a video of a group of Christians, led by Shane Claiborne, protesting for DACA members by standing outside Speaker Paul Ryan’s office holding hands and singing “Silent Night.” The video ended by showing them still singing “Silent Night” as they were handcuffed and sent to prison.

What I’m saying is that yes, Christians have engaged in embarrassing acts. But these acts were not truly Christian acts. And when we examine Christianity in light of its true tradition, we see the profound beauty of it.

One of the major aspects of being a part of this religion is not only engaging with it in the present world, but also in its rich historical tradition. This is why when we take communion and eat the body and drink the blood of Christ so that we can embody the love and forgiveness of Christ, we are not just doing so as a single church but as an ancient historical tradition in which Christians have collectively engaged in for 21 centuries, all with the same goal in mind. To become as a people the living embodiment of our redeemer.

The same goes for all the sacraments. The same goes for the Scriptures, the prayers, the psalms, the creeds, the liturgies, and the saints. These are not just mindless practices that we engage in occasionally because we call ourselves “Christians.” They are part of the rich historical tradition that shapes us and connects us to all those throughout history who have confessed Christ as King, back to the very man himself.

This is what it means to be a religious Christian. For some reason, modern versions have turned Christianity into solely an individual religion about personal salvation, personal sin, and prayer for God to do what we want, rather than prayer as formation. But Christianity is so far from that. We are a body of believers, and have been so for 21 centuries. 2,000 years. And if you count our Jewish roots, which you should, probably something more like almost 4,000 years.

If we choose to deny Christianity because of cowardly imposters of the religion we will allow the slanderers, the hypocrites – the Pharisees, if you will – to absolve us of the most beautiful and gracious message of Christ.

So keep your spiritual, cause you need it. But don’t loose your religious. I truly believe it will benefit you if you allow it to. And perhaps more importantly, may be the saving grace for the Christian church’s survival.

 

Influences

This is a list of influences. I call them influences and not heroes because they all have issues. I don’t want to be any of these people. I do not completely agree with everything each of these people believe. But that’s okay. Because we don’t have to agree with everything and everyone in order to find the value in them. But for me each of these people, though some are very different from one another, speak a unique and prophetic truth that has influenced me and created a desire to spread these truths to others. I believe our world today desperately needs to hear the voices of these people.

Here is my list of the ten people (in no particular order) that have impacted me the most in my life, and a brief description as to why:

Brian Zahnd – Pastor of Word of Life Church in St. Joseph, Missouri. Has written several books and is a prophetic witness against empire, militarism, and a violent portrait of God. He offers a traditional take on Christianity while uniquely applying it to the world today. Listen to his sermons, check out his blogs, or read his books. They are transformative and offer a unique take on what it means to be a Christian in America.

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Seen in the light of the Easter dawn, the cross is revealed to be the lost Tree of Life. In the middle of a world dominated by death, the Tree of Life is rediscovered in the form of a Roman cross. The cross is the act of radical forgiveness that gives sin, violence, and retribution a place to die in the body of Jesus. The world that was born when Adam and Eve in their shame began to blame, the world where violent Cain killed innocent Abel, the world of pride and power that tramples the meek and weak—at the cross that world sinned its sins into Jesus Christ. And what happens? Jesus forgives. Why? Because God is like that. In the defining moment of the cross Jesus reveals what God is really like. God is love—co-suffering, all-forgiving, sin-absorbing, never-ending love. God is not like Caiaphas sacrificing a scapegoat. God is not like Pilate enacting justice by violence. God is like Jesus, absorbing and forgiving sin.


Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906 – 1945) – Lutheran pastor in Germany in the 1930’s. Founder of the Confessing Church, which was a powerful resistance against the Nazi regime. Was caught and executed by hanging in 1945, just before the collapse of Nazi Germany. His book Discipleship is a radical call to embody the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount and to live not with the Cheap Grace of lukewarm Christianity but with the Costly Grace of true transformative Christianity.

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In a word, live together in the forgiveness of your sins, for without it no human fellowship, least of all a marriage, can survive. Don’t insist on your rights, don’t blame each other, don’t judge or condemn each other, don’t find fault with each other, but accept each other as you are, and forgive each other every day from the bottom of your hearts…


Dorothy Day (1897 – 1980) – Dorothy Day experienced a troubled young adulthood which led to several failed relationships. She also became involved in the socialist, anarchist, and feminist movements. After an abortion and two failed suicide attempts, Dorothy Day converted to Catholicism. With it she found a new perspective on what it means to be a Christian in the secular world. While she discovered a new lifestyle she didn’t lose her vigor. She started the Catholic Worker movement, and for the rest of her life, she lived in abject poverty, serving not only the poor, but what she called “the undeserving poor.” Day was arrested and beaten numerous times for protesting wars, nuclear weapons, poverty, and hunger, and was a fierce advocate of nonviolence. She believed the world would be saved by beauty. And if anyone in all of American history truly embodied the beautiful, it was Dorothy Day.

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It is easier to have faith that God will support each House of Hospitality and Farming Commune and supply our needs in the way of food and money to pay bills, than it is to keep a strong, hearty, living faith in each individual around us – to see Christ in him.


Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821 – 1881) – Russia in the mid-19th century was undergoing an incredibly rapid change from basically a medieval, Orthodox Christian society to a people of socialism and atheism. Fyodor Dostoevsky was no exception to this reality. That is, until his band of revolutionary intellectuals were caught, drug from their beds in the middle of the night and sentenced to execution by firing squad. Just seconds before the shots fired, Dostoevsky’s death sentence was commuted to four years of harsh labor in Siberia. Given nothing but the Gospel, Dostoevsky began to fall in love with the man of Christ. He would go on to write five of some of the greatest novels ever. He became a champion of Russian conservatives and perhaps the first and greatest existential philosopher in history. His literary works are truly transformative.

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Love all God’s creation, both the whole and every grain of sand. Love every leaf, every ray of light. Love the animals, love the plants, love each separate thing. If you love each thing you will perceive the mystery of God in all; and once you perceive this, you will then grow every day to a fuller understanding of it: until you come at last to love the whole world with a love that will then be all-embracing and universal.


Jesus (c. 4 B.C. – c. 30/33 A.D.) – I pondered putting Jesus on here because, well, he is God. But I think we have a tendency to view Jesus chiefly as a divine figure. We confess the creeds and never would actually say that is all he was, but I don’t think we often realize what it means that Jesus was fully human. He was limited in knowledge. He didn’t understand the complex inner workings of the way the world functioned. Jesus would get sick, tired, hungry, and thirsty. Even in his last moments suffering on the cross he didn’t really understand why everything was happening the way it was. And he longed for it to end. He was a poor, peasant carpenter and Jewish rabbi that had a unique and keen understanding of scripture, particularly the prophets, and he used that to call everyone to denounce the wicked ways of the flesh and shift their vision towards the Kingdom of God. Jesus brought a gospel of hope to the suffering and a radical call of devotion to the poor and needy for those who are thriving. Jesus’ defining moment suffering on the cross represents the true beauty of Christianity: love expressed in forgiveness. He reveals to us that there will be a constant battle between humble peacemaking and love in opposition to the proud, violent empire. But on the third day, Christ defeats the death that was scorn upon him by the principalities and powers. The story reveals to us that only by embodying the true message of Christ can we defeat death.

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What do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my message in these adulterous and sinful days, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when he returns in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.


J.R.R. Tolkien (1892 – 1973) – I became fascinated with J.R.R. Tolkien first from his fantastic book Lord of the Rings and later became interested in how his beliefs and life experiences were reflected in his books. Tolkien was a devout Catholic and is the man that C.S. Lewis credited for his conversion to Christianity. Tolkien fought in World War I, and his experiences there gave him a strong hatred for war. Tolkien was a simple man who always rode a bike, refusing to drive a car, and had a strong distaste for industrialism, futurism, and technological advancement. He held to the idea that technological advancements are paradoxical in that they seem like they will solve all our problems, but they always end up becoming more destructive. He was very fond of nature and saw happiness in the simple things of this world. In The Lord of the Rings, Treebeard explains to the hobbits that no one cares for the woods anymore, as they have minds that are nothing but metal and wheels. Is that us?

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Many that live deserve death. Some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be so quick to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.


Mahatma Gandhi (1869 – 1948) – Early on in his life Gandhi was a lawyer, but eventually he decided to give himself up in service of the Indian people, who had been under British rule since the 1700’s. He was tremendously influenced by Leo Tolstoy’s “The Kingdom of God is Within You” and believed that freedom would never be achieved through violence. When the Indian people resorted to violence in protests, Gandhi would begin to fast, refusing to stop until the violence was ended. He nearly died of starvation a couple times, but it always worked. While he was Hindu, he saw the beauties of other religions and envisioned an India of religious plurality. He was assassinated by a right-wing advocate of Hindu Nationalism in 1948.

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Jesus is ideal and wonderful – but you Christians, you are not like him.


Martin Luther King Jr. (1929 – 1968) – We all know Martin Luther King Jr.’s efforts in the Civil Rights Campaign. And we all know his dream. But King was so much more than a Civil Rights leader and powerful speaker. Influenced heavily by Leo Tolstoy and even more so Mahatma Gandhi, King preached a message of change through nonviolence to the suffering African Americans. He opposed what he understood as the three evils of society: racism, poverty, and war. He was assassinated in Memphis after supporting workers on strike for better wages and better treatment for black employees of the sanitary public works. King frequently fought against the “pointless war” in Vietnam and desired a world where all the effort man put into military and technology would go towards social programs to help people who are struggling.

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The first question the priest and the Levite asked was: ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’ But… the good Samaritan reversed the question: ‘If I do not stop for this man, what will happen to him?’


Richard Rohr – Richard Rohr is a Franciscan Friar who has written several books and is the founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He focuses heavily on the meaning of prayer as formation and the transformation of humans from the “false self” to the “true self,” or, from “who you think you are” to “who you are in God.” He also has done significant work on male spirituality.

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Truth is not always about pragmatic problem solving and making things “work,” but about reconciling contradictions. Just because something might have some dire effects does not mean it is not true or even good. Just because something pleases people does not make it true either.


St. Francis of Assisi (1181 – 1226) – Francis of Assisi was born the son of a wealthy cloth merchant in Assisi. Early in his life he was a rowdy troublemaker. After joining the military and succumbing to a terrible illness, Francis had somewhat of a conversion experience. He completely lost touch with all worldly desires and gave all he had away. From then on he lived with and served the poor. He lived in poverty, begged alongside the poor, protested against the crusades, and eventually collected a large amount of followers. He composed a simple rule for his followers known as the “Primitive Rule,” which meant to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ and to walk in his footsteps. By the end of his life he had a great following. He died when he was 45 from an illness.

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Grant me the blessing of sublime poverty: permit the distinctive sign of our order to be that it does not possess anything of its own beneath the sun, for the glory of your name, and that it have no other patrimony than begging.


Here are some that just missed the cut but are quickly creeping up:

David Bentley Hart – Orthodox Christian theologian who is considered one of the great theologians in America. Author of The Beauty of the Infinite, Atheist Delusions, The Experience of God, as well as many others.

All great religions achieve historical success by gradually moderating their most extreme demands. So it is not possible to extract a simple moral from the early church’s radicalism. But for those of us for whom the New Testament is not merely a record of the past but a challenge to the present, it is occasionally worth asking ourselves whether the distance separating the Christianity of the apostolic age from the far more comfortable Christianities of later centuries — and especially those of the developed world today — is more than one merely of time and circumstance.


John Muir (1838 – 1914) – Environmental philosopher and Father of the National Parks, who was known as “John of the Mountains.” Muir became enchanted with the Yosemite Valley after living in it for some time and fought successfully for it to be preserved. He loved trees. Perhaps too much. At times he would climb to the very top of a tree during a violent storm, hanging on for dear life, just to see what the trees felt like during such an storm.

The forests of America, however slighted by man, must have been a great delight to God; for they were the best ever planted. The whole continent was a garden, and from the beginning, it seemed to be favored above all other wild parks and gardens of the globe.


Leo Tolstoy (1828 – 1910) – Russian novelist. Author of War and Peace, Anna Karenina, The Death of Ivan Ilyich, The Kingdom of God is Within You, and many more. Christian pacifist who lived a radical life. Gave away almost all his possessions and deeply believed that materialism corrupts people. Foundational influence of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., as well as others.

If, then, I were asked for the most important advice I could give, that which I considered to be the most useful to the men of our century, I should simply say: in the name of God, stop a moment, cease your work, look around you.


Neil Postman (1931 – 2003) – Neil Postman was a professor, author, and cultural critic, best known for his book, Amusing Ourselves to Death (1985). This book and all of his work in general is a profound critique of the way Americans worship entertainment above all else, and this desire has crept into all aspects of our life, whether it be religion, politics, education, or anything else. Postman believed the desire to be entertained above all else will only lead to a sad state of a shallow, weak, ignorant, and unintelligent people.

Our politics, religion, news, athletics, education and commerce have been transformed into congenial adjuncts of show business, largely without protest or even much popular notice. The result is that we are a people on the verge of amusing ourselves to death.


Terrence Malick – Filmmaker best known for Badlands (1973), Days of Heaven (1978), The Thin Red Line (1998), and The Tree of Life (2011). Malick has perhaps the most recognizable filmmaking style in all of Hollywood and refuses to conform to regular forms of storytelling. His films are artistic, philosophical, beautifully shot, and often open-ended, which can frustrate people. To me, they are unique and deep and offer so much more depth than the action-packed films that regularly blowup the box offices today. His films aren’t the most popular and don’t make the most money, but Malick doesn’t care. And I think that is pretty cool. I wish more people had the desire to watch a movie like The Tree of Life and be transformed by its depth rather than watch a bunch of dudes blow stuff up in the ever-popular and seemingly never-ending super hero films and action packed thrillers of today. Neil Postman and J.R.R. Tolkien would probably agree with me. And my guess is so would the next guy on the list.

The nuns taught us there are two ways through life, the way of Nature and the way of Grace. You have to choose which one you’ll follow. Grace doesn’t try to please itself. Accepts being slighted, forgotten, disliked. Accepts insults and injuries. Nature only wants to please itself. Get others to please it too. Likes to lord it over them. To have its own way. It finds reasons to be unhappy when all the world is shining around it. And love is smiling through all things.


Wendell Berry – A farmer, writer, poet, and activist who advocates for environmentalism, the small farmer, traditional values, appropriate technology, and community, Wendell Berry has devoted his life in an effort to restore the ideals of the small farmer and traditional Christianity. His book (one among many) Blessed Are the Peacemakers: Christ Teachings about Love, Compassion, and Forgiveness is a call to Christian pacifism with regards to violence against others and violence against nature. Rod Deher, a writer with The American Conservative, writes about Berry: “his unshakable devotion to the land, to localism, and to the dignity of traditional life makes him both a great American and, to the disgrace of our age, a prophet without honor in his native land.”

But even in the much-publicized rebellion of the young against the materialism of the affluent society, the consumer mentality is too often still intact: the standards of behavior are still those of kind and quantity, the security sought is still the security of numbers, and the chief motive is still the consumer’s anxiety that he is missing out on what is “in.” In this state of total consumerism – which is to say a state of helpless dependence on things and services and ideas and motives that we have forgotten how to provide ourselves – all meaningful contact between ourselves and the earth is broken. We do not understand the earth in terms either of what it offers us or of what it requires of us, and I think it is the rule that people inevitably destroy what they do not understand.


This concludes my list of influences. Of course the most important influences in my life have come from real relationships that I have had (my wife, family, friends), but in all likelihood, you have no idea who those people are and do not have access to their thoughts. So for that reason, I kept them off this list.

I hope you check out some of the writings, films, speeches/sermons, etc. of the people on this list. This is by no means a comprehensive list. I am young, and I am sure that I will have many more influences in my life. But as for now, these people have been very important to me in my growth as a man, and I really feel strongly that they have important messages for our society.

Please feel free to comment with people that have influenced you!