MAJOR ANNOUNCEMENT

Baby, you're a firework

A little over two years ago I started this blog.  I had started writing a religious column for the local paper and I wanted to share those posts with people outside of Southeast Texas.  Over time I began to add my sermons in audio form and even write more article that were only ever published on this site.  Every once and a while someone would comment or like my post which was nice but it was for my own edification and sharing my understanding of the faith I hold so dear.  I loved hearing from people (even people who disagreed with me); it was a good outlet for me.

In March 2013, evandolive.com got a little busier when my open letter to Victoria’s Secret went viral (to the tune of 4 million+ people).   It was during this time that I had the idea for a book.  I began thinking about how in all of marketing there is an element of fantasy and perfection and somewhere along the line society began to blur the two together. Don’t believe me? Try to find a Middle School aged boy who does not think that Axe Body Spray will attract the opposite sex.  Why?  Because this is the core of their marketing campaign. On top of that, how do people of faith respond when the image of God is being distorted to only encapsulate one body type or the so called “ideal body type”?

After working on a proposal, a detailed outline, numerous sample pages and various edits, I am happy to announce that I have entered into a contract with the Pilgrim Press, the publishing house for the United Church of Christ, to publish my first book!

I am very happy, excited, nervous and scared all at the same time.

As of now, the working title is The Distortion of the Imago Dei.

I have been busy getting my idea down on paper (via Google Drive) trying to synthesize it all.

I want to thank you for all of the support you have shown me over this past year; if my letter had not gone viral I am not sure I would be making this announcement today.

Thank you for all your support as I embark on this new journey!

Stay tuned for more updates!

OK… back to writing… I have a deadline to keep.

 

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

 


Photo Credit: “Baby You’re A Firework: Fireworks at Disneyland, Anaheim, California” by Kevin Dooley via Flickr. Used Under Creative Commons License 2.0
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Lance Armstrong and the Deception of Greatness

Lance Armstrong has been called the greatest athlete of all time… until now.

Lance Armstrong won the most grueling endurance bicycle race a record seven times… until he was stripped of them.

Lance Armstrong was the Founder and head of Live Strong, a cancer support group where they tried ‘to inspire and empower’ cancer survivors and their families…. until he was forced to resign.

Lance Armstrong had it all… until he lost it all… he strove to be great but took another route to get there. In his search for greatness he found out that the path is hard to travel and not for everyone.

The troubling part of the Lance Armstrong doping story is not the fact that he used illegal medicines to enhance his performance. It is the fact that through it all he denied it over and over again. He sued people who wrote about it and sometimes won monetary settlements because of it. He was dead set on keeping his house of cards up while the world kept trying to look it.

He is like Pete Rose; Pete Rose was accused of betting on baseball during he career and was banned for the sport for life. He denied his involvement for years… until he broke his silence in his autobiography in 2004. The support that people had for him until that point quickly went away.

Lance Armstrong is now in an elite class that he did not intend to be in. He now is in the class of disgraced athletes who have been caught cheating to attain greatness. Lance Armstrong got rich on the back of a lie, he became famous on the back of lie. Now is famous for the wrong reasons and I believe the worst is yet to come.

Greatness is not built on anything but greatness itself. What is it about the human condition that so desperately wants to be on top, to be the best, the most popular, the most noticed? As a Christian, people would assume I would default to the standard Christian answer: Sin, but you might be surprised on this one, I’m not going there.

No, for me, the heart of the problem isnt sin itself, rather selfishness aka the human condition.

Theologians debate about many different things, christology, soteriology, and the human condition. The human condition is the one thing that plagues all of humanity and the gospel has to answer the problem. It is easy to just make a blanket statement that “sin” is the human condition. Not so fast my friend… you have to get a little more specific than that…

For me the human condition could me many different things but I believe the biggest one is selfishness. Selfishness pervades all of humanity from the smallest child to the oldest adult. As we grow and mature we learn how to handle and deal with our inner struggle with selfishness. I mentioned this one time to one my professors in seminary and she did not like that assertion In her mind it was hard for her to say that a newborn baby was selfish. While we do lift up children in our society on the whole they are kinda selfish. In other instances in the animal kingdom babies are left to fend for themselves, humans do not that. Another professor chimed in and stated he could see “where I was coming” from and stated that there is no biological or even logical need for my 2 year olds horde all of the toys and will not share them. Did someone teach them that? Maybe… but maybe not.

I liked what CS Lewis once wrote about selfishness

“At this very moment you and I are either committing [selfishness], or about to commit it, or repenting it.”

I am not saying that I have some sort of moral superiority to Armstrong because I didn’t cheat at cycling; but what I am saying is that I have the same being in me that caused him to strive to greatness by any means necessary. We are both made in the same image of God, fallible in the same way.

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

When Intolerance/Difference of Theological Belief Leads To Unemployment

For starters, this post is not about me. I am not losing my job, but it is about a fellow minister who is currently in this unfortunate boat.

A minister colleague of mine posted on Facebook that his church had made the decision that they were going to withdraw from the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) denomination. On top of that, the governing body of the church had the right to terminate the minister, no congregational vote or anything.

The beginning of all of this started when the Kentucky Region of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) at their last assembly voted to remove the restriction that stated that open homosexuals could not be ordained in the Region.  The measure passed by a wide margin and even church in the region had an opportunity to cast a vote and speak on the issue.   For my colleague’s church this was not enough.  They disagreed with the measure and thus have taken action.

The thing that I do not understand is that in the Disciples of Christ denomination, one our main tenets is the freedom of belief and the priesthood of all believers.  Under the notion of the freedom of belief, there are not hard and fast interpretations of the Bible broad casted from on high at some national office.  Each person is supposed to be lead by the Spirit to come up with an interpretation of themselves.  Now this does not mean that they are devoid of conversation with others or that they can not draw upon the knowledge of ministers and leaders, but it does mean that the conversation can not be had.  The Disciples are big proponents of local church authority and autonomy.  It is so the church can find an expression of faith that fits the congregation at hand.  No two Disciples churches look a like and that is a great thing.  The Bible is meant to expressed in a different ways to different people.  Gone are the days of cookie cutter religion and hello a place where questions are welcomed and discussions can be had.

Does this mean you can believe whatever you want?  In a sense yes and no… I mean you believed God was a water buffalo, you have missed the point of the gospel.  But for the most part, theologies are constantly in flux, they are growing and shaping over a course of a life time.  This does not mean that once you chose one particular way of believing or understanding the Bible that you are stuck with it forever.  This is where I believe this congregation might have jumped the gun.  What is wrong with having differing theological opinions   What is wrong with having a good discussion based on and around the notion that in the end we are still welcome and able to come around the Table of Grace under the common bond of Jesus Christ.  I hate to tell this congregation but even though they differ on this issue, there are still people within the remnant that do not see eye to eye on every piece of theology, its quite impossible for that to happen.

I am saddened for my friend and colleague and pray that he will find a church that will accept him and his understanding of the gospel.

 

May it be so.

 

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

Football and the Bible

The tiny town of Kountze, Texas was placed on the national radar this past week.  After a series of court cases and injunctions, the Kountze High School Cheerleaders are allowed to continue to use Bible scriptures as part of their pre-game, run though banner.  (read here) Because of their actions it has caused a firestorm of press, debates and protests.  The central issue (as I understand it) is whether or not it is appropriate for the cheerleaders to use Bible scriptures at a school event.  The superintendent of Kountze ISD stated that he barred them because the banners violated school policy and so the debate started.  Do the banners that the players run through before kickoff amount to school sanctioning of religion?

I am not a lawyer by profession but I believe there is a different issue at the forefront here.   The cheerleaders in my opinion are walking a very fine line.  Yes they are student lead and under the letter of the law they should be “ok” to continue, but what about doing it in uniform on the field of school sponsored football game?  Does that change the context and thus change the nature of the event?  I believe it does.

What this boils down to is that in a predominately Christian area of the state, Christianity can not be professed everywhere and this upsets people and any push back is seen as an attack of freedoms.  The fact of the matter is that at Kountze ISD there is an amalgamation of people from various faith backgrounds, contexts and ideas.  By having the cheerleaders promoting their brand of religion is stating that their way is more correct than the others.  Since they have the platform to promote their voice to a wide audience, they have the opportunity to broadcast what ever they want.  This is not fair or correct.

People have been arguing that this issue is centered on the notion of freedom of speech.  While I agree with this, would the fine people of Kountze be ok with an uplifting passage from the Koran or from the Bhagavad Gita?  If you open the door under the notion of freedom of speech then you open it to all.  You have to give the same platform for Muslims, Jews, Atheist, Agnostics and even Satanist.  It has been reported that the cheerleaders take turns choosing the uplifting message; would the parents who fought so hard to get a Philippians 4:13 banner, fight just a hard for a Hindu cheerleader to promote her religion?  Maybe, but maybe not.

There is this idea that society is assaulting Christianity or that the world has some vendetta against Christianity.  I do not believe this is the case.  I believe that some people have an issue with religion being shoved down their throat.  This has been an issue with Christianity for centuries.  Some followers of Christ believe that they have a moral imperative to make sure that everyone believes their version of Christianity.  I believe that Christianity is multi-faceted and complex; it is rich and layered with multiple ways to interpret and act upon the scriptures.   Yes there will be those who will claim that their foundation is in the Bible and the Great Commission, but I think this is pushing it past the limits of its intent.  The Great Commission calls on all who follow Christ to spread the message of love, hope, peace, joy and reconciliation.  Christ had many enemies but it was his changing of social structures and acceptance of those who society had cast out that helped the movement to grow.  No where in the Bible does Christ ever command his followers to many banners and have padded football players run through it.

Don’t the scriptures deserve better respect than to have a team of players tear it to shreds?

Faith is something that is inherently personal and for some Christianity has left a bad taste in their mouth.  Maybe it was a bad experience with a minister or perhaps they were told that because of their life choices they were not accepted in the Kingdom of God.  How would it feel to then see a banner proclaiming the best virtues of Christianity when those were not shown to you?    Instead of making a situation worse, why not live your lives in a way that expresses the faith that you hold so dear?  This will be the biggest witness that you can ever have.  I understand that to many this is a ‘non-issue’ but for the church to be seen in a positive light, people must know that just because a banner is not raised does not mean that Christianity is dead.

I know that many of you do not share the same view as I do and that’s ok.  Its not about who is right and who is wrong, rather it is about the conversation and the examination of widely held beliefs.  Many people might consider me (like many do about the Superintendent of Kountze ISD) un-Christian or even anti-Christian, but that is off the mark.  I am just expressing a theological opinion, the right of every person.

This situation is far from over, but the fact remains that Christ’s central message was love.  Let’s remember that.

 

In Christ,

 

Rev. Evan

What’s next? Chick-Fil-A Boycott Day?

Since my move and start of a new position in Houston,  I have been busy and have not updated as much as I had before. Thank you to you my faithful readers for sticking with me. Hopefully once things settle down I will get back in the grove. Below is a piece I wrote a while back about Chick-Fil-A ceasing their funding to organizations that are anti same sex marriage.

Thanks again for your support.


In a major announcement, months after the company was embroiled in a public debate, Chick-fil-a according to a LGBT support group has stopped making donations to organizations that are against same-sex marriages.  You can read the full article here.

Chick-fil-a in an internal memo stated that the company will treat every “treat every person with honor, dignity and respect-regardless of their beliefs, race, creed, sexual orientation and gender.”  How about that… Chick-fil-a finding their Christian roots again.  So now what are the throngs of people to do that went out on August 1 to support Chick-Fil-A’s right to “free speech” (read: believe same-sex marriage is a sin.)?  Are these God-fearing Christians now going to boycott this institution because they have gone back on what they one stood for and claimed to be Christian?  I wonder if now the leaders of Chick-Fil-A will now be allowed to get divorces and have second and even third wives.

The fact of the matter is that this is a step in the right direction.  For me, Chick-Fil-A’s original comments and actions were against my understanding of what the gospel is calling the Church and followers of Christ to be and become.  In the entire Bible, there are about 6 verses that actually in some way talk about homosexuality… that’s it… six.  No long discourses from prophets or even Jesus or even one of the dedicated disciples.  These verses are found throughout the Bible in different testaments and writings.  There is no unified voice on this.  There are more verses about proper eating habits and dietary laws than verses about homosexuality.  Where are the protests of the McDonald’s or other fast food restaurants for making people fat and indulging them in guilty, which by the way it is a sin.  But no mention of that from people in society.  Sadly the some followers of Christ have made the singling out of this small segment of the population their sole focus.  No mention of unconditional love, no mention of free grace, nothing just righteous indignation and self-righteousness, the complete opposite of what the gospel calls us to be.

If Christ was of the radical embodiment of God and acted as such, then why aren’t all followers of Christ?  Today people focus too much on one particular issue that they believe is at the center and forefront of what is means to be a follower of Christ.  In the end, does is matter if someone loves someone else of the same gender?

Chick-Fil-A has the absolute right to run their company the way they want, but the problem that many people had is that they drug all Christians into the mix.  It made all Christians look bad and it gave Christianity a bad name.

 

In Christ,

 

Rev. Evan

And You Wonder Why People Aren’t Christians: Part V

It has been a while since I have had to write in this series… but alas, Christians are giving Christians a bad name… again.

I want to thank my friend Amy for sending me this story, you can read it here.

Today we venture to the state of Alabama, known for its tolerance and racial equality… right?  Think again….

A Christian ministry based in Alabama held a ministry conference.  There was however one stipulation, it was for white people only… that’s correct, a white only Christian conference.

After doing a bit more research and watching some news videos (one posted below) I was shocked (sarcasm) to find out that the conference had KKK ties.

I respect every human beings right to believe what they want but the KKK is one that I have problems wrapping my brain around.  The notion that one particular race is the superior one and that it was ordained from God is logic that escapes me.

For starters, Jesus Christ himself wasn’t white. (I dont care what Hollywood or pop culture tells you… examples here, here and here and even the most popular one here). You would think that if God was going to make the white race the superior one, that God would indwell in a white man.  Secondly, if God is pro-white as these people claim, then why did God create other races to the begin with?  So they could be picked on, ostracized, killed, and tortured because they have pigment in this skin?  Wouldn’t it have just been easier for God not to create the other races and have a pure, white race to inhabit the earth?

Also, where in scripture is this supported?  I can not remember Jesus ever saying “and white people shall inherit the earth…”  In the video below the news reporter tries to ask this question.  The reporter brings up the fact that in Galatians 3 it states that  there is “neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”  There are numerous passages in the Bible that speak of the reconciliation of Christ and the unity of all believers.  Sure Christ was seen a counter cultural radical to some, but not a white supremacist.  He didn’t even preach that God was 100% pro-Jewish people either; remember the woman at the well and the parable of the Good Samaritan?  There are other instances where Christ was showing that the God of all the world is wanting to connect with all people of the earth.

The leader of the conference told the reporter that he was taking scripture out of context and was abusing the Bible… isnt that like the pot calling the kettle black? (no pun intended…)  I mean come on… really?  Is this even an argument?  The Bible has been used for and against pretty much every issue under the sun.  However, the notion that in the text there is a decree or teaching that to be a true faithful of God is to have a certain color skin, goes against the foundation of the gospel message itself.  This distorts a text that people have turned to for centuries to connect with the faithful of old, to understand (or try) the movement of God in the world and learn what is means to be a follower of Christ in the world today.

At the conclusion of this event, the white members where going to hold a “sacred cross burning.”   Umm…. OK….

Seriously?  Do they think that if they put the word ‘sacred’ that everyone will be ok with this?  Like sacred murder is ok because it is sacred?  Sacred grilled cheeses taste better because they are sacred?  This is a blatant attempt to justify a practice that has stood as the symbol of hate, racism and bigotry.

All of this is not what Christianity stands for.  Yes, there was a time when the church was on the wrong side of history and supported segregation and even slavery.  But as the church has grown and changed, so have our understandings of God and how God interacts in the world.  For the mast majority of Christians, the idea of burning a cross or segregating people based on skin color is appalling.  Some would argue that the church has not left its segregation roots; many churches today are still prodominately one race or another.  While this is true, it is not mandated by law and there are plently of integrated churches holding worship services together.  Because of this, it shows me that the church has a little more work to do in the area of race relations.  (The Disciples of Christ in 2001 cast a vision of being a “Pro-Reconcillation/Anti-Racism Church, read more about it here.)

The cause of Christ is one that aims to restore all people to wholeness and completeness, to show them a way to connect to the Divine.  Christ welcomed all and so should the church and all of those who claim to be Christ’s followers.

I dont care what color you skin, hair, nails, or clothes happens to be all should be welcomed to experience God.

In Christ,

Rev. Evan



Another New Project In The Works

Back in April I told you about a new project that was in the works.  As of today, we had not heard any concrete information about whether or not our propsal will be accepted.  You can re-read the post here.

Well, on June 21, my project load doubled.   A friend of mine (Ray, check out his blog here) and I were at High School camp last year when we began to have a discussion about Christianity and society.  Even though we are only removed from High School by only 10-11 years, the world is completely different- the understanding of what it means to be Christian has changed, worship styles have changed and the way we encounter the Divine has changed.  Sadly, the perception of Christianity has not changed.  This made us ask, “why would anyone want to be a Christian when it seems so lame?”  and thus the idea was born.

So we contacted Chalice Press (our denominational publishing house) with our idea and they asked us to write a proposal for a book on this topic.   We are both in transitions in our lives but I believe we will get this completed soon.

Stay tuned for more updated from both projects!  Below is a very nice tweet from Ray’s wife about our project.

In Christ,

Rev. Evan


What A Difference A Year Makes

Yesterday marked the one year anniversary of one of the most infamous end times predictions to date.  Harold Camping and his Family Radio called on Christians to prepare themselves for the end of the world, the date of this cataclysmic event?  May 21, 2011.

Camping stated he had figured out through numerology and probably some complicated algebra problem that the Bible predicted the end of the world and if you looked closely enough you would find the date.  This wasn’t Camping’s first trip to the rodeo when it comes to end times predictions.  In 1994 and 1995 he made similar predictions, but this one gained some momentum largely in part (I believe) due to the internet.

Any time a Christian minister makes bold predictions it garners national attention.  For days leading up to the fateful day, news organizations from around the world held interviews with Camping as well his followers.  On May 20, people waited with bated breath to see if anything would happen in Australia.  I thought this was interesting that the notion of the end of the world was supposed to start  across the International Time Line.  The International Time Line is a human construction; Camping was banking that God subscribed to the International Date and even Day Light Savings time to ensure the end of the world.

Of course, May 21, 2011 came and went and nothing happened, we are still hear.  Camping tried to revise his claim and stated that May 21 was the spiritual judgment and the physical judgement was to come in October.  That date as well came and went.  Finally Camping declared that humanity was not supposed to know when the end of the world was going to be and therefore we should stop worrying about it.

In the wake of the prediction, hundreds if not thousands of people spent their money and said their good-byes for nothing.  One report came out that a family in New York had racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt because they thought the end of the world was coming and no one would come calling for their payment. (Greedy?)

Time Magazine called Camping’s prediction one of the top ten failed predictions of all time.  (Read it here)

People have been trying to figure out when the end of the world is going to be for millennia, the newest craze is the Mayan Calendar which goes out sometime in December 2012.

The fact of the matter is that it doesn’t really matter when Jesus is coming back or when the world will end; what matters is what followers of Christ are going to do in the mean time.  Are we going to sit around and just wait or are we going to try to bring a piece of the “pie in the sky” Heaven here on earth?  Brian McLaren (not sure if he is the originator of this quote or not) stated that we needed to stop teaching the Bible as an evacuation plan, but rather a transformation plan.  This is was the fault of the May 2011 prediction.  While they firmly believed that the world was going to end instead of trying to transforms people’s lives by allowing them to experience the same Christ they had experience they posted billboards and ran radio spots.  No billboard, picket sign, radio commercial or even blog post will ever be as effective as personal, one-on-one, communication and contact.

Jesus was with the people.  He didn’t sit from a throne and bark orders or look smugly down his nose at the outcasts of society.  No, we got his hands dirty and mingled with people who most wouldn’t have touched with a ten foot pole.  He transformed lives with his presence.  We have ability as well.

It won’t be too much longer until we get another bold prediction and we will have to re-visit this.  But in the meantime, let’s start transforming the world.  It’s a big place and we have a lot of work to do.

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

Prayer Napkin?

This is a scan of the actual note that was left on my car a couple of months ago.  Whomever penned this obviously wanted a lot more room to get or out of their vehicle.  Here’s the thing though, the parking structure where I was parked must have been built in the 1970s or 80s or in a time when bigger vehicles were not around.  I wedged my car in the parking spot WITHIN THE PAINTED LINES! Not with my back tire on the line or cutting into another spot, but within the lines.  If I had been in the wrong I would have taken my napkin and gone home and probably remembered the next time I parked somewhere.

This was not good enough for the prayer napkin writer.

I am glad that someone out there is praying for me even though it is for me to learn a skill I have already mastered, but nonetheless I am thankful.

Is this what Christianity for some has become?  Passive aggressive prayer warrior-ship?  Is this what the followers of Christ are supposed to do, leave napkins on unsuspecting cars starting off all nicey nicey and then hitting you over the head with your faults?  I have trouble believing that is something called for by God.

And then I began to wonder if it was because of the “clergy” sticker on the back of my car… sure it is helpful on pastoral visits at the hospital but did it make me a target?

Whatever the answer may be I got a good laugh out of it and a nice piece for my office.

In Christ,

Rev. Evan