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Barkeep another Mekong please

Plenty of good, interesting, and nutty stuff around the old blogosphere these days:

  • Melissa inquires about the virtues and/or vices of book collecting, and apparently my own proclivities are a case in point.
  • Two utterly different sets of predictions for 2010.  Proof positive that people’s predictions merely express their deepest wishes, never their smartest thoughts? Probably.
  • The ballad of Rick Warren and the 900-foot Jesus.
  • As if it needed to be said, there’s 6 reasons out there why your church needs more beer.
  • A review of George Lindbeck’s classic book, The Nature of Doctrine.
  • Why Christmas is not Jesus’s birthday.


  1. Evan wrote:

    I didn’t get the point of the criticism of Warren, and was rather surprised by it. I’m fine with pointing out this:

    “While mainstream megapastors aren’t promising Bentleys for faith, they generally extol a vision of the “good life” that has 4 bedrooms and a 3-car garage, with an SUV in the drive.”

    …and I’m sure that Saddleback bears its share of guilt here. But why criticize a fundraising push that went a lot better than expected and pulled in a lot of money? Saddleback also probably has a heck of a lot more ministry ventures than Smith’s own Leland Church does, but I don’t see him mentioning that.

    I’m not saying that there’s nothing wrong with the way that megachurches handle material wealth. But simply to criticize them for having a lot of money strikes me as unjustified. Of course they have lots of money. They have a bunch of parishioners, and their parishioners tend to have money. But show us that Warren puts an undue portion of the Saddleback budget into snacks for coffee hour or stage lighting. Show us that the generosity of their giving only benefits themselves rather than others. Don’t simply criticize the church for being big.

    Tuesday, January 5, 2010 at 10:23 am | Permalink
  2. Evan: The post was very much an off-the-cuff, stream-of-consciousness association bit. There was something about the $900,000, the 900 ft. Jesus, and the urgent appeal that just kept congealing in my head.

    If there was a point to the post, I’m not sure why you think it’s an issue of “size.” (Where’d you get that?)

    My flippant question just raises the issue of whether Osteen and Warren differ in kind, or merely degree. I don’t hear anything in Warren’s gospel that calls into question the economic status quo which, in this country, is the pursuit of wealth and accumulation. People suggest that Warren’s and Saddleback’s generosity is contrary evidence. But of course that’s not true: generosity doesn’t cover the multitude of sins of capitalism; it coddles it. And I’m guessing that most Saddleback parishioners vote for policies that favor light regulation and minimal taxation, all under the cover of being “pro-life.” (And I’m guessing they’ll be relieved that the United States will remain the only country in the industrial world without a f**king single-payer healthcare system.) But hey, they’re generous!

    Generosity can cloak all sorts of injustice. It’s like praising the fireman who was also the arsonist.

    What I’d really like to know, however–and we never will–is just what would have been cut if the $900,000 hadn’t come in?

    [For the record, it's Neland Ave CRC, not Leland (...not sure why you'd know that, but anyway...). And you're right: we don't have "ministry ventures." We're an inner city church that serves our parish and our city (and the world through the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee). But I don't think this is a competition, right?]

    Tuesday, January 5, 2010 at 12:28 pm | Permalink
  3. Evan wrote:

    “Generosity can cloak all sorts of injustice. It’s like praising the fireman who was also the arsonist.”

    Well, right, I’m fine with that. Which is why I’m not advocating ignoring Saddleback’s or any other church’s faults simply because of some end-of-the-fiscal-year generosity. I just don’t see the point of highlighting that generosity as an instance of the prosperity gospel. I have completely agreed with you that things like parishioner’s voting habits or the “just what would have been cut if the $900,000 hadn’t come in” are important things to look at and scrutinize.

    I took your focus to be on “size” because, in contrast to your Immanent Frame post about evangelical materialism that goes under the radar, you simply talk about a big fundraising campaign. I don’t see anything that’s the object of your criticism except the bare fact that Rick Warren pulled in a lot of cash. You don’t bring up anything about Saddleback voting records on healthcare, nor do you talk about budget priorities for that $2.4 million. Given all that, I don’t see what else you could be talking about except for size.

    Nor am I trying to set up a competition with your congregation. My whole point is that we shouldn’t be undertaking this sort thing. Which is why you won’t find me blogging critically about Neland Ave. (apologies for the above misspelling) if you guys happen to have a budget surplus at the end of 2010.

    Also, my apologies if you don’t like the phrase “ministry ventures”. I mean the same thing as “serving our parish and city”. You could also have replaced it with “doing kingdom work” or “witnessing” or “helping those in need” or “loving our neighbors as ourselves”. I’ve got no interest in splitting hairs over the terminology.

    Tuesday, January 5, 2010 at 12:50 pm | Permalink
  4. Evan wrote:

    “The post was very much an off-the-cuff, stream-of-consciousness association bit. There was something about the $900,000, the 900 ft. Jesus, and the urgent appeal that just kept congealing in my head.”

    I’d also add that I can honestly respect the fact that this wasn’t supposed to be some sustained critique, and was more of an off-the-cuff piece. That said, I think that the ephemeral nature of blogging can do some cloaking of its own when stream-of-consciousness posting targets other people and then has to backtrack and qualify what exactly it means. If your question was flippant, then how is it doing any real critical work against Saddleback? It seems like you’re trying to have your cake and eat it too. We 1) shouldn’t scrutinize the intentions or the extent of your post, and yet 2) should continue to act as if it offers some important criticism of Saddleback.

    Tuesday, January 5, 2010 at 1:01 pm | Permalink
  5. Andrew wrote:

    6 reasons the church should drink more beer is an excellent post, thanks for pointing us toward it.

    The predictions for the future were ridiculous and masturbatory, but just like touching yourself, entertaining as well.

    Finally, that cake is ridiculous. I kept looking at it wondering what a toe had to do with Jesus, but then I realized the importance of circumcision in Jewish tradition and knew that tan colored foldy thing was definitely foreskin. After reading the links I looked at it again and am pretty sure there is a little face amid the folds and thus assume that it is a baby Jesus in swaddling clothes but it seems to me that a crown of thorns and a foreskin would better represent the physical sacrifices Christ made to become a human.

    Tuesday, January 5, 2010 at 1:13 pm | Permalink
  6. roger flyer wrote:

    Halden, starting out ’10 with some fireworks. Nicely done.
    Gandalf at Wittenburg

    Tuesday, January 5, 2010 at 3:57 pm | Permalink
  7. Halden wrote:

    Yeah, I’m pretty crazy. What with my link posts and all.

    Tuesday, January 5, 2010 at 4:05 pm | Permalink
  8. roger flyer wrote:

    Shows you actually peruse the blogs once in awhile rather than combing through your own brain

    Tuesday, January 5, 2010 at 4:39 pm | Permalink
  9. John R wrote:

    …and yes, of course, you can keep the change!

    Wednesday, January 6, 2010 at 10:04 am | Permalink

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