A bit of controversy.

Skip this if Christianity/homosexuality is a sensitive issue for you. This has nothing to do with writing, spec-fiction or indie publishing. Please also note this is neither an exhaustive theological investigation, nor an invitation to debate. This is a personal perspective.

I’m always fascinated and dismayed by the Homosexual/Christianity/Bigotry debates.

I think the core message gets lost in the scuffle and slander: made in the image of God, there is nonetheless in each of us that element that is isolated, broken and defiant. We sin because we are sinners – not the other way around – and sexual immorality (of which homosexuality is one type) is symptomatic of that deeper disconnect.

Each of us is lost in our own way and in desperate need of a savior. No one is excluded from that. Yet it seems we cling to the wonderful truth that God is love while ignoring the only aspect of his nature ever emphasized to the third degree: his holiness. In Jesus Christ, God invites anyone and everyone to become citizens in an eternal kingdom under the leadership of the Son. He calls us out of darkness, out of sin, to a new, regenerated life. Repentance isn’t merely the first step to salvation; it’s the key dynamic in our faith and journey. God is looking for loyal hearts, authentic, honest worship – not perfection – and I’m also convinced from scripture, theology and personal experience the grace that forgives also heals and transforms.

Each of us is ultimately accountable for our own decisions, our own actions, including our response to the fundamental (yes, I used the ‘F’-word) claims of the Gospel. Anything less is playing the victim and irresponsible. Sin is the soul’s choice of not-God, and it is the thing that kills- not doctrine.

Jesus is your answer.

Swiped from Crosswalk

An article on Christians, Art and Culture. Nice safe summary of what I believe in this regard. Crosswalk is a decent site with good articles and perspectives. Worth bookmarking.

ARTICLE ON CROSSWALK

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‘Joy’ by Makoto Fujimura

Philip Ryken, president of Wheaton College and a former pastor, knows that artists who are Christians often feel like fish out of water. Ryken says, “Their faith in Christ seems odd to many of their friends in the artistic community — almost as odd as their calling as artists seems to some of their friends at church.”

This is more than a tragedy. It’s a lost opportunity. Ryken notes that “Christians called to paint, draw, sculpt, sing, act, dance, and play music have extraordinary opportunities to witness to the grace, beauty and truth of the gospel. … The arts are the leading edge of culture,” he says.

So with tongue firmly planted in cheek, Ryken asked some of his artist friends what churches do to discourage them from their dual calling as artists and Christians.

First, they said, treat the arts as window dressing for the truth rather than the window into reality it’s intended to be. Second, embrace bad art just because it’s “Christian.” Third, value artists only for their artistic gifts, but not for the other contributions they can make as thinkers and servants with a unique perspective. Fourth, demand that artists only give answers in their work, but never raise questions. Fifth, never pay artists for their work — take advantage of them in ways we would never do with plumbers or accountants. And finally, only validate art that has a direct salvation application.

Unfortunately, too often these are exactly the kinds of things that churches do. But if we want to impact our beauty and truth-starved culture with Christ-honoring art, we have to do better! Come to our website and I’ll direct you to Ryken’s whole list. It’s an eye-opener.

But there’s another side to the coin. Many Christian artists expect to be taken seriously while having bought into the dominant cultural idea that art is all about self-expression. But presenting the obscure and confusing in a trendy way does not a Christian artist make. So, we have to ask, “What, then, is art?”

Artist Makoto Fujimura argues that for the Christian, art must be more than self-expression. It must be communication, because as Christians we deal with objective reality. As one of my mentors once said, art’s job is primarily to “paraphrase reality.” I like that. We can present beauty without being trivial, evil without being gratuitous, and redemption without being hokey.

And the Christian artist is a communicator also because God created through communication — through His spoken word. The creative individual made in the image of the ultimate communicator must be one who communicates as well. Not just what we feel, but what is true and real. Art’s job is to paraphrase Reality.

Now this doesn’t mean Christian art must be preachy or obvious, but it should make us think more deeply and better about life and the world.

For example, Fujimura’s paintings are abstract. Yet because he believes his responsibility is to communicate, he explains his art in writing. He knows that art is not really about the artist — little “a.” It’s about the big Artist — capital “A.”

And we’re not just communicating about God; we’re actually participating with Him. In his book For the Beauty of the Church: Casting a Vision for the Arts, David Taylor says, “Whether through paint or sound, metaphor or movement, we are given the inestimable gift of participating in the re-creative work of the Triune God, anticipating that final and unimaginable re-creation of all matter, space, and time, the fulfillment of all things visible and invisible.”

Two other great books on the Christian view of art are Francis Schaeffer’s classic Art and the Bible and Philip Ryken’s Art for God’s Sake. We have them for you at the BreakPoint online bookstore.

And, let’s commit together to encouraging, not discouraging, Christians in the high calling of art.

John Stonestreet, the host of The Point, a daily national radio program, provides thought-provoking commentaries on current events and life issues from a biblical worldview. John holds degrees from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (IL) and Bryan College (TN), and is the co-author of Making Sense of Your World: A Biblical Worldview.

BreakPoint commentary airs each weekday on more than one thousand outlets with an estimated listening audience of one million people. BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print.

Publication date: June 6, 2013

I am…

*The following post deals with issues of Christian faith and the person of Jesus. In fact, it’s veering into ’emotional rant’ territory, so if such things offend you or you came for sci-fi action and didn’t expect ‘religious stuff’, you’ll wanna skip this one. On the Eshu front, SHIFT TENSE: RED FLAGS is currently at the editors and Michal Oracz is working up the cover. I’m excited and will post relevant updates as I get solid info.

I AM SECOND
Spent the better part of this morning watching I am Second videos and ended up bawling like a little kid. (try here and here to see what I mean) I need to say it doesn’t get any better than this; redemption is what Jesus is all about. It doesn’t get more simple or more profound. It’s eternal.

Furthermore I believe deep in my bones if a ministry isn’t centered around salvation not just as a theory or catch-phrase but the practical day-to-day application of a real God reaching into real lives, then it’s worthless. Regardless of organizational tonnage or theological buttress, it’s only so much chaff come Judgment Day.

This is the Jesus that saved me. This is the one I want to be around, the one I want to introduce people to. No bait and switch. Not someone else.

I AM A STEWARD
I confess I’m in a crisis of faith at the moment regarding church. I am marvelously blessed in so many areas of my life: my marriage, children, grandchildren, work, writing… But this church thing is a real brawl.

A while back, I had an online discussion about ministry, involvement and membership with fellow Christian and writer Jessica Thomas and said I was ‘sick and tired of being sick and tired and pretending I’m not.’ That’s where I find myself once again and it’s the literal crux of the matter.

It occurred to me if I had a quarter for every sermon I’ve heard in the last 27 years lambasting immature, shallow, goosebump-seeking church-hoppers, I’d take my wife to dinner at this great little Thai joint we love. Now I know ‘free-range’ believers exist. I realize our society is infected with a selfish, consumer mentality. I also acknowledge my own incompleteness and vital need to function in community and under authority. I have no desire to end up a self-centered consumer.

I am however called to be a Christ-centered steward and I want to know where the Scripture requires believers to enable mediocrity? Where does it say we have to knowingly submit to flaccid, dysfunctional theology? When did the Berean call become ‘rebellion’?

Don’t mishear me: I’m not saying all ministry is vapid or shoddy. There is a lot of valid, powerful, gracious ministry, most of it unrecognized. Catastrophes always get better press. I’ve been (spiritually) living off Mars Hill, Times Square, and The Village. Let’s thank God for the internet, shall we?

But for all those services scorching ‘fickle, whiny consumers’, I can’t recall any apology for all those petty (left or right) political rants masqueraded as sermons, for superficial morality passed off as righteousness, for denominational rules touted as sanctification. I know the Gospel is a hard-edged hope. Grace is balanced by Truth. But if Grace is offered with one hand while the other snatches it back with a thousand little rules and dogmatic stipulations, all you have left is a brittle parody. A painted, plaster lawn-ornament.

Or how about an admission that your seeker-sensitive, tech-savvy, hip and hype approach isn’t cute, or cool, or fruitful? It’s vital to be informed and attuned to our society, but do I really have to point out that spiking your hair like an anime character and squeezing into your wife’s jeans doesn’t equate to relevance? Neither will a soul-patch or getting inked. I don’t care one way or another about a tie, but tuck in your shirt, eh?* You can stop with the pop-psychology, stop the ego-stroking, stop apologizing for every hard saying in the Bible. The Word of God is called the ‘Sword of the Spirit’ for a reason. Swords have a point and an edge, and so should you. Only the Eternal is truly relevant. Only the Truth sets people free. Trending the latest celebrity-craze (Christian or Secular) boils down to tail-chasing. It’s time to re-read “Not a Fan“. Hipster-dom isn’t discipleship: it’s sowing empty seed on shallow ground.

I AM STARVING?
Am I wrong or does the pulpit set the tone and temperature for the congregation? Doesn’t leadership bear a measure of responsibility? Being ‘leaders’ and all. To quote Dr. Horrible: “The fish rots from the head…” Perhaps one reason people are leaving church, having difficulty committing is it’s hard to find someone saying anything worth listening to. Don’t give me the “There’s no such thing as a perfect church, and if you find it, don’t go there ’cause you’ll ruin it” line. Most folks aren’t looking for perfection. They know it doesn’t exist. What they’re searching for – what they deserve – is something worth sticking around for. Was Jesus lying when He said the fields were ‘white unto harvest‘?

“The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign LORD, “when I will send a famine through the land– not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the LORD. – AMOS 8:11 NIV

God identified Himself as “I AM”. He knows every hair on my head. He knows who I am, where I am, and why I am. I get that. My days are in His hands and He’ll see me through, despite my problems. If like Elijah I have to live off what birds bring and a little stream provides for a season, then I’ll cope. (No, I’m not saying I’m a prophet. I’m talking about provision) Christians are called to declare the unadulterated Gospel and model the action of definite grace. People are dying for it. Their eternal souls depend on it. My fear is I am stuck in that prophecy, and while I’ve been seeking God in prayer and Scripture even more lately, and have confidence God will provide direction, I tremble not only for my own soul, but for my children and grandchildren.

I AM PRAYING
Christians are called to represent the one who saved them, to reflect in some fashion the character of their Lord and Savior. I think the best we flawed sinners can do – even redeemed – is provide a sketch, a caricature if you will, of God. It won’t be perfect, but God keep me from rendering some hideous misrepresentation or superimposing some mortal icon. When I stand before Him, I’d like to have got the important features and proportions correct so it was recognizable.

*My personal conviction is if you’re making dress code of either extreme a major plank in your ministry, you’ve already missed the point.

Faith to Blame

Imam: Because you do not believe in God does not mean God does not believe in – .
Riddick: Think someone could spend half their life in a slam with a horse bit in their mouth and not believe? Think he could start out in some liquor store trash bin with an umbilical cord wrapped around his neck and not believe? Got it all wrong, holy man. I absolutely believe in God… And I absolutely hate the fucker.
Riddick in ‘Pitch Black’

Actually, my first memory of God-blame in Spec Fiction was decades ago in The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, The Unbeliever. The Riddick quote is there only for pith’s sake. (And that I’m an otherwise fan)

There’s a long, tired tradition of characters crowing against the Creator from the moral high-ground of their personal indignation over injustice, suffering and horror. I stumbled across another just last night, in fact.

My issue wasn’t so much it’s presence, (like I said, it’s a common-enough trope) but that it was so blatantly disingenuous. The novel’s mythology/theology centered around the unspecified but nonetheless ‘strict’ worship of a Goddess, with a stereotypical cruel, hypocritical clergy manipulating a naive, devout flock. Then prior to a dramatic confrontation, our rugged hero launched into a soliloquy castigating God (male deity) as a lunatic Creator consenting to horrific exploitation in his name, somehow directly responsible for a personal tragedy, and who’s generally complicit in all suffering and anguish.

Wait… what?

Look, I get Theodicy and the ancient question of the existence of evil. People with intimate experiences, people who have confronted evil ask a profound and valid question. My heart can’t handle the everyday tragedies paraded on the news, let alone those that never make the top of the hour. My concerns here is with characters who otherwise ignore, despise, and disobey “God”, mock faith and devotion, yet throw Him up against the wall with impassioned fervency the instant tragedy strikes. They obviously ‘believe’, (why rage against a non-existent entity?) but God is their whipping boy, their scapegoat, an ironic justification for atheism.

Perhaps I’m being hyper-sensitive. Or getting snarky over inconsistent plot and characterization. What do I expect from a cheap, easy read by a non-believing author? Maybe I need to lighten up.

My problem is the gymnastics of self-justification. Flaccid logic posing as intellectually rigorous integrity, meaninglessness touted as profundity. I’m weary of the double-standard that approves certain ‘definite worldview statements’ yet denounces orthodox devotion as superstition. I’m tired of empty victories over straw men. I’m tired of faith enough to blame accompanied by recalcitrant conceit that won’t own it’s own decisions.

All the more reason to keep faith and Christianity explicit in my own work.

My studies in Speculative philosophy, metaphysics, and science are all summed up in the image of a mouse called man running in and out of every hole in the Cosmos hunting for the Absolute Cheese.– Benjamin DeCasseres