Two Cents on a “Controversial” Homily

It’s weird to use the word “controversy” for a 13-minute homily at a nominally-religious famous person’s wedding. But last week, that’s exactly what happened in a certain niche of evangelical social media.

The subject was Michael Curry, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church. Here’s a video of his homily. My pastor, Ken Robertson, had a good summary of the controversy on his Facebook page:

Archbishop Curry’s sermon (and the response to it) proves two things, I think:

  1. People are still captivated by passionate proclamation. Preaching is NOT an outdated, less-than form of communicating the gospel: it lies right at the center of God’s work of making all things right. Always has, always will.
  2. People heard very different things in this sermon: everything from “the heart of the gospel” to a “false gospel” (both phrases from my timeline). It almost reminds me of Yanni vs. Laurel!

I think that was spot on. Especially for we Anglicans in the ACNA, our opinion of the homily has as much to say about our own backgrounds as the homily itself.

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Shea Serrano, Trump Supporters, and Double Fundamentalism

We evangelicals like to draw a distinction between ourselves (the normal people) and the fundamentalists (the crazy khaki pants people). Obviously, definitions are complicated, and often sloppy, but a key aspect of fundamentalists is their tendency to isolate themselves from non-fundamentalists. A good summary comes from a slogan that my grandparents heard back when they were young:

Don’t smoke, don’t chew, don’t go with those who do.

To paraphrase slightly, fundamentalists: (1) don’t smoke or drink, and (2) don’t socialize with people who smoke or drink.

Double fundamentalists take it a step further. Their rules are: (1) don’t smoke or drink, (2) don’t socialize with people who smoke or drink, AND (3) don’t socialize with people who socialize with people who smoke or drink.

To make things more concrete, say we have three people: Anne, Bob, and Carol. None of them smoke or drink, but Anne socializes with people who do. Bob, a fundamentalist, could still socialize with Anne. Carol, a double fundamentalist, could not.

Based on my (too) extensive use of Twitter, I’ve noticed a troubling pattern emerging. I’m thinking of one writer in particular: Shea Serrano from the Ringer. For reasons that will soon become clear, I want to emphasize that I like most of his writing a lot.

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Did Anything Even Happen in the Centuries Between Paul the Apostle and Billy Graham?

A few days ago, we dropped our latest Believe to See podcast. Anselm staffer Michelle Hindman joined us to discuss a topic I know far too little about: hagiography, or stories of the lives of saints.

First, you should listen to the whole podcast, which is right here (and it’s embedded at the bottom of this post). Second, I have a few takeaways.

  1. The Catholic Advantage

For many issues, I’m happy to have been raised in the protestant-evangelical world. For instance, when a Catholic friend asked me what happened in the book of Esther, I could explain the whole story to him and it’s significance in the greater meta-narrative of the Bible.

But one area where I need to catch up is in my knowledge of the lives of the saints. Between the Apostle Paul and Billy Graham, evangelicals have a lot of blanks on the timeline. They really miss out on the hagiographies. Or at least, on the official hagiographies (more on that later).

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A Few More Imagination Redeemed Reflections

In my last post, I shared some initial takeaways on this year’s Your Imagination Redeemed conference. For this post, I’ll share . . . MORE takeaways from the conference! Here they are:

4. Know Your Goal as an Artist

I was the moderator for a panel on the Christian music and the Christian radio industry. The panelists were musicians whose work doesn’t fit the Christian radio formula. But none of them seemed frustrated by that for one simple reason: their goals weren’t to be on Christian radio.

Instead, they focused on creating music that would actually have an effect on people. As one of the panelists (Hi, Teressa!) explained, she realized her goal at an Andrew Peterson concert. She realized how many of the folks in the audience were welling up at his songs. Her goal was to have a career like that–create music that connected to people on that deep level. Getting on the big radio stations was an afterthought.

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Kids Need Imagination. And So Does the Church. And So Do I.

This past weekend was the Anselm Society’s big yearly conference: Your Imagination Redeemed. It was a blast–speakers and artists from across the country gathered to talk about the role of imagination in the Church.

In an effort to apply as much of what I’ve learned as possible, I’ve decided to share some initial takeaways from the big blob of information that I’m still trying to process.

So here they are, in no particular order:

  1. Imagination is Important

It’s easy to think of imagination as a kids’ trifle. We assume the important things are verifiable, commodifiable facts. This attitude is (especially?) prevalent among evangelicals. The only real Important Things are doctrinal issues. Imagination is important, if at all, only to the extent it aids the Important Things.

One of the keynote speakers, Dr. Anthony Esolen, noted that this humans-as-robots sort of thinking isn’t actually how the world works. Yes, it’s important to teach doctrine. But what really forms us is our imagination.

If we only focus on doctrine and ignore imagination, we’ve given away the game without realizing it.

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The Opposite of a Cultural Evangelical. Sort Of.

In my last post, I questioned poll results based on (some) evidence. Now, I’m going to question those same results without any evidence.

But don’t worry, I have something way better than evidence–a hunch. Here it is:

Picture a spectrum of people. All of these people affirm the same basic “evangelical” beliefs about Christianity, Scripture, and everything else. Now let’s say we line up all those people according to how enthusiastically they embrace the term “evangelical.”

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“Cultural Evangelical” Is Now A Thing. It Shouldn’t Be.

Okay, one more post about evangelical identity. At least until my next post.

Some of us in the evangelical world were masochistic enough to follow the aftermath of the 2016 election. For we unhappy few, one number stands out: 81. That’s the supposed percent of white evangelicals who voted for Trump.

Depressing? Sure. But I’ve already dwelt on that enough. Instead, I want to make a few points about the weirdness of polling “evangelicals.”

Continue reading ““Cultural Evangelical” Is Now A Thing. It Shouldn’t Be.”

Breaking News: Quiz Confirms that I Am Really Evangelical

Back in December, Mere Orthodoxy created a quiz to determine whether you are really evangelical. I waited until now to write about it because I decided it vindicates a point I made in my blog last week.

In addition to proving me right, the quiz is both well-done and hilarious. Don’t take my word for it. Go ahead and take it yourself. I’ll wait.

Okay, now that we’re on the same page, let me commend the opening section of the quiz:

“In the Trump era there is no lack of uncertainty about the true definition of an evangelical Christian. 81% of evangelical Christians supported Trump last fall and… one of Trump’s most prominent conservative critics is evangelical leader Russell Moore. It’s no surprise that a) no one knows what an evangelical is, and b) everyone wants to define it.”

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Evangelical: Good Adjective, Bad Noun

Like many of you, I bounce back and forth about my feelings toward the term “evangelical.” When someone asks if I’m an evangelical, I usually panic before pretending to get a text.

But some less-panicked thought has landed me at a solution. To make things even better, it’s grammar-based. Here it is:

I’m an Evangelical Anglican.1 But I’m not an Anglican Evangelical.

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Yeah, I know it’s been a while….

I should explain why I haven’t posted anything since . . . I’d rather not check. My plan was to take a “month off’ from writing the blog, and that turned into this. Because everybody loves excuses so much, I thought I’d share some of mine:

  • I’ve written a lot of posts. For those of you rolling your eyes (I’m looking at you, dad), check out my “old posts” catalogue. I’ve written a bunch on evangelicals and cynicism. And so, so, much on Trump. I got to the point where I wanted to write about literally anything else. Plus, I had a nice fiction project I’ve been toying with.1
  • Writing took a lot of time. As you may have noticed (and if you didn’t, don’t tell me), my blog posts were carefully-written. They had logical flow, were polished to a varnish, and were far longer than blog posts should be. They also took a long time. Time that I, as a lawyer, husband, and father of two, didn’t have in abundance (come on Dad, stop rolling your eyes!).
  • Most significantly, I’d started losing confidence in my topic. I’ve written about this before,2 but after Trump steamrolled to the presidency, and seemed to confirm every negative stereotype about evangelicals in the process, writing nice things about evangelicalism became a slog.

This was all made more complicated by a not-so-hidden secret about this project. The reason I started this blog in the first place was…

Continue reading “Re-Launch”