Social holiness is about way more than sex

Fellow Methodist pastor Evan Rohrs-Dodge wrote a very legitimate post recently pointing out the distinction between what John Wesley called “social holiness” and what people today call “social justice.” The two are often conflated in liberal Methodist circles. While social justice has to do with standing up for the marginalized, social holiness refers to developing an accountable community of people who are trying to actively help each other become more like Jesus. You cannot accomplish social justice without social holiness. I’ve tried it. It doesn’t work. Communities without any concern for holiness quickly degenerate into hot messy dramas, no matter how idealistic their goals for society are. At the same time, it’s very important to name an elephant in the room. When I look through the writings of John Wesley about his small group movement, I don’t see him encouraging his Methodists to gather weekly to hold ideological debates about other peoples’ sexuality. Because social holiness is about way more than sex. The reason that “holiness” today has turned into a code word for holding certain opinions about other peoples’ sexuality is because of agendas that have little to do with pursuing the heart of Christ that is the true standard of holiness.

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biblical obedience

What is Biblical obedience? Abraham, Huck Finn, and Adolf Eichmann

There’s a movement within United Methodism called “Biblical Obedience” whose name itself is offensive to many Methodists because it advocates full inclusivity for LGBT people. I’ve already written about my understanding of what the Bible actually teaches on this issue, but what I really want to  contemplate today is the question of obedience itself, setting aside the LGBT issue for a moment. The most radical example of Biblical obedience I can think of (other than Jesus’ journey to the cross) is when God tests Abraham by telling him to sacrifice his son Isaac on Mt. Moriah. This story raises difficult questions. Is obedience always a good thing? How do we know whether we’re obeying God or conforming to the world, particularly if our world happens to be saturated in church culture? How does Abraham’s radical example translate into our day? Does it look more like Huck Finn’s quest to free his friend Jim from slavery in rebellion against his cultural values or Adolf Eichmann’s willingness to follow orders and carry out the genocide of the Jewish people? Continue Reading

vaumc communion

Church, I think we’re gonna be okay

The past several years of my life have been building up to a three and a half hour stretch of time this morning from 8:30 am to 12:00 pm: my interviews for full ordination as a United Methodist elder. I have anticipated this moment with dread, paranoid about getting torpedoed by someone with a chip on their shoulders over one of my blog posts. What actually happened was I sat in a room with human beings who love God, who pray, who have made mistakes and learned from them, and who genuinely seemed to want the best for me and for our church. They not only took seriously their duty to evaluate my effectiveness in ministry but also acted the way that pastors are supposed to act in making me feel loved and safe in their presence. I don’t want to diminish the legitimately troubling experiences that other pastors have had in the ordination process. Neither do I want to minimize the injustices in our church. But experiencing the peace of the Holy Spirit when I expected to face a firing squad, God put it on my heart to say to my fellow Methodists that I think we’re going to be okay.

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A response to @BillMaher’s recent comments about God

I’ve been reading an interview with outspoken atheist comedian Bill Maher in the Atlantic. The interviewer asked him a question about God and his answer was intriguing to me. The question was along the lines of Pascal’s Wager: “What if you’re wrong and you’re dooming yourself to hell? Do you ever worry about that?” Here is Maher’s response:

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Is it worse to humble-brag or to pull a Richard Sherman?

In the blogosphere, the key to building a platform is to make other people think your platform is bigger than it really is. Because people don’t want to read your stuff unless you’re already popular. What this means is you have to figure out ways to create hype and buzz about yourself. But particularly if you’re in the Christian blogosphere like I am, you don’t want to do it in a way that looks arrogant. So that’s become the source of an epidemic of “humble-bragging” among Christian bloggers. It’s always more obvious what you’re doing than you think it is. So I’m wondering if rather than pretending to be humble, it’s actually less obnoxious to go ahead and boast openly in the fullness of your zany, wild hubris like Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman did on Sunday. Continue Reading


Some Henri Nouwen thoughts on prayer

A woman from my church gave me a bunch of spiritual books because she was downsizing, including an old Henri Nouwen book about prayer called With Open Hands. Yesterday, I read this book by Lake Accotink since we had the only fifty degree day we’re going to have for the rest of January. I underlined some quotes that I wanted to share on my blog. Continue Reading

Five blogger’s resolutions

I suck at New Year’s resolutions so usually I don’t even try. But my buddy Zach Hoag wrote something about the level of nastiness in the progressive Christian blogosphere that has made me reflect on how I can contribute to making a better online conversation. So here are five things I wanted to challenge myself to do and any other bloggers as well. Continue Reading


The three “family values” behind Black Friday

As I was reading several interviews with people standing in line for this year’s Black Friday, it hit me that we’re misdiagnosing Black Friday if we think that it’s merely a reflection of America’s greed. Greedy people don’t need to put the dishes in the sink after a Thanksgiving lunch and rush over to Best Buy. They can be greedy any day of the year and spend as much money as they need doing it. The problem with Black Friday is that it feels like something you’re supposed to do to show that you’re a responsible middle-class American because it’s rooted in three key “family values.” Continue Reading

Another item for Dave Ramsey’s list of what rich people do that poor people don’t do

dave_avatarDave Ramsey recently posted on his blog a list of 20 things that rich people do that poor people don’t do (the idea being that poor people are to blame for their poverty). Among the list were that rich people write down their goals, read books, make their kids volunteer, teach good daily success habits to their children, etc. Well, I was reading through my dad’s Economist magazine last night and I found a 21st item to put on Dave’s list. Apparently it’s a growing trend for really rich people to buy expensive artwork, and, instead of hanging it up in their homes, store it in giant, tax-free warehouses in places like Luxembourg to use as investment currency instead of stocks or bonds. Continue Reading

Why James K.A. Smith should stay off of twitter

rhe vs jkasThere are few things that make my blood boil more than to see someone take a mean-spirited, unfair swipe against someone else in a public forum like twitter. When this happens, it needs to be named and addressed, especially when the instigator is a popular Christian writer who I’ve promoted on my blog. Rachel Held Evans had expressed support for the student newspaper at Calvin College running a feature piece on LGBT students, which is pretty bold for an evangelical college. And James K.A. Smith, a professor at Calvin and writer of many books that I’ve blogged about, decided that he needed to “humble” Rachel for voicing her support when it’s none of her damn business. Continue Reading