Sunday, February 29, 2004

Week of Captivity/Day of Jubilee

This weekend was a doozy. I cleaned; I vegetated; I conquered. And in between, I was able to pinpoint when exactly I started watching network television with abandon (fall 1994), and how I feel out of love with it all (cancellations of wonderful shows and commercials that made me hate). I was confused by Solaris, confounded by my high school love of Pearl Jam, and dogged by ghosts of Fiona Apple's When the Pawn... (Finally, I realize why I have such a problem with it. It sounds less like a Fiona Apple album and more like a P.T. Anderson soundtrack. Jon Brion is the guilty party, and he must be stopped at all costs.)

I was up at roughly 4:30 this morning, all these thoughts racing through my head, plus others (I ruined the carrot cake; I'm not going to be able to wake up for church; why do I have a sore throat again; I am a computer killer, I broke the poor computer, I am guilty of computer murder, what will my parents think, will God strike me down like so much chattel; I wonder if I can find that live Pearl Jam cd from their show in Seattle on eBay for less than $10, because I can't imagine spending more than 10 dollars on a PJ cd anymore, even if it is three discs long), when I was reminded by one of the things I gave up for Lent: Internet shopping (there goes that cd).

E-shopping has been my downfall since Christmas. Obscure cds, books, and movies all at my fingertips. I can't get enough of it. So, like Michele, I said so-long. I didn't even binge on Fat Tuesday, stocking up as it were for the fast ahead. My last online purchase fell some two weeks ago, when I reconnected with an old friend named Waterdeep.

Somewhere after Everything's Beautiful and Enter the Worship Circle, "Everyone's Favorite Indie Band" started slipping off my Hot List. Maybe it's because they were no longer indie, maybe it's because Kenny Carter left the band, maybe it's because I was desperately trying not to develop a crush on this girl I strongly associated with all things Waterdeep. I think, though, the death knell might have been the craptastic version of "Those Who Trust" on their solo worship cd You Are So Good To Me. Not long after that, their record label (Squint) folded, most of the band was let go, and Waterdeep went bankrupt. Now, I don't believe in karma, but if I did, I'd point to those first few measures of "Those Who Trust" version 2.0 (and the look of horror on Andy Senter's face when he heard it for the first time) as the beginning of the end.

But behold, everything that was old is new. Bankruptcy forces cut backs, resulting in a wonderfully sublime acoustic tour (with, not one, but two of the most cinematic moments of my young life [stories for another time]). New albums, released independently, were produced and sold via the Internet. I didn't bite for over a year and a half though. Didn't visit the Swim Team boards, didn't borrow a cd, didn't even download an mp3. But one day, maybe three or four weeks ago, I started listening to Sink or Swim in the mornings while waking up. And suddenly....

Flash forward to last week, opening and listening to new albums -- one Waterdeep with mostly Don, one solo Don, and one solo Lori (p.s. the absolute apple of this proverbial eye). Mostly, I was worried about peppy "Christian-eze" lyrics (that had wormed their way onto Everyone's Beautiful). But much to my surprise, most of the 42 songs were "Sweet River Roll" in nature (minus the "sweet Jesus" refrain at the end). It was fresh and vital and exactly what I needed.

Then hell sprang forth from the depths. On Tuesday, a publishing project I had been working on for weeks came back from the printer's with major problems. On Wednesday, I had a "State of the Job" talk with the boss, that while it went well, left me with the feeling that I had played my last trump card. On Thursday, I started getting a sore throat again (4th cold of 2004). And on Friday, our server hiccuped, wheezed, then gasped it's last breath (fingers crossed that I'm wrong). It was like that episode of ER where Dr. Greene saves the baby but loses the mother due to various complications he wasn't fully trained to handle. Except I don't think I saved a thing. I worked on it from noon until 8:30 at night with a 15 minute dinner break at about 6:00.

I have never felt so helpless in my life. This was worse than my Summer of Suck and the Med Student Physics Fiasco combined.

But I am taking this day, February the 29th, as a sign that things are going to be different. This is special. This is unique. This is a day I will live less than any other day of the year in my lifetime (let's call it my own personal Day of Jubilee). And I will rest in that. Let the debts be made null, and let the land be returned to its rightful owner. I will rest in the plans that are laid out before me, misty though they may seem, stretching further than I can imagine, made solid by my trust in that which cannot be caught by human eyes, only felt through a hope that cannot be overcome.

God, I'm such an existentialist.

Monday, February 23, 2004

everything old is new again

Le Update

Went to Mass Sunday morning, and felt totally at ease at church for the first time since I've been here. It's been a couple years since I've visited a Catholic church, so I was a little rusty. But there were so many familiar faces that I barely felt self-conscious about not knowing when to sit and kneal and stand. Also, it was perfect because I hadn't even realized that Lent started this week, and probably wouldn't have been reminded had I gone to just about any other church in town.

Next week I hope to visit the local Episcopalian church. I would stay with the Catholic one, were it not for the fact that I'm not Catholic. And there's just too many differences of opinion, especially concerning the Eucharist. I can't, in good faith, take it there. And I can't attend a church where I couldn't join in with the community in communion. I need that. I love the fact that the Eucharist is the central part of the worship service, because I really do tend to regard communion as something more than just a simple commemoration. But I can't bring myself to believe everything the Catholic church believes about the Eucharist.

So that's it for now. I had a great Sunday; something I haven't been able to say in ages. I've been thinking about a couple things to post about later this week, including (but definitely not limited to):

--some thoughts on marriage
--some differences between sub-culture and counter-culture
--some thoughts on the importance of Lent
--general moaning and complaining


Ah, more than any priest, O soul, we too believe in God;
But with the mystery of God we dare not dally.

O soul, thou pleasest me--I thee;
Sailing these seas, or on the hills, or waking in the night,
Thoughts, silent thoughts, of Time, and Space, and Death, like waters flowing,
Bear me, indeed, as through the regions infinite,
Whose air I breathe, whose ripples hear--lave me all over;
Bathe me, O God, in thee--mounting to thee,
I and my soul to range in range of thee."

-Walt Whitman

End Interlude

End Post

Thursday, February 19, 2004

The Rich, The Poor, Reality Television and Grace That Abounds

Lost in Translation

This film had me from hello. Actually, that's a lie. I was thrown at first, because of the nice long shot of Scarlett Johansson's backside. It was an agreeable way to start the movie, but I definitely felt guilty -- sort of like a "peeping tom." This is the same reason I can't watch "Survivor" or "Who Wants To Marry An Average Bachelor Joe, Who May Or May Not Be A Millionaire, or Gay, But Either Way You're Sure To Make Out With Him On National Television." But once the credits begin to roll at the end of Lost, you realize the whole film was voyeuristic in many ways. Though even now, looking back to that first shot, I still feel like I was somewhere I wasn't supposed to be. I am a voyeur and a bad man.

It's Sort Of A "The Hunt For Red October Meets Sleepless in Seattle Meets The Bachelor"

From start to finish, I was invested in this film. First things first: movies where the setting is just as important as plot and character are few and far between. And it's hard to pull off for a director. You can get so involved in the setting, that you forget how important your characters are (see The Thin Red Line for examples). But you can also get so involved in your characters that your film could be set just about anywhere (see any movie by Kevin Smith). Not so with Lost.

Sofia Coppola allows her setting to actually be an additional character, with a unique accent and tone all of its own. The setting drives the plot and pacing as much as Charlotte and Bob do. The setting isn't just a backdrop or canvas; it is an entity. It lives, it breathes, it grows. Not many directors are able to find this kind of balance, but Coppola does.

Where I Go On And On About Things (Just Skip It And Read The Last Section Of Mere Christianity Instead)

But more then geeky film concepts, this movie hits us so subtly over the head with small acts of grace. Okay, as far as I know, Coppola isn't a Bible-thumping, born-again Jesus freak, but who the crap cares? God's grace as evidenced by individuals (whether they believe in God or not) is usually the way people are introduced to God in the first place. In any visual medium, it's extremely hard to have a character named "God" show heavenly grace. Most times, it just comes off as cheesy (every conversion scene on film fails to rings true because it's nearly impossible to show such an inward moment with a movie camera). It's so much easier for real people (or in our case, actors) to show grace to each other.

There's also this wonderful disconnect felt by the characters that rings existentially for us all. Bob's disconnect from his wife and his career, Charlotte's disconnect from spirituality and people in general, and this barely glimpsed disconnect between old Japan and modern Japan. These are individuals starving for love (but not necessarily affection?), loneliness (though they still receive attention), and ultimately searching for meaning and direction.

The city is such an interesting place to start a quest for meaning amidst loneliness. There's this dichotomy where in a city of millions, loneliness can seem even more pronounced. People from small towns seem to have this inter-connectedness that people from urban areas are starving for. Modern man and woman have so many people, places, and things instantaneously available to them, but we still feel an incredible disconnect. As a Christian, I'm not ready to pull out the "God-shaped hole" argument, because this disconnect is even experienced from time to time in the life of every believer.

C.S. Lewis often wrote about how this world was merely a shadow of that world to come; how our relationship with Christ in the here and now pails in comparison to the fellowship we will have with Christ in the eschaton. This is an important concept to grasp, especially in the midst of struggles and loneliness. The Christian life does not solve all our problems because we remain fallen creatures in a fallen world. It's only in the next life that we will enjoy the fullness of what it means to be a disciple of Christ.

So we as Christians are not above this disconnect in any way. We should never look down on characters in movies because they "don't have God." Instead we can relate with them as human beings, because we experience the same disconnect as they do -- we walk in a world of shadows, a pale imitation of what it once was in the Garden, and what it shall be once again.

Oh, Those Wonderful Words!

The dialogue in the Lost surprises without really blowing anyone away. It's real, nervous and geeky, not overly-witty, full of emotions not expressed. There's this economy to the langauge, expressed most in the last scene between Bill and Charlotte where the most important line of the movie is mumbled and indistinct. Coppola doesn't need a strong word-smith here because the acting says more than what's in the script, and the setting expresses things that really couldn't be put to words in the first place.

This economy of language is juxtaposed next to the language barrier that Bob and Charlotte come up against in Japan. It's funny to us that it takes so many Japanese words to express so few English words. We know that so much of what's being said is lost [in translation], yet we know that the general meaning gets across. Just another example of the disconnectedness that Bob and Charlotte and going through, and why it's so much easier for them to become friends despite their differences. They are strangers in a strange land. They connect on a visceral level simply because they speak the same language, (more so because they say "roller skate" and not "lorrel skate"). It's these small things that bring them together, not common interests in music and film or shared political/philosophical beliefs.

The language is so real at times this feels like early seasons of the "Real World," before the reality TV explosion, before people knew how to act on reality TV, before reality TV editors had discovered how to piece things together to make everything seem more dramatic and life-or-death. The film is shot in a faux-documentary style, with hand-held and steady-cam, that only adds to the voyeuristic feeling established in the first shot of the movie.

New Places, Familiar Faces

Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson shine without seeming like movie stars. This on top of the fact that Bill Murray is actually playing a movie star. Bob makes Charlotte laugh; Charlotte immediately trusts this stranger because he acts as though he isn't a stranger. For the audience, it helps that he is Bill Murray, someone we've laughed with before. For Charlotte it helps that he's Bob Harris; she has the same connect with him as we in the audience do. They can't get enough of each other because they actually enjoy listening to each other. It's impressive from a story-telling standpoint that Coppola doesn't take their relationship to places that Hollywood might have urged her to. And it's easier for us as the audience to accept that it's not going to go there because it's not a typical Hollywood movie (it's set entirely in freaking Japan!). Their age difference makes a difference, too, but that's not enough. Setting plays such a major part in why the story unfolds as it does.

Watch Out Richies! Here I Come!

My biggest problem with the film is that, even though I enjoy it so much, I still have this nagging feeling that we're missing something. Charlotte and Bill are so emotionally empty because they lack a sense of direction and purpose for their lives. But the thing is, this is really only a problem for the wealthy, or at least, comparatively speaking, the middle-class on up. Do the poor usually have the time or energy to have these kinds of existential crises? Not even the middle-class get to in the setting that Bob and Charlotte do.

The poor, by definition, don't have the resources to spend long stretches of time fretting over the future. They are more concerned with staying alive and perhaps feeding their family than with existential journeys in Japan with Yale grads and movie stars. Johannson's character reminds me of Elizabeth in Anne Lamott's Rosie (only younger and less alcoholic). I mean, come on, how many people do get to study philosophy at Yale? The problems the wealthy face are so different from those most normal people do. Or maybe, just maybe, it's the same problem, but just manifested in such a different and freakish way, that we barely recognize it?

In Africa, most people don't struggle with animal rights and anorexia; they just want clean water and a loaf of bread. As weird as it sounds, it's a luxury for us here in America to worry about women's rights, deforestation, and the death tax. In the West Bank, they worry about whether or not their house is going to be missiled during the night. In Ethiopia, they worry about the wives and daughters being raped the next time the local warlord comes to town. Rampant hunger and AIDS plague more people than do problems concerning affirmative action and gay marriage. This film, while so engaging, is just another skewed vision of what is really wrong in the world.

On Second Thought, Maybe The Richies Aren't All Bad

All that being said, I still can't get enough of this film. There's this great line in Adaptation where Charlie Kaufman, played by Nick Cage, rambles on about how he doesn't want to write a movie where characters end up "learning profound life lessons, growing and coming to like each other or overcoming obstacles to succeed in the end!" Lost doesn't stoop to this. The issue isn't whether or not Bob and Charlotte will end up coming to like each other, because they connect right away. The issue is whether or not they learn something profound that they can take back to their respective lives that will change the course of where they were headed before they met each other (phew!). And maybe they do, but because of that muffled line, we'll never really know. That's why I think I enjoy this film so much. Because it suggests, ever so slightly, that there are answers out there, but it refuses to give them to us. It's not a scientific film about cut-and-dry solutions (like many romantic comedies, revenge-driven action films, or Christian end-time movies are), but a film about the simple belief that hope and grace are out there, somewhere, just hanging out until we find time to go after them.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Coming Soon...

I am working on a post in response to Lost In Translation. I really dug the film, and have a million things to say about it. I can't wait.

Sunday, February 15, 2004

Why I Am This, Rather Than That

Some Thoughts On Conservative Christians & Social Change

It's time to throw off the belief that politics play little influence on the whole of our worldview. While we might not be able to put it into poli-speech, our views on the nature of humanity (harmartiology specifically) involuntarily affect who we vote for when election time comes around.

Conservatives, Liberals, David Bowie

Let's say, for just a moment, that we can easily define liberalism and conservativism (humor me). We're going to ignore the Bush/Democratic-of-the-week definitions, and stick to the underlying assumptions behind the views.

It's safe to say that conservativism is built upon a belief in a moral order ordained by a Creator and a resistance to change and progress, especially for the sake of change itself, or if change goes against said moral order. Man is a noble, yet fallen creature, and will remain that way (government provides law and order, keeping man in check). There are also some libertarian leanings to consider, such as small government and low taxes, which we should also note.

On the other side, liberalism has a God more akin to the deist view, or maybe the Enlightenment god of Reason, the obtuse Watchmaker in the sky. Man is seen as essentially good, able to bring about a utopian heaven on earth through proper education and constant restructuring of society. Change is not only good, but it is needed on a day-to-day basis.

In some ways, the Democratic/Republican split is still divided by these distinctions. Especially when it comes to Christians who are involved in the political process. Liberal Christians who don't believe in an actual "Fall" are usually Democrats who seek progress, a sort of postmillennialism put to a political agenda. Christian Conservatives who do believe that humanity is basically bad news are usually Republicans who are resistant to great change, especially social change. Social programs are exercises in futility to them because sin and corruption cannot be overcome by a "benevolent" State. For example, Republicans generally don't have the same urgency as Democrats possess to save Social Security and Medicare. The Right would rather see it "wither on the tree," run out of funding, and let the market (rather than govt.) take over.

Righting Old Wrongs, Like Super-Hereos, Only Without Spandex

But can a Christian be theologically conservative and socially liberal? It does seem an odd combination (although Reinhold Niebuhr seemed to pull it off in the first half of the 20th century). If one appeals to the prophetic tradition of the OT in conjunction with the social revolution Jesus personified in the Gospels, it's not hard to make a case (not the time or place to do here, but maybe something not think about for later). The most glaring problem is that it makes for strange bedfellows. Conservatives with a cautious view of human nature in tandem with liberals and their exalted view of humanity -- united for social justice.

It's this belief in man's essential goodness that puts off many conservative Christians from the Democratic Party. We're suspicious of it, and rightfully so. The past 100 years haven't justified liberalism in many ways; things seem to be getting worse around the world, though generally better at home. WWI and WWII put the utopian liberal ideal on life support. Since that time conservatism has flourished in both power and intellect. Republicans have held the White House 15 of the last 23 years. The eight years of a Democratic White House under Clinton were "marred" by a liberal move to the center (a restructuring closer to the Right). Clinton was a moderate Democratic who "stole" many Republican ideas in order to lock down moderate swing voters who could have gone either way. (Does anyone remember "the era of big government is over?")

Conservatives have held onto a majority in the nation because the world is such a screwed up place, and we are terribly afraid of it.

This makes it so incredibly hard for a conservative Christian to break conservative ranks on social policy and jump on board the "7 political step to a better you" bandwagon. We know that man is fallen, but we hold fast to the belief that Scripture advocates social justice. Not egalitarianism, mind you; that would have been anathema to the NT writers, but a society that looks after the poor, the widowed, and the orphaned, by giving up our own misplaced(?) right to peace and comfort.

Bush doesn't seem to hold a very high view of the above sentiment. Or if he does, he doesn't think it's the State's responsibility, but the Church's. The problem is, the Church is failing the poor to a tune of 14 million children in need of proper health care, some 34.6 million living in poverty (if you're wondering how the govt defines poverty), and a wholesale rejection of the single-mother culture (it might be noted that there are more ways to be widowed than by death these days). And that's just in the United States.

Are We Men Or Are We Marxists?

So who picks up the slack? If the Church refuses to do its job, can the State step in? It already has in numerous ways through Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, Food Steps, Free and Reduced Lunch Programs, Head Start, etc. But how far should the State be allowed to go? Maybe that's the real question. Can a conservative Christian push the State to take care of the poor without resorting to shades of Marxism? Or maybe, to put it another way, what does liberty really mean to the conservative who also happens to be a Christian?

Friday, February 13, 2004

Treading Lightly

If you haven't heard, newly minted San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom allowed the city's county clerk to issue nearly 100 marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples. This is a tricky issue, because no matter your views on the morality of homosexual behavior, the repercussions of such an act are just....beyond common sense. I say that for a variety of reasons.

First, I know that there are many people who just want to say outright that gays and lesbians shouldn't have the right to marry on moral grounds. I'm not going to get into that right now, simply because I've had this debate in the past, and it's just not worth getting into right now.

Second, with the Massachusetts Supreme Court and the San Francisco county clerk's office forcing the issue, what they are really doing is sticking their opinion in the face of the voting public. They are taking the issue out of the purview of democracy (letting the public or at least their representatives decide), and putting it into municipal and judicial hands, which just makes me more than a little bit angry. We need this debate to be a public one, not waged by individual states and cities, but to have a national discussion of this issue, to find out where we as a country stand. In their hastiness, Massachusetts and San Francisco may be setting gay and lesbian couples up for a heart-breaking defeat in the future. It's like dangling a carrot only to pull it away at the last minute because the carrot was never theirs to dangle in the first place.

Third, my own personal opinion on the issue has to do with church-state separation. Committed couples have the right, no matter their sexual orientation, to collect insurance and tax benefits that are available to to married couples. This is why I don't have a problem with civil unions. It just affords gay and lesbian couples the same rights as anyone else. The Constitution never weighs in on the issue, and really never should. My only problem is when the judicial system decides it has the right to define a religious institution such as marriage. Quite plainly, that scares the crap out of me. What might scare me more is that no one seems to be raising this issue. It's like the religious community is in such a tizzy over the morality of the issue, that they are failing to see how the court is stepping into their domain.

No court, not even the Federal Supreme Court, has the right to dictate to the Church how they define and carry out their sacraments and institutions. Civil unions are the purview of the State; marriage the purview of the Church. There really isn't a good argument that allows either side to dictate to the other how to define these institutions.

Sunday, February 08, 2004

Theology Is The New Black (But I Am Getting Bored)

Okay, let's go somewhere we haven't been in a while. Let's go back...all the way the year 2000.

"The year 2000?"

Yes, my friend, here's a bit I've been wrestling with for a while. A bit that hasn't really gone anywhere for a while. Lots of questions, because that's what makes theology so fun!

What The Crap Happened To Theology?

What is the role of theology these days? How do we come to our own theologies? Or should we (as individuals) have our own theologies? Shouldn't there be something more corporate, more universal? Some set of truths that transcend individual discovery?

A year after my brother caught the Calvinist bug, he was often frustrated with theology at school. If God knows the Truth (in his omnipotence) and God communicates truth (through Scriptural revelation), why can't we all just agree on the Truth? When all you hear is Calvin, you don't have anywhere to go. But back at school, my brother was getting confused, floundering under the weight of so many different viewpoints, which all pointed to Scripture for evidence.

Which leads me to two questions, questions I really won't go into here. Being: 1) When do we as a faith community introduce tough theological discourse to Christians? In high school, where they are just beginning to utilize reason with Scripture? In college, when liberal arts education should mean open discourse? Or perhaps later, after they've been "indoctrinated" with truth and are ready for opposing views?

And 2) Are there people who just shouldn't study theology at all? Left-brained individuals who don't think about God in terms of determinism/free will debates, are even those whose minds weren't "built" for heavy theological discussion? I know that smacks of elitism, but there are people I know who hate talking theology, because the weight of such heady conversation leaves them feeling like they're lost, like there is no truth, or like such arguments are so divisive that it should just be left alone -- that we cannot do theology without tearing each other apart.

But this really isn't about answers. Not right now, anyway. For the moment, this is all about the questions.

Whither Then, Theology? (p.s. who's got the map?)

So what role does theology play? Over the past 100 years or so, theology has become a very different beast. It has become a quest. Or perhaps, 'The Quest' to discover our own individual theology -- to discover our own God. This shouldn't surprise us considering the culture we live in today where a belief is valid as long as it doesn't impinge on the beliefs of others.

Hegel taught that no statement could be true in the absolute. But it wasn't until the 20th century when that abstract philosophical belief found itself in the mainstream. Two much misunderstood theories helped it gain the prominence it has today -- Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity, and Postmodern language theory. Hegel was wed to Einstein in order to prove that relativity was scientifically viable, ignoring the error in applying moral relativity to a physical scientific principle. Later, relativists jumped on PM, a theory that all symbols mean different things to different people, again ignoring that PM made no moral judgments of its own. It was simply stating the truth, that for example, the American flag means different things to different people around the world.

Since then, theology has not been able to make the same truth claims it once made. So has theology become the existential "how do we encounter God?" In a word: yes. The problem isn't getting back to the way things were (see: conservatism), or allowing things to progress towards something new (see: liberalism), but really, how much of past theological discourse was based on experience, and what does that mean for theology today?

[Side Note: Perhaps theology is simply about story? Specifically, God's story. And if it is, when we do theology, are we simply finding similarities with our own personal story and God's story? And does this affinity or kinship with God affect any future quest for truth (or is it in itself a quest for truth)? Does this make theology less a quest for truth and more an egocentric quest for individual meaning? And if so, why is that so bad?]

Oops, All Praxis!

My biggest concern at the moment is rooted in the past. "Conversion experience" theology was rooted in the reaction to the Enlightenment dismantling of the historicity of the Bible. People were part of the Church because everyone knew that Jesus Christ was an historical truth. But the Enlightenment killed that. So people were part of the Church because they had an experience in accepting Christ. Before the Great Awakening, such "experiential truth" was not necessary.

Modern "scientific" theology was as much a reaction to the Enlightenment, only it swang the opposite direction. The Bible was no longer Truth simply because the "Authority" said so, but because scientific discoveries (in archeology) or rational exploration of Biblical propositions said so.

Reformation theology itself was an experiential reaction to the abuses of the Catholic church. It was the experiences of Luther and Henry VIII that led them to new theology, not the other way around. Post-Reformation Protestant theology polished over this fact, as if to say, "Yes, but no matter how subjective their motivation, they happened to be objectively right!"

Even St. Paul's letters to various NT churches were motivated by experiential theology. Problems in churches led to the formation (or at the very least, exposition) of new theology. Some of the things Paul dealt with he could not simply refer to Christ's teaching in response. Through the Spirit, he has to expound upon new theology.

Orthodoxy vs. Orthopraxy (is that a real word?)

So how much do we concede? How much of theology is careful reason, and how much is existential pondering? Is right theology rooted in good praxis (prax-->theo)? Or is good praxis rooted in right theology (theo-->prax)?

My biggest fear is that in a culture where modern is in the decline, that question becomes a chicken/egg problem (what came first?) to which there is no right answer. In the Jewish theological community, faith is evidenced by proper praxis, right living and observance of feats and festivals. Christianity, especially the Protestant reaction, supposedly changed all that.

And this is where I really get confused. In ancient Biblical theology, faith is evidenced in our keeping the Sabbath Day observances, the Torah, and National Festivals, such as the Day of Atonement. In New Testament theology, faith is based on a set of inner beliefs -- Christ is God, salvation is by grace, the Bible is true. But we've been flip-flopping ever since then. Catholic theology (no salvation outside the Church and its sacraments) vs. Reformed theology (free grace to the elect chosen by God) vs. whatever else (Anabaptists and baptism, Charismatics and the Holy Spirit, Liberation theology and praxis centered thought).

So what makes a theological community? Is it our faith? Is it having the right belief system? Is it what we do? Is it where we were born? Is it who are take care of? Is it who we ignore? Is it through suffering? Is it through liberation? It is through freedom? Is it through liberty?

Or is it none of the above?

Until we consider these questions, until we admit that the formulation of both correct theology and incorrect theology is driven by our experiences, until we can come up with a response to postmodernism that neither embraces it as a brother or rejects it as a whore (anathema), we will be lost. Much as I feel right now.

It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back

This isn't about answers...yet. For right now, it's about questions. There's no use answering until every Christian realizes the importance of these questions. This isn't just a debate for academics and seminaries; it's a debate for peasants and politicians, for mill-workers and doctors and cashiers at J.C. Penney and Wal-Mart. I don't know, maybe "Theology Proper" isn't for everyone. But thinking about God is.