Asking the Radical Questions


Please watch these video excerpts from a Francis Chan message:

I love Chan’s heart. He’s one of the few contemporary preachers with national reach who is asking the hard, radical questions that contemporary Christians must ask. He seems to have a better understanding of what it means to be human, to feel out of place in the institutional church, to read the Bible and then wonder why our expression of it fails so poorly to truly reflect it.

For people who have been Christians for more than a few years, shaking off the “system” of Christianity that we have erected is mind-bogglingly hard. Gaining that fresh perspective on the Scriptures and looking at them “sideways” doesn’t come easily—if it ever comes at all. We are more likely to simply kowtow to whatever our denominational flavor says and never truly ask the radical questions.

We throw around the word countercultural when it comes to the Church and the world, but the older I get, the more I find that the real counterculture is swimming against the tide of Church systems erected by well-intentioned believers who saw through a glass darkly and missed the real heart of the Gospel.

But that truly Christian counterculture is awakening. It makes my heart glad to see that some people get it, even if most of us still don’t.

My hope for all Christians, especially the ossified ones that predominate in the West, is that we will ask the kind of tough questions people like Francis Chan are asking. And more than anything else, I pray that we are prepared to do what it takes to provide answers, even if those answers painfully tear down idols in our churches, our culture, and our own lives.

Chilling Effect


Knowledgeable Web denizens know Google’s motto: Do no evil.

Cute, right?

Well, that motto was put to the test when Google opened in China and conformed to the Chinese Communist government’s wish to censor search result. But that’s China. You expect that out of China.

Recently, a site opened here in the States that should bother any sane person. It’s not a Google site per se, but it uses Google’s Map API to a chilling effect.


What eightmaps does is correlate required political donation data to pinpoint the houses and businesses of each person or company that donated money to support Proposition 8 in California. A roadmap to vandalism--or worse...A yes vote on 8 demanded that California enforce the statewide ban on homosexual marriage that voters enacted a few years ago, effectively eliminating the recent localized rulings in favor of such marriage, such as those in San Francisco.

It doesn’t take a genius to extrapolate the message sent by the posting of these names, home and business locations, and donation amounts in such an easily accessed image.  Nor is there any need to ask why these maps only feature donation info for those who voted in favor of Prop 8.

Rather scary, isn’t it?

Regardless of where you stand on Prop 8, the reality is that many Prop 8 supporters are Christians. As I cruised through, I could envision the maps becoming the names and locations of people who preach such wacky truths like “the Bible is true,”  “Jesus is the only way to heaven,” and “unless you repent of your sins and turn to Jesus, you will be eternally separated from God and cast into hell.” You know, hatemongering. Or at least that’s what the kiddies call it nowadays.

Think how easily the inhabitants of two ancient towns (no longer on the map, by the way) could have tracked down the house of that Lot fella if they had a cool tool like eightmaps, powered by Google. Do no evil, indeed.

Get ready people, the persecution is coming. Perhaps sooner than we think.

Neck Meet Boot


I just finished reading Phil Yancey’s The Jesus I Never Knew. I’ve been so busy that I think I read it in five-page snippets over lunch over the course of a month and a half, but I read it nonetheless. Highly recommended, even if it’s not anywhere close to being a new release. (It came out in 1993. Wow. Time DOES fly.)

As good as Yancey’s book is, it somehow got me thinking about the worst ostensibly “Christian” book I’ve read in the last five years, David Limbaugh’s Persecution. So you don’t ever waste your time on it, I can sum up Persecution nicely for you:

When the world comes against you as an American Christian, the time-honored response is simple: SUE!

Yes, you too can resolve all attempts at “persecution” by filing a lawsuit. File early, and file often. Then file some more. In fact, keep an attorney (Christian, of course) on retainer at all times so you can sue any and all monolithic organizations that want to impinge on your rights. The impinged rights don’t even fundamentally have to do anything with religious freedom. Just being a Christian means you have the right to defend yourself in a court of law should even one of your rights be remotely challenged, even if it’s those bad men attempting to take away your access to the closest parking spots to the shopping mall.

I don’t know why I read Persecution all the way through. I guess I kept looking for some alternative point that eventually became scriptural. You know, along the lines of

“But be on your guard. For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them. And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations. And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. And brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death. And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.”
—Mark 13:9-13

Somehow that seems markedly different from “The school district wants to change the name of Christmas Break to Winter Break ! AND they dropped all the Christian carols from the elementary school play! Oh, what are we going to do?”

I’ve never had my nose broken because I am a believer. Never taken a series of steel-toed shoe kicks to my ribs because I had the Holy Spirit-inflamed guts to speak the name of Jesus.

Don’t get me wrong. I can definitely be thankful that we haven’t experienced that level of attack here in the States. But those days may be ending. When I am an old man, the world may be very different. Thrown to the lions in Rome...and America?The persecuted church in China has been praying for years that the Church in the United States would taste some real persecution, not the faux Westernized version that consists of “The town council won’t let us put up a nativity scene in the square!” and the inevitable response of “We’ll sue!” I suspect the Chinese will get those prayers answered in the affrimative.

So much of Christianity in America is nothing more than a kneejerk, worldly reaction to the world’s own kneejerk, worldy reaction. But I can expect that from the world; I shouldn’t from the Church. We’ve built an entire social structure within our country and, subsequently, within our churches that says that one must wage war as the world does. Sword to sword. Hate to hate. Fear to fear. “You take away my priveleges and I will take away yours.” We want our eye for an eye, even if it means everyone in the world must go blind.

But one of the major themes that came out of Yancey’s The Jesus I Never Knew was that Jesus never acted on script. His response was “You have heard it said, but I say to you….” He consistently responded in a way that befuddled everyone. Every expectation lay shattered, no matter what side of society you came from. He ate with prostitutes and also said to them, “Go, and sin no more.” The Kingdom He came to establish not only opposed the worldly kingdoms, but the religious ones as well. He is the long-awaited King who said to His followers, “They will hate you on account of me.”

In short, His is the upside-down, inside-out angle that no one EVER seems to expect.

If I were a public school administrator, here’s what I could expect from the followers of Jesus in America should I decide to take one step toward returning a morning prayer to the school day:

“You’re not doing it right! We’re going to sue!”

“You didn’t call our group to lead it! We’re going to sue!”

“Why were we not consulted? We’re going to sue!”

“A moment of silence? That’s so wimpy. We’re going to sue!”

So because we have no idea what genuine persecution is, we’ve made everything persecution. And that partly explains the origins of the lowest common denominator sentimentality that epitomizes the quasi-religious spirit in this country.

I keep wondering what it would be like for the Church in America to know real persecution. Would it bring genuine revival? Or would it merely degrade into a series of lawsuits with Founding-Father-quoting attorneys on both sides of the issue pontificating for the nightly news, best soundbyte wins.

When the Son of Man returns, will He find faith on Earth? Or will he find a packed courtroom arguing the constitutionality of a plastic, electrically lit version of Him as a newborn shining in my neighbor’s front yard?

Maybe a boot to the neck isn’t such a bad thing.