Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Pope of America Takes on Reality TV

What? You mean you didn't realize America had a pope?? Say it with me - "Oprah." Massive financial success and power, fiercely loyal following, self-styled spirituality for sale, generosity to others, literacy, oh the list goes on.

Her latest venture is sure to be an interesting one: unscripted drama (read "reality TV"). is reporting that her company is developing a show for ABC called "The Big Give," which "follows a group of 10 people who will be handed money and resources -- and then challenged to find dramatic and emotional ways to use the coin to help others." Whoever wins gets one of their own wildest wishes granted.

So many interesting questions here. Like this one - "Is this the commodification of generosity?" - or another way of putting it, "Who's making money from other people giving it away? ABC? Oprah? Advertisers?" Or how about this one - "Are non-dramatic, non-emotional forms of giving now somehow inferior?" The questions about what all this communicates could go on for hours. I'll leave it to you to ask some more. Mind you, I'm not trying to be a cynical jerk here - there are likely some more positive questions to be considered. I'm just trying to get the ball rolling.


posted by Steve at 8:07 AM
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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Perkatory Cafe

Earlier this week, the Perkatory Cafe went live at The Purple Door. It's a partnership between the college ministry I'm a part of, and a local church. We're open for some limited hours to start with, but hopefully we'll expand those as time goes. Good, fairly traded coffee will be served, along with a homey vibe, free wi-fi, and 15% more love than the other guys' coffee shops. If you're in Seattle, come on by and say hello. One hint, though - take the bus . . . sadly, vast amounts of parking isn't on the menu.

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posted by Steve at 5:01 PM
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And now for something completely different

I quote the entirety of a local television "news" story:

A blind woman in Texas said she is coming under fire for her choice of a service animal. Tabitha Darling said she is being harassed by her property management because she and her 12-year-old pony, Trixi, live in a one-bedroom apartment in suburban Fort Worth.

Darling said Trixi is a seeing eye "dog" and wheelchair combined and is protected by federal law as a service animal. The woman rides Trixi several miles to work at Wal-Mart everyday, and Wal-Mart managers accommodate the pony with a specially built pen behind the store. Darling hopes to move to a house soon and said she got similar hassles when she lived in Idaho.

posted by Steve at 4:23 PM
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Sunday, March 25, 2007

Denmark Observations - entry 4

This will probably be my last entry in this series. I may have a random thought here or there, but this'll do for now. Unfortunately, I don't seem to be ending the series on an "up" note. Oh well.

While at a conference that involved missiologists, denominational seat holders, and other sorts of theological types, I was struck at how very stale the spiritual dynamics were there. Apparently, there was more interest in the state of Christianity at work in the world than interest in the way the Triune God is at world in the world. One could argue about the inevitability of an institutional feel at an academic conference of scholars, but if that's truly the case, then I'd like to opt out of the academy. I just don't believe that academics, and the dynamics of a living, working, redemptive God, are mutually exclusive. It's far too easy to lose our way. The topic of Christianity in the Global South is hugely important - way more important than most Western Christians can conceive. But isn't it the Spirit of God at work? Aren't we called by the name of one that we believe has risen from death? The kinds of changes that we need to embrace in our radically changing world are not of the scholarly, reserved, staid variety - they are the changes brought about by compelling passion that refuses to stand still and be respectable.

I do not mean this post as a knock on anyone at the conference - they were a wonderful, gracious, hospitable group. I just hope that they (we) are able to integrate our hearts and souls into this intellectual work in a way that creates excitement and movement.

posted by Steve at 4:15 PM
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Thursday, March 22, 2007

Denmark Observations - entry 3

At the conference I attended at University of Aarhus last week, I very quickly noticed that I was the only person there that didn't have some sort of affiliation with some form of the Lutheran church. There were faculty members from a few "public" universities in Denmark and Sweden, but by virtue of these countries having state-endorsed churches, they're connected. Also, a couple of participants were there from the Lutheran World Federation mothership in Geneva.

I had one very interesting discussion over lunch with a couple of professors - one of whom has served at very high levels in the World Council of Churches. I was asked about the nature of the emerging church movement in North America, so we talked about that for a while. We also talked about the degree to which this kind of a renewal movement would be possible/likely within the Scandinavian context. They didn't give the emerging church much of a shot at bringing about renewal - at least not within the state church. In large part, they said, it's because if you start messing around with the ways they do church, you're literally messing around with the ways they do citizenship in the country. Wow - very different. Interestingly (frighteningly?), one comment was made to the effect of, "You can deny the resurrection of Jesus, deny the virgin birth, deny the Trinity, but don't you dare mess with baptism because that's how citizenship is sealed."

Is it any wonder that while everyone "belongs" to the church, virtually nobody shows up? Not to these professors. They're in an interesting position, though - they are not officially employed by the church, so they don't fear for the loss of their jobs, and yet they're able to make some critiques based on their observations.

I actually do have a bit more hope for the emerging church viability than my learned friends. Mainly because of the decidedly non-Christendom approach that the emerging church ethos involves. It won't require or significantly involve the state church to make it work. Tony Jones' recent trip to Scandinavia is a good example of some connections being made.

Within the context of a conference discussing the church in the global south and east, it's more than a little ironic to me that the theological conversation is still very Euro-American centric, despite the fact that the church is far more alive in the south and east than in the west. It's validated some of the directions of my doctoral work, but also potentially significantly shifted the practical focus of my work. I'm still chewing on some thoughts in that regard, but maybe I'll put some sentences together here in the days to come.

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posted by Steve at 10:15 AM
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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Denmark Observations - entry 2

I think it's because my trip was so short that I never adjusted fully to the time shift, but I slept very poorly while in Denmark - average of about 3, maybe 4 hours of sleep. So I did a bit of Danish/German TV channel surfing. I watched a fair bit of CNN Europe (or whatever they call it). Anyway, this "world" news was extremely U.S.-centric. I wasn't that surprised about it, but there were a couple of times where I thought, "Why do people in Denmark or Sweden or Germany need to know about an anti-meth ad campaign in Montana?" The funny thing was that there were all these U.S. news stories, with a few world (as in non-Iraq) stories mixed in . . . and then they went to the sports update. Rugby, soccer, cricket, sailing, formula one car racing . . . and one quick Kobe-Bryant-had-a-big-game basketball highlight. I think there was a gold update too. So the "world" aspect of CNN's coverage appears to primarily concern sports. Apparently Europeans don't care about regular local news, just sports.

In a somewhat related story, while I was at the conference in Aarhus, one of the speakers was from Nigeria. After he presented his paper, during a Q&A time, someone made mention of Western political and media influence - he responded to the question, but made an aside reference that woke me up: "Much of the time when it comes to how evangelicalism is presented in Africa, it is assumed that George Bush speaks for the evangelical church." Well, now, that's a bit of a problem, isn't it? Regardless of how you personally feel about this prez and his performance, it's jarring to hear that he's assumed to be speaking not just for the U.S. government, or the people of the U.S., but for mainstream Christianity in the U.S. Apparently Christendom is alive and well. We have far to go.

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posted by Steve at 7:32 AM
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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Denmark Observations - entry 1

While only in Denmark for a few short days, I noticed some cultural stuff that surprised me. First, I was surprised at just how similar the popular clothing fashions are. In one sense, because of the global media and marketplace I shouldn't be surprised, but my past experience traveling to Europe has been that there are a lot of similarities, with a few distinct oddities mixed in. This time there was an almost total lack of those oddities - about the only thing I noticed was that the females there LOVE the look of form fitting jeans tucked into calf to knee high boots (most with high heels). As for the guys, all I noticed was that they like scarves . . . oh, and all the shoe stores I saw were well stocked with these dress shoes that have extra long toe space with a squared off front.

Anyway, perhaps my biggest cultural surprise was something I didn't see there: Starbucks. Not one. News of their global takeover has not reached Copenhagen. Long live the Danes!

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posted by Steve at 6:17 AM
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Monday, March 19, 2007

Denmark and back

Well, I'm back home after a few days away in Denmark. It was a good trip, but too short and too lonely (in other words, I wish Michelle had been able to go with me). I went to a conference on Church, Religion, and Politics in the Global South - it was a school related thing for me. Basically, I was looking for a conference to go to, and this came up on an internet search, and when I looked into it, I found a phenomenal price for a nonstop flight from Seattle to Copenhagen. So, I went to this thing in Denmark for less money than I would have paid to go to a conference in Los Angeles or Atlanta or Boston. Cool deal. The conference was held at the University of Aarhus - a very large school about 3 hours by train from Copenhagen. Aarhus is a great little city - full of life and energy.

The conference was good - highly academic (all of the speakers who gave presentations read their papers) and helpful. Not exactly compelling, life change oriented stuff, but again, from an academic standpoint, it was very helpful to me in my research. Plus, I got to be with some very smart, gracious, and interesting people. And now it's time for a little name dropping. I got to share lunch and conversation with THE Viggo Mortensen. No, no, not the actor, the highly regarded missiologist.

I was able to spend two nights in Aarhus and two nights in Copenhagen after the conference. I've got several items of reflection and commentary on this trip, most of which are random and unrelated to each other. So, I'll post a few times over the next few days and process some of my observations and things I found interesting.

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posted by Steve at 10:36 AM
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Saturday, March 17, 2007

Double whiplash

I just surfed a good handful of blogs for this story, but it doesn't seem to have surfaced. I was watching CNN Europe ealier today (I'll explain this in another post) and they aired a story about Al Mohler. This is a guy with huge influence in my denomination, and surprisingly enough, huge influence with a number of young "emerging" leaders. I don't count myself one of them . . . nope, not a fan (granted, I'm overly sensitive, given that he essentially called my wife, and me, "morally rebellious"). Anyway, this news story called attention to Mohler's commentary on the potential of a homosexual gene, and whether Christian parents-to-be should "fix" the gene if found in their pre-born children.

My first case of whiplash was connected to Mohler's seemingly open mind to a genetic factor when it comes to homosexuality. I've long believed that this is a likely scenario, even as scientific studies continue to be done on the topic. But Mohler? Really?? Props to him for being open to scientific discovery without a knee-jerk reaction.

But the second case of whiplash came when Mohler argued that if a gene is definitively discovered to be the "gay gene," and a fix was possible, Christian parents should choose to go ahead and have that fixed. Wha?? Wow, he just opened Pandora's box and didn't bat an eye!

On one hand, he shows sensitivity to homosexuals by saying that we ought not blast homosexuals wholesale if they haven't made a choice in their orientation. On the other hand, he wants to go around messing with fetuses to fix what God got wrong. If his argument is that God would certainly not intend a baby to be born with a predisposition to homosexual sin, then what about a predisposition to obesity (gluttonous sin)? Alcoholism? Anger? Judgementalism?

Once again, we have a Christian leader singling out homosexuality as a worse sin than others, not admitting, of course, that homosexual sin is only one form of sex outside of marriage . . . in fact, there's a heckuva lot more pre- and extra-marital sex going on than homoesexual sex - perhaps we should fix that gene while we're at it. Oops! Can't do that . . . then everyone would end up "morally rebellious" like I am.

posted by Steve at 12:50 PM
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Monday, March 12, 2007

Passport success

Since I hinted at whining about my passport last week, I thought I'd give a quick update. I got it. Finally. After 7 weeks, an extra $60 for so-called expedited service, well over 3 hours on the telephone, and a four hour trip to the Seattle Passport Agency. Sheesh.

posted by Steve at 2:33 PM
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Conversation as . . .

Just started reading The World Cafe: Shaping our Futures Through Conversations That Matter. I'm only a couple chapters in, but there's some good morsels there. Often talking with others is either dismissed or overlooked because in proof-is-in-the-pudding kind of world, we place the real value on action. But what if conversation is action? How many truly revolutionary actions ever took place in isolation from some sort of catalytic conversation? I'll mention some further thoughts as I get farther along, but I do b'lieve I'm gonna like this one.

posted by Steve at 12:31 PM
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Friday, March 09, 2007

Need a Passport? Tough.

You can thank me now . . . no really, go ahead. You're welcome.

You're thanking me for saving you from an angry rant that I have all stored up inside me. Instead, I would like to offer this public service announcement to anyone in the U.S. who is planning to travel outside of the country in the next three years, and needs a passport: STOP WHATEVER YOU'RE DOING NOW AND GET YOUR BUTT TO THE PASSPORT OFFICE TO START THE PROCESS. Seriously, if you've got a trip in the next 18 months, do it NOW, and I'd recommend throwing down the extra $60 to expedite. If you're traveling about 10 months from now, you might be in luck and get your passport in time.

You have no idea what I'm saving you from by not ranting here. So, again, you're welcome.

posted by Steve at 7:59 AM
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Friday, March 02, 2007

An Emergent Manifesto of Crappy Marketing

So, there's a new book coming out soon from your conversational friends at Emergent Village - it's called An Emergent Manifesto of Hope. And they made a promo video for it and stuck it on YouTube, starring Tony Jones and Doug Pagitt. Those guys are both very smart and sincere (though perhaps a bit elitist), and I think they've stirred up some good thinking. But this video is horrible . . . I couldn't even finish watching the thing. Exactly how many times can you sound natural fitting the words "emergent manifesto of hope" into a sentence?? Uhhhh, how about NONE?

I'm quite certain that someone in the marketing department of the publishing house had the idea, and that Tony and Doug were more or less dragged into this, but come on! It's this kind of marketing that causes people to question the motives of Emergent in the first place . . . as in, it's not about rethinking faith or mission, it's really about selling books.

I'm not a fan of the label "emerging church," even though I've used it a good bit, and advocated for the category. But I've always made a point of distinguishing the emerging church (little "e") from Emergent (big "E") - it's confusing for people, and at times, pretty unhelpful. Anyway, this video is a good example of why I'm not a fan.

posted by Steve at 2:25 PM
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spirit farmer data

I'm Steve Lewis. This used to be my blogging home. My online home is now at When this blog was my active online home, I lived in Seattle. Now I live in London, UK. I follow Jesus (poorly most of the time), worship simply, read a lot, watch culture, go to school, listen to music, write, enjoy art, and drink a lot of coffee.
e-mail me:

seattle spots

victrola coffee
zoka coffee
university of washington
church of the apostles
quest church
sanctuary church
shoreline vineyard

sites i visit

off the map
nt wright

a few of the blogs in the feedreader

jason evans
joe boyd
kevin rains
alan creech
chris marshall
bill bean
eugene cho
jordon cooper
dwight friesen
john chandler
amy palmer
ryan bolger
rudy carrasco
ryan sharp
sings in the sunshine
rick bennett
scot mcknight
karen ward
alan hirsch
dan kimball
petey crowder

i'm reading it

colossians remixed
africa unchained

i finished reading it - 2007

generation me
jesus and the restoration of israel
god's continent
globalizing theology
gustavo gutierrez: essential writings
jesus and the eyewitnesses
garlands of grace
twenty poems to nourish your soul
the black swan
dancing in the streets
made to stick
signs in contemporary culture
hit the bullseye
the politics of jesus
readings in christian ethics
toward old testament ethics
the kite runner
principles of conduct
velvet elvis
the irresistable revolution
they like jesus, but not the church
the great omission
charisma: the gift of grace, and how it has been taken from us
the starfish and the spider
a perfect mess
the world cafe
the new faces of christianity
leaving church
journeying in faith
the creed
transforming mission
metaphors we live by
foolishness to the greeks
personal knowledge

states i've spent time: 2007

british columbia
oh yeah, denmark, too

i wrote it

managing conflict in the 'new world'
music review: over the rhine
film review: bonhoeffer
music review: fighting jacks
film review: the passion of the christ
how reality tv changes lives
the best tv article you've ever read
corks & caps: a wine lover's story of change
america's idols
random, disorganized thoughts about life after the katrina disaster
missional . . . plain and simple
on becoming post-gnostic

i blogged it

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