Monday, October 27, 2008

Instead of meeting to have a discussion this month and next, the city branch of up/rooted is going to attend some speaking events en masse. Of course, everyone from anywhere in the Chicagoland area is invited.

Tonight is Brian McLaren and Diana Butler Bass speaking at 7:00 at Fourth Presbyterian Church of Chicago. More details are available at

Next Sunday, November 2nd we'll be meeting for a "Theology Pub" at the Bar Louie on Printer's Row (47 Polk St.) from 6:00 to 8:00. Join hostess Nadia Bolz-Weber (House for All Sinners and Saints, Denver, Co. Author of Salvation on the Small Screen? 24 Hours of Christian Television) for a Theology Pub featuring Becky Garrison (Religious satirist and author, Rising From the Ashes: Re-thinking Church), Doug Gay (University of Glasgow, Author, Alternative Worship: Resources from and for the Emerging Church), Nannette Sawyer (Wicker Park Grace, Author Hospitality: The Sacred Art), and Ryan Bolger (Fuller Seminary, Author Emerging Churches: Creating Christian Community in Postmodern Cultures). Meet these folks. Chat. Have books signed. Drink beer.

I hope I'll see many of you at one of these events.


Monday, October 13, 2008


Of all men, I am most blessed. I have a beautiful wife whose heart is deep. I have wonderful young children who are beginning to find their own character and sense of self. And I have a God who loves me. A part of this profound blessing I feel is the great privilege to live across the road from a Forest Preserve. There is not a day that goes by that I fail to look over at God's amazing creation there--and, at times, enjoy the advantage of taking time there. Usually, my family and I will walk in the Preserve. Sometimes we'll bike it. And there are a handful of moments when I make my way there alone. Today was one of those occasions.
As I sat reading a good book in a grove of trees, I chanced upon an interesting convergence. There, in that grove of quietly invincible oaks, my eyes discovered that the tallest tree was also the most beautiful. It occurred to me that many eyes and many legs must have looked at and walked past that old tree. I wondered how many had noticed its amazing color at this time of year. (As I am fashioning these thoughts in the middle of a Midwest October, it won't take you long to ascertain why its beauty right now exceeds even its loveliest green when spring and summer shake hands in their passing of one another.)
Now, in my color-blindness, I am attuned to my limitations at being able to certify the color I perceived it to be, but I'll still stab at it. Taken as a whole, I'd have to say that the tree's leaves were the most attractive shade of amber, but that's not to say that I failed to see the hues of gorgeous orange and scarlet highlights. From top to bottom, this old oak was mesmerizing. Awe-striking, really.
And it's just as I had taken the whole tree in that a deep truth occurred to me. What is it about me that is most drawn to this tree NOW--as the season brings something about it to an end. Shouldn't a sensible person most admire it when it is at its greenest--when it is its most ALIVE? And while meditating on this last thought, I stopped to reconsider why I had not taken note of the tree during any one of the hundred other times I had been there.You see, it wasn't until I saw its color that I would end up taking notice of its character. From the same vantage-point of where I sat in October, the same tree exists as only one among about a million in June. While I could have probably seen that it reached further into the heavens than the rest, it's just that at its greenest the oak doesn't STAND OUT, it just stands up. Yes, it's when something in it is dying that I begin to realize how alive it is.
While I am no arborist, I would bet my neighbor's last paycheck that that tree has stood in that spot for 80-100 years. Slowly but certainly, it has grown into the patriarch of all the trees around it. But in order for it to be the wisest and strongest of those trees, it has had to abide and persist through many dozens of deaths. It has had to steadily give up a part of itself. The turning of those beautiful amber leaves were a striking display in nature of a God principle. The principle of turning. Jesus once said to those who might want to follow Him: “If any of you wants to be My follower, you must TURN from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow Me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it" (Matthew 16:24-25--nlt). Turning displays life more than any human action or event. While it certainly is emblematic of the release of the past; more than that, it is only by giving up the things we have had hanging about us or on us for too long(even if we consider them beautiful) that we can make space for new life.Some of you are at an amber point in your life. And while it may be difficult to freely release what you've known for a while, know that WE ARE OUR MOST BEAUTIFUL WHEN WE ARE MAKING SPACE FOR GOD'S NEW LIFE. It is then that we are most alive and most striking. Then--and only then--will we know that we have turned. Our amber will display our color and our character.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Event: Evangelicals and Empire

Hey Everyone,

This Wednesday will be a very interesting gathering in Wheaton about evangelicals and empire. It is hosted by Bruce Benson and Peter Heltzel, some good friends of mine. Please check it out.

Evangelicals and Empire

Wednesday, October 8, 2008, 7:30 PM
Kresge Room, Edmond Chapel
featuring authors of Evangelicals and Empire

Dr. Benson: "Evangelicalism: The Contested Church."

Dr. Heltzel: "Hope Against Hope: Prophetic Black Evangelicalism from Martin Luther King, Jr. to Barack Obama."

Bruce Ellis Benson is Professor and Chair of the Philosophy Department at Wheaton College (IL). He is the author of Graven Ideologies: Nietzsche, Derrida and Marion on Modern Idolatry and Pious Nietzsche: Decadence and Dionysian Faith. He is co-editor of The Phenomenology of Prayer, Hermeneutics at the Crossroads, Transforming Philosophy and Religion: Love's Wisdom, and Evangelicals and Empire. His areas of research include continental philosophy of religion, Nietzsche, and political theology.

Peter Goodwin Heltzel is Assistant Professor of Theology at New York Theological Seminary. An ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), he holds theological degrees from Wheaton College (BA), Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (M.Div.), and Boston University (Ph.D.). He is a Co-Founder of New York Faith and Justice and the Envision Conference. His book Jesus and Justice: Evangelicals, Race and American Politics will be out this Spring with Yale University Press. Edited volumes include Theology in Global Context (T&T Clark, 2004) and The Chalice Introduction to Disciples Theology (Chalice Press, 2008). He lives in New York City with his wife Sarah who is an opera singer


Evangelicals and Empire

Edited by Bruce Ellis Benson and Peter Goodwin Heltzel

This groundbreaking collection considers empire from a global perspective, exploring the role of evangelicals in political, social, and economic engagement at a time when empire is alternately denounced and embraced. It brings noted thinkers from a range of evangelical perspectives together to engage the most explosive and discussed theorists of empire in the first decade of the twenty-first century--Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri. Using their work as a springboard, the contributors grapple with the concept of empire and how evangelicalism should operate in the world of empire.

Contributors to the volume include Jim Wallis
Helene Slessarev-Jamir, James K. A. Smith, John Milbank, Donald W. Dayton,
Mark Lewis Taylor, Amos Yong, Michael S. Horton, John Franke and Catherine Keller.

"Powerful, urgent, and rigorous. Evangelicals and Empire's diverse voices combine solid scholarship and moral passion to produce a challenging rethinking of what it means to be evangelical."--Ronald J. Sider, president of Evangelicals for Social Action

"Evangelicals and Empire is a significant book because it deals with religious groups that are usually identified with the politics of empire. Helping the reader understand the deeper reasons for the connection of empire and religion, the essays in this book come together to provide a truly invaluable resource for our time as they flesh out alternative resources that resist empire within the evangelical traditions. The future belongs to such efforts that seek to identify new horizons for the interplay of religion and politics."--Joerg Rieger, Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University