non-anxious pastoring in a world of scarcity.

non-anxious pastoring in a world of scarcity.

At no other point in our lives than when we're empathically staring down a hurricane force meltdown by something we inexplicably love on a cellular level can we know more about what it means when the scriptures remind us that God is our Parent and our Partner and our Priest and our Prophet and our Spirit and our Soul and our Strength and our Savior and our Friend and the one thing that refuses to give up on us, even when we've soiled ourselves yet again. 

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how (not) to be a pastor: a confession of sorts.

how (not) to be a pastor: a confession of sorts.

The failure of a church, at least according to the belief system baked into our American religiosity, is the personal failure of a pastor. As I’ve seen more and more of my friends (or myself) occupationally self-immolate in the face of institutional malaise, I’ve been wondering if the problem for most of us clergy folk is rooted in something a bit more elemental than a lack of training in millennial worship preferences and successfully interacting with people on your church Facebook page. 

What if we’ve completely misunderstood empathy?

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rumspringa.

rumspringa.

Christianity's weirdness, is found not in the talking snakes or flames from heaven, but in the way it invites ordinary religious folks to redemptively treat the widow, the orphan, the immigrant, the tax collector, the hawks of war, the enslaved, the oppressed, and that demon possessed uncle you have in finance...on the other side of whatever usual religious practice their context dictated them to undertake. 

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happy holy-days.

happy holy-days.

At some point, I found that I have become the kind of person who says “happy holidays," not because I’ve traded in my Christian spirituality for that NPR tote-bag they hand out to everyone willing to self-identify as “agnostic and looking" during freshman orientation at your super liberal undergrad, but because “Merry Christmas” no longer means an interruption to violence parading as the only way to peace, it now actually means the very perpetuance of violence and partisan rhetoric parading as the only way to peace. 

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on sound, fury, and #schiaNO: how Knoxville and Tennessee football burned to the ground in an afternoon

on sound, fury, and #schiaNO: how Knoxville and Tennessee football burned to the ground in an afternoon

Regardless of the fanbase’s motivations for self-immolating at the news of Greg Schiano being named as the next Tennessee football coach, they did. And, for maybe the first time in college football history, a cabal of aloof, wealthy white people who run things for the rest of us plebeians paying 100 dollars for the pleasure of sitting inside wet plastic bags during a monsoon while our team loses by 3 touchdowns, relented

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almost advent: or how to give what you never got.

almost advent: or how to give what you never got.

When your life is about mitigating someone else’s pain you didn’t cause, it scars the universe by robbing all of us of the gift of who you are and what you’re here to do. If we’re going to make it as a civilization, we need all of you, not just the moldy leftovers. Which may also be why, counterintuitively, the only answer worth giving in the face of repetitive violence, cynicism, and pain isn’t superhuman strength, or resolve, or even a particularly astute psychotherapist, it’s the birth of a baby. 

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sometimes God's name is Brent.

sometimes God's name is Brent.

God's name, God's essence, God’s concrete realness is found not in the burying of our pain and baggage in the name of good religious marketing, but in their unearthing and enfleshing and sacrificial bearing for the liberation of others.

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leaving for the kids.

leaving for the kids.

I know it’s scary to imagine life on the other side of something you’ve spent the better part of your formative years lovingly pouring yourself into. It usually feels like failure to give up now, as if releasing yourself of the responsibility to sacrifice your life in an effort to right a ship that has already run violently aground is going to leave an indelible scar on your soul and the lives of the young’uns who are ALWAYS in the back of your van (even when you think they aren’t THEY STILL ARE). We all have this way of thinking that maybe we can fix it, maybe we can work it out, maybe we can ‘be the change,’ maybe we can catalyze a return to our “roots” as a tradition (which for most of us in the South were denominationally forged in the interest of perpetuating slavery). 

But we can’t, and deep down we know it, and we know that if we keep trying the dissonance is going to destroy us. 

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the pain is authentic: or why mid 2000s christian hardcore music is for lovers.

the pain is authentic: or why mid 2000s christian hardcore music is for lovers.

For too long, too many of us have spent our lives in relationships, systems, jobs, churches, families, and institutions that have convinced us that who they are, and what they believe, and what they do is worthy of our death. That salvation is somehow inextricably bound up in their maintenance and influence and ongoing power, and if we want to “make it” (whatever that might mean for your world), we best swallow our pride, and our spirit, and those weird parts of us that stick up no matter the amount of hair gel we use. 

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and the snark will save us all.

and the snark will save us all.

For most of us self-identifying to telemarketers as “Christians,” the degree of seriousness with which we hold the virgin birth, or the perfection of the Bible, or the post-mortem destination of everyone we find distasteful is determined by refusing to point out how ridiculous we look and sound from time to time.

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sometimes, the drowning is a baptism (of sorts).

sometimes, the drowning is a baptism (of sorts).

I suppose, rather unexpectedly, this is what being baptized is supposed to feel like. An experience where what you think you knew about yourself, about the world, about where you come from, about how these sorts of things should work, and about what holds all of us together is drowned (sometimes against your will) in the river outside town. No matter the circumstances or who did the plunging, what manages to float to the surface on the other side of whatever hell you went through in the process of becoming who you are is probably worth holding on to. 

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a statement on The Nashville Statement

a statement on The Nashville Statement

The word courage or “counter-cultural witness” is typically reserved for those willing to die themselves rather than a term for those using oppressed minority groups as a bullet shield for their own existential anxieties about losing political power in a changing world.

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we shape our Trumps, and then our Trumps shape us.

we shape our Trumps, and then our Trumps shape us.

When we persist in believing, across the partisan spectrum, that our God sides with the vengeful, wealthy, and punitive in his pursuit of power and control, it shapes our own, God-ordained incarnations of vindictive wrath in the pursuit of power for generation after generation after generation (no matter one’s particular generational predilection for church-going and the free-market, or avocado toast and the New York Times).

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stop calling people "the future of the Church"

stop calling people "the future of the Church"

Perhaps my own lack of fit involves a divine call to something other than providing hospice care for the final days of people who mostly believe the answers to the questions I (and those like me) have about the limping, partisan, anxious, and much-hotter-than-it-should-be-world they’ve left us, is to condescendingly allow me the privilege of directing the flow of ever-dwindling numbers of Buicks into the church parking lot. 

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