Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Some of you might be interested in this presentation I am giving next week. It is entitled Trauma, Spirituality, and the Dark Night of the Soul.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Hope for Another's Success

Continuing from yesterday, when we forgive another or have a conflict with another person, group, or organization, we often are told to pray for them and hope for their success. I believe that is biblical. However, I do not believe we often practice accurately.

When we refer to success, we usually mean that the person/group achieves their goals. I have to say that I do not believe that is biblical. People and groups do awful things. I truly doubt Jesus would have us pray for them to continue that.

Rather, I believe that when we hope and pray for another's success, we are to hope and pray that they become closer to Christ and succeed in his name.

Doing this in practice can be difficult. As one elder said, we should not criticize our brethren in Christ. I have been on the receiving end of unjustified attacks, and no good is produced from them. And such dissension and attacks have led to the fractured nature of the Church now. Yet evil is done, and it needs to be addressed. I posted a letter from John Eldredge a few months ago on this topic, in which he supports calling out incorrect practices.

However, this can be a slippery slope. What is the balance?

My current position is that one should not make public (or perhaps even private) criticisms (especially absolute condemnations) of groups and people they do not have enough information about and do not truly understand. This would account for most of the criticisms given in this world, I bet... :)

However, sometimes we are well enough informed to make an accurate and appropriate call about whether or not a wrong has occurred. How we handle that information is important, too. Name-calling is unhelpful. We should use that information constructively. A press release is rarely constructive in this area. Frankly, I am prone to saying that private comments are the most appropriate. In many ways, it can be a form of passive resistance. This can include stopping tithes, referring people away from an organization, providing education about a group's practices, etc. But this has to be done wisely and with the appropriate information and understanding. Again, we too often do this without sufficient and accurate information, in which case we likely sin (and you know how often I use that term...). We also need to be ready to provide reasons for our statements.

It's delicate, and I'm not sure there's a clear answer about how to deal with such situations. I don't know if my current conclusions are even remotely right, but it's where I've landed thus far in this struggle.

What do you think? How should we handle such circumstances?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


Whenever there is conflict and an impending church split, there is also a lot of dialogue about forgiveness and praying for one's enemy. I'm not saying that there are enemies in our situation, but that's often the language used.

What I have observed is that forgiveness often takes on the form of the passive acceptance I discussed yesterday. I don't think that's healthy, and I definitely don't believe that's what God had in mind when he discussed forgiveness. It's much more active. As many people say, forgiveness is not a feeling, it's a decision. There is absolute truth to that.

However, as I said that Christian often simplify our psychological states, forgiveness is not as simple as a decision. There are intense emotions involved, positive and negative, and they need to be addressed. Ev Worthington is a specialist in forgiveness research, particularly within Christianity (he's a Christian himself). One of the things he mentioned is that it can be damaging to the person to forgive too soon... or too late. There is a delicate balance and timing.

I would also argue (and I believe Worthington does too) that forgiveness does not coincide with forgetting. We can forgive someone, but we often should remember. It relates to the boundaries we discussed before. Forgiveness is separate from the other person changing and from reconciliation. We may forgive Hitler, but would we let him lead anything? I sure hope not.

Anger and pain can still arise in us as we forgive. Sometimes a person may re-injure us, or that process of reconciliation is uncompleted (sometimes it will never be complete). That is painful. And angering. What was done is wrong. When we remember it, it is appropriate and acceptable to be anger, as long as it is not all-consuming. But we have to have grace for ourselves, as this is a process.

So what does this mean as we pray for those who have hurt us and are told to hope for their success? That's tomorrow...

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Passive Resistance or Passive Acceptance?

In discussions of wrongs, pain, and anger, the phrase "turn the other cheek" and other similar soundbites are often used to advocate for a passive approach to injustice. Passive methods of dealing with injustice can be very effective, as exemplified by MLK, Jr., and Gandhi.

However, what I have also seen and heard in the church is not a passive resistance, but more of a passive acceptance.

There's a fine line, but at the same time there's a huge difference. The goal is completely different. Passive acceptance is just deciding nothing can be done about a situation and so I will do nothing and just move along with the flow. No change is intended. Many people believe this is what many Germans did in Nazi Germany.

Passive resistance, on the other hand, takes the perspective than active resistance will not get the job done as well as a passive approach, which is ironically active in its own way. Often it is motivated by an inability to take active action. However, the goal of passive resistance to create change, to make waves.

When Jesus and other biblical writers discussed passive approaches to wrongs, I don't think they were advocating passive acceptance. I think they were advocating passive resistance, often because that was the only approach was possible (and it was often the most powerful). I truly do not believe Jesus wanted us to be used and abused by others. He wasn't, although people argue that. He just wasn't necessarily actively aggressively attacking. He attacked (look at the money changes in the temple and Jesus' teaching). He was aggressive (he has a vision and he followed it with all his heart, mind, body, and soul). He just often took a more passive approach.

But not always.

Boundaries are important to our lives. As I mentioned before, Cloud and Townsend in their excellent biblically-, theologically-, and psychologically-informed book Boundaries, argue this well. Sometimes passive approaches are appropriate. Sometimes active approaches are appropriate. Jesus did both. Yet we try to simplify it a lot and make a legalistic rule about always being passive or always active. It's not as clear as that.

We need to struggle with it a bit more. Where do you struggle with boundaries and the balance of passive versus active action?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Anger, Part II

Several months ago, I had a post on anger. I thought it was appropriate to do a follow-up because it's an issue that has been a part of the reactions to the Cathedral's decisions and was the topic of Bobby's message on Sunday.

As I said before, anger is a touchy subject in Christianity. We often assume it's bad. One of the things Bobby said that I appreciated on Sunday was separating the emotion of anger from the action of anger, the latter which tends to fester. I think it's an important distinction because we often confuse the complexities of emotions and our psychologies.

In fact, I realized today that I think, while psychologists often simplify spirituality, Christians often simplify our psychologies. Things aren't just as simple as anger can destroy. Can it? Absolutely. It also serves a very important, good function in our lives.

But where is the line?

That's something I've considered a lot of the last several months while the Cathedral has imploded. I have experienced a lot of anger. One thing Bobby mentioned was holding onto anger. One way we often try not to hold onto anger is by not feeling it. I argue that that is unhealthy and ironically is how we hold onto the anger. By ignoring it, we repress it, and it begins to fester inside of us until more builds up and it finally explodes. In contrast, if we can express it (in healthy ways) as we experience it, we can use the emotion of anger constructively and do not live by it.

So what if we express it and still feel anger? We often assume we are doing something wrong, like we haven't forgiven the other person well enough. That's not necessarily the case.

As wrongs continue, we continue to be angered. In the case of the Cathedral, wrongs were continually being committed (and still are). People were (and are) continuing to be hurt. That justifies continued anger. It wasn't just a one-time event to "get over." It was a continual assault. There was also a sense of betrayal on many levels, which causes even deeper pain and anger, which I believe is completely appropriate. We can deal with that anger by taking action, but most of us could do nothing but sit back and watch it all implode. That does not help the expression of the emotions. Sometimes we truly cannot right a wrong. It is not in our power. We have to find a way to resolve the issue in our psyche, then, sometimes with the help of a professional.

However, I maintain that continued anger is not necessarily bad, again, as long we don't live from it and make all of our decisions from it, as Bobby discussed during the message.

In the next couple of days, I'll also discuss forgiveness, boundaries, and praying for the success of an enemy.

Sunday, January 11, 2009


The have been a lot of changes of the last couple of months at The Gathering and the Crystal Cathedral. The biggest for our community was announced today as we plan to move off campus from the Cathedral by May. As Bobby mentioned during the Town Hall meeting, this move is not reactionary to poor decisions by the Cathedral leadership, but by a move toward a vision that the leadership of The Gathering believes can only be achieved by moving. Bobby stated that we have discussed such a decision numerous times over the past 2 years. In fact, I think it's been discussed much longer; almost since the beginning! :) We unanimously believe the timing now is right to make the move. The firing of Robert A. (okay, technically he resigned, but...) was a confirmation of that decision.

At the same time, there is pain, hurt, and anger about decisions made by the Cathedral leadership, and The Gathering's eldership has struggled with how to deal with these reactions. There is a pull to make this move be reactionary and hateful. I would even argue there is good, just reason for that. However, I also agree with our conclusion, led by Bobby, that that will not be a good reason to make a move. It is not what we want to be about nor how we want to define ourselves.

So what do we do with these feelings and emotions? Some say feed them. Others say forgive and ignore. I don't know the full answer, but I'm going to write a couple of posts delving into some of the aspects and have them post of the next couple of days. The point of this is not gossip, but rather to use a struggle we are having in order to explore struggles the Christian Church has every day in various ways. Please give me feedback as we go along!


Got a question, struggle, or doubt you'd like to see addressed here? Contact me, and I'll try to discuss it (and may even help you get an answer).