It means "writings." I write things.

9:18 AM

A couple of observations

Posted by Brad Polley |

It's not very often that I'm totally ticked off by 9:30 in the morning, especially on my days off...this would be one of those times.  I get approximately 10 channels on cable (two or three of which are home shopping channels, and two of which are religious channels...I would rather gouge my eyes out than watch that), and I was flipping through while eating my toast this morning and I came across the Today Show.  Seeing Matt Lauer on TV is enough to make me want to drive my fist through the screen, but he wasn't in this segment.  They were showing a segment on how to replicate the looks of celebrity Oscar dresses "on the cheap."  I only caught two dresses before I threw up all over the living room.  The lady who was presenting the dresses was raving that these two dresses are just under $350.  "How is that affordable or cheap!?" I screamed at the TV (I really did this; I'm a sad man).  These shows, and celebrities in general, could not be more out of touch with what is happening outside of New York or L.A.  The Today Show goes from a segment on how to save money on groceries, straight into this visual and auditory abortion of a segment.  Can someone explain this to me?

So I turned the TV off and got on the computer to check my email.  After checking my email, I saw a headline that a football player by the name of Albert Haynesworth (DT and free agent) signed a contract with the Washington Redskins for $100 million dollars.  "Well, he's earned it by playing well," I hear you say.  Let's look at some statistics concerning Mr. Hanyesworth:

- In seven years, because of injuries, he's never played an entire season.
- Of the games he's played, he's only played 2/3 of the defensive snaps, this means for 1/3 of the game, he's sitting on the sideline, presumably eating.
- He's been suspended twice for on and off the field incidents.
- In seven years, he only has 24 sacks (that's an average of just over three a year for those keeping score).  If you know nothing about football, that's pretty much awful numbers for a "star" such as Haynesworth.

That's ridiculous, and it's a huge reason why my interest in professional sports has dropped about 90% over the last five years.  I don't care who the player is, I don't know how they sleep at night knowing people in their own cities, the people who route for them, are being foreclosed on having trouble paying for basic services for their children.  They're making millions and millions of dollars to play a game.  You may argue that they've earned their money through hard work and whatnot, but you surely don't think that any of their lives can be considered tough.  You want to solve the Health Care disaster in America?  Raise the income tax on pro athletes by about 5% and put that money toward health care.  Problem solved.  I rule.  Polley in 2012. 

1:14 PM

It's fun to have an idea

Posted by Brad Polley |

There, wasn't that fun?  

I had an idea today.  When talking about the poor, Christians often use the old adage, "Give a man a fish, he'll eat for a day.  Teach a man to fish and he'll eat for a lifetime."  I find this adage sensible enough, but I started wondering today if this saying applies to more than just the poor, and more than just financial matters.  To put it another way, I wonder how often the Church is guilty of giving its people fish, all the while missing the fact that they're, at best, enabling their congregants to cease pursuing true discipleship and, at worst, spiritually crippling them.  

I started thinking about this after a conversation I had this morning about the future of my student ministry.  I'm currently trying to figure out how youth ministry (not just mine, but youth ministry in general) needs to change, and what that's going to look like in my community. I was talking this morning about rejecting the old forms of youth ministry that center around entertainment and just getting students in the door, and how I want that to change.  It then popped into my head that youth ministry has been guilty of giving students fish, and forgetting to teach them how.  

It then occurred to me that this isn't simply a youth ministry issue, but an issue for the entire Church to address.  Jesus himself unwittingly (or maybe wittingly) started the whole fishing metaphor when he told his first followers, "Come, I'll make you fishers of men."  The Church has often interpreted that passage in such a way that the emphasis is on the number of fish you can cram into the boat (and when there are too many fish for the boat, build a bigger boat), but I don't think that's what Jesus was driving at.  If you look at his life with his followers, he was constantly teaching them to "fish for men."  He was showing them how to interact lovingly with a world that needed love.  He taught them through example that the best way to fish for men was to give your life up for them.  In other words, he taught them to fish, then handed them a pole (or net) and said, "Your turn."  

The Church gives people fish in many ways.  The Church's current focus (I realize there are exceptions) is on giving people a "worship experience."  You may disagree with this, but look at the amount of time and money that goes into Sunday morning worship services and it's hard to argue.  Our entire Sunday morning worship time should be spent equipping people to go out and fish.  When our focus is on an experience, then we're just throwing fish at people.  I read an interview with Rob Bell where he was talking about a friend of his that stated this, "Everything about our worship service should say, 'Welcome to our church, now get the hell out of here.'" It's a good point, and I think the same thing holds true for youth ministries.  Welcome, now leave and go fish.

When preachers and teachers just spout out points and subpoints and then tell everyone how to behave and what to believe, they're throwing out fish.  A teaching should lead to a lot of questions.  After a good many of Jesus' teachings, his disciples were left scratching their heads and asking what the heck he was talking about.  The point of teaching isn't just spouting out information in the hopes that people suck it in, it's engaging people's minds and inviting them into a conversation.  That's how people learn to fish.  To summarize for any preacher or teachers reading this, leave them with questions.  Far from leaving, you'll probably notice that people are returning for more.  

So what are your thoughts?  What are some other ways that the Church lobs fish at people? Am I off base?      

9:56 AM

Tricycle backflip

Posted by Brad Polley |

It takes a certain kind of person to even think of trying this, let alone pull it off.  

ht to Marko

11:31 AM

Why I hate Twitter

Posted by Brad Polley |

For those of you who don't know what Twitter is, it's basically a way to document your day for anyone who subscribes to your account, then you can respond to it.  As the title of this post suggests, I hate this.  Here's why:

1) It's voyeuristic.  Our culture is already obsessed with voyeurism.  Look at the proliferation of "reality" shows, where we watch people derail their lives, and we call it "entertainment."  We are obsessed with other people's lives, be it celebrities or the heroin addict on Oprah or Dr. Phil.  There are number of reasons for this, and I won't go into them here.  Here's the rub; I don't care that you just ate, I don't care that you just went to the bathroom, I don't need to know that.  Stop Twittering about it.  Who has the time to do this?  It especially ticks me off when pastors Twitter, because we're constantly talking to our people to slow down and whatnot, yet they spend half of their day Twittering.  Seems a bit inconsistent to me.

2) It shows deep insecurities in the one who is using it.  If I'm Twittering about things like eating, going to the bathroom, or "I just took a nap, man it was nice," then I'm basically screaming this message, "I want to be important, look at me, look at me!"  People Twitter in the hope that someone is listening or watching.  They do this because they are looking for people to validate their lives by taking the time to look into what they are doing.  

I realize that things like blogs and Facebook (things I engage in) have voyeuristic aspects to them, so let me respond to that as well by telling you why I do these things.  My blog is basically a way for me to brain barf and, occasionally to let family know how my kids are doing by putting up pictures of my boys.  I personally don't care who reads this blog, and I have no idea how many people do actually read it.  I blog simply to jot down my thoughts and put them into a coherent form.  I do this for the purposes of putting teachings together for church and in the hope that someone who comments has something to add to the conversation.  

I Facebook because it's nice to catch up with friends from high school and college, plus I can quickly communicate with some of my students who refuse to use email.  

Here's the thing about blogging and Facebook; I can keep as many parts of my life private as I choose to.  I can disconnect.  You can't do that and Twitter.  It isn't possible.  And that is why I hate Twitter.

1:18 PM

Unintended consequences of the economy

Posted by Brad Polley |

I've been thinking about this since the economic disaster began.  Is it possible that one of the unintended consequences of the horrible economic state we find ourselves in is that people will stop buying so much crap, and actually shun rampant materialism?  I remember after 9/11 when Wall Street tanked, President Bush got on national TV and urged Americans to go spend money.  I remember thinking at the time that that didn't sound like a very good long-term solution to economic issues, because people were just using credit cards to buy the stuff.  Well, here we are.  I've heard similar politicians recently stating that the key to rebuilding the economy is for people to spend.  Well, the problem this time is that hardly anyone has the money to spend.  Once again, horrible solution to the economic crisis. 

Let's face it, Americans (including myself, though I'm trying my best to remedy this) are materialistic.  We love our stuff and lots of it.  But when people are losing their jobs, and can't get credit for anything right now, people are being forced away from materialism out of necessity. The only problem is that they may be forced away from materialism because they're broke, but their hearts may remain unchanged.

I think it's a good time for the Church to step up with Jesus' admonition, "a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions."  

9:42 AM

Why systematic theology is dead part 2

Posted by Brad Polley |

A system of theology inevitably leads to painting yourself into a corner.  This happens because it is based on a completely faulty assumption that God works reasonably.  The only way you can have a completely rational system of thought pertaining to God is if God himself operates rationally.  Jesus himself, apparently, didn't see God in this way.  There's a story where he's meeting with a religious leader named Nicodemus and he equates the Spirit of God to the wind. He says, "The wind blows wherever it pleases.  You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.  So it is with everyone born of the Spirit."  This means that God's Spirit (his essence and power) is unpredictable and wild.  In my mind, this puts a nail in the coffin of systematic theology, and the person to nail the coffin shut is the very person whom so many people have devoted their lives to understanding systematically.  Irony is a lovely thing.  

As if that doesn't do it, just look at God's track record throughout the Bible.  He's erratic, working this way one time, then another way another time.  This is why reason alone is so dangerous when discussing God (If God worked this way in Genesis, then he works that way all the time...).  Systematic theology seeks to divorce God from human experience and emotion and stick solely to what we observe in Scripture.  The problem with that should be obvious. How can we confine an infinite God into our finite minds?  A finite being can't lock an infinitely creative Being into its mind.  It just doesn't work that way.  Do you see how I just used reason to show that reason doesn't always work when relating to God?  And here lies the paradox.

Reason is of some use, but it ultimately fails to do what it sets out to do in relation to God.  It seeks to pin down God and make him smaller.  This is like trying to harness the power of a hurricane in a small glass jar.  Sorry about your luck, but it just ain't happening.  There are things we can learn about the nature of God from Scripture and using our powers of reason. However, there is a great deal we can learn about him outside of Scripture as we listen to our hearts and observe all that he has created.  If I want to know the heart of an artist that I find captivating, just reading about him doesn't bring me all that close to knowing who that artist really is.  If I want to ultimately know more about that artist, and the true heart of the artist, I have to observe his art.  I have to spend time with it and figure out what the artist was trying to convey through his art.

I find the Artist captivating, but try as I might, I just can't fit all of who he is and what he means into my tiny mind.  

R.I.P. Systematic Theology "He tried to shrink God down to his size, but God would have none of it."    

9:05 AM

Why systematic theology is dead part 1

Posted by Brad Polley |

And any Bible College (former or current) will shout, "Hallelujah, it's about time!" to that.  I was thinking about this last night when I should have been sleeping after working 13 straight hours (I'm a near burned out minister, sleep doesn't happen much anymore).  

For those of you that don't know what systematic theology is, let me sum it up for you: it's a system of theology.  Thank you and good night.  Just kidding.  Basically, it is a system of figuring out who God is and how he works.  Systematic theology tries to have a coherent thought of God from Genesis through Revelation of the Bible.  I'm sure that explanation clears everything up for you.  Moving on.  

I remember my systematic theology class in college.  It was at 7:30 am on Tuesdays and Thursdays (I just threw up in my mouth as I typed that) and it was taught by an incredibly wonderful, but incredibly dry 75 year old man.  He basically started the semester in Genesis talking about the nature of God and then proceeded to work his way through the Bible toward Revelation.  I always hated that class, not because of the professor, not because it was boring or early in the morning (although I loathed getting up that early for it).  I hated it because it never seemed right to me.  It never seemed right that you could make God so neat and tidy and fit him into a system.  

Systematic theology grew out of the Enlightenment, the "Age of Reason."  Everyone started seeking to make everything rational and ordered.  This age was a great one for science, but it was devastating to theology.  In science, the more order and system, the better; science is designed to work that way.  In theology, however, the more systemic and ordered it becomes, the more problems you run into.  You run into problems because you can't fit an infinite, limitless Being into a mold based on reason.  

The end result of all of this is in 1920, you get someone (after 2500 years of biblical study where no one lent this view any credence at all) saying that the earth was created in six literal days, because reason says that if the Bible says six days, then it must be six literal days. (Editorial tangent: Quick, what do humans use to measure a 24 hour day?  The sun and moon you say?  Correct.  When was the sun and moon created according to Genesis?  The fourth day you say?  How was time kept on the first three days then?  Game over.)  The end result of that is an argument with a high school student about dinosaurs where he claims that Satan planted dinosaur bones in the ground to tempt Christians away from believing the Bible (I wish I was making that up).  Do you see where a purely rational system of theology results in a completely unreasonable thought?  

Continued tomorrow...

11:34 AM

Just a thought

Posted by Brad Polley |

We talk in churches all the time about people rejecting Jesus, but I'm not sure that that is what they're rejecting.  I wonder if what they are rejecting is actually the Church and Christians, not Christ himself.  It seems that even the most hardened atheists, in their defense of their views, bring up things like the Crusades or the Inquisition to show why Jesus is a fallacy and why they refuse to believe in God at all.  Those events, and others like them, have absolutely nothing to do with Jesus, but with his idiotic followers.  

I would venture to guess that a good deal of atheists have had some sort of a negative spiritual experience in their lives that lead to them rejecting the whole thing.  Maybe I'm over-simplifying all of this, but maybe I'm not.  

So what do you think?   

This was part of President Obama's speech at the National Prayer Breakfast, when he talked about his religious transformation.

 "I was not raised in a particularly religious household. I had a father who was born a Muslim but became an atheist, grandparents who were non-practicing Methodists and Baptists, and a mother who was skeptical of organized religion, even as she was the kindest, most spiritual person I’ve ever known. She was the one who taught me as a child to love, and to understand, and to do unto others as I would want done.

I didn’t become a Christian until many years later, when I moved to the South Side of Chicago after college. It happened not because of indoctrination or a sudden revelation, but because I spent month after month working with church folks who simply wanted to help neighbors who were down on their luck – no matter what they looked like, or where they came from, or who they prayed to. It was on those streets, in those neighborhoods, that I first heard God’s spirit beckon me. It was there that I felt called to a higher purpose – His purpose. "

10:18 AM

When nerds attack

Posted by Brad Polley |

This guy shouldn't be hard to capture.  Just look in his parent's basement.

10:13 AM

This about sums it up for me

Posted by Brad Polley |

"Without equivocation or hesitation I fully and completely admit that I deny the resurrection of Christ. This is something that anyone who knows me could tell you, and I am not afraid to say it publicly, no matter what some people may think…

I deny the resurrection of Christ every time I do not serve at the feet of the oppressed, each day that I turn my back on the poor; I deny the resurrection of Christ when I close my ears to the cries of the downtrodden and lend my support to an unjust and corrupt system.

However there are moments when I affirm that resurrection, few and far between as they are. I affirm it when I stand up for those who are forced to live on their knees, when I speak for those who have had their tongues torn out, when I cry for those who have no more tears left to shed." - Peter Rollins

10:19 AM

One of the coolest websites I've seen in a while

Posted by Brad Polley |

Thanks to Mark Riddle's website, I came across Black Cab Sessions.  It's a ton of videos of musicians playing their songs in the back of a black cab in London.  Brilliant concept and very entertaining.  The three best I've seen so far are:

Death Cab for Cutie
Fleet Foxes (the best I've seen)
The New Pornographers (this isn't what it sounds like)