Three Reasons Why I Am Going to See Gungor

gungorYes, that’s right, I am going to see Gungor when he, his wife Lisa and their band come to Pittsburgh on September 13. Yes, Gungor, the guy that has caused all the controversy in the evangelical world over the past month.

In case you missed it, early in August guitarist, songwriter Michael Gungor outlined his evolving faith and belief system in two blog posts (you can read them here and here). In response World Magazine published the post “Gungor Drifts from Biblical Orthodoxy” and the Christian Post outlined the controversy with the article, “Gungor Rattles Christian World with Revelation That They Don’t Believe the Bible Literally.”

In the post, “I Am With You,” Gungor writes:

“Do I believe God exists? Yes.
Do I believe Jesus is the Son of God? Yes.
Do I believe that Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness? Yes.
Do I believe that God literally drowned every living creature 5,000 years ago in a global flood except the ones who were living in a big boat? No, I don’t.”

The heart of the matter for Gungor is that he no longer reads the Bible literally. And in his own particular snarky way, he calls out people who do. And this has caused great consternation and conversation about whether Gungor is still in the fold of orthodoxy or not.

So in the midst of the firestorm, why am I going to see Gungor? Here are three reasons:

1) Gungor Makes Beautiful Music

Gungor is a magnificent artist. He and his band create a sonic canvas that points me toward the good, beautiful and true; more importantly, his music points me to the One who is the source of the good, beautiful and true.

2) Faith is a Journey

My experience is that faith is all about the journey. My belief system has evolved or more accurately, been formed over the past thirty years. While it may sound strange to some, I can state with certainty that I believe certain things with less certainty today than I did 5, 10 or 20 years ago; yet I would boldly proclaim that my faith today is stronger and deeper than ever before.

Gungor has been extremely open about his journey. It is evolving and being formed. He has chosen to be honest and vulnerable about his beliefs, perhaps too honest for some. My prayer is that his journey continues and that he will pursue God’s wisdom and truth in every dimension of life.

3) Christ is at the Center

As far as I can discern, Gungor still has Jesus at the center of his faith.

In 2007 Michael and Lisa were instrumental in starting a church in Denver called Bloom, a faith community that describes its mission as “cultivating gardens of resurrection in Denver.” As far as I know they are still a part of that church. This is how Bloom describes its beliefs:

“Bloom Church is a group of people in Denver Colorado who love Jesus. We’re not so big on some of the things that are often done in Jesus’ name, but Jesus… we think that he is the hope of the world. Our quest is to take Jesus – his life, his teaching, his death, his resurrection – more seriously than we take any other thing. That’s pretty much how we understand what the word ‘Christian’ means… At Bloom we have tied ourselves to the story of God found in Jesus, which makes us decidedly Christian, but we gladly welcome anybody among us regardless of gender, creed, race, sexual orientation, or any other division that we humans like to divide ourselves into. Our hope is that everyone who wanders into our community will taste the Kingdom and come to love and embrace Jesus and his story too.”

I don’t know about you, but that’s something I can get behind.

What do you think about Gungor? Would you purchase a ticket to one of his concerts? Have you removed Gungor’s music from your personal playlist or church’s setlist? Why or why not?

My book, “A Movable Feast: Worship for the Other Six Days” is now available at Amazon and from Hearts and Minds Bookstores.

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Reflections on Noah – The Movie

MV5BMjAzMzg0MDA3OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTMzOTYwMTE@._V1_SY317_CR0,0,214,317_My wife and I saw Noah the Movie last night. This film has stirred up quite the controversy and I knew that my simple Facebook status update, “Seeing Noah…” would raise questions in people’s minds.  While I do not have the time or inclination to do an in-depth review and critique of the film (there are plenty of those out there), I thought it might be helpful to share two points of reflection on Noah – The Movie.

1) Noah as Art – This is a well made film and worth seeing. Darren Aronofsky and Ari Handel have crafted a script that tells a powerful story. The themes of evil, unrighteousness, justice, judgement, mercy and love are universal storylines and the film drew me into the epic questions in a strong way. As my friend John Hall suggested, you should see the film and simply let it wash over you. The portrayal of human brutality was difficult at times to watch; the scenes of loyalty and love were profound and moving as well.

Noah is a well made and at times, beautiful film, but it is far from perfect. I am not a sci-fi fan and while it was an bold move to cast the giants as Transformer-like creatures, I found them unimaginative and boring. While I am sure that some demographic group will appreciate the battle scene between the Watchers and Tubal-Cain’s forces as the rain began, I felt like it missed the gravity and horror of having the doors of the ark shut before your eyes, condemning you to a sure and  certain death. As well, for a big budget like this, the computer generated animals didn’t cut it. Or as my wife pointed how, by the end of the film, Russell Crowe’s Noah looks like he has been through hell and back while his wife looks, well like Jennifer Connolly.

2) Noah As Theological Work – At best, the movie is loosely shaped around the arc (totally intended) of the biblical narrative found in Genesis 6-9, loosely being the operative word. If you go into the film thinking you are going to witness a literal retelling of the Noah narrative based upon the Scriptures, you will be deeply disappointed and perhaps even angry.

In an interview with Paste, co-writer Ari Handel described the creative process that he and Aronofsky took when writing the script as follows:

Paste: I started out saying the film was not a retelling, but more of a re-imagining. But I eventually landed on the label “a meditation.” Then I read an interview with Darren where he talked about seeing the film squarely in the tradition of midrash, in Jewish thought. That seems to me a perfect description.

Handel: Yes. The exact meaning of “midrash” is complicated, but it basically is commentary. In the Jewish tradition, you look at a text in the Bible, and there are clues there, subtle details that raise questions. And they’re there for a reason, the thinking goes. They’re there to make you ask those questions. They’re there for more stories to tell, and to invent, and to imagine, that would shed light on those questions. And these midrash interpretations aren’t meant to be absolutely, exactly what happened. They’re meant to be a hypothetical, what may have happened, to illuminate an aspect of the story, and those take place in dialogue with other midrash and other commentaries. It all takes place within the grounding of not contradicting the text in any way, but within that context it’s looking for other interpretations and trying to understand things more deeply. We took that pretty seriously.

Let’s be honest: there are plenty of places in the biblical narrative where the imagination could have a field day. But when Handel suggests that they went to other interpretations to try and understand the Noah narrative, he wasn’t kidding. Think extra-biblical content, apocryphal material, non-biblical material, insights from Kaballah and even Gnostic mythology. (If you are interested in this line of critique, check out Brain Mattson’s detailed post, Sympathy for the Devil).  If you are fearful of being exposed to this kind of material or think that viewing a film filled with syncretistic imagery will tank your Orthodox faith system, I would say do not see the film.

Two closing quotes and some questions. The first from Wes Sames at Precipice Media who writes:

Brothers and Sisters in Christ, and any other descendants of Noah who may read this, I firmly believe that the Noah movie is a beautiful, useful movie. It is not truth, but it was written and directed by atheists and is presented as a mythological epic, so can Christians truly expect perfect truth from it? While it does not present a true view of God, it presents a true view of human nature, and for that reason I am happy to support it as an enterprise and a work of art. It constructively adds to the ongoing conversation between the church and the world at large.

And a final word from Alissa Wilkerson’s thoughtful review in Christianity’s Today:

Noah is not poorly made or shoddy. It is not political. It is not evangelistic. It is not a theological treatise. Rather, it’s a movie that approaches the level of “good art.” It asks big questions. It explores concepts like grace, justice, pride, guilt, and love. It respects its source material and respects the power of human imagination. It takes a sober look at the evil in the human heart. That is the sort of movie worth watching.

Have you seen the movie? If so, what are your thoughts? If not, will you see Noah? Why or why not?

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The Whole of It

This week I started reading Brennan Manning’s book, The Furious Long of God with one of my friends and brothers in Christ. Brennan has written a ton of books over the years and one of the things I most appreciate about Brennan’s work is that he stays on message – and his message is all about God’s love and grace for us in Jesus Christ, something I desperately need to be reminded.

Manning begins the book with a brief personal intro:

I’m Brennan. I’m an alcoholic.
How I got there, why I left there, why I went back, is the story of my life.
But it is not the whole story.

I’m Brennan. I’m a Catholic.
How I got there, why I left there, why I went back, is also the story of my life.
But it is not the whole story.

I’m Brennan. I was a priest, but am no longer a priest. I was a married man but am no longer a married man.
How I got to those places, why I left those places, is the story of my life too.
But it is not the whole story.

I’m Brennan. I’m a sinner, saved by grace.
That is the larger and more important story.
Only God, in His fury, knows the whole of it.

Manning’s intro got me thinking, “what’s my story?” I’m a man, a husband, a father, a son, a brother, a musician, a pastor, a writer, a friend. I’ve had my share of success and failures in every dimension of life, but those success and failures are not the whole story.They do not define me. And so today, with Brennan Manning I declare:

I’m Terry. I’m a sinner, saved by grace.
That is the larger and more important story.
Only God, in His fury, knows the whole of it.

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From Brennan Manning’s beautiful Christmas essay, “Shipwrecked at the Stable:”

There is a story told in the south of France very Christmas about the four shepherds who came to Bethlehem to see the Child. One brought eggs, another bread and cheese, the third brought wine.  And the fourth brought nothing at all. People called him L’Enchante.  The first three shepherds chatted with Mary and Joseph, commenting on well Mary looked, how cozy the cave was and how handsomely Joseph had appointed it, what a beautiful starlight night it was. They congratulated the proud parents, presented them with their gifts and assured them that if they needed anything else, they only had to ask. Finally someone asked, “Where is the L’Enchante?” They searched high and low, inside and out. Finally, someone peaked through the blanket hung against the draft into the crèche. There, kneeling at the crib, was the L’Enchante – the Enchanted One. Like a flag or a flame taking direction of the wind, he had taken the direction of love. Throughout the entire night, he stayed in adoration, whispering, “Jesu, Jesu, Jesu – Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.”

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Thoughts on Jumping off a Cliff

Today I jumped off a cliff.

For the past 16 years I have been dealing with a chronic intestinal illness called Crohn’s Disease. While I have had a number of flare-ups over the past years, to be honest, I have been extremely fortunate that my disease has been manageable with medication (8-16 pills a day with no real side effects) and slight dietary modifications. Many people who suffer with IBD are not so fortunate.

This fall, my body began sending me signals that all was not well. A series of scopes and and scans revealed three things:

1) my disease is active
2) over time the disease has taken its toil on my system
2) my past treatment plan is no longer working

Two weeks ago, I saw a new doctor who happens to be one of the top experts in our medically rich part of the world. He indicted that his personal bias for patient care was “deep remission.” Now trust me, I am all for deep remission. However, deep remission comes with a cost –  an aggressive treatment plan with all sorts of potential side effects.

Today I began a new treatment plan. It sounds so simple: one small pill. The drug is mercaptopurine, an immunosuppressive drug which is used typically used to treat leukemia. While the drug has been known to be highly effective in treating Crohn’s, to be honest the potential side effects scare the crap out of me. I started to read the fine print a number of times, but could never make it past the first sentence or two. You know how at the pharmacy check-out you have to sign something indicating you do not need counseling; in my case, I need psychological counseling. Truth be told while I had the prescription filled last week, but it has taken me days to work up the courage to swallow the first one. Why? Because downing that pill would require of me the faith of leap.

Over the past couple of month, my coach Steve from Centered for Life Coaching has been encouraging me to take some risks and has placed before me the image of jumping off the cliff. Until my call this month, our coaching conversations, while not unimportant, certainly did not contain the level of significance or risk factor that my challenge with Crohn’s possesses.

As we talked about my decision abut this new approach to treatment, I was especially grateful for Steve’s reminder that I am not stepping off the edge into some dark abyss with no hope of a good outcome, but I am actually leaping into the arms of a God who is both strong and loving. As he spoke my mind raced to the words of Psalm 62:11

“One thing God has spoken, two things I have heard: power belongs to you, God, and with you, Lord, is unfailing love.”

Now I believe in a God who heals and I trust that God will heal me; that healing may be instantaneously, progressively or ultimately. But until then each day will be a fresh opportunity for me to face my fears, trust and jump into the arms of a strong and loving God.

What is your cliff? Where is God calling you to practice the faith of leap? What’s stopping you from doing that today?

Please pray for me. And know that I would be glad to pray for you as you face your own cliff.

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