These titles are so repetitive. Anyway, I was telling a friend the other day how reading Bonhoeffer changed my life.  I was so upset at not getting into the class I wanted that I couldn’t care less about the class I was forced to take in its place, Ethics of Bonhoeffer (with Stassen, if you get a chance to take it, DO!).  I didn’t even know who Bonhoeffer was.  But I’d been struggling with what it means to be in community, what is community for, what is the church, how do we do church, is church community, is community church, etc.  And the first book we read was his famous Life Together.  Couldn’t have been more perfect.  Community is absolutely essential to the Christian life.  We are relational creatures! (Told you I’d say it again!)  We need each other; we long for intimate connection with someone with skin on.  It’s how we’re made.  I love the stories in this chapter and in Claiborne’s book.  So many ways to do community!  What a joy!

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I am challenged by Sine’s statement, “Jesus really was an extremist in his whole life, and those of us who have decided to follow him need to consider becoming ‘extremists’ in our whole lives too” (225).  It’s so much more comfortable to be moderate.  But I don’t want to be a comfortable Christian.  Comfortable Christians have stopped moving forward; they grow stagnant and breed mosquitoes.  I want to be moving always forward, toward God.  If that means being extremist, or dare I say, radical, then I’ll have to figure out what that means for me.  But you better believe I’ll do it, and you better come alongside me, because it’ll be too hard to do by myself.

I love what Sine says here about the call to take our global futures seriously: “For followers of Jesus, all these challenges are really opportunities to create imaginative responses that reflect something of God’s loving purposes for a people and a world” (133).  This is what gets me excited about new streams of life in the church.  Christianity may suddenly seem harder, less cool, more radical, dangerous even. And that can be a real turn-off for those whose lives maybe are already hard and uncool, or for those who are just not so committed.  But Sine turns it all around with a brilliant call for creativity in the church.  It’s not about doing the grossest, most out-of-your-ability job and slap a “for you Jesus” label on it.  It’s about doing whatever God is calling you to do with the gifts and abilities and creativity and innovation that he’s given you to work with, and in conjunction with that of the people you do Christian life with, your community.  It’s a chance to stir up that new life, not just in your community, but in yourself!

First page, and Sine is already going there: 1 Corinthians 15–bodily resurrection (110). Here he’s building off the previous chapter, taking things more biblical. Out of Isaiah 2:1-4, he notes, “We are witnessing God’s intention to bring God’s faithful people from all over the world safely home, not as disembodied souls but as a great bodily resurrected, multicultural community” (113). How can you not get behind a vision like that? Sine really hits home in this chapter: God is about people, not ideas or programs or buildings. Jesus came for people, and he’s coming back for people–body, mind, and soul. That’s what the new kingdom–that already/not yet, boundary-less, quasi-physical entity we used to think was the church–that’s what it’s all about: one body made up of a bunch of embodied-minds-and-souls working together to realize the better future right now.

“The world of efficiency and anonymity dehumanizes us” (301). Isn’t that what we learned in Fandom? We hunger for community, to share ideas and trade secrets and learn something new together; yet we are also a generation of automated servers that “cater to our needs” by categorizing and confining us until, as one of the authors stated, we are the only ones listening to our radio stations. A whole station for yourself. If that’s not isolating…

Claiborne writes, “Jesus did not set up a program but modeled a way of living that incarnated the reign of God, a community in which people are reconciled and our debts are forgiven just as we forgive our debtors” (159). We (at least, Presbyterians) are so program-oriented. I’ve been trying for two years to erase more than twenty years of program-mindedness. It’s about living, not structuring a program. Living, and living in community, is what draws people in…but that’s only because we’ve already gone OUT to live and move among the people we want to draw. I constantly wonder how to challenge my home church to reach out to the community in a visible way. We like to write checks, being a rich church, and we like to think we’re open to anyone who comes through the doors (yes, even the homeless!). But we don’t actually go volunteer as members of the church at the Rescue Mission down the street. We write checks to them, but we’ve never been inside. The idea of simplicity is simply outside the realm of experience of the majority of my fellow church members, some of whom actually define themselves by their zip code! What would it look like if we, as a community (albeit a large, rich one) were to attempt the practice of redistribution in our context?

My aunt LeeAnna is famous (in our family, anyway) for lamenting when she was little and needed comfort that while she knew that God loved her and held the whole world in his hands, “sometimes you just want someone with skin on.” I about fell off my chair when I read that exact phrase in Claiborne’s book (127). He stole that from my aunt! But that should tell you how serious the need for proper, holistic body theology is in our churches today. We know a lot about God, and we may have wonderful experiences of God, moments of revelation, etc. But God did not call his church to wall up into little anchorite cells. He called us to live, to live abundantly, to live in community, to go out and make disciples, to do unto the least of these. I suspect our non-participatory church services contribute to non-participatory Christian lifestyles that look more nominal than anything else, regardless of what is going on in the mind and spirit of a person. The body is also part of spiritual life; what are we doing? I mean, what are we doing?

Here Claiborne tells the story of protecting homeless people from being evicted from living in an abandoned church building. It became a community effort, and before they knew it, “church became something we are–an organism, not an organization. Church became so fresh and vibrant, it was like we had brought something dead back to life” (42). How many of us are looking for that kind of renewal, revitalization, in our own church communities? We can’t replicate the circumstances, but surely we can gain the same results. I like Claiborne’s implicit challenge to stop complaining about the church as it is and start trying to be “the church we dreamed of” (64).

I never understood the addictive draw of video and computer gaming. The authors paraphrase that “the value of gaming is not to be found in the game text but in the way it is performed within a social context” (277). I remember many times walking into my brothers’ room growing up to see them immersed in “conversation” with people they were playing online war games with. They would talk about the games together and get help from their friends when they got stuck, always coming up with new “cheats” to help them advance levels. Who knew this was a part of forming social context? I thought it was a waste of time, sucking your life away in front of a screen (instead of buried in a book like I always was!). I still think it’s not the best use of time, but I have to acknowledge the validity of the authors’ assertion “that even individual gamers bring their social, cultural, and psychological selves to the games they play” (280).

I just discovered Pandora Radio this summer. It’s been a great opportunity to explore the largely unknown realm of popular music with my limited experience. But I noticed that I get bored quickly and keep switching stations. It’s true that we get a simulated shared-music experience without actually getting to speak into each other’s lives in any really meaningful and life-shaping way. Even if we’re just talking about music. The authors write: “In real communities, whether in physical space or cyberspace, members share affinities, interests, and needs; this commonality is recognized and mediated by the members themselves” (269). I was just talking to my co-worker the other day about Wikipedia, how it is actually a very reliable source of information and has only a slight increase in error over edited encyclopedias (4 errors to their 3). It was never expected that people would share reliable information and volunteer their time for editing and upkeep for something open-source like the Wikipedia project, but it’s happening. Where did our faith in people go? Why turn to automated servers when a world of real people are (literally, these days) at our fingertips, just aching to connect and share?

The opening sentence: “The changing nature of social and cultural life requires a new understanding of interconnections among types of audience experience, simple, mass, and diffused” (125). I didn’t really engage with a study on cinema in places I’ve never been. But it’s an interesting thesis, nonetheless. It’s true that our economic status and geographical location play a role in our engagement (and what we think about our engagement, and what we think about others’ engagement) with culture and society. We as the church need to be aware of these interconnections and work to bend and mend them, always looking for ways to build those bridges–highly complicated in our uncategorical society.