The attraction of Nooma: Rob Bell

If you’re younger–maybe in your 20s or 30s, you might know who Rob Bell is or have seen the Nooma series. I recently started watching the Nooma series by Rob Bell and have started using it in a small group, though, on an experimental level. Rob Bell portrays himself as a speaker who is “with it” and I can see how his image appeals to post-modern young adults. He wears the trendy thick black rim glasses, has a cool haircut, and wears his shirts the right way with the top button open. On the image side of the picture, everything seems great. He looks like a pretty cool dude and his image fits real nicely with the young adults crowd. The production of the Nooma series is very good quality too. There is definitely a post-modern look to it—it’s very chic.

I have tried to assess the theology and theological depth of emerging leaders like Rob Bell as objectively as I could. I don’t even know if Bell considers himself to be emerging but that is just my perception of him. Also according to my perception, there seems to be very little bible knowledge taught from the Nooma series. I have noticed that the theology is not very deep either. Maybe I’m too uptight and should just take it easy. I may be totally wrong but if I am wrong, I am open to being corrected. On a personal level ,I have absolutely nothing against Rob Bell. I feel that his intentions are great and he desires to reach out to the post-modern generation. I really don’t like to be overly critical but I had to think about this long and hard about this before I decided to post this. I cannot say whether I am either for or against Nooma at this point because I see some of the positive aspects in the Nooma series. Bell does ask some thought provoking questions that causes one to look deep inside oneself. However, I have come to the conclusion that if I was a new Christian who was seeking to grow in the Christian faith, I probably would not be able to receive enough biblical instruction from Nooma. I cannot see it sufficiently feeding a newborn Christian. Nooma is like milk and I can’t see anyone going beyond the “milk stage” if they were to continue on nourishing only on Nooma. You might also compare this to eating at McDonald’s or Burger King every meal and expecting to be able to grow healthy and strong. It might taste real good, smell good, and look good too, but can we get a balanced diet from junk food?

I have also wondered if this could potentially be benignly detrimental to the younger generations of young adults who already have little or no knowledge of the bible. When I was growing up as a young person in an evangelical church, I think I received quite a high level of bible knowledge. Where will today’s emerging followers of Christ get solid biblical instruction if they cannot get it from emerging churches? Young people and young adults need stronger bible and theological teaching and if they cannot get it in the emerging movement, they will have to get it from somewhere else. Perhaps the evangelical churches? It is my hope and prayer that God will raise up more spiritual leaders who will teach and nurture our younger generations so that they can gain a deeper theological and biblical knowledge and come to know God more in a greater way.

Why younger educated voters are attracted to Barack Obama

Barack Obama ended his speech at American University with the invocation of “God bless you”—something that I thought only conservatives were able to do. The invocation of “God bless you” might disturb those with strong liberal tendencies but it got my attention in a good way; however, it wasn’t the only thing that got my attention. During Sen. Edward Kennedy’s endorsement speech, Kennedy mentioned something about Obama’s character that I could agree with. I am not a Kennedy fan or an Obama supporter though I might sound like I’m endorsing Barack Obama. As a younger and educated person I’m tired of old style politicking (I’m Canadian so I have no vote, but I can gripe and offer my opinion). My point is that I have noticed something in Obama that I have not seen in many other candidates—Republican or Democrat. What impresses me most about Obama is his character and leadership. Whether you agree with his policies or not, Obama seems to be someone who refuses to be trapped in the old politics and less-than-savory tactic of demonizing others. This is something I have seen very little of in most of the candidates. This is why he is so appealing to the younger more educated crowd. It is something younger generations of new voters have never seen in politicians before. This classy attitude of Obama was also what initially got my attention during the Democratic debate. He is tough and will stand up for himself, and he refuses to be cornered by his Democratic opponent’s backhanded tricks. Back-stabbing and demonization by liberals and conservatives have turned people off from politics in the past, but Barack Obama seems to be able to turn young people on, and exude a new confidence in them. This is an example of new-style politics we are yearning for—one that is without a heavy divisive tone, which is unlike what we have seen in Hillary Clinton’s style of politicking. Divisive language and rhetoric has been so prevalent in her campaign that many find it very difficult to listen to her divisive rhetoric.

Obama’s inspiring speech of hope for a new future really impresses me even though I may not agree with some of his ideas. All politicians can be critical of their opponents and express their unique platform policies, solutions to problems, and wonderful new ideas. That’s relatively easy to do. But more to my point is that I have not heard many who can really be positive, optimistic, and inspirational. I have listened to conservatives and liberals but have heard very few, like Obama, who has the rare ability to inspire genuine hope to a generation that is seeking change for the better. Whether you like him or not, you might be able to agree that he is truly an inspirational speaker to listen to. He also speaks from the heart and he believes the dream for a better future is possible. His optimism and charisma is similar to that of John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Though he is liberal, he is broad-minded enough to mention some of the positive things that the conservative President Ronald Reagan has done for America in the past. I don’t think Clinton would ever do something like this. In fact, Hillary Clinton took advantage of the situation to attack Obama for his class act of being diplomatic and conciliatory toward Reagan’s past contributions. If you’re a conservative, or a liberal, and neither of you like what I say, there’s a lot of other blogs out there that will give you one-sided liberal or conservative opinions that you may totally agree with. But I will stick my neck out and say that I like Obama for his willingness and ability to understand people on both sides of the aisle, even though he may not be a conservative. He tries to understand and sympathize with the challenges in people of different races, genders, incomes, and social status. That’s recognizing the realities in people’s lives. His diplomacy and good character is a style of politics that inspires, within young people, a renewed confidence in politicians. What a contrast to the old days when young people were, or still are, turned off about politics and political cronyism. I’m a conservative but I wish to see more politicians of all parties display more of these admirable traits. I’m not saying that Obama is the ideal politician for everyone, I’m just saying that he is fair and level-headed in battle with his opponents. At this point, I am not sure if there’s a Republican candidate who strikes me as someone who is as charismatic as Barack Obama but I’m sure they are out there waiting in the wings for their opportunity to shine one day for conservative ideals. But for the time being, if the future president of the United States should be a Democrat rather than a Republican, I think Barack Obama would be my preference.

Democratic candidate’s debate: Barack Obama

I haven’t been posting about biblical or theological issues but I’ll get back on track. Lately, I’ve enjoyed following the political race on both the Republican and Democratic parties. I was watching the Democratic debate tonight between the three major candidates: Sen. Hillary Clinton, Sen. Barack Obama, and John Edwards. It was the first time I’ve ever seen the three in debate. During the structured debate, I was really impressed with Barack Obama’s civility and level-headedness. He was able to express himself with a calm and cool that seems presidential. I think that if they were to be in a debate with the Republican presidential candidate, Obama would probably be able to stand up strongest under the highest pressure. What I perceived that was important was that Obama does not seem as divisive as Clinton in his demeanor. I think he would be most able to work with Republicans because of his willingness to cooperate across party lines. Obama does not seem to be an unrealistic idealist even though he does have ideals. Therefore, I think he would be more able to build cooperation across party lines. Barack also has a unique charisma that I haven’t seen in Clinton and Edwards. In this Democratic race, I predict that Obama and Clinton will n be a close race right to the end.

On the issue of faith, I think Obama and Edwards are most in touch with their Christian faith. Hillary is perceived as someone who beats down on evangelical Christians. This will be a liability for her. But I perceive that Obama, a member of the Church of Christ, treats evangelicals with a level of respect and will add to his credibility amongst evangelicals, and this will help him earn the trust of many Christians of different stripes.

Mitt Romney wins Michigan primary

I have been following the campaign on CNN in the evenings. Mitt Romney from Michigan has just won the Republican primary in his home state of Michigan—a great comeback. I think he has an appeal to conservatives, evangelicals, and even some moderate Democrats. In my opinion, I feel that Romney has more appeal than John McCain, and Mike Huckabee, a Southern Baptist. Even though Huckabee seems to be the most conservative and evangelical, he doesn’t necessary has a strong hold on conservative evangelical votes, and neither does McCain. Evangelicals do not only vote for evangelical candidates but are also willing to vote for Mormons like Mitt Romney and Catholics like Rudy Giulliani. This says to me that evangelical voters are very open-minded about who they can see as their political leader. Evangelical voters feel that the economy is most important. Even though social issues are important, the economy is still number one in people’s mind.

I like Mitt Romney. I feel that Romney has depth in his campaign and in his political views. However, I do not perceive Giulianni as having the depth required to carry his campaign through to victory. Depth is most important in any campaign and depth will carry a candidate to victory as a Republican presidential candidate.

Post-modern, relevant, evangelical but not emerging

I have been an observer of the emerging movement for a little while now. Emergent and emerging leaders have tried very hard to differentiate themselves from traditional evangelicals. They claim they are post-modern but so are today’s post-modern evangelicals. To claim that evangelicals are not post-modern and out of touch is incorrect. I think of myself as post-modern but it doesn’t mean that I have to think of myself as emerging. I also understand the challenges and limitations of evangelicalism but I’m not a fundamentalist, nor emerging. I like to learn about new understandings of theology, but my theology is still neo-conservative, not liberal, nor emerging. I try to be as relevant as I can be with the younger generations of young people, but I’m not an old stodgy type of evangelical and perhaps not really hip or cool either, but I’m not emerging. Evangelicals like me still see themselves as perhaps neo-evangelicals (if there’s such a word) but we’re not emerging. I do not believe emerging has a monopoly on the post-modern, and emerging is not the only movement that identifies itself with post-modernism.

With this spiritual and theological outlook, a person might try to classify evangelicals like me as emerging on the inside, but I do not. I can identify with much of emerging’s disappointments with evangelicalism but I can still identify myself with evangelicalism. My definition of being “evangelical” is wide and cannot be limited to strict fundamentalism. To say that evangelicalism and fundamentalism are synonymous is absolutely incorrect. Emerging became dissatisfied with evangelicalism because they saw the old stodgy fundamentalism and chose to reject it. Well here’s news for you: so did I, but I’m still evangelical. I think many evangelicals like myself have very similar outlook on church and theology but we do not have to identify ourselves as emerging.

On political theology: nations, prosperity and moral values–an example–Part 2

In a previous post, I said that when moral values are able to permeate an entire culture, it will have the potential to effect positive changes within a culture and even within an entire nation. This theory stands true even if a culture’s sense of morality is not necessarily Christian. Yes, I am a social conservative but I do not think that Christianity has a monopoly on moral values, even though it has made tremendous worldwide contributions to freedom of religion, rule of law, and the free-market system. Sometimes, as Christians, we can too easily deny the legitimacy of other people’s religious-spiritual experiences, especially if they are different from that of our own; and of course, however, I must admit my personal bias and preference is toward Christianity. We all have our personal bias toward a certain type or style of religion/denomination. Despite our differences, all cultures are founded on personal and genuine religious experiences; and these religious experiences encountered by people of various religions are still genuine spiritual experiences. Out of these genuine personal experiences usually comes the knowledge of God, or at least a sense of a higher power.

Strong cultures, whether they are North American, European, South-East Asian, South Asian, Middle Eastern or African—have a type of “inner strength,” if I may call it this. What I mean by “inner strength” is when one sees or hears something that reminds one of a different foreign culture (a culture other than your own), one will get a strong sense of significant worth resident within that culture. I am not talking about ethnic cuisines or languages; these things may be significant differences and have value but they are really the externalities of a culture. Externalities do not influence the way a people make decisions or how an entire culture behaves. What I am talking about is much more important than the externalities. It is moral values that add significant worth and inner strength to a culture because moral values deeply influences the way people make decisions and behave—particularly value-based decisions and behaviors.

Two examples that have emerged as strong nations are South Korea and Japan. The basis of their moral values are both Christian and non-Christian. However, I must preface this by saying that to understand this theory, one must first hold off from making a value judgment on their basis of moral values. One culture’s basis of morality may differ from another culture’s; nevertheless, a pre-condition is that there must a strong sense of moral values present in the culture. These two Asian nations have somewhat similar cultural backgrounds—a blend of Confucianism and Buddhism, but South Korea is now 60% Christians, while Japan is 6% Christian and 90% Shintoism-Buddhism.

Even though these two nations have different religions, both nations have emerged with strong economies and significant social advancements. Why? These two nations are very religious and have built a foundation upon their religious beliefs and a respect for rule of law. Out of Christianity, Buddhism, and Confucianism came a strong sense of moral values within Korean culture—and Shintoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism within Japanese culture. Flowing out of their moral values came the establishment of civil law, and growing out of a respect for law was greater political stability. These two nations, amongst many other nations, have learned to value and apply the rule of law borrowed from the American model of government. This was a very significant turning point for Japan after WWII. Due to their political stability, South Korea and Japan have been able to prosper economically. Today, Japan has made very significant social advancements since coming out of WWII as one of the three Axis-powers. Japan has regularly received top ratings in the United Nation’s Human Development Index as one of the best 10 countries to live in the world. Within the last several decades, South Korea has risen out of economic poverty and has risen to the 28th spot in the world. The top five countries to live in, as rated by the United Nations in 2007, were Iceland, Norway, Australia, Canada, and Ireland. The United States dropped from number 8 to 12.

(Photo: A South Korean Christian woman prays during a service demanding the safe return of South Koreans kidnapped in Afghanistan at a church in Seoul Sunday, July 29, 2007. )

On political theology: nations, prosperity and moral values – Part 1

Interesting posts on Christian pacifism and exorcism

Since I recently blogged about political theology in my last post, I have found an interesting conversation happening in the area of political theology at Doug Chaplin’s blog MetaCatholic, where he began blogging about the perils of Christian pacificism. In relation and in response to Chaplin’s post, Peter Kirk blogs on Gentle Wisdom about Doug Chaplin’s one-sided anti-pacifist views. Is pacificism for everyone? Should there be mandatory legislation to force everyone to participate in war, even if it is a just war? And is it right to force an entire nation to take a totally pacifist position and stand idly by to watch people get slaughtered by a mindless dictator committing mass genocide?

ElShaddai Edwards just blogged about his review of the HCSB Reference Bible. What caught my attention was ElShaddai’s recent post about exorcism in which he posted a copy of a letter someone had written about the casting out of demons. The discussion thread leads to another about the charismatic issue of tongues. This topic is not dead, as the cessationists would like to believe, because the rise of the charismatic movement and pentecostal churches around the world (particularly the southern hemisphere) will make this issue of charismata a more important topic of interest in the near future. Philip Jenkins has written about this in his book The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity published in 2003.