New Blogsite

I have created a new blogsite:                     

www.theostorying.wordpress.com

It will focus on the concept of theostorying… defined (be me at least) as

“the act of creative reflection on God, and our associated relationships with Him and each other, crafted artistically into the medium of the story, so as to allow the listener to join in the reflection through experiencing the story, being challenged by the story, and inspiring further questions.”

I will put stories, parables, and such on this sight as well as a bit of narrative theology (probably).

In so doing, I have already transferred a lot of articles from this site (munsonmissions.org) to the new one under the category of parables/allegories.  I also deleted my last three posts here

Strangers in the Land

<NOTE: The image here for vulnerability, I am using as synonymous with weakness. Some don’t feel that way. For them, vulnerability is a virtue while weakness is a well… weakness. I would suggest that both, properly understood, are virtues, and… well… strengths.>

Two passages with regard to the life of Abraham are especially meaningful to me.

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”    -Genesis 12:1-3

13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.    -Hebrews 11:13-16

These passages make it clear to me that Abraham left a place he knew as home and never reached a new place he considered home. While God told him in Genesis that he would be made a great nation, the Hebrews passage makes it clear, that the concept to Abraham in no way suggested a governmental power, or a nation of possession. In fact, the only land he owned was a burial site.

Let’s consider some implications of this.

  • Abraham is to be a blessing, but to be a blessing as a stranger among those who are part of the power structure.
  • Abraham, and arguably Abraham’s descendants, is not presumed to “bless” from a position of power but from a position of weakness.

We struggle with this. In the book of Joshua, the descendents of Abraham (through Jacob) set up a homeland, a place of power, and were to drive out or kill those who oppose. Of course, this fact is also challenged by the Mosaic Law that stated that one should always be kind and generous to strangers, foreigners, aliens. After all, the Israelites were aliens in Egypt. (Being powerless should always inspire one to be kind and generous when one has power.) It seems that the Mosaic Law expected the long-term normal was that Israelites, descendants of Abraham, would always live with those who were not. Israel was never very good at being a blessing to those around as long as they were a political entity. They spent too much time taking care of themselves, and fighting the “enemy”– both internally and externally.

This all is relevant to us, because Jesus and the Apostles always spoke and wrote from the presupposition that Christians would always live as strangers within larger (non-Christian) communities. The assumption was that they would be salt and light to those around them. One could argue Jesus and His disciples did not foresee Osrhoene, Armenia, Roman Empire, Ethiopia, Holy Roman Empire, and the series of “Christian nations” supporting what sometimes gets called Christendom. <But Christendom is now dead… and we as Christians, I argue, should be happy with this.>

But maybe it is not about what Jesus and His disciples foresaw or did not foresee. Maybe the point is that Christians ARE SUPPOSED TO LIVE AS STRANGERS/FOREIGNERS/ALIENS IN WHATEVER LAND THEY LIVE. If that is the case, there are some things we need to consider:

  • The concept of the “Christian Nation” is flawed from the start. Islam embraces earthly kingdoms, but Jesus actively rejected the concept of an earthly kingdom… both in word (My kingdom is not of this world, John 18:36), and in deed (opposing Satan’s lure to human governmental power). If other religions are seduced by this lure, that is their own call. For Christians, we should not.
  • While we may grieve for the evil behaviors that we see around us, our job is to live holy lives, and generously, sacrificially, help those around us, in word and in deed. Our call is not to try to legislate conformity to Christ’s standards.
  • We should show solidarity and concern for Christians who have the misfortune to live in regimes that hold to the unconscionable behavior of mistreating Christians because they have the power to do so. We should be able to have enough empathy as human beings for that. But as Christians, our empathy should be greater, and we should show real concern for minority groups among us.
  • David Tracy in “Plurality and Ambiguity” notes the Religion is always meant to be revolutionary… anti- (or at least counter-) cultural. The reason is that it challenges the way things are, and points to how things are supposed to be… to challenge people to see the “Ultimate Reality” not the shallow, vilolent, self-satisfied reality around us. Once religion (Christianity especially, but others as well) assumes a mythic role (supporting culturally the status quo) it has lost its role as a religion. Thus, Christianity is not part of the State this side of Heaven.

I have lived as an alien, stranger, foreigner, in the Philippines for 11 years. Although the Philippines is a pretty friendly place… I will probably always be a bit of an outsider. That is okay. It does help me see the other side a bit. As an alien, I am weak. Living in the Philippines, I also live in a weak country overshadowed by a much stronger country.

Christians should spend time embracing weakness. Christianity has always been at its best operating from a position of weakness… rather than from a position of military, or political strength. Maybe one day we as Christians can embrace the words of St. Paul:

And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.  2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Adventures in Typing

I have had to cut back a little in blogging. Part of it is because of a lot of stuff going on this Summer. We have a Disaster Response Symposium that our group (Bukal Life Care) is putting together in partnership with Philippine Baptist Theological Seminary and Virginia Baptist Disaster Response. We also will be doing our first medical mission in two years (definitely out of practice). And we have 16 CPE trainees at our center right now and for the next several weeks.

Additionally, though, trying to do some book writing.

90% Done. “Ministry in Diversity.” Book on Applied Cultural Anthropology, for Missions. Technically, it is done. I used it for my Cultural Anthropology class. I have to finish footnoting and indexing., Also the students wanted more examples (I can get too focused on information at times). This book is for Bible schools… particularly in the Philippines or Asia.

70% Done.  “Foundations of Community and Clinical Pastoral Care.” This has been a slow one. I had it listed at 30% for ages. Many of the chapters are done. Still a fair bit of work in the Pastoral Supervision section. Actually hope to finish it before the anthropology book. To be used by Bible Schools and CPE centers, especially in Southeast Asia.

5% Done.  “Adventures in Theostorying.” The title may change. Have 2 or 3 chapters kind of done. But still a ways to go.

My two fully complete books are:

Theostorying   and   Principles and Practices for Healthy Christian Medical Missions

Feel free to check them out on Amazon… if you have time.

Missiological Thoughts on Pastoral Diagnosis

As I have said before, one of my jobs in missions is administrator of a pastoral care center. So I have always been interested in the correlation, compatibility, and conflict between missions and counseling. This presentation utilizes the 7 benchmarks for pastoral diagnosis established by Paul Pruyser back in 1963. However, we put them in a logical order, as seen in the diagram, Looking at it, there is a correlation between this method of diagnosing and doing pastoral care, with evangelizing. The lowest tier is essentially “good talk” and understanding their beliefs, and social support system. One goes into tier two seeking to find out their felt needs, and connecting that with issues of faith and future. The top tier is exploring response, especially with regards to grace and repentance. I still need to think about how things correlate a bit more, since some of the terms are utilized differently in the pastoral care and evangelism camps.

An important thing that evangelists can (and frankly, must) learn from pastoral diagnosis is the need to understand the hearer, client, patient, recipient, help seeker. The agenda needs to be based, considerably, on their situation and their felt need.

Out of Madness

One of my several unpaid jobs is registrar for a certifying/accrediting organization for Clinical Pastoral Education. Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) or sometimes called Clinical Pastoral Training (CPT) grew, largely, out of the experiences and work of theologian, Anton Boisen, 1876-1965.

Anton Boisen, (ca 1900) Shortly after first psychotic break

(Side thought: Boisen lived to to be almost 89. Looking at other great Christian theologians of the 20th century, most  (unless killed by violence or misadventure) appear to live well beyond normal life expectancy for their time and demographics. Does that mean that theology is good for one’s health? Or does it mean that one can become considered a great theologian if one is able to outlive others?)

Anton Boisen had several psychotic breaks (five I believe) during his lifetime, requiring him to be institutionalized for periods of time. He came to the conclusion that sometimes, particularly if not due to an organic cause, a psychotic break is due to a “problem of the soul.” As such, it may have a religious cause, and a potential religious cure. Now to some this may appear to be… to choose a technical term… gobbledygook. But if you think about it, it actually holds merit.

Religious concerns are tied to issues of:

  • Ethics
  • Meaning
  • Belongingness

Is it possible that some psychotic breaks could the mind’s way of addressing issues of ethics (Is my actions and beliefs consistent or in conflict? Am I, essentially, a good person or an evil person?), meaning (Do I have value as an individual? Does life (or more specifically, my life) have meaning? Am I living the life I am supposed to live, or have I taken a wrong turn?), and belongingness (Am I a loyal child of God? Is God someone I can trust? Do I have a healthy role in church/family/God’s kingdom? Is their ultimate hope?)? If these issues (existential doubts and otherwise) are left undealt with, could a breakdown occur? And if so, is drugs and quarantine the best solution?

Boisen brought in theology students to the hospitals, especially mental hospitals, to learn Clinical (“bedside”) Pastoral Care. .The skills there, and the training process associated with this program have been found useful in a broad range of locations beyond hospitals, mental hospitals, and hospices, including jails, parishes, and communities.

I don’t know about you, but reading Zechariah and Ezekiel, it is not hard to wonder if they were mad. Perhaps the same could be said of John the Baptist. Frankly, if they were mad… would that negate their message, or can God use the illness?. Of course, even if they were 100% certified mentally competent, some of their actions could be seen by outsiders as demonstration of mental illness— and then discounted.

And that’s a shame, I suppose. Mental illness may not have the stigma it used to. People do not think of the mentally ill in terms of rubber rooms and straightjackets anymore (or do they?). The big problem is that the label of mental illness often stigmatizes the individual, sometimes for life, and tends to negate their insights. Dr. Cabot, a medical partner of Boisen, cut ties with him after a psychotic break. Understandable, I am sure… but a sad mistake none the less.

I have never been diagnosed with mental illness. I doubt I drift far enough away from the middle of the Gaussian plot, yet, to be so labelled. As a melancholic I do have depressive periods of my life, but I doubt severe or long enough to meet criteria for the DSM-V (for various forms of depressive episodes or disorders). However, I have also utilized a bit of “Boisenian” logic when I have been down. When I am going through a depressive period, I take time to reflect. I consider whether it was triggered due to a disconnect. I know I should be doing A, but am doing B. I have found such reflection quite useful, frankly.

Three quick thoughts:

  • The mentally ill need God’s love. In fact, sometimes the recognition of the meaning and belongingness before God is the start of their “cure of soul.”
  •  Genius may come from, or be confused with, madness. This is not surprising since both genius and mental illness are defined first of all by their distance from the “normal.” Sometimes, the truth is found in the “voice crying in the wilderness.”
  • Mental illness should not be stigmatized. In fact, as in the case of Boisen, the process of psychotic breaks gave him a perspective that helped him serve God more effectively.

 

Missionaries in Nineteenth Century Africa – A Few Considerations

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Originally posted on DIANABUJA'S BLOG: Africa, The Middle East, Agriculture, History and Culture:

The Rev. Robert Nassau, who first landed in West Africa in 1861, spent the following 30+ years in this region, as a religious official and graduate of Princeton University.  And while there is much to be criticized in these early years of missionary service in Africa, there is also a great deal of knowledge and perspective towards local people that can be considered.

Robert-Hamill-Nassau-portrait Robert-Hamill-Nassau-portrait

For example, the growth of ethnographic theory and fieldwork techniques, which took place during the same period,  borrowed heavily from the work of missionaries:  the importance of learning local languages and viewing indigenous perspectives from local points of view, are two key methodologies adopted in ethnographic fieldwork – though, reduced from several decades  in the 19th century to about 12 months today.

Regarding changes over the years between 1890 and 1900, Rev. Nassau is highly critical of European powers and associated merchants, while also assuming that indigenous…

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“If Christ be not raised…”

Originally posted on Ferrell's Travel Blog:

Several tombs of the type in which Jesus was buried have survived the centuries. This one was discovered during road construction a few years ago near the Jezreel Valley, not very far from Megiddo.

Roman period tomb with a rolling stone near the Jezreel Valley. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins. Roman period tomb with a rolling stone near Jezreel Valley. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

So far as I know no New Testament writer ever used the expression “empty tomb” but the phrase accurately reflects what they taught.

The resurrection of Christ is mentioned more than 100 times in the New Testament. Take a look at just a few statements. With the exception of the Gospel of John and the book of Revelation, we have good evidence that each of these books was written prior to A.D. 70. John wrote both the Gospel and Revelation before the end of the first century.

Matthew

“He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come…

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