Once open a time, there was a faithful shepherd who lived in
a place called Churchville. The Shepherd’s job was to keep watch over one
hundred sheep, making sure they had good pastures, clean water and protection
from wild predators. He made very little money, but it really did not matter to
him, for he lived simply and he truly loved the sheep. The truth is, he would
have cared for them for free, such was his love for the flock.
Every night as the shepherd led the flock into the church-pen
(there were several church-pens in Churchville) for their protection as they
slept, he carefully counted them to make sure that all one hundred were there
and none were missing. One night, he counted only ninety and nine. One was
What was the shepherd to do? He didn't want to leave the 99
sheep alone and unprotected, but he worried about the missing one. What if it
was in danger? What if it were stuck in a fence, or hanging over a cliff? He
spent a terrible night of anxiety. However
rationality and the weight of numbers told him that it was smarter to protect
the 99 than it was to put them at risk by leaving to go look for just one lost sheep
that had foolishly wandered off.
The next day, as he led
the flock out to graze on the hill sides, he strained his eyes in every
direction, looking for the lost sheep, but to no avail. That night, there were
still only 99 sheep and he tossed and turned, fighting growling and biting zombie
sheep in his nightmares as he searched for the one lost and helpless sheep.
The third night, he could stand it no longer, and after he
got the righteous sheep settled for the night, he left and went looking for the
lost sheep by the light of the full moon. He remembered an area with
underground caverns with many holes and pits that opened up into the caverns
called the ‘reelworld.’ As he neared the reelworld, he began to hear the
bleating of the lost sheep calling for help. Just as he was about to lower
himself down into the pit to go to its rescue, he was attacked by a half dozen
of the strongest righteous sheep who had followed him curiously from the sheep
pen. “Shepherd! What are you doing? Are you crazy? You cannot go down there,
you might get hurt or worse, and we would be left helpless, with no one to feed
us and protect us! For you own good, we must take you home.”
So they pulled a bag over his head and tied his hands and
dragged him back to the church-pen.
For several days he tried to forget about the lost sheep. He
understood the 99’s reasons for fearing the reelworld and for not wanting to
risk losing their shepherd. Nevertheless, only with great difficulty was he
able to put the lost sheep out of his mind. Finally, he could stand it no
longer and decided that, if he was to be worth his salt, he had to try once
again to save the lost sheep, if indeed it was still alive. So, again, but this
time more quietly and stealthily, he slipped out of the church-pen and went off
to find the lost sheep in the reelworld.
This time, he arrived alone at the same location and managed
to climb down into the pit of the reelworld where he found the lost sheep,
emaciated, dirty and unwashed, but miraculously alive. Rejoicing, he was able
to free the sheep, feed it emergency rations that he had brought with him, and climbed
out of the pit and set off with the lost sheep over his shoulders back to the
church-pen in Churchville.
As the sun was rising, he arrived at the entrance to the
church-pen. The way was blocked by some angry looking sheep. “Shepherd! Where
have you been? You gave us such a scare!”
“Yes but look,” cried the shepherd, “I have found your
sister, the precious lost sheep, and I have brought her home! All the angels in
heaven are rejoicing over this one lost sheep that was lost but now is found!”
The angry sheep looked warily at the lost sheep, disheveled
and torn, emaciated with matted hair, and they wrinkled their noses in disgust.
“She stinks! Who knows what nasty things she has done in the reelworld? She
looks like she has parasites! She probably even has STDs! She cannot come in to
our church-pen”, she will make us ritually impure!”
The Shepherd looked at them in shock, his mouth dropping
open in stunned disbelief.
The 99 sheep rushed
the shepherd and tore the lost sheep out of his hands, and drove her away with
many harsh blows and nasty words. The lost sheep ran weeping, now more miserable
than ever. The shepherd was absolutely broken-hearted. His soul was ripped in
half and his whole carefully constructed theological worldview was crashing down
When the 99 sheep returned, they decided to have a serious
talk with the shepherd. They exhorted and counseled him, they prophesied to
him, they read to him from scripture. They even laid hands upon him and some
prayed in tongues over him. One or two sheep even rebuked the devil in him.
They decided to pay for him to get counseling and to possibly set him up in a
twelve-step accountability program to help cure him of his obsession with lost
sheep and the reelworld.
That night, after all had gone to sleep. The shepherd,
broken hearted and depressed, managed to slip away one more time. This time as
he left, he broke his shepherd’s staff over his knee, and removed his shepherd’s
tunic. He renounced his shepherd’s calling and decided to lose himself in the
reelworld like the lost sheep that he had formerly sought.
He came to the pit and lowered himself down into the
reelworld, where he found there were other lost sheep from other church-pens.
He decided to stay with the lost sheep and become one of them, and they
welcomed him with open arms and he cared for them in the reelworld, and in
return, they lovingly cared for him as well.
Below is a paragraph that I wrote a couple of years ago when I was reading through some literature about ideology for my dissertation. How can we distinguish between godly faith and political ideology in the public square? "How can religious ideology be distinguished from
religious faith? Ideology contains certainties; faith contains mysteries.
Ideology promotes militancy; faith promotes humility. Ideology must be
implemented with energetic human force; faith rests in the providence of God. Ideology
produces antagonism between opposing parties; faith produces love for one’s enemy
that bridges oppositions." Holding a political philosophy or ideology is not necessarily wrong, in fact, it may be necessary in order to participate in the public square. But how do we keep our political ideology distinct from our faith? How do we make room for brothers and sisters to share our faith (one faith) but respect them if they choose to identify with the opposing political ideology? How do we advocate for our political ideology in the public square without confusing the public about our faith?
Here is the chapter on the "Christian Nation" from Dave Fitch's book The End of Evangelicalism?
He is focusing on the problem of the merger of Evangelical faith with political ideology. The idea of a Christian Nation is one of the "master signifiers," in his view, that serves as a unifying symbol for the conservative Evangelical political ideology. (Fitch is theologically conservative). His overall point is that by tying Evangelical faith to a political ideology (and even a political party) which is now in trouble in the public sphere, as the ideology falls on hard times, Evangelical faith falls with it. Especially among the emerging generation of young adults.
I hope this does not sound too harsh, but this particular issue reminds of Jesus' words in Matthew 23:
13 “I’ve had it with you! You’re hopeless, you religion scholars, you Pharisees! Frauds! Your lives are roadblocks to God’s kingdom. You refuse to enter, and won’t let anyone else in either.
Brian Emmett speaking on "sowing in a shattered society" in San Antonio, Texas in October of 2013.
Brian discusses the Daniel paradigm of living in empire and discusses how to be "excentric" people (having a different focus). He also discusses the importance of being discerning about the spiritual influences of technology.
Diane Rhems interviewed Maggie Scarf about her book on the mind-body connection on June 2, 2004. This is what got me moving to get help for Debbie's problem's with her wrists. This was life changing for us!
You would be surprised, and perhaps even worried, by my theological thoughts and the conclusions that they lead to: and this is where I miss you most of all, because I don’t know anyone else with whom I could so well discuss them to have my thinking clarified. What is bothering me incessantly is the question what Christianity really is, or indeed who Christ really is, for us today.
The time when people could be told everything by means of words, whether theological or pious, is over, and so is the time of inwardness and conscience – and that means the time of religion in general. We are moving towards a completely religionless time; people as they are now simply cannot be religious any more. Even those who honestly describe themselves as ‘religious’ do not in the least act up to it, and so they presumably mean something quite different by ‘religious.’
~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison (ed. Eberhard Bethge; New York: Touchstone, 1997).
Laocoön and his sons from the Illiad. Laocoön was a Trojan priest of Poseidon (or Neptune), whose rules he defied, Athena became angry with him for warning the Trojans not to trust the horse, but to burn it. She sent two giant sea serpents to strangle and kill him and his two sons. The famous marble statute is attributed by Pliny the Elder to the sculptors Agesander, Athenodoros, and Polydorus, and stands in the Vatican Museums, Rome.