Tripp York's The Devil Wears Nada: Satan Exposed! is most definitely outside the mainstream of "Christian" publishing (and I suspect that York would resist that label to begin with as a matter of principle). Without disclosing any spoilers, York documents his attempt to make contact with the "real" devil by documenting his encounters with religious people of various sorts both in and outside the larger Christian and religious community. At his worst, York comes across as smug, including, for example, summaries of his seemingly substantial laughing out loud at responses by certain people. At his best, York is both funny (wickedly so) and theologically insightful. York is a Mennonite, and I had no idea that Mennonites could be funny in a sarcastic/pull-no-punches sort of way. York saves some of his most scathing humor and criticism for a few obvious religious charlatans who see demons behind every door to the extent that they embody the ridiculous. York also picks on both ends of the religious spectrum, from conservative evangelicals to Unitarians. Warning: he might pick on someone you like along the way--so proceed with caution. This was my first venture into Mr. York's writing and thought. In light of what I learned about him from personal background scattered throughout the book, York's style might be described as skater-punk smug (yes, he even gives us his obligatory song/band list at one point) blended with the self-deprecating humor and intellect of a hip university professor (York's day job). In other words, he can't be pigeon-holed, and if you are looking to read someone who is going to give you all the answers, you will not find it in York. For those of us who are not as well read as York in progressive Christian theology and philosophy, some of his references and asides are not as appreciated as they might otherwise be. York also betrays his training as an academic by dropping a good number of footnotes in this non-academic book. All idiosyncrasies notwithstanding, if you want to undertake a study about the nature of evil "from the fringe," then you will probably enjoy this book as much as I did. Along the way, I not only laughed, but found myself examining my own biases, and taking seriously York's theological discussion. To the extent York implies that he entered the journey to find the "real" evil one with a completely open mind, his interviews and summaries left me with the feeling that he had some idea of what he really thought before he began the journey (York drops enough footnotes and references to clue the reader in on his theological influences and thinking, including a few activists from the Christian anarchy and Catholic worker's movements). Even if you don't find yourself in the same place as York at all turns, thinking Christians of all persuasions will no doubt relish in York's "calling out" a number of crazies who do serious religious folk of all stripes a genuine public disservice. The faint of heart and easily offended will want to stay away from this one, but if you are game for a lot of irreverence at the expense of evil, then this book might be right up your alley. In essence, by "taking seriously" his search for the devil in a not-so-serious/comedic way, York strips away the facade of the pop-Christian prince of darkness and pokes much needed holes in the apparently popular belief that the devil is some sort of corporeal, omniscient opposite of a good Creator. -JBM
The Internet Monk is a blog founded by the late Michael Spencer who blended clever commentary, humor and theological reflection in a unique way, as he explored what it means to follow Jesus. His friends and fellow bloggers continue to post thoughtful commentary inspired by Spencer's vision. Is Tebow a Christian hero on the fringe for his public displays of piety or does he unintentionally demean the faith by creating the appearance that God is involved in the outcome of sporting events? You decide . . . Does God Like Tebow More than Brady?
You might also check out Robert Parham's comments at Ethics Daily. Tebow Stars in Morality Play
There is a sea of so-called "Christian" blogs in cyberspace. Over the last several years, a few have distinguished themselves as more consistently different than most. Over the next several days, we will post some of the more thoughtful and provocative from the fringe in the first two weeks of 2012.
I've never been to Canada, so all I know is that it's cold there. Whenever I travel somewhere cold, my life-long assimilation to coastal humidity kicks in and I lose the ability to think clearly. Some detractors might say that's what's happening at Geez magazine (a Canadian-based publication), which challenges all notions of what it means to publish a faith-based magazine. Take for example, Geez' "Ask the Atheist" blog, which is featured among other provocative blogs from the faithful. Reading this week's post made me wonder whether the more traditional "debate the atheist" format has any real value to anyone. It also reminded me of the time one of my religion professors announced to our class that Issac Asimov died, only to have one particularly obnoxious ministry student laugh out loud at the thought that Asimov might possibly be getting the eternal punishment he supposedly deserved (at least in the mind of this particular student). Is it any wonder that Jesus was so hard on religious folks? The folks at Geez seem to be looking for an alternative to the extreme "all or nothing at all" debate in a way that is consistent with their commitment to make "holy mischief." I've only read the bloggers at Geez, so if you want to read the magazine, you will have to order a copy. Check out his week's "Atheist" challenge to the faithful: Scrambling for high ground on both sides of the deathbed.
Closer to the home front (at least the Baptist one), check out Ethics Daily, which publishes posts challenging Christians to move beyond the religion of intellectual assent to a life of faith and practice (or faith in action). In the age of the pop-Christian gospel of abundant health and wealth, Jim Hill reminds his fellow sojourners, "The Christian life is not primarily a list of things to believe. It is about a relationship with God through Christ that forever changes us." Check it out: Why God Expects You to Care for the Least of These.
Welcome to The After Effect. This is our first post. Thank you to Pastor Chris for preaching a sermon with the catchy theme that inspired the title of this blog. Enjoy and see you all in Sunday School!
We left our discussion in Sunday School this week with a few observations about the "fringe" nature of Mark's Baptism story. John was a preacher on the "fringe" of society, as it doesn't appear there are any biblical scholars arguing that his appearance and dietary habits were an everyday occurrence in first century Palestine. Because Jesus was baptized by John, it highlights the fact that Jesus was, at least by association, on the margins--dare we say, on the fringe of the "official" religious practice of his day. Mark's Baptism story is especially peculiar among the gospels, since it begins with John and Jesus, skipping (for whatever reason) any birth or childhood stories (it's possible the writer of Mark did not even know these stories, assuming Mark was the earliest gospel on the scene, at least in what would eventually become the "officially" endorsed collection of gospels now contained in the New Testament). Christians have been quite good over the years at pointing out everything that was supposedly wrong with the "official" religion of certain first century Jewish leaders, in large part due to the fact Jesus confronts certain religious leaders of his day in the gospels. Yet, we have not been quite as successful when our own critics call for us to look to the "fringe Jesus" as we consider the witness and role of the church in our own day. This month, as we are looking at the question of Christian identity, The After Effect will be considering a few efforts to take a look at Christian faith and practice "from the fringe." I wonder if we will find any weirdos like John the Baptist along the way? We shall see.
The After Effect