To a Poem is a Bott the Stranger

A few thoughts on this.

I’m not sure if I’m inspired by the overall success of some of the language or if I’m terrified by it. I am leaning towards inspiration, but I also tend to romanticize things.

That said, some lines really stand out:

“the wind is only for me.”
“there’s part of the world between the darkness”
“the father of the light is not a fist of the bones.

The line about the wind is almost identical to something I read yesterday, which I think was by Antler. I’ll share it here when I can find it again.

The darkness line is lovely, and reminds me of “Break on Through,” by The Doors.

“The father of the light is not a fist of the bone,” is to my ear very similar to the idea behind this line of Christian scripture: “anger does not produce the righteousness of God.” That’s James 1:20. James 1:17 says “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”

Data for Breakfast

Code is Poetry. This is part of the WordPress philosophy. As a coder and a poet, I have always loved this phrase. I decided to turn this phrase around and ask, Can I make poetry with code? Could I make a bot that could write original poetry? I created an experiment to find out.

First off, I knew that if my bot was to learn to write poetry, it first had to read poetry. In 2017, authors used WordPress to publish over half a million posts tagged as poetry. I reached out to some prolific poets sharing their work with WordPress and asked if they’d be willing to collaborate with me on a fun experiment: would they allow my bot to read their work so that it could learn about poetic form and structure, so that it might learn to write its own poetry? Special thanks to these intrepid…

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The Big Bang and the Personal God

I think I’d heard of God’s Crime Scene before clicking through a link on reddit this morning, but I don’t know very much at all about the work of J. Warner Wallace.

With that caveat, I share this post: A Personal God is the Best Explanation for the Beginning of the Universe.

I found this part to be especially interesting:

“Big bang cosmology, often referred to as the Standard Cosmological Model, demonstrates that everything we see in the universe (all space, time, and matter) had a beginning and came from nothing. If this is true, the first cause of the universe must itself be non-spatial, a-temporal, and immaterial.”

Wallace goes on to say that the first cause must also be personal (with respect to personal force, which can choose when to act, and impersonal forces, like gravity, which cannot). I’m not sure how convincing I find that part of his premise, but I like his point about the Standard Model requiring a non-spatial, a-temporal (timeless), immaterial first cause.

Christians believe, of course, that God is personal, and that God chose to incarnate (to step out of the immaterial and timeless glories of eternity) and come to us as Jesus.  Regardless of how creation happened, that’s how Christmas happened.

Have a Merry one!

Where is God in Hurricane Season?

God did not send Irma, Harvey, Jose, and Maria. I hope you know that.

Why didn’t God prevent Irma, Harvey, Jose, and Maria? Larry King asked a variation of this question on Twitter last night. If God is omnipotent, why doesn’t he prevent natural disasters like hurricanes and earthquakes? King noted that no religious leader has ever been able to answer that for him. The tone of the tweet was not antagonistic. It felt like an honest question mulled over a lifetime. It’s a question we’re all asking. And it’s not just about natural (or human-made) disasters. It’s about all kinds of tragedy and injustice and loss. It’s the cry of Jesus from the cross.

Before going further, let’s ask ourselves what we actually lose if start to allow for the possibility that God might not be omnipotent in the way we traditionally mean.

In philosophic and theological studies, the question of why terrible things happen to good or innocent people is known as “The Problem of Evil.”  Millions of attempts continue to be made to solve the conundrum as classically presented:  if God is all-good, all-powerful, and all-knowing, why does evil persist?”  Some answers are more satisfying than others, but none seem entirely sufficient in the moments they feel most needed.

Martin Luther said that we know God best through God’s love and compassion, not God’s power.  There’s something to that, but we’re still left asking “but if God has the power to prevent X,Y,Z, why won’t he?”

Luther also wrote at length about the suffering of Jesus on the cross as real spiritual trauma for God.  On the cross, Jesus (God in time and space and flesh and blood) experiences the quintessential human question: “God, why have you forsaken me?” On the cross, God experiences the human condition in totally, because on the cross, God experiences the feeling of being Godforsaken.  God experiences what we experience. God knows the pain we know.

We lose nothing, really, if we allow ourselves to consider the idea that God, who is mighty to save, may not be omnipotent in the way we generally think we mean.

My response to Larry King’s tweet was “maybe God isn’t omnipotent. but I do believe God is in the suffering and mourning and struggle. That’s why I follow the Crucified.”

It took the cross for God to know Godforsakenness. And God stayed on the cross. Christians follow a murdered God.  I think that tells us something.

If God isn’t omnipotent in the way we’ve traditionally said, how can we say God is mighty to save?

I think the answer to this part of the question lies in the call to take up our own crosses and follow Jesus.  To sacrifice confidence and trust in anything besides the love and compassion of God as the grounding of our being and the source of our identity.  The cross frees us from seeking our personhood or salvation in systems of politics, economics, and empire.  Naked and crucified, the God born in the poverty of the manger completes his final to move to total solidarity with us.  The life and death of Jesus are no quaint pantomime:  God knew hunger, tragedy, temptation, weakness, and loss.  God felt utterly abandoned by God.  We know and feel all of those experiences on the ebbs and tides of life.

In the person of Jesus, God found the fullness of God’s identity: the God who relies on the care of others for survival, the God who struggles within complex family systems, the God who celebrates at weddings and mourns the loss of friends.  The God who rejoices in our triumphs and the God who suffers the way we suffer.

Where is God in Harvey, Irma, and Maria?

God is in the shelters.  God is in the living rooms of family and friends where displaced people are finding hospitality and healing.  God is in the suffering and loss. God is in the hope of resurrection, in the kindness and compassion of strangers becoming friends. God is in the clean-up crews and buckets.

I don’t know what God is able to do about preventing human suffering.  I pray as if God can do every single thing.  But I do know what God is able to do in the wake of devastation.  Christians follow a crucified God, yes, but also one of Resurrection.  On the cross, God felt the horror of feeling Godforsaken.  In the Resurrection, proof of God’s attendant care breaks forth as Easter Morning.  Jesus was not forsaken or forgotten.  The power of God, mighty to save, manifests in healing after horror. We feel Godforsaken, but we aren’t ever really.  God’s attendant care is there in healing after horror. That’s another way God saves us.

I’m okay with the idea that the God who heals us might not have the power to prevent everything that hurts us.  Come what may, I always seem to find God in the aftermath.  None of this is to say with certainty that God’s not omnipotent in the classical sense.  But if God is, it seems God may have more to answer for than what the cross itself sets right. While it’s true that the frequency of extreme weather events rises with pollution, and while it’s true that so much of what we call evil or unjust is the accretion of broken people living broken lives, and while it’s true that none of that is God’s fault, a classically omnipotent God ought to be able to find a way around the human noise we throw up to heaven.  A classically omnipotent God, we hope, would say “regardless of your free will and brokenness, I have abolished evil, entropy, and want.”

That’s not the reality we seem to experience.  But that doesn’t mean God isn’t here, isn’t moving, isn’t active, isn’t real.  Jesus was killed by systemic injustice and the evil choices of his enemies.  Jesus was raised to glory by the God whose attendant care is there, healing after horror.


The Rapture Is Not Happening On Saturday, September 23

There are no hidden codes in the Bible.  That’s not what the Bible is.  That’s not how the Bible works.  That’s not how any of this works.

That said, here’s a video playlist of some songs that either directly or indirectly call to mind the end of days.

First, because I can’t shut up about it: “Sign of the Times” by Harry Styles

“Come Pick Me Up” by Ryan Adams.  This is the “I wrote this song today. It probably sucks” version.  Which is also the best version.  “When they call your name, will you walk right up, with a smile on your face?  Will you cower in fear in your favorite sweater with an old love letter?”

“I Wish We’d All Been Ready,” by Larry Norman, covered by DC Talk.  You don’t have to agree with the theology to behold the beauty of these vocals or the sadness of the prospect that this vision might be true.

“The Man Comes Around” by Johnny Cash.

“The Wanderer” by U2 and Johnny Cash.


Listening to 80s Music with Karl Barth

Very thoughtful survey. I’ve thought of Das Nichtige as “nothingness” because it consists of all that God opted not to create, and that because there “is” God and the things God opted to create, there must also be “not God” or “the nothingness.” Am I misreading Barth there?

Pop Culture and Theology

By Jack Holloway

I make a lot of “best of” playlists. Recently, I made a playlist of what I think are the 150 greatest 80s songs (find it here). I listened to hours and hours and hours and hours of 80s music, soaking it all in, and, like the Apostle Paul, “examining everything carefully, holding fast to everything good.”

I primarily study the theology of Karl Barth, and so I thought a lot about Barth’s theology as I contemplated the music I was listening to. Barth talks about God’s No and Yes, God’s wrath and redemption, judgment and forgiveness, and on and on. He thinks Christians should move from one realization to the other, from understanding our sinfulness to God’s forgiveness, from seeing sin and death to believing in God’s redemption.

“Human experience and thought,” he says, “would proceed in a straight line from despair to even deeper despair…

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Black. Lives. Matter.

It doesn’t matter that Dr. Tisha Brooks and I share a hometown, or that she, her husband, my wife, and I all graduated from the same college.

What matters is that what she’s saying here.

The Stockley case is egregious.  If you’re not a person of color and have had a hard time understanding that Black Lives Matter is not a terrorist or militant operation, and that saying “Black Lives Matter” does not mean saying “Only Black Lives Matter,” I’d be happy to talk with you.  You’ll get my perspective as a Christian who also happens to be white.

What Tisha is saying here is vital for such a time as this.


Message from Tisha
Repost from Instagram @phdgirl24
This morning the “not guilty” verdict from the Stokley trial was released here in St. Louis and I got into an unexpected and heated debate with my landlord, who argued that the answer to problems like these is voting and Jesus, but not in his words “being in the streets.” I couldn’t disagree more for 3 reasons: 1) I’m currently writing a paper about activism as spiritual practice; 2) many of the people in my community are voters, Jesus-followers and are protesting in the streets as we speak; and 3) the Jesus I follow was always in the streets (or in the homes) of people who were marginalized, powerless, outcast and alienated from society. To the dismay of those in power, Jesus hung out with, listened to, and stood alongside of the poor, the sick and exiled, prisoners, prostitutes, and “the least of these.” In fact, it was this refusal to align himself with those in power that led to his crucifixion.
We are followers of Jesus because he was radical. We are followers of Jesus because he was a revolutionary. We are followers of Jesus because he has always been clear about where he stands. And though we are not allowed to hang this #blacklivesmatters sign in our window or post it in the front yard, because we do not own the property we stay in, we want to make it clear where we stand. We stand with Jesus, in the streets, in full support of those who are committed to being his hands and feet in this very broken and unjust world.
Activism = Jesus in the Streets.
#stl #stlouis #justice #jesusinthestreets #activism #protest #spiritualactivism#blacklivesmatter #professorslife #blackprofessor #speaktruthtopower#civildisobedience #faithandjustice #wherewestand #visioncarriers

Call to Worship: God Is Still Speaking

In the beginning, before we were born, before our grandparents met, before people fought over boundaries, before there were countries or planets or stars, in the beginning, before we were born,

there was God.

Before we learned to write or speak or even think words, God’s name was the rush of the wind in the reeds, the migration of continents, the burning of stars, the movement of love in the cosmos. Before all of these, God began speaking.

God said “I Am!” This is the Word that went forward creating all things. The Word was with God. The Word was God. Through God’s speaking Godself into space and time, all things were made.  Because God said “I Am,” God said “You Are.” In this way, all things were made.

After people began to fight over boundaries, after they’d charted maps and named stars, after they’d fled war and weather, this great I Am, which is God, became flesh.

In the tongues of the nations, he was called God With Us, God Saves.  He was called Emmanuel.  He was called Jesus. 

He was called the Messiah, the Christ, the One Anointed as prophet, priest, king.  The Word become flesh, the breath of God living and breathing, the Word who had brought forth all things.

God came as us. God came for us.  The God who spoke creation is here.

God found us hurting and needing and hungry.  God found us broken, afraid.  In the infant of Bethlehem, in the crucified God, we find God sharing our lot.  Speaking the language of our experience.

And God is still speaking.

Through the rush of the wind, through the courses of stars, through the turning of great wheels in the deep,

Through lowly birth, through a life on the margin, through betrayal by friends, through false accusations, through the injustice of empire, through death on a cross, I Am is speaking.

I Am says “We Are.”