U2 says what some former Mars Hill Church members need to hear from Mark Driscoll


“I thought I heard the captain’s voice / It’s hard to listen while you preach.”

– U2, from “Every Breaking Wave”

The captain’s voice might be God’s voice. The narrator reflects on a time when he thought he was hearing from God. Then the narrator laments preaching more than listening.

Bono and The Edge share songwriting credits on all the lyrics for the new album, Songs of Innocence, on which “Every Breaking Wave” appears.

Biden On Domestic Violence: ‘The NFL Hasn’t Seen Nothing Yet’


Colin Foote Burch:

Yes, “it is cowardly not to step up” when another man is assaulting a woman.

Originally posted on CBS DC:

WASHINGTON (AP) – Vice President Joe Biden said Friday the nation needs to bring young men into the struggle against domestic violence by encouraging them to stand against the crime on college campuses.

Biden, speaking at a meeting of the Democratic National Committee’s women’s leadership forum, said the 20th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act highlights the need to fight domestic violence against women in their teens and 20s.

Biden said the administration would be unrelenting “to make it clear that it is cowardly not to step up.”

“There is an absolute obligation, a moral obligation, to step up and intervene and say something,” Biden said.

President Barack Obama and Biden were unveiling a campaign Friday to target domestic violence on college campuses. The vice president also was holding a round-table discussion on domestic violence later in the day in Denver, where he planned a fundraiser for Democrat Andrew…

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Better Teachers Receive Worse Student Evaluations


Originally posted on HBR Blog Network - Harvard Business Review:

A 1-standard-deviation increase in university teachers’ effectiveness in boosting student performance reduces the students’ evaluations of their professors’ teaching quality by about half of a standard deviation, on average — enough to significantly reduce the teachers’ percentile ranking at the university, says a team led by Michela Braga of Bocconi University in Italy. Students, especially the least able, appear to respond negatively in their evaluations to the extra effort that good teachers require of them, a finding that casts doubt on universities’ reliance on student evaluations to inform faculty-promotion decisions. The researchers also found that student evaluations improve when there is fog and as the weather gets warmer, and they deteriorate on rainy days.

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CNN International: ‘Skeletons found “holding hands” after 700 years’


‘When the church is where the war is’


Hope is where the door is

When the church is where the war is

Where no one can feel no one else’s pain

– U2, “Sleep Like A Baby Tonight,” Songs of Innocence

Living well is not a gift from God (but the ability to live well is): Seneca on God & wisdom


I should start with three quick notes on Seneca’s relevance in Christian history because some background will give reasons for considering his writings as relevant to thinking about God.

First, a general assessment of Seneca’s point of view in relation to Christianity:

His [Seneca's] writings represent Stoicism at its best and have been much studied by Christian apologists for the similarities as well as the contrasts of their moral teaching with the Gospel ethic.  — The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church

Second, John Calvin’s interest in Seneca:

In 1532 he [John Calvin] issued a Latin commentary on Seneca’s ‘De Clementia’. — The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church

And third, a translator’s note on Seneca’s importance to four Christian thinkers:

While scholars and schoolmasters in the century following continued to condemn Seneca, early Christians were taking to this kindred spirit among pagan writers, so many of who ideas and attitudes they felt able to adopt and share. Anthologies were made of him and he was frequently quoted by such writers as Jerome, Lactantius and Augustine. Tertullian called him saepe noster, ‘often one of us’.  — Robin Campbell, in the introduction to his translation of Seneca’s Letters from a Stoic

Furthermore, as Campbell also notes, Dante frequently quotes Seneca.

So, as I was recently reading Seneca’s Letter XC, I came across something that helped me think about what God does and what God doesn’t do for humans.

In a way, the following passage sounds like an overview of the biblical book of Proverbs.

From Seneca’s Letter XC, as translated by Campbell:

“Who can doubt, my dear Lucilius, that life is the gift of the immortal gods, but that living well is the gift of philosophy? A corollary of this would be the certain conclusion that our debt to philosophy is greater than the debt we owe to the gods (by just so much as a good life is more of a blessing than, simply, life) had it not been for the fact that philosophy itself was something borrowed by the gods. They have given no one the present of a knowledge of philosophy, but everyone the means of acquiring it. For if they had made philosophy a blessing, given to all and sundry, if we were born in a state of moral enlightenment, wisdom would have been deprived of the best thing about her — that she isn’t one of the things which fortune either gives us or doesn’t. As things are, there is about wisdom a nobility and magnificence in the fact that she doesn’t just fall to a person’s lot, that each man owes her to his own efforts, that one doesn’t go to anyone other than oneself to find her. What would have have worth looking up to in philosophy if she were handed out free?

“Philosophy has the single task of discovering the truth about the divine and human worlds. The religious conscience, the sense of duty, justice and all the rest of the close-knit, interdependent ‘company of virtues’, never leave her side. Philosophy has taught men to worship what is divine, to love what is human, telling us that with the gods belong authority, and among human beings fellowship.”

My takeaway:

Life is a gift from God. Living well is a gift of philosophy. Philosophy is also a gift from God, and philosophy has taught us to worship “what is divine.” But living well is not a gift from God. We must engage philosophy to learn how to live well.

The Penguin Classics edition of Letters from a Stoic, selected, introduced, and translated by Robin Campbell

“Letters from a Stoic” by Seneca, translated by Robin Campbell

For those who left Mars Hill Church, and for those who stayed, and for Mark Driscoll


The song isn’t part of the brand-new album, but the lyrics say everything about where the human race is right now and especially about the controversial culture within the Mars Hill Church organization as led by Mark Driscoll.

That’s because “ordinary love” is a great goal, and when people strive to become more meaningful than ordinary love, they somehow become worse as humans beings.

Ordinary love needs to be the baseline, the ground, the default, the aspiration. Don’t tell me you have something more until you’ve proven you understand this.

Appearance or Rationality?


Colin Foote Burch:

For my part, whatever I’ve been guilty of, and whatever I’ve been perceived as being guilty of, I think this guy offers some salient, current points.

Originally posted on While We're Paused!:

Yesterday I posted the following comment as my status on Facebook:

“After several years of getting drawn in to various debates on Facebook, I have come to a conclusion. About 95% of the people commenting care nothing whatsoever about evidence or chains of reasoning or the search for truth. They are concerned only with what statements will make them appear cool, intelligent, or with it to whatever group they are trying to impress.”

Not a person I was describing.

Not a person I was describing.

The response–an unusually high number of “likes” and not a few comments–suggested I had hit a nerve.  All of those commenting basically agreed with me.  Either I was in the group they were trying to impress, or I had just attracted all the rational exceptions to the rule.  (Either generalization would probably be dangerous!)

The bottom line is that, while there are many exceptions, the level of rational discourse of which…

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Flash fiction on Friday (why not?)


Originally posted on Liturgical Credo:

I want to share a piece of flash fiction that recently won “Challenge 80” at The Iron Writer, an online writing community centered around friendly competition.

The criteria for “challenges” include a flash-fiction writing prompt of 4 elements, exactly 500 words without the title, and 5 days to complete the work. Four writers compete.

The 4 elements for “Challenge 80″ were: Furby, Peel Trident (car), a lost emperor, and Dr. Pepper.

Here’s my flash fiction for the challenge:

Booze Cream

By Colin Burch

Monkey always had these gifts coming in from the endorsements, so sometimes our parties were based upon whatever we could do with a garage full of whatever product.

At the end of last summer, Monkey had an entire slot of his four-car garage full of Dr. Pepper in 12-packs.

I was responsible for figuring out what to do with the Dr. Pepper. A website…

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That’s entertainment


Floyd Mayweather Jr. defends Ray Rice.

Fox News’s Brian Kilmeade says, “I think the message is, take the stairs.”

His “Fox & Friends” partner Steve Doocy says, “The message is when you’re in an elevator, there’s a camera.”

The people we watch on screens are reminding us: If we watch it on a screen, it’s just entertainment.

How Purity Culture Kept Me Silent About My Sexual Abuse as a Child: Dinah’s Story


Colin Foote Burch:

Another Bible-based disaster.

Originally posted on Homeschoolers Anonymous:

Screen Shot 2014-07-21 at 11.04.46 AM

HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Dinah” is a pseudonym.

Trigger warning: discussion of child sexual abuse.

I’m going to be honest—growing up in the Christian homeschooling world is hard.

People in the community that I grew up in were picture perfect families, with all their perfect children all in a perfect row, making perfect grades, milling their own wheat and making their own bread.  They were highly esteemed Christians who (of course) have a home church and serve their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. These people sound like they’d be lovely to be around, however, that was not the vibe I got at all. There is a heavy feeling that comes with being around those families—judgment:

You don’t mill your own wheat? Shame on you! Don’t you know store bought bread has chemicals? You don’t pastor your own church? Shame on you! Don’t you know…

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Finally! Dutiful NYT lapdog gives Obama a chance to explain his golfing needs


Colin Foote Burch:

Golfing during beheadings — finally, a defense.

Originally posted on Twitchy:

When you’re looking for insightful content, only the best “real journalist” will do.

Jason Horowitz, who fearlessly investigated teenage Mitt Romney’s high school antics, is out with another game-changing piece:

We give Obama a hard time for his infuriating golfing-while-the-world-burns habit, but maybe we just don’t understand his needs, you know?

From the Times:

“Every president needs a space where he can be quiet and let loose and feel normal,” Mr. Obama said in a telephone interview on Saturday. “And when I’m with [White House travel director Marvin Nicholson], we can talk the same way we…

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You tell a story because a statement would be inadequate (Flannery O’Connor)


Colin Foote Burch:

Stories are and ought to be our defense against the dehumanizing power of abstract ideas. Crooked leaders tend to hide their misdeeds behind the nobility of their abstractions.

Originally posted on Biblioklept:

When you can state the theme of a story, when you can separate it from the story itself, then you can be sure the story is not a very good one. The meaning of a story has to be embodied in it, has to be made concrete in it. A story is a way to say something that can’t be said any other way, and it takes every word in the story to say what the meaning is. You tell a story because a statement would be inadequate. When anybody asks what a story is about, the only proper thing is to tell him to read the story. The meaning of fiction is not abstract meaning but experienced meaning, and the purpose of making statements about the meaning of a story is only to help you experience that meaning more fully.

From Flannery O’Connor’s essay “Writing Short Stories.” Collected in

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‘Public response to an idea’


Quotation from Christianity and Western Thought Volume 1 by Colin Brown, with crowd meme

Mark Driscoll past rebukes Mark Driscoll future, gives grounds for his own dismissal from Mars Hill Church ministry


On March 27, 2011, Pastor Mark Driscoll preached a sermon at the Mars Hill Church Ballard campus in Seattle.

I had searched “Mark Driscoll” and the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 17, after thinking about Jesus’ warning in the first two verses: And he said to his disciples, “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin. It’s also worth noting the slightly different wording in the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 18, verse 6, which adds a shade of meaning, essentially implying that “little ones” are any believers in Jesus.

The following excerpt of the sermon, which on its own merits is quite good, is striking in light of the recent formal complaint filed by 21 former pastors in Driscoll’s organization.

Number Two, how are you leading others into temptation? This may even be, in light of the context, of controversy and conflict, you compelling them toward raging, anger, escalation. You could do this through gossip, through antagonizing, through goading them on, leading them toward temptation. Now, they are responsible for their sin, but you are responsible for your participation in the temptation…. Sin should not come through you. Don’t be an agent of the devil, leading others toward temptation to sin.

Compare some of what Driscoll said there with the list of offenses in the formal charges. I mean, if Driscoll-past isn’t rebuking Driscoll-future, then maybe I can’t understand plain old American English.

For broader context, watch a 7-minute video excerpt of the sermon here:

Dealing With Your Sin Luke 17:1-10 from jway242003 on GodTube.

Also see:
“When your pastor is worse than ‘worldly’ — what’s Mars Hill Church to do?”
“Is the Mars Hill Church board lying for Pastor Mark Driscoll? Or just using weasel words”
“Pastor Mark Driscoll teaches you how to slander!”

The Rev. Stephen Kidd on The Episcopal Church


Gratitude for Greg Garrett, who yesterday posted the following quotation on his Facebook page, a quotation that captures the essence of why I started this blog about 7 years ago:

“The Episcopal Church welcomed me when others wouldn’t have me, and honored my questions when others simply sought to dismiss them. Its sacramental life spoke to parts of my soul that the fundamentalism of my childhood couldn’t touch; worship felt ancient, holy, and real in ways I didn’t expect. 15 years later I am still amazed at the depth and breadth of our tradition, and I appreciate all the more our peculiar vantage point at the intersection of the Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox corners of our Christian family. The Episcopal Church isn’t perfect, far from it, but for me, it is home. — The Rev. Stephen Kidd, from an upcoming book by Church Publishing Incorporated


 

‘He was brainwashed’ — a Somali-American man’s account of his nephew’s recruitment by al-Shabaab


This evening, NBC Nightly News aired a report on Islamic extremists recruiting in Minneapolis.

“For years, Minneapolis has been a target for terrorist recruiters seeking angry, disillusioned young men,” reporter Ron Allen said.

Tens of thousands of Somalis live in a Minneapolis neighborhood called Little Mogadishu where recruitment of young men into Islamic extremist groups is “an all too familiar story,” Allen said.

Allen interviewed a Somali man about his nephew’s recruitment (the report included the names but did not show them on the screen, so I cannot spell them).

Allen: “You lost your nephew.”

Somali man: “Yeah.”

Allen: “What happened?”

Somali man: “He was brainwashed.”

The nephew, Allen said, was “lured” back to Somalia in 2008, when the kid was only 17 years old.

The nephew died a year later while fighting for al-Shabaab, the same group behind last year’s attack on a mall in Nairobi, Kenya.

Robbinsdale, Minnesota, a town in the Minneapolis area, was also home to Douglas MacArthur McCain, who reportedly died last week while fighting for Islamic State.

The word “brainwash” has been used more frequently as Western males have started fighting for Islamic extremist groups.

Some have become radicalized before traveling to areas controlled by Islamic extremists, while others might have been tricked into entering extremist groups.

In at least one case, a young man (from Belgium) traveled to the Middle East because he was led to believe he would be helping a charitable organization, but the organization was actually an extremist group.

Like many stories, the story of Zia Adbul Haq of Queensland, Australia, suggests religious brainwashing is most successful in times of crisis.

The 33-year-old had told those closest to him that he’d travelled to the [Syrian] region to find a wife after the breakdown of his marriage…
Friends told an Australian news organization that Zia “fell off the rails and under the spell of the extremists,” and  “Zia has been brainwashed.”

Life’s difficulties also seemed to be making restless, unemployed young men in Minneapolis easy targets for jihadist brainwashing, as Allen of NBC News suggested.
Even when Somalis enter the U.S. for legitimate reasons, some of them, somehow, become radicalized. As Michelle Moons of Breitbart.com reports,
NCTC [National Counterterrorism Center] reports have noted the high level of terrorist activity in Somalia, as terrorist group al-Shabaab has intermittently controlled various key regions of Somalia. A Center for Disease Control and Prevention document cites Office of Refugee Resettlement statistics that list Minnesota, California, Georgia, and Washington, D.C. as locations where the majority of Somalis have settled in the U.S. Thousands have come to the U.S. as refugees under the banner of fleeing war and persecution in their home country. Current population estimates of Somali-born individuals living in the U.S. range from 35,760 to 150,000.

Trouble with radicalized Somalis has been building for years. Here’s a snapshot:

Oct. 31, 2011: “Suicide bomber in Somali attack was reportedly from Minneapolis

Aug. 5, 2010: “14 U.S. citizens charged with trying to join Somali terror group

July 20, 2009: “Minneapolis struggles with Somali gangs

When your pastor is worse than ‘worldly’ — what’s Mars Hill Church to do?


An open letter to Pastor Mark Driscoll, or a blogospherical amicus curiae brief on behalf of those hurt and the 21 former Mars Hill pastors who filed a formal complaint

Updated 10:05 p.m  with an addition at the end.

Dear Mark,

Last night I saw a post about bullying on the Psychopath Resistance blog and the first person I thought of was you.

If a fraction of the allegations against you are true — and they are easy to believe — then you and your loyalists need to face the facts:

You were worse than “the world.”

You behaved worse than “worldly.”

Could Jesus have spoken this parable for you?

45 But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and get drunk, 46 the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and put him with the unfaithful. 47 And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. (Luke 12:45-47)

Is there any “biblical warrant” for anyone continuing to respect someone like you, Mark?

Not if merely a fraction of the allegations are true.

Nowhere in the biblical texts can one find a single exhortation to respect someone who acts as despicably as you apparently have been acting.

But there’s warrant for your dismissal from ministry in Proverbs 26:18-19:

“Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death

is the man who deceives his neighbor

and says, ‘I am only joking!’ “

Oh, sure, you might not have been joking per se but let that stand for any excuse for your behavior following the damage you’ve done.

You’ve thrown firebrands and shot arrows and deceived numerous people around you — you’ve been the epitome of destructiveness — and now you’re going to try to talk your way out of it.

It’s appropriate that the television-and-Netflix series The Killing was set in Seattle because you’ve starred in The Spiritual Killing in the same city for years.

Where’s the Shepherd who is allowing you to injure so many sheep and disillusion so many others?

It’s like the U2 song: “Referee won’t blow the whistle / God is good but will he listen?”

And that’s not even considering the spineless, cowardly act of plagiarism.

For a minister presuming to help start a seminary, plagiarism is worse than grand theft auto, yet more pathetic than stealing 25-cent candy.

Congrats on occupying that unique space of horrible and pathetic, a space usually reserved for despots and Wall Street sharks.

The allegations against you could be a guide to bullying — it would be a New York Times bestseller, this time bestselling status that you actually earned, thanks to an endless supply of people interested in abusing power.

“Shame” is too good a word for what you should feel. Chimps have a better overall track record of behavior.

You’re a fundamentally indecent person, failing to act in the most basic human ways.

To borrow from William F. Buckley, I’d rather be taught by anyone among the first 2,000 names in the Seattle telephone book than by you or anyone who is still on your staff.

Do you need to learn what decency is? During the past three years, I’ve been reading through Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, and Seneca. You’ve been worse than the pagans you’ve been screaming at for years, so maybe you could start by stepping up to the pagan morality of Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, and Seneca.

You’ve failed to live anywhere near the neighborhood of Romans 12:9-21. That excerpt begins, “Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor.”

In other words, you’ve lived the antithesis of that excerpt.

All your bullying just cloaks the wimp hiding inside.

Funny how the guy who claims real manhood is the wimp, and the one who tells men to have a pair doesn’t have his own.

How do I know? How can I say such a thing?

Because when a man has real security and true confidence, he doesn’t even feel the need to bully.

Doesn’t even feel the need, Mark.

Doesn’t even feel the need.

Do everyone who believes in any sort of God a favor and disappear from public view for the rest of your life, you bullying, reprobate pansy.

Most sincerely,

Colin Burch

P.S. Do you think I’m bullying you? Don’t be an idiot. I’m shouting at an influential, powerful authority figure who bullied people around him, and worse yet, used anti-Christian, sub-human behavior toward people who believe in Jesus. You do not deserve respect of any kind. You’re the wolf who tried to wear a sheep’s clothing. You’re the worst sort of evil: the degrading, maligning, self-aggrandizing preacher using the name of God to get your way.

Update: The dictionaries remind me “reprobate” has an archaic usage rooted in Calvinism. A contemporary adjective form means “morally corrupt,” and that was the version of “reprobate” I was intending to reference. Considering the likely audience for this post, I should have just stayed away from that word and used “corrupt” instead, because I’ll stand by my contention that Driscoll is corrupt if even a fraction of the allegations against him are true. I didn’t train in a seminary; I trained in newsrooms and then in a graduate writing program. Meanwhile, let’s remember, as I demonstrated above, Driscoll has forced many people to have a taste of Hell through the environments he has created.