Front page article on the Advent Conspiracy today. Nice to see them getting some good press. But it did make me wonder. Would Jesus have run a Black Friday church service to combat consumerism, or would he, like Rev Billy, have shown up at Macy's at 5 a.m. and conducted a little street theater? Just a question.
Bill Talen, aka Rev. Billy of the Church of Stop Shopping, will be in town in the flesh on Black Friday and Saturday. I have to guess he might attempt some street theater at the Mall of America, but if you want to see him outside that particular temple, he'll be at the Riverview Theater on Saturday morning in conjunction with a showing of What Would Jesus Buy? (which I saw and blogged about a couple years ago).
If you need a little reinforcement against the "shopping must save us" gospel being preached by the pundits this year, maybe we'll see you there. And really, he's pretty fun.
Today our mail carrier brought both our church's stewardship letter and pledge card as well as the new issue of the Atlantic monthly bearing the headline, "Did Christianity Cause the Crash?" How very helpful.
The article, of course, is more nuanced than the headline. It's a reasonably thoughtful piece about the prosperity gospel which refuses to lump all megachurches or all evangelicals together. But it's precisely this kind of cover that gives "the media" a bad name. How would the folks at the Atlantic like it if we published an article about "journalists" which was really only about Fox?
Somewhere in the former DDR's files there's a note about an American student whose passport was stolen in Jena about 6 months before the wall came down, and probably my picture, taken by a disgruntled photographer working late on a Saturday afternoon so I could get a new ID and go back across the border with my fellow exchange students. The inside of the East German police station in Erfurt was as dismal a place as I have ever been.
That was June 1989, and you would never have known what was coming. I completely believe that November 9 was like that scene in The Lives of Others, when one guy listening to the radio turns to the others and says, "The wall is open," and they all simply stop steaming envelopes and walk away from their Stasi jobs.
So, if you're wondering how to celebrate 20 years of the Berlin wall coming down, here are three great movies (all German):
1. The Lives of Others, for a heat-wrenching, all too real version of the oppression that was endured
2. Good-bye Lenin, for a funny and also quite poignant view of the generation gap produced by how fast the changes came
3. And, though I don't believe it was ever released in the U. S., an East German film from the late 80's entitled Einer Trage des Anderen Last -- Bear One Anothers' Burdens -- about a devout Communist and a young Lutheran pastor whose lives intersect in a tuberculosis sanitorium. It was simply a beautiful film.
There's been a fair amount of weeping at ECLC lately. It's not that we've had any particularly unusual tragedies, although All Saints Day does have a way of bringing up all our buried grief as we gather around the altar. (Including mine -- I was blindsided by a wave of tears in the middle of serving communion that day.)
No, these tears are mostly a sign, I think, of genuine testimony going on. This year when we confirmed a couple young women, we tried out a new format of prayer journey which involved members giving testimony to what the word and sacraments mean to them, followed by their own parents speaking blessings over them. And then on Sundays we've had members talking about their stewardship, which has turned into some powerful faith statements. A couple of these folk have choked up as they talked about the people who have taught them generosity over the years.
I'm not saying that tears guarantee authenticity or should be a litmus test for anything . In the hands of "professionals" a focus on emotion is downright dangerous (think Jimmy Swaggart. . .). But most people are afraid of public speaking, and even more afraid that they would weep in front of others. I think these tears we've seen lately are a good sign, a signal that we are getting to the very heart of our faith when we take the risk of sharing it in this way. We middle-class folk are so fixated, sometimes, on "keeping it together," but God just pours out through the cracks when we are willing to fall apart.