Archive for March, 2007|Monthly archive page

In Uncategorized on March 26, 2007 at 9:57 pm

out of context: phyllis tickle

But would you place the emerging church with Evangelicalism, or it is something else?”No, it’s not evangelicalism. American religion has four, pretty much equally divided, quadrants. Evangelicalism is one of them, charismatic Pentecostalism is another, the old mainline or social just Christians is a third quadrant, and then the liturgicals. And where the quadrants meet in the center there’s a vortex like a whirlpool and they are blending. So, much of the political energy is evangelical. There’s no question about that. Much of the religious energy is Pentecostal, but that’s combined with the strong ballast of social consciousness and of applied gospel that comes out of the mainline. And into the mix comes the liturgical traditions with the great gifts of the heritage of the church.”

– as quoted on leadership today’s out of ur

as much as i respect phyllis tickle, and as foolish as i undoubtedly am for cutting across her path, i think that her representation of the emergent conversation is a little idealistic. although the conversation itself should not be defined as evangelical the leading voices in the conversation have evangelical roots and, from my perspective anyway, often appear to be speaking out of and reacting against that tradition. moreover, although there are a number of strong, persuasive pentecostal voices within the conversation (emanating forth from leaders such as kevin rains and phil wyman) i believe that much of the spiritual energy within the conversation flows forth from liturgical and contemplative traditions, not from modern pentecostalism.

i realize that as westerners we often feel a need to define things so that we can properly categorize and compare such things with other things.* but i think that at this point emergent, which i would still argue is a conversation rather than an institution or ideology, is difficult if not impossible to define. that is not to say that phyllis‘ definition is not flattering. in fact, i suspect that most of the participants in the conversation would be ecstatic if, at some point in the not to distant future, phyllis‘ idealistic definition of emergent squares with “reality.”

of course, that’s only my opinion. i could be wrong. what do you think?

* wow, is that precise prose or what?


In Uncategorized on March 23, 2007 at 1:15 am

gentry’s judgment: tony la russa

for those of you who haven’t heard, tony la russa was picked up last night for a dui. tony had a .093 bac, which basically means he had three glasses of wine instead of two. furthermore in 2006, after eleven years of dedicated service to the cardinals organization, tony led the redbirds to their 10th world series championship. on account of the world series championship, tony’s immediate confession and heartfelt apology and tony’s deep commitment to the arf foundation, gentry gives tony: a free pass.

tony la russa you are forgiven!. but take heed, my grace is not a license to sin but an opportunity to pursue #11.

In Uncategorized on March 19, 2007 at 8:14 pm

five minute movie review: jesus camp

on friday night kellie and i watched jesus camp, a “documentary” that follows a pentecostal children’s minister as she conducts local rallies in support of the summer camp that is supposed to serve as the film’s centerpiece.

both kellie and i found the film to be ideologically simplistic, poorly edited and, we suspect, offensive to most intelligent viewers. throughout the film the director’s juxtapose scenes of a progressive evangelical talk show host, who works for the soon-to-be-defunct air america and reminds us that Jesus’ teachings were a tad more subversive than the average republican platform, with admittedly excessive scenes of pentecostal worship in which children are urged to extend their hands and pray in tongues over a cardboard cut-out of george bush and little ones are castigated for sins like swearing and urged to wash away their impurities with a couple drops of aquafina.* the film stumbled and stammered in search of a cohesive theme, which i suspect might have been the justice sunday rallies and the eventual election of supreme court justice samuel alito, but, obviously was never developed really well. moreover the narrative arc of the story was quite confusing, as in one scene we were in acme christian center only to be transported to north dakota in the next, which was followed by an eerie scene in which ted haggard denounced homosexuality from his former pulpit at new life church in colorado** and a clip from an ad hoc abortion protest in washington d.c.

i fear that the few who take this “documentary” seriously will be terrified of a future war between radical pentecostal armies who laden their young with guilt and train their children to be strict constructionists arrayed on one side and progressives and liberals who are impudent assholes who lack the ability to graciously consider divergent opinions and believe that the only way to combat vile propaganda is with vile propaganda lined up on the other. further, the gullible consumer will likely not know that there are people like randall balmer, author of thine eyes have seen the glory and the more recent thy kingdom come: an evangelical’s lament as well as rod dreher, author of the incredibly intriguing crunchy cons, who hold strong partisan opinions while simultaneously listening to their political opponents and passionately searching for a middle ground.

i swear, rudolf hess made more of a feign towards objectivity than heidi ewing and rachel grady, the directors of this steaming pile of subjectivist shit, did. the directors, editor and everyone else involved with jesus camp receive no points and may the viewing public have mercy upon their soul.

on a more positive note, if you are genuinely interested in a thorough, yet charitable, liberal perspective on american evangelicalism, due yourself a favor by picking up james ault’s spirit and flesh or randall balmer’s aforementioned thine eyes have seen the glory and dropping jesus camp to the bottom of your queue.

* which is a registered trademark of the coca-cola company. all rights reserved.
** a scene which raised an obvious question: ted, why didn’t you just pay the “masseuse” his $100?

In Uncategorized on March 16, 2007 at 11:42 am


i realize that you have to dance with the devil in every industry. customer service agents have to surrender fair and just resolutions to the whim of the customer, whose money is always right. church leaders cannot set their sights solely on effective ministry, but must constantly validate their “success” with incremental, and exponential if you are really blessed by God, increases in nickels and noses. and, unfortunately, in my industry you have to constantly handle everyone as though they are a pretty, pretty princess by couching admonitions in affirmations and constantly submitting sound, loving discernment to the emotional whims of – and government subsidized dollars provided by – the individual.

so yeah, i understand the need to dance with the devil, furiously compromising one’s means in the hopes of attaining noble ends. but i f*cking hate dancing as much as i hate karaoke and find it really hard to believe that compromised means will lead one towards expected and important ends.

this is not to say that i am unwilling to “play the game.” in fact, i’ll probably continue playing so that i can keep on serving people by affirming the imago dei that is stamped upon them and sharing Christ’s compassion with them on regular occasion. but i find it incredibly hard to participate in irrational compromises in order to pursue the reconciliation and recreation of the individuals and the communities that i love so dearly.

most days i am almost willing to die on the hill called means lest the ends i earnestly seek be adulterated.

maybe a willingness to dance comes with maturity and age. maybe i am too idealistic for my own good. maybe i should remember that my worst day in this field is better than my best day in the customer secret service.

i doubt that these thoughts shock any of you who know me well. sometimes i just need to hash this stuff out.

In Uncategorized on March 15, 2007 at 1:32 am


tonight i spent a couple of hours networking with other coffee service providers and connecting with potential clients at a local vendor fair. since client traffic was relatively light, on a number of occasions throughout the evening i talked with other service providers about type of coffee and the clients they serve. since we’re all in the same industry and there are only so many ways to brew a bean, it made sense for us to collaborate with one another and even broach a couple of trade secrets.

however, as i reflect upon the evening i am surprised by how many times i had to either disarm my colleagues’ defensive reactions, assertions and interruptions by reminding them that we are not competitors but collaborators who are seeking to provide the best possible service to clients who are desperate with thirst. in the coffee service sector, competition is not a virtue, but a vice. i believe that if divergent service providers proactively seek to collaborate with, rather than compete against, one another, our clients will be all the better for it.

of course, the value of collaboration and the impropriety of competition is even more important in regards to communities that are seeking to follow God in the way of Jesus. if those of us in the latter camp embrace competition and eschew collaboration in order to fulfill our own ego-centric, visionary or budgetary needs we should be truly ashamed of ourselves. i’ve said it before and i’ll say it again: competition is not a virtue that issues forth from the Christian life. the less competition, and the more collaboration, the better.

i will now get off my soapbox. goodnight.

In Uncategorized on March 14, 2007 at 2:36 am

today’s special…*

was the shit sandwich. early this morning a customer tried to run a three-legged race with me because he was pissed that i could not turn around a non-fat, half-caf latte in forty seconds or less. later in the afternoon i dashed into a friend’s office to borrow a key so that i could use his space for an evening event and, although i only overstayed my meter by four minutes, was subsequently issued a $25 parking ticket. this evening, after the cohort finished dinner at the boston beerworks fenway, where we received the shittiest service known to man, we walked over to the aforementioned office for discussion…only to find that the key i picked up earlier did not work. we then retreated to the barnes and noble in kenmore square in order to regroup and listen to our keynote speaker, but were immediately told that this branch of the barnes and noble, unlike every other barnes and noble in the world, closes at 9 pm sharp.

by my mathematically challenged calculations that’s four servings of shit which, whatever way you cut it, usually results in one clusterfuck of a day.

but here’s the thing: although today’s four course special was shit supreme i was surrounded throughout the day by the most remarkable people you can imagine. at the end of the day i realize that i have a boss that backs me up, friends who are not only willing to share their space, but also their stories and companions who are fascinated by and committed to following God in the way of Jesus.

so although i spent the day eating shit, i am one fulfilled motherfucker.

* caveat emptor: i curse a lot in this post. i try to be less profane, but it doesn’t always work.

In Uncategorized on March 9, 2007 at 5:35 pm


although i settled for shitty customer service jobs for six+ years, i always wanted to work in social services. towards that end, i applied for jobs at local agencies, volunteered my time and made feeble attempts to network with people in the field. however, though i always suspected my days would be best invested in the helping professions, i worried that working a social service job during the day and continuing to work with sinners and saints would relationally exhaust me.

right now, i realize that my suspicions were not without merit.

don’t get me wrong, i love my new job, but some days, after i’ve spent two hours in traffic, eight hours accompanying people with disabilities and another hour or two discussing, dreaming and investing in the mission of the church i am utterly exhausted. at such moments, my head pounds, i lose my sense of humor and i start looking for a reasonable route of retreat.

not that i’m comparing myself with him or anything, but i realize that Jesus felt this way on a number of occasions as well. there is this wonderful scene in the gospel of mark where Jesus and the disciples are sailing away to a retreat only to be intercepted by massive, clamoring crowds at their port of call. at that moment, as mark tells it, the disciples are fonching at the bit to get the hell out of dodge and trying to remind Jesus of their original intentions. but in that moment, Jesus looks at the crowd and has compassion on them. quite literally, as mark tells it, Jesus looks at the clamoring crowd and loves them from his gut.

right now i want to find a reasonable route of retreat – painting the nursery tonight all by my lonesome sounds really good right now – but i also want to learn to love my clamoring clients from my own gut even when i’m utterly exhausted.

i suspect that such empowerment on the Holy Spirit’s agenda. i hope he can find a moment to slot me in.

In Uncategorized on March 8, 2007 at 2:24 am

check out my brother’s bunghole

In Uncategorized on March 5, 2007 at 10:34 pm

connect with the boston cohort on march 13th at 7 pm

a couple of weeks ago, on ash wednesday, i heard a sermon on Isaiah 58:6-8, the text i have printed below.

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?

Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe him,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.

since i have been pondering this text since the beginning of my lenten fast* i am truly glad that the boston cohort is gathering at the boston beer works fenway (61 brookline ave, boston, ma) location on march 13th at 7 pm to eat, drink, listen to one another’s stories and at 8 pm we’ll be heading over to the offices of reunion church (655 beacon st., suite #301, boston) to discuss the overwhelming importance of acting justly, loving mercy and walking humbly with our God.

this month’s discussion will be facilitated by rachel anderson of the boston faith and justice network (BFJN). rachel will be introducing us to – and inviting us to participate in – the bfjn’s mission to “seek God’s justice as an expression of his faith and love.” i cannot think of a more important matter for the cohort to consider and i hope you can take an hour or two to join us.

may God bless you as you continue to pursue His justice and seek His Kingdom in this world.

jeff gentry, on behalf of craig, anna and the rest of the cohort crew

* i’m tempted to tell you what i’m abstaining from and what i’m straining towards this season, but i wouldn’t want to squander yet another jewel in my crown!

In Uncategorized on March 2, 2007 at 10:58 am

a personal preview of hell

late last night, after an exhausting day at work and a meeting of the church, i retreated to our dirty denny’s for a couple of cups of bad coffee, a pre-fabricated dessert and intimate conversation with an unexpected visitor.

and then, about five minutes in to our conversation 70 teenagers, including a number of overweight boys who were wearing pajama bottoms and sporting dramatic, depp-esque eyeliner as well as t-shirts emblazoned with the image posted above, bombarded the dining room.

at this, our server was scared shitless, we were never served another cup of coffee and we had to talk about important matters over screamed high school cheers and call and response snippets from high school musical.

f*cking shoot me. i think i would rather go to band camp.

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