Quick Reflections on Homebrewed Christianity’s Pete Rollins Podcast

In Uncategorized on November 25, 2011 at 2:46 pm

Submitted By: Gentry

If you’re intrigued by theology – even on a somewhat surface level like I am – I cannot recommend The Homebrewed Christianity Podcast highly enough. I particularly enjoyed the recent Theology Nerd Throwdown (TNT) that featured a lecture by Pete Rollins.

A few quick reflections on that lecture:

1. Throughout the lecture Pete emphasized the importance of identifying the idols – which may include our concept of God – that we venerate in hopes of finding meaning, fulfillment, and happiness. In one short bit, Pete mentioned that if you “want to know what your idols are, pay attention to what you critique” for your critique is likely fueled by your frustration that the object of your critique has not provided the happiness or meaning you desire.

As I’ve attended to Pete’s advice, I’ve realized that evangelicalism, particularly the Christian Church, Church of Christ tradition which has shaped me, is my most common target of critique. Although elements of my critique – which broadly trend along the lines of the excellent HuffPo article How to Shrink Your Church – are probably valid, my critique is almost certainly fueled by my bitterness about rejection I’ve experienced within my tradition as well as my inability to create sustainable, life giving, alternative Christian communities. At Pete’s suggestion, I’m starting to focus my energies on deconstructing my critique of evangelicalism, repenting of the way I’ve idolized more traditional pastoral practices, and trying to attend to the opportunities that sometimes arise in the context of desolation.

2. Listening to this lecture, in which Peter tries to reframe Christianity – including concepts such as original sin and atonement – for an indifferent public and Christians who are left cold or confused by current, prevalent conceptions of the faith, led me to realize that Peter’s deepest concern is for evangelism. Pete is not deconstructing out of bitterness nor trying to academically inch us towards agnosticism. Rather, he has been deeply transformed by Jesus – the one who divested himself of identity on the cross and was reconstituted* by resurrection – and he desperately wants us to reconnect our stories in a meaningful, existential way, with the Jesus story.

Pete’s focus on evangelism is made somewhat plain by his participation in the Ikon community in Northern Ireland and his promotion of the evangelism project, both of which are mentioned briefly in the lecture. Pete is not the only emergent thinker who is fueled by an interest in evangelism. I would argue that the primary emphasis behind much of Brian McLaren’s work – such as More Ready Than You Realize, A New Kind of Christian, and a New Kind of Christianity – is driven by his passion for honest, meaningful evangelism as well.

3. I was intrigued by Pete’s suggestion that Paul’s teaching that “in Christ there is no Jew nor Gentile, male nor female, slave nor free” does not mean that our association with Christ gives us a super-identity that transcends these categories, but leads us to divest ourselves of identity as Christ did upon the cross. Pete argues that for many of us – excluding those who’ve identities have long been oppressed – church should not be a place where we go to be endowed with identity, but a place where we divest ourselves of identity, confess the impotence of our idols and (I think he’s suggesting) await the power of the resurrection.

Although I’m far from certain that I understand this latter emphasis in Pete’s teaching, I want to learn more about it and perhaps read the Insurrection.

If you haven’t listened to the lecture, I’d encourage you to do so. If you have, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Now back to my regularly scheduled parenting.

* this is not the right word. tried surprised and transformed, but they didn’t work either. open to suggestions.

  1. Good thoughts man – i really appreciate the transparency there. And i totally agree that Pete’s critique is powerfully informed by a deep relationship with Jesus. He let’s that challenge the consumptive approach to God (say, of Piper, et all) as idolatrous by reducing God to yet another product. For me that resonated with both the less indulgent approaches to God that we see in Scripture, as well as the part of me that has struggled to taste and see that the Lord is good with the regularity that evangelical culture has led me to expect (both of God & myself). Where that regularity is, again, that of a inanimate product from my fridge (versus a God who has agency and uses it for broader purposes).

  2. Thanks for the kind comment Paul.

    One thing I failed to mention in my post is that I’ve learned to interpret Pete’s warning that liturgy is the last bastion of certainty differently. I don’t think he is suggesting that liturgy provides the presumption of certainty, but he is warning post-conservative evangelicals who transition into more liturgical traditions that they cannot find the certainty they longed, and failed, to find in theology & doctrine within those contexts.

    I think he’s trying to dial down the convert syndrome that affects folks like me – a post-conservative evangelical wandering among episcopalians – and remind us that new forms of worship or traditions do not eliminate the existential challenges of faith.

  3. That’s a good word man. I can see that being a real potential pitfall for some folks: putting all faith into what is really a human convention that developed in a particular part of the world over time. Healthier it is to simply allow that to be a guidepost for ourselves. Again, that helps me in the same way in relieving the burden I have felt over the years to feel something viz a viz worship music (whereby if I did not I felt like an unspiritual, second-class Christian). That’s too much pressure to put on any convention, which the divine cannot fit into.

    I think for me the quality of the community is probably my “bastion.” I tend to only have a chance at feeling comfortable worshiping amongst people whom I truly feel seek to live out authentic Christ-like community. Just like liturgy, or doctrine, that is certainly fallible & broken and cannot be rested on entirely as though it were God Himself.

    I guess that leaves a volitional aspect always to be exercised in response to those existential challenges you mention: choosing to have the courage of faith, based on what we know to be true about God?

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