Blog Posts

Beyond the Trump Stump and onto the Root of Jesse.

We are in an election year, and we are reminded that four years ago, 81% of White Evangelicals through their lot in with Donald J. Trump, a serial liar who bragged on a recording of being able to sexual assault women just because he was famous, mocked physically disabled reporters, and stoked racism and xenophobia. Many of those evangelicals did so because they couldn’t bring themselves to vote for Hilary Clinton, some because they worried about the growing trend toward secularism in the democrat party, others because their commitment to socially conservative values.

Four years later, the divide between Right and Left has calcified and Evangelical supporters of Trump often march in lock-step with their commander in chief, even when that means ignoring Jesus’ call for justice, and love for the poor, the widowed, the orphaned and the oppressed.

David Moore is  is an ecumenical teacher, contemplative anddefender of the defenseless. With degrees from UC Santa Barbara St. Stephen’s University in New Brunswick, Canada and a Doctorate in Theology from the University of South Africa.  He has been a pastor (Pentecostal) and an academic (he is currently an adjunct professor at St Stephen’s). In Making America Great Again: A Challenge to the Christian Community, Moore challenges us as Christians to examine our commitment to Jesus in our political life.

The book tells his own story of the racism he experiences as an African American, the tone deaf theological responses he has experienced from (many) white evangelicals, and the ways that he has come to see how Jesus challenges empire, goes to the margins and identifies with the victims.

Moore shares his own personal journey with these realities, addressing particularly racism. While the title frames this as a challenge to Trumpism, what Moore is addressing is more the way evangelicals emphasis personal responsibility and are often unaware of the ways they cooperate with a status quo that oppresses others. Moore paints a picture of Jesus that is liberationist. He blends political observations with theological and personal reflection and evocative readings of the gospels.

This book was a good read. I am sure that Moore answers Trumpism, or if that is really his point. Trump is a symptom of our bigger problem of failing to walk the ways of Jesus in our compassion and care for those on the margins. But Moore also comes across more invitational than judgmental. He wants us to get and to move toward justice and mercy and away from injustice, privilege and the status quo.

I received a copy of this book via Speakeasy and here have provided my honest review.

This is Your Brain on the Enneagram

I kind of have a love/hate thing going on with the Enneagram. I have appreciated it as a tool of self discovery, and my pinned Tweet for awhile on Twitter was, “I am a 7 on the Enneagram, and my wings are buffalo and honey barbeque.” This really sounds like a 7 joke but honestly, eights are buffalos who will mow you down and honey barbeque is always a safe choice (sixes, I see you). But I have been less enamored with how people use the Enneagram as a profile prescription for navigating life. (e.g. “I’m a ___ so I do x), as though each enneagram is a box that encapsulates our whole way of being in the world.

Hardback with art.jpg

So when I picked up Whole-identity: A Brain-Based Enneagram Model for (W)holistic Human Thriving by Dr. Jerome Lubbe, I was both interested and skeptical about what, if anything, it had to offer. Lubbe proports to look at the Enneagram through the lens of neuroscience. Since the Ennagram, is sort of a tradition without much scientific basis, this intrigued me. The book is a white paper, exploring the ennagram and how each type relates to what we know about the brain and how humans use them. Mike Morrell and John Luckovich also right a brief section describing the history of the Enneagram and it’s influences, which provides a nice overview of where the Enneagram came from and its growth in popularity.

One thing I really appreciated, is that Lubbe never puts people into the box of whatever number they are most proficient in:

You are not one thing, you are complex and multifaced; you are interconnected. This is a vital paradigm shift. When you consider having access to all nine numbers simultaneously, you increase and expand your capacity for thriving. (31).

This seems, to me, to be a vital insight. People are never one thing. Nevertheless we do have a core competency and a strategy for navigating the world, that is kind of our go to (which number we resonate most with). Lubbe has a system for helping us understand what our number is (based on the RHETI) and what our wings are. Lubbe also offers an at-a-glance view of the values of each type, and brain-based applications for each type.

I feel like Lubbe spends much of the book, trying to relate the Enneagram to science, rather than providing the ‘science of the Enneagram (repeatable, measurable data). I felt like this was more ‘sciency’ than science. Lubbe spends some time talking about the brain make-up—our brain stem, our limbic system, and the two hemispheres, and then relates each of the the types to things neuroscience tells us about the brain (i.e. which hemisphere each type/wing utilizes and what are the areas of cognitive growth for each type).

But this isn’t to say that I don’t appreciate what is here. While reading this book, I discovered that I have mistyped myself on the Enneagram for about ten years. I had thought I was a 7 because I was jokey (and sometimes used humor to deflect what was going on with me), but as I read through Lubbe’s descriptions of each type, I discovered, I don’t actually fit the 7 profile and their value on experience, as much as I do the 4s and their value on authenticity. So Lubbe, sent me back through my Enneagram texts, and I saw myself in a whole new light (which also made the enneagram make more sense and seem more helpful to me).

Some of the assessment stuff wasn’t helpful for me, since I haven’t taken the RHETI, so don’t know my RHETI number. So I can’t really comment on how Lubbe crunches numbers here.

I am not sure that this book/white paper accomplishes it’s goal of providing a neuroscience basis for the Enneagram. It seems to me that more often assumes the wisdom of the Enneagram and looks for links to Scientific understanding (which isn’t how science works); however, I thought that Lubbe was even handed in providing an overview of what the Enneagram brings to the table and how it relates to what we know of the brain.

I received this book via the author or publisher via SpeakEasy and offer my honest review here.

A Lenten Devotional (p)review

Lent is just around the corner and that means that though I am profane, most of the time, I hunt for resources to augment my devotional life, as I journey with Jesus on the road to the cross. Paraclete Press reliably carries some wonderful offerings. For this Lent, they have three new books which I will be using this year.

The first one, my whole family is particularly excited about: Gayle Boss’s Wild Hope: Stories from the Vanishing. Four years ago, we read together her Advent devotional, All Creation Waits which inhabits the waiting of animals through midwinter (in the American Midwest). We have read it, or parts of that devotional every year since. This year, I didn’t unearth our copy until half way through Advent, but we still had to read through the Christmas morning reading after the stockings on Christmas day.

Boss returns to the Wild to find more teachers for Lent. While her Advent animals taught us about the experience of waiting, these animals inhabit a season of suffering. The subtitle, ‘Stories for Lent from the Vanishing’ alludes to the fact that animals are now vanishing from our planet at a faster rate than at any other time in earth’s history. Boss explores the lives of these animals, with awe and wonder, and sadness for what they are made to suffer by human hands. The animals are grouped by week throughout Lent. Boss explores the animals that are hungry, sick, homeless, poisoned, hunted, and (for Holy Week) desecrated.

As with All Creation Waits, Boss’s reflections are accompanied by the stunning wood cuts of Illustrator David Klein. Unlike her Advent devotional, this is not quite a daily reader. There is an Ash Wednesday entry and then four readings for each of the weeks of Lent and Holy Week (only Ash Wednesday, and days in Holy Week, have day specific readings). I am really interested in how my children will respond to these readings. They care deeply about creation and are often sad about the ways we people have failed to care for the environment. I am eager to explore these stories with Boss, and hear about not just animal suffering, but about a pernicious and wild hope.


The next Lenten offering comes from Anglican theologian and Chancellor of St. Paul’s Cathederal, London, Paula Gooder. Let Me Go There: The Spirit of Lent, follows Jesus through the 40 days of Lent, as the Spirit beckons him into the wilderness. Following six Lenten themes (wilderness, journey, fasting, taking up your cross, discipleship, prayer, and temptation). There are 34 readings designed to take you up to Holy Week, on the grounds that you will probably by then be wanting to turn your attention, reflections and devotions on to Jesus’ death and resurrection,” (8). That is 6 or 5 readings a week, until Holy Week, so you can miss a day or two of each week and not have to play catch up.

Gooder, is a New Testament scholar, and a favorite author of Rowan Williams and others. I am excited to dip into this one, as I journey with her through the wilderness of Lent.


Lead us Not into Temptation by Martin Shannon, CJ

Finally, Martin Shannon, CJ’s Lead Us Not into Temptation is designed to take us from Ash Wednesday to Holy Thursday, exploring how to deal with, you guessed it, temptation. Shannon is an Episcopal priest, liturgist and a devotional writer. He is part of the Community of Jesus in Cape Cod, MA (the community which operates Paraclete Press). I have read and reviewed his devotionals in the past, including another Lenten devotional, According to Your Mercy (which explored praying the Psalms through Lent).

This devotional came out of a weeklong retreat that Shannon attended before Ash Wednesday 2019, with other members of the Community of Jesus (5). At that retreat, Shannon felt led to write a daily devotional on dealing with temptation for their community, and now they are offering it to the world. Shannon is a perceptive spiritual writer who reads scripture attentively. Each daily reading closes with a quotation from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Creation and Fall, and Temptation.

Ash Wednesday is coming up, so order copies today (follow the links to the publisher website, or order from Amazon or wherever fine books are sold).

Notice of material connection: Paraclete Press provided me with copies to review.

The Coming Shalom of God

The coming of Christ we await at Advent is the coming of God’s peace. The establishment of Christ’s reign—the coming Kin-dom of God— is the Shalom God promises. And thus far, our Sunday readings from Isaiah, have given us some pretty vivid pictures of this coming peace (Isaiah 2:1-5, Isaiah 11:1-10). But what is it we mean when we talk about peace?

A lot of times, when we talk about peace, we mean simply the absence of war or conflict. In the world that Jesus was born into, the pax Ramana (the peace of Rome) was an era of relative stability because Rome was so good at conquering people. It was the ancient equivalent of Teddy Roosevelt’s “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” Rome was really good at enforcing  peace on people whose freedom they took. Sometimes when we talk about peace, we mean the absence of anxiety. The Buddhist monk, Thích Nhất Hạnh, regards inner peace as a a mindful awareness of all of life, and awareness that we are connected with everything around us.

Like our own multivalent understandings of peace, the bibilical concept of peace, rooted in the Hebrew word, Shalom, is supple. It has the idea of absence of conflict, but also welfare, wellbeing, wholeness, healing, belonging.  It is a state where all the broken things are mended, everything is as it should be, and anything that shouldn’t be, is not. 

Nicholas Wolterstorff, observes, “Shalom is the human being dwelling at peace in all his or her relationships: with God, with self, with fellows, with nature.”[1] Wolterstorf explains shalom in relationship with God:

Shalom in the first place incorporates right, harmonious relationships to God and delight in his service. When the prophets speak of shalom, they speak of the day when human beings will no longer flee God down the corridors of time, a day when they will no longer turn in those corridors to defy their divine pursuer. Shalom is perfected when humanity acknowledges that in its service to God is true delight.[2]

Part of the peace of God is peace with God. When the Messiah comes we will live at peace with our Creator. But we will also be at peace with one another. Here is Wolterstorff again:

Secondly, shalom incorporates right harmonious relationships to other human beings and delights in human community. Shalom is absent when a society is a collection of individuals all out to make their own way in the world. And of course their can only be delight in human community, when justice reigns, only when human beings no longer oppress one another.[3]

When riots and demonstrations break out, following an unjust shooting (such as the unjust shooting of a African American by law enforcement) or a killer is acquitted on a technicality, we may hear the crowds chant, “No justice, no peace.” But in another way, we only know peace, when we know justice. The Shalom of God envisions a totally just society where we live at peace with another, without oppression, classism, sexism, racism, homophobia, xenophobia, or other forms of hatred. We will finally be at peace wit hour neighbor. As Walter Bruggemann says, “when Yahweh’s righteousness (Yahweh’s governance) is fully established in the world, the results are fruitfulness, prosperity, freedom, justice, peace, security, and well-being (shalôm).”[4]

Thirdly, Wolterstoff, argues:

Shalom incorporates right harmonious relationship to nature and delight in the physical surroundings. Shalom comes when we, bodily creatures and not disembodied souls, shape the world with our labor and find fulfillment in so doing and delight with the results.[5]

This aspect of Shalom, means a right relationship with nature, and a taking up our Creation mandate as caretakers of the physical world (Genesis 2). Too often, unworldly escapist versions of Christian eschatology have denigrated the physical realm (“who cares, it’s all going to burn anyway?”).  But the shalom of the coming Christ, means a new heaven, a new earth, and a new humanity (of which Christ is the head), all living at peace with one another.

The peace that God has promised us in Christ, the peace that Christ brings, is a revolution of all our relationships. We will be made new, and whole, and complete in love for God, in our just care for others, and our just care of God’s creation.

Anything less, is just a piece of peace. Not the wholeness and wellbeing God offers.


[1] Nicholas Wolterstorff, Until Justice & Peace Embrace (Grand Rapids, MI: William Eerdmans, 1983), 69

[2] Wolterstorff, 70

[3] Ibid

[4] Walter Brueggemann, Theology of the Old Testament: Testimony, Dispute, Advocacy (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2005), 303.

[5] Wolterstorff, 70.

This Dissonant, Disorienting Season of Advent

The chorus of the Rich Mullins’s song, Hold Me Jesus, goes:

So hold me Jesus,

Cause I’m shaking like a leaf

You have been King of my glory

Won’t You be my Prince of Peace

Maybe these lines do nothing for you, but in anxious times, these line find me and become a prayer: You have been King of my glory, Won’t You be my Prince of Peace?

Those of us who have grown up singing hymns and songs about God’s grandeur and goodness, if we have lived long enough, have bumped up against hard things—a disheartening diagnosis, the loss of a job, the death of a loved one. We’ve felt the dissonance between our belief in the transcendent and omnipotent God and our longing to feel God’s comfort and presence with us in places of profound struggle.

As we enter the second week of Advent the theme is peace, and honestly isn’t this so much of what we long for through the whole season? And the rest of year too? That Jesus would come to us and the peace of God would reign? That violence would end, that God would comfort our anxious thoughts and worries that keep us up at night? You have been King of my glory, Won’t You be my Prince of Peace?


In several of Walter Brueggemann’s books on the Psalms, he employs the typology of “Orientation, Disorientation and New Orientation on the Psalms”. When you read through the Psalms there certain ones that burst forth in praise to God, confident in his sure rescue, his glory. These are confident songs, which believe fully in a King of Glory. These are psalms of orientation

Then comes psalms of disorientation. The psalmists encounter war, sickness, oppression, exile. They cry out to God. They lament. They long for God, and ache at God’s absence.

Lastly there are psalms of New Orientation. These are songs for those who have gone through difficult times, and emerged with a new confidence that God has brought them through.


Brueggemann’s typology is useful, not only for categorizing Psalms, it also names stages of faith (akin to Ricoeur’s movement from a first naïveté to a second naïveté), and I think it is makes sense of our liturgical seasons. It has only been two Sundays ago that the liturgy proclaimed “Christ is King” before we entered this disorienting land of Advent. And it is now we lament, and we long, and we sigh, “how long?” When Christmas comes (because ‘a baby changes everything’), we occupy a space of ‘new orientation,’ sensing that God is with us, here, in the struggle of everyday life.

Certainly we may feel each of these to varying degrees. But in Advent I always feel the disorienting dissonance and the weight of absence of Christ’s already-not-yet reign. I feel the angst of wanting to know the peace of God more fully.

Somewhere in the communion of saints, Rich prays over us, ” You have been our King of my glory, Won’t You be our Prince of Peace?” as we long for swords to be beat into plowshares (Isaiah 2:4) and predators to give up their predatory ways (Isaiah 11:6-9).

A Wild Peace.

78 years ago today, at 7:48 AM, the Japanese Imperial Navy conducted a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. The attack was meant to cripple the U.S. Navy, and it nearly did, sinking The USS Arizona, capsizing the USS Okalahoma and damaging the six other battleships in the U.S. Pacific fleet. 21 ships in total were lost or damaged. 2,335 military personnel were killed, and 68 civilians. Another 1,143 military personnel and 103 civilians were wounded. Japan declared war against the US later that day. President Roosevelt called it “a date that would live in infamy.” It was the worst attack on the U.S. until September 11, 2001, nearly 60 years later.

These attacks defined generations. Pearl Harbor shook the US out of its neutrality, and plunged them into World War II. Since 9-11, the U.S. has been in a state of perpetual war. This past spring the class of 2019 graduated from high school in a nation that has known no peace. And despite our efforts, terrorism and war are not on the decline.

Of course, this doesn’t affect most of us, most of the time. These days, our military takes out enemy targets in relative comfort with a precision drone strike. And civilians. Donald Trump said on the campaign trail, “The other thing with the terrorists is you have to take out their families, when you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families. They care about their lives, don’t kid yourself. When they say they don’t care about their lives, you have to take out their families.” The war on terror has transformed to a war on children. And earlier this year, Trump revoked the Drone Strike Civilian Casualty Report. Once a tragic outcome of war, civilian casualties is increasingly our strategy, with little, or no accountability.


Isaiah’s Messianic oracle in Isaiah 11 gave a vivid depiction of eschatological peace—a peace which passes comprehension:

6 The wolf shall live with the lamb,

the leopard shall lie down with the kid,

the calf and the lion and the fatling together,

and a little child shall lead them.

7 The cow and the bear shall graze,

their young shall lie down together;

and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.

8 The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,

and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.

9 They will not hurt or destroy

on all my holy mountain;

for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord

as the waters cover the sea.

10 On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious.

Isaiah 11:6-10, NRSV

This is quite the menagerie! A wolf lying down with a lamb, a leopard with a goat kid, a lion with a calf and fatling. A bear forgoes a nice ribeye to graze with the cattle and a little child plays with his hand in a snake hole.

Lets be clear, if you put wolves together with lambs, leopards with goats, lions and bears with cattle, I’m reporting you for animal abuse. If your child is left unsupervised in a snake pit, I’m calling child protective services. Predators kill. It is their natural instinct. If we allow that these images are metaphors for oppressors and their victims, this imagery is equally discomforting. In a #metoo and #churchtoo era, can you imagine women and child victims, cheerfully hanging out with their victimizer? It strains our morality. We want the predator to be destroyed!

But Isaiah’s hopeful vision describes a world where the victimizers are victimizers no more. The vulnerable, the beatdown, the down-and-out, the oppressed, the manipulated, the young and easily dominated, will be with the powerful, and they will not fear for their lives. They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. No more war, no more fear, no more destruction.

And no more victims. The timid lamb and the young goat kid stumbling on skinny legs will be transformed into confident creatures, standing shoulder to shoulder with wolves, and lions, leopards and bears. The fatling, and calf will roar, the ox will bear its teeth. The weak will be made strong and the strong will not misuse their strength .


We are in violent times, and I fear that being an American puts us more in the predator column than the prey column, though clearly these are semipermeable categories. We hurt and are hurt, we kill and are killed. Our Advent Hope is that we are ever closer to the day when we shall be transformed. We will no longer be victims. We will no longer victimize. We will no longer be killed and no longer will we kill. We will all be gathered together by our King of peace.

The Politics of Advent

These days, if you here the term evangelical in the public sphere, it likely is a reference to a certain type of Right wing, religious conservative voters (speaking specifically of the U.S. American context here). Evidently, 81% of evangelicals voted for Donald Trump in 2016, and that support has not diminished.

But while evangelical has become synonymous with a certain type of political expression, Evangelical theology in general is self-consciously apolitical. Evangelicals describe the gospel as salvation for our sin-sick souls. At the recent Together For the Gospel conference, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president, Al Mohler declared, “Justification by faith alone is not merely a way of describing the gospel, it is the gospel.” Belief in Jesus saves us at the end of life, and it guarantees our place with God in eternity. It is all about what happens after you die with no concern for the current social order. Progressive Christians for their part, are similarly committed to progressive politics, while holding a privatized faith.

But despite our enmeshment in our chosen politics, or our apolitical envisioning of eternity, Advent is inherently political.

When Isaiah spoke of Messianic expectation, he envisioned a political leader— a king in the line of David. You don’t hope for a king unless you are hoping for a change to the political order:

Isaiah 11:1–6 (NRSV)

1A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.2The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.3His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear;4but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.5Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist, and faithfulness the belt around his loins.

Isaiah hoped for a king that God’s spirit would rest upon. A ruler who was full of wisdom, good counsel and knowledge. One who feared the Lord. A leader with righteous discernment who would not judge by what he saw and heard, but in ways that championed justice for the poor and equity for the downtrodden. One who would stamp out injustice. Righteousness and faithfulness would be the belt around his waist (he wouldn’t be caught with his pants down).

When Mary sang her Magnificat centuries later, she believed the Son growing in her womb was the answer to Israel’s suffering at the hands of Empire, “He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.” (Luke 1: 52). When John appeared in the wilderness declaring that “the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand”(Matt 3:2), it was a hope which directly challenged the politics of usual in Ancient Palestine. When the early church declared emphatically that Jesus was Lord, it implied that Caesar was not. When John of Patmos saw a vision of the new Jerusalem coming down from heaven, he hoped for the end of Roman persecution. Advent hope is hope for the coming Messiah, and that hope is political hope.

And here we are 2019, on the cusp of an election year and feeling jaded. It has been another year of corruption and partisan politicking. We have a president who lies reflexively, who mocks mercilessly, who petitions foreign governments for political dirt on his opponents, and promotes policies that fall short of God’s justice. Some hope for impeachment, or a new election cycle, while others of us wonder if the Democrats offer any real alternative. After all, Trump has dedicated his first term to undoing Obama, except in the case of Obama’s militarism (lets increase that!), or border security (let’s amp that up!). People on the margins have been hurt by the politics of both Right and Left.

The time is ripe for Advent politics. What does it mean for the reign of Christ to break into our world a little more? What would it look likefor leaders to lead others with a commitment to care for the poor, the oppressed and marginalized? What would it look like to not pad the pockets of the powerful but to rule with justice? To listen to counsel, and to care for the poor?

Our politics is not what it should be. The American dream has fallen short of the Kin-dom of God. Advent is hope for a new kind of political order. When the messiah reigns, politics as usual will be no more. Justice, equity and peace will flourish. The military industrial complex will be brought to an end. A new world order is coming. Whatever happens in Congress, or in the Primaries, Jesus is our political hope. Come King Jesus!

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