GOCN is a network of Christian leaders from a wide array of churches and organizations, who are working together on the frontier of the missionary encounter of the gospel with North American assumptions, perspectives, preferences and practices. We invite you to join us on this frontier.

The Last Post

January 19, 2009
Short Description: 

As we enter 2009 a question presents itself:  Will it be possible to maintain any freedom of religious belief for those of us who have an absolutist understanding of Jesus as the Way, the Truth, and the Life in the “new mix of politics and religion”?

As I close this two month, once a week blog, I want to thank George Hunsberger for inviting me to share my thoughts with a larger audience. After three years as mentor of the Journey Group Nurturing Missional Character George was well aware of the risks he was taking! It has been a great experience for me, indeed, opening up new vistas.

As a result of my blogs I have a growing awareness of the increased research in all the spheres of my interests, which I have been trying to connect within my present vocation as a rural politician and theologian trying to effect change.  

Change! It is definitely challenging to be living in a day of historical transition. 
Michael Higgins wrote about A new year, a new mix of religion and politics in the Globe and Mail of December 24, 2008. The subheading was Bush-era faith is history. It's an intellectual journey for Obama. 
Higgins wrote: “The coming year will not mark the erasure of religion from the public arena as some fear and others herald. Rather, we will see some instructive reconfigurations. Rick Warren's prayer will be more symbolic than pious - for some, an unnerving presage of a new politics, and for others, an invitation to abandon the culture-war polarities of the past.”  What will it take to abandon the culture-war polarities of the past?
Personally, I sense I am heading into what Jacque Ellul called ‘the incognito’ which opens up a whole new opportunity of private study, research, and application.  Checking what "Incognito" might mean in the secular realm I discovered for example the music group Incognito. Founder of the group Jean-Paul Maunick describes why he chose Incognito in a surprisingly applicable way:  "Incognito" is a Latin word meaning Unknown (or in disguise). I chose this name because I thought it apt for a project where the music and its message is more important than the individuals playing and creating it. It also allows us to change musical directions from album to album and keeps our audience guessing what we will do next. It’s a journey into the unknown, it’s the element of surprise!” http://www.saveoursoul.nl/features/incognito.htm  
The theme of incognito comes forth in Jim Houston’s book Joyful Exiles: Life in Christ on the Dangerous Edge of Things, (InterVarsity Press, 2006). On the cover David G. Benner writes: " Be forewarned. This book is seriously countercultural! It presents not just a challenge to our secular culture but more seriously a challenge to the comfortable ways we have shaped Christian culture. It is a call to embrace our identity as exiles and to live joyfully and prophetically from that place. It is a call to live on the edge, for it is there that we can be truly open to God’s presence in the world and the invitations to engagement with the world’s problems and challenges."
Life on the edge! Life as a Joyful Exile! Life lived in the Incognito!  Missional Life: beyond strategizing and programming.
As we enter 2009 a question presents itself: Will it be possible to maintain any freedom of religious belief for those of us who have an absolutist understanding of Jesus as the Way, the Truth, and the Life in the “new mix of politics and religion” written about by Michael Higgins?
In the search for new ways to speak into this global culture of politics and religion there is a tidal wave of historical research with application to our day. A quick look at recent book publications at Fuller on-line bookstore produced the following selected list of titles that were of interest as 2009 begins:
Kim, September 2008
Beyond Christendom: Globalization, African Migration and the Transformation of the
West - Jehu Hanciles January, 2009
The Fathers - Pope Benedict XVI, August 2008
December 9, 2008
December 2008
October 8, 2008
A. Heath, October 1, 2008
Rejesus: A Wild Messiah for a Missional Church - Michael Frost, January 15, 2009
and Spiritual Power - Charles E. Van Engen, March 2008
My wife Patricia and I continue to process new paradigms as we reflect on world events from our little house on the Prairies.   One thing that we do notice is words like tolerance, fanaticism, civility, and fundamentalism are all under review. For example, one of the Lebel Lectures in Christian Ethics at the University of Calgary (February 2, 2009) being presented by Otto Selles, Professor of French, Calvin College, Grand Rapids, MI is titled Tolerance: Virtue or Vice?
“Tolerance” is a slippery word. For some it is an essential value that holds together a pluralistic society; others see it as a form of moral relativism, a sign that society lacks stable beliefs. When used, does tolerance refer to religion, sexual identity, politics, taste in music, or all of the above? Do the U.S., Canada, and Europe have similar or differing views of what “tolerance” means? 
Of course for Christians in the early centuries of the Roman Empire, the question of tolerance and freedom of religious belief was an issue of life and death. Roman law believed it unjust to convict somebody for being something. Accordingly Christians were required to perform the act of burning incense to the god Caesar. 
“The worship involved merely throwing a pinch of incense on a civic altar, but to refuse indicated contempt of the emperor and merited capital punishment.” (Joseph Wilson Trigg)
What will the “pinch of incense” be for us as North American Christians?