Jared Witt - September 10, 2018
Christians have a problem with sin.
Or rather, we have a sin problem.
Specifically, we have a problem with the word sin and defining just what it is supposed to mean. More progressive-minded Christians tend to see all the problematic ways that the word has been used to browbeat and alienate and for that reason might prefer to throw it out all together. More conservative-minded Christians see this as dangerous refusal to call the evils of the world what they are. In response, they are inclined to double down on their use of the term, throwing it at just about everything and, in the process, making it seem as though all the problems of the world ultimately boil down to a labeling issue.
Jared Witt - July 30, 2018
Oh? What do I love about 2018? I’m glad you asked. I love that we can laugh about the filioque. It took us centuries to get here.
You know all about the filioque, don’t you? Filioque is a latin word which literally means “and from the Son.” It started to showing up in the Nicene creed sometime around the 6th century in the western (i.e. Rome based) region of the church. The original creed that both western and eastern bishops had agreed on read:
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father.
Jared Witt - July 5, 2018
I couldn’t be bothered with generosity of spirit the other day. I was busy rehearsing a sermon.
That’s how it goes sometimes. You have to talk about the love and grace of the Origin and Redeemer of the cosmos in a couple hours. So when my friend sends me a nice thought via text—“I just saw a bumper sticker that said ‘Preach the Gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.’”—what was I going to do? Reflect on it with new eyes? Allow myself to be moved that my friend would think to share a little spiritual gem with me that morning? Enjoy the profound realization that we are not alone in this spiritual journey? That there are travel partners on the road with us?
Not this bona fide saint and sinner, specializing in sinner. No no no. The snotty, know-it-all words that spilled onto my iPhone keyboard were “St. Francis was an aphorism machine.”
Jared Witt - June 21, 2018
Do we get our beliefs from our Bible or our Bible from our beliefs?
This is a pretty urgent question in this twilight zone time in which we’re living, when so many of my pastoral colleagues are being reprimanded by their congregants for “getting too political”—typically by the same congregants who want to see the ten commandments and Christian prayer mandated in public schools and who see no problem with our Attorney General saying in an official statement on an urgent public crisis:
Jared Witt l May 31, 2018
The best Bible reading advice I have: always pay attention to sidebars and surprises.
Serious Bible study is Bible study that can surprise and even upset you. It’s a waste of time to read a book which only confirms what you already think. And the thing you thought was of central importance is often just that: the thing which you thought was of central importance. The point is to figure out what the Holy Spirit thinks is of central importance on a given day.
Something surprised me the other day when I jumped down a rabbit hole after just one line in the Book of Acts, “[Herod Agrippa] killed James the brother of John with the sword.” I of course knew of the martyrdom of James from the lore of early church fathers (such stories were often written down hundreds of years after the fact, so it's tough to tell where they originated), but I hadn’t recalled it being mentioned anywhere in the Bible.
Jared Witt l May 24, 2018
My freshman year at Colorado State University, I lived in the dorms with my best friend from high school. There are some pros and cons to living with a lifelong friend your first year of college. One pro is that it puts you in a rare position of personal security versus the other new younglings, who are frantically (and sometimes literally) grasping at each other for a place to fit in these new unchartered waters. One con is that lifelong friends tend to develop a shared sense of humor with a frequency and wavelength, which, they forget, diverges more and more from the norm over time.
Back then, we were into a form of practical joking which frequently took the shape of informal social experiments. One day, we thought it might be a lark to take out a piece of paper and write the names of about half of our dorm floor-mates on a list, leave the other half off, and then post it to the outside of our door (about 25 of 50 people in total). No labels. No contextual clues as to the what the list meant (and, in fact, it meant nothing).
Jared Witt l May 17, 2018
This is based on a real conversation that I had a while back, though I've frequently inserted what I would've said if not for kindness. If I were this condescending in real life, everybody would lose, no matter how right a side. Nonetheless, there is something strangely cathartic about reviewing such exchanges in safe anonymity. The name of my conversation partner has been changed. Btw, avoid conversations like these if at all possible.
Smitty (S): All of scripture was intended to be read literally. Anything else is a cop out that people use to avoid any commands that they just don’t feel like following.
Me (J): Sucks for your eyeballs.
J: Sucks for your eyeballs. Maybe you can donate them to science?
S: What are you talking about?
Jared Witt l March 31, 2018
I’m not wired to be a very religious person.
I say that knowing that not everyone will understand what I mean by it, and the ones who get me right away are likely wired in the same way.
When I first went to seminary in 2008, I was sort of surprised that there were pockets of otherwise normal, healthy people who were really into the whole bit. And whether it be the featureless praise songs or the plodding organ dirges, the Greek tattoo and pompadour haircut or the clergy collar and Great Clips haircut, the professional stage-lighting or the incense burning made no difference to me. This rendered the red-faced debates over "traditional" vs. "contemporary" worship somewhat humorous, seeing as I was what you might call a neutral third party. Without knocking any of it, for me, it all just kind of lumped together as so many different shades of generically religious shtick. I accepted that certain types were just more inclined toward that whole thing than others.
One barrier to entry for me was it all seemed so horribly made up. I couldn’t get over the feeling, “Wait, so you’re telling me some guy just started lighting that candle and this time a while back, and so now we all have to do it?”
Jared Witt l March 15, 2018
Consider for a moment this well known line from the United States' Declaration of Independence:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”
As kids, most of us were probably taught in school that the founding documents of our nation—the Constitution, the Declaration, the Bill of Rights, that preamble that we all had to memorize before knowing exactly what a preamble is—were something like the boundaries beyond which power and law in our country must never stray.
Jared Witt l March 8, 2018
Anthony de Mello (1931-1987) was an Indian Jesuit priest, who became well known for writing pithy parables and koans, which drew from his deep engagement with both eastern and western spiritual traditions.
One of my favorites is this:
“After many years of labor an inventor discovered the art of making fire. He took his tools to the snow-clad northern regions and initiated a tribe into the art—and the advantages—of making fire. The people became so absorbed in this novelty that it did not occur to them to thank the inventor, who one day quietly slipped away. Being one of those rare human beings…he had no desire to be remembered or revered; all he sought was the satisfaction of knowing that someone had benefited from his discovery.
On how Castle Church is stirring up a movement from a brewery in Florida.