It was bound to happen. I spent a season as a columnist writing a weekly column called the Sheep & Goats for the San Diego Reader, which 'reviews' churches and other places of worship. This last Sunday, Matthew Lickona came (the new columnist and much better writer than I ever was!) and reviewed Kaleo Church. It could of gone a lot of ways, but Lickona focused on the experience one may have visiting Kaleo, particularly the sermon and the centrality of the gospel & grace:
But preaching the Gospel, he said, was essential and more important than telling stories and teasing out meanings and lessons. "The Gospel is news about what Jesus has done; it is not advice about how to live. Why? Because we are saved by grace. News is about something that is done; teaching is about something you do. If my role is to teach you about what to do, then what I'm saying is that you can be saved by following my teaching." Christianity, argued Fairchild, is unique among world religions in that it is not about following a teaching, but about believing in particular historical events concerning Jesus. "We're saved by grace, by something that's been done for you." If not, "that puts you on the hook: earn your own salvation. If Jesus Christ did not live, then we are in grave, grave trouble."
Full Article: Kaleo Church @ the San Diego Reader
As some have asked, I am no longer writing the Sheep & Goats column for the San Diego Reader. The new writer is Matthew Lickona, author of Swimming with Scapulars – True Confessions of a Young Catholic. You can see more of Lickona’s work at his blog, www.matthewlickona.com. If you want to know more, Lickona’s bio on his site begins, “Matthew Lickona was born in 1973, the second son of a developmental psychologist and a sometime caterer. Raised in Cortland, a city in upstate New York, he enjoyed a happy childhood (marred only slightly in adolescence by an alarming, curly mullet). Afterward, he attended Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, California…”
This week’s World Magazine includes an article on my former boss (when I wrote a weekly column at the San Diego Reader), Roe v. Wade: Counterculture clash. The article details Holman’s activism for the pro-life movement while he publishes a “urban alternative” weekly.
A city councilman, who is also an ordained minister running on a morality platform, accepts campaign contributions from a strip-club owner.
2003: A rising-star mayor moonlights as a slumlord, pocketing millions while evicting impoverished tenants who complain.
2005: A prestigious hospital chain tests a synthetic blood substitute only on trauma victims too ill to consent in poor and minority neighborhoods.
Those are among the sidewalk-pounding investigative reports that appear in the archives of the San Diego Reader, the kind of urban alternative weekly found in free stacks in bohemian coffeehouses and other bastions of cool. You might expect the publisher of such tough expos?©s on religious hypocrisy and social injustice to be a card-carrying liberal, take his political cues from George Soros, or at least wear Birkenstocks to work.
Instead, Jim Holman is a bit of a square peg in the alternative-weekly universe, a devout Catholic of libertarian leanings with Horace Greeley newsman instincts coursing through a persona that seems two parts Renaissance man and one part Mr. Rogers.
Mr. Holman’s name became news in 2005 when he became the major financial backer of Proposition 73, a California ballot measure that would have required abortionists to notify parents before performing abortions on minor girls. Discreetly wealthy and passionately pro-life, Mr. Holman helped brainstorm the initiative and contributed $1.2 million to pay for signature gathering, media, and grassroots outreach. While the governor’s reform package weathered a brutal media storm, Prop 73 was unrelated to it and enjoyed winning poll numbers as late as November. But on Election Day, it failed, dragged down in Mr. Schwarzenegger’s political undertow.
Read Full Article: Roe v. Wade: Counterculture clash
[This is a reflection on my San Diego Reader Column where I visited a different church each week for 2005 and part of 2004.]
One theme that developed as I spoke with different pastors/priests for a variety of denominations and faiths is that each one was convicted that their expression was the true expression of faith. Catholic Priests had a sense of confidence that “theirs was the true church that traced itself back to Peter and Jesus Christ.” The Mass was the place where the Eucharist was served and followers needed to access the grace offered here. Yet, other splinter Catholic groups (Byzantine and Old Catholics) were quick to point out their legitimacy in relation to the “ROMAN Catholic” traditions.
On the other side of the world, Eastern Orthodox congregations (visited two, one Greek and the other Antiochian) were most vocal in their position as ‘truest church’. [“I believe the [Greek Orthodox Church] is the true church, but I’m not going to rub it in anyone’s face,” said Nazo Zakkak, an altar boy at St. Gregory of Nyssa Greek Orthodox Church.]
Both these groups (Catholics & Eastern Orthodox) often citied the amount of denominations in the Protestant movement as an indictment against Evangelicals. “There are 20,000 some-odd denominations, any time an Evangelic has a minor doctrinal disagreement, they just go off and start their own church,” is a common comment about Protestantism.
Where does this leave us? How do we deal with the denominational divides? One comment is often, “In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, liberty.” Yet an Orthodox Father pointed out that denominations aren’t even in agreement on what is essential or non-essential so how can their be unity. It seems like the church is in a mess but why does God allow such a divergent expression of faith amongst people who call themselves Christians?
Last week was my last San Diego Reader article for the Sheep & Goats column. Beginning in 2006, I am no longer writing the column. It’s been a great season over 2004-2005 to visit different places of faith and interview people to learn more about their experiences and what they believe. Here are a few of my favorites: (A few of my favorites are not online)
Anchor Point Church – an honest and open story of a church plant that closed it’s doors.
The Resolved – An opening line that created quite a controversy, “Beer is one of our core values”. (So much controversy the pastors wrote a letter to explain this sarcastic comment about church pragmatism.)
What’s NEXT? I’m excited about this transition because life has been crazy focusing on three different ventures (Kaleo Church, Monk Development and San Diego Reader). Here are the plans:
1. Become more full time at Kaleo Church. This is a big year for us as we really take a lot of the things that are functioning and move them to healthy reproducing ministries.
2. Launch Ekklesia in a big way the next two-months and continue to build a world-class application for churches to use the internet for the Kingdom.
3. Write creatively. Spend more time writing articles I’ve been putting off.
4. Begin Covenant Theological Seminary’s Master of Arts (Theological Studies) with an emphasis in contemporary culture.
5. Go on long walks with my wife.
6. Adopt a new child.
and more that I’m sure will be added soon….
Thanks for all of you who read the articles and provided feedback and encouragement.
(This is an article written for my weekly San Diego Reader column on spirituality and places of worship.)
Wally the Wiener, a 15-foot inflatable penis, stands erect behind XXXchurch’s “Erotica LA” booth. Wally is just one of XXXchurch’s attempts to get attention from the 40,000 pornography fans and stars at the convention. “We have to use outrageous methods to get people to pay attention,” said Craig Gross, a pastor, and one of the founders of XXXchurch. In 2002, Pastor Gross and Pastor Mike Foster founded XXXchurch to create porn awareness, accountability, and recovery to people inside and outside the church.
Pastors Foster and Gross have received a lot of attention because of their involvement in the pornography industry. “At the Erotica show, people are wondering why two pastors are here,” said Gross. “But this is exactly the place Jesus would go. He wouldn’t stand outside picketing the porn industry. He would want to meet these people individually.” This year, XXXchurch’s booth gave “Jesus Loves Porn Stars” T-shirts to porn stars. “We handed out 245 free T-shirts. This is a way for us to plant seeds with porn stars and help them get out of the industry,” said Gross. “We stay in contact with many of the porn stars to keep a dialogue going.” Last month, Trinity James was the first porn star to leave the industry through this campaign. “Trinity was living in Las Vegas and has been doing porn and legalized prostitution for four years. She realized that this is not something she can do any longer.” XXXchurch raised $14,400 to assist James’s transition, which included the cost of the move to Indiana and tuition to cosmetology school. Gross said he hopes this is the first example of many porn stars’ exodus out of the industry.
Full Article: XXXchurch
(This is an article written for my weekly San Diego Reader column on spirituality and places of worship.)
“If someone at our synagogue becomes religious, don’t blame me. I just teach the Torah,” said Rabbi Baruch Lederman of Kehillas Torah. “I am passionate about helping people see the beauty of the Torah. I want to help raise them to a higher level of understanding and increase their acts of kindness to others. This is what life is all about. It’s about a relationship with your creator.” I asked Lederman about his relationship with God. “I pray and talk to God all the time. Life is one giant conversation with God. I love, revere, and fear God. It is very similar to how a child thinks about their parents.”
Fred Wolf, a member of the synagogue, said Lederman helped change his life. “In recent years, I’ve gone through a lot of trials. I went through a divorce with two children and a parent dying. It made me think about what is important in life.” Wolf said this process led him back to his Jewish roots. “I was struggling with the divorce. I entered a period of darkness and depression. Rabbi Lederman helped me out during this time. He was warm and open-minded. He doesn’t lecture people; he enjoys teaching people and letting them make their decisions for themselves. He doesn’t care where you came from; it’s where you are going. He is the most unorthodox orthodox rabbi I know,” said Wolf
Full Article: Kehillas Torah
“[When I’m taking the Eucharist], I’m consuming Jesus’ body, if you view it with eyes of faith,” said Eileen Carton, a volunteer at Holy Spirit Catholic Church. “How else can you get that close to God? When I take Eucharist, if I lack faith, I am given faith. If I am burdened, Jesus takes my burden.” Carton said she’s been enamored with communion since she was seven years old. “As a Japanese-American, I was raised Buddhist, but when a friend took me to Mass with her family, I saw the holiness and beauty of the Mass. I was taken aback by seeing Jesus at the consecration. When I saw this, Jesus spoke to my heart and told me I was home. I get so excited about this, I just thank the Lord.” “What really makes the Catholic Church different is that we take Jesus seriously when he gave us the Sacrament of Holy Orders. We take the wine and bread and believe they become the literal body and blood of Jesus,” said Dennis Gorsich, a pastoral associate. “We’re actually at that Last Supper during the Eucharist. It’s like being in a time warp. I often feel closer to God because I’ve taken the Eucharist. Jesus is clearing away the things that are not good in me.
Full Article: Holy Spirit Catholic Church
“I was stoned when I accepted Christ,” said Jared Lee, a volunteer at Calvary Chapel San Diego. “When my parents got divorced, I started getting into the drug scene. I would smoke an ounce of weed in three days and would steal. Everything was about getting the next high.” Lee’s life changed when three people approached him in Balboa Park and told him about Jesus. “I found hope. There was something more in life,” said Lee. Lee now believes Christianity is the only true way. “God opened my eyes.” Lee joined Calvary Chapel and participated in their Fellowship in Recovery program. “The program follows the same 12-step program for Alcoholics Anonymous. I went from being a curse to society, as a drug addict and a worthless guy, to a blessing. I moved in to help my grandmother when my grandpa died. I am a high school teacher now, and I work with the youth at church. If I hadn’t accepted Christ, I would be in jail or dead.”
Full Article: Calvary Chapel San Diego