MW Cook

an ex-evangelical doing a year of living christianly

A Christian and Two Ex-Believers in a Pink Room

Ruth and I sat down with P.J. Tremblay, A.K.A. P’Jamz. We all met at Bible college a couple life-times ago. We had a great conversation about the faith and losing it and keeping it and how we can all start to speak the same language.

P’Jamz recently released his an LP, Foibles & Fiction. Songs like Proud and Odd One Out candidly talk about the fallout from losing faith. Go to his Audio4n6 Site to check him out and buy his album.

 

Sit in on our conversation on the Audio4n6 channel. There’s a lot here, and it’s been split up into convenient little chapters:

Part 1 — How we all got to Bible college

Part 2 talks about evangelism and missions

Part 3 — the uses and abuses of Christianity

Part 4 talks about what it takes to be successful at religion

Part 5 — how if religions don’t change, they don’t endure

Part 6 makes Ruth choke on water

Part 7 — childlike curiosity

Part 8 reminds us there are a few things to keep

Part 9 — the power religion can provide

Part 10 talks about how hard it sometimes is to talk about this stuff

Conversation with Derek Webb

Derek Webb’s music has been important to me since 1999. Songs like Not the Land and Wedding Dress provided vocabulary for aspects of my spiritual journey that other believing artists wouldn’t touch. Faith My Eyes and Lover were soothing anthems during my missionary days. His most recent album, Fingers Crossed, is a tale of spiritual and marital divorce. It’s about losing faith and family. It’s sad and beautiful and if you’ve ever lost faith go listen to Goodbye, for Now and cry a bit.

I sat down with Derek last week at before his house show in Buffalo. We had a great conversation about his music, what’s left over after faith is gone, and the time he nearly killed RC Sproul. Watch the video below, or at Youtube where there are handy chapter divisions in the description.

Go buy Derek’s music and tickets to his few remaining house shows at derekwebb.com

A Knee-Jerk Reaction to the Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel

I made the mistake of skimming the Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel while I was setting up for a completely different video. If you ever wanted to hear me in angry preacher mode, here’s your chance.

As you can see, the statement got me all worked up. This is my unprepared response, so take it with whatever grains of salt you need. I may say more on the statement if I can bring myself to get into John MacArthur’s headspace.

If you’re a believer, read the statement for yourself and ask if these affirmations and denials are what the gospel is about, or if the church is inventing gnats to strain from their camel pie.

An Anxious Evangelist

I am anxious. Especially around other people. You should see me at Costco. Actually, you shouldn’t. And if you do, stay out of my way because I may have a panic attack or run you down in a frantic attempt to escape. I dread nothing more than encounters with others.

In college I became an evangelist. My first time handing out tracts I almost passed out. It never got easier, but I kept doing it anyway. Sketchboard Evangelism. Open air preaching. Intentional friendships with shopkeepers and strangers in Ontario and Sindh with an eye to sharing my great and glorious salvation. Absolutely terrifying. But there was a script / story / drama that gave me the power to rise above myself:

“They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.” Isaiah 11:9

The fear didn’t hold be back because I believed Christ was the only one who could heal the nations, and if the knowledge of him filled the earth, all hurt would end. My own anxiety was nothing compare to the eternal weight of glory that was promised. It helped me do difficult, powerful things.

I still want to work for a story that brings healing.
But the script is no longer simple.
I don’t think a single way is possible.
The gods, being greater than us, are not likely jealous.

I do, though, miss the script that made me do the things I “knew” I couldn’t do.

The problem is diplomacy is all your troops freeze in panic

I’m speaking, of course, of the skill in Heroes of Might and Magic 3.

When you are good at diplomacy, troops that would otherwise attack your army, may join it instead, “For greater glory.”

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Sound great? It is!

Near the beginning of the game, without spending a single gold, you can have a horde from every tongue and tribe and nation. Crusaders and dragons and dwarves and liches, all part of one glorious host.

But they generally do poorer than they should in actual combat. Soldiers tend to freeze in panic, and even when you win there are more losses than their needs to be. Troops from other cities tend not to love each other, and everyone hates the undead. Morale drops. Everyone starts to wonder what they’re even fighting for.

There are reasons for this.

The game’s campaign details bitter struggles between the nations. If you want this horde from every tongue and tribe, you to give them something higher than history to bind them together. Remind them why they joined you in the first place: Greater Glory.

A year of living christianly with Ruth

I invite Ruth the Christian to join me in my year of living christianly. We sat down to talk about spirituality and how our past informs our present–but then my microphone stopped working and most of our talk was lost.

I present the remnants: Chasing the sun, burying birds, and making sure your daughters get educated.

A Sub-Cosmic Quest

Part of the power of the christianly life is the belief that it’s a quest that cannot fail. I was part of the company of the arbitrarily beloved, tasked to the Kingdom of God, and indiscriminately inviting everyone to the journey,

From Destruction to Glory
Death to Life
Hate to Love
Self to God

What’s the big story I’m trying to cast now? Can the year of living christianly reach for something beyond an experiment? I probably can’t cast the path as the high-fantastical cosmic quest it was, but it’s still a quest.

To cultivate the spiritual fruit–
from love to self-control–
against such that there can be no law.

To deny the spirit of fear,
and accept
the spirit of love and of power and of a sound mind.

To work toward an impossible kingdom
where wolf can dwell with lamb,
children lead lions and cattle,
and no one has to preach because we already know.

And maybe even to figure something out about that peace that passes understanding these old traditions keep talking about.

Unaltering Love–Happy Birthday Ruth

Sonnet 116 William Shakespeare
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
admit impediments.

They say that you tend to be with someone similar to yourself. I suppose it’s true most of the time. We’re pretty narcissistic people, so we seek ourselves in the people we love.

                     Love is not love
which alters when it alteration finds,
or bends with the remover to remove:

They say unless two agree, they cannot walk together. And that if they start to disagree, they probably are going to have to go off in different directions. Alteration, they imply, alters love.

O, no! It is an ever-fixed mark,
that looks on tempests and is never shaken;

Ruth and I have changed. A lot. I’m not the person she married. I have different goals, different convictions, a different sense of morality. Different ways to love.

It is the star to every wandering bark,
who's worth's unknown, although his height be taken.

We change each other and change by each other’s changes. Our love isn’t based on our personality traits. The thing that holds us together is not ourselves. It’s a kind of transcendent love.

Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
within his bending sickle's compass come;

For about 123 days of the summer, Ruth and I are the same age. Tomorrow she’s older than me again. We’re in the midst of so much change, but we still love.

Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.

It does not matter how much we grow. It doesn’t matter how much we change. It doesn’t matter that we aren’t the people we married. Love that alters with alteration is not our kind of love.

If this be error, and upon me prov'd
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

Happy birthday Ruth. I love you forever.
Love
Matt

Christianly Cultivation and the Five Years’ Fallow

A new video where I talk about Jim Elliot, spiritual cultivation, and what it’s like to be fallow after plowing and harrowing for Christ.

 

 

So now I’m making videos

 

 

Partly because it’s often easier to talk about spiritual matters,
than type.

Partly because I like the sound of my own voice.

Partly because it’s a bit like preaching,
and preaching is christianly.

Partly so I can buy a sexy looking logo
and microphone.

And because when you write about things you think a certain way,
and it’s different from when you talk about things.