Josh j Smith


Charcoal Dust
November 23, 2006, 8:37 pm
Filed under: theology

199135253 Dea8F73F0AThere was a time in my life when I followed the foot prints of my rabbi (teacher) that were embossed in charcoal dust. Jason Mitchell, unlike many, was a charcoal grill man. We spent many nights grilling to the sounds of Blues Traveler playing from his garage that sits right off his patio – where it all began ( a couple of years ago).
Months later when we (Chad, Ryan, Jason, Buhr, PJ – in spirit) were having a good time at Chad’s house grilling for my surprise bachelor party. The climax of the night was seeing my new CHARCOAL WEBBER GRILL resting nicely on Chad’s bed. The boys got me a new charcoal grill to carry on the message of charcoal grilling. It was at this point I began to be proud of taking on the responsibility of being the grill-man of the house.

Charcoal grilling is worth it on so many levels.
1. A big fire when you first light the charcoals
2. The anticipation of the charcoals getting at the right temperature – it is like the anticipation of beer fermenting.
3. The unique taste that comes from charcoal cooking.
4. The History – you have a sense that using charcoals is an ancient practice… so it is like returning to the roots of humanity.
5. The social aspect. While those coals are burning there nothing else to do other than talk.

Just the other day I visited my rabbi. I walked out on to that patio where remnants of charcoal dust still remain from cook outs we had years ago, but the altar does not. It was replaced with a modern gas grill. However, Jason enlightened me and said that it is borrowed. Yet, he still followed that by saying he was thinking about getting a gas grill. I felt betrayed. So I began to think through the many reasons why Jason, my rabbi, has lost the message of charcoal grilling.

1. Charcoal grilling is not the same without Hoochie Koochie Hot Sauce (only accessible in Texas ).
2. He covets Chad’s metro gas grill that gives false messages of simplicity, quickness, and beauty.
3. He has lost ears for the message. There are no more young followers to take on the charcoal dust of the rabbi.
4. It is possible he has lost touch with the art.
5. The lazy-as# American mentality has set in As it does with us all at times.
6. His blog has demanded more of his time – http://www.clearlyvague.blogspot.com – link is to the right “Mitchell’s Blog”
7. It is possible that he has associated the simplicity and sleekness of the MAC computers in to his grilling preferences.
8. He just does not care anymore
9. He thinks having a tank of propane fuel is more manly than having a paper bag of rocks.
10. The presence of a massive, stainless steel, out door BBQ, in his head, does not compare to having a 36 in circle for grilling.

My only hope with this is that the message of Charcoal grilling will live on for all those charcoal grillers out there, and that people will laugh at this ridiculous blog.

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Final portion on this book
November 8, 2006, 2:50 am
Filed under: theology

256593243 5254A7D14EThe seeking has not stopped, questions still surface, and it seems that vagueness is the only consistency. This is good. Seeking to understand the times and to find God mingling in the midst of what we think is chaos is our ultimate hope. Therefore, the conversation will continue to progress as we observe culture to agree on conclusions of how postmoderns view the Gospel as text in a pluralistic, personal, and spiritual society.

There is no question that emerging generations have or will have a different framework form which one will understand religion, spirituality, and God. This new way of thinking is developed from the massive immigration of people, who have not left their faith behind. Rather than a “Melting Pot” approach where everything gets mixed together to produce something that resembled the majority, it is a mosaic. Each religion/people is its own piece that contributes to the bigger picture. Therefore, Christianity is not the big picture anymore (if it ever was), which leads us to conclude that the Gospels are not the main source for morality. In our marginal society this threatens many and creates a problem – “What it means to be an evangelical Protestant” (Wells, 2005, p, 96). Without the Bible as the rubric for what is right and wrong, many people from this generation and emerging generations will view the Gospels like everything else – only a piece of the bigger picture. The Gospels, the story of Jesus, put on the same level as the Koran, the story Muhammad, and many other spiritual texts.

Without the Gospels on top or as majority, it is threatening and frightening to many, yet enlightening to a few. Without the Jesus and the Gospels, foundational to Christianity, as the norm it lessens the popularity, which I refer to as the death of the Pop Jesus, however some scholars refer to it as Post-Christendom. As a result, it trims the crowds and leaves us to see who is in it for real. There was many times in the Gospels that Jesus taught extraordinary subjects that lightened the crowds. What was left, were those who were committed in were not in it for some religious sake. So, what does it mean to be an evangelical Protestant? Definitions are very restricting, but commitment never lies.

“Americans, especially in the second half of the last century, often gave full rein to their individualism, adapting beliefs to their own needs and missing-and-matching as they went along” (Wells, 2005, p, 104). Not only in our pursuit of the “American Dream” have cut off the rest of the world, but in our pursuit of God as well. More and more the myth is believed that it is essential that people have a “personal” relationship with Jesus Christ. This has influenced, greatly, how we interpret and apply the Gospels. We interpret the Gospels only in light of what is happening in our lives. It is not completely bad to interpret the Gospels locally, but as the only perspective from which we conclude meanings of texts is boxing God in. In addition, when do we ever interpret and agree on the Gospels meaning collectively? And, if we cannot agree collectively, how do we respond and act? It is normal to allow the Gospels only affect us in personal ways. We ask what does this mean to me? Or, how can I now live different in light of this message? Rather than, what does this mean to us? And, how can we now live different in light of this message? The result of this is spiritual isolation.

Spiritual isolation is now normal. Today, “Spirituality, by contrast, has come to stand for what is private and internal. What this typically means is that those who are spiritual accept no truth which not experientially grounded” (Wells, 2005, p, 110). Mysticism has replaced the Pop-Jesus, and now the Gospels are a mere tool for us becoming spiritually moved. When we are not experiencing some mystical experience that could or could not be in our soul, we respond in frustration by saying something, “I am not getting fed enough when I read the Bible on my own, or when Pastor so-and-so speaks.” We equate truth with experience. Thus, the Gospels have no meaning unless there is a feeling, tangible evidence, or list of rules that authenticate the written words. Without this type of feeling, whether admittedly or not conclude that the Holy Spirit/God was not present. So, now the church is competing with our experiential, high stimulated, and emotion based culture/media to entertain people into believing the Gospels. If the Gospels are not a stimulant they are not true.

With this ethos of reading and applying the Gospels it has its detriments, which are obviously stated above, and it has its blessings. Wells said, “Spirituality travels light. It needs no buildings, not rituals, no professionals, or even sacred books” (Wells, 2005, p, 111). For many, including myself, this is a great movement. This is a reminder of the early church. Following Jesus in its simplest form. It is hard to be involved with any form of Christianity today and not attach it to a building, system, hierarchy, money, and some kind of legalized way of living. Therefore, the reaction today for people to experience something authentic is a cry for redemption in every aspect of life, not just religion.

As usual, proceeding away from this conversation probably evokes more questions rather than answers as to how present and emerging modern generations view the Gospels as text in a pluralistic, personal, and spiritual society. Why is it necessary to think on such things? God is incarnate through Jesus, Jesus is incarnate through the Church, thus it is necessary to think on how we are going to help reveal Jesus to each culture.