friends seminary

I’m determined to come to peace about my social situation.

It’s okay that I’m not the most popular person at my seminary.

It’s a miracle that I’m in school full-time at all. It’s okay to not have half the school as my friends.

It’s okay to have a few close friends and to enjoy my ability to float among friend groups without being a part of them and the drama they bring.

It’s okay. It’s enough. I’m okay. I’m enough.


James McAvoy ‘The Conspirator’ promo shots - part 2

Plot (*contains spoliers*): On April 14, 1865, the Civil War ends with the North’s victory. Lawyer and Union veteran Frederick Aiken (James McAvoy), with his friends, William Thomas Hamilton (James Badge Dale) and Nicholas Baker (Justing Long), and girlfriend, Sarah Weston (Alexis Bledel), celebrate. 

Later that same night, Southerner Lewis Payne (Norman Reedus) unsuccessfully attempts to kill Secretary of State William Seward (Glenn R. Wilder), only seriously wounding him. German immigrant and carriage repair business owner George Atzerodt is assigned to kill Vice President Andrew Johnson but becomes afraid and runs away. Meanwhile, actor John Wilkes Booth enters Ford’s Theatre and sees his target, President Abraham Lincoln. Booth sneaks into the President’s box and shoots Lincoln, mortally wounding him. Booth stabs diplomat and military officer Henry Rathbone who was a guest in Lincoln’s box, and leaps onto the stage, shouting, “Sic Semper Tyrannis! The South is avenged!” before escaping. A crowd, including Aiken, Hamilton and Baker, watch in horror as the unconscious President is taken to a nearby boarding house where he dies early the next morning.

Secretary of War Edwin Stanton orders all suspects, including Mary Surratt (Robin Wright), arrested. Booth and David Herold manage to evade capture for some days, but Union soldiers find a barn where they suspect the conspirators are hiding and set it on fire. Herold is arrested, while Booth is shot and killed by sergeant Boston Corbett. Maryland Senator Reverdy Johnson is Mary Surratt’s lawyer. Her son, John Surratt, had escaped with hundreds of agents looking for him. Feeling unable to defend Surratt because he’s a Southerner, Reverdy asks Aiken, a Northerner, to take over, but he tries to refuse. He is ordered to defend her and tells Sarah and his friends, who are shocked to hear this. 

Aiken visits Mary in her cell to question her. Mary asks Aiken to look in on her daughter Anna (Evan Rachel Wood). Aiken does so and searches the boarding house for clues. He finds a ticket with the initials “LJW” (Louis J. Weichmann). At the court, Weichman - a seminary friend of Mary’s son John, is the first witness and describes John Surratt’s meetings with Booth. Aiken incriminates Weichman, making him appear as guilty as the rest of the conspirators. Aiken again tries to give up defending Mary, believing her guilty. He meets with her, intending to get evidence of her guilt. She explains that John and the others conspired to kidnap Lincoln, not to kill him. They were about to attack a carriage but were stopped by Booth who reported that Lincoln was elsewhere. She says John left town and went into hiding after this, two weeks before the assassination. Aiken asks Anna for information to help with his trial preparations, but she refuses.

At the court, Chief Prosecutor Joseph Holt brings Innkeeper John Lloyd to the stand. Lloyd claims that Mary sent binoculars to Booth and prepared shooting irons and whiskey for Booth and Herold on the night of the assassination. Aiken angers Lloyd, implying that he was bribed for his testimony in whiskey. Lloyd is dragged out of the courtroom after threatening Aiken. 

While attempting to attend a party at the Century Club, Aiken finds his membership has been revoked due to his defending Mary Surratt. This triggers an argument with Sarah and she disowns and abandons him. Aiken asks Anna to testify next. Anna testifies that Mary had no part in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, but that it was her brother John instead. Anna visits Aiken at his house and tells him about Booth and John, and sends him to where John Surratt is hiding. He brings the message that John must surrender or his mother will hang for his crimes. On July 6, Mary is found guilty on all charges and, with Stanton’s intervention, sentenced to hang with three others on the 7th. Aiken procures a writ of habeas corpus to try Mary in civilian court, but President Johnson suspends the writ and Mary is hanged.

Sixteen months later, Aiken visits John Surratt, who was captured abroad and is in jail. John thanks him for his kindness to his mother. Aiken offers him Mary’s rosary but he declines. The epilogue goes on to state that a year later the Supreme Court ruled that citizens were entitled to trial by a civilian jury and not a military tribunal, even in times of war. A jury of Northerners and Southerners could not agree on a verdict for John Surratt so he was freed. Aiken left the law and became The Washington Post’s first City Editor.

Beautiful Things I Have Witnessed in the Last 24 Hours
  • Some of my seminary friends choosing to wear their clerical collars as a reminder of God’s presence in the world and their willingness to listen to any stressed out citizens.
  • My friend buying wine, grape, juice, and challah for 2 a.m. communion after the results were called.
  • People gathering in our seminary chapel in a rainy morning to hug each other hard and sob openly during the service of mourning and high five the children who blessed us with their presence.
  • My systematic theology teacher rescheduling our exam because she knew that everyone had been up until the wee hours waiting for the results and was probably in no place to sit through a three hour exam tonight.
Everyone's a Heretic: The Overuse of "Heresy"

mini-ice-cream-floats asked:

Hi Pastor. I was looking at your posts and a lot of them were very encouraging in terms of staying with the Christian walk. That said, I read that Tim Keller is a heretic. I don’t know much about him, but some say yes, others no. I think one of your posts quoted from him. What do you think? Thank you.

Hey dear friend, thank you so much for your kind words.

Normally I want to be super gracious and thoughtful and nuanced here, but please allow me to get just a tiny bit upset. Not at you, my dear friend, but at this word “heretic.”

The thing is, you’re a heretic. So am I. So is everyone.

We’ve all said dumb things about God. You and me both. None of us have it completely right about Him and no one owns the monopoly on Christian theology. While I do believe that God is knowable, I also believe that some of our differences in doctrine do not deserve the blanket term “heresy.”

Let’s keep in mind that calling someone a “heretic” or a “blasphemer” a few hundred years ago was a serious accusation that would get someone sent to a funeral pyre. A stake burning. A lynching. It’s a terrible disgusting word that comes from an embarrassing time in church history. It’s essentially damning someone to hell.

Let’s also ask the question, Who is saying that this person is a heretic? Who makes someone the watchdog and gatekeeper and arbiter of the Christian faith? At what point does one human being with a three lb. brain say to another human being, “You’re wrong about this divine supernatural being called God” …? Is there so much more to know than loving Jesus and loving people? Wouldn’t anything else be negotiable?

That means the seventy-five year old man who finds Jesus is a heretic. Nope, sorry, you don’t know enough Bible, old man. The ten year old child who loves Jesus is a heretic. Sorry, you don’t know about supralapsarianism and pneumatology, little buddy. Only scholars and saints and ascetic monks could possibly know enough Bible to be qualified for the pearly gates.

This reminds me of when church-people are quick to yell “Pharisee” and “legalist,” because we’re so scared of The Other. Our human nature will find any possible way to demonize the other side. See? I just did it, right there. We build camps and tribes and dichotomies so we can say, “At least I’m not like those Christians over there.” We find one little disagreement and then make a division instead of building bridges. We don’t give each other a chance. And maybe faith is more simple than we make it.

My friend: I’ve been to seminary and I can read Greek and Hebrew (seriously) and I’ve read Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology, also known as the brick in my backpack that curved my spine. But ultimately, I love Jesus and I love people. I like theology too, really. I love studying the Bible and its history and knowing every tiny detail about Jesus. I’m a nerdy intellectual at heart. But if our theology is making us worse and not better, then maybe we should start over with Jesus first. If our faith does not move us to a greater love, I’m afraid we have not yet met the Jesus we study so diligently.

There are too many basement bloggers that presume “I have it righter than you!” — but even if they did, then what? Smear the other guy’s name? Make fun of his church? Hate on his family? I was once called a lying witch abortionist and a “false teacher,” but I mean: is this what we’re going to be known for? While we’re dividing over this stuff, the world is laughing at the church and there are 6000+ people groups without Jesus, 27 million slaves in the world, and 17,000 children who will die today from preventable causes. I’m not going to boycott some pastor with slightly different theology than mine. I’m going to serve the homeless and donate to fight human trafficking. I’m also going to love those people who overuse “heretic.”

I’m all for sound doctrine and right biblical teaching. There’s certainly heresy in the Christian world. But this ought to move us towards conversation and prayer. It ought to move us toward the person and not away, with grace and a listening ear. If it’s true that someone might be a heretic, then the first thing we’re called to do is love them, and then speak the truth in love. If I can’t love first, then even I wouldn’t listen to me. The greatest heresy is to not love. Christians have the greatest love in the universe, who compels us to reach across the divide, as he did. If we love like Jesus does, then maybe we’ll make it.

— J.S.