The First Series Overview – Jesus, Derrida, & Deconstruction

13 10 2013

Over on Jeremy’s blog you will find a couple of posts that will be helpful as we dive into our first blog series together.  We will be exploring Jesus, Derrida, & Deconstruction.  It came out of a sermon I preached just over a year ago about Jesus & Nicodemus, Newton, & the use of metaphor.  My next post will include a link to the audio podcast as well as my sermon notes.  In the meantime, go check out the following over at Jeremy’s blog:

First an overview of the series in general can be found here.

Secondly, here is a great introduction to & background of Derrida to explore in preparation for the series.

Thanks for embarking on this journey with us!



1 10 2013

Well, it’s been awhile since this blog has seen any action…but that is all about to change.  I am excited to announce the ReActivation of theinneraroll!!  Over the years I have had seasons of active blogging on a wide range of topics from personal journey, to theology, to social commentary, to cultural observation, and more.  I enjoy the writing process; it allows me to be creative, to offer opinions, share and vet thoughts and ideas, and simply to share my experiences with those interested enough to read (and in many cases offer their own dissenting opinions – sometimes stronger in manner and word than others).  With a variety of changes in the course of my journey over the last couple of years, my creative process and outlets have been somewhat stunted and neglected. In an effort to re-engage those pursuits, I am embarking a new writing journey with my best friend, creative partner, confidant, theologian, and all-around great guy Dr. Jeremy Fackenthal.

Together we will be writing several series of blog posts, together and individually, and cross-posting on our individual blogs (at least for now). These posts will serve a variety of purposes for us and the communities in which we are involved (and who knows…maybe for communities beyond our immediate reach and scope):

1.  We both need to write.

Jeremy, being a professor and published author in the academic world, certainly has need to continue to write papers, publish articles, etc. He also enjoys the writing process as well (or so it seems to me).  I myself have had a couple of significant (to me) ideas that I want/need to flesh out and potentially publish but have found the writing process difficult.  In short – we need to write to get in the routine and to hold one another accountable.  We also may or may not be working on a collaborative project that will, God willing (and focus willing), find it’s way to the world in 2015.

2. We have something to share theologically & philosophically.

Okay, maybe that sounds presumptuous.  I don’t mean to make it sound like we are going to change the world of theology or create an entirely movement within the church. I don’t think that is our desire or goal.  Jeremy is a “white collar” theologian and I am a “blue collar” one*, and in our individual and shared journeys we have discovered, imagined, and shared thoughts and ideas that we find helpful, interesting, thought-provoking, and sometimes even transformational in our own lives and journeys.  I, for one, have benefited from others who have shared the things they have discovered and imagined, so why shouldn’t we?  I can’t promise that you will read anything in these lines and pages that will     revolutionize your world.  But maybe somewhere buried in a line or paragraph you will find something that you find helpful, interesting, thought-provoking, or even transformational…or maybe it will simply help cure your insomnia.

3.  We are leading a small group and want a place to further the dialogue.

Starting October 9, 2013, Jeremy and I will be leading a 10-week small group/discussion group through our church (Missiongathering Christian Church) called “Theology At the Pub” where we will spend several weeks talking about theology, what it is, how it affects us personally, and     diving into conversations about Process Theology while using Jeremy’s dissertation as a framework for our discussion. Inevitably there will be thoughts that emerge, points that need further clarification and exploration, and deeper explanation than can be given in the 1.5-2 hours we will be spending together each week.  Our blogs will serve as a place for those things to occur.  Hopefully we will be developing a format and forum where the audio of our conversations can be posted as well for those interested in the dialogue and topic but who are unable to attend due to schedule or location.

It is our intent that between the two of us there will be a new post at least every 2 days.  We both have busy schedules and lives, and frankly, we don’t know that you want to hear from us that often!  I can’t guarantee that will be the frequency, but we are going to do our very best to make that happen.

Hopefully those of you who have read my blog in the past will return and join with me in this next chapter of my journey.  Maybe some of you reading this are new to my blog and will consider sticking around to see what comes of this.  Others may read this and dismiss it altogether as narcissistic poppycock.  Regardless, thanks for reading this far and I (we) hope to see you around frequently here  and there.

~ aroll

* Here’s what I mean by “white collar” and “blue collar”: Jeremy has his PhD in theology; I do not.  While I have taken a few classes on religion and Christianity in my academic career, the majority of my knowledge and understanding of God has come through my own journey, study, ministry, learning from other learned theologians, and my personal experience. I hope that I never stop pursuing knowledge and understanding – both academically and incarnationally. As we will explore, I find great value in meaning in nearly all (as best as I can understand “all” at this point in my life) pursuits of truth and the understanding of God, both inside and outside of the Academy.  I just simply don’t want to make a claim to be an academic theologian…but I don’t want to write myself off, either.

an initial attempt at a brief “statement on the Bible & homosexuality”

21 10 2009

over the last year especially, both me as an individual and my church (missiongathering) have received several inquiries about our understanding of what the Bible really has to say about homosexuality. most of the inquiries came during and after prop 8, especially when we posted our apology billboards. we have typically been pointing people toward our sermon series that we did in the fall of 2008 called “spirituality & sexuality.” my message dealing with the apostle paul’s writings in the New Testament, sadly, got erased immediately after the gathering…and i’ve still been putting off re-recording it. in an effort to provide some response to the many inquiries, i’ve been planning to write a “statement on the Bible & homosexuality,” but every time i have started, something comes up or the task seems to daunting.

last week we received another such request, so finally today i sat down and drafted an email that is a first attempt at such a statement. the reality is that the emotions, passions, scholarship, theologies, and people are so varied and intense, there are volumes written on both sides trying to come to an understanding. i realize that so much more can be said, but as a starting point, this is what i have come up with. here is the email response:

My name is Alex Roller, and I am the Spiritual Formation Pastor at Missiongathering. I received your email inquiry and am happy to attempt a brief answer via email. In general I have discovered that this conversation is much bigger than an email can handle, and is generally better in person. If you’d like to meet for coffee or something sometime to talk more, I’d be happy to do so. You can also get a sense of our understanding of this issues by listening to the podcasts from our series “Spirituality & Sexuality” from last fall (August-September 2008, to be more specific).

We are a Jesus-centered church that believes, lives (as best we can), and preaches God’s message of grace that we see told throughout the Bible and exemplified in the life of Jesus. We are an evangelical church that believes in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. We are part of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Just wanted to give a bit of that background.

Now to your inquiry… As for the Old Testament, the story of Sodom & Gomorrah is an issue of hospitality – according the Bible itself (Judges); plus if homosexuality was the issue, it wouldn’t have been ALL the men of the town trying to have sex with the men/angels. Another example of this culturally is that a common military practice was for the victorious soldiers to rape the surviving soldiers as further humiliation/dominance in the wake of their defeat. When it comes to the Levitical laws, we have picked & chosen so much of those, that logic makes no sense to hold those as valid points in the argument. We could talk more about the anthropological/historical issues there as well. As for the New Testament, academically our understanding of the issue as typically talked about in the NT comes down to a cultural and contextual understanding of the words “arsenokoites” and “malakos,” the two words in the NT that have now been translated “homosexuality” or “homosexual activity.” (Romans, 1 Corinthians, 1 Timothy) The use of those words in translations actually didn’t appear until the mid-late 20th century.

“Arsenokoites” is a Greek word that Paul may have made up: “arsen” is “man”, “koitos” is bed – and meant culturally/contextually and act of injustice and/or aggression. We only have 80 or so known uses of this word in literature from the time that has been recovered. In extra-Biblical texts this word is used among lists of vices, but not used in the lists of sexual vices. Instead it is found in lists of vices dealing with exploitation, power, and economics – slavery, dominance, prostitution, etc. The other word, “malakos,” is found hundreds of times in Greek literature. It’s contextual & cultural meaning was about valuing the pleasures of the world – fine clothes, wine, food, leisure – than the virtues of courage & victory in battle, etc.; the idea of being “soft.” In plays, literature, etc., men who were described as “malakos” were sought after by women to do very heterosexual things with them (sorry if that seems vulgar or crass).

The root issues are two-fold at the heart of the NT passages (Romans 1, 1 Cor. 6:9-10, 1 Tim. 1:8-10): idolatry and injustice. Romans 1 is a list of vices that Paul sums up as idolatry. When God “gave them over” to their desires – Greek paradoken – it was not to condemn but to save them. They were so lost in their perspective, which included greed, gossip, lying, murder, etc., that they had completely lost sight of what was true – “traded truth for a lie.” The meaning of the word is “to deliver” and is used elsewhere in 1 Cor. and 1 Tim. to mean exactly that. They were in such a search for pleasure, absorbed in their own selfishness, and inattentive to the reality and needs of others that they lost sight of God. The context of the church in Rome were a lot of gentiles, heathens, and pagans becoming and interacting with new Christians who were more interested in earthly pursuits than spiritual ones. We see here in the idols they worshipped and the actions those led to also the idea of injustice that is the list of “sins” in 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy, which are acts that violate the lives of others. The Hebrew word for those actions of injustice, violating the lives of others is “hamas,” which is the root issue that caused God to send the flood in Genesis 6-9. The sin is that the acts were used to dominate, exploit, or control others, violating their lives as human beings.

As a church, we believe that the same healthy principles apply to all human beings, and we desire for all people in our congregation who are entering into relationship with another person to have healthy relationships – committed, loving, faithful, honest, Christ-centered relationships. The Bible doesn’t directly address committed same-sex relationships as it does heterosexual relationships, but we can apply the same healthy principles to same-sex relationships too. Some scholars believe that there are, in fact, loving same-sex relationships portrayed in the Bible, including one who Jesus interacted with (the Roman Centurian and the healing of his beloved servant). Jesus Himself never talks about it, but does in fact go to the marginalized and the outcast with a message of inclusion, grace, and love, calling all of God’s creation and people to live lives in greater pursuit of the heart of God – loving the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and loving our neighbor as ourselves. After thousands of years of God journeying with humanity, God boils it down to those 2 commands which have at the heart of both the issue of love.

There is MUCH more than can be discussed, I know. Believe me, I’ve been immersed in this for a long time. But this is a basic beginning of where we are coming from. I hope that it helps in some way. Let me know if you’d like to talk further (preferably in person) about our understanding from an academic perspective and also from the understanding brought to us on this topic through MUCH prayer and meditation with God and the Holy Spirit.


i hope that this “statement” will at least serve as a foundation for understanding and dialogue around this topic. for other of my thoughts on this topic, search anything in the “social justice” category, and especially those in the “a new civil rights movement” series. may God continue to bring understanding and most of all GRACE in the midst of our journeys. ~aroll

when words fail…a return to oral tradition?

19 10 2009

as we have been journeying through our series on the old testament, we have been talking about how the Bible came into existence, the history of God and God’s people, and the power of story and parable. for thousands of years the stories that we now know to be most of the old testament were passed down through oral tradition. stories of the beginning of the world, God interacting with humanity, the migrations of the jewish people were carried on from generation to generation simply by the telling of story, even acting the story out in dramatic fashion. eventually as humans developed written language theses stories were standardized and put to paper…well papyrus scrolls at the time. scribes were trusted to copy these scrolls meticulously to ensure their preservation and continuity. more stories were written and added, the psalms, the prophets, etc., and eventually the Gospels and epistles after the time of Jesus. hundreds of years later councils would argue in heated fashion before deciding what books would be canonized as the Bible we know today. these words written and printed now for thousands of years have passed on a story, a rich history of God and humanity.

at some point printed words fail us; something gets lost in translation. we see it when we send emails, chat via instant message or chat rooms – we look for ways to convey inflection and emotion that is so easily done with our voice and facial expressions interacting face to face, or even over the phone. certainly we can convey emotion through the written word; how many times have you cried reading a romance novel or gotten anxious reading a mystery? but it takes a great writer with carefully crafted words to evoke such emotion. the oral tradition allowed for the conveyance of emotion with such ease…especially as these moments were shared as a whole community, clan, village, and family.

what if we were to revive the oral tradition? as people of faith? as friends? as families? i believe that we are at a unique time when the ability to gather even via video is so prevalent that we can pass on a new depth of story and history to one another and subsequent generations than we ever have before. so much of our lives and journeys – with God, with one another, with ourselves – contain such a vast array of emotion and detail that it’s seemingly impossible to capture that with words. humanity is meant to be in community, so what if we were intentional about sharing our stories with one another in community? stories of our lives, stories of faith, stories of hardship and trials, stories of joy and celebration…and then allow these stories to be told as a part of our faith heritage, our familial heritage, our communal heritage. video of these conversations and storytelling moments, photos of our interactions, etc. could create such meaningful and rich treasure for our children and their children and their children…

to whom are you telling your story? in what community are you sharing in the richness of one another’s stories? what oral, or now video, history and tradition are you a part of creating and passing on? it’s never to late to find that community or start telling your story… ~aroll

class reflection wk 2 – origins of the disciples of Christ

18 09 2009

so here is my discussion board post for week 2 of my seminary class. it may or may not make sense, but want to post my thoughts each week. i will likely post a follow-up to this tomorrow to expand on a couple of points.

I will start by saying I am enjoying learning the background of our denomination. It does help some things make sense and put into perspective why even within our district and our region there is such variety of theological beliefs, worship styles, community, etc. The Haldanean idea of congregational autonomy is certainly very present still today. For a religious movement, however, that is described as so quintessentially “American,” its founders, influences, and ideas were all very European – from Locke, to the Haldanes, to the Scotch-Irish church crises, to the Enlightenment. Certainly the western expansion in America was something the British could only really experience vicariously (through North American expansion or news from India), so in that respect that aspect of the Stone-Campbell movement truly was American.

The influences of John Locke especially are seen in the “blue-collar” feel of the Disciples movement, I believe. In a time when the church was very hierarchical and a large part of the population had no or little access to education, the idea that religion/faith/spirituality were a matter for the individual’s attention was revolutionary. Then to take that to the extent of separating the church from state control espoused the idea of more local, communal autonomy, which certainly competed against the sustainability to some degree of a centralized authority (king, governor, etc.). In this respect the influence of Locke in American Christianity is completely expected as the same ideas were influencing the politics and culture of the American society around the church. I feel that in this time of church history there may have been one of the most healthy balances between church influencing culture and vice versa.

The toleration proposed by Locke in combination with Thomas Campbell’s exposure to the Haldanean movement and participation in the Evangelical Society of Ulster obviously impacted his beliefs and approach to church. Having lived through the various schisms in the Scotch-Irish churches, T. Campbell would certainly be very sensitive to that coming to the New World. These formative experiences I’m sure greatly eased the ability of the Campbells to find common ground with Barton Stone whose own experiences of ecumenicism at the Cane Ridge Camp Meeting opened his eyes to the power of many expressions of faith, worship, and teaching working in congress with one another. The education and sobering real-life experiences of T. Campbell possibly helped temper the emotionalism that Stone was frequently exposed to in the revival scene of the western frontier. Toulouse clarifies Pearson’s observations that “[Campbell’s reasonable formulation of faith] enabled Disciples to present a gospel that stood between the two great temptations of the time period: the pure emotionalism of many revivalist preachers and the pure rationalism prevalent among many of the eastern seaboard preachers.”

With the rise of individualism in the private and work lives of Americans, the idea that individuals could arrive at there own intellectual understanding of the Bible fit right in. We can build our own lives on the frontier, why not build our own individual (and eventually localized communal) understanding of God. In many respects I feel that the American church today has moved away from that in large part. With the development of so many associations and growth of many mega-churches, there seems to be a move back to the place of simply being taught by the lead pastor/preacher/teacher and taking those words, beliefs, theologies at face value. There doesn’t seem to be much passion in American Christians to own their theology. Many young people, especially in more conservative, evangelical worlds, simply take on the mantle of their parents’ faith somewhat blindly, an idea that Locke viewed as literally “absurd.” In a time when we have independent access to a wealth of resources online, people have never been in a better place to explore their own individual understanding of the reasonableness of Christianity, yet so many people don’t investigate sermons, dogma, etc. on their own. Even during the time of the genesis of the Disciples, individuals were able to take advantage of Christian periodicals and participate in the sharing of ideas while today so many Americans have become lazy about their faith.

As a relatively new member of the Disciples community (about 3 years now), I feel I have little perspective to speak on how these early influences may or may not be alive and well in Disciples churches today apart from my own observations & experiences in my church in San Diego (Missiongathering Christian Church). In that respect, these influences are certainly alive and well in our congregation. Obviously the Haldanean traditions of immersion (we set up a portable baptismal in the middle of the room for our baptisms to make this happen!) and weekly celebration of the Lord’s Supper are central to who we are as a congregation. We believe very strongly in a communal hermeneutic and understanding scripture as our local church community is led by the Holy Spirit, personal experiences, studying, etc., and every week we challenge our congregation to investigate things for themselves. I feel a strong tie to the founders of the Disciples in what we are venturing into within our church expression at Missiongathering.

i’d love any thoughts, dialogue, perspective if anyone cares to participate in this journey with me! ~aroll

my return to academia – the history & polity of the christian church

16 09 2009

so this week begins (hopefully longer than just a semester) my return to academia. jay, rich, and i are all auditing a course at claremont school of theology for our licensing with our denomination – the christian church (disciples of Christ). the course that we must audit (or pay 6 times as much to take for credit) is “the history and polity of the christian church.” that makes you jump right out of bed and run to class, right? luckily (maybe) this is an online course for which there is much reading, many discussion board posts, and two projects. while yes i was working full time during my time at the university of tulsa pursuing my undergrad, my full time job currently seems a bit more demanding than my role in full time junior high ministry. managing my time is certainly going to be a fun project of its own.

our first task last week was simply to post a brief bio, our connection to the christian church (disciples of Christ) – or doc, what we hope to get out of the course, etc. upon reading everyone else’s bios, i really feel like a runt of the litter (and i’d guess rich & jay feel the same way, but i can’t speak for them). most of them are already seminary educated, some with their doctoral degrees, and long histories in the doc. my church – missiongathering christian church – has only been a part of the doc for 6 years, and i’ve only been familiar with them for 3 since i started attending. what i do know of them so far, i am very comfortable with…and it certainly is a good place for missiongathering.

i think that i will be posting my discussion board posts on here as well. i’d be interested to get people’s feedback, thoughts, etc. about my interpretation of this aspect of church history. plus the class is only 12 or 13 people. more brains the merrier! wish me luck!! ~aroll

silence & inaction in the church – an apology from a friend prompted by “MILK”

14 08 2009

tuesday i received an email from a very good friend with the subject line: just saw harvey millk. after i got past my shock that she had just seen the movie, i read the email…and was crying by the end. this friend has been alongside me for much of my journey of being outed and coming out, processing things with my faith and how the church i was serving at the time treated me, so when i read what turned into an apology, i was a bit surprised. here’s the email:

Yes, in the middle of the day I watched harvey milk on demand. Watching
movies in the middle of a weekday is rare and slightly embarrassing, but I
did it today. Wow. What a moving story.

I remember anita bryant. I was young enough that I only vaguely understood
the word gay. I didn’t get the political/cultural conflict surrounding it
at all. I remember sitting with friends at the a&w down the street and we
were talking about her and giving our opinions on the issue. I said I didn’t
think being gay was bad, that she should let people alone.

I hadn’t remembered that for a long time. Seeing all that footage of anita
bryant, hearing her words, the religious right, wow. What a line that was
drawn in the sand.

sometime in the future I got the gist of what gay meant in my world and
realized that my opinion was unacceptable, even shameful. I stopped talking
about it. In fact, I just let it be. I didn’t think it through for myself.
Of course I was a kid, but I did grow up and it took until I was at least 30
to even begin to think about it in any meaningful way.

I feel the need to apologize for being part of that world of oppression, for
being on that side of the line in the sand, even if I was an inactive part.
So how about if I represent the side who in ignorance, laziness and fear
either sat on our hands or actively caused pain to others. And how about if
you represent the people whose rights are somehow more negotiable than
others rights. I’m sorry, alex. You’ve been wronged. I’m sorry.

Watching this movie today and recalling my life while all this was
happening, seeing prop 6 footage and recalling prop 8…i feel grief and I
also feel joy. I’m sad for my insensitivity and ignorance in the past. I’m
grateful that I’m on the other side of the line today. I’m sad that there’s
still a fight but glad that there’s been some important movement
politically, culturally.

I’m just all veclempt (no idea how to spell that :o)

I love you friend alex,

i think you can probably understand why i was in tears, but how powerful is that statement? how often have we in the church sat on our hands on other issues, not just the issue of lgbt rights in society and the church, but on issues of poverty, injustice, war, and other discrimination? i know for my friend she never wanted for the Church to treat other children of God in this manner, but she apologized anyway. in similar fashion, missiongathering apologized after prop 8 on behalf of the Christian community even though we ourselves fought against this legislation.

it is time that all people of faith, whether we have been actively involved in the oppression or not, to stand up for the message of grace, love, and acceptance for all people. at what point do we allow our hearts to recognize the hurts that we have inflicted on others – through direct action as well as inaction? how then do we patch those wounds? how can we bring about change? by hearing and sharing stories with those around us from all walks of life. and not just hearing the stories, but listening…entering into the stories, the pain, the passion of other human beings. in them we find pieces of ourselves and glimpses of the face of God.

thank you, friend, for your heart, your friendship, your love, your ear, your shoulder…and for your apology. love you… ~aroll


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