Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Podcast on The Theology of Battlestar Galactica

I had never watched Battlestar Galactica until now. I've still only watched through the first season at this point, so no spoilers, please! But my friend John Weldy already had me convinced to start watching it at some point. And then another friend, Chuck McKnight realized that there seemed to be a lot of us who really like theology and science fiction and fantasy, so he started a new facebook group: Theology, Science Fiction and Fantasy And when John suggested we watch BSG as a group and have a few of us discuss it on his podcast, I said sure. Why not? Sounds fun! 

We recorded our first episode on Saturday night. It covers the miniseries and season one, so if you haven't watched those episodes yet, you probably want to do that first to avoid spoilers!

We plan to record six more episodes over the next several months as we watch the rest of the show. Out of the four of us on the podcast, I'm the only one who is watching the series for the first time.

Some of the questions we talk about are:

When man can create life in his image, how does this affect theology?
Do Cylons have souls?
How is Battlestar Galactica influenced by Mormonism?
Is Cylon theology essentially Calvinism?
Who are the fundamentalists and who are the mystics in the show?

Listen to this episode here.

(Subscribe on iTunes)


A couple of interesting quotes from the miniseries:
“The Cylon War is long over, yet we must not forget the reasons why so many sacrificed so much in the cause of freedom. The cost of wearing the uniform can be high ... [after looking at crowd] but sometimes it's too high. You know, when we fought the Cylons, we did it to save ourselves from extinction. But we never answered the question, why? Why are we as a people worth saving? We still commit murder because of greed, spite, jealousy. And we still visit all of our sins upon our children. We refuse to accept the responsibility for anything that we've done. Like we did with the Cylons. We decided to play God, create life. When that life turned against us, we comforted ourselves in the knowledge that it really wasn't our fault, not really. You cannot play God then wash your hands of the things that you've created. Sooner or later, the day comes when you can't hide from the things that you've done anymore.” - Adama, decommissioning of the BSG
Leoben: "Maybe the Cylons are God’s retribution for our many sins. What if God decided he made a mistake, and he decided to give souls to another creature, like the Cylons?"
Adama: "God didn’t create the Cylons, man did. And I’m pretty sure we didn’t include a soul, in the programming."

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Book Review: The Very Worst Missionary: A Memoir or Whatever by Jamie Wright

The Very Worst Missionary: A Memoir or Whatever by Jamie Wright
Paperback, 240 pages
Published April 3, 2018 by Convergent Books

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Basically, I loved it.

I first stumbled across Jamie Wright's blog in March of 2011. I immediately loved her writing, her stories, and her perspective.

If you are offended by "profanity", this might not be the book for you. (However, as one of the reviewers on Amazon said "if you are a Christian and have watched a rated R movie recently, you can handle this book. And you should." - which made me laugh, but it's also a valid point!)

Jamie's memoir is hilarious, but also honest. I think she is asking good questions and pointing out things that need to be brought into the light regarding short-term missions and the Missionary Machine in general.

I listened to the audiobook, narrated by Madeleine Lambert, and I didn't want to stop listening. It's just under 5 hours and I could have kept listening for 5 more. I hope Jamie writes more books in the future. (By the way, if you tend to buy books on Kindle, and you buy this one on Kindle, you can add on the audiobook for $7.47, which is what I did.)

One of the many parts that resonated with me was when Jamie was talking about reading through some awful book with the church ladies and it was saying ridiculously wrong stuff about how medication and professional therapy are not the answer for clinical depression, and how a man should have strict authority over his wife, and they got to a part about the importance of "quiet time" and how "you can sleep when you're dead". So the leader was admonishing these young sleep-deprived mothers to forgo even more sleep so they could have their precious "quiet time" in the morning. And Jamie finally lost it on them. (I was cheering for Jamie. :-D) Here is part of what she wrote in response to the legalistic idea of a mandatory "quiet time":

“I don’t think that’s how it works. I really don’t. I think God is with us. Like, day in and day out, in the chaos and the noise and the silliness of life, He is there. The God of your precious, untouchable ‘quiet time’ is a present witness to our nonstop lives, never absent for the clamor of our kids’ laughter, their squeals, their skinned knees, their fussing and whining and raging fits in the Target parking lot. God is not withholding Himself from us, waiting for us to come to Him in the wee hours of the morning as a measure of our devotion!" (82)

Other favorite quotes:

"Lies hide us, secrets isolate us, partial truths confine us, but through the most blatant and bare honesty we are fully known, genuinely connected, and utterly freed." (xv)

"Our lives unfold in ways that are both plain and mysterious, because God’s equipping is practical, but His redemption is magical." (187)

"I am certain of only two things. The first is that when Jesus told me to love my neighbor, I’m pretty sure he meant, like, my actual neighbor—the person or people nearest to me at any given moment. At home. At work. On the subway. In the supermarket. On a street corner. Y’know, neighbors. And the second thing is this: The only way to know how to truly love your neighbor is to truly know your neighbor." (207)

"Many of us have been hurt by the church, but to be redeemed by God is to understand that, though you have been wounded, you don’t have to keep bleeding. You are redeemed. Now you can see. Now you can stand. To trust God is to stretch out your hand." (211)

"To bring light and hope, you and I must show up for life in our homes, in our neighborhoods, in our workplaces, and in our schools not as “missionaries” and self-proclaimed blessings but as imperfect parents, genuine friends, competent professionals, and messy people. We must show up as safe havens, not as mini saviors. We must bravely show up in our everyday lives to do our best with what we have, listening carefully, serving sensibly, and loving fully as active participants in the story of who God is and what God does." (211)

Official blurb:

"Wildly popular blogger "Jamie the Very Worst Missionary" delivers a searing, offbeat, often hilarious memoir of spiritual disintegration and re-formation.

As a quirky Jewish kid and promiscuous punk@$$ teen, Jamie Wright never imagines becoming a Christian, let alone a Christian missionary. She is barely an adult when the trials of motherhood and marriage put her on an unexpected collision course with Jesus. After finding her faith at a suburban megachurch, Jamie trades in the easy life on the cul-de-sac for the green fields of Costa Rica. There, along with her family, she earnestly hopes to serve God and change lives. But faced with a yawning culture gap and persistent shortcomings in herself and her fellow workers, she soon loses confidence in the missionary enterprise and falls into a funk of cynicism and despair.

Nearly paralyzed by depression, yet still wanting to make a difference, she decides to tell the whole, disenchanted truth: Missionaries suck and our work makes no sense at all! From her sofa in Central America, she launches a renegade blog, Jamie the Very Worst Missionary, and against all odds wins a large and passionate following. Which leads her to see that maybe a "bad" missionary--awkward, doubtful, and vocal—is exactly what the world and the throngs of American do-gooders need."

The Very Worst Missionary Purchase Links: PaperbackKindle Edition, Audible Audiobook

View all my book reviews

Saturday, April 07, 2018

Fundamentalism and Biblical Literalism

Image by David Hayward at

Part of my homework assignment this week for one of my seminary classes was to answer this question:

What is the connection between biblical literalism and fundamentalism?  Do you consider yourself a fundamentalist in the classic and best sense? 

Here is my response:

The fundamentalist movement started in the early 1920’s (in the USA) as a response (backlash) to liberal theology that had been arguing for a non-literal, non-miraculous interpretation of Jesus’ life (Wood 27-28). The fundamentalist overcorrection was to interpret the Bible as literally as possible, emphasizing “the plain meaning of the text”, as if there is such a thing. Fundamentalists created a house of cards kind of faith where if you take one card out, literal six-day creation, for example, the whole thing falls down. If it’s not all literally true than none of it is.

Do you consider yourself a fundamentalist in the classic and best sense? 

I take this part of the question to be referring to the five fundamentals of the faith mentioned on page 28: the verbal inspiration of Scripture, the virgin birth, the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ, the bodily resurrection of Jesus, and the imminent and visible second coming. But even with that, I am wary of what is meant by verbal inspiration. I assume it means “verbal plenary inspiration”, and while I certainly affirm that the Bible is inspired by God, I do not believe that God dictated every word that was written down. Dynamic inspiration, as mentioned on page 36, is closer to my view. I also have a wider view of the atonement than the penal substitutionary theory. So no, I do not consider myself a fundamentalist, even in the classic and best sense. Nor do I think that word is even helpful at this point unless we are using it to be synonymous with biblical literalists, none of which describes me. I’ve seen the idea in a couple different places now of taking the Bible seriously, not always literally. I also advocate for reading the Bible literarily, that is to say, according to the genre and literary conventions. Notice the metaphors and poetic language. Don’t try to make Genesis 1 into a history text or a science text when it is a poem.

(The text I refer to is Theology as History and Hermeneutics by Laurence W. Wood)

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Top Ten Books that Surprised Me

Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Surprised Me

1. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky - I read this back in 2011 and I was not expecting to love it. I was expecting it to be difficult to wade through, but instead, I was caught up in the murder mystery and deeply moved by the theological and philosophical discussions.

2. Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry - I read this one in 2013 and I was surprised by how much I loved it. It's outside of my favorite genres. From what I can remember it was rather slow-paced, but I know that I loved it. I suppose I need to re-read it and see if I still do.

3. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman - I'm pretty sure this was the first book I read by Neil Gaiman, and I didn't know what to expect, and I did not expect to enjoy it as much as I did.

4. The Percy Jackson and the Olympians Series (5 books) - I discovered these books in 2011 when a friend sent them to me in a care package while I was living in Mexico. And again, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed them, especially considering their intended target audience was a middle school age boy.

5. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green - read in 2013. I was hesitant to read this because I usually don't like to read books where I basically know that one of the characters is going to die. I mean come on, it's the cliche kid with cancer story, right? Except it's more than that. Here is what I wrote on Goodreads right after I read it: "Just read it. Seriously. You will laugh and you will probably get teary eyed at the very least. It is worth it."

6. Rysa Walker’s Timebound trilogy (The Chronos Files) - I found this through Kindle Unlimited and so I didn't have super high expectations, but it was a delight!

7. Dark Matter by Blake Crouch - This one came highly recommended but I was still surprised by how much I enjoyed it. It is a sci-fi thriller that plays with the idea of the multi-verse and a big twist.

8. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, (Audiobook Narrated by Wil Wheaton) - I don't really remember how this first landed on my radar, but I loved it so much that it surely exceeded my expectations.

9. Off to Be the Wizard (Magic 2.0 #1) by Scott Meyer - this was another series I found on Kindle Unlimited that I really enjoyed.

10.  Heirs of Grace by Tim Pratt - A fun fantasy story featuring a magical house full of magical things, and a strong female leading character. (also discovered through Kindle Unlimited)

Monday, March 05, 2018

Finding God in the Waves by Mike McHargue (Theology Book Club - March 2018)

As you may know by now, at the end of 2017 I started an online Theology Book Club by creating a Facebook group and inviting people I thought might be interested. This group is intended to be a safe space to discuss books and theology from more of a "Progressive Christian" point of view.

This month we will be reading and discussing Finding God in the Waves by Mike McHargue (aka Science Mike on Twitter).

Blurb from Amazon:
From the host of the popular podcasts, The Liturgists Podcast and Ask Science Mike, a story of having faith, losing it, and finding it again through science—revealing how the latest in neuroscience, physics, and biology help us understand God, faith, and ourselves.

Mike McHargue understands the pain of unraveling belief. In Finding God in the Waves, Mike tells the story of how his Evangelical faith dissolved into atheism as he studied the Bible, a crisis that threatened his identity, his friendships, and even his marriage. Years later, Mike was standing on the shores of the Pacific Ocean when a bewildering, seemingly mystical moment motivated him to take another look. But this time, it wasn't theology or scripture that led him back to God—it was science.

Full of insights about the universe, as well as deeply personal reflections on our desire for certainty and meaning, Finding God in the Waves is a vital exploration of the possibility for knowing God in an age of reason, and a signpost for where the practice of faith is headed in a secular age. Among other revelations, we learn what brain scans reveal about what happens when we pray; how fundamentalism affects the psyche; and how God is revealed not only in scripture, but in the night sky, in subatomic particles, and in us.

​If you would like to join the Facebook Group and join the discussion you can click here to email me. Or submit this contact form below:

Thursday, March 01, 2018

What I'm Into (February 2018)

These are basically my favorite shows that are currently airing plus one I'm really excited about that is premiering soon!

I came down with the Flu (type B) on Friday, February 9. 😓 I didn't know I had the Flu until Sunday, the 11th. And I didn't go back to work until Friday the 16th. So I slept a lot and watched a lot of TV that week! I binge watched all of season 5 of Will and Grace, caught up on Supergirl and The Flash, and watched the final two episodes of Star Trek: Discover, which were AWESOME! I LOVE that show!

There weren't many new episodes airing during the Olymics, and I didn't watch the Olympics. But this week I watched the first two episodes of the new season of The Voice because I freakin' love Kelly Clarkson! And oh my word, the judges were cracking me up! I have a feeling I will at least watch all of the blind auditions this season and I might even keep watching after that, which would be a first!

I'm also starting to watch Battlestar Galactica (2004) for the first time. I'm sure I'll be telling you more about that later...

Oh, and I've watched two episodes of Black Mirror:
S1E3: The Entire History of You
Set in an alternative reality where everyone has access to a system which records everything they do, see or hear. You need never forget a face, a holiday or a night out again... but is that always a good thing?

S3E1: Nosedive
Insecure office worker Lacie lives in a happy, smiley, status-obsessed nightmare world. Her old friend Naomi is one of society’s elites, and Lacie may have found a way to join her…

I know there are some episodes I don't want to watch, but I think there are several more that I do. (S4E1: USS Callister; S2E1: Be Right Back; S3E4: San Junipero; S3E2: Playtest;)

Other shows I want to watch
I want to watch David Letterman's show on Netflix: My Next Guess Needs No Introduction! First President Obama, then George Clooney.

I also still want to go back and finish watching The Good Place season one. I watched the first three episodes, and I liked them a lot, but I just haven't gotten back to it yet.

Eventually I still want to check out Black Lightning (the newest superhero show on the CW). But that might not happen anytime soon. I think I would be more inclined to watch it if it were set in the Arrow-verse the way the other four shows are. But I don't know anything about this superhero, so maybe it just wouldn't make sense to connect him to the others? I don't know.

There is a new show called Krypton that I want to check out though. The first episode will air on March 21 on SyFy. Krypton will focus on "the untold story of Superman's grandfather as he fights for justice on his home planet." (Please be good! Please be good!)

I've also been told that I need to watch The Orville, and I probably will... eventually...

And finally, there is a new show called "Rise" premiering on March 13 on NBC that I'm looking forward to. When I watched the preview it reminded me A LOT of Glee, but I loved Glee, so I'm fine with that, lol!

Read and Reading 

Finished in February:
Currently Reading:
Connect with me on Goodreads to see what I am currently reading and keep track of the books you are reading, have read, and want to read: Jennifer's Goodreads Profile

These are the movies I have watched in February:

I've actually seen Black Panther twice already in the theater, because it is THAT AWESOME! (Seriously, go see it!)


I have STILL been obsessed with the soundtrack to The Greatest Showman ever since I saw the movie the first time on December 29!

Here are some of the videos I've loved related to this over the past month:

'The Greatest Showman' Star Keala singing "This is Me" on Ellen

The Greatest Showman A Cappella Mashup by BYU Vocal Point and Friends

Rewrite The Stars (Piano/Cello/Violin Cover) by The Piano Guys

Kaela Settle performing "This Is Me" on The Graham Norton Show


As always I am ridiculously behind on all of the podcasts I want to listen to... but I did manage to listen to a few semi-recent episodes of The Bible for Normal People by Peter Enns and Jared Byas:

I also managed to listen to the recent two part episode from The Liturgists:

I have also had the opportunity to be a panelist on several episodes of John Weldy's Reclaiming Christianity podcast.

Most recently I was on the episode on "Women and Evangelicalism". John Weldy, Tiffany Earle, and I discuss the relationship between women and evangelicalism through the lens of Deborah Jian Lee’s Rescuing Jesus. How have women been shaped by evangelicalism? Why is there such a disparity in gender equality? What is the effect of purity culture? And how can we address these issues? You can listen to it by clicking here.

You can check out the other podcasts related to the Theology Book Club by clicking here.

Theology Book Club:
Back in November I started an online Theology Book Club where we can read and discuss books like those listed below:

This was/is the schedule thus far:
December: What is the Bible? by Rob Bell
January: Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God by Brian Zahnd
February: Rescuing Jesus: How People of Color, Women, and Queer Christians are Reclaiming Evangelicalism by Deborah Jian Lee
March: Finding God in the Waves: How I Lost My Faith and Found it Again Through Science by Mike McHargue
April: The Bible Tells Me So by Peter Enns
May: Why I Left, Why I Stayed: Conversations on Christianity Between an Evangelical Father and His Humanist Son by Tony Campolo and‎ Bart Campolo
June: Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church by Rachel Held Evans
July: Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again by Rachel Held Evans
(I am REALLY excited to read Rachel's new book!)

If those books sound like your cup of tea and you would like to join the Facebook Group you can click here to email me. Or click over to the Theology Book Club page and fill out the contact form at the bottom. In addition to the online discussion within the group, we also have monthly (and weekly for those who are interested) chats where people can participate by talking over the voice channel (using Discord), or they can choose to just listen and engage via text if they so wish.

You can follow me on Instagram @jenniferneyhart.

Here are my two favorites from the past month:

On the Blog

This post is linked up with What I'm Into at Leigh Kramer.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Top Ten Books I Could Re-read Forever

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Could Re-read Forever

(This is more like 35 books because it's mostly a bunch of series of books.)

1. The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis
2. The Space Trilogy (Ransom Trilogy) by C. S. Lewis
3. A Wrinkle in Time and the rest of the Time Quintet by Madeleine L'Engle
4. The Great Divorce by C. S. Lewis
5. King Lesserlight's Crown: A Children's Story for Grownups, Too by Charlie W. Starr
6. The Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling
7. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series by Douglas Adams
8. The Weight of Glory by C. S. Lewis
9. The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien
10. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

And when I say I could re-read these forever, I'm telling you that I actually re-read these books every 2 or 3 years at least! No wonder my TBR pile never shrinks! There are always new books to read but I can't stop returning to these!

But I am in good company. C. S. Lewis wrote the following about the merits and wisdom of re-reading in On Stories: And Other Essays on Literature
"An unliterary man may be defined as one who reads books once only. There is hope for a man who has never read Malory or Boswell or Tristram Shandy or Shakespeare’s Sonnets: but what can you do with a man who says he ‘has read’ them, meaning he has read them once, and thinks that this settles the matter? [...]
We do not enjoy a story fully at the first reading. Not till the curiosity, the sheer narrative lust, has been given its sop and laid asleep, are we at leisure to savour the real beauties. Till then, it is like wasting great wine on a ravenous natural thirst which merely wants cold wetness. The children understand this well when they ask for the same story over and over again, and in the same words. They want to have again the ‘surprise’ of discovering that what seemed Little-Red-Riding-Hood’s grandmother is really the wolf. It is better when you know it is coming: free from the shock of actual surprise you can attend better to the intrinsic surprisingness of the peripeteia.” - C. S. Lewis