Eugene Cho

i’m a sinister megalomania and another review

The infamous Dan Savage, the author of our church “review” in the recent Stranger article referenced this blog on the Stranger’s blog and bam – a spike in traffic and some interesting comments on their site. Here’s several for your reading pleasure:

[1]  I wouldn’t really call your 30 churches piece journalistic. It was more just “let’s make fun of christians”. 90% of your writers missed the point of church in the first place. I mean it’s understandable. Who doesn’t like a good church bashing from time to time. It’s so easy. Perhaps an intellectually challenging approach would have been a search for why these churches are either growing (the mega’s), or dwindling. and intellectual is actually why I have been an avid Stranger reader for 10 yrs. [merktuttle]

[2] In his review of Quest Church, Dan Savage mentions Jim Jones and David Koresh. Unfortunately — because of horrific tragedies like these — I always look at any new religious movements with suspicion. So, no matter how normal and hip and kind someone like Eugene Cho seems, I think: “Okay, where’s the dark side?” Maybe I’m pessimistic. But I just feel like people are too f%$##d up, in general, to do something like start a church — if they don’t have a deep and sinister megalomania. But maybe not. Maybe Eugene Cho and Quest Church are just good, spiritual people. [paul]

[3] In reflection I don’t think that Mr. Cho necessarily has a good sense of humor. I suspect the pastor thinks Dan Savage was joking when he described the music as insipid, the sanctuary as homely, the prayer position as a “double armed fascist salute”, or the church as a “Mars Hill wannabee”. But he wasn’t. His phrases were glib but I’d guess honest. Mr. Cho finds these things hilarious.  I do think that “establish rapport with edgy urban media” is on Mr. Cho’s marketing to-do list. Mars Hill had the Paradox venue as its subtle youth outreach. Quest has it’s Q Cafe and, now possibly, the Stranger. [dirge]

[4] It is possible for Christians to exist outside of your preconceived ideas. There are actually churches and pastors out there who don’t insist that you agree with them on everything. You can actually explore spirituality and journey alongside others who are doing the same. I would be the first to acknowledge that I don’t want to be associated with the vast majority of Christianity, but Eugene is the real deal. [dean]

Well, I’m sure Dan Savage wasn’t joking but I still thought the writing was hilarious.  Some of their stuff on the other churches were also pretty funny as well.  Every now and then, it’s nice to laugh at yourself.  “Deep and sinister megalomania?”  Yes, yes, yes…buhahahahah.  Did that sound sinister?

******************************

Well, couple folks that I know did take a little offense at the reviews.  C’mon, it’s not that “insipid” at Quest.  Is it?  I’m trying to imagine what Mr. Savage would have written if I was preaching for the usual hour that I normally do at the 5pm service.   I’m pretty certain he would have ripped my hand movements and gyrations.  Anyway, to give another perspective, I’m sharing a random review [from 10/06] from a Seattle dude that visits different churches and shares his reflections on his blog…the things that you find via Technorati

“…I made my way over the Fremont Bridge to Quest Church. Outside were a handful of twenty-somethings dressed about like I was: not formally, in the classic Sunday sense, but with flair, because maybe this was a place to be seen. And not by God. I stepped inside and this trend was confirmed. This was as much a hip spot as it was a place of worship. I chatted briefly with a pleasant young woman and meandered over to a seat. I was prepared for any number of things.

What came next was a much more intimate, and therefore honest variant of the rock concert format you will remember from Mars Hill. Imagine a Bright Eyes show at Neumos as opposed to Sufjan Stevens at the Paramount. The song leader was passionate, and there was a heartfelt acoustic quality to all of his selections that hit the right chord with me. OK, I thought, after this will come a little sermon that could go by the name of telling everyone what to think and do. This assumption was only reinforced by the text for study, printed on the front of their program, Exodus 34:10-17, which includes choice portions like: “Be careful not to make a treaty with those who live in the land where you are going” and “Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones and cut down their Asherah poles”, or my favorite, “Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.”

I respect pastor Eugene Cho (who has a blog, if you’re interested). One of the first things he emphatically proclaimed was to “understand context”. I was intrigued and surprised by the way he deemphasized the political/moral implications that a literal reading of the passage might encounter and looked much more closely at the notion of our place in a larger global/cultural context. He spoke of Quest (and the whole body of Christians, really) as a “missional” church, devoted to honoring God’s sending. For us, in our middle-class Seattle routines, there is a “danger of being rooted”, and God’s call is for a “freedom to move”. “Jesus would have a MySpace account,” he said, “I’m sure of it.” But not–he was quick to clarify–to shove a belief system down anyone’s throat. Like my dad, pastor Cho subscribes to a “Don’t force it” philosophy. The missional project of the church is to bring its values out into the larger community in a way that is complimentary to various cultures present within it.

What pastor Cho wanted to highlight in the text was love. That’s right, God’s message here in Exodus could be construed as a narrow-minded genocide against foreign cultures, but in this reading is an expression of His love in a context where the pressure to stray was great. Jealousy according to pastor Cho (and coincidentally the therapist whose book I have been reading) is an integral element of passionate devotion. The irrational, vigorous desire that we feel for a beloved is inflected by jealousy because it is all-encompassing, unyielding and uncontrollable. So God is looking for recognition.

Whether I agree with this interpretation or not, Cho’s focus on loving relationships and a respect for a multi-religious community that Christianity can operate within was refreshing. It was that much more refreshing as a call going out to a bunch of young people–many of whom probably grew up in less inclusive religious settings.

Reading the statement of faith that represents Quest and its congregation, I see parallels both with communities like Mars Hill and some of the emergent churches like COTA. I would be curious to hear more from pastor Cho and assess the direction their beliefs take these fellow pilgrims.”

Filed under: church, culture, emerging church, religion, seattle

13 Responses

  1. Jennifer says:

    LOL – Should we call you Pastor Megalomania now🙂

  2. Wayne Park says:

    insipid and homely – that’s gotta be some cynicism there. All joking aside, I just think they’re out to josh. The double-armed fascist salute? There’s no honesty in that! That’s just cynical! (and really really funny).

  3. daniel so says:

    Eugene,

    At least the commenter suggested your megalomania is deep — not the fake, shallow kind. After all, aren’t we all pursuing authenticity?😉

    Seriously though, it’s nice not to have take ourselves too seriously — even if some of these reviewers are being intentionally hurtful. I thought Pastor Ray’s response when you checked in with him (at least he’s not insipid) was great — I hope to develop such a thick skin and sense of humor one day…

    As far as being a MH wannabe — that Sunday must have been your big ultimate fighting night, right? :O

  4. e cho says:

    daniel: it’s true. i’m a sincere megalamonia. or rather, a person in the redemptive process in my megalomania.

    but then again, i really like the sound of “Minister Sinister.” yeah…that’s my new street name!

  5. gar says:

    You’re not a true megalomaniac until you start rocking a “Mao suit” and a small animal, preferably a cat. My evidence:

    Don’t forget to shave your head. hahaha.

  6. SD says:

    honestly eugene. i wished you had taken a few words to defend quest and your staff that work, sacrifice, and give so much to quest and the community. i was a little upset.

  7. Tracy says:

    Just maybe just maybe…we as Christians need to be meek and humble enough not to take comments like such personal nor find delight in mockery of them.

  8. e cho says:

    SD:
    hey, thanks for your comment.

    i love quest and the folks of our community. as a pastor, i see that one of my roles is to be a shepherd and protector. i take that very seriously.

    while the article wasn’t positive, i just didn’t see it worthwhile to “defend” quest. i read it as i thought it was intended to be read. the stranger went out, in my opinion, to write up some funny stuff about the local churches. strangely, i thought some of the commentaries were actually pretty spot on as well.

    i checked in with our staff to make sure they were all cool and on the most part, we all shared a laugh together.

  9. bolim says:

    Today in class we talked about book of Judges and I wrote on the board “Judges as a Satirical Critique of Israel.” We went on to read the comical stories of Ehud and Jael as Israel’s “great” saviors (I would add that the humor is very sarcastic and crass). I went on to make the point that I believe these stories teach Israel/the church two things: 1) We need to be able to laugh at ourselves; 2) We need to be able to receive criticism. I went on to mention this Stranger piece as perhaps an opportunity for churches to do just that.

  10. Wende says:

    If it’s any comfort… after reading the Stranger review, I’d be at your church regularly if I lived in Seattle. Dan’s writing is witty and oh so beautifully crafted. But he seemed to evoke the truth of your congregation–that you are growing and willing to be uncomfortable. Those are good things! As for the rest of the churches reviewed… I hope they can take a pause and reflect as you have.

    Now, if someone would just come to my sleepy little town and do the same review. We could use an injection of perspective!

    Wendelynn (Astoria, Oregon)

  11. TF says:

    Still wearing my Q Café shirt with pride brother – God bless!

  12. […] support, etc.  I’ve received my fair share of comments including my favorite ones of being a sinister megalamonia  or gracious as all f*#k.  But a recent blog entry really intriqued […]

  13. […] “You’re a sinister megalomania.” […]

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It appears I brought a little Seattle to the NYC. Drizzle fest. 24 hour gathering with a small group of leaders from around the country. Learning. Listening. Asking hard questions. Head exploding. Heart trying to have hope. As I soaked in this breathtaking sunrise this morning above the clouds, I felt compelled to pray for so my places in America and around the world that are experiencing such pain, heartache, injustice, and violence. At times, it feels so overwhelming but in prayer, I was reminded of these words from John 16:33. As we keep striving, working, hoping, preaching, loving, truthtelling, reconciling, repenting, forgiving, dismantling, peacemaking, Kingdom building...may we fix our eyes on Christ: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” - John 16:33 Grateful for a very full weekend of ministry and preaching in Toronto, Canada (GTA). Such a privilege to partner with @worldvisioncan @wvcollective to advocate for the most vulnerable around the world. God is so gracious. A true honor to meet and encourage local pastors, lecture at Tyndale University & Seminary (photo), and preach at Richmond Hills Community Church, Compass Point Bible Church, and New City Church. Thank you, Lord, that you use broken and imperfect people like me to speak of Your love. Today, Minhee and I dropped off our eldest child at her college. We have been thinking and praying about this day for many years. On some days, we hoped it would never come. On other days, we couldn't wait for it to come. On some days, we prayed for time to stop and other days, we prayed with anticipation. 
After an entire summer of laughing it off, it hit us...hard...this week. Seeing all of her stuff laid out on the basement floor was the catalyst to a load of emotions.

After unloading the car and taking her stuff to her new home for this year and mindful that she might never live with us again; helping sort out her stuff, saying hello to her roommates...I wasn't sure what to do or say.

A flood of thoughts rushed my mind.

Is she ready?
Have we done enough?
Have we taught her enough? 
What if this? What if that?

And so we shared what we have shared with her the moment she began to understand words: "Remember who you are. Remember WHO you belong to. Remember what you're about. God loves you so much. Please hold God's Word and His promises close and dear to your heart. We love you so much and we are so proud of you." And with that, we said goodbye. Even if she may not be thousands of miles away, this is a new chapter for her and even for us. I kept it composed. Her roommate was staring at me. I didn't want to be that father. I have street cred to uphold. Another final hug. 
And I came home.
And I wept.
Forget my street cred.
I miss her. I love her.
She will always be my little baby.

I'm no parenting guru. I just laughed as I wrote that line. No, I'm stumbling and bumbling along but I'd love to share an ephiphany I learned not that long ago. Coming to this realization was incredibly painful but simultaneously, liberating. To be honest, it was the ultimate game-changer in my understanding as a parent seeking after the heart of God.

While there are many methods, tools, philosophies, and biblical principles to parenting, there is – in my opinion – only one purpose or destination.

Our purpose as parents is to eventually…release them. Send forth. For His glory. Met a friend and fellow pastor who I haven't seen in over 20 years. In him, I saw a glimpse of my future. While only 10 years older, his kids are married and he's now a grandfather of 3. His love for his wife and family were so evident and his passion for the Gospel has not wavered. It was so good to see someone a bit older still passionately serving the Lord with such joy and faithfulness. Lord, help me to keep running the race for your Glory. Happy wife.
Happy life. - Eugenius 3:16

I still remember that time, many years ago, when Minhee was pregnant with our first child. She had left her family and friends in Korea just two years before. Her morning sickness was horrible and when she finally had an appetite, she craved her favorite Korean food from certain restaurants in her neighborhood in Seoul, Korea. I had no way of getting that food from those restaurants so I actually said, "How about a Whopper? Big Mac?" Sorry honey. Eat away. You deserve it.

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