Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Ask a Fisher, Soak Your Brain
When theists such as myself engage in conversation with sectarian atheists, we learn nothing new about ourselves or the world around us. We are introduced to no new ideas or new perspectives, only to contradiction.[via slacktivist, emphasis mine]
But conversation with a true freethinker is always challenging and rewarding. It requires me to interact with a different perspective, with someone whose thinking is not proscribed by all of the same premises and presuppositions I bring to the table. That's invaluable, not just for insight into their perspective(s), but into my own. If you want to know what water is like, don't ask a fish.
In other words, we need to listen to each other. Each. Other. None of us is smart enough, big enough or old enough to have seen and thought of everything, to have settled or dismissed everything. And none of us is so fully self-aware that we can't benefit from listening to someone who's not swimming in the same water we spend our lives in.
This same don't-ask-a-fish principle is part of why we Christians emphasize the importance of cross-cultural fellowship and ministry. Culture, like religious faith, provides a host of premises and presuppositions, many of which might be held unaware or unexamined. Sorting the presuppositions of culture from the tenets of faith can be a tricky thing. Tricky but important, because we don't want to elevate something we've simply absorbed as a cultural more to the level of religious or ethical dogma.
Monday, January 29, 2007
I think we all find this true of ourselves. Our secrets are turned against us. I am not talking primarily about our secret sins. I am referring to the things we believe, value, wish, desire and hope. If we spoke these things it would be like declaring to the world how far short we have fallen, how far away we are from the land to which he had hoped to travel. These things spoken then turn to taunt us. Often we are cowards who do not have the courage to live out of God-given abilities to see possibilities and then pursue them.[via From My Heart, Out Of My Mind]
And so we watch life, see and do the ordinary - but keep our mouths shut about how we wanted (and want) it to be. We will talk, but not about hope. We will reveal but not about wishes. We will turn our conversation to the things here and now but not to the “what if’s” and the “maybe’s.”
I hope you can tell someone your secret. There is probably someone(s) who would want to help.
Friday, January 26, 2007
Marking Your Existence
There are sort of four properties and one key practice that are fundamentally different online. The key practice is that you have to write yourself into being. To a certain degree we do this offline as well, whereby you have a body that you're working with that you then accessorize to hell. Online you don't have a body, you don't have a presence, you don't have anything that sort of marks your existence.[via AlterNet, HT: Mainstream Baptist]
There are four functions that are sort of the key architecture of online publics and key structures of mediated environments that are generally not part of the offline world. And those are persistence, searchability, replicability, and invisible audiences. Persistence -- what you say sticks around. Searchability -- my mother would have loved the ability to sort of magically scream into the ether to figure out where I was when I'd gone off to hang out with my friends. She couldn't, thank God. But today when kids are hanging out online because they've written [themselves] into being online, they become very searchable. Replicability -- you have a conversation with your friends, and this can be copied and pasted into your Live Journal and you get into a tiff. That creates an amazing amount of "uh ohs" when you add it to persistence. And finally, invisible audiences. In unmediated environment, you can look around and have an understanding of who can possibly overhear you. You adjust what you're saying to the reactions of those people. You figure out what is appropriate to say, you understand the social context. But when we're dealing with mediated environments, we have no way of gauging who might hear or see us, not only because we can't tell whose presence is lurking at the moment, but because of persistence and searchability.
Code of Confusion?
In his annual State of the Union address last night, President Bush did not let the absence of former chief speechwriter and Wheaton College graduate Michael Gerson keep him from talking about religion. Bush has been accused of allowing Gerson to slip in “code words” and phrases that allow him to secretly pander to America’s religious right, but this time Bush’s religiously oriented words caught the attention of a different audience.[via GetReligion]
In the 5,700-word speech, Bush refers to Shia and Sunni Islam ten times. It made up a substantial port of the speech’s foreign policy section and further outlined his administration’s view of Islam extremism. In other words, it was a rather significant policy statement at one of the highest-profile events of the year.
During his State of the Union speech, President Bush and I both got a bit lost in the details of his domestic policy initiatives. Fortunately, WhiteHouse.gov offers a handy summary in language so simple that even a president can understand. So let's look at that "Twenty in Ten" energy proposal.[via slacktivist]
The purported goal is to reduce America's gasoline consumption by 20 percent in 10 years. That sounds ambitious until you realize that Blade Runner is set in 2019, which is only 12 years from now, and hybrid SUVs don't sound quite as impressive when compared with replicants and flying billboards advertising the off-world colonies....
Despite his stated goal -- consuming less gasoline -- the president can't seem to imagine the more obvious, more direct approach to this goal, i.e. driving less. Which makes this whole proposal sound like one of those weight-loss pill ads that promises results without diet or exercise.
If Bush really wanted to achieve a "20 in 10" reduction in gasoline consumption, he should recommit to fixing our urban schools. The dismal reality of these schools -- and the even more dismal perception of them -- is one of the biggest obstacles to reducing America's massive gasoline consumption habit.
Let me step back and explain. To reduce consumption, we need to reduce the demand for consumption. That means changing the conditions that contribute to that demand.
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
Saturday, January 20, 2007
"There's a lot of prayers going unanswered here..."
Mr. Deity and the Evil: "Yeah, let's leave it in."
Mr. Deity and the Really Big Favour: "No, the health plan does not cover crucifixion!"
Mr. Deity and the Light: "Cool, until someone discovers applause!"
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
Monday, January 15, 2007
Idealism is a pernicious interloper in the kingdom of God. Abstract and enticing it is nourished with choice scripture, stroked by congratulatory remarks, and vigorously defended as the cure for all that is not what it ought to be (and there is a lot of that).[via The Philosophical Pastor]
Ought is the distance between what is, and the Ideal that is not. Hope, on the other hand, is the reality of goodness, present in what is. Idealism has no use for hope, therefore. It spoils the illusion.
The Hidden King
It is entirely fitting that we in the U.S.A. have a national holiday on the birthday of The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968), nonviolent warrior for justice and peace. Nevertheless, the WAY we celebrate Dr. King's legacy is usually disappointing: a day off from work for many, coupled with 30-second sound-bites of the 1963 "I Have a Dream" speech at the March on Washington--not even the whole speech and no context. Politicians congratulating themselves that "we have overcome" racism even while we are busy re-segregating our schools because housing patterns remain segregated (de facto, though no longer de jure) and busing is now taboo, and even while the race gap in wages is huge, and African-American and Latino children are now routinely fast-tracked from kindergarten to prison.[via Levellers, emphasis mine]
Our children have a distorted view of the Freedom Movement, believing that one day Rosa Parks sat down in a 'white' seat on a Montgomery Bus, the next day King gave the I Have a Dream Speech in D. C. and "poof"--segregation disappeared. The numerous campaigns and the struggles of thousands of ordinary people are thus masked. And Dr. King's increasingly radical economic views (calling himself a democratic socialist and working on a Poor People's Campaign that would unite all races to end poverty) and ever stronger opposition to the Vietnam War (which lost him the support of President Lyndon Baines Johnson and even many other civil rights leaders who thought he had no business speaking out on foreign policy), are also hidden.
The tragedy of this is that it is precisely the radical King of 1965-1968 whom we need to remember and look to for guidance today. This was the King who pointed out the connections between government-sponsored violence and the violence of city streets, and who saw the connections between the money spent on war and the money unavailable for economic justice here. This was the King who had to be silenced.
Friday, January 12, 2007
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
Features an interview of David James Duncan.
Also featuring: The NOAH Conference, Christianity Today's Personal Ads: Christians Seeking Churches, Looking for the Best Christian on TV, Why the Devil Wears Prada, CleanFlicks Presents: The Song of Solomon, Choose Your Own Doctrine Study Bible, The Apostle's Creed (2007 Version), How to Change Your Church Persona, Ask the Ecumenical, and more!
The Last Word talks about Remedial Wisdom 101.
Sunday, January 07, 2007
[HT: The Wittenburg Door]
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Howard Bowman
The Door News Service
CHRISTIAN CONGRESSMEN SWEAR ON PURPOSE DRIVEN LIFE
Washington D.C. (January 6, 2007) -- In a controversy that eerily mirrors the recent dispute over a congressman's use of the Koran, several Christian representatives have asked to be sworn in on the best-seller, The Purpose Driven Life.
"We were asked to use the most meaningful text in our life," said Rep. John T. McGruder of Colorado Springs, from his state's seventh district. “And, as far as I can see, my Pastor preaches more from Rick Warren than the Bible."
McGruder and Rep. James R. Newhell of Wheaton (R-Ill) both petitioned Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to be allowed to use the famous evangelical guidebook in the swearing in ceremony at the Capitol.
Reactions from other Congressman and public figures were mixed.
"I see no reason not to allow others to use their own books -- as long as ALLAH AKBAR!" shouted Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn). Rep. Ellison, who is a Muslim, had requested to use the Koran for his swearing in ceremony and is, apparently, the inspiration for the requests from Representatives McGruder and Newhell.
Well-known talk show host Dennis Prager was among those who roundly condemned Rep. Ellison’s request. Prager, who is Jewish, was also opposed to the use of The Purpose Driven Life.
"I don’t understand why a Christian wouldn’t use the Bible, especially an evangelical,” Prager asked rhetorically. “Do they think they've used up all the material there?"
Other evangelicals welcome the change.
"This open-mindedness is truly godly," said Lincoln Bradford, pastor and noted praise-song author. "I hope eventually they'll use more personally inspiring items – worship music CDs, Ron Dicianni paintings, the ‘Foot Prints in the Sand’ poem. This country and the modern church were founded on a christian’s right to have a personalized relationship with God – regardless of what’s in the Bible."
Implanted For Impact
We expect a lot from ourselves, and most times we let ourselves down with these grandiose ideas.[via Randall Friesen]
One of the reasons we disappoint ourselves is because we take too big a bite out of life. We want the change or the new discipline to happen now, right away. And we want it fully formed immediately. When it doesn’t happen that way we quickly loose hope. Then we go back to our old ways faster than you can say, “Please pass the white bread…”
....Most of these profound deep changes in our lives come as a result of small seed like changes we may make on a regular basis. Small choices made each day makes a lifetime of good choices. And changes.
So, if you were to plant some seeds in your life this year, seeds that will grow into big lifetime changes, what kinds of seeds would you plant?
Think that way, rather than the big change way. Plant some choice seeds this new year, and see what grows from them.
The question remains, what do you want to grow in your life? And what are the seeds that will grow that for you.
Tuesday, January 02, 2007
Down in History
This really is a new low. It's outrageous- an execution during Eid. Muslims all over the world (with the exception of Iran) are outraged. Eid is a time of peace, of putting aside quarrels and anger- at least for the duration of Eid.[via Baghdad Burning, HT: Jesus Politics]
This does not bode well for the coming year. No one imagined the madmen would actually do it during a religious holiday. It is religiously unacceptable and before, it was constitutionally illegal. We thought we'd at least get a few days of peace and some time to enjoy the Eid holiday, which coincides with the New Year this year. We've spent the first two days of a holy holiday watching bits and pieces of a sordid lynching....
It's one thing to have militias participating in killings. This is allegedly the democracy the Americans flaunt. Is this how bloodthirsty and frightening we've become? Is this what Iraq stands for now? Executions? I'm sure the rest of the Arab countries will be impressed.
One of the most advanced countries in the world did not help to reconstruct Iraq, they didn't even help produce a decent constitution. They did, however, contribute nicely to a kangaroo court and a lynching. A lynching shall go down in history as America's biggest accomplishment in Iraq. So who's next? Who hangs for the hundreds of thousands who've died as a direct result of this war and occupation?
Monday, January 01, 2007
What if 2006 was lemons ~ must one make lemonade? Is that recycling effort ultimately the best use of resources in all circumstances? What if the lemons were diseased, or unwholesome? Why not let them then decay into the ground, become dust, and till them under? Relinquish ...[via The Philosophical Pastor]
Indeed, the theme of 2006 for me was relinquishment: a thing I was at many points grateful to be called to do, finding myself knee-deep on occasion in lemons that would have made undrinkable lemonade, no matter how cleverly marketed, argued, or masked with more sugar.
A Better Story, A Fresh Start
Don Miller wrote this on his web site:[via Blessed Are the Poor In Spirit]
"In the new year, I’ve resolved to write a better story. By better story, I don’t mean the kind you write on paper, I mean the kind you write by walking and talking and breathing."(quoted here)