Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Made in China

China's Olympic Games began in Beijing in venues choked by smog and under the shadow of a crackdown on human rights and religious freedom.

The Chinese dazzled the world with an impressive and often intimidating opening night display of pageantry and technical flash.

Now millions of concerned Christians around the world are focused on China because of the Games and want to support believers there. But like the smog that cloaks the Beijing skyline, layers of cultural misperceptions, political biases and contradictory information conceal the actual status of the Chinese church from our view.

What's really going on with the church in China?

It's hard to tell what's real. At least that's been my experience. Maybe you'll do better at sorting it all out than I have. (The discovery that much of the Olympics fireworks display on opening night was computer-generated is perhaps emblematic of the problem).

The main issues first surfaced this year in the controversy over evangelizing at the Games. {continue...}
[via The Wittenburg Door]

Approaching Defeats

Before our morning Bible study some of us walk up to the local coffee shop, bypassing Starbucks. We're friends with the owners and the staff and we've been walking up there almost every day for a decade.

When Bill opens the place, he takes some time to banter with us, mostly making fun of our friend Gary. With nonstop Olympics coverage this week, Gary's been regaling us with stories of his glory days when he almost made the U.S. Olympic team in gymnastics in 1964.

Many of us have such stories-- the if-only tales of fame and success just out of reach.{continue...}
[via The Wittenburg Door]

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Not A Thing

It struck me recently that a lot of people think they know what’s wrong with this world, and it also struck me that they’re all wrong.

Seriously — almost every political and religious group, every opinionated person, every publication with an opinion, has said at one time or another what they think is wrong with this world.

Conservatives think that we’ve become a welfare state (giving too many handouts to the poor), while many liberals think we’ve allowed too much corporate welfare (and I tend to agree with this more — we give billions to corporations and much less to the poor and sick). Others think that abortion is the problem, others think it’s declining morals, others think it’s infidels, and others say it’s infidelity. Other things that are wrong with this world, depending on the group: the media, young people, environmentalists, McDonald’s, criminals, gays, black people, white people, foreigners overrunning our country, bigots, radicals, the Establishment, poor people, corporations, lazy people, evil people, Fox News, the Internet … the list could go on and on, obviously.

So what’s really wrong with the world, in my opinion?

Not a thing. {continue...}
[via Zen Habits, HT: Swinging from the Vine]

I am all for the institutions taking responsibility for reversing the injustices they have profited from. But the missing piece is “us”, not “them.” The real problem is that community cannot be created by direct deposit. The government cannot legislate away our selfishness and our fear of the “other.”
[via Under The Overpasses, HT: biscotti brain]

"We can talk on the phone as we eat fast food while using the ATM. Not only are we better at multitasking and becoming more productive and efficient, along with the increased pace, more is required of us. And so we hurtle through life faster and faster, becoming busier and busier. The result is that in our busyness we are becoming increasingly efficient at leading meaningless lives."
Don Whitney, professor, Midwestern Seminary [via]

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Painful, Humiliating Work

Imagine you are a filmmaker, an auteur who has just released a short film to the waiting public. Every image, every word was painstakingly chosen to convey a single message. This single-mindedness of theme is reflected in the tiniest details -- down to the style and coloring of every letter that appears onscreen. You edit and re-edit until every second, every frame reinforces this single theme. Your finished product is seamless, relentless, forceful and uncompromising.

Now imagine that after all that work, all that laborious craftsmanship, you find yourself forced to go before the public in order to deny that this single, unmistakable theme was the intent of your film. In interview after interview you are forced to lie again and again. "No," you say, "that's not what the film intended to convey, not at all."

Those interviews would be painful, humiliating work. Some part of you -- the craftsman, the artist -- might be secretly proud that your intended message had gotten through as clearly as you had hoped. That small part of you might feel rewarded and gratified to see your skills recognized. Yes! you'd be thinking, they got it. But at the same time, you'd be forced to deny that this was really the message of your film. You'd be forced to try to convince these astute viewers that you were, in fact, an ineffective and talentless filmmaker who had failed, miserably, to convey the "true message" of your film. It doesn't mean what it seems to mean, you would have to say. It means something else.

The scenario above is not hypothetical. It's happening now, in the real world, to real filmmakers. {continue...}
[via slactivist, also: Unsubtle]

and there's apparently an Election Shocker! via The Nation, HT: The Rambling Prophet 2

Saturday, August 02, 2008

The Psychology of The Dark Knight: Batman, superheroes, popular culture,art, Friederich Nietzsche, terrorism and the politics of George Bush
[via Encefalus]

In The Darkness, The Battle Wages

there is something very believable in the epic of the dark knight - misunderstood, flawed, torn between the desire to do right and the compelling race for the easy exit.

i feel a great affinity with the dark knight.

gone is the white knight, the hero in shining armor died with the 20th century. we do not relate any longer to the stainless, spotless hero who will not, nay cannot be tempted by the darkness that pervades our lives....

many of us can relate to the man in black. we are misunderstood... people believe they know our intentions and can understand our motivations, but they cannot. they jump to conclusions when they speak of us, believing we have given ourselves completely to the dark night. but they do not understand that it is in the darkness that the battle wages. gone are the days when we could encounter evil without getting our hands dirty... maybe we never could. some of us have marginal personalities, are socially inept, have made decisions that have castigated us, seemingly for all time.

we want to make a difference but are forced to wear a mask.
[via Scott Williams]