Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Pope's Christmas Wish--Peace

I would love for any reader of this blog to take a few minutes to read this article. As a guy who was led to believe that the Catholic Church was the Whore of Babylon, reading stuff like this is refreshing, and confirms that only research, an open mind, and guidance from the Holy Spirit should be involved in the formation of my own opinions.


The Pope called for courage in bringing peace to places like Congo, Darfur, and Iraq. The article states that, "He said he hoped Christmas would bring consolation to "those who are still denied their legitimate aspirations for a more secure existence, for health, education, stable employment, for fuller participation in civil and political responsibilities, free from oppression and protected from conditions that offend human dignity."
Peace at Christmas? That isn't so far fetched. The physician records that the angels geralding the birth of Christ said, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." Wasn't Christ reversing the fall of Adam, whose blunder resulted in strife, war, and murder (Cain and Abel, as Rob pointed out).

Not only that, but the Pope keeps the poor and the widows in his thoughts (and presumably, his prayers) and those who have been displaced by natural disasters resulting from "environmental upheavals."

The Pope seems very culturally relevant...very comapassionate...very...Christian.

What do you think?

Credit Card Nation

I was swindled into signing up for my first credit card by a used car salesman trying to sell me a Saab which I didn't quite have enough money for. I would pay for the bulk of the card in cash, the remainder being put on "credit" card.


I didn't buy the Saab. After a close examination by a friend, turns out the object of my affection had a bad head gasket. But I did keep the credit card, max it out, fall behind in my payments, and learn a valuable lesson. Fortunately that was 10 years ago and has disapeared from the ominous credit report.

One of the definitions among many for credit is "a positive balance remaining in a person's account." (American Heritage Dictionary). The definition demands "real" money.

I wish credit cards weren't called "credit cards," which is so misleading. I wish they were called, "high interest loan card," which, although literal and not as catchy, not only nails the idea on the head, but would deter material hungry Americans from entering into a lifetime of servitude to big banks, high blood pressure, and dicontent.


Friday, December 14, 2007

Global Warming Sells

Global Warming or Global Hoax? Maybe a bit of both? Who's to know…certainly not me; you didn’t see me walk the graduation line MIT. I can’t trust the media. For goodness sake NBC’s green week made me nearly puke--not because I was sickened that every show on one network had a green theme for a week, but because it was a manipulative marketing tactic. General Electric-- besides owning my copier lease at work, a ton of light bulbs, and half of God’s green earth--owns NBC.

In between all the eco friendly punch lines in the sitcoms were the concomitant advertisements for eco friendly products all manufactured by…you guessed it…General Electric.

Media aversion aside, I do care about the earth. It seems that the first biblical character, Adam, was charged with tending the creation, so I think I should too, whether or not I understand or accept as truth every scientific claim made by ex vice presidents. Thus said, a fellow blogger posted this link to a video, and it made me think. It's worth a few minutes of your time.

If there is one thing I would like any viewer, no matter what your stance is on the state of our natural environment, to take away from this clever clip, it is this: We, as a culture, spend too much money on temporal things when so many things with an eternal future (people) are in need of a helping hand.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Tagged

Sr. Anne of Nunblog has tagged me. I have never done one of these "random memes" as, Sr. Anne puts it, but it seems simple: I write down 8 interesting facts about myself (and I think I will choose 8 things not many friends of mine would readily assume) and then I choose 8 fellow bloggers to do the same. Why the term meme? I am GUESSING that a meme in the blogosphere is to show the similarities that exist between people. The tag should show a hyperlink trail (theoreitcaly) to the original tagger. A "meme" by the way, is a cultural trait that is reinforced (in an evolutionary sense) in a society by means of repetition, like, for example any aspect of fashion.

Anyway, I tag Sandra, Rob, Amanda, Nick, RC, Dave, Kenni B (get your blog up), and Angel (get your blog up). Without further ado:

1. I hold a deep disdain for TV but watch too much of it.
2. It takes me about 3 years to finish a book because I start reading many other books in the process.
3. The older I get, the more I like foods that used to make me vomit as a child...i.e. olives, squash, and mushrooms. Still waiting to see what happens with sweet potatoes, pork chops, and beets...yuck.
4. My wife thinks I am a horrible driver, but I think I am incredible...although it took me three attempts to pass my lisencing test. I feel the DMV officers were too rigid and unclear in their instructions to me.
5. I am a LOT LESS outgoing than I may seem. I need alone time to recharge my batteries on a near daily basis.
6. I love recording my own music with my guitar, synthesizer, and computer...but out of 50+ nice starts, I think I have only finished two songs in five years.
7. Sleep feels nice, but I usually dread going to sleep every night--not because I suffer from nightmares, but I would rather stay awake and just rest.
8. I love Jesus, the Bible, exegesis, theology, biblical languages, but sometimes (often) I have to drag myself to churchon Sunday.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Blog of Note

Occasionally I swing on by the Blogs of Note page just to see if there is anything worth reading. This feature of of Blogger is typical month in, month out. There is always the green blog of note warning against global warming, the hobby blog of note, exhibiting lanterns hand crafted out of used cigarette butts, and the philosophicalesque blog...which is the inspiration for this post.

Adventures of the Coconuter is the cliche deep thinking blog of the month. I checked it out just because of the name--as you all may or may not know, I am the owner and curator of an impressive coconut collection. The Coconuter is a journal of a young Texan's travels in the Philippines. Why would a young man fresh out of college go to the Philippines? To teach English? Visit family? Find a bride? Not this guy. The description of his blog underneath the title says it all:

The adventures of David "Coconuter" in his epic journey as a modern nomad in third-world Philippines in search of purpose and meaning to life encapsulated in an allegorical golden coconut. (emphasis mine)

After looking through the blog, and deciding not to donate to David's metaphysical conquest, I was left with my own question: Why do so many Americans' feel they have to travel to some exotic third-world or developing country to find the answers to life? God knows there are enough slums in David's native Texas that are comparable to parts of the Philippines--or i f that isn't gritty enough, Mexico has a lot of poverty to offer.

After reading a few of David's adventures I was reminded of the mass pilgrimage to Brownsville made by thousands of Christians in the late 1990's. Apparently (I never made the trek) a revival, a move of God with healings, signs, and wonders was moving in Brownsville. Plenty of folks made the journey to Florida, similar to David's journey to the Philippines, to find meaning to their faith. Did God exercise some cosmic favoritism over Brownsville, choosing that as the ONLY location in which he would touch his people? Is some southeast Asian Island the only place where one can find the meaning to life?

I would be willing to guess most nomads' trans-global quests for meaning are glorified excuses for a break from the normal, a change of scenery; a vacation.

As for David, if he is to find the meaning to life in a third world country, I think it would lie in somehow, if even in a small way, removing the adjective "third world" from "country." I hope that all of the donations aren't earmarked strictly for his and his friend's needs, and that a portion goes towards the needs of the third-world country in which he is a guest.

Back on the Wagon

Wow. Over a month since a post.
No excuses offered here...but I am going to make a noble attempt to blog a little more, for reasons as follows:
1. I like the interaction. Talking to folks I have never met, and probably never will meet is oddly comforting.
2. I tend to be oppinionated (even on topics of which I know very little) and I enjoy making my opions known (don't we all)?
3. Communication is the best education.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

What Happened to the American Church?

Not so long ago, when a person made a statement regarding the classification of their faith, it meant something. It said something about who they were and what they stood for, theologicaly that is. Social issues have always confused the Christian Church.

What I mean is, not that long ago if I said, "I am a Presbyterian," or, "I am a Methodist," or, "I am a Lutheran, Missouri Synod," I was making a poignant statement regarding my theology. But times have changed. Within denominations, liberal individuals are finding that they share more common ground with liberal individuals of other denominations, more so than the conservatives within their own denomination. Usually it is the social issues (gay marriage, abortion, global warming, politics, etc) that cause one to jump denominations, not the theological ones (although I would agree that there is half a degree of separation between theological and social issues).

What ends up happening, is that you have a parishoner filling the seat of a United Methodist church who leans Pro Choice but does not agree with the doctrine of total Sanctification. Or you have Joe Churchgoer sitting in an Episcopal church who wants to ordain gay bishops but does not agree with infant baptism as a functional sacrament. In both examples, the latter issue, the theological issue, the original defining doctrine that once carried such importance, takes a back seat to the social stumbling block of the day.

Perhaps postmodern ideals are the root cause--personal satisfaction is to be prized above all else. If that is the case, that this new scenario in Occidental Christianity is actually bringing unity through innerdenominational mingling, is nothing more than an illusion. The proof is in the pudding. Denominations are splitting and emerging as new denominations, fellowships, and "non-denominationals" faster than ever. Terms like Evangelical, Fundamentalist, conservative, Main-Line...they don't apply anymore.

Most of my friends who are ordained ministers of the Assemblies of God don't agree with all 16 fundamental doctrines. Neither do I...but that is why I am not ordained.

Now I know that it is improbable that a person agree with every jot and tittle of doctrine of a given group, but putting theology and doctrine on the shelf, the backbone to interpeting social issues, is just bad stewardship of the title "Christian."

Friday, October 26, 2007

Prisoner's Rights in a Ham Sandwich

In a "postmodern world," defining lines of every sort are blurring closer to oblivion every day. When the time is right we egocentric maniacs demand the very defining lines we disdain be redefined to suit our wants, to prove our points, and to damn the man. Two of these lines butted heads recently in UK's Leeds Prison.

In an apparent mix up at the maximum security prison Muslim inmates were accidentally served ham sandwiches during the month of Ramadan. Read the article for the details here. Sure it was in England, but the degree of separation from the U.S. is more marginal than you may think--similar stories are prevalent across the states.

I am all for religious freedom, the right to practice and observe, and the right to share one's beliefs in the public sphere, but where should the line be drawn when it comes to "prisoner's rights?" Should a prisoner (maximum security) be given privy over their fellow law-breakers? A woman down the street from me regularly sacrificed goats in her back yard per her religious right. Should she wind up behind bars should she be allowed to level here weight and sue the state for millions? Where do we draw the line? Certainly if I were imprisoned I would want to live out my beliefs as normally as possible; but at the same time, I hope my commitment to the morals embedded in my faith keep me out of the slammer.

Most Christians believe in Lex Talionis (an eye for an eye), as do I. However, most Christians who love to quote this scriptural reference with retributive menace are ignorant of the meaning. A Hebrew of the Old Testament would have known that this statement was less of a demand for tough punishment, but more of a demand for "prisoner's rights." For example, were I to break my neighbor's nose with a hammer, Lex Talionis is not there to ensure my feet are not dipped in a vat of sulfuric acid for justice's sake; rather, it states that it would be a travesty if my punishment resulted in anything worse than a crooked nose--the punishment shall not be greater than the crime.

So yes, prisoners rights are important, and intrinsic to the signature ethics of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. BUT, rights must be deprived for punishments sake. A prisoner of a maximum security prison losses his/her right to personal freedom. Where does the line exist in the consumption of pork for the Muslim prisoner? What would Lex Talionis have to say?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Russia, America, Iran, and...Jesus?

Apparently, Ronald Reagen was more of a fundamentalist than I had initially given him credit for. It is alleged that the actor-turned-president fostered quite the relationship with Jerry Falwell, a well known dispensationalist personality in 1980's. The relationship progressed into Reagan's buying into Falwell's eschatology, which stated that the battle of Armageddon was at hand including a critical skirmish with the Soviet Union. Thus, the arms race, the cold war, and neon leotards...ok, not the leotards. This is the theory put forth by Campolo who goes so far as to blame Falwell for the Cold War--a stern warning against the politics of religion, but perhaps Tony went too far.

Ancient history...right? Not quite. But we sure seem to have forgotten.

After Boris Yeltsin gave the preverbial boot to USSR-esque socialism in favor of a more American open-ended capitalism, Joe Shmoe American has decided to forget the silent superpower, especially recently. The imminent concern for upcoming elections, the war in Iraq, and Britney Spear's divorce and custody woes has certainly misdirrected our focus.

But what does the American/Russian relationship look like today? Just like it was before power was handed over to Vladmir Putin? I think not. The current ex-KJB president does tend to favor and revert back to older ideals but that is not the only correlation. It should be no surprise that relations are strained in light of the involvement of the US in the Middle East. It is common knowledge that Putin is sympathetic of what the US deems terrorist nations. As Putin and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad buddy-up, talk of partnerships involving transit, oil, and nuclear powerplants surface--definitely not music to the ears of the current administration.

Campolo suggests that the war in Iraq is fueled by dispensationalists who feel in order to hasten the return of Jesus Christ, Israel must be protected and sustained. According to this theory, (Zionism) post WWII US government was the tool of God in returning Jews to the Holy Land, and has been crucial in their sustenance to this day. Theorists like Campolo believe that Conservative, White, Upper Class Christians have wielded secret power to ensure this, and terrorist groups like those responsible for 911 attacks are fueled by this knowledge.

Whether this is true or not, relations with Russia are at stake. Recently Putin spoke out publicly against the US and its foriegn policy. He condemned America's action, reinforced his willingness to help expand Iran's nuclear capability, and issued a stern warning to the US that any attempt to grab Russia's wealth of fossil fuels was an idea equal to "political erotica."


There doesn't seem to be much difference between 1985 and 2007 besides the lack of interest in maintaining a cordial US/Russian relationship, both by American media and American citizens.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Caucus Schmaukus (and Ivan's book club)

First and foremost, Ivan's Book Club is finally here. I know, I know...I am almost as excited as you!

Having had the chance to thumb through the first beast to be sacrificed on the altar of my ego (Are We Rome?: The Fall of an Empire and the Fate of America), I must say excitement bubbled up inside of me at the thought of interacting with friends and fellow bloggers on an interesting and pertinent subject. The book, political in nature, has got my political juices flowing in the form of tonight's blog post:

I am sick of second best, personally--not in the materialistic sense of things, but in the sense of helpless political dependence. Don't get me wrong, the political freedom in America is to die for (in the global scheme of things). Shoot, with my taken-for-granted-citizenship in the bag, give me eight years (presidential candidates must be at least 35) and you might see me making a fool of myself with the best of them in Dearborn, MI too.

But unfortunately, a manipulated system forces me to vote for the lesser of two evils every four years. You see, every year the Democratic and Republicans National conventions nominate their best guy or gal for the coveted position. And let's face it, the prominent parties nominate the guy or gal with the biggest guns; that is, the one who they feel stands the best chance at defeating their opponent. And how do they do this?

In a presidential caucus (primary) voters make their mark for who they feel will best fill the office. This vote is taken directly to the national convention, right? Wrong. Realistically, depending on state law, your primary vote is actually "represented" to the convention by delegates. In fact, both major parties have provisions for "super delegates" chosen outside the primary system. Yep, representing you without your input.

Let's say Hilary Clinton stands the best for beating any republican, securing her a nomination. Millions of Democrats across the US who are in love with Obama will vote against their conscience for fear of seeing another republican in office. Vice-versa, it's possible that Giuliani will stand the best chance for beating Clinton. With the blessing of the Convention, he will receive a nominee and millions of Americans will vote against their morals. They know there is a better candidate, but the Convention has spoken. Since most Americans' vote reflects sole trust in the Convention (the party), with blind faith they will punch the Giuliani button. The supporters of other qualified candidates know this. Thus, in order to see Clinton anywhere but the white house, they vote for second best.

I have decided not to vote for second best this year. Hopefully I won't have to. Hopefully my conscience will match that of the majority of super delegates...but I doubt it. Bureaucratic casualty...count me out.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

A Church Without Walls...or a roof, or plumbing, or HVAC, or pews, or...

While the brainiacs behind the "emerging church" movement are quick to point out flaws, whether perceived or actual, in the Christian religious system, they are quick to supply an amalgam of solutions. Some good, some bad, some so intentionally outlandish, they are an embarrassment to pop culture.

I don't know what to think or say regarding Californian trend setter Cornerstone Church (Simi Valley, CA) and their Tierra Rejada Building Project. Details are available in the links provided. This progressive Megachurch (yes, it's nestled not only in wikkipedia, but in many recently published dictionaries) scrapped plans for a $60 million building project and traded them in for a landscaping project which will accommodate the church's booming attendance.

Before a fun game of Pro vs. Con, I must voice an observation. From Luther on, historical Christianity has been systematically stripped of many elements, both physical and doctrinal. Luther took some stuff out of the Catholic Church. Luther's followers took stuff from Luther. Hymns?...Gone! Crosses?...See ya (Hybels)! Moral Absolutes?...Antiquated! What more can be taken out once the church building is removed...the actual meeting itself?

Pros:
Publicity
Cheaper/more revenue, earmarked to social aid
Fresh air services
Nice design
Easier to stealthily escape the doldrums of a boring sermon
Multifunctional
Eco friendly

Cons:
Foul weather
Bird poop
Disturb the morning peace of atheist neighbors
Allergen susceptible parishioners
Publicity
Could get old

What Pros did I miss? What cons did I miss? What do you think?

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

30 Blogs

Just in case anyone wasn't paying attention, myself included, yesterday I accomplished the goal I had set for myslef in September: 30 blogs in thirty days. I am a bit shocked...I guess I have more gumption than I thought, for not a single day is missing an entry. Technically, the post I am writing in this instant need not exist.

About a year and half ago, I had to read a book called, Now Discover Your Strengths as per partial fulfillment of a training course I was in. What a waste of time. I have since kept the book hidden in an armoire, lost the list of my top five strengths that hung around my neck like an albators for a week, and completely forgotten what the online test included in the $40 cover price had determined my "strengths" to be.

Any test having to do with personality can be manipulated. Myers Briggs, Now Discover Your Strengths, or any number of predictive indexes, are putty in the hands of anyone who knows what the moderator's desired outcome may be. You want introverted, I'll give you introverted. Extroverted is just as easy, maybe easier. Leader?...follow me. Follower?...show me the way.

But, we do all have our own unique strengths, myself included. The older I get, the more I know what mine are, and the more I know how crucial it is that I excersise them. My boat floats each time opportunity allows me to "be myself," for necessity, the majority of the time, requires someone else...I would be willing to bet that this is the case for most of us.

What are my strengths, you may ask?

When I was about six years old I sat at the dinner table with my older sister and my parents, dominating the conversation. Tomatos were on the menu; my sister hated tomatos. "What would Jessica (refusing to eat the acidic fruit) do if she were stuck on a deserted island with nothing to eat but tomatos?", said I, followed by, "chuckle chuckle." My witty sibling retorted, "What would Nathan do if he were stuck on a deserted island with no one to talk to." ARGHHH. I had been had, but she was right... I spent the next several days convincing her she was wrong.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Fisher Price Smart Cycle, a Dumb Idea



Are you kidding me?

No wonder it costs 100 bucks...it is endorsed by Richard Simmons. Fisher Price's plastic marvel is the latest attempt to make lots and lots of money...errr, I mean curb the childhood obesity epidemic in America.

I am having a difficult time swallowing the reality that our nation's toddlers need to be put on an exercise regimen. I guess it only stands to reason that lethargy and unhealthy eating habits should accompany a nation's appetite for affluence and diminishing standards. Even harder to swallow is the solution: a plastic stationary exercycle connected to America's god, the TV.

My son has something similar. It has two wheels, pedals, sprockets, a chain, and it connects to the concrete sidewalk. Sure it doesn't teach him his ABC's, but Sandra blows the boob tube out of the water when it comes to that.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Diversity, "The Church," and Me

Diversity...she is a mystery. A recent post dealt with ethnic diversity as it applies to affirmative action. The past couple of years I have been extremely troubled by diversity, in that; not only is she not always welcome, but in certain arenas she should be forbidden. I.E., an example from the business world:

While in grad school,I waited tables and tneded bar to pay the bills. At one point I helped to open a new store for Ruby Tuesday. Drilled in the temples of the opening team was the need to uphold specs every Ruby Tuesday in the nation was expected to adhere to. "We want a traveling business person who stops in this location to have the same experience he or she had at a different Ruby Tuesday several nights ago." The experience allowed for diversity of serving staff, but adherence to a universal set of standards.

This morning as I was feeding our youngest son I clicked on the tube. I happened to catch the last half of The Coral Ridge Hour (church service) and the first half of The Hour of Power (a different church service). The polarization within Christianity couldn't have been more visible that between the progression of these two shows. Here is the problem:

Diversity cannot exist in regards to truth, and religion is the portrayal of truth. There are no alternate routes when it comes to truth, thus mimicked in the natural world: Water can only be made up of H2O...not H3O, H4O, or H5O.

The conservative, the emergent church proponent, and the constitutionist cannot deny me this--not every religion has it right. Case in point: modern day Indian Tantrism still practises human sacrifice. I don't believe this practice would be accepted as a truthful response to seeking the will of God, let alone condoned by the first amendment. So, just because something is practiced as religion and felt by the emotions, it cannot be right.
Thus the pit in my stomach. Everything is either truth or lie, fact or fiction, wrong or right--it cannot be both. Focusing the religious scope on Christianity, diversity has run amok. Let's look at the timeline, in generalizations.

From Jesus' ascent to Constantine (313) exists the Christian church (greek; kat wholos--lit.according to the whole). Constantine ushers in the Roman Catholic (kat wholos) Church. The Eastern Orthodox splits from the Roman Catholic Church in 1054. 1215 sees the split from the Roman Catholic Church of the Anglican church. Then in 1517, Luther branches out after a failed attempt at reform. For 1500 years, there existed only 3 major Christian worldviews. Flash forward to 1985 CE. The World Christian Encyclopedia publishes the existence of at least 22,150 different protestant denominations in the US alone. 22,150 variations of the truth? Dear reader, cannot the there only be ONE truth? Think about it:

The Southern Baptist claims that once a person has accepted Christ, they cannot loose the salvation that accompanies that decision, while the Assemblies of God member claims they can. Only one can be right, for this is matter of truth. Lutherans believe that when Jesus died on the cross He atoned for the sins of all people of all time-even those who have not or will not come to faith in Christ and will spend eternity in hell. Some Presbyterian churches teach a "limited atonement" of Christ, i.e., that Christ's death on the cross atoned only for the sins of "the elect." Only one can be right, for this is a matter of truth. Keep in mind, at least 22,150 discrepancies exist.

I know, I know...I am too narrow minded; but of this I am glad. In the spirit of tolerance I can stand side by side any of the 22,150 knowing that we have something in common, but I know at some level the person on my right, the person on my left, and myself are WRONG.

In the context of the representation and presentation of absolute truth diversity does not make sense. Jesus said, "God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth." Apparently there are millions of folks worshipping Jesus in Spirit...that is easy. But when it comes to truth, many MUST be missing the mark. My guess is that most of us settle for the version of truth that fits our personal agenda and lifelong accumulation of presuppositions.

My spirit is uneasy. I know the truth that forms the basis of my worldview exists in purity. I must, with presuppostions aside, discover and embrace it, because I cannot live a lie. While I can and do enjoy the unity that exists in a room full of Christians who compose a fraction of the 22,150, I have a feeling that Jesus would not want me to believe and follow anything other than his truth.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Date Night

The past few days Sandra and I have been listening to an series of lectures on CD put out by Kimberly Hahn. Basically, Kimberly and her husband both grew up with an Evangelical worldivew. They both attended Gordon Conwell University, a bedrock evangelical university, and both are exigetical masters.

After writing a reasearch paper at Gordon Conwell on the subject of contraceptives Kimberly became convinced that while this is not a topic addressed explicitly in the Bible (becuase it had not yet been invented), the Bible suggests to be open to life. Kimberly sided with the Catholic Church's position on the matter, and eventually her and her husband did the unthinkable...converted to Catholicism.

Whether or not I agree with Kimberly's doctrine is not the point of this post. The point is, that my wife Sandra, and I have been open to new life. At the age of 27, I have four kids. This is not standard in the US--I am counter cultural. Contraceptives aside, Kimberly undescores thoughout the CD that children are a blessing of God. "The reward for God Ordainded sexual union comes nine months later as husband and wife have to pick a name."

Tonight Sandra and I had a date night. It is the first time in at least five month when the two of us left the confines of our house together and alone. As we ate dinner, alone at last, it seems that our conversation for themost part revolved around the kids. Each peice of conversation, brought joy and happiness. While it sucks sometimes only getting going out once or twice a year, and it sucks that our money is budgeted to expenses other than "fun," the truth is, it only sucks to the person from the outside looking in on our family. And my wife, a stay at home mom, in the words of Kimberly Hahn, "is changing culture one diaper at a time."

Ivan's Book Club, I Promise

FYI:
Ivan's Book Club is still a go. So far myself, Fiver Year Slumber, and K the Surveyor are in. I would like to see Ken, All About It jump on board, and Strange Culture jump in based on resent post/comments.
I wanted to start this weekend, but alas, the book in question ARE WE ROME by Cullen is checked out. It should be available any day, and I have reserved it I will post a reading schedule as soon as I get my hands on it.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Red and Yellow, Black and White

Maybe I am opening a can of worms here, but I have been thinking about this for a few months. While I am sure some reading this post may be offended, I am trying to take a neutral stance, while hoping for feedback from the diverse group of friends who read this blog. So here I go: Affirmative Action.

Racial tension is not a social disruption privy to the US alone. Darfur, the Balkans, the Congo, etc. all have witnessed civil wars with racial issues as the root cause, or at least the perpetuated cuase. America, who has learned from her mistakes, tends to be very proactive in preventing future evils; thus the reasoning from Washington for our current involvement in Iraq. Affirmative action was set up to prevent the segmenting of races following the Civil Rights Movement. The evil offspring of segmentation are unfair stereotypes, discrimination, and hate. But does legislation of such matters ever go too far?

Meredith Vs. Jefferson county, circa December 2006.

In a nutshell, the utmost politically correct, Jefferson County, the 26th largest school district in the US, tried to safe guard itself from being considered “racist” by implementing racial quotas to be met by each school in the district. Each school was required to have no less than 15% and no more than 50% of one race. Sounds noble, right? Keeping a balance?

Here is the obvious problem: Your kids may or may not be accepted into any given school based on their race…kind of counterproductive. Here is the not-so-obvious problem: Jefferson county’s standard for “desegregation” divided race into TWO categories—Black, and other. That’s right your Asian friend, your Latina friend, middle class white friend, and your Muslim friend who didn’t happen to be African American were unable to escape a particular label. At the same time, your black southern Baptist friend, your black Muslim friend, and your black son-of-a-black-doctor friend also were imprisoned by terminology. I wonder how many sleepless night were had by Jefferson County school board members when trying to figure where to place children whose parents were of different races!

Does enforcing diversity solve or create problems? While this story may be extreme, is seems that at times, affirmative action itself may be discriminatory. The solution? Don’t ask me…try Michael Moore.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Zeitgeist Part One--Unbalanced

Last night I briefly touched on the experience following the viewing of "Zeitgeist." Literally translated, it means spirit of the age, singularly joining together the disjointed movie segments.

Tonight I want to BRIEFLY critique the scholarship of part one of Zeitgeist. My critique, the scholarship is nearly nonexistent. If you have watched the film, you may have noticed the convenient lack of any citations that may lead the viewer to the origin of the many factual statements made by the orator. How convenient.

But, digging past the emotional appeals, one notices a quotation by Gerald Massey. Massey was an UNEDUCATED, self taught Egyptologist. Massey was influenced and mentored by Alvin Kuhn, another self taught expert in the field of comparative religion. Alvin's writing are dismissed today as lunacy, and Massey is considered outside the realm of relevant scholarship. Massey's findings, which are exemplified in part one of Zeitgeist, are based off one relief (of millions) in Egypt.

Do the research for yourself. Nowhere, besides Massey's presupposed works, are there so many similarities between Jesus and Horus. But that isn't the problem. The problem is that an author of a film depended on only twon things to convince you, the viewer, of the legitamacy of his claims: 1) an obvious emotional appeal, and 2) the work of ONE obscure and uneducated author.

It makes me question part 2 and 3 of the film.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Zeitgeist the Movie

Conspiracy theories tickle my funny bone like you wouldn't believe. I would rather watch a lunatic spill his guts on what he personally witnessed at Roswell than offer a second of my time to the cast of any MTV program. I am critical but open minded when it comes to less popular interpretations of modern events.

Tonight Sandra and I watched Zeitgeist. Please do not read any further unless you can commit to two hours of free film. WATCH IT HERE.

My compliment to the producer: Parts one, two, and three are highly convincing.
My criticism to the producer: While I am sure a logical bridge exists in his/her mind between part I of the film and the other two parts (and I think I have crossed it), in the mind of the viewer there is MAJOR disconnect. It seems that one film served the purpose of conveying two passions; in reality two documentaries should have been produced.

Like I have said in previous posts, I am shy when it comes to personal opinion involving politics, thus, all I can say concerning my state of being following the viewing of this indie virtual film is, "nervous." While the narrator desires to polarize himself from anything slightly religious, as the film closes I can see him fitting not only into the category of "religious," but also, as the truest sense of the term is applied, "conservative." And that makes me question my own sense of belonging.

I am begging for feedback on this post. Watch the film...watch it again...take notes...email me or leave a comment! Please!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Robots

Today was the first ever "pastor day" at the Jeep plant here in Toledo--sponsored by chaplain leaders in the plant and the UAW, Toledo area pastors and parachurch leaders were invited to attend and tour the plant, myself included.


As I walked through the plant I was amazed at synchronicity of every component of the factory. I was even more amazed at the workforce...primarily robotic. In fact, in the body shop of the factory the workforce was composed of 479 robots and 80 humans. The lifelike fluidity with which was astounding, and slightly creepy at the same time. Like worker bees, the robots dutifully and faithfully complete their task 24/7. Robotic delivery vehicles scurry across the line, stopping and patiently waiting should a human counterpart intercept their path. So programatically precise are their movements, permanent ruts are etched in the concrete. At one point during the tour I spied two rogue robots break free from the bolts mooring them to the floor and embrace in passionate robot kissing. OK, that last part didn't happen...but could it?


I can remember sitting at the dinner table listening to my father, a Jeep employee and Chaplain, talk about the instillation of the first robots in the factory...now they out number humans. No lunch breaks, insurances of any kind, pensions, personality conflicts...just work.


It was really quite a sight. What are your thoughts on the robotic workforce?

Monday, October 1, 2007

Dumb Faith and Anselm

Man has been searching for empirical evidence to validate the inner inclination of the existence of God for centuries. Many attempts have been made to create philosophical proofs by those for whom emotions are not enough, I would say the majority of which were constructed post-enlightenment.

I too have longed for such a proof…not necessarily for the benefit of my belief, but for the benefit of my pride. You see, I hate to be wrong. I hate to lose an argument. The one thing that weighs in most heavily on the course of my life, belief, cannot be adequately validated to another.

The first time I read Anselm of Canterbury’s ontological proof for God’s existence, I thought I had struck gold. Now, I see the holes in it, but do realize that it is perhaps the cleverest logical argument for God’s existence. In fact, this Archbishop of the Church is considered by many to be the founder of scholasticism. Anselm loved learning, and sought to please God not only by developing his heart and soul, but also his mind. According to legend, after Anselm finished his proof, he fell in prayer, thanking God for his mental faculties, and that though their exercise he had arrived at a greater understanding of that which he had already believed.

As I sit and ponder what evangelical Christianity has been relegated to…possibly as a result of educated demythologization of the Bible starting with Bultmann and carrying forward into the 20th century as the deconstructionism pervading western higher education instilled doubt not only in the population, but in churchgoers. As this doubt took hold, churches became nearly vacant. All throughout Europe one can see the skeletons of once were churches.

Especially in America, as seen in the fundamentalist movement, a disdain for higher education became apparent. Most often human nature, in my opinion, leads us to react to undesirable situations in a pendulum swing. Equating mass desertion of faith with scholasticism, the church has dumbed itself down. It is apparent in shallow content of modern worship music, in the uneven ratio of practical courses to theology/language courses in seminaries, to the Sunday “self help” sermons, and to the overwhelmingly pragmatic and emotional subjectivity of the mega church and emerging church movements.

It’s a shame, and I am prey to it. But I am encouraged by an ancient saint who realized that his mind, not just his emotive makeup, was created in the imaged of his God, and sought to glorify his God through its development.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Creators

“Stem Cell Research, I am sorry for those horrible things I said…yes, yes I love you. I want you back.”

“Cloning! You are right, I miss you. My mistress? It’s over. She scares me. Take my DNA, please I am yours.”

Holy Crap! How I wish that current bio ethical controversies still involved the first loves of the nineties personified above. Our current lover is much too frightening…more than the corniness employed in this post’s introduction. Read THIS.

I am not a scientist; I am no geneticist—but still I have to ask why? To fight greenhouses gasses and toxic waste? If efficiency is a variable in science (Occam's Razor), why create what can be found, or at least manipulated from what can be found?

If I had to guess, and my ego gives me no other option, our buddies at Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution and Harvard Medical school are hanging the juicy carrot of “ecological repair” to distract us from the unfortunate truth that I believe is at the root of their research, a truth that drives not only ethic bending science, but also tyrrany, displays of power, wars, etc.—“because I can.”

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Memoirs of a Geisha

Yesterday I wrote about Rome, tonight I write about Japan...hardly.

While in high school I took four years of Japanese as my foreign language. Unfortunately, I remember very little besides a few basic statements, the classroom experiences, and the occasional dream in which the floodgates of repressed subconscious are released in a torrent bilingual bliss.

Nearly ten years removed from the initial learning experience, I have to say, there is still a place in my heart for the Japanese language and culture--the ethnic pride, the commitment to progression at every level, and the fastidious love for the rich history and tradition that set this people group apart.

Tonight I watched the movie Memoirs of a Geisha. Skeptical before the first scene graced the screen, within a few moments I was hooked. The story, the setting, the historical representation, the character, the cast...all made this a great experience. For a disinterested pop culture bystander, this was Hollyweird at its best. As the cliche love story came to a close the tears in the aspiring Geisha's eyes seemed more than legit.

At one point in the movie the Geisha is taught to use sexual persuasion to boost her popularity, enticing her companion with her sexuality by subtly exposing the her wrist--flashing some skin. Man, I wish that was today's standard for sexual temptation. The movie itself depended on story telling rather than boob shots, death, or overused actors.

So, if you are going to rent a movie from the movie machine in your local supermarket like my wife did, check Memoirs of a Geisha out.

Friday, September 28, 2007

"Romerica" or America, the Reincarnation of Rome

The period of Roman expansion began in the 3rd century BCE—but the height of their magnificent imperialism was cresting immediately proceeding and occurring during the life of history’s most famous carpenter, Jesus Christ. One cannot possibly begin to understand Jesus and His message without first familiarizing themselves with the religious/historical/political culture into which he was born.

As I was getting to know this setting via L. Michael White’s From Jesus to Christianity, I felt a strange connection with this ancient force. After contemplation, I realized I knew the Roman Empire in reincarnated form…America. I was excited. Keep in mind, I am no historian. So seeing this correlation was exciting to me. But alas, the bubble burst in conversation with a friend. As I shared my “findings,” my friend pointed out that a book had already been written on the subject—the book (unread by this blogger) will be the first book tackled by the up-and-coming Ivan’s Book club (see previous post).

A few initial observations:
The Romans insisted upon occupation of the “world.” The Greek term for the Roman Empire was oikoumene—lit. world. The US has more embassies than any other nation. Our present is felt nearly everywhere under the auspice of “keeping the peace,” rather than, “imperialism.”
The Romans allowed and encouraged syncretism of seemingly contradictory cultures (art, language, religion). Had the term “melting pot” existed at the dawn of the first millennia, the Romans would have cherished and employed as national policy.
Nothing solidified the correlation more than Roman foreign policy; at least the public portrayal thereof. What follows is an example of one of many inscriptions prominent throughout the Roman Empire during the reign of Augustus. These inscriptions were found on statues of the great leader. Consider them, “political ad campaigns,” or “the Emperor’s address to the nation,” in ancient form:

On land and sea I undertook wars, both civil and foreign,
throughout the whole world, and when victorious I spared all citizens who sued for pardon. Foreign nations what could safely be pardoned I preferred to save rather than destroy.

When I returned from Spain and Gaul, in the consulship
of Tiberius Nero and Publius Quintilius, after successful operations in those provinces, the senate voted in honor of my return the consecration of an altar to Pax Augustus in the
Campus Martius, and on this altar if ordered the magistrates and priests and Vestal Virgins to make annual sacrifice.
[The temple of] Janus Quirinus (gate keeper of “times’, so to speak) which our ancestors ordered to be closed whenever there was peace, secured by victory, throughout the whole imperium of
the Roman people on land and sea, and which, before my birth is recorded to have been closed but twice since
the very foundation of the city, the senate ordered closed three times while I was princeps.
I extended the boundaries of all the provinces that were
bordered by races not yet subject to our imperium. The
provinces of the Gauls, Spain, and Germany I reduced to a state of peace
.
The Alps I brought to state of peace without waging unjust
war on any tribe.
When I had extinguished the flames of civil
war
, after receiving by universal consent the absolute control
of public affairs
, I transformed the republic from my own control the
will of the senate and Roman people
. For this service I was given decree of the senate title Augustus, and the doorposts
of my house were covered with laurels by public act, and a civic crown was fixed above my door, and a
golden shield was placed in the curia Julia, the inscription on which
testified that the senate and roman people gave me this
recognition in honor of my valor, my clemency, my justice, and my
piety.
(White, 43-44)

Wow. Read this. Reread this. Preemptive strikes to secure world peace and democracy? Stepping in to settle foreign civil wars? Extending boundaries unselfishly (enculturation of foreign races for their own good—for peace?

Sounds a lot like America, post industrial revolution! What a heritage...But Rome fell.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Gypsies, Conscience, and Ivan's Book Club II

Before I get into the book club, here is a quick thought to follow up yesterday's post. In scratching the surface of a major Christian theological issue, I touched on the importance of works for any Christian. The love of mankind is secondary only to the love of the Creator, this is clear not only from the book of James, but from the representation of Jesus in the Gospels. Unfortunately the egocentristic nature in all of us overrides this social gospel, and I am as guilty as the rest. Case in point:


While in Croatia, a beautiful country recovering from a crippling civil war, I witnessed the arrival of humanitarian aid--boxes of clothes; gifts from America. The local Pastor who hosted hardly had the strength to open the boxes. "I get this all the time," he said in a disgusted and weary voice. Lifting the cardboard lid revealed the dirty, stained, moth-eaten, throw aways that not only eased the humanitarian sting of someone like me, but also provided them with a tax write-off. The pastor picked a few decent ones out of the bunch some friends in the neighboring gypsy community, and deemed the rest garbage worthy. I remember him quipping something to the effect of, "gypsies don't deserve others' garbage."





So as I drove past a Planet Earth clothes drop off box today, with piles of throw-aways next to it, I was reminded of the scripture I had read the night before, the Gypsies, and my own neglect of what it means to be a Christian and a human being. My hardworking neighbor in the Balkans deserves better. I pray to provide better.





So, now that I have left the confessional, I aim to get this book club started. Following the only suggestion provided, the first book will be Are We Rome: The Fall of an Empire and the Fate of America. I actually pondered the idea before the book existed (tommorrow's blog post), so I am excited. Email me (email through profile page) or leave a comment if you intend on taking part. I checked online, and the book is on the shelves of the public library here in town, so you need not go purchase it if finances do not permit. I will start a new blog, accessible under my profile page. This is a first for me, so I will play it by ear; however, I am anticipating reading the first chapter and publishing my thouhts in the form of a blog post by next Friday. I am hoping a firestorm of comments ensues. I will not publish the next post; rather, I hope that the participants will email their thoughts so that I may publish them and be given the chance to comment.





Spread the word. I doubt more than 3 or 4 will engage in the first book, but I hope for more. Include your friends, your family, your blogroll...let's engage each other, let's grow together, let's read together!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Monergism? Synergism?

I grew up under the umbrella of monergism but truly, its arguments have never satisfied me, but then again, synergism seems to be filled with many more holes. Truly over time, I believe the meaning of the terms have changed, but in a nutshell, if you are not familiar with the terms, monergism suggests God alone, in his grace, is responsible in the salvific act that reconciles man with God. Synergism, on the other hand, suggests that a cooperation of sorts exists—man plays a part in the role.

Obviously, at first glance synergism sounds heretical to a guy like me, brought up and educated under an evangelical protestant worldview—how can man, lowly man, play a part in his own salvation.

But, according to any stream of reformed theology, does God manipulate man, supernaturally taking command of his motor functions, forcing his lips to utter the confession to save his soul, that Jesus is the Son of God, the sacrificial atonement for his sins? NO! In that sense, monergism, is inadequate.

We must work (in the sense of involvement) for our salvation. Truly, Christ did the dirty work, that which we cannot…he lived a perfect life and willingly accepted a guiltless punishment. But, freewill must be considered in the equation. Jesus is not going to confess himself for us, otherwise we are mindless drones. Humankind has to take part and make that confession. So yes, I believe we are intrinsically involved in our own salvation, which is a very pre-reformation ideal:

Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of grace, no one
can merit the initial grace of forgiveness and justification, at the beginning
of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for
ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the
increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life. Even
temporal goods like health and friendship can be merited in accordance with
God's wisdom. These graces and goods are the object of Christian prayer. Prayer
attends to the grace we need for meritorious actions. (1994 catachism)


James himself was very synergistic (chapter 2):
20 Fool! Would you not like to know that faith without deeds is
useless?
21 Was not Abraham our father justified by his deed, because he
offered his son Isaac on the altar?
22 So you can see that his faith was
working together with his deeds; his faith became perfect by what he did.
23
In this way the scripture was fulfilled: Abraham put his faith in God, and this
was considered as making him upright; and he received the name 'friend of
God'.
24 You see now that it is by deeds, and not only by believing, that
someone is justified.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Sky is Falling, The Sky is Falling!

A recent Newsday post brought to light yet another round of attacks between opposing parties common to pre-election campaigning. However, Newsday's focus was not the candidates but the bias of the carrier, in this case The New York times, notoriously left wing.

The Times apparently should have charged MoveOn.org $142,083.00 instead of the $64,575 deal of the lifetime they received. A disgruntled Giuliani demanded and received the same deal for his rebutle to the ad by MoveOn.

Here is where the beauty of a free market econemy and the first ammendment meet to make the Newsday article not so newsworthy. The New York Times have the freedom to publish whatever they desire per the first ammendment and have the flexibility of the free market econemy to charge what they wish. The fact that The Times gave both sides of the fence the same deal (smart move) coupled with the fact that New Yorkers have the choice of reading the right wing bias of the New York Post deems Newsdays article less controversial than they had hoped.

I am looking forward to my opportunity to help determine the course of the country in the up and coming election--don't get me wrong. But I am equally, if not more looking forward to interesting and worthwhile reporting on real issues!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Ivan's Book Club

Tonight I read the first six chapters of Tony Campolo's, Letters to a Young Evangelical as part of book club I was recently invited into. After six chapters of Dr. Philesque "I understand" language, I have decided, while there are nuggets of worthwhile truths to be gleaned from the pages, I am not a big fan.

Campolo is as wishy washy as his existential, pragmatic, modernistic leanings. In his 'epistle' entitled Why We Witness (beautiful alliteration!) he begins with a critical review of public evangelical composure when faced with the dilemma of the exclusive claims of Christianity--the impetus for evangelization.

As the chapter closes, Campolo himself falls prey to the snare of modernity and leaves the reader in a cloud of ambiguity, like those whom he criticised at the start of the chapter. Is he a universalist or isn't he? He is sold out on the impetus, so I am guessing he isn't but perhaps at times he himself is just as confused.

All that to say, I have never joined a book club. I am interested to listen to everyone elses thoughts on Tuesday. Have you read the book? What are your thoughts?

Here is the real point of this post (I know, I am terrrible communicator--either that or I love the sound of my own voice, thus you had to read through all that to get to this): I would like to start a book club in the form of the blog. Each week those who wish to participate would read designated chapters. Participants would take turns writing their thoughts in form of a post (emailed to me), and the rest could respond in the form of comments.

Are you interested??? Leave a comment or email me through link on my profile page!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

30 Pounds of Compassion

Life is so organized! It amazes me when coincidental occurrences of life accommodate such smooth syncopation-i.e. this blog and its random posts.

A significant part of last night's post dealt with the Mother of Compassion, Mother Theresa, a woman whose commitment to her faith led her to an compassionate commitment to the less fortunate; the marginalized; the orphans. The following morning, compassion in its purest form smacked me in the face.

The sun was just peaking its brilliant face over the eastern horizon. I was up with our infant, Ezekiel, providing his breakfast and struggling to keep my eyes open. In effort to keep my heavy lids lifted, I turned the television set on. I had no idea what was being broadcast into my home...I was just trying to feed Ezekiel and induce him back into a state of sleep. My three year old, Aylah, had wakened and was playing with some toys at my feet.

As I fed our infant, I did notice that the program on the television was an advertisement for the organization Feed the Children. Shots of emaciated Haitian children flooded the screen, but I payed little attention--I was barely awake. Then the sweet little voice of Aylah brought me back to reality. The sweet little voice said, "That makes me sad, daddy."

I lifted my head. Surely Aylah had not said that! As I attempted to replay her words in my head, it made more sense that she was simply commentating on the ghostly figure of an underfed and near-death figure of a small Haitian boy. She must have said, "that boy is sad, daddy."

So I asked her, "Aylah, what did you say?"

She may as well have said nothing. I turned to her and saw that her little three year old faced was puckered with sorrow. But she replied, "That makes me sad, daddy."

Sweet empathy! I would not have thought it possible that such a built-in love for humanity could surface in a three year old--my three year old--as compassion so strong so as to evoke such a stirring emotional response.

As I fell asleep last night my thoughts were centered around the deep rooted compassion of an elderly nun, only to be awoken by a display of compassion by an innocent child. I am ashamed. I am humbled. My daughter, my junior by 24 years, was used this morning to teach me what it means to love.

I can only pray, "God, please give me the same compassion contained in the tiny body you allowed me to help create."

Saturday, September 22, 2007

A Transparent Blog Post

After nine years of private Christian schooling, I entered the doors of a public high school, sheltered, na├»ve, and nervous. The last class of a long but exciting day was physical science. The instructor was Shehrever Masters—a fastidious wealth of knowledge, who demanded perfection from his students. So high were his standards, they cost him his job. By the end of the year only a third of the original students remained, I was one of them, and I had achieved a perfect score. In fact, Masters had requested that I take the stand in court as his advocate as he battled Toledo Public Schools over legitimacy of his firing.

That first day was one of the most memorable days of my life; not because of the situation, the change, the thousands of new faces, but because of one statement that Mr. Masters made. His rich, distinctly middle eastern voice, cut through the room, and my heart as he said, “The first thing I must teach you all in this class, is that there is no God.”

What conviction! What unassuming assuredness bolstered the power of his statement! This moment will never leave my memory, for this was the first time (of many to come) in fourteen years I had ever doubted my faith, my salvation…my life.

As I recollect, I could almost feel sad. My sweet bubble had been burst. But I respect Shrehver Masters, for he taught me to love knowledge, and even more importantly, not to blindly believe anything.

The older I get, the more knowledge I accumulate. I read more books, attend more lectures, and meet more people who challenge what and why I believe. Even in the past few months I have felt as if a few bricks in the foundation of my world view have crumbled, and in those moments I doubt. It is not that I doubt goodness, God’s existence, or the validity of Jesus Christ as son of God; rather, bits and pieces entwined in the story of those things come into question and set my mind and emotions spinning. I feel like such a failure: weak, fickle, ignorant, unsure, and quite temporary.

Then I read an article in Time on the struggle of faith experienced by the world’s most beloved humanitarian, child of God, and modern day Saint, Mother Theresa, and I am comforted. I am not masochistically pleased that the Albanian nun suffered anguish as she doubted the nearness of God, but I am assured that I am not alone, and that even in my doubt, I can be used mightily by God.

Friday, September 21, 2007

looney....

The Loonie is now equal to the coveted US dollar (after 31 years).

What can I possibly say, except, congratulations to our Northern neighbors. The fact that this comes after the federal interest rate (US) was lowered, propelling the US economy into the best day of trading since 2003, can only mean that right now it must be great to be Canadian. Congrats!

So, who wants to buy my house? I hear there is some great investment properties in the Toronto market (haha).

Thursday, September 20, 2007

7

Think back to when you were a child.
What did you dream of as you fell asleep —space travel, did you go back in time?
Or maybe you dreamed of a magic screen that you could carry in your pocket — a screen to entertain you whenever you wanted.
It held your favorite, music, pictures, stories — it helped you find your way home — a screen that brought all of this to you wherever you were at the speed of light.
That was your dream.
With the magic of Sprint screen it all came true.

Maybe you've seen this latest "Sprint Ahead" ad campaign by Sprint. I guess Sprint was reading the mind of America...or at lest trying to. Instant ethnocentric, sensory, gratification seems to be every childs dream, trumping even the traversing of both space and time.

At least in my case, Sprint missed the mark, and knowing the reasders of this humble blog, yours too. My dreams have come true, but the channel has not been through instant access to last night's episode of Deal Or No Deal on my telephone. I can remember sitting at the dinner table with my parents when I was seven years old, professing that when I was "old" I would have seven children. Ok, so I don't have seven...but I do have four amazing angels, and a beautiful wife to share the duties of parenthood with. Every time I look at this picture I care less for my cell phone and realize my dreams have come true--and not with the magic of Sprint.

*By the way, in this pic Sandra told them to make a funny face...who do you think is the dominant of the three shown here?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Media Matters

The President of Russia has been scrutinized worldwide for his bizarre relationship with the media. As I have kept a wary eye on Putin’s tendency to revert to USSR ideology, particularly in this arena of censorship of media I have noted that censorship early on did not take the form of bans; rather, manipulation. Of late, as conspiracy reports have trickled into American media, I had to wonder…does Putin now react out of fear, or as so many fear, a desire to refurbish the iron curtain.

If it is fear—fear of the media, that is, perhaps I should allow myself to empathize with him, and you should too.

It is a teeter-totter game with our own media here in the USA as legislators try to ensure the oh-so-important freedom of speech while not impinging on the capitalistic foundation of America in placing anti-trust regulations (monopolies).

The consolidation of our local media has subtly been taking place since its inception right under our noses. Take a look at the “big ten” and how their reach extends beyond just television. Since this list has been compiled we have seen even more consolidation (i.e. AT&T, SBC, Yahoo).

Back to Putin: Why might he fear his own media? Simple. Knowledge is power, and whether or not the knowledge the media presents the masses with is true or not, as a democracy, the voting US is subject to and influenced by this information feed. Please read this, I would botch it if I reprodiced it, but keep in mind this is not a critique of the president. We will find a similar article on our next president regardless of party affiliation; Bush is just our current president, and thus more recent articles.

So, I empathize with Putin. The situation in America is not isolated! Our northern neighbors voice similar concerns.


This post may seem disorganized as this is a subject upon which I am not well versed, so I am begging for feedback, and asking that the reader do his/her own research. If, after either reading this or completing an investigation of your own you feel concerned, take action! My uncle Myron was terrified that the US Army would one day overthrow the government and disavow him of his rights. I have to wonder, as far as fascist takeovers go, should he have been more afraid of a consolidated control of information?

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Country Time

Tomorrow I have to get up for work at 3am and right now for an early morning board meeting, and with as tired as I feel right now, the brain isn't functioning anywhere near peak performance, so the subject I was going to hit on will have to wait.

Instead, I want to take time to the few who read my blog for the time spent at good old My Friend Ivan, and for reciprocating the blogger relationship by providing stimulating, funny, humbling, convicting, and downright human to the core posts that I enjoy reading every day. Finally, I have found a truly enjoyable online activity besides gambling.

I have a request. As of later I have been getting into country music; not the Achey Breaky modern stuff, but the old gospel influenced stuff. I've made a few rudimentary songs of my own, but would like to broaden my horizons. Any suggestions?

Monday, September 17, 2007

To Catch a Desperate Housewife

On November 6th, 2006 a district attorney from Texas committed suicide in his home as the world watched, myself included. Police were waiting outside his home to arrest him for soliciting sex with a “13 year old boy” (decoy), and NBC camera crews were waiting there alongside authorities to broadcast the shame and humiliation of a man who had made a big mistake.

Odds are the deceased DA knew his face was soon to be hitting the screens of millions of television screens across America; who hasn’t seen or caught wind of NBC’s To Catch a Predator. I sat stunned. Surely I had not just heard the blast that propelled a bullet into a man’s brain! I felt sick.

Before I go any further, let me advise the reader that this post is not a polemic on the ethics of entrapment as it relates to police/military affairs—something deeper disturbs me about this particular prime time incident.

Certainly the carefree regulations imposed by the FCC on the internet create a massive potential for evil as well as good, particularly when it come to sex and pornography. In fact social networking giant, MySpace, just booted off a behemoth 29,000 sexual predators—29,000 profiles I wouldn’t want my kids coming across.

Why the prolific increase in adults seeking sexual fulfillment with minors? Let’s ask America's favorite promiscuous ladies, the characters of ABC's Desperate Housewives. One particular episode featured a very cool and sexy underage teenager (16) seeking emancipation from his mother in order to get his greedy hands on an inheritance. His alcoholic mother meets a sex addict at her AA meeting—they hook up. Mom wins the court battle, son gets no emancipation, no money. He is so mad at mom he finds the perfect way to get back at her. We see his revenge on our screen as mom walks in on half naked, attractive, boyfriend and half naked, attractive son in bed, post coitus--yep, a forty year old just had sex with a 16 year, old.

Do I need to go any further? A late 50’s prosecuting attorney who has been battling his desire to hook up with an underage young man certainly would NOT be dissuaded by this debauched display. American Media, repent for your hypocrisy!

Sure they are two different networks, owned by two different media giants (GE/Disney), but you don’t have to leave ABC to find sexy young high school engaging their budding sexuality on primetime…check out an episode or two of Friday Night Lights, but be careful, odds are you’ll see a tempting young 17 year old vixen advertising her assets.

Yes, sexual predators are a problem; however, a media with an unquenchable thirst for ratings that can only be satisfied by pushing moral boundaries and forcing sexy young teens into adult situations may be at the root of the problem. Was ABC looking to ease its conscience with each episode of To Catch A Predator? I doubt it—just another insatiable story to spike ratings.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

This Old House

I am considerably proud right now…and tired. So this post will be very, VERY short.

Sandra and I bought our first house about a year ago. It was cheap, ugly, falling to pieces, and it was ours. I remember the day we signed our lives away and were finally given keys. We unlocked the doors and walked into our new home. As I walked through my new home, I panicked. What had I gotten myself into? No wonder it was so cheap. Both Sandra and I were trying to act excited, but we were both scared.


To date we have rehabbed every room in the house, except the bathroom. For the past two days we have been slave to this dreaded room. I pulled up five layers of plywood, most of them rotten. Underneath the galvanized feed lines were pulled and replaced with copper, and the cast iron drain lines were swapped out for PVC. The toilet, which was snug up against the soil pipe—and awkward position—so I moved it four feet away, not an easy task when the new position required a drain line that ran against the floor joists.

A pro could have done it in a day. It took me two. But after several breakdowns, a few moments peppered with colorful language, and a two foot geyser (after turned the water back on was brought to the realization that I had forgotten to sweat on of the copper joints together) I was able to stand back and look on in amazement. I did this! No books, no internet, no help, besides some advice from a seasoned friend. In fact, I think I felt more pride than the times in which I have brought in $10,000.00+ donations at work. That probably sounds bad (like a bad fit), but there is something to be said for working with your hands.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Jude is Cool

“Get out Satan! I rebuke you Satan! Satan I hate you!”

Reread those three emphatic statements one more time, but as you read, substitute your voice for that of a shrill, high-pitched, middle aged, feminist, charismatic, preacher/TBN television personality. If I were Satan, I would hit the deck running—not because the obnoxious (tactfully unnamed) woman possessed any real authority to command me as such, she is just too annoying, and even the prince of darkness’ eardrums have their limits.

The first time I saw her performance I laughed so hard—and then proceeded to imitate for the weeks on end until someone finally told me to give it a rest. Now I want to cry. If Belial himself were such and imminent presence, what did he think of her incantations? Did they scare him? Look for yourself…the premise of authority each time is “I.”

Jude, were he alive in the 21st century, would have pulled the plug and ended transmission of such a display.

“Yet in the same way these dreamers also defile the flesh, reject
authority, and slander the glorious ones. But when the archangel
Michael contended with the devil and disputed about the body of Moses, he did
not dare to bring a condemnation of slander against him, but said, ‘The Lord
rebuke you!"


So one of the chief angels (it has been argued that Michael is actually the Son of God) dared not use his own authority…in fact, the first person pronoun was never used. His authority rested in “the Lord,” and he dare not disrespect that. Jude probably would have relegated my TBN friend to the ranks of, “or certain intruders have stolen in among you, people who long ago were designated for this condemnation as ungodly, who pervert the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”

I bring this up, not just to poke fun at an over inflated ego, or to poignant demonstrate the frailty of the human condition, but to point out a mystery of the Christian canon of scripture, having just posted three blogs on the subject.

A few points:
1---It is a major tenant of the Christian faith the Bible is the ONLY inerrant and infallible document in existence—absolute truth.
2---Are there any other inerrant; that is, absolutely trustworthy documents outside the Christian canon of scripture? Most would say no.
3---The book of Jude falls in the Christian canon of scripture, thus each verse within is infallible.
BUT, the verse quoted above in which Michael argues with Mr. Spooky over Moses’ body is actually a quotation from, “the Assumption of Moses,” a non-canonical Jewish work. A few sentences later another apocryphal work, the book of Enoch is quoted.
4---So, logic says that we can rest assured that one or two verses of non-canonical works are inspired, infallible, and inerrant.

So, did Michael really engage in cosmic battle with the Evil One over the body of Moses?

Friday, September 14, 2007

Social Currency

The bought my first musical instrument for $3.50. I paid for it with a handful of change. It was a blue electric bass; a four string put out by Memphis. The neck was split, there were no strings, and the electronics were a jumbled up mess. I fixed the next, bought some strings, and rewired the mess (miraculously). The next week I learned “Zombie,” by the Cranberries and joined a band. There was always a part of me, even though I knew I was the most unlikely candidate, that dreamed of “making it big,” of walking the stage like my heroes, Thom Yorke, Bono, Richard Ashcroft, and wielding that influential currency that our society allows.

Good times—twelve years ago.

Things change. I found out the lightning blue bass was stolen ($3.50) so I gave it back. A few trades later, and I don’t even own a bass—just two cheap guitars and a synth. But, there is a small part of me that still wouldn’t mind making it big. The swagger, the currency, the notoriety mean so little…just the opportunity to be heard.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Anbar

I was sitting in my Hebrew teacher’s Sunday School class with my soon to be wife, Sandra. After 45 minutes of picking apart the grammar of an ancient text, revealing intricacies of interpretation with application still relevant to today, he opened up the floor for questions. The same people raised their hands that day, just like every other Sunday. And just like every other Sunday, I rolled my eyes as each hand shot up, knowing that each hand represented not a question, but an attempt to showcase insight. That day one old granny raised her hand. When it was her turn she asked her question: “Do you think the American military can establish a democracy in the Middle East?”

Ripples of chuckles swept the room, for this question was certainly off topic—but she had asked the right person. My Hebrew teacher had spent years in the middle east, learning firsthand the nuances of the Hebrew language. He had been on archeological digs, translated the Dead Sea Scrolls, and rubbed shoulders with Uzi toting Israeli soldiers (by the way, uzi, in Hebrew, literally means “my strength”—how ironic)!

The man with many degrees tactfully held his tongue. To this day I do not know what his answer would have been to the elderly woman with intriguing insight. But I know what my answer would have been.

I try to be optimistic…it is easier to live that way. But I also know there seems to exist a mindset in the Middle East that has both positive and negative elements. Take for example the Jewish people. Their tenacity for survival as a people inspires me to no end. From the exile in Egypt, to the divided kingdom, to the Babylonian exile, to the Syrian exile, to the Diaspora, to the Holocaust, to today this people has never lost sight of who they are, but they also have not lost sight of who has wronged them in the past…and this could quite possibly a mere national defense mechanism. All that to say, if people, if rivalries, if forms of government (dictatorships), have not changed in thousands of years, how can a super power such as America change them overnight.

As I watched President Bush’s address to the nation tonight I was reminded of that evening. Have things changed? I don’t know—how dare I presume to know the political climate of a place I have not been, of a subject (war) which is foreign to me, with the little knowledge I have being based on a tainted media—but as our president talked of Anbar and the success that had been achieved by the military in the province of Anbar, that sinking feeling came back. If it is true that Al Quaeda has been extricated from Anbar and that its citizens are aiding the military with insider information, I had to fear for those citizens. With a gradual troop withdrawal on the horizon, do the citizens of Anbar truly posses security? Things don’t change overnight! Once we are gone, based on the history of the Middle East, does not it seem likely that the ratted out members of Al Quaeda will com back with a vengeance. I am at a loss. Certainly our troops cannot remain there forever—that in itself is another ethical dilemma, another blog post. Look at the report that came just moments before tonight’s address.

Like my professor, I don’t often make political statements…and this blog follows suit. It is a call to prayer, for wisdom in difficult times, and tonight, for the people of Anbar.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Canonical Dilemma III

Luther was no slouch…after all, he was a catholic. He was trained as a monk, knew his biblical languages…in fact, he translated all of scripture including the seven extra books Trent affirmed. Luther knew the history of the formation of venerable books better than I ever will. Luther loved God. Luther loved the Roman Catholic Church, thus the term “reformer.” Luther had no intentions of starting a new branch of Christianity called Protestantism. In seminary I grew to love the quirky Luther. My major, Biblical Languages would have been right up the alley of the guy who coined the term Sola Scriptura…certainly that guy had strong historical and intellectual reasons for breaking from tradition.

In Canonical Dilemma II I focuses primarily on the councils of the RCC and not much on the individuals that led up to them, simply with the assumption that the individuals (church fathers) formed the historical premise for combating heresy at each occasion.

But there are discrepancies, and Luther knew this. The generation or two following the earthly life of Jesus accepted the Old Testament as scripture, but certainly not the New Testament. How could they? It had not yet been compiled. Books found within the New Testament certainly were used and taught…but so were books not included in the New Testament canon accepted by the RCC (Hermas, Barnabas, Didache, and 1 and 2 Clement, to name a few). So if figures early in the history of the Christian church, the church fathers, who, mind you were a part of the catholic (lit. greek, according to the whole) and not the RCC, and even some apologists who followed this group of men who directly connect the church with apostles could have made some mistakes about the New Testament (which were eventually corrected by the RCC) couldn’t they have made mistakes as well regarding the Old Testament?

In 1534 Luther finished his copy of scripture. His copy was similar to ours today, except the apocryphal books were placed after the Old Testament as an appendix with a note stating that these books were held as not equal to scripture, but valuable to read. Trent, the council that OFFICIALLY canonized what the RCC would hitherto call scripture, did not occur until 1545-1563.

Before Luther RCC scholars had called into question the legitimacy of the same books Luther had. Desiderius Eerasmus had his own doubts, and was even vocal about them. The difference being Erasmus did not take issue with the church, nor have a following of unruly seminary students rallying behind him like Luther had. There are circles of thought out there that suggest that Luther, had it not been for Zwingli and Calvin, would have promoted his canon with the apocrypha.

Why Luther ultimately decided the seven apocryphal books were substandard to the rest of scripture.

1) They added nothing new to
developing themes throughout scripture.
2) Luther interpreted scripture through Christological lenses…if any book of the
Bible did not have overwhelming historical acceptance AND distorted the Christ
event and the intertwined grace, it was on thin
ice.
3) They promoted ideas/practices that
disagree with scripture as a whole.
I can sympathize with points one and two,
but three, if taken seriously, would decimate many books accepted by Luther and
Trent. (i.e. the proto Gnostic tendencies of John).


I could go on forever, but this is a blog post, not a dissertation. Where am I left personally when it comes to this canonical conundrum? Only time, study, and dependence on the Holy Spirit will tell.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Canonical Dilemma II

Recapping the previous blog: as an evangelical protestant I have taken for granted the formation of the sole foundation of my faith—the Bible. As an evangelical protestant I have hypocritically disdained tradition/oral tradition. Why is this hypocritical? Because as I mentioned yesterday, Jesus, the One upon which Christianity is based, never gave me, nor any of His early followers a list of canonical books. In fact, the recountings of Jesus life, the gospels, were written after the majority of the New Testament. So, inadvertently in my ignorance, I have relied on tradition, actions of men, to decipher what writings belong in the book I call the Bible. I will be focusing on the two main streams of Christianity and their canons: Protestantism and Catholicism (hereafter, RCC).

There are two preconceived ideas on canonization that may be false:

1) Martin Luther wished to purge the RCC of
practices that were clearly unbiblical, i.e. praying for the dead. The
RCC, in order to justify these practices added books to the canon at the Council
of Trent to justify such practices. 2 Maccabees 12:38-46 justifies praying
for the dead. How many times have you heard that the RCC canon has “extra”
books. Josh McDowell on this subject: It cannot be overemphasized
that the Roman Catholic Church itself did not officially declare these books
Holy Scripture until 1545-1563 at the Council of Trent. The acceptance of
certain books in the apocrypha as canonical by the RCC was to a great extent a
reaction to the Protestant Reformation. By canonizing these books, they
were able to legitimize their reference to them in doctrinal
matters.
2) The early RCC decided to close the
canon and allow only the book of the Bible as they appear in the protestant
canon. Later, the RCC reneged and allowed the seven extra books to be
included.


Books, volumes…libraries have been written on this subject. I will only be scratching the surface of this historical giant as I give a brief history of the formation of the canon up to Luther, and let me forewarn you, it will be disorganized.

Did a reactionary RCC have to defend their doctrine and thus canonize illegitimate books (Trent)? Well, the reactionary part is true. Isn’t this what councils always served as? Protestants (most) accept every council as God ordained. The reactionary Council of Nicaea had to settle Alexandrian schism between Arius and Athanasius. This council affirmed what the catholic church had always held as truth. Nicea did not “add” anything new to belief and practice. The function of Trent was exactly the same as Nicea. It did not add to the cannon, just affirmed that the cannon was not going to change for the RCC as it did for Luther.

So this seven book heavier canon existed before Trent? F.F. Bruce (conservative, evangelical, protestant scholar) in “The Canon of Scripture”
In 405 AD Pope Inocent I embodied a list of canonical books in a letter
addressed to Exsuperius, bishop of Toulouse; it too included the
Apocrypha. The 6th Council of Carthage (419AD) Re-enacted the ruling of
the 3rd Council, again with the inclusion of the apocryphal
books…
The
6th Council of Carthage repromulgated (in canon 24) the resolution of the 3rd
council regarding the canon of scripture, and added a note directing that the
resolution be sent to the bishop of Rome (Boniface I) and other Bishops:
‘Let this be made known also to our brother and fellow-priest Boniface, or to
other bishops of those parts, for the purpose of confirming that Canon [canon 47
of the 3rd council], because we have received from our fathers that these books
which are to be read in church.


Now, let’s go to the Council of Florence…41 years BEFORE the birth of Martin Luther, 75 years BEFORE the Protestant Reformation. Here is what the council decreed before the hint of a schism arose:
This sacred ecumenical council of Florence…professes that one and
the same God is the author of the OT and the NT—that is, the law and the
prophets, and the gospel—since the saints of both testaments spoke under the
inspiration of the same Spirit. It accepts and venerates (see here Pete,
they VENERATE it. Because a controversy has not arisen like that of
Luther, there is no need for the church ‘canonize’) their books as
follows. Five books of Moses, namely Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers,
Deuteronomy; Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 4 books of kings [1&2 Samuel, 1&2
Kings], two of Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Tobit, Judith, Esther, Job, Psalms of
David, Proverbs, Ecclesiaties, Song of Songs, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Isaiah,
Jeremiah, Baruch, Ezzekiel, Daniel; The 12 minor prophets and the 2 books of
Maccabees, (then they go on to name all 27 books of the NT.


The Synod of Hippo, also ruled pre-Luther in favor of these books as inspired and venerable. Are you noticing a pattern here? Just like the councils of Florence and Trent, the Synod of Hippo also included the “deuterocanonical” books as books of the “canon”. In case you are keeping track, this synod published its canon of Scripture 1,086 year BEFORE Luther was born, 1,120 years BEFORE he nailed his 95 Theses to Castle Church, and 1,149 years BEFORE the council of Trent that supposedly manipulated scripture to accommodate doctrine.

What about the Jewish OT…it doesn’t have the seven extra books.

However, one group of Jews rejected Jesus. The other group openly accepted Him as their Messiah and became members of the growing sect not yet termed Christianity. The Hebrew Canon of the majority of today’s Jews is the canon that was settled upon by a group of Rabbis meeing in Jamnia {or Javneh} in 90 AD (hmmm…pretty close to the explosion of Christianity). However, these rabbis were exclusively those who rejected Jesus. Keep in mind, MANY Christian Jews maintained their ties with their community and heritage. This same group also rejected the NT. At this same meeting all present were required to curse the name of Jesus Christ. The other group of Jews, Christians, ACCETPED THE DEUTEROCANONICAL BOOKS AS EQUALLY INSPIRED. This can be seen in their writings where they quote from these books and call them HOLY SCRIPTURE. This begs the question—“Do I look to the Jews, the Scribes and Pharisees, who did not recognize the Incarnated Word of God when He walked in their midst? Do I trust these people to tell me what the inspired written word of God is? Or, do I trust the witness of the early church. Or, did God give Luther insight to save is Bride from unfaithfulness?

Love or hate the RCC, the institution can and, in my humble opinion, be seen as God’s tool for sustaining His people from 313 till, depending on your viewpoint, at least the day a passionate monk with grace flowing through his enraged veins nailed a series of theses to an unsuspecting church door. This institution is a witness. If I accept Nicea, I must at least consider Trent and the historical backdrop of its outcome.