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?

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

Foul weather
Bird poop
Disturb the morning peace of atheist neighbors
Allergen susceptible parishioners
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? 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 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

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 it again...take me or leave a comment! Please!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007


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 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.