Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Why Won’t it Stop Snowing?

I read a news report today that New Hampshire just endured its eleventh major snow day this winter. Last winter, living in Seattle, I experienced approximately eleven fewer major snow days. Apparently New Hampshire is nearing an all time snow-fall record; we only need 20 more inches. Even when it’s not snowing, you can still see it piled up high in parking lots and along the road sides. Oh sure, it was new and exciting at first to be living in New England and getting a foot of snow at a time, but I’m getting tired of it. I can’t say the rainy winters growing up in the Pacific Northwest were all that enjoyable, but at least rain seeps into the ground and you don’t have to stare at it for 4 ½ months. And guess what, it’s snowing, again.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Read SexGod

I recently read Rob Bell’s newest book called Sex God: Exploring the Endless Connections Between Spirituality and Sexuality. SexGod is a different kind of book than what many of us in Evangelical Christian circles are used to seeing. It doesn’t tell the reader about principals for dating or answer the enduring question: “How far is too far?” Rather, SexGod gives the reader something less systematic and avoids ironclad statements about sexual freedoms and prohibitions. I find this book gives the reader something to chew on and something that will leave you with a lingering aftertaste, yet still packs a punch.

In his book, Bell gives a different twist on how we normally think about sexuality. According to Bell, sexuality is all about connectedness. He writes: “For many, sexuality is simply what happens between two people involving physical pleasure. But that’s only a small percentage of what sexuality is. Our sexuality is all of the ways we strive to reconnect with our world, with each other, and with God.” Bell goes on to say, “Some of the most sexual people I know are celibate." They have focused their “energies for connection” in alternative ways. Ironically, Bell asserts that some of the least sexual people are those that frequently practice physical intercourse. As an example, he cites the Red Light District in Amsterdam as one of the most sexually repressed sections in the whole city. “In the Red light District there’s lots of physical interaction and no connection. There are lots of people having lots of physical sex… and yet it’s not a very sexual place at all.”

I think this is a great book for anyone, but especially if your single or married (yeah, I know). I’m thinking about using in my marriage counseling for the wedding I’m officiating this summer. But that’s a completely separate story. Read SexGod!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

When Things Don’t Go Quite Right…

On Saturday I spent $182.74 to take three kids inner tubing. I don’t know how I’m going to explain this one to the finance committee at my church. If you’re interested in learning more about how I got myself into this mess, please continue reading.

I was anticipating about 10-20 students coming on my snow tubing trip. My church doesn’t own any vans, so I recruited all five of the young adults from the church to help shuttle kids to a really cool snow park just over the boarder in Massachusetts. To compensate them for their time, I paid for my drivers’ lunches and admission into the park.

For lunch, I had Wal-Mart’s (I know, know…) deli put together enough sub sandwiches to feed 24 people. Judging what it costs for a 15” sub that can feed three people that cost about six bucks I figured it would cost me less than $50 to feed everyone. When I picked up the sandwiches Saturday morning I was a little perturbed to find out that my order would set me back more $74 (obviously I didn’t know what I was buying and too dumb to ask what it would cost). But it’s only 8:00 AM at this point so I keep my head in the game. By 9:15 A.M it’s time to head off to the snow park and I have 6 adults (including myself) and 3 students standing in the lobby of the church wondering if anyone else is going to show up. We wait 5 more minutes before loading into the cars (we only needed two). So that’s pretty much it. Way too many drivers, way too many volunteers, way too much food and way too much money spent on food, and not enough kids to justify it all.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Thoughts on NIU Shooting

In the wake of a massacre, like the one that happened on the campus of Northern Illinois University, the brokenness of our world becomes immediately apparent. If you were anything like me, after hearing eye witness accounts of the shooting, you wonder how a man dressed in black with an expressionless face could destroy so many lives only to take his own in the end. This kind of event leaves me utterly dumbfounded and struggling to makes sense of the situation. I believe it’s a natural inclination to want a rational for something like this. The first thing we look for is a motive—a reason why someone would perform such a gratuitous act. Although this man might have been suffering from some kind of psychological disorder, my guess is that this man’s actions were in response to something—in response to some kind of mistreatment or other injustice that he felt had been committed against him. Perhaps he lived a life where he felt like the world was against him in such a way that his only response was to take aim at his oppressors and act out violently in a revengeful manner. I realize that I am making some rather wide speculations about this man's mental state and his disposition towards the people he knew and the life he led; however, other school shootings have been carried out by other people with revenge as their primary motive for killing. So here’s my question: “What is it about our society that motivates people to seek revenge to the extent that it would lead them to act out violently?” I want to offer up one suggestion that might partially answer this question, but before I do, I want to be absolutely clear that I am not attempting to point the finger at any one thing in our society that can shoulder the entire blame for violent acts of revenge. The world we inhabit is too complex for such a tactic. With that said, I want to briefly explore how some of these violent acts of revenge might be connected to the way we glorify revenge through redemptive violence in various forms of media, namely film. Take for example the Kill Bill movies, Man on Fire, Four Brothers, Gladiator, Braveheart, and V for Vendetta. The reality is that there is enough Revenge Movies in circulation to fill an entire section at your local Block Buster. All of these movies seem to glorify and yes—even romanticize—revengeful acts of redemptive violence. In my mind, this creates a societal mentality that views revenge as acceptable, justified, and normative. Now to be perfectly honest, I must admit that I thoroughly enjoy watching some of the movies I just referenced. There is something gluttonously entertaining about them. But I’m beginning to question their greater impact on our society. I’m not saying movies kill people or that movies make people kill people; I’m saying that certain movies have the potential to influence our society and to make violent acts of revenge and redemptive violence more acceptable and even normative.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Parental Advisories for a Church Service?

Say goodbye to the days when church was a safe haven from the “filth” of the world. One church in Seattle (that I used to attend) is incorporating some of today’s most provocative topics into their worship service. This ain’t your grandma’s church service. What would Focus on the Family say about this! I can just imagine the Pietists rolling over in their graves! What do you think? Is this stepping over the line? Topics long ignored by the church?

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Let's Talk About Pacifism

I can’t imagine more than a (very) small number of people reading my blog with any regularity, especially considering it’s only been in existence for a short time. However, I’ve had a particular issue that’s been lingering with me for some time that I desire to be flushed out a bit. As the title of this post suggests, I want to talk about pacifism, or perhaps what I mean is nonviolent resistance. Actually, I think pacifism and nonviolent resistance are two different concepts. But I’m not afraid to admit that presently I speak with little clarity about these issues, so out of ignorance I sometimes use these two words as if they were synonyms. Nevertheless, my hope is that some of you that do actually read my blog will weigh in on the issues of pacifism and nonviolent resistance and hopefully I (we) can come to a better understanding of what these words mean, especially in the context of the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. I suppose I could just read a book about these issues, but I have a feeling this approach might be more interesting, and hopefully, just as informative.

To provide some background, my curiosity surrounding pacifism/nonviolent resistance started after reading two books: Shane Claiborne’s Irresistible Revolution and Brian McClaren’s Everything Must Change. Both authors seem to insist the life and teachings of Jesus, as well as the witness of the NT, do not condone acts of violence. Undeniably, there are some pretty convincing statements made by Jesus and the writers of the NT that seem to be saying that violence of any kind is inconsistent with the gospel, but I’m wondering if there are legitimate exceptions that might allow a person to take very seriously the message of the gospel, and in good conscience, participate in certain acts of violence. Here are some related questions that I’ve had brewing in my mind for some time that will hopefully jump-start the conversation (but don't feel obligated to answer any of them): “Is there such a thing as Just War?” “Does our obligation to defend the weak ever lead us to violent acts against oppressors?” “What would our world look like today if Allied Forces had never put a stop to the aggression of Nazi Germany?”

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

New Hampshire: Center of the Universe once every 4 years

I'm do not get excited about politics all that much. However, politics in an election year in the state of New Hampshire can be very exciting. If you're like me and live in southeast New Hampshire you could have seen all the major candidates without driving more than 30 minutes. In retrospect, I wish I would have gone to see more presidential candidates, but I did make it out to Rochester, NH to see Barak Obama.

I arrived late and the building where the rally was being held had already filled to capacity, so myself and a couple hundred other people stood by the enterance and waited to see him go in the building. Before going inside he paused to talk with everyone that didn't get a seat inside.

The guy with the tape recorder was a reporter from Ebony Magazine. He actually interviewed me prior to talking to the other guy in this picture. So, the next time you pick up Ebony look for my name!

All kinds of people show up to political rallies. The Jews you see in this picture were protesting Zion as a political movement. I read their literature and from what I could tell they seemed to think the UN had no business making a national home for Jews; that is for God to do. They seemed to be sympathetic to the Arabs that got kicked out of Palestine.

I want to learn more about global warming, but I'm sorry these people make the issue hard to take seriously. I don't know if this would get Al Gore's stamp of approval.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Fake I.D.

Not long after I moved to New Hampshire I was shopping at a grocery store. In addition to the normal staples of milk, eggs and cheese and other items, I had a six-pack of long necks in my cart. As I proceeded to check out I courteously handed over my driver’s license as proof of my legal drinking age. The checker promptly handed my license over to a young supervisor looking fellow standing near the register. He took a long look at my license and then walked over to what looked to be the store manager. Then they started thumbing through a large binder. I speculated that they were double checking the authenticity of my I.D. since they were not used to seeing Oregon licenses.

After several minutes had gone by the two managers came back to me and handed back my license and said they were going to refuse the right to sell me the beer. They said my license was a fake. This of course was to my surprise because I knew with certain that my Oregon license was certainly not a fake. However, they were not willing to debate the issue.

I left the store minus my beer. In the grand scheme of things this really isn’t a big deal. However, I couldn’t help but feel like an injustice had been committed against me. I actually believe the supervisor and store manager made the right decision, but the reality of the situation was that I was falsely accused of fraudulence. My very identity had been called into question. My picture, date of birth, height, weight and color of eyes was all being declared fake. But I was telling the truth!

An injustice was committed against me that day. Fortunately, it was over beer and not something more important. One good thing that has come out of all of this is that I take injustice more seriously. As a white male living in the United States I’m probably the most justly treated person on the face of the earth. I imagined what it must be like for underprivileged woman living without the right to vote, or Palestinians being ousted from their homeland in order to make way for the new Jewish nation.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Hope is a Dangerous Word

I’ve been hearing and reading a lot about hope recently; and I must admit I find it very intriguing. One such example of this is the campaign of Senator Barack Obama, a politician that has built an entire platform on the word hope. I try to be conscientious of over used, buzz words that easily suck people into disappointing rhetoric, but for me, at least, the significance of the word hope seems to transcend the rhetoric of politicians and other clever wordsmiths.

I recently finished a book by one of my favorite authors, Brian McLaren, called Everything Must Change: Jesus, global Crises, and a Revolution of Hope. I liked this book, but at times felt overwhelmed by the breadth of its content and everything the book’s author insisted could not remain as status quo. In the book, McLaren references a conversation he once had with Christian leaders from Rwanda:

“We talked in particular about the metaphor Jesus used again and again to convey his essential message: the kingdom of God. We considered how this message of the kingdom—contrary to popular belief—was not focused on how to escape this world and its problems by going to heaven after death, but instead was focused on how God’s will could be done on earth, in history, during this life.”

If McLaren is right, (and I think he is) then many of us who claim to have hope in Jesus Christ need to evaluate what this means for us living in the here and now, living in this current earth, this current life. Do we have our hearts set on “going to heaven,” or do we really believe the words of the Lord’s Prayer when we ask for Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven? This book has been a very helpful challenge to my understanding of authentic Christian hope. Although my understanding of Christian hope seems to be maturing, what I’m realizing is that if Christians are to bring this kind of hope into this broken world we really have our work cut out for ourselves. This is going to be the hardest thing I could have ever imagined.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

"Mommy, what's a hobosexual?"

Adjective. The opposite of metrosexual; one who cares little for one's own appearance.
Examples: Michael Moore, Peter Jackson. First documented hobosexual - John the Baptist.

I Love Rob Bell

Okay, I know the Rob Bell band wagon left the station months or even years ago, but I’m just beginning to realize what a deep impression this man is making amongst many Christian circles. I subscribe to Relevant Magazine and was glad to see Bell’s pale face and very hip black-rimmed glasses gracing the cover. The picture was cool, but the article was even better.

Rob Bell is all about recapturing the heart of Christianity. Sure, there are many people out there wanting to discover a new Christianity or a more purpose-driven Christianity, but Bell wants to find vintage Christianity—whatever it was that captured the hearts and minds of so many 1st century people. Also, Bell doesn’t do this remnant mentality bull shit stuff where a small group of people insist they are the only ones following the true teachings of Christ while everyone else has gone astray. He’s smarter and more humble than that.

In the article Bell is talking about the role of the church and says, “The central metaphor Jesus uses is the Eucharist. His body is broken and His blood is poured out to the healing of the world. God is looking for a body of people who will break themselves open and pour themselves out for the healing of the world.” These words have haunted me the last few weeks. I find this image of the church incredibly attractive. If the People of God embodied the Eucharist we would live in an altogether different world.