Thursday, December 30, 2010

Tumblr Trumps Facebook

A convincing case on why Tumblr is superior to Facebook - you meet more people with the same interests, so that you can actually become real friends, not contacts.

Apophatic Theology

The picture is a very typical explanation of why many people don't believe in God. The typical argument from such a skeptic goes something like, "If God Loves us, then why would he allow  (insert name of personal and/or historical tragedy) to happen?" Exceptional points include but are not limited to: child suffering, eternal hell, or holocaust.

And then the skeptic sits there as if they know that under their statement, no loving God could exist....

EXCEPT...

the problem....

and we must always point this out....

The skeptic is coming from a position as if they know what love is.

The skeptic wants to blame God for things that don't make sense.

Which means the skeptic thinks they know more than God.

Essentially to say something to the effect of "There is too much suffering in the world for God to exist" means that the person think him or herself God to be able to declare when suffering goes "over the edge."

The reality though, is the human being knows they are not God, and thus cannot say what love is. The idea of love is fully beyond our human ability grasp fully (think about all the pastors who say they don't understand God's grace).....

The cross doesn't make sense. Does that mean the Christ's death was false? or the fact that our human minds can't grasp just how great and deep God's love is?

This is where something I have been reading about comes in...

It's called Apophatic Theology.

And it initially confused me whenever I read about it over the past few years. For goodness sake it's a "negative theology." There is not much to like about that.

Except some of the reward is it's a reminder that humans are fallible. God is infallible. Thus Human descriptions of God will never do justice to who he really is (The description of God as I AM becomes even more profound in this regards because it doesn't attempt to describe God).

Anyways, my friend posted this article a few weeks ago and I couldn't help but feel it was a great description (though it does necessitate some rereading) of this theology.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Valentine's Day Anyone?


A coworker tells me she was shopping late on Christmas Eve and saw workers putting out Valentine's Day cards, wreaths, ribbons, bedding and dishes.

Yes, Christmas junk out on Halloween isn't enough. Attacking Thanksgiving with 5 p.m. early-Christmas sales isn't enough. Now Christmas doesn't matter either. It's just another anonymous reason to spend more of your money.

It seems like this type of predatory capitalism -- the mind-blurring, anxiety-inducing capitalism that attacks the 2 greatest non-spiritual benefits of Christianity (peace of mind, quality of life) - must spur a unified Christian response. We've been too lax about how capitalism and consumerism stain our Christianity, believing a great deal before sunrise on Black Friday is worth not sleeping overnight, while a sunrise Easter service sounds preposterous due to its inconvenience.

I fear we've been lulled into a mindless apathy by burbling credit card swipers.

Friday, December 24, 2010

What Christmas Means to Me: Why joyous Nativity Scenes, Johnny Mathis, and Glossy Christmas Cards Creep Me Out. And why The Christmas Story provides therapy

I hate movies or plays that paint Nativities as some Hallmark Moment (see above). You know the ones. Where Jesus is the center of attention. There are glorious lights from Heaven shining down on the Baby Jesus like light beams that give you the illusion that either the Baby is about to be abducted by a UFO tractor beam or (and more likely) the reverse is occurring whereby the UFO light-beam has deposited perfect, pretty, white baby Jesus in his comfortable manger as he lays rested. Outside of the amazing lighting provided by the scene, you get the animals staring at the Baby Jesus like they know what's up and they are there to adore Jesus Himself because He is after all, The King.

And in the Nativity scenes as they are basically presented the audience somehow loses the entire purpose of the Nativity Scene. The fact that after all, God forgot to reserve Mary and Joseph a room to birth Jesus in . And thus in the stable, where all the animals are...we get a room full of hay. We get a room full of annoying animals. Most noticeably absent from the Nativity scene as typically presented is the excrement. Yes, the animals pooped. And yes I don't think that point should ever be overlooked from the Nativity Scene. The stable smelled terrible. The Bible talks about a star noticed by astrologers alone that knew about the Birth of Jesus. The idea of a light-beam, was rather concocted by those who wanted to hide the animal poo that made the Nativity what it really was: The physical setting to show just how low Jesus would go in order to reconcile us to Himself in love.

Let me repeat: Joseph had to watch where he stepped as he set up shop in the stable as to make sure he didn't step in cow feces. Of course I am being overly simplistic, but the point is that the Nativity Scene was incredibly vulgar from the human perspective. And I would argue that this is what God intended it for. It was not planned as so to be the scene of pretty lights, happy smiles, and self-aware animals that stare upon the Messiah that we have made it out to be. Such a "cover-up" can become slightly irritating to me in regards to Christmas.

Christmas is about God as a baby. Not for an "awww, isn't that cute?" moment, but rather to hammer home the concept that when God was most fragile as a human being, he was sleeping as the lowest of society amongst animals. The baby who should have been killed by Herod, was indeed alive, but it was not some happy ending. Rather, the beginning of the story of Jesus amidst all the cow dung and hay was a rather positive one, only in relation to the ending of the story of his humanity which was that baby all grown up dying in even a more humiliating manner than how he entered into the world.

And i'm not even going to comment on the mess of the birthing process itself. I mean in the 21st century, they still are quite painful to even think about, and the mess involved is extravagant to say the least. Lord knows how much worse a first century birth is when it is performed in a stable and the baby being born is no less than God Himself. Poor Mary.

That is why i cringe at Pretty Christmases now. The ones with the perfect family with the perfect Christmas card with the perfect smiles looking at you saying "such is life." The same Christmases with the Johnny Mathis music playing in the background. And there are trips to the soup kitchens too because there is an agonizing guilt we want to get off our shoulders knowing that we are living a relatively comfortable lifestyle and there exists the lowest of men who are not as spoiled as us.

It is not that Christmas is not a time for the family or a time of thanksgiving/celebration.  It certainly is. But it's as if somewhere along the way we have stopped thinking about the smelliness of the Nativity and what it means to be family and replaced each with focusing more on viewing Christmas as an image of neatness/wholeness and then trying as best as we can to replicate that image of what Christmas should be like.

And we can all sing Christmas Carols with the snow falling all around us outside. And have shiny trucks drive through our town that endorse sugary beverages:



And in such Christmas seasons, we want to live up to an an image of being pretty. Spotlights on the Nativity, Christmas specials on TV, etc....

But love, as I understand it, doesn't revolve around building an image of perfection and loving that image. As if the Baby Jesus can only be Jesus if the scene is presented so perfectly.

No, love is entirely opposite. Love penetrates the "cover up." It's not that there is this whole "everyone is fake and we need to be more authentic" kind of rhetoric. For surely we are all trying to cover up wounds and secrets that we ourselves are too ashamed of to even confront ourselves.

Love does not exist "in spite of the weaknesses" (as if they need to be excused), but rather love is what it is when it takes the imperfections and the weaknesses as an extension of who you are and still loves you all the more.

Let me give an example...

I have one side of the family whose Christmases I attend that I do not enjoy going to. Words and smiles and hugs are exchanged. Pictures taken. The "How Are YOUUUUU?" questions are plentiful. The cordial responses are given. Presents are exchanged which neither side really liked receiving and as you leave, you say to yourself "thank God that's over." And everyone here are Church Going Protestants. And my sweater looks neat.

 Because, the reality is,  for that Christmas Party I played every part except the part of playing myself. If I were to be myself at that Christmas party, I  would have been thought a monster. If I told you how I really am, or the problems in my family, or that this past month has been the most confusing of my life, they would have thought of me as being a depressed Debbie Downer to the whole spectacle of magical Christmas happiness that was going on in the Christmas party. So I covered up and played the part you wanted me to play in this family Christmas.

And then there are those Christmases which I miss dearly. They no longer happen. They usually happen on Christmas Eve (I write this on Christmas Eve), They revolve around the other side of the family. A few of the crucial uniting members of the family passed away in recent years, so the celebrations have ceased.  But the celebrations....there was always fighting. Cursing. Scandals. The most intense games of trivial pursuit you could ever imagine. Insults are thrown. And even one time there was a real fight between two of the sisters over a flirting boyfriend. Mind you they are all adults too. And I loved this Christmas dearly because in the fighting, there was never anything personal at stake. At the end of the night fighting sister would be sleeping on the shoulder of passed out brother and all was right with the world. This was real love. 

This was a Christmas where the drama was never hidden and each person acted as they really were and since everyone really did really love each other, the Christmas messy fighting almost had to happen to be able to really love each other. If one uncle did not voice his complaint about the insult of his receding hair line his sister had mentioned, he would have covered up his resentment and would have went home bitter because he wasn't able to be himself, and thus if someone were to love him that evening (where the cover-up happened), they weren't actually loving him, but an image of him that kept his real feelings hidden. 

Thus, to me, the ugliness of the Nativity scene is what Christmas should be about. The messy scene of the animals and the smelly poo that Jesus was born amongst...perhaps that was a radical image God wanted to portray to us humans of how he saw us in our sinful state from Heaven. Thus the Nativity  is Jesus saying "I know exactly what it is like to be human and the messiness that is implied with all the confusion and loneliness  And it's precisely because I love you with this mess included that I have come down here to be born in the "thick" of it as an indicator that I LOVE YOU and not an image of who you think you should be to me." It wouldn't be that we are to live in the mess, but rather that we should not hide the mess from ourselves or God. It is only when we confront the mess and it's frustration and bring it before God and say "This is me" that we can begin to experience God's love.

I don't know if any the above makes sense. I know that in the past month a lot of mess has come to the surface in myself and those in my family. Initially I wanted to hide some of it. Ignore other aspects of it. Live in denial of the mess. Because Christmas was not about the mess. "Can't this wait until January?!?" But I can also say that I have found love amidst the confusion more than ever with my family. Sure the confusion is still there. But being honest and not "covering" the mess has made me see that perhaps all my Christmases in the past were mere illusions since family member X was dealing with problem Y but told no one about it, and so what I thought was family member X last year was actually just an image of family member X. But now with Problem Y acknowledged and being warred against, family member X can be family member X for perhaps the first time in a long time at Christmas.

In the movie The Christmas Story, the entire film is about this concept of trying to cover up the pains of living and trying to insulate humanity from being itself in order to "enjoy Christmas." Yet when the family tries to be as American and Happy as possible living up to an image of what Christmas should be, more and more gets hidden underneath the surface of each member in the family so they can't be themselves....

See Exhibit A where the main character is obligated to where his pink bunny suit that his aunt made him for Christmas where upon Ralphie finds his entire freedom taken away from him in order to appease the image his  diluted aunt has of him:




"while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."

He died for us in the most wretched of  states wherein we were drowned in the horrible excrement that sin is. And because of the messy Nativity and the painful crucifixion we know all the more that whoever we are today with all the loneliness and chaos that lives inside of us that we can't tell anyone about, Jesus died for that person too. Because that is you. And when you begin to realize that Jesus still loves us with this mess included we can begin to confront it, and fight, and get better....

At the end of the Christmas Story the family has finally resigned itself from trying to live up to the image of "perfect Christmas family." Their Christmas dinner was even stolen and eaten by the neighbor's dog. So the family takes whatever courage they have left and descends to the local Chinese Restaurant on Christmas Day (Chinese Restaurants are for the most part open in reality on such a day)... 



There the family partakes in the most American of Christmas celebrations: a celebration where the Chinese employees are singing "Deck the Halls" complete with foreign mistranslation. What happens next is the dinner is actually brought to the table and it is none other than a duck whose head is still on the body itself. The dead duck that they are about to eat is "smiling" at the family. Whereas for most families such a Christmas dinner would be depressing...this family has lost all pretensions of living an image of what Christmas should be and has decided to accept the irony of life as is and laugh at it. Instead of being offended at the duck with the head on it, the family points out the horrible reality to the cook who simply cuts the head off  and expects the family to be completely at peace now with the duck. And they are. They begin to laugh....as if now for the first time, the family is living life without the insulated comfort that seeks to mute the awkwardness of reality without illusions. Thus love/God/family/Christmas cannot be lived until we see the dead duck head attached to the duck to fully enjoy the duck itself. Translation: We need the awkwardness of what it means to love each other in all it's abnormalities back in our Christmasses to fully enjoy the reason for the season.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Crime for Our Times

So here's a great way to make royalties on your indie tunes: upload them to iTunes, then steal credit cards to repeatedly download the songs so that you can drown in royalties!

Yep, it's all here and more.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

No Christians at Christmas?

The New York Times Ross Douthat offers an even-handed look at 2 books evaluating Christians in America today. It includes gems like this:

"Thanks in part to this bunker mentality, American Christianity has become what Hunter calls a “weak culture” — one that mobilizes but doesn’t convert, alienates rather than seduces, and looks backward toward a lost past instead of forward to a vibrant future. In spite of their numerical strength and reserves of social capital, he argues, the Christian churches are mainly influential only in the “peripheral areas” of our common life. In the commanding heights of culture, Christianity punches way below its weight."

Then ends on a positive note.

Frankly, IMHO Christians have been punching below our weight for at least 5 decades now and it's time we broadened our spiritual ambition for our culture today.

Read the entire column and see if you agree.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Life Magazine: Pictures of the Year


Life Magazine reveals the pictures of the year, with commentary by . . . (wait for it) celebrities. No, we can no longer trust the unknown people who spend their lives choosing pictures, we must have actors and authors do this for us.

Aw well, they're still beautiful.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Think on These Things: Celebrity and Shame

"You can't shame or humiliate modern celebrities. What used to be called shame and humiliation is now called publicity." -P.J. O'Rourke

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Pop, Soda, Coke

coke

I’m always interested when the great soda-pop-coke debate gets going. Having grown up in a bastion of urban dwellers who refer to carbonated beverages solely as pop, and then having traveled to New York at the impressionable age of fifteen years old, I discovered that there are people in the world (and not a small number of them) that refer to pop as soda, or even, gasp, as coke. Would you like a coke? Yes. What kind? To me that was unfathomable. And yet, here’s a beautiful map, and article, that finally puts the debate to rest. It doesn’t matter what you believe. It only matters where you grew up.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Picasso Trove

PH2010112902331

I’m not sure how to begin.

I used to love Picasso’s work. My grandmother was an art teacher. She particularly enjoyed works from his “blue period.” I went to the National Gallery, among other museums, and ooh’ed and ah’ed over works such as “Guitar” or “The Tragedy.” I was greatly moved by observing the latter. I’m still moved by the painting today although it carries a quite different meaning for me than it did then, some twenty years ago. I had a fondness, and great appreciation for his cubist works as well, for a time. It used to be, back in the day, that my favorite three artists were Van Gogh, Matisse, and Picasso.

Now I can’t stand Picasso’s work. It offends me. I find myself enraged when I see it. I simply keep walking through the gallery and I can’t even look at it. He was notoriously misogynistic and his hatred of women comes through loud and clear in his work.

Now we have this couple in France that have dug up a mint’s worth of his work. If you haven’t heard about it, and you’re interested, you can read about it here. I have had mixed feelings about this story. On the one hand, I believe the couple’s claim. I believe in the fundamental goodness of people and when someone tells me something I am inclined to believe them. On the other hand, it sounds awfully suspicious. And it makes me sad that it will probably end up costing thousands of dollars to fight it out in court.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Are We Thinking Biblically?

Francis Chan questions if most Christians think biblically today. He makes a convincing case most of us dont!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Can’t We All Get Along?

unitycandle

I was alerted to the following article about religious tolerance recently. If you don’t feel like clicking the link, here’s a short excerpt for your consideration. As religions such as Islam, Buddhism, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints “become more familiar to Americans, especially through personal friendships and familial relationships across religious lines, they too will enjoy a more positive image.” The article is interesting and makes some good points although be warned, you may be a little provoked by the content. I was.

One of my beefs is condemnation or mischaracterization of religions without any rational discussion. This is not the same as saying that everyone’s going to heaven. I certainly don’t believe that. Although I will not enter that debate here. I do believe there is room for meaningful discussion which might include some positive spin on some aspect of a Muslim’s faith, or the faith of a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Maybe that is because I have some friends who believe differently than I do.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Boy visits heaven. He'll tell you it's real...and an example of my skepticism



Sometimes friends send videos on Youtube. Sometimes you get so irritated that the video was of an interview that happened on Fox News, that you have to cease you're paper at once and make a comment about it.

Here's the video...and in short, it's  a boy who had an out of body experience who visited his dead grandpa in heaven and saw God (who was really big) and saw Jesus as well (who had blue eyes and his smile lit up the heavens)...



First off, this isn't news (note: I hate Fox News and CNN equally).

My friend asked me for my thoughts on the video.

Here is my reply:

Possible. I'm skeptical. But I will say there is some solid cognitive explanation for what's going on. Here is a 15 minute excellent podcast discussing the topic of "out of body experiences" scientifically (but far from boring).









In short in the experience of the boy, I am not sure he visited heaven. It's possible that what is going on in his brain that I think is going on is a very "real" experience in that just because I understand how an out of body experience happens in the brain does not mean the experience is false. But in short, for an out of body experience, the brain is shutting down and collapsing and falling apart and loosing connection to the rest of the body left and right...and the brain doesn't know how to make sense of it...the body parts are unable to send signals back and fourth to the brain (Ground Control to Major Tom, can you hear me? (silence)).....


In this chaos and confusion the brain recognizing these differences and looking for any plausible explanation of what's going on and thus...heaven (for an already Christian family) must be the explanation. Images, composed, etc...Essentially "going to heaven moments" on the brink of death are just a coping mechanism in the head for to fill in the gaps of confusion that are caused by the body shutting down (thus when you hear your're whole life: :"When you die, you go to heaven." Your brain can never fully accept death. So it tries to simulate what it's been told it's whole life will happen upon death. And with science today, people can be recovered and restored in spite of the death the brain is preparing itself for and thus the brain sees this as a descending back to earth from the heaven it was preparing itself for (tunnel of light, hearing God's voice, etc...)


There are many similar reports from people who don't even believe in God, or during less traumatic times (this "experience" happens to pilots all the time where they have so many G's against them that their brain is disillusioned and next thing the pilots know is that they are watching themselves fly the plane from outside the plane "Out of Body Experience" and at this point everything is just delusional and your brain is trying to organize itself and tell itself a story that it simply cannot keep up with...This comes out best in the podcast link above)


I don't like being a skeptic. And this doesn't hurt my faith one bit. 

Biggest evidence for me: Jesus had blue eyes according to the boy. (what his image and perception of Jesus was before the experience and God "having the whole world in his hands" and thus being very big).

Friday, November 12, 2010

Can’t Afford to Fly to Paris to See the Mona Lisa?

assyrian_horse

Wait. That’s not a picture of Lisa Gherardini.

There are three museums I haven't been to that I want to go more than any other. The Louvre, the British Museum and the Pergamon Museum. Two of them have a pretty decent website. I was just reminded of this the other day when a friend pointed me to this article.

One of my favorite objets d'art are cylinder seals. There's one here at the Metropolitan Musuem of Art from Assyria dating back to about the 13th century BC. And you don't even have to visit NYC to see it. And then there's the Parthenon, in the guise of what are known as the Elgin Marbles, and all of the drama associated with the pillaging of sites back before there were laws prohibiting removing artifacts from their home country.

The "50 Amazing" exhibits yield some gems but also some missteps. Not all of the sites are great, (nor do they all play well with Chrome, my favored browser) but all of them offer the potential of numerous hours of happy time-wasting.

The other nice thing about online museum browsing: you don't have to worry about them closing the ancient near east exhibit early on you because they don't have the staff to provide security and everybody else in the museum wants to see the Impressionists.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Because...well...It's really all I've been thinking about....

This week I became an internet crack addict. And not just the internet in general, but addicted to scrounging through the various ugly text-heavy backpages of the internet in hopes of uncovering a Slavoj Zizek article or essay here or there. Between being really sick and trying to write what i could without sounding like a maniac, I did nothing else except try and read Zizek (contemporary philosopher).

His style is hard to keep up with. But I quickly got acclimated. Because, he was my therapist that I had been looking for in my postmodern cynicism that has really weighed heavy on my shoulders the past 6 or so months (really, it's been kind of like an intellectual nightmare, but for me, philosophical difficulties cut me deeper than a real relationship ever could).....

And Zizek was my guide, acknowledging the advantages of post-modernism but also acknowledging it as entirely empty, and he did so using the same deconstruction tools post-modern thinkers love to call their own (thus I felt I was not being converted for a foreigner, but rather felt like it was a man who walked out of my plight a while ago, but decided to come back and rescue me as well because he was one like me)...

So in short, Zizek in one, what seemed like endless week, politely asked for entry into myself (his philosophy at least) and with a little shove hear and dusting there, his philosophy has made a believer out of me....

Because, last night....I read an essay of his....and it blew me away. Zizek is an atheist, but he calls himself a material Christian. And the following essay is one of the main reasons why (the philosophy of Christianity being his attraction).....I was taken back in the essay. I have no words really. Just know that when I was done reading it....I felt like this kid:



Not only was Zizek showing me the out of the postmodern futility, but he was doing show with Christianity as the better way...but also presented in a way I had never thought about it....A way that shows how not only is Christianity a fantastic ideal, but it is, in itself the way past the cynicism of our age...

Suddenly Christianity became not a way to salvation, or a way to heaven, or a "help," but the only explanation for life here and now.

In short, here is the essay...it's very dense and difficult to read through, but if you find the strength to follow his stream of consciousness style....it's of the most infinite reward...

http://www.lacan.com/zizhegche.htm

Zizek I feel, in this essay, is giving us what Christianity will look like past a postmodern world when and if the world decides to pick itself up and walk on from it's cries of meaninglessness in the death of an absolute.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Sound of Music? Only the Most Racist Movie Ever

Slavoj Zizek, if you can tolerate his accent is one of the superstars of contemporary philosophy. I have become infatuated with his ideas ever since I read an essay discussing his thought a few weeks ago. One of the ways he works best is finding points of his theories working in film and culture to connect the dots. Here is Slavoj dissecting the racism of Sound of Music (you will never watch the film the same way again):

Thursday, October 28, 2010

What? This? Oh that's just my billion dollar house named Antilia

This is a house. It's worth 1 billion dollars. It's in downtown Mumbai. It has 27 stories. You can read about it here.

The owner is married and with family, which I completely missed the first time I read the story, because in my mind, I was imagining what it would be like to be the owner of the house trying to impress a date. First you would hang out in scaggly jeans and a t-shirt at a local bistro. Nothing impressive. You want the girl to like you for you and not your money. You would purposefully let her pay for her half of the meal. And you are very open about your weird dark sense of humor that most get confused by. If the girl is still not turned off or repulsed by you, you go for a walk with her after dinner. And coincidentally enough, you come to this oddly shaped 27 story building. Now she may or may not know about this house (she probably does as long as she hasn't been living underneath a rock all her life). Act like a mischievous rascal who wants to break in with her to the world's most expensive house. She will giggle and be awed by your lack of ability to be intimidated. You take her through a secret passage to the top of the building (that you just happened to find), and when you walk in, watch her eyes as all 600 of your servants worship you and serve you, and then the girl in her confusion will totally be in love with you. And she'll be like "you mean....the owner....of this place... is you?...why didn't you tell me?"

At this moment of revelation, you tell her how you did all of this because you wanted her to understand the love of Christ. Christ wants us to see how much he loves us and who he really is without the shiny mansion and streets of gold and stuff. And then she will completely be infatuated with you because of your analogous brilliance.

While she has her mouth open totally using this real life experience as a motive for a future Sunday School lesson,  you'll smile with this smug grin. And then probably ask security to escort her immediately out of the building.

Yeah, I completely see this as the only reason to ever build a 27 story building in this day and age. But the owner is completely not single. So then why? For what purpose? So people can walk by and talk about it and they know that man is in there telling the world through his gigantic home "just remember folks, that until you have a 1 billion dollar home that is 27 stories tall, you have yet to make it. So keep shooting for the stars. And don't get too comfortable where you are at. Because you are not here. You are down there on the street."

That's all I can really gather for an explanation of the house. It's one thing to have this giant building in the middle of nowhere, but it's a whole other thing to put it in a downtown metropolis in India to let people know that you know that they know that you are ridiculously wealthy.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Time, Time, Time


Here's an arresting quote from an article in this month's Atlantic. "Members of the college class of 2014 are so unfamiliar with the wristwatch that 'they’ve never recognized that pointing to their wrists was a request for the time of day.'"


Ouch. I'm getting old. Oh wait. I already am old.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Think on These Things: Art & Salvation


"Art will not save your soul, but Art will make your soul worth saving." -taken from the Image Journal enewsletter.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Football Lovers Rejoice!


Yep, lots of college football & NFL analysis over at Momo's Musing Sports!

Plus, we share a great article on amazing sports calls & why football coaches aren't football players. In fact - oddly - the less experience a person has the more likely they'll be great!

Give us your thoughts!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

There is still hope...

I don't know what it was. Maybe it was the black coffee in front of me. Maybe it was how i caught myself reading Marcel last night a lot longer than I had originally intended. Whatever it was, I couldn't get Marcel's philosophy out of my head when I was reading about two similarly related stories that were sent to me.

One story, talked about (and had an interview with) these girls in Texas who have started a campaign called "Redefining Beautiful" and in short, they don't wear make up at school. They won't do it, and they think beauty need not be defined by make up. And People are listening, and other girls across the country are picking up the message and instituting it in their own lives.

 Watch the interview here

Perhaps it was selfish of me to really welcome these girls into having a place in my heart. I, like many Apostolic guys I have talked to, for some reason don't find make up attractive. I see it more as a distraction when girls cake that stuff on. Thus I am all for the Redefining Beautiful campaign. Yet, there I was, kind of surprised that these girls were without make up on national television, and their facial blemishes and zits were there in the open, saying "HELLO WORLD! THIS IS BEAUTY! AU NATURAL!" And in spite of my love for the natural look, I had become so automatic about how perfect girls should like on TV, that I was taken back by how proud these girls were to be "imperfect."

Then there was this story  about a high school cheerleading team protesting against their uniforms and how if worn, would bare their midriffs. And they kind of won the complaint.

You kinda take a step back like, wow. it's not all lost is it? There are still very uplifting stories out there that can be told in youth services everywhere about girls fighting for modesty.

That's where Gabriel Marcel comes in. I would include a quote of his, but it was difficult finding a single sentence that summarized his argument about technology so I will use someone else's summary of him, "The impact of technology leads too often to a loss of the sense of the mystery of being and self, authenticity and integrity..." 


So what does this have to do with girl's not wearing make up and other girl's not wanting you to see their stomach at Friday's football game? Well, according to Marcel, technology makes objects out of humans. Technology just uses the humans to perform functions. Facebook for instance is worth billions of dollars. It's 21st century technology for sure. And what does it do? It makes these two dimensional pages of anyone who has a profile on there. The existence of the individual within a Facebook profile is relegated to being an object for the observer wherein identity is to be found by pictures, non-engaging comments, and lists of favorite movies, books, etc....And we, as Facebook participants are left to play the game and make ourselves out to be the best object we can (only showing the best pictures of ourselves, only listing the most impressive things about ourselves, etc...). 


After all, it is Facebook that I see Apostolic girl's continually posting pictures of themselves at a sleepover with make up on their face (but they would never actually walk out into public like that). I'm not criticizing this act at all. Lord knows how self-conscious these girls are within their world of thinking themselves ugly because they don't look like the girls on TV or the cool kids at school. But the horror is they are submitting to make themselves impersonal objects who all wear the same thing (Red lipstick, blush, mascara) that kind of levels your face to looking less like you and more like a mannequin (once again, I'm not preaching here, and hate it when someone judges a girl because she had a little mascara on). 


Yet, here, in these two stories. Somehow, in this technologically dependent world, there are these girls, cheerleaders and regular students, who are rejecting it all. Rejecting the objectification. Rejecting what the TV tells them they have to look like. And they are saying, I don't need it. I need to recapture something else...



Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Megachurch Declares Bankruptcy

The prolonged economic downturn continues to reveal certain realities are not as sturdy as once thought.

The Crystal Cathedral, one of America's first megachurches, declares bankruptcy after being $43+m in debt. Frankly, it's surprising we haven't heard of more megachurches doing this.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Marriage Rate Down, Food Stamps Up

The U.S. Census has some fascinating insights into our countrymen and the habits they keep. If we want to win our society, we must understand what that society is doing. This is a great quick synopsis of where America is at.

For instance:

The never-married included 46.3 percent of young adults 25-34, with sharp increases in single people in cities in the Midwest and Southwest, including Cleveland, Phoenix, Los Angeles and Albuquerque, N.M. It was the first time the share of unmarried young adults exceeded those who were married.

Read it all.

Dora the Explorer Sues Nickelodeon

I realize this is only Pentecostal news if you attended the North American Youth Congress in Charlotte, NC three years ago, but . . . the new/old Dora is suing Nickelodeon over money lost due to her contract. Apparently, her voice changed after 3 years and she has been released from her duties.

If you recall, the original voice work on Dora was done by Pentecostal Kathleen Herles for many years before they rebooted the character.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

We Knew Her When

Special shout-out to former 90&9 staffer for Cara Davis. She's got a guest column on Beliefnet! How cool is that.

It doesn't hurt that her essay on doubt is absolutely fabulous either. Go read it.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Fighting It out In "The End Zone

Sister blog Momo's Musings has begun a new "The End Zone" feature where I butt heads with him over pressing NFL questions each week. It's fun and - if you like football - great fodder to argue over. (Plus, it's amazing how often he's wrong and I'm right!)

He also offers great insight into both college & pro football in his "5th Quarter" weekly features.

So if you're inclined toward winter sports, don't miss them!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Trend Watch: Reading is Alive & Well

Last night, the fabulous St. Louis County Library presented YA author Rick Riordan (The Lightning Thief series), to a crowd of 2,000 people. Yes, 18(!) groups of people wanted their books signed. (Sorry, only 1 book per person and no photos due to time limitations.) Doors opened at 5 for the 7 p.m. presentation. By 5:45, when we arrived, we were in Group 8. I brought 5 boys (all big fans, save 1; all 6-8th graders, all supposed to not be interested in reading due to their age and Y chromosome).


Yes, I realize Harry Potter has made the YA market the ultimate sweet spot for authors today (as the multiple parents of all nationalities attested), but this wasn’t that. This was 2,000 people on a Thursday night celebrating books by celebrating an author. Plus, I can almost guarantee most of those kids had bought most of his titles.

I wonder how many music acts could pull in 2,000 people on a week night? (As way of comparison, in February Nita & I attended a local Switchfoot concert and it had a slightly smaller crowd. Switchfoot!) I wonder how many other media projects could pull in 2,000 people on a week night in the Midwest?


So please stop with the “Print is Dead” and “Children Don’t Read” mindlessness. Open your eyes! Reading print books will go on for many, many more decades because it creates the ultimate one-on-one experience and warm communal events.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

An Apostolic in the U.S. Congress?

Demos

Exciting times! Joel Demos is running for Congress. Most of you probably know that. Most of you have probably already contributed to the cause. It would be nice to have an Apostolic in Congress. Good luck, Joel!

Here’s some recent press from a Washington Post blog.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Praying for Christopher Hitchens

Christopher Hitchens is dying of esophageal cancer, which was the disease that took his father. Or as Hitchens says it, "Well, I'm dying... but so are you. I'm only doing it more rapidly." Hitchens, a devout "New Atheist," and author of God is Not Great and more recently, a memoir, Hitch 22, has now found himself as the subject of "Everyone Pray for Hitchens Day" which was held by several ministers last month. The event was sincere and promoted by several Christians who have come to develop quite an admiration for the man who so vehemently opposes faith-based religions. The admiration and relationships to Hitchens were nurtured by people who consistently debated him, and found themselves respecting the man.


About the people praying for his recovery Hitchens says, "I say it's fine by me, I think of it as a nice gesture. And it may well make them feel better, which is a good thing in itself ." However, he says knowing about the prayers does nothing for himself. 


I would add that when/if Hitchens goes, I will be at a loss. It is Hitchens whose voice I believe is the only one worth listening to amongst the New Atheists (Harris, Dawkins, Hitchens, Dennett). The rest are so mired in their own presuppositions, that they defile the logic which they claim as their support. Dawkins won't even engage in public debate. It is Hitchens whose arguments make me tense, because they demand a confrontation of sorts if I am being honest. The way Hitchens talks about the various religious beliefs is fascinating, and although he talks about religion with a great amount of cynical humor, I never get the sense that he is making a straw man out of religious systems, but rather is taking the claims of the various religions quite seriously.It is Dawkins, whose understanding of religion seems to be that of one who has gotten no further in their theological understanding than that of a 13 year old in Sunday School. 


Read the article about the prayer day for Hitchens and his thoughts on his looming death here.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Is this life?

I don't know if this photo is real or not, but my skepticism tells me it's fake. I don't really care though. I just thought it was an all too accurate representation of life when we shoot for human achievements. The moment you conquer one goal, lurking somewhere in the nearby woods, is something ready to make a prize out of you.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Happy 50th Mom & Dad!

Congratulations to my parents, Marvin & Shirley Curry, on their 50th anniversary!

(Bro. Haney's not congratulating my parents on 50 golden years. This picture is from Dad's retirement in 2005.)


Thursday, October 07, 2010

True Immortality: Nobel Prize Winners


I love this time of year because for 2 weeks the Nobel Prize Committee celebrates people on Earth who actually matter. The American press actually interviews people who aren’t citizens, aren’t (necessarily) beautiful, and can’t talk in sound bites. The Nobel is kind of a lifetime achievement award instead of recognition for one hot film or a great album.

Oh sometimes the choices are clunkers - and of course there's a certain amount of politics involved - but for most of the categories (medicine, chemistry, economics, literature) you get to learn about very dedicated, tireless people who are inventing the change in today’s world. Not celebrities, not the beautiful, but the dedicated and the good.

I can hardly wait until the first Pentecostal accepts their Nobel!

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

So the whole parting of the Red Sea story in the bible? Yeah, Aliens!



In short, there is this Presbyterian Minister, Barry Downing who went to Seminary and found that no one was believing the Bible literally true because that entailed miracles which are in contradiction to the naturalism that was so popular at the time, Downing's answer is to start bringing Aliens as an explanation to miracles in the Bible.

Yes, the ascension of Jesus Christ? A UFO came and beamed Jesus right up in their ship.

The Red Sea parting? A giant UFO alien tube came and parted the waters. 

Seriously, please click that link above. There is a slideshow of illustrations Downing has made showing how he perceives aliens interacting with various Bible narratives.

And on second thought, the kids are going to love this. This would be great Sunday School material. Tell them the stories, and whenever the miracle happens we say "And there were aliens doing all of it!" The kid's eyes will get big. And they will be hooting and hollering. Suddenly the Bible is not an obligation to the kids. 

I think I like Downing. 

Monday, October 04, 2010

Let's play the game, "Revolution." I'll be Mao and you be Lenin!....(then let's tweet about it)

Last week, I decided it was a good idea to start reading things that only old people read. I have always considered myself a 63 year old trapped in a twenty something's body, but I am always looking for ways to project this image to others more accurately. Vests. Blazers with elbow pads. I am also currently playing with the idea of purchasing a corncob pipe and walking around with it unlit, at opportune times.

In the same spirit, I started reading the New Yorker online. Some of the articles are good. Others make you giggle. But the recent article I have found is from Malcolm Gladwell (pictured) who is also the author of those Outliers, Tipping Point, and Blink books you always see at Barnes & Nobles and are hesitant to purchase because you just think they are some motivational backwash (the descriptions on the book don't do justice to it's content). The article, "SMALL CHANGE: Why the revolution will not be tweeted," was a fantastic read that highlights something eerily relevant that I think most of us would like to forget. It gets at the concept that Twitter and Facebook are great humanitarian vehicles to initiate world change. Two most popular examples being how organization of the Iranian protests from last year were organized from Twitter, or the same argument goes to a protest of the communist Moldavian government last year which was dubbed the "Twitter Revolution." Both examples are very misleading, and most likely wrong. 


Gladwell points out that the revolutions of our past (such as the sit-ins and marches that happened in the late 50's and early 60's in the South protesting segregation) were begun by close social ties (a sermon at your church or a conversation with a close friend) with a high-risk, high reward  action that is operated within the framework of a hierarchical structure (most people say the efficiency of groups such as SNCC and SCLC was because they were organized like a military operation). In contrast, revolutions via social networks, Gladwell argues are impossible because they do the opposite. Revolutions are defined by close nit-social ties. The very fabric of a social network is a way to maintain or generate loose connections. I have over 1,000 friends on facebook. But how many am I really "friends" with? 


Secondly, social networks provide social change through low-risk proposals that will inspire no one to act. Rather, social networks tell people they are acting or helping out (e.g. giving money to a charity for Darfur), but the reality is it gave them a position to feel more justified in their laziness. 


Last point is that social networks are networks without a hierarchy. Nothing gets done in terms of action (Al Qaeda for instance is now a network and not an organized top-down entity and their effectiveness is almost zero now.)


You should read the article. It's good. 

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Mitchell Heisman: (if only there was a word to describe him)

Preface: The story I describe below (of the man pictured above), has really grabbed a hold of my mind since I found out about it yesterday afternoon. I don't know what to think. I really don't. Definitely Sad. I am not intending to glorify the story, nor demonize his suicidal act a metaphor for our brutal century. When you read about it, there is nothing gory about the story. Pretty basic suicide (if a suicide can be "basic."). But the event that surrounds the suicide, that makes it newsworthy. That is what I am miffed by. I guess I am left here with you, trying to figure out my thoughts regarding it and using this blog as kind of a therapy. What word do I use, in my own head to classify this man's suicide? I want this story to make sense. That is what this man was trying to do with his life...and it just gets, so.....

Story: The pictured man's name is Mitchell Heisman. I have known of him for one day. He is dead now. He died on Saturday, September 18. He committed suicide. He shot himself on Harvard's campus. He ended his life on the steps of the infamous Harvard Memorial chapel. In front of 20 tourists. I was (enthralled?) by his story.

Because the man published 1,905 page suicide note on a website whose link was automatically sent out from his email address to 400 recipients four hours after he shot himself. Yes, 1,905 pages. (note: the actual suicide note has some inappropriate language issues within).

And I can easily say that "suicide note" is not the proper summary of it. It's so much different. It's more like a philosophical inquiry. He had been working on it for five years. And by philosophical inquiry, i mean, here is a sentence I pulled at random, "After Darwin and the cosmological frame of reference gleaned from astronomy, the provincialism of humanism was revealed as a mere prejudice towards the human race."

In short, the note aims to provide a rational basis for his suicide and argues through the primary philosophical ideologies that stand opposed to his suicide (primarily the presupposition that "life" is good). As you can see from the quote above, it's very dense writing, and here and there he adds a bit of dark humor. But all in all, the most perplexing thing about the book is it's entirely academic (over 1,400 footnotes). There is minimal sense of his own self within the book except for the closing chapter where he describes his own life walking through the philosophical struggles he had been discussing in his book, ever since the death of his father at the age of 12. No good byes to family. No "I love you." No mention of battling a depression. He is concerned about logic (or the inability for man to be logical

So why am I so interested with Mitchell? I think it's the fact that no one knew about what his book was about. 5 years he wrote. Told people he was nearing completion a week before he died. 5 whole years, and it's not clear if when he started writing, if suicide was his desired ends. The openness about his arguments displayed in a public website for scrutiny. And when read, it's like the individual is gone (one section he argues about the necessity to a lose a sense of the individual, but I could not cipher what his conclusion was).

So how do I describe it? Is fascinating too optimistically obsessive of a word? Enthralling? Disturbing definitely seems apt, but I think that would too easily forget the sincerity or honesty he was trying to write with? Captivating may do but that seems to infer a kind of enticing attraction to him, to which I would say there is no attraction to what Mitchell did. Arresting? Engrossing? Maybe engrossing. I find his entire process engrossing. Which infers that he is more of a side show I guess...but maybe that's what he is. An academic suicidal sideshow for all to weigh in on. An object, now ceased, that we can talk about. Forget about soon enough. Mention our regret (it really is tragic).

And in my quest for labeling, I am trying to find meaning. Significance. A word to properly portray why I even took the time to read some of his note.

 Was Mitchell doing the same with his life? Trying to find meaning through philosophy and argument. And in the end, found "suicide" as the best answer? Or was suicide always his answer, and he looked to fill in the gap between the act and his existence. Define the story so he didn't look so crazy?

While far from suicide, aren't we all doing this a little? Determining our end result and then filling in the pieces between now and the end? I don't know.

End.

Warning, this next paragraph may bore you and is unnecessary. The essay is in it's completed form exists above. What follows is a brief summary of what I was able to glean from my spot readings of his book in terms of themes, and purpose. I tried wading through some of the selections (the ones that had section headings that intrigued me) and read his opening and closing  chapters (about 40 pages in all. Not even making a dent in it). One thing that interested me was how he started the suicide note not believing in God, and had unexpectedly come to believe in God. Though I could not find what his definition of God was (definitely not Jesus). He does come to see artificial intelligence (which he thinks is the next evolutionary step of man) as a kind of soon to be physical representation of the Jewish idea of God (a conscious being completely distinct from man). Overall, Mitchell is wrestling Nietzche's nihilism (meaningless world where we are to act on our urges) vs. his "boundless" move to really enact on the meaningless of life: suicide. Or...because there can be no value found in life (or a rational explanation that life itself is good), then it's opposite, "death," and it's limitlessness cannot be declared a negative. That is the argument in short (obviously, he ends up siding with suicide).  Monotheism (Judaism especially) vs. Polytheism (Greek paganism), and then paralleling those two being precursors of democracy vs. Nazism is another key element (there are many many more points obviously, but after skimming and reading a few topic sentences then the intro and conclusion, those seem to be the focal point (he believes that because of democracy, and the absence of eugenics such as advocated by Nietzche and Hitler, man will not evolve except to become robots (i was put off too, but this suggestion, but there is much more to it and was actually a fascinating theory). While there were countless paragraphs I had difficulty with comprehending, the stuff I was able to grasp I thought was very interesting. 



UPCI General Conference Voting - UPDATED (Again)!

Bro. Randy Keyes resigned as Assistant General Superintendent - Western Zone before the United Pentecostal Church International's General Conference this week in Houston, so that position was open.

Earlier today, the nominating ballot's top 3 names were:

Stan Gleason--234 votes
Ron Mullings--229 votes
Anthony Mangum--69 votes.

Mangun then withdrew. Gleason, the District Superintendent of Missouri, then won in the run-off.

Otherwise, all the secretary positions of each division were re-elected, with Michael Ensey moving into the vacated General Youth Division Secretary position.

Resolutions:
1. The Media Missions Division was closed.
2. Word Aflame Publications was moved under the Sunday School Division from PPH.
3. Allow "assistant to the pastor" to move from local to general license in the process.
4. Express appreciation to everyone.

No, I don't exactly know what #4 means, but thought I'd pass it on from my informant anyway.

BTW, this was all electronic voting for the first time, with about 1400 voters.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

He's Back!


If you love great football (and basketball) analysis, then you need to be visiting sister blog "Momo's Musings," as you'll get a full slate of insight that has been copied on ESPN radio and other blogs.

No higher praise need be added. Check it out, then leave a comment!

Think on These Things

"Everyone wants progress, but nobody likes change." -Rex Ryan, NY Jets head coach.

On Franzen

20100922_jonathan-franzen-kerri-miller_39

There’s been a lot of press lately about Jonathan Franzen’s latest book. Oprah, NPR, Time. All that and more.

There’s liberals, and then there’s real liberals. Franzen (admittedly) falls in the later category.

I caught a snippet of a broadcast yesterday on my way home from the grocery store. I hate it when I have to turn off the radio but sometimes I get so offended or so irritated my only recourse is to click it off. I think it was both yesterday. There was a moment (40,33) when Franzen mentioned 9/11 and referred to it as a “terrible, terrible disaster . . . attack.”

Really? 9/11 was a disaster? No, it was nothing of the sort. It was a terrorist attack. Franzen’s slip of the tongue belies the incredible power of words and how they shape our view of the world. For a person to view 9/11 fundamentally as a disaster, first, and as an attack as an afterthought shows how far we have come and how far we have to go in the battle for ideology.

Don’t listen to the interview. It’ll just make you mad. Take my word for it.

Monday, September 27, 2010

TED's Chris Anderson and Pentecostals

TED's Chris Anderson has a mesmerizing video presentation on how YouTube is driving artistic and philanthropic innovation around the world.

The concept is simple: If someone in Japan sees a cool dance video, they not only want to imitate it, they want to individualize it and make it better. Then someone in Denmark sees the Japanese video and does the same. Then someone in Chile sees . . .

This has happened in Christian circles, especially in one much-imitated video that has probably been individualized in more churches and related videos than any other. This one has been seen 10m times over and used in churches worldwide.

It's a strong argument for developing the visual arts within our Pentecostal circles. One effective skit can share the gospel to the ends of the world.

The 18 minute talk doesn't seem long enough.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Why Are So Many Things Broken?


Technology Guru Seth Godin offers fascinating insights on why certain things in life are broken, stay broken, or should remain broken.

The video is entertaining, funny, and perhaps a tad long.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Excuse me, I have an interest here in logic and atheism. I want to talk to you about it.

Caption: Anyone who studies the "black and white" atheists on the top (Nietzsche, Freud, Marx from left to right)  and the New Atheists (Hitchens, Harris, Dawkins from left to right), will know the point about them being the same as the old atheists is absurd. Hint: Old Atheists, tend to understand that a godless world infers chaos at least in it being permissible. The New Atheists argue for a Moral law inspite of a godless universe.

There are a couple points I enjoy reading up on that I have to caution myself on posting too much of a subject that enthralls me but may be dull to you. I personally think the issues which interest me have very large ramifications for our children and grandchildren (but that could just be my ego trying to say "I HAVE A PROBLEM AND IT'S IMPORTANT!). The issues: Cognitive science (brain), Evolution/Creation, and the New Atheists.

I just posted about a book against the new atheists from Tomas Halik earlier this week, and I will post about Christopher Hitchens next week (an all too relevant article I found). So with great hesitation, I post the following link, but I think it's quite an interesting, fast article. It's ten propositions of the New Atheists. It's a website for theologians so it may at time go above your heads (there were a couple points that were blurry to me), and it's because the author is somewhat assuming you are familiar with the people mentioned and the issues discussed. That said, I don't think you can get a better summary of the illogical fallacies of new atheism in a shorter time frame than this article. I would be delighted if, after reading the article you left a comment here of disagreement or question of confusion about a point made.