Saturday, March 31, 2012

Around the Horn

Here are a few things that caught my eye this week...

Great article by Laura Miller called Fresh Hell: What's Behind the Boom in Dystopian Fiction? Here are a couple of good quotes on The Hunger Games as a social commentary on the adolescent social experience, as she calls it:
  •  "'The Hunger Games' is not an argument. It operates like a fable or a myth, a story in which outlandish and extravagant figures and events serve as conduits for universal experiences." 
  • If, on the other hand, you consider the games as a fever-dream allegory of the adolescent social experience, they become perfectly intelligible. Adults dump teen-agers into the viper pit of high school, spouting a lot of sentimental drivel about what a wonderful stage of life it’s supposed to be. The rules are arbitrary, unfathomable, and subject to sudden change. A brutal social hierarchy prevails, with the rich, the good-looking, and the athletic lording their advantages over everyone else. To survive you have to be totally fake. Adults don’t seem to understand how high the stakes are; your whole life could be over, and they act like it’s just some “phase”! Everyone’s always watching you, scrutinizing your clothes or your friends and obsessing over whether you’re having sex or taking drugs or getting good enough grades, but no one cares who you really are or how you really feel about anything.

This American Life retracts one of their stories. Apparently Mike Daisey has confused fact with fiction. Here's an interesting article linking Daisey with Jason Russell - remember Kony 2012?

Robert Barron talks about Palm Sunday.

Doug Harrison notes here the five things you should never give up for Lent.

Don't miss Downton Arby's.


Friday, March 30, 2012

The Hunger Games

***Lots of spoilers ahead!

Here are a few off the cuff reactions to The Hunger Games:

- I enjoyed it much more when I read in larger chunks rather than a chapter or two here and there. They're better when quickly consumed.

- The first book was clearly the best.

- Collins has a way of not making the story exactly what you think it's going to be. The way she brought us back to the arena in the second book without telling us exactly the same story, allowing us to revisit some of what we loved about the first book but with entirely new plot twists to keep is fresh, especially the way she figured out how to get Katniss and Peeta back in the arena. I thought that was a good move. The way Katniss killed Coin rather than Snow, thus making Snow's death rather anticlimactic. The way Prim died in the end, the very thing Katniss was trying to prevent in the first place. The way it's not really happy ending at all. There are  moves like this along the way that make it feel original.

- However, I feel indifferent to the originality of the story. It's kind of a post-apocalyptic version of Spartacus, except that Katniss is not some great hero calling the shots.

- Also, we've seen the big governmental take down before, so what makes this so compelling? I'm actually asking that because I haven't quite sorted it out. But something about this series has made it a cultural phenomenon.

- I think one thing that makes it so compelling is that it's tragic. There is no happy ending.

- In fact, if you view the story as a kind of parable, the real question become how do we keep from repeating our past, especially seen in Coin's willingness to impose another hunger games on the prisoners from the Capitol. Are we on a crash course for another Roman Coliseum?

- This leads to the use of media. How close are we to this in real life, with out fascinating with reality TV, with the possibility that an entire war could be televised, with the reality of drone strikes, with social media? What would it take for the "culturally elite" to go this far? Think about this in terms of The Mockingjay concept. It offers an interesting way of understanding the place of art and advertising and celebrity in our culture. The way it was all a big game the whole time. Even when the rebellion was is full motion, they were using staged footage of Katniss to instill hope and rebellion into the people of the districts. This made me think of the movie Starship Troopers (you don't need to go watch it) and how the used the war to try and recruit more volunteers into the military. Still, as it relates to art in particular, Cinna's magic turned Katniss into a symbol of rebellion. For it to work it had to be beautiful, compelling, fascinating. Think about the power people have after their YouTube video has gone viral.

- I like that Katniss is never really this great hero. She always seems to be played by someone else in the know. Same with Peeta. In the end they never really get over their lives. They have nightmares and flashbacks.

- Collins does a good job giving us the back story in bits and pieces a long the way. Rarely does she devote long and laborious sections to history. We learn along the way, as if we are inside of Katniss's conscious.

- Along those lines, I think Collins has given us a very creative story-world. I have no problem imagining these characters in her world.

- In the end the problem becomes how to tell your kids what happened in the past, about bringing them into the story no matter what it is. There's something good there. Perhaps the real issues is whether or not the story can be told in such a way so as not to be repeated in the next National fallout.

- I didn't care for the love story too much, although I'm glad this isn't becoming a Team Gale versus Team Peeta thing like we saw in Twilight. But again, it seemed right that she didn't go with Gale, especially after learning this is was one of his bombs that killed Prim, thus damaging any hope for marrigae. And I liked that forgiveness didn't come easy for Katniss who has been so burned.

- Back to difficult reality of forgiveness and reconciliation, this is one of the things I liked about the Johanna Mason character. The Capitol took it all and she is likely to never let anyone too close ever again.

Tell me your reactions? Or elaborate and/or disagree with mine?

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Diggin' Robert Barron

I couldn't help but laugh of out loud a little at this quote by Robert Barron from The Strangest Way, the book I was talking about yesterday. As a Nazarene I have an ironic appreciation for his stand against all forms of Puritanism.

"We recall that another of the Lukan Jesus' puzzling beatitudes was 'blessed are you who weep,' that is to say, lucky are you who are not addicted to the false god of good feelings. Now as an ardent Chestertonian, I certainly subscribe to the dictum 'wherever the Catholic sun doth shine / there is music and laughter and good red wine' and stand, accordingly, against puritanism in all its forms."

That's where I laughed. I can imagine him cocking his head to side, looking down with conviction, although at nothing in particular, his hand rising and falling in a quick, abrasive, chopping motion: "and stand, ... accordingly (chop), ... against (chop) ... Puristanism (pause for effect and sip of wine) in all its forms." I need to read more Chesterton.

The rest of quote is awesome, but more serious.

"There is nothing life-denying or teetotaling or pleasure-eschewing about authentic Christianity; it embraces the joys of human existence with great enthusiasm. However, let me make at least a nod in the direction of the Puritans. Since pleasure - like all good created things - can become an attachment, it too must be disciplined if we are to stay rooted in the center. To stand with Christ is hardly to embrace a hedonistic campaign of marching from delight to delight; rather it is to do the will of the Father even when that costs dearly, even when it conduces to the cross. Therefore the centered person must be ready for pain as well as pleasure, for deep sadness as well as contentment, clinging neither to one nor the other."

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A Reflection on Beauty, Goodness, and Truth

"Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness." - Psalm 96 

I've found myself, as of late, quite taken by the writings of Robert Barron. My friend, Rusty, is the one who told me I should read his book, The Priority of Christ. Since I was leaving for Pasadena I decided I would wait to see if they had a copy of it in Archives, one of the best theological bookstores in the world, by the way. They didn't have it, but they did have a copy of a book of his called The Strangest Way: Walking the Christian Path. I'm only about fifty pages in but I am soaking it up deeply.

For Barron, ours is "a God who comes after us with a reckless abandon, breaking open his own heart in love in order to include us in the rhythm of his own life. Christianity, I saw, was not our disciplined quest for God, but God's relentless quest for us - even to the point of death. God dies in order that we might be his friends" (11). Or as Brennan Manning might say: God is ridiculously in love with you (my paraphrase).

The point, though, is the part about becoming attune to the rhythm of God's own life. If Christianity is a game, then the point is that we play. Apprenticeship is the mode of existence for Christians (17). "Come and see," Jesus tells the disciples (John 1:39). Catch my drift. Align to the path. Find the beat.

But how does all that begin? This has been my question for a while, especially as I try to process what it means for me as a person born and raised a follower of Jesus. What compels me to keep going when logic and arguments for faith, as good as they, can't sustain me? Or when the church is so morally impotent that she has no value? The only compulsion is the first compulsion: the reckless abandon of God's love. In a word, the only thing that really compels me is beauty.

How does all of this begin? Because God is so damn beautiful. At first we are compelled and intrigued to follow Jesus simply because we cannot take our eyes off of Him. Whether it was the first Christians who saw Jesus with their own eyes, or the people through whom we first saw Jesus as a baby, or a kid, or a teenager, or an adult. Or maybe even it wasn't anyone we ever met face to face, but a story about some person who lived fifty, one hundred, or one thousand years ago, that so intrigued, so compelled us that it captured our attention long enough for the love of God through Christ to shine through. It is the beauty of Christ that compels us. Something about the love of God in Christ, where people can't help but be healed, where injustice can't help but be exposed, where forgiveness and reconciliation can't help but happen, where anger subsides, where jealousy dies, where we truly see one another as distinct and unique expressions of God, where war doesn't make sense, where poverty is impossible. Where at the end of the day, when the dark night (my constant companion) settles in, I hope and pray in light of the resurrection of Jesus that one day everything will be put to rights, that God will make good on His promises.

To fall in love with God is the first order. After that everything else finds its proper place. "Once the beauty of Christianity has seized a devotee, she will long to submit herself to it, entering into its rhythms, its institutions, its history, its drama, its visions and activities. And then, having practiced it, having worked it into her soul and flesh, she will know it" (30). Did you catch that? Knowledge comes through practicing faith. It comes on the way. The moral perfection of the church is not enough, obviously. The systemic rendering of our faith is not enough. Ethics and truth happen in faith, but the question is how we get to faith. Come and see, he says. And we come because of beauty. "The movement, in short, is from the beautiful (it is splendid!) to the good (I must play it!) to the true (it is right!)" (30). From beauty to goodness to truth. There is, to be sure, ethics and truth to consider, but not on their own. They are not the first order of business. It's frustrating sometimes to remember that God never tells us what do to, he only shows us what He did. And what He did is first and foremost something beautiful.

Because it is beautiful, I must play it. And now that I have played, I see that it is true. You cannot convince people of God's love. And for the love of God, you must stop trying to convince people that they are sinners. The best thing you can do is to love God yourself. If you are so compelled, so intrigued, so captivated by the beauty of the God's love, then you will reflect that out into the world accidentally. Even our best laid plans will merely be expressions, or accidents of our love for God. Our expressions of God's love to others will not be the thing that gets us out of bed in the morning. It will be an actual love of God that will exist long after God brings about the New Creation.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Quote by Frederich Buechner

"The distances between the inner world that each of us is are greater in their way than the distances between the outer world of interstellar space, but in another way, the worlds of all of us are also the same world ... We are all of us in it together, and it is in us all. So if preachers or lecturers are to say anything that really matters to anyone including themselves, they must say it not just to the public part of us that considers interesting thoughts about the Gospel and how to preach it, but to the private, inner part too, to the part of us all where our dreams come from, both our good dreams and our bad dreams, elucidation less than evocation, where our concern is less with how the Gospel is to be preached than with what the Gospel is and what it is to us. They must address themselves to the fullness of who we are and to the emptiness too, the emptiness where grace and peace belong but mostly are not, because terrible as well as wonderful things have happened to us all." - Frederich Buechner, Telling the Truth, 3ff

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Around the Horn

These last few days have been like being in a whirlwind due to some medical issues with my Dad. Needless to say, blogging has been a low priority this week. But I did manage to link up to a few notable things around the horn.

A couple of really good posts here and here from Rachel Held Evans. The first one is fifteen reasons why she left the church. The second is fifteen reasons why she returned to the church. And no doubt you may have heard something from her about vagina's.

N.T. Wright offers words of appreciation for Rowan Williams, who recently stepped down as the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Benjamin Myers also wrote a good article on Rowan Williams.

One movie I will see next week. I bet you can't guess what it is. Okay, I'll give you a clue. I just finished reading the first of the three books in the series. And I think I might want to take up archery. 

And Boomhauer on the meaning of life.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Meandering Thoughts on (Sermon) Writing

So apparently when it's my week to preach (which means it's my week to write a sermon) everything gets interrupted, blogging in particular. This doesn't surprise me, though. Because I preach about once a month, to stop and write a sermon seems like a great upheaval of whatever my more regular rhythm is. Even if I try to write every day just as a discipline, the difference in the task of writing a sermon seems to knock everything out of place probably because it feels like something is on the line. I usually just have to give myself over to it. I'm much better at managing my time and stress level than I used to be, but sometimes, like last week, it takes a little bit longer to work through the passage and work out my thoughts on to paper and then to internalize the arrangement of those thoughts, once they have been organized on to paper, and then transform them into spoken word.

I have learned to think about writing in terms of the flywheel (thanks to Tim and Johnny and Annie Dillard). I'm probably going to butcher this because I am still learning exactly how it works, but a flywheel is basically a gear used to keep the momentum going. Once they are moving, they contain energy that can be transfer into work. An old car engine, for example, had a flywheel in it. The starter turned the flywheel, which allowed to motor to run on it's own. This is why it's better to let a car idle than to keep turning it off and on. It takes more effort to start and stop a car, which is this economy means more gas, and we don't want none of that! The flywheel builds up inertia, which makes it resistant to change, which is what you want when you are trying to keep a machine moving. It takes more effort to start a flywheel from a dead stop than it does to maintain the momentum once it has started.

Feel free to correct me on this, but I think my point is right. When it comes time for me to write a sermon, it is like starting a flywheel from a dead stop. And cranking a sermon flywheel from a dead stop every month or so takes a great deal of intentionality. This is part of the reason why I speak at other places outside my church, like the Kansas City Rescue Mission. It is an easy way for me to stay disciplined in my sermon writing. Usually these sermons are short, fifteen minute reflections so they don't take nearly as much time. By the time you get in there, read the passage, and pray, your looking at about twelve minutes, and that's if the guys don't heckle you or try to answer every rhetorical question you ask, which is also part of the reason why I love preaching there.

I warned you these were meandering thoughts on (sermon) writing. Perhaps it's best to let someone more wise and seasoned in the art of writing to have the last word:

          "Every morning you climb several flights of stairs, enter your study, open the French doors, and slide your desk and chair out into the middle of the air. The desk and chair float thirty feet from the ground, between the crowns of maple trees. The furniture is in place; you go back for your thermos of coffee. Then, wincing, you step out again through the French doors and sit down on the chair and look over the desktop. You can see clear to the river from here in winter. You pour yourself a cup of coffee.
          Birds fly under your chair. In spring, when the leaves open in the maples' crowns, your view stops in the treetops just beyond the desk; yellow warblers hiss and whisper on the high twigs, and catch flies. Get to work. Your work is to keep cranking the flywheel that turns the gears that spin the belt in the engine of belief that keeps you and your desk in midair." - Annie Dillard, The Writing Life, 10ff

Monday, March 19, 2012

C.S. Lewis

"I do not think that all who choose wrong roads perish; but their rescue consists in being put back on the right road. A sum can be put right: but only by going back till you find the error and working it afresh from that point, never by simply going on. Evil can be undone, but it cannot 'develop' into good. Time does not heal it. The spell must be unwound, bit by bit, 'with backward mutters of disservering power' or else not. It is still 'either-or'. If we insist on keeping Hell (or even Earth) we shall not see Heaven: if we accept Heaven we shall not be able to retain even the smallest and most intimate souvenirs of Hell. I believe, to be sure, that any man who reaches Heaven will find that what he abandoned (even in plucking out his right eye) has not been lost: that the kernel of what he was really seeking even in his most depraved wishes will be there, beyond expectation, waiting for him in 'the High Countries'. In that sense it will be true for those who have completed the journey (and for no others) to say that good is everything and Heaven everywhere. But we, at this end of the road, must not try to anticipate that retrospective vision. If we do, we are likely to embrace the false and disastrous converse and fancy that everything is good and everywhere is Heaven." - C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce


Saturday, March 17, 2012

Around the Horn

Wow, I thought I was developing a good rhythm for blogging, but apparently this week (with the additional mental bandwidth required for writing a sermon) has knocked me off my game. I hope to get back on track next week. Nevertheless here are merely a few things that been happening around the horn:

Have an extra 12,000 pieces pf paper to spare? Consider making this. Josh Ritter, Love's Making Its Way Back Home.

Some scattered thoughts by Rachel Held Evans on "Christian Industry."

Here's a series I just caught wind of. A guy named Jake Bouma is hosting a Cancer and Theology series on his blog. He's already got a few of them up.

A good post from Katie. Have I told you she has a book coming out in November?

Rowan Williams is stepping down as the Archbishop of Canterbury. This brought to mind one of my favorite Rowan Williams moments ever (read here).

*above image from

Thursday, March 15, 2012

I like this... a picture

"This plucky little bird was given a good licking when it dared to venture near a massive bison. The brown-headed cowbird was feeding on insects when the towering beast gently touched it with her tongue. The bird let out a chirp before flying off. Photographer Tin Man Lee, 34, captured the moment at Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, America."

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

My Music Patterns

Since my last post on music, I started to became aware of a pattern in the way I listen to music that I thought I'd share in hopes that maybe some of you would share your own patterns because what, when, where, and how we listen to music these days is just fascinating.

Just yesterday I was remembering back when I was in Junior High and how we had to sit in front of the radio, waiting for our song to come on so that we could his the record button on the cassette tape! We were making these mix tapes of our favorite songs, which included all the DJ intros and outros for each song. Do you remember that!? Did you ever do that? So, you never actually heard the whole song because there was always some voice at the beginning and the end. It was a mess but it's all we had. The invention of the single download option was revolutionary indeed!

I find these days that if I listen to music at certain times of the day that I am prone to certain tendencies as to what I listen to. It seems that the time of the day governs what I listen to, or don't listen to, for that matter.

In the early morning I want silence. Always. No exceptions. Well, okay, maybe a few exceptions. I get up before everyone else, which tends to make this possible, although not always because of our little gremlin children, but I try.

In the mid morning, if I listen to music, I listen to "Olafur Arnalds" radio on Pandora. It's kind of a contemplative, simplistic, wordless sound governed mostly by the cello and violin. From this starting point, Pandora finds me a good blend of other similar artists. I'm typically in my office at the church when I listen to this.

In the mid afternoon, if I listen to music, I listen to "Probe" radio. My wife makes fun of me for this, but because of the steady, rhythmic electronic beats of this mix, I find a new kind of head space that helps me stay focused because let's be honest, it's tough sometimes to work after lunch and I'm not too contemplative in the afternoons. I'm either in my office or at a coffee shop when I listen to this. The social atmosphere works well for me in the afternoon.

In the evenings, if I listen to music, I listen to "Abdullah Ibrahim" radio. His piano playing is soft, crisp, and deeply simple, and it leads into the world of John Coltrane and company. I'm not typically working at this point of the day, which makes this music great to have on as you slip from evening into night, with dishes to sort and kids to play with. Any worry about your work for the day subsides, finding its proper place in the cosmos.

What about you? How do you listen to music? What do you listen to? When do you listen to it? Where do you listen to it? How does Spotify change all of this?  :)

Also, feel free to respond to my previous post on music where I put my iPod/iTunes on shuffle and recorded the first ten songs that came up.

*And by the way, the art featured above is called "Transition" by Suzanne Cheryl Gardner

Monday, March 12, 2012

Quote from Katie Savage (my wife, by the way)

"Confession is like bed making when you consider the slow and deliberate repetition. Tucking the sheets. Smoothing the comforter. Plumping the pillows. It's work that should be done daily, or at least as often as the untucking, the crumpling, and the smooshing occur. My resistance to confession probably comes from the same place as my resistance to making the bed: doing something that I know with certainty that I will have to do again soon. Over and over again until I am too old or weak or sick to do it or until my children are old enough to take over doing all the unpleasant household tasks. (Don't tell my son Miles, but the option to delegate the worst chores to our offspring was high up on Scott's and my list of Reasons to Have Children.) There is also the matter of enforcement to consider. None exists. No one knows or cares or sees that my bed is unmade, no one knows or cares or sees that my confessions are unsaid, and if a sheet is untucked in a forest with no one there to see it, is it really untucked?"

- Katie Savage, from her forthcoming book, which is scheduled to be released in November and likely to be called Whirlybirds and Ordinary Times: Reflections on Faith and the Changing of Seasons

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Around the Horn

This is why I don't blog on Sunday.

Are North American's smart enough for Democracy?

My friend, Tim, has a new book coming out!

Ever wonder what the inside of a musical instrument looks like? This is incredible!

Click here for a good weekly devotional thought.

A movie I will see next week. I'm over half way through the second book right now. Makes me wonder how creative science fiction actually is these days. Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote the first story in 1912!

Ever consider a non-violent response to Kony? Check out this one by Jonnathon Wilson-Hartgrove (thanks to David Fitch via Twitter).

And a funny one from The Daily Show:

Friday, March 09, 2012

Responding to Kony 2012

Like most of you, I am wondering how to navigate a whole host of things surrounding the now ubiquitous Joseph Kony and the video that made him famous.

What good will this video actually do?

Is it true?

Why now?

How does one become involved in age old tribal wars?

What is justice?

What politic should win? The UPDF, LRC, what?

Where in the world is Carmen San Die... I mean Joseph Kony?

In any case, you may be having a difficult time knowing how to take this all in so I've tried to parse it down a bit into categories. Below are a are a few resource I believe typify differing opinions on this phenomenon.

Read this for a negative critique/rant of the phenomenon.

Read this for a moderately critical but generally positive view of the phenomenon.

Read this for a partial defense of the phenomenon.

Other than the creators of the video, I have not found a well argued whole-heated endorsement of the phenomenon. If you have, please send me a link!

What do you think about all of this? Who do you believe to be a credible voice in this?

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Rowan Williams and the nature of Christian community

I am currently making my way through Where God Happens by Rowan Williams. This is about as good as it gets when it comes to articulating that nature of Christian community. I thought I would highlight one aspect of the book in hopes that it might speak something to someone today.

For the sake of context, allow me to clarify that in the book Williams is attempting to draw on the tradition of the desert fathers and mothers (around the 4th century) in order to get at the nature of Christian community. How we are in relationship with one another speaks of how we are in relationship with God. "The actual substance of our relation with eternal truth and love is bound up with how we manage the proximity of these human neighbors" (12). The goal, he says, is "to put the neighbor in touch with God in Christ" (15). Williams goes on to tease out exactly what proximity means here. "What if the real criteria for a properly functioning life, for social existence in its fullness, had to do with this business of connecting each other with life-giving reality, with the possibility of reconciliation or wholeness" (25)? From the desert tradition, Williams notes two modes of relational wholeness that are absolutely necessary if we are to be in the business of connecting one another to God, which he calls being a place where God happens, where the doors are opened for others to find healing and wholeness (24). These two modes of relational wholeness are called fleeing and staying.

I'd like to highlight his thoughts on fleeing and offer, perhaps, a few thoughts of my own.

There is a saying attributed to Abba Macarius that goes like this: "Abba Isaiah asked Abba Macarius to give him a word. The old man said, 'Flee from human company.' Abba Isaiah said, 'But what does it mean to flee from human company?' The old man said, 'It means sitting in your cell and weeping for your sins.'"

Flee from the "obsessional search  for absolution," from the "heavy burden of self-justification" (71), from "what makes us feel smug and in control (86). This leads not to a truthful examination of our inner life, but to the need to control the way others perceive us, typically by putting them down either by accusing them - in ever so subtle ways, if not directly - of their own sinfulness. This begins with a chain of obsessional thoughts and fantasies through which we seek justification, status, dignity, and power. Once these thoughts take over the inner life they spill out affecting and infecting the lives of others so we become a place where God does not happen.

The nature of Christian community is seen in those who "develop a ruthless eye for hidden weaknesses," not of others but of ourselves (77). Only those who so keenly examine their own brokenness are able to so delicately address the needs of others

How we speak and use language matters a great deal when it comes to the nature of Christian community. Paul's urging to speak the truth in love is at the heart of this (Ephesians). Thus, from the desert tradition emerges a theology of silence that has perhaps best been adapted by Simone Weil's notion of hesitation (84). Try some of these quotes on for size:

-"We 'hesitate' as we might do on the threshold of some new territory, some unexplored interior. It is an aspect of our reverence for each other."

-"Unless we are capable of patience before each other, before the mysteriousness of each other, it's very unlikely that we will do God's will with any kind of fullness" (84).

-"The times when we can be absolutely sure that we are wasting words are when we are reinforcing our reputation, defending our position at someone else's expense - looking for a standard of comparison, a currency in the market of virtue" (87).

And this one is perhaps the kicker that brings it all together:

-"So it isn't a matter of trying to run away from yourself but running away to yourself, to the identity you are not allowed to recognize or nurture or grow so long as you are stuck in the habits of anxious comparison, status seeking, and chatter" (91).

Flight and silence and hesitation are ways of speaking about one aspect at the heart of Christian community. Our goal is to put one another in touch with God. It is to recognize that when we look at others we are looking at Christ. It is to see Christ in the other. Flight is about a kind of relational proximity that is necessary for our connection with God, the distance, space, and room that we all need in order to work things out, with God's help, so that we don't squeeze the life out of each other (91).

We're like planets caught in each others gravitational pull. If we get too close we'll run into each other and die. If we stray too far we'll lose the presence of God that comes to us in the face of the other, which also leads to our death.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Super Tuesday and the Conjoined Tortoise

The Republican difference? The Democratic difference? I think not. What would happen if a donkey and an elephant had a baby? Perhaps we have an answer:

They say, "Strictly speaking it isn't a tortoise with two heads, but rather two conjoined tortoises," Yuri Yuravliov, a zoologist, told AFP. "The female has two heads, two hearts, four front legs, but only two hind ones, and one intestine," he explained.

One intestine, eh? Different political parties, same 'ol ...

"Animals with this type of pathology are only rarely born and don't survive in natural condition." Couldn't have said it better myself.

Happy Super Tuesday, people  :)

Monday, March 05, 2012

"The complexity of the text is not a deficiency!"

"The stubborn fact is that Scripture is richly polyphonic on the topic of hell and judgmentas if by design. Thus, if we become dogmatic about any one position, we reduce ourselves to reading selectively or doing interpretive violence to those verses that don't fit our chosen view. Our theological prejudgments blind us to passages we may have read many time but never really seen. Even a tentative removal of traditional lenses leads to the question, 'Why didn't I ever see that verse before?' The complexity of the text is not a deficiency! If we can momentarily suspend our penchant for forcing the text to harmonize with our system or even with itself, we'll see some magnificent tensions between those old Moroccan leather covers."

- Bradley Jersak, Her Gates Will Never Be Shut, 6ff

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Around the Horn

Looks like Jamie Smith received some critical responses to his open letter to praise bands. He's followed up here and here with a few more thoughts.

Saw this video on Tony Jones site. Very interesting local news story done on Mark Driscoll's Mar Hill churches.

If you're up for a good story, you gotta check out this one by Maria. You wish you had to guts to do this!

Need some new music? The John McKenna Band just released a new EP. Check out Tim's review here.

Franklin Graham apologizes for his huge flop last week when he fumbled over his answer to the question of whether or not Barak Obama is a Christian. Check out the whole video here.

Rowan Williams and Richard Dawkins faced off last week on the subject of the nature of human beings and the question of their ultimate origin. Check out the video here. I'll hopefully soon contribute my own response to this as I am finding the buzz over Dawkins's claim that there is .01% chance that God exists to be a bit over played and rather mundane compared to some of the things Williams said.

And lastly, another Garfield minus Garfield cartoon for your weekend pleasure:

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Once Upon a Time: Thin at Best

I’ve been meaning to write about this for a while now, probably stalling out of denial. It’s been nearly a month since I stopped watching Once Upon a Time, a show conceived by Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis. As two writers who worked on the epic and historic, LOST, we were hopeful that the same magic would carryover. After all, the premise of Once Upon a Time, is pretty good (Watch out, there are spoilers to come, although I don’t really care if I spoil it for you) — the evil witch from the Snow White story has put a curse on all the fairy characters from all the other stories, essentially transporting them out of their world and into ours and trapping them here. It’s a little more complicated than that, but not much, which is part of the problem. While the premise makes for a potentially deep plot by integrating all the fairytale stories together, it just isn’t panning out.

Whatever story world is created and whatever plot surmised, you go on the journey with the characters and these characters are, at best, thin. The main source of tension that drives the story is between Emma Swan and Regina Mills (the Mayor and the Evil Queen). A little boy named Henry, who is the Mayors adopted son, has brought Emma to the town. Somehow Henry knows the truth and is trying to save everyone. He believes Emma can help because she is the long lost daughter of Snow White who was sent to the real world just as the Evil Queen was imposing her curse on the fairytale land. Emma is bitter and jaded at being abandoned, but has somehow found a heart for her own son, Henry, who she abandoned when she was a teenager. The Mayor is bitter and jaded because Emma is trying to thwart her curse. It’s like watching socially awkward junior high kids confront one another on the playground.

Whatever complexity and tension these relationships are supposed to create never comes to fruition. The Mayor is always telling Emma to stay away, which she never does. Emma goes back forth from believing Henry that there is a curse that must be broken. And somehow the fairytale world, always told as a back-story, is supposed to relate to what those characters are now facing in the real world, but it’s just boring and uneventful and, really, thinly connected at best. I was in denial each week because I really wanted to like it, but I kept asking myself why should I care about anything that’s happening here? It’s like they keep trying to prove to me that I should care about these characters but they never give me anything more than just the simple premise. It almost feels like they are still trying to figure out who the characters are. Shouldn’t they have done that before production? In any case, there is no mystery here. Each week they show me the same thing. It works fine for Law and Order, but Once Upon a Time is not supposed to be a series of independent episodes. We never feel the depth and tension of the metanarrative. There’s no mystery or suspense that really matters because the characters are thin.

There are bright spots. Every now and then some major move towards creating a really cool long-term story arch is introduced, which typically always had to do with the bad guys – the evil queen, Rumpelstiltskin, and other evil witches from other stories (we’ve met the evil witch from Sleeping Beauty, I believe), and the mirror. The bad guys are the best part of the show, and Rumpelstiltskin, in particular, is by far the best part about this show. Still, they wait too long to develop the depth and complexity of these characters. For example, you forget for weeks that the mirror on the wall is one of the characters! Or what about the back-story between the evil queen and the witch from sleeping beauty? Give me something?!

Unless I hear about some major changes, I won’t keep watching. I’d be surprised if it’s picked up for a second season. And if it is, I bet they cancel it half way through.

I hope to say a little more about this in another post, particular how story relates to Christianity in terms of how we talk about God as well as what it means to be found in God’s story. I also hope to write a little bit about a new show I am watching – Downton Abbey – and how beautifully they have set up a complex plot with deep characters.