Friday, July 30, 2010

A Peek at Eternity

I stopped in at a new burger joint called Buster Burger for lunch today. The restaurant is also a TCBY, which takes up a side third of the store. However, from the outside, there appears to be two different stores each with its own entrance. A large fireplace stands between the two doors.

As I sat there eating my lunch, I spotted a young couple with two children approaching the entrances. I couldn't hear their dialog, but they seemed to be in disagreement as to which door to take. Tension appeared to build as they each headed to opposite doors with a child in tow. He seemed to say something a little sharp to her and she flipped her hair and rolled her eyes.

They both stepped into the restaurant and froze.... eyes wide, they surveyed the room as it opened out into a much wider space than either of them had anticipated. Simultaneously they turned and saw each other... standing in the same room.

They both turned a little red, laughed, and closed the distance between them. They kissed and walked together from that point on.


Welcome to Eternity!

SJCT's A Midsummer's Night Dream

Our show opens August 6! If you are in the SLC Valley area, come see the show! Tickets available at

I am Oberon! King of the Woodland Faeries! Jacob is part of my train, and Kathryn is part of Titania's.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Why I Am A Universalist

Atblog I was commenting on recently, one person compared Universalism to that of an enabling Father. I responded to that, and I think my reply succinctly addresses why I am a Universalist.

I would resist the image of God in a universalistic perspective being an enabling father. The father of the prodigal was not enabling… he simply never gave up. In Universalism, God simply does not give up. He is always patient, always kind, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres… and never fails.

It is not enabling to simply not have a point at which you eternally cut someone off. What Father would not always seek after and desire a restored relationship with his son or daughter… anyone that has a cut off point cannot call themselves Father.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Creating Our Image of God

Commander Willard Decker: "Of course!  ... we all create God in our own image."

I remember when I was younger, I thought this quote was rather blasphemous. God created us in His image after all. However, as I have gotten older, I have discovered Decker's quote to be very true.

If you don't recognize the quote, it is from Star Trek the Motion Picture. In the movie, a giant living machine named V'ger has come to Earth to find it's Creator. After a series of events, the crew of the Enterprise realizes that V'ger assumes that it's Creator is a machine; at which point Commander Decker utters the above quote.

As I said, rather than blasphemous, I now see the quote as merely describing true practice. Conservatives tend to picture God as an organized CEO, encouraging Free Markets, saying the pledge, and blessing the troops. Liberals tend to see God as a community organizer, fighting against an oppressive system, and resisting discrimination.

Break out of those two stereotypes and you begin to see God being displayed in every flavor, color, attitude, and variety.

Of course..... everyone thinks their take is the right one. Theirs is the one faithful to scripture, or creed, or tradition, or revelation.


We all make God in our own image.

I often get the accusation levied at me in Christian circles (after they have heard some of my theology), "So, you are just making up your own god then?"

There are over 30,000 different versions of Christianity alone....

The truth is, we all create our image of God. I am not so much concerned that I am doing it, but rather the question I ask:

Is my image of God becoming an image worthy of God?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Friendly Disagreement?

"Is it just me or can no one agree on anything anymore?"

A friend of mine posted this as his status on Facebook. I was about to write in one thought, when a second occurred to me. As I typed in a second, I thought of a third; at which point I realized I had a blog topic.  I would like to invert the question: Is it possible to maintain a friendly disagreement?

I think it is in our nature to disagree. Two people watch the same movie, or listen to the same song, or view the same art... and walk away with different opinions. One was moved, the other not. One liked, one disliked. We are beings that interpret. As such, we will interpret things differently.

I believe some of these predilections are hard wired. We are born with certain leanings. Others are the result of our life's experience and circumstance. The net result is that two people can look at the same thing, but see two different items.

So back to the question. I think disagreement is not something we can expunge from the human condition. I think the challenge to humanity is to learn to disagree amicably.

The following are items I see, from my experience, that have to be overcome before one can have a friendly disagreement:

  • Digital/Analog Thinking - I have written on this before, but in short, this is when one person sees only in two poles, and the other sees varying gradients between the two poles. For example, I often get into disagreeable discussions over the Bible being inerrant (from the mouth of God with no errors). I do not believe it is, but people who do tend to see it two ways: Either it is inerrant or it is completely useless. Since I do not see it as inerrant, they start to address me as though I believe the bible to be completely useless. Usually, no amount of explaining on my end can make them see my position any differently.
  • Concrete Assumptions - This is where someone has an unbendable position, almost a faith, in a certain premise. For example, in an economics discussion, a person may believe a certain economic system to be the best, unquestioningly. Therefore when discussing problems within the economy, the individual will never question aspects of the system itself... the problems must always reside somewhere else, because the individual has predetermined the rightness of the system. This person has put a barrier around certain items and has made them unquestionable.
  • Narrow Experience - In this case, a person simply relegates all truth to their personal experience. It is easy to believe that all people of another faith are corrupt or inept, if one doesn't have personal experience with someone of that faith. It easy to pass judgments on parents... then you become one... and all of your preconceived notions go out the window.
  • Projecting Motive - This happens most often in online discussions. People project emotions and motives on to the other party. The one I see most often is that people project anger onto anyone who disagrees with them. If someone doesn't see things the way I do, they must be an unhappy soul.
  • Knowledge Insecurity - This is similar to concrete assumptions. The individual has absolute belief in the rightness of their position... but has very little knowledge or experience to back it up. The cliche' arguments that worked so well in their personal circles suddenly don't translate as easily in the general public. Rather than be willing to be instructed into a wider knowledge, the person becomes defensive.

People are going to disagree. Can we do so in a manner of respect? I have many friends who I staunchly disagree with on many issues, yet we still remain friends and can have great discussions over our disagreements. I have had other friendships end, or we simply can't talk about certain issues (is that really a friendship?) because of disagreement.

The previous five items are, from my experience, at the root of unfriendly disagreements. Do you have others you would add to the list?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The War Prayer by Mark Twain

From Wikipedia:

This piece was left unpublished by Mark Twain at his death, largely due to pressure from his family, who feared that the story would be considered sacrilegious. Twain's publisher and other friends also discouraged him from publishing it. According to one account, his illustrator Dan Beard asked him if he would publish it regardless, and Twain replied "No, I have told the whole truth in that, and only dead men can tell the truth in this world. It can be published after I am dead." Mindful of public reaction, he considered that he had a family to support, and did not want to be seen as a lunatic or fanatic.

HT: Adam

Monday, July 19, 2010

Right Wing Televangelism

"If Jesus Christ came back today and saw what was being done in his name, he'd never stop throwing up." ~ Woody Allen

This is the quote that came to mind today as I was reading some of what Glenn Beck said at a recent political rally in Salt Lake City. Glenn has taken on a Robert Tilton/Televangelist style of teary eyed appeals to the religious Right... and they are eating it up hook, line, and sinker. Tilton must be kicking himself for not adding Right-Wing politics to his formula years ago.

I can assume we are going to hear more and more "Jesus Talk" coming from Glenn in the months to come. This stuff sells.

“God is not having us hang by a thread,” he said to open the show, moments after choking up in the first of dozens of emotional pauses. “He has put a rope down for us to hang onto. … I promise you that the Lord is going to reveal himself and Americans are going to stand together again.(SL Tribune)

Glenn Beck knows what so many have known before him. Nothing brings in the money better than fear and the creation of an outside group; add God to that equation, and you can get the masses in tow.

Glenn knows what Carnegie knew in the recent movie The Book of Eli. Carnegie (played by Gary Oldman) wanted a Bible (Bibles in this apocalyptic future had all been destroyed) because he knew he could use it to control people. Carnegie said:

"IT'S NOT A *&^%$#' BOOK!  IT'S A WEAPON. A weapon aimed right at the hearts and minds of the weak and the desperate. It will give us control of them. If we want to rule more than one small, #$@%^' town, we have to have it. People will come from all over, they'll do exactly what I tell 'em if the words are from the book. It's happened before and it'll happen again. All we need is that book."

Yep. Glenn is tapping into that.... and I don't think he has peaked in his God-talk yet.

Though there are some beautiful things being done in the name of Jesus, overall I think Woody had it right.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Samaritans of Our Day

This re-imagining of The Good Samaritan story is dedicated to my brothers and sisters in Christ of Rutherford County, Tennessee. It is worth remembering that Jesus told the original story to people who hated Samaritans... and Jesus made the Samaritan the hero. There is nothing new under the sun.

Some Christians of Murfreesboro, TN asked Jesus, "Who is my neighbor?"

Jesus replied with a story:

"A man was going down from Nashville to Chattanooga, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.

A politician, on his way to a political rally, saw him and was moved to help him. But as he looked about, he became afraid that this would be mis-perceived as an act of social justice. It might cause his constituents to believe he was a man of his party in name only; so he passed on the other side.

So too a Christian radio host, when he came to the place and saw him, considered helping. However, he always believed that individualism should rule the day. The man will be stronger one day if he picks himself up now. He was also hesitant since the man looked like a foreigner. So the radio man also passed on the other side.

But a Muslim, as he traveled to Mosque, came to where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds. Then he took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he gave money to the innkeeper. 'Look after him,' he said, 'and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.'

"Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?"

The crowd of Christians replied, "The one who had mercy on him."

Jesus told them, "Go and do likewise."

Friday, July 16, 2010

Love Your Neighbor.... Unless They Are Muslim

It seems that many within Rutherford County, TN are all for freedom of religion...

... theirs that is ....

for the dreaded "other" the Bill of Rights goes right out the window. When an Islamic fellowship decided to build a mosque, many of the locals rose up in protest.

We have seen many demonstrators and sign carriers over the past few months decrying the dismantling of the Constitution. I wonder if they will be heading out to defend the Constitution now?


just who were the 600 people protesting the building of the Mosque?

According to the ABC News article:

"Some at the Thursday meeting wore religious or patriotic-themed clothing, and no one defended the plan in two hours of public comments, the Tennessean newspaper reported.

"We have a duty to investigate anyone under the banner of Islam," Allen Jackson, the pastor of World Outreach Church, said at the meeting.

"They seem to be against everything that I believe in, and so I don't want them necessarily in my neighborhood spreading that type of comment," said one man at the meeting.

Tracey Steven, who also attended, said, "Our country was founded through the founding fathers -- through the true God, the Father and Jesus Christ."

"I found out when the sign came up," said Murfreesboro resident Mark Walker, whose home is near the site of the proposed mosque. "We are fighting these people, for crying out loud, we should not be promoting this.""


Could they be the same ... I mean they sound an awful lot like the .... Nah.... couldn't be.... mere coincidence.... I am sure that folks that are protesting liberals attacking the Constitution on one weekend, would not turn around and attack someone's Constitutional rights the next weekend. 


That kind of blatant situational ethic only happens ... in AM talk radio ..

.... not real life!!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


You are not a team player. And if you aren't for us you are against us.

This seems to be the view of some of my evangelical (former) friends on Facebook. Whether de-friending loudly and brusquely as in the case of some family .... or quietly and unobtrusively, as did some ministry friends; my evangelical ranks are thinning out.

The interesting thing is that the vast majority of my FB friends are Christian, but the de-friending (and the ones who fail to see the humor in my posts) seems to have primarily confined itself to conservative evangelicals. I suspect this has as much to do with politics as theology. They may be annoyed at my view of penal substitutionary atonement theory; but questioning conservative politics is just #%*$@*$# ungodly!

So at some point they decide it would be more comfortable to make my commentary go away. Like I said, sometimes they leave quietly. Other times they send parting emails questioning why I have left the faith? What caused me to fall from grace? Assuring me that I am in their prayers... and will I give their regards to Beelzebub when I go to Hell? :)

Of course I reject this interpretation of my view. I simply see Christianity in a different light.

To illustrate: I am a public school teacher. If you look through my blog, you will see me critiquing the system. As an insider, I can comment on what is good, point out what is weak, and reject that which is harmful.  I do not defend practices I see as harmful within schools simply because I am a teacher.

In the same way, Christianity is a system. As an insider, I can comment on what is good, point out what is weak, and reject that which is harmful.  I do not defend practices I see as harmful within our faith simply because I am a Christian.

If someone gets offended when a potentially harmful practice is critiqued, I can guess where their loyalties lie. They are probably dedicated to the system, and people are secondary. If scripture is clear on one thing, it is this: Folks easily get more dedicated to the system than the people it was created to serve.

Richard Rohr touched on this in his book Everything Belongs:

I think Christianity has created a great problem in the Western world by repeatedly presenting itself, not as a way of seeing all things , but as one competing ideology amongst many. Instead of leading us to see God in new and surprising places, it too often has led us to confine God inside OUR place.

Every major religion has done the same. This preoccupation leads to over-identification with the group, its language and its symbols. Group loyalty becomes the test rather than loyalty to God or truth. ... It is easier to belong to a group than belong to God.... The belief is that God is only found by our group. The next step is to establish the identification with our group as the only way to serve God.

For some, as Richard describes, I have failed to show group loyalty. Sometimes though, I think you have to be disloyal in order to serve a greater loyalty. Errol Flynn said it best as Robin Hood:

Prince John: Bring Sir Robin food! At once, do you hear? Such impudence must support a mighty appetite.

Robin: True enough, your Highness. We Saxons have little to fatten on by the time your tax gatherers are through.

Prince John: Do you feel you are overtaxed?

Robin: Overtaxed, overworked and paid off with a knife, a club or a rope.

Marian: Why, you speak treason!

Robin: Fluently.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Mother of Studies - Part 2

Two months ago I wrote an article about how the American educational system tends to have an aversion to repetition. A conversation I had yesterday evening made me think about that some more.

I was talking education with some friends of mine who are from Brazil. They were saying how they had noticed a trend in Brazilian education away from any kind of repetition. When they came to America, they found this model was firmly entrenched in our system. "American children learn about everything but practice nothing".

I couldn't agree more.

It made me think about all of the work I have been doing to prepare for my role as Oberon in A Midsummer's Night Dream. I have somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 lines for this show.  This is significantly beyond, in terms of quantity of lines, anything I have had to do so far.  To prepare, I go over my lines daily - I carry a copy with me at all times, so in any down moment I can review lines.  I got an audio copy that I listen to when driving and when I am going to sleep.  It has taken many, many weeks; but I finally have my lines down.  With a number of run-throughs, I will be ready for opening night August 6th.

Preparation has consisted of repetition, repetition, repetition.

A thought occurred to me while I was chatting with my Brazilian friends.  What if I had prepared in a fashion similar to how we teach in schools?  Instead of studying my lines, I might have:
  • done a report on William Shakespeare... which would consist of copying and pasting from Wikipedia
  • made a shoebox diorama, displaying Titania and Oberon (constructed of dried macaroni) fighting over the changeling child
  • watched one of the many movie versions of a A Midsummer's Night Dream
  • done a Venn Diagram comparing items from the movie to the script
  • interviewed an expert to find out what the culture was like in England during the late 1500's
While none of these items are bad, neither do they require a "nose to the grindstone" persistence on my part.  Following the public school format, I would never do the daily, tedious, repetitious work of memorizing my lines.... that would be boring.

So when opening night came around.... I would be the ass, instead of Bottom.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Movie Review : The Last Airbender

I knew going in that The Last Airbender was going to have to stand on its own as a movie. I suspect that it is probably harder to translate an animated series to live action than it is take a novel to the big screen. In people's minds, common visuals and voices are already set. In addition, there are facial gags and meanings that can be conveyed in drawings which can never be duplicated in live action.

With that in mind, I was prepared to give Airbender a lot of latitude. However, it fell into the same trap that many modern movies have fallen into, which is this: They try to use the story to move you along to the next visual effect, rather using visual effects to buttress a good story. Let's face it - visual effects are getting old. We get it Hollywood... there is nothing that, visually speaking, you cannot do.

With that in mind, can we go back to telling a good story?

I am usually not one to watch Nickelodeon cartoons. What got me into The Last Airbender on TV was over-hearing the dialog as my son was watching it. I started to notice that it was often truly witty; that the writers were attentive to the interaction between the characters. Every line was effectively used. Pretty soon I was sitting next to my son watching the next episode.

So, though I was hoping that the movie would stand on its own, that it would take the premise of the TV show and give us a re-imagining of sorts ... instead we got a story that lacked imagination.

My advice is: be content to catch it on DVD.

P.S.  I have to add this.  There was a lot of hub-bub amongst fans about M. Night choosing non-Asian actors for this movie.  In a racial sense, I have to say I didn't care one way or the other.  I have to confess though, from an artistic standpoint, I did find it distracting.  This movie is obviously set in the context of Eastern/Asian culture and religion.  Having all of the leads being played by "white" people was somehow distracting.  Again, morally no problem, but artistically I admit I found it to be a hinderance.

Stretch Your Empathy

A great video I grabbed from Eruesso's blog. It is part of a series that I am getting into.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Christianity and the 4th of July

One of the things you notice, if you travel in conservative Christian circles, is how tightly they tend to weave nationalism, militarism, and Christianity into a single thread. Emotions run high when one broaches this topic, so it can often be hard to discuss.

Let me state that I love living in America, I love living in Utah, I love living in South Jordan, and I love living in my neighborhood. I support each of these layers, and as a citizen of each, I want them to be successful. As a citizen, I act to support them.

However, I stop short of the religious devotion I see sometimes in my fellow citizens and church goers. The whole "God and Country" thing doesn't fly with me because A: I think, from a religious perspective, it is blasphemous to equate the two, and B: I honestly believe God has no interest in the little lines we draw in the sand to separate ourselves. I think God views it in much the same way that I view my children when they decide to divide MY house into Kathryn's half and Jacob's half; cute, and perhaps harmless... until they start to fight about it. I would in no way ever support Kathryn's side over Jacob's side, or vice versa.

So to me, the 4th is a birthday worth having a party over. A time to reflect over where we have come from (honestly) and where we are going as a nation.

But binding it to my religion and rah-rahing it in our churches? Too much...

Here are some quotes from other bloggers on the 4th:

I am sure that this Sunday there will be American flags overshadowing crosses, patriotic songs replacing hymns of worship, and copies of the constitution passed out in place of Bibles. Issues such as poverty, oppression, and hopelessness will take a back seat to concerns about "prayer in schools" and supporting "our" troops (the "our" of course referring to America, forgetting that "our" in the church means all nations). For many of us, we'd be disappointed with anything else... but my prayer is that we would enter this Sunday as worshipers of Jesus, the crucified king, who shares his identity with the poor, who is a king to all nations and the lover of a church without borders or military might. I pray that we are not distracted. I pray that our gratitude for the country in which we live would be filled with sober humility. This Sunday, let us celebrate resurrection over conquest, interdependence over independence, and hope over illusory security.
~ Living in the Kingdom

It's not that I'm against America, I love the varied people, the vast wildernesses, and the fascinating cities of this land. But as Christians, as citizens of God's Kingdom, our loyalties cannot be to the State, they must be to the Lamb that was slain. And I worry that all too often the American Church has demonstrated idolatrously mixed loyalties. Not least in the way we make July 4th a "holy"day.
~ New Ways Forward

And that means that nationalism, in any degree, is misplaced affection. If Jesus really is our Peace who has broken down every dividing barrier between us, to celebrate the arbitrary lines and political distinctions which divide us is, in a sense, anti-gospel. Jesus expressed anger a number of times in the Gospels, but the most famous was when He saw what should have been “a house of prayer for all nations” turned into something else.

And my fear is that by highlighting ideas of America and patriotism so heavily in our Fourth of July services, we do just that. At best, we fail to see how waving the American flag in a worship service looks to the Brits and Kenyans and Malaysians sitting in our pews and what it communicates to them. And at worst, we give to Caesar what really belongs to Jesus.
~ Out of Ur
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