Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Focus pulls Beck interview

Atheism is a reasonable response to the universe. I mean, if my view of religion was dependent on typical religious people, I would have jumped ship long ago. The behavior of many people in my faith community has to make me laugh sometimes.... my only other response would be to cry.

Focus on the Family pulled from its citizenlink site an interview they had with national talk-show host Glenn Beck regarding his latest book "The Christmas Sweater". It is a fictional story based on Glenn's own experience growing up as an ungrateful teen. You can read the interview at Mormon Times here.

So why did the interview get pulled? Basically, because some Christian groups felt that Beck (who is Mormon) sounded TOO Christian in the article and complained to Focus. Apparently, the Christian public needs to be protected from Mormons who sound too Christian.

Now don't get me wrong. I am no fan of Glenn Beck. In fact, I think Focus and Beck deserve each other.

However, Focus on the Family's move to pull the article is typical of what I see in many (though not all) Christian circles. It is an inability to listen to anything or anyone that is not in 100% agreement. If there is any deviation from one's standard norm, the words of the other become tainted and therefore should probably not even be heard.

I have seen this from various Christians who interact with Mormons here in Salt Lake. We took some visiting friends of ours down to Temple Square. They grew increasingly uncomfortable the longer we stayed, stating that their children were becoming confused by the mixing of traditional Christianity and Mormonism there.

I have never had this problem with my children. I have always explained in detail, in a positive way, different religious views. My daughter would then respond, "How is that different from what we believe?"

I would then state "Well sweetheart, this is what I believe... as you grow you will have to work out what you believe."

As I grew up, I remember being shocked that people of other religions, and atheists, were not the demons I had been told to expect. I was confused by the lack of continuity between what I had been taught and what I was experiencing. I have determined that my children will not have to unlearn things to the level that I did.

To bring this back around, what Focus is doing is typical of what I grew up with... shhhhhh... don't listen.... close your ears..... let us worry about the big ideas.... stay in your box.....

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Reverend Billy: A Lone Voice?

I wonder why there are not more "preachers" talking about the topics Bill Talen talks about... Is it because the Christians in the western church are wedded to the same consumerism we should be speaking against? Did God go outside the church walls to a thespian in New York so that He would have a voice that would speak prophetically to our culture? Is the Christian church so busy getting people into the "belief club" that we have lost our ability to be salt and light in our neighborhoods and cities?

Let's make a few less purchases this week and go spend some time connecting with our neighbors.......

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas Fellow Bloggers!

I'm grateful for all of the folks I have become connected with through this vehicle of blogging. I appreciate the time we get to spend dialoging about life. I hope you are having a wonderful day with those you love. From my family to yours: Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 22, 2008

I love my new T-Shirt

A Buddhist monk, a priest, a rabbi, and an imam happily walking together. I know it sounds like the lead in to a joke, but it is the picture on a shirt I just got in the mail. Threadless.com sold out of these years ago, but I had my email listed with them in case they ever printed it again.

Hopefully, one day, this will be an image that would not be an unusual sight.

I know, I know... you want one too. Well, you can get one here.

Thank God for Digital Cameras

I have been doing a little bit of picture sorting this evening. Whenever I do this, I marvel at the blessing of digital pictures. I purchased my first "real" digital camera in 2001. Since then, the picture folder on my computer has grown from a handful of shots, to roughly 13,000.

Digital cameras have let all of us take great shots. Yes, we may delete 12 of the same thing; but that doesn't matter if one turned out really good.

These digital pictures let me peruse memory lane more than any print ever did. My wife and I both have stacks of photo albums stacked away in closets that rarely get looked at. However, there are multiple screens in our house that are constantly rotating through the memories of these past 8 years. It often happens that a conversation is interrupted by a picture that passes by on a monitor. Before we know it minutes have gone by without a word said, as we once again lose ourselves in the pictures.

Now I just need to find an easy, inexpensive way to transfer all of my prints to digital.

(The above picture of my daughter Kathryn was one of my first shots back in 2001.)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Reverend Billy on CNN

In this interview, the Reverend encourages us to Buy Less and Give More this Christmas.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Frank Schaeffer on NPR

There was an excellent interview on NPR today with Frank Schaeffer. Schaeffer is the author of Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back.

Schaeffer was a main player in the build up of the Religious Right, so he has first hand insight as to what drives it. In the interview he states:

The right wing and the evangelical preachers and people like Dr. Dobson and others realized that this cultural political stuff was ten times bigger when it came to both fund raising and giving them access to power, than simply talking about Jesus or helping the poor or whatever it might be. Our issues were much sexier, but you can’t ONLY talk about abortion. Pretty soon you have to have some new scandal of the week to go after, and of course the gay movement as it was emerging in tandem during that same period in the 60s, 70s and into the 80s presented a good target. You have a minority population who are living in a life style that will shock the sensibilities of fundamentalist Christians. So after you go after the abortionists, this presents another group. So once the religious right got into the habit of playing “church lady” to essentially the whole culture, both judging and condemning and also offering a solution – which was essentially to put their people in power – you needed to keep cranking that out.

His comments parallel what I have been feeling for a long time - that all of this hype over various issues is as much about fund raising as it is about anything else. Most of the mailers I get from Right leaning ministries usually contain something that I should be afraid of. I wrote these thoughts down in a previous blog post: Evangelical Exaggeration.

Schaeffer also talks about being raised fundamentalist, which I resonated with. He gave the example that a person raised fundamentalist doesn't know how to have a normal conversation. Everything you say to someone "unsaved" is just a lead in. You want to get around all this unimportant stuff regarding their life - so that you can give them a tract. I laughed and cringed when I heard that... so close to home.

You can listen to the NPR interview

Monday, December 08, 2008

America's Schools Are Like The Latest Diet Gimmick

I sat through more meetings today. I work at a Title 1 school where almost every student is given free lunch and English is their second language. Quickly stated, most of the sixth graders I teach are one to four grades behind their peers in suburban schools. I used to teach in suburban schools, and they have their own set of issues, but I will just speak of my present situation.

Each year, my school faces the threat of our AYP scores not being high enough. AYP stands for Adequate Yearly Progress. Progress is defined as getting to the target of all children being proficient by 2014 to make No Child Left Behind a success.

In our meetings, we stress over how we are going to make it to the ever-moving- forward scores that will deem us a good school. However, as I sit through meetings and hear the rhetoric, I can't help but be reminded of the latest diet program or multi-level marketing scheme.

There is always some new program, pill, or book on the market that is going to make it EASY for all of us overweight people to trim down. I am 40 years old now, so I have seen a lot of these come and go. However, we all know that the people who really keep the weight off are those who WORK and KEEP AT IT. It is the simple equation of burning off more than you take in. Eat less or exercise more, but those are really the only solutions. Anything else is just a gimmick.

I have known friends and been approached by friends who are starting a new "business". They always have great stories of someone else who has made a lot of money selling this product from home. They have grand plans of retiring in the next 5 years once the "business" has been built up. Soon enough though, it peters out and they are on to the next great opportunity. The truth is, building any kind of wealth requires hard WORK and a willingness to delay gratification.

Schools are also looking for the latest thing that is going to make all of our scores turn around. However, similar to the diets and multi-level schemes, people want proficient students but it is not in the plan to have the students commit to work in any way. As I sit through meetings I hear about how we are going to adjust our minutes this way and restructure our day that way. We are going to test and monitor and diagnose and collect data. We state a dozen and more things that the teacher is going to do.... but fail to say ONE word about what the student is going to do.

My daughter has a wonderful violin teacher and a wonderful orchestra instructor. I am grateful for all that they do. However, my daughter's proficiency rises or falls with her commitment to practice each day. Without that commitment, any effort by her teachers is just tossing sand into the wind.

Having an educated mind takes work and it takes discipline. It requires commitment. Schools would be better served if they stopped looking for a Holy Grail cure-all that requires nothing of students. Instead, let the schools be honest - if you want to be truly educated, it is going to require students and families to restructure their priorities.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

In the spirit of the season....

I encourage everyone reading this blog to buy, rent, or check out from the library "What Would Jesus Buy?" It is a documentary following the Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping Choir as they make a trek from New York to Disneyland. Along the way there is singing, preaching, and the exorcisms of shopping demons. Though approached with a humorous air, Reverend Billy gives a serious prophetic call to America.

Of particular note is an interview found in the deleted scenes of the DVD. A woman from China who was arrested for being a Christian and spent 6 years in a work camp is interviewed. I do not want to spoil her final revelation, but it left me stunned.

Go get the DVD and view it with friends. As the Reverend says, "Shop Less and Give More!"

UPDATE - For those of you in the Salt Lake area, WWJB will be playing at the
Sorenson Unity Center
1383 South 900 West
Salt Lake City Utah 84104
on Wednesday, December 10th, at 7:00

and while we are on the topic of shopping, this is a great video from Advent Conspiracy:

Thursday, November 20, 2008

An Emergent Conversation

We had a great time of discussion at last night's Salt Lake Emergent Cohort. In fact, I noticed that the tone of our conversation was a good example of what Emergent is all about.

As the conversation drifted into politics, California's proposition 8 (ban on gay marriages) was brought up . Amongst the five of us, all three voting possibilities were represented - yes, no, and abstaining. I think at the end of the evening, each person held to their initial position, but the conversation was free from the pressure to capitulate to a certain view. In that atmosphere, I was able to hear and understand valid opinions that differed from my own. In addition, no one's faith or intelligence was brought into question for holding an opposing opinion, as can so often happen in discussions of this nature. There was freedom to listen in our conversation.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

More Fear from Focus

I really think Focus on the Family should consider changing their name. At one time they did probably focus on the family, but they have grown into something else. I think Fear for your Family might be a more accurate ministry description. Every month I get a new letter from them telling me what I should fear this month (and to send them money). Either its gays, or public schools, or secularism, or evolutionists .... or gay secular public schools teaching evolution.

This month, its all of those evil secular retailers who are not bending the knee at our... uh, I mean God's.... throne - by not giving Christmas its rightful place at the center of the biggest materialism orgy of the year! Focus on the Family has started their "Merry Tossmas" campaign and are encouraging all Christians not to shop at those stores that insist on saying horrible phrases like Happy Holidays or Season's Greetings.

THIS is what we are supposed to be bothered by?! Thanks Focus for continuing to stoke the flames of absurdity in the Christian subculture.

HT to Bruce for the Card.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

I've Been Busy

Teach - Rehearse - Sleep - Repeat.....

That has been my routine for the past couple of weeks. So blog reading and blog writing has been a little sparse.

Tonight was our last full run rehearsal and tomorrow we open Peter Pan for the South Jordan Community Theatre. I am the pirate Cecco. I sing and dance a lot, have a few lines here and there, and die a horrible death. I was also recruited to fly Peter, Wendy, and Tink at various parts when I am not pirating.

My daughter is the cutest lost boy out there and she gets to do a lot of singing and dancing too. It is funny that I originally got into this to spend time with her, but actually, we did very little together - other than drive to rehearsal. :)

Looking forward to tomorrow night.... this has been a blast!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Where do the Republicans go next?

This morning as I headed to work, I was listening to Bob Lonsberry, our morning radio host on KNRS. Bob is conservative through and through, but he was mentioning that he liked a lot of what Barack Obama had to say at his victory speech last night. Lonsberry also said that, though he was a McCain man, Obama is now the President and it will be good for all Americans if he is a successful one.

Contrast that attitude to Sean Hannity, who was stating today that Obama only got elected through deception and would never have been voted in if he told people what he really thought. Mr. Hannity made prediction after prediction of an Obama presidency bringing gloom and doom.

This contrast was also apparent at McCain's gracious concession speech. As he talked about wishing Obama well and declaring his support, there were boos from the audience. Patiently, McCain tried to redirect some of his supporters to the bigger picture.

This contrast, I believe, is why the Republicans are losing and will continue to lose in the near future. There is a large faction of the Republican party that puts everything in black or white, us vs. them, with us or against us rhetoric. They are not interested in dialoging with their opponents because the opponent, by definition, brings nothing worthwhile to the table. Opponents are the enemy.

I have talked to a number of lifelong Republicans who cast their first vote for a Democrat yesterday. They feel their party has been shanghaied by the ignorant and the abrasive. I agree with them. I believe there are many intelligent, reasonable people in the Republican party, but they are not the ones being heard. The face of the Republican party is becoming the loudmouthed, education dismissive, media paranoid, rumor perpetuating simpleton who shouts down whomever does not capitulate to his or her view. This camp includes the end-time focused religious fanatics, who are trying to work out biblically why Obama may be the anti-Christ.

Reasonable Republicans are losing the ability to anchor anywhere ... and therefore find themselves just looking at who is the most genuine and able candidate, rather than being loyal to a party.

Hmmmm ... actually.... I think that is where we all should be.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Happy Election Day

For all of you American readers out there, I wish you a happy election day! It will be a tight one this evening and who knows which way the wind may blow.

In any case, tomorrow we will have a new president elect. Regardless of who wins, we will have a peaceful and civil transfer of power come January. This makes me proud of our country! May both candidates and their families have a wonderful evening ... come what may.

Monday, November 03, 2008

God Doesn't Love You That Way!

This is how the famous preacher Jonathon Edwards (1703-1758) would describe God's feelings towards you:

"The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked: his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire; he is of purer eyes than to bear to have you in his sight; you are ten thousand times more abominable in his eyes, than the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours."

Lest you think that was simply how it was preached in the 18th century, here is a quote from a very popular present-day pastor and author. He seems to echo Edwards' view:

"You have been told that God is a loving, gracious, merciful, kind, compassionate, wonderful, and good sky fairy who runs a day care in the sky and has a bucket of suckers for everyone because we’re all good people. That is a lie… God looks down and says ‘I hate you, you are my enemy, and I will crush you,’ and we say that is deserved, right and just, and then God says ‘Because of Jesus I will love you and forgive you.’ This is a miracle."

I believe this kind of preaching feeds on itself and spreads like a virus. It produces a natural insecurity into everyone who listens to it and preaches it. It makes the preacher and the listener believe that God's default relational mode with humanity is one of distaste and disappointment.

The quote above reminded me of a certain wedding. The mother did not care for her son's selection in a bride. She tried in many ways, subtle and not so subtle, to break the couple up before they got married. Her behavior and her words caused enormous hurt.

Finally the wedding day arrived. The inevitable was happening, so the mother put the best face on that she could. At the end of the ceremony, the bride was radiant. Her happiness to be married to the man of her dreams filled the sanctuary. As is customary, the happy couple went to hug each set of parents.

The bride warmly hugged her new mother-in-law. The mother-in-law whispered in the ear of the bride, and the bride's face fell.

The mother-in-law was a very religious woman. To her, the thought of divorce was anathema. So when she hugged the bride, she let her know that from now on she was going to support them as a couple.

It is no surprise that the bride was crestfallen at those words. She knew that the mother-in-law did not truly accept her... it was under duress. Because the mother could not tolerate divorce, she would support the marriage.

I believe this is the message that is preached by the men above and others in their circle. God does not love you... he at best tolerates you. Because of Jesus, the Father will grudgingly accept you. If God's love is as these preachers describe, then He is no different than the rest of us and may even be worse.

When these preachers describe the "love" of God, they are describing the attitude of the older brother in the story of the Prodigal. They are describing the workmen hired early in the day who were jealous of the workers hired later who received the same pay - they are envious when God is generous.

I think that people who are "converted" to Christianity under such preaching end up not too dissimilar from battered spouses. They will proclaim their love, and maybe even have some happy times, but they are always on the edge of a flinch or a shudder. They are never totally secure in where they stand.

But here, I believe, is the GOOD NEWS! God doesn't love you that way!

Unlike everyone else on this planet, GOD loves you without condition. His very nature reaches out to you in kindness, compassion, and mercy. It is that kindness that leads us to repentance, heals our wounds, and purifies our hearts. There is NO end to his patience and his mercy knows NO bounds. God does not love us because of Jesus.

God gave us Jesus because he loves us!

Matthew 12:20
A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he leads justice to victory.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Replay of Obama in Berlin

If you are still wavering between presidential candidates, take a look at Obama's speech in Germany. This is a man who can speak to the World.

HT: Igneous Quill

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Obama's 30 Minutes

For those who have not seen it yet....

James Dobson's Vision of Hope

With every new stunt that James Dobson pulls, my wife reminds me, "Yes, but he does so many good things for children and marriages." I can't accept that trade off anymore.

I find it hard to hold my tongue. Most critical speech just pleasures the speaker, but does little to affect the opinions of others. When does one speak? That is the question.

So let me just say this: James Dobson - Your "Letter from 2012 in Obama's America", in my opinion, is filth. I would spend more blog space on this, but Jim Wallis put my thoughts much better and more calmly in his response.

I wonder if, when 2012 comes and your letter is proved by history to be a slanderous, fear invoking, godless diatribe ... will you then repent and apologize??

I won't hold my breath in hope.... but we'll see you in four years.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween Everyone!

I hope everyone has a good time this evening and plugs in with their neighborhood.

Here are my movie recommendations for after the kiddies go to bed:



Sunday, October 26, 2008

Would the rhetoric be different if....?

  • If the Obamas had an unwed, pregnant teenage daughter?
  • If Barack Obama finished fifth from the bottom of his graduating class?
  • If Obama was the candidate who left his first wife after she had a severe disfiguring car accident?
  • If Obama had met his second wife in a bar and had a long affair while he was still married?
  • If Michelle Obama became addicted to painkillers and had acquired them illegally through her charitable organization?
  • If Obama had been a member of the Keating Five?
  • If Obama was known to display publicly, an issue with his temper?

Would the educational backgrounds of the candidates be an issue if they were reversed?

Educational Background:

Barack Obama:

Columbia University - B.A. Political Science with a Specialization in International Relations.

Harvard - Juris Doctor (J.D.) Magna Cum Laude

Joseph Biden:

University of Delaware - B.A. in History and B.A. in Political Science.

Syracuse University College of Law - Juris Doctor (J.D.)

John McCain:

United States Naval Academy - Class rank: 894 of 899

Sarah Palin:

Hawaii Pacific University - 1 semester

North Idaho College - 2 semesters – general study

University of Idaho - 2 semesters -journalism

Matanuska-Susitna College - 1 semester

University of Idaho - 3 semesters -B.A. in Journalism

If you are like most, your partisanship would skew your response. I, of course, raise an eyebrow at this stuff.... but I am sure there are those with an opposite list that I would shrug off. It makes you wonder.

What I find most interesting is that, one way or another, this election is about Obama. I meet few republicans who are behind McCain... they are simply against Obama. What is sad is that many of the reasons they articulate against Obama are false. I have heard from two different Christians in the past few days that they are nervous about his Muslim ties. Good Grief!! I guess those endlessly forwarded emails do work their magic.

In fact, one Christian I know feels it is still appropriate to paint Obama as a Muslim (regardless of his conversion to Christianity from an agnostic tradition) because "When you study the Muslim culture, you know that Obama is a Muslim (CULTURALLY) because of His father. The Muslim faith travels through the fathers line."

Well .... I guess it is okey-dokey then! :)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Turning 40

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.

Dickens' phrase sums up my journey through the 30s. The highest highs and the lowest lows of my life occurred in this decade.

Toward the early part of my thirties there were a number of years when my wife and I would have happily divorced to put an end to our self-created misery. My greatest failures as an individual occurred during this time. All the paths I should have taken, but didn't. I would take it all back... but I learned and I grew. Tragedy and pain are hard... but you learn .... you learn.

On the bright side, this decade saw the birth of my two children - on whom the sun rises and sets. They have taught me more about God the Father in their short lives than years of Bible study.

My wife and I also made the decision to move to Utah from Michigan in the mid-thirties. That was something no one ever foresaw... including us. We felt at the time that it was something God was calling us to. Other folks said we were running from our difficulties.

I think both views are correct.

Sometimes when the game is going bad, it is just best to reshuffle the deck and start fresh... and I think that is just what the Master Dealer did.

Considering that my wife and I are presently holding a Royal Flush, I think we made the right call.

The 40's look promising.

Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning;

Monday, October 20, 2008

Trinitarian Joke

I had to borrow this joke from Logan's blog, cause it really sums up how I have felt about trinitarianism the past few years (He has more, so head on over). I will probably detail my present views in a blog sometime, but suffice to say that I would have been hard pressed to develop any of the common explanations of the Trinity through simple scripture reading.

Jesus said, Whom do men say that I am?

And his disciples answered and said, Some say you are John the Baptist returned from the dead; others say Elias, or other of the old prophets.

And Jesus answered and said, But whom do you say that I am?

Peter answered and said, "Thou art the Logos, existing in the Father as His rationality and then, by an act of His will, being generated, in consideration of the various functions by which God is related to his creation, but only on the fact that Scripture speaks of a Father, and a Son, and a Holy Spirit, each member of the Trinity being coequal with every other member, and each acting inseparably with and interpenetrating every other member, with only an economic subordination within God, but causing no division which would make the substance no longer simple."

And Jesus answering, said, "What?"

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Christian Prayer at Political Rally

Before you watch this, let me clarify that I in NO WAY chalk this up to McCain. I can easily imagine a flip version of this happening at an Obama rally. What I do want to consider is the dividing line between our views and the views of God. This prayer was partisan and presumptive in a way that, prior to seeing it, I would not have thought possible.

I would write a blog on this, but a local Pastor here in SLC already wrote an article that says it all. You can find his article, which appeared in today's Salt Lake Tribune, here. The only point I would add to the article is that the Pastor's prayer also displays his ignorance... Buddhists do not pray to the Buddha.

I think we need to keep a clear separation between our view... and speaking for God. Otherwise we end up where this Pastor got himself to:
  • My views are right
  • God is right
  • My views are God's views

Peter Pan Approaches

Toward the end of November, I will be in a local production of Peter Pan. My daughter has been in two previous productions with the South Jordan Community Theatre. Since I was driving her to most of her rehearsals, and because she was enjoying it so much, I decided to try out for this latest production. I liked the idea that this was something she and I could do together.

Boy-oh-boy, did I underestimate the level of commitment that is involved in a theater production. I did 7 hours of dancing, singing, and "Arrgghh"ing today (I am the pirate Cecco). I had a blast and am really enjoying getting to know all my fellow pirates, but my feet sure are sore.

I am so glad for the opportunity my daughter and all the other young people are getting though this play. They are learning so many skills and being so productive with their time (I think I was pretty useless at their age).

We walked though most of Act 2 today. It was neat to see all of the pieces coming together. I am highly looking forward to opening night!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Arguing to win, not to understand (or, "Here is my answer Mr. Hannity.")

I was listening to Sean Hannity on my way home from work. It is an effort to try to understand where the extreme Right is coming from, not for pleasure. How anyone can listen to Hannity endlessly repeat the same thing hour after hour, day after day, is a wonder.

In a moment of exasperation he asked, "How can the Left continue to support Obama, with all of this evidence stacked against him?" I think he was truly befuddled.

What he doesn't understand is that a man like him has no credibility outside of his most ardent followers. Every accusation Hannity makes against Obama carries so much exxageration that one never knows where the truth ends and the lie begins. He is like the boy who cries wolf.

So the reason he is looking for is simple... he is not an honest man. The truth is that if McCain HAD jumped ship years ago and gone Democrat and was running with Liberman on the same platform and talking points he does now, Sean Hannity would be shredding him - not defending him. As much as Sean may reference truth, the reality is that his truth changes according to party lines.

This is why people like myself are not moved by many arguments given by the Right, these arguments are looking to score points... not be consistent or truthful. I am not saying that people on the Left don't do this as well, but the Left doesn't have 24 hours a day of AM radio training them in this mode of discourse.

An example of this came in last night's debate. McCain said the American people need to know about Senator Obama's relationship with William Ayers. Obama then gave a detailed review of his relationship -

"Bill Ayers is a professor of education in Chicago. Forty years ago, when I was 8 years old, he engaged in despicable acts with a radical domestic group. I have roundly condemned those acts. Ten years ago he served and I served on a school reform board that was funded by one of Ronald Reagan's former ambassadors and close friends, Mr. Annenberg.

Other members on that board were the presidents of the University of Illinois, the president of Northwestern University, who happens to be a Republican, the president of The Chicago Tribune, a Republican- leaning newspaper.

Mr. Ayers is not involved in my campaign. He has never been involved in this campaign. And he will not advise me in the White House. So that's Mr. Ayers."

McCain then went on with his talking points as if Obama had not responded -

"... Sen. Obama chooses to associate with a guy who in 2001 said that he wished he had have bombed more, and he had a long association with him. It's the fact that all the -- all of the details need to be known about Sen. Obama's relationship ..."

Ummmm..... he just gave us those details......

It is clear that McCain really didn't want an answer to his question. He did not refute what Obama said... McCain just pretended Obama hadn't said it.

What I will say in McCain's behalf is that I do not believe that incident is a demonstration of what is at his core... he is just trying to get some traction in these last weeks.

However we all meet, or hear on the radio, or read on blogs, people who are like this at their core. They get frustrated and angry that we will not see life their way. They take it as a personal affront that we disagree with them. When you meet them, here is my advice.... smile and nod. :)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Last Debate

No surprise, but I think Obama clearly outshone McCain. It seemed that with most questions, Obama told the American people what he was going to do, whereas McCain spent his time trying to make us afraid to vote for Obama. I guess the polls will tell us over the next few days how well McCain's approach worked.

I think McCain's worst misstep was to go back to the Ayers issue after Obama had detailed what their relationship was. I think it made McCain sound very small.

I think both candidates showed their lack of knowledge on what really troubles American education. Obama gave a tag at the end, while McCain said nothing, but neither addressed what is really holding us back. As long as we keep spinning around merit pay, vouchers, unions, curriculum, standards, accountability - blah, blah, blah - we will see no change. If you want to see this teacher's commentary on the educational system, click here.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Hats off to McCain

I really appreciate John McCain's attitude and words in response to some of the harshness and unreasonableness that can come out of folks during these political times (listen to the BOOS he gets for speaking truth about Senator Obama). Senator McCain chose the high road and was a great example to all of us.

I get emails almost daily detailing outrageous untruths about Senator Obama. These are usually being forwarded by Christians!! It always amazes me how little regard for truth is held by people who use the word truth like it is a trump card in a Euchre game.

HT: Igneous Quill

Friday, October 10, 2008

Maher has it Backwards

Let me first say that I like Bill Maher... a lot. I think his HBO show, Real Time, is first rate. His panel is always lively and informative. I agree with Bill, or can at least sympathize with his view, most of the time.

I am looking forward to seeing Bill's movie, Religulous, but reading some of the reviews I understand that I probably won't hear much different than what I have picked up on Real Time. Unfortunately, what I hear from Bill is well intended but backwards. Maher, like many atheists, believes that religion is the root of what ails us. If we could just do away with Religion, we would have a better world. I disagree with this view on many theological fronts, but let me give a non-theistic reason for disagreeing. I believe Maher is looking at an effect and calling it cause. Religion does not drive our dysfunction, it is merely the vehicle for much of it. If religion is not available, we will find many other things to demean and kill each other over. Like the Sneetches in Dr. Seuss, if the other group gets stars too, we will have ours removed. The stars are not the point. The point is the need to have an outside group, to have someone to be against, to beat, to conquer.

My friend and fellow blogger, Brook, made this point in a recent blog. He writes that most people today treat opposing viewpoints as if it were a sports competition. The other side does not need to be conversed with or understood... they need to be beaten.

I think Bill ends up supporting the very attitude he would like to see go away. I understand his frustration (and I often succumb to it myself), but his approach is just perpetuating the problem.

As Ghandi said, "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind."

Friday, October 03, 2008

Third Option for the Palin Debate

In a previous post about Palin, I said in the comment section that if Palin does well at the debate it would be fair to forget the Couric interview. When I said that though, I was proceeding from the assumption of only two possible outcomes. Either:

A. The depth of Palin's knowledge and preparation would be shown for the shallow level that it is and she would lose horribly.

She would hold her own very well, and the Couric interview was just a bad day or a case of the jitters.

However, I did not consider the third possibility:

C. She would be instructed to memorize her talking points and not to deviate one iota from them, lest McCain put his foot up her rear (metaphorically speaking) after the debate.

I was suspecting C throughout, but she clinched it for me when she said that she was not going to answer their questions, but rather speak to the American people. I imagine her handlers gave her that line for when she was really, really stuck. The format of the debate allowed the C option to be pulled off and Palin was able to keep her head above water. I will be surprised if we see her in any open interviews from this point on.

I don't like to be this harsh because I am sure that she is a pleasant enough person to hold a conversation with while your kids play soccer - but LEADER OF THE FREE WORLD?? I kept asking myself during the debate - What, What, What made McCain choose Palin over Romney?? Is his Mormonism that big of an anchor? I think Biden would have had his hands full with Mitt.

HT for the chart: Shuck and Jive

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Politics and Religion - Both share the Modernity/Postmodernity struggle

I encourage you to head over to Out of Ur to read their article The Hansen Report: Modern versus Postmodern Politics.

I think the writer of this article gives a good summation of how modern and postmodern views affect our interpretation of religion and politics. He states that the arguments of McCain and Obama, and the way in which they are argued, are very reflective of the growing pains that religion is experiencing today.

From the article :

Obama spoke with empathy about the personal effects of the current financial crisis on Main Street America. He advocated greater oversight for Wall Street. McCain, too, said he wants oversight, but he emphasized different reasons for the crisis. He spoke of individual greed and said the government needs to hold the failed executives accountable. As the debate progressed, McCain spoke passionately about members of Congress who perpetuate the "evils of this earmarking and pork-barrel spending." McCain underscored personal morals where Obama accentuated communal values.
McCain is a man of action and frank talk. Obama sees intrinsic value in engagement, which may even produce unexpected tangible consensus. You could plug in certain pastors and see the same differences.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

K2: One Church - Two Warehouses

Today K2 opened the White Building; coinciding with our 4th year anniversary. The service was absolutely amazing. Dave gave a great message detailing where we have come from and where he believes God is taking us next.

The music could not have been better. Growing up with 2 hour charismatic song services has soured me on church singing, but K2 has been slowly bringing me back around. This morning, they had this cool blend of three choruses, each being led by a different song leader. Along with that, each chorus had its own lighting and video look. The effect was truly awesome! Even song Scrooges like me were shouting "Hallelujah!"

So starting next week, K2 will be doing two identical services simultaneously - one in the red warehouse and one in the white warehouse. Services are at 9:30 and 11:30.

Friday, September 26, 2008

K2 Times Two!

This Sunday will be the fourth anniversary of K2 the Church here in Salt Lake City. We will be opening "the White Building" which will be a second sanctuary on the site, allowing us to do two services simultaneously. Hopefully soon, the staff and volunteers in the white building will be moving to the southern end of the Salt Lake Valley to start the first of many K2 campuses and church plants.

The picture to the right was taken on my phone. I was 20 plus feet up on a scissor lift helping to install lights in the white building. I don't usually think of myself as being afraid of heights, but I was having to control my sense of the willies. Jason assured me that the lift was completely safe, which he proved by shaking it! ;)

I missed the debate tonight due to a South Campus meeting. I am highly looking forward to it. I caught a short moment of it, and both candidates seemed to be conducting themselves well. I hope the entire debate followed the tone of that brief portion I saw.

Compare the Veeps

I agree with the point that Brook made in a previous comment section that, regardless of who takes the presidency, we are getting an upgrade. I believe Obama to have a greater vision for the future, but I can find things to like about McCain.

However, on the VP side, beside the fact that I would disagree with Sarah Palin on a lot -I feel she is out of her element. The very real possibility that McCain would leave her holding the reigns at some point during his term is quite unnerving. Here are videos of Biden and Palin in interviews.

Joe Biden on Real Time with Bill Maher

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Body Worlds in Salt Lake City

I was fortunate to be on the receiving end of a free pass for the Body Worlds exhibit that is near Library Square downtown. If you have not seen it before, it is a "museum" of the human body - actual human bodies. The bodies have been preserved and every level of the anatomy is to be seen.

If you go, I suggest you spend a little time people watching. It was interesting to observe the varied reactions. The medical students who prattled off a lot of 25 dollar words. The parents desperately trying to enrich their children; but the children don't want to read the signs they just want to move on to the next body. The giggling adolescents pointing at the sex organs. The middle aged woman softly weeping over a preserved 30 wk old baby. The solitary old man staring into the eyes of the lifeless body before him... time slowing to a crawl. I wondered if he was considering the remainder of his days.

For myself, I was impressed by the complexity of the human body. It was a wonder to see. I could never accept that it formed purely by chance.

I also felt a sense of sterility. The part of me that loves to hear and tell stories wanted to hear the stories of the people who once possessed these bodies. I wanted to see pictures of them from their life. Who were they? Who loved them? Whom did they love? What had they seen in life and what did they learn? I suppose there are legal and practical reasons for anonymity. I wonder if any others who saw the exhibit shared my questions?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Random Thoughts and Happenings

Over the summer, my neighborhood Relief Society offered to put together supply packets for the entire 6th grade at my school. This was a wonderful blessing to our students as well as the teachers. I stopped by my local ward this morning to drop off the thank-you letters that the students and my fellow teachers had written to the ladies of the Relief Society. I want to thank them again for spreading life to those around them.

Since I had no responsibilities at church this morning I decided to visit one of the churches near my house. There are 3 churches that meet in the local Megaplex. As you enter the theater, there are signs directing you to the varied congregations that meet there. If one wanted to church shop, this would be a quick way to see a few very quickly.

I think they are on to something by accident that might work very well on purpose. There are 20 theaters in the Megaplex. Imagine if you had all different traditions sharing a common building, but meeting in their separate sanctuaries to celebrate their varied traditions each Sunday. Pentecostals, Baptists, Lutherans, Catholics, Independents, etc.... all meeting under the same roof. After service, everyone could meet in the food court to have lunch together and talk about what was shared that day. During the week, there would be opportunity to easily attend each others bible studies. Service and charitable ministries would benefit from the combined efforts of everyone who shared the building.

Just thinking out loud...

I went to the Pentecostal service at the Megaplex. Though it wasn't my style, there was one part I appreciated much more than I thought I would have. After worship they asked anyone who would like prayer to come forward. They anointed the person with oil and then the pastor and a number of others gathered around, laid hands on them, and earnestly prayed for them. I was touched by this and I believe God was there.

I think I saw so much dysfunctional Pentecostalism when I was younger that I have thrown out the baby with the bath water in many ways. It was nice to have a good experience with something from my roots.

On another topic...

My daughter and I have been cast in a local production of Peter Pan. Kathryn has been in two previous productions under the director, but I am a newbie. I mostly saw this as a chance to do something with my daughter, but I am also finding it to be a lot of fun. I had my first major rehearsal the other night and had a really good time. My older brother has done a fair amount of acting, and I now see what the draw has been. Community develops in theater.

Blessings and Peace to all!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Bias Tips the Scales

I started Bible Quizzing when I was 14. Somewhere in my early 20's I switched from quizzer to coach and quizmaster. The quizmaster is the person who asks the questions that the three teams jump on. He or she also makes judgment calls. Questions are constructed word for word out of the scripture like so:

Q: When did God speak to our forefathers through the prophets?

A: In the past

However, answers do not have to be word perfect, so there is often debate as to what constitutes a right or a wrong answer. Quizzers have the opportunity to debate these nuances with the quizmaster - to defend or contest a given answer.

Looking back, it is interesting to me that when I was a quizzer, most issues were black and white. Quizmasters were, from my perspective, either dead on or out of their minds on particular judgments. Good calls were the ones that I agreed with, bad calls were those with which I did not. The personal convenience of that pattern never occurred to me. I was often puzzled by quizmasters who spent so much time considering a ruling on something that was OBVIOUSLY so clear.

My perspective changed once I started quizmastering. I spent time weighing out the various arguments. I could often give a measure of validation to both sides of the debate. Sometimes I would have to throw a question out because I felt I could not make a fair call otherwise. At that point, the captains of the opposing teams would often roll their eyes... convinced that I could not be more wrong.

What had happened to the certainty I had as a quizzer? Where had the clarity gone?

It went away with my biases. Now that I was no longer advancing or defending a position, I had lost my vested interest. Being on a "side" created a natural imbalance in my mental scales... something that is difficult to recognize while you are on a side.

This makes me wonder where else in my life I see clarity where there is none. Where else do my vested interests push the scale to an outcome that does not exist for someone outside the equation? Through experience I have learned to recognize some of my biases and I try to compensate for them; but how many lurk beneath the surface, silently altering my view to create something that is not completely accurate?

I thought this video of the varying commentary on Michelle Obama's convention speech is a good example of biases coloring the view of the same occurrence.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A Better Republican Convention

In a better universe, the Republican convention would have went this way...

HT: MetaCatholic

Seriously though, I have watched dozens of these kinds of videos over the past few months, and it always amazes me the time someone must have put in to sift though all of the necessary parts to make a video like this (these people obviously do not have kids). Youtube has spawned a new kind of video comedy.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Hope Explored by Brian McLaren

In this video, Brian talks about his reaction to 9/11.

HT Emergent Village

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Not flirting anymore...

It is always interesting to me that many Christians get uncomfortable if you emphasize the love of God too much. They always want to toss in a "but".

Yes, God loves you but there is justice. Yes, God loves you but have you repented? Yes, God loves you but what about your sin?

Yes, but... Yes, but... Yes, but...

My boss always bristles in a staff meeting when someone says "Yes, but". She says the but nullifies the Yes. It is an oxymoron.

I have been flirting with Universalism over the past few years. Universalism believes in the complete reconciliation of God and man. As Julian of Norwich said in the 14th century “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well…” Somewhere along the way Universalism ceased to be a flirtation. It became a truth I see throughout scripture.

Romans 5:10 For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!

Notice the two events here? Reconciliation and Salvation. I always saw them as the same thing, so why is Paul separating the two? I believe it is because we are reconciled. Period. So what is Salvation? I believe it is the process of becoming like Him.

Jesus said, "I have come that you might have life, and have it to the full".

Peter said that we are to work out our salvation. That verse never made sense to me earlier in my faith. Why did I need to work out a gift? I see now that I do not have to. The gift is reconciliation! AND God wants to gift us again by re-making us into the likeness of his Son.

God's love for me does not depend on me. His acceptance truly is unconditional. Now I am invited to move on in Him.

This makes sense to every parent. You want your child to become all they can. You want them to love and be loved. What could they do to make you turn away?

Not a thing.......

That doesn't mean we will not discipline or be disappointed with our children.... but turn away?


The Father of the prodigal eagerly awaits the return of the son.

Bart Campolo reminds us that 1 Cor. 13 is not a passage about romantic love. It is a passage about GOD! According to 1st John, God IS love! So let's read 1 Cor. 13 as it describes God.
  • God is patient
  • God is kind
  • God does not envy
  • God does not boast
  • God is not proud
  • God is not rude
  • God is not self-seeking
  • God is not easily angered
  • God keeps no record of wrongs
  • God does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth
  • God always protects
  • God always trusts
  • God always hopes
  • God always perseveres
  • God NEVER fails

Nope, the but just doesn't fit.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Palin quote sours everything else she might say..

At the RNC, Sarah Palin said her experience as "a small-town mayor is sort of like a community organizer, except that you have actual responsibilities."

I will try to stay open minded, but it is getting hard. This quote was such an unfair, unkind, and horrid thing to say to the many, many of us who work in the inner-city with those who are struggling or have lost hope (and most of those workers are volunteers or working for peanuts). How dare she??!! Her attitude is an example of why I rarely vote Republican anymore.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Jon Stewart Slam Dunks!

Never try to have a civil conversation with someone who is strictly partisan. As I talked to a frothing conservative recently, I acknowledged that Democrats can be full of crap. He bought that, but refused to acknowledge that Republicans can likewise be full of crap. No, no, no... Republicans don't need to embellish he said, all they have to do is bring light to the inconsistencies of Democrats. Hmmmmm..... Well, the staff with Jon Stewart put Republican words through the $h!T tester and came up with a shovelful.

Monday, September 01, 2008

There's a New Blog in Town

My older brother has decided to start committing his thoughts to the world of zeros and ones. His resume' is very eclectic - educated at a South African university while pastoring a church with his wife in Hong Kong, missionary in the Philippines, and he ran for US congress. He and his family recently moved to northeast China to work at an international school.

You can always count on his views to be well thought out, while maintaining a willingness to consider things from a new angle. Stop by and leave a comment at http://www.stevehackman.blogspot.com/

** Correction: Steve wrote me today and he was laughing because he has never even been to the Philippines. Turns out it was Malaysia back when he was with YWAM. Heh! :) It is easy to get mixed up because it seems like everyone I knew at that time in my life was doing missions work somewhere.
Related Posts with Thumbnails