May 30, 2008

Don't Trust Anyone Over Thirty

As of today, that includes me. Jesus began his public ministry at 30, and lots of famed icons like Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix all made music and died by the time they were 30.

Me? I just hope that they still let me into Starbucks.

May 29, 2008

Stuff Christians Like--Satirical Websites

One of my former youth passed through town this week and casually mentioned a website he thought I should check out. Rarely have I seen a site that is as "spot on" as this one: Stuff Christians Like. If you're like me and you grew up in the deep south, attending a smaller church, and totally caught up in Christian culture, then you will laugh out loud at Jon Acuff's observations.

Post #1 is about how Christians like to rip off the secular world for their use. He is quick to point out how this is exactly what he is doing in ripping of the popular (and controversial) blog, Stuff White People Like. From topics like unspoken prayer requests, Braveheart, camp experiences (here, here, and here too), mixed bathing, and even Psalty the Singing Song Book, he covers the gamut of my life from age 5 to 18.

Kudos, Jon Acuff. I will lift up an unspoken prayer request for you in Sunday School this week.

May 19, 2008

Life in Mississippi...

Some mornings I awake, eyes crusty with sleep realizing that I'm in a strange house. After living here for only a couple of months, it still seems a little new and like I'm living someone else's life. It is in those moments that I remember, "Oh yeah...I live in Mississippi now."

As far as I'm concerned, that's a good thing. But, occasionally I'm reminded clearly that I live in Mississippi, such as the pictures above. You see it correctly...that is a dog eating grits out of an iron skillet on a back porch.

Only in Mississippi...

May 12, 2008

Violent Video Game or Emegent Church Experience?

Sorry such a long time between posts, but the tyranny of the urgent continually pulls me away. Speaking of the lack of time, it's been a long time since I would consider myself a vidya-game player. The last game I was great at was James Bond's Goldeneye for Nintendo 64, I currently own a 1st-generation X-box for which I buy one game a year (NCAA Football), and I was once beaten by a girl in a one-on-one match in Halo. Needless to say, it was barely a blip on my radar screen when Rockstar Games released Grand Theft Auto IV last week. Of course, the standard "we don't like a game that glorifies violence, sex, drug use, criminal activities, etc." followed suit, to no one's surprise.

What was surprising, however was this article in Slate Magazine by Sudhir Venkatesh. It's called "What Grand Theft Auto IV Gets Right About Gangland and Illegal Economies". Venkatesh is a professor at Columbia University and has written books and produced documentaries on subjects like illegal economies. What I find interesting is the positive spin that he puts on the game. What's even more interesting is that it's some of the same language that is used by those in the Emergent Church movement as characteristics that they value. Here are some of the quotes by Venkatesh about Grand Theft Auto IV:

People have to find ways to work together not only to commit crimes but to resolve disputes, respond to injustice, and otherwise fulfill their assigned missions.

The point is that a lone wolf can't survive. Niko [the main character] has to take a risk and trust somebody.

Right and wrong are never so clear—at least in terms of the consequences of one's actions—and Niko's mission can fail because you either did or did not do the right thing.

No one can move forward until they come together and develop shared interests. The result can be a powerful feeling of solidarity.

Venkatesh does point out that these interests are of ill repute, but I do think that all the talk of responding to injustice, working together, and a lack of clarity on right and wrong are funny...especially in a game where you succeed by beating women and committing crimes.

May 01, 2008

An Example of Disagreement...You Make the Call!


I'm going to work as hard as I can to be apolitical with this blog, and I'm aware that this is the second out of the last three posts relating to Barak Obama. All over the news lately has been last weekend's whirlwind tour of his former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright. Being a reverend myself, I've been fascinated not only with his words, but with the response by people from the right and the left. No surprise, the political and evangelical right have condemned what he had to say. What is surprising is even the political left (including strong denunciations by Senator Obama) have sought to distance themselves from his comments, yet some on the theological left are defending him.

It's amazing how two people, both unashamed in their political/theological leanings, can view the same comments in such a different way. Case in point: Ann Coulter vs. Diana Butler Bass and their analysis on Reverend Wright's speeches and interviews last weekend.

First, Ann Coulter. Known by many as the "Queen of Mean", her snarky and biting analysis/attacks leave little to the imagination of what she believes and where she stands. We might be thinking it, but she's darn sure saying it...unapologetically, I might add...and she's wildly successful by doing it. Her latest article offers her opinions on the situation. Some highlights:

Whew! I'm certainly glad to hear the "snippets" from Rev. Jeremiah Wright's sermons "in context."

In his speech to the National Press Club on Monday, for example, Wright described America as a country of "segregation, Jim Crow, lynching and the separate-but-equal fantasy." Then he ran outside to feed more quarters into the meter where his time machine was parked.

He said this is a country that "cuts food stamps and spends billions fighting in an unjust war in Iraq," neglecting to add that before you can cut the food stamp program, you must have a country that has a food stamp program.

He clarified his Sept. 16, 2001, sermon, in which he said that on 9/11 "America's chickens are coming home to roost" by saying: "You cannot do terrorism on other people and expect it never to come back on you." I'm glad to get the full context on that because I had thought he was talking about chicken farming.

Diana Butler Bass has her Ph.D. from Duke University, is a senior fellow at the Cathedral College at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., and she is the author of several books. Admittedly liberal in her theology, she too wrote an article this week with her take on Wright's interviews and speeches. Some of her highlights:

And, for those who really listened to Rev. Wright, he moved from being a political liability in the current presidential campaign to demonstrating why he is one of the nation's most compelling spokespersons of the African-American community and of progressive Christianity.

However different the venues, a surprisingly common thread wound through all three speeches -- that a realistic understanding of history forms the spiritual basis of hope and healing.

In his final address, Wright essentially delivered a church history lecture in which he traced the prophetic tradition of African-American history as a tradition of "liberation, transformation, and reconciliation." Several times, he clearly stated that a realistic view of history opens the possibility of healing the social order.

In recent events, some Americans dismissed Wright as deficient because he is not white and did not adhere to the norms of polite discourse. They used fear of difference as a political tool to divide people.

With humor and wit, along with courage and authenticity, Wright stood up for good history and the God of history.

These are two people who view the same events in completely different ways. Their interpretation and analysis are no doubt driven by their worldviews, so where does the truth lie?

Senator Obama (whether for political reasons or in truth...or both) spoke for me when he said "all Americans are rightly offended by Reverend Wright's statements." At times, I am offended by Ann Coulter and Diana Butler Bass (who I have reason to believe has read my blog) too, just to clarify.

Mostly, I am confused by Bass' conclusions. She states on her homepage that she is for "churches that base their message on God’s love for all people and God’s vision of peace and justice for the world.” Based on the videos (in or out of context) that we have seen of Reverend Wright's sermons, is that communicating God's love for all people ("no, no, no, not 'God Bless America', I say 'God @#$% America"), God's vision of peace ("He is one of the most important voices in the 20th and 21st century. That's what I think about him. ... I am not going to put down Louis Farrakhan."...a man who has promoted violence against Jews and whites) and justice for the world? This seems quite disingenuous.

Does making fun of Presidents Kennedy and Johnsons' accents constitute "wit and humor"?

I don't think that it helps the national conversation when we apologize for other people's bad behavior, regardless of whether it feels spiritual or not.