Because life is a series of edits

Archive for October, 2010|Monthly archive page

A Pre-Election Thought

In Calling, Education, Politics, Thought, Westminster, Young Ones on October 31, 2010 at 5:10 pm


A fellow colleague sent the following email to our faculty last week:

"I heard this story on NPR this evening regarding skills the next generation needs in an increasingly competitive job market. Such skills include: 'Analytic and quantitative skills; social awareness (social IQ as I call it); creative problem-solving; the ability to be adaptable; language skills, foreign languages; and then of course, communications skills.'"

I wrote back:

"Whew. Looks I’m off the hook. No one’s calling for ethics (obviously)."

Folks, regardless of your preferred political party, say a prayer when you vote on Tuesday that, in the midst of all the politics and power grabs this fall, God would mercifully cause our elected leaders to grow and follow a conscience informed by a biblical ethic. I can't think of a more needed skill for Congressional-types and kids alike.

Calling All Techies

In Internet, Technology on October 25, 2010 at 6:37 pm

I just sent this out via email:

I'll go ahead and congratulate you now but you can decide whether you're excited about it or not. Essentially, you're one of the eight (count them: eight!) most techno-savvy people I know and I need whatever wise counsel you might share.

Let me be brief: Megan and I are at a point where we're evaluating together what a next step might be for us with regard to our online presence/interaction. We've read a lot about and participated for years in the whole blogging/social media thing, but we're wondering how to think about the next stage of where things are going and how we can anticipate changes we may need to make to more widely and deeply influence people for the Kingdom via the World Wide Web.

I hesitate asking too many specific questions that might limit your answers, so I'll just go with this: In your opinion and from your vantage point/experience, where do you see things going in terms of technology, publishing, and general social media that you would advise us to consider in thinking through this?

I can provide more information if you want it about where we're at in all this, but in a nutshell, we both feel we're at a point of starting over and we'd rather not retrace paths that seem overgrown by now. That said, personal anecdotes and observation are completely legitimate here – we trust your instincts.

Take as much time as you need and share only what you honestly want us to hear. Thanks in advance for your consideration and good advice.

Got any thoughts to share? Comment away.

Live-Blogging: God in America (Parts 5 & 6)

In Thought on October 13, 2010 at 8:09 pm

God in America

Final live-blogging installment in response to PBS' God in America documentary:

8:06 – Billy Graham + paranoia about Russia = spiritual revival in America?

8:13 – Marriage of democracy with religion in the 1950s yields 65% national church attendance; "under God" added to Pledge of Allegiance; "In God We Trust" added to currency.

8:18 – Graham's message in the late 1950s seems much more anti-Communist than Gospel. Prothero: Graham is the one who linked religion with patriotism.

8:23 – Had no idea the whole debate over religious education in public schools started in Champaign, IL.

8:30 – Transition to Civl Rights movement and religion's place in pursuit of racial equality.

8:37 – John Kennedy's candidacy reignites national fear of Catholics; Graham, concerned about a Roman Catholic in the White House, gathers Protestant clergy in Montreux, Switzerland, to figure out how to defeat Kennedy. Seems a little too conspiratorial.

8:46 – Kennedy quote regarding Civil Rights movement: "We need new laws, but law alone cannot make men do right." Agreed.

8:48 – Recognition of the on-going importance of the Exodus narrative in American history, especially for Puritans, African-Americans, etc. Some good stuff here.

8:57 – Claim that the Gospel goes beyond personal redemption to social justice because of the Civil Rights movement; the mistake here is that true Gospel living includes both.

9:00 – Strangely, not one mention of the Jesus Movement; instead, how about some white fundamentalist sub-culture (a la Falwell, Robertson, et. al.)? Yikes.

9:04 – Francis Schaeffer makes the cut! Love the goatee and knickers!

9:09 – Schaeffer ultimately responsible for the Moral Majority? Not sure I trust son Franky's retelling of history here.

9:14 – Say what you will about his politics, I sure miss listening to Ronald Reagan speak (competent utilization of complete sentences, no desperate dependence on teleprompters, etc.).

9:20 – Oh, brother. Jim Wallis.

9:24 – Geez, Ralph Reed still looks like he's 20.

9:26 – Wondering when we were going to get around to more non-Christian religions, but L.A. as most religiously diverse city in the world? For whatever reason, that surprises me.

9:30 – President/theologian George Bush declares Islam a religion of peace.

9:32 – Hat tip to Pentecostalism (can't believe didn't talk about it earlier in 20th century).

9:34 – Prothero: Mixing of political parties and religious denominations has caused young people to disssociate from both. True, methinks.

9:38 – Rick Warren and his purpose-driven life.

9:42 – E.J. Dionne: "You might say the Democrats discovered God in the 2004 exit polls."

9:49 – Here comes the pluralistic finale, currently being summed up in words from President Obama's 2008 inauguration speech.

9:51 – Prothero: "This stage of American religious life really is about pluralism." Can I call it or what?

Live-Blogging: God in America (Parts 3 & 4)

In Thought on October 12, 2010 at 7:47 pm

God in America

Here’s part two of my live-blogging PBSGod in America documentary:

8:03 – This doesn’t have anything to do with the documentary, but I’d really like to have my own foundation or two to fund stuff like this.

8:06 – “Abraham Lincoln had always kept his beliefs to himself.” Witness the presentation of the secular/sacred split as a cherished American value.

8:09 – Abolitionists call slavery a national sin.

8:15 – The book of Philemon is not a text that proves biblical support of slavery.

8:20 – Lincoln definitely comes off a deist according to these scholars.

8:23 – Notre Dame’s Mark Noll, arguably the greatest evangelical church historian alive, made the academic cut here. Good for him.

8:35 – More focus on Lincoln’s “private/personal” working out of the will of God with regard to the Civil War.

8:39 – Lincoln no longer sounding deistic with language surrounding the Emancipation Proclamation. David Bright of Yale: “This was a religious moment.”

8:45 – Total deistic misread of Job by Prothero. Wow. That one wasn’t even close.

8:51 – Lincoln’s assassination as atonement for Civil War? Awful painting of Lincoln as Christ-figure being received in Heaven to illustrate the idea.

8:55 – Out of Civil War and onto reshaping of the religious landscape through emigration.

9:04 – Traditional vs. Reformed Judaism an interesting tension in 19th-century America.

9:11 – Enter Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. This should be interesting.

9:14 – Scriptures under fire in terms of authorship, inerrancy, infallibility, etc.

9:17 – Music almost triumphant under Charles Briggs’ Enlightenment rhetoric.

9:26 – Trying to figure out where they’re going with ten minutes on William Jennings Bryan.

9:28 – Post WWI, Fundamentalists now on the scene (dun, dun, dun) to combat Modernism.

9:32 – Scopes trial pits Bryan against Charles Darrow: “What was at stake for many people was the integrity of the Bible.”

9:44 – “Fundamentalists seek to build own sub-culture after Scopes trial.” Prothero: Delineations of people went from denominational to political.

Live-Blogging: God in America (Parts 1 & 2)

In Theologians, Thought on October 11, 2010 at 7:56 pm

God in America

I’ve been pretty excited about the PBS series, God in America, largely because of Boston University professor of religion Stephen Prothero‘s involvement in it. While Prothero makes no claim to Christian faith, his books are well-written, insightful, and usually (but not always) accurate. I also appreciate his call (albeit in the name of pluralism) to teach religion in public schools for reasons of basic religious literacy. Here goes:

8:10 – Native American pluralism vs. Spanish Catholic exclusivity. Ten minutes in and Christianity’s the bad guy already.

8:15 – Ben from LOST is a Puritan! Weird.

8:19 – Prothero on the Puritans: “The fate of the society hung on the religiosity of the society.” Really?

8:27 – Interesting stuff on Puritan Anne Hutchinson – accused of heresy, sedition, gender.

8:36 – Anglican George Whitefield is up now concerning spiritual rebirth.

8:41 – Historian Harry Stout on Whitefield: “He combined the sincerity of a missionary combined with the thrill of a performer.”

8:46 – Tying Whitefield back to Hutchinson (but on a larger scale) in terms of personal experience overruling Puritan authority.

8:49 – Whitefield impact montage a bit much; “interviews” directly looking at camera too distracting.

8:55 – Timeout. Are they seriously going to skip over Jonathan Edwards, the greatest theological mind this country has ever produced? Seriously? Boo.

8:58 – Yep. They did it. Nothing on the Great Awakening. Zilch. Unbelievable.

9:00 – Hey, it’s my friend, Lauren Winner, starting out part two, “The New Eden.” Way to go, Lauren!

9:03 – Enter the Baptists, complete with token white commentator speaking with southern accent.

9:07 – Girls doing a great job watching and wondering about claims presented, but alas, it’s bedtime.

9:08 – Prothero on Thomas Jefferson: “He was what we might call today ‘spiritual’ rather than ‘religious.'”

9:09 – Irony? Jefferson + Baptists = freedom of religion bill of 1786.

9:14 – Prothero gets distinction right on “wall between government and religion;” it’s not a prohibition of religion but a statement that no religion would be established by government.

9:20 – James Finley leaves his Presbyterian Calvinism for Arminian revivalism; represents shift from belief in sovereignty of God to Americans’ freedom of choice, from more traditional Protestantism to more charismaticism.

9:24 – Lame: reality television camera mounting as Finley walks through the forest. Seriously?

9:27 – Methodism: “a religion of the heart” (but no mention of the brothers Wesley).

9:32 – Actually heard the name “Jesus” used; might have been the first time in an hour and a half.

9:33 – Nice to hear acknowledgment of what evangelicals did in 1800s – schools, hospitals, prisoner care.

9:34 – Here come the Irish Catholics, much to the chagrin of the “strong Protestant ethos” of America.

9:40 – Interesting: Catholic schools formed in mid-1800s as much to deal with Protestant bigotry as to educate children in Catholicism.


Man Crushes & Bromances: The Movie

In Friends, Humanity, Internet, Places & Spaces, Thought on October 5, 2010 at 10:58 pm

Chewy and Han
Jon Barlow and I have been online "friends" (Facebook, blog comments, etc.) for probably 4-5 years, live five minutes apart, are graduates of the same seminary, have many mutual friends in the PCA, and are involved with the same school (I'm a teacher; he's on the board). Both of us have four kids each (I have four daughters; Jon has four sons), and we both love our wives, our kids, theology, philosophy, good writing, interesting music, and well-made films. We both think pretty well in terms of pop culture, and both of us probably spend too much time online (though Jon's finishing his PhD at SLU, so I'm not sure).

The funny thing is, while there seems to be a degree of mutual respect for one another, Jon and I have never met face-to-face. I think our story would make a good movie.

Here's the thing: the thirties are a busy time – possibly the busiest, I've been told by many, for a variety of reasons (young families growing, career paths taking off/changing, etc.). For those of us guys who are more introverted and emotionally fragile (yes, I'm being serious), it can be hard to get below the surface of news, weather, and sports with other men. While I can't speak for Jon, I know I haven't had the depth of male relationships in my thirties that I had in my twenties; more breadth, yes, but depth, no.

Here's a post from Jon's blog which, after reading, I knew we could be friends:

"At church, I feel like a ghost. It is so hard to get to know people in the few milling-around minutes that are available each Sunday. Especially when you've gotta watch your four boys to be sure they aren't running around or misbehaving. At school, I feel like a ghost. What am I going to do – hang out around the office and talk theology? How is that going to ever happen? I'm least ghost-like at home in the few hours between when I get home and when the boys go to bed, and I'm least ghost like in situations where I have to be there for a set amount of time to do some task. But even at the office, I find it hard to really get into my co-workers lives and learn about them. I keep thinking how the boss needs to get this project finished so he can bill it and make payroll for me and the others.

Part of this is also just the season of life that one is in at the time. When kids are young, you can't really be hitting the nightlife, whether recreational or educational, even in a great city like St. Louis and even community involvement is very difficult. And so I think you grin and bear it and hope for a better day and just try to stay sane and healthy and do what you can. The hard parts are those quiet moments – maybe you wake up before everyone else or you're in a public restroom or walking somewhere and there's no radio, no television, no one talking, and you're just stuck with yourself and all the crap in your life is circling your brain like electrons around the core of an atom and you're bewildered and saddened. But I guess that's why they invented the cell phone, so that a game of solitaire is never too far away. Pitiful, but true."

What if Jon and I – without ever meeting – wrote a screenplay about two average, semi-interesting, clearly heterosexual guys who are married, have children, and struggle to make ends meet in their quest to educate themselves and others about God's Word and world. And yet while they know of, know about, and know electronically the other, they never meet – on purpose, it seems – even though they have every opportunity to do so geographically, vocationally, and relationally? What would be gained or lost? And do they meet in the end (and so what if they do)?

Last week, Jon posted on his Facebook page that he was in need of some new clothes because, after years of seminary and grad school, all his clothes were wearing out all at once. I happened to have pants that no longer fit me but matched his measurements, so I messaged him and told him I'd be glad to get them to him if we could figure out a drop that maintained our non-acquaintance existence (the whole thing has kind of become a joke between the two of us, but honestly, I think we're both a little afraid of what might happen if we actually meet face to face – too much friendship pressure). As he had a board meeting at school (in my room, no less), we agreed that I would leave the pants in a bag on my desk for him. The drop worked and we maintained our no-meet streak.

Think of all the humorous scenes we could play out like this in a movie. We've already been in the same room together with neither one of us realizing it until later; we've both found out after the fact that we've been at my township's local arts fair at the exact same time but our paths never crossed; we've both had people tell us (or at least I have – I won't speak for Jon) that we'd be fast friends, but for whatever reason, even when we once tried to get our families together for dinner, things didn't work out. (I'm sure we've been at other events that neither one of us knew about the other being there as well.)

But here's the best part (for the movie, at least): What if, after we get the screenplay written (separately, of course) and some independent film company picks it up and produces it, what if as part of the build-up and promotion of the film, we finally meet on opening night at some film festival somewhere, families in tow and with the joke finally over? What if the film turned into some huge commentary on the challenges of real male friendship in an extremes-preoccupied world (sports fans on one end, geeks on the other), as evidenced by the reality that terms like "man crush" and "bromance" have crept into the vernacular as guys try to describe respect and even affection for one another without being talked about with raised eyebrows? What if?

I'm just throwing it out there. Would you go see a flick like that? What other motivations, scenes, or characters might make it compelling to watch? What would you call it? And do any guys resonate with what I'm talking about, or is this a movie no one would go see? I know the idea is rough and needs refining, so here's your chance to make it better.

Veggies Gone Wild

In Family, Pop Culture, Young Ones on October 1, 2010 at 7:38 am


Once again, Megan won free tickets ("Golden Circle seating," no less!) to yet another "live" show, this time a performance of the Veggie Tales Sing Yourself Silly Tour. For the entire night, we were bombarded with oversized vegetables singing silly songs. We also took part in a special "meet and greet" with Bob and Larry (or two imposters with actual arms and legs who looked like Bob and Larry) during which I was able to tell them how much I loved their work (or something).

Meet and Greet
Who says I don't have a life?