Tuesday, December 28, 2004

But there is this...

I have four great Nieces and Nephews. All of them are under 3 and a half. One currently is under a year still...and a new Niece is on the way any day. All I know is that I love those kids like crazy, so holidays are good just to get home. Sure, I would not care to keep a lot of the useless traditions that grate on my spiritual sensibilities, but being around those kids for the better of a day is pretty darn cool.

Sure, I asked for a book and received it called "War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning". This resulted in a charge from my brother, "is that about peace Crap?" But holding his youngest son, Austin, or Awesome as I call him, for just a few minutes makes the whole day worth it. He is so stinking cute, even when he is just drooling all over me because he can't keep his mouth closed at all...and, since he is an Abshire, it is a huge mouth to be sure...

Or when Jillian or Savannah will randomly be struck with the desire to run up to my knee with their hands up. I think pretty soon they are going to know they have me wrapped around their finger when they tell me they love me totally unprovoked...

Jakey is my other nephew who has the biggest grin on his face the whole time. Like Jesse described Isaac once, Jakey has one speed, Clumsy. He is the easiest of the ones older than one to pick up and hold with the least amount of wrestling. Hopefully, he will learn to use his powers for good and not evil.

I guess I write all this to reconnect to this whole "spirit of Christmas" crap...Being with family can at the exact same moment drive me nuts and refresh me. I don't understand it for crap. Ya, I wish I could kill the materialism in me and everyone else, but it is not likely to happen. Working on it in myself takes up enough of my energy.

Someone asked in the comments what do we do...Good question. If I had the perfect answer, I would not be writing here. But I think there are things we do and are doing to get closer to the ideal I hear more of our generation talking about along these lines. I have to believe that realizing that something is not right is part of the process. Searching for pockets of people that are willing to engage the discussion helps. Finding support for crazy ideas. I debated for a while about giving gifts in the form of animals to third world countries. But I wussed out...Norrie told me once that his family has discussed spending their gift money to go on a mission trip over Christmas, I thought that sounded pretty amazing. No way it would work with my family, but that would be cool. I have thought about maybe trying to lead a mission trip like that...How many students would be interested? Another question is would it be a legitimate sacrifice? or something else to add to what we want to do?

However, I think Jake makes a great point that the solution is bigger than Christmas, because Christmas is not the only time this is a problem. It simply serves to compound the issues and what not...More discussion?

This Tsunami stuff is crazy! I was ticked at one site that said something about "3 Americans among the dead in Tsunami event" or something. Like Americans only need to care about something of this magnitude if America is somehow directly involved...


The Best Site ever...

Probably not, but it is really fun! Who do people like if they like The Postal Service...go find out here... http://www.music-map.com

Have a blast!


Saturday, December 25, 2004

Jesus' Big Day

Well, it's Christmas officially now. So, what else would you expect, but some cynical reflection...

I just returned from my home church's Christmas Eve service. I love the pastor at the church and several people that are very special to me there, but I unfortunately saw very few of them. What I was ultimately struck with was nothing new to the circle my mind tends to run in these days. Tonight this was sparked by several songs in the service. It needs to be mentioned that Zionsville Presbyterian is a very affluent church in a wealthy community, it is too long of a story to tell how I ended up a member there...Anyway, many of the songs reflected quite accurately the lowly position by which Jesus came into the world. I guess what struck me is that so much of that reality has really been lost in the realm of American Ideals.

As this paid musician was singing some rendition of some Christmas song, I was struck that we were talking about the Man who became our savior was born into the world with nothing, no prestige or wealth. Yet, this was being sung in state-of-the-art "sanctuary", with beautiful interior design, vaulted ceilings, and large plate glass all behind the "altar". Also, most of the families (like mine) were preparing for expensive gift exchanges to commemorate this vital spiritual event.

I guess this is just one more time when I am struck at the level of absurdity Christians have inundated our beliefs with culture, particularly one that with much reflection at all is absolutely opposed to what Jesus who life seemed to indicate to me. Sacrifice, service, humility, and genuine love. Some of this is reflected honestly in many of our Christmas traditions, but most of it seems like name-brand rip-off forms of these qualities.

Instead of creating holiday traditions around the celebration of Christ's birth that emphasize materialism and consumption, comfy bed fellows of capitalism, shouldn't we be celebrating in a way that truly shows the love to those who Christ seems to have passion for? Giving a tickle me elmo doll to a kid that watches his mother struggle to make rent or other similar financial hardships does not quite seem like the proper response. To celebrate the birth of my savior, I am asked to develop a list of things that I "want". I am somewhat frightened with the ease at which I can come up with this list. Something in me indicates that my relationship with Christ should be helping me discover the shallowness of the pursuits of most these "wants". Isn't Christ calling us to more? More than our own interests, but to the interests of others? And yet the holiday to celebrate his birth is one of the avenues in which these "wants" are increasingly desired...

Unfortunately, I have no response for my own actions, for I am guilty as charged by my own measurement.

True blessings to you, my brothers (and whoever else reads this)...May this season (and all the ones that follow!) bring you even closer to becoming the person that Christ is really calling you to be. Thanks for being a large part of challenging me with your thoughts over the last several years.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

The other evangelical magazine has it too

The Huntington/Open Theism controversy has been picked up by Christian Century as well. Here, the inaccurate quote by President Dowden has been left out. This article serves as a better introduction to the situation than the CT article, so if you're forwarding the issue onto those who don't know about it yet this is the one to send. Also, Brian you're merchandise gets a plug, although tribute is given to the on-campus students for making it instead of our wonderful gathered alumni here at midwestmindset. Maybe we should write a letter demanding a correction and a plug for Brian. I have been thinking about writing a letter to CT and CC to try to push the issue a little further into the spot light. Also, I think we should consider getting in contact with US News and World Report and let them know that they should be careful about ranking Huntington so high next year. Anyone know anyone there?

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Openly Ridiculous

In the category of I can't believe it took this long, Dr. Sanders' dismissal from Huntington has been picked up and written about in Christianity Today, released as their main story in their e-mail update, in an article called "Open or Closed Case?". You have to love that the ridiculous nature of the situation is being accepted without question at this point:

"The issue, according to both Sanders and G. Blair Dowden, the college's president, is not Sanders' belief in open theology, but his notoriety in advocating the doctrine. "

That's right. Please read it again.

Is the issue that open theism is wrong?
"'Not at all,' Dowden said. 'We have some other faculty who are open theists, but they're not teaching theology or Bible. It's not a litmus test.'"

So, to make things clear, open theism is not the problem. The problem is that Dr. Sanders is teaching Bible and theology classes and that he is good at it. Oh, that's right, Dr. Sanders is not teaching theology or Bible! Let us not forget that the agreement reached over Sanders' tenure track was that he would only be teaching philosophy courses. So, the only thing that Dr. Sanders is being removed for is publishing in his field and doing it well enough that others are considering his perspective as necessary for debate.

I am trying to be sympathetic here with the administration. I respect Dr. Dowden for saying that Dr. Sanders has been a great asset to the college. Kudos to Joni Michaud for strong comments on her part. The article ends with a commentary on the post script to any good HC press release: the renaming of HC, the tuition freeze for next year but finally the US news and world report ranking of HC in the top whatever in the midwest. I have an idea....how could the US news and world report rank Huntington highly if they are dismissing their faculty for meeting the criteria for continued employment?

A Review of a Generous Orthodoxy: Why I am pretty sure McLaren is an evangelical + protestant + should be ok with it

(Sorry this is too long. Deal with it. Read it.)

I have adapted a certain strategy when entering into new relationships with people (especially girls) in the last couple of years. Instead of being a mystery to the other person, a mystery that is ultimately a disappointment, I try to put all my junk on the table in the first 15 or 20 minutes of a good conversation. I have a lot of emotional baggage. I am not particularly well versed in loving other people. I have hurt many, and don’t know why or how to not do it again. I am selfish and unable to understand or empathize with others. Surprisingly, many times people hang around through this and still become friends with me. At some point, later in the friendship, I end up being a tool bag and hurting them or something about me becomes a problem. The beauty of the first 15 or 20 minutes of the friendship is that they were warned ahead of time and can’t hold it against me. I told them this would happen and they still entered into the relationship so what else did they expect?

Brian McLaren’s A Generous Orthodoxy made me rethink the moral accountability that comes with this practice in whatever form. The question, in general, is whether or not someone can be held morally accountable (in my case) or criticized (in McLaren’s) for something they told you they were going to do. Can those people consider me an jerk when I told them that I would probably be a jerk? Can I criticize McLaren for being naïve and over sympathetic to other Christian traditions (35-36), not dealing seriously with scholarship openly and seriously on these issues (34), not having a historical focus that deals with how orthodoxy has come about (29), and ultimately coming off as arrogant, defensive, tortured, complex, and anxious (38) when in chapter 0 he warned us of all of these things and told us not to read the book?

The answer, ultimately, has to be yes. And so I do so here, briefly but seriously. Brian, you would have done us all a favor by being more engaged with the Christian traditions you seek to understand or perhaps allowing a critical voice in each tradition a few paragraphs in each chapter as you do in some. You would have also done us a favor by situating your orthodoxy within the historical neighbors that you speak of in your catholic chapter. And you would have done yourself a favor by having a critical reader point out where you are arrogant, defensive, tortured, complex, and anxious and changing the parts that are pointed out to you. Sometimes not doing this makes for a better book but if often does not. But you knew all that anyway.

When it comes to a constructive response to McLaren I would start with a brief explanation of my own perspective and then attempt a response to McLaren’s work that is hopefully helpful to McLaren and all the Emergent folk. I am coming to this text as a Protestant theologian/student. Specifically, I am Anabaptist. I am a part of an urban Mennonite community consisting of my neighbors who have either lived in the neighborhood for most of their lives or who felt being faithful to the call of Jesus Christ meant allowing Jesus to decide where you live and that this often means living with the poor and unloved. In this sense, I guess I am missional, incarnational, and biblical. I read this text (as well as McLaren’s A New Kind of Christian) primarily because my brother is a pastor sorting through the Emergent stuff and seeing how it gets played out in mainline Evangelical churches. Also, I refuse to dismiss McLaren or anyone else who seek to do theology because they have not had as much theological education as myself or those who I normally read (although often they probably should).

For those who seek to engage this text, there is a warning that I would give as a preface to McLaren’s warnings. Just keep reading past the first two chapters (introduction and chapter 0). McLaren appears to have accepted the common "post-modern" strategy of being as obtuse as possible when it comes to identifying your presuppositions. Also, he employs an annoying presentation style that puts the word post-before just about every word and unnecessarily footnotes every paragraph in the introduction to show that the text is conscious of itself and in dialogue with itself. This style, which often sacrifices clarity for style, is thankfully left off for most of the book and it allows the content to be the issue up for discussion.

This response will not be a summary of the book, for this you will have to read it yourself. McLaren identifies his audience as the Christian, regardless of their type, that is thinking about leaving the church for the issues raised in this book or for the seeker who wants to know who Jesus is but doesn’t want the church that they see (39). Reading between the lines, this book is by and for frustrated Evangelicals (or evangelicals). Although McLaren seeks to go beyond this, I believe that ultimately it is an evangelical voice, a much needed one at that. McLaren seems to want to be more than evangelical, as the book lists this as only alongside many other types of Christianity in describing who McLaren is. And yet he is honest about his evangelical roots. Because I am coming out of an evangelical context myself, I can relate to and accept most of McLaren’s content. Ultimately, Evangelicalism needs to loosen up its orthodoxy and orthopraxy, learn from the rest of Christianity, and seek to be truly evangelical in its acceptance of those outside the group.

If McLaren would have stated that as the intention of the book, and the Emergent movement, than I would support the movement whole-heartedly, albeit as one outside the movement. But instead, McLaren appears to be suggesting a sort of Christianity that is beyond all of the parts. A Generous Orthodoxy, for McLaren, would be a synthesis of the good in the traditions of Christianity, the catholic church, that learns from each other and presents itself to a desperately needy post-modern world that wants the real church and not the Churches that are in their cities and towns. It is this type of church, the Synthesis Church, that appears to be McLaren’s vision for the Emergent movement.

McLaren often relies on an image of a great feast where every part of the Christian tradition brings the best it has to offer to the table and everyone enjoys the feast together. This is what a Generous Orthodoxy looks like. Because a Generous Orthodoxy is the goal of the Emergent Movement, apparently this is the vision for where it is going. Further, when describing the term Emergent, McLaren relies on a number of analogies that are insightful. One, coined by Steven Johnson, suggests that a higher intelligence can emerge from a well functioning community where each part of the community is doing their part and their interaction gives birth to something greater than the parts (276).

McLaren’s narrative of Emergent goes on to describe it as an almost irresistible force that pulls us out of one stagnant form of Christianity and into another form (perhaps a theologically difficult concept that borders on determinism). Although McLaren says the emergent form is no better than the previous, it is understood throughout the text that to remain in the previous form would be a lack of development and a deformity. Although the Emergent church is not the ultimate form of Christianity, it is what is necessary, the only/best answer to the current context of Christians (globally or only in NA? This is never examined).

McLaren’s narrative of another form of church emerging from the great feast of the traditions is the basis of my response to McLaren and the Emergence movement. Although rejecting the static dream of an abstract moment when humanity makes the world perfect (286), McLaren has offered a way of church that is indeed an abstract concept. There is no church that is the Generous Orthodoxy promoted here. The contradiction between the Church as ideal and the actual churches that are around us all has been an issue in theology at least since Augustine. The best work that has been done has been helping the particular churches that are still flawed move along toward the ideal of the body of Christ. Ultimately, this would be an eschatological act of God (eschatology is separate issue that I wish McLaren would work on, it would perhaps better ground his work).

How, then, can the vision of the great banquet of the Christian tradition be made a reality so this higher intelligence of Christianity can be actualized? I think the path to such an end is not found in starting new churches, finding ways to be more post-modern in our worship, or ransacking the houses of Christianity for their treasures, taking them off to our new housing development and then leaving them to rot. If a community that is the truly catholic Church is going to be beautified to something that people would actually be interested in moving into, it can only happen by everyone working on fixing up their own house, painting the siding, mowing the lawn, fixing the plumbing, and making over the interiors.

Brian, I appreciate your vision for where Christianity can go. I think there is a lot to learn from such optimism and a desire to interact with and learn from all Christians. This is the process for the church to undergo. But I think what you have to offer the conversation is not the synthesis itself. Instead, the conversation needs thoughtful Evangelicals. Your book is mostly a conversation with those who are evangelical but don’t like Evangelicals. You are protestant and evangelical before you are catholic and anabaptist. And that is just fine. Instead of trying to be more than what you are, focus in on this tradition and make it what it could be, then bring that family to the table to eat with everyone else and allow whatever is going to emerge from that to happen on its own. We, unfortunately, cannot create the Emergent church, it can only happen when all of the parts of the church are dining together. The city doesn’t need another housing development, what it needs is for the Evangelical mansion and the Catholic duplex and the Anabaptist apartments to fix themselves up and create a nice neighborhood that everyone will want to move into.

For those out there who consider themselves Emergent or postmodern, I suggest you pursue one of three options. The first is to reclaim your particular tradition. Probably this is evangelicalism in some form. What have you grown up in, how have you known God? Take a hold of this tradition, criticize the tradition, and work it out. Fight for decent music in the church or a better missions program. Point out the planks and pry them out, replacing them with fine timbers.

The second option is join up with the Catholics or Orthodox. They will survive the end of modernity because they came before it and aren’t, at the core, modernized. If what you’re looking for is the historical tradition or a mystical form of worship, this is where it is happening. Sign up, get in the middle of it, enjoy it, and then realize the remodeling needed here. Help sweep up the porch to start but be ready to refinish the basement.

Finally, the third option is to join the Anabaptists (Mennonites or Church of Brethren or something along these lines). They, like the Catholics and Orthodox, were non-modern, taking a critical stance against most of the cultural norms while seeking to bear witness to the truth of the Gospel. The negative here is that they will, or should, be non-post-modern as well, all the while embracing the good that is going on in culture but not assimilating. If you are seeking a truly missional, incarnational church then join up here. Because they are newer than most of the rest there is plenty of construction to be done, something that Anabaptists do well but take a long time at.

At my church we have amazing potlucks because many in the church are coming from different backgrounds. What makes the potluck a success is that the Cambodians make their food and bring it, the Italians do the same, as do the Vegetarians. The dishes are all brought from these homes and placed together at a table, then we all benefit from the synthesis of a meal that is formed. If everyone from my church all crammed into one kitchen and tried to create a dish that was the synthesis of all of these dishes it would be terrible and disgusting. A relative generous orthodoxy must be developed within each part of the Christian family and the greater General Orthodoxy will be the synthesis of these, that sort of just happens, but cannot be crafted or manipulated.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Murder, Suicide, and the Gospel: the Chicago Tribune covers Christianity

There are certain things that make conservative evangelicals say, "See, I told you there was a liberal media ballance." As a whole, I tend to cringe when I hear this, for several reasons. But a day like, in the Chicago Tribune, makes media coverage of religion a blast to follow. Here's a summary of the front page of the website.

"Minister Dies After Alter Attack" In the category "Religious People Are Crazy," this article leads the list. "A 72-year-old minister died Tuesday, two days after being attacked and choked in front of the altar by a man who called him "the devil," police said." This is coming from Whiteland, IN, where Rev. Bill McElroy of Missionary Baptist was attacked sunday morning while people were arriving for church. How David Cooper will be tried is still being decided as Cooper swore he did not commit murder: ""I choked him until I knew he was not breathing. I couldn't kill a human being. I was killing the devil."

Immediately under this report is "Priest questioned in doublt murder hangs self in church" which fits under the "religious leaders are ultimately evil" or "strict authority masks perversity". Here we have a priest who was known for being a traditionalist (did the mass in latin and encouraged people to go to confession) who cracked down on gum chewing in his congregation. But of course lurking behind every traditional minded priest is a dark side and if it is not sex with kids it is double murder, allegedly. The priest, seemingly avoiding the investigation, hangs himself in the hallway between the church and the rectory.

If this were all there was in the Tribune today than the conservative case would be confirmed, the media is aiming to snuff religion out. But then you turn to an article by Charlie Madigan, the Rambling Gleaner, and his report, "Jesus and the Losers". Although a little heavy on identifying authentic Christianity with having no qualms about homsexual behavior, Madigan summarizes his visit to a church that he thinks gets Christianity right, Epiphany United Church of Christ. Apparently a "in practice" review of the Still Speaking campaign and the amazing new UCC commercial where bouncers are waiting outside a church to turn away anyone that is not white, male, and in a terrible suit. (one second, this commercial should be discussed here. I want all of your thoughts.) Madigan's report, though, is less about the black/latino/gay/lesbian people at Epiphany UCC but instead about the wonderful christmas pagent he saw and the nature of the gospel, asking "What kind of a savior connected to God his father is born in such a humble place and surrounds himself with such humble people (except for the wise guys, of course)? And what kind of a savior turns to fishermen and harlots and tax collectors and other despised underclass types to gather a following?"

Surely a media bias that was out to destroy Christianity would never publish an article that had a better grasp on the truth of the Gospel than Christianity Today or World magazine. But here it is, in plain black and white, at least the beginning of the amazing story of Jesus:
"These days if you need a place to connect with God, as an individual or as a couple, gay, straight, dubious, whatever, maybe that whole old Jesus thing is still going on. Maybe he's still looking for outcasts of every stripe.It's a compelling thought, a religion constructed on a savior's collection of dedicated losers. Troublemakers. Sinners of all kinds. Confused, lost people looking for a warm place in a cold world."
Kudos to the Tribune for publishing the truth of the Gospel. In light of the last article the first two are seen as the perfect confirmation that the church is being faithful, opening itself up to all sorts of losers; the mentally ill who kill their pastor who is now satan, priests who are so focused on doing things right that they botch up the whole thing, homosexuals and the heterosexuals that hate them.
"This is my body, broken for you...."

Monday, December 20, 2004

What the internet is for

For those of you with the internet, whether at work or home, you would do good to spend the next 40 or 50 hours with the American Folklife Center. Since Paco was the one to point this wonder out, I'm guessing no one reading this will actually spend the time this site is worth. It is an extensive collection of american folk life, things ranging from man on the street reactions to pearl harbor to extensive folk collections that are wonderful recordings. what a great treat this is. take the time to get lost in all of this stuff over the holidays.

Friday, December 17, 2004

TotallyVain Mindset

So anyway, because I am full of myself, I decided to post my top-ten lists right here on the top of the main page. I'm still thinking about movies and music. So here are some books, limited to ones I read for the first time over the last year.

1. Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe
2. Coraline, Neil Gaiman
3. You Shall Know Our Velocity, Dave Eggers
4. High Fidelity, Nick Hornby
5. The Chosen, Chaim Potek
6. A Wrinkle In Time, Madeleine L'Engle
7. Bone: The Great Cow Race, Jeff Smith
8. A Series of Unfortunate Events: Books 1 & 2, Leminy Snicket
9. Feed, M.T. Anderson
10. How Soon Is Never, Marc Spitz

1. The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America, George H. Nash
2. A Short History Of Nearly Everything, Bill Bryson
3. Hunting the Divine Fox, Robert Farrar Capon
4. Lies, And the Lying Liars Who Tell Them, Al Franken
5. War In A Time of Peace, David Halberstam
6. Undaunted Courage, Stephen E. Ambrose
7. Reviving Ophelia, Mary Piper
8. Soul Survivor, Philip Yancey
9. Against All Enemies, Richard A. Clarke
10. A Sideways Look At Time, Jay Griffiths

I think maybe we should also do top ten heretics of the year (from our standpoints, not Dr. Dobson's, which might make him eligible). Any other suggestions?

That is all. Goodnight.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Not quite as good as Jonny

This article in the Tennessean talks about the presence of Christ in the public eye this year, seeing a raging debate over which Jesus everyone is talking about. It should be complimented with Jonny's post about republican and democratic Jesus and Supply Side Jesus by AL Franken to Waddle's Free-Market Messiah, Peace and Justice Jesus, Silence of the Lamb (of God) and Redeemer Revisited. One Jesus not touched by Jonny, Al Franken, or Waddle is the blood and guts Jesus of the Passion. This is what I was thinking was the Silence of the Lamb (of God) view and perhaps is the most predominant of them all; that Jesus is the bloody, violent sacrifice that makes the world hold together to the slight degree that it does. But, Waddle summarizes the need of good christology nicely. If only I could get my fellow seminarians to take such a critical approach to thinking about Jesus:

"In the four Gospels, Jesus blesses the peacemakers but also brings a sword of judgment. He says love God, fear God, show mercy, be righteous, live the Golden Rule, expect the fiery Reign of God from heaven and look for it inside the heart too. Believers must somehow hold all these themes together because the Gospels do. It will take humility, discernment and a sense of humor to realize that a user-friendly Jesus might be just a pious excuse for justifying political prejudices."

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Recent Reading: "Running with Scissors" by Augusten Burroughs

I thought I'd occasionally post a quick review of something I'm reading in preperation for the forthcoming lengthy, multi-part reviews of competing visions for the future of evangelical Christianity in the Emergent Church theology text Generous Orthodoxy and Bill Hybels more recent thoughts. These projects will unfold through the rest of december and into January during my bi-annual celebration of "too much time". For now, here are a few thoughts on what many consider one of the best current memoirs written.

First, a brief summary of the work, this time borrowed directly from the publisher's account:
"Running with Scissors is the true story of a boy whose mother (a poet with delusions of Anne Sexton) gave him away to be raised by her unorthodox psychiatrist who bore a striking resemblance to Santa Claus. So at the age of twelve, Burroughs found himself amidst Victorian squalor living with the doctor’s bizarre family, and befriending a pedophile who resided in the backyard shed. The story of an outlaw childhood where rules were unheard of, and the Christmas tree stayed up all year round, where Valium was consumed like candy, and if things got dull an electroshock- therapy machine could provide entertainment. The funny, harrowing and bestselling account of an ordinary boy’s survival under the most extraordinary circumstances."

With that background in mind, I was expecting something in line with either Dave Eggers Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius or David Sedaris Naked. This presuppostion was partly based on the summary I read but also on the fact that people recommend this work if you like Sedaris or Eggers. If you come into this book because someone told you to read because you already know you like David Sedaris or because you have read Dave Eggers than you will be confused, dissapointed, and disturbed throughout this work.

Burroughs experiences are far more tragic than that of Sedaris. Although he attempts to craft these experiences in a comic light, the observant reader may ultimately find the tragic underlying overcoming the comedic presentation. In this sense, Burroughs comedy is darker than Sedaris (if this is possible). Those who appreciate Eggers style of confronting suffering and sorting through it openly in his writing may feel as though Burroughs has masked his experience of suffering with a smile and has yet to fully disclose the effect of the experiences on his young mind. This becomes most evident in the entirely unfunny journal excerpts included in the account.

Overall, because I read the text with these two other texts in mind, I am unable to identify my response to the text. Either it did not take suffering seriously enough, is not really that funny, or has created a spot between Sedaris and Eggers of a unique brilliance. On amazon.com I rated the book a three with the understanding that if I ever conclude that Burroughs simply is not as funny as Sedaris or not as reflective and revealing as Eggers it would receive a 1 or 2 and if I determine ultimately that Burroughs has offered a new way to present suffering it would receive a 4 or 5. Either way, recommended reading if you ultimately find the suffering of others amusing, have never read about homosexual sexual experiences, or need to be reminded that someone has suffered worse than you and has survived. Not recommended if you are offended by mildly explicit homosexual sexual experiences, believe that ultimately everything is ok in the world, or that God allows suffering for the greater good of humanity.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Huntington's not the only one with problems...

The U.S. State Dept revoked the visa of a Muslim scholar from Switzerland just a few days before he was to begin teaching at the University of Notre Dame. They wouldn't give specifics as to why. Nothing in the scholar's past has him linked to terrorist activities, other than he has been critical of Israel and the war in Iraq.

At least the State Dept's not going after Sanders. If that's a little consolation....

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Top 10

It's almost the end of the year, so I thought we could do something I always love, top 10 lists. It'd be very cool to list your top 10 records, books, movies or whatever for the past 12 months. So the invitation has been made. I'll post a few of my top 10's here and the more abstract over at my blog. So get to it!

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Field Trip!

Alright everybody, pack up the vans, we're going on a field trip to the almost open Creation Museum! This is a great addition to the Christian experience, making it possible to combat the secular natural history museums that "proclaim an evolutionary, humanistic worldview. For example, they will typically place dinosaurs on an evolutionary timeline millions of years before man. AiG’s museum will proclaim the authority and accuracy of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, and will show that there is a Creator, and that this Creator is Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:15-20), who is our Savior."

Costing a modest 25 million dollars, the museum is located just outside of Cincinnati, OH. This is a strategic, evangelical location because "About 2/3 of America’s population can drive to Cincinnati in one day! In addition to those 165 million Americans, millions of Canadians in the provinces of Ontario and Quebec can also drive here in one day."

While we're waiting for the museum to actually open, a virtual tour is available that only creates greater excitement for this great addition to christendom. In addition to several gift shops and eating opportunities "that’ll strengthen your walk with the Creator and embolden your defense of His Word", the highlight of the tour may be the Bible Authority Room: "The Bible is true. No doubt about it! Paul explains God’s authoritative Word, and everyone who rejects His history—including six-day creation and Noah’s Flood—is ‘willfully’ ignorant." Also, the walk through creation area allows families to visit the tree of life and perhaps even take an apple themselves from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil! There is a dramatic representation of the first loss of life and the tour includes a face to face encounter with the tempter himself. Ultimately, the story includes a walk through the Ark and a quick skip to the cross where "3-D dioramas show the ‘Last Adam’ pay for the first Adam’s sin and then rise from the grave to conquer death." From there, visitors can rest by the plaza fountain and "relax by a waterfall, enjoy a refreshing drink and reflect on everything you’ve experienced."

This virtual tour is one of the most remarkable things I've ever experienced. I am hoping that my seminary student status may grant me an advanced visit to the museum before the doors are officially opened. For more info on Ken Ham, the museum founder who bear a remarkable resemblance to Christian philosopher Al Plantinga, see this article that explains how Ham sees dinasours as evangelistic lizards and believes they were around at the time of Jesus Christ. I believe I met this guy, or one of his followers, when I was a kid at homeschool club. Anyway, I'll see all of you at the museum opening.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

breadstick party!

Hey everyone.
I've been spending some time trying to learn more about what perseverance really means. I would appreciate any comments that you guys have on this. I would like to know what you think in regards to sin/trials, and also sickness/wellness.

sorry that I'm not saying anything as brilliant as usual yet.
also, let me know if you guys have any CD's I should pick up since I have 3 road trips in the next 3 weeks.

breadstick party.


Wednesday, December 01, 2004

speak with the hand, because the palm is deaf

List of Grievances

So after so more thought, I’ve got a few more things to say about modernity/modernism/postmodernism. If anyone cares.

First, a few qualifiers. Instead of differentiating between modernity and modernism, as I did in my last post, I’d like instead to define strands of the modern outlook. We’ll call modernity Enlightenment project modernism (EM), and artistic, avant-garde modernism (AGM). It might sound stupid, but it’s all I’ve got at the moment.

Defining a thing by its faults

What I’ve found most interesting lately, is that when critiquing EM, the critiquer is coming from a background that rejects most of or all of EM. Because of this, the critiquer defines modernism is a way that is easiest for them to attack. As it stands, maybe my confusion about EM/AGM is due to the fact that different paradigms or thought-strands have different definitions of the modern condition or the modern outlook.

Perhaps then a better way to define modernism is to delineate who is defining said modernism. We could then define modernism in many different ways: Nietzschian modernism, Kierkegaardian modernism, avant-garde modernism, literary modernism, existential modernism, Foucalt's modernism, Derrida's modernism, or possibly even postmodern modernism. There is no single definition of modernism any more, which makes the study of it confusing.

Modernism today cannot simply be seen as EM because it has had 200 years to grow and evolve as a system of thought. It has become something else entirely, almost as diverse as the strands of thought that make up postmodernism. What is interesting to note is that there is not much of a modernist critique of modernism, that is to say a modern definition of modernism. Maybe a better way to say that would be neo-modernism, a rational discussion of modernisms fault, but within the context of a modern worldview that seeks to correct its faults as it defends itself against the assault of postmodernism.

And maybe we’ll see this sometimes in the future. And maybe (just maybe) what comes out of it could be a synthesis of modernism and postmodernism. A system of thought more concrete than PM but less rigid than EM (if such a system could exist). What effect that could have on theology might very well unburden the debate between the Josh McDowells and Brian McLarens of the world (or, worst case scenario, both could reject it).

The next big thing

As I see it, there are two ways this could go.

1) As I’ve mentioned before, a new system of thought that borrows the best ideas from EM and PM, and rejects other ideas that really don’t make the grade. It’s a bit Hegelian maybe, but envision modernism as the thesis, postmodernism as the antithesis, and whatever comes out of it as the synthesis. What the heck does this resolution look like? We can’t talk about it in a concrete sense because it doesn’t exist (yet).

2) This would be an extension of and a transcendence of PM, a new system of thought that rejects both EM and PM. This is even harder to talk about. But that doesn’t mean we can’t try to talk about it. Remember, there was no discussion of what might come after EM because the Enlightenment philosophers were constructing an ultimate view of reality and the world that could not be overtaken. Reason was king, science led to progress, and progress (eventually) led to utopia. But as we change from EM to PM we don’t have the same qualifications about PM (even PM don’t, because they don’t make universal truth claims like EM did). So as PM takes shape, we can start to critique it. But instead of critiquing it for the purpose of defending modernism, we critique in hopes of discovering what comes next: post-postmodernism, for lack of a better terminology. We can arrives at PPM (which, hopefully will have a much cooler name) before PM even gets off the ground and into the vocabulary of the typical westerner.

Maybe 1 and 2 are the same thing. It's getting hard to tell (and harder to care).

You dummy! You cad!

But that’s all theory, and might just turn out to be bunk. Am I talking mumbo-jumbo? Yes! But that doesn't mean we can't still pretend it has important meaning for all our lives and the lives of those to come! Raise your fists America, and question what the heck I'm talking about.