Archive for October, 2010

Speaking of Education…

October 29, 2010

…here’s another article that is related to examining higher education.  Or more specifically challenging the assumed notion that a college education is always the best way to begin (or continue, or further) your career and life in general.

A major technology innovator and venture capitalist is offering $100,000 to young people to drop out of college and develop their idea.  Twenty young entrepreneurs will be offered $100,000 grants if they drop out of college to develop their products rather than delaying doing so until they graduate.  Not surprisingly, this has generated various opinions and reactions, from those dismayed at the greed and short-sightedness that they see in the offer, and from those who see this as a perfectly legitimate, and perhaps even altruistic effort to help not just the entrepreneurs but society and mankind in general.
Would I encourage my son or daughter to consider an offer like this?  Sure.  If they had an idea that seemed strong enough to possibly work, and if that idea was being vetted by better minds than mine as well.  I want my kids to understand the potential helpfulness of a college education, but I won’t raise them with the stated goal of going to college.  I hope that I’ll be flexible enough to roll with whatever direction my kids want to go at that point in their lives – whether it’s into a trade or the workforce directly, or into college.  Hopefully they’ll also be willing and able to hear my input on the subject along the way, with the benefit of my experience in going to college right out of high school but not graduating until an unusually long time afterwards (12 years, to be exact!), then going on comparatively quickly to complete graduate work.  
What will you tell your kids?

What You Don’t Know

October 29, 2010

As a lifelong learner, educator, and procrastinator, it’s obvious to me that while formal education is good for a great many things, it is certainly lacking in other areas.  There are tons of things I never learned in college that would have made my life a lot easier or at least a lot less mysterious.  Apparently, I’m not alone in this realization.

A Wired article on this very topic.
A Christian Science Monitor  essay offshoot of the aforementioned Wired article.
What do you know you don’t know that you wish you’d known your ignorance on earlier in life?

Book Review: Googling God by Mike Hayes

October 27, 2010

I like the multi-faceted nature of my vocation.  I like knowing that I can be studying a specific Biblical text during one point of the day, visiting someone who has been hospitalized the next, sitting and daydreaming planning about future ministry possibilities the next, meeting a colleague for lunch, teaching, prepping to teach, and any number of other activities.  It suits my multi-tasking nature very well, and is much cheaper than lifelong medication for ADHD or whatever is being prescribed these days.

Part of my work involves writing book reviews for the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod’s Young Adult Ministry web site.  I like to read, I like to write, and maybe those gifts can help someone else.  Maybe not.  But I like thinking there are three or four people out there reading the reviews and maybe determining what they’re going to read next.  And what they read next may shape and form them in profound ways for the rest of their life.  It’s kinda scary when I think about it that way, so I’m going to stop thinking about it that way and just review the stupid book.
Googling God: The Religious Landscape of People in Their 20’s and 30’s is not a book that I selected, but one that was sent to me by the LCMS-YAM for me to review.  It’s the first of probably many books that I’ll be reading in this capacity that I don’t care for.  But it’s important to read books you don’t like and think about them critically, beyond the emotional level of I don’t like this.  Failure to engage in this sort of effort limits our perspective, limits our willingness to spend the time to hear (or read) someone that we don’t agree with, and shrinks the boundaries of our engagement with the world around us.  None of this is good.  Neither is the book, but it’s the lesser of the two evils in this situation.
First off, this is a Roman Catholic book.  That’s all well and good but the book is not marketed as a specifically Roman Catholic book.  It deals far and away with mostly Roman Catholic young adults, Roman Catholic institutions and traditions, and Roman Catholic options for reaching out to young adults.  If you’re not Roman Catholic this book is going to be of much reduced value to you because beyond the Roman Catholic-specific stuff, there isn’t much practical usefulness to the book.
The title is also misleading, in that the Google analogy and technology in general is a very, very non-existent part of the book.  Aside from one chapter on how to create a digital presence that might reach young adults technology is only a passing consideration.  The Google analogy itself is barely used and never in an integrated or thought-provoking way.  It’s convenient shorthand for the rather lazy habits that instant access to almost any information tends to foster, but that’s about it.
The book is designed for those who aren’t young adults.  As such, it talks primarily about who young adults are and what they’re like these days.  This is somewhat helpful, but not overly.  This book basically highlights that young adults are all over the map in terms of what they like or want or expect in a congregation.  Which makes the task of the pastor or congregation attempting to reach out to them rather amorphous since anything you do is going to exclude more people than it attracts.  As an educator as well as a pastor, much of this information was not new to me, but it may be new to some.  In which case, read the first couple of chapters of the book.
Finally, the book simply accepts the way young adults are (I want what I want, when I want it, how I want it and I’m not willing to deal with much of anything else) as an unchangeable and even reasonable trait.  There’s no discussion of the dangers of this sort of mindset – whether it’s a product of laziness or immaturity (whether in the faith or in terms of a person’s age).  Be the perfect parish and maybe some young adults might deign to join you.  For a while.  You’ll want to be sure to invite them into deeper participation, but you shouldn’t pressure them.  You ought to cater to their particular interests (social justice, spiritual mysticism, liturgical awareness, emotive prayer, or whatever else), but there’s no need or point in trying to encourage a faith experience that moves beyond if I don’t like it I’m not going to do it.  
Hayes appears to tout the broad spectrum of beliefs in terms of Roman Catholic beliefs & doctrines, showcasing young adults who predictably pick and choose what they want from Catholicism while rejecting the rest.  There doesn’t seem to be an awareness of the dangers this can lead to – dangers that Catholicism (as well as most every other Christian group) is struggling with.  There is no apparent awareness that theology is an integrated effort, and you can’t just pick and choose willy-nilly what you like and ignore the rest.  You’re likely to find that in selecting just this brick or that brick to define your faith, you end up putting together a very weak and inconsistent theology and also assist in the deconstruction of the faith you claim to be a part of .  
Perhaps this is why the early church seems to focus mostly on the basics.  Christ crucified and resurrected, as St. Paul sometimes shorthands it.  If faith is to be normative – if the Bible is what is to shape our lives, rather than the other way around – we have to be careful about what we claim is indispensable to the faith.  I like young adults, want to reach out to them, want to help them develop into the leaders of the future church – but that requires more than simply affirming whatever it is they’ve decided they’re going to believe.  We all do this at one level or another, but the Christian faith is constantly calling us out of our own comforts and preferences to deal with the hard reality of the world around and within ourselves.  That hard world requires a strong faith and sense of identity, and this is engendered by more than personal preference or natural inclination.  It’s a discipline that we engage in every single day of our lives until we die.  Some of the time that discipline feels good and we enjoy the process of maturation.  Other times it’s something we have to grit our teeth to get through.  It doesn’t mean that the end is changed by whether we enjoy the means or not on any given day – it’s all part of the discipline.
Sort of like reading.  

Is Multiculturalism Biblical?

October 26, 2010

Well, is it?

America tends to track a few decades behind Europe in terms of our political and ideological arcs.  So I found this article from a week or so ago to be very interesting.  In it, German Chancellor Angela Merkel declares that the 50-year old German effort to build a truly multicultural society has failed.  She has made calls for all citizens of Germany to learn German as part of a greater, more intentional effort to integrate.
Since multiculturalism is one of the massive pushes in our own country right now (with the word including not simply ethnic multiculturalism but sexual multiculturalism), this is interesting.  Germany had perhaps the greatest of motivations to embrace multiculturalism as a final refutation of the Nazi ideology that tore not just Germany but all of Europe and the world apart.  If anybody was going to be serious about making sure that everyone felt equally valued and welcome, it would be Germany.  And now people are saying publicly what has been obvious and whispered about for some time.  
It hasn’t worked.
But we’re still trying.  We find it part of our cultural upbringing because our society has been very adamant about this.  I was watching old episodes of Fawlty Towers the other night, and realized how shocked I was at times by the racism in the show – racism that was being mocked, but was probably very accurate in it’s depiction.  The Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s continued into a more pervasive effort to level the playing field in almost every respect.  The byword of the last 20 years has been tolerance, which embodies most of the short-sighted goals of multiculturalism in a minimum of space.   But are we fooling ourselves?  Is the melting pot of American intended or able to allow all of the varied ingredients to retain their full and unique identities without somewhat blending into a broader amalgam of flavor?  
More importantly, is it the job of the Christian church to push for full multiculturalism?  Are we to be the evidence of the reversal of Babel as the Kingdom of Heaven is inbreaking into our world?  Is it simply sinful weakness to admit that we are very different from one another and that these differences can’t be neatly overcome without some level of give from all parties involved?   Do we lobby vociferously for the fulfillment of Galatians 3:28 here and now rather than in the eschaton?   Or are we to take a page of notes from the great lengths God went to in the Old Testament to distinguish His people from everyone else?  
I’m not making the argument for legitimizing racism or other forms of inequality.  But what I’m wondering is whether or not we can – let alone must – pretend that there aren’t very real differences when we come together as very different cultures.  Is it possible to think that we can maintain our full cultural individuality without compromise?  As the idea of the majority is continually deconstructed and dismissed, is what remains going to be a plethora of minorities existing in harmony?  Or do we need the idea of a cultural majority to couch our cultural differences within?  

Movie Review: Ondine

October 26, 2010

The wife and I watched Ondine last night on Netflix.  It’s a curious little movie that doesn’t really deliver a lot but takes place in some really gorgeous scenery.

The film is rated PG-13.  There are one – perhaps two – instances of profanity in addition to implied nudity, implied sex, and a lot of shots of the film’s female lead in her underwear.  The film seems to be a study in expectations.  How much does what we want to see shape what we really see?  It could be another argument for metaphysical idealism, or the idea that there isn’t really anything beyond what we project with our minds/wills/whatever.  But it swerves away from that – somewhat.  
Ondine (Alicja Bachleda)  is a young woman hauled out of the ocean in the fishing net of Syracuse (Colin Farrell).  She doesn’t seem to have much memory, but is attractive enough that Syracuse is willing to overlook this and let her hide out at his deceased mother’s home.  She sings nice, looks good, and seems to bring him luck.  His daughter is convinced that Ondine is a type of mermaid with semi-magical powers.  Who is she?  Why doesn’t she want to be seen?  Who is the mysterious dark-haired man in the second half of the film?
It’s not a great movie, but it’s pretty to watch (I meant the Irish scenery, though Bachleda’s not exactly going to injure anyone’s eyes), and it answers – if not terribly satisfyingly – the basic plot questions in the last paragraph.  Not so much for the more metaphysical questions it tantalizes us with.  The conclusion of the film doesn’t really deal well with the rest of the movie’s exposition.  How much of what we experience is under our control?  Are we able to make things happen simply by wishing it to be true?  And if wishes can’t truly alter reality, can they alter certain aspects of it?  Or assemble enough coincidences to appear to alter it?   This film doesn’t answer any of those questions, which is a shame.  
The characters in the film are all very two-dimensional.  The tragic Syracuse (whose name is the continual prompt for the mocking moniker of  ‘Circus’) – the lonely good man.  The mysterious and beautiful Ondine who seems ill-at ease in Syracuse’s world one moment, and all too familiar with it the next.  Syracuse’s seriously ill daughter Annie, insightful beyond her years.  The hard drinking ex-wife and her good-for-very-little beau.  There are few surprises here, few twists, few attempts to really allow us to see these characters and watch their growth.  There isn’t any growth to see, frankly.  
It’s not a bad movie in that I didn’t feel as though I’d just wasted two hours of my life in watching it, but it’s the kind of movie you’re likely to forget relatively soon after watching it, all the while thinking that it ought to have been more memorable.  


October 26, 2010

I have no fear of drowning

It’s the breathing that’s taking all this work.
– Jars of Clay – 
Here’s another article on the struggle that many congregations are facing to survive.  These articles are pretty common.  Congregations are closing at a rapid clip.  This one includes a bell curve graph that should be familiar to those involved with ministry.  It represents the typical lifespan of a congregation.  A small start that experiences healthy growth and then begins to decline.  
Like many such articles, the author provides some helpful insights into what might be the cause of a congregation entering the downhill slope of the bell curve.  Note that these insights come after the author states that “the standard bell curve serves as a helpful picture for the typical church life cycle.”  In other words, the majority of congregations experience this progression of growth, plateau, and decline.  For some it’s a cycle that may vary in intensity.  For others, it’s a single run up and down the bell curve.  Coming back from the downhill slope is considered by many to be the hardest form of ministry out there.  It’s conventional wisdom that it’s easier to start a new church than to reinvent a declining one.
So, bearing this in mind, we hear that congregations may be guilty of unsound doctrine, refusal to evangelize, resistance to change, navel-gazing, abuse of leadership, a preference for comfort, and possibly a failure to follow their pastor’s leading.  Serious issues.  But I wonder if there isn’t another explanation that doesn’t indicate some sort of massive moral failure on the part of the congregation or the leadership.  

Perhaps churches simply aren’t meant to exist in perpetuity.  
I don’t hear many experts suggesting that churches aren’t mean to live forever and perhaps we ought to plan our ministry accordingly.  But it seems like something that might be worth considering.  What would you do differently in planning a ministry if you knew that it was likely only going to last 50 years, or 100 years, or 10 years?  I’d wager there would be a fundamentally different approach to ministry with this mindset.  An approach less concerned with buying and building and acquiring, and more focused on the basics.  What a massive shift in economics regarding church planting and planning!  Perhaps that’s why nobody wants to talk about this openly – too many people stand to make too much money off of continuing the assumption in people’s minds that they ought to invest in the best for their church because they want it to last forever, just like the congregation.
Not all congregations can be saved, and fewer congregations probably ought to be saved.  That’s a cold-hearted sounding pronouncement, but it’s a simple fact.  Perhaps if we kept this fact in mind as we started churches, we might find the bell curve looking a little different, or the plateau period lasing longer.  Or perhaps not. Perhaps the bell curve would be a lot tighter, with congregations starting and stopping every few years.  What if congregations formed around specific purposes or goals, and when those goals or purposes were fulfilled, the congregation de-assembled and re-assembled?  What if a congregation existed in a dormitory or an apartment complex for a couple of years, then dissipated with the members moving elsewhere to create new congregations?
I suspect that the other major hurdle to this sort of rearrangement in congregational thinking is the role of denominational polities.  At least in our denomination, congregations have to submit a formal constitution for denominational approval.  While it’s not rocket science, a lot of thought and effort goes into it.  Having congregations popping up and disappearing regularly makes it a lot harder to keep tabs on who’s doing what, where.  It also tends to work against a strong, centralized denominational organization since congregations help to support these organizations.  
Still, I don’t think this issue ought to be a deal-breaker in and of itself.  There ought to be a way for a denomination to streamline and begin to expect that congregations will come and go with rapidity.  Perhaps it’s the difference between the traditional European battle tactics of line-up-and-march-directly-across-the-open-field-through-enemy-artillery-and-rifle-fire-to-charge-the-line, and the more guerilla warfare tactics that have proved so effective from the American Revolution up through today.  Maybe this is the next Reformation in the church.  Or maybe not.  

Load of Honor

October 23, 2010
As a former AP high school student I read with curiosity this Washington Post article about AP History teachers at one school that are putting a serious damper on the resources their students can utilize for their assignments and exams.  
Which is the greater danger?  The danger that some students will opt for the easy way out through plagiarism, or the danger that students will not be taught how to critically evaluate sources and material?  I’m not sure who to be most disappointed in – students who have through their lack of initiative caused their teachers to try and eliminate the possibility for plagiarism or shoddy scholarship, the teachers who are limiting not just their student but themselves, or the students who have the ability and desire to grapple with material beyond the narrow scope of a textbook?  
I’m pretty sure everyone loses out in this scenario.

Tell All The Truth…

October 21, 2010

I didn’t wear purple yesterday.

Normally, this would not necessitate any sort of special disclaimer.  I never wear purple – except for vestments during Lent.  Next to pink, it’s the color I am least likely to ever be seen in.  Other than perhaps yellow.  Or orange.  Anyways, it’s down at the bottom of the pack, to be sure.
But now my color choice needs to be explained further.  We were exhorted as a nation to wear purple on Wednesday 10/20 to celebrate Spirit Day in solidarity with Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) youth who may feel bullied, and to commemorate those who have committed suicide as a result of this bullying.  The day was sponsored by the Gay Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD).  I hadn’t planned on saying anything on this topic because I didn’t think there was much to say.  But then I read this blog entry by Jim Wallis.  
Years ago I was initially enamored with Wallis’ strong call to social activism and concern by Christians, but I have grown increasingly less enamored with the directions he has taken his considerable influence.  His blog entry  is another de-enamorizing point.  Try saying that a few times quickly.  After margaritas.  
I digress.
I would support a day against bullying.  I do support it.  I know it’s debilitating effects all too well.  And if the media storm right now following the suicide of Tyler Clementi were about bullying, that would be wonderful.  But it’s not.  It’s about advancing the acceptance of LGBT beliefs and practices.  While I have spoken out strongly against the bullying of anyone, it’s frustrating to watch the broad and very real issue of bullying used as a means of shoving the LGBT agenda down people’s throats.  Bullying is wrong.  Period.  And if GLAAD was really concerned about bullying, as opposed to furthering their own agenda, they would have touted Spirit Day as a day of standing with any victim of bullying, regardless of reason.  Instead, they’re simply ‘amplifying’ their own agenda.  To hell with everybody else, effectively.  
Wallis should be smart enough to see this.  Smart enough to tell the difference between a sham publicity stunt and a genuine concern for a very real phenomenon that goes on over computers, in playgrounds, classrooms, offices and homes.  Wallis calls Christians to added attention to LGBT youth who may be at risk for bullying.  But what about all the other people who suffer from bullying?  Do they merit special attention, too?  What about youth with poor self-esteem?  What about youth who are smaller or physically weaker in some way?  What about youth who are different in terms of their intellectual level or their behavioral patterns?  The truth is that bullying happens every day to a depressing number of people for a depressing number of reasons.  Yet we’re only to specially pay attention to the LGBT youth because they have very vocal advocates churning out Spirit Days?
We won’t even go into the monumental uselessness of Spirit Day for accomplishing anything other than pushing people to come closer to terms with something that common sense and thousands of years of human history has rejected as unhealthy and preposterous – the equivocation of any form of sexual union as synonymous with heterosexual marriage.  How does Spirit Day actually help any of these bullied teens?  It doesn’t.  Your school yard bully has no regard for Ellen Degeneres tearful plea on behalf of LGBT youth.  If today’s bullies are anything like the bullies of my day, all this attention might even intensify the bullying.  In all of the hullabaloo, it’s often missed that the bullying of Clementi wasn’t even directed at his sexuality (at least based on available evidence at this point).  The average bully has some severe issues that are likely prompting their bullying, issues that aren’t going to be addressed by a bunch of strangers wearing purple.  Or pink.  Or orange.  Or yellow.
Wallis wields a lot of influence.  I wish that he would use it more discerningly.  The only thing worse than his using it carelessly would be to discover that he is using it discerningly.  

Don’t Bump Into the Elephant in the Room

October 21, 2010

I’ve been mulling over this article for a couple of weeks now.  You may have read similar ones.  It talks about the massive problems that strike college-aged Christians, resulting in mind-numbing statistics – like the one that says that 70% of college-aged Christians drop out of church participation and attendance.

This article offers some explanations for why this might be.  These explanations all focus the attention back on parents and the church.  Hypocrisy at home and in the church.  Busy schedules.  Yahda yahda yahda.  There are also some suggestions for how the church could change to better meet the needs of college-aged Christians.  Becoming less complex yet deeper, more simple yet less shallow.  Expecting more from congregants rather than less.  Parents living their faith more visibly.  And my personal favorite – “By moving from inward decline to outward multiplication”.  I find this one particularly humorous because the author cites Acts 2:47, but then talks about how the church needs to change in order to achieve multiplication.  You quote a verse that talks about what *God* does to grow His church, and use that as justification for what the *Church* needs to do to grow itself.  
I’m being rather snitty here.  I believe firmly that congregations do need to reclaim historical, Biblical Christian teaching and preaching rather than focusing on competing with Oprah for feel-good, self-help oriented messages.  And congregations do need to be looking out to the community rather than navel-gazing.  However, there’s at least one other potential cause of this startling level of drop-out that needs to be mentioned.
Maybe it’s college education that’s the problem.
I say this as an adjunct faculty member for a small university, and as someone who has worked in and around academia and education all of my life whether as support staff or faculty.  I’m a huge proponent of being educated.  I’ll also be the first to admit that a typical undergraduate university experience is not necessarily the best – and certainly not the only – way to be educated.  I’m the last to advocate for stupidity or ignorance in any form, especially theologically.  And that’s why I want to be someone willing to say that we need to consider the fact that public or secular colleges and universities far and away are populated by administrations and faculty that are not simply not-Christian, but anti-Christian.  
Talk with a college student at a public university or a secular private university and I’m sure they’ll be able to tell you about at least one encounter with a professor who was very willing to advocate publicly and articulately against Biblical Christianity or religion in general.  My sister-in-law has a story about this.  As part of my undergraduate studies at Arizona State University I had this experience with one of my first professors in the honors program.  Fortunately, I was grounded enough so that I wasn’t swayed by his arguments (and actually had fun stumping *him* with a rebuttal argument!).  
But only in retrospect do I realize the significance of what he was doing.  He was attempting to demonstrate to his students that religion was false, and that in particular Biblical Christianity was false.  A respected academic in a position of authority with influence and control over student grades was issuing not just an opinion, but a pronouncement that Christianity was false.  How many students are going to be able to handle that?  How many are going to be willing and able to stand their ground to argue against it, or to realize that they might have to accommodate that pronouncement for the sake of the course, but that they don’t need to internalize it as a new or greater truth?
We all sigh about this and shake our heads is resignation.  Isn’t it awful?  What can you do?  
Here’s a radical thought – maybe we don’t pack our children off to a state/secular university for four years of indoctrination.  
Maybe we need to consider that this is a very real, very serious risk.  Not that our kids shouldn’t be exposed to alternate ideas.  Not that we’re seeking to shelter our kids as they grow up and avoid contamination with the Big Bad World.  But there’s a difference between exposing them to other viewpoints and ideas and talking about these constructively in a way consistent with our Christianity, and sending them off by themselves to face professors and others in positions of authority and academic and professional influence determined to debunk our kids’ faith.  
I don’t think it’s very surprising that as our higher educational institutions have become more liberal and hostile to Christianity that an undergraduate degree has come more and more to be expected for a vast array of employment and career possibilities.  It also doesn’t surprise me that the more influential the career – lawyer, politics, doctors, scientists, etc. – the longer people are expected to spend in the university setting.  Choosing more carefully whether to pursue a traditional university education and where to pursue it could have very real ramifications for the types of jobs that our kids might be interested in or deemed qualified for.  I suspect this is at the root of the Great Silence about what exactly our kids are experiencing and being taught at university.  Nobody likes the idea that their child might not be able to attend Berkeley or Harvard or Yale.  Nobody likes the idea that perhaps the educational treadmill that is being amped up faster and faster at earlier and earlier ages might be more dangerous than we think.  Nobody likes the idea that maybe we have to suffer in terms of where we study or what we study.
If we simply ignore these curious facts and pretend that they aren’t at all relevant to heart-breaking numbers of young men and women leaving the church, we’re not being honest, and we may just be facilitating the problem and the trend.  I’m not in favor of Christians pulling out of culture or society.  But we either need to be very proactive with our adolescents, or reevaluate whether traditional university education is right for them.  Because clearly, if the church and family is failing to do their respective duties in preparing kids for university and the Real World, the university is not going to fail any time soon in stripping our kids of their faith.  

What’s the Difference?

October 20, 2010

Most of you are probably aware we live in an increasingly digital age where things may not always be as they seem.  There was a movie made a few years back called Wag the Dog about a war that was ‘faked’.  Using technology, all the appearances of a foreign war were given, even though no such war actually was being conducted.  That theme has stuck in my head quite a bit (despite never having seen the movie!), particularly given our ability today to make what isn’t, seem like it is.

Special effects are nothing new.  Realistic monsters, villains, atrocities and mysteries have been stock in trade of the film industry pretty much from the beginning.  It’s the nature – and some might even argue the intent – of projected/televised media to distort, to alter, to modify.  All this is well and good.  You pay your money and you get your ticket with the more or less full knowledge that you’re going to be deceived for a little while.  It’s an essential element to the movie-going experience called the willing suspension of disbelief.  If you aren’t willing to treat something pretend as something real for the purpose of entertainment, then it isn’t possibly going to be entertaining.  The critical issue becomes not whether or not the show violates certain aspects of believability, but whether it does so convincingly or effectively or for a worthy enough purpose.
Ok, back to the issue at hand.
The link at the end of this sentence contains an image that probably isn’t safe for the workplace or children or anyone who would be offended by implied nudity.   I would have preferred an article that didn’t include the image, but the image is fairly critical to the point of the article and this essay, so I hope you’ll forgive the questionable tastefulness.
Jessica Alba is an attractive actress who has made the somewhat unusual vow to never do a fully nude scene in a movie.  That’s fairly refreshing from a popular actress in a culture where nudity at one level or another is de rigueur  for attractive actresses in certain age ranges.  The question becomes, if you’ve said you won’t do a nude scene, but you allow a director to utilize digital technology to remove the clothing you were filmed in so that you appear to be nude, is there a difference?  
What, in other words, is the point of a vow such as Alba’s?  Why go to the trouble of making the statement that you won’t take your clothes off if you’re going to give the impression of taking your clothes off?   It would seem that the issue is not nudity itself.  Alba apparently is fine with appearing nude, so long as she doesn’t have to actually be naked herself in the process.  Logically, it seems that she is fine with people looking at her naked as long as she was never really naked to begin with.  It’s the reality of being filmed naked that’s important, rather than the reality of being viewed naked.  As long as she can point to certain areas of skin and say that’s not really my skin, then it doesn’t matter if it looks like it’s her skin.  And lots of it.
The issue doesn’t appear to be an ethical or moral one in a broad sense.  Alba doesn’t seem to be making the statement that she feels that appearing nude is wrong or improper.  She doesn’t seem to be advocating against women being exploited for their bodies in this way in films in general.  In fact, she’s making the statement that appearing nude is just fine.  It’s the actual being nude that’s problematic – and that seems to be more of a personal issue than.  
Is there a difference?  If you don’t like the thought of people seeing you naked, should you have a problem with people thinking that they’re seeing you naked?  Particularly if you haven’t really gone out of your way to explain that you weren’t really naked to begin with?