Archive for May, 2011

Movie Review: Arranged

May 30, 2011

Arranged looks like it could be an interesting commentary on inter-faith relationships.  I’m not sure that it achieves this.  Most of the credit for this movie comes from the attempt to positively demonstrate religious faith in the midst of a secularizing culture that doesn’t understand the beliefs themselves, the people who subscribe to them, or the resulting choices they make for their lives. Yet for that ostensibly noble effort, much of the movie seems to focus on the difficulties attendant with a depth of faith that thoroughly pervades a life.

This film is quite watchable. The two main characters are not well-developed but do manage to convey a sense of struggle that is authentic in many self-reflecting people of faith. Their moments of struggle at this critical juncture in their lives should resonate with anyone of faith who has had a moment of doubt or uncertainty about how they are living their lives. 

What the film fails to do (and which would require a lot of effort and backstory) is to credibly posit these two women of faith as fully committed not just to their faiths but to the practices and traditions of those faiths. The formats for arranging marriages are not integral either to Islam or Orthodox Judaism, and unfortunately the film does not well distinguish between the angst and uncertainty about these traditions and what many casual viewers might assume is angst or uncertainty about the faith itself. Being unhappy with the list of possible spouses is not the same as being uncertain about Orthodox Judaism, marriage, or even the process of arranged marriages. The film doesn’t make that distinction very clear.

The message that people of different faiths can be civil and friendly and loving to one another is certainly a welcome reminder and this film tries to do a good job of that. Natural curiosity as well as the recognition of one another not as the same but as very different in similar ways to the predominant culture makes a very plausible basis for camaraderie that builds into friendship. The characters do an excellent job of respecting one another as well as their faiths. They do not sacrifice who they are in order to be with one another, they are able to become friends because they recognize that their differences of belief needn’t necessitate personal enmity.

The one thing that seemed genuinely unbelievable in the story was each woman’s attempt to welcome the other into their family home. In each case the welcome was predictably cool, as the older generation reacted not to the individual in their home, but to everything that individual represented to their faith – erroneously though it may be. It’s also the film’s way of recognizing that the differences that separate faiths and guide the actions of extremists still filter into the lives of people who don’t apparently have any personal reasons for disliking or distrusting one another. But to think that these women wouldn’t have guessed the effects such an invitation might cause – the awkwardness, the discomfort, even the hostility – is naive. Both these women are too savvy for such an obvious error.

The film demonstrates a decidedly pro-Muslim bias, something that wasn’t necessary. In nearly every situation the Muslim tradition or environment is demonstrated as kinder, warmer, more open-minded or at least more civil than the Orthodox Jewish one. I found this curious and unfortunate for a film that wants to build bridges. The film would have been far better served by a more even-handed relating of the two cultures to one another. This type of ‘buddy film’ has few enough antecedents so that deliberately tipping the scales is far more likely to be received polemically than not. If this was a well-established cultural mingling motif, there would probably be greater room for play and greater flexibility. For this film, at this time, a better balance would have been a safer bet. Might that have seemed even more contrived? Quite possibly – but the film is already a case study in stereotypes and a more balanced representation wouldn’t have altered this very much.

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The Dress Makes the Man

May 29, 2011

With much of my formative church experience coming in a relaxed, non-traditional, campus ministry environment, I never gave a lot of thought to vestments, the uniform of many pastors in Lutheran and denominations and congregations with strong links to some of the traditions of the Christian church.  The idea that wearing a clerical would be a regular part of my ministry – let alone the traditional alb and stole – never really entered much into the equation.  I assumed for a long time that these were things that were barriers to people’s comfort and ability to integrate into Christian worship.

I don’t assume that any more.  But that’s a whole different post entirely, most likely.  Heck, some people write whole books on that topic.  Anything I could say would be redundant.  Not that such a fact ever stops me from yapping away…
I’m not an overly emotional sorta guy.  Not terribly sentimental in many ways.  So it was a little surprising this morning, after worship as I hung up my alb and stole and cincture, to be caught be a moment of emotion.  A moment of awe and gratitude.  
Every Sunday I am blessed to wear a ‘dress’ for an hour or so.  The dress means a lot of things, but in essence it means that what I do for the span of that hour or 75 minutes is not about me.  It’s not my time.  It’s not my preferences that matter.  I’m not disembodied, so I’m still there of course, and personality and style comes through.  But for the span of that hour as I wear the dress,  my job is to seek to stay out of the way, to put my voice and my gifts formally at the disposal of the God I serve and the people He has entrusted to my care.  For that hour, as I wear the dress, everything I say and do ought to convey to those people the presence and love and grace and forgiveness of the God who created the universe.  
It’s an amazing privilege.  Were I brighter, it would probably be a privilege that overwhelmed me and reduced me to paralysis.  Who can bear such a burden?  Who can possibly fulfill such a task?  Whose steps do I follow in, what giants’ shoulders do I rest upon?  It’s crazy, really.  And yet every Sunday, I put on the dress and do those very things that ought to be impossible.  Each Sunday at the end of worship I take off the dress.  There is more work to be done.  Meeting and greeting, listening and praying, laughing and expressing concern.  There is a Bible study to be led.  But in all those things it’s more me at work.  Still seeking to be faithful, but in a different role, a different capacity.  The dress remains behind for the following week and that hour or seventy-five minutes of formally guiding the people of God through the experience of being drawn into God’s presence to receive the gifts of God and respond in prayer and praise.  
People ask if I love what I do.  I’ve done a fair number of different things so far in my life.  I’ve been capable in most of them, but none of them have filled me with a passion for what I do, a humility.  None of them have left me at the end of the day deeply satisfied and not always searching for the next opportunity on the horizon.  Until now.  In the unlikely vocation of wearing a dress each week and engaging in ritual nearly 2000 years old, I find that I am the one who is ministered to as much as anyone.  The one challenged, supported, encouraged, humbled, and equipped.  I love what I do, and am grateful for how God has worked in my life and the people He has surrounded me through all of it to bring me to this place and this time and this moment.  

Don’t Take it Personally

May 27, 2011

A fascinating editorial from the Washington Post.  Read this first.  

This editorial is fascinating on many levels – probably more than I’ll be able to address in my usual haphazard fashion.  Not that we won’t give it the old college try, eh?  
The authors of this study are the authors of a new book that argues that people can be good without God – that secularism and atheism are valid moral systems in and of themselves without recourse to an external deity or supreme being.  It’s an assertion that is being made more frequently and more loudly, notably with the active campaigns around Christmastime to separate people’s enjoyment of the holiday season from whatever lingering theological influences they might be under.  
But this editorial is going farther than that.  It’s redefining (or participating in an ongoing redefinition) of reality that bears paying some close attention to.  I’ll see if I can do it justice.
First off, there is the assertion that atheism – a system of belief – is somehow to be equated with the idea of minorities that are defined by their being.  Blacks are the most obvious example the authors cite.  Jews fall into this same category because persecution of Jewish people has traditionally been every bit as much ethnic and genetic-related as it was religious.  Plenty of secular Jews perished in the Holocaust, as well as in the purges and pogroms that erupted regularly in the decades and centuries prior.  Homosexual orientation (a form of belief, I’m asserting) is desperately attempting to be classified as a matter of being, rather than belief or practice, since that would make the demands for legal representation so much easier and quicker.  And now atheists need to be classified as a persecuted minority according to this editorial – and by implication, need to be protected from this perceived persecution.
Note the interesting application the authors make.  Because the majority of Americans (and people worldwide, also) are not atheist, and explicitly theistic or religious in some sense, and because people tend to vote for people with similar world views and ideas as themselves, atheists are being subjected to discrimination in the polls.  They are unjustly being discriminated against, the authors allege.  Am I also unjustly discriminating against Buick because I don’t drive one and have no desire to drive one?  Am I also unjustly discriminating against the manufacturers of genetically modified food because I desire to eat in an organic, natural, and sustainable fashion?  
The implication here is that for it to really be democracy and equality, our representatives have to be proportioned equally, regardless of whether or not that accurately reflects the constituency in demographics or belief.  The fact that it’s a representative democracy, and the fact that for better or worse, atheism does not represent the vast majority of American’s beliefs about the world, is irrelevant.  If there is not an appropriate percentage of atheist office-holders, they are being discriminated against.  Which would lead me to suspect that there is the idea that this ought to be rectified in some manner, a la affirmative action.  What a fascinating spin on representative democracy.
That’s frightening enough.  If you vote for who you feel best represents you rather than voting for someone you don’t believe represents you as well, you are discriminating.   And once again, we’re talking about alleged discrimination not against someone’s essence, but based on their beliefs.  Are the authors suggesting that perhaps people not be allowed to select their spouse based on this same criteria?  Are you guilty of discrimination because you married someone who shares your faith rather than someone who doesn’t?  
I’m willing to grant that rhetoric on the issue of atheism gets rather inflamed at times.  But let’s be clear here – it certainly isn’t a one way street.  I’d also like to distinguish between rhetoric aimed at specific atheists, and rhetoric aimed at atheism.  I have several good friends who are atheists.  I love them dearly.  I love them in spite of their atheism, and I love them in the hope and prayer that they will one day soon reject atheism and embrace Jesus Christ and the Christian faith.  I have a huge beef with atheism.  I don’t as a rule have a huge beef with atheists, unless they are engaged in attempting to force me to change my attitudes about their beliefs.  I have every right to argue for my world-view as they do, and that doesn’t make me any more (or less) discriminatory than they.  
Then the editorial moves on to discuss the author’s particular approach to this issue – comparative ethics.  Are atheists capable of being good people (even better people!) than Christians?  The answer to this is both yes and no.  And which answer holds true depends on what definition of good you’re using.  
If we’re talking about the Biblical definition of good, which is centered exclusively around the nature of our relationship to God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, then the answer is no – atheists aren’t good.  Nor are Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, or any other non-Christian.  The Biblical definition of good revolves focuses solely on the nature of our relationship to the Judeo-Christian God.  No other definition is valid.  
If we’re talking about a worldly definition of good, meaning how does a person comport themselves in this world and in their various relationships, then yes, an atheist can be just as good as a Christian.  In fact, they can sometimes be better.  Note the test-cases the authors cite.  None of these are major traditional aspects of ethical or moral inquiry and study.   Rather, the list includes issues that by and large have only come to the forefront of discussion in the past 50 years.  Many of the positions that are asserted now to be moral in intellectual and institutional circles are complete overturns of the traditional positions that have held literally for millenia.  In other words, the ‘morals’ being cited are not so much moral positions as they are current trends in very specific attitudes in very limited circles.  Circles, oddly enough, probably more often than not populated with a higher proportion of nontheists.  That’s a handy relationship.  
As such, an atheist who decides that homosexuality is a valid lifestyle choice will appear to be a better citizen – by the author’s selected criteria – than the Christian who does not agree with this statement.  Regardless of how nice and kind and good that Christian might be to their homosexual friends and neighbors.  It isn’t enough to act good, goodness is defined as thinking properly.  I agree with this entirely – the Bible kind of sets the standard on this in Matthew 5 – goodness is not simply what we do or don’t do, but a state of heart and mind as well.  But this definition is being applied to things that are decidedly unBiblical.
Now the comparison between America the “Christian nation” and more secular nations.  Despite the fact that these secular nations have anywhere from 1/3 to 1/15th the population of the United States and are far more homogenous ethnically as well as in beliefs and practices.  And
despite very different laws in some cases regulating gun ownership and any number of other personal liberty issues.  Nope – we’re ignoring all of that and simply saying that these less-Christian or non-Christians are behaving better than Americans.  And yet I’m confused – hasn’t our president and all sorts of major influential people been trying to convince us for the past few years that America isn’t a Christian nation?  And yet these authors are asserting we are?  How handy to be able to switch definitions and descriptions whenever it suits your argument!
The author cites Scripture in order to mock it.  But he only demonstrates his fundamental lack of understanding about what Scripture is saying on this topic.  Atheists are certainly capable of being good neighbors and upstanding citizens and valuable contributing members to their community, nation, and the world.  But by Biblical standards, this has nothing to do with being either wise or good in the theological sense.  Unless someone knows God and aligns his life with how he has been created to live, there can be no Godly wisdom, no Godly goodness.  As such, this is not just a negative stereotype, but rather a categorization of what defines goodness and wisdom as a whole.  These things find their ultimate and only true expression in God.  Every other example of goodness and wisdom is pointless without this ultimate wisdom and goodness.
The author pushes some dangerous ideas in this little editorial.  It is unfortunate that most of these are predicated on two completely separate and competing definitions of the term “good”.  I’m grateful for my ‘good’ nontheist neighbors and friends.  Just as I’m sure they’re grateful that I’m a good, theistic neighbor.  Getting along in the world doesn’t at it’s core require similar world views or explanations for everything – though that certainly helps to provide a firmer basis.  But I’m not going to pretend that my atheist neighbor or friend is “good” by the only standard of good that matters to me – God’s.  And to be honest, I’m sure that I don’t qualify for an atheistic definition of “good”, if that entails the rejection of theism and religion as hocus-pocus and wishful thinking.  
  

Googling Ethics

May 25, 2011

An interesting if short article on the in-house philosopher at Google.

His point about the necessity of the creators and innovators of technology needing to think about ethical implications is crucial.  And as someone with some familiarity with that world, I can vouch for the fact that ethics and the importance of responsibility in development is something that is lost on many current and future programmers, developers, and other technology types.  Not all of them, but many.
The anecdote related in the article is fairly typical in our postmodern culture.  People assume automatically that they are able to formulate good, systematic (thought through) decisions to guide their actions.  But many of them lack any moral framework for this.  What results are ethics based largely on emotional responses and feelings.  Because emotional responses and feelings can vary from situation to situation or day to day or hour to hour, this leads to a potentially dangerous lack of consistency backed by the insistence that the individual is the final arbiter of what is right.  Getting people to do something becomes a simple matter of manipulating emotions and feelings.  
And here I’ll make another shameless plug for one of my all-time favorite books.  An unlikely selection, A Canticle for Leibowitz is a post-apocalyptic history lesson.  Walter M. Miller Jr. revisits the major eras of human history, but in a world attempting to recover from the self-destructive powers it once possessed.  The book is very enjoyable simply as a sci-fi genre read.  But it’s also fascinating theologically and philosophically.  The story takes place in a monastery in the Utah desert over the span of 1800+ years.  At the crux of the story is the idea that man’s willingness and ability (or inability) to demonstrate self-control in pursuing what he is capable of is the ultimate determinant of whether he will destroy himself.  Are we willing to accept a more humble role in the created order, or will our insistence on being at the pinnacle of an uncreated universe doom us to self-destruction?  
Definitely worth the time if you like fiction that prompts thinking.  Something that Googlers and the rest of us probably could use a little more of.  

GMO Code

May 24, 2011

I haven’t been able to absolutely confirm this information, but I haven’t been able to easily disprove it either.  So I’ll put it out here for your consideration.  

This link provides information (possibly) on how to identify genetically modified foods (GMO or GE, for geneticaly engineered).  Basically, if you buy produce regularly you may have noticed that the little stickers on the produce have a number on it.  Since we have bought roughly 15 metric tons of bananas since our kids were born, I know that the banana PLU code (Product LookUp) is 4011.
According the link above, GMO/GE foods have an eight (8) as an additional prefix.  So a genetically engineered banana would have the PLU sticker code 84011.  
Likewise, organic produce has a PLU prefix of nine (9).  Therefore, theoretically, an organically grown banana should have a PLU code of 94011.  
Can anyone verify or disprove this information?  

Of All the Gin Joints…

May 21, 2011

Down the road from my office is a bar called the Creekside.  It’s nothing special from the outside, and not much more on the inside.  I had seen it several times in passing before I ever stopped there – towards the end of last year for a billiards league match.  That evening I enjoyed a great pizza there, and I remembered that a couple of weeks later when I was hungry at lunchtime.  

I stopped there a few times for lunch over the next few months.   It’s usually pretty quiet mid-day and I can read on the patio without looking like a freak to too many people.  I generally bring a couple of Biblical commentaries to read through in preparation for writing Sunday’s sermon.  It’s nice to be sort of outside, usually with the enclosed patio to myself.   I’ll have water or sometimes a Coke with my pizza.  I’m sure that it would be considered an odd choice of lunch locale for someone in my line of work, but that’s partly why I like it.
I stopped in yesterday for the first time in a couple of months.  I sat down at an unoccupied end of the bar and waited for the bartender to take care of a couple other customers before making her way down to me.  One of these folks was a man a couple years my senior who came in and sat down a couple of bar stools away.  Jeans and a polo-style shirt, but he had a different air about him than some of the folks you find in a bar at mid-day.  This guy had been doing things this morning, productive things.  And he had more productive things to do after this stop.  But for now, he was stopped.  He was looking for a tequila, and since I have an interest in that arena I was watching to see what he’d end up with.  He downed the shot quickly and asked for another one.
Good choice on that tequila.  He nodded.  “That first shot was for me,” he said.  “This next shot is in honor of my dad who died this morning.”  The bartender and I extended our condolences.  She lined up his next shot, confirmed my order and moved to the other end of the bar.
He eyed the shot for several moments.  How did he pass?   “Heart attack.  He was 93.”  Do you still have your mother?  “Oh yeah, she lives down in Florida,which is where I live half the year looking after her.  The other half of the year I’m here working.  They divorced years ago.  Dad was on his third marriage.”
Turns out he’s loss prevention sub-contractor for a local cable company.   He manages a crew and actually works for one of his brothers.   His job is to catch employees not doing their jobs.  We commiserated and marveled how in the midst of massive unemployment, people can be so stupid as to engage in illegal activities on the job or with their job.  
Are you headed back to Ohio for a service?  “I guess the church my dad was a part of at the end of his life doesn’t do funerals.  They do this thing called a Life Celebration – they did that before he died actually.  But my family is all pretty traditional Baptist.  We’ll have a memorial service for him at some point.”  That’s a good thing – you need that kind of closure.
His cell phone rang.  A business call.  He stepped away and I continued to wait for my food.  He returned a few moments later.  He downed the second shot and began gathering his stuff together.  “I don’t even know who you are, but here you are all friendly and concerned.  My name’s Ben.”  I’m Paul.  It’s good to meet you.  His handshake was firm and strong.   “I hope I see you here again.  I stop in here from time to time when I’m in town.”  Well, here’s my business card in case you want to look me up the next time you’re in town.  
He squinted for a moment at the card before unfolding his glasses and putting them on.  His eyes were pretty moist at this point.  He squinted through the fragile glass disks at the card with my name and the name of my congregation on it.  Then he turned and looked at me again, eyes brimming, and shook his head with a half-smile.  He seemed to be trying to think of something to say, but not really finding it.  God works in funny ways.  Drive safe.  He waved and nodded and moved quickly out of the room. 
I wondered about Ben for a while as I half read on the patio.  What a loving Father we have, constantly looking after us and stepping into our lives through other people when we least expect it.  I prayed he would drive safely, and that he would derive peace from his odd encounter at a bar counter on a Friday afternoon.  I know I do.

Philoxenon

May 20, 2011

1 Timothy 3 is a familiar set of verses to me.  Paul’s list of qualities that ought to be looked for in an overseer or pastor of God’s people is hugely instructive.  It’s instructive in my life because of the vocation I’ve settled on, and it ought to be instructive in the lives of Christians everywhere.  

I’m sure it was discussed many different times in Seminary, but the one time I really remember it being discussed was in a course entitled Pastoral Theology.  Or something like that.  It had to do with pastors.  And the Bible and stuff.  The course was focused on practical theological application.  Doing ministry based on Scripture, not just talking about it.  Our professor was a very mature and experienced gentleman.  He gave us more handouts and photocopies than perhaps all of my other three years of coursework combined.  
But I was massively disappointed when we began discussing this passage in the course.  Particularly verse 2, which reads: 
“Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach…”
The next verse continues the list.  Some of you who know me better are no doubt laughing hysterically and wondering why God hasn’t struck me with lightning yet, based on this list of qualities.  Just hush.
The one I was particularly interested in was hospitable.  The Greek word is philoxenon (the phonetic spelling), a derivative of philoxenos, which according to some resources I’ve consulted means “hospitable, generous to guests”, or “fond of guests, given to or lover of hospitality”.  I’m interested in this term because it’s something that my wife and I have felt a calling to in our life together.  We get genuine joy and satisfaction from gathering people together – usually over food.  We love to watch relationships deepen and grow and spread as people sit down with one another and relax around food and drink.  It’s truly amazing.
I believe our prof, having spent probably hours on all the other attributes in verses 2-4, explained this concept as “being nice, being approachable”.   And then it was on to something obviously seen to be more important and more pertinent.  I stink at Greek, but even I can tell that there is more going on in this word than simply being nice.   I was disappointed to say the least.
Our culture is not hospitable any longer, and so it’s understandable that he didn’t quite know what to do with this requirement.  When we meet people that intrigue us and interest us our natural reaction is to invite them to come over for dinner.  It’s fascinating to see the variety of facial expressions and non-verbal responses that sometimes greet this invitation.  It’s clear that we are transgressing some unwritten but near-universal aspect of our culture.  Something that says more or less home is for us, home is not for other people.  
But we’re stubborn and slightly masochistic so we keep inviting.  I can’t summarize all of the relationships that have sprung out of shared food in our married life together.  There is truly something holy about food (or at least there can be.  Taco Bell definitely qualifies as unholy).  There is something at play when people sit down to eat together that our culture has left behind in our rush for efficiency and comfort and any number of other objectives.
And I’m still fascinated that the art or skill of hospitality is listed as a prerequisite for spiritual leaders.  How do spiritual leaders live this out and embody it and teach it?  Should they?  I hope to start finding out next week through our congregation…I’ll keep you posted (and hopefully some of my parishioners who are readers will contribute their observations and thoughts once things get rolling as well!).

Any Weekend Travel Plans?

May 18, 2011

Many of you are no doubt aware that according to some, the world is going to end this coming Saturday May 21, 2011 at about 6:00pm.  

This has been the cause of no little discussion, as well as the focus of some frankly hilarious business ventures.   It was reading the latter article that surprisingly brought me up short and led me to reflect for a few minutes on this whole thing.  I’ve known about the prediction for months, yet it doesn’t really enter my consciousness at all until I read a halfway tongue-in-cheek article over it.  This is supposed to be at the core of my faith – that Jesus Christ will return again in judgment.  Shouldn’t this be a slightly greater cause for reflection?
First off, I think that the guy pushing this claim is not very believable.  Deuteronomy 18:21-22 seems instructive here.  How do you know whether someone is speaking authoritatively on behalf of God?  What that person says comes true.  Harold Camping originally asserted the rapture (itself a very sketchy concept) would take place almost 20 years ago in 1994.  But this time he’s really certain.  I remain unconvinced.  And because I tend to consider anyone who claims to make an authoritative prediction about the return of Jesus Christ or the rapture to be a bit of a nut-case, this weekend hasn’t figured in my thoughts at all over the past few months.  
But I have to admit that the Second Coming doesn’t fit much into my average day.  And that has caused me a little bit of concern in the past few days.  After all, Mark 13 exhorts us to be ready, to be prepared for Jesus’ return, to not be caught by surprise.  Does this mean I need to be thinking about it constantly?  No, I don’t think it does.  But I suspect I should think about it a bit more consciously and regularly than I tend to.
On being ready, this is critical.  But what does it mean?  The first followers of Jesus in those dizzying post-Resurrection days and weeks clearly thought his return was imminent and they were willing to sell property and do other very tangible things as part of their faith in that.  Some people are doing that in preparation for this weekend.  I can fault them for their gullibility on the date prediction, but if that’s what they firmly believe, I can’t fault them for their seriousness in preparing for it.  
I don’t think that Jesus was talking about being ready in terms of eliminating your assets.  But I do believe that He was very serious in that we ought to be living our lives in such a way that when Jesus returns, we aren’t going to be caught in the midst of something sinful.  In other words, New Testament exhortations to holy living are a means of preparing ourselves for his return.  His return should not be the main motivating factor in living the way God intended for people to live, but it is one aspect of it.    I ought to be living the way God commands because it’s the best way to live, not because I’m afraid of being caught by surprise with Jesus’ return.
That Jesus will return should be a source of hope and joy, not a source of fear and dread.  Obeying the law out of fear or obligation demonstrates a certain lack of spiritual maturity.  As God’s people we are not to live in fear (Romans 8:15; 2 Timothy 1:6-7).  If I’m living my life in accordance with the way God created me to live (as defined by his Word, not my particular wishes or ideas), then I’m prepared for Jesus’ return, whenever that might be.  Whether it’s this Saturday, or July 15, or December 3, or 2012, or 2050, or whenever.  I don’t need to worry.  If I’m worried for myself, I’m fundamentally misunderstanding the Gospel.  I might be worried for other people, but not for me.  
I don’t want to obsess over Jesus’ return.  I don’t know when it’s going to be, and I’m fairly certain that nobody else will know either.  But I don’t want to forget about his return either.  I believe that I ought to live my life with the understanding that this is transitory.  I have obligations to meet professionally as well as a father and husband.  I need to take these responsibilities seriously, rather than refusing to deal with them because I know the end is near.  In many ways, it’s precisely because the end is near that I need to take them so seriously.  My belief in an actual Savior and Lord dictates that my life is not lived exclusively on my terms, and the more often I remember this and live it out, the better.  
That being said, I’m not sure that even if I believed the rapture was happening this weekend that I would be compelled to sell off property or quit my job.  These actions aren’t going to affect the rapture or Christ’s return.  Are they efforts to convince others and sway them to repent?  Perhaps.  Though I’m wagering that they aren’t overly effective in that area, even if they do generate good press coverage.    
So I’ll go ahead and write a sermon for Sunday morning.  And I hope y’all will be in Church the next morning as well.  it will still be a great opportunity to give praise to our Risen Lord and Savior, and to proclaim again that He will come again in glory to judge both the living  and the dead.

The Detritus of Madness

May 17, 2011

If you’re interested in owning a part of twisted history, the United States government is auctioning off several lots of personal effects and items owned by the Unabomber, Theodore Kaczynski.  If you want to see what is being sold off, you can see the various auction lots on flickr.  Included in the auction are the hooded sweatshirt and sunglasses that were used in the FBI sketch of the Unabomber.  

The US Marshals program indicates that the proceeds will go towards compensating Kaczynski’s victims.  It still seems a little weird.  Kaczynski has been fighting the auction for several years, incurring additional legal expenses which are borne by you and I as taxpayers.  It would seem that even through incarceration the Unabomber is working to damage the system he spent his free life fighting.  
Would you bid on something like this?  Why or why not?

Current Reading

May 17, 2011

I need to take a moment to thank one of my readers, Lois, who lent me a book a few weeks ago called Christian Reflections, by C.S. Lewis.  If you want to order a copy, you can do so through Amazon.com.  I’ll also apologize to Lois, since I have yet to return the book.  She lent it to me because of the last essay in the book, but I started at the beginning of the book and have been mesmerized ever since.  I’ll get it back to you soon – either when I finish the book or when my copy arrives

This is a collection of essays by Lewis on a variety of topics.  Some relate to Christianity and culture, one relates to the question of Christian ethics, another deals with the issue of subjectivism and relativism.  It’s just good solid reading from an immensely intelligent man of very humble faith.  Even though I’m only into the third essay, I strongly recommend the book for anyone interested in a fairly cerebral but not unreadable collection of some of Lewis’ thoughts.