Friday, July 31, 2009

making excuses

The Professor and the Police Officer Got Trapped in the ‘Script’

Gates’ reported behavior felt offensive and abusive to the police officer, but an immediate acceptance of Gates’ identity and residence followed by a quick and effusive apology by Crowley might have calmed the storm

First, what would the officer have to apologize about? Doing his job? Trying to be certain that the man claiming to live at the place was actually the man who lived there?

And in any event, disrespectful behavior to a police officer is not against the law,

Yeah, that makes it all ok

and an arrest for disorderly conduct of a small 58-year-old man with a cane, on his own porch, when there was no threat to public safety involved, does appear to justify the accuracy, if not the political wisdom, of President Obama’s suggestion that handcuffing Gates was acting “stupidly.”

Because police should put up with insults and abuses form old men with canes, even after that old man was obviously trying to make an issue of his race against the race of the officer.

All accounts I've seen from other officers who were there say that Crowley handled things correctly.

Police officers should get a great deal of sympathy, understanding, and support for often very tough split-second decisions where the lives of citizens, or their own lives, are at stake; but this was clearly not one of those situations.

And Wallis would know Perhaps he was there?

And Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson insightfully treated the charge of Gates’ alleged “You have no idea who you’re messing with” elitism when he observed that “meeting a famous Harvard professor who happens to be arrogant is like meeting a famous basketball player who happens to be tall.”

This was the statement that stuck out most to me. Oh, the arrogant Harvard professor acted arrogantly, what can we expect? He makes threats (what else can "You have no idea who you're messing with" be but a threat or retribution?), and that's ok, because he's an arrogant Harvard professor who, of course, acted arrogantly?

This has to be one of the weakest excuses I've ever come across. You know that if this had been, say, Rush Limbaugh who said this to a policeman, Wallis would not be using the arrogance to excuse his behavior, but would be condemning the arrogance and the behavior.

But because the man is a black Harvard professor of a decidedly liberal orientation, the arrogance comes off as an almost charming feature in his article, a bit of a personal foible endemic to Harvard professors, and should be shrugged off.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

the sound of clashing symbols

...When you come across something in the Bible that is not immediately clear to you, think of it symbolically. Then listen to the symbol. Rather than tear it apart, looking for its meaning, wait to see what sort of experience it yields. Postmodern faith can be a faith that leads to an experience of the living Christ.
Chuck Smith Jr, There Is A Season, p. 114

I simply find this incredible. Don't worry about what the biblical passage means? Don't do research trying to understand what the passage says?

What, for example, does it mean to think of David and Goliath symbolically? Does thinking of it symbolically mean seeing it as merely something like a Godzilla movie (yes, I'm watching one as I write this)? Godzilla, after all, originated as a symbol of the bad outcomes of the use of nuclear weapons. But would you know that if, say, you areonly saw "Godzilla vs Hedorah (the smog monster)"? If that's all you knew of Godzilla, you'd likely think he was a silly monster with goofy music fighting a big-red-eyed muppet while humans disco-dance and have a Japanese Woodstock.

What does David and Goliath symbolize? The little bringing down the giant? A rather shallow interpretation, if you take the account serious and literal. God's looking out for His people? Better, but if all it is is a symbol, a fairy tale without fairies, then using a fiction to make that claim does take away from the point.

I suspect that the symbolizing is a way of dealing with not-nice things in the Bible, things that are supposedly "offensive" to the modern (postmodern) mind. Like Creation, or Hell, or end-times teachings that don't see people in a positive light.

Or David and Goliath, where a young man uses a sling and stone to floor the giant, and sword to take his head off. Such violence, it must be explained away.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

sojo going unhinged

Here are excerpts from two recent Sojo articles, most notably by two Sojo biggies, one being Wallis himself, which shows how very unhinged that blog and organization is becoming.

First, from McLaren.

Four Lessons from the Religious Right

The temptation to overreact will grow greater as the Religious Right II re-forms (as it will no doubt do), perhaps as a more extreme, fractious, reactionary, and perhaps even militant group than before.

I've commented on that already, and those comments still stand.

This second is from Wallis.

An Evangelical Who Doesn’t Like Sarah Palin

When I listen to Sarah Palin, I go back and forth between thinking this person is just not smart enough to be president (and our recent experience of that has been scary enough) to thinking that she is indeed smart enough to be a very effective demagogue — stoking the fears and myths of the American people to build a frightening political future.

Misrepresentation, fear tactics, insults, demonization--what more do you want to show how close to over-the-edge they are coming?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

proofs...we don't need your stinking proofs

Postmodernity has adopted the research of modern anthropologists and linguists, who determined that what people can and cannot see is largely determined by what they are prepared to see. "Perception," according to Charles Tart, can be "distorted by the perceiver's training and needs." One overused example is that "Eskimos have been trained to distinguish seven or more kinds of snow." I have heard as many as sixteen! "We do not see these different kinds of snow, even though they exist, for we do not need to make these distinctions. To us it is all snow." The argument is, you first have to believe there are seven different kinds of snow before you can begin to see them.
Chuch Smith Jr., This Is A Season, pp. 110-111

I suppose this could be considered a chicken-or-egg kind of question, something that can't really be answered because it's origins are not recorded. But the phrase "you first have to believe there are seven different kinds of snow before you can begin to see them" strikes me as odd. Did Eskimos believe that there were 7, 8, or 16 different types of snow before they found them? Is it not more likely that they developed the distinctions over time, and likely not all at once? That maybe they found one type of snow good for, say, traveling on, another for building, one firm, one soft, and so on?

Plus, I think he doesn't quite see that we also make some distinctions in snow--wet snow, dry snow, fluffy snow, powdery snow. They may not be the kinds of distinctions Eskimos make, but they are there.

Postmodern faith is a "believing without seeing" that results in seeing. In 1 Peter 1:8 we are told, "Though you have not seen him (Jesus Christ), you love him; and even though you do not see him, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy." This is the goal of postmodern faith, to nurture belief in the unseen in such a way that it leads to an experience of love for God and inexpressible joy. It is our love for God that motivates us to do His will. We are not motivated to conform our lves to His will on the basis of knowledge alone. Bare knowledge does not change people. (How many smokers know that cigarettes are likely to kill them?)
p. 111

In another part of this chapter, Smith Jr. makes much of the account of Thomas, when he first hears of Jesus' resurrection, and how he will not believe until he sees and feels. Very well, we can agree with him that Thomas showed a rather severe lack of faith. But the point is, not only did Thomas have the account of the other disciple's meeting with the resurrected Jesus, he had Jesus' own words that He would return. He was not asked to exercise a blind, unreasoning faith, but rather to truth that Jesus would do what He said He would do.

So, too, the believers Peter was writing to were not asked to believe without eyewitnesses, likely people like Peter himself who had know Jesus and had seen Him resurrected and alive. As well, they were likely taught what the Scriptures say about Jesus, as Philip taught when he was with the Ethiopian, as Jesus Himself taught when he was with the disciples going to Emmaus.

Christian faith, then, is not a "leap of faith" belief in what we may otherwise consider nonsense--against reason, against logic, against all that we know to be true. Nor is it saying "I believe that I believe", or having faith in faith.

Knowledge is not the enemy of faith. True, knowledge alone will not save us, but if, for example, a person does not have knowledge of Christ and His sacrifice of His life to make us right with God, then whatever faith they may have in their own efforts to live rightly will be simply misspent efforts. "Go, and teach all nations" is one part of the Great Commission, for people need knowledge before they can act on it.

Friday, July 24, 2009

mclaren looks in the mirror

I have a practice when it comes to when liberals accuse conservatives of something--I immediate assume, until proven wrong, that the liberal is actually looking in a mirror, and accuses conservatives of the things that he/she/ is actually seeing of himself or herself.

For example, a common liberal mantra, mindlessly accepted by their minions, is that conservatives are racist. The truth is, the ones who are constantly stirring up race issues (see the latest example with Professor Gates) are liberals.

So, when a liberal like Brian McLaren tries to tell us about the Religious Right, I think it is rather revealing--about himself and his fellow lefties.

Four Lessons from the Religious Right

First, we need to learn from the mistakes of the Religious Right, which were legion. That requires us to get serious about a theology of civic responsibility and the common good, which, thankfully, groups like Sojourners, Faith in Public Life, Center for Public Justice, and others are (in their various ways) eager to help us do if more of us will pay attention. It’s not just the RR tactics that were amiss, and not just the strategy: On a deeper level it’s the theology that undergirded the whole affair that needs to be rethought.

Postmoderns like McLaren (I really think pomo and liberal are synonymous) love to "rethink" things, or at least pretend that they are.

But let's look at these groups he references. Sojo is already linked to, visit if you can stomach it. Here's a bit about the misnamed Faith in Public Life.

Pro-choice and pro-life faith leaders find common ground, shared values on abortion

Faith in Public Life has worked for years to build common ground on abortion among ideologically diverse religious leaders. Several of these courageous advocates gathered on Capitol Hill along with secular groups and Members of Congress Thursday to express support for The Preventing Unintended Pregnancies, Reducing the Need for Abortion and Supporting Parents Act, and numerous others -- pro-choice and pro-life alike -- issued statements endorsing it.

There may be issues out there about which a degree of compromise is acceptable, but abortion is not one of them. If abortion is truly murder, then to compromise in the hopes of not having as many (a vain hope, I think) will not cut it. The legel recognition of the murder of one unborn child through abortion is unacceptable, and compromise is cowardly and disgusting.

The Center for Public Justice seems along the same lines, though to their credit they take a bit stronger stance against abortion. Still, their economic rhetoric has a tinge of the left to it.

Second, we need to seek — prayerfully and humbly, and rooted in more seasoned theological reflection — more constructive and wise ways to invest civic energy for the common good, because the antidote to bad political engagement is not no political engagement, but rather wise and effective political engagement.

Yeah, like I consider his and Sojo's political engagement "wise and effective".

Third, we need to avoid overreacting, baptizing an agenda of the left (or center, or whatever) with the same kind of naivete that the right’s agenda previously embraced. The temptation to overreact will grow greater as the Religious Right II re-forms (as it will no doubt do), perhaps as a more extreme, fractious, reactionary, and perhaps even militant group than before.

For one, he's a bit late if he thinks Sojo and the pseudo-christian left hasn't already baptized the left's agenda, and I mean him, too.

The think that stuck out to me in first reading this, though, was his last sentence, because far from describing any Religious Right II, it perfectly describes the left.

Extreme? Do names like ACORN and Rev. Wright ring a bell?

Fractious? Ask Joe Liebermann about how they handle dissent.

Reactionary? Watch the news talk show on cable over this recent Prof. Gates dust-up. Assumption of the officer's guilt is already rampant among them.

Militant? Consider how they try to make soem opposing views "hate speech".

As I said, McLaren looked in a mirror, and accused the other side of what his side is doing.

Fourth, we need to avoid shaming those who now realize their efforts in the Religious Right were misguided.

Thanks, but keep your pity, please. Some of us want nothing to do with your religious left, Mr. McLaren. It's stinks to lowest hell.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

kids going wild

...On his first visit to our church--at the ripe old age of one week--he was passed around, cooed over, gazed at, nuzzled, and loved. When he began toddling, he toddled all over the place, wandering freely around our gathering space while we sang, listened, prayed, and discussed. He has shouted out the names of his friends from the balcony in the middle of a sermon. He has walked around the guy making announcements. He has been quite literally at the center of our worship on many a Sunday, walking around like he owns the place.
Carla Barnhill, in the book An Emergent Manifesto of Hope, pp. 53-54

First, for the sake of disclosure, I am not and have never been a parent. I have been around children a good bit, and, of course, at one time was a child.

In regards to the above, here goes...

I find it hard to believe that the writer thinks that a newborn being "passed around, cooed over, gazed at, nuzzled, and loved" is somehow an experience unique to emergent (non)churches, yet it does read as if she think the experience is something that only happens in such places. Seriously, if a newborn is taken into almost any church worth it's salt, it'll get much the same treatment. I've seen it happen.

Now, let me ask...when did teaching children basic manners and etiquette, and discipling them to enforce those weapons, become a bad thing? I mean, seriously, is having a child shouting out a friend's name in the middle of a sermon something parents should be encouraging and allowing? Would they allow their child to do the same in a classroom, or at a speech, on in a movie theater?

Dealing with children's antic with wisdom is important. I question the wisdom not only of allowing and encouraging such behavior, but writing a portion of a book encouraging parents to let their kiddies make a ruckus while a preacher is preaching.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

pomo gods

ht centuriOn, and a small nod to Neil Gaiman for inspiration for this entry's name.

Their Frenzies and Crusades

They do not see Tetzel in carbon offsets. They do not see shuning in the treatment the neighborhood gives the guy who doesn't sort his garbage according to the dictates of the regulatory bishops. They don't see a fierce imposition of morality in their crusades for the sake of saving us all from climate change. They do not see blasphemy laws in thought crimes legislation. They do not see their religion in everthing they do, and this is because idolaters are blind.

It's not the first time I've heard at least parts of the modern (postmodern) concerns over the essentially trivial as being religion-like, particular in regards to the environment. I guess I would add, though, that some do go into that mindset with their eyes open--not just those who Gaia-worship, but those who try to spin God into creation in a pantheistic/panentheistic way. There are also those who see the Christian hope of Heaven and the return of Christ as "escapism", trying to push their own concerns for the here-and-now.

There is less excuse for Christians -- who are not blind in this way -- for going along with any of it. If you have ever wondered how an ancient Israelite, who had been fed by manna from the sky, could possibly have been attracted to one of the Canaanite groves and high places, just look at the pressure you feel to flush the toilet less, to take shorter showers, to get a smaller car, and to go through any number of other gyrations to reduce your carbon footprint. This is what syncretism always feels like. The gravitational pull is always this strong. And this is not being said in order to make you empathize with that ancient Israelite who was going native. This is being said to stir you up enough to make a name for yourself the way Phineas did.

Of course, peer-pressure is starting to become legal-pressure. By what I've heard, it will soon be legally necessary to buy bio-hazard light bulbs. And there may be laws set up so our energy usages can be monitored (and can curtails be far behind?).

And so liberty is lost, with thunderous applause, as the last Star Wars movie far too prophetically stated.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

rollins cheap-shotting fundies

This is an amusing bit of fiction...

Fundamentalism isn’t too violent, it isn’t violent enough

emphases mine

The title for this post comes from the title of one of the talks I have been giving on the ‘Lessons’ tour. The main gist of the argument lies in exploring how the fundamentalism we witness at work today is, at its core, a movement that conserves and preserves the status quo. Its violence at the subjective level (e.g. defending the evils of misogyny, homophobia, unjust conflicts and self-interested foreign policy) is the direct outworking of its ultimate impotence when it comes to instigating real change.

So, right off, we know what Rollins is both for, and against. Being for some things, we see that what he considers "real change" has to do with the acceptance of those things--so, for example, "real change" for him would likely involve the recognition and legalization of glbtwhatever relationships, a dismantling of the military and extreme pacifism, and foreign policy that feigns concern for others while spreading the poverty inherent in socialistic economic policies.

Any positions that go against those thing, then, he must per force denounce and, as in this topic, mislabel.

Take the example of so many wars today. Amidst all their violence they are more often than not fought in order to preserve the way things are, to protect people in power, or to accumulate more resources. Thus their horrific violence at the subjective level hides the fact that they preserve the deeper objective violence of the system itself. The bloodshed thus helps to maintain the injustice that currently exists, ensuring that structures of oppression remain unchallenged

Reading this, I thought of the scene early in Monty Python's Quest for the Holy Grail. "The violence inherent in the system, the violence inherent in the system. Look, I'm being oppressed."

But let's take the war in Iraq. Was that fought to preserve those in power? Considering that Hussein is quite dead, the answer is "no". Did it preserve the way things were? The ink-stained fingers of the Iraqis who voted for their new leaders tells otherwise. Did it preserve the deeper objective violence of the old system itself? No. If anything, it's those who want something like the old system who are fighting hardest against the new system.

In the same way fundamentalism, while violent at a surface level (at the level of everyday life) is simply a mask that hides the fact that it does not rock the very foundations of worldly power.

Getting back to the topic at hand, Rollins is obviously mistaken here. If anything (in typical liberal fashion, and make no mistake, Rollins is a flaming lib), the accusations he tries to make against fundamentalists are the ones most applicable to him and his ilk.

If anything, fundamentalists are the ones that can "rock the very foundations of worldly power", precisely because they are the ones who don't care to. While Rollins and company are playing "let's pretend to be counterculture while we try to make the culture in our own image", the fundamentalists, like Jesus, are not playing those games. Just as Jesus was not some kind of counterculture comic figure, but lived rightly even if it was against culture, so fundamentalists are more interested in living rightly no matter how cultural or counter-cultural it is.

Which is precisely where Rollins and his like go wrong (even more so when the culture does become like them and they go along with it in sheep-like fashion). Christianity is not about being counter-cultural, or even cultural. It's about being right with God.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

emergents outfoxing themselves

Several weeks ago, I got in a bit of a row over at the blog at the Emergent Village website (the place where the name of this blog got it's name, in a sardonic way). The author of the particular entry was going on about something, and a few times he made mention of the name Matthew Fox, in a way that seemed rather approving and as a source for many of his or her thoughts. A bit of a scan of the internet for Fox's ideas was quite enough to show me this guy was poison, but being curious still more, a bit ago I found, at a used book store (for it's not worth the regular price), a copy of his work "The Coming of the Cosmic Christ".

I've been going through it, on and off, for a few weeks, sometimes reading parts straight through, others kind of skipping.

It is a source of amusing, of a rather sad sort I admit, that two names that have surfaced in this so-called emergent conversation have been Matthew Fox and Ken Wilbur, because despite difference in their ways of putting things, in the end they're both saying roughly the same thing.

Fox's book makes mention of something he calls the Cosmic Christ. What does he mean by that?

We are divine and human, animal and demon. We are Cosmic Christs.
Matthew Fox, The Coming of the Cosmic Christ, p. 138

The name "Christ" means "the anointed one." All of us are anointed ones. We are all royal persons, creative, godly, divine, person of beauty and grace. We are all Cosmic Christs, "other Christs."
p. 137

Yeah, that hissing sound you hear, it is the hiss of the serpent of the Garden, saying the same thing, "You shall be as God".

This guy misuses the Bible so badly, it's laughable. It's like he's emergent before emergents ever were.

Paul celebrates the theme of our being other Christs and our growing into other Christs when he says, "I live now not with my own life but with the life of Christ who lives in me" (Gal. 2:20)
p. 139

While Fox does give the reference, one can read it and rightly wonder, where the heck does he get anything he claims Paul is saying here???

Galatians 2, NIV
17. If, while we seek to be justified in Christ, it becomes evident that we ourselves are sinners, does that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not!

18. If I rebuild what I destroyed, I prove that I am a lawbreaker.

19. For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God.

20. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live it in the body I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

21. I do not set aisde the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing.

Someone, please tell me where in those verses Paul anywhere says anything about us "celebrating the theme or our being other Chirsts and our growing into other Christs"? Please, I beg of you, where is it?

And that statement is coming from a man emergents want us to look to?

Fox's statement is right up there with Rollins' about how disobedience is a good thing. Both are evil to the core, and are adequate reasons to reject emergents until they repent of their associations with such blasphemers.