I have decided to host a WordPress Blog on my own server so I can add plugins and change templates and such. Please update your bookmark (oh – you know you have one), to this new site. It’s still under development, but I have already started to migrate posts. If you have any comments, please add them on the new site. I’ll probably deactivate this one within a week or so.
Me: Hey, man – how’s it going?
Friend A: Ahh, pretty good, pretty good… You?
Friend A: The Prius is in the shop.
Me: Oh yeah?
Friend A: Yeah.
Me: That sucks.
Friend A: Yeah.
Me: You need a ride or something?
Friend A: Naw. It’ll be ready about 5 – the wife will take me.
Me: You sure?
Friend A: Yeah — thanks, though.
Me: Ok – if something changes let me know.
Friend A: Thanks, man.
Me: Hey, you going to see Ironman this weekend?
Friend A: Ah yeaaaahhh. You?
Me: Well, that’s what I’m calling about. You want to go Sunday night?
Friend A: Cool, yeah.
Friend A: How about the 9:30 show?
Me: That works.
Friend A: Cool. I’ll see you there.
Friend A: Later.
Me: Want to watch Ironman?
Friend B: When?
Me: Sunday 9:30?
Friend B: Yes. C U there.
It may be rude. It may be impersonal. But I hate small talk. Text for the win.
As in devil’s advocate. It’s an unfortunate colloquialism, but it describes me pretty well.
I’ve decided that I need to give up trying to explain my opinions, beliefs, and thought processes; I should just confess that I am inclined to disagree with you in general. Don’t get me wrong – I do have opinions, but my most dominant opinion is that you should be willing to question your opinions.
I think we all develop opinions for dumb reasons. There is usually an equation involved. Something like this:
A=B and B=C, so A=C
I support you, you support him, therefore I support him. Something like that. Opinion by association. Opinion as a package deal. It’s sort of like a package you choose from Dish Network. Yeah, there may be some channels you don’t really want, but you’ll take them because they are part of a package that contains a lot of things you do want.
Let’s take politics, for example.
I know that if you believe that capital punishment is wrong, then you also believe that abortion is okay, global warming is real, homosexuality is natural, Bill O’Reilly is insane, big business is all bad, Iraq was a huge mistake (we didn’t care AT ALL about those poor Iraqis. FREE OIL!!!), there were NEVER any weapons of mass destruction, and George Bush is the dumbest man alive. I call this the Enlightened East Coast/ West Coast Lib Package. Many of these opinions aren’t particularly related to each other, but they are all part of the package deal, so you must have them all.
Contrarily, if you believe that capital punishment is the answer, then abortion is wrong, global warming is a hoax, homosexuality is an abomination, Bill O’Reilly is a pretty sharp guy, big business is the American way, we had no choice but to rid Iraq of it’s evil dictator (oil..? WHAT? NOOOO….. we hadn’t even thought of …. I can’t believe you thought we…. NOOOOO), we JUST missed those weapons of mass destruction, and George Bush is really quite smart – he’s just a poor communicator. This is what I call the Amurican Patriot Package .
At what point did we agree to package our opinions in this way? I do it. We all do it. Usually, it’s in response to people of the other “package” trying to force their package on us (I might need to re-word that). I suppose it’s a show of solidarity. It’s a way to unite with other people subscribed to our package.
The downside? We have basically reduced ourselves to a society consisting of two opinion packages.
This post is in response to a question posed by my Pastor on his blog. It took me a long time to write (particularly since I lost the first draft to browser problems), so it’s going to count as an entry for me as well. The question he posed is this:
Do you see any elephants in the room?
I am wanting to do a little blog research. I need your help.
There are very few things as wearisome to a Pastor as the infighting in the kingdom of God over gray issues. Most God-fearing people can settle their theological and philosophical disputes on the black and white issues, but the gray issues become bloody battlegrounds of bias.
Mark Batterson, of National Community Church in Washington DC, blogged about some of these issues when he wrote:
“About four hundred years ago, a German theologian named Rupertus Meldenius, was frustrated with the infighting and backbiting in the church. And he said something so profound that it has passed the test of time.” He said:
In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.
We have turned “issues into elephants”! We love to skirt around the issues. The church bells ring with criticism and gossip because of the “elephant”. The “world” cuts us out of the equation because we don’t care enough about their “real needs” to put down our battle axes.
Would you take a second to comment on this question: What “elephants in the church” would you like to see us speak about during an upcoming series? What are the real issues that intrude on our divine purpose? I am not sure what my timetable will be on doing this series, but hopefully sometime soon.
This should be interesting.
Let me first say that I don’t think we have “elephants in the room” of any significance at ALC. Pastor Hennigan’s ability to be direct without having to defend every little decision is a credit to him and his leadership. While there are things that aren’t discussed over the pulpit, I don’t sense an apprehension to discuss them, but rather an ability on his part to keep the focus on things that matter. This is a tricky balance, but I think his attitude and approachability make that possible.
I could get into some of the specific things that I think are issues that might traditionally be considered “elephants in the room”, but I am going to respond to the question in broader terms for now. I grew up in the UPC, and when I think back to how much time and energy I’ve wasted wondering if this rule was right, or whether that person was still saved, it kind of makes me sick. These things were, by and large, the defining characteristics of my belief system for a long time. We had the “whole truth”, and no one else did – in part because of the way we dressed. The arrogance of that is mind-boggling.
As is human nature, we have a tendency to lose sight of how to prioritize certain things. We tend to make much out of characteristics that are tangible, because it’s easier to recognize and evaluate. We look at hair, dresses, beards, jewelry – because they are all so easy to see and identify. It is easy to measure a person by these benchmarks since you can’t see what’s in their hearts. I believe that what were originally set up as holiness guidelines have become the defining characteristic of our movement. I don’t know that I agree that the organization has lost its defining purpose, but I believe that the purpose frequently gets lost behind the procedure. If you look back on the founding members of the UPC, you would be surprised to see women in earrings and men with beards. The fact that most of us don’t know that is a testament to how things become distorted over time.
One thing that I think happens frequently is that we confuse church law and God’s law. I think the church often sets rules to protect their members in a broad sense, though the rules themselves may not be Biblical. I don’t think this is a bad thing — until it starts being taught as if it is Biblical. Every organization has a right to have bylaws. If you don’t agree with them, you don’t have to be a part of that organization. For instance, I can’t find anything (conclusively) in the Bible that says that consumption of alcohol is wrong. There is much debate about whether “wine” in the Bible was fermented or not, or whether is was sometimes, and other times not. I see a great deal about drunkenness, drinking in moderation, not defiling your body, etc. Here is a link to an interesting analysis of the issue if you’re interested (http://www.tektonics.org/lp/nowine.html). But how does an organization legislate something like that? You can’t say, “you can drink, but only in moderation.” Moderation is defined differently by everyone. So, in order to protect people, it makes sense to play it safe. Just don’t. You’ll be better off not subjecting yourself to a temptation to abuse alcohol. I think that is very valid. BUT – it may not be biblical, thus it’s organizational. The problem comes when we lose sight of that, and begin to attempt to judge others’ salvation based on our organization’s guidelines.
My hope is that we at ALC always keep sight of this difference.
I think back to the music that shaped me when I was younger…
The Twist by The Swirling Eddies
hang on, believe
there’s nothing up my sleeve
i’ve got no magic tricks to save the day
put down the gun
you’re not helping anyone
and i’m not about to run or back away
don’t walk the fence
then come to my defense
i don’t need fair weather kinds of friends around
so watch and pray
as a traitor’s kiss betrays
and rest your feet of clay on shaky ground
and look me in the face, at least what’s left of it
tell me you still love me just a little bit
or nail me down, break the skin
hard enough to do me in
but don’t leave me hanging
dying and dangling
twisting in the wind
here, touch my side
let doubt be crucified
nailed with your wounded pride
to love’s grim altar
here, taste my flesh
my bloody humanness
i am no phantom guest
no skinless martyr
so taste and feel
there’s nothing to conceal
you always knew the deal
stand up, be strong
when all you’ve got is gone
i left the light turned on in paradise
and when the walls cave in
and the curtain’s torn asunder
you’ll know we’re near the end
you’ll hear me in the thunder
and when the sun grows dim
this will be your sign and wonder
that soon we’ll meet again
just like we did last summer
Back in the late eighties and early nineties, I wasn’t listening to popular music. And, it was years later before I knew much about The Beatles, The Stones, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, etc. Sure, I had heard their songs on the radio when I was very young, but after getting into the church at age 7, additional exposure to that sort of thing would be delayed for many years.
Understand, this is not a complaint.
I had the opportunity to learn a great deal about a sub-culture of Christian music that has had a huge impact on my views and beliefs to this day. “Alternative” is such a cliched and undefinable term, but it truly was an alternative to typical Christian music. Honest, self-critical and often satirical – the music of Steve Taylor, Daniel Amos, the 77s, The Call and King’s X – to name a few – was truly an inspiration and source of comfort to me as I navigated my teenage years and early 20s. The voices behind these bands were those of humans with real questions, struggles and doubts that paralleled my own, and they taught be much about the necessity of questioning tradition, authority and religion. Those of you that know me know that, for better or worse, I rarely deal in black and white. I believe God gave us a mind and soul with the ability to intepret His Words and apply them to life’s situations without relying on some man-made set of religious guidelines. I learned that Christians are not perfect, and should not presume to be better than non-Christians. I learned that not all Christians are Republicans — ok, that was a joke. But most of all, I learned that in spite of all our struggles, questions, concerns, failures and shortcomings – we have a great Hope.
I must also point out that in spite of all of the other music I listen to now, I still go back to these songs for inspiration. An entire generation (or two) of musicians have since spawned from these bands (whether they know it or not), but many of the elders are still going strong. Some have gone on (we miss you, Gene), a few have lost their faith (we miss you too, Doug). But many can still be seen touring and making albums. It is a sign of their passion, and I admire them for it.
Thank you Terry, Steve, Mike, Gene, Doug and all the others.
Do yourself a favor and check some of them out. You may have trouble finding some of these albums, but they are worth finding.
I Predict 1990 (album)
Daniel Amos (also DA, Da), Swirling Eddies
Zoom Daddy (Swirling Eddies album)
Darn Floor, Big Bite (DA album)
Shotgun Angle (album)
Sticks and Stones (album)
88 (live album)
Pray Naked (album)
The Lost Dogs (members from DA, 77s and The Choir (and at one time, Adam Again)
Scenic Routes (Lost Dogs album)
Well, after being locked out of my computer on Sunday, I have been trying to catch up on some work. We have a crazy deadline this Thursday, so my posting has been irregular these past few days. I hope to have time later today to discuss a Rolling Stone article that has me troubled.
It’s been a long time since I had to memorize lots of text. It requires a system. A process.
For 10 years I was in Bible Quizzing. I think back to the memorization we were asked to do, and it’s hard to imagine now. That first year, as an 8-year-old, I had to memorize entire chapters of the Bible – a good portion of the book of John, as a matter of fact – word for word. We had to know where each verse was located, and we had to be able to access and quote them quickly.
Here’s a photo taken fairly late in my quizzing career.
Bible Quizzing is not for everyone. It takes a lot of commitment, and it is a heavy load to add to school work. But, I learned a lot of valuable skills from quizzing, and it helped me tranform from a shy little kid into someone confident enough to speak in front of hundreds of people. To this day, I am still unusually comfortable speaking in front of an audience.
I also learned a process for memorization. I learned about short-term vs long-term memory. And now it’s time to apply that process to memorizing the 100+ lines I have in this year’s drama.
Let’s hope I’m not too rusty.