Archive for April, 2008

expelled?

April 28, 2008

i’m not sure what i was expecting when i saw ben stein’s expelled this weekend.  it’s a documentary, narrated by mr. stein, essentially giving his viewpoint on scientific community corruption by the dogma of darwinism.  it seemed to me very personal in tone and content.

history has been described as a conversation of ideas, and popular ideas about science for two hundred years have been reductionist and materialistic.  reductionist because they assumed a relatively small body of laws governed the physical universe.  materialistic because they believed this body of laws was adequate to account for the universe we observe.  to distill this down to a simple statement of popular thought: “science almost has it figured out”.   these weren’t scientific ideas, per se.  they were popular thought about science.

darwin’s contribution to modern thought was his proposal that a mechanism exists adequate to explain life. he didn’t do this as a scientist, developing a hypothesis and verifying it experimentally.  he did it as a philosopher, conceiving an idea and throwing it into the sphere of philosophical debate.  it’s easy to understand why darwin’s proposal was accepted so readily – it’s completely in agreement with the “…all figured out” sentiment of popular thought. 

stein is critical of modern darwinism on two counts.  the first is that darwin’s proposal has been accepted so religiously.  darwinism has become the shibboleth of entrance to the mainstream scientific and academic community.  a scientist or professor who dares question darwin is treated with all the respect given a reformation protestant before the pope.  such thoughts are considered dangerous and the individual is banned from public discourse. 

there is nothing scientific about this.  if someone questions einstein or planck their hypothesis is tested on merit.  questioning darwin is summarily unacceptable.

stein’s second critique follows from the francis schaeffer’s observation that “ideas have consequences”.  it was an easy step from darwin’s natural selection to nietzsche’s nihilism and his super-man.  humanity’s responsibility, our moral imperative, is to take the next step up the evolutionary ladder.  and survival of the fittest means, of necessity, removal of the unfit.  darwin’s cousin, sir francis galton proposed exactly that with his science of eugenics.

eugenics became a significant driver of public policy in scientifically-motivated countries like the united states and germany.  in the us it led to around 65,000 forced sterilizations of those carrying “inferior” genes such as native americans, blacks, the mentally retarded, blind, deaf, epileptic, or deformed.  it spawned planned parenthood and the hemlock society.  in germany forced sterilizations were over 350,000.  eugenics was the rationale and motivation for the holocaust.  mr. stein points to both these outcomes.

given the motivation of the pro-darwin crowd it’s no wonder they censure criticism so harshly.  by naming their religion “science” they’ve won a level of government protection and sponsorship far beyond medieval europe.  

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assertive, self-reliant citizens

April 21, 2008

“… large numbers of americans tote guns because they’re assertive, self-reliant citizens, not docile subjects of a permanent governing class …”

from mark steyn’s 4/19 national review blog: on god and guns, comparing the u.s. to europe.  he says so much in so few words i don’t feel a need to comment further.

spicy hot!

April 19, 2008

some years ago i realized that i often think of what i’m what i’m putting in my mouth not as food, but as a delivery vehicle for salsa.

i really like salsa!  i have it on my eggs in the morning and on chips for a snack; i ladle it onto all sorts of things.  i love the flavor in my mouth and the little tingle on my tongue afterwards.  salsa rocks!

when i found out it’s pretty easy to make i started doing that too.  if it’s for personal consumption i make it flaming hot, or i can make a tamer batch for friends who haven’t yet developed an appreciation for a good burn.

i was enjoying a bowl yesterday with corn chips when i realized that god’s people are a lot like salsa.  we’re diverse, just like jalapenos, tomatoes, cilantro and onion.  we’re different colors and shapes and grow different ways.  and, just like salsa, we’re not at our best when you first put us together.

in the church, we sort of have onions over here and cilantro there and some jalapenos in a different place.  and salsa is one of those synergy things where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.  and to really develop, it needs to spend the night in the fridge.  that way when you take a bite you get the whole flavor, not just one ingredient.

so that’s my prescription for the church.  first we need to get together.  christian music has helped.  conferences have helped.  persecution has always helped, and perhaps we have some ahead of us.

then after we get together, we need to chill a while. 

marty’s fresh salsa
6 ripe roma tomatoes, skin removed
  or
6 ripe tomatillos, skin removed
1 to 3 jalapeno peppers
a slice or two of onion
zero to 4 cloves of garlic
cilantro leaves from 6 to 12 shoots
heaping teaspoon of brown sugar
one lime

put the jalapeno(s), onion, garlic, and cilantro in a food processor and chop fine.  scoop the chopped ingredients into a mixing bowl. 

cut the tomatoes in half and squeeze the juice down the drain (not necessary for tomatillos).  chop the tomatoes or tomatillos in the food processor.  add to the mixing bowl.

pour off any excess liquid from the bowl.  add brown sugar.  quarter the lime and squeeze into the bowl.  stir a few times, then put in a covered container or mason jar in the refrigerator overnight.

since all the ingredients are fresh rather than cooked, you should keep it refrigerated and eat it within 7 to 10 days. 

identity

April 14, 2008

i went to lake pointe church yesterday and wes hamilton dropped a little bomb in my mind while making his way through an excellent sermon.  “identity determines behavior”, he said.  i’ve been thinking about it ever since. 

god has a way of orchestrating our lives so the thing he’s teaching is reinforced from several directions.  he’s been teaching me that how i view a person, in relationship to my self, determines my behavior toward them (see: we’re number one, drawing the wrong lines, and inclusion / exclusion).  and how i view that person is determined by two things – the group i see them in and the group where i see myself.  our identities, in other words.

wes’s statement brought this full circle.  a person’s identity is, at the root, defined by their group.  the relationship of our group to their group determines the responsibility i feel toward them.  the responsibility i feel tells me the attitude and behavior required.  identity determines behavior.

misbehavior from god’s perspective – the only perspective that truly matters – comes from misidentifying groups; ours and theirs.  jesus succinctly defined only two groups of other: “you shall love the lord your god with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind’ and ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself.’   we have a special relationship with god our creator, savior, and lord.  everyone else is in the same boat: sinners who need god.  jesus followed up with the good samaritan parable to underscore the insignificance of racial and religious boundaries.

we slice and dice humanity in dozens of ways; culture, politics, gender, race, religion, language, social, economic, and interest groups.  a myriad of symbols help us categorize people; the clothes they wear, how they speak, the car they drive, where they live, what they eat.  sometimes a person would seem to be in our group, but is stigmatized by one trait: “he’s gay”, “she’s divorced”, “he’s an ex-con”. 

but god doesn’t allow for any grouping to diminish our responsibility toward another.  “…as yourself” he said.  it seems pretty simple.  now i get to spend the rest of my life trying to do it.

[edit] i was reading galatians 3 (yes, again) and saw this and had to add it since it fits so perfectly:

for you are all sons of god through faith in christ jesus. for all of you who were baptized into christ have clothed yourselves with christ. there is neither jew nor greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in christ jesus. and if you belong to christ, then you are abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.

what you are: sons of god, one in christ (unified), abraham’s descendants, heirs of god’s promise
what you aren’t: jew nor greek (identified ethnically), slave nor free (identified by economic or employment status), male nor female (identified by gender)

who you are determines what you do.  identify determines behavior.

[end edit]

hopefully

April 10, 2008

when you throw the baby out with the bath water
you realize it in time
to go back and pick up the baby

inclusion / exclusion

April 5, 2008

i was talking with a friend yesterday about us and them and who, as christians, them is. 

of course, we all belong to lots of us groups.  i’m a guy, a musician, a skater, a blogger, and the list goes on.  think about your conversation when you first meet someone.  it’s essentially a little exercise in determining whether you’re new acquaintance is part of “us”.  we look for clues in everything: “does he look like us?”, “does he dress like us?”, “talk like us?”, “play our sports?”, “drive our type of car?”, “belong to our organization?”. 

in general, people prioritize us groups based on context.  in one situation it might really bother you that someone is a different religion and speaks poor english and eats odd foods.  but if you’re walking toward a soccer field and he’s dribbling the ball like a pro, all those distinctions seem unimportant.  now he’s us.

one of the things about being a christian – someone following jesus – is that our motivations should be different from the world around us.  in the us and them department it starts by realizing that everyone you meet is part of our first us group; sinners-in-need-of-a-savior.  it isn’t context-dependent – it applies to the whole world.  it’s the primary group  we’re a member of.  there is no corresponding them – everyone is part of us.

the second us group, for a christian, is the group of people-who-acknowledge-jesus-as-savior-and-lord.  them in this case, is everyone who hasn’t yet recognized this truth.  our mission is to invite them to become one of us.  that is, in fact, our entire primary mission.  everything else is just the frame around the picture.

but here’s where it gets dicey.  we all belong do a lot of us groups.  and our human nature wants to give priority to the us group in closest proximity.   when we’re at school or work or involved in a hobby or sport – we can value our standing in that group and lose sight of the group that matters.  even worse, when we’re around the group-of-believers-we-meet-with-regularly (a.k.a.; church), we can somehow value our little group above the group of all believers.  this second problem is the primary topic of paul’s first letter to the church in corinth.  he wrote to chastise them for the divisions among them and to draw the distinction between us (believers) and them (the world).

paul wrote, “has christ been divided?”; but every sunday we “divide him” many ways.  we divide based on worldly groups like ethnicity and race.  we divide based on our traditions.  we divide based on the particular teaching of the founders of our little group.  we divide based on the little piece of real estate our group has purchased and the building we’ve built on it. 

and whatever the criteria we use to divide his body – our ethnicity or race or tradition or doctrine or building – has become an idol.  it’s become that because we’ve given it priority over his group.  on that last day, only his group will matter.

drawing the wrong lines

April 1, 2008

i was in the trucklette an hour ago listening to farai chideya on npr’s news and notes.  she was interviewing a man – didn’t catch his name – who is a member of jeremiah wright’s church and also a professor of theology at the university of chicago.  i’m not implying anything here but i couldn’t find this particular interview on the web site, though they have mp3’s of the segments before and after it.

it seemed to me he was pretty obviously dancing around farai’s questions about reverend wright’s much publicized statements.  he started out with a brief history of how black church came to be and how wright’s “g__ d___ america” statement made sense in that context.  the core of reverend wright’s liberation theology is based on jesus’ quote from isaiah 61:

the spirit of the lord god is upon me, because the lord has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners

he applies this uniquely to blacks in america.  they are the ones who are brokenhearted, captive, and prisoners and jesus came so they can be set free.

and, i agree.  jesus came to do just what he said.  what i can’t say “amen” to is the line of of distinction about who jesus came for.  i’ve only watched one of jeremiah wright’s sermons online, and it was apparently a particulary angry one.  but it seemed quite clear that the “us” – the ones being set free – are black americans.  and the “them” – the ones causing heartbreak and holding blacks prisoner and captive – are white americans.

which is where i believe reverend wright gets it exactly wrong.    jesus came to create a new people-group.  the new “tribe” has a common ancestor in abraham because, like him, we believe god and god counts our faith as righteousness.  the unifying sign of our faith – the way that faith is worked out day by day – is the love we have for each other.  the only real distinction jesus’ gospel allowed is “in god’s kingdom” or “out”.  any other distinction is, at best, a distraction.

and, speaking of amens; they’re easy to get.  just say something your congregation already agrees with.  something they’ve heard before.  something that makes them comfortable. 

but look at biblical prophets or the words of jesus – they made the congregation decidedly uncomfortable.  they pointed out sin and pled for righteousness.  never do you hear jesus saying “we are good and the other guys; they are bad”.  though it would have got him an “amen”.