Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Just for fun

Just for fun -- take this quiz -- then cut and paste the results in the comments section.

Why do we love Paul Potts?

Last week I forwarded a link to a couple of videos featuring Paul Potts (click here to see the first video).

The responses to this video have been overwhelming -- several people have been e-mailing me to thank me for sending them the link (that doesn't normally happen) and many have passed the link along to others who are expressing their gratitude.

I have some theories about why this video means so much, but I'm curious to know what you think.

Questioning Authority -- 490 years ago

I know, for most people October 31 means costumes and trick-or-treating -- but for me, it means good, old fashioned authority questioning.

That's right, it was October 31, 1517 when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses on the door of the church in Wittenberg, Germany.

Let's take a moment to think about this -- by asking some questions, by pointing out some troubling inconsistencies in an institution, one person radically changed the course of history.

I think that's amazing -- how about you?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Rob Bell in Philadelphia Nov. 26

I've been a big fan of Rob Bell for a couple of years now, so I'm pretty excited about seeing him in Philadelphia next month.

If you have not yet read Velvet Elvis or Sex God, go out and get them and read them (seriously). If you have not seen any of the Nooma videos, let me know and I'll show you a sample. If you have never heard Rob Bell, download some of his sermons here (Check out "Gnats and Camels" -- there's some great stuff there)

Now, if you'd like to go to Philly to get the full presentation, let me know. The tickets are $16 (+$6.50 for "processing fees" don't get me started). This will be the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. I'm hoping we can get a group to carpool (save on gas, parking, etc.).

You can order tickets by clicking here, or let me know and I'll order a whole bunch at once (General Admission seating, so we should be able to sit together as a group).

take a survey - help a friend

I know how much you all love surveys (seriously, it's the most popular feature on here -- you guys are just survey taking maniacs!) -- so here's a way to take a survey and help a good friend earn his masters degree:
As part of my Psychology masters course I have to go out and survey people about their thoughts on pleasure and their views on what is a good life. This survey was written by one of our professors and takes about 15mins to do - it's all multiple choice except for one question which asks you to think a little about life and respond. We were given the assignment tonight. The deadline is Sunday. We were sent a 12 page illegible word document to ask people to fill in. My friend and cohort mate Alan thought compiling it into a "surveymonkey" might be easier, so he did. Bless him!

If you found a moment to help me out here at some point this week that would be amazing.

Here's the link:

Let me know if you have any questions about the survey (except for Better Life vs Pleasurable Life). Some of the question wording is a little weird for which I apologize. It's entirely anonymous. There's no right or wrong answers and no need to think too hard about anything in it. Just make sure you put "Brian" in the first field.

No pressure at all. Let me know if you did take it, so I can tell Alan that X number of the surveys are my data.

This came from a visiting professor, so I don't know what he's getting at yet. But I promise to explain it to you if you want to know after his lectures in November.

If you actually enjoyed this, feel free to send it on to other friends, as long as they put "Brian" in the first box.

Thank you - Brian
So, take the survey and just make a little notation in the comments section here so Brian can have an accurate count (you can remain anonymous and I'm not even going to ask how you answered any of the questions).

The separation of legal and moral

If you haven't done so already, go ahead and take the world's smallest political quiz by clicking here.

Some of you have been asking, “Gee, Ken, where do you fall on that scale?” Well, I'm happy to report that I am a fairly consistent Libertarian in my political views.

So, some of you are reading this and trying to figure out how someone who claims to attempt to live his life through a biblical perspective could possibly identify himself with a political philosophy that would lobby for the legalization of recreational drug use, prostitution, and people driving without seat belts.

Let's start with something simple - a few years ago the state of Delaware passed the smoking ban. This ban prohibits the smoking of tobacco inside any public building, restaurant, bar, outhouse, etc.

I spoke out against that legislation at every turn.


I'll go a step further. I believe the tobacco industry is despicable and traffics in addiction and human misery.

But, the fact remains that we're supposed to have property rights in this country. Which, in my humble opinion, means the state government would be entirely within its rights to ban smoking in state buildings. But, it does NOT mean the state government has the right to tell a private property owner that he cannot allow his patrons to engage in a legal activity in his establishment.

On principle, this is wrong.

Hopefully, you can see how I can hold a personal view against a certain industry (tobacco), choose not to engage in a certain activity (smoking), and yet argue against legislation that would ban said activity and impact said industry.

So, what about recreational drug use and prostitution (or insert other activity you may find offensive, abhorrent, or just plain "icky")?

In these cases I believe the “respectable” masses are using the law as a shortcut to public morality - in other words, we are more interested in using the police, courts, and correctional system than our true convictions to make us feel comfortable.

You see, it's easier to get the legislation passed to get “those undesirable elements” arrested, prosecuted, and locked away than it is for us to try to address the underlying issues that might lead a person to make such destructive choices.

Don't worry, I know that my societal dreams won't come to pass in our lifetimes, and the cruel irony is that if all the Libertarians in the country were to gather and organize… well, that's just it, they wouldn't… by our very nature Libertarians are individualists who can't really work together as a large group. So you can all rest easy that the politicians, police, judges, and guards will continue to protect you from those undesirable elements.

Seriously, let's have a conversation on this - let's just explore this concept together…

Actions Speak

The other week I woke up with this obsessive thought running through my head (yea, my wife gets to put up with my obsessive thoughts all day - have pity on her). All I could think about was how focused we are in this society on hearing the right words - how actions really don't matter - how people are just listening for the right “code words” to be spoken so they can feel good about the person they are dealing with.

Christians are particularly bad about this.

A friend of mine who is involved with politics in another state told me about a seminar for candidates where they were being taught which phrases to use to get the “church” vote - I'm not making this up. Just look at all the article and books out about the faith of each of the presidential candidates. What these people DO doesn't matter, just as long as they use the right WORDS.

I think Jesus pretty much nailed where the priorities should be in this passage:

There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, “Son, go and work today in the vineyard.”

“I will not,” he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.

Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing.

He answered, “I will, sir,” but he did not go.

Which of the two did what his father wanted?

“The first,” they answered.

Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.”

Matthew 21: 28-31

So, the same day that I woke up with this obsession (which led me to looking up the above) I read the following (emphasis mine):

Under the influence of modernity, the Church became obsessed by definitions and seamless doctrine. Modernity was based on a scientific and rational reasoning that everything could be proven by human experimentation and that this exploration of the scientific field could come up with a superior world and a greatly improved human being. In many ways, this worldview was seen as a huge threat to the mystery of faith. Modernism was driving out the mysteries and belief in a supernatural unseen world, one that was being replaced by a world that could be explained in clear scientific terms. That Christianity should be taken captive by such a system of thought seems a little incongruous, but it led to a couple of centuries of clear systematic theology, apologetics, and an overemphasis on the word spoken and written in the communication of Christian truth. Most of these things in themselves are great aids to Christianity's case in the world, but the loss of mystery, experience and any artistic representation of the Gospel was detrimental.

The Bible uses a wide array of creative ways to communicate truth: law, history, poems, songs, literature, lament, prophesy, proverbs, dreams, angels, miracles, parables, preaching, epistles, and visions. When the evangelicals of the world decided that the Word preached was God's most efficient way of communicating, they overlooked the fact that when Jesus was born, God was saying, among other things, that those ways were not sufficient and that the Word had to become flesh (John 1:1, 14). God's Word is much more than words. Modernity coerced Christianity into taking the flesh and making it into words again. Art suffered. It was not a clearly defined and conclusive kind of rationalism. It left feelings hanging. Stories or songs might stress some points of theological truth and fail to cover other aspects of the Gospel. They missed the fact that Jesus left the crucial doctrine of atonement out of the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). Jesus, in fact, was much more an artist than a preacher, preferring stories to open the truth and in sometimes oblique ways promising the disciples that those with ears to hear would hear. It could be said that the only writer in the Bible with any interest in theological definition is the apostle Paul, and though we thank God for him and the theological explanation of his letters, we must never lose the balance between this and art.

Steve Stockman
“Walk On”

So, what do you think? Are we more concerned with words than we should be?

Water, Bread, and Wine

My daughter is going to be baptized this Sunday!

Our discussions about baptism started me thinking…

If you read the gospels thoroughly and look at the context, you find a Jesus who consistently challenged, redefined, destroyed, and/or nullified just about every tradition and ritual the religious leaders of the day valued. From washing rituals to Sabbath restriction to public prayers, Jesus cut to the heart of the matter and either showed the practices as the hollow exercises that all rituals can become or challenged the individuals to live up to the true meaning of what they were symbolically declaring.

So, when this same Jesus sets out two rituals for his followers, should we maybe take a closer look at those rituals and what he's trying to tell us?

The two rituals are simple: Baptism and Communion (or Lord's Supper or Eucharist).

Hmmm… what's the significance of these two? Wait a minute, “two” - wasn't there something about all the commandments being wrapped into “two” commandments? Oh yea, "Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength" - and "love your neighbor as yourself."

Hey, what if the ritual of baptism (symbolically dying to self) is supposed to be a reference to the first commandment (loving God with everything you are)?

And what if communion (symbolically taking of the body and blood of Christ in an act of unity) is supposed to be a reference to the second commandment (loving your neighbor as yourself)?

Just a thought.

Needless to say, I am incredibly proud of Kelsey and the decision she has made. I can't wait for Sunday!

Are you a Dog Theologian or a Cat Theologian?

A few weeks back I read this interesting piece in the News Journal about an upcoming series on Cat and Dog Theology.

I decided to check it out and I'm so glad I did.

First, I've met some truly great people at Newark United Methodist Church (the classes are held there on Sunday nights). This group has welcomed me and my family with open arms. They are willing to indulge some of my thoughts, observations, and theories -- and they have some incredible insight they are willing to share.

Second, the material is great. I would like to think that I regularly adhere to Dog Theology, but I have to admit the times I find myself acting more like a Cat (check out the material to find out what I'm talking about).