Tuesday, April 30, 2002

postmodernism and christianity

As someone who grew up in the postmodern generation -- Gen X, and proud of it -- I can't say I really have a problem with postmodernism. It's a generational outlook that reminds us that a lot of what we hold to be self-evident is based on cultural and personal presuppositions, and it also stresses the importance of relationships. Love expressed in action is fundamental to Christianity, and it certainly leaves people more receptive to a philosophical and religious discussion than simply telling everyone why society is going to hell in a handbag. My younger brother became a lot more interested in what I had to say about Christ when I became a missionary; the rest of my family has increased their interest ever since Natasha and I took in a foster child.

"Let your light shine before men so that men may see your good deeds and praise your Father, who is in heaven" (Matthew 5:16).

It's our job to reach the lost by presenting the gospel in a way that they will understand without altering the Truth of it. If other Christians can't handle that, they'll have to deal.

Monday, April 29, 2002

'the sound of mucus'

Select the phrase that best describes "The Sound of Music":

  1. The only movie shown in heaven, played day and night without respite or relief
  2. An effective (if slightly evil) paperweight in video or DVD
  3. Proof that Rodgers and Hammerstein made a secret pact with the Devil
  4. Christopher Plummer was much better as Bred Pitt's father in "Twelve Monkeys"
  5. Over my dead body

The correct answer, of course, is No. 5.

It is worth noting that Christopher Plummer actively hates the movie, and who can blame him? It's not a movie that's aged well, I think, though it does have several strong points. (The overuse of music isn't one of them.) Quoth Barnes and Noble:

In 1965, the actor was cast as Captain Von Trapp in "The Sound of Music," an
assignment he despised, reportedly referring to the musical blockbuster as "The
Sound of Mucus."

And who am I to argue with Plummer? It's amusing, though, that I've often called the movie that on my own initiative. (Not that it's an especially original spoof on the title, but anyway...)

feral cats

There is a colony of feral cats in my next-door neighbor's yard. If you're looking to adopt a cat, swing by some time and I'll be happy to give you the whole lot of them. (Heck, you can even take my neighbors.) Cats qua cats are annoying enough, but these are bringing fleas into my yard, where the dog and children can get them, they're digging up my flowers, and I'm concerned about my wife getting taxioplasmosis or however that's spelled if they decide to have their epiphanies in my vegetable garden.

I'm torn between calling the city (proper course of action, but ultimately ineffective) so the animal-control officer will remove them, and leaving out a bowl of antifreeze for them* (quick and painless, but rather final and not likely to make me friends with the animal-rights goons if word gets out).

* Not really.

good 'star wars' news

Good news on "Attack of the Clones." Lucas apparently actually went and got help with the screenplay ... from an actual screenwriter!


One reviewer who saw a prerelease showing of the movie apparently has said, "It helped ... a little."

The other good news about "Attack of the Clones" (besides N'Sync being fed to the Sarlaac) is that Jar Jar has a cameo, and that's about it. Granted, it's not as good as my daydream of having a perfectly somber and serious scene in which Jar Jar chokes to death in the background, but it's better than having Jar Jar be the donor of all the DNA needed for the Clone Wars.


I became a Christian back in 1988 and soon after joined the Assemblies of God. While I did get a lot out of the church at first, when I returned from the missions field after two years, I was amazed by a lot of the problems I was starting to notice. There was actually a brief, 30-odd-post discussion of this topic in the now-defunct Christian Humor forum, on About.com. I incurred the irritation of several other forum regulars when I labeled myself a Recovering Pentecostal.

There is a lot that is good in Pentecostalism/charismaticdom, and a lot that is true, but that tendency to withdraw and to judge is also pretty strong.

A lot of the wake-up came for me when I returned from Haiti and realized what a different world I was living in from the rest of the church: I actually wanted to help people, instead of telling them to trust God or go to hell; wanted to rely on Scripture for understanding of God, not personal experiences (my own or others); and wanted to experience freedom, not shallow standards of righteousness that deal with superficial issues.

I tried for close for three years to change it from within, but ultimately conceded that it was too much. I withdrew my membership from the church, read my copy of "Letters to a Devastated Christian" a few times, and cast about for a while for a new place to attend.

My church now is charismatic in the general sense -- contemporary service and worship -- rather than in the sense that people are speaking in tongues and the gifts of the Spirit are manifesting themselves.

Our old pastor resigned but was hoping to remain involved under the new pastor once things settled in. Naturally, it turned out to be a naive hope that it would happen. The new pastor's been here a little over a year, and Mark's family is still looking for a place to go. I'm back in a period of evaluation with my current church. While I think our pastor is good at motivating others, he's not someone I find I hold in any great respect. I just find him too funny in his shallowness and too easy to make fun of, rather than someone whom I would listen to with rapt attention or to whom I would go with a personal problem.

My main reason for attending is, as before with the AoG church I was a member of, I see a chance to help other people; plus I have a number of relationships there that I value, and my daughter has a number of friends there. Plus my wife wants to go there.

Personally, I think megachurches would be the last place I would look to attend. Too big and impersonal, and too easy to disappear.

Saturday, April 27, 2002

evil christian fellowship

Back in college, several of us who were dissatisfied with the on-campus Christian fellowship forged a semi-clandestine group called the Evil Christian Fellowship, even as we remained actively involved in the larger official group. A friend of ours decided she should join the ECF because she also was dissatisfied with a number of the larger fellowship's policies and its leadership direction, and thus received the ultimate rejection: "I'm sorry, Jenny, but you're just not evil enough."

Jenny was too much of a mom and a team player to be evil enough for the Evil Christian Fellowship. After she started getting counseling to be more self-assertive, though, she might have qualified, although we probably would have had even less interest in letting her in at that point. (More annoying than evil per se.)

Friday, April 26, 2002

new coke

About eight years ago, I was talking to my eighth-grade English students at Quisqueya Christian School about advertising as an example of using language as a means of persuading people to adopt a course of action. Being the hip, young teacher that I was, I trotted out the example of how Pepsi had taken advantage of the chaos created by the New Coke.

Blank stares.

"You know, the new Coke."

No response.

"Oh, come on -- it wasn't that long ago. I was a sophomore in high school, which meant ..." (quick arithmetic as I realize my students all were in training pants or diapers at the time of the New Coke.) "Okay, have any of you ever wondered why it's called Coca-Cola Classic?"

Tuesday, April 23, 2002

genesis foundations

I'm definitely sliding into the Abyss here. The opening chapters of Genesis are foundational for what follows -- Paul in fact builds his entire argument in Romans on the need for Christ on the sin of Adam and the entry of sin into the world.

But I'm not convinced that one needs to go with a literal interpretation of those chapters to get that foundation. The Bible was written in a culture that prized storytelling as a means of conveying Truth. That doesn't mean the stories necessarily are absolutely factual in every detail. (It'd pretty damn near impossible anyway. The synoptic gospels quote the same stuff -- the Q source, for lack of a better way to describe it -- with minor alterations like "kingdom of God" for "kingdom of heaven," end stories at different places, and vary on the number of people present at one scene or another.)

A friend of mine once told me that the "Literal Six Days" doctrine is only about 400 years old. I don't know whether that's true or not; it's unlikely to affect my thinking in any way on the matter. When pressed, I generally go with creationism and an historical Fall because these match my paradigm better. I lack substantive proof either way of life's origins.

'the two towers'

In the original book there was only one elf at the battle of Helm's Deep, one dwarf, and a bunch of humans, yet my understanding is the upcoming movie is going to have more elves there than just Legolas. My understanding is that Jackson increased the presence of some of the minor characters, particularly Arwen, since she's going to marry Aragorn.

To be honest, I'm really not too concerned by it. This is Jackson's "Lord of the Rings," not Tolkien's; and in any event, if he were to follow the book religiously there wouldn't be much room for innovation, interpretation or creativity.

Same thing with his portrayal of Aragorn in the first movie as a man who wasn't set on becoming king of Gondor from the first, or his decision to change Glorfindel for Arwen in "Fellowship." It's his retelling and reinterpretation of the characters that add something to the movie (though I won't be so generous with his Matrix-style fight between Saruman and Gandalf).

Monday, April 22, 2002

probably going to hell

Who wouldn't want to support a good cause and make the world a better place?

That was the idea behind a call I got today from the Bible League, asking if we would be willing to contribute money to providing Bibles for Chinese Christians. After listening politely to the caller's brief explanation of what the league is doing, I explained that I've been out of work since Oct. 2 and therefore don't have the money to support their work at this moment.

But, I added, my wife and I are engaged in a very important bit of ministry ourselves. We're providing food, shelter, a home and a family to a foster child suffering severe developmental delays. If the Bible League would be willing to support our work there, we would greatly appreciate it and would guarantee the money would be well spent.

I've never heard anyone get off the line so quickly. It appears making the world a better place isn't for everyone.

Copyright © 2002 by David Learn. Used with permission.

Want to make a difference on Earth Day? Go organic

Today is Earth Day. Forget for a minute the canard you've Heard about how every day should be Earth Day, and how we should love the earth, our universal mother. Popular as they are, such oversimple sentiments produce little of the meaningful change that Earth Day has been about for the last 34 years. If you want to make a difference, go organic.

That means two things, the simpler being a change in diet, and the second a more encompassing change in lifestyle. A basic organic lifestyle involves a commitment to buying — or, better yet, raising — produce grown without chemical fertilizers, pesticides or defoliant. Part of that is just a matter of taste. Organically grown carrots taste more like carrots, the tomatoes taste more like tomatoes and the apples taste more like apples, than the usual fare we settle for at the supermarket. Once the sole purview of health food stores, organic food in the last several years has moved into America's supermarkets, making it increasingly easier to find, even in the prepared foods section.

If you're already accustomed to eating organic produce, make the leap to other foods. Organic meats can be harder to come by than organic produce, but they are well worth the effort. As with organic produce, organic meat is at once more flavorful and far healthier than conventional meat, coming as it does from animals that are not confined to narrow cages nor subjected to the other inhumane conditions that are a standard practice among factory farms.

Besides food, there are any number of other organic practices that any of us can implement easily and reasonably cheaply. Skip the chemical fertilizers, and build the soil in your yard with natural supplements such as finished compost or organic fertilizers. Forget the pesticides, and add a birdfeeder or bat box to your back yard and let nature take care of the biting, stinging, crawling insects. A commitment to organic gardening makes for a much more beautiful and far healthier lawn in the long run than chemical treatments that leach the natural nutrients out of the soil, put young children at risk, and pollute our waterways.

Like anything else that is worth undertaking, adopting an organic lifestyle is something that will come in stages. Take the first steps today, and make this Earth Day one where you make a difference that will last a lifetime

Saturday, April 20, 2002

garden surprise

I was working in my garden and flower beds today when I made two pleasant and unexpected discoveries. The first was that my peas, which I thought had died in the unseasonal cold snap a few weeks ago, in fact had managed to live up to their reputation as a cold-weather crop, and had survived. I didn't have to replant them after all.

The second nice little surprise was about a dozen lettuce plants that have started growing on their own in my garden area. See, some foul fiend stole all the leaves off the lettuce in our garden last summer, and although the plants survived, they never really grew edible leaves again. They did, however, eventually flower and go to seed, and some of those seeds apparently survived when I turned compost into the soil last autumn.

So after moving a half-dozen or so lettuce plants to one of my flower beds and concealing them with violets, I find myself much further along in the gardening game this year than I expected. I even have an unopened packet of lettuce seeds that I had bought to use this year.

Now if I can just find some place to plant my walnut and willow saplings ...

Thursday, April 18, 2002


Here also resteth the body of Mr. Thomas Shipphard, who was here interred the 11th July 1771, in the 82nd year of his age. Then follows:

God works wonders now and then; Here lies a lawyer--an honest man.
Source: Historical Gleanings of Bolton And District, 2nd Series, 1882, by B.T. Barton, p. 57

Another one I saw when we visited Tucson two years ago:

Here lies Les Moore,
Took two shots from a .44,
No Les, no more.

Actually, mine probably will be something like, "I told you I was sick," or my last words will be either "Look, honey, I'm not a little kid. Don't you think I know how to change a light bulb?" or "Evangeline, put that down before you hurt someone."

Tuesday, April 16, 2002

pia vacation

About 25 years ago, when I was a wee lad of 6 or 7 years old, my family went on a weekend trip. Details are fuzzy; I think it involved an amusement park like Hershey, but it might have been more rustic. As the weekend lengthened my younger brother Ward became progressively more ill-tempered and difficult to get along with. He was especially antsy in the car on the return trip.

When we reached home, in fact, Ward bolted out of the car and was the first one into the house once the door was unlocked. Where was he running in such a hurry? The bathroom. Nothing too surprising there, since anyone's going to need to go after a lengthy car trip.

Alas, it was much worse than that. In unfamiliar surroundings for the past weekend, Ward did not know where the bathroom was and was too embarrassed to ask. In a remarkable display of will and intestinal fortitude, he managed to "hold it in" for two whole days.

Monday, April 15, 2002

rooting plants

Found a great gardening tip at on how to get a plant cutting to root against its natural inclination. All you need is a willow branch and boiling-hot water. You cut the willow branch into inch-long pieces and cut them in half lengthwise, and let them soak in the water. (Do not boil the willow pieces.)

What this does is remove from the willow the hormone that lets willow branches root so easily. Into this water you can then dip your cutting from a rose bush or other plant, and start it on the way to growing new roots and becoming an independent plant in its own right.

The page details roses specifically, but it's my understanding that the treatment will work on any number of plants, not just roses. I'll have to get a length of willow branch and try it on a cutting from a rose bush sometime soon.

If that's too much trouble, you can go to the garden center and buy rooting hormone, but this is cheaper and much more satisfying as well because there's a sense of personal accomplishment, much like growing tomatoes from seed instead of from seedlings.

the termite saga continues

Well, the county extension agent was less helpful than I had hoped. In fact, of the two of us, he gained more from the conversation since he now has decided not to use wooden pallets to frame his compost pile. He had never heard of such a problem in the area and had no advice to give except to get rid of the wooden pallets.

I did some research and asked over at Rodale's Organic Gardening forum, and the general consensus seems to be that I should a) get rid of the wooden pallets; and b) scatter wildflower seeds around the compost pile. The flowers will attract ants, and the ants will fight the termites to the death since the two species do not get along.

(The termites apparently are in the compost pile only for warmth and/or moisture, since the pile is pretty much finished and contains nothing of interest to them.)


I was talking with my father Saturday evening, when I mentioned that I had a few saplings in pots that I've been very pleased to see doing so well.

The first is a walnut tree that started growing when our neighbor's tree dropped a walnut into a flower pot of ours last year. (I have several other walnut seedlings around the yard, but they never survive the first lawn mowing of the season.)

My father has no comment on this one, which is odd. He's taken seedlings in the past to plant on his mother's farm to help it recover from the strip-mining done there 20 or 25 years ago.
The second is an apple tree I started from seed this year from an organic apple I bought at the supermarket this past winter (as opposed to the silicon apples I usually eat).

Quoth Dad: "You have to be careful where you plant an apple tree. I would probably plant it out in the middle of your front yard, as far from your house as I could. Their branches spread out up to 30 feet, and will run into the house."

Last is a willow tree I started this spring with a downed and broken willow branch I found walking the dog. Willows root very easily, and their branches also can be used for rooting other plants that otherwise do not root easily.

Quoth good old Dad: "I wouldn't plant that anywhere in your yard. Willow roots spread out 50 feet to find water, and they'll destroy your sewer pipe in no time.

My response: "Dad, do you actually research any of these figures before you share them, or do you just make them all up?"

Of course, knowing my father, he's probably right. He does have an uncanny knack for acculumating trivia like this. Still, as I said, none of the trees are planted in the ground, although I have to admit that is the eventual goal. Planting something besides the maple trees everyone around here has would be nice, and anyway leafy trees also reduce energy bills by blocking the sun in the summer and letting it through in the winter.

There's also a Haitian tradition of planting a tree for each child born to your family. Maybe I should plant the willow in my dad's back yard next spring so it can soak up all the water that floods his property, and let it grow to record heights in a short period.

Tuesday, April 09, 2002

attack of the clones

Good news on "Attack of the Clones." Lucas apparently actually went and got help with the screenplay ... from an actual screenwriter! One reviewer who saw a prerelease showing of the movie apparently has said, "It helped ... a little."

The other good news about "Attack of the Clones" (besides N'Sync being fed to the Sarlaac) is that Jar Jar has a cameo, and that's about it. Granted, it's not as good as my daydream of having a perfectly somber and serious scene in which Jar Jar chokes to death in the background, but it's better than having Jar Jar be the donor of all the DNA needed for the Clone Wars.

No, I don't plan to see it.

Saturday, April 06, 2002

childhood memory

One New Year's, my brother and I decided to ring in the new year by walking around the block while playing our tubas as loudly as we could and wishing people a happy new year when they came out of their houses to yell at us.

I was, I think, in 10th grade. My brother Ward was in eighth grade. Who would have known that all those people would be trying to sleep between midnight and 1 a.m.?

We woke up one of our schoolmates, who decided to come out and join us. Unfortunately for Chris, we also woke his father, who discovered the back door was unlocked and latched it, unaware that his son was marching around the block with us, without a key.

Friday, April 05, 2002

in the beginning

I recently finished a rather fascinating book titled "In the Beginning," about the origins of the King James Bible. It's a rather well-written book and although the author -- Alister McGrath of "Christianity Today" -- doesn't really get into all the controversy generated in some circles today, he does give a rather interesting description of the blatantly political manuevering that went into making sure the "right" scholars translated the Scriptures so that it would reflect a pro-Anglican, pro-monarchy bias.

He also touches briefly on some of the problems they had translating the Bible, such as the translators' infamiliarity with koine Greek and a few other difficulties to boot.

What is the silliest explanation you have ever heard as to why the King James Bible is the only one Christians should use? My personal favorite: Contemporary Bibles like the NIV have removed 4,000 verses from the Bible and actually assign divine titles to Satan and vice versa.