Thursday, January 25, 2007
A lot of tract distribution, while well intended, comes from a misunderstanding about the Great Commission, that it requires a special effort on the part of every Christian to be an evangelist and purposely strike up conversations and steer them into opportunities to share the gospel, reducing the person from a person with inherent value worth engaging in honest discussion and relationship with, into a potential "convert" and the discussion merely as a means to an end.
I try not to get offended when I'm handed a tract -- as I said, I like to assume the intent is often good -- but if I weren't a Christian, I can't say they'd move me much in that direction.
Friday, January 12, 2007
Since the Religious Right formally has declared that a "war on Christmas" exists, beginning in 2007 retail troops will have authorization to shoot on sight anyone celebrating "Christmas" instead of a generic winter holiday.
2007 will mark the end of the conflict, and Christmas will be destroyed. Have a nice shopping season!
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
Christianity Today has an interesting and prophetic take on things. They compare the moralizing and attention-grabbing stunts of self-professed servants of the Lord with the work of people like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, who are giving billions to make the world a better place for the neediest people in it. I wish I had a fortune worth billions; I'd love to do what they are doing. In the meantime, I'll settle for what I can do in my own meager way.
I know of a few people who started making fun of Robertston as soon as he inserted his foot into his mouth, but honestly, why bother? Who cares? the best way to handle Pat at this point isn't a bunch of angry tirades, hoots of ridicule, or even clever commentary. He's become so ridiculous he's impossible to parody. He's way past the fringe. The best thing to do with him is to ignore him.
Tuesday, January 09, 2007
Sunday, January 07, 2007
- Toss and turn in bed before falling asleep at 2 a.m.
- Get up at 6 a.m. to make bread before everyone else wakes up.
- Find bread recipes in your cookbook. Realize that you don't have the necessary ingredients for the first dozen or so recipes.
- Rule out going to the supermarket because of time constraints.
- Find recipe for potato rolls that doesn't require milk.
- Upon re-reading ingredients, discover that recipe calls for two packets of yeast, whereas you have one.
- Begin halving the recipe.
- Two steps into the process, forget that you are having the recipe and add the full amount of sugar, eggs, salt, butter, water, potato-boiling water, and flour for mixing.
- As you mix in third cup of the next 8¾ cups of flour, notice that the dough is getting thick and floury very early in the process.
- Realize your mistake.
- Having calmed down, try deducting the "extra" flour from what's left.
- Knead the dough. Notice how it keeps sticking to your hands in much larger amounts than it did with that nice buttermilk you bread you followed the directions for perfectly two weeks ago. Maybe you shouldn't deduct any flour.since you did add the full amount of water.
- Add more flour, but without measuring it.
- Jeez, this stuff is really sticking to your hands.
- Add more flour. Why bother measuring this time either? You've no idea how much you've put in at this point.
- Keep kneading.
- Try to flip dough over. Hold down kneading surface with one hand while you remove dough with other.
- Add more flour. Who knows how much?
- Debate tossing mixture into garbage and finding something else to take to friend's house. Like leftover stir-fry with frozen vegetables.
- Add more flour once you pry your hands loose from doughy morass.
- Imagine potato rolls as hard as rocks, and everyone lying as they compliment you on the delicious homemade bread.
- Dread moment when your friend, who loves to bake, asking you how you made bread.
- Add more flour.
- Finish kneading.
- Cut dough into 12 pieces -- recipe calls for 24, but you're halving this, remember? -- and roll into balls.
- Wonder if you should let dough rise twice as long, since you did include only half the yeast.
- Accept the inevitable: Either it's going to suck, or it won't, but it's out of your hands now.
- Thank God that cooking isn't a science.
Friday, January 05, 2007
I was talking with a friend of mine recently, Buddhist by philosophy, and he raised the question of when and how American Christianity became linked with conservatism, since until fairly recently in terms of history, it's been linked with liberalism and progressive thought, viz. abolition, women's suffrage, child labor laws, pacifism, opposition to capital punishment. (Overseas, in fact, it's still linked with liberalism.)
"Liberal" became a dirty word in America's political landscape in the 1988 election, when Lee Atwater managed the elder Bush's campaign and was able to link Michael Dukakis with Willie Horton via racist "soft on crime" campaign ads and Bush's continual harping on Dukakis as a liberal. Dukakis, foolishly, resisted the label, until a week before the election when it suddenly hit him that some of America's favorite presidents, like JFK and FDR, had been liberals.
Reagan, and by succession Bush Sr., did a lot to co-opt Christianity as a voting bloc, but I think the truth is that they were building on the powerful machinery established in Falwell's Moral Majority in the mid-1980s with its outrage over pornography, which most liberal groups defended as protected under the First Amendment; and then, of course, with the Summer of Mercy and the backlash against abortion.
The main problem with the Moral Majority was its view of morality as a series of rules that should be obeyed, and that should be established by society (via government, as society's erstwhile father), rather than as something that flows from a relationship. With the Democratic Party generally in favor of abortion as a woman's right to equality, and that platform creating a driving wedge between it and the evangelical/fundamentalist Christians who traditionally had been a reliable voting bloc on social issues, it only made sense for GOP strategists to manuever the party into the "values" camp -- something too many Christian leaders have been willing to go along with, to the point now that an entire generation of evangelicals has been raised with a politicized gospel, thinking too much on how the government can aid in fighting our social ills, and equating the faith with things like capitalism, democracy, trickle-down economics, and nonprogressive taxes.
And now look where we are.
Hell is a blanket that will not keep you warm.
Hell is unrequited self-love.
Hell echoes like an empty mailbox on Valentine's Day.
Hell is winning the first baseball game of the season, and the last baseball game of the season, and every game in between.
Hell is the distance between yourself and other people.
The way to hell is paved with no intentions at all; we simply lay it one brick at a time, unthinking, on a long, steady, lonely slope that we tread our entire lives.
Evangeline is starting to do some of the math. We were saying something about Noah today -- actually, I was sharing some of the jokes from Bill Cosby's "Noah" routine -- and she said, "How could he be 600 years old when the Flood happened? That's impossible!"
Gyiah. The former evangelical in me feels like I should give her answers and assure her that the Bible is absolutely reliable, even in those mythic stories about people living several hundred years old. Traditional explanations include the nature of the world changing because of the Deluge; the nature of human physiology changing because of the much smaller gene pool after the Deluge; and the notion that it took people longer to die then because the world was still rather Edenic, and the Flood signaled a fall of Nature that removed everything much more from Paradise.
Part of me feels like I should give her answers and explain that the story has a meaning that's more important than a literal truth, and that we should view the mythic stories of early Genesis in that way.
And part of me feels like a coward and a fraud for not talking about it with her more openly.
His rationale is very simple: "Star Wars" was one of those watershed events for our generation. When it came out in 1977, everybody went to see it. It shaped our generation's entertainment for years -- literally. Donny & Marie, "Quark," heck even the Saturday morning "Happy Days" cartoon show -- they all had episodes that were direct rip-offs of "Star Wars." It and Star Trek pretty much defined science fiction up until the new Battlestar Galactica series.
So, since "Star Wars" with its pop religion, blockbuster status, runaway merchandising, and GOK what else was so important to Tom and everyone else in our generation, he wants to pass that experience on to his son.
It's something I've been thinking about the last few weeks. Amid all the drek that gets foisted upon us every year, there are some movies, some TV shows, some books, and some music that absolutely must be passed on to the next generation. There's the high culture stuff, like Tchaikovsky and Victor Hugo, but there's stuff we're inclined to dismiss as irrelevant or unworthy because it's pop culture.
What should get passed on? It's stuff that has more value than just what you immediately perceive. It has to raise awareness of the human condition, and inspire us to be better people. It's why we all should remember The Beatles when we're 54, but forget most of what the Beach Boys produced by the time we've grown up to be a man.
Sad to say, there's not much TV that I've watched that fits into this category. (Which is probably one of the reasons why we don't get cable or sattelite TV, and don't let the girls watch much of it, even on DVD and VHS.)
In no particular order, here's my initial list of TV shows I intend to share with my girls when they're old enough to appreciate them:
- M*A*S*H. No one would remember the Vietnam War-protest movie if it weren't for the TV show, and there's a good reason for that. The movie was just dark and despairing; the show moved beyond a bleak view of war to show the compassion and decency that can rise out of humanity in the middle of our worst moments. More than any other movie or show, M*A*S*H shaped the Gen X view of war, the military, and blind conformance to authority.
- Star Trek, specifically Classic Trek, Deep Space 9 and about half of The Next Generation. Although its wasn't value wasn't initially recognized by the execs at NBC, Classic Trek gave us the premiere treatment of the Cold War and the social tumult of the late 1960s. It defined science fiction for the next 30 years, and sowed the seeds of a franchise that it took Voyager and Enterprise a total twelve years to kill. Unlike the original series, NextGen had an aura of cultural superiority about its morality tales, with the basic message that we'd all be better off if everyone were a late 20th-century enlightened Western humanist. DS9, despite a few false starts, had an amazingly complex web of stories that ran for five years as the Federation grappled with the Dominion, and it dealt with a number of timeless themes about fear, suspicion, loss, faith, hope, security and freedom, identity and prejudice. I saw the entire series in 2006 and had to keep reminding myself that it was not about the war on terror and post 9-11 America.
- Battlestar Galactica. Not the original series, but the remake. Everything that Star Trek was to science fiction and the 1960s, BSG is to science fiction and post 9-11 America. And it hasn't had a single "Spock's Brain" episode.
- Looney Tunes. For sheer laughs, nothing beats the work of Chuck Jones, Friz Freleng and the other geniuses behind Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and the rest of the crew. My parents grew up watching them, I grew up watching them, and I'm proud to say that my kids are growing up watching them. Nothing comes close, not even
- Rocky and Bullwinkle. The animation is dated, and the kids aren't going to get the Cold War jokes surrounding Boris, Natasha and Fearless Leader, but the wit behind the series and its features like Dudley Doo-Right, Fractured Fairy Tales and Mr. Peabody have given this series staying value.
- Monty Python's Flying Circus. I'm not so keen on the post-Cleese era of the show, where they relied more and more on shock and crude language to get laughs, but I still bust a gut laughing at sketches like the World's Deadliest Joke, the Mouse Problem, and Cheese Shop. Evangeline, who has never seen a single episode, still knows to ask me if I write my music in the shed.
- Get Smart. At least I think so. It just came out on DVD, and I'm waiting to get a set so I can watch it from the safety of my Cone of Silence. Perhaps I find it assuring that Maxwell Smart triumphs over Kaos despite being such a bumbling idiot, perhaps I simply enjoy the outrageous antics of the show. Still, it's a keeper.
- The Simpsons. First eight seasons. There is no better record of America in the 1990s than Homer's household. All the faults and virtues of the American family lie there, in all their exaggerated glory. The show is a sitcom, but it's a sitcom that nonetheless provokes some serious discussions about issues we will face as long as there are humans to face them.
Tuesday, January 02, 2007
This new edition, with a new name, new cover, and updated and simplified text for today's children, introduces a whole new generation to this timeless classic. From Genesis to Revelation, the 127 Bible stories retold come alive and are enhanced by 30 new, awe-inspiring color and black-and-white art pieces by Joel Spector. Printed in large and clear type, this more than 460-page book will keep young listeners spell-bound as it assists parents in the age-old custom of telling their children stories from the Bible.