Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Christianity’ Category

I see Jesus in my oatmeal!

 

Only people who God really loves can see it...

Only people who God really loves can see it...

Jesus was spotted again.  He was apparently seen in a very holy place–on a seat-cushion in a small Catholic church on the island of Reunion in the Indian Ocean.  The King of Kings, enthroned in glory, on the thing you put your butt on…um…sure.  I know he had humble beginnings and everything, but golly.  You can read about the whole thing here.

 

 

 

I think that the whole Jesus-images-on-things is being managed very poorly.  We could make a whole lot more money if we weren’t so limited–if we didn’t just limit our visions to Jesus in seat cushions, toast, oatmeal, and grilled cheese sandwiches.  Can’t we manage to create more of a spiritual aura than a day-old grilled cheese?  I have a great idea for really capitalizing on this phenomenon: let’s create images of Muhammed, Buddha, Confucius, Baha’u’llah, and Moses in random things that we want to sell in order to up their resale value and finance our new LCD 60 inch TV: your old car, used jeans, discarded computer components (you’d have to etch the image really really small).  We could have a line for all people who want to have an image in their oatmeal to adore over breakfast.  We could sell Bono on toast, and we could charge admission into our backyards to see the little image of Hitler in the dog doo.  Appropriately.

The face of Homer Simpson on a gourd.  Kept in the Secret Vatican Archives. ahem.

The face of Homer Simpson on a gourd. Kept in the Secret Vatican Archives. ahem.

 

 

 

Oh, the things we could do!  But please don’t suggest thinking too hard about it.  God forbid we use our God-given reason and scripture together to determine what is true from what is false.  Then things would be way more boring and definitely less lucrative for all of us.  

 

 

 

 

The one on the right sold for $25,000.   Almost %100 profit!  I'm in!

The one on the right sold for $25,000. I'm in!

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Angry!

I’m frustrated today.  I’m frustrated at so many things related to our economy, as I’m sure everybody is, but I feel like there are so many things to be said and most of them are staying around the water-coolers and aren’t making it to the blogs or to the bigger news services.  In fact, practically the only place I’ve heard any of them is on The Daily Show.  (Read my post about it here.) 

 

There are, to be sure, lots of things to get angry at, but I’m frustrated by the things that aren’t in the news.  Sure, there’s the stuff Obama said this morning, which was good, but my anger goes further.

 

I’m angry that the entire country has been, for a long time, conducting itself in an orgy of spending on credit with no regard for personal fiscal responsibility.  Individuals have done this, and the government has done this.  And people have capitalized on this practice and made billions of dollars in profit.  I’m angry that almost nobody is talking publicly about the underlying root of the problem: Americans must reign in our slobbering greed and our lust to be seen as richer than we are and exercise some responsibility, some restraint, some patience.  We have a lottery mentality, a mindset that getting rich should happen to me, and someone else ought to hand me the money, as we chant our national mantra of “We have rights!”

 

I’m angry that we, individuals, will have 4 or 5 credit cards (and that’s being conservative!) and think it’s ok.  I’m angry that the government continues to spend more than it has, and everyone just grumbles and wrings their hands and says, “Well, what can you do?”  I’m angry that companies like Bank of American will target people when the come into the bank and try to sell credit cards to them—credit cards that will only hurt them and put them deeper in debt.  And tellers have quotas they must fill—quotas of selling credit cards to people who don’t need them to make a bank more money so they can give more multi-million dollar bonuses to their executives.

 

I’m angry that some people in this crisis who have been ethically corrupt and profited off of others’ misfortune are enjoying life while others desperately struggle to figure out how to pay for hospice care for their dying mother, wondering how they’ll make their house payment, even though they’ve done everything right and always paid their obligations, even at monumental personal expense, just because it’s right.  And nobody gives them an award.

 

I’m angry at the banks that have been throwing lavish parties with bailout money from taxpayers, and I’m angry that the government keeps giving them bailout money without exercising more control over the company’s operations.  I’m angry.  Angry that people who make sacrifices to pay their bills and meet their obligations are ignored, but fools who have made unwise choices and continue to do so time and time again are rewarded with bailout money with little oversight.

 The words of James in the New Testament are particularly apt today, and I cling to them:

1Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. 2Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. 3Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. 4Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. 5You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter.  6You have condemned and murdered innocent men, who were not opposing you.”

-James 5:1-6

Read Full Post »

 

An interesting article from the NY Times having to do with various and sundry things related to the Pope.  Here are some excerpts:

 

“MADRID — The letter released Thursday in which Pope Benedict XVIadmitted that the Vatican had made “mistakes” in handling the case of a Holocaust-denying bishop was unprecedented in its directness, its humanity and its acknowledgment of papal fallibility.

But it also contained two sentences unique in the annals of church history.

“I have been told that consulting the information available on the Internet would have made it possible to perceive the problem early on,” Benedict wrote. “I have learned the lesson that in the future in the Holy See we will have to pay greater attention to that source of news.”

In other words: “Note to the Roman Curia: try Google.”

The Vatican, a 2,000-year-old monarchy built on the ruins of the Roman Empire and run by octogenarians, has officially recognized the demands of the 24-hour news cycle, not a 24-century one.”

 

 

Future policy in Vatican City?

Future policy in Vatican City?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another excerpt: 

“On Thursday, the Society of St. Pius X said it was ready to begin the doctrinal debates necessary for its return to full communion with the church. It conveyed the news in an e-mail message, in Latin, which instructed recipients “Ite ed vide,” or go and look, at its Web site, of course.”

 

When I want to really make my point, I always send email messages in latin.  

Don’t you?

-JMT

Read Full Post »

Memory is a funny thing.  I can remember the backyard of my childhood home and feel nostalgic, a sort of sweet memory that hurts.  I can also read and immerse myself in the history of World War II (as anyone who knows me well can attest to) and feel a tragic sweetness for that time.  I might wish that I could have seen those days, but those who live through them would tell me that this wish is ridiculous, and they would be right.  It was not nostalgic to live through it.  It would not satisfy my nostaligic ache to live through those days or to visit my childhood home again.  In fact, this often makes things worse—and everyone knows what it is like to not want to see something from our childhood because we know it will not feel the same.  We choose to simply keep the thing in our memory, sweet but not actualized. 

wwii-v-day-kiss

I was sitting in a coffee shop yesterday talking about this with my wife Melody, who is studying to be an archivist.  I told her that I believe that somehow there is an almost ineffable quality or feeling that we experience when dealing with archives and with memory.  I wondered what it is that we want when we long for something that is long past–something that we never experienced but have read about or heard about (like WWII), or some memory of our own that we have not visited in a long time (like an old childhood house or the feel and the memories of the neighborhood we grew up in).  We get a pang of longing, and even if the stuff we’re looking at is not our own, we often are overcome with wistful, nostalgic feelings.  Then I started wondering, what is it exactly that we’re longing for?  Because I do not long to see my childhood neighborhood again.  I know it will be different, and there have been times when I have specifically avoided going back and looking because I know it will not satisfy this desire; it will only make me sad; I will feel that the thing I wanted to see or experience is lost even more, is further away than it was before I went there.  

 

Our front yards are, painfully, never the same as we remember them if we go back to visit.

Our childhoods are, painfully, never the same as we remember them if we venture back to visit them.

 

I think that this ineffable thing that we long for is somehow related to our desire for something that is permanent, something that is outside the effects of time.  I think that this longing comes out of the human desire for transcendence.  This urge to archive or record our lives comes from a desire for immortality, or for a desire to escape our own mortality—almost the same thing, but not quite.  And our desire to know and get back permanently that which we know only in an archive (my great great grandparents, for example) is the other side of the coin; it is the desire to know permanence, to know the ineffable beauty beyond us, but it is always thwarted and turned to a bittersweet longing by the reality of our own mortality. 

C.S. Lewis wrote about this very longing, and he pointed out rightly that the longings of this kind (of which the longing related to permanence and memory is only one form) are times when our desire for God, our desire for home, our desire for transcendence is pricked by some small ray of light spilling from that Realm to our dusty, tired, and shadowed land.  The pang of sweet and terrible desire that fills our hearts when we hear a beautiful line of music, or a beautiful moment in a forest: any sublime moment is a spilling over from There to here.  Even the moment of wanting something that is not immediately attainable—the desire we feel to go back and experience life in 30’s and 40’s America, to see our ancestors and talk with them, even to see and talk with our own first father and mother before the fall—those things are real losses and will never happen, yet they point to a larger and greater Fulfillment of our desire.

It is in this poetic moment that we find ourselves taken out of time–one of the reasons why we create archives, I think.  We are able to experience a shadow of the thing we desire: to know outside of time, to always be, to be solid and unmoving, and to intimately know (experientially) things that will always be.  In the sweetness of a memory a person can linger in this twilight between the mutable and the immutable, between the temporal and the edge of the universe, between the cold hard granite reality of our own mortality and the frighteningly vast but warm infinity of the heavens: the unveiled realm of the Real, Living I Am. 

 

Who knew that something as lofty as a desire for the Immutable God could be found in a dusty archive?  Amazing.

 

Deus ex tabulinum

Deus ex tabulinum

 

 

Read Full Post »

In a lecture in one of my classes on Monday, Professor Charles Young (Philosophy, Claremont Graduate University) paraphrased Plato’s opinion (in response to a question) that it takes theory to have art or systematic approach to a craft (techne), which is what we might call practice.  Another student raised the question of “how do we make our practice have the nobility that the Aristotelian practice seems to have?”  I’m guessing that behind this intriguing question is an observation that practice in the days of Aristotle possessed a purity and an objectivity that we wish to have in our own practice.  There is a feeling that if we could simply frame the question or have the right setting or the right arena for our discourse and our rhetoric, our techne/craft/practice would be able to enter a discussion more purely, without as much emotional baggage as it sometimes does today.  If we could simply adhere to a colder form of logic, then our techne would be of a higher sort than it is now. 

To those who hold this idea, even if it is buried under a mass of critical theory or thrown into the corner of our minds under the old deconstructionism we have lying about or the old magazines of postmodern theory stacked on top of one another, I have a few observations.

 

First, I find this idea in myself.  I not only wish, but at times, find myself believing it to be so that there is a purity of inquiry, a detachment of the researcher, that can be attained if one is careful enough, systematic enough, logical enough, and detached enough.  I wish it to be so because if it were, inquiry and practice would be a lot cleaner and a lot easier. 

 

The idea that there can be a purity or detachment of inquiry, some kind of pure and logical detachment is, I believe, a false myth.  It is a story that we tell ourselves to serve a social purpose, namely to allow us to retract into our own research problem and leave some of the meta-research questions unanswered.  This is not always a bad thing; sometimes it is necessary because of the scope of our research and we haven’t time to discuss it.

 

All of this is not new to any graduate student, but it is easy for me, when reading any ancient text, and especially Plato or Aristotle, to find myself indulging in the belief that these ancients, and all their contemporaries, were able to discover this purity of logic, this nobility of reason and discourse, and if we could only see it and all move together that we too, could be like them. 

 

Maybe this is so, but I wonder, also, if the nobility we think we see in the ancients is real or if it is a reflection of the human desire and search for transcendence—a search to come out of ourselves and be larger than what we are; a search for eternity or Divinity.

Read Full Post »

A Brave New World…

Many people have written about the future.  Aldous Huxley and George Orwell are but two of the writers who chose to write about the dystopia, a trope that is remarkably effective in its ironic and satiric presentation of human folly.  I have recently been thinking about how people perceive evil in the world and how they believe that evil should be or will be dealt with in the future.

Some believe that evil is institutional–that is, it is found in any bureaucracy or institution and that the answer is to always oppose any institution by helping people see how their own power is being managed and how they, in fact, don’t have any power at all.  (Critical Art Ensemble)

Some believe that evil is a sort of abnormality to existence, but an uncommon one.  They believe that evil is not the normal path of the human heart, and they illogically point to beauty, art (an especially illogical thing to point to), and the deeds of great humans to somehow prove that all people are basically good, and evil is something that while tragic, does not define the human condition.  

I call that wishful thinking at best, and foolishness at worst.  What evil is and how it is dealt with is, I have recently seen, is one of the most significant things that can shape the set of unseen underground assumptions that lives in the catacombs of our consciousness and defines the structure that our lives, actions, and destinies will ultimately take.

More on this later, but for now, one take on what a utopia (or dystopia) might look like.  This one is particularly poignant because it is particularly perceptive of our cultural view of ourselves.    The biblical story of the tower of Babel comes to mind…

 

 

 

How do we perceive evil?  Most importantly, what is informing our understanding of this?  If we are Christians, do we go to scripture?  Or do we subject ourselves to the constantly-changing whims of the cultural imaginings about it?  For the love of all that is good, let us ground ourselves firmly in what is right.

 “8Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:8-9)

Read Full Post »

Mark Driscoll is the pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle and a pastor I really look up to.  He’s not perfect, but he’s honest, and he doesn’t mince words when he talks about Jesus.  This blog post of his was such a refreshment for me today, when so much  blogging and public discourse is full of anger, manipulation, scheming, and divisiveness.  This blog entry reminded me that “Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket; they are regarded as dust on the scales; he weighs the islands as though they are fine dust […] Before Him all the nations are as nothing; they are regarded by Him as worthless and less than nothing” (Isaiah 40:15,17).  It was helpful to be reminded today that Jesus still reigns, and people are people, and my hope is not dependant on a political candidate, but on the one who has authority over all of this mess…Jesus.

In God We Do Not Trust

Mark Driscoll

In my years of pastoral ministry I have worked very hard to not be political. I believe that my job as a pastor is to preach and teach the Bible well so that my people make their decisions, including their voting decisions, out of their faith convictions.

This election season which has dominated the cultural conversation for many months has been particularly insightful regarding the incessant gospel thirst that abides deep in the heart of the men and women who bear God’s image. Without endorsing or maligning either political party or their respective presidential candidates, I am hopeful that a few insights from the recent election season are of help, particularly to younger evangelicals.

First, people are longing for a savior who will atone for their sins. In this election, people thirst for a savior who will atone for their economic sins of buying things they did not need with money they did not have. The result is a mountain of credit debt they cannot pay and a desperate yearning that somehow a new president will save them from economic hell.

Second, people are longing for a king who will keep them safe from terror in his kingdom. In the Old Testament the concept of a peaceable kingdom is marked by the word shalom. In shalom there is not only the absence of sin, war, strife, and suffering but also the presence of love, peace, harmony, and health. And, this thirst for shalom is so parched that every election people cannot help but naively believe that if their candidate simply wins shalom is sure to come despite sin and the curse.

The bottom line is obvious to those with gospel eyes. People are longing for Jesus, and tragically left voting for mere presidential candidates. For those whose candidate wins today there will be some months of groundless euphoric faith in that candidate and the atoning salvation that their kingdom will bring. But, in time, their supporters will see that no matter who wins the presidency, they are mere mortals prone to sin, folly, and self-interest just like all the other sons of Adam and daughters of Eve. To help extend naïve false hope as long as possible, a great enemy will be named and demonized as the one who is hindering all of the progress to atone for our sins and usher in our kingdom. If the Democrats win it will be the rich, and if the Republicans win it will be the terrorists. This diversionary trick is as old as Eve who blamed her sin on Satan rather than repenting. The lie is that it’s always someone else’s fault and we’re always the victim of sinners and never the sinner.

Speaking of repentance, sadly, no matter who wins there will be no call to personal repentance of our own personal sins which contributes to cultural suffering and decline such as our pride, gluttony, covetousness, greed, indebtedness, self-righteousness, perversion, and laziness. And, in four years we’ll do it all again and pretend that this time things will be different. Four years after that, we’ll do it yet again. And, we’ll continue driving around this cul de sac until Jesus returns, sets up his throne, and puts an end to folly once and for all.

In the meantime, I would encourage all preachers to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and repentance of personal sin. He alone can truly atone for our sins. He alone can deliver us from a real hell. He alone is our sinless and great King. And, he alone has a Shalom kingdom to offer.

Lastly, for those preachers who have gotten sidetracked for the cause of a false king and a false kingdom by making too much of the election and too little of Jesus, today is a good day to practice repentance in preparation to preach it on Sunday. Just give it some time. The thirst will remain that only Jesus can quench. So, we’ve still got work to do….until we see King Jesus and voting is done once and for all.

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »