Monday, March 31, 2008

distracted - who me?

honestly, I wasn't distracted. what was there to distract me?

it couldn't have been the three girls with skin tight low-riders and shirts that rode up to reveal their midriff. or the fact that they chatted and giggled with tell tale gestures of infatuation with one or another boy in the next row up.

it couldn't have been the fact that the 'worship' was altogether too long. that new song that he introduced was lame the first time not mention the third time and this after we were forced to sing along to a recording - for the benefit of the kids

And speaking of kids - I definitely was not distracted by the fact that this service was billed as a kids/family service and they only that gave indication that it was such a thing was the fact the kids did not get to go to children's church and a few were invited onto the stage.

it couldn't have been the lady warbling away in 'harmony' to the music. or for that matter that we ended up singing, "God of Wonders" at precisely the time when my back and my legs were pleading with me to sit down.

or the fact that after the kids finished showing off with their two songs the worship leader said something like, "it's not just the kids that can worship we adults can approach the throne of worship as well." And then proceeded to lead us in a hymn - rather slowly too.

and I definitely was not distracted by the business man who clearly was scoping out which of his clients or other business contacts were in attendance at the church.

I wasn't distracted by the fact that the preacher, although relatively humorous, preached three messages instead of just one.

And I absolutely was not distracted by the lead pastor lifted his head toward heaven every time he prayed directly to God. Even though it was so different than when he was praying to the people - you know with his head panning across the congregation - giving us the mini sermon in his prayer.

Because he was the guy that told me I should not be distracted. In fact he ask the 'worship' dude to play a little longer just to make sure that all of us had not been distracted and were able to 'engage the spirit of God'.

what did distract me though was after the service - running into one of the kids from my youth group. One of the last ones I thought I'd see inside a church willingly. It really caught me off guard when he told me that he had put his enormous musical talent to work on the Psalms and that they had just opened up for him as he read through them. Usually distractions make me frustrated but this did something altogether different.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Cows and Cannibalism

Rethinking Popular Culture: Contempory Perspectives in Cultural Studies

Marshall Sahlins wrote a chapter in Rethinking Popular Culture entitled La Pensée Bourgeoise. Here he takes a swipe at North American notions about the rational nature of our food choices. The 12 pages or so are a blistering romp through $40,000 words - but one of the shortest my anthropology course this semester. Here's the angle:

Most of us seem to make very rational choices about the food we purchase to consume. Especially in today's health conscious world we are focused on the value that our food brings us. We are concerned about calories, flavour and cost. So when we hit the supermarket our minds are constantly making calculations about what we should put in the shopping cart. If you asked people about what sorts of effects cultured played in their food choices we might only be able to identify a few subtle differences between what we would choose to eat. Our choices are between hamburger or sirloin pork chop or chicken breast for instance. Most of us never consider picking up some dog loin for supper. Why is it that we don't?

A dog after all is far more cost effective. Dog meat is cheap to grow and just as easy to prepare as beef. And even when you look at a butchered cow the laws of supply and demand that make capitalism flourish are somehow abandoned. I mean there is only one tongue and a heck of a lot of steak - yet tongue is almost the cheapest thing you could buy. Not quite such a rational decision after all?

And think of all the subsidiary economic ramifications of eating cows. Around here there might be a lot of farmers looking for different crops to irrigate instead of timothy.

Sahlins suggestion is that we objectify certain parts of our material culture in order to distance them from ourselves. Otherwise a prevailing metaphor of cannibalism prevents us from being able to consume them. A dog is part of the family. Who eats their own family members? But this idea of objectification reveals a far more subtle plot. Think of the cow for a minute. Ever eaten cow groin? Or how about a cow's back or belly? It's not usually a shoulder its a brisquette or shank or loin. Sahlins suggests that even this terminology reveals a clever distancing that allows us to eat the cow without feeling too bad about it.

The article is really a gold mine of ideas but it has prompted a new poll which you will find on the side of the blog. And for those of you who might like to explore this a little more here's a clip of from the Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy to give you a little more fuel...

Fast forward to the 5:30 mark for a tasty little clip!

Politico-sociology at the Movies

We've known all along that Dr. Seuss had more than fanciful rhyming couplets in mind when he wrote most of his children's books. It's not really been that subversive. Reading between the lines in his work is often a fascinating discovery of the political and sociological context of the world Seuss was addressing. So it was with interest that I listened to a half hour discussion of his book Horton Hears a Who, which has been turned into a movie by the same name on The Current. Although I have not seen the movie yet James Anderson's article is whetting my brain for a cartoon. And if that isn't enough here's the trailer:

and true to form pro-lifers have latched onto the movie's epic mantra: a person's a person no matter how small - even though Giesel himself has strongly denounced this connection.

This practice of co-opting various aspects of children's entertainment as tools for a conservative agenda is not strange. Bans, protests and other action have been a common part of the interaction between Christian organizations and the entertainment industry. see here and here.

Unfortunately the perspective is often seen as an overly alarmist and tends to, "(target) minuscule elements within a much larger work and then (tries) to extract from that some kind of argument that borders on the paranoid is really misconstruing the general aim of this entertainment.'' It's unfortunate because this overly moralistic perspective tends to avoid the kind of deep engagement with the thematic content of the movie in a significant way. While it is clear that moral suggestions are evident in children's entertainment it is the deeper socio-political themes which get missed entirely.

Take the recent A BEE MOVIE. People getting lost in the statements that this movie makes about obedience and the environment are missing the strong criticism the film delivers on Marxian economics. The way this film reinforces the values of capitalism are profound indeed.

Everyone is paranoid about something I guess and everyone is looking to the externalize the perceived social collapse so that somehow we as individuals are no longer responsible. Blame Hollywood, the boob tube, or the internet. By objectifying the causes of what we see as moral decay, about the only thing we pass down to our kids is some notion of victimized oppression. How can the next generation really be a vanguard  of Christian value in the world if the posture we are teaching our kids is essentially sort of, 'assume the position'?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Always Reforming

Reformed And Always Reforming: The Postconservative Approach To Evangelical Theology Scot McKnight just posted a super condensed summary of Roger Olson's ideas in his book Reformed and Always Reforming. I guess it sorta echoes what i was getting at in my last post - (I guess really it was me doing the echoing even though I was previously unaware of this material. Here's Scots post: Jesus Creed » Reforming 4

Monday, March 24, 2008

on who gets it...

Here's a quote from John Wimber (central vineyard movement figure): “Oh, God.” I just cried, I couldn’t help it. I thought, “Oh Lord, they know. The world knows what it’s supposed to be like. The only ones that don’t know are the Church.” (thru MarkO thru ThinkChristian)

Okay, so it's an overstatement to say that nobody IN the church 'gets it' but what I have increasingly found is that the secular community DOES have a pretty clear/strong idea of what the church should be about. These notions, in my experience, vary a lot. Typically, there is some notion of how orthodoxy should be handled. I find even in the academic world that there is a level of respect shown toward religious expressions that display consistency in praxis and theology. I think we can thank our pluralistic society for that. But the issue of interpretation of Scripture and doctrine pales in importance to most compared to an evaluation of notions of praxis. In most conversations with non religious people there often is this inevitable disconnect between what the church is doing now and what it should be doing. This is where Wimber's comment is poignant.

Historically, the church has had to exercise some form of accommodation whenever it has sought to expand (more commonly known as evangelism today). The expansion of the Catholic church forced it to accept the reforms of various perspectives (St. Ignatius, Liberation Theology, etc). It is a common sentiment within a particular Christian community that  any sort of accommodation somehow hurts the church. There is a fear that its orthodoxy is somehow disrupted or cheapened. A common justifiable worry is that God will be remade to meet the conveniences of our own religious agendas - - in our own image (one that is accessible to new people who don't understand the cultural milieu that we have framed God in). And this is not just a concern that applies to foreign mission efforts - this is the same caution over accommodation is common in the demographic struggle within churches over control. There is this deep seated fear that faith will be dumbed-down and cheapened in the process of making it more accessible to youth. And if you look at many of our contemporary 'worship' songs aimed at young people, I would have to agree. This thinning of theology is a grave concern. but suggesting that accommodation in an inevitable move toward a lesser faith in any or every way presents an interesting dilemma especially for Christians.

The very nature of Jesus' life and the seeds of the Christian church are rooted in change. Passages like the one found in Matthew 23 give ample evidence to the interplay between Jesus' agenda and that of the spiritual and political elite of his day - the Pharisees. Jesus' words in this passage elicit a sense of hostility that is not present when you read Matthew 5-7. The famous curiosity of Nicodemus makes sense in light of the provocative, engaging rhetoric of Jesus words on the mount but it is doubtful that any even the most spiritually curious member of the Pharisees would have ventured to engage Jesus after hearing his words in Matt. 23. The progression in tone begs something profound. Is it possible to imagine that Jesus did not want to actually start a new religious sect? Is it possible that his intention was to seek to redefine Judaism to accommodate the realities of the era in which he lived? This is best left in the realm of speculation, especially in light of the fact that a new religion was born out of Jesus teachings. However, these questions do help us to see that accommodation, reformation, reorthodoxation, is a central motif in the Christian church. Of course this motif has influenced significant shifts in theology and praxis. So much so that there may actually be less doctrinal commonality between the early church and today's incarnations. That might seem like a detestable suggestion to some (especially with the prevalent current attempting to recapture the Acts 2 church).

Here's the proposal: Christianity is about adaptation and change - not rigidity and constancy. Not adaptation and change for its own sake. Instead Christianity flexes and morphs continually even in the content of its theology. Here are the assertions:

A:) although several guiding principles give direction to doctrine and theology, it is clear that we are ever renouncing the errors of our former reasoning in favour of better reasoning.

B:) Christian practice is valuable as a vehicle to access spirituality and provide a church cohesiveness but it carries not intrinsic value on its own. So Christian practice can both change or stay the same to meet the needs of its participants.

Most of the rest of what we have in the church is some form of control.

I think this is where Wimber's comment is really so ironic. Here we have the 'founding father' of a major reformative movement with the Christian church who arguably worked hard to bring about the significant changes he thought were critical to the future success of the church. Yet even he has to admit that he may well have missed the mark in large measure. Sounds a lot like the Willow Creek apology.

So there you go...

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Las MaƱanistas

La empresa del sábado en la mañana es el sueño.

Ojos deslumbrados por las aventuras

Que resplandecen más fuertes en la oscuridad.

Orejas rellenos de las mentiras

De una noche que no quiere despedirse.

Eran las llamadas de un país que no quería dejar.

Inmovilizado,

La almohada empezó un levantamiento

Contra mi cabeza.

Esclavitud hermosa.

Pero aquí viene el traidor.

El café.

Y mi nariz me deserta,

Corriendo con mi boca.

Porque cuando baja el oro negro,

Ciertamente se levanta todo.

Y el gozo del sábado en la mañana

Se esconde otra vez en un sueño.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

3 Canal - Revolution

this is a band with Trinidadian roots. It's called rapso a mixture of soca and rap and a derivative of the older calypso. thanks to anthro - fun fun!

Food Fight

this is good

Monday, March 10, 2008

I love school!

I know that makes me sound like a geek but I should clarify. I love being in school. I thought when I entered this new venture that school would just be a tolerable inconvenience before someone would present me with the credentials to become a teacher - a means to an end. Turns out it really is not that hard to tolerate. Sure on days like today where school work is piling up beyond my ability to rationally cope - I can get annoyed but in general I love the stuff I am learning about and that feels really good. A lot better than I thought it would. It makes be feel guilty because the direction our lives have taken is far from easy. So my enjoyment should really be the last of my considerations...

geek out...