Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Amazing Grace - Advent and the Faith in Jesus

Faith. The word conjures up magic. Something we posses that grants us powers of unbelievable strength. To have faith means to have the missing jigsaw piece that makes the picture complete, grants us our wishes, and general makes us into supermen. Believe, we are told, and all of our problems will melt away in the strength of our beliefs. Believe in what? The object is not important; the act belief is what matters.

Yet, it also is a word under fire. The Gnu Atheists, like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens see it as the source of evil. To believe without reasons to believe will lead men to throw acid in the face of young girls, fly planes into buildings, and generally lead to the decay of humanity. To eradicate faith is to bring enlightenment to our world. To eradicate faith is to turn to reason and evidence. It will solve all of the problems plaguing humanity. To be a man of faith is not to have superpowers, but to be an enemy of humanity and the devil himself. We must have faith in our human intellect and not in faith itself, they shout from the mountain top of their best sellers.

Yet in both common understandings of faith, our culture betrays us. Faith is view in both cases is seen as a consumer item. In the first example, faith, like a product, comes in the various flavors of the self: God, money, one’s own strength, fashion, reason, fame, … the list is endless. Even faith, itself, is thought of a product to be taken off the shelf, wrapped in easy to use bottle with a beautiful label, maybe be laced with omega 3, promising to make us younger, smarter and ultimately happier. In the second, Faith comes across as junk food, good tasting and yet leading to empty calories, empty thoughts, empty life. It makes us fat in our thinking accepting any old idea that comes along.

In both cases, faith is a whiteboard in which everyone writes either their wishes and desires or the fears and horrors. Recently, Stanley Hauerwas made a buzz by claiming Americans’ faith is less Christian and more a vague civil religion with a nice, but meaningless God.

This civil faith is a faith without a story and the underlining its foundation is our ability to choose. We choose our church by how it feeds our needs, and not by any demand on us or we choose no church at all. Our church has to support our political beliefs. Yet, this complete ignores the demands of the Jesus story on us. This vague understanding of God explains seemly paradoxical studies recently. Most sociological studies find that most Americans go to church and, then again, the recent Pew survey found that Atheists knew more about the Christian faith than those who claim to practice it. The lost part of the survey is how little either knew. Could most Americans recite the books of the bible, much less know the content of those books? Many could perhaps cite numerous verses to support their own preferences, but without being able to put them in the context of the whole writing. The good we want to do is not the good we do. What a wretched people we are.

So, taking Hauerwas serious for a minute and seriously look at this civil religion. One of the facts of this civil faith is it is Manichean in nature. I have written before on how this aspect of civil religion maybe a cold war relic. This civic God maybe vague, but this God picks sides. David Brooks pointed this out in his recent op-ed piece:
For centuries, American politicians did not run up huge peacetime debts. It wasn’t because they were unpartisan or smarter or more virtuous. It was because they were constrained by a mentality inherited from the founders. According to this mentality, a big successful nation exists in a state of equilibrium between its many factions. This equilibrium is fragile because we are flawed and fallen creatures and can’t quite trust ourselves. So all of us, but especially members of the leadership class, should practice self-restraint. Moral anxiety restrained hubris (don’t think your side possesses the whole truth) and self-indulgence (debt corrupts character).

This ethos has dissolved, on left and right. The new mentality sees the country not as an equilibrium, but as a battlefield in which the people, who are pure and virtuous, do battle against the interests or the elites, who stand in the way of the people’s happiness.

Also, this civil faith takes for it foundation a consumerism in which me choose our beliefs like we choose our soda. Lost in this civil religion is Jesus, his life, death and resurrection. This week is the start of Advent. Advent is where God, takes on flesh, and enters our story and transforms us. It is not a vague God that gives us peace, but Jesus. To be a follower of Jesus forces us transcend our politics and our sinful nature. Faith, in general, may make us stronger, but faith in Jesus makes us realize the limits of ourselves. Faith, in general, may make us sure in our own purity and virtue. Faith in Jesus makes me confront my weakness and see my own sin. This is the season of Advent, the season of amazing grace that saved a wretch like me.

Monday, November 22, 2010

One Year Later, I Remain Against Football

Posting an unpopular position in a blog post online can be a bone jarring hit to your ego. Many people will come out of the woodwork to claim you have brain damage. Such was the result of my post last year about no longer supporting football on Christian grounds. I stopped watching football because of the new research that shows that playing the game will, in most cases, lead to brain damage. I could not, in good Christian conscience, support such suffering simply for my watching pleasure.

Last week, former football great Jim McMahon came out in support of more research. He claims that his memory is gone. I remember the year he led the Chicago Bears to the Super Bowl. The excitement, the dominance of the Bears, the Fridge (William Perry) must have rivaled the ancient Roman circus in spectacle and attention. Now, Jim McMahon has a bad memory from his days as the starting quarterback for the Bears. William Perry suffers from Guillain–BarrĂ© syndrome, a chronic inflammation disorder of the peripheral nerves. Even though it might not be related to football, the reality is that many of the heroes I grew up watching are now suffering because of the many hits they took in the head. For our entertainment, they took many hits to their heads.

Until I found myself at a restaurant with a group of friends, I had not seen a game in the last year. After having to defend my choice to not support the game, I saw bits and pieces of the game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Green Bay Packers. I had not realized until then how violent the sport is. Having lost some of my desensitization to the sport that comes from constant exposure, I felt the physical pain of those hits. I could not help but think about what the future will look like for those players.

After reading many studies, I know I will not allow my son to play the game. Now, I am not calling for the game to be outlawed — that would be too much for a sport so entrenched in our non-Christian society. What I am asking for is that the next time you watch a game, think about Mike Webster who lived in so much chronic pain that he would use a Taser gun to fall asleep. Mike Webster who died too young and in too much suffering.

First appeared At
God's Politics

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Video for Halloween

I just finished this video about my son. It was fun playing with apple's imovie. 


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Harris's mythology betrays him

I have been reading Stanley Hauerwas's The Peaceable Kingdom. It washes my soul after the subjection of gunk thinking it received from reading Sam Harris's The Moral Landscape. What I like about Dr. Hauerwas's book is how he, rightly in my opinion, locals ethics in both who we are and the story we tell about ourselves. It made take notice of the narrative that fuels Harris's writing as well as my own.

I view my life inside a greater story of God's story with mankind. Jesus, as the incarnate God, establishes his relationship with us out love. His relationship opens a door for us to transcend our base self center illusionary self, into what God created us to be. God does so by Jesus' life, death and resurrection. Salvation comes Jesus.

Sam Harris views history as the fight of humans to free themselves from superstition and religion through science and reason. His myth comes from an old enlightenment reading of history and popular during the Victorian age. The story was popularized in my youth by Carl Sagan and his Cosmos series on PBS. The irony is that this mythological story has more to do with belief than with historic fact. The story upholds evidence and reason, but then it has to ignore it. Example is Sam Harris strange use of the history of Slavery. He chastises Christianity for getting slavery wrong and then points to some passages in the bible. Slavery, he claims, is the easiest moral judgment and Christianity got it wrong. All pretty damning, if it weren't for history. Both the movement to end the slave trade in Brittan and slavery in this country were movements led by Christians who cited their faith as the reason for their opposition to slavery. These movements were founded by Charismatic movements like Quakers, Methodist and others. Most of the enlightened figures around that time were absent from this movements. For Sam Harris to say Christianity got it wrong can only come from his narrative and not from the evidence. The seeds of his mythology misled him.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Reaction to My Book Review of Sam Harris's The Moral Landscape

I received this email from Mark Triplett about my book review of Sam Harris's The Moral Landscape. I though he made some very important points.


I linked over to read your review of Sam Harris' book and wanted to tell you I thought you did an excellent job. I saw Sam Harris in an interview recently and wasn't impressed. I was going to read his book to prove to my friend that I am an "open-minded" Christian but I think you-plus other reviews I have read- have spared me that exercise. My hope was that the book would offer a scientific link between, what you reference as, the is and the ought (I am not very familiar with Hume so that will be my next venture). I've read enough critiques of religion, in general, that I don't need more examples of how humans have abused religion. I also feel that scientific materialism is a religion in-and-of itself, whose biggest problem is explaining absolute morality, and I was hoping this book attempted to do that. It seems we're stuck with moral relativism for the time being (if we want to rid ourselves of God, I should say).

 Atheist like to think that they are the truly intellectually honest and are leaving there options open until more perfect knowledge becomes available and maybe they find "proof" of God (I would argue that this is agnosticism, but maybe the distinction is irrelevant). Back to the interview, Sam Harris said he couldn't believe in the God of the Bible because of his disagreement with slavery in the Bible and not being able to reconcile slavery with an all-knowing, all-loving God. Non-starters like this show a lack of depth of the understanding of slavery in early history and the Bible and a willful ignorance in not exploring it more. As a person who has taken on the task of being able to "give reason for the hope that is within (me)" it is hard to hear of someone giving up on God so easily.

It seems to me that atheism has famous supporters like Harris, Hitchens, and Dawkins that have turned more into anti-theists who critique religion more than use there own worldview to solve philosophical problems. It appears that Harris has failed to do so again. Science/evolution/materialism has, to many, rid us of the need for religion as an explanation of what we are or how we came to be, but is still looking answers to the why's and the where's. I'll stick with God, thanks, because he does provide answers as to why we are here and where we go from here (in life and beyond). Mene mene tekel upharsin. For me, science has been weighed and found wanting.

Again, congrats on the nice piece of writing that I would not have been able to conjure up and thanks for the good read.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Sam Harris’s Brave New World A book review:The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values

I start my day with a cup of coffee with a teaspoon of cinnamon. Recent evidence points to cinnamon helping to reduce the chance of diabetes. Also, I am not alone in having current research change my daily living, whether it is talking cinnamon or how I disciple my young son, scientific findings effects sexuality, diet, parenting, relationships, and almost all areas of human living that once was thought of as the exclusive realm of religion. Sometimes we follow the advice of scientists to our chagrin.

This should be news to Dr. Sam Harris, the popular naysayer of religion. Science, according to his latest diatribe against religion, The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values, has had little impact on the way we live our lives because science refuses to make moral judgments, principles and values. It, under the spell of David Hume, has forgone its responsibility in guiding human ethics, leaving it to religion. Dr. Harris tries to make the case that science should be in the business of telling us how we should live our lives with a metaphor of a landscape. Peaks are those places where human well being is found and the valleys are places of religion (though he does not implicitly say religion, only most of his examples of ethical valleys tend to come from religion and we are directed to such inferences).

One does have to admire Dr. Harris’s courage to go against three hundred years of philosophical history, though the distinction between the foolhardy and courageous is, sometimes, hard to make. He, it should be noted, does not so much go against the last three hundred years as he, more often than not, chooses ignores it. He briefly acknowledges it by which he thinks it allows him to wave his hand in a “your fired” manor. Those expecting an analysis of metaethics or a clear methodology for the founding of a moral science will be sorely disappointed. He relies on emotion responses from his readers over clear cut cases of moral outrages like North Korean leadership oppressing his people or Muslim suicide bombers.
His argument in The Moral Landscape is a simplistic updated form of utilitarianism. Instead of greatest good, Dr. Harris substitutes the term, “well being.” By this he is hoping to avoid the problems of classical utilitarianism. Though, truly, the target is less in finding a basis for morality, than indulging in what made him famous, ad hoc and non sequitur attacks on Christianity and Islam. He begins and ends with a very dramatic claim that seems to rely on stereotypes and not evidence. Quote:


For nearly a century, the moral relativism of science has given faith-based religion—that great engine of ignorance and bigotry—a nearly uncontested claim to being the only universal framework for moral wisdom.

For him, religion makes the claims for moral certainty and secular science up until Dr. Harris, has settled for a defaulted moral relativism. He makes spirited attacks both on moral relativism and religious dogmatic morality, like when he tells us of walking away, cue bowed head sadly shaking at such ignorance, from a conversation in which another secular woman scholar chided him for calling acid throwing Taliban evil. Her point was that there are cultural conditions to moral judgments, but after being pushed to the extreme by Dr. Harris, she advocated a repugnant moral relativism. He is as correct for judging her morality harshly in similar fashion we would find the advocacy of nuclear genocide based on a bad understanding of theology or thinking I am abuse my toddler son by telling him Jesus loves him. The fact that these are extremes and that few intelligent people are at either poll does not deter Dr. Harris in his battle. Nor does the evidence for his claim has as much validity as the flying spaghetti monster deter Dr. Harris.
His claim comes from his own bias and his Manichean splitting of the world into the Children of the Light, rational science believers, and the Children of the Dark, irrational religion types. The problem for Dr. Harris is the existence of ethics departments both within and without religious and science institutions. If Dr. Harris were valid in his assessments, neither Notre Dame nor MIT would need ethics departments, Notre Dame because all ethics has been codified and all one had to do is consult the code, and MIT because science has nothing to do ethics, therefore no need for a department asking moral questions. The concept of wrestling with moral issues seems far from Dr. Harris’s Manichean reasoning. The isness of ethics departments gets in the way of the oughtness of his arguments.

One, reading his book, would expect a full critique of Hume’s is/ought distinction, either in a whole a chapter or section at least. Yet, the taking Hume out to the philosophical woodshed is lacking in The Moral Landscape. Hume is introduced and then dismissed with a bold declaration of disagreement as if Hume whole argument were a flavor of ice cream. If, the reader is guided to speculate, Dr. Harris disagrees with Hume that should be enough. His engagement of Hume’s argument occurs just three times, the above introduction, and then later he points out Hume was arguing against Religious types and, by implication, science should exempt. Finally, in an endnote, he quotes fellow celebrity atheist, Daniel Dennett’s attempt to answer Hume. Dennett tries his ice walk in socks against Hume, saying values have to be found on something. The ought has to be formed by the is, for that is all we have. Yet, if science only describes what is and what is only says what is and not what ought to be, and values come from what we believe ought to be, then is and ought still are divided. Dr. Harris provides no bridge between the two other than to treat Hume’s logic as an opinion to differ. Dr. Harris, in other words, abandons logic if it gets in the way of his beliefs.

It is enlightening to read a neo-prophet of pseudo-enlightenment dismiss Hume’s powerful logical argument with such flippant disregard for reason. But, Dr. Harris is less concern with ethics and more concern offering a catalog of various crimes done in the name of religion. He has so many examples from Afghanistan Taliban throw acid on women’s faces to a small group, claiming to be Christians, who killed a young boy and carried him around in a suitcase. There are tales of horrors for the prurient tastes, though none involving science. There is no retelling of the Dr. Josf Mengele experiments on twins in Auschwitz. Nor is there any talk of Tuskegee experiments that allowed poor share croppers die of syphilis to analysis the course of the disease. These experiments were done in the name of science and were inline with the scientific method for finding data. Most of us recoil morally from these examples as we do from the ones Dr. Harris cites. Of course, such evil done in the name of science does not invalidate science. Science research tends to be morally neutral. Science is about data and finding patterns despite what we believe about nature. If science calls into question out dogmatically held views, them we should at least examine them.

While he does not take on Hume, he spends several pages on his tired tirade against Dr. Francis Collins, the current head of National Institute of Health. Dr. Collins, by his very existence as a believing scientist, offers a direct evidential challenge to Dr. Harris worldview. Dr. Collins’s crime of publishing his beliefs as beliefs and not as science in his The Language if God makes Collins, for Dr. Harris, the very form of a bogyman. Dr. Harris claims that Dr. Collins commented intellectual suicide by bridging science and faith. News to anyone following NIH, as Dr. Collins has had a very successful first year, but again evidence does not stop Dr. Harris ranting on the dangers of faith. He then links Dr. Collins to Dr. John Polkinghorne theological writings. Dr. Harris points out that to his ear Polkinghorne’s writing sounds like the Alan Sokal hoax so it must then meaningless. By this same logic, the Pitdown Man hoax should invalidate Evolution. The whole of the book continues under the religion hurts human well being, while science increases human well being. He never entertains that religion helping human well being could be a finding of science.

The other person only dealt with in Dr. Harris’s endnotes is neuroscientist Dr. Andrew Newberg. Finding his research there should be a surprise. It shows an awareness of Dr. Newberg work, but an unwillingness to engage its most damning element to Dr. Harris’s thesis. What if practicing religion increases human wellness? Dr. Newberg work may provide a link between better health and spiritual experiences. The fact that Dr. Harris must be aware of this premise and yet chooses not to confront it say more about his methodology than his own arguments. He only considers evidence that supports his thesis and ignores evidence that challenges his position. Bad science makes for good copy for the choir of atheists willing to open their wallets to purchase this latest denouncement of religion

Dr Harris toward the end of his book provides a slim view of what he has in mind with a discussion on the psychology of human happiness. He makes some startling claims from current research. Humans are less happy as parents, even though they think they would be happier as parents. Also, being parents gets in the way of the work of contributions to society. Quote:


However, most of the research done on happiness suggests that people actually become less happy when they have children and do not begin to approach their prior level of happiness until their children leave home. Let us say that you are aware of this research but imagine that you will be an exception. Of course, another body of research shows that most people think that they are exceptions to rules of this sort: there is almost nothing more common than the belief that one is above average in intelligence, wisdom, honesty, etc. But you are aware of this research as well, and it does not faze you. Perhaps, in your case, all relevant exceptions are true, and you will be precisely as happy a parent as you hope to be. However, a famous study of human achievement suggests that one of the most reliable ways to diminish a person’s contributions to society is for that person to start a family.

The solution may be to outsource parenting. We can begin to imagine the future as Dr Harris. Maybe make factories of human beings were we could steer the babies of great promise, let us call them Alphas, into being the overlords of science. One could easily see a category of five levels: Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, and Epsilon. If one can synthesize a new drug, for now call it Soma, that could produce euphoria in the level of brain without any side effects, then it would increase human flourishing. We would, of course, keep areas were primitive humans would live for entertainment and research like say in present day New Mexico. Science would dictate to us what makes us happy, there would be no need for human autonomy outside the ruling science class of Alphas. The population could be contained to two billion or so. There would be no need for Shakespeare, Dostoevsky and certainly not the Bible. Dr. Harris’s beloved science (please do not confuse it for real world science, this is a religious faith) would be all that we would need. There would be no more wars, no more religions, no more suffering, no more freedom, no more human beings. What a Brave New World Dr Harris has in mind for us.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Anti-Ode to Monday Blues

Here is a poem of boredom. Why do we have so many poems of other experience and not boredom? After all, boredom is where most of life takes places. It was fun writing and why I solved my boredom problem.


The Anti-Ode to Monday Blues Poem

Ah, we have poems of love,
Poems of hate, poems written
For glory and poems praying
to God. We have poems that takes
Us for a walk and clean up
Our messes, the plastic crinkling
On the pavement, all the while
We sniff around the daisies,
Or other places. We have
Poems to delight us, to punish
Us, poems that play
Fetch, Kvetching poems that
Dogs us in the middle nights
or dog days of Summer.
We lap up poems
of religion, poems spirituality,
of poems of greed. Atheists
want poems too, but ones
like stuff animals that really are
not living. They settle for pit bull
poems of science.These poems
don't pray, either. They whine
like their paws, black with gray streaks,
were stuck with splinters.

But where, where, where
Are the poems of boredom?
The Monday poems of getting
Back to the office? Poems
Of our lives of waking up
To early and missing our families?
Where are the poems
Of the mythical creatures
That excite no one.I am bored
and call out to the lost one, call out
to those hit by the passing car
and forgotten. 


Unwanted puppies of an unwanted liter,
Boredom poems neither calls us
To cry out to God, or
Demand action. Graceless,
They dry our spirit. Poems
Of boredom are not prayers.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Sam Harris stacks the Moral Deck

Sam Harris has written a new book, The Moral Landscape. Having read it in the last few day, I come away with respect for Harris, not in his logic, but in his rhetoric. Take his examples of a Bad Life and a Good Life. Quote for his life:

The Bad Life
You are a young widow who has lived her entire life in the midst of civil war. Today, your seven-year-old daughter was raped and dismembered before your eyes. Worse still, the perpetrator was your fourteen-year-old son, who was goaded to this evil at the point of a machete by a press gang of drug-addled soldiers. You are now running barefoot through the jungle with killers in pursuit. While this is the worst day of your life, it is not entirely out of character with the other days
of your life: since the moment you were born, your world has been a theater of cruelty and violence. You have never learned to read, taken a hot shower, or traveled beyond the green hell of the jungle. Even the luckiest people you have known have experienced little more than an occasional respite from chronic hunger, fear, apathy, and confusion. Unfortunately, you’ve been very unlucky, even by these bleak standards. Your life has been one long emergency, and now it is nearly over.

The Good Life
You are married to the most loving, intelligent, and charismatic person you have ever met. Both of you have careers that are intellectually stimulating and financially rewarding. For decades, your wealth and social connections have allowed you to devote yourself to activities that bring you immense personal satisfaction. One of your greatest sources of happiness has been to find creative ways to help people who have not had your good fortune in life. In fact, you have just won a billion-dollar grant to benefit children in the developing world. If asked, you would say that you could not imagine how your time on earth could be better spent. Due to a combination of good genes and optimal circumstances, you and your closest friends and family will live very long, healthy lives, untouched by crime, sudden bereavements, and ther misfortunes.

Talk about stacking the deck. There are several questions. What if the Good Life of the second helps keep the Bad Life of the first in place. The green jungle hell is kept a hell because of the natural resources of the jungle, say oil, are easier to exploit in chaos of the civil war. The oil companies who keep fanning the flame of the civil war are the same that fuel the comfort and wealth of the Good Life? The same oil wealth  that allows the Good Life in the second cause the misery of the Bad Life. The billion dollar grant, some of which comes from the same oil company, of the second helps with temporary services for the first, but it does nothing more to keep in the woman of the Bad Life in servitude. In fact, most of the money has been appropreated by the same people who kidnap the 14 year old and turned him into rapist and murder in the first place. The woman of the first example does have another connected to the woman of second example. The Bad Life woman has a distant relative who is paid under the table to look after the children of one of  Good Life woman's friends. And though the relative has to work long hours with no benefits and is always at the beck and call of her boss, a spoiled trust funder who really does care for children, the relative counts herself lucky not living in the green hell, caused in large part by the Good Life in which she lives at the fringes of. 

Would the woman in the second example even be aware of her relationship to the first? Can there be a Good Life on the back of oppression? Would the second really be a moral peak, as Sam Harris really wants it to be?

Unfortunately, my little addendum to Sam Harris's example is closer to the truth than his little stacked account. 

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Genesis of Hate and the Teaching of Sin


The other day I took my son to the park. Another child saw his sewn eye and pointed and asked his mother what was wrong. I had no problem with his asking, but his mother severely chastised her son for pointing, for his natural curiosity, and for his child-like concern. She told him that it was rude to point, and made her boy, maybe only seven, feel hurt for asking. She could see her own rudeness, sin.
 
He then, turned and gave my 17 month old a dirty look. No wonder, as his mother had made him feel like dirt for his curiosity. This mother had succeeded in turning her son's wonder and concern for my son into despise and hate. The old cliche that kids are honest is true. I always had the question as to when that became the meanness that dominates our lives. This mother gave me an insight into how sin turns love into hate. My son own look at being hated told me that, in someways, I can't protect him. 
Poem I wrote about it:
 
On Seeing the Stares at My Son's Eye
I feel the bleeding Jesus. His blood
washes over me, allowing love. He called
for forgiveness as I called
for his blood. The sweat mixed with blood
from the garden has dried to the shade
sun baked earth. Below the cries
of the women, the curses of men
and shuffle of bare feet in the dirt,
there is beautiful horrible silence. 
In the crowd are slaves, like me, beaten and abuse
By the commerce of daily living. They come
To vent their hatred at the blasphemer
Unknown to most of them just a week before.
Like the broken well dug deep into the earth,
his blood continues to color the ground, color
The street, color the faces of desperation.
Step by step, God slowly died. No madman,
Asking about God and lamenting the murder,
Appears.  Only supermen of arrogance
Goosestepping across the human history.
Show up to mock, spit and celebrate the kingdom
Of death. Death. Death, a real possibility,
Shatters the mirror his disciples saw through
To understand the messiah and his promises. 
Here, Christ dies in every moment,
dies in every act of hatred, and dies
in many of my actions. To taste the new life
of the resurrection, we have to taste the cross
and his death. Weary of death,
we go to prepare the body of God.
Then Easter.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Hight Art by Tito

The Beautiful and Dreadful Pain

The Beautiful and Dreadful Pain
-to Eric Korotish (1961-2010)

In celebrating a much too short
life of a young father,
the masks of “okay” and “doing well” fails
to cover the problem of summing up
a life. In came the catalog of achievements,
like some final resume or permanent record.

Permanent, like drinking bad Whisky, which
promise escape, coats our necks making us stiff.
Hundreds of friends come on a sunny day
to speak of his life and find the glue
of awkward silence. What can we say?

Eric was not a report card. Gone, yes,
even as we find fragment of him
in his son and his daughter, in our tears
from our stories. Memory massages our failures
to find words. The next day, I wake with a headache
from moving chairs and not getting enough water.

Jesus promised living water, water to wash away
the pain of death, the pain of suffering, and the pain
of living. Living, living, living means feeling like crap
at the death of a friend.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

In a time of Desert

We just had a very unexpected death at our church. He was a friend and I have been silent about it, even as it weighs down like a solid steel wolf trap on all of our lives. Though I am a poet, the words fall from me like colored leafs of autumn. I stand bare with my roots searching for living water.

As the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein once wrote "Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent."

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Justice in the Hole – A New Way to Educate

The early church had a fondness for calling the Jesus’ Gospel the Way. The Way indicated a new way of living based on God’s love. Within the light of God’s love, we would find freedom, creativity and eternal live for God is the God of the living. Jesus, the new movement claimed, completely revised how we saw and experienced the world. Where other saw pain and suffering, the Christians saw the cross and the possibility of resurrections. Jesus reordered live and we could see possibility when there was none before. The Way was and is a new way of living.

I think about the Way as being a new way of seeing the world. Jesus would empower people that usually did not have power in their normal day to day life. The woman at the well was a woman despised by her community and then one encounter with Jesus changes her standing. Where she was alone at the start of the story, she leads the town back to Jesus at the end of the story. Jesus gave her life back to her.

I think about this Way as I contemplate the work of Dr. Sugata Mitra and his Hole in the Wall Education project (HIWEL). For those unfamiliar with the HIWEL, in 1999, Dr Mitra started an experiment outside his office in the Indian slum of Kalkaji, New Delhi. He put a computer in a wall with no instructions on how to use it. Soon, the neighborhood kids learn to use the computer and started to teach other younger kids of the slum to use it. Dr. Mitra stumbled onto a new method of teaching by harnessing a child’s curiosity and their natural wanting to lead younger children. He then move on his initial success and repeated it throughout the rural India. Same results. He tried his new methods with other subjects, molecular biology with preteens and after some adjustments, same results. Suddenly, children who had no future, now had new possibilities.

What I admire about Dr. Mitra work is that it is inspiring. It also challenges our notions of what is possible. Also, his work is now being taken back to the developed world and it is also having success. We have to start transforming our educational philosophy form the older industrial model where children are though of as products on an assembly line. HIWEL starts us on a new way of looking at education, one more interactive and one that incorporates the human need to help with how the older children helping the younger learn.

When the subject of justice for the poor comes up, the usual responses are platitudes. Yet, the reality, we are to meet the Millennium Development Goals, we need less platitudes and more practical methods. Goal number 2 is primary education. Dr. Mitra’s work makes the reality of this goal imaginable. There is a Way, and the Way is a way of love.

Here is Dr Mitra's last Ted Talk

Thursday, September 16, 2010

On the Day a Five-Year-Old was Raped, Murdered, and Left in the Wilderness

Reading my old poems, searching for poems of love for my book of love poems, I came across some poems of mine that I had forgotten and the touched me. Reading them it is like trying to touch a stranger, even as the stranger was once in my skin. This skin sags more, but as I remember this poem about when I learned about a horrible act, I relive how frustrated I was in the face of overwhelming evil. I still feel overwhelmed in the face of evil

On the Day a Five-Year-Old was Raped, Murdered, and Left in the Wilderness

How we drown in a waterless city. Little girls play
here. They will become bored uncertain teens sunning themselves
by concrete ponds. The males move through this city’s pollution

looking. Lord, we live in a panting place, despairing
the beginning. Life seems to stall until our death. Trying
to hold on only to the next generation of children

who will merely see the Milky Way as tourists, we stay
a stranger. To creation, to our life, to the carriers of our genes,
to each other, to ourselves, to the promise, to all this we cry.

And it all dries to grime that coats our cars, corroding
the exposed metal. What is to be said to her mother? Who can
pay such a cost? Helpless, we need your judgment to slap

our face with ice water, we need to wake up. This death
cannot be celebrated. We need your report of devotion
to rain upon us, to bind us. We need the washing down

of our air to ease our breath. We need you
to pronounce the “good.” News moves
past us on our technological screens. Untouched,

we offer opinions, suppositions, and ignore. Our police
beat up a black teen, and we wait for a piece that will explain
her pain. The spirit washes. Then we complain, “Where are you?”

Where are we? Drowning in our dust, we stall. Call us back.
Lord, send a fire to devour our strongholds. Shower
us. Make us weak, again. Make us live, again.

Monday, September 13, 2010

An Ancient Modern Story: a variation on a theme from Jorge Luis Borges

The rock has a long history. Anthropologists find traces of it in all human cultures. Bits of the rock are found anywhere human activity happens. From the moment it was stained red, it has been remolded over and over. Some of the minerals found in it have been use to make slave chains, the base of whips, and prison bars.

Iron was extracted from its core to make nails what would pierce the open palms of God. The iron became steel and found its way to other parts of the world like Nazi made ovens, in razor wires, in the fences that divide families and nations. Dr. Anderson’s team out UCHP found parts of the rock in the bullets that shot Gandhi, King and Kennedy. It is a key component in the making of war chariots, cannons, tanks, and jet fighters. It was forged into part of the cockpit of airplanes that changed the New York skyline. The rock seems to lead to great amount of tears. Dr. Kingston’s team found elements in the rock that actually causes madness and will devour all in its path, including the person infected. It makes us aware of the rock in others, but blinds us the the rocks effect on ourselves. It is a form of suicide.

Parts of the rock was pulverized and made into words. Here, the rock found the skull of innocence much easier to hit. Over and over the dust of the rock has found its voice in the millions throughout history. Making men insane with rage. It had the force to ignite genocide in Soviet Russia, Cambodia, Rwanda, and to many others that are, unfortunately like the stars of the heavens, countless. Its dust can be found on the streets of America, in the Middle East, and in even the heart of all mortal humans. The strangest aspect of the words of red rock is that it makes humans irrational. It has the tendency to divide people, and ultimately make us alone. Reasoning away the words seems ineffectual in ridding oneself of the words.

For centuries, God has been working on clear the debris and the stain from the rock. It seems that his blood does help in removing the effects of the rock. He gave a new meal and an timeless word to help in freeing us from the rock's words. The problem is getting the word out and having humans rid themselves of the rock from their life. This is the work of divine justice, love and power or simply the work of social justice.

One wonders if Cain understood the lasting effects of the rock with which he stuck his brother, Abel with. Cain’s rock has been with us since then. Sadly, I find the dust of the rock in my blood. I have to drink the meal of wine and bread to combat the rock in my own blood. I remember this dust flowing through my blood, as I remember the day of September 11, 2001.

You Could Have Died Before You Were Born

Here is a love poem I wrote for my wife. What do you think?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Mystery and Evidence within the New Atheism

Tim Crane's post in the NY Times's The Sone, suffers many of the same problems that many of the New Atheism, mainly stating unsupportable premises as true and the then taking these premises to the casino royale of philosophical overreach. Looking at at few starting with his first:

"According to their view, religions — by this they mean basically Christianity, Judaism and Islam and I will follow them in this — are largely in the business of making claims about the universe that are a bit like scientific hypotheses. In other words, they are claims — like the claim that God created the world — that are supported by evidence, that are proved by arguments and tested against our experience of the world."

These three faiths are actually revealed faiths, and not at all like scientific hypotheses by way of experimentation. Moses carries down the tablets of the law given to him. Jesus says he's from the Father. Mohammad recites what the angel Gabriel gave him. At the core of these faiths is revelation. The evidence really does not support Crane's assertion here. By trying to place it in the world of faith, he wants to argue that faith (or Abrahamic faiths) have to conform to a scientific standard of evidence. But his own assertion here fails its own test. Second:

"What is more, while religious belief is widespread, scientific knowledge is not."

Dr Crane makes an interesting move here. He makes scientific knowledge based on how well the normal person understand the details of scientific theory and then he dismisses normal person understanding the details of theology and only looks at common believe. Taken in such a way, he then can ignore much of the evidence to the contrary. It is a great move to push his agenda, but not so well in that ignores reality. Is scientific knowledge really not widespread? If you take the same standard of knowledge that Crane uses for religion, the common believer believing in Jesus' rising from the ead, but not being able to give a detail theological explanation of the Trinity, and apply that standard to scientific knowledge of the general public and suddenly a different picture emerges.

Not a day passes that the media does not tout the latest discovery of science. Science or better scientism (those who take the mantel of science) governs more of how we live our lives than any religion. How we eat, what we eat, how we talk to each other, how best to raise our children, what we teach and how we teach our children. There is no area of our lives that science does not touch. A study says cinnamon is good in lowering our chances of getting diabetes, then offer to the store we go. Omega 3 suddenly is in everything, as science tells us it good. Even some of the current problems come from our naive accepting of the proclamations of science. The controversy of vaccinations being a source of autism started from an article in Lancet in 1998. People accepted it out of a strong faith in Science. When the article proved bogus, then proposition already had become faith.

The final assumption he makes is drawing a dichotomy between religious and science worldviews. In science, the exception invalidates the rule. So, if there are scientist that are religious, then the evidence invalidates Crane, along with many of the new atheists, dichotomy. If one can be both, then then cannot be mutual exclusive. So, the existence of Francis Collins, John Polkinghorne, Ken MIller and the many other well respected scientists who also have a faith invalidates the claim.  

He ends his piece by having tentative support for Steven Jay Gould's NOMA, “non-overlapping magisteria,” but more a peace gesture to the irrational believers, than a heartfelt belief. But the only effect of this gesture was to land him onto Sam Harris's Reason Project's Hall of shame. No mystery here. Any article that does not support that the antireligous bias of Sam Harris, the Glenn Beck of the New Atheists, has to be attacked.

I end with an aside about Sam's Hall of Shame. I think that the Reason Project has one of the few Hall of Shame who includes a more prominent thinkers than its board of advisers.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Love Poems for Valentine's (Poems to Make Her Fall in Love)

I have just published my first ebook, Love Poems for Valentine's  (Poems to Make Her Fall in Love) It is a how to book. How to use love poems to get ourselves into the experience of love. I have been fascinated by mirror neurons and their effect on us. We may be creatures of compassion and our basic need is to belong. I realized this by dusting off my love poems and polishing them up, I again got in touch with my own experience of love for my wife Lace. Below is a poem I wrote about her and also a  video about the poem I made. Tell me what you think. And of course by the book, it is about as much as a simple starbucks visit.


The Mambo Queen
to my wife


Hips dance with a deep understanding. She
bids with her merengue's progression. Salsa hot,
and she teaches the grace of shaking. How to
understand her round mango dignity? How

she moves with such fructose. Some jerk her around,
as if she was a paper doll. And she is not over-
come. Others, smooth as polished apples find
her matching them. The graceful pair patterns

the merging eternity. She rumbles the rumba
of slaves refusing to be chained. Transcending,
and echoing the truth, she keeps time. Her feet
voice freedom, her lengthening legs promise life.

Can this be true? Can we find the divine in union?
Lovers eat the motion of beats, humming the melody.


Thursday, August 26, 2010

We the People … Forming a Better Union

It took over 70 years of blood, work, and persistence, but the movement prevailed and on August 18, 1920, women where given the right to both vote and run for office. In 1971, Congress proclaimed August 26 "Women's Equality Day" to recognize the Suffrage Movement. Christians should be proud of this day as not only was the dignity of women that St Paul recognized in Galatians 3.28, the Suffrage movement has its roots in the Second Great Awakening (1800-1840). Christians were instrumental in the adoption and passage of 19th amendment. The spirit moved and the oppressed were liberated, just as the Bible promises.

Today, in both parties and from a wide range of the political spectrum, women are involved and active. Whatever you may think of Sarah Palin, Hilary Clinton, Kay Hutchison Bailey, or Nancy Pelosi, there can be no doubt that women have taken their rightful place as members of political world. Moreover, Suffrage Movement made the ideals of the US revolution of self-determination, self-government and self-reliance to build for the common good available for all of the people.

Joining in praising the wisdom of our ancestors, who recognized in the political world what St Paul recognized in the Spiritual world: all are one in Christ. For recognize today, August 26, that all humans are created equal and endowed by their creator with abilities and talents. By recognizing the rights to vote and run for office, we simply recognize the rights creation and God grants to all.Though their is still work to do. Woman can be scientists, senators, and soldiers, they are still paid less for the same work as men. We have to continue to find and live into Galatians 3.28.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Love Poem for wife, Lace

 

Here is a poem, love sonnet, about my wife just because I feel so much love her.

Ritual of Love
to my wife

Carefully, she gathers the fresh vegetables,
the angel hair pasta, the flaxen cerminis. Her hands
stroke clean the skin of red roma tomatoes. The pan
starts to heat up from an outside flame. My
rhythm chops the provisions all into pieces that will fit
within our mouths. Pesto, olives, balsamic sweet
vinegar all blend their flavors in a scorching pan.
The strains of pasta looses their stiffness in searing

water, preparing to contain the meal’s sustenance.
The light of the growing dusk outlines the redness
in your hair. The bread blends with garlic and butter
in the oven. The salad is tossed and we precisely set

the table. A blessing, bread, glasses of crimson
wine and we are eating with grateful hearts.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Poem in honor of a friend, Gunnard Johnson

Today, I missed a friend who recently passed away. This a poem about him and the lesson he taught me about human dignity and God.


On Seeing a Good Friend Rise from His Wheelchair
at Christmastime and Suddenly Finding Myself
Being filled with the Holy Spirit
To Gunnard Johnson

The dignity of a life long faith finds expression
in the simply act of lifting his body to stand
before his God in prayer. To join others as a man,
in humble adoration leaves an impression.

Humbled, God’s Spirit breathes in to us
Joy. At being with each other, at being
With love, we discover the act of seeing.
God came in the form of animated dust.

I have known Gunnard for years, and then
I have yet to know him as God knows.
God seeing the whole, though our lows
And heights that our souls reach and sends

Us to the timeless place in the House of the Lord.
Gunnard responded to the music, the eternal chord.

Monday, August 9, 2010

And God saw that it was Good ...Life and love

The Stone, NY Times's philosophy blog,  published an interesting piece by Simon Critchley. Love, as the theologian Kierkegaar saw it, is about the divine - human relationship.The article sparked how I think about love.

Love is the affirmation of life. It is God declaring the creation good after each day of creation. On going creation is good. Love seeks to relate and not to possess life.

For many, love is the affirmation of desire. To love as affirmation of desire is to posses it. In order to possess something it must become an object. Such love is no love at all, but a turning the other into an it to be controlled and own. Ultimately, that process must make the self and it as well.

The love that say life is good doesn't seek possession, such a love meets the world in wonder and awe. Love meeting the world reveals grace.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Balls of Discovery and a thank you to everyone

Yesterday, my son held two balls. He had just learn to say "ball," and he was so proud of himself at his discovery. He held them out, and repeatedly said, "ball." Wanting and waiting for his parents to repeat after him the word, "ball."

He held onto the balls even as he tried to crawl. We gave him a cracker and some cheese and he still held onto the balls, though managing to pick up pieces of the cracker with his pinky, the power of the human spirit. The glimmer of understanding that the objects he held were related to the funny sound, "ball" made these objects precious to my son. He held onto the two balls; he held onto his beginning of understanding of the world; he held onto his connection to others. Balls are interesting in that at any one point on a ball any direction leads to back original point. Balls are metaphors for life.

I tell this story as way of saying thanks for all of the support shown by everyone at my work. Last week they held a fundraiser for my family to help with all the expenses.  They held a lunch spaghetti feed for us. My son came and was greeted with love and care. He giggled like only a toddler can, lighting up the world. I wanted a week to reflect on the support to say thank you. I wanted to respond and react in gratitude.
In a way, I am learning how connected we are to each other.

 Yes, the money has help, and so to has the other support. The kind questions after my son surgery. The comments about how cute he looks in his video. The thoughts and goodwill throughout his struggles. The offers of help emotional, financially, spiritually are beyond what I could have hope for, or even expected. I am grateful for this sphere of concern and support. It is hard to respond to love as it is so humbling. All of this to say that I am grateful for everything done for my son.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Time, Time, Time…See What’s Become of Me

Waiting, waiting for the economy to return, waiting for the jobs to return, waiting in line, waiting for green energy, waiting until Christmas, waiting on the Lord, waiting for this post to make its point, waiting, clearly, is something despised by Americans. Like hyperactive kids needing a sugar fix, we want what we want now. That has been the promise of consumerism. Isn’t it? Why wait. We can have it all now. Could it be we are all witness to the biggest cultural change in American history?

Dr. Philip Zimbardo, sociologist of Stanford Prison Experiment fame, has a theory of time perception that he elaborated on in his book, The Time Paradox. He, using the results of the Marshmallow Experiment, created typology of six different perceptions of time, two poles, positive and negative, for past, present and future. In the Marshmallow Experiment, almost forty years ago, four year olds were given a choice of having one marshmallow now or wait to eat the marshmallow for a few minutes and receive a second marshmallow. Only a minority of the kids could muster the strength to wait and get second one. The researchers found that the children that waited went to have better academic performance later in life. Planning for the future made them better students and led to richer lives.

He has a great little video explaining his ideas. Don’t worry it is not long.



A couple of questions popped up in engaging Dr. Zimbardo’s work. First, how does the world of advertising and marketing affect us? It is clear that one of the major aspects of advertising is to push us into what Dr Zimbardo calls hedionistic present. This is the same perspective of time that all addicts have. We are pushed to impulse buying and getting what we want now. Second, how did the older protestant view of eschatology affected us? Christians were taught and believed in the future as in the future return of Jesus. The Kingdom of God was both here and fulfilled in the future. It did make us a people who would sacrifice for a better future, and this eschatological view formed the backbone of protestant work ethic. In many ways, we are product of planning for the future by our ancestors.

Have we seen in just a couple of generations a switch from a people who see and prepare for the future to now a people who live for current pleasure? This dilemma of time can be seen in the climate deniers, who, at their core do not want to give up their way of life even if it means a not to distant future disaster. This dilemma of time is seen in our not wanting to invest in the future by supporting projects for the future. Duty and sacrifice have been replace by, “I want what I want now.” The final question and the most important, how do regain a since of the future? Or will our future be colored a hazy shade of winter?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Freewill, mindreading, and God

I have been on a Ted kick lately. Intellectually stimulating, Ted talks make me wonder.

Below is one about a new technology that is using brainwaves to move virtual objects, then, with the computer wired, moving real objects. It raises questions of Freewill, mindreading, and God. The end by showing some of the applications like thinking the lights on. Science fiction stuff, where we seemly are fused with machines and we end up living in Matrix like world. What does that mean to our faith in Jesus. If person can be half human and half machine, can that person be a follow of Jesus?

There was an interesting editorial in the NY Times philosophy blog the Stone, William Egginton makes the case for freedom and freewill. The problem he tackles is a corollary to the new technology of brainwaves. Recently, researches have created a machine that can predict the decisions of a monkey. The idea that soon we can have one that predicts human decisions. If a machine can predict ones thought, does that disprove free will.

Now, before making too much of this, the technology works by reading the baselines of the brainwaves. A person first has to think of what he wants to do, the computer gets a brainwave reading. Then when the person thinks the same thought, the theory goes, the brainwaves with be the same and then moves the object. If I try to fool the machine and imagine the object left and code it move right, the machine would have no way of reading this. If I think left it would read move right. It can read my mind, only baseline reproduction of thoughts.

All I know is that there has to be so much theological reflection as the new technologies start to enter our lives.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Mirror Neurons, being hard wired with Compassion and Jesus

I remembering feeling pain the night that Joe Theismann professional football career came to an end. The violent snapping of his shin into two pieces, cause a real sensation in my body. I felt for the guy, literally.

Now, science is catching up with my experience. The discovery of mirror neuron, neurons that fire on seeing another's pain, action, pleasure and multiple touches and feelings of another. They are the compassion neuron. They are also the ones that fire when I see images of Jesus on the Cross, and I start to understand the the nature of suffering. We all have them, mirror neurons. Theologically, they are startling because they make they case for humans being hardwired to compassion and empathy. We can feel the pain of God on the Cross. It hurts us to see Jesus nailed, naked, and humiliated for our collective hatred, sin, and pride. The pain we feel makes us look away, repulsed and ashamed. The blood we see and our mirror neurons make us feel is the product of our sin. Jesus bleeds and if we have the courage to see, we can transcend our sin through his work on the cross, the work of compassion. Compassion God show us defines grace. The compassion we show Christ save us from ourselves. God transforms us into loving people through the work of the cross.

One of the major protestant  movements within the art of the Church has been to remove the figure of Jesus on the Cross slowly from the walls. Who wants to see our sin in action. Who needs that pain. Yet, we need compassion. Now, Megachurches remove the cross itself, because people feel uncomfortable with the cross (compassion?). The question of the value of feeling uncomfortable and feeling compassion being a good thing does not seem to come up. Give the people what the want and not what they need. The scandal of the Cross is the scandal of suffering and this is in turn the scandal of compassion. If mirror neurons makes us feel another's pain, and no one wants to feel pain, then maybe the scandal of the cross is feeling the pain of another. Yet, only in this suffering can love be born. Being hardwired to compassion, also hardwired us to love.

I know these are but random thoughts at lunch. Below are some videos explaining the importance of mirror neurons. The first one is a cool graphic video about James Rifkin's lecture about mirror neurons helping in the creating empathic civilization. It is fun.






Here is another talk by Neurologist V.S. Ramachandran on Mirror Neurons. He goes over similar ground as the did Jeremy Rifkin but with no where near the cool graphics.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A Word by Any Other Name, Should Smell as Sweet.

Then I said it. I insulted a guest in my own home. I didn't mean to, but I felt, as a writer and lover of language, I had no choice. When my guest, a fine man and great friend, called President Obama a dictator and a worse president than former Ugandan President Idi Amin, I spoke up. I made the case that using “dictator” and comparing the President Obama to Idi Amin went beyond the pale. I did so out of my love of words, not out of siding with President Obama. Words have to mean something.

I found myself in a similar position a few years prior, defending President Bush from charges of his setting up a theocracy and a military dictatorship in the United States. Equally ridiculous charge, and it reveals a disturbing trend in our political discourse. We debate by accusation. We have let our political discourse fall sway to the tricks of Madison Ave.

Recently, there has been a lot of talk about bring back civility to the political discourse. I know too much of US history, the duel between Burr and Hamilton, the accusations of Grover Cleveland having an illegitimate child, the yellow journalism of the early twentieth century, to be fooled into thinking civility was ever part of our political game. The change, as I see it, reduction to the absurdity of accusation. Why argue about a difference of policy when you can call the other side, Nazi. Yet, Nazism was a political philosophy based on a particular racial historical myth that no major main stream American politician holds currently. America does have real Neo-Nazis politicians, though they are a small fringe group. To call any major politician a Nazi is to abuse the word, Nazi. Abusing language like this is like pointing to dog and calling it a prickly pear.

I believe this further cheapening of our language comes from the world of marketing. In the marketing world, words with a strong emotional attachment are drained of their meaning and then tied to the product being sold. Freedom becomes toothpaste, choice becomes beer, love becomes driving a car. Words become muddled in meaning and powerful in raising emotions. Love, freedom and choice have nothing to do with the product they are attached to, and to pull off the trick, the words are purposely made vague. For a poet wishing to express the love of God, and isleft with words that conjure up less awe and more toothpaste, this is a tragedy. Quick, give a meaning to freedom.

This process now happens within our politics. The accusation of President Bush being a Fascist, the accusation of President Obama of being a Marxist, or the accusation that US is a dictatorship can only work if Fascism, Marxism, and Dictatorship are emptied of any real meaning, while retaining their emotional repulsion. Suddenly, the language is cheapen to the point of a fastfood plastic toy we can only choke on. How poor will become when we can no longer talk to each other because words can only bring up emotions. In the beginning was the Word. Words have to retain their meanings for us to give us any semblance of truth. To find love, we have to have at least a workable understanding of what love means.

The problem of our political discourse is not civility but a lack of reality, because to hear the political pundits talking and blogging in the media, our choice in November is between Marxists and Fascists and not between Republicans and Democrats. Let us mourn for our bleeding language.

Monday, June 21, 2010

And then the eye moved


www.tips-fb.com
My wife called my at work early in the morning,  a rare occurrence. The reason was answered prayer. My son started to move his eye. The surgery had shocked the third nerve and we feared that it could lead to blindness. We were given 50-50 chance that it would comeback, and it looks like it has. This maybe the first step, but it is a big one. Joy floods me like flash of fast moving water, sweeping into faith.
Prayer:

Thank you, Lord
for gift of our son.
For hope and for love
So be it
Amen

Saturday, June 19, 2010

God, a Baby and a Dog


www.tips-fb.com
I am playing around with editing movies we taken of Tito, my son. A baby play with a dog makes me happy. God makes himself present in smallest way and we have to pause to notice God and his message of Love.

Suffer the little Children

Below is my latest submission for Sojourners. What bothers me about the response to the post was focusing on the CRC issue. The major thrust of the piece is my outrage over our Tax dollars being used to recruit and train child as soldiers.





God's Politics



Suffer the Little Children

by Ernesto Tinajero 06-17-2010

Fictional character Miss Jean Brodie from Muriel Spark’s novel, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, famously quipped, “Give me a girl at an impressionable age, and she is mine for life!”

Miss Jean Brodie is a protofascist, who chooses certain girls to mold into her image. Underlining her philosophy of education is two assumptions: 1) Children are impressionable, 2) They can be remade into her images. In the end of both the novel and film version, she is betrayed by one of her girls, Sandy, which undercuts her philosophy. Miss Brodie can hold sway over the children for a little while, but in the end, they find their own way. The kernel of truth is that children desperate for love can be for a time be forced into another’s image. Therefore, children become a tempting target for indoctrination into all sorts of evil.
Can we be really surprised that many seek out children for their violent ends? The report in The New York Times about the use of children soldiers by our allies in Somalia is both disturbing and predictable. Doe-eyed boys, carrying fully loaded Kalashnikovs, playing war with real human blood should more than make us pause. The fact that U.S. tax payers could possibly be funding such violations of childhood should cut us all to the core. Jesus weeps for the children.
We should be ashamed of ourselves for not signing the Convention on the Rights of the Child. We join only Somalia in not signing this pact, which says that no child under 15 should be a soldier. Jesus had much to say about those who lead children to stumble. Christians of all political stripes should demand that this be put to an end. There can be no defense for turning kids into killing machines.

Miss Jean Brodie serves a stark reminder of thinking we can mold and use children for evil. Her downfall came from one of her girls. Will we one day be betrayed by the children we have armed? Let us not wait to find out but fight to stop this practice.
portrait-ernesto-tinajero1Ernesto Tinajero is a freelance writer in Spokane, Washington, who earned his master’s degree in theology from Fuller Seminary. Visit his blog at beingandfaith.blogspot.com.

Categories: Human Rights

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Pain must find a way

Ah, the joys of peacemaking. Why is that peacemaking always feels like being placed on rough would and having sharp metal driven into the flesh? The reality of peacemaking is that emotions has to take it payment in pain. The pain can come from anywhere, it just need the pain. Much like an oppressed worker takes out his frustrations on his children, we always look to extract pain for pain. The Cross of Jesus comes to mind. Peacemaking has to understand the flow of pain if it hopes to transcend violence. The anger can not simple be damned up with damning us. The best way I have found is in letting the pain flow out and not fight it. Hear the words coming out and accept them. Take the blows without returning them. The way of the Cross is the only way out of the cycle of pain violence pain violence.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Is Google Making Us Ignore God?

God calls on us to meditate on God and God’s word. However, does the fast intake of information from TV, film, and especially the Internet make us less likely to experience God? According to new research, electronic gadgets actually change how we think and focus. Nicholas Carr famously asked “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” Will it also make us ignore God?

Most of us now live in cities so bright that we can hardly see stars, much less the Milky Way. We most likely think of stars as spoiled performers and entertainers. Our food comes in plastic and cardboard, disconnecting us from how it is grown or raised. Eating the landscape was a profound spiritual experience for our ancestors, hence why Jesus chose the breaking of bread and drinking wine with us as a sign of his work. The meal was both a precious and elegant reminder of our dependence on God for our daily existence. But now food becomes fast food to match our impatience. Convenience trumps nutrition, and busyness pulls us from wonder into fidgetiness.

We drive in self-contained cars disconnecting us from the environment. Is it any wonder most of us who fill our tanks with gas cannot make the connection to the gushing oil polluting the Gulf? (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=127511500) We can easily throw blame at BP but not look at our big gas guzzlers as a source for our ever-increasing disaster. We demand BP take responsibility but will we? Time to notice the logjam in our vision.

The theological perspective is that this busyness of the business of modern life draws us into the world of Martha and away from sitting at the feet of Jesus. We are being called to distraction, and the quiet, still voice of God goes unnoticed — unnoticed in the flood of ever new links to follow, unnoticed in the hectic pace of modern life, unnoticed in the flood of events, information, and distractions. Through it all, God continues to call us to sweet voice of prayer. Yes, the call I am heeding — returning to simplicity and healthier life — may seem too simple to make a difference. Yet, does it make it any less true?

Time to draw back and take notice of the toes of Christ, to listen to voice of the King of Peace and hear the Lord cry in our babies’ weeping. We need to practice humility and relearn the art of reflection, and return to life’s  better portion.

First appeared on:
Culture Watch

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The passing of John Wooden

The most successful basketball coach has passed away. I could go on and go what made his the most successful coach, his ten championship, his perfect seasons, his innovation, the 88 game won in a row, or even the friendship of his former players, but why let me speak for him, when he defines success for us so well. Below is his TED talk on success. His definition is simple, powerful, and based on what he learned from his faith, his dad and his love of poetry. His are words of Wisdom.