I am now blogging at a new blog: erdman31.com

If you post comments here at Theos Project, please know that I will respond and engage your thoughts in a timely manner.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

"Heavenly Father...."

We were all sitting on some couches and furniture in an apartment - a group of us Christian guys. We were discussing what it looks like to live the Christian life and some of the struggles. At one point someone made a comment that made us all realize that often times our prayers to God revolved around requests for this and that. Particularly requests that God would help us in this or that situation.

This prompts a question in my mind about how we perceive God. I think that the frequency and content of our prayers to God is probably based, in large part, to how we perceive God. Perhaps the reason that our small group of guys prays the way we do is because we view God primarily as a problem solver. Does this reflect our predominately male dominated view of God? Male = Problem Solver

So, I ask you the following questions:

1) What is the primary way that you view God? Domineering father? A friend to chat with throughout the day? A benevolent grandfather? A God of vengeance and wrath who punishes the evil? An ambivalent spectator? Etc., etc., etc.

2) How do you think this view of God become your primary and dominant way of thinking about God?

I'm curious to hear your perspectives.

u r kewl

For some reason I've been on a roll recently with my comments about current western culture.....Today in a theology class our professor mentioned how he was interacting with a college student who had multiple cell phones. He gives this student a hard time because she has two cell phones for no conceivable reason at all. Well, actually there is a reason. After all, one of her cell phones is old (1 year) and the new one is cool - it's pink!

We are a very conservative college here at Grace, but nonetheless there are still many students grabbing up blackberrys and other cell phones of which they only actually need about 5% of the features. Why do they buy them if they don't need the features?

I think we live in a unique and fascinating culture where much of how we find meaning in life is dictated by our response to the media. I use the term "media" very, very broadly. Media is the targeted marketing and advertising that happens in our culture, which is huge but it isn't the whole story. Media is also journals and internet and television shows and movies and radio and the books we buy and whatever else. We are absorbed in media and it defines us. That's why students and kids buy things. It's not just about "being cool." I think that's too simplistic. It is about happiness and meaning and purpose in our lives. In churches we might tell our kids that they should find meaning and purpose in God/Bible/etc. however I submit that we are fooling ourselves. After all, most of these same parents are telling their kids not to believe the media because they heard something like it from a Dobson radio show or read it in a "Christian" book/magazine, etc. News flash: Dobson=media. And your kids know that you are influenced by the media just as much as they are. What you are really telling them is that there is "good" media (Dobson, "Christian" publishers, etc.) and there is "bad" media, which happens to be most of what the kids want to absorb.

It is too late! We are past the point of no return. Not only the kids, but we all define ourselves by media. No one escapes!

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

An inconvenient utility bill

Back home in Tennessee, safely ensconced in his suburban Nashville home, Vice President Al Gore is no doubt basking in the Oscar awarded to "An Inconvenient Truth," the documentary he inspired and in which he starred. But a local free-market think tank is trying to make that very home emblematic of what it deems Gore's environmental hypocrisy.

Armed with Gore's utility bills for the last two years, the Tennessee Center for Policy Research charged Monday that the gas and electric bills for the former vice president's 20-room home and pool house devoured nearly 221,000 kilowatt-hours in 2006, more than 20 times the national average of 10,656 kilowatt-hours.

"If this were any other person with $30,000-a-year in utility bills, I wouldn't care," says the Center's 27-year-old president, Drew Johnson. "But he tells other people how to live and he's not following his own rules."
[Taken from http://abclocal.go.com/wpvi/story?section=nation_world&id=5073354]

Can't beat the real thing, baby

Three experiences and examples that recently illustrated to me that we are an un/authentic society. I recently bought another pair of jeans that was manufactured to look "old" and "worn" and wondered to myself why I didn't just go to the used clothes store and pay like two dollars for a pair of jeans that was already worn. This got me to thinking how our culture now wants to be authentic and genuine and earthy, but without actually going to the trouble of being authentic/genuine/earthy.

Experience 1:
This last Christmas our family was opening presents and I realized that we were all taking so many digital pictures and videos that we were spending more time capturing the moment than we were in actually creating the moment. This made me wonder how much of the moment was simply to have pictures/video and how much of the moment was the genuine experience of family and closeness.

Example 2:
Levi's® Vintage Clothing Vault I - 501®
We used to just buy a pair of jeans and wear them until they were worn out. If we had a nice pair of jeans that were new then we would look good because obviously we didn't have to wear worn out jeans. Only those who couldn't afford new jeans had to wear the old, worn out ones.

But now we don't want to look like we have "new" or recently manufactured jeans. We want to buy jeans that already look worn. Rather than just wear them out ourselves or go to the used clothing store and buy a pair of jeans that someone has already worn we have the manufacturer make them appear old and worn out. So, we want "new" jeans, but we want the "new" jeans to look "old," so that we can feel earthy, organic, and authentic. But, of course this does not make us more authentic. Quite the contrary. Can we really be any less authentic and any less genuine if are so superficial as to pay for someone to make us old-looking jeans? It might be the most disingenuous act of them all.

Here is the product description from the Levi's website:
We've based this 501® jean on an original from the early 20th century, replicating its hard-worn look and transitional styling. Made with belt loops, suspender buttons, back cinch and two back pockets. The medium-dark denim has rusted iron undertones and small paint spots. Arrives crumpled in a ball secured with an old-fashioned leather strap. Each pair is hand-numbered.

Example 3:
Water. We used to just drink natural water, then the water got polluted and undrinkable, so we purified it. Then we wanted to purify the water to get the bad stuff out and also add back the good minerals that we were missing out on. Now we want to purify it, add back the minerals, and doctor it up a bit to suit our lifestyle or activities. So, now Vitamin Water will make a water that fits your life:

...before now, the only way to get truly pure water was to catch a raindrop from the cloud, but since clouds are hard to reach (and not to mention shifty), a lot of water we drink comes from the ground and contains random stuff & whatever else the animals that swim in it leave behind, that's why we copied our white puffy friends by vapor distilling smartwater, but since we're never satisfied, we then one-upped the clouds by adding key electrolytes to help keep you hydrated....thus creating smartwater.

water that works every time. with fit-in-your-hand-ease, each one of our 12 grab-health-by-the-horms varieties offers a unique blend of nutrients to help you "shine" on those gods-have-forsaken-you days, yada-yada-yada conference calls, wind-sucking workouts and chasers-are-for-weenies nights...

[taken from http://www.vitaminwater.com/]

Monday, February 26, 2007

Movie Night

I watched three movies last night.

Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006)
Funny movie. I like Will Ferrell, and he teamed up with some of his favorite cast members (see Anchor Man) for a good comedy. Made me laugh, but I don't know if it has the kind of comedy that would keep me coming back to watch it repeatedly.

A Scanner Darkly (2006)
Excellent movie! Based on the weird novel by Philip Dick by the same name. I had trouble working through the book, and then got sidetracked and never finished it. This is an animation with Keanu Reeves and other stars doing the voice. This approach, I thought, was fantastic for capturing the surreal and dream-like quality. The characters are interesting, quirky and on top of that they are all a little paranoid.

There was one scene that was that was better captured in the book. The four slightly stoned friends are trying to figure out if they were ripped off because they count the gears on their newly purchase 18-speed bike and find that they only count 9 gears! Get it, like, you can't count the gears to get the speeds, but the friends don't really think very well because they are on Substance D, a drug that destroys the brain.

This movie also raises some intriguing ethical questions about whether or not it is ok to sacrifice an officer for the greater good - without his knowledge!
Some say this is the best adaptation of a Philip Dick novel to date.

I also saw The Prestige a second time....but I've already mentioned this one...

Friday, February 23, 2007

A fragmented past

This is Perkins speaking of the ancient mindset (third century):
The traditional society of the ancient world resisted change. "The new" was no virtue. Its visionaries did not seek to bring into being a new and glorious future but to recover a revered and glorious past...Since people sought to recover the past, their tradition, and since they did not have print and electronic media documenting every change of style, they perceived much less discontinuity between themselves and their past than we do... (Pheme Perkins, The Gnostic Dialogue, 4)

Interesting quote, I thought. It continues along my theme of the fragmented self in contemporary culture. That is, we are not holistic and complete. We are various fragments pulled together: work life, love life, entertainment life, religious life (which is often a pluralistic compilation in itself), online self, hobbies, etc, etc. We are a myriad of fragmented interests and preoccupations....Perkins here points out that in the ancient world there was a reverence for the past, in contemporary society there is an obsession with the future: We are anticipating the improvements that lie just around the corner, especially technological. Perkins also notes that when media documents "every change of style" there is a sense of discontinuity of the past. In other words, in contemporary society our historical progress is fragmented. A few weeks ago it was the Super Bowl, next it was the astronaut love-triangle, yesterday it was Anna Nichole, today it's Britney and her kids, etc....I think we view ourselves as more fragmented because we move so rapidly through history from one current event to the next to the next. History happens faster. We can follow a war on the other side of the world in real time. 24/7 media on the cable networks document every latest breaking news story with a deluge of commentators who exhaust a subject within a few short hours of its breaking. And, of course, within a few hours there is something else that follows.

Do we feel any continuity to the historical flow of our lives? We live from one event to the next, to the next, to the next. Our mass media outlets document "every change of style." We are a people in flux. Ever changing. Always anticipating. Breathless. We never stabilize and settle. We are always progressing, without any real time to reflect. It is progression without the stabilization necessary for genuine reflection. We process our events in hours and then move one. It is historical fragmentation.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Alternative = Mainstream

The following is a clip from an email I sent to a friend:

The anti-music establishment bands in Seattle sprang up in the early nineties to provide an alternative to the hair-bands of the 80's. The Seattle sound was more organic and original. They were garage bands that tried to produce something more musical and pure. Then they started to make it in the big time. They signed on to some big labels, and a little-known band called Nirvana became all the rage. They put out some big-selling cds and all the kids (myself included) were buying the stuff up as fast as they could produce it. And we all started immitating their clotes by wearing flannel shirts and cheap jeans that looked worn and tattered. Anti-big corporations.

Kurt Cobain commited suicide not long after Nirvana went big-time. After that the music companies were scrambling to sign anyone who could produce "that alternative sound," which eventually became its own genre, and now in a twist of irony the "alternative" to the mainstream is now mass marketed and has become the mainstream.

Life is full of such ironies!

So, my friend replies by emailing me this link to a Google video. It's the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain playing "Smells Like Teen Spirit." So, it's about 15 years after the alternative/grunge revolution and now, not only has "alternative" become "mainstream", but the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain is now covering Nirvana....

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

It ain't stealin' if you can do it....

This is so funny! I just came across an off-the-beaten-path bookseller (at Theos Project we cheer for off-the-beaten-path booksellers) who used my Amazon.com review on their site for their sale of Hermeneutics at the Crossroads. They must have just cut and pasted my review from Amazon and used it on their site. They even gave it 5 stars, like I gave the book at Amazon.

Here is the Link:

I am truly and deeply humbled by the honor. I would like to thank the academy, uh, and god, and uh, oh yea, my mother, and my, uh, yea, my dad for all the wisdom and years of.............

The map makers dilemma

The map makers dilemma is how closely they want to represent reality on their map. To have a perfect representation of reality requires one to have an exact replica. If you wanted an exact replica of the countryside you would have to draw it perfectly to scale, and the map would literally be as large as the countryside that it represented. However, an exact replica would be impractical and unusable. In fact, they might as well not use the exact replica - reality, itself, would do just as well. Hence, rather than using the exact replica of reality you would use the countryside itself - the countryside becomes its own map.

Yet on the other hand, if the map makers decide that they want a scaled-down map they must sacrifice representation. The map becomes less and less a true representation the more that it is scaled down. The scaled down map is useful, even if it is less true. So, we use something that helps us navigate through the countryside, even if we must sacrifice correspondence. But the more we use something that is un-real the more we have a tendency to make the un-real into the real. That is, simply by using the un-real we are pragmatically finding it more useful and hence more real than the real itself.

In this sense we create a map that is un-real, and then by virtue of repetitive use and reliance we make the un-real into that which is more real.

When I am cruising around Chicago I use a very scaled down map to navigate through the streets. But I cannot rely solely on the map. If all that I looked at was the map I would soon find myself in a nasty car wreck! So, my eyes are bobbing up and down between the map and the streets. The map is the un-real simulacra. The street is the reality.

When I am lost and trying to navigate through Chicago I find myself in a state of anxiety. I am caught somewhere between the real and the unreal. The simulacra and reality. I desperately want to arrive somewhere that is real, but I depend upon the unreal (the map) because it is more easy to understand - it is scaled down so that I can understand and use it.

Realists and Idealists believe that the real is all we need. Reality is what we should strive to attain. Others contend that the unreal is all we need or desire, or at least that the unreal is all we really have to work with. These folks might say that all we really have in life are simulations and unreal things. We just fool ourselves when we think that these things are real or that these things are the actual truth.

This is somewhat mirrored by the Modern philosophical projects: Do we know "the things in themselves"? Kant said that we don't necessarily know "the things in themselves" - the nouma. Rather, our minds organize it's perceptions and leaves us with the "phenomena". The difference between nouma and phemoumena is, as I understand it, the difference between "the thing in itself" and how we perceive and categorize "the thing in itself." Hence Kant was consumed with how our minds categorize "the reality." But for me Kant leaves the question of our connection with reality hanging, and in this sense I see Kant as a sort of bridge between Modern and Post-modern philosophical thought, if I can use these terms in a very broad and general sense.

Let's return to my navigation through Chicago....

Perhaps life is more like a navigation through Chicago. We find ourselves in a state of anxiety. Consulting the map (things like Scripture, tradition, philosophy, psychology, or creeds) to find direction and trying to match it up with the real world in which we live. A mix of making right turns and wrong turns. Our "eyes" are bobbing up and down between the map and the streets - between the real and the unreal. This produces, for the most of us, a kind of anxiety. We are caught somewhere between the real and various representations of the real.

On this analogy, we are presented with four dilemmas.

First dilemma: "Which maps are the best?" We are saturated with viewpoints, worldviews, and various other "maps" that purport to represent reality. Yes some of them conflict, and some of them show agreement. But sometimes even if all the maps agree they still seem to be off. But are the maps wrong or are we just not seeing things right? That brings us to our second dilemma.

Second dilemma: "Are we correctly perceiving reality?" Maybe between all the bobbing of our eyes between map and streets we haven't quite seen the streets in the right way. Maybe our vision is bad, and we just don't know it. According to Scripture our view of things is skewed and warped by original sin. According to much contemporary thought we have conceded that we tend to have certain predispositions and presuppositions that warp our ability to see clearly. Our cultural backgrounds, family influences, and genetic dispositions are like glasses that cloud and fog our ability to see clearly.

This is a very real dilemma. Not only are we trying to juggle a bunch of maps to figure out which one is right, but we don't even have a good handle on whether or not we are seeing things clearly.

Third dilemma: "Where are we?" We can never rise above the frey and take a bird's eye view of things. Our perspective is limited to where we are right now. We start in a certain situation. Problem: We don't really know where we are at in relation to the whole. None of the maps have friendly arrows that say "You Are Here." Or wait, maybe they do. The Bible says we are all starting out in the same boat: Total Depravity. And that we all need to go the same direction for salvation: Through Jesus Christ. Ok, but all the other maps are giving us different arrows and saying that we are starting at different spots. How do we know where we are starting from?

Fourth dilemma: "Where the heck are we even going?" This is, perhaps the question that causes the most anxiety. This is, perhaps the least intellectual and the most existential question. But much of how we will answer the first three dilemmas turns on where we want to go in life. But then where we want to go will be determined by where we start and which map we accept as more credible and reliable. And it will also depend on how we perceive reality (second dilemma).


The contemporary pop culture in the States says: "Make your own darn map!" On this view all dilemmas are eliminated because we all just throw away the maps and drive. Feel like slamming the peddle to the metal? Cool. Drive fast. Feel like taking it easy? Maybe smoke a little weed and relax. Fine. Soak in life and relax. The only qualification is that you can't hit anybody else who is driving around. For pop culture, then, we are our own map makers. We make the rules as we go! Use the maps only as it suits your taste - choosing maps are like choosing a coffee or tea - just go with the one that pleases your palate.

(This post is a replica, though not an exact replica, of a comment that I made over at ktismatics on a very interesting post, The Desert of the Real Itself. I altered it a bit so as to make it more useful to this blog and to the readers of this blog.)

Thursday, February 15, 2007

What do you mean???

I was having a conversation with my friend, John Doyle, recently and he mentioned something to the effect that people don't seem to be concerned with finding meaning in life. By and large that seems true. How many people in this post-whatever world are really and truly searching for meaning?

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs bascically makes the point that survival needs are foundational and as one meets these needs then we can worry about issues of meaning. In the States our (I am in the Gen-X category) Grandparents were worried about foundational, survival things. Our parents moved up a bit on the scale, but still wanted to go after as much stuff as possible. Many of us Gen-Xers are concerned with relational issues. Building community, peace, and living in harmony with our environment, etc. This is a search for meaning. But still, is it really a search for ultimate meaning?

Do we, in this post-something world search for an ultimate purpose in life? I don't think so. In fact, I think this in a rather emphatic way. Meaning is construed and created by me and for me.

Monday, February 12, 2007

The Police - A reunion tour

The Police are getting together again for a reunion tour. I'd love to make it out to one of those concerts.

"Roooooooooxaaaannne! You don't have to put on the red light!"

Gotta love it:
"When young musicians who are trying to break into the business ask me 'how do I make it?', I say to them it's not important to make it, just keep playing music and its its own reward. And if you're meant to be a big star or not, well, that's just fate." - Sting

twenty five degrees

Dude! It's twenty five degrees outside. Considering the weather we have been recently having here in northern Indiana twenty five degrees is very warm! Time to wear the shorts and tee-shirts again, eh?

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Fearing a great fear

Jonah 1:11-17

So they said to him, "What should we do with you that the sea might grow calm for us?!?" For the anger of the sea was becoming more and more intense.
Jonah replied, "Pick me up and hurl me into the sea. Then the sea will become calm, because I know that it is on my account that this immense storm has struck you."
Nevertheless, the men worked hard to row back to dry land, but they could not prevail because the storm continued to worsen and rage against them.
So they cried out to Yahweh and said, "We pray, O Yahweh! Please do not let us die on account of this man's life, and do not hold us guilty of innocent blood. After all, you, Yahweh, have done what pleases you.”
So they lifted up Jonah and hurled him into the sea, and the raging sea grew calm.
At this the men were terrified of Yahweh, and they sacrificed an offering to Yahweh also making vows.
But Yahweh provided a great fish to swallow Jonah and Jonah remained in the bowels of the fish three days and three nights.

I find interesting the "fear" we see in this passage.

Jonah is the man to whom the lot has fallen. He knows what to do. The sailors are growing desperate, their lives hang in the balance. They implore Jonah to tell them what to do. And Jonah tells them: Throw me over.

Is there any feeling in Jonah as he says this?? That is what I wonder. Is he apathetic and sedated? Does he even care, anymore, whether he goes overboard? Or perhaps he is beginning to repent?

I tend to lean towards the apathy. I tend to think Jonah is still at this point ready to go overboard and face his death. After all, what does he have to look forward to if he lives? He is a prophet on the run. He would be an alien in some strange land.

This isn't enough for the sailors who try to chug it back to the land. The interesting thing is that in this scenario going back to land is about the worst thing to do. The ship would wreck and be torn apart. So, why do the sailors go back to land? Did they lose all common sense and reasoning? Did they lose their sixth sailor sense? Sasson has an interesting suggestion:

But, as centuries of nautical common sense taught, steering a ship to shore when in the midst of a storm is a foolish, even suicidal enterprise! To the contrary, a ship must at all costs not be driven to the coastline where it will surely wreck. It could be, of course, that the difficult circumstances led the sailors to lose their cunning, skill, and knowledge. The sailors, however, could have been reasoning that if they steered ashore in the midst of a storm, it should prove them no longer willing to shelter God’s errant prophet. Surely this powerful deity would not allow them harm as they rowed ashore! With faith in divine mercy and justice, the sailors were betting their lives on the success of this measure. (142)

So, maybe the sailors were trying to demonstrate to Yahweh that they were ready to return the prophet-on-the-run. Surely this terrible God would reward such an effort. After all, if they chucked Jonah overboard they would have innocent blood on their heads. And the blood of a prophet, no less. And how would this incredible "Yahweh" respond to someone who threw his prophet into the sea??!! No, the sailors are desperate for any other solution. But there is no other. They must "hurl" Jonah into the raging sea.

The anger of the sea grows calm.

The sailor's reaction?

The Hebrew text in verse 16 is fascinating. It literally reads something like, "the men feared a great fear." The same Hebrew word (yare) is used both as a verb and a noun, and on top of that the author throws in the adjective "great!" to describe the fear! Theses sailors are struck and shaken to their core as a result of this experience. So, they do what any ancient would do: they offer sacrifices and make vows. We do similar things today when we find ourselves at the tail end of traumatic events. We dedicate ourselves to God and replot the course of our lives.

What were these sacrifices offered?? What were their vows? There is some grammatical indication that these might have been lavish sacrifices. No surprise from me if they offered up anything and everything they possibly could! These men had seen the mighty hand of Yahweh, and they "feared a great fear."

But there is also a minor point here that is important for understanding the sailor's fear: The sea was a strange and mysterious domain. Before scientific revolutions and technological advancements allowed us to build boats or to predict weather patterns the ancients were at the mercy of the waves and the elements, which seemed to have a mind of their own. This god of Jonah's - this "Yahweh" - must be a god of incredible power for him to control the sea. The sailors' gods were either powerless or simply on vacation. But the mighty arm of Yahweh made the sea do its bidding. He controlled it and manipulated it like a skilled potter with his clay. Yes, it was time to acknowledge the power of this "Yahweh" and to fear this great power.

This note about the ancients also sheds light on the impact of Jesus' mastery of the sea. In Matt 8:27 and Mark 4:41 the disciples tremble that "even the sea" obeyed Jesus. Who was this man who could tame the strange and terrifying sea!??!

I wonder....Is there room to "fear a great fear" in these days? We have calculated the elements and mastered the sea (well, except for that nasty little Titanic episode!). But for most of us we have a certain control over our lives. We are not subject to the tossing waves or the anger of the sea. What need have we to fear Yahweh? Or to offer sacrifices? Or to make and fulfill vows? What does it mean to "fear a great fear"? Or must we, in these days, fear vicariously through the ruddy sailor's of Jonah's story?

Fear of God is, for the most part, gone in these days. Most of us who do fear God prefer to focus on grace and love. And perhaps this isn't something to lament. For example, there are those who have experienced much fear at the hands of an abusive father or spouse. Do these really need another angry father? Is there not enough fear in this world?

Perhaps this is the case. Perhaps we need smaller doses of fear and greater doses of mercy and grace in a world that is thirsty and parched of love. Nonetheless, I still wonder about whether or not I don't need "the fear of God" put in me once in a while. Because to fear God is, in many respects, to be forced to put ourselves at God's mercy and provision. The end result, at least for the sailor's, was a dedication to Yahweh. Perhaps we need large doses of love, and yet we also need small doses of fear?

Friday, February 09, 2007

How does Rudy look?

So, Rudy Giuliani's name is being kicked around as a presidential candidate for 08. The buzz amongst conservatives is whether or not they could ever get behind a pro-abortion candidate. Guiliani has been clear on his belief that abortion is the mother's choice (as oppossed, I guess, to the daughter who is in the womb).

But here is the thing: He simply needs to state that he is for the states deciding the issue. He can say that Roe v. Wade was a bad idea and that each state should decide the issue on its own.

Here's the scenario: Hilary and Rudy square off in 08. The conservatives will still vote for Rudy simply to avoid having the Clinton's in office. There may be some conservatives who stay home on principle, but the majority I think will rally against Hilary. If Rudy is articulate and does a good sell job, I think he can strike a delicate balance as a pro-abortion candidate who believes the states should decide the issue. Now all of a sudden he is going to get some moderates into his camp. Moderates who like the idea of having a pro-abortion candidate in office.

It would certainly be entertaining, from a political pespective, to see Hilary v. Rudy in 08.

Shopping for answers

I worked at a CPA firm a few years back as a lowly staff accountant. Another lowly staff accountant got himself in trouble once. He had talked to a partner regarding a particularly unclear and vague accounting issue, and he really didn't like the answer he received. So, what did he do? Well, he went and found himself another partner. Eventually his little scheme was discovered by all and he was the brunt of not a few jokes.

Kids. The case study of kids is that if one parent tells them "NO" they go to the other parent and plead their case. Usually they have learned a thing or two from the first go-round and so the little rug rats do a much better sell job when they talk to the next parent.

There is an ethical point here. How do we as human beings decide that certain things are right and wrong? Are we predisposed to thinking that certain things are right or that certain things are wrong? And do we take our instincts and just build on them?

Perhaps we determine our moral standards in a similar way as lowly staff accountants or as kids: We shop for answers. Which religion agrees with me the most? Which god fits into my lifestyle? The world is getting smaller and smaller, and the more time that passes the more pluralistic our societies are becoming. This means there are more worldview choices out there to pick from. This make things all the more condusive to going out and choosing your beliefs from a myriad of good looking choices. In fact, I think things are moving more to the point where we don't sell our souls to a particular religion, but rather we pick and choose the better beliefs that belong to each system. We don't like to be sold out to a "system" - much better to be open minded and evaluate each belief on its own merit. Best to decide each issue on its own.

That brings us back around to shopping for answers. The "shopping for answers" approach to right and wrong fits well within a commercialized market economy. We are the consumer and if a religion wants our time, money and devotion, it oughta' make a good sell job. Hence, the focus of most religious sales pitches these days is not to sell a belief system, but to push the other goodies: community, connection, activities, social functions, programs, etc.

Are there any real "truth seekers" out there? Is there anyone with a pure love for what is morally right? Or do we all just pretty much walk in step with the groups that confirm our inclinations? Groups that make us comfortable with who we think we are and what we think is right and wrong?

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Street cred

Ok, to establish my credibility as a bible blogger I have submitted myself to a rigorous examination. Here are the results:

You know the Bible 100%!

Wow! You are awesome! You are a true Biblical scholar, not just a hearer but a personal reader! The books, the characters, the events, the verses - you know it all! You are fantastic!

Ultimate Bible Quiz
Create MySpace Quizzes


I was listening to Colin Cowherd, an ESPN sports radio guy, made the observation that love should come with a warning label: MAY BE HAZARDOUS

This is in relation to the whole Lisa Nowak thing.

A brilliant psychiatrist provides us common folk with some enlightening thoughts:

"It is very hard for people to understand," said Dr. Keith Ablow, a psychiatrist and TV talk show host, "but these are feelings that cut across all social barriers. They cut across how accomplished you are at work. When affairs of the heart are involved, people sometimes tap very primitive and primal unresolved issues in their psyches and those come to the fore."

"This is a question of degree and perspective," Ablow said. "And she's lost perspective here."

Really??? Wow! What a fascinating analysis! She lost perspective. These feelings cut across all social barriers. My gosh! How thankful I am that Dr. Ablow has helped us to see what is so "hard for people to understand." Where in the world do they get these people....

Ok, for most normal, average people like myself the reality of love is really kind of obvious. Love can be the best thing in the world or love can rip you apart. Us common folk just know this.

But what is true love?

True love crosses a line of vulnerability that is very hard to define and explain. At some point we find ourselves so captivated by a person that we want them all to ourselves. We can't share them. And we can't share ourselves with anyone but that one person. There may be a million people out there cheating on their significant other, but if the person you love cheats on you it's like a knife in the heart.

How does this happen? Why does it happen? I don't understand it. But it is encoded in our hearts and souls that when we cross the love line we want to have something exclusive. But there is no logic to this - no rational explanation. That is why we need a warning label on love: MAY BE HAZARDOUS

Of course there are those who spread their love around, so to speak...the song, "Papa was a rolling stone" comes to mind....but I would argue these are folks that have never really crossed the line, at least not completely. To cross the love line makes you vulnerable and completely exclusive. Some of us, for a variety of reasons, can never cross that line. However, I think that under "normal" circumstances for the "normal" person it is the MO to fall in love and cross the love line for life. This is the natural order of things.

But as much as we can talk about the ideal and the "normal" person the fact is that most of us are skewed or otherwise messed up by things that happen to us or that we are just plain defective. Strong language? Perhaps. But the Scriptures speak clearly that this is a messed up world that is cloaked in darkness. No surprise that most of us have a hard time getting the love thing right. For the majority of us pure love gets mixed up with self-centered desire. I will give to you if you give me what I want. There may be traces of pure love, but it gets confused with a quid pro quo, give-and-take game. The quid pro quo thing can work, of course, as long as a couple is on the same page about how they are going to play the game.

Love. Proceed with caution: MAY BE HAZARDOUS

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Not so bad, as long as you layer

Temps here in Indiana are hovering around zero degrees. Add the wind chill factor and we are talking about 20 degrees below zero. (It's so cold that school is being closed, not because of bad roads but just because it is that cold.)

For those of you, like Dawn, who live in warm, comfortable climates you may not be familiar with what the "wind chill factor" is. Wind chill is what the weather actually feels like. A thermometer might show that it is 1 degree above zero outside, but that doesn't count the bitter cold winds whipping across the flat Indiana plains. So, the wind chill factor takes into account those bitting winds.

But twenty degrees below zero need not detract one from getting out and doing some running. (Hey, Rocky worked out in the cold when he was training to fight the Russian, so why can't we?) I don't recommend going for world record distance runs, but surely a thrity minute run is possible, even when the weather is as cold as it is.

The key is layering. I have gone on a few four mile runs in the last week and it has been at some of the lowest temps and some bitter wind chill factors, but it really hasn't been too bad. First thing is to make sure that you've got some good gloves - mittens are the best because they trap heat better than gloves that have fingers. Second, make sure you've got something to cover the face (a ski mask) as well as a warm stocking cap of some sort.

On to the upper body. The key: more bulk does not mean more warmth. Nix the sweatshirt, because it doesn't keep the wind out. I wear a spandex base layer followed by a waffled thermal underwear layer. I have a thin, long sleeved shirt over top of that, and then as the outer layer I have a wind breaker. The outer layer is one of the most important. It has to keep the wind from cutting through. If you are a cheapscate you can get by pretty cheap on most of the clothing, but don't skimp on the outer layer. Get something that is well-made and designed to keep the bitter winds from getting through. Technology can help us here, so take advantage of it.

So, four layers is probably ok for most weather. If you need a bit more warmth I would recommend going with some sort of warm thermal as your third layer.

What about the lower body? Well, go with some long running tights and then maybe some sort of outer layer to keep the wind out. Similar concepts apply to the lower body as to the upper body, except you usually don't need as many layers. Personally, I just wear two pairs of tights and typically wear a longer, thicker pair of shorts. And make sure you've got some warm socks.

Last tip for cold weather runners: Don't have any exposed skin! It may be common sense, but certainly worth mentioning.

So, get out there and breath the crisp, cold air. Take your time and soak in the beautiful scenes of snow covered trees.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

On top of the world!

MVP of Super Bowl XLI - my main man, Peyton Manning!

Here's one happy Colts fan

It is pure sweetness to win the big one!

Friday, February 02, 2007

Super Bowl Prediction

Ok. So, it is time to relieve the suspense that has been killing you as you await my super bowl prediction. Having basically called it right on the money for both conference championship games, I now turn my eye to the grandest of all games. The bowl of all bowls. (And, yes, that is me to the left in my Peyton Manning jersey. I wore it in to work today, much to the chagrin of my boss. I knew he was hesitating about such "unprofessional" attire, so I dressed up the jersey with a shirt and tie!)

Down to business: Look for the Bears defense to try to throw some different looks at Peyton Manning and the Colts' offense. To come out with a lot of intensity. How will the Bears respond to the perpetual "checking" that Peyton does at the line of scrimmage? Urlacher says that Peyton just does this to "screw with people's heads," and that he and the rest of the Bears defense is not worried about it. Ok, we know that isn't true. Surely behind the scenes the Bears defense is developing a strategy for dealing with Peyton Manning. The thing is that they don't know Manning and how he runs an offense. It is truly revolutionary the way Peyton does things in Indy. The AFC defenses have had some time to adjust and get used to it, but the big question mark, I think, is whether or not the Bears defense will get caught by surprise when they actually have to stare in the eyes of Peyton and listen to him change up the plays at the line of scrimmage. Peyton has played with a lot of the same guys for years, particularly his star receivers, Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison. These guys are all in sync on the Colts' offense. But how will the Bears respond??? That's one of my big question marks.

I predict a slow start, which favors the Bears. As the game progresses Peyton will begin to move up the field and get some field goals and touch downs.

How is Grossman going to react? That is the big question. If he falls apart, then its game over.

The AFC is arguably the stronger conference, which favors the Colts. Ok, it ain't even arguable.

The Colts are hungry, and they are more tested and mentally strong after getting handed some bitter losses in the AFC playoffs. Will the Bears be that hungry? Or will they be a little wide-eyed, since they are the younger team?

Are these the two "most serious teams" to ever play the super bowl? Cowherd suggests that the Colts are quiet and business-like. The Colts are "milk and cookies" athletes, at least compared to other teams. Perhaps it is an over-statement to say that these are the two "most serious" teams, but it is true that these teams are a bit more centered than, say, T.O. and the Cowboys.

Quoting the Colts' head coach Tony Dungy:
“We really talked more in terms of what we wanted to accomplish,” Dungy said. “We talked about representing the city of Indianapolis and we talked about preparing ourselves for a football game. I think if we have those things in mind, we really won’t have to worry too much about the temptations.
“We did talk about some of the things that have happened to other guys the week of the Super Bowls, but that’s something we talk about all the time. I have a lot of faith in our guys. I think they’re going to come down here and really focus in and dial in on winning the ballgame.
“We want them to enjoy themselves. This is a week you’re not going to get to experience all the time. We can’t look at it as something we’re probably going to get to do next year and the year after.
“We have to look at this as our time to do it now. I think we’ll be focused in on that.” from http://mirror.colts.com/sub.cfm?page=article7&news_id=4603

I'm saying that both defenses play well. The Colts defense gives up a touchdown and two field goals. All in all this is a good showing for them. No points for the Bears special team.

Peyton Manning controls the game. Talking to the press this week it is obvious he is focussed and centered. With two weeks to prepare he has been living and breathing game tape. I say they get three touchdowns and two field goals.

Final score:
Colts 27
Bears 13

The only thing that scares me: All the hype is in favor of the Colts. When the mediots all jump on the same bandwagon it often means the bandwagon is headed in the wrong direction.

hrmntcs uv txt mssgng

Text messaging provides us with a juicy portion into which we may sink our hermeneutical teeth. It puts on display the development of language and how we adapt our communication to fit the medium we are using. So, in this digital age it is not too early to talk about the hermeneutics of text messaging.

How we text:
We hold in our hands a cell phone with a few buttons each of which represents 3 or 4 letters, at least one number, and sometimes various symbols (like # or * or $ or ! or ?). So, each time we want to put a letter into our message we have to hit the button usually more than one time. This is a lot of work. It's not as easy as typing (unless you have one of them new-fangled QWERTY keyboards). The thumb works like mad trying to punch in all the letters and numbers. So, naturally the language is shortened: Take out the vowels, use abreviations, cram three or four words into one.

Craming several words into one brings us to the classic LOL. For those of you frozen in a block of ice and sent out to orbit the earth by the Soviets during the Cold War and have just now re-entered society the term LOL means "laugh out loud." Of course, it doesn't literally mean that one is laughing out loud. (At least I hope not because there are some people I know who use this term so much that I would fear for their sanity if they were literally laughing out loud each time they told me LOL....or maybe I'm just that funny...) LOL may simply be a nod of the hat to someone to say, "Hey, nice little joke you just made."

So, the point of texting is to use the language efficiently - cut out any non-essentials and condense things so that we can squeeze as much into the text as possible with as little work as possible. Interestingly enough, this reminds me of studying the ancient Hebrew text of the Old Testament. One of the many fascinating things about old Hebrew is how efficient it was. Just like text messaging there are no vowels. (The vowel-like pointings in the text were added later.)

This is my first post on HTXT - The hermeneutics of text messaging.

What are the other challenges of text messaging? How often do you text? (I keep it to a few hundred a month....my younger sister, a very sociable freshmen in college, sends or receives a few hundred every day - not kidding.) What are some shortened forms of words or abbreviations you use? What communication gaps have you encountered ? Any misunderstandings resulting from text messaging, or maybe you sent a text and it never arrived thus creating an awkward situation ("But I sent you a text about changing the starting time of the ceremony!")?

What are the interesting things about our current social phenomenon of texting???

Here is my post on blogoneutics