Happy Halloween!


(h/t Matt Algren's twitter)

PS: Totally went as Edward Cullen for Halloween for my church's Trunk or Treat.  
If we are facebook friends, you can see the pics!


Saturday is for Star Wars

What Stormtroopers do on their day off (full series here).


How to Worship [humor][video]

This is perfect. Hope you follow these simple steps for worship on Sunday.


DDoS: Divine Denial of Service Attack on God [humor]

A Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) is a computer-based attack whereby a website or company is inundated with thousands (or millions) of requests. It slows down the website, the computers can't handle it, and it takes it offline.

Recently an atheist organization suffered this kind of attack and has decided to take retribution...on God.

As you may already be aware, recently the Atheist Foundation of Australia and the Global Atheist Convention websites were the target of a significant DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack, which began on Monday 19 October.

This is a call to all non-believers and advocates for freedom of speech to join us in a global co-ordinated minute of prayer with the aim of inundating God (in this context, the Christian god, God, as distinct from the Greek god, Zeus, the Egyptian god, Ra etc etc) with so many useless prayers that it causes his divineness to go offline as as result of our own DDOS ('Divine' Denial of Service).

The prayer minute will be at exactly 8pm (Eastern Standard Time) and 9am (Greenwich Mean Time) on Sunday 8 November 2009.
Hilarious! Good luck with that! (h/t net.effect)


Glo: The Bible for a Digital World [review]

A seminary friend on Facebook pointed me in the direction of the Glo: The Bible for a Digital World (website here).   It's an interactive bible with pictures, video, timelines, articles, and an NIV bible for notes and presentations.  It seemed like a good resource for bible studies of all ages, so I picked it up over the weekend.  If you want a review of its functionality and overview, check out JesusFreakHideout, but as usual I'll be running it through grueling trials.  Read on...

Why a multimedia bible?  I have only to look at the immediate attention that children and youth give to media and movies to know that Bible teaching may benefit from using media resources to stimulate learning. We know from neurological studies that neurons that fire together, wire together.  So multimedia may be useful for students to fuse bible teaching with everyday discipleship.

My initial enthusiasm was dampened when I saw the publisher: Zondervan, which is not known for having a breadth of theological resources in academic circles.  If it is truly to be a study resource, it ought to have a breadth of theological diversity in its resources, which Zondervan just doesn't want have.  But let's not judge them unfairly until I get through the material..

So let's walk through Joys and Concerns, shall we? And end with case studies of Glo's treatment of a biblical text and a hot topic.

Most of my joys come from the functionality of this powerful program:
  • The sessions manager is awesome.  I love being able to pursue one topic then start a new session to check out a related one, and be able to switch between them.  It makes parallel processing (which is essential for bible study) easy, as well as make it easy to bring up different aspects while in a bible study (such as switching between images, text, and the timeline).  Bravo!
  • The 3D walk-throughs are COOL.  The Sistine Chapel is fascinating...has each painted section as a hotspot to click and learn more.  I lost about 30 minutes of ministry planning today just clicking around it.  I've never seen the Sistine Chapel so this is as close as I've been!
  • Clicking and searching for ANYTHING is neat.  I can click on a passage and send it to "results" page which searches all the bible, media and articles for the passage referenced.  I wish I had this for all my scholarly books.
  • Neat and intuitive interface.  If you right click, swipe the mouse, or drag and hold, it will interact like an iPhone.  If you can use an iPhone or a Nintendo Wii, you can use this.

Most of  my concerns focus on usability and appropriateness for casual usage:
  • No user manual or help.  None.  Zip.  While it may be intuitive, only by being a computer nerd was I able to find my way to some areas.  There are some web videos, apparently, but that's hardly helpful in the moment.
  • The research is narrow and dated.  All the articles are from the Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible published in 1976.  All of them.  While the Glo is undoubtedly early in its maturation and will be updated with more resources, I hope better commentaries will be included soon and for free.  As Switched.com remarks:
After looking through Glo's Web site, we weren't able to find that list of theologians and ministers that graces the front pages of every Biblical translation. Although the Word itself is that of the standard NIV translation, Glo's bountiful non-textual addendums do not appear to have been subjected to a panel of religious scholars.
  • Needs a powerhouse computer to run.  Of course mine handles it with no sweat [/nerd], but I doubt the majority of church computers have all the processing power prereqs or 18 gigs of free space. 
Case Study 1: Joseph's Dreams

Our first case study looks at the media integration within Glo and how they augment the experience.  I took the story I'm teaching the children today in our after-school program (Joseph having dreams and being betrayed by his brothers in Genesis 37).  Along with the textual notes are the following media imagery (all of which are zoomable and high definition...yea!):
  • The Dream of Joseph fresco by Bartolo di Fredi
  • Current-day image of Shechem (where the brothers grazed their flocks)
  • Current-day image of "Flocks near the pit of Joseph" (Bibleplaces.com)
  • Dothan Valley view west from tell (Bibleplaces.com)
  • Beth Shemesh cistern (Bibleplaces.com)
  • Train of camels on the Mount of Olives (Library of Congress)
  • Dothan Valley shepherd and flock (Bibleplaces.com)
  • Joseph is sold by his Brothers ink by Gustave Dore
The interesting part is that all the media marked "Bibleplaces.com" are from 1890s pictures obtained for $20 from BiblePlaces.com.  Quite the bargain for Zondervan!  Ha!

When you click on the passage and click "Send To" you can send it to many of the other "lenses" (read more about these here)  For instance, sending the text to "Timeline" shows that this story of Joseph is likely between 1696-1695 BCE. I believe that to be accurate and you can show how it relates to the other stories at the same timeframe.

Also, sending it to the "Atlas" yields this neat outline of where the towns mentioned are in relation to where Joseph ended up (click to enlarge):

So for the study I'm giving today, I'll be using the Atlas image to give the children (1st-5th grades) an idea of how far away Joseph was from his family.  If I really wanted to, I could simply walk through this story clicking the imagery so that people get immersed in what I'm talking about.  Using the sessions manager they would be easily accessible during a study so one doesn't have to wait.  Very handy.

Given this case study, for a guided bible study, I think Glo is a great resource as it augments and immerses you in the biblical story...which is probably why the Glo designer's company is Immersion Digital!  Ha!

So, it does well for bible study.  But how about a topical study that might have more of a slant to it?  Let's find out:

Case Study 2: Homosexuality

Given those concerns about scholarly articles, I wanted to test out how a topic is treated.  To test out a Zondervan NIV resource, the most obvious place to look for bias is its coverage of homosexuality. Searching for homosexuality in the bible lens brings up not seven bible verses, but 13!  Along with the obvious seven are (for no apparent reason, there's no notes on homosexuality in any of them):
  • 1 John 1:9
  • James 5:16
  • 2 Timothy 2:19
  • Psalms 32:5
  • Proverbs 28:13
  • Isaiah 59:1
There are seven articles that come up from the search in that lens.  Like I said above under "Concerns," all the articles are from the Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, 5 volumes published in 1976.  Since the big Z published Glo, it makes sense that they have the rights to the pictures and articles.  Here's the topical headings:
  • Homosexuality (which merely says "see SODOM and CRIME/PUNISHMENT")
  • Sodomite
  • Sex
  • Prostitution
  • Crimes and Punishments
  • Genesis
  • Pentateuch

Interestingly, along with the included articles are links to 8 web articles, all from Lifeway.com.  Here are the titles:
  • Is Homosexuality Compatible With Christianity?
  • Homosexual Theology
  • Paul, Romans and Homosexuality
  • Number 9: Homosexuality [of the Top 10 things facing Christianity]
  • When More Than Prayer Comes…Out of the Closet
  • A Challenge of Courage & Compassion: The Church's Response to Homosexuality [Albert Mohler]
  • A Matter of Pride? [Mohler]
  • The Challenge of Homosexuality - How Important Is It? [Mohler...again]
And no, there are no pictures (save a bunch of sand representing Sodom?) or videos or 3-D walk-throughs :-)

So if I had to judge, no, this isn't an unbiased or scholarly source for this topic of homosexuality.  Even if there was a variety of theologies presented, they are all from the same website (Lifeway.com...and remember that Lifeway removed copies of a magazine that had women pastors on the cover), and three are from one dude.

Bad research material if you ask me.  So given those concerns, considering Glo a serious scholarly resource may be setting you up for trouble.


I would recommend Glo for pastors and bible study leaders looking to augment a guided bible study.  Its resources and immersive qualities will make for great bible studies.

I would not recommend Glo for individuals wanting to see a breadth of scholarly teaching on a subject, or for unguided studies on hot topics. 

I would say there's hope for change, given Glo's connectedness to the internet.  Adding in a variety of resources would be a welcome addition in the future, but since they are tied to Zondervan, then variety isn't going to be likely. 

Though I come off as anti-Zondervan, it's not intentional.  I cannot help but look at my shelves after 7 years of full-time academic study of Scripture, theology, and church history, and having saved almost all my books...and I have zero, zero Zondervan study resources (other than flavors of bibles) and less than 5 books (all on youth ministry or emerging church).  You can either accuse me of a narrow theological education or take it as anecdotal evidence of the weight scholars in my tradition give publications from Zondervan.

So, in short, if you are a well-read bible study teacher, you can use the media resources and the session manager to put on fresh and interactive bible studies with ease.  Use them as tools to help with instruction.  That's precisely what I will use it for today.  Otherwise, put on your discerning caps when you do topical studies and know that what you are getting is rather narrow when compared to the breadth of material available on the internet and in academic settings.

Thoughts?  Thanks for reading and welcome to our visitors!


Hell Houses

My senior year of high school, a couple of us went to a Hell House, which is a Christian haunted house with the goal of scaring youth to Christ (aka Judgment House).  There are various incarnations of these events (done during the Halloween season), but most focus on what hell looks like and include sinners burning in hell.   The goal is to scare you as far as what hell is like and make you commit your life to Christ.

As readers of the blog know, I just moved back to the Bible Belt after 6 years away.  The first week of October, my spouse (not from the bible belt) saw a billboard for GUTS church's Nightmare (aka Hell House) and asked what it was, her eyes widening in horror as I recounted my experience in high school.  And last night, NPR's syndicated show This American Life (from Chicago) re-ran a program from 2002 about Christian Hell Houses, particularly one Hell House done about 6 months after Columbine. 

Hell houses go for shock value.  The participants often include:
  • A teenage girl with white sweatpants and a red bloody crotch who had an abortion and is in hell.
  • A gay teen who dies from AIDS and is in hell
  • School shooting victims who didn't confess Christ in time and are in hell.
  • A girl who gets her drink spiked at a rave, is gang-raped, and commits suicide...and is in hell (because of the suicide, of course).

Read on for more:

There's a trailer for a 2002 documentary on Hell Houses here.  I won't embed it as it's pretty disturbing, but if you watch it you can see the real visceral experience firsthand.

But the show isn't over yet. Once they make it all the way through, participants get to the Decision Room where the pastor asks "Which way would you want to go?  To Hell that you've just gone through, or Heaven?"  Regardless of your free will choice, there's only one exit from the room and even if you don't want to give your life to Christ (again), you have to walk through the line of counselors and people with sheets with the Sinner's Prayer written on them.

This is real.  And the manipulation of emotional experience is evidenced by how they celebrate a successful season. In the NPR episode, there was the Awards Ceremony given at the tail end of a successful season.  They have a Hell House Oscars at the end where they give awards for best devil, best abortion girl, best raped girl, etc (because 6-8 different people play each part).

Here's the best raped girl's acceptance speech from 2002:
I couldn't have done it without my rapers...at first I was really uncomfortable with it, being raped because I was like "what's that like?" but it ended up being a lot of fun...oh, wait, I didn't say that right!  I ended up getting to meet a lot of people I didn't know...ok, this is only getting worse!
Sigh.  This is a franchise, by the way.  800 Hell House Franchise kits were sold in 2002.  Who knows how many are done now?  I know in my area of ministry there are at least 6 being advertised within a 100 mile radius.

To me, this is a manifestation of what Peter Rollins calls "power discourses" or a form of Christian apologetics that convinces the other that Christianity is compelling and must be accepted by any rational person, and miracles prove that a person ought to believe.  In this case, by bringing people to their emotional or analytical knees through sparks, spectacle, and screaming women, then acceptance of Christ becomes forced and rejection irrational.  I almost think they should complete the experience by having some people fake ran-over in the parking lot, showing how one must accept Christ as soon as possible because you could die at any minute.

The contrary form of power discourses, of course, is powerless discourses, or ones where a forced choice is not presented and questions are not answered.  Instead, powerless discourses create sacred space where questions can arise and be wrestled with.  Unlike a Hell House where emotions are battered and questions squashed, sacred space allows for emotional wrestling and non-black-and-white responses.  If this is the future of Christianity as people become more and more immune to emotional manipulation and pandering to black/white dichotomies, then I just don't see Hell Houses in this segment of Christianity.

What do you think? 
  • Are Hell Houses effective instruments for conversion and exemplify Christian ideals?  
  • Or are other people sick to their stomach by the practice of scaring children and teens to Christ?



Video Game Proverbs


Respect Your Elders [humor][video]

Honoring the spirit of the Fifth Commandment:

h/t Susan on Facebook.


Amateurs in the Institutional Church 1of2

I know that blog posts about the Church and online media/phenomenon don't get many replies here, but I post them anyways because that's an area I'm interested in.

So here's Internet theorist Clay Shirky (remember him from the What the Church can Learn from Wikipedia series?) talking about the the effect of amateurization and what institutions can do to respond to it...and *I* think it has parallels in the church.  Check out the video and read specific quotes after the jump:

Here's a striking quote for me. Shirky is talking about the advance of online media options and interaction, but I think it parallels the church too:

When you open up new capability, then the average quality decreases. But that happened with the printing press. Prior to the printing press, the only written works which were obsessively copied were Plato, Aristotle, [hand]-copied by monks. When the printing press came along, the quality of the average book actually fell because now lots of people could be writers. So this is the absolutely normal pattern for new media....the way you get out of that is if the increase in abundance is so enormous that the absolute amount of good stuff increases.

[Thus I believe] we are living through the largest increase in expressive capability in the history of the human race.
In short, mass amateurization of an industry certainly reduces the quality of the industry (think blogger ethics v. journalism standards), but because it's en masse the amount of good stuff increases.  So while any idiot with a keyboard can post something online, there are brilliant people who can now reflect online too.  So while the overall quality of the written word has gone down in recent years thanks to txting, IM, and blogs...the sheer amount of good contributions have gone up...if you can wade through the garbage, that is!

I see elements of this in the Church today:
  • Institutional Church v. Dime-a-dozen church startups - The institutional church's membership levels have gone down, while non-denominational churches have popped up a hundredfold.  These churches lack tradition, established avenues of accountability, and indeed some are just tax havens in Westboro, KS.  So while institutional churches have decreased,  I suspect the absolute amount of people experiencing the Christian tradition has increased.
  • Trained Clergy v. passionate local pastors - The number of seminary-trained professional clergy has gone down, while the number of local church pastors has gone up.  Local church pastors may be gifted but don't have the full measure of church tradition and theological training under their belts.  But while seminary-educated clergy has decreased,  I suspect the absolute amount of people experiencing passionate pastoral leadership has increased.
  • Local Church Discipleship v. loosely affiliated groups - On a local-church level, attendance in traditional church discipleship structures has decreased, while impromptu and sideline ministry groups has increased.  Outside of the general church structure are often groups of people that wouldn't call themselves a group but they are doing ministry and discipleship regardless.  So while supervised, accountable discipleship has decreased, I suspect the absolute amount of people experiencing diverse reflections on their spiritual growth has increased.
In short, the Church is also reeling from the effect of mass amateurization.  At the denominational, ecclesiastical, and local church level, the rising tide of "amateur" embodiments threatens the viability of the institutional church.

Thus the question lingers...

  • Will we go the way of the newspapers and struggle to survive in the face of a changing world that values ease of access above all else?  
  • Or will we adapt and thrive, seeking out the best ways to use amateur input and shepherd the power and conviction through our difficulties?

More tomorrow; what are your thoughts today?


God is a Hacker, Not an Engineer

Ran across a quote that sounded interesting and lets me geek out a bit; thought I would share.

"Contrary to the ultra-Darwinist view, reverse engineering doesn't always work in biology for the simple reason that God is not an engineer; God's a hacker."
Francis Crick, Co-discoverer of DNS
I think the original reference is the chaotic mutations and random genetic transformations of organic beings make for a big difficulty to start with a frog and end up with complete fish genetics.  However, it becomes exponentially more difficult with rapidly growing and complex organs like the human brain as the brain changes daily from utero to death.  Reverse-engineering the human brain and creating a robotic or synthetic one that replicates human brains (the Singularity) and passes scrutiny as a human being (the Turing Test) is nigh impossible.*  In this sense, because of the human brain, we may never become God-like creators of our own image.

However, there's a question of theology in the quote as well.  As mentioned at a Slashdot discussion on the above quote, if God is a hacker then we would expect the "code" to be clean and foolproof.  After all, hacking into a system written by someone smarter than you is exponentially more difficult; and if God was the engineer, then finite humans are sunk trying to completely understand God's creation.

However, our DNA is practically a binary system, with four pairs as the basis for its complexity. Our own DNA has crap DNA strands that mean nothing other than evolutionary history (the Appendix, anyone?).   Damaged brains teach us that brains rewrite themselves on the fly, not from some systematic reboot.  So we don't have a highly complex brain that is perfectly written with neat engineer code; rather, we have a haphazard hacked system patched on the fly that can fail at any moment and it is a wonder that all the neurons continue firing.

If God is a hacker, then there's hope for humanity.  There's hope because all of us are damaged systems just trying to make sense of the world around us, one day at a time.  We will never find a complete reboot and will never find a clean slate; we will never find a religious system that we completely agree with or that is faultless; we will never be completely born again (wiped?) and will have to deal with our human histories and failings.  But God is a hacker and can patch us, update us, bring us to new heights unimaginable if we allow God in past our firewalls and our protections.  Indeed, God can offer us salvation beyond our own construction, can insert new code for life eternal.

If God is a hacker, then hack us into new creations with fresh stirrings of our radical human potential and incredible dependency on God for all things new.**

* Yes, I just watched Battlestar Galactica for the first time.  So Cylons that look like humans until you burn their bodies is a neat commentary on what life would be like post-Singularity.

**Ugh, sometimes I hate it that ridiculous nerdy analogies like that flow freely from my brain, and yet I'm serving the Church in rural farmland.  Ah well, that's why I blog, eh?

::EDIT:: And the followup quote by a fellow researcher expounds on the above quote.
“My colleague Francis Crick used to say that God is a hacker, not an engineer,” Dr. Ramachandran said. “You can do reverse engineering, but you can’t do reverse hacking.”
V.S. Ramachandran, "phantom limb syndrome" researcher


Church building a $5m Bridge [bad.hack]

A bad.hack (read more about it here) is a manipulation of a Christian system either using illicit means to achieve an end, or achieving goals that leave the system worse off and less open than before. Read on for the hack!

Hope you have your tissues handy.  Northpoint Church has a terrible problem of being a mega-church but having only one entrance/exit to their location.  Their pastor Andy Stanley outlines the problem:

Are you tired of sitting in the parking lot for twenty minutes after church?

Do you hesitate to invite friends to church because of the complexity of getting on and off our campus?

Have you ever skipped the closing song to beat the crowds to lunch?
I'm teary.  I wish there was something they could do.

Oh, there is.

Build a $5 million dollar bridge to create a second entrance!
Well, if you answered "Yes" to any of those questions, we have some great news for you. We are about to start construction on a bridge that will connect our campus to Old Milton Parkway.
Really?  $5 million of church dollars for a bridge that will save everyone 20-30 minutes and allow the church to "grow to capacity?"  Really?

While I like to hulk-smash things when I hear of churches spending money on infrastructure rather than helping other people who are dying, we all have different understandings of the gospel and we all have different roles to play.  Fair enough and we trust in God that we are following roles faithfully and thoughtfully, diverse as they are.

But their rationale is that it is a missional value to build this bridge.  What?  Really.
If our mission is to be a church thatʼs perfectly designed for the people who already attend, then we donʼt need a bridge. But if we want to continue to be a church unchurched people love to attend, then yes, itʼs worth it. From my perspective, this is not a “nice to have” option. Honestly, I donʼt want to raise money for, or give money to, something thatʼs not mission critical. I believe creating a second access point allows us to stay on mission. That is why weʼve been working on this for nine years.
Building a bridge for the purposes of allowing more suburban people to get to church cannot be legitimately defended as a missional value.

First, the expansion is for the purposes of allowing more people to worship in their church.  A fine decision, I'm not against creating new and better avenues (in this case, literally!) for people to worship, but look at their rationale (PDF):
Currently, we can seat 4,800 people in one service using both auditoriums. But our infrastructure only allows us to comfortably accommodate around 3,500 people. Once we pass the 3,500 mark, the traffic becomes exponentially unbearable. A second access point will allow us to accommodate 1,000 additional people at 9:00 and 11:00, achieving maximum use of our existing facility.
So the problem isn't getting more people in, it's getting 30% more people into a particular worship service time slot that is convenient.  I would think a truly missional decision would be one of the following:

  • For people in the 9am and 11am service to attend the 12:45pm service (which isn't mentioned so it probably doesn't have the traffic problems) or to begin an evening worship service.  But that would be inconvenient for people to change their schedules, wouldn't it?
  • For the congregation to build and move to another campus.  But a longer commute outside of the suburb would be inconvenient, wouldn't it?  
  • For people to carpool or drive in together (and a suburban megachurch with $5mil to burn probably has a lotta 2-person SUVs).  But asking people to carpool would be inconvenient, wouldn't it?

I realize it is easy to criticize a church decision from an armchair, or even question the idea to build a 4,800 seat capacity with only a 3,500 parking lot from an armchair, but really the above are missional responses that don't involve building a $5 million dollar bridge but do involve, oh, sacrifice.

Second, the "missional" value of bringing in more people is conflicting with the missional cost of building the bridge to the surrounding community.

This bridge will span 1,000 feet of flood plain and wetlands. It will be three lanes wide and include a pedestrian walkway. So, donʼt think cute wooden bridge. Think Haynes Bridge.
They are destroying wetlands to build this bridge.  But environmental stewardship is a real missional value as it betters the community outside the church.
This means their decision helps people get to their attractional worship space, but actually does harm to the surrounding communities.  How is that a missional value?

Finally, I think a commenter at Thomas's Everyday Liturgy blog put it best:
I heard that $1 can provide a 3rd world person clean water for an entire year. So instead of helping 5 million people GET water, they are helping 500 or so people AVOID it?
Well said.

I know there's bleedings of anti-mega-churches in this post and that's stereotypical of me.  Stereotypes are offensive because they lump people into small categories and don't describe the individuals therein.  But if the stereotype of megachurch-goers is that they are individualistic and come for convenience rather than the cost of discipleship, and that megachurch-leaders will bend over backwards to accomodate them...then this project does nothing to shatter that stereotype.




No Comment Whatsoever [video]

Title: Church sponsors book burning, includes bibles.

No comment...whatsoever. 


If yer gonna be a literalist...be one. [bad.hack]

Dear Biblical Literalists,

A few days back, Andrew Sullivan reported on a story about a group of guys who viciously attacked a New York gay man.  A heinous crime no matter what you believe about people who are gay.  One member of the group (who may or may not have participated) flashed his tattoo in the coverage:

Yep, that's right.  A tattoo of Leviticus 18:22.  A Leviticus quote which he understands to refer to gayness.*

Obviously, dear Biblical Literalists, this gentleman takes his faith seriously and his bible literally.

Too bad he didn't read a chapter further which literally condemns tattoos:
Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD.
Leviticus 19:28, the one true translation KJV
If you are gonna be a biblical literalist, or just hold everyone to the Holiness Code...please be whole-hog instead of piecemeal.  Otherwise you are guilty of the same sin you accuse others of.

Thanks!  Have a great Friday!


* It can be interpreted to refer to acts between persons, not orientation. The More You Know! [cue flying star]


Blog Action Day Recap [2008-2009]

Here's a recap of the Blog Action Day participation on Hacking Christianity:

Climate Change 2009

  • Hacking Global Warming: exploring how our understanding of God as relational can lead to advances in understanding climate change.
  • Hacking Global Cooling: exploring how our human condition of growing closer and yet more frigid towards each other compounds the problem of climate change
  • Hacking Climate Change: exploring how aggregate individual responses and caring for individual ecosystems will yield positive understandings of God and our response to climate change.
Poverty 2008
  • Hacking Poverty: exploring how poverty is about people with names, that we ought to react out of abundance rather than scarcity, and how we as the non-poor suffer from poverty as well.
Thanks for reading and hopefully we can make a difference.


Hacking Climate Change [3of3] [BlogActionDay]

Today is the second annual Blog Action Day that HX has participated in.  Last year's post was on Poverty; and as you can see, this year's is on Climate Change.  I would encourage you to check out www.blogactionday.org to see what other groups have talked about.

Part III - Hacking Climate Change

As was said in part I, Climate Change is so huge that to detail exactly what it is, what is causing it, what role humans have in it, is just too tedious. So far, instead, we've talked about our understanding of God and the human condition upon which we can rest our struggles with climate change.

There are two assurances that we have even as we wrestle with difficult topics.  The first is assurance that our God is relational because we understand God as Trinity; that is, a relationship between 3 aspects of God:
In the beginning was relationship, says the Trinity [which] reminds us that God is not an isolated individual--indeed, nothing is.
McFague, A New Climate, pp165
We are not alone on this journey, and secondly, we do not have a disconnected God who winds the clock and lets us run:
First, God had made it; second, God loves it; and third, God keeps it.
Julian of Norwich
    While the task seems immense, we know we are not alone.  Thus, the most important thing to hold onto is hope.  Not in a disattached sense of "Let God handle it" but rather a hope that frees us from the pressure of outcomes so that we can add our best efforts to the task at hand

    I hope that climate change has come up at a time when we are equipped to deal with it with a new tool in our toolkit that has never before been possible: mass collaboration.

    So here's the hack: we focus on the aggregate of small responses, building up our own communities, in coordination with nation-state changes.  Let the politicians and businesspeople do the macro work, while anyone who reads this blog (which isn't those people) do the micro-work necessary to effect change.

    We take our example from Linux. No one single-handedly coded the free operating system; thousands of programmers didn't code Linux.  They didn't.  But thousands did fix the little problems and niche areas they felt confident in.  The aggregate of efforts became Linux, but no one or group coded it themselves.  All it was was thousands of independent programmers fixing small problems until the bugs list was manageable.  Same way with Wikipedia: no one wrote all the articles, thousands of people in aggregate maintain them.

    And so it will with us.  The aggregate of thousands of human efforts cannot have anything less than a positive impact (a) on our local ecosystems (b) on groups of ecosystems, and (c) on the residents' understanding of God as lover of humanity.  In promoting understanding of a close relational God that warms our cooled hearts, we are laying the groundwork for an explosion of human potential.  There's tons of resources and communities...just read a sampling of the Blog Action Day posts and you'll find tons of both!

    Thanks for reading, and have a happy Blog Action Day!

      This post is part of Blog Action Day 2009 - Climate Change


      Hacking Climate Change [2of3] [BlogActionDay]

      Today is the second annual Blog Action Day that HX has participated in.  Last year's post was on Poverty; and as you can see, this year's is on Climate Change.  I would encourage you to check out www.blogactionday.org to see what other groups have talked about.

      Part II - Hacking Global Cooling

      If last post was the good news, affirmations about God, then this post is the bad news, or our human condition.  It is an adaptation of an Earth Day sermon in 2009 I gave.  Read on for more:

      Did you know that Earth Day was established in 1970 to oppose something very different than we hear about today?  In 1969 there was growing concern over global cooling, over fears that we were entering into another ice age. These were popular ideas but were ultimately misunderstandings of the scientific data at the time.

      Today, we hear a lot about global warming, about the earth growing warmer and hotter as man-made gasses capture heat in the atmosphere and the polar ice caps melt and thus no longer reflect the sun's warmth back into space.

      But I want to talk about global cooling.About the way how we as humans have become cool to one another, detached, unaffected by anothers' ills.  It seems that everywhere we go people are more and more detached, aren't they?  Have you ever stood in front of something and hear them say hello, you turn, and they are talking to someone on their cell phone?  I don't interact with the person on the train because of those white headphones coming out of a pocket. They are listening to music that I cannot hear. Well, sometimes I can hear it.

      During Holy Week 2009 I preached the story of 82 year old Helen Jackson who was on the escalator on the train station in Boston and her scarf got stuck, pulling her to ground and slowly asphyxiating her. Dozens upon dozens of people just walked by, not getting involved. The faithful two or three who stopped only needed scissors or a pocketknife or simply brute strong hands to cut through the scarf. Instead, over the period of 15 minutes, Helen Jackson suffocated and died right in front of dozens of commutors at State Street Station in Boston.

      I'm sorry to say the science in 1969 was correct, in a sense.  Today, there’s a global cooling when we disregard or ignore our fellow people.
      How long will the land mourn, and the grass of every field wither?
      Jeremiah 12:4

      The earth dries up and withers, the world languishes and withers; the heavens languish together with the earth.
      Isaiah 24:4
      If God can be found in all, then why do we level rainforests without consideration? It has been emerging over the past 20 years that medicines and cures for ailments are found naturally in the deep mysteries and ecology of rain forests. We are destroying rainforests before we even know the value of what is there.  I am reminded of a clergy friend of mine was asked by a child at a conference in Japan “Why do you adults destroy things that you donít know how to bring back?” This child said that she was raised not to take things apart if she didnít know how to put them back together...then why do we?

      Today, the real menace to society isn't so much that we are destroying the environment, but rather that we are growing ever more colder to it and each other.

      On this Blog Action Day we must push back against the ways in which we isolate ourselves from each other and our communal responsibilities.

      My friend and ecologist Marla Marcum has said "all theology is ecological." By ecological, she means the relationships and the web of ways how different ideas interact.  Ecology is about relationships, how the bees pollinate the flowers which take carbon from the atmosphere and put nutrients in the ground, all is caught up in the web of life. 

      For our ecology in our theologies, what we believe about God is important (see part I of this series), and global cooling impacts what we believe about God.
      • Our ancestors worshiped an earth-friendly God, one who was connected to everyone, because our ancestors were warmed by the earth, not Central Air, and lived and died alongside everyone.  Their God was a relational God.  
      • But what kind of God do we end up with in our disconnected world? We end up with gods who only want us to be happy, who want us to have our 'best life now,' and who want us to be rich in money and poor in relationality.

      What we believe about God impacts how we treat our fellow human beings.  And global cooling is neutralizing our human empathy for people who are dying as we speak due to lack of clean water and other effects of climate change. Those who live on low-lying island nations (millions of people and many of them living in poverty) are especially at risk, as ocean levels rise.  Without reliable weather cycles or normal growing seasons – too much rain or too much drought – crops fail and hunger increases, especially for the already desperately poor in many places of the world.

      In Sallie McFague's A New Climate for Theology, she notes that more people, including a high percentage of children, are dying from climate change than terrorist acts.  And the global cooling is part to blame for that:
      The dying is slower and for the most part out of our sight.  As such, it allows for our denial and indifference; in other words, for sins of omission
      McFague, A New Climate for Theology, pp145

      In our ecology, in our world, global cooling hurts us more than global warming because we have the cause and the cure for our contributions, but we no longer see or care about the effects.  How do we overcome sin of omission and apathy to bring the God of warming to our frigid hearts?

      Part III is next.  Thoughts?


      Hacking Climate Change [1of3] [BlogActionDay]

      Today is the second annual Blog Action Day that HX has participated in.  Last year's post was on Poverty; and as you can see, this year's is on Climate Change.  I would encourage you to check out www.blogactionday.org to see what other groups have talked about.

      Part I - Hacking Global Warming

      Climate Change is so huge that to detail exactly what it is, what is causing it, what role humans have in it, is just too tedious.  Though it seems impossible, talking about God (who is infinitely bigger) is actually easier than talking about Climate Change.  It is in talking about God that we participate in Global Warming...the good kind!

      One of the key affirmations/assumptions of this blog post is that God is imminent in creation.  The world is in God, God is connected to the world.  As Sallie McFague in A New Climate for Theology states. "God and the world are not two separate realities that exist independently and must somehow find each other.  Rather, the world is 'charged' with God as if with electricity" (pg 162).

      Some people confuse this with pantheism, meaning that the world is God, instead of panentheism, which states that the world is in God, living like a fish submerged in water.  This form of divine saturation is characterized helpfully by Peter Rollins who talks about God's hyper-presence: God is all around us and we are unable to truly comprehend because of our finitude and God's infinitude.

      Then why don't we notice God?  If you've ever blown a fuse or tripped a circuit breaker, you know that the circuit can handle electricity...just not too much of it.  In the same way, God's presence short-circuits our minds and hearts to be unable to truly experience God. 
      The sun blinds those who look at it directly by overwhelming the visual apparatus...God's incoming overwhelms our intellectual and abstractual apparatus.
      Peter Rollins, How (not) to Speak of God, pp25
      Our circuits can handle a small amount of God's presence, but at times we notice God even incrementally more in the form of epiphanies or spiritual experiences.  In short, God's presence is all around us, warming us, sustaining us, and yet as 1 Timothy 6:16 states, God dwells in inaccessible light.

      The effects of such a shift in perspective, of locating God not as "up there" "far away" or "inaccessible" is that we notice God everywhere.  God is present in every area of the world.  God is found in love and God is found in suffering; God is found in beauty and God is found in the shit; God is found upstream and downstream. 

      This isn't a new understanding as we hear these words of a Medieval mystic:
      The day of my spiritual awakening was the day I saw--and knew I saw--all things in God and God in all things.
      ~Mechthild of Magdeburg (McFague, A New Climate, pp162)
      Such a theological shift comes with warmth.  When cells are warmed up, they move faster.  When people are warm, we move easier.  When our bodies emerge from hypothermia or a coma, they warm and reactivate as warm blood moves to the extremities.  When we grow in our relationship with God, when we shift our perspective, warming happens because we know God is closer than ever before. 

      This form of Global Warming is good as we start to notice what happens to our extremities and what role our actions play on the earth.  We start to slowly awaken to the effects of our actions downstream.  In short, we start to notice what our chilled hearts had not noticed before.  And the realization is dawning slowly: that we humans have an awesome responsibility.  We are growing in our relationship with God, even as iPods and brutal politics drive us apart (see part II).  We are growing in our relationship with God because we are slowly realizing that we are responsible for the global health of this relationship.

      Thus, as we have at other hinge points of human history, we face the same question that perhaps our grandparents did prior to WWII: who are we in the scheme of things?  As McFague says in finality:
      Once we see who we are in the scheme of things, we realize we must take care of the earth that is taking care of us.
      Sallie McFague, A New Climate, pp167
      Realization of our role, emerging as it is, is our call to action today.

      Part II coming up.  Thoughts?


      Blog Action Day Preview

      Blog Action Day is tomorrow, focusing on climate change. 

      We've got three blog posts lined up for tomorrow:

      1. Hacking Global Warming (conversation partners: Peter Rollins, Star Wars, Mechthild of Magdeburg, Kester Brewin, and Sallie McFague)
      2. Hacking Global Cooling (section of a sermon I gave on Earth Day last year)
      3. Hacking Climate Change (Julian of Norwich, Linus Torvald, Wikipedia, Sallie McFague, and you!)
      Stop on by at 9am, 12pm, and 3pm for the posts!


      Was Jesus a Martyr? [open conversation]

      These days we're doing a chapter-by-chapter discussion of Gonzalez's Church History books...what I thought was boring in Seminary makes for lively conversation in the church! 

      So the conversation came up about the early Christian martyrs and trying to define what 'martyr' meant.  We waffled between two definitions:
      1. Someone who dies for a cause  *OR*
      2. Someone who dies because of a cause
      Then from the leftmost table (the troublemakers) came the question:

      Was Jesus a Martyr?

      So, which is Jesus?
      1. Did Jesus die for his cause?   *OR*
      2. Did Jesus die because of his cause?
      So, sound off.  Which of the above statements is closer to your idea of Christ?

      To me, this is an important question.   Because how you answer may rely on your  understanding of what Jesus' death means (ie. atonement).
      1. If Jesus died for his cause, then there's a higher likelihood that you hold a redemptive atonement theory (penalty-satisfaction or substitutionary) because you place a high meaning on Jesus' death.
      2. If Jesus died because of his cause, then there's a higher likelihood that you hold to an incarnational atonement theory (moral-influence or incarnational) because you place a high meaning on Jesus' life (and a prophetic life inevitably leads to death).
      So, which is it? 

      Did Jesus die for or because of his cause? 

      And does either of those make him a martyr?



      Retro Nintendo + Jazz = Awesome

      Here's 8-bit Nintendo retro goodness with jazz accompaniment (sax and keyboard, I believe).

      (h/t Neatorama)


      Don't Cut Up Your Bible [bad.hack]

      Thomas Jefferson disagreed with parts of the New Testament and considered them irrelevant (or too "supernatural") to the core parts of the Christian faith.  He famously published his own New Testament with sections edited out, entire books missing.  It's been called the Jefferson Bible.

      History repeats itself with the advent of the Conservative Bible Project, an online effort to re-translate (or perhaps rewrite) the bible to better reflect their concept of conservative ideals.  From the link (yes, this is serious):
      As of 2009, there is no fully conservative translation of the Bible which satisfies the following ten guidelines:

      1. Framework against Liberal Bias: providing a strong framework that enables a thought-for-thought translation without corruption by liberal bias
      2. Not Emasculated: avoiding unisex, "gender inclusive" language, and other modern emasculation of Christianity
      3. Not Dumbed Down: not dumbing down the reading level, or diluting the intellectual force and logic of Christianity; the NIV is written at only the 7th grade level
      4. Utilize Powerful Conservative Terms: using powerful new conservative terms as they develop;defective translations use the word "comrade" three times as often as "volunteer"; similarly, updating words which have a change in meaning, such as "word", "peace", and "miracle".
      5. Combat Harmful Addiction: combating addiction by using modern terms for it, such as "gamble" rather than "cast lots";using modern political terms, such as "register" rather than "enroll" for the census
      6. Accept the Logic of Hell: applying logic with its full force and effect, as in not denying or downplaying the very real existence of Hell or the Devil.
      7. Express Free Market Parables; explaining the numerous economic parables with their full free-market meaning
      8. Exclude Later-Inserted Liberal Passages: excluding the later-inserted liberal passages that are not authentic, such as the adulteress story
      9. Credit Open-Mindedness of Disciples: crediting open-mindedness, often found in youngsters like the eyewitnesses Mark and John, the authors of two of the Gospels
      10. Prefer Conciseness over Liberal Wordiness: preferring conciseness to the liberal style of high word-to-substance ratio; avoid compound negatives and unnecessary ambiguities; prefer concise, consistent use of the word "Lord" rather than "Jehovah" or "Yahweh" or "Lord God."

      Thus, a project has begun among members of Conservapedia to translate the Bible in accordance with these principles.
      Read the rest of the entry, including the "examples" and try to not either cry/weep/laugh/or HULK SMASH. It is just insane.  I cannot pretend to have a neutral position on this.  As Rod Dreher says:
      It's like what you'd get if you crossed the Jesus Seminar with the College Republican chapter at a rural institution of Bible learnin'...These jokers don't worship God. They worship ideology.
      Truth.  Even the Jesus Seminar or Red-Letter Christians don't cut out parts of the bible...they merely elevate verses over others.  Everybody does that, even the hardest of literalists.  So this is a farce.  There, I said it.  It would be funny if it weren't obviously an honest effort.

      This is a bad.hack, one that negates the dissonance that every follower of Christ ought to experience and replacing it with a biblical echo-chamber that only sends back conservative rainbows in reply.  It either will hurt Christianity by playing to people's (especially, typically, conservatives') need for certainty, or will expose the bible as neutered without the dissonance of thought and expression.

      But don't take my words for it...the author of a 2004 translation/compendium of the original Jefferson bible had this to say:
      [Jefferson] decided that the rules of the club to which he wished to belong were not the rules he wanted to play by. So instead of changing clubs, he changed the rule book by literally cutting and pasting together only the sections that he found relevant to his interpretation.
      In short, this has no more place in public discourse than the LOLcats Bible...except that one is HILarious.  This Project is just scary dumb, written by people without any of the values of either Conservatives or Liberals, and hopefully in the annals of time it too will end up on the cutting-room floor.



      Church History in 4 minutes [video]

      This post is dedicated to the seminarians entering month #2 of Church History and are freaking out a bit.

      And the added bonus that it is to the tune of "We didn't Star the Fire" is pretty awesome.

      (h/t Exploring Our Matrix...thanks Professor McGrath!)


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