Archive for the ‘culture’ Category

Context.

Posted: Thursday, October 11, 2012 in culture, politics, thoughts

I know that I can post quite a bit about politics.  It is just so irritating to have conservative commentators who are either “christian” or say they want freedom of religion (and, thus, play the religious card for their own gain) and yet act in such a contrary way to moral ethics (simply to prove their point).  I harp on the conservatives because it is this group that will always take the higher moral ground in any conversation about doing what is right and good.

Just today I heard Jim Quinn from Quinn and Rose play a clip from President Obama’s speech at the U.N.  In this clip the only thing that got played was the part where our President said, “the future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.”  Quinn (and I am sure others) went off saying things like, “Can you believe that OUR president would say that?”  The implication is, and has been since Obama came in office, is that he is a secret Muslim intent on reforming and reshaping America into either a communist or muslim nation (the jury is still out on which narrative gets more air play).  Quinn played this clip twice and the second time stopped it too early and said, “Sorry I stopped the clip to early, let me play it again.”  Why the concern for stopping the clip too early?

Well, here is the context of what President Obama said:

The future must not belong to those who target Coptic Christians in Egypt – it must be claimed by those in Tahrir Square who chanted “Muslims, Christians, we are one.” The future must not belong to those who bully women – it must be shaped by girls who go to school, and those who stand for a world where our daughters can live their dreams just like our sons. The future must not belong to those corrupt few who steal a country’s resources – it must be won by the students and entrepreneurs; workers and business owners who seek a broader prosperity for all people. Those are the men and women that America stands with; theirs is the vision we will support.

The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam. Yet to be credible, those who condemn that slander must also condemn the hate we see when the image of Jesus Christ is desecrated, churches are destroyed, or the Holocaust is denied. Let us condemn incitement against Sufi Muslims, and Shiite pilgrims. It is time to heed the words of Gandhi: “Intolerance is itself a form of violence and an obstacle to the growth of a true democratic spirit.” Together, we must work towards a world where we are strengthened by our differences, and not defined by them. That is what America embodies, and that is the vision we will support.

Now the reason is more clear.  He said that after condemning those who target Coptic Christians.  Those who bully women.  Those who steal resources only to make themselves richer.  Then he said what he did about those who slander the prophet of Islam.  But then, right on the heels of that came the remark that those Muslims who are furious with those slanders cannot then turn around and desecrate images of Jesus, or destroy churches, or deny the holocaust.

We must always take into account the full account and not bits and pieces (sound bites) that people want us to bite on for their own agenda’s.  One may still not like Obama as our President, one may not like what he said about not slandering the prophet of Islam.  But certainly there was plenty in that speech to commend and approve.

Health Care Politics

Posted: Monday, July 2, 2012 in culture, leadership, life, people, society, thoughts

So with one decision by an unexpected source we now have mandated health care.  My point is not to add another voice to the goodness or badness of that decision (there are far more brilliant minds than mine who can’t figure it all out), but something else all together.

Conservatives are up in arms over this decision and have tried to blame Chief Justice Roberts’ vote on everything from epileptic seizure medications to putting the perception of the court on a higher pedestal than his principals.

Other conservatives are praising Roberts’ in a back-handed sort of way saying that he has now paved the way for a Romney victory in November.

Hasn’t Roberts’ done exactly what conservatives have always said should be done within the courts (and especially within the highest court in the United States)?  But it is funny how by Robert’s doing exactly the thing conservatives want they have casted him as someone who does the complete opposite of what he should be doing and the only reasons they have to say this is because he didn’t vote the way they think he should have voted.

Isn’t it possible that Roberts’ voted in favor of the health care law not because he liked the law himself, personally.  But maybe, just maybe, he voted for it because he didn’t see it as unconstitutional.  He heard the arguments, he weighed the evidence, he consulted law books, and drew from his vast knowledge of law and history and came to the conclusion he did with a sound mind and rational thinking…is this possible?

Would it have been in our best interest, as a nation from what we expect from our courts, for Roberts’ to simply vote along party lines?  Why would I want a Supreme Court judge to vote along party lines?

Roberts’ did the unthinkable…he thought.  He pondered.  He weighed.  And in the end, contrary to the voices that I hear around me, he didn’t play in the legislative arena.  He stayed well within the bounds of judicial prudence.  He voted whether a law was constitutional or not.

Roberts’ is not perfect.  So was his decision (or any of the other judges) completely neutral?  It is impossible to know for sure.  When it comes down to it….only he knows what and how much outside influence, or party politics, or whatever goes into any of his decisions.

Some liked his vote.  Other did not.  I am not saying I like the ruling.  I am not saying I am completely opposed to the ruling.  But I think one judge did what he was appointed to do and I think for that he needs to be commended.  It gives me hope that people can see beyond their own agenda’s, their own interest, or the interests of those that “got them there”.

So thank you Judge Roberts’ for thinking deeply, coming to your conclusion and then voting how you did even though you must have known the reaction that would come by way of your decision to do what you were called to do for our country.

He’s On To Something.

Posted: Saturday, June 23, 2012 in culture, theology, thoughts

By now the bloggers, commentators and all “patriotic” Americans have weighed in on Chris Hayes’ comments about “being uncomfortable with using the word hero” to describe fallen soldiers.

Read what he said,

“I think it’s interesting because I think it is very difficult to talk about the war dead and the fallen without invoking valor, without invoking the words “heroes.” Why do I feel so [uncomfortable] about the word “hero”? I feel comfortable — uncomfortable — about the word because it seems to me that it is so rhetorically proximate to justifications for more war. Um, and, I don’t want to obviously desecrate or disrespect memory of anyone that’s fallen, and obviously there are individual circumstances in which there is genuine, tremendous heroism: hail of gunfire, rescuing fellow soldiers and things like that. But it seems to me that we marshal this word in a way that is problematic. But maybe I’m wrong about that.”

What makes what he said so highly controversial to the point that his opponents would classify him as “disgusting”, “arrogant”, “selfish little worm”, “ugly” (yes, Rose from Quinn and Rose fame called him the last three words, including “ugly” – I thought she was “above the fray” of resorting to 6th grade tactics when disagreeing with someone)?  Frankly, nothing makes it controversial unless you wrap militarism, nationalism, patriotism, and, yes, religion up in the same flag.  Not only did he say that he didn’t want to “desecrate” memories of fallen soldiers.  He also believe that in individual circumstances there were cases of heroism.  And he also believed that he could be wrong about his viewpoint.

I happen to agree with him.  I just read that evangelical Christians are the most pro-war segment of American society.  Have we forgotten that most Christians up to the time of Constantine did not support violence?  Have we forgotten that the majority of Christ-followers through church history have embraced what has been called the Just-War Theory?  The theory embraces several core criteria that have to be in place in order for a Christian to embrace a war and, also, to call it just.  The amazing idea though is that ALL the criteria have to be satisfied and not just one or two points.  In other words the theory was used to weed out most wars and to label most of them as unjust.

So much has changed.  Just War Theory is now virtually forgotten and anyone who has trouble calling fallen soldiers “hero’s” is labeled “ugly”.  Christians, instead living in the constant reminder that the empire could turn so quickly and easily against them with the use of violence now support war overwhelmingly against others (at least evangelicals anyway).  At the very least let us count those who work for peace (in non-violent endeavors) in a violent world as “hero’s”as well.  This may make some mad, or irritated, or uncomfortable….i get that.  Yet I see Jesus calling us to live differently and to live in peace, I see the NT writers calling us to live in peace.

My wife and I were talking the other day and she commented that war and peace were difficult issues.  And, to a certain extent they are.  Yet, i think we have made them complicated.  I am not sure if the early church would have had any problems renouncing war and violence of all types.  So what has changed in the intervening years?  The scriptural call to peace or our attitude toward war?

In a violent world there is nothing much more heroic than one who lives not bound by cultural expectations but lives in the morals and values of the kingdom that Christ brought with him at his incarnation, and says “I will not participate in death, destruction and violence towards others rather I will bring life, healing and hope and show a glimpse of the age to come in my stand for peace and non-violence.”

We still have to work against evil, death, violence, injustice but let us long to have our first inclination to stand against those things be done in a way that doesn’t fight with the weapons of this world but with the creativity, love, and hope of the prince of peace.

The Sham (or Shame) of Lent.

Posted: Saturday, March 12, 2011 in culture, faith, jesus, life, theology, thoughts

Let me be very clear up front – Ash Wednesday and Lent are very important and sacred times of the Christian liturgical year.  There is great emotion and preparation during this time that help us to focus on the approaching season of Easter.  Easter – the death and the resurrection of Jesus (through which the Age to Come has burst forth and has been brought, in part, to the present).  Make no mistake:  this is a very special, important, sacred time.

It is because of the specialness of this time that I cringe when it rolls around.  I grew up in a tradition that didn’t observe Ash Wednesday or Lent and, therefore, missed out on much symbolism and preparation for the coming of Easter.  Friends around me who were in those traditions that celebrated this time would talk of giving up chocolate or candy, or fast food.  The typical high school “sacrifice”.  As I grew older and observed other traditions and saw the truth and beauty in the Lent season my attitude changed and not only did I become open  to Lent (and Ash Wednesday) but have observed it a couple of times.  I wish it was a regular practice of my life….but it is not.  But sometimes i get the feeling that we just give up “adult” versions of chocolate and candy.  Especially those in the evangelical church who have come to embrace Lent and Ash Wednesday (but also in the other traditions that have this practice as central to what they do).

For instance, and to my shame, one time I gave up “coffee” for Lent.  Granted this was my first foray into the practice but still….coffee?  Other things that I have heard include…TV, the Internet (or sites like FB, or Myspace, or personal blogs), coffee, reading other things outside the Scriptures, certain foods, etc.  These aren’t bad things in and of themselves to give up (especially when one may be “controlled” by certain “vices”) but in another sense…..TV?  Books? FB?  Really?  This is the sham of Lent.  Give up something we are really “addicted” to and, perhaps, let others know, and consider ourselves as really “sacrificing” things for a special time of year.  People can be “addicted” to those things (and maybe for some it is an appropriate thing to give up)…but, honestly, TV?

What about giving up our incessant need to have the last word?  What about giving up our failure to speak a kind word to the person who pisses us off the most?  What about giving up our comfort so that others may simply live?  What about giving up our right to our money and realize it belongs to God and give it away freely?  What about shutting our minds off simply to our own point of views and read or listen to people we disagree with….with an open mind and learn how to gently and kindly disagree with others?  What about giving up our hatred, yes hatred, for a President many of us didn’t vote for and pray for him daily during Lent and thank God for him?

I am not perfect and as I write these suggestions I am struck by how many of these things I struggle with.  But as I write I sense there is much more to give up than just physical things during Lent.  But the physical stuff is the easy stuff.  I really don’t have to change over the course of 40 days (though many people do!)….but the attitudes, and the behaviors those are the hard things….those are the things that if we could learn how to change them (with the power of the Spirit) we could actually be different on the other side of the Lent Season.

“That Fox”

Posted: Friday, March 4, 2011 in culture, theology, Thoughts of Others

Go here for a great article by Jim Wallis about teachers in general and about Jon Stewart’s great piece on the hypocrisy of FOX News in particular. Good stuff.

The 30 Million Dollar Problem.

Posted: Saturday, February 19, 2011 in culture, people, sports, theology, thoughts

If someone offered you $25 million dollars per year for the next 8 years….what would you do?  I know that if I had a skill that someone thought was worth $25 million dollars I would jump at the opportunity.  But let’s be honest up front….nobody has a skill worth $25 million dollars.  People have an ability that generates much more revenue for their employer than the $25 million dollars they are receiving in salary.  But nobody has a skill set worth $25 million p/year in and of itself.

Unless, of course, you happen to be Albert Pujols.  Let me rephrase that: unless you actually, truly, happen to be Albert Pujols determining how much you are worth.  And then $25 million per year isn’t good enough.  $30 million per for 10 years should be adequate.

According to the Global Issues site: 80% of the world’s population lives on less than $10 a day.  And the poorest 40% of the world’s population  account for 5% of the world’s income, while the richest 20% of the world’s population accounts for over 75% of the global income.

I can now certainly see Pujol’s position that $25,000,000 p/yr. for 8 years of playing baseball, you know, a game, isn’t quite worthy enough of his talents.

Let me see if i can break down his $30,000,000 request just a little bit for us:

At $30,000,00 Pujols would be making – $8, 219 per day (and remember that is for every of the 365 days of the year regardless of whether he is working or not).  So: $8,219 per day.  Most of us work 8 hours a day so that would be like earning – $1, 027. 37 per hour.  But, of course, baseball players don’t work that long per day…let’s say about 3 hours per day (on game day).  This equals, roughly, $2,739.67 per working day for Albert Pujols.  Around $342 p/hr. which is 46X higher than someone who makes minimum wage!  It breaks down further to around $5.70 per minute and about 9 1/2 cents per second.  So here are the statics for ease sake just listed from day, to 8 hour work day, to 3 hour work day, to minute and then to second:

– $8, 219 p/day

– $1027.37 p/8 hour work day

– $2, 739.67 p/3 hour work day

– $342 p/hour

– $5.70 p/minute

– $0.095 p/second

I’m starting to get an eerie feeling that Pujol’s contract (and so many other sports stars and celebrities – Billy Ray Cyrus was “working for peanuts” on his daughter’s show, Hannah Montana, because his salary was only $15000 per week) is not so much about whacked out thinking (someone is really going to balk at a contract nearing the QUARTER BILLION DOLLAR mark!?!) but, rather, a spiritual issues, a moral issue, a, YES I WILL SAY IT, Social Justice issue.

A team that offers 1 person  $200 million dollars, a person who rejects that because they want $300 million…this isn’t just bad stewardship on both parts….this is an outright moral failure.  Forget Pujols rejecting the Cards offer, if he is quibbling over $5 million p/yr he has really lost touch with reality and where a lot of people who live in this country are at and, also, certainly those who live in other parts of the world are at financially.

Let’s just start with the basic offers to begin with: Pujols asking for $300 million over 10 years and the Cards negotiating to $200 million over eight years.  Are we kidding ourselves?  When did contracts like these ever become serious offers?  Forget the nostalgia of former players playing for a lot less…. even their contracts for their respective eras were more often than not….on the high side.

People are without food, sanitation, water, education, immunizations, medicines, etc. and we have a baseball contract being offered for close to a quarter of a billion dollars….to one person.  This is ridiculous!  And as a Christ-follower this type of behavior should be addressed and called out.  I know it isn’t one of the hot button issues of abortion or homosexuality but at the end of the day it is, also, a life issue.  A moral issue.  An issue that shows just how backwards we have things.  And perhaps because of the lack of outrage about this issue it shows us just how deep this problem runs.  Why is the issue of homosexuality regularly preached and taught about and against from pulpits every Sunday but a moral issue that reflects our greed, our personal involvement in the dismantling of financial stewardship (where do you think teams get a lot of the money to pay these crazy contracts?), and how this one contract could, according to statistics over at Charity Water, bring clean drinking water to 10,000,000 people world wide, either swept under the rug or not addressed as if it had no bearing on our spiritual lives (or lack thereof) or no bearing on the lives of those around us simply trying to make ends meet in this country and simply trying to live in other parts of the world (and, yes, in our own backyard as well).

This isn’t a sports issue/problem.  This is a moral/social justice issue.  Contracts like these need to stop.  And they have to start with us.  By boycotting the games, the merchandise, etc.  I understand most won’t.  But this is what the kingdom of God expressed through the church looks like:  radical, counter-cultural, bold, passionate about the lives of others.  The lives of others who are poor, needy, and without some of even the basics for living.  I cannot believe God is neutral about billions of people starving, dying, sick, unjustly in prison or beaten, or thirsty all the while one person is upset that instead of making $30 million dollars per year he was only offered $25 million.

Unless you are TBN, or Glenn Beck, this is a problem at a most profound and spiritual level.

Ring Theology.

Posted: Sunday, January 16, 2011 in culture, life, thoughts

The 12th Annual WV Toughman Contest came and went at Frankfort H.S. last weekend.  12 years of fights, ring girls, blood, pride, egos, and fighters of all abilities, ages and both sexes.

Needless to say, but I am about to say it anyway….i didn’t go.  Never have.  Never will.  My question is this:  what should i make of all this?  how should i evaluate people being beaten by others for sport?  and maybe what is even a more thorny problem: what should my response be to those who are fellow Christ-followers who not only don’t have a problem with Toughman but who actively support it and happily engage in it’s atmosphere?  Is this an area of legitimate disagreement?  Is this a gray area?  In this an area of personal freedom?  Or have we become so desensitized to violence that this kind of thing no longer bothers us?

But where would we stop?  Toughman?  Boxing?  Football?  Wrestling (of the ‘professional’ kind)?  I don’t have the answers.  I am simply looking for insight.  All i know is that i am extremely uncomfortable with the idea of people beating others, to the point of blood, knockouts, unnecessary pain, all in the name of ‘sport’.  To go after another human made in the image of God to the point of injury seems to go against our calling to love others, treat them with respect, kindness even in our competitive games.