Category Archives: Uncategorized

Finding the Gospel in Surprising Places

“Finale B”, by Jonathan Larson. From the musical/movie RENT

There is no future, there is no past.

Thank God this moment’s not the last.

There’s only us
There’s only this.
Forget regret or
Life is yours to miss.

No other road, no other way;
No day but today.

Will I lose my dignity (I can’t control)?
Will someone care (my destiny)?
Will I wake tomorrow (I trust my soul)
From this nightmare (my only goal is just to be)?

Without you (there’s only now)
The hand gropes (there’s only here)
The ear hears (give in to love)
The pulse beats (or live in fear)
Life goes on (no other path)
But I’m gone (no other way)
‘Cause I die (no day but today)
Without you (no day but today)
I die without you (no day but today)
I die without you (no day but today)
I die without you (no day but today)
I die without you (no day but today)
I die without you.

No day but today.

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Filed under Aesthetics, Uncategorized

An Open Letter to the Lady Sharing the Elevator

Dear Lady on the Elevator:

I acknowledge the possibility that your parent(s) did not teach you propriety and common courtesy, but I wanted to inform you that Western culture considers it rude when you refuse to acknowledge someone’s presence, especially when they acknowledge yours first. I also recognize that you seem to have some perception of danger seeing as how you’ve (a) clutched your purse tightly to your body in a protective manner and (b) physically moved in between me and your child.

Nevermind that my own child is currently perched on my shoulders, or in the case that he is elsewhere, that I belong here in this building. As you may recall, you had to enter this building by first going through a locked gate and then through a locked set of doors, and there are cameras in the lobby and outside, meaning my image was recorded the entire time. That aside, my manner of dress suggests I belong here since, every day, I wear a collared shirt, slacks, belt, and dress shoes—business attire. Most often I have a computer bag on my shoulder. In fact, I am most often better dressed than most of the gentlemen in the building (by other people’s comments, not my own observation).

This leads naturally into my next point. Everyone who has residence in this building is either a student of the seminary or a spouse of a student. In fact, I am both, in addition to being an employee of the seminary. As such, I now have three reasons to belong in this elevator with you. While we can’t make too many hard assumptions, one can reasonably guess that as an employee, student, and spouse, I have been vetted by the seminary as having decent character (actually, the seminary ran a background check on me as an employee, which is more than I can say for your spouse).

As such, I can’t help but wonder that the reason for your reaction toward me has something to do with the only thing different about me that you can see: my skin color. You should know that I have somewhat of a mean streak when it comes to these kinds of reactions. The more you ignore me and act rudely, the nicer I will act toward you. In fact, I am now inclined to go out of my way to display polite behavior and engage in considerate public discourse with you. It’s not going to stop until you acknowledge that (a) I am a human being and that (b) I belong here. You may feel differently about it, but I’m sorry to report that my spouse, the school, and my employer all politely disagree with you.

Interestingly, according to the FBI, by percent and by number, you’ll more likely be the victim of a crime caused by someone who looks more like you than me. Except gambling; evidently the numbers say I’m highly likely to commit crimes of gambling against you. But that’s okay: you may continue to be rude as long as I can continue to make you uncomfortable by treating you with dignity.

With great irony,

–Me

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Voyerism and Tragedy

Go back to the worst day in your life.

Maybe it was the day you found out your dad died, or the day you discovered your mom had a car accident, or the time you found a lump. Remember the emotion, the pain, the grief, the fear that came with the news. Sit there for a moment.

Now imagine , in the midst of that pain, someone stuck a camera in your face.

When we hear about tragedies like Boston we typically rush to the television or internet and see the pictures of bloodstained concrete, tearful families hugging one another, and frantic rescue workers doing their duties. You don’t see the (wo)man with the camera, standing in the midst of the fray snapping photographs with all the subtlety of a rat scampering through the walls. Next time you’re on the internet looking at one of these tragedies, find a photo (well available at the time of this writing on any news site)  of someone holding a crying friend and loved one. Notice that, typically, one person has their back to the camera. They’re doing that because they’re putting their back to the camera.

In my experience, photographers on site usually employ pushing and intrusive methods to get those spectacular photographs that they then sell to newspapers. While the blood still stains the scene, they transmit their photographs, usually with dreams of winning a prestigious award for the inevitable photo essay that will go on to publication in a coffee table book, portfolio, or other medium that documents the strength of their work. Worst of all, we unknowingly participate and sanction this kind of work as we stare and devour any and all visual information available.

Admittedly, when I put fingers to keyboard to write this post, I intended to create a scathing indictment of the kind of person who stands with a camera and takes pictures while others around them suffer. I then intended to decry the voyeuristic nature of our consumer society which seems to feed on this kind of information like a tick on a deer. Three sentences in, I recognized both the futility and hypocrisy of those approaches.

I instead appeal to your humanity. The next time you see one of those photos, I urge you to do the following:

  1. Pray for the salvation, safety, and healing of the survivors; for justice; for the salvation of the perpetrators; for the wisdom and insight of the investigators.
  2. Talk to your family, and remind them that you love them.
  3. Reconcile any relationships that have gone astray, insofar as you can.
  4. Live your life as if this might happen to you (which means that you should consider your real priorities).

Let the pictures of these tragedies lead you—not into the distanced observation and curiosity of others’ pain—but into hope and a reminder of the things to come, in light of the things as they are. Let tragedy lead you into a response of faith.

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April 16, 2013 · 9:01 am

Why I am not an Apologist

Every now and then, I’ll get into a discussion with someone about the rise of apologetics as a field of study for Christian Education. In recent years, several universities or seminaries have built or added apologetics degrees including Biola, Houston Baptist, and Denver Seminary, all of which have highly respected faculty and programs.

Personally, I think it won’t reach most students’ learning goals.

Okay, so that’s a strong statement, but let me explain. Many people value apologetics because they feel it helps them spread the gospel. In their view, they want to gain answers to any and all questions in order to be prepared to give a defense. Unfortunately, I believe they’re preparing to answer the wrong questions, and will therefore give the wrong answers.

Most of us in the church have been educated according to a Modernist mindset wherein the major philosophical category is epistemology. In simple English, when we encounter issues or problems, we first ask “Is this true?” before moving forward. Therefore, we gravitate to degrees like apologetics because it helps us to understand the truth, to argue about what is true, and to see the truth.

We live in a post-Modern era wherein the major philosophical category is axiology. When a post-modernist encounters a problem, they first ask, “Is this valuable?” before moving forward. A post-modernist wants to understand issues of importance, value, or good. This is why many people will respond with, “Well that’s your truth,” when you tell them about something you understand as true. What they’re really saying is, “You may think that’s good/valuable/important, but I don’t.” You may have every argument for the authenticity of the Bible, every philosophical proof of deity, all truth in all of existence about the veracity of what you have to say, but if you do not convince them that what you have to say is good, they will never accept it as true.

In short, I feel that apologetics degrees and approaches suffer because they ask and answer the wrong questions. A post-modern apology for Christianity must defend the notion that (1) God is good, (2) Christianity is good, and (3) what Christianity produces is good. If your apology (defense) neglects any of these, I feel that you will not reach this generation. As a side note, I’ll also point out that actions speak louder than words in this case.

I respect those who take the path of the apologist. I respect those who teach apologetics to others. I observe, however, that arguing over the accuracy of this or that New Testament manuscript may not have the effect you think it does. As the old saw goes, no one every became a Christian because they lost the argument. And what is good? “He has told you, O man, what is good, and what the Lord really wants from you:He wants you to promotejustice, to be faithful,and to live obediently before your God.”

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Filed under Christian Education, Uncategorized

The Hidden Victims of Newtown, Connecticut

By now, the events that happened in Newtown, Connecticut, have spread across the news feed. Even now, countless Facebook and Twitter feeds call for prayer for the parents and relatives of the children and teachers killed in the tragedy. Some remind us of God’s presence, in spite of the appearance of this great evil. In this time of tragedy, I want to remind you of a victim of this crime that many will overlook.

Ryan Lanza.

Ryan Lanza and his family, to be more precise. Consider Ryan’s perspective. On the day of the tragedy, the police detained and questioned him. In case you have any naivete about this, please understand that when the police pick someone up as a suspect, they treat them as guilty and assume that they are guilty until the suspect convinces them otherwise. That “innocent until proven guilty” stuff is an idealistic falsehood that doesn’t exist in the real world (consider: why would you put a presumed innocent person in handcuffs).

Eventually, authorities released him, and at some point he found out that both his brother and mother died. Ryan lost two family members in this tragedy, and worse: his brother committed the crime. Ryan now has to reconcile the fact that his own brother killed his mother (and himself). Compounding the issue, Ryan will look for comfort from his friends, but find none since they will subconsciously (and some consciously) blame him for the actions of his brother. He will bury his brother in secret-assuming that the police do not retain the body for several months for investigative purposes-for fear of protestors who will choose to inform him of his brother’s eternal destination. They’ll probably use signs and bullhorns. All in Christian love, of course. He’ll get death threats, angry phone calls in the middle of the night, and accusations of impropriety.

He’ll bury his mother. A few gawkers will come to see the mother of the killer. Few will cry with or for him and his family. Given the size of the town he probably knew some of the parents and/or the kids. People will have memorial services for all those who died, but he will be politely, but firmly, asked to skip attendance. They don’t want his presence interfering with the other mourners, after all. Reporters will come to his house so that “he can tell his brother’s story” and then cherry-pick the parts so that they can create a news report that will generate buzz. Politicians will use his brother’s story and face to score political points. People will make careers out of this tragedy.

Ryan and his family will mourn alone.

Shunned and outcast, the Lanza family will eventually leave Newtown and settle somewhere else. Probably in another state. Probably praying that no one recognizes him. For all intents and purposes, Ryan’s life as he knew it is over.

As you say a prayer for the family members of those who died, I ask you to add one name to that list:

Ryan Lanza.

He too, has suffered a great tragedy. Unfortunately for him, he’s probably going to deal with it in solitude, and with a distinct lack of empathy or understanding from others.

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