Sunday, November 16, 2008

Other people's words.

I watched "Instinct" at youth group tonight and one of the characters said something that I've been thinking and feeling for a while. It's said by Cuba Gooding Jr.'s character.

Ok Ethan. You asked me a question once, "What has you all tied up in knots when you wake up sweating in the middle of the night?" You still wanna know? I've been thinking about it, been thinking about it a lot. It's not the work, I love the work. I've always loved the work. It's the game. The game, Ethan. And I was so good at it. I made sure all the right people liked me. At night, I'd go through the checklist in my mind: Am I cool with Ben Hillard? Am I cool with Dr. Josephson? Am I cool with all the people who can help me? Am I cool with all the people who can hurt me? Nobody thought I was weak or a loser. There was nobody I was offending, nobody I loved. *That* game, Ethan. But guess what? You taught me how to live outside of the game. You taught me how to *live*. And you know what scares me even more? That I'm going back in. "Forgive me, Ben. Put me back in the game. I'll make you like me again. I'll do the work, I'll do *all* the work, just put me back in the game." And you wanna know, you wanna know the psychology behind this? Now, pay attention, cause I'm good at this. I'm trying not to say goodbye to you. I'm trying not to say I'll miss you. I'm trying to forget you. Ethan Powell, case closed. *Case closed*. Look at me..

I'm not saying goodbye to anyone, but I can relate to how he sees his job. I'm tired of playing the game.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

We are the ones we've been waiting for!

A few days ago I filled out my absentee ballot.  When I filled in the oval beside Obama/Biden I actually felt like that little motion made with a pen meant something.  I voted for a man that, for once, seems to think and see the world the way I do.  He just gave his victory speech on national television.

For the first time since I've been politically conscious I feel hope that America might become something more than just the most powerful empire on earth.  I feel that my voice has been heard and counts.  That we no longer have to settle for a choice between two caricatures, but can cut a path not determined mindless adherence to one of two polar opposites.  I feel like we might be waking up from the fugue caused by our power, greed, and arrogance.  I hope it is more than just a momentary impression. 

To those that are fearful and frustrated by tonight.  I'm sorry for your fear and I understand that nothing could be said in one blog post that will assuage that fear.  I will pray for you, and when I meet you, I will try to love you to the best of my ability.  I hope you will partner with us and become part of the "we" that we have been waiting for. 

I would imagine that this will be my last post on politics, at least for a while.   :)

We'll see how Prop 8 faired in the morning. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Proposition 8 and crimson fishes.

What follows was an anonymous comment left on my blog in response to my post on Prop 8.  First off, I think anonymous postings on blogs, if done intentionally as such, are cowardly.  It's like running up to someone and criticizing them and then running away to hide.  I will grant that the individual may not have known or had the capacity to leave a registered comment and if so the anonymity was forced upon them by circumstance.  Even at that, I've disabled anonymous comments.  Feel free to disagree with me, just leave your name. :)

Secondly, the comment fails to address the distinction I make between civil unions and marriages, and consequently isn't really a response.  It's more just talking past what I said and ignoring it.  Despite this I thought it might be worth addressing directly anyway.

I find many interesting comments here. I would like to say something in the interest of people's point of view because of their 'religion'. We all subscribe to values based on whatever we choose to believe or not. Everyone has the right to their opinion (Constitutional 1st Amendment rights) and should not be denegrated [sic] for their beliefs - regardless of why they believe what they do. Freedom of Religion is also part of our fundamental rights. Our nation was founded by 'believers' and has been fundamentally a Christian nation. While we must separate Church and State (meaning the State cannot dictate the beliefs held in the church or govern it in any way) we cannot separate morality in our laws without dire consequences to our society. 

We outlaw stealing, murder, prostitution, drug abuse and a host of other behaviors we deem detrimental to the good of society. This is not to deny anyone their rights, as to allow them would trample on the rights of others. 

While I have to agree that law is predicated on the concept of justice and the common good, I have to point out that it is always a balancing act.  Any given law is subject to secondary unintended (or sometimes intended) effects that run counter to justice and the common good.  For example, the South's support of slavery in the Civil War was not only about the assumption that some human beings are of a inferior status to others, it was also tied to the economics of the South.  They had a model of producing commodities that had come to require cheap easily controlled labor.  Abolishing slavery caused hardship to many people, but it was the right thing to do.  Your argument oversimplifies the situation and simply ignores many of the issues involved. 


Secondarily, this line of argumentation is predicated on same sex unions being a moral evil.  This is not a granted point and therefore needs to be established for it be used as a point.  You build on a foundation that has not yet been shown to be a foundation.   

While Prop 8 is with us in this election because 4 State Supreme court judges overturned the will of 61% of California voters who voted to MAINTAIN marriage between a man and a woman in 2000 (Prop 22), same-sex marriage is the heart of the issue.

A majority vote in no way guarantees justice.  This is why we have the Supreme Court to begin with.  Many groups would have long since been crushed or run out of this country if a majority view was all that was needed to establish a matter of law.  

There was a day when the majority of the population of this land thought it was ok to own other human beings. That didn't make just.  

There was a day when the majority of the population of this land thought half of our species shouldn't have the right to vote.  That didn't make it just.

Increased specificity of a definition is not “maintaining” anything.   Adding an amendment to the constitution is a change.   Regardless of it being good or bad, it is a change.  You fail to describe what is actually happening and therefore the argument does not actually correspond to reality.  It is a fiction.

Just look at this from a common sense standpoint. Extrapolate out from gay marriage [sic] a generation or two. We will have children who don't understand the male/female relationship because won't have been modeled in a same-sex home. You will have children who have come from a sperm bank or surrogate mother or adopted in same-sex 'marriages'. Nature has no way of working in these relationships. 

We have so denegrated [sic] marriage (free sex; easy divorce, infidelity, etc) that, for some, gay marriage isn't a stretch at all. 

Allowing same-sex marraige [sic} into our society as 'equal' to marriage between a man and a woman will confuse children and will create a society of people who don't know who they are. 

I just love it when someone equates their viewpoint with “common sense”.  It's a subtle attempt at social control in that it makes differing with their view on the given subject a divergence from “common sense”.  One of the tricks of dogmatism (be it on the Left, or the Right) is to label those that disagree with you as somehow morally, spiritually, or intellectually flawed.  This is not something that is limited to any given ideology. Both liberals and conservatives do it.  I imagine that centrists like myself do it as well.  It's always dirty pool no matter who does it. 

We already have a huge percentage of the population that has no understanding of “male/female relationships”, whatever that specifically means.  Your comment seems to be predicated upon an assumption of different roles for males and females, otherwise you would probably just say “marriage relationship.”  Such a distinction This distinction between male and female roles in a marriage is something that is  derived from a specific religious tradition, and should not be imposed upon people as a matter of law.  So, one of the major building blocks of your argument is not given.  

I would argue that the way we relate to each other should not be contingent on gender and the marriage relationship, aside from sex and romance, differs in degree rather than nature from our other relationships.  I do believe that sex ideally shouldn't occur outside of a monogamous committed relationship, be it “marriage” or civil union (even if the civil union is heterosexual).  Note, an insistence that people be married (my specific preference) or in a civil union if they are in a committed relationship would be a imposition of my religious beliefs that I am not willing to make because I consider such an imposition as unjust.

Allowing gay marriage won't facilitate people failing to know who they are.  It will not however facilitate the social definitions you consider normative and might wish to see imposed upon the general populace.  Your argument is based on a presupposition that is not granted.  I (actually, as a religious person myself) do not see your assumed gender roles as normative or even moral. 

It would appear that you are not really addressing what you say is problematic.  Prop 8 does not keep same sex couples from adopting children.  It does not make more children born within marriages.  It does not keep  people from obtaining sperm from a sperm bank and having a child that way.  These are all red herrings and have nothing to do with your assertion that Prop 8 should pass.    


Roots are important to healthy growth. Take the root from the plant and you soon have a withered and dried up plant incapable of producing healthy fruit/flowers, etc. (that's just how nature works) Roots are important to people, too. 

Your analogy is inadequate.  Roots are necessary for plants to survive.  A human being can survive  and even flourish in the absence of knowing both (or even either) parents.  Nice try, but the analogy fails to provide the point you hoped it would.   

Genealogy is the number one 'hobby' around the world. People want/'need [sic] to know where they came from, who their families are. It is a huge part of our identity...knowing who we are, belonging, etc. 

The social chaos (not to mention the diseases) that will result from same-sex marriage (promotion of the gay lifestyle) will be our undoing! 

Hunh?  Committed monogamous same sex relationships lead to disease?  What disease(s) is that?  And we've been over “knowing who we are” already.  Asserting “social chaos” will happen is a far cry from showing that it will.  I can make all sorts of claims about hypothetical future universes but that isn't evidence of anything.  

I recently became aware of a 4-year old boy who learned who his father is and was beaming it to his pre-school classmates. He knows his father's name...and now his name...which was a huge piece missing in his life. Now that he knows who his father is, his identity is becoming more whole. (consider how this child might feel if he were to find his father is a nameless stranger from a sperm bank who he will never have a relationship with!? or the friendly next-door neighbor who is a willing donor or who knows? 

I'm glad that the child profited from finding out about his father.  Would the kid get a positive benefit if he found out that his father was a drug dealer or murderer?  Is knowing his father an intrinsic good and necessary?  Or was the result actually more contextual than that? 

One example in no way provides compelling evidence for a point.  I can provide evidence of specific people surviving car accidents because they did not wear their seat-belt.  This in no way proves that people should not wear seat-belts.  It is called anecdotal evidence and in no way indicates the example is statistically significant or anything more than an interesting story.  

Studies show that children do best in homes with a mother and a father in low conflict situations. 
I'm sure that some studies do provide results that probably indicate that.  Now, is that all studies, or just the ones with which you agree?  :)

Those who advocate gay marriage don't want 'equal' rights, they want domination. They want to 'force' themselves to be accepted in places where their lifestyle goes against anothers [sic] beliefs/values - ie. churches, schools, Drs. who don't want to inseminate lesbian women because of their own values, adoption agencies, who for their own values don't want to adopt children to gay/lesbian couples, etc. Same-sex couples want to 'force' acceptance of their lifestyle in our society. They don't merely want to live/let live. 

Just like those african-americans that wanted to “dominate” others by “forcing” people to allow them to have equal rights back in the 60's?  Yeah, they wanted to “force” people to allow them to sit where they wanted on the bus, and use the same water fountains, and use the front door of a restaurant rather than the back.  Those fascists! (Yep, I was being ironic in case anyone was wondering).

Welcome to America my anonymous friend!  It was founded by people that wanted to “dominate others” by “forcing” them to accept their way of seeing and moving through the world as just as worthy of being accepted by the government. 

Your use of language is telling.  You speak of a status, “gay/lesbian couples” rather than a behavior set of homosexual sexual acts.  I find that troubling.  

Let's take a  look at the world I live and work in.  I'm a criminal justice professional who has worked primarily with addicts and the mentally ill for about 15 years. An alcoholic is an alcoholic regardless if they are active in recovery or in active alcohol use.  A oxycodone addict is an oxycodone addict even if they haven't used for years. A schizophrenic is a schizophrenic even if their mental illness is medically controlled.  (No, I'm not equating homosexuality with mental illness or addiction.)

Now, should decisions be made about these people based on status?  “Nope, you can't have artificial insemination, you're an alcoholic.”   “Nope, you can't live here, you're bi-polar.”   This would be discrimination based on a status.  We have laws against that sort of thing, not to mention that it is wrong.

Are the decisions of our hypothetical doctor based on behavior?  Is it any of the doctor's business what happens in the bedroom of her client?  Does the doctor check to see if the prospective parents are liars, adulterers, racists, or even married?  Is it the doctor's job to make moral judgements about her clients' lifestyles and provide or not provide medical services based upon that judgement?  I would say this is outside the bounds of the doctor's professional consideration even if her moral judgements are right. 

And the majority of lesbians/gays don't want marriage at all because it is about SEX (Not children/not families) and they go from partner to partner with great frequency. 

First off, how do you know what the percentages are?  Secondly, who cares what they are?  Why are those to whom this proposition means nothing and has no applicability even being discussed.  Once again, a red herring. 

Marriage is about CHILDREN. We owe it to the future generations to preserve the order in nature - common sense- that perpetuates our human race and creates the best possible chances for healthy human beings/families/identities. 

VOTE YES ON 8. (but with no hate - just common sense)

So, are those who have no children not married?  Are couples that are incapable of having children some how less married? 


Just because you say something “Marriage is about CHILDREN.” (nice job on the all caps.  It really makes it seem...  like you yelled the word. ok.) doesn't make it true.  Who says marriage is about children?  God doesn't.  The Bible doesn't.  Maybe your understanding of the Bible does, but that's inside your head and isn't binding on any of us living outside your head.  Just for fun, look at all the marriages in the Bible and count how many were motivated by a desire to have children.  If there are any that fall into that category (heck, there may be) I'm certain it isn't the majority. 


Nope, I'm not saying that marriage has nothing to do with children, but it certainly isn't “about CHILDREN”.  Please fight the urge to force a false dichotomy on the issue that doesn't exist in the real world or in my words.


And...  I already addressed the “common sense” thing.

Proposition 8 is an attempt for a group to impose their religious beliefs on the entire state of California.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Yes or no on Proposition 8?

I live in California and this year one of the propositions on the ballot, Proposition 8, would amend the constitution to define marriage as being exclusively between a man and a woman.  It's an attempt to address a sticky matter that occurs at the intersection of politics and religion.  

First off, I do have an issue with how matters currently stand.  It does appear that the current law carries some negative effects for those who find same sex marriage against their convictions, religious or otherwise.  

I don't pretend to have analyzed the the subtleties of the law and how it will interact with various practices, but it has been claimed that it will cause issues for ministers and groups that cannot, within the bounds of their religious beliefs, perform marriages of same sex couples.  Commercials in support of Proposition 8 have claimed that such groups may lose their tax exempt status.  

If this is true, it essentially puts a state imposed standard upon which religious groups will be eligible for tax exempt status based on a particular issue of their own views on morality, based on their religious beliefs.  It will become a litmus test.  If you hold to belief A to the point it will constrain your actions, you are ineligible for tax exempt status. If you do not hold to belief A, or at least do not hold it with sufficient conviction for it to constrain your actions, you are eligible for tax exempt status.

So, I think we've established that the law, as it currently stands, does pose a problem.  

My response begins with the fact that marriage is a religious concept.  It predates civil societies and government involvement in the issue.  Marriage commitments and ceremonies, as opposed to simple mating, happened before marriage licenses, retirement benefits, and family insurance coverage were ever invented. Granted, it's a concept that civil society adopted,  and modified, as early societies used a fusion of religion and politics to provide a social contract for common good, at the very least for the good of those in power.  

Things like a change in legal status that allows for certain rights and responsibilities was added by civil government.  These later additions might best be described as a civil union.  It allows for two people to tie their lives together in such a way as to facilitate certain rights and responsibilities, like property held in common, that in the event of one partner dying the surviving partner will still have rights to, or shared health insurance based on the employment of one party.  I think this is actually something that even most conservatives would agree should be allowed for same sex couples.  

It appears that Proposition 8 is, if I'm generous with my assumptions about motivations, a well intentioned attempt to fix a real problem.  The current legal situation might lead to government making decisions on which sets of religious beliefs are deserving of tax exempt status and which ones are not.  It may also coerce certain groups to allow behaviors that, whether the rest of the world agrees with them or not, they consider to be an evil to be avoided. All that being given, I think Proposition 8 is not an appropriate solution to the problem.  It is falling from the frying pan and right into the fire.  

Proposition 8, following in the footsteps of previous law, makes an amalgam of civil union, a matter of government, and marriage, a matter of religious tradition, and then proceeds to make a religious proclamation about a specific definition of marriage a matter of constitutional law.  It is within the state's power to determine what kind of civil unions it will recognize, it is not however within the state's power to dictate what one must believe in one's religion.   This sets up an incredibly dangerous precedent of having a cultural majority impose their religious beliefs upon the general population.   Some groups that hold a majority stake in our culture right now might be comfortable with this imposition, but they might not in the not too distant future as California's demographics continue to change.

Making such a legal distinction will allow for easy remedy of several issues.  Any given religious tradition should be free to determine if it will recognize same sex unions as marriage or not.  The state should not impose upon any group a list of acceptable doctrines and beliefs.   On the other hand, the state is not obligated validate through civil union status the marriage of underage children or polygamy.  Ideally, marriages and civil unions would be concurrent and maybe facilitated by the same officiant during the same event, but this is not necessary. It would allow each religious tradition to make it's own determination on the issue of same sex marriage while acknowledging same sex couples with the same legal status as a heterosexual couple. It might be possible to have a civil union performed to allow for insurance benefits for a couple that do not have any religious belief and do not wish to be married.  It would allow for the state to simply not validate marriages through civil union status when they occur outside of certain parameters.

Put simply, Proposition 8 will institutionalize a common misconception and will dictate religious belief. If we instead separate the concepts of marriage and civil union it will allow religious groups to self determine their own definition of marriage and will allow for all couples, be they heterosexual or homosexual, the same protection under law.  

I will be voting no on Proposition 8.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

In the interest of fairness

I've posted pro-Obama propaganda.  It's only fair for me to post some pro-McCain stuff.

Remember, a vote for McCain is a step towards the apocalypse and second coming!  Yeah!


The most difficult pain a man can suffer is to have knowledge of much and power over little.

I haven't blogged much lately, just in case you couldn't tell by the almost totl lack of new material the past couple of months.  Things on my job have been really stressful lately.  The grant funded program I've worked in for the last year was defunded by the state.  That sucks.  What made it even worse is that this contingency wasn't adequately planned for.  Several of the partner agencies scrambled in an attempt to make it go on, but one was severely underfunded and simply couldn't pony up the money.  

So, it's been up to the line staff to try to cobble something serviceable until a new funding source is found with no direction from anyone on a management level.   I've felt like I had been given a task to do and had the necessary tools placed just outside my reach.   I've lost sleep, been so stressed that I can't concentrate enough to read anything more involved than a magazine article, and have been useless to those around me that count on me.  I've had enough.  I put in a transfer request at work and it was granted.  

I'm a bit apprehensive in that I'm stepping out of a domain that I've operated in for approaching 7 years, forensic treatment, and will be moving to just standard probation. That being said, it feels like the clouds are starting to clear.  I'm sleeping a bit better and can actually speak in more than just pidgin English.   

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Yesterday's post was an email from a "Fundamentalist Pentecostal" that I was attempting to engage in discussion about "emergent" christianity.  I was tempted to interject commentary into his post to explain what he was responding to.  On further thought I decided that might not be the fairest thing to do.  I will post my email below.

We had been having an ongoing discussion about the nature of prophecy, among other things.  He insists that he is a prophet but hasn't really provided a reason to believe it beyond his assertion that he is a prophet.  He claimed to have prophesied the recent stock market crash and wanted me to email a couple he knows to verify he did make the prophesy.  

Telling me about something after the fact does me no good.  And providing me an email address to a witness does me no good.  I don't take the word of anyone unless I know what kind of person they are.  I've met some pretty gullible "believers" before. Wanting to believe something is true is a strong motivator in how something is seen or remembered sometimes. 
  I've met "pastors" that made peoples legs or arms longer and people, good people, participated in it and believed it.  The pastors ended up being arrested for embezzlement or beating their wife and what they did is a commonly known parlor trick that just requires the other person it is being done on to believe it is possible.  
This is not to say I don't believe in miracles.  I've known some good credible witnesses to things before.  I believe they are not people that wanted things to happen so much that they would deceive themselves into thinking they did.  They also aren't people that make a big deal about it and try to draw a crowd (which I don't find in the Bible.  In fact, Jesus made a point of leaving places when he drew a crowd.  Regardless of any arguments for why it is done, the matter remains that it's not in the Bible.)  
I've also known some people that want things to be true so much that they actually get their memories to make things be true that didn't happen. Nope, these people aren't evil, nor are they "liars".  It's just that memory can do that.  Although juries like eye witness testimony, it's a known fact in legal circles that eye witness testimony is not a reliable way to prove a case.  The witnesses may have seen things wrong, they may remember things a different way than they actually occurred, or they might in the worst possible scenario lie. That's the reason they use CSI type folks, objective evidence, although subject to misinterpretation if one is not careful, cannot change over time like a memory, nor can it lie.
That being said, I'm not trying to argue that what you are saying isn't true.  What I am saying is that emails from people I don't know, after the fact, aren't a responsible way for me to find out if it's true or not. 
   I don't claim to have how prophecy works cornered yet.  But, I'm pretty sure that it's not in God's plan to trust what someone says just because they say they are a prophet, especially when they've said things that I know aren't true. How would I know what is said is trustworthy *before* it comes to pass if the sayer has said things and they've been shown to be false?
You've provided me no way to tell if something said is a valid prophecy before it's true.  You have said that it's a matter of discernment and that you can do that.  Problem there is that I know you've been wrong, so even that apparently doesn't work all the time. (And, if you aren't trying to utilize discernment when you say you get a word, is that a responsible way to operate?  It's not like using a God given gift costs you some sort of limited resource.)
Additionally, you've provided no way to determine if someone saying they are prophet is true or not outside of something that we just determined can be wrong, "discernment".  In light of the fact that what you seem to be calling discernment fails, that's a scary proposition. I don't think that God leaves us that high and dry if we are without recourse to a specific gifting.
   As a purely hypothetical scenario (A big "what if...?") What if you're discernment has failed to the point that you're totally wrong about many things?  How would you find out?  If some sort of fallible spiritual gift is the *only* way to tell, then you could very well be an agent of the Antichrist. (No, I don't think you're an agent of the Antichrist.)
And, if the gifting is the only way and it is infallible and you do say things without using discernment, seeing that you have the gift, and they are wrong that would strike me as being irresponsible to the point of being bordering on criminal.  If that is the only way and you don't do it then you misrepresent God and cause his name to be doubted by saying things are true, that aren't, when you have the capacity to know but you don't take the time.    
In the end it's all too subjective for me.  There's no way for Joe Blow to tell if something that a prophet says is true or not until it happens.  Apparently discernment isn't good enough because it fails on occasion. 
  What's interesting is that you seem to be so certain about things that are actually subjective.  You seem to be setting yourself up as the standard by which things are measured.  If you believe something to be true, it is true.  If you believe something isn't true, then it's not true.  You seem to be drawing a direct connection between what happens in your head and what is true in the outside world. 
  If you believe it, it is true, if you don't believe it, it is not true.  You haven't provided any way to tell if something is true or not outside of you believing it, much less for there to be a way to find out if something is true when you don't believe it.  
Is it even possible for something to be true and you not believe it?  
If it is not possible, I would argue that is making the standard about what is in your head, not God who is who He is regardless of what anyone thinks. 
  If it is possible, how could we know if something is true even if you don't believe in it?
Once again, his response was posted yesterday.  Granted, from a chronological stand point they're backwards, but they make sense if you read the blog posts from top to bottom.  :)

Monday, October 13, 2008

Well, that didn't seem to work.

I'm thinking I reached an impasse with the fundamentalist fellow.  Here's his last message, unedited.

**** Edit.  I did edit the post to take out some confusing line breaks that occurred during the cut and past process. 

I think I might post my email that the below is a response to in order to provide context.  
Ray said..... It's all about intimacy with God. We are called to have relationship, not a one way relationship, a two way relationship, we talk, then God talks. Knowledge is not only found in books alone, for the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of wisdom.

If you get close enough to God, God will reveal what is truth and what is not, everything can't be proven or disproved with the bible. I feel blessed to have this gift, you can'prove I don't have it, anymore than and I can prove I do, so I guess we will leave it at that.

I don't believe in in post modernism or relativism. It takes faith out of the equation, not t mention truth. These seem to be our fundamentaldifferences, where we can not agree. Emergent does not seem have eyes and ears to hear, spiritually that is. Now more than ever I am convinced of 

There is so much more than the graphe alone, the rhema word of God can teach you too. And guide you in ways the bible can't. Holy Spirit can be a GPS if you get close to him. The bible can't tell you whether to turn right or left at the light.

Sorry I can't think in terms of objective reality, because I don'believe in it. And don't tell me it's there whether I believe it or not. To me it's not. That Brother Parick, is a matter of faith. To me imposing your theory of objectivity on our dialog is just polite rational way of trying to beat my faith down, which I'm sure you don't mean to do.

No one can take away what God has spoke to me, you see, I know, that I know, that I know, for the Holy Spirit is my teacher. This has been enlightening though, to peer inside the mind of emergent has been interesting. I feel your arguments over rationalize everything. It makes me wonder how you came to faith in the first place?

And sorry Patrick, I don't buy into your objective reality theory any more that you buy into my beliefs on on the experiential realm. Maybe you don't understand how it works? If you had ever had any similar experiences as I have had, we would be in agreement. The battle has always been with the haves, and have nots since the day of Pentecost. So I guess your right about having honest dialog (shrugs) : ) How can we if we don't believe each other?

It looks to me like emergent has to see with the natural eyes in order to believe anything, even then it may not be real. Defining truths in subjective vs. objective terms is poppycock, nope, it's done through the Holy Spirit. I will stick with my little fundamentalist magic decoder ring, I guess some kids get in their cereal boxes, and others don't : ) I am praying really hard that God will fill you to apostolic proportions, this is the only way that the error in emergent will be revealed to you.
The above was in response to an email where I explained that I wasn't sure that he understood the difference between subjective and objective reality.  I kind of think that's important if you're gonna blog about 'absolutes' and 'truth'.

So, apparently reality is subjective, but what he tells me is supposed to carry more weight than just being his opinion.  Not quite sure how that is even possible.  It's a bit like saying that language is useless for conveying information.  Saying it requires the assumption that it is not true.  

Maybe I'll get back to blogging now. :)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

I'm not dead.

I have neglected this thing for over a month and I need to get back to it.  That being said, I've begun an ongoing dialogue with a self proclaimed "fundamentalist" of the pentecostal variety.  We're discussing emergent christianity, the Bible, and various other related topics.    Although the different ways of speaking of and perceiving the world have lead to some frustrating moments, for the most part it's been enjoyable. 

Here's his blog.  It's pretty different from mine, but it might be worth peeking at.  

He's agreed to allow me to post our discussion on my blog.  I'm not quite sure how to do it though.  The current format doesn't really lend itself to easy reading.  It began with a block of text.  The response has been done by breaking the block up and then posting responses point by point.  Then those points were responded to.  It gets complicated.  I'll figure something out. 

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Gotta get the album now.

Granted, this is a home made video that someone cobbled together.  I love the song/rap.

The Flobots
Fight with Tools

We are winning

Sunday, August 10, 2008


****EDIT...   Yes, the quote below actually has something to do with the post.  It's not just there to demonstrate how dry the book is.****
The nihilating application of the conceptual machinery is most often used with individuals or groups foreign to the society in question and thus ineligible for therapy.  The conceptual operation here is rather simple.  The threat to the social definitions of reality is neutralized by assigning an inferior ontological status, and thereby a not-to-be-taken-seriously cognitive status, to all definitions existing outside the symbolic universe.
The Social Construction of Reality
Peter L. Berger & Thomas Luckman
I'm currently reading the above quoted book.  Nope, it's not for a class, nor is it for my job.  I'm reading it because I want to, sorta.  It was referenced in another book that I read a few years ago and I thought it might be a good idea to pick it up.  Well, it's a pretty dry read.  It's definitely aimed at an academic audience. As I'm continuing to plod through it (only 189 pages.  189 pages packed with an excruciating level of conceptual density) I refer to it as "tinder", a really dry small piece of wood.  I'm only reading it on the bus, on the way to work, and hope to finish it soon. 

Now, all the griping about the book aside, I saw the sign above as I drove to my in-laws to pick up the dog my wife and I are taking care of for the next two days.   I took the picture just as their service was ending and they walked out to their cars.  I'm sure they wondered what the big burly fellow in the "geek" t-shirt was doing as he walked up the the sign with his cellphone out.

My question...  why are we only praying for the christians?  Why aren't we also praying for the Tibetan Buddhists and Falon Gong, not to mention any other ideological groups that are being persecuted?  Does their lack of adherence to Christianity make them less human, their suffering less worthy of our attention?  Are we secretly happy that those that are competing with us for global ideological market share are encountering opposition?  Is their persecution somehow happening because they "oppose" God while our occurs alongside theirs because we are about God's business?

I'm willing to bet that the people attending that congregation are good compassionate people, so I don't want to ascribe specific evil through action or inaction to them.  I'm no doubt blind to many systemic evils that participate in on a regular basis (come to think of it, I don't think the coffee I'll be drinking tomorrow when I wake up is fair-trade).  That being said, it grieves me to see a church sign that subtly signals that those that don't follow our path are not as worthy of compassion or prayerful consideration when it comes to their suffering because of their beliefs.

Here something I ran into the other day, The Gadfly Project.  Apparently a fellow went to China, ostensibly for the olympics, and 'decorated' some hotel rooms in protest of China's persecution of religious groups.  I believe he's arranged for the hotel to be compensated for the damage, but is still on the run from Chinese authorities.  He twitters a message every few hours.  

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

They made me do it.

I just got back (less than a week ago) from another trip to San Francisco.  I got to spend 5 days with the people at ReImagine.  They essentially lead you through a series of spiritual exercises in the context of living out the Gospel in the community in which they live.  One of the things they do is have each participant write a poem based on their experiences and then share it at a picnic/poetry slam on the last day.  The below is haiku based on my experience.  It was inspired by our time spent at the Page Street Center and the Golden Gate Park Botanical Garden.  (The picture is a single flower that I found in my yard this summer.  There were none like it within sight.  I'm not quite sure where it came from, but I saved the seeds.)

If the gardener
Waters and cares for the plant
It is not a weed

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Would you buy insurance from this man?

“As corpses the meant to live; in black they decked out their corpses; out of their speech, too, I still smell the bad odor of death chambers.  And whoever lives near them lives near black ponds out of which an ominous frog sings its song with sweet melancholy.  They would have to sing better songs for me to learn to have faith in their Redeemer: and his disciples would have to look more redeemed!”

Friedrich Nietzche

Thus Spoke Zarathustra (The Portable Nietzsche)

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.

Romans 8:18-21

One of my beefs with contemporary Western Christianity is the way it often reduces the Gospel to only one domain, fire insurance.   The Good News is apparently only applicable to something totally unfalsifiable, the afterlife.  To quote Dr. John Macarthur, Jesus "didn't come to fix life here. He didn't come to eliminate poverty. He didn't come to eliminate slavery."  I remember hearing some of my pastors saying that Jesus was “born to die” and that his only purpose was to die for our sins that we might be saved. In short, apparently Jesus didn't come to change anything that can actually be seen, heard, tasted, touched, or felt.  He only came to save us from Hell, which none of us has ever seen, and send us to Heaven, which none of us has ever seen.

Here's where my skeptical brain kicks in.   How do we know we're not just being sold a bill of goods?  Snake Oil?  “The Balm of Gilead”? (a nod to my friend Little Miss Mortis) Do we just trust those that tell us we can be “saved” while life, our life, their life, goes on otherwise unchanged?  We still go to the same job, eat the same things, dress the same way, spend our leisure time on the same activities, but now we've got a really killer retirement package that we “receive by grace through faith”?

If this is only thing that the “Gospel” is about, doesn't that kind of make a good deal of Jesus' teaching kind of pointless filler?  If the Gospel, in it's totality, is about going to Heaven by appropriating God's grace by belief in Jesus' death and resurrection what the heck is the point of the parable of the Sheep and Goats (Matt 25:31-46)? Why worry about most of the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5-7) if I've already got all the Gospel has to offer?  Apparently, being a peacemaker (Matt 5:9) isn't actually what makes you a child of God. (To be fair, the text does say “Shall be called” not “Shall be”.  I guess you can be called one and not be one.  I wish Jesus was less confusing on this issue).  Are all the interpersonal, social, and moral aspects of the New Testament like optional equipment on a new car, nice to have but not necessary to get you from point A to point B?

I'm thinking this is where I kick the platonic assumptions to the curb.   I do believe that Jesus saves us from our sins, but I think He intends to do so in the here and now as well as the sweet by and by.  I believe he intends for us to be free from the bondage and consequences of our addiction to consumerism, noise, drugs, lust, the mindless consumption of electronic media, the economic ease and privilege of living at the center of the Empire, etc. now, as well as later.  

I refuse to serve a neutered Jesus that has been made in our image and is safe for mass consumption.  I don't need a smarmy platitude-spewing Lord that is simply there to give me an eternal pass on all my instances of wrath, greed, apathy, or elitism.    I want him to be fierce in my life.  Like Aslan in Narnia, I pray that Jesus is good, but not safe for me to spend time with. I want him to destroy my apathy and self-deception to reveal what His Kingdom, what His Gospel is truly about.  I want to see the Gospel, the declaration of the ascendancy of a new King, turn the world upside down again, to save people here and now.  I want to see Jesus save addicts, mend broken families, reconcile communities, and bring peace to nations. I just pray that I have the courage to walk into that new land when I'm given a glimpse of it.  Then, after a long hard fight, I'll take that retirement plan. 

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Ashes and the Incarnation

There are fires in Northern California again.  They are threatening the East side of Paradise this time.  Last time we sheltered at my in-laws house on the East side while we were under evacuation.  This time they are under evacuation and staying at a motel while we dog-sit and house some of their sentimental valuables.  

The air is horrible. It's consistently rated as hazardous and visibility in the mornings is probably less than a mile.  It's hard not to cough breathing the morning air.  By afternoon it starts to thin out a bit and it starts all over again at night.   Ash is falling from the sky like a light snow.  Not so heavy as to cut down on visibility, but enough to always be able to see something falling.  It's mostly white with occasional black pieces.  

The worst part is the stress.  While I'm much better off both physically and psychologically this time it still takes it out of you.  My home is relatively safe this time, so I'm still going to work every day.  That being said I'm always mindful that things may change at a moment's notice and I'll have to run home (half an hour if I'm at work), grab some clothes, our cats, and the pictures and mementos already in boxes, and get out of town.  It makes it hard to relax or really even focus on anything.

One of the things I've noticed is that hearing about something like this on the news does it no justice.   When I've heard about wildfires before I've felt compassion for those that were experiencing the crisis, but had no idea what the actual experience was like.  I had a fleeting thought about something unpleasant, maybe said a little prayer, or on a really good day make a donation, and then went on with my day.  I have to wonder, is that the way I should react to the pain and suffering of others?  I imagine that a reaction like that is normal, but does that mean it's the right reaction?  These aren't just rhetorical questions.  I really don't know the answer.


Is this part of what the Incarnation is about?  Was God not willing to just have fleeting thoughts about human suffering that inspired periodic event of compassionate action?  Did He find it necessary to enter our world and experience our suffering first hand to truly do right by us?   I'm reticent to say that God must do anything, but I wonder.

Thursday, July 3, 2008


My sunflowers started blooming today.  :)

Monday, June 16, 2008

Back home.

The precautionary evacuation was lifted yesterday, Sunday.  Good thing, because we came back on Saturday night, we just didn't unpack.   

When I woke up on Sunday morning I walked outside and the lighting on my nasturtiums was just perfect.

I also took a picture of my sunflowers, first seen as seedlings a few posts back. Some of them are over 6 feet tall now and the main flower bud has just started to develop in a few.

Last year I scattered various wildflower seeds that I bought at various places.  This is the only one of this variety that has come up so far.  I have no idea what species it is.

And finally, here's a single blue lupine growing in my yard.  This picture is a few weeks old.  It has since lost it's blooms and gone to seed.  I hope to see it again next year.

It's good to be home again. :)

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Um, does anyone smell smoke?

My little corner of the world has been on fire lately.  I don't mean this metaphorically either.  It's been burning.   The Paradise area of California has been experiencing a nasty wildland fire. 

Last I read it's consumed 23,000 acres, including over 66 homes, and is taking over 2000 firefighters and 400 fire engines to fight.  Good news is that it appears the firefighters turned the corner last night and it went from 15% containment to 35% containment over night.  

My residence is still under a "precautionary evacuation" at the writing of this, as there is still active fire a couple of ridges over from our neighborhood.  There is still a small chance that the wind will change and cook our neighborhood.   That being said, we hope to go home in the next 24 hours.  Although my in-laws' house is nice, I want to get back to my own bed.  I imagine our cats (currently in a storage room) would like to get back to the house as well.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Mammon, demons, and the State of California

They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes.  When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an evil spirit came from the tombs to meet him. This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him any more, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.

When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. He shouted at the top of his voice, "What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Swear to God that you won't torture me!" For Jesus had said to him, "Come out of this man, you evil spirit!"

Mark 5:1-8 NIV

Its 2008, we are in the middle of recession and it's budget time in the state of California.  

One of the things frequently placed upon the chopping block in situations like this is funding for mental health services.  Although this doesn't directly affect my employment, it does directly affect the population with whom I work.  Last year I got to witness first-hand the dismantling of a nationally recognized program that assisted the homeless mentally ill population of our community.  Several of these people subsequently had negative involvement with law enforcement and the program I work in inherited them. 

These people need other people to assist them, at least for a couple of years, in making a workable way of life for themselves.  They have real “demons” that need exorcising before they can live a life most people consider normal: having a stable residence where they feel safe to sleep at night and to keep their possessions, having a job that gives them sense of contributing to the world they live in, a caring community of people that don't try to take advantage of them, a sense of wellness that comes from regular meals and the ability to keep up basic hygiene.

In the absence of the assistance that the social services agencies that are being cut provide many of these people will continue to self medicate with illicit drugs, will steal to survive, or to get drunk or high, will live in the small forgotten places of the Empire, and will engage in behaviors that at best we will consider to be bizarre, and at worst will put themselves or others in danger.


We will respond in the only way we will have left. We will incarcerate them. They will be “chained hand and foot”, and they will eventually be released. Then they will go back to living “among the tombs and among the hills” and they will be even more broken than before, and the whole process will begin again.  

Now, I don't want to create the impression that I only believe in a metaphorical interpretation of the Gospel, that the only thing we can learn from the story above is compassion.  I believe that Jesus was God incarnate.  I believe that the story above, or something similar to it, probably actually happened.  I think that we all need the love of God that Jesus offers to us.  I also believe that we must do what Jesus did.  We must seek out the broken and reach out to them in compassion.  We must heal the world around us, like Jesus did. 

God, teach us that are strong and affluent to suffer, rather than balance our budget on the weak and the broken.