Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Like a great Shakesperean conclusion...

...JK Rowling has revealed that two characters will meet their demise in the seventh and final installment of the Harry Potter series. Any thoughts or theories?

My initial guess cannot involve Harry, for I think that the mantra of "The Boy who Lived" would be heavily contradicted if he died, especially if he did so at the hands of Voldermort. Other than that, I'm not entirely sure. If I get struck by any inspiration, I will let you know.

Recent {Emergent} Christian Miscellany

Those rumblings you hear across the eclcesial spectrum in this country are the voices of the emergent conversation, a movement of believers disenchanted with the staid worship and theology of contemporary Christianity. Its leading voices--Brian McLaren, Tony Jones, et al.--have been lightning rods for both adoration by their followers and censure by their detractors.

My good friend Jake Myers, Coordinator for Missional Community at Wieuca Road Baptist Church, has entered this fray with both feet. ABP reported on a seminar he led at the recent CBF General Assembly. Entitled "Beer, Candles, & Kierkegaard," Jake's seminar was extremely well-attended, and I'm certain was conducted with all the wit, intelligence, and compassion Jake shows in his everyday life. You heard it here first: this is not the last you will hear of Jake Myers...

...which brings me to the second piece of Christian miscellany, again related to the emergent conversation. One could argue about what kind of effect blogs have on our mode of communication. Some would argue that blogs embolden individuals to express their views with far more vitriole than ordinary conversation; others might suggest that blogs simply mirror our ordinary conversation. In either case, a blog entry entitled "Is Tony Jones Even a Christian?" is troubling.

Those who seek to change the church at its very core will be the object of scorn and excommunicative diatribes. When an individual's faith becomes the stuff of public discourse, then we have lost a crucial sense of perspective. It is the oldest trick in the book to demonize your opponent instead of grappling with the substance of their argument. The author of the blog presumes that "gnostic mysticism" and "catholic" forms of spirituality are outside the scope of the Christian faith. Clearly, this writer has bought into the myth that the church is a homogenous body across time and space, one which is characterized by purity of thought and practice. The author of this blog excludes by definition a church which breaks the antiseptic bubble of propriety and narrow dogma...

...which brings us to the third piece of Christian misccellany. Al Mohler has voiced his displeasure that a Christian ministry committed to sharing the gospel in the pornographic industry chose to buy booth space at an adult entertainment expo. Citing the seedy surroundings, Mohler determines that this is no place for professing Christians to make their presence felt; Mohler explains, "There is a difference between talking to a prostitute about the Gospel and entering a brothel -- much less buying a booth."

A massive Christian hypocrisy is clear here. To be sure, the billions of dollars Americans spend on pornography is not a phenomenon isolated to the lecherous non-believer; likely, Christians propel the nation's thirst for visual sexual gratification at equal measure. Simply asking for Christians to detach themselves publically from the industry only deepens the hypocrisy. It seems to me a far from Christ-like act is to establish a prophetic presence even in the seemingly seediest corners of our culture. After all, Christ met the most detested of sinners in their context, whether it was their homes or an isolated water well.

Recently, Holley became involved in a ministry for strippers. In groups, women volunteers go to strip clubs with gift baskets and try to form relationships with the women working there. At times, they might even pay women to sit down and talk with them during their performances. I wonder whether Mohler would direct the same criticism to such an incarnational presence. In my mind, there is no more Christian act than to descend into those undesirable depths which society and religion deem wholly reprobate in order the shine the light of the gospel with love, compassion, and empathy.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Who needs Myers-Briggs...

...when you have online personality tests . . .

Your results:
You are Superman

The Flash
Green Lantern
Iron Man
Wonder Woman
You are mild-mannered, good,
strong and you love to help others.

Click here to take the Superhero Personality Test

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Colbert . . . redux!

While I'm thinking about it, I loved this interview Colbert conducted with Georgia's own congressman Westmoreland. Said representative sponsored a bill supporting the public display of the ten commandments. Only one problem...

Celebrity scholarship . . . redux!

Bart Ehrman is the guest tonight on The Colbert Report. I commented earlier on the function of popular scholarship and will report after watching the show on the DVR tomorrow. Even more than Jon Stewart's interview, I am interested to see how the Colbert persona interacts with a religious scholar; Colbert's comedic gift shines most when he confronts religion. Should be an interesting interview...

Good Night, and Good Luck . . . redux

To be sure, it is no chronological accident that George Clooney wrote, directed, and performed in Good Night, and Good Luck last year. The movie arrived at a time when a nation is divided as much by differences of opinion as by the internecine discursive battles which spew daily out of the mouths of politicians and pundits. In a political milieu in which "you are either with us or against us," partisans will daily label their opponents as enemies of America. The ad hominem attack wears the facade of argument.

Nonetheless, dissent and disagreement are not the seeds of this nation's destruction but the prerequisite ingredients for the furthering and flowering of democracy. Voicing a contrary opinion is not a subversive alliance with the enemy but a profound commitment to the fundamentals of the American experiment. Exposing our own shortcomings and even crimes is not a salve for the enemy but a necessary and healthy acknowledgment that a democratic government does not liberate us from our sinful nature; polity does not inoculate us from embracing the tactics of our enemies for the sake of expediency.

America's burden then is fundamentally unfair. If we are to proclaim our values, we must embody them, even when their costs are exorbitantly, even prohibitively, high. If we do not abide by our values when the stakes are high, then they are the worthless rhetorical flourishes of sophistry.

Above all else, however, our leaders must be held accountable for their actions. Our leaders must earn our trust beyond the shadow of any doubt. Our leaders must never sacrifice the hard road of our values for the expediency of shallow victories. In other words, convincing the world to embrace democratic values happens not on the deck of an aircraft carrier while declaring a premature victory or in the snuffing of an enemy's life boldly proclaimed with graphic pictures of a corpse. That intellectual battle is won in a productive, difficult discourse in which we are all held the highest standard.

See the film; it is a beautifully crafted piece of art. Yet, more importantly, it is an incisive critique of our own times. The film, however, is not interested in assigning a villainous role to a particular cross-section of our population. It is not conservatives or liberals, the media or politics which are at the film's crosshairs; instead, Good Night, and Good Luck indicts us all for our silence, for our cynical appeal to the rhetoric of division, no matter our political leanings.

Monday, June 05, 2006

In relation to the previous post...

...check out this editorial cartoon.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

A Cynical Political Feint

In my mind, it was no accident that so many states had the issue of gay marriage on the same ballot on which voters would be picking the president in 2004. I was cynically suspicious that Republican strategists opted for calculated scare mongering in order to draw the base to the voting booth. In a world of terrorism, huge budgets, educational deficiencies, and debilitating war, it was the specter of gay marriage that drew conservative Christians to vote for their political messiah, an individual who would construct a Supreme Court that would toe the party--and more importantly, religious--line.

I was suspicious, but now I am absolutely certain that my cynical instincts were accurate. Today, George Bush urged congress to pass an amendemnt to the constitution banning gay marriage. A clear appeal to the conservative Christians in this country who could save a Republican majority this fall, I would predict that politicians looking to pander to the right will stress the need for the amendment and after the elections will let it fall by the wayside.

In much the same way, I wonder whether the immigration debate is also a calculated grab for votes. Claiming the lessons of 9/11 as an impetus for tightening border controls is simply a ploy.

It is saddening to me that Christians could be so easily duped and not see through vapid political rhetoric meant to inflame their passions, manipulate their prejudices. Even more, the same political rhetoric is recycled during each political cycle. Equally saddening is the amount of attention paid to the sanctity of marriage and the "threat" homosexuals pose to marriage. Even cynicism does not even seem to be a suffiicent response.