Friday, April 29, 2005

A waste of space

Allow me to be ridiculous for one moment.

There are so many blogs in the world, and this is one of them.
As such, there inevitably comes a time when my musings must finally muse over the act of blogging itself.

A blog about blogging, you say, how pointless.

But that's just it, isn't it. So many blogs I find have navel-gazing sadoids writing about the act of writing about themselves.

Like this:

Wednesday, April 27, 2005
I'm speed blogging tonight!! Two in an
hour. Well, told you I'd get over it. Looks like I'm back on the emotional roller coaster. Alright. Motivated now, I think! Feeling better already. "Gotta try harder", right? Anyway, I guess I just will. Time to fix my wreck of a life :D. Should be... interesting.

Ahhh life. It's got the best graphics of any RPG I've seen
so far.


What's the point?! Honestly. I admit that one could call my blog - probably any blog - narcissistic. But really... writing about writing? How does the second post to your blog saying that you've posted a second post constitute the second post itself? That's just infinite regression/recurrence. Like so:

__________
10:49pm
Wow, I've posted 9 posts so far today, I'm going strong! ^_^
__________
4:14pm
You won't believe it, but this is my eighth post today - what a record!! ROFLMAO
__________
2:27pm
Hey, guess what... 7th post, I've got a really h4x0rz micro at blogging! w00t!
__________
11:59am
Sixth post - L33t!!!
__________
10:00am...


And so on.

There are, of course, blogs that purposely mock such blogging (I'll try and find a link, but I may not); there are others that just do it unintentionally...

boring,
grace tan's wonderful post,
inane cuteness,
Kitty's thrilling weekend,
The "ridiculous raw youth" - ooh, he's so raw

...all encouraged by quality online merchandise like this: I don't know what to write, I don't know what to write, I...

Terabytes and terabytes of information distributed on thousands of storage units all around the globe in dozens of countries, more information that any person could ever absorb in their entire life, with the information pool growing at a functionally exponential rate - and all of it complete and totally worthless drivel.

You give a fool a microphone and he becomes a politician; give him a television camera and he becomes an advice panelist; give him a blog and he becomes a self-publicized Celebrity, thinking that what he had for breakfast should make the breath catch in your lungs.

If somebody reads my blog, I want there to be the chance that they might be changed and benefited. I want to know that they might come away richer for the experience than when they arrived. I want my blog to reveal pieces of myself, bring glory to God and entertain and inspire the reader.

Writing blogs about drivel is like playing The Sims: you set life aside for a moment so that you can think about living, rather than just living it in the first place.

God Bless, be edified.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Danger, Will Robinson, danger!

Another person's blog had me reading the NZ Herald website, where I found this 'Sideswipe':

The distractions of constant emails, text and phone messages are a greater threat to IQ and concentration than taking cannabis, according to a survey reported in the Guardian. The most damage was done by the almost complete lack of discipline in handling emails, which over a day equated to the effects of losing a night’s sleep, says Glenn Wilson, a psychiatrist from King’s College, London University. Dr Wilson and his colleagues found a compulsion to reply to each new message led to constant changes of direction, which inevitably tired and slowed down the brain. The average IQ loss was measured at 10 points, more than double the four-point mean fall found in studies of cannabis users.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

And Justice For All

And Justice for all, it's more than just a classic Metallica song.

It is something that should weigh on the hearts of those people who dedicate their lives to the fulfillment of what Christ himself took on as his mission statement in Luke 4:
THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME,
BECAUSE HE ANOINTED ME TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR.
HE HAS SENT ME TO PROCLAIM RELEASE TO THE CAPTIVES,
AND RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO THE BLIND,
TO SET FREE THOSE WHO ARE OPPRESSED,
TO PROCLAIM THE FAVORABLE YEAR OF THE LORD.
A newfound, like-minded compatriot asked me to comment on the Social Justice group that we are starting here at my college, The Bible College of New Zealand (Auckland).

There is a small group of us that have decided that being godly and complaining about the world just doesn't really cut it anymore. I guess we decided that navel-gazing doesn't help zip, and we'd like to counter the usual "ivory-tower" criticism that comes with any academic institutions.

As I recently read, it takes $500 to get a young girl out of being a slave in the Prostitution trade (can't remember where, Thailand?). Imagine a group of 25 people paying $20 each - they could change a girl's life forever! You could even do that once a month, or fortnight... or week.

I've recently ordered two books from Amazon.com in a bulk order with the rest of my 'Gospel in a Post-Christian Society' class. I'm spending $50 myself, and I'm not sure how much others are spending. To fulfill our own desires, we are sending probably several hundred dollars collected from a dozen people approximately forteen thousand kilometres around the globe to buy an armful of books.

That is true power.

Now what else can we do with that power?

We meet once every two weeks at 12:30pm on Friday, with the aim of finding out.

{finis}

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Benedict XVI

There is more than enough intelligent opinion floating around the web about the Pope (... , ...) so I don't really need to add the usual, "The Pope was elected and this is his 5 page Bio".

One thing really makes me wonder about ol' Pope Benny, and that is his age... 78.

78!?

Now, all sensitivities considered, isn't that a little sick? The last guy (and a useful guy he was) just spent the last long while getting older and older and sicker and sicker, essentially dying on the world stage, and now they vote in another old feller again! If there were some younger, godly, passionate Bishop, then surely he could do the job. But, cynically, the line goes that they don't want somebody too young or he might last too long.

But if the Pope is the person (according to Catholic tradition, which I don't necessarily believe) who is essentially God's stand-in on earth, then such a person should be selected prayerfully, in community and with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. If such a person were found worthy of such a magnificent role, then I imagine that they would be most impressive indeed. It isn't logically sensible to select a Pope, a representative for God, who is anything less than completely worthy of respect. Logically, anybody who fits this description would be desperately loved and should be kept around for as long as possible - not selected for the job because they have a short enough shelf-life that they aren't an inconvenience to your politics.

Imagine the constancy of action and the powerful legacy that somebody could leave behind if they took up the Papacy with a good 30, 40 or 50 years left in them.

All I can say from this is that if the current Pope is nothing but a stop-gap measure or a convenience to the current Bishops, then they disrespect their own expression of faith... and therefore God. I'm no Catholic, but I don't think that is acceptable.

Long live the Pope.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Constantine

Everybody has a price.

I've got a price, and that price is $8.50.

After dutifully avoiding the movie "Constantine" for some time now, I finally went to see it last night when somebody offered to pay for my ticket.

I'll explain why I didn't want to see it, then what I think of it now that I have.

My argument not to see it was pretty straightforward. God calls us to a closeness of relationship that goes along with an increase of personal righteousness - something that Constantine almost certainly can't help with. Also, the Bible makes it pretty clear to "not even name [certain sins] among you, as is fitting for saints." In living a No Compromise life, that will involve letting our minds dwell on whatever is "true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, of good repute, excellent and anything worthy of praise" (Phil 4:8). Constantine, most normal people would agree, doesn't fit into those categories.

But, everybody has a price. Mine is overblown curiousity and a free ticket.

So lets get one thing straight: I found Constantine extremely entertaining. It gets a big 'E' for entertainment. But it is also full of heresy, misleading lies and any number of things that would make it harder for its viewers to embrace God in their real life. As I told my friend when he tried to defend the virtues of Constantine as a movie ("it's entertaining so it must be fine"), I'm sure many people enjoy and are entertained by adultery, sadism, lying and murder - but that doesn't make those things a valid pastime for a conscientious Christian.

I could defend it in a vague sense, by saying that it probably isn't any worse than any other movie (e.g. Team America World Police, Kill Bill etc), but the "you do it too" argument doesn't deny any guilt - it just spreads more around.

Here are a few of the main points that I struggled with:

1) God seemed distant and aloof, Satan seemed here-and-now and powerful.
The only source of real power seemed to come from two areas: the satanic and demonic powers of darkness - which seemed very real, very potent and very scary (in the movie-world) - and the self-serving force of John Constantine. It almost felt like a "kingdom divided against itself." Constantine didn't serve God, it was pointed out that he served himself. His authority came from himself. Demons seemed to have the only other power. The only "Angel" around seemed a little insane, and the only Christians that we saw were Catholic Priests who had some pretty large dysfunctions. While many demons, 'the son' of Satan and Lucifer himself made a very powerful and personal cameo, the only time God appeared was with in a beam of light and some fluffy clouds.

2) It contained severe heresies (not including the implicit ones making up 95% of the plot):
· Jesus didn't die on the cross (he was killed by the centurion's spear)
· God is like a little kid with an anthill (and we're the ants)
· Hell has a Bible, and it is new and improved (consequently, our one is out of date / wrong)

3) Christianity is like voodoo or magic.
In Constantine, the Priests all speak Latin and waving crosses and saying the correct incantations seems to be the order of the day. In fact, fighting Demons has never been easier, since the power to vanquish the forces of darkness doesn't even require faith, or God. John Constantine 'uses' the religious paraphernalia and mumbo-jumbo like a science. It's like the ultimate athiest ghost-busters.

Constantine was very enjoyable.
Constantine was also very unfortunate. Unfortunate that it will help this current generation to see Christianity as some aloof, irrelevant, latin-mumbling archaic superstition. It will help people to see God as hokey, distant and uncaring. It will encourage people to misunderstand Christ, his sacrifice and his person. And lastly, it will help people to become interested in the occult, in personal power and in religion-as-ritual.

Thanks for listening, it's good to be back.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Poem: Removed by the Author

"This message has been removed by the Author,"
said the message on the screen.

A risk withdrawn;
brave words removed;
an offering too delicate for prying eyes.

What hides under the words
is what people want to see.

The life between the lines
is proof of what's worth knowing.

. . .I met a man today,
and wanted to offer him more;
More of life, more of love, more of God.

Mouth opens...
Heart beats faster.
...mouth closes.
Head turns away.

Useless words fill the gap instead.

Said the message on the screen,
"This Author has been removed by his message".

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Why didn't they tell me?

Hi there.

It's really unusual how a person can begin to think things, come up with ideas, concepts and defining quotes, only to discover that people have been saying it for 100 years - or more!

I'm gearing up to write an essay for my Gospel in a Post-Christian Society class, and it's going to be on Pacifism/Nonresistance.

As you can see from my book section on the sidebar, I've been reading What Would You Do? and I'm finding that some of the contributing authors echo some of my recent ideas, only these people wrote it anywhere from the 19th Century or 1916 up through 1968. The fact that I have ideas that I then find repeated by reputable, published authors encourages me. But I'm finding it a little frustrating that I don't know this stuff already. It occurs to me that if I knew everything that they have already spent the last few centuries labouring through, I could spend my time at the fore-front of Ethics and Peace Studies, and not have to worry about redundantly reinventing the wheel.

Ironically, even the forefront of such things would only be finding different ways to repeat Jesus' two-Millennia-old message.

Good ol' Ecclesiastes:

8All things are wearisome;
Man is not able to tell it.
The eye is not satisfied with seeing,
Nor is the ear filled with hearing.
9That which has been is that which will be,
And that which has been done is that which will be done.
So there is nothing new under the sun.
10Is there anything of which one might say,
"See this, it is new"?
Already it has existed for ages
Which were before us.

Friday, April 01, 2005

My book list

I've decided to list the books that I've read since starting this Blog that are topically relevant and that I recommend, and post them here. There should also be a link on the sidebar under the heading "what i'm reading" that links here.

[Last edited/updated 4th April '05]

Books That I'm Reading:

· John D. Roth (ed.), Engaging Anabaptism. Conversations with a radical tradition (Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 2001)
An examination into the distinctives, benefits and weaknesses of Anabaptism primarily using autobiographical writings. Contributors are 13 influential voices in the Anabaptist movement and Theology abroad, from diverse denominational backgrounds

· Christopher D. Marshall, Crowned with Glory & Honour. Human rights in the biblical tradition (Telford, Pa.: Pandora Press, 2001)
An explanation of how biblical perspectives on Christ and covenant can inform contemporary ethical debates, with particular emphasis on human rights and dignity.

Books That I Plan To Read:

· Richard B. Hays, The Moral Vision of the New Testament. Community, Cross, New Creation. A Contemporary Introduction to New Testament Ethics (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1996)

Books That I Recommend:

See the included comments section...

Translating the Gospel

'Contextualisation' basically means to take something and, while keeping the integrity of the central meaning intact, creating a next context-relevant form for it.

For example, bread and wine in communion while with British Anglicans in London, taro and coconut milk while with indigenous Samoan people (although, realistically, they probably use bread and wine now too :P).

Or, talking ideologically, using a cultural metaphor of Christ instead of the western metaphors for him. This might link pre-existing sacrificial metaphors or symbols to Christ.

The theory is that, if done well, contextualisation enriches the gospel in such a way and brings to light certain aspects that otherwise would have remained hidden.

Quote:
"it was only when Christianity was able to express itself in the terms of the worldviews of these different cultures, that it was also able to transform them. In this way the process of contextualisation did become a process of transformation of cultures, re-orientating them back to God. Such has been the historical power of the gospel. But this cannot be done by imposition, as the colonial model of mission tries to do, but by giving the gospel time to take root in each culture and thereby transforming it. The point is, true contextualisation will do more than touch individuals with the gospel - it will reach into the heart of the culture and transform its social and political context. I suggest that this is a level of contextualisation that evangelicals rarely reach."

So why do we think that we aren't syncretistic (i.e. compromisingly fuse differing systems of belief) already? We use "insider" language, don't we? So what if its western insider language? We don't even use culturally/religiously neutral ways of expressing our faith, we use what we believe is a biblically permissible 'Western Form' of our faith.

If C1 means not really inside a culture, and C6 means totally syncretistically merged into the culture (C5 & C6 don't call themselves Christian), then I'd say many of our NZ believers are pushing C4 or even borderline C5. Those people who are the kind of secret Sunday-Christians, who never live out their faith openly (for fear of shame or social persecution) might even be C6 - and that's the worst kind!

We need to wake up and realise that we a performing the very same crime within our own culture that we want other foreign converts to avoid.

If we want the Gospel to survive as our society moves along, then we'll need to develop an expression of our faith that - as irritating as this charge may be - reflects a more postmodern perspective. We can't accept poMo wholesale, or the loss of central truth makes the entire exercise pointless, but we can learn to distinguish the positive benefits of poMo from the negative (in much the same way that we can't take 'Modernism' for granted either).

Maybe it means being a 'C4/5 deep-culture western poMo missionary'. Maybe it means finding a new voice for Christianity that the next generation can connect to better. Maybe it means getting along-side culture just for a moment, rather than attacking it head on with our heels dug in, and embracing it in the hope that we can transform its people in their whole social and political context.