28 December 2010

A NEW IMAGE OF THE CHRISTMAS WARS

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A display table of gift ideas at a local supermarket in December.

While you are recovering from this year's bout in the Christmas Wars and deciding toward which side you'll end up for the next one, consider this image as metaphor for what might actually be going on. In other words, if one is so concerned with either (1) "keeping Christ in Christmas" which now seems little to do with eschewing the "X-Mas" substitution and instead purely figurative or (2) forcing Jesus on people by saying "Merry Christmas" to people who might not celebrate it perhaps the Jesus-centered idea of Christmas isn't under attack by those things but instead the attack is illustrated in coincidental messages in the image above. What messages do you see?

Happy holidays! Yes, New Years (here) and King's Day (Spain), among others, are yet to come.

19 December 2010

ANDERSON AND COPPOLA'S STELLA ARTOIS COMMERCIAL

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Writer/directors Wes Anderson (The Royal Tenenbaums, The Fantastic Mr Fox, etc) and Roman Coppola (CQ, music videos for The Strokes etc) made an ad for InBev/Annheiser-Busch's Stella Artois brand which is based in Belgium. In my opinion, the beer is just ok but a nice choice among the more widely available brews in your average bar. While Stella is probably the most popular beer actually brewed in Belgium available in the United States, it doesn't at all typify the sort of brew most often referred to as "Belgian-style". Funny how that works.

I love Anderson's and Coppola's works and this ad is a bit of retro-modern James Bond-like fun. Enjoy.



25 November 2010

MUSIC PICK FOR THANKSGIVING

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Wondering what music to listen to this Thanksgiving morning and throughout the day? Maybe you already started listening to Christmas music last week but it doesn't quite feel right today. Have you been asking yourself, "Why isn't there Thanksgiving music?" Should the music be folksy, classical chamber music, or choral? All would work fine and perhaps do well on a shuffle mix especially with the special ingredient I'm about to mention.

Dig up that Amelie soundtrack you wore out a few years ago. Thanksgiving magic!

21 November 2010

A DELICIOUS VEGAN THANKSGIVING ROAST - HAZELNUT CRANBERRY EN CROUTE

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On my first Thanksgiving morning as a vegan I removed my Tofurky roast from the freezer to start cooking. As I read the instructions, which I thought I read completely before, I realized that the one hour cooking time assumed it had already been defrosted starting twenty four hours before. My cooking time was going to be more like three hours which put me an hour past when I was supposed to meet up with family. Oops. 

It turned out okay never mind the accelerated temperatures and the only partly correct accompanying vegetables I used. Every year since I've gotten it more right and last year we also tried Field Roast's Celebration Roast. In fact, if you, as a vegan or vegetarian, don't have access to an oven on the day, the Celebration Roast can be microwaved assuming it was already thawed and is even soy free. 

Both are great options for the big feast and this year Field Roast has made another available. The Stuffed Hazelnut Cranberry Roast En Croute with Apples and Crystallized Ginger, pictured below, is an amazingly delicious and complex option whose flavors are especially delightful and appropriate for the the festive holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas. If that sentence seemed like a mouthful just wait until you start eating the roast!



From the site:

A sumptuous, rich grain meat seasoned with toasted hazelnuts and rosemary stuffed with a sausage style mixture of Field Roast, cranberries, apples and crystallized ginger. Wrapped en croute with a rich vegan puff pastry, it is perfect as a center piece for a delicious, gourmet holiday meal.

09 November 2010

BREWS OF CHOICE FALL 2010: TWO BELGIAN STYLE ALES

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Brooklyn Brewery's Local 1 reminds me a lot of a favorite true Belgian beer, Atomium Grand Cru which so far cannot be found in my area save for on tap at Horizons in Philadelphia. Thoroughly complex flavors with sweet and deep orange-citrus notes, especially after a good mouthful, nicely mask the higher alcohol content making this an amazingly refreshing and enjoyable drink. Great to share over dinner, with a friend on a brisk night, or enjoy the whole bottle... over a few hours of course.

From the brewery's site:
Behind the full golden color you'll find an alluring aroma, a dynamic complex of flavors, Belgian flair, Brooklyn fortitude and a dusting of our special yeast. To create this beer, we use the old technique of 100% bottle re-fermentation, a practice now rare even in Europe. It gives this beer a plate of unusual depth.


STYLE: Belgian-inspired Strong Golden Ale
MALTS: Two-Row Pilsner Malt, Bamberg, Germany
HOPS: German Hallertaur Perle, Styrian Golding
ALCOHOL: 9.0% by volume
ORIGINAL GRAVITY: 18.5 Plato


Brewery Ommegang's Rare Vos is brewed and cellared in Cooperstown, NY by this craft brewer recently acquired by Belgium's famous Duvel Moortgat Brewery. Rare Vos means "sly fox" in Flemish which seems appropriate enough. In October I enjoyed this with friends at a pumpkin carving party in Philadelphia. It was hit. Pre-carving, we paired our drink with delicious creole seasoned and then smoked turkey (for them) and tofu (for us) along with an assortment of rolls, cider donuts, and other fallish baked sweets. With these pairings in mind, I would recommend this drink with other spiced (not necessarily spicey) meats and dishes. The food's spices bring out the flavor in this gem that even separate from food is truly delightful. With only a 6.5% ABV, Thanksgiving dinner, or after, would be a great and safe time to share this.

Check out some thorough reviews at Beer Advocate and this from the brewery's site:
Named after a Brussels bar made famous as the starting point for bicycle and pigeon races, our Rare Vos Amber Ale is also a great place to begin your virtual taste test. As you pour, you’ll notice the beautiful coppery-amber color and the rich creamy head. Lift the glass to your mouth and enjoy the aroma of spicy orange blossoms. Taste, and the pleasant mellow flavor of caramel malt glides easily into a dry, hop finish. Once you’ve finished, start again (after all, this isn’t a race). Intended for the cafĂ© as well as the dinner table, Rare Vos is an amber ale of medium color and strength. It sports aromas and flavors of caramel, orange, hops, plus an elusive fruity-yeasty flavor which will have you tasting in circles.


02 November 2010

POLITICAL COMPASS ON VOTING DAY

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Over dinner a few weeks ago, a friend of mine asked where I see myself on the a simple scale of pure capitalist to pure socialist. I remember answering simply and then elaborating how the Political Compass gives a truer read than a simple right to left or anything else this to that. Turns out I was a little off on my memory of my standing on the Authoritarian/Libertarian scale.

On voting day in the United States, using the Political Compass questionnaire, learning about political labels throughout the world, viewing the resulting chart, and seeing how you compare to other people throughout history is nothing less than enlightening. You may find yourself situated a little differently than you thought. And it certainly will lead you to question the right/left rhetoric of the parties and pundits. Learn why and learn more about yourself. You can find the compass at www.politicalcompass.org .

Here are some recent world leaders on the chart:
In case you are curious, here is where I ended up:


Economic Left/Right: -7.38
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -6.05

31 October 2010

A WORSHIP SONGWRITING AND CULTURE CRITIQUE: "WE WILL WORSHIP YOU"

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Preface: I purposely chose a song that I had no history  or connection with to talk about / critique for a number of reasons, some of which will be apparent as you read. It is also worth saying that I realize I cannot know the circumstances of this song's writing, what group of people it was originally written for, or the specifics of the writers' personal faith journeys. Those things do matter somewhat but when the song ends up in the midst of other people in other circumstances than (perhaps) it was intended, this kind of song should stand on its own and clearly communicate its message. 


I have talked with friends of mine who also lead, or have led, and even have written these sort songs about these things and even challenged some of them in their own songwriting, just as I have been challenged  to address these issues. Brian McLaren, a personal hero of mine, writes about some of these things and more here: http://www.anewkindofchristian.com/archives/lettertosongwriters.pdf . By no means have I completely expressed my thoughts on church / worship music here nor my personal journey with it. I hope to more in the coming months. For now here are some thoughts on a particular song, of which I still have not heard but only read the words. 


Someone I know recently heard a song, "We Will Worship You" by Carlos Whittaker and Jason Ingram, on Lancaster's local Christian music radio station WJTL . Neither I nor this other person regularly listen to this station these days but occasionally we have found it helpful, memory evoking, and occasionally entertaining to revisit this example of western Christian subculture. 


I grew up listening almost exclusively to what is called "contemporary Christian music" and eventually upgraded, as I and my peers insisted at the time, to mostly worship music which seemed more "pure" and "toward God" instead of just about the Christian life. Worship music is the sort of thing people sing in church and the kind we liked used modern, if not slightly dated, popular instruments and sounds to allow people to sing along and perhaps feel the spirit of the Christian God more easily. 


I still enjoy hearing some of any of those types of music from time to time, in fact many of my friends still very creatively and skillfully write, record, and perform it.  I also know that I learned a lot about making music and helping people eventually participate in it through these avenues. CCM, worship music, and myself have quite a history
Having led worship music services,in one form or another, pretty regularly from  the age of seventeen until late last year when my church folded, I was inside the culture and helping to challenge and recreate it for a good chunk of my life. Now, pretty far on the outside of it all, hearing the familiar phrases and sounds spun in new ways I have often felt detached and sometimes very confused. This brings me back to the song my friend heard.


Being a part of the culture, certain phrases have certain meanings that aren't necessarily restricted to the actual words but instead the emotions those phrases evoke because of their placement in a song. If you have ever repeated a soaring chorus over and over with a large group of people whether it be a hymn or contemporary "praise chorus", you might know the emotion and feeling of elation that becomes attached to those words. If you haven't experienced this in a church service think of singing "Rejoice, rejoice Emmanuel...." from "O Come O Come Emmanuel" or the long "Gloria"s from "Angels We Have Heard On High" both Christmas carols. Hopefully you get the idea. If not think of your favorite song to sing with friends and then analyze the words.


This guy is ecstatically surrendering to something, but what?

Back to our topic. The song in question neither of us had heard before so,for us, there wasn't any emotion attached to the words. That and the words is what led me... allowed me to start writing. Here are the lyrics with commentary bit by bit.


"We Will Worship You"
by Carlos Whittaker & Jason Ingram

We fix our eyes on You, You are God alone
We fix our eyes on You, You’re our only hope
For all we have to lose is our very souls


It starts out pretty basic with a common declaration of focus on God,  that this God is only God, and that therefore He is the group of singers' only hope. Then it takes an odd lyrical turn. The next line that suggests that because of these things that have been declared, the "For", that "all we have to lose is our very souls". First the phrase is strange as it seems to self contradict. The phrase "all we have to lose" generally is followed by something small. In orthodox Christianity, the soul is pretty paramount especially in the afterlife which, to many, is the main reward for being a Christian. Second, add to that the emphasis of the soul's importance with the word "very" and it seems almost like a joke. And third, I don't see how the bit about losing one's soul should be the main reason for doing and saying the things before that line. 

We fix our eyes on You, You are God alone
We fix our eyes on You, You’re our only hope
For all we have to lose is our very souls


And if you weren't sure that those were the actual lyrics, as we were not at first, they get repeated.

Save us from these comforts
Break us of our need for the familiar
Spare us any joy that’s not of You
And we will worship You
Yeah, we will worship You


For the next part we have a request to be saved from "these comforts". Every version of this song that I've seen doesn't have any comforts listed in the words so the singers must be referencing the common everyday comforts of the world. Sometimes we do need some saving from reliance on and absorption into those, so I get this. And of course our comforts would be familiar since they are comforting and so the next thing makes sense though I don't see how it connects to the previous section.


But then another confusing line strikes, "Spare us any joy that's not of You". My understanding of most Christian theologies is that all joy, not just pleasure because that isn't necessarily true joy, is actually from God. Is that not true for most Christians? If not then what kind of "joy" comes from something that is not God? Also interesting is the word "Spare" at the beginning of the line. Usually one requests to be spared pain or someone's unbelievable explanation but not to be spared joy from any source.


After that the singers seem to indicate that if all this is done, by saying "and", they will worship said God. I hope this is not intentionally conditional but that is how it reads. Interestingly we have yet to sing, or read in our case, how the singers are to worship aside from singing this song of course. Many worship songs seem to think that singing is the best way to praise or show affection for the one the song is directed toward. Much could be said about that but we are moving along here...

Satisfy us, Lord, in Your unfailing love
Satisfy us, Lord, that You would be enough
We have nothing here, let Your kingdom come


Here we have another request that the singers be satisfied with the Lord's, probably the same figure as "God", unfailing love. I guess instead of being satisfied with joy and comforts. And that this love would be enough which makes good sense actually since it is unfailing and from God. Seriously, I get it. But then the wierdness happens again....


The next line says that "We have nothing here, let Your kingdom come". Now even I, in my rather unorthodox Christian beliefs, agree that Jesus' of Nazareth's Kingdom of God is the actual point of the Christian God's story and mission but the first part? "We have nothing here"? Nothing if you don't include almost everything that Jesus is recorded as speaking about. Nothing if you don't include everything that God created FOR all of humanity, one way or another, in the creation narrative. Even if what is here is completely unredeemable without the "kingdom" coming, the kingdom doesn't come in a vacuum outside of this world. If there was nothing of worth here why would God want to save it, regardless of how you believe He does the saving. Furthermore, the people standing next  to each other singing this song are basically saying that they are all worthless as well. This line is not good, not helpful, and frankly quite escapist in the tradition of the Essenes which I'm sure not many singing this song would want to exemplify.

Save us from these comforts
Break us of our need for the familiar
Spare us any joy that’s not of You
And we will worship You
Yeah, we will worship You


The verse is repeated again.

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah


And then we have a very common word in the Bible and in worship songs repeated a few times which loosely translates to "Praise Yahweh" or "Praise Jehovah" and usually in a very physically celebratory manner. Dancing would be an option here.

Save us from these comforts
Break us of our need for the familiar
Spare us any joy that’s not of You
And we will worship You
Yeah, we will worship You


Another repetition and the song is left at a good thematic spot as the singers declare that they will worship which should translate as "follow through" or just sing the song more.


There are plenty of songs that have been or are favorites of mine which others might find the lyrics silly or irrelevant to our time and yet they still touch me for any of the reasons I talked about above. So I'm not mocking this song or the writers but instead offering my concerns about the haphazard nature of modern church/worship music writing. Stringing catch phrases together is bad enough but generalizations about the worth of all of creation, including one's spiritual brothers and sisters, is really sloppy and can lead to dangerous things depending on who ends up singing and believing the song's lyrics. 


People might end up singing your song and believing what it says. Maybe not these people but possibly someone.

I have started writing many songs in this larger category of church music only to either never finish or choose not to ask others to sing them in a communal setting for a few possible reasons. One, they weren't focused enough or appropriate for the purposes of a church service. Two, while the emotion of the song made sense for me, the words weren't actually connected to it or making enough sense for clear public understanding. Maybe the emotion and words weren't actually connected at all! And third, maybe most importantly, the words didn't suggest a way of following through in real life on the song's theme and/or they didn't describe something that the singer should try to exemplify. In other words, the song wasn't instructive. 


If a song of mine were to meet my own requirements I would then ask myself, "Fine that it's instructive but what does the song instruct the singer to declare they believe and to actually do?". A song can be plenty instructive but wouldn't it be awful if my song explicitly made them repeat things that actually were bad and those people acted accordingly?! Yikes. A mentor and friend of mine, upon me asking why modern church music wasn't more instructive compared to the hymns of old, despite some of the disturbing things in them.... he responded that in centuries past many, if not most, congregants couldn't read and so what they knew about God they learned and remembered in song. I remember thinking about that for a moment and responding that maybe with the information overload that the world is today and the kind of experience-based sermons preached in churches that perhaps today's congregants needed instructive theology in their songs all the more.


Maybe these don't need to be every songwriter's requirements for church music but they are at least worth considering. If you are a church music songwriter this is my message for you: be aware of what you are asking people to sing, therefore believe, and then live out of.

05 October 2010

QUOTE OF NOTE: A MERTON PARAPHRASE

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I don't always know the right thing to do, Lord, but I think the fact that I want to please you, pleases you.




- A paraphrase of Thomas Merton 
via The West Wing 
by Aaron Sorkin

21 September 2010

CONFLICTING ETHICS - THIS IS THE TROUBLE WE, THE RELIGIOUS, THE CHRISTIAN, ARE IN

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Never has a person said to my face "I think all people of the ____ race should be put to death" or worse yet "Let's go kill all of the ______ people". At least, not exactly. In the weeks following the tragedies of 11 September 2001 more than a few times I overheard strangers, acquaintances, friends, and parents of friends suggest that perhaps "their whole desert" should be "nuked". People were angry, ready for a fight, and quite frankly irrational. For some it was deep seeded hates coming out and for others purely ignorance and a desire to have a large living target for their anger. Not that these sort of statements haven't been uttered at other times, but I lived through that particular one.

If the question was put to them as "Is genocide morally right?" I'd guess that next to none of them would say "Yes". I also wouldn't and couldn't agree and that brings us to something I saw on Facebook from an acquaintance of mine.


alturl.com
I've signed a petition to the UN asking that Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad be prosecuted for the crime of incitement to genocide. Please join me in signing the petition.
3 hours ago · Comment · Like · Share ·Flag

Ahmadinejad, as a political leader, is quite polarizing and so is the Israel/Palestine debate especially in how it involves religion and ethics. So, naturally I was curious and clicked the link Which led me to a page with the petitions text::



To the Honorable Ban Ki-moon,
Secretary-General of the United Nations
To the Honorable Susan Rice,
United States Ambassador to the United Nations
We, the undersigned, urge you to immediately call upon the United Nations Security Council to refer the case of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, to the International Criminal Court for prosecution of the crime of incitement to genocide. An application of international law to Ahmadinejad’s statements and actions demonstrates the urgent and compelling case for such a prosecution.
After the Holocaust, the nations of the world decided that they must never again allow such an atrocity to occur. In 1952, they passed the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. To date, 138 nations including Iran have ratified this most important agreement. This Genocide Convention outlaws not only the commission of genocide, but also the direct and public incitement to commit genocide. By so doing, the Genocide Convention empowers the international community to prevent future genocides by prosecuting the very actions that make genocides possible.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has a clear record of incitement to genocide as defined under the Genocide Convention and its application to date. He has sought to dehumanize Israelis and demonize Jews. He has repeatedly called for Israel’s destruction in direct and stark terms. He is getting close to acquiring the nuclear arms with which to make good on this genocidal threat. And, through his active support of Hezbollah and Hamas, he has clearly demonstrated that he is prepared to turn his talk of killing Israelis into deadly action.
The International Criminal Court has jurisdiction over violations of the Genocide Convention. And the United Nations Security Council has the power to refer such violations directly to that body. We therefore urge you to call upon the Security Council to act immediately to refer Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s dangerous pattern of behavior to the International Criminal Court before it is too late.
Had the world listened to Hitler’s words and watched his actions, the Holocaust could have been prevented. The same goes for the words and actions of those who perpetrated the more recent genocides in Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. The time has come to learn from these tragedies. The time has come to apply the wise legal measures adopted to prevent such atrocities. The time has come to indict Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for incitement to genocide.

Even as I chose not to sign to petition mostly because of the sponsoring organization, I agreed with the idea that (1) incitement to genocide, just as the act itself, shouldn't be tolerated and that (2) the cited UN convention seems to warrant Ahmadinejad's, among others', prosecution.

Presently I am taking a course called "Ethics: Belief and Action". In our first few weeks covered, what were framed as, stumbling blocks to true ethics. Chief among them for a culture haunted and pervaded with religion and spirituality was Divine Command Moral Theory. DCMT asks if it is ok to ground ethics in religion? Its most basic question is whether God tells us to do things because they are already moral or whether God MAKES them moral by asking us to do them (or by doing them himself). This question leads us back to Ahmadeinejad, incitement to genocide, and the petition.

With DCMT in mind I responded to my acquaintance's post:

I actually agree with this idea. Too bad we can't have the same sort of public display for anyone, leader of a nation or not, saying such vile and immoral things.

One snag is that the Yahweh of the Bible might also get brought up on the same charges. Quite a sticky situation.

It made me uncomfortable typing that but it is true if we apply the same standard. Yahweh, the Hebrew God of the Old Testament and the historic God of the literalist Christian, not only commanded genocide many documented times but also committed it with His great powers.

Where do we, the religious, the Christian, go from here?


04 September 2010

RECOMMENDED VIEWING: FRONTLINE - THE VACCINE WAR

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Working in a natural food store and being surrounded by many people in my life who are skeptical about one thing or another, the topic of childhood vaccinations has come up many many times. I have overheard many quips about the "money-hungry" and "corrupt" pharmaceutical companies that make vaccines as just part of their plot to keep people sick and in the dark about it. Some of the same and others voice concerns of possible side effects including autism. I knew little of the issue so I generally just listened and tried to learn what I could.

Growing up, the brother of a friend of my mother was said  have suffered mental retardation with autism after his first DPT [diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), and tetanus] immunization. With that idea firmly implanted, I believed for most 
of life that vaccines were generally bad and that I wouldn't allow children I may potentially father to receive them

In February 2010 NPR reported that the evidence most often cited by anti-vaccine advocates and organizations as their rational, by Dr Andrew Wakefield, had been retracted by its publishing journal. Outrage on the anti-vaccine side was apparent and finally a fuller version of the public debate over the common good benefit versus the possible side-effects was getting widespread coverage. My interest was piqued.

FRONTLINE: THE VACCINE WAR, first aired on PBS in April 2010, includes the new Wakefield development as well as the opinions and science on the issue from doctors, celebrity spokespeople, scientists, and parents. I found the reporting to be pretty balanced and in depth for a one hour running time. It is availabe now via Netflix, their on demand option, and for free at Frontline's website.


By the way, I'd include myself as skeptical even if the categories of skepticism may differ from the typical. 

28 August 2010

THE 24 TYPES OF LIBERTARIAN AND THE PARODIES

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Cartoon by Barry Deutsch
Stereotypes? Sure. But don't we all slip into the stereotype of our assumed political stance now and then? It seems to me that most people, regardless political label, likely fit somewhere in here at least a little bit... Oh wait a minute, here are some more fits to spread the parody around a bit. 



Parodies of the parody. Authors unknown.

Can we see even a bit of ourselves in ANY of these or are we so far gone that we can't learn a bit from the way other side? If nothing else we all can ask ourselves "How can I better articulate my views so they can't be reduced to simplistic stupidity?" and "If I can't, are they views I really hold?" Have fun.

20 June 2010

HOMEOPATHY HUMOR VIA DILBERT

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What do you think? If this isn't a conversation starter..... No really, go ahead. You first.

09 June 2010

RECOMMENDED VIEWING: TELEVISION BY AARON SORKIN

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Dramatic playwright and screen writer Aaron Sorkin has created, written, and produced three wonderful shows, so far, that Megan and I recommend to you: Sports NightThe West Wing, and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. All are available on DVD and at least one of them still runs in repeats on cable. This evening we finished Sports Night's all too short two season run and can only hope that Sorkin's creativity returns to the small screen again soon. If you can pick only one, watch The West Wing and start at the beginning. You likely will get hooked, fall in love with the character of Josiah Barlett, and feel unrealistically hopeful about government and the United States' on occasion. You have been warned.

08 June 2010

A DEFINITION OF "EVANGELICAL" / "BORN AGAIN" / "CHRISTIAN"?

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In an article, summarizing survey research done on "busters", published in 2008, The Barna Group reveals how they classify the terms "Evangelical" and/or "born again". In the next few days I will write more about the article but for now here is the classification:


"Evangelicals" are born again Christians. In the survey, people qualified as evangelicals if they met the born again criteria (i.e., said they had have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their life today and also indicated they believe that when they die they will go to Heaven because they had confessed their sins and had accepted Jesus Christ as their savior) plus seven other conditions. Those include saying their religious faith is very important in their life today; believing they have a personal responsibility to share their religious beliefs about Christ with non-Christians; believing that Satan exists; believing that eternal salvation is possible only through grace, not works; believing that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth; asserting that the Bible is accurate in all that it teaches; and describing God as the all-knowing, all-powerful, perfect deity who created the universe and still rules it today. Being classified as an evangelical is not dependent upon church attendance or the denominational affiliation of the church attended. Respondents were not asked to describe themselves as "evangelical."


When and where I grew up, these were the only people who were "real Christians" and were "saved" assuming of course they spoke in tongues and operated in the "gifts of the spirit". To be fair, the Barna Group isn't quite making that claim, and of course they do have to classify people of all sorts to do proper surveys, but plenty have and will make that same leap. In a viewing the documentary Jesus Camp last week, I heard that real Christians raise their hands and sing loud in church and that God likes that best. But the people who sit and sing quietly aren't on God's good list.


Regardless of your faith affiliation, or lack there-of, don't we all realize that there are plenty of well thought out, valid, and sometimes reasoned, points of view with every faith/spirituality/worldview category? Do most Christians really fall into these classifications?


Lastly, notice that following Jesus' example, "The Way" as early Christians called it, isn't even one of the classifications. Odd? This to me is actually the only outright troubling thing about the classification as used by The Barna Group. Perhaps, sadly, this isn't a requirement to be in the "Evangelical" camp but you'd think to be a "Christian" defined as "Christ follower" you would need to actually follow. 

All who make the Christian / follower of Jesus claim could learn a bit from this omission, wouldn't you agree?



Cartoon from Naked Pastor.

31 May 2010

VEGAN PICKS: RITTER SPORT MARZIPAN AND DARK CHOCOLATES

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Tonight at Target, while fruitlessly looking for something I didn't find at Home Depot or Lowes, it dawned on me that I should bring a chocolate bar home for my wife.

Working for a natural foods store I generally have no shortage of access to tasty vegan chocolate. Usually at mainstream retailers -- book, big box, and grocery -- the only "dark" chocolates available have at least one form of milk inside which is puzzling if they are trying to get dark chocolate customers to buy them. For most of Target's selection this held true but there were a few that did not.

Ritter Sport is a brand I had not tired before. The packaging had a vague European look it... yeah the "100g" is a bit of giveaway I now realize... and since the Europeans tend to take their chocolate a bit more seriously I decided to actually flip one over to read the ingredients. Of the four varieties there, two were vegan: Marzipan and Dark.

How were they? Curiosity got the best of me, I tried some of both on the way home. Thankfully I bought one of each otherwise there may not have been much left for Megan. They both delicious. If you haven't ever tried a Marzipan chocolate, and aren't allergic to almonds, do give this one a try. The ground up almonds add a fluffy, light texture and flavor to the solid mildly sweet dark chocolate foundation of this bar.

I hope they never change these bars.

20 May 2010

MATURITY GRAPH AND CERTAINTY

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Graph from Naked Pastor.

On the way to, back from, and at the transFORM east coast gathering in DC the topics of over-certainty and vast uncertainty came up. Mostly they were in regards to knowledge of God, claimed or otherwise, and all else spiritual, theological, and moral. During Friday night's evening session Peter Rollins spoke at length about the veneer of (false) certainty slathered all over what people do as church.

I generally agree with Peter that churches have swung way too far into providing false certainty rather than a mix of the spectrum of what goes into strong faith. Some of what goes into that is honest doubt and not glossing over it. The older I have grown the less I am sure of anything about the exact character of God. Yet I am more (fairly) certain than ever (most of the time) about what God is not like.

Certainty can be arrogant when it doesn't allow for the possibility of being wrong. Certainty can be a substitute for faith and spirituality. Certainty can be a substitute for humility as if being certain in someone/thing/idea outside one's self allows the pride that this one/thing/idea is wholly correct and without addition, edit, or correction. Certainty CAN be very bad. If you are going to be certain, be certain about what you are certain about and spend a very long time getting to that place. Of course, chronic immature uncertainty can be a crutch and excuse.

So yeah, I feel a little wiser but it is a different world to me now. It is a world with ever shifting known foundations, powers, goals, and success. It is a world of known unknowns ever shifting into unknown unknowns. What do I mean? To explain here is a genius quote from, an odd source for me, a former U.S. Secretary of Defense:

There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we now know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. These are things we do not know we don’t know.
- Donald Rumsfeld

19 May 2010

GOOD WINE - COPPOLA DIAMOND SERIES CLARET 2007

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Francis Ford Coppola Diamond Series Claret 2007. This is a great under twenty dollar wine that I recommend. Tonight we drank it. By the way, the lettering is only red looking because of the table cloth, normally it is gold.

Wine.com has this to say about it: 

A blend of 82% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Petit Verdot, 4% Merlot, 4% Malbec and 3% Cabernet Franc.

The 2007 vintage got underway earlier than most years as a result of premature bud break. This occurred because of an unseasonably warm winter. The season lasted longer than normal as well because of prolonged moderate temperatures. These conditions were ideal for creating physiologically perfect fruit, which is why winemakers have declared this one of the best vintages of the decade. Our Claret is always elegant, but this year it's a true show stopper; lush with a beautiful tapestry of smooth tannins, intense flavor, and seductive aromas. With a deep crimson color, this wine gives way to aromas of blackberries, plums and vanilla cream while flavors of wild berries, cherries, spice and mocha dance on the palate.

When paired with classic dishes such as beef stroganoff, leg of lamb or potato gratin, you can create a sublime dining experience.



 
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