Monday, March 05, 2007

Five Things I Think Think

1) 70 people have logged in today, as of right now wondering: Where are the new "Ten Things..."? Well, it's like this, I'm working under about three different deadlines. I sent Chapter One of my dissertation to be checked by my adviser and second reader (Preliminary feedback? TILT! Please play again. Very discouraging.) Am now in the middle of editing/completing my Chapter Two, the bulk of which I wrote as a final paper for a class first semester. Am tracking the history of leadership succession models from the Old and New Testament, through the Early Church, past the Reformation, and into the modern age. Needless to say, it is involving a lot of reading to get the necessary research (i.e. quotes to put in the paper) and since I don't write worth a plug nickel, I'm spending three times longer on the editing than the writing.

Couple that with a few assignments due for a class, the seemingly impossible task of arranging a visit at All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, and us trying to care for a couple of sick kids (Eli has a strange rash, and we're afraid Xavie is getting strep throat), and you've got stress. Hence the fact that today we're doing "Five Things" instead of the customary "Ten Things".

We promise to refund half of your money back.

2) In the midst of numerous long days reading and writing, Aimee insisted we get a babysitter, and go out for a date Saturday night, which given all the nights she's spent up at that townhouse alone with the boys until the wee hours until I come home from my carrel, hands tired from typing, isn't too much to ask. As a part of the evening, we went to see "Music and Lyrics", which is a movie about an 80's star-now-a-has-been who is struggling to make it singing his old hits at amusement parks, class reunions of people about my age (I graduated in 1987), and pretty much anywhere he can get signed. One day, he's summoned by the latest young female pop star (modeled on Brittney, before she started chain smoking unfiltered Lucky Strikes and hanging out with motel heiresses) who asks him to write her a song (she's a big fan of his work). Long story short, the lady who waters his plants ends up writing (the lyrics) with him , the contrived conflict to make you think they aren't going to end up together is totally unbelievable, and they end up happily ever-after.

Why go see the movie? Well if you grew up during the eighties you'll laugh at all the Wham! parodies. There was a group of mommies about our age (mid to late thirties) on a "mommy's night out" (heard more than one say daddy could handle whatever little junior had in store for him as they turned off their cell phones) who loved the movie. But then again, they probably liked Wham!. I know Aimee did, and now I have to download "Wake Me Up Before You Go Go" for her. Anyhow, here's the "video" of the Wham-esque band, which is pretty much a dead-on parody of the videos of that time and place (you know... back when they played music videos on MTV). If you think it's funny, then you are about my age, and will probably enjoy this flick:

Why not go see this movie? First and foremost, if you just hated that video. Stay home or go see Amazing Grace... trust me.

OK, now that we've got that out of the way, the lead characters, played by Drew Barrymore and Hugh Grant, have no chemistry. During the previews, they were advertising a romantic dramedy that featured Meg Ryan as the mother of the female love interest (yikes!). All that did was make Aimee and I wish that the movie had Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in it instead of two people who obviously just weren't clicking.

Also, Drew Barrymore doesn't even act anymore. She plays the same awkward hippy-dippy character she plays in every movie, which Aimee says women love because even though she's flawed, she ends up with the guy. And, since I guess I don't see what the big deal is when Adam Sandler plays another idiot, maybe my critique is a little hypocritical. I just don't think she's bringing anything new to that character anymore.... nothing personal.

And finally, chances are that if you grew up during the eighties, you'll either end up sitting next to someone too young (or in my case) too old to really "get" all the eighties-related references. I spent the entire movie next to a nice older couple who must have had this conversation about sixty times:

Her: What did he say?
Him: He said, "that ugly hair was the style at the time".
Her: I don't get it?
Him: Me either.

Couple that with the few times the Brittney-pre-Chaotic-Kevin character writhes around the floor in barely nothing while someone who reminds you of your grandmother (not my grandmother... she's so cool we watch Family Guy together) sits next to you, and you've got more than enough reasons to rent, instead of blowing your grocery money for the month at the theater.

All that being said.... we had a great time. We were together, alone, holding hands, and eating popcorn, and that's all that counts.

3) Was sent a link to the Westboro Baptist "Church", and was just blown away by the hatred. If you don't know who these guys are, they're the people who picket military funerals with signs that say "God Hates America". Fun bunch of folks. Here's the thing to remember about their kind (besides the fact that they seem to have totally missed the whole "fruits of the spirit" part of the Pauline epistles.... or they didn't miss them and somehow interpret becoming loving, peaceful, patient, kind, not self-seeking, and increasingly kind with screaming "You're a whore!" at military widows):

If your two basic presumptions when reading the Bible are "I'm right while everyone else is wrong" and "The more people show their hatred for me the more faithful to God I am", then Fred Phelps' family "church" is what you end up with. A family literally made up almost entirely of lawyers (and one filmmaker... more on that in a minute) trained to develop their argument while anticipating the argument of their opponent, "knowing" all the while they're always right.

Gives me a headache just thinking about it. How blind and self-righteous can you be when you picket the funerals of the Amish students who died last year in the school shooting because you believe that God punished the Amish for having worked out their own systematic form of righteousness. If you're out there screaming at people how much God hates them as a means of trying to show God you understand his holiness and sovereignty so that he'll let you into heaven, how far up an unmentionable part of the body does your head have to be to see that you and the Amish ain't nothing but "kissin' cousins"? Both sects believe that folks outside their own community are going to hell, the only difference is the Amish demonize those who use electricity, and WBC demonizes those who extend grace. In the end, besides the fact that at least while the Amish think we English are going to hell they still have some sense of compassion for the poor and oppressed and a hope that we can be saved, what's the difference?

Anyhow, the secret to their continued presence is 1) all the kids and grandkids of the "pastor" of the church, Fred Phelps Sr., are lawyers, so they can bury you with pointless motions and mounds of paperwork, 2) they're so shrill and extremist that the media loves to hate them, meaning they continually get attention from 24 hour news channels who really have about 40 minutes of news to report most days, and 3) anybody who doesn't know anything about the Bible can be taken in by their argument. Sad but true.

You see, that's the problem with the Bible. Throughout a good portion of the Old Testament God is punishing one group or another for unfaithfulness, which results in a whole lot of people (thousands and thousands.... think I'm kidding? Go read the book of Esther and find out how many heathen die at the hands at angry Israelites) getting smited, (or smoten... I'm not sure of the form of the tense). In any case, there's smiting going on all over the place...

and then, in the New Testament, you have Jesus, telling us to turn the other cheek, love our enemies, and forgives us for killing him as he hangs on the Cross. So, a really simplistic reading of the text (and an increasingly common one... check out Richard Dawkins "The God Delusion" as one of the most recent examples) would lead one to think that:

either the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament are different,

OR (as Steve Chalke said while here) that God went through an Alpha Course between the two Testaments and changed His demeanor to become more loving or forgiving, meaning that God changes,

OR (if you are member of the Westboro Baptist "Church") that God really does hate humanity, and only out of the graciousness of his heart will save a few of us... well not "us", or at least not me. I'm a United Methodist, so I wouldn't make it in. Me and every other person who attends a church that isn't the Westboro Baptist "Church"... we end up in Hell. But at least a few of "them" sneak through under the wire.

OR you have to decide that God, for whatever reason, refuses to reveal himself in ways that aren't compatible with the culture of the age (a popular idea here at Asbury, largely due to the influence of the Missiology school, I think)

OR you have to be open to the possibility that as humanity spends more time thinking relating to God THEIR impression of how He works and speaks changes and grows... which to me, seems (with limits) to be a reasonable assumption.

In any case, the scary thing is that there are plenty of other Fred Phelps Seniors out there somewhere. They just aren't as bright and well-financed as he is.. but they terrorize a small group of people who follow every word they say all the same. Which, isn't exactly in line with "being a servant of all, to lead all" in my book.

Anyhow, if you've ever seen the group's signs (God Hates America, God Hates You, etc...) you'll be surprised to know that most of the signs have a short video on the church's website explaining what the sign means. The message is, in my way of thinking, so extremest that you can't even take it seriously. My personal favorite? Click on the video below, and find out for yourself.... but first

WARNING: Even though this video was produced by a "church", it contains images and language that are extremely offensive. They are to be, in no way, to be construed as being compatible with my own. That being said, click on the link at your own discretion.

Stuff you can say, if you are never, ever wrong. So what person, or church, anywhere, is never, ever wrong? If you find one, take my advice - turn and run like your life depended on it, or you will become mental slave to an abusive person who is propping up their fragile ego on the smoldering ruins of your hopes and dreams.

4) Made the mistake during a study break today of watching the video of the teenagers teaching a toddler (just a bit older than Eli) and a little boy (just a little older than Xavie) how to smoke a joint today. Just the thought of it turns my stomach. I am torn between ranting about how urban communities are coming apart at the seams (except this happened in a suburb of Ft. Worth, Texas) while the church sits idly by waiting for a government solution, AND wanting the boys to do hard, hard time.

And that's really the issue, isn't it? As a Christian you want to be compassionate and loving, but the depth of stupidity, nay maliciousness, that exists in certain people makes you wonder if it wouldn't be better just to throw the key away in certain cases. As if, somehow, sin can be quarantined. For the District Attorney the choice is easy... the more heinous the crime, put them away as long as you can, and I'd gather that a good portion of Americans feel the same way. They just want to be protected from those who obviously wish others harm, and if I were on the jury after watching that video, I'd be ready to throw the book, figuratively and literally (any book, as long as it's not too big to throw) at these two irresponsible young people.

But what does it mean to bring healing to a broken world? And does the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ have any real power to change lives? If it doesn't, then the New Testament is doomed to become a philosophy text book or Fred Phelps is right... God really does hate the vast majority of humanity.

I choose door "C"., meaning, yeah, what those boys did was patently stupid, dangerous, and reckless. They should pay whatever debt they owe to society. But locking them up for eternity, most likely, will just end up creating new, angry, dangerous citizens who believe the system is out to get them.

The age of impersonal public assistance and overly punitive incarceration, while excluding the building of personal relationships designed to bring healing, needs to come to an end.

5) And finally, my dream of my first perfect 4.0 for a degree program, is over. Received an A-minus for my Anthropology class, which kinda stinks. I say this because I received an A-minus for my final project, which not only involved me going to Johnson City for a weekend to do an ethnography on a fellow BP's church, but also involved me having to interpret the data he gave me on my church, and work up a final paper as to how I'll apply my findings when I return. I can pretty much guarantee nobody else did more than Aaron and I on our projects, and yet I end up with an A-minus (he probably ended up with an A... such is the quality of his brain compared to mine).

Wait a minute.... the guy whose mantra has always been "D equals Diploma" is complaining about an A-minus? What is happening to me? Am I becoming (GASP).....

conscientious about excellence!?! I think they're going to take away my "slacker" card.

Have a great week. I'll write again, when I can.


Anonymous said...



amy said...

Aimee assures me that you are a slaker in other't be throwing that card away yet my friend! Amy

Logan said...

I've heard a fair amount about those WBC clowns. It's pretty unbelievable. I couldn't believe my ears when they said that God's new 'weapon of choice' is the Improvised Explosive Device. Only in America could a group like that even exist.

Shannon said...

good luck getting everything done. i am hanging on to the sweet, sweet hope of spring break in order to get caught up. so i am feeling your pain. peace to you.

Anonymous said...

According to the 1611 KJV version from BibleWorks, the past tense is "smotest." Smite; smiter; smitest and smiteth are also applicable. Here's hoping that those Baptist folks are met with more grace than they measure out for others. Also, I cannot stop watching the "Pop" video. There but for the grace of God go I. I hereby resolve never to lead worship from the keyboard wearing a pirate shirt or a scarf (or wiggle my rear end).

Steven Paul