Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Random Thoughts On a Pleasant May Afternoon

After a self-imposed week hiatus, it's good to be back here in the blogosphere rambling incoherently. Here a few things rattling around my brain as we enjoy some decent weather (for a change).

- We're resurfacing the parking lot at church this week, and it stinks to high heaven. I mean the lot looks great, and we're preserving it from weathering and damage, but that doesn't change the fact that the oil-based coat possesses a smell that turns the stomach. Another necessary evil that comes out of our dependence on petroleum.

- Speaking of which, saw this interesting article on MSN about people who are starting a movement, via the internet, to encourage people to "Buy American". One of the startling stats in the article was the trade deficit the country now faces, now tipping the scales at over $700 billion dollars. While much attention has been paid to all of the small appliances, apparel, and whatnot now being made overseas contributing to this, not much is said regarding the biggest cause of the deficit which is imported oil.

One would think, as an issue of national security if nothing else, that a greater effort would be made particularly on the part of the federal government, to encourage research into alternative energy. To fund, in particular, educational efforts geared to produce the necessary scientists and engineers that will enable us to be freed from our dependence on oil (and thus free us from reliance upon shady, autocratic governments who are happy to sell us oil on the one hand, and create great instability in the world with the profit) makes sense. Why there aren't, in particular, science and math initiatives, contests, scholarships, and the like, getting students at all levels excited about a future in these fields is a mystery to me? My son, for example, has won numerous awards at his elementary school for reading prowess, but no such emphasis exists for math. One would think these sorts of things would be fairly cost-effective, and produce great dividends long term.

- Well, they say there are two kinds of motorcycle riders: Those who have "laid it down" and those who haven't "laid it down".... yet. As of last night, count me in as one of those who have "laid it down". After picking up a bucket of chicken from Famous Recipe, I was headed toward my father-in-law's house (it was his birthday, and we were celebrating) as I traveled across Allentown Road north on Woodlawn Avenue, I saw a truck heading east on Allentown run the red light, aiming for my Kawasaki. I hit the brakes to avoid the intersection, hit a small patch of slippery goo (a mix of antifreeze and oil, I think), and went down. The truck stopped (thank goodness), I only suffered a small cut on my hand, and the crash guards on the bike prevented any damage.

Kinda sent my heart rate skyrocketing, though.

The funny thing was that the guy who ran the light in the truck had been at the Blessing of the Bikes. He asked me if he just made the sermon for next year.

You bet you did, buddy. You bet you did.

- In my life I've gotten on some strange kicks when it came to my music listening, but this latest obsession kind of takes the cake. Late last week I stumbled on a remake of an old John Lennon song (Watching the Wheels) by a white rapper, who also happens to be a Hasidic Jew who has taken the name, Matisyahu.

Now I'm hooked. I think my secretary hasn't been this unhappy since those two weeks of non-stop funk four years ago. Oh yeah... and he beat boxes.

I suppose the lesson, as always, is that just when you thought you'd seen, or heard, it all, you realize you haven't.

- Saw two movies in the last couple of weeks, and my preconceptions as to what I'd like, or not like, for them both were totally wrong. First and foremost, go see or rent "Horton Hears A Who".

After the hack job Jim Carrey and company did on "How The Grinch Stole Christmas", I had little or no desire to see him butcher another Dr. Seuss classic. But I have four boys, a father-in-law who really likes movies, and a local dollar theater, so off we went. Couldn't have enjoyed it more. Carrey tuned it down a couple of notches and the sweet story that teaches kids that "a person's a person no matter how small" really hit home. A very pleasant surprise.

Unfortunately, I could not say the same for "Juno", a movie I had wanted to see since its release, mainly because it was made by the same guy who did "Thank You For Smoking" (which was satire at its best).

"Juno", if you haven't heard, is the story about young girl who gets pregnant, and decides to give the baby up for adoption. It is the most unlikely "pro-life" movie you will ever see in your life. My knock on the movie is that while it contains some fabulous dialog, and is shot beautifully, that it tried so hard to look and sound pretty that it lost the story. If only the plot was as high a priority as Juno's dialog (which sounds like no other teenager's on the planet) or editing all the scenes shot during the "Golden Hour", the movie would have really had something to say. As it was, in my opinion too many scenes that would have helped us understand the characters ended up on the cutting room floor, resulting in a whole lot of one-dimensional people who couldn't help looking like actors, as opposed to the characters they were playing.

In any event, get Horton when it comes out, and if you're pressed to take something home or its Tuesday night and an On-Demand movie is calling you, then get Juno. That's my two-cents.

- To wrap this up, I'm reading an interesting book right now. "The Other Side of 1984: Questions for the Churches" is actually a summary of a lecture Lesslie Newbigin gave in response to then upcoming year that George Orwell had made famous. Orwell's vision of a society run by an autocratic authority that used technology to control the populace was a big topic of conversation in 1983. Over and over again the question, "Is Orwell's future coming to pass?" and the follow up, "If not, then what does the future hold?" were being asked. This little book is Newbigin's response to what the future held for the church in western culture... and I might say the man was truly a prophet.

Newbigin, who had served as a missionary in India, believed that the "modern age", which had been launched by the Enlightenment, was quickly coming to a close. An era, which gloriously began when thinkers exchanged "dogma" for "doubt", was now exhausting what "doubt" could bring us. And "doubt" has given us much. The last three centuries have seen an acceleration of technological progress never before experienced, and that doesn't happen if Sir Issac Newton and his buddies keep listening to some bishop profess that the sun revolves around the earth. We are much in debt to the emergence of the natural and social sciences. Without them, for example, you wouldn't be reading this right now. You'd be at home, milling your own flour by candlelight.

But the shining vision that one day scientific discovery and secular humanism would make real the kind of utopia that religion had never been able to provide has proven fleeting. The discovery of atoms led to the atomic bomb. Biological discovery resulted in biological warfare. Social science has helped us understand ourselves, but also been twisted to marginalize, or even wipe out, others.

Science has led to great progress, but also the possibility of great destruction, hence Newbigin's assessment that particularly in western culture, a sense of hopelessness was growing, while in non-western cultures, a backlash would take place against what this technological, secular movement had brought. Newbigin's predicted, as an example of this phenomenon, that as physical diseases were eradicated from western nations, they would be replaced by mental diseases stemming from depression and anxiety, while those dispossessed outside of the developed world would result increasingly to violence to stave off the "progress" a modern world had wrought upon them.

25 years later, Newbigin's words couldn't have been more accurate.

Newbigin's assessment is that after four hundred years of "doubt", that the world will be ready for a strong dose of "faith", but the church which largely, in the face of modernism, turned inward, spiritualizing the words of the Gospel, will have to learn a new language and new forms to be able to speak to the needs of those who now suffer great mistrust of not only religious institutions, but secular and scientific ones. It's a great read I'm hoping to get a sermon or two out of later this summer.

In any event, have a nice week, and "Go Cavs" (thanks LeBron for leaving it all out on the floor).

1 comment:

Matt Parish said...

Update blog pleez!!!

-matt p.