Saturday, March 31, 2007


Another quote from Mark Driscoll which speaks, once again, to the fact that I am completely mystified as to why 5000 people are willing to sit through hour long sermons by him every week (this is from the sermon at Mars Hill on 3/18/07)

Some people, they believe in this thing called confidentiality. I’ll just say
this as an excursus. We don't believe in confidentiality at Mars Hill. Like I’ve
had people come to meet with me and say “I’m cheating’ on my spouse and I think
I’ve got AIDS” I’m like well I’m gonna tell them." They’re like “Well, I thought
we had confidentiality.” No, we have heaven and hell. We don’t have
confidentiality. We don’t. “Well I thought you were supposed to keep it secret.”
No I’m not gonna keep it secret. If you’re molesting your kid, if you’re
cheating on your spouse, if you’re ripping off your employer, I’m pulling the
fire alarm. That’s how we do it. We walk in the light as he is in the light. We
tell the truth. I had one guy “I think I got AIDS. Don’t tell my wife.” You know
what? I need to tell your wife. You’re gonna go home and sleep with her. You’re
gonna maybe give her AIDS then she’s gonna call me and say “I’ve got AIDS”. Then
I’m gonna go visit her in the hospital and preach her funeral and get up and say
“Well hey I kept a good secret for Jesus.”

Didn’t ya’ll wear a bike helmet as a kid? Of course that’s not how we do it. We tell the truth, and we encourage people to repent. And sometimes if they fail to or refuse to, they just get furious. It’s like water on a cat man—they’re just freaking out. That’s cool though (pause…laughter)--water on a cat.

This makes a certain sense from the perspective of Mars Hill. I mean it makes sense to me that if someone is harming someone else who is clearly under their power, like an adult harming a child or a developmentaly delayed person, then it is totally right for another adult who learns of that to ... go to the appopriate authorities and see that the harm stops. And Mars Hill, as far as I can tell, does definitely see women as being in this position with regards to men. Please correct me if I am misunderstanding.

But ... isn't this ... taking away the opportunity for the offender to face the challenge of being an adult, of realizing and facing up to and trying to make amends for their own wrongs? It feels much more like a parent dealing with two children here, protecting one from the other. God doesn't do that with us! He lets us hurt each other, if we must, and then he lets us realize the extent to which we have hurt each other, and experience reconciliation in ... his time, not the pastor's.

I remember Amy Carmichael writing about doing this even with children. Challenging them to do the right thing, and then allowing them to make their own choice, even if that meant another child was being hurt.

This Mars Hill method feels a lot more like the method used in the sect I grew up in. What I have seen looking back at my experience in that sect, and looking at the lives of those I know who are still part of that sect, is that it nearly completely shuts down forward progress for the members. I and they were/are treated as children, and thus progress toward adulthood is never made until one gets out of that system. This was enormously damaging to me as I've had to make up for years of very little growth in maturity.

what do you think?

Friday, March 30, 2007

Friday Video

These are freaking awesome. This is number 9. Watch them all!
Mr. Diety and the Book

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Alpha and What is the "bad news"?

So last night I attended week ... 5 of the alpha course. The subject was prayer. Here's some of the things that Nicky Gumble said--sorry it's all a bit disorganized.

He said we must pray "To the Father, through the Son, and by the Spirit" Under the "through the Son" vein, he specified that "We don't have a right of ourselves to come to the creator of the universe." I don't buy that. It's so ... connected to annihilating self hatred, which Brennan Manning says is far and away the foremost problem which he has needed to help people deal with in 30 years as an itinerant evangelist.

Plus it's *so* exclusive! Saying prayer only works *through* Jesus *could* be (and I suspect by *many* Christians *is*) understood to mean, for instance, that more than one billion Muslims have totally ineffective prayer lives. I just don't buy that. It strikes me as ludicrous.

In the "by the Spirit" vein, Nickey very briefly (and typically out of context) quotes the passage from Romans (8 or 9?) where Paul says "the Spirit helps us" in our prayer. But Nicky leaves out the monga kewlness of this passage, he just moved right on!

N.T. Wright gets it much better: From "Simply Christian"

God himself is groaning from within the heart of the world, because God himself, by the Spirit, dwells in our hearts as we resonate witht the pain of the world.

Intriguing, isn't it, that Jesus Christ is not mentioned at *all* in the model prayer which he himself gave us, commonly called "The Lord's Prayer"

Listed under Nicky's "reasons to pray section": To get rewarded, joy in god's presence, peace.

Nicky said of God "He satisfies the spiritual thirst and hunger in every human heart" Which is observably untrue. (but Nicky, along with a host of other Christian leaders, say this sort of thing all the time!) (One of the reasons, for instance, that I find Dr. Dan Allender so refreshing: "Is Jesus enough?" he asked at one conference I went to. "NO, of *course* Jesus isn't enough in this world!" (Benjamin sighed with enormous refreshment at that point))

He talked at some length about answers to prayer. He (agreeingly) quoted someone who said "The power of prayer depends on the apprehension of who we pray to" He rhetorically asked "Does God always answer prayer?" and replied to himself "YES, but God cannot act against his own nature." He used an example of two children asking their parents for permission to have a fight with the carving knives. the implication was that of course good parents wouldn't allow such a fight for the sake of the children's protection. I thought this story actually operated against Nicky's constructions because in reality, God refuses to stop the children from playing with the carving knives, otherwise known by the lovely military euphemism "conventional weapons" (as in, well, yes, we've killed 600,000 extra iraqi's, and we're still dropping cluster munitions that will be killing and maiming Iraqi children in 2045, but hey *at least* we're not using *nuclear* (oops, I mean "nucular") weapons!!!)

The thing that bothered me *most* of all was the way that Nicky was propogating a very western, very me-centric, very scopeless version of christianiy. Nicky's version of christianity is very very focused on the private, individual relationship with God. You don't even have to pray the prayer out loud, for fear you might be embarrassed. It's all about "my personal relationship with God." And so prayers become about my life, what I want for my life, what I want for my relationships, and what I want for a smallish handful of people that I love. Nicky spoke of seeing god's kingdom come to England and explained that by this he meant "seeing people come to christ, and thusly seeing people be set free" So he mentioned for instance, a prayer he made for a ride to London, which got answered. (I was sitting there thinking "what if we were to pray, and encourage other christians to pray, instead of for personal internal joy and peace and rides to London and parking places and healing of their marriages and reconciliation with their mothers and so forth--what if instead we were to pray, and teach other christians to pray "please god, could you do something about thirty thousand children who will die today from lack of potable water and enough calories?" "Please god, could you do something about 25 million internally displaced persons, many of whom have been living in horrific conditions in camps for generations!" Please god, could you do something about places in africa where an entire generation has been completely wiped out by aids, leaving only the very old and the very young to try to carry on.?" what could maybe happen then?)

He completely left out the phrase "on earth as it is in heaven" when he was going through the Jesus model prayer. And I think he seriously tweaked the meaning of the central phrase in that prayer "Forgive us as we forgive our debtors". Nicky talked about how this happens *becaus* we have experienced god's forgiveness, and thus we ... can't help but forgive those who have hurt us. "If God has forgiven me of all that, how could I not turn around and forgive others". Nikki called it at least twice by the name "a virtuous circle" (which really honestly just sounds *so* nauseating). I like Tom Wright's take on this phrase, and on Jesus model prayer in general, *way* better. He says "Notice how remarkable it is that, at the heart of the prayer, we commit ourselves to live in a particular way, a way we find difficult." (clearly Mr. Wright has a gift for understatement, but this is *so* much more tenable than Nicky's take on it.) Wright says, in his chapter on prayer, "We are called to live at the overlap of heaven and earth ... We are caught on a small island near the point where these tectonic plates--heaven and earth, future and present--are scrunching themselves together. Be ready for earthquakes!

It seems to me that Nicky and that whole brand of Christianity construct, in a sense, a bad news that I find doesn't really work for me, and so their take on "the good news", followingly doesn't work for me either.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Tuesday Videos: Cluster munitions.

We dropped *millions* of these little fuckers in Laos and Vietnam way back in the 60's and 70's, and little kids and adults in their agricultural subsistence economies still find them and get killed or maimed by them every year. The government of Laos (understandably) *won't* have any U.S. government help to continue the massive cleanup that is still going on 3 decades later, so it's all being done on the relatively tiny budgets of the government of Laos and handful of extremently kewl, extremely dedicated NGO's.

The completely fucked thing is that we are still making and still dropping these little horrors *this* year! So in 40 years, we can still be killing innocent civilians with the unexploded bomblets.

Friday, March 23, 2007

bus conversation

In Seattle, it is ... enormously difficult to start or maintain conversations on the bus, which is the main mode of public transport. People sit in their seats, and by and large they don't interact with or talk to or even look at each other. Trying to overcome this cultural coldness, one feels rather like one of those bugs you see skating around on the surface of a pond or lake. The bug is certainly heavier than water, but they don't sink because they're not heavy enough to break the surface tension of the water.

Breaking the surface tension on the bus to engage in conversation is often too difficult for me, despite my good intentions and actual desire. It takes a certain amount of emotional and psychological energy which I often can't muster.

Sometimes, however, I have these amazing and brilliant conversations. Today I met and chatted with one Charles Jackson, formerly of Oakland. He is 86 years old and has been in Seattle for 16 years. He was the first black man in the United States Maritime Service. I'd never even *heard* of the U.S. Maritime Service. Charles looks about 60 years old, fit as a fiddle, but he told me he looked a lot better two years ago, and he hasn't been able to sleep lately. He still has very lively eyes and a face very full of character. I hope I see him again on the bus.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Alpha course

My computer's hard drive crashed, and they put a new one in it, and then *that* crashed, so now I ended up with a faster computer with more RAM and a bigger hard drive. Kewl.
But it's also pretty annoying, since I had to reinstall all my software, *uninstall* all the unbelievably annoying boomph they install at the factory, and generally tweak and fiddle to get it into the shape I like to have it in. but that's mostly done now, and I kinda like it, although I'm still having one issue that I sense is going to take more work than I want to give.

Anyway, I wanted to tell you about the Alpha course. It's a introductory course on christianity which lots of churches all over the world do. It originated at Holy Trinity Brompton, which I've been to! Lovely Megs grew up helping out on Alpha courses, and since we got married, I guess it was inevitable that I would end up attending at least one.

the way they work is thus: there is a meal, generally quite yummy, and everyone sits down and eats. And then everyone watches a video (or sometimes an actual live speaker) talk about that week's topic. And then we sit around the table and talk about the topic, or whatever else we may want to talk about. The leaders are trained to *not* preach or teach, but rather to encourage and facilitate questions and discussions, and in my experience they do rather well with that.

so I attended my first alpha course some 2 years ago. It was kind of a strange experience because I was going through the process of unbecoming a christian, and the alpha course is kind of intended to facilitate the opposite process. But it worked relatively well.

Now I find myself doing the course again. Meg got invited to be a conversation facilitator at one of the tables at the alpha course which is being run by Union Church, whose pastor, Renee, Meg has gotten to know lately. And the church offered to provide babysitting if I wanted to come, and I thought, ah well, why not.

So I went the first week, and as in the fist time I found Nicky Gumbel, the speaker on the videos, unbelievably annoying. he just constantly says these things that don't work for me at all.

And then I skipped week two for E's birthday. And then week three was the first week when there was actually discussion (that is, there is no discussion time the first week, for some odd reason). And again I found Nicky really obnoxious, and then I found myself at a table with 7 other Christians, and no other non christians, and I felt a bit surrounded, and just generally with low level psychological discomfort, and I said to myself "Why am I doing this?" Finding no good answer, I decided to stop.

But a guy at my table who I kind of connected with a little bit expressed disappointment at my imminent non-return. He said "It's going to be pretty boring without you!". And I said "Well, maybe you and the rest of the table, if you get too bored, can put your heads together and come up with an incentive to convince me to return" To which he replied "How about a six pack?" To which I replied ".... Let me think about it. Ok! Deal!"

So I attended again tonite, and again found Nicky obnoxious. He reminds me of a slick car salesman. Tonite he talked about how there's no catch to Christianity--it's a free gift. That is such a half truth. yes, it's true, but it's only half the truth. The other half is that one is required to take up one's Roman death by torture device and follow me. One is required to lose one's life to find it. One is required to undergo the chastening promised to every son. Etc. etc. etc. There's no catch, except this one freaking enormous catch. Nicky generally absolutely refuses to talk about the dark side of Christianity, and I find this amazingly unpleasant.

But the discussion around the table tonite was a bit better. Nicky talked about how one of the ways one knows that one is a Christian is "The Holy Spirit's witness", included in which, he said, are the "fruit of the spirit: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, faithfulness, kindness, goodness, self control". So I asked my fellow diners if they thought there was any evidence that Christians possessed these items, on average, to a greater degree than non christians. And they more or less agreed that that wasn't really the case (emphasis on "more or less" here)

Anyway, I guess I've carried on at some length.

I think I shall continue to post each week about this course.

Unfortunately, the six pack didn't show up tonite. But my friend says he owes it to me and will make good on it shortly.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Saturn eclipsing the sun

I think this, wiki's picture of the day for today, is beautiful! Taken by Cassini on 15 September 2006 (See how I gently bow to the Aussie way of stating the date =). I guess Galilieo would be so astounded to see this.

Monday, March 12, 2007


So it's finals week, and our laptop broke and is in the shop.


At least there's free food at the hub tonite.

so I suggest watch Eugene Jarecki's Why We Fight, and discuss it with us on Friday at JaC.

Thursday, March 08, 2007


This via Deanne:

“Simplicity means a return to the posture of dependence. Like children we live in a spirit of trust. What we have we receive as a gift.” — Richrard J. Foster

Wanted: Your first gut reaction to the quote.

Wanted: Your reaction upon further contemplation.


The "Great Moral Issues of Our Time"?

So there appears to be a bit of a foofoorah brewing on the internet around a recent letter written by James Dobson and his friends from the religious right to the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE)

In the letter, Dobson and co. criticized Rich Cizik, an NAE leader, for focusing on global warming as a moral issue. They said

"More importantly, we have observed that Cizik and others are using the global warming controversy to shift the emphasis away from the great moral issues of our time, notably the sanctity of human life, the integrity of marriage and the teaching of sexual abstinence and morality to our children."

Now Jim Wallis of Sojourners has challenged Mr. Dobson to a public debate on "What are the great moral issues of our time for evangelical christians?"
What do think? Are ...

1.The sanctity of human life
2.The integrity of marriage, and
3.The teaching of sexual abstinence and morality to our children

... the top three great moral issues of our time? Or could perhaps ...

4.16,000 children die of starvation every day
5.What the U.S. government has called "genocide" in Darfur
6.800,000 people, (including 14,000 into the U.S.) being trafficked every year

... be equally or even more pressing moral issues?

Indeed, if, as NOAA suggests, global warming may lead to increasing occurrence of highly destructive category 5 storms (i.e., more Katrina like events--more people dying, more internally dispaced persons, etc.), then doesn't that make global warming a great moral issue?

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Justice and

Rachel and I are hosting a newly launched blog over at Off the Map called It's already quite an interesting conversation. I'd love for you to join us over there. Today's post is about the good news in Liberia--long awaited good news!

Yesterday the U.S. State Department released their 2006 Report on Human Rights, detailing human rights violations in 193 countries.

So can anybody explain to me why the United States isn't one of the countries reported on? I just don't get that.

Monday, March 05, 2007


The site of the bombing in Kapisa Province, northeast of Kabul.s

two headlines from today's new york times:

1.U.S. Airstrike Kills 9 in Afghan Family
2.Bush Approves Aid Programs for Latin America

From the first story:

Nine members of a family were killed in an American airstrike in central Afghanistan, including five women and three children during a battle with militants, Afghan officials said today. The United States military acknowledged it had dropped two 2,000 pound bombs on a compound Sunday night. ... United States forces would work with the Afghan authorities to “investigate and identify those responsible,” the statement (from the U.S. military) said.

From the second story:
''The United States of America is committed to helping people rise out of poverty,'' the president said. ... ''In an age of growing prosperity and abundance, this is a scandal and it is a challenge,'' Bush said.

I'm confused.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

tough question of the week

So there seems to be a bit of a conversation going on over at Conversation at the Edge about abortion, growing out of a recent Time magazine article. In that conversation, Jennifer shared the link to her story on In Jennifer's story, a priest was trying to convince Jennifer not to have the abortion, and Jennifer asked him

If God kills babies why can’t I?

I think that's a reasonable question for all the christian pro lifers out there.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Friday Video

The Lord's Resistance Army: therapy for former child soldiers.

(warning--this might be difficult for some to watch. Compared to what is actually happening, in Northern Uganda, it's fairly gentle, but that's relative)

By the way, aren't African people physically beautiful? I hope it's not racist for me to say so. But especially ever since hanging out for a while in West Africa, I've had this sense of envy about that--wishing I were that beautiful.