Wednesday, April 30, 2008

My definition

of 1st degree asshole:

Maria Welsh, formerly Susan LeFevre, was arrested and sentenced to 20 years in prison 32 years ago, at the age of 19, on heroin related charges (which is the absolute height of stupidity in and of itself--but the insanity of the drug laws in this country is a subject for another post). She escaped from prison and now, happily married for 23 years and the mother of 3 children, she was finally identified and caught today, and is in jail awaiting extradition to Michigan from California on charges of escape from prison. The news story from the associated press says

She was arrested April 24 outside her home in San Diego's posh Carmel Valley area, wearing a sweat suit and driving a black Lexus SUV. Authorities say her cover was blown by an anonymous caller who tipped Michigan authorities to her new name.

IMNSHO, the "anonymous caller" is a definition by example of 1st degree asshole. I hope they get a serious case of boils, lice, and Bell's Palsy, and that they learn that their biological father never had any children.

There's my rant for the week.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Word for the day:


I just learned this word today. Now for a poll with 2 questions:

1. Did you know what this term meant before today?
2. Do you know what it means now?

Monday, April 28, 2008

Our Racist Lord

This article caught my attention--from RC via unorthodoxology

The author says:

Jesus was a racist. How could he not be; for he was raised in a racist society? He had become who he was taught to be. . . . at least until he met this woman.

This Canaanite woman, whose name we do not even know, has become one of my favorite characters in all of Scripture. And I think I’m so struck with her because she refused to let Jesus have the last word. No, she didn’t make some great statement about equal rights for all. No, she didn’t chastise Jesus for his racist remark. She simply reminded him that dogs eat crumbs also. It wasn’t really meant to be a challenge to Jesus’ worldview, at least it wasn’t an overt challenge…and yet, Jesus was changed. His response, “Woman, Great is your faith!” She is no longer a dog, but a person with great faith, a person to be admired. This woman is the only person in all of the gospels who gets the best of Jesus; she’s the only person that causes Jesus to change his mind; the only person who taught Jesus.
Read the whole article

New Ground Rules

Okay--I'm a slow learner. But not *too* slow. Under the advice of a couple of people wiser than me, I'm shutting down the troll food station section of the blog. The New Rules on Benjamin's blog:

All opinions are welcome as long as they are kind and respectful.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

what your $3BILLION+/week is buying you, part 265

The surge is still working, in the same sense, I guess, that Fat Man worked--enormously well.

The last 7 days in Iraq:

505 Civilians killed or found dead in war-related violence--the highest weekly total this year. Including:

Baghdad, April 26: clashes between US forces and locals result in 8 deaths (2 of the dead children), Sadr City.

Baghdad, April 25: Us air strikes kill 7, Sadr City; 2 killed by US forces.

Baghdad, April 23: 15 killed by US forces in Husseiniya and Sadr City; rocket hits school, kills 2 teenage boys, Sadr City.

Baghdad, April 22: US air strike kills 8, Sadr City.

Khalis, April 20: 3 die in US air strikes.

Don't worry--there are 300 MILLION of us, so the diltued responsibility for these killings by American soldiers using American weapons doesn't really affect any single one of us all that much. It shouldn't really cause more than a passing thought.

More thanks for the comments

Liz from Idaho recently left this comment on my post Blackjack.

you are one of the reasons that people in customer service go home and have a few stiff ones. What an ass. I am rant at Christians and you are this rude when you don't get your way. What a spoiled brat. So um, is your ethical way of making money for your family involving card counting? You are absolutely sickening. The more I read about you the sicker I get. YOu are much much worse than the Christians you so delightedly bash.

Liz also writes on her profile
Being a firm and unabashedly unashamed believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, I do believe He has a plan for my life and works all things out for good (Romans 8:28).I know that He has me right where he wants me, doing what He wants me to do

Liz--I'm sorry that you didn't get into law school. I hope you still get to one day.

Publisher's weekly, in their review of David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons (of Barna Research)book UnChristian ,said:
Lyons had a gut-level sense that something was desperately wrong, and three years of research paints exactly that picture. Mosaics and Busters (the generations that include late teens to early 30-somethings) believe Christians are judgmental, antihomosexual, hypocritical, too political and sheltered.

Now why would we think that sort of thing about Christians? Your thoughts?

(Now Jim would doubtless remind me that we ought to judge a group by the best in that group, not by the worst, and he would be right. But ... it's also fair to say that there are some people, like Megan and Jim and Brian D. and George and Rose and Rachel and many others who make me *want* to be a Christian again. And then there are others who make me glad I'm not one =)

From Vernor Vinge

"But I have a theory of life," said Chumlig, "and it is straight out of gaming: There is always an angle. You, each of you, have some special wild cards. Play with them. Find out what makes you different and better. Because it is there, if only you can find it. And once you do, you'll be able to contribute answers to others and others will be willing to contribute back to you. In short, synthetic serendipity doesn't just happen. By golly, you must create it."

From his Rainbow's End.

A new hero--the Reverend Jeremiah Wright

The Reverend Jeremiah Wright is now one of my heroes.

I ... gently invite you, dear reader, to allow yourself to watch both parts of this excellent recent interview with Dr. Wright, and thus allow yourself to ... get to know the real guy, no the sound bite image that's been created.

Only let me add this: For the first time I find myself envying Barack Obama--I wish my Christian faith had grown under such a man. I doubt I would stopped being a Christian.

You can also watch the whole thing, or read the transcript, here at PBS.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Anonymous comes forward--Hooray!

I was utterly delighted to see that Liz said "Hey, I'm anonymous, and I'm sorry I was so harsh".

Hooray. I hope I can follow her paradigm of repentance when I'm harsh. You rock, Liz.

Friday, April 25, 2008

thank you for the comments

Anonymous 1 and Anonymous 2 (respectively) had the following to say in response to my last post. I just wanted to say Thanks.

here's A-1

so you are assuming that one cannot show kindness and love without being firm on what is sin and what is not? I am not saying make it part of every conversation, but know that if you are point out blank asked, be ready to give the biblical answer. And not be afraid that if you tell that biblical answer that the person will "turn from Christ". If they turn from Christ because you gave them an honest answer about the sinfulness of their lifestyle, it is not because you were not kind (unless you weren't kind about it),it is because the price that God asks of them is too high. Continuing on in what is comfortable for them is more appealing that the possibility of struggle, dying to self and wrestling with God. By making kindness and truth mutually exclusive, you play a little language game that plays on peoples emotions. Frankly Benjamin, I don't think you are very mature at all. I realize you are young. I was somewhat disturbed by your story about how you were thrown out of the ministry where you met your wife. Yes, a bunch of silly rules. To be honest, I think an overseas mission organization has no business putting a mixed gender group of young single people on a boat, in the middle of nowhere. It is a no win situation. But for you to broadcast the whole thing proudly and smear their name isn't really terribly Christlike to me. My husband and i were asked to leave a church over a petty appearance issue. I am sure it would resonate with you and other emerging church types. It was dumb, stupid and legalistic. Not to mention rooted in the pastor's control issues with his own kids. But for us to put it up on the web, with names places etc would be probably even less Christlike than what this guy did. I think it is meanspirited and vengeful for you to post stuff about this ministry. Did you take it up with them before you broadcast it? Yeah, there are situations of extreme spiritual abuse that probably warrant this (such as say the folks in Texas or the branch Davidians or the boston church of christ or something) but not your ordinary every day ministries making a mistake sort of thing. We privately hinted at people who told us they were going to this pastors church that "they might want to keep their eyes open' but that's about it. That is the Christian way.
You are so full of pointing out the faults of other Christians and the church at large that you fall into that very same sinfulness. You have a lot of spiritual pride at how "Christian" you are compared to the garden variety one's of us who don't self identify with your movement. Deriding people who liked the "purpose driven life" and then going to say that YOUR Christian reading material is oh so much more intellectual..yeah...real Christian. Nauseating is more like it. I suggest instead of focusing on the faults of other Christians, that you look inward at yourself and your own pride and smugness and yes, judgementalness. If you need to compromise what god says in His word to prove you are not judgemental, all the while being VERY judgemental towards your own brothers and sisters in Christ, then you have a serious problem. I have noticed among the wishy washy emerging church people, there is a disproportionate number who grew up around or were themselves ridiculously hardass and cruel about their judgements on the world. Now that they have grasped they were too harsh, they have just flip flopped. No middle ground Just flip flop. And switched their judgemental hearts onto more mainstream Christians instead. there is no critical thinking. no dealing with heart issues. Just being as nasty and derisive to Christians they see as "old school" as they once were to people trapped in sin. the devil must love you.

and here's A-2

my God. I have never seen a more prideful rant in my life as your blog. You have no CLUE how judgemental it is to sit around and judge people for spending money on Xmas. Are we not as Christians supposed to be evaluating our OWN lives, our OWN hearts instead of deciding on the basis of externals where everyone else around us is at. yay for think you are "kewl" because you don't think taking a stand on homosexuality when point blank asked is biblical. But you apparently have no problem whatsoever with ripping other Christians a new one because you have made casual observations about what you "think" are their priorities. I do think American culture, as a whole, is way too materialistic. And i hate messages that tie achievement/financial gain into the kingdom of God. Because they are NOT the same thing. But who are you to be deciding what any individual may or may not be spending on holidays is appropriate. Do YOU buy your kids any unneccessary goodies? Do YOU ever spend money on something purely for pleasure? Probably you do. You do not know that the person spending a lot on a holiday may be making a far far greater contribution to a third world country than you would dream of. Are you their personal accountant who has examined their records??? Hmmm..I thought not. And freely throwing around cusswords and using "kewl" every other sentence "doesn't" suddenly make you "real" and "relevent". An examined, humble life is what makes you relevent. Not peppering everything with the f-word.

And anonymous three had the following to say in response to anonymi 1 and 2.

I read things like that and think "wow, I'm sooooo glad that's not me – that person must be miserable" – or, in your case, maybe you can think "wow, that person must be EVEN MORE miserable than me!"

This last made me crack up. Thank you, A-3! =)

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Liz from Idaho

Liz had the following to say in this thread, which has now been closed. That thread was closed, and I wanted to comment/question, so I'm reposting here =)

you know, reading these posts, I get the feeling that nothing is really said except "lets all be nice to each other and keep the peace". Which isn't what Jesus taught. At all. Jesus taught that standing up for the truth will make you enemies sometimes.

You are comparing different types of statements. Which is to say that "Let's be nice to each other and try to keep the peace" is not antithetical to "Standing up for the truth will make you enemies sometimes"

I think what you mean to say was that Jesus taught that "If one is put into a situation where one must make such a choice, then it's more important to 'stand up for the truth' than it is to 'be nice and try to keep the peace'." Am I getting that right?

I'm wondering if you could describe such a situation--where we must either be kind or be truthful. Cause I don't really buy it.

And it is interesting that the folks who don't want division over homosexuality have no problem creating it around other issues (the war for example or anything else they don't deem as "progressive")

Which folks are those? If by "division" you mean strife (and by implication violence), then I don't want division over homosexuality, nor over the war, etc. In fact I'd prefer kindness over violence on any of a range of issues, ideally.
I did a lot of googling after I read this thread last night. One of the sites critiquing the emerging church makes an enormously significant point. And that is that NO ONE has ever said that love and compassion for the homosexual go hand in hand with manipulating scripture to suddenly make their sin "OK". My point in bringing in other disorders was to perhaps draw a comparison to similar, if not identical situations. I know a lot of people who do some serious jail ministry. I am not talking about people who have smoked a little pot and are now cooling their heels. I am talking about people who have committed some really really horrible crimes against humanity. Yet, those who go into the prisons to love on these people and lead them to Christ are not saying...awww..gee...I love you so it's not a sin. It is PRECISELY because that love is Christian that it loves anyone and everyone NO MATTER WHAT THEIR SIN. But it doesn't dismiss the sin. When it comes to homosexuality though, there seems to be a very vocal contingent in the church that confuses loving with redefining sin to no longer be sin.

Why do you allow for the fact that some (most) people in prison are there for things that aren't really bad, like smoking some pot, while other people who are in prison are there for things that *are* really bad, like raping small children, but you *don't* allow for the fact that some (most) people who are homosexual are really rather nice people who haven't ever really done anything hurtful to other people beyond the normal things that all people do to each other, while other people who are homosexual have done really shockingly hurtful things to other people. I mean to say there are both homosexual and heterosexual really evil people, but most people don't fall into the category of really evil people, no matter what their sexual orientation.

As for DSM IV: I really do not put a whole lot of stock in the categories. Homosexuality has been removed due to extreme political pressure from gay rights groups.

While there is some truth to this, it is helpful to put it into context. The writing of every new version and every new text revision of DSM takes place by its very nature in an atmosphere of what might be called "extreme political pressure" over nearly *every* change that takes place, if for no other reason than the fact that a lot of money rides on which changes do or don't get made, and how they get made, and so forth. DSM 5 is currently being written, and it's the same deal--this group wants this in, and that group wants that out, but this other group doesn't, and so forth.
I brought up some examples from DSM such as sociopathy and BPD merely to point out that there are a number of conditions that leave secular shrinks shrugging their shoulders with no answers. The fact that these people don't respond well to traditional treatments and don't change very much doesn't cause their condition to be reclassified as "good". Homosexuality comes in for all sorts of special treatment both from secularists and "affirming" churches. The same people who would continue to love on a drug addict through relapse after relapse, all the while seeing getting clean as a goal; seem to have no difficulty treating homosexuality in a totally different manner. To love the struggler is to call their sin good when it comes to homosexuality.

Again I don't understand why you have to insist on such a large category when it comes to homosexuality, but not when it comes to other behaviors. Clearly if their homosexual behavior is causing them more problems than is desirable to them and those who love them, a person would want to stop such behavior. Just as with psychoactive drug use (including alcohol). But you seem to be insisting that *all* homosexuals fall into this category, whereas I imagine you would *not* insist that all psychoactive drug users fall into this category. There's obviously a line somewhere. For instance, I drink caffeine all the time--a psychoactive drug by anyone's description. It isn't causing me any big problems at all. I also drink alcohol socially. That also isn't causing me any big problems. While I don't smoke pot, I have friends who do, and it isn't causing them any big problems. However, there *are* those who have problems with alcohol, and pot, and even caffeine. But I think the best person to *know* whether a drug is causing them a problem is the user. Beyond that, for you or me to make blanket statements about *where* the line sits is silly. "All alcohol users are alcoholics" is silly on it's face, and "Anybody who drinks more than 5 standard shots at one sitting is an alcoholic" is tending to silliness.

But you seem to be doing this sort of thing for homosexuality: "Anybody who has homosexual intercourse has a huge problem which we shouldn't dismiss." or something like that. Am I mishearing you? Because that seems either silly or arrogant or both.
Many many people who secular shrinks would write off as "hopeless" have been cured by God. why should homosexuality be any different?

There it is again--the implication that all homosexuality is so problematic that many secular shrinks would write it off as "hopeless".
Part of the problem with ex gay ministries is they are so freaking formulaic. The people I know who have had real lasting change almost invariably did it on their own, seeing counselors, applying principles from other recovery programs to their issues and simply asking GOD for wisdom instead of trying yet another workbook that is the thinking of man rather than the wisdom of God.

I hear you, sort of. As a recovering person myself, however, I've found that lots of parts of "the wisdom of man" have been extremely helpful to me. "Formulaic" has it's advantages and it's drawbacks, as do most things. My experience is that large chunks of the church can be so anti-formulaic and anti thinking-of-man that they would deny the person in recovery access to stuff that is actually pretty helpful. But you're right in that the eclectic approach to recovery can be a great one--take what works for you from a variety of sources. Just getting plugged into a variety of sources/resources is a helpful step, as I'm sure you know.
As for what DSM classifies as disorders, while they were busy normalizing homosexuality, they also made "math impairment disability" an official diagnosis. Can you believe it? Sucking at math is now an official "disability". Millions of adults could probably retroactively get SOME kind of compensation under the Americans with disabilities act were they so inclined to do so.

I think you must be referring to "mathematics disorder". You seem to be being very dismissive about it. I wonder if your dismissiveness inducts up to all learning disorders (of which mathematics disorder is a subcategory)? Here's DSM on learning disorders in general:
Demoralization, low self-esteem, and deficits in social skills may be associated with Learning Disorders. The school drop-out rate for children or adolescents with Learning Disorders is reported at nearly 40% (or approximately 1.5 times the average). Adults with Learning Disorders may have significant difficulties in employment or social adjustment
Are you saying you think it's unhelpful in general to ... talk about learning disorders? Or that this language is not a useful language for talking about them--are you suggesting that "I, or you, suck at learning" would be a more useful langauge to talk about them?

I disagree. My 6 and 4 year old daughters attend a super amazing school called the EEU here in Seattle. It's a preschool and kindergarten, and half of the students are "typical", while the other half of the students are "atypical", which means that they are on the autism spectrum, or have some other physical or mental disability. The classes have about a 1 to 3 or 1 to 4 teacher to student ratio, and all the teachers are either graduates or graduate students of master's level and above education programs at the University of Washington. Which means, among other things, that these teachers are *steeped* in the language of which you are so dismissive. And the school is simply amazing. Many of the atypical students are able to go on to mainstream 1st grade and so forth, because of the amazing atmosphere and environment of the EEU which has helped them make super awesome progress in learning both academic skills and social skills. There are long queaus of parents waiting and wanting to get their kids into EEU--parents of both atypical and typical students, because it is such an amazing place. I am *super* thankful that our two got in, and among other things I think it has helped prepare them early on to be able to interact with atypical kids, and people, in a kind, ... normal way. I mean they're already way better at that than I am.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The 4 year old speaks

This conversation today, while waiting in the parking lot for the two safeway employees to finish their smoke break so that I could dumpster dive the safeway dumpster:

E (The six year old): Why can't you dumpster while they're there?

B (The Dad): Well, it's against social norms to dumpster dive, so they'd probably tell me to stop.

E: What's "Social norms"?

B: blah blah blah trying to explain social norms to a six and a four year old.

C (The four year old): "I broke my norm when I was a baby!"

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Why Obama is winning--The new internet reality

Noted: Today, on Hillary's and Obama's Youtube channels, we were informed that the last login on Obama's channel was 53 minutes ago, while the last login on Hillary's channel was 1 day ago.


It's not her fault. She grew up in the 50's and 60's. But there it is. Moreover, Obama's youtube channel has had a box where you can donate to his campaign, using google checkout, for weeks now. Hillary's still doesn't have that. Obama is showing us something that was not true for presidential campaigns in 2004, and will be true from now on: a candidate cannot win the presidency without fully engaging on the net.

And that's why Obama is going to win with a landslide in November. Because John McCain is even *more* disengaged from the net than Hillary is. Cause he grew up in the 40's and 50's. There it is. Watch their three web sites. Obama's is *so* clearly more net savvy. And McCain's is *so* clearly ... stilted.

Obama does hoops!

Friday, April 18, 2008

My review of the Shack

As I said previously, the brilliant and very personable Pam Hogeweide recently gave us a free copy of the rising-on-the-charts book entitled The Shack, by William P. Young. I finished it, and I can't come to a conclusion about it. So I'm doing my review in two parts.

The shack, pages 1-197: First of all, the writing is ... not un*bearable*, but ... clunky. By clunky I mean I found myself reading along and then there would be this "clunk". Like ... you're smoothly accelerating in your car, and then there's a ... hiccup, and you think to yourself "Someone should fix that". And I thought to myself *muliple* times in the first 30 pages "Good God, that would be relatively easy to fix--some editor should have fixed that." Oh well.

But then I sort of ... got over it. Our brains are wondrous machines with mechanisms for filtering out smallish annoying things.

The forward should just be skipped altogether. It...doesn't really do anything except give a preview of the stilted sort of things which are to follow the setup.

Okay, then ... pages 14 through 80 worked reasonably well. I mean we get a decently told story, and by decently told, I mean it rings true--in the best sense of the word. Willie sets up a great opportunity to discuss some questions that are both interesting and ... close to home for a lot of people, and does it with story without getting too didactic on us. He even very kindly sets up for us a big lie which lots of people believe, and does it in a way which leaves open the possibility of blowing the lie apart (always a delightful and terrifying thing to have happen):

Mack's heart broke as he understood what this conversation had really been about. He gathered his little girl into his arms and pulled her close, With his own voice a little huskier than usual, he gently replied, "No honey. I will never ask you to jump off a cliff, never, ever, ever."

"Then, will God ever ask me to jump off a cliff?"

"No, Missy. He would never ask you to do anything like that."

He also catches out our culture on overstigmatization of child abusers/sex offenders, although he does it in a way which *seems* to indicate that he rather agrees with it:
Something in the heart of most human beings simply cannot abide pain inflicted on the innocent, especially children. Even broken men serving in the worst correctional facilities will often first take out their own rage on those who ahve caused suffering to children. Even in such a world of relative morality, causing harm to a child is still considered absolutely wrong. Period!

Alas, as it turns out, all the story is really just set up for a rather longish theological treatise, to which Willie treats us pretty much from pages 80 through approximately .... well, at least through 197 or so. You thought Mark Driscoll sermons were long? Willie descends to mere allegory. I mean it in this sense: C.S. Lewis defended his Chronicles of Narnia thusly:
If Aslan represented the immaterial Deity in the same way in which Giant Despair [a character in The Pilgrim's Progress] represents despair, he would be an allegorical figure. In reality however he is an invention giving an imaginary answer to the question, 'What might Christ become like, if there really were a world like Narnia and He chose to be incarnate and die and rise again in that world as He actually has done in ours?' This is not allegory at all.
Willie's writing becomes allegorical in the stricter sense, and alas, allegory is no longer *story* in the best sense (and my apologies to all you Pilgrim's Progress fans out there). It's more like a regression from story.

And Willie's is just totally unbearable. In fact, he falls into a trap which he himself knows to be a trap (how very human of him). He says of family devotions as a child:
Often it was a tedious and boring exercise in coming up with the right answers, or rather the same old answers to the same old Bible story questions, and then trying to stay awake during his father's excruciatingly long prayers.
So pages 80 through 197 are mostly like that. Mack's totally justifiable anger gets more or less the same treatment nasty emotions get in most of the Christian churches I've ever been involved with. We have God mouthing old and mostly unsatisfying, and sometimes really toxic churchy "truths" for 117 pages. So he had me underlining, starring, and writing "BULLSHIT" in great big letters in the margins.
Mack was glad he was stepping back from his ugly accusation. (page 92)

"Mackenzie, I never left him, and I have never left you."
"That makes no sense to me," he snapped.
"I know it doesn't, at least not yet. Will you at least consider this: When all you can see is your pain, perhaps then you lose sight of me?" (page 96)

"Relationships are never about power." (page 106)
"What you're seeing here is relationship without any overlay of power." (page 122)

"But don't think that just because I'm not visible, our relationship has to be less real. It will be different, but perhaps even more real." (page 112)

"There are millions of reasons to allow pain and hurt and suffering rather than eradicate them, but most of those reasons can only be understood within each person's story. I am not evil. You are the ones who embrace fear and pain and power and rights so readily in your relationships. But your choices are also not stronger than my purposes and I will use every choice you make for the ultimate good and the most loving outcome" (page 125)

"You must give up your right to decide what is good and evil on your own terms" (page 136)

"In one instance, the good may be the presence of cancer or the loss of income, or even a life" (Byron has something to say about this)

"Genuine relationships are marked by submission even when your choices are not helpful or healthy" (page 145)

and here's a little "criticize the victim":

"The real underlying flaw in your life, Mackenzie, is that you don't think that I am good." (page 126)

Mackenzie gets very slightly honest and angry with God on occasion (emphasis on the (annoyingly) slightly):

"One last comment. I just can't imagine any final outcome that would justify all this." (page 127)

Bottom line, although there were also bits and pieces of beauty in there, it was mostly just yuck, through page 197 or so.

Although I must throw in this caveat. I can imagine a time in my past when i *think* *maybe* I would have found this not only bearable, but actually ... encouraging. Why do I say that? Because I grew up in a Christianity where the level of discussion about these issues was *even* shallower than this. I mean to say we weren't even allowed to talk about it at *all*. Period. In fact, I'm guessing for instance, that my old pastor will probably roundly condemn this book from the pulpit, if it starts to worm it's way into that church--not because it's too ... stultifying, but rather because it's too ... open and ... liberal. (I mean to say if he's still the same as he was when I knew him. 'Cause he coulda changed.) So I can see how for myself or others in an even more stultifying atmosphere of Christianity that the one Willie lays on us, this book would be liberating and beautiful, because they would kind of be looking ... forward toward it, while I'm kind of looking backward toward it. If that makes any sense. Xukes I hope I am not coming across sounding as astoundingly arrogant as I actually am.

The Shack, Part 2, pages 197 through 248. Okay, here's why I can't decide what I think about the book. It's gets a *lot* better after page 197. Suddenly God starts saying things that ... well, that by God ought to be said. I just haven't been able to decide if the last 50 pages makes up for the previous 120. I'm going to have to sit on that for a few days. But now we get lot of "HOORAY!" quotes from God:

"Mackenzie, religion is about having the right answers, and some of their answers are right. But I am about ..."

and "Just don't look for rules and principles; look for relationship--a way of being with ..." (page 197)

"Enforcing rules, especially in its more subtle expressions like responsibility and expectation, is a vain attempt to create certainty out of uncertainty" (page 203)

"Religion must use law to empower itself and control the people who they need in order to survive." (page 205).

"Responsibilities and expectations are the basis of guilt and shame and judgment, and they provide the essential framework that promotes performance as the basis for identity and value."
"Beyond that [what I already know], because I have no expectations, you never disappoint me." (page 206)

"Forgiveness does not create a relationship. Unless people speak the truth about what they've done and change their mind and behavior, a relationship of trust is not possible." (page 225)

At the end, we get ... redemption that isn't excessively schmarmy, which is really nice.

Overall, I guess at this point I wouldn't recommend it. A bit too much wading through sludge required in exchange for the payoff. Instead, perhaps, try out the yotta brilliant Aurelia's Colors, which is, thank the gods, all straight up great story from beginning to end. Or else Helen Dewitt's zeta brilliant novel, or Mark Haddon's, or Michael Chabon's, or ... (okay, I'll stop. but those *are* all really great reads, and if you haven't read any of them, I totally recommend them.)

Friday Video-Baracky!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Shack

So the delightful Pam Hogeweide, the pleasure of whose company we enormously enjoyed over the past weekend, very kindly gave us a copy of the moving up the charts book entitled The Shack when she visited last weekend. She had just scored an interview with author William P Young.

I am getting *so* seriously pissed off at Mr. Young. Which is probably a good thing. I'd *much* rather be pissed off at him than bored out of my mind by him. I'm only 120 pages in, so it's still redeemable (barely, somehow, I suppose) at this point. But right now I am also overwhelmingly disappointed, because, although as Pam pointed out, the writing is *astoundingly ... well, "rough" was the word she used--a kinder one than I would have chosen, the story had real potential, at the beginning, but it has unfortunately degenerated into a long sermon in which Mr. Young merely very unsatisfyingly (and infuriatingly) attempts to rehash very old theological ground. Oh well.

I have a bunch of quotes and stuff for you, but I'll write a full review once I've finished the book.

I should have known better when I heard that it was so popular among American Christians, who also liked, for instance, The Purpose Driven Life (which is, for instance, at #374 in book sales on, while an obviously *far* superior book such as Brian Mclaren's Everything Must Change is way down at 1300 and something)


For all you people out there who thing this blog is too dark (you know who you are), here is an astoundingly beautifully hopeful story. There--see--it's not all dark (He said to himself ...).

"The surge is working"

326 civilian deaths by violence in Iraq over the past 7 days, not including the 50+ killed today, but definitely including:

Mosul: April 16: father and daughter shot dead by US forces during clashes

Baghdad: April 15: US air strikes kill 2 boys

Mosul, April 15: schoolgirl is shot in the head by stray bullet while sitting in classroom

Hilla, April 13: US soldiers open fire and kill civilian after their patrol is targeted by roadside bomb.

Baghdad, April 12: 7 die in clashes/US air strikes,

Baghdad, April 10: US air strikes kill 8 (inc. 2 boys)

Fees to U.S. Taxpayers for the above mentioned killings of Iraqi civilians by the U.S. military: at least $3 Billion.

Whatever you do, don't stress about it. Iraqi children are measurably less valuable than American children, so it's not really a big deal. Just buy your fair trade latte (skim soy milk), and off to your job, or classes, or whatever. It's not your fault anyway.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Why Jimmy Carter won the Nobel peace prize

And George W. Bush didn't (and never will).

Carter said this past Saturday

I feel quite at ease in doing this. I think there's no doubt in anyone's mind that, if Israel is ever going to find peace with justice concerning the relationship with their next-door neighbors, the Palestinians, that Hamas will have to be included in the process.

I think that it's very important that at least someone meet with the Hamas leaders to express their views, to ascertain what flexibility they have, to try to induce them to stop all attacks against innocent civilians in Israel and to cooperate with the Fatah as a group that unites the Palestinians, maybe to get them to agree to a cease-fire - things of this kind.

Bush representative Condoleeza Rice said
I find it hard to understand what is going to be gained by having discussions with Hamas about peace when Hamas is, in fact, the impediment to peace.

Benjamin said
Hooray for Jimmy Carter. He makes me proud to be an American.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

My Uncle Steve

My uber-kewl Uncle Steve is one of the most creative, funny, awesome people I know. Recently his attention has been captured by the disparities in the world. He has a website,, where he sells various artistic productions of his own, including his own homespun CD's. In fact, you can listen to some of his tracks here.

Anyway, he recently decided to just give proceeds from sales on his site to agencies that are helping MTWABP (make the world a better place), which I think is pretty kewl.

Friday, April 11, 2008

The French crossword guy

Ran across this video today. It's an acapella group called Naturally 7 singing a song called "Feel it in the air tonite" (Lyrics here) on the subway in Paris.

Two things to notice. At the beginning of the video, some people are clearly turned off, or annoyed, or some such when these guys break into loud live song. By the end, *almost* everbody on the subway car has been sucked into their contagious good spirits.

But there's this guy I call the crossword guy. He's got his back to them. At the beginning, he seems to be doing a crossword puzzle in a newspaper. If you watch, a couple times during the video, he seems almost half tempted to partake, to turn toward, but also kind of hovering between that and a sophisticated annoyance. By the end, he's strongly decided to go with the cold turning away from. This in spite of the fact that by then *everyone* else in the car has turned toward. This is my question: Do you/have you ever played the roll of the crossword guy? I know I have/do. And I don't like him. And I don't wanna be that way. Ever again.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

It's officila-Bush/Cheney (and thus *we*) are torturers

(as if it wasn't before).

That is to say the two men we popularly elected twice, and continue to allow to rule over us, officially approved, nay, called for, torturing people.

Meanwhile, the guy we *failed* to elect won the Nobel Peace Prize.

Now how much wiggle room does that leave us Americans, if we're trying to wiggle out of the moniker "warmongers"?

(Hint: there's only one right answer, it's simple, and it dates back to at least the 4th century B.C.)

Here's what torture looks like. (warning, graphic images of what your elected officials have approved and instigated)

(Whatever you do, don't think too much about this. Just give it a passing glance, and then move on about your day. There's nothing you can do about it anyway)

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Happy thought for the day

See here (warning: some level of sarcasm is being employed here).

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

This week in Iraq-273 more civilian deaths

From Iraq Body Count Recent Events

Try to get your head around what that would feel like if it were happening here.

No, I mean we have 30 times the population of Iraq, so try to get your head around what it would look like if 8,190 people had been violently killed here this past week.

Including 29 killed by U.S. armed forces.

That would be like an occupying Muslim army killing 870 Americans this last week.

Which is why I don't get it that people like Usama Dakdok claim that Muslims are trying to take over America. To me, it looks more like Christians are trying to take over Iraq.

This week's violent deaths in Iraq included at least 6 children

For all this you and I and the rest of us (Americans) were required to pay at least 2 billion dollars. And another piece of whatever soul we had left.

Monday, April 07, 2008

streptococcus pyogenes

These little guys on the on the bottom are multiplying in vast numbers in the back of my throat. My immune system is orchestrating a generalized response which involves 38 degrees C (or 101 F).

Every time I swallow--I mean *every* time--the inflamed nerve endings in the back of my mouth send signals racing along nerve pathways to my brain saying "AHHHHHHHHHRRRRRRGGGGGGGGHHH. *DON"T DO THAT AGAIN!"

But the nice physician's assistant I saw today, Kevin, says I *must* drink water. 3-4 liters a day, if possible.

Meanwhile, Kevin also prescribed some penicillin. So I guess the little guys on the top are killing the little guys above, while we wait for my specific immune system to fully assess the situation and enter the fray. Eventually, I'm guessin the strep is going to lose. Although apparently it *does* lead to death in some cases.

All I can say is "praise Allah for opiates."

Billary hits new all time low on Intrade

She traded today at 12 cents, the lowest since the democratic presidential nomination markety opened in late 2004. It means that the people who are betting think there is a 12% chance she will win the nomination.



Did you ever wake up on a spring morning, and hear the sweet little birds twittering outside the window (because your ... lovely wife opened the bloody window thus letting in the icy cold Seattle air), and think to your self, "Self, I hope those sweet little birds drop dead."?

Just wondering.

(Hey--look what comes up first when you do a google image search on my name)

Friday, April 04, 2008

RIP Mike Weeks

Mike Weeks was the associate pastor of the church which provided the social fabric of my youth. From the ages of 13 through 18, he was also principal/director of the very small Christian school (and later homeschooling cooperative) at which I was a student. On Wednesday mornings (or was it every school morning?) Mike would lead a short chapel service before school began. We would say the Pledges of Allegiance to the American Flag, the Christian Flag, and the Bible. Then Mike would give us a short lesson, sometimes from the Bible, sometimes just a moral lesson of some sort.

I remember one of these mornings learning the word "deference", a character trait toward which Mike was encouraging us. He said if two of us got to the water fountain at the same time, we ought to each give way to the other, and then had two of us come forward and role play it: "You first!" "No, I insist, you first!".

He encouraged me and helped me complete my high school diploma. He was very supportive of my successful endeavor to memorize the Old Testament book of Proverbs. He and others arranged a big awards ceremony at the end of every school year to encourage the students. I was one of a smallish group--less than 20, I think, who graduated from Shorecrest Baptist Academy and Heritage Baptist Academy over the years. I knew Mike was definitely proud of me.

We called him "Brother Weeks". He required mutual respect between students and faculty and staff. "Sir" and "Ma'am" were the accepted forms of address. I don't remember him ever being unkind or out of control, although I imagine we must have sorely tempted his patience many times. He taught us "Failing to plan is planning to fail".

I think he probably worked inordinate numbers of hours in his jobs as associate pastor and school principal, in addition to his other job as a professional physical therapist. Looking back, I think Mike would have done just about anything to see me succeed. I do believe he loved me. I remember the tone of disappointment I heard in his voice when he heard a few years ago that I was working as an auto mechanic. I think he knew I was meant to be doing something that would somehow have more of an impact on the world. He didn't want me to settle for less than the best.

I never got to tell Mike thank you for all the work and love he invested in me. When I heard that he was so very sick, I tried to stop by because I wanted to tell him, but I had waited too long. By Sunday, he was so close to dying and was unable to even recognize me. I felt very sad about that. I'm really thankful for the blessing that Mike Weeks was to me. Thank you, Brother Weeks. You totally rocked. I wish I had taken the opportunity to get to know you as an adult.

Highlights from the blogosphere this week

From Jessica's Indexed

From Joe's a Life Reviewed

What is not OK is to deny me the rights and privileges you enjoy because - and only because - you find my actions abhorrent. Society functions largely because people ignore the things they find abhorrent in others, how are you deciding that this particular aspect of my life is more abhorrent than anything else? If you are going to deny gays an equivalent legal instrument to recognise long term fidelity, are you also going to deny the reality of Hindu marriage because you find some of their rituals disgusting?

From 3 blessings

I stopped and smelled the blossoms on one of the cherry trees in the quad today, and it blew me away with it’s powerful yet delicate sweetness. I’m getting little shivers of joy remembering it. That went well because I slowed down and actually stopped for the 10 seconds it took to do that.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

March Iraq round-up--1378 dead, 52 of them children

From Lily Hamourtziadou at Iraq Body Count

All explanations are possible, as are all justifications, reasons, myths and narratives. But above and beyond all those narratives and justifications, as March 2008 comes to an end, at least another 1,378 Iraqi civilians (52 of them children) are added to the list of the fallen ‘for freedom and democracy,’ both of which are yet to be seen in this war-torn country.

I found

Pudge's Youtube channel recently.

I liked this one. The lyrics are here