Monday, June 29, 2009

"Nine out of ten of you struggle with impure thoughts...Especially after the story I told about my wife"

I'll be back soon with posts of more substance, but for's satire as it ought to be, truly funny. At 10 minutes, it's a bit long, but I laughed all the way through. Find out the perils of youth (or young adult, for that matter) ministry and why you should always check out the guest speaker before giving him the stage:

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Comparing the Resumes

It's been too long since we've had a JesusAndMo fix.

(Click on the picture if it's not big enough.)

Friday, June 19, 2009

What I'll Be Doing on My Flight to the West Coast Next Week

I consider myself very knowledgable about planes, at least compared with the average layman. But I learned something today that heretofore had completely escaped my notice. In 71 seconds, you can learn it, too. Check this out:

Kind of makes you want to get on a flight today, doesn't it?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Michelangelo the Frivolous

I've been critical of Twitter for what seems to me incorrigible frivolity (and narcissism). Who would have thought the Sistine Chapel would be similarly categorized by its painter?
Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564) was unquestionably one of the greatest artists ever. People still flock to see his works, many of which have become iconic: La Pieta, David, God giving life to Adam, and the entire Sistine Chapel (pictured above). I've been blessed to see these works "live," and they live up to their billing. If anyone spent his life in worthwhile endeavor, it was Michelangelo. And yet, this is what he reportedly wrote toward the end of his life:

So now from this mad passion
which made me take art for an idol and a king,
I have learned the burden of error that it bore
and what misfortunes spring from man's desire.
The world's frivolities have robbed me of the time
that I was given for reflecting upon God.

(Credited to Michelangelo...source unknown.)
"Robbed of the time that I was given for reflecting on God." My friend David recently blogged on the importance of silence in one's life. I've had a few posts on the subject, myself. We need times of being alone with God. We weren't built to be led through cacophany; it causes us to confuse gods with God and makes it hard to identify our idols.
Serving those idols, rather than reflecting on God and living in light of eternity, can never be anything other than frivolity in God's economy. As much as I hate to call Michelangelo's awe-inspiring works the act of a frivolous idolater, that's what he apparently called them, himself. As beautiful an evocation of the Eternal One as they may be, they were never the Real Thing.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Why I'm Still Single

When I got to Oregon State University for my freshman year of college, I started out attending the meetings of Campus Crusade for Christ. But a guy across the hall was involved with a similar group called The Navigators, and that's the parachurch organization I ended up committing to. When I transferred to the University of Oregon the next year, I got involved with the Navs there. Then I worked for the Navs for three years in Eastern Europe, before returning to the U.S. for grad school and 2-1/2 more years of Nav campus involvement. All together, it's almost 10 years of direct involvement, and I've maintained a lot of contacts over the 24 years since I got out of grad school.

That may go a long ways toward explaining why I'm still single.

On campus, one of the taunts - or badges of honor, depending on your perspective - was "Navigator Neverdater." Unlike Crusade, we weren't known as a marriage factory. In fact, it was rather the opposite. Early in my college career, someone said that you only have 4 or so years in college, and it's an unparalleled time for growth in your Christian walk, so why not focus on that and save the dating/marriage stuff for later? Sounded good to me, so I made a commitment not to date until after college. Only when I started getting interested in someone during my missionary years did I remember that my commitment had expired. So we dated a couple times, but she married my friend, instead. They're now Navigator staff.

All of the above is simply to introduce this delightful video from a Navigator college student. It's clear that this part of the DNA of the Navs is still recognizable. Of course, the Navs are defined by something much different than collegiate dating practices, namely such things as Scripture Memory, Bible study, discipleship, and spiritual reproduction. And also of course, most people involved with the Navs do get married. Nevertheless, if you were involved with the Navs in college, you'll love this video, and if you weren't, you'll probably find it rather funny, too:

Thursday, June 11, 2009

What's Love Got To Do With It?

I often attend a small monthly philosophy group in Atlanta. The discussions are quite different from what I have with my friends during the rest of the month, because no other evangelical Christians ever attend this group (as best I can tell). For that matter, no other Christians of any discernable stripe attend, and the leader is a determinist who doesn't admit to believing in any God at all.
It's good for me to be there, because it helps me think through my worldview and convictions and how I can explain them to someone who's approaching our discussion from a very different angle. Of course, I hope that the others will somehow be nudged toward Jesus by what I have to say.
This week, we were discussing what makes for a good marriage relationship (or nonmarital partnership). One of the guys was claiming that the ideal relationship is one where:
  • You live and let live.
  • Tolerance reigns.
  • Neither party demands anything of the other and neither changes anything to accommodate the other (neither one "compromises").

It's hard to summarize accurately what he was saying, because to me it seemed inconsistent and a bit incoherent, but it was clear that he didn't agree with my claim that the best relationship is one based on active love, commitment, deference, service, and sacrifice. His view seemed to be that each should do whatever he/she wants, with the goal of maximizing self-pleasure and minimizing self-pain. I commented that if two partners with that view ever actually agreed on something, it wouldn't be a relationship, but a coincidence.

I left there thinking how radically different our worldviews are, and when I got home, I took the dog for a walk and prayed, remarking to God how vitally different my life is because God made me His child. Certainly, I don't always practice what I claim to believe about good relationships, but it's my aspiration to do so, and I'm immensely thankful for the significant friendships God has given me over the years. I believe I'm a lot less lonely than the guys I was talking to last night.
Of course, our Heavenly Father, Himself, is the best example of how to build good relationships (though it sounds weird to state it that way):
  • "God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3.16)
  • "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." (John 15.13)
God's extraordinary love gives all (or at least all we could ever imaginably need), and it demands all. When we understand what He's done, we gladly give all in return - first, as a sign of thanks, and then in confident expectation of even more demonstrations of His love for us. "We love because he first loved us" (1 John 4.19).

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Tim Keller Speaks Elvish

If you're the least bit interested in Tim Keller, the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, you'll want to read an excellent new profile at There's a lot of personal and family info, Redeemer history, Keller theology, and church strategy. All in all, it's an engaging article about a church that seeks to engage its city culture of artists and businesspeople with the message of Christ. Check it out.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Twittering Your Life Away

(Click on the cartoon for a larger version.)
Every generation comes up with new ways to waste its members' lives. Watching television and cruising used to be it, though cruising's imperilled by high gas prices. Television is still quite with us, even though total viewership is down: witness the obsession with "Lost" or "24" or "The Office" or "Heroes." More recently, IMing (AOL Instant Messenger and the like) found ways to consume hours of peoples' lives in frivolity; it's still around, though apparently not as compelling as it once was. Computer/video games steal some people's lives, but the waste-monger getting the most attention these days is social networking.

Of all the social networking media, I find Twitter particularly interesting, in that most tweeters seem to think other people should be endlessly fascinated with the minutiae of their daily lives. It's narcissism, isn't it?...though most people prefer to call it "keeping in touch." Narcissism for the sender, distraction for both the sender and the receiver (a-musement, "not thinking"), and at the end you have a vaporous pile of ethereal nothing. Maybe someday, Twitter will turn into something useful. It's not there yet.

I came across this blog entry today. Although this guy calls himself extreme for having a dozen ways of reporting on himself, he seems representative of the spirit of the age:

If you are like me then you have at least one or two social networking accounts.... I may have taken it to extremes but I eventually went and got a FriendFeed account which tied most of them together. By doing this when I update my Friend Feed status I update my Facebook and Twitter accounts. but here is where it gets tricky. If I update my Flickr, youtube, my Google Talk status, one of the many blogs, or my accounts, Friendfeed will pull from them and publish the update out to the others. As these updates get pushed to the Twitter account my Live Spaces account will post that update as well. Another cool thing is if I share an item from Google Reader, it will also push that and any comments to Friend Feed, and then back out from there. Duplicate items can happen, and I am still working on that, but all in all it is easier to really only manage one or two instead of the 12 I once had to cut and paste too.

Now If I could get the Zune Social updates to replicate as well, I would not have to update anything separately.

Do I really need to let the whole world what I am having for dinner? If you have to ask then you just don't understand. It is cool to be able to let you friends and family know what is going on, and to share articles that have caught my eye. Do I have to? no not really, but it is cool, and I am still having fun with it. When it becomes a chore then I may have stop. Until then, keep connected, and share what tips you have for linking your social networking in the comments.

I don't think of myself as a Luddite, and I'm not opposed to electronic communication. I'd have trouble living without e-mail, and obviously, I keep a blog, which I admittedly hope a lot of people will read. But I really don't think anyone cares which type of Trader Joe's cereal I ate this morning, nor whether I put yogurt or milk on it, nor whether I ate it out of a cup or a bowl, nor whether I was sitting in the kitchen or out on the screened porch when I consumed it. If that's the level of detail you want from your friends, then I think you need to get a life.

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Law of Unintended Consequences: John Eldredge and Mexican Decapitations

Everyone who knows me knows that I'm no fan of John Eldredge's theology. But for all the critical things I've said about him, I never would have predicted that a "faith-based" Mexican drug cartel would use his books as texts...and cetainly not a cartel that carries out massacres by separating their victims' bodies from their heads.

But that appears to be the case. Joseph Michael Reynolds reports on his blog that, "La Familia Michoacana was all over the news out of Mexico last week. In President Calderon’s home state of Michoacan, federales carted off ten mayors and twenty other local officials who were allegedly under the control of La Familia, an ambitious cartel often described as a 'pseudo-evangelical cult.'” Reynolds goes on to say:

[An] internal intelligence report on La Familia from the Mexican justice department surfaced in Milenio, bringing the news that the faith-based cartel grounds its indoctrination program on the writings of macho Christian author and veteran Focus On The Family senior fellow John Eldredge, who now heads Ransomed Hearts Ministries in Colorado Springs.

There are four separate references to Eldredge in the Mexican intelligence memo on La Familia. The cartel has conducted a three-year recruitment and PR campaign across Michoacan featuring thousands of billboards and banderas carrying their evangelical message and warnings. La Familia is known for tagging its executions and other mayhem as “la divina justica”–divine justice.

The report says La Familia leader, Nazario Gonzalez Moreno aka El Loco o More Chayo (”The Craziest”) has made Eldredge’s books required reading for La Familia and has paid rural teachers and National Development Education members to circulate the Colorado-based evangelical’s writings throughout the Michoacan countryside.

The Daily Kos has also picked up on this story. The Milenio article referenced looks very informative, but my Spanish is horrible, so I'll have to leave that to someone else.
If you're going to write books, it's great to have readers, but these must be fans that John Eldredge would rather not have. I've heard plenty of stories about people doing stupid things after reading his books; this is beyond all that I would have imagined.
(If you're feeling a need to see La Familia's handiwork, there's a photo on Reynolds' blog.)

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Someone's Gonna Pay For This

In the spirit of yesterday's post about the difference between politicians and statesmen, I offer a current example of how politicians aren't leveling with us, and instead are telling us what we want to hear. But eventually, the truth will get out, and then it will sink in, ... and then we'll get soaked.
This comes from a "Special Report on Business in America" in The Economist:

A green revolution
May 28th 2009 From The Economist print edition
Saving the world will not be cheap

The best way to curb global warming would be a carbon tax. The money raised could be divided up among citizens or used to repay the national debt. A tax on carbon dioxide (CO2) would give everyone an incentive to emit less of it. It would be simple, direct and transparent. For these reasons, it will never happen in America.

Frank talk about energy policy is rare. Politicians hate to admit that anything they plan to do will cause pain to any voter. During the election campaign, both Barack Obama and John McCain proposed a cap-and-trade system for curbing CO2 emissions, not because it would work better than a carbon tax but because it did not have the word “tax” in its name. Both candidates also gave the impression that their green policies would yield huge benefits while imposing no costs. A shift to alternative energy, they agreed, would not only check global warming but also create millions of green jobs and help break America’s dependence on foreign oil.

Neither dwelt on the fact that cap-and-trade will raise energy prices, that subsidies for renewable energy will have to be paid for, or that both policies will destroy jobs as well as creating them, while probably cutting growth. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that a 15% cut in CO2 emissions will cost the average American household $1,600 a year. If politicians pretend they can save the planet at no cost, they risk a backlash when people realise they were fibbing.

If we're going to address global warming (or climate change, or whatever it's called this week), we need to understand the cost, and we need to compare the cost with the benefit. So far, no one proposing legislation seems to be doing that.

If you'd like to read the entire article, it's here.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Politicians Many, Statesmen Few

I've been going light on the political blogs lately, more out of cynicism than lack of interest. But I would like to share this quote I came across. It's from Henry Kissinger, who certainly has his share of detractors, but I think he accurately describes what the problem is in politics today:

The great statesmen of the past saw themselves as heroes who took on the burden of their societies' painful journey from the familiar to the as yet unknown. The modern politician is less interested in being a hero than a superstar. Heroes walk alone; stars derive their status from approbation. Heroes are defined by inner values; stars by consensus. When a candidate's views are forged in focus groups and ratified by television anchorpersons, insecurity and superficiality become congenital.

Henry Kissinger, Years of Renewal, 2000

Who are the statesmen of today?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Wincing at the Gospel

Last week, I blogged about how we can seek to avoid Jesus by developing a false sense of righteousness. Those who don't think they're ill won't be interested in knowing what the physician has to say.

This week, I came across a poem by Julie Stoner that addresses the same issue. It's from the June/July 2009 issue of First Things. Poetry and I often don't get along, but this one I like:

"I Did Not Come to Call the Righteous"

Matthew 9:9–13

We ninety-nine obedient sheep;
we workers hired at dawn’s first peep;
we faithful sons who strive to please,
forsaking prodigalities;
we virgins who take pains to keep
our lamps lit, even in our sleep;
we law-abiding Pharisees;

we wince at gospels such as these.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Why Are Atheists So Irrational?

This article came out on September 19, 2008, and I meant to blog about it then, but I've been running way behind. It's about a Gallup study that examined the beliefs of the religious and the irreligious. Guess who turns out to be the most superstitious?

Here's an excerpt from the article, which originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal here. If you want to read the entire article and that link doesn't work for you, try this one.

Look Who's Irrational Now

...The reality is that the New Atheist campaign, by discouraging religion, won't create a new group of intelligent, skeptical, enlightened beings. Far from it: It might actually encourage new levels of mass superstition. And that's not a conclusion to take on faith -- it's what the empirical data tell us.

"What Americans Really Believe," a comprehensive new study released by Baylor University yesterday, shows that traditional Christian religion greatly decreases belief in everything from the efficacy of palm readers to the usefulness of astrology. It also shows that the irreligious and the members of more liberal Protestant denominations, far from being resistant to superstition, tend to be much more likely to believe in the paranormal and in pseudoscience than evangelical Christians.

The Gallup Organization, under contract to Baylor's Institute for Studies of Religion, asked American adults a series of questions to gauge credulity. Do dreams foretell the future? Did ancient advanced civilizations such as Atlantis exist? Can places be haunted? Is it possible to communicate with the dead? Will creatures like Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster someday be discovered by science?

The answers were added up to create an index of belief in occult and the paranormal. While 31% of people who never worship expressed strong belief in these things, only 8% of people who attend a house of worship more than once a week did.

Even among Christians, there were disparities. While 36% of those belonging to the United Church of Christ, Sen. Barack Obama's former denomination, expressed strong beliefs in the paranormal, only 14% of those belonging to the Assemblies of God, Sarah Palin's former denomination, did. In fact, the more traditional and evangelical the respondent, the less likely he was to believe in, for instance, the possibility of communicating with people who are dead.

This is not a new finding. In his 1983 book "The Whys of a Philosophical Scrivener," skeptic and science writer Martin Gardner cited the decline of traditional religious belief among the better educated as one of the causes for an increase in pseudoscience, cults and superstition. He referenced a 1980 study published in the magazine Skeptical Inquirer that showed irreligious college students to be by far the most likely to embrace paranormal beliefs, while born-again Christian college students were the least likely.

Surprisingly, while increased church attendance and membership in a conservative denomination has a powerful negative effect on paranormal beliefs, higher education doesn't....


On Oct. 3 [2008], Mr. Maher debuts "Religulous," his documentary that attacks religious belief. He talks to Hasidic scholars, Jews for Jesus, Muslims, polygamists, Satanists, creationists, and even Rael -- prophet of the Raelians -- before telling viewers: "The plain fact is religion must die for man to live."

But it turns out that the late-night comic is no icon of rationality himself. In fact, he is a fervent advocate of pseudoscience. The night before his performance on Conan O'Brien, Mr. Maher told David Letterman -- a quintuple bypass survivor -- to stop taking the pills that his doctor had prescribed for him. He proudly stated that he didn't accept Western medicine. On his HBO show in 2005, Mr. Maher said: "I don't believe in vaccination. . . . Another theory that I think is flawed, that we go by the Louis Pasteur [germ] theory." He has told CNN's Larry King that he won't take aspirin because he believes it is lethal and that he doesn't even believe the Salk vaccine eradicated polio.

Anti-religionists such as Mr. Maher bring to mind the assertion of G.K. Chesterton's Father Brown character that all atheists, secularists, humanists and rationalists are susceptible to superstition: "It's the first effect of not believing in God that you lose your common sense, and can't see things as they are."

Baylor's own summary of its study can be found here.