Wednesday, June 29, 2005

If Destiny's Child officially breaks up...

...Does that mean that if I swoop in for Michelle Williams, I'll be the rebound guy?

Because I could live without that.

Just bide my time. Just bide my time.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

New York Duplicitous

Earlier, I had reported about a funny exchange between a clueless Times reporter and one of his interview subjects. James, as Barbara Nicolosi would call him (and luckily, as is his first name), was searching hard for a story, a story linking conservative think tanks in D.C. with conservative Christian filmmakers in Hollywood. In keeping with traditional Red state/Blue state rhetoric, James does not seem to understand differences between political, cultural, fiscal and theological conservatives. Or how non-for-profits work, for that matter.

But he does make for a funny read. And what is more hilarious, the New York Times, heretofore the most prestigious daily in the US, is reduced to producing such inocuous and unprovable statements as:

According to two people who have worked with him and who spoke anonymously to protect their industry relationships, Mr. McEveety, [edit., McEveety recently left Icon Productions. Yes, Mel Gibson's company. The guys who produced that conservative juggernaut, The Passion.] who declined to be interviewed, controls a $100 million fund devoted to making and promoting family-oriented movies. (Mr. McEveety did note in an e-mail message that his criterion for making films is whether "my kids would be able to see them," not politics.) He is collaborating with Mr. Bannon, 51, on two new Catholic-themed documentaries, one on cloning, and another on Pope Benedict XVI, which is budgeted at about $1 million.

And, as if making movies with such outlandish budgets about someone as trivial as the new pope is not crazy enough, get a load of this:

The two men have also participated in discreet, religiously based outreach and financing initiatives, including gatherings arranged by the Wilberforce Forum, the Virginia-based evangelical public policy group whose chairman is the former Watergate figure Chuck Colson and which has a mission to "shape culture from a biblical perspective," according to its Web site,

Now, just in case you missed that, Wilberforce is a branch of Colson's Prison Fellowship ministry. And although no one would argue that Colson is a liberal, he does tend toward the compassionate side of that fence. Another truth is that it is, according to the website, their goal is to be roaring lambs, to use Bob Briner's (God rest his soul) phrase. In other words, Christians need to engage culture. If Wilberforce is deciding, like its abolitionist namesake, to engage in culture and make some difference, to help in some way, people of like-mind in the arts and entertainments, how is this wrong? When it becomes a conspiracy? Lunacy.

But to her credit, with few pitfalls (What the heck is a Catholic activist, anyway? If someone called me an Evangelical activist, I'd give 'em a slice of mah fist, left cheek be danged.), Barbara Nicolosi was able to engage James and give him some levity. Though he somehow tied her into the the vast Wilberforce conspiracy.

To clear the record, Barbara is very much a conservative in terms of Catholic theology, especially vociferous in regards to life, especially dealing with euthanasia (she hated Million Dollar Baby for the obvious reason) and abortion. And she's an unapologetic Catholic. In shorthand, of course, she's a Catholic activist.
the second floor facade
pushed out forward,
like a box some kid, anxious
kicked from his
hoover-town fortress

while sihlouettes always in back
and tableux progress in regression
where does action become inert
and the subject become a lesson

what grabs us
pulls us to push?
what forces us
the forward thrust?
what relieves us to
lend out to trust?

- believe -

"It was self-defense...," he says. not quite sure if he cares
that i don't or do believe,

"Not what they say...," voice trailing in and out like morphine,

"...It was self defense..."


"... I was a soldier in 'Nam..."

Shameless Plug

Always better than a shameless pug. Haha! Ugly dogs are funny.

This is both a nod in the direction of my peeps Gabi & Timi, both of whom decided to name their latest post as the same above (Vast Christian conspiracy? You decide.) and an affirmation of the fact that I really don't have much to say - yet.

I added a site counter to this blog. I wasn't able to get the feature - yet - where they tell you where people came in from. Because javascript, just like everything else in computer lingo, scares me. But it'll be nice to see how many dozens and dozens of people are visiting this blog on a weekly basis. Right now, it's 1/12th.

A group of fine writers and I are trying to hook up on the greatest collaborative effort since the Traveling Wilburys. Stay tuned for more on that. I don't wanna give out too much now. Don't wanna stinx it. (I don't believe in jinxes. Yet.)

Now, that's a sexy group of men.

Friday, June 24, 2005

There's Good News and then there's Bad News

And in that order:

There's hope for Africa in debt relief. Real, genuine hope. Here's one article I found while blogging around about Senegal's development of the $77 million they have been forgiven of their debts so far. Hopefully, hopefully...

Speaking of hope: There has been a group of suburban middle school / junior high youth staying at the church where I work and worship at for the entire week. One of the leaders was talking to one of my friends in the office this morning. My friend is originally from the suburbs also. The lady leader is starting up some small talk with my friend ('L') when she finds out that L's husband works at the local high school. She's a bit taken back by that. And, sans awareness, goes into a bit about how the kids that she has been working with - for the whole week, she stresses, again obliviously - seem so hopeless. At this point, I take L's lovely baby and try to focus on her, rather than yelling at the ignorant leader out of sheer rage. L tries to explain things to the leader. That, for example, in no way are the youth or children or inner city inhabitants without hope. That it's not such a necessary thing to lock your car doors all the time. That we shouldn't live in fear, etc., etc. I don't know if the leader (Which role she plays in the youth group is unclear, but she is not the director / pastor. I thank God for that.) was actually in a place to learn anything. It seemed to me, from my experience being near and with missionaries, that she was going through some major culture shock. And it's often extremely depressing and alienating. Maybe she'll learn more as she reflects. I know if she had talked to me like that... o help us please. Good thing L, although quite sensitive and obviously hurt by this lady's remarks, is more patient and could see where she was coming from.

Maybe she'll also learn something as the youth start reflecting also. Younger folk have a way of more easily identifying, even as they - much like us adults - aren't quite sure what to do with their preconceptions and misconceptions. And they got a chance to spend some quality time with kids - and some adults - from all over Chicago.

Speaking of preconceptions: Tonight I did a little labor, ripping and cutting pages of coloring books because there aren't enough to go around. It's for crafts time that some peeps in my church are going to lead in Haiti during the summer. I was talking to one of the leaders of this short term mission (STM. No jokes.) trip. Since he was the only one there who had actually gone to Haiti, let alone the region they are going to, I asked him some questions about the general standard of living, education, etc. I don't consider myself an ignoramus. But of course I am. He told me of genocide. Of the impossibly high unemployment rates. Of the I've spent a total of three days out of the grand old U.S. of A. Everybody always says that I should travel more. At this moment, I only see two reasons to travel. One of them involves my mama and some resting, some getting away. The other one, well, it has nothing to do with the Eiffel Tower or the L'Ouvre. I need to see real need. I need to cry.

I'm praying that our team (which will include a couple of my youth) will be broken of any pre- and mis-conceptions while they are there. I pray for as easy a transition as possible, including knocking any misgivings out of their minds now. Any feelings of superiority, of patronizing or paternalizing may leave now. I thank God for their movement, for their preparation, for their willing hearts up to this moment. For their willingness to raise much of their own money, open up and speak before the church (and trust me, there's a group of ladies going on this trip that are overcoming in just speaking to any group, let alone a congregation of 100-150), pray, fast. They are nearly complete in raising the money they need. Much more so if pledges come through. (Don't tell anybody that, though. It's just between us at this moment.)

I was reading some disparaging news on STM's this week. Apparently, most STMers do not fastidiously hold on to their initial excitement for long once they return to life-as-is. They fail to maintain relationships they promised to. They generally do not become life-long missionaries. They tend to be a drain on the existing churches (This we here can speak well of. Not in a mean sense, but logistically.). And the rates of giving do not have a large, sustainable increase. The question is posed: what does this mean and how should we respond?

And finally: Tonight the youth of the Haiti group went and spoke, along with our associate pastor, of the STM. Many of the visiting STMers, who were going on a little R&R to Navy Pier gave freely of their spending money. And they gave well, too. Not just for having heard of it, or not just because it wasn't their people, their friends, their church heading out. They gave well. Bless their hearts. Maybe they've learned even before they left.


I didn't have a poem of the week last week. Me so sorry. However, I promise to make it up to you by putting two down this week.

One of them I had just wrote less than half an hour ago and the other one I had an earlier version of a few weeks ago. Neither of them are complete, hence neither get titles yet (Although my faithful readers may know that titles and me sometimes... eh, we fight. I wrestle 'em like Jacob.).

But the version 2.1:

What our knowledge does for us
forcing us to rent space in the back of the bus
burying new skins in old soil of a naked nation
rent in two by reluctant emerging emancipation

Mileage in the shotgun
revolving to cause a Become
As old as a whore
As American as Ford's
Given all we could piece,
Nature, she wants more

Releasing the hounds
Civility in bonds
raging, making less with itself
than we could live without
For we have been in need
of all sons living freed
and prized in sheols we dug too deep

Knowing nothing but the hope
it won't be this time
Immersion in mercy
bathed in rouge liquid life

And Numero 2:

Amused by the disputed
turns and terms
spectacled images
spectator churns
the objects are clearer
but the focus is blurred

yes, detroit lost

But they lost to the best team in the world. One with hardly any chinks in the chain.

That's what a defense-oriented team looks for. That's why Detroit so handily beat the lazy Lakers last year. They had chinks the size of their egos. San An didn't. But to hear the networks tell it, nobody was watching the series, save myself, my roommates and the Spurs fans just below us (Typical sports fans, cursing and hollering at their tv's, much as we were doing at the NCAA Illini/N.C game at my church a couple months ago. I'm kidding. We're non-denominationals. We weren't hollering.).

That's too bad. The Spurs and the Pistons were firing on all cylinders and putting on basketball clinics for the whole nation. ABC - which flippin' owns ESPN - doesn't seem to know what to do with such a precious commodity. So they give it to their play-by-play football guy and Andy Warhol. The only thing missing from their coverage was Tiger Woods and Madden. Oh, and some life.

Oh, and to the detractors, where on earth was Phoenix, Miami and Houston during this series? Thank you.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Why that test is so wrong

(Note: This is a continuation of the post two down, Paging Rev. Lovejoy.)

To try to obtain someone's worldview by having them take a bubble test is, well, ludicrous. Especially if the questions are tricky or just written by an amateur. But that wouldn't keep me from taking it, twice, and writing two separate pieces on it. No, far stupider people have succumbed to my rants (take that, Kurt Carr).

The test is favored on a sliding scale of agreeableness with a certain point / question presumably tied with a specific theological position in mind. Whichever position gets the most on the +/- slide wins. It's that easy. Or is it?

Consider some of the questions:

53 Preaching the word is more important than worship.

Worship how? Worship as in singing and lifting hands? What we nowadays refer simply to praise and/or worship? With good/bad songs with good/bad/non-existent theology sung/performed well/adequately/holding-your-ears-bad while hands/arms/chalices are held-high/slung-low/firmly-to-the-side/uncomfortably-situated-somewhere-in-between? Isn't preaching the Word an acknowledgment of worship? Isn't it a part of the grander scheme of bowing to the greatness, the other-ness of God? Preaching isn't more important than worship, it's a part of worship, properly understood.

49 There is little or no human element in the Bible, it is a divine book.

Yeah, it's divine. So was Jesus. It was written by humans. It contains the books of Psalms, Ecclesiastes, Job, Song of Songs, Esther... I mean, even John the Apostle wrote the book of the Apocalypse largely in the way he did because he's a man, trying to write the divine that was happening before him.

3 The person of Christ, rather than the Bible, is the central focus of God's self-revelation.

Um, yeah, and the person of Christ is revealed through, what, again?

2 Justification by faith is the most important part of the Gospel

Of the Gospel message? Or of receiving and understanding the Gospel? Personally, I believe that the fact that God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life is probably the most important part of the Gospel. But maybe that's several parts. Maybe I'm supposed to dissect the whole Gospel message into bite-sized pieces and discern which morsel is most essential to the whole. Hmmm... Jesus dying or Jesus raising? Hmmm... Justification by faith alone or Sanctification by faith alone? Is one more essential than the other? If Jesus merely saved me from the ultimate consequence of sin, but not from it's day-to-day slave system, wouldn't I just be off as bad, if not worse? Listen, just because Luther rediscovered justification by faith and made it central to his tenets doesn't mean that it's the most important part of the Gospel message.

52 Bishop Spong is an important theologian who should be taken seriously.

Is Bishop Sponge the guy who invented Liberation Theology? Or did he fight against the Catholic Church in regards to birth-control? (Ba-Dump!)

57 Academic knowledge is not as important as being 'on fire for God.'

What is meant by 'Academic knowledge'? Is that shorthand for biblical or theological knowledge? If it is, than it is more important than being 'on fire for God.' Because fires die out, quickly, overnight. Theological knowledge gives us a grounding to the great personhood of the Godhead. It gives us a form for our relationship, through thick and thin, long past when the fire is muted.

If, however, 'Academic knowledge' means being trapped under the weight of the heavy books and never experiencing the fullness of God, then 'no.' It becomes just another mask to try to hide our inadequacies from a God who knows us too well.

35 Social action is important, but not as important as saving lost souls.

"Saving souls"? I'm an Evangelical. A conservative Evangelical. And I'm offended by that title. Not because it's politically incorrect. Not because someone may get offended by my proselytizing. But because it's theologically incorrect. I can't save a soul. That's God's job. I can only preach. I'm not about to try to 'win' someone over or 'sell' them something. I'm going to preach truth and live love and point people to Christ, not a marketing gimmick. Please, win souls. And social action is important, because I have been made free in Christ.

By the way, this time I was a card-carrying Calvinist. Yeah, baby!

Wondering Where the Lions Are

This would be a big plug for The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Or, at least I'm sure Aslan would be proud (if you don't know what either of those are, I refer you to the music post a couple down).

The story goes that some men were abducting this child somewhere in Africa. True story. This little ten, eleven year old girl was going to be sold as some a**'s wife. As she was whimpering and crying for help, she received it- in the form of a group of lions. No kidding. They came out of nowhere and ambushed the ambushers, till they all fled. And then the great cats stood by the girl on watch until the police arrived. At which point the guardians dispersed.

A little bit of Tarzan, a little bit of Sheena, a little bit of Second-Hand Lions, or the Jungle Book, or even Aqua Man (who has super-powers, Timi). But really I'm thinking two things:

1) The Christological (that means, it represents the figure of Jesus Christ, but not literally) Aslan.

2) Bruce Cockburn's (pronounced, Coa-bern, like James) "Wondering Where the Lions Are." Which was the song that the radio station played after that news bit.

Because I do, sometimes, wonder where the lions are.

Paging Rev. Lovejoy

Apparently, I'm a Methodist and not a Calvinist. Ohhh, I've been living a confused life for so long. Better start a bake sale.

Well, at least that's what this quiz informed me of.

I'll take it again. But, dang it, I was pretty sure I was a Calvinist.

This sounds suspiciously like rock and / or roll.

What the [Blocked] is he thinking?

It's one thing to pray for Michael Jackson in his current state. I'm reminded every once in a while that I should. I should also pray for his family, children and all, and his victims.

But Kurt Carr, what the hell are you thinking? God is not on Michael Jackson's side. His acquital is not something to celebrate. Is Jackson free? Yes. Was he legally declared not guilty? Yes. Should he be allowed some civility? Yes. Will I or any thinking adult allow any children near him? Are you insane?? Hell no! Would I say that Jackson is innocent? Again, hell no! Would I use the legal verdict of his innocence on these charges to shamelessly promote my new record...

Well, Kurt Carr did, so why the hell not?

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

All the music news that fits the print

Maybe - since we're not working in print - this title is archaic. But I've always loved it, the precocious dig at the Times. Oh well, time to find something else.

Deepspace 5. Unique, Just Like Everybody Else. Man, I really want to love this album. It's good. Really good. Some of the lines are just nasty.

I'm a poor man's poor man.

I wanna touch the fans like Ron Artest.

And this one, rightly justifying their methods and message to believers who don't bother with the mystery and story of God:

It's a gift to spit slanging / talking jive fables when the Lion slays the Witch / in the Wardrobe of Clive Staples / Sweep out the stable / for the Horse and His Boy / 'cause most are unprepared to be Surprised by Joy / I speak in brief words / this Grief Observed... / Deepspace 5 / spitting for all people who don't want to be spoon-fed their meal / You call it keeping it real / yo, tellin' a plain story / while we're breaking our backs to / bear the full Weight of Glory / we see The Problem of Pain / it's chiefly on prayer / my Letters to Malcolm / they all vanish in thin air / famish ... for lack of knowledge / we mistake Godly wisdom / for going to state college / Pay petty homage to speaking his name clear / even Christ veiled his words in a mystery that few could hear.

It's got an old school Rick Rubin flavor to a lot of it, like without the cheesy guitars. And it's helmed by my second favorite rap group, the fine folks of Mars Ill, manCHILD and DJ Dust.

DS5 is one of the best supergroups around. Almost up to the pantheon of Cross Movement, Jurassic 5 and LA Symphony. But not quite there. And maybe it's the consistent rock-influenced beats, which would sit better in Mars Ill's tracks. But in a cumulative effort, especially with so much voice in it, I'd like to hear more voices. And I know they got the skills to pay 'em out, just based on their last joint, The Night We Called It a Day (yeah, they like them ironic titles). But then again, when I recorded it on to my comp, I only took about half the songs. But what songs they are! Now I lost my original cd. So, all I have are those songs. But Unique is long, longer than this post. There's some great, great songs, including track #11 (I'll fill in the names later, when I got 'em with me.) about surviving sorrow and mortality. But, like so much hip hop, too much too much.

But buy it. What else you gonna get? At least get the T. I did.

Edit out the songs you don't care for& you got a near masterpiece. But keep a full copy, just in case.

On the flip, if you wanna see how a true artist gives interviews, Linford Detweiler of Over the Rhine is putting up free clinics. As with most of the press for their latest, Drunkard's Prayer, Linford delves into the marital issues, partly to salvage and restore, partly to take us on a guided and hopeful tour. Listen and you will not be disappointed. Read and you just may smile.

Talk amongst yourselves.

I want to see Batman Begins (cheap link alert!) again before I make any final judgments, but it'll most likely end up in the pantheon of my top 5 comic book movies. Somewhat behind the Holy Quadron of Superman, Superman II, Spider-Man 2 and X2: X-Men United and just edging out Unbreakable.

They called me Mr. Glass.

But here's an observation I have - file it however you choose:

Batman is a vigilante who clouds himself in mystery. He is terribly anti-crime and plays on fears, his own and others. He is concerned with meting out justice outside of the normal realm of the justice system and often seeking the lesser of two evils to accomplish his ends. He has no qualms about using costly and lethal military resources for those purposes. He is also fabulously rich and a shrewd manager of his affairs. His father, Dr. Wayne, teaches his young son this semi-call & response mantra: Why do we fall? So we can learn to pick ourselves back up. And Dr. Wayne tries to lead the upperclass citizenry to concern for the poor and blighted by his own public examples of humanitarianism.

Batman Begins is a celluloid monument to Reaganism.

I'm the last...

I knew when I saw the schizoid on the 'L' talking into her cell phone that it was time for me to get mine.

The difference is, my service will be on.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Legacy, Community, Culture. Vol. 2

Read Volume 1

. Baptism is a fundamental part of the shared Christian heritage. Denominations may differ on when to baptize and how to baptize (although I believe the Bible to be explicit in regards to the latter matter, but I digress), and even the function of baptizing, but the command is clear and universal. Now, the evangelical tradition may do the best job in representing the two first issues with biblical clarity, but because of our blatant individualism, we have robbed the act itself of meaning. We treat it much like we do the Lord's Supper - to be regarded as a command of Jesus to the Church and as a symbol, and little else. Yet consider these words from the Message paraphrase of Romans chapter 6:

So what do we do? Keep on sinning so God can keep on forgiving? I should hope not! If we've left the country where sin is sovereign, how can we still live in our old house there? Or didn't you realize we packed up and left there for good? That is what happened in baptism. When we went under the water, we left the old country of sin behind; when we came up out of the water, we entered into the new country of grace - a new life in a new land!
That's what baptism into the life of Jesus means. When we are lowered into the water, it is like the burial of Jesus; when we are raised up out of the water, it is like the resurrection of Jesus. Each of us is raised into a light-filled world by our Father so that we can see where we're going in our new grace-sovereign country.

I have a couple of friends who were baptized as infants in the Catholic Church. Since joining our church, they have been asked to be baptized again. Once. As a prerequisite for membership. They are members now; but have not undergone baptism as adults. Although I strongly disagree with them on this matter, it is really the evangelical movement that I have an issue with. For, if the precious act of baptism is presented merely as a proclamation of faith (I want to do this because I want to show my family I believe in Jesus.) or as a command of Jesus (I want to do this because the church / Jesus said I should.) then there is little urgency in the act, and no understanding of the act. Therefore, why do it?

I will argue that the act of baptism is not just a proclamation of faith, it is an internalization through bodily action of our understanding of a Truth, the most important Truth that has happened to us believers - the bodily and spiritual death, burial, and resurrection of Christ Jesus our Lord. It is also - a la John the Baptist - a renunciation, or turning point, from the dirty, staunchy, smelly ways of the world and it's death traps. It's also a reminder of desperately clinging to life, a need for light and air, an expectancy of the embrace of life, in concordance with the action of going down into the waters and coming back up again after being consumed by the water. And, most importantly for the effects of this essay, it's the entering into the legacy of those who have passed before us and the commonality of those who travel with us. Baptism is to the new covenant what circumcision is to the old covenant: a mark of the delivered, a seal of the collective children of the covenant.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Commissioner, is there a six foot bat flying around Gotham?

Ok, I looooved the original Batman movie. The one with the rubber shark jumping out of the water and biting Batman and Robin while they're hanging on to a helicopter's rope ladder. It's a good thing Batman incidentally had his handy shark repellant with him that day. "Where does he get such wonderful toys?"

And I loved, loved, loved the late 80's Tim Burton take on the Bat's, The Joker. "You ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight? I ask that of all my victims."

But upon revisiting the classic a year ago, even though I will always be endeared to Nicholson's portrayal of the Green-Haired One, Keaton was stoic. Too stoic (Read: Booooring!). He was great when Burton released him to over-act in Beetlejuice. In fact, that's Burton's forte: The eccentric overactor standing in for the eccentric over-acting teenage angst pile that is Tim Burton. Which is why Heston got that cameo in the Planet of the Apes: Marky Mark Strikes Back. Which is why Depp's so great for him (eccentricity takes precedence over over-acting) and Robin Williams and Al Pacino (overacting at all costs) work best when hemmed in by thoughtful directors - the likes of Chris Nolan (Insomnia. A movie starring both of them that I liked. A-flippin'-mazin'!).

See how it all comes full circle? I was aching to go see it tonight, but my roommate's aren't home and I don't have my notes for the other post I wanted to do, so... you're stuck with this.

I love this semi-review by Peter T. Chattaway. Him just mulling over some movies is more insightful than most 'reviews' and certainly anything on the boob tube. (Take that, Richard Roeper!) And, of course Ebert also had some great things to say about it, noting that it's the Batman movie that he didn't know he was waiting to see. In fact, most reviewers I read (Jeffrey Overstreet, Chattaway, Ebert and Steven D. Greydanus) more or less hated Burton's first version and raved about this one. Me? I don't know...

Vickie Vale.
Vickie Vale.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Meta-blog at the bar the other night...

...Took me out for some drinks and left me hanging. Think I'm pregnant.

I have been fairly busy. Which is relative for me. I'm not the type of person who schedules his life by the minute. Hour. Day, so much. I burn out easily. I went to a high school of overachievers and nearly flunked out. Don't tell my students. I also lose focus fairly easy. But that's something else for another day. But when I actually had time for writing, blah came out. So, in regards to trying to keep up with relationships (including my roommates, who may or may not be waiting for me at home, worried sick in their bunny slippers), work, physical activities, the new Deepspace 5 that I'm swallowing and taking care of my whole person (spirit, soul, the social and the physical that I already alluded to, of course), I want to get a few words in about what I'm thinking in regards to this activity, my little corner of the blogocosmos.

I'm discovering that I am a slave to the things that I say I hate. That's nothing new. Certainly, it's an old idea in the Christian worldview. But I constantly discover new areas of conceit. Take, for instance, consumerism. Consumerism works its head against community. It forces its way through society to say that each and every is more important than the whole and all. That not only are the sums of the parts greater than the whole, but the parts each individually are greater than the whole. Consumerism has become our all; choice is a freedom that is worthy of dying and killing for. A complex issue of freedom and justice is broken down into a choice of pro- or anti-. War. Poverty. Abortion. Euthanasia.

A liberal democracy runs on the power of the choices with the most powerful voices pitted against those with less powerful voices. The argument can be made that, in all actuality, the choices are more alike than different, especially in an imperialist nation (Capitalist or Marxist). Which makes the whole idea of choice almost superfluous, at least in the marketplace. Crest or Colgate? With baking powder and/or teeth whitening and/or fluoride and/or mint? In paste or gel? Who needs all this? Who gives a rat's cheek? And, in all reality, are Capitalism and Marxism that different? Well, yeah... But someone - very few someones - is in power. And will do what is possible to retain that power, regardless of truth and justice.

But consumerism isn't just about choice, it's about consumption. About the fact that something that we don't truly need becomes the be-all, end-all - becomes something essential. I've seen a million movies. I've read a jillion comic books (mostly in my childhood and early teenage years, but some within the last decade, more if I could afford them). Yet I cannot get my fill. I must see Batman Begins tomorrow. Or soon. Very soon. How essential is it?

Consumerism is a way-of-life that speaks and operates strictly in currency. It follows the rules of economy. Every time something is chosen (bought, or consumed), something else cannot be afforded.

So far, I'm not saying anything nobody who has taken a cursory poli-sci in high school doesn't know. If you've even made it this far, your question may be, "So what?" The question is important to me largely because I want you to read this. To continue reading this and leave comments in this section telling me how you're reading my blog and you think it's good. That, of all the blogs you've read, this site ranks among the best. And that you'll be around tomorrow. And read all my stuff. And, eventually, you're hooked and this site is your meth. You need a shot of LeftCheek. That is honestly my vision.

It's scary when I put it in that language. I want you to want me. To choose to read this rather than something else. Rather than talking to your wife, your husband, your sons and daughters, your roommate(s), you're reading this. Rather than praying for your friends and confessing your sins. Rather than attending Mass or worship service, or attending to your Sabbath duties. Because every time we choose to partake in consumerism, we decide that something is greater than something else.

I do want to put my best foot forward, again. Always. But, at what price? Maybe I should examine my motives and work toward the best (to practice my writing and strengthen my thinking while working in a community) rather than settling for my norm (To satiate my ego - which I'll never do. Especially not with the traveling going on in this blog.).

Say hi to yours for me.


Soccer was invented by European ladies so they would have something to do all day while the men cooked.
- Lecturer, Texan and Propane Advocate, Hank Hill,
from his opus, King of the Hill
Acknowledgement to Pigeon John fan Micah, (look to the top-right) a source of all kinds of awful trivia

I wanna touch the fans like Ron Artest
Deepspace 5
Unique, Just Like Everybody Else

Personally, I thought the direction was poor, it moved too slowly, the performances were over-the-top and Culkin was underwhelming. The script was totally implausible. When the verdict was read, it would have been sweet if Jackson had jumped up and performed one of his greatest hits (P.Y.T., maybe?) spontaneously--what a showstopper that would have been! They should have hired a director like Todd Solondz (Happiness) who has a knack for painting sympathetic portraits of child molesters (alleged or otherwise). But the makeup? Oscar-worthy.
Jeffrey Overstreet,
Looking Closer

Americana, the Beautiful

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Legacy, Community, Culture. Vol. 1

Read the Prologue

. This Sunday our church will perform a mass blessing on our youth. The blessing, courtesy of our original youth pastor and now associate pastor, is from the book of Numbers. It is a blessing that God had commanded the priests give to all the children of Israel, the children of the promise.
'The LORD bless you and keep you;
The LORD make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;
The LORD lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.'
So they shall put My name on the children of Israel, and I will bless them. (NKJV)

This would continue as a living reminder of the God who sees his people through and the people who live under his grace. Yet it's a fairly rare thing in the evangelical church. How we have managed to bypass generational blessings is indicative of our lack of understanding of other things being passed down through the generations. There is a serious and damaging gap, a chasm maybe, certainly a vacuum that will cease to exist for long. When something good is not moving through that passage, it leaves room for something less. And through that void, an old demon may step in, and in the process call along seven of his friends into the clean, swept house.

In other words, when there is not a generational blessing, there is a generational curse. And in my neck of the "concrete jungle" this is a substantial, lived reality. Lighted liquor stores line the streets alongside silent storefront churches and many architectural houses of God serve as backdrops for sellers selling and hustlers hustling. When the major economic engine of any given neighborhood is comprised of and fueled by illicit activities and death-bartering, we can guarantee that the Holy Sovereign is not shining his face upon us nor are we receiving his peace.

Everything that is borne is born in context. Nothing exists out of nothing unless God specifically calls it. Due to our free will, nearly everything we have been given is directly from the environment. (Everything good in the world points to the goodness of God, the original source. However, in the process of movement through a sullied creation, it has reached us sullied.) Nearly every voice that we hear or call that we obey - consciously or not - is a voice or call from the environment. What happens when, as is the case in the evangelical church, there is only a faint cry of support from a small, distant cloud of witnesses in direct competition with a world of divergent and demonic voices? Can the upward and onward call of the saints hold their own against the powers and principalities of the airwaves when they are so few? The church in context needs to support, undergird and pay homage to its legacy from God onward to the Jewish tradition, to Jesus, and to the Church as a living, breathing, moving being - the Kingdom of God. Certainly she needs to give honor where honor is due: to the ones who have passed before us and the ones who are going on before us.

For the second time in two months...

My computers will not allow me to go to any known blogspots. Apparently, there's some poor soul out there who subscribes to the same internet-blocker that we have at my church office and feels that there are just too many swimsuits and lingeries laying around. God bless that completely over-sensitive person. But, please, do not enforce your morality on the rest of us! So I can't see anybody else's blogs who are also on blogspot nor can I directly answer the couple of comments I've received within the last day. But I can blog. Sorta.

Chicago Public Schools are slow. We're just closing down shop. This extended weekend we will have our graduations. Yeahhhh! Oh, now I worry so much. As a youth director and discipler, I just see so many youth cling to either the God of their parents or the God decidedly not of their parents and then abandon the faith altogether once they try to spread their wings and - quite honestly - abandon their parents along with their childhood. Give 'em a couple years, they start to feel a nostalgia for the old, or a sense that maybe everything wasn't so bad in the first place. They return for a visit or two. Sometimes they rekindle their fire. Often it doesn't last. There has to be a better way of real, sustainable life-transformation. I won't be a youth director for long, but I see my place in the lives of youth being life-long, so I'm trying to learn as much as I can and question as much as I can during this tenure, since it goes hand-in-hand with my job at this point.

I've got a lot of other stuff that I want to write about, but not much time today. Hopefully tomorrow. And let me put the next in the series about L,L,C up here.


Wednesday, June 08, 2005

New York Dupes

I love hearing about conspiracies. Honestly, I think the only real conspiracy is the conspiracy of the human heart to try to out-God God, to sin. Satan, in my belief, is very much alive and well, but he don't need no stinking Masons to get his plans through. So, call me crazy, but I don't have much use for conspiracy theories, except for the ocassional laugh. Which Barbara Nicolosi - the director for Act One, a Christian screenwriting and Hollywood networking club - ably provided for me yesterday on her blog.

The following are excerpts from a series of interviews done by a reporter with the Times, none of which was recorded so she generously paraphrased some of it. But I believe the gist is here:

James: So, in the last six months, there have been 37 pairings in the Times of the word "Christian" with words like "scary", "frightening", "theocratic" and "intimidating". My question is, what is it about Christians that makes you so scary?

Barb: (loud, snorting and sneering laughter) Are you kidding me?

James: What?

Barb: I finally get interviewed by the New York Times, and you ask me a question like that?! (more snorting and laughing)

James: (sniffs) Are you laughing because you think it's funny that people find Christians frightening?

Barb: No. I'm laughing because you want me to tell you why you and your friends are scared of Christians -- and I think you should ask your therapist!

Anyway, the interview went on from there. Basically, James was working on a story about how the same conservative Christian think-tanks that were behind the ascendancy of the Religious Right are now trying to take over Hollywood.

Barb: Are they?

James: Aren't they?

Barb: My experience is that the Christian initiatives in Hollywood are all organic - arising out of the industry itself.

James: Yeah, but where is the funding coming from?

Barb: They are all shoe-string underfundeds! Act One's funding comes from all over. Little drops of water from many sources --....

So, during this follow-up interview, Sunday, we had the following exchange.

James: I'm having a hell of a time chasing down the money connections between the DC conservative think-tanks and Hollywood Christians.

Barb: That's because they don't exist.

James: ("I'm no fool" snort) Yeah. How about you tell me 'off the record'?

Barb: Off the record, on the record, we don't get any money from rightwing covert opps!

James: Would you take money from them if they offered?

Barb: From whom?...Heck, I'd take money from Hugh Hefner! I'm just trying to meet payroll for the summer....

Barb: Honestly, the other reason you aren't getting the scoop is people don't have anything to say about this. There is no funneling of money from political Evangelicals to cultural ones. Is it being cagey and paranoid to not having anything to say about a plot that doesn't exist?

James makes an exasperated laughing sound.

A bit later, James asked me about a meeting that Act One co-sponsored last December between our writers and some Christians from DC.

James: Isn't it true that, as a result of the meeting, a feature film project was financed with money coming from DC?

Barb: Are you smoking crack?! No! There was no money! We bought a couple dozen sandwiches -- and lost money on that, as a matter of fact!

James: So, what was the purpose of the meeting?

Barb: The folks from Washington wanted to start a dialogue on some policy issues in the hopes that they could assist folks on this side of the country with government studies about some issues of joint concern.

James: (Ha!) What issue?

Barb: Well, we talked about global AIDS. Such a terrible plague. Hollywood doesn't talk about it enough.

James: Yeah, yeah. What else?

Barb: Oh yeah. There was information about the persecution of Christiansin the Sudan. There's another one you never see on primetime.

James: (depressed sigh) Anything else?

Barb: Yes. Sex.

James: Yeah! Tell me!

Barb: We talked about the problem of pornography and STD's. All about the societal wages of the Sexual Revolution.

James: (humph...)

Ok, so that was most of what she had on it. You can't make stuff like this up, though. I hope she grants my permission to run this, by the way. If not, it's a lot easier asking forgiveness than permission, as we used to say at the Bible college I worked at.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Legacy, Community, Culture. Prologue

Legacy. Community. Culture.

Such words. Such wonderfully resonant words.

Yet almost completely meaningless in my tradition of faith-practice. In the evangelical Christian world - as diverse as we truly are - we have spent so much focus on individualism and liberties (and the deity of them combined) that the above-mentioned have no functional place. So when these words of legacy, community and culture are bandied about, some of us may get misty-eyed. Be we so rarely practice these ideas (worldviews that are not, in fact, high concepts but ways of life) that we have no vision of their appearance.

And when I say we, I mostly think of me. But isn't that it? Isn't that the point? All throughout history, people have been people, thought of in terms of their tribal identity, thought of as a part of something that is whole. Of course there has always been selfishness and greed. But those were addressed as the spades they were, not the norm de rigeur they are today, not the fundamental building blocks of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness they are today. Historically, even royalty devised itself as the collective head of the collective community. And although it is appreciatively arguable that that way of thinking is dangerous (another form of false deism), is the contemporary way of governance (politics by rule of popularity with the most selves) any better, any safer, saner or healthier? If the opinion polls (the de facto contemporary method of governance in action) are to be believed, the US is on the verge of in-civil war on any given day, on any given issue. And certainly, these days, the Britons and the Franks would be more than obliged to hand out free weapons to both sides.

The 55

extending to fragmented
parcels of land
like the expressway
i can't touch what you touch
i can't smell or feel
the ways of the backroads

rumor's that we connect somewhere
and every once in a while i see
a glimpse of you
through the cyclist and
his son,
the chevy and its ton
off and to the right
my shoulder

and i wonder
do we share the same vista
do we stretch & ache beneath the same canvas?


I have been wracking out over this one uber-post. Another essay which, generally speaking, is another long, long read. And I'm not near done. But in the meantime, everything else is blocked by it. (Ok, I had an elaborate and semi-funny one this morning about the Pistons - in fact, my doubts about them - but then God told me that I shouldn't. Y'know, be more mindful of Cee Bee Ree Vee. Yet I ignored the groaning in my spirit for a groaning in my belly. And then the server broke down again [too much wattage here].) But then I had a thought: Why not serialize it? Edible pieces. Duhh, right? So the piece, starting tonight with an intro is composed of some musing on legacy, community, and culture and how the American evangelical church - and me within it - have utterly failed to live up to these biblical commands.

The second post I'll put up tonight is this week's poem. I feel much more satisfied with this one, mainly because its closer to its ambitions. Which is, of course, small. Stream-of-consciousness with a tad bit of editing. Like it, love it, squeeze it. Doesn't too much matter.

And thirdly, I just felt a need to kind of explain myself. Most of my posts have been very Christian-centric in nature. I'm sorry if people are not feeling that. I don't come as an apologist, necessarily, but I do write what's on my heart. And at this period of time, Jesus and the Church are big on my heart. I think we (the Church) have done some horribly grievous acts and have stepped aside way too often. (Someone has said that the opposite of love isn't hate, it's inaction.) Yet, I also believe and can testify that we have been a part of the greatest actions in history too. I want to be a voice crying out in the e-wilderness for those great actions. But also, and this may be more relevant to my particular space and calling, I want to give a clearer picture of Christianity to those who think they may know about Christianity. I want to point a picture to the most beautiful person ever to walk the face of this earth and to the eccentric crowd that is trying to take his yoke upon them. And I want to give a more balanced picture of it than what is presented in tv screens all across the land (whether it be an R. Kelly video or a certain mega-church that says that we should dream big to align ourselves with the purposes God supposedly has for us, to be rich while others languish in poverty). That's my aim, for now.


Of course you know I haaaad to include this cheap shot:

Monday, June 06, 2005

Generational Defining Films and Music

Somebody, (Ok, Jeffrey Overstreet, a truly great film critic of the Christian persuasion who is the Ebert of Christianity Today's movie website) is asking for opinions on what are some truly generational-defining movies and albums of the ages.

What set it off was a strange encounter of the psyche. A Gen X'er realizing that the younger padwans weren't really affected by Star Wars like us slightly older geeks were. My love of movies is still tremendously influenced by my love and grasp of the original trilogy. So the question is put to task, What are some of the movies which influenced the generations being raised in them, ranging back through the decades? The second, related question, would be, what albums also had a huge impact on their respective generations, such as the way Nevermind or Thriller did for those in their twenties / early thirties?

I'll resist the temptation to post a pic of Darth Vader here.

I make no such promises concerning Dark Helmet.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Poem of the Weak

Ok, as you can probably tell from the title, this is a cheat. I'm nowhere near done with it, and doing a new poem a week is pretty danged hard. Which is something I used to do. But nowhere near all of them were ready for publication. Neither is this one. Now, I don't like to be sloppy about my posts - that's what the comments section is for - but this has a line in it that I've liked and been trying to tie into a poem for a while now. I like to think it's evocative. Of course, I like to think that I'm evocative. But this one, as I'm writing it, I'm kind of thinking about two questions:

1) What price freedom?

2) At the point of our freedom, then what?

Anyway, the title-less, very short, very incomplete part I:

Rent in two by reluctant emancipation
As American as Ford's
Given all we could piece,
Nature, we want more.
For we have been in need,
of all sons living freed,
and prized in sheols we dug too deep.

Knowing nothing but the hope
it won't be this time;
Immersion in mercy
bathed in rouge liquid life.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

God Getting Small

The earliest false teaching – or heresy – that would arise within the Christian tradition was a strain of Gnosticism. Actually, several strains of it. Gnosticism is a belief that there is secret knowledge out there that can and should be known solely by a select and elite group. Jesus the Messiah countered this, as my Intro to Philosophy instructor noted, when he said that his listeners should, “let everything that is whispered in your ear be shouted from the rooftops.”

The strains of Gnosticism that snaked their ways through the small churches in first century A.D. pax romana concerned a belief that Jesus either wasn’t fully man or fully God. And, believe it or not, this same belief system has existed through history and infects us even these days, even in the Evangelical Protestant churches.

I have here, to my left, a study Bible by a popular publisher of the Evangelical tradition. This morning, as I was making some notes to study for tonight on Luke 2:40 and 52 (“And the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.” “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.”) I noticed that this study Bible had no studying on this topic. The little line that was included on the first verse quoted here basically says, “And that’s the last of all there is about Jesus as an infant.” But it will go on and on about claims to Jesus’ divinity. As it should.

Yet, it’s like we’re scared of God being a man in concrete terms. Meaning that, as a man, he poo-pooed, he farted. I used to always imagine Jesus was more like Superman. They never show Superman taking a dump. He barely eats. He never needs to shave. In all reality, Superman is a Super Being who doesn’t need to do all of these mundane things because of his god-like body composition. Heck, he doesn’t need to work out to retain that figure. How does he do it? It’s like, if we say that Superman had a form of emotions – like unrequited love for Lois Lane, a controlled anger towards Lex Luthor or the Joker or annoyance at Bizzarro Superman – than these emotions can be elevated, they can be Superman-like, they can be God-like.

But if Superman were to utilize the public restrooms in their intended purposes, then that would degrade Superman.

Now exchange Jesus for Superman and you have an idea of how the Western church has regarded Jesus bar-Joseph of Nazareth.

Other ‘gods’ or god-like figures (‘Demon’ comes from an old Greek term meaning ‘divine power’) have tried to make themselves larger and bigger (Note not only the fall of Lucifer or even the fall of Adam and Eve [proto-humans], but also the Greek gods themselves, human-like beings who constantly squabbled for more power.) But our God – our unnamable Supreme ‘I Am’ who proved himself the greatest of the greats in creating the universe out of nil at the drop of a syllable and then would drown the whole world save the inhabitants of a small cruise ship made of tar and wood and lacking rudders or sails – decided to shrink in scope. First, he decides to hinge his legacy on the offspring of a childless and barren couple. Which grows into a small ethnic group. In slavery to a once-mighty nation. After about 500 years of relative freedom, this people group, already torn in two and not living up to its legacy status, is thrown into captivity again. Two tribes out of an already obscure – and weird – nation of twelve survive and return to rebuild their walls, their temple, and their legacy. And then there’s another four hundred years of silence from God. In which time they are again and again besieged until they fall under submission to the military might of the Roman Empire.

The mighty Jehovah has gone small. But his faithful followers are clinging to a hope – a promised Deliverer who will free them from captivity – literally, captivity. They aren’t looking for someone to save their souls, but to save their society. They aren’t looking for a Kingdom of Heaven, but a Kingdom of Jerusalem, a Kingdom of Here and Now, or epic Davidic and Solomonic proportions. They are looking for an obvious Priest, Prophet and King. Someone who looks like a Priest, a Prophet and a King.

Into this atmosphere, God’s gone small again.