31 March 2008

"I am Yours. Save me."

One of the most powerful scenes in the movie Luther is a dialogue between Martin Luther and his superior. Luther is shown awake late at night, talking to himself and arguing with the Devil. Luther tells Father von Staupitz that he is too full of sin to be a priest and that he fears damnation. Staupitz consoles Luther, telling him to put his faith in Christ, not in his works, saying, "Look to the Cross. Say to God, 'I am Yours. Save me.'"

The modern (or postmodern) Church does a good job of encouraging its followers to do good works. Claiborne's The Irresistible Revolution is almost entirely about working for social justice. This movement has been needed for a long time. Christianity has become to focused on approaching God in a bubble, stressing personal relationships and personal salvation. The communal aspect has been lost and the Emergent movement has done a great job of restoring it.

But sometimes I think that we've gone too far to the communal side. We stress doing good works. Great. Faith without deeds is dead. But maybe we emphasize works too much (I've got to hand it to Don Miller - he does the best job of expressing this). Why am I saying this? Well, another great part of the Emergent movement is the honesty that it has brought. Over the past few weeks and months, I've started to fall into the same place Luther found himself. Too full of sin to be loved by God. Too selfish to embrace Love. It's an incredibly frightening place in which to find one's self. Fear of damnation brings about fear of Death, the very Death which we proclaim Christ to have defeated. So in questioning my salvation, I, by default, question the power of God himself.

So where's the balance? If we emphasize works too much, we fall back into the spiritual trap that was the Middle Ages and start teaching that salvation is to be earned and bought. But if we don't emphasize works, we end up where we were in the the modernist period - Christianity becomes a political tool and Christians don't live their faith.

As I read the works of Thomas Merton (I'm working on New Seeds of Contemplation) I'm starting to see the proper balance. Merton was a monk, but lived in a hermitage. He lived in solitude, but in community. He saw himself living in solitude, but connected to other people living in solitude. Always alone. Always with others. I've been trying to figure out where the balance is, and I think Thomas Merton had it right. A personal relationship with God, trusting in the salvation of Christ, but pushing towards community. Relationships not because we fear damnation, but because we Love. Doing good not because we must earn our salvation, but because we Love.

Rock on.

Updates and Other Trivial Junk

I've updated the links on the side bar. Woohoo! I've only been meaning to do that for about a year now...

Also, I'm in the final month of school, so term papers are coming due and finals are looming. Which, for a normal student - wait, that's a lie - for a good student, means that the apartment and blog would both fall into a state of neglect. For me, though, this means that I'll have plenty of new blog posts and a clean apartment. Or I might actually study.

Either way, I will at some point be researching the Nephilim and Edgar Allan Poe for my religion classes, so there is some potential for interesting materials.

Also, click on the Dr. McNinja link. It's pretty awesome.


22 March 2008

This is why...

Batman: The Animated Series was so great. Not the best video ever, but considering it's a cartoon from nearly a decade ago, it's flat impressive.

Without any further ado, BlockoVision's The Dark Knight trailer presented in a TAS format.

Edit: You can tell that there was a rather drastic change in animation - the Joker's face is a little more round and even gentler, and the ears on Batman's cowl are a little longer. This was about the time (1997) they introduced the new Robin and the series was called The New Batman Adventures and they used a few different styles, none of which held a candle to the original. There were a few major changes between the '95 end of TAS and the start of TNBA which are hard to track down. I stopped watching around that time (I was living in Germany and TAS was the only version broadcast), so I'm a little lacking in trivia, though my friend James might be able to offer a better explanation. Am I rambling? Yeah. But it's just because I miss TAS so much.

An Argument for Acting on Climate Change (Even if you don't believe in it).

I've thought for some time that even if "global warming" (though I believe a better title to be "Accelerated Climate Change Due to Human Interactions") isn't true, we should still act on it - even if pollution isn't going to change global weather patterns, it still poses massive health risks and destroys the beauty of Nature (I miss being able to see stars!). Not to mention the ever-present need for renewable energy.

As for the argument - I think it's pretty strong - however, it's not true in all cases, such as when applied to God - or Zeus for that matter - which is why it shouldn't be used in apologetics, but never mind that. The major problem it is pushing epistemological boundaries. For the sake of argument, the host assumes a complete lack of knowledge - a "veil of ignorance" if you will, and from their makes it a matter of choosing between the four possible outcomes. From there, he states that two outcomes are good, one is bad, and the other is worse.

It would look something like this:
Let "A" represent the two "happy" outcomes - the bottom left and upper right corners.
Let "B" represent the one bad outcome - the upper left corner.
Let "C" represent the worst outcome - the lower right corner.
Let "D" represent the economic downfall of the world.
Let "E" represent the environmental and health hazards.
Now B = D, while C = D+E.
Therefore, A is preferable to both B and C. And B is preferable to C, because C includes more bad stuff.
And of course, if we face the choice of facing D alone or facing both D and E, E is preferable.

Simple enough.

The problem is that he suggests we are playing by luck. I often get mad about economics because it makes broad assumptions - perfect knowledge chief among them. But when you assume no knowledge, you fall into just as much of a trap. Knowledge allows us to reconsider the probabilities. Before, we were operating under an assumption that for a given action (in this case, applying "green" practices or maintaining the status quo), we had a 50% chance of getting it right and a 50% chance of getting it wrong (in statistical terms, 1:1). With an informed decision, though, we see it differently. With current evidence (I'm not getting into what the evidence suggests, as too many people read it differently), we can go greatly increase our odds (9:1, or 90% to 10%). Because why would we run the risk of scenario B if scenario C had a ten percent chance of occurring? Or why would we risk C if scenario B had a five percent chance of occurring? There is also a point at which we must ask ourselves, "Is the risk worth it?" How likely does C have to be before B becomes preferable? No matter what a political scientist tells you, this point will vary from person to person.

Now, all of this is to say this: I have had no fewer than four classes that have devoted several lectures to climate change - International Affairs, Political Science, Geology, Biology - and I've had many more in which the topic has been addressed. And I would imagine that I'll have a few more before my Bachelor's is complete. Out of all of the classes, they all urged for some type of action. And I have become quite convinced that something is occurring, though I'm still skeptical about how drastic it will be (It's bad, but how bad? I don't think anyone truly knows, but a lot of people claim to...). But this short video still presents the argument better.

Rock on.

19 March 2008

A Move Towards Censuring China

Steve Spielberg and I are still pretty much alone in boycotting the Beijing Olympics, but recent events in Tibet are pushing more people in that direction.

Granted, discussing boycotting the opening ceremony is a far cry from an out-right boycott of the games, but I think it's a good step, and would be very pleased to see the representatives from the US skip the ceremony.

Rock on.

18 March 2008

"Tate" Preacher Makes It Big

UGA's student center is called the Tate Center. It's a rather large building with a movie theater, game room, food court, and several conference rooms. And it's getting bigger. It's joined to the university's bookstore by a simple breezeway. It forms an odd U shape, which creates what we call "Tate Plaza" (honestly, I have no clue if that's the official term). Many campus organizations set up tables to recruit students, raise awareness, or what have you.

And every so often, we get "Tate preachers" - the hellfire and brimstone type. Some carry big signs condemning virtually everyone to hell (personally, I'm still waiting for the "God hates those who can read" sign). Others simply read quietly from the Bible (this guy is usually much older and very quiet - he doesn't get much attention - to be perfectly honest, I don't know if he's reading John 3:16 or all of Revelation - if I've pegged you wrong, old Tate preacher man, I'm sorry). Then we have those who get on stage, wave their KJVs around, read verses about going to hell, and talk about how most college students are drunk, high, and promiscuous.

That's Brother Micah. He gets up on the stage in the plaza and starts rattling off different attributes that God hates. The list goes on, and I think my favorite thing item on the list is "weak-kneed, pencil-necked men". Whenever Brother Micah's in town, you know it's going to be an interesting day. The day after the Virginia Tech massacre, he yelled at a Vietnamese student and asked him where his "gat" was. There is always a crowd watching. A lot of people ask questions, either targeting his theology or just making fun of him. I'll admit, there have been a few times I've "argued" (and by argued, I mean shouted "God is Love") with him. Brother Micah insists that if you are a Christian and still sin, then you are not a Christian, though he doesn't answer questions as to whether or not he still sins.

I mention all of this as a form of pointing your attention to this article.
It seems Brother Micah has made the news.

In the article, he says that people listen to him and that his sermons get people talking about faith.
Which is certainly true. Every time we have a Tate preacher stop by, there is always a crowd. And admittedly, their visits always lead to interesting discussions on faith and Christianity between friends (Christian or not) and I.

I really don't like the Tate preachers. I know most of them are just being dramatic, but I still think that they do more harm then good. But they are getting people talking. So my question is this: How does the Church get people talking without the theatrics? How do we engage our culture?

Rock on.

Edit: This reminds me of something posted on Think Christian a few months back.

17 March 2008

The New Methodist Hymnal Survey - Let's show our age!

I come from the Methodist tradition, despite spending a large amount of time in military chapels. And I've always liked the Methodist hymnal, especially when compared to what's used in military chapels. Well, ok, that's a lie. During most of high school, I preferred contemporary worship. But as I've gotten a little more mature, I've started to have a deeper appreciation for the old hymns and liturgies. Which is why when my pastor sent me a link to participate in the survey concerning the new hymnal, I jumped at the chance.

As I've gotten more mature, I've also heard from both bloggers and professors that the UMC is an aging church. And as I finished the survey, the UMC proved this to be rather true. The age groupings? Over 70, 51-70, 30-50, and Under 30.

I despise statistics, I really do. It was the biggest waste of four hours a week I've seen since enrolling in college. But the little bit I did take away from the class suggests that something is either flawed with the age question or the UMC really needs to reach out to kids my age a lot more.

07 March 2008

Down in the Valley

Last week was spring break here at the University of Georgia, and as the complete lack of posts on this blog indicate, I didn't really do much of anything. I made the classic student's mistake - taking a break to sleep and watch TV. I had fully intended to clean my apartment (only half-done), catch up on German (not done at all), catch up on reading (I did read, just not much), and post on here every day (huh - about that...). Instead, I spent a large amount of time at two friends' apartment watching them play Super Smash Brothers (I don't like video games, but this one makes a good spectator's sport) and watching episodes of Firefly (good show). I slept in until at least eleven almost every morning. By most accounts, it was a good week; it just didn't go as planned (they rarely do). Oh, and did I mention the tornadoes? Nothing says spring break like hunkering down in the bathroom with a wool blanket over your head - actually, it reminds me of the time in Kansas when I was working on a term paper - the siren went off, so I took the laptop and the dog to the basement and just kept typing. Wait - wasn't I talking about something else? Oh yes.

My favorite part of the break was when I went hiking. Those who know me know that I like to hike - there has yet to be a break in which I haven't packed some dried fruit and a bottle of water to go wander around the woods. This week's goal was Tallulah Gorge. I first expected the hike to be a steep descent, a nice path along the bottom, and a steep climb. Easy, right?

Well, I woke up early and drove to the gorge, registered with the park office, and started the hike. And by all means, the hike down was normal - steep stairs, a bridge over the river, and more stairs to the base of the waterfall. But as had been explained to me, I had to cross the river again because only one end is hikeable. The means of crossing said river? Hopping from boulder to boulder. I cross the river and realize that there is no trail - the only means of making it downstream is scampering over boulders and the occasional patch of dirt. And, at one point, the wall of the gorge itself. When the time comes to cross the river again, there are no boulders and there is no bridge - you have to take off your boots, roll up your pants, and wade across. Unfortunately, the water was about thigh-deep and the bottom of the pool was very slick. Oh, and did I mention that you do this at the top of the waterfall? So, with nearly no margin of error, I start to cross, slip, and end up four-legging my way across to the other side. And then the climb up - no stairs, no trail, just more boulders. On the way up, I see a group of vultures a la the Jungle Book. They took off at the sight of me, and then, a happy thought - they may be waiting on the carcass of a fresh bear kill - this ended up being one of the few times in my life that I was very happy to be wrong (if you know anything about bears, you know you don't want to sneak up on a bear and its fresh kill).

So why am I telling you this? Because I did learn something. First, the next time I do this hike, I'm taking some water shoes and two other people to help with crossing the river. Oh, and a towel.

Second - sometimes we end up in bad situations. And we end up there so fast that it takes us by surprise. When I crossed the river on the boulders, I put myself in a place where the only way to go back was to go forward. And I didn't know it until that jumping to that final boulder. So, stuck on the gorge floor, I started down stream, and things didn't improve. There were quite a few moments where were it not for good balance and better shoes, I would have fallen into the river. And when, as things seemed the most hopeless, as I climbed out of the river, I hoped to see my easy way out. Instead, I saw a slight trail that ended in a mountain of very large rocks. Getting out was going to be anything but easy. But the only way back was forward.

Spring break was slightly stressful - for me, but more so for a few friends. I watched as an apartment and a friendship sank further into despair, and still pray that good comes out of it. And just as that should have been settled, it was put on hold to pray for and comfort another friend in her tragedy. And to these friends who very suddenly find themselves in bad, and tragic, situations, I can't explain why they are there or that getting out is going to be easy. I can say that there's a reason, but I can't say what that reason is. I can only tell them that getting out is going to be hard, it's going to hurt, and worse, there's no going back. I can only tell them that God will give them the strength to get through it, that if they lean on him, they will overcome. I can promise them that I'll be there to help them. Really, it's all any of us can do.

Rock on.