Sunday, January 29, 2006

Talk to Me, Baby...

For an upcoming Godscrum, I'd like to feature voices--your voices--sharing their perspectives on blogging and podcasting. Check out the questions below, and respond by sending a voicemail to my godscrum Gizmo account or to the Godscrum Prayer Request Line at 714-265-7145. Talk to me, baby, about anything related to blogging or podcasting that you want to say. Feel free to use these questions for inspiration (and substitute 'podcast' for blog whereever you like):

  • Why do you blog?
  • Why do you read blogs?
  • Does your blog have a recurring subject that it deals with?
  • Do you think you spend too much time on the blogs?
  • What's your greatest hope/ultimate ambition for your blog?
  • Do you see the world differently since you began blogging/reading blogs?
  • Have you become friends with people that you came to know through blogging? Do you connect with them offline?
When you call, please identify your name (or handle), where you live, and your blog name and URL if you have one.

Shaving Contemplations

Some of my best contemplative times are when I'm walking, driving, and shaving. There's something about those autopilot activities that lend themselves to the Zen, and this morning's shave was no different. For some reason, my brain's neural net kicked up a memory of the R&D lab where I used to work and I recalled how the network administrator--a real bear of a woman who hated me and who frankly had no qualifications to do what she was doing--used to send threatening emails around the office every few months about how everyone needed to delete any older files in their folders on the server because it was running out of room. I naively asked, "Why not just install more disk capacity on the server?" The response: "Why, to save more junk?"

Then, in the middle of the shave, I realized to a fuller extent why that attitude ("Why save more junk?") was so wrong. It comes out of a constrained space paradigm that we all live in, where we have to be concerned about clutter because we can't find what we need or because we are running out of space. Confronted with the constrained space paradigm, we organize what we think is our important stuff and throw out the crap we think we don't need any more.

That paradigm doesn't work everywhere. It makes sense for our homes; George Carlin aside, we don't really buy bigger homes because we need more room for our stuff. Not most of us anyway. Getting rid of the junk is a better use of time, money and energy than buying a new house and moving. But in the digital aspects of our lives, any time and energy we would spend deciding what to keep and what to throw away is increasingly just a waste of time. Storage space is cheap and getting cheaper, while our time is and always has been precious. What we need isn't to set aside time to throw more stuff away. What we need are better filters to find what we want when we want it.

Take Google Desktop and Spotlight, for instance. These simple, free tools automatically index your computer's physical storage and find what you want quickly. I use Google Desktop daily; I rarely bother sorting emails any more, for instance. I still hold to the practice of storing my work in folders and subfolders with relevant titles, but I can see how even this practice might be getting passe.

With the existence of these and other such search tools, we need only to make sure we save our stuff and develop some solid search techniques to find what we want quickly. There are competitions to see who can find something on the web using the fewest number of searches, for instance. To "google" something has become a cultural shorthand for "type this search term into Google." The big dogs in the internet world are the people who type in a search term and get what they were looking for in the #1 page ranking.

But the real money vein of this contemplation is about how we can contribute to and benefit from the content explosion that is the digital cloud around us. Every day a multiplicity of new voices are being added to the conversation that is the internet, and some of it is going to be very valuable to be exposed to. The trick is developing filters that really work for each of us as individuals.

It's worth pointing out that we've always had filters. This is nothing new. Newspapers filter, governments filter, your church bulletin filters, the big networks filter, magazines filter, etcetera. You filter what you put on your own personal blog. Virtually everything we read and hear has been filtered by somebody else. What I'm emphasizing is that I've realized that when I create a blogroll or bookmarks, I'm creating a filter for myself. When I read others blogrolls or shared bookmarks, I'm virally adopting aspects of their filters into my own filters.

This is how I've come to have the digital company that I keep, and how I've come to make some key new friendships that I enjoy on a daily basis. You see, some dismiss blogs and podcasts because they think they are a waste of time and a waste of space. But I say, get it up there. Get it all up there. There's plenty of room. Add every voice to the conversation, and let's continually refine our filters so that we have relatively easy access to content that enriches our lives and so that we can connect with like-minded individuals--and be challenged by those we may not agree with.

UPDATE: Add this to your "you learn something new every day" archive: Folksonomy.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Keeping Up Appearances

In this week's Out of Fellowship, my friend Craig Bob confesses to being driven to snarkiness by witnessing insincerity from the likes of televangelists, politicians, and of course Ryan Seacrest. Right on the heels of his podcast I find this on staffers for congresscritters are sanitizing their bosses' biographies on Wikipedia. Not only that, but they're inserting nastiness into the articles of their bosses' opponents.

I think what I find most offensive about this is not the spin, both pro and con; this is to be entirely expected and is par for the course in Washington. What truly galls me is that they are using Wikipedia as their propaganda outlet.

So in a week of intimidation, greed, and fear, we now add noxious spin. Get your filthy hands off my Wikipedia, you damn dirty apes!

"We found out he was gay after we offered him the part..."

I'm sure End of the Spear is a fine film, and I plan to see it. The testimony of what those missionaries accomplished is very powerful indeed, and I'm glad that it's made the big screen.

However, the controversy over the fact that the lead actor, Chad Allen, is gay has left me feeling a little glum. Of course the only reason that there is any controversy is that the film's producers are Christian and the message of the film is of the impact of Christianity on a violent Amazon tribe. In other words, a "Christian" movie hired a gay actor in a lead role.

For the record, the producers have said kind things about Allen and his abilities, but they made a point to note that they "found out he was gay after we offered him the part."

Read this article in Christianity Today, entitled "Christian Studio Explains Hiring of Gay Actor." Line after line in the article bear witness to the painfully tense--at best--relations between gays and evangelicals. Both Allen, the actor, and Steve Saint, the son of a martyred missionary and author of the story the film was based on, reveal in their statements how volatile this issue is:
"I wanted to know that the money from this movie wasn't going to wind up being used to hurt people," Allen said. "Having been on the other end of some attacks from Christians, I wanted to make sure people like me weren't going to get hurt..."
...In an e-mail to Christianity Today Movies, Saint said, "I could not imagine how something like this could slip through a professional screening process." He continued, "After I got over the emotional shock of realizing that a man who has chosen to live a lifestyle in stark contrast to my dad's would actually be playing his role in End of the Spear, I realized I would likely be held responsible for that decision. I wanted the issue to go away. Finally, I realized I was going to have to face what was happening, and there was little chance of coming out unscathed."
Fine, but let me ask this question: what is it, exactly, about Allen's life that is "in stark contrast" to Saint's father? His gayness, presumably, but would Saint have said the same thing of a divorced actor? An actor living with his girlfriend? An actor who had been party to an abortion? Maybe he would, but probably not.

Nothing grips the evangelical church's collective psyche more than homosexuality, and nothing makes the church look more graceless than its response to the gays in its midst.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Hey, Four Out of Five Ain't Bad!

It's not just politically-sensitive material that Google China is filtering these days. Apparently websites dealing with pregnancy, homosexuality, dating, beer and jokes are also filtered out of search results (HT: RConversation). What makes this interesting is that aside from the anti-censorship posts that I've put up on this blog, I've also posted on four of the five filtered social topics:

Zeke on teen pregnancy: here and here
Zeke on homosexuality: here, here, here, here, here, and here
Zeke on dating: nada
Zeke on beer: here, here, here, here, here, and here
Zeke on jokes: here, here, here, here, here, here, and here

Hey, four out of five ain't bad.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

"Some search results was not displayed..."

The red underlined message, courtesy of Google China, reads "Some search results was not displayed according to local laws and policies." And this is what you get when you Google on "1989" in China, that of course being the year of the Tiananmen Square democracy uprising that was violently quashed by the Chinese government. In other words, Google has joined the ranks of internet companies that have decided not to resist the Chinese government's censorship not due to easily dismissed fears that the Chinese government will send agents to Silicon Valley to "get them", but because of fears of shareholder uprisings. They fear that shareholders will demand to know why their morals got in the way of their pursuit of profit in the Middle Kingdom. So corporate change in this area will depend on shareholders. When Google's shareholders, some of whom presumably invested in that company in part for its dedication to "not be evil," begin to demand that it resist Chinese censorship and controls, then change may be accelerated. But as long as the PRC pays no price for its heavy-handedness then our cousins in China will continue to have their freedom restricted.

Why do I keep bringing this up on a "Godblog"? What does Jesus have to do with copyright? Or free speech, for that matter? Everything. Our God is a god that respects freedom. When did he last restrict your freedom of speech, or your freedom to commit whatever sin you pleased? Our ability to grapple with, to know and understand the truth, to sharpen each other, to learn and grow in or out of the faith, to make mistakes and earn wisdom, depends on the free exchange of ideas and information. The notion that governments can edit this exchange for "higher purposes" is simply offensive to me and as long as I have my own freedom of speech I will call attention to it.

Amidst the genuflection to the profit incentive, there still exist in this world men who will stand up for what they believe, and we owe it to them to give at least our acknowledgement of their courage and do what we can to promote liberty.

"Thou cockered pox-marked strumpet!"

An entertaining collection of late 16th-century Shakespearian insults, courtesy of the Shakespearean Insult Generator (hat tip: Jollyblogger, and check out the useful post on Godly discourse while you're there). Enjoy another day on the Internet.

And Jollyblogger, despite your ham-handed Calvinistic dismissal of Barna's Revolution, I will refrain from calling you a "loggerheaded half-faced minnow." You do not smell of elderberries, and I will not be farting in your general direction. Happy now?

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Walk a While in a Brother's Shoes

Ever wonder what it's like to be a gay Christian? Eric from Two World Collision is at part three of a four-part post that will shed some light on it for you.

Part One
Part Two
Part Three

UPDATE: Part Four

When the Onion's Got Your Number

As a cultural phenomenon, you know you're found out when the Onion gets your number. This week's evidence against Churchianity: "Christian Juggler Regrets Years Wasted as Secular Juggler." Money quote:
"I used to juggle for kicks and some spare change, but now I'm doing it to spread Christ's Word to young people. I only wish I would've used my juggling for a greater purpose years ago. Ho!"
What makes this such a zinger is that it's not beyond the realm that somebody would actually say that.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Pass the Glorygas

Farting Preacher, courtesy of Signs of the Kingdom.

If You All Love Me, You'll Send Me to This Conference

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Episode 13 is Live

Yes, Episode 13 is live! Sandy Johns from In the Name of Jesus joins the program to talk about their innovative yet simple approach to being Jesus for their neighbors. Learn more about this brilliant little venture here.

Friday, January 20, 2006

On the iPod: Self-Made Man

I have to admit that even a year ago if I had come upon a book written by a lesbian New York literary figure who spent time in the world dressed like a man, I would have dismissed it and moved on. More blue state pretention, and I can almost write the conclusions myself. "Men are pigs, and it's great to be a lesbian. More women should try it... and a few did with me." Having rounded a corner so to speak in my wanderings in this skin, being not so reliably red state in my response to my blue neighbors, I decided to download Norah Vincent's Self-Made Man from, stick it on my iPod, and give it a listen on my drive from LA to Phoenix.

I'm really glad that I did. Far from being a man-hating screed, this is a tender, insightful treatment of men from what might otherwise be an unlikely source. And Vincent openly admits of the predictable liberal/lesbian/feminist presuppositions she carried around about men--before she decided, on a lark, to live like one. And so "Ned" Vincent was born.

As Ned, Norah joined a bowling league, went to strip joints, spent time in a men's group, participated in a drum-beating masculine discovery retreat, dated women, and ultimately broke down under the strain of living a double life.

Throughout the recounting, as I listened to her candid observations about men and their patterns of speech, their bonding rituals, their troubles and triumphs, their wisdom and their banality I came to deeply respect what this woman had accomplished. Far from being an expose about how dull and brutish men really are, Self-Made Man is a work of true compassion. We celebrate Jesus for living among the alienated in society, but Norah Vincent became the very creature she wanted to understand. Can there be anything more compassionate?

One of the most touching moments comes late in the narrative, when Ned is on a Robert Bly-style men's retreat into the forest with thirty or so "other" men and she comes to realize the weight that a man can carry, how unique his burdens can be, and how narrow the range is in which men are permitted to express the frustrations and passions of their lives.

I admire Norah Vincent for having the guts and honesty to live in a man's skin and speak the truth about what she saw. Here is this lesbian, who so many of my faith want to dismiss as being hopelessly reprobate, doing what so few professing Christians would ever deign to do--live among the enemy as the enemy. How many Christians, full of what they want everyone to believe is love but is really fear, would live as a gay person to better understand gays?

I have no doubt that Jesus would go to a gay bar and would break bread with literary lesbians from liberal New York. And in that respect, he has more in common with Norah Vincent--who shares in his compassion in a way that few ever will--than with those who use his name like a weapon.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

A Sage Way to Keep Up on the Blogs

If you're not using Firefox, you really should be. Internet Explorer has some real and pervasive security issues, while Firefox is generally recognized to be much more secure. Firefox is more standards-compliant than IE, and Firefox is truly free--as in, it costs nothing and does not belong to any company or government. And it runs on Windows, Mac, and Linux. Since Firefox is so open, there is a lot of creative work being invested to make Firefox do cool new things. I use extentions to keep a regular weather forecast down in the bottom area of my browser, for instance. I also have an extention that allows me to open PDF documents in a separate tab.

But the coolest of my Firefox extentions is Sage. Sage allows you to create a list of blogs (and a wide variety of other sites) and view the list in the sidebar of Firefox. My list is to the left. By pressing the button in the upper left (with the swirling arrows around a document) Sage will automatically check all your subscribed blogs for you and let you know which have new content. You can then go right to the content by clicking on a blog name.

Note, for instance, that Trent's blog Gracehead is highlighted. That means that Trent has a post that I haven't seen yet, so if I click on that link it will take me straight to Trent's blog and show his posts in a summarized format. Clicking on one of the posts takes me to his actual blog.

Now, I don't have to go to my own blog and click through the links I keep there to see what's new. Big time saver.

Blogger Users: Syndicate Your Blog Today

I posted earlier about putting a feed on your blog using Feedburner, but Blogger users can automatically activate an Atom feed for their blog right through the Blogger admin tool. Do that today, please, if you haven't done it already.

Next post shows you the coolness that can be yours through syndication.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Like a Drink of Water...

While I was reciting my beeflist in Godscrum Episode 12, a friend of the show sent me some info on Kindness in Jesus, a group of people in Nashville that I find truly inspirational. Imagine a ministry that shows simple kindnesses to the unfavored in society, like giving backpacks with comfort and toiletry items in them to the homeless and giving small, quality gifts to gays and abortion clinic workers. My personal favorite:

We purchased Bath & Body Works gift sets and distributed them to prostitutes. A Nashville newspaper reported that, on average, city prostitutes perform seven sexual acts per day. Women so accustomed to being used and having things taken from them were visibly moved to have something given to them, without being asked for something in return. One lady simply put her head in her hands and couldn't speak.

It's important to note that we believe in giving nice, quality goods. Christ's love is golden, the finest thing known to man. From our perspective, secondhand, cheap, or low-quality items might fail to communicate just how special each individual is to Jesus.

What's important is that they simply do these kindnesses "in the name of Jesus." Not to get more bodies in their churches or to preach at them. Simply to remind the world that Jesus cares, and he does so through his followers. And that he doesn't love with conditions.

May God bless this group and their efforts, and I am inquiring about being a part of what they're doing. I'll happily report here on that progress.

Go to Church and WIN!!!

Go to this church and win! Doesn't matter which church it is (it's in So Cal), the point is that the appeal is to our consumer culture and is an excellent example of how the church is 1) numbers- and marketing-driven and 2) more than willing to appeal to what drives the culture (gadgets and entertainment). More of the same.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Opression Can Be Cute!

Our funny little toon-cop friend on the left is none other than an avatar for the Shenzen, China internet thought police. They actually use this on the internet to remind people that their online travels are being watched. And he's cute, too, in an anime kind of way. You can almost imagine him as a pez dispenser.

Funny thing is, the officials behind this dropped their usually reliable euphemisms and, in a moment of rare transparency, actually admitted that the primary purpose of this toon goon is to intimidate people into not saying something that might get them in front of the real live goons. Talk about the silk glove over the iron fist. This is the kind of thing that ought to get government officials hung from lampposts until other government officials realize that they are supposed to enforce and protect the rights of human beings, not take them away at the barrel of a gun.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Shaking the Despair Monkey

My family has been fighting the despair monkey lately. We're inside the proverbial lightless tunnel as it were. Usually it's Mrs. Zeke that is holding it all together while I buzz around inside my fretting skull, but even she is worn down to the nub.

I wish I could talk about all those times when I fell on my face before God and plead for mercy and received it... but if it came I missed it. I don't do that anymore. I'm sure my wife would say that now is the time to do it, and that there's no telling how much mercy we've already received, and that could all well be true. All I can say is that I don't have faith that God will fix my crap. He surely could, but I don't get anymore that that's what he's about. Some days it rains, some days it doesn't, and some days you wake up and find a bad dream has just begun. God is no respecter of persons that way. For all the passionate testimony about how good God is to his children and the power of prayer, I can say with utter conviction that life is painful and difficult, and God is not God so that he can spare us from it. This is one thing about Americhurch that can drive me to drink, this sentimental gushy Chicken Soup for the Soul happy endings baloney. We can't deal with life on its own terms, so we need a cosmic release valve, a holy antidote, a supernatural salve. Anything to make the people in pain stop their crying so we can have a nice pleasant potluck in the Fellowship Hall. Put 'em on the prayer list, Sister Margaret.

Sometimes life is just damned hard, and we keep on doing the right thing anyway. As I like to say, The right thing to do is the right thing to do because it's the right thing to do. Not because of the reward or favor with God. Not because it "comes around." We walk the walk because that's what we do if we are who we say we are. That's where real integrity comes in.

Anyway, that's where I'm at. And God is still God, Jesus is still Jesus, and when I wake up tomorrow morning all this stuff with still be there. But every episode of anxiety and despair I've ever had has passed, and if I live long enough this one will too. Life is still a beautiful and mysterious, fabulous enterprise... none the less when we can be honest about how much it can hurt sometimes. All the more, in fact.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Who is this Guy?

Hint: it's not Moses. First one to guess right gets bragging rights.

Godscrum: Episode 12 is Live

A week late, but Episode 12 is live! Twelve episodes in, I figured it might be time to wrap up why I'm even doing this, in the form of a list of issues that I'm grappling with about the church.

This week's featured artist is Fluid, from their album Five Star Fall, courtesy of The intro song is Headphones, and the outro numbers are Sonic Boom and 5 Star Fall.

In the podcast I make mention of a post I wrote about the history of the Protestant pastor and how that position appears to derive more from Catholic tradition than Scripture and early church history, and here it is.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

"This Item Includes Forbidden Language"

I've blogged very recently about the disgraceful intrusion of corporate self-interest into the rights of the public and the flaccid complicity of our elected officials. The MPAA and RIAA are industriously shrinking the public domain and hacking away at the principle of Fair Use, software companies are busy patenting common-sense business processes, American corporations are monitoring what we do off the clock, and multinational corporations are so slobbering over themselves to "do business with" China that they have spread their legs, metaphorically if not literally, to the Chinese government.

I already mentioned how Yahoo had sold out a Chinese journalist and provided key information that led to his arrest and imprisonment. And now Microsoft has so bent over for the Chinese government that in removing blogs that contained "forbidden language" they have actually removed access to information for readers outside communist China. The full story is here, but the long and the short of it is that Microsoft is becoming more and more draconian in its enforcement of Chinese censorship rules. In the case of blogger Zhao Jing (aka Michael Anti), they not only removed one offensive post but deleted his entire blog from their servers, and not only for Chinese readers but for all readers worldwide.

Of course, China's attempts to regulate speech are hand-in-hand with its attempts to regulate belief. And as corporations sell out political dissenters, so will they sell out people of belief. Count on it. What does copyright have to do with Jesus? Everything.

And so while we sleep and consume and look for sales at Wal-Mart, one after another--like whores to the boulevard, and like cows to the bolt gun--companies obsequiously line up to do business with the communist oppressors in China. Companies like Yahoo, Microsoft.. and of course, Wal-Mart.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Confusing Churchianity with Christianity

The Barna Group just published findings of a study that compared pastors' assessments of the spiritual commitment of their congregations with the attendees themselves. The bottom line: pastors wildly overestimate the devotion to God of those attending their churches. Money quotes:
...the Barna study discovered that pastors believe a large majority of their congregants deem their faith in God to be the highest priority in their life. On average, pastors contend that 70% of the adults in their church consider their personal faith in God to transcend all other priorities...
...In contrast to the upbeat pastoral view of people’s faith, a nationally representative sample of 1002 adults was asked the same question – i.e., to identify their top priority in life – and a very different perspective emerged. Only one out of every seven adults (15%) placed their faith in God at the top of their priority list. To make an apples-to-apples comparison, the survey isolated those who attend Protestant churches and found that even among that segment of adults, not quite one out of every four (23%) named their faith in God as their top priority in life.
So Barna Group, why the discrepancy between reality and pastoral perception? Here's why:
Overall, only one measure – how many people are involved in some form of church-related volunteer activity or ministry effort – was listed by at least half of all pastors (54%) as a measure of the spiritual health of their congregation.
Does this really surprise anyone? It gets better:
The unifying thread running through pastors’ responses to an open-ended survey question regarding how congregational health is assessed was that the most common measures do not assess much beyond the superficial participation of people in church or faith-related activity.
In other words, many pastors have conflated spiritual health with busy-ness at church. The more you take on at church, the more you demonstrate commitment to God. As the Barna Group summed it up:
Churches are prone to looking for indicators of serving people within the church more often than seeking signs that needy people outside the church are being cared for. In fact, for every two churches that consider the congregation’s breadth of ministry to people not connected to the church to be an indicator of spiritual health, there are five churches that focus on the amount of “in-reach” activity undertaken.
And I bring this to your attention with no further comment.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

"As the Bible CLEARLY Says..."

From's Fundamental Baptist Information Service:
The Bible clearly states that the man is to lead in the home and church, and the woman’s role is to submit to the man’s headship. There is widespread rebellion against this divine plan, though, and many women are being appointed to leadership positions in churches. (emphasis added)
Okay. The interpretation of Scripture that leads to a belief that women are forbidden to teach men comes from several collections of verses, but the key verse is 1 Timothy Chapter 2, verse 11-12 (NIV): "A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent." Case closed. Or is it?

Turns out that there is ample room for thoughtful and insightful interpretation of the Pauline teachings that deal with a woman's role in the congregation. I found, as the case has it, a nice little study courtesy of a Messianic Jewish website:

Women are to learn in silence. Silence here is Greek hesuchia (Strong's 2271). It is NOT phimoo which would mean 'muzzle' (contrary to how many may want read it) Hesuchia is better rendered 'quietness' and is translated more accurately in 2 Thesalonians 3:11-12 "For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Yeshua Messiah, that with quietness/hesuchia they work, and eat their own bread." Clearly, in this passage, it is not assumed hesuchia means that they are to never utter a word. Simply put, they held their tongue and kept the peace. (as in Acts 22:2). This sort of quietness denotes making a conscious choice not to speak out and stir things up, not the same as being muzzled and never ever uttering a single sound ever. Big difference.

So back to the 1 Timothy passage, women are to learn in quiet peace and not teach or usurp authority over a man, but instead, will hold her tongue. The word teach here is didasko (Strong's 1321) meaning "to give instruction." So are we saying that women may give no instructions at all? Let's look closer now at what it means to 'usurp authority' -- it comes from the Greek authenteo (Strong's 831) and means to dominate or take control. Women are simply commanded not to dominate or control men with their teaching. Now this is beginning to make sense. This is not a prohibition against women doing any teaching, but instead a prohibition against women having disciples. Yochanan The Immerser and Yeshua are two important examples of teachers with dedicated disciples. Their disciples lived with them, slept with them, traveled with them everywhere, learned from them, lived their lives according to their teacher's instruction. It is *this* relationship a woman is being warned of. Women are not to take disciples, because such a leader would dominate and teach -- strongly influence their follower's lives. For a woman to take on disciples, she would upset G-d's order and have dominance over men.

So according to this interpretation, women in that church, in the case to which Paul was referring, were simply prohibited by Paul to take disciples. Turns out the Bible wasn't so "clear" as the fundamentalist would like to think. I wouldn't go so far as to say that the Scriptural interpretation coming from the Messianic site is divinely inspired, only that it is thoughtful and insightful in a way that fundamentalists' handling of Scripture rarely is. I also found an interesting study courtesy of

There is no doubt about the fact that the author of 1 Timothy had imposed a prohibition on women that forbade them to teach or to have authority in his Christian assembly.
However, the main question is: was this just a local and temporal prohibition, or a universal norm imposed under inspiration for all time to come?
We can deduce that it was only a temporary and local prohibition from the following considerations:

  1. When the verb ‘to permit’ (epitrepsein) is used in the New Testament, it refers to a specific permission in a specific context (Matthew 8,21; Mark 5,13; John 19,38; Acts 21,39-40; 26,1; 27,3; 28,16; 1 Corinthians 16,7; etc.) Moreover, the use of the indicative tense indicates an immediate context. The correct translation, therefore, is: “I am not presently allowing" (Spencer; Hugenberger); “I have decided that for the moment women are not to teach or have authority over men” (Redekop; see also Payne).
  2. We know for a fact that Paul allowed women to speak prophetically in the assembly (1 Corinthians 11,5). Women functioned in the Church as deaconesses. We know, therefore, that women did speak in the assemblies. 1 Timothy 2,12 is an exception, a later ruling to counteract a specific threat.
  3. The immediate context of the prohibition was the danger of Gnostic teaching that at the time affected mainly women. Enlarging its purpose to including a permanent norm for all time goes beyond the “literal sense” of the text and the intended scope of the biblical author.

The overall meaning of this verse is, therefore: “Until women have learned what they need in order to get a full grasp of the true teaching, they are not to teach or have authority over men.” (Redekop)

This is a different take on the same text addressed by the Messianic website, but also one that is thoughtful and insightful in dealing with Scripture.

I didn't intend this post as a study on the issue of women in Christian leadership. What I addressed in this post is just one example of what I am increasingly finding to be fundamentalists' shallow and destructive handling of sacred Scripture, and I am more keenly aware of fundamentalism's influence over the evangelical circles in which I was raised in my faith and in which I still move. So to refine and preserve my own faith, I will take care from here on out any time I hear the phrase "as the Bible clearly says..."

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Piercing the Crusty Shell

So Jeff dials a wrong number. Some crusty old guy cusses him up a storm. On a lark, Trent calls the guy up and records it for shites and giggles. Mr. Crusty is true to form, cussing up Trent right and left. Trent plays along, talks about his cat, and this and that, and gradually the shell is pierced. And Mr. Crusty is found to be nothing more or less than a man with hopes, pains, fears and struggles.

Listen to this call.

What it brought up for me is I should be aware by now, after seeing it so many times, that the assholes of the world are often the people who need our love the most. Sometimes they are playing out a deeply-held belief that they are rejected and despised by the rest of the world, so they behave in a way to ensure that happens. And a little bit of human compassion cuts through the resistance and anger and creates a pathway to relationship and acceptance.

Thank you, Trent, for being sensitive enough to hear the pain and loneliness in Mr. Crusty's voice and for being there for him. Amazing phone call.

Comment of the Year

While some blog posts can truly stand out among the crowd, I rarely am left truly impacted by a comment left after a post. By nature they tend to the pithy, and those that violate comment norms and go beyond a paragraph or two usually could have made their point in half the space.

But today I discovered a comment on a post at the Stupid Church People blog that was so profound, so well written, such a fine example of what's possible when someone is committed to positive communication that I had to make note of it.

Since it's not possible to directly link to a comment, I asked the commenter, Jeff Kursonis, to repost the comment to his blog. You can read it here. Enjoy.

Thursday, January 05, 2006


One of the first podcasts I discovered back in April or so was Alan Hartung's A Different Perspective. Alan's blog and podcast remain of interest to me, though his podcast efforts have waned recently.

Perhaps one of the reasons is because he's been busy at work developing, a gathering spot for Christians who are commiting to practicing fasting, prayer, solitude, service, confession, and sharing as disciplines. Those willing to commit to the practices can share their experiences on the blog at the site.

I wish Alan the best with this, and I count this among the many innovative ways that believers are forming community outside of the local congregation.

Pat Robertson Needs to Shut His Piehole

Via AP:
NORFOLK, Va. — Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson suggested Thursday that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's stroke was divine punishment for "dividing God's land."

"God considers this land to be his," Robertson said on his TV program "The 700 Club." "You read the Bible and he says `This is my land,' and for any prime minister of Israel who decides he is going to carve it up and give it away, God says, `No, this is mine.'"

There he goes again. Is any commentary really necessary?

UPDATE: Ariel Sharon is 77 years old and morbidly obese. Could a stroke be anything but the wrath of God?

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Coming Soon: Structured Blogging?

On the drive back from Phoenix yesterday while listening to TWIT one of the hosts went on about how much he relied on Amazon reviews in deciding which products to buy. I have to agree, there are a lot of good product reviews out there. Of course not all online reviews are created equal; most of the reviews on cNet, for instance, are drivel. But you can usually tell who knows what they're talking about and get some excellent reviews on Amazon.

Still, I think that with the growth of blogs we are likely to see a decline in online reviews. Why post a review to Amazon if you've already posted a review on your blog? This is the exact reason why I don't post audiobook reviews to any longer.

So with the reasonable expectation that a lot of reviews are moving from website-specific collections to dispersed blogs, the question becomes: How can we get those reviews back out to the general public? A possible solution is brewing in Structured Blogging.

In essence, Structured Blogging provides a way for you to tag your content so that it can be easily aggregated and searched. Using the reviews example, if I wrote a review on Donnie Darko I could use the Structured Blogging rules to tag the post as a review so that anyone looking for reviews of the film would be able to find my review.

Even as I say this, some might be thinking "Well who the hell wants to read what you or some other shmuck have to say about a movie/book/restaurant/whatever?" If that describes you, you are probably a) clueless about the significance of the blog revolution, b) hostile to it because it's a threat to your career, or c) Steve or Josh from Stupid Church People (to get what I mean, see--or rather listen to--this benighted podcast). But if you're Steve or Josh the only blog or podcast you care about is your own, so you wouldn't see this anyway. Punks.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Things You See, Going Back and Forth to Phoenix

I like driving, especially when there's things of interest to see beside the roadside. I've thought from time to time that an interesting living would be writing about the stuff you see along the highway as you drive along. Lots of opportunity for brand extention... call it "What Is That--LA/San Francisco/Highway 10/Phoenix/San Diego" etc. A photo book where you explain the unusual items of interest along the way. For instance, if you ever take off from LAX and look down just as you approach the shore you see what looks like a subdivision, complete with street signs, that has foundations but no homes. Turns out this was a neighborhood that existed from about 1928 to 1965, when the neighborhood was purchased to clear the way for an expansion of the airport. Read about it here (courtesy of Pete of the Street, a guy clearly after my own heart).

Anyway, as my readers (and listeners of Godscrum) know, I've been doing a lot of driving back and forth to Phoenix to be with my wife and daughter, in Phoenix caring for my mom. These drives take me through the Mojave and Sonoran deserts that make up a significant portion of the land mass of Southern California. The more direct eastern route to Phoenix is along Interstate 10, and the lengthier southern route is via Interstate 8.

Here's some interesting things I've seen on the eastern route:

The San Gorgonio Pass wind farm
A collection of wind turbines both old and new (dating back to the 1980s), and the largest wind development in the United States at over 600 megawatts in capacity. That's just a small portion of it to the left, shot from my car on my cheap camera phone. When my office hosted the annual company offsite summit last year I organized a tour of the development.

The Salton Sea
The Salton Sea can be seen in fleeting glimpses on a clear day from the 10 as you ascend up from the Coachella Valley and leave Palm Springs behind. I'll tell the story of this lake, but before I do please comment or send an email if you already know the history of the Salton Sea. So few I meet do. Anyway, the Salton Sea is a depression that once held an ancient lake but had been mostly dry for a few hundred years until 1905 when an attempt to build an agricultural irrigation channel into the Colorado river failed and virtually the entire flow of the river poured into the old basin for more than a year. Since then, the lake has been fed by agricultural runoff from the surrounding Imperial Valley. The salinity of the lake makes from good waterskiing, but I won't go in that water again. It's pretty vile.

Chiriaco Summit and the Patton Museum
The 10 peaks out at Chiriaco Summit, home of the most expensive gasoline in the desert and the General George S. Patton Memorial Museum. I've never taken the time to go into the museum. You can see the tanks set up outside, though.

Desert Center
Not much to see in Desert Center, and not too much to tell about it either other than the fact that I decided on a late night drive one time to forgo fueling up at Chiriaco Summit only to find out that cheaper Desert Center was out of gas and I had to drive the 25 miles back to the Summit and pay through the nose. Oh, there are the dying date palm groves to see, though. Turns out the eccentric old guy that had them trucked in died, and they haven't been properly irrigated.

Ironwood State Prison
About a half hour east of Desert Center you can see the minimum-to-medium security Ironwood State Prison along with signs warning you not to pick up hitchhikers. Like I would have anyway. By the way, the facility has a design capacity of 2,200 but houses over 4,000 inmates. Sounds cozy.

Blythe sucks. That's the general consensus within my family. Blythe sits off the 10 just this side of the CA-AZ border separated from the Colorado River by some farms and marshes. I will give it this, though: it has a drive-through Starbucks.

The Colorado River
As the Colorado River goes, this isn't a very impressive crossing but it's nice after a few hours of desert driving to see the deep blue water and the green grass. Interesting aside: a flight from Phoenix to Orange County on Southwest Airlines follows the 10 right over this crossing, which you can see from the left side of the plane.

Palo Verde Nuclear Plant
The Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station is the largest nuclear plant in the U.S., pumping out a massive 3,800 megawatts. That's over six times the output of the entire San Gorgonio Pass wind farm. You can see it nestled up against the hills about an hour and a half west of Phoenix and a good 10 or 15 miles south of the freeway.

Phoenix Trotting Park
This track was built in the 60's for harness racing, but it went belly-up after just a couple of years. The operators of the local greyhound racing track bought it to keep it from competing with them, and so it has languished for thirty years, just baking in the sun off of the 10. Eventually they'll tear it down for a mall or some homes. The metro area is spreading like a prairie fire and it can't be long before they finally bulldoze the thing.

Today I took the longer but more attractive southern route on Interstate 8, which goes through Yuma and San Diego, then up the coast on Interstate 5. There's not as many oddities that I've seen, but the scenery is a lot lovelier the whole way through. Nice desert vistas all the way to Yuma, home of a lot of agriculture and a big Marine base (I've seen Harrier jets about from time to time). But just inside the California border are the Imperial Dunes, a five mile wide chunk of dunes stretching 40 miles from the Mexican border to the Salton Sea.

Some noteworthy items about the dunes: two thirds of them are open to offroaders, and nature preservationists complain that the offroaders acts like the remaining third is open to them as well. There used to be a couple of plank roads built across the dunes, and some fragments still remain. Finally, the scenes from Return of the Jedi featuring Jabba's floating yacht were filmed in the dunes. Check out this phenomenal set they built:

That's the back side.. the front side looked like this:

Pretty impressive. A few weeks after these shots were taken, the whole thing was disassembled and hauled off.

West of the dunes the 8 rises up to 4,000 feet where, at the summit, California's newest wind farm was constructed:

These turbines are significantly larger than the largest turbines in Gorgonio due to height restrictions in the Palm Springs area. And they dominate the skyline for miles around, much to the aggravation of some locals.

As you close in on San Diego from the east, you pass a few ubiquitous Indian casinos and bedroom communities before the 8 meets the 5 near the coastline. From there, it's 100 miles of the prettiest, most (relatively) pristine coastline that Southern California offers. This is largely due to the expansive Camp Pendleton Marine Base, which occupies miles of shoreline and extends inland farther than the eye can see. I've seen Marines practicing assaulting the shoreline, complete with tanks and helicopters with large warships offshore.

Thanks for bearing with me through a post that had little to do with anything but that was fun to put together.

The Secrets that Kill

Philip Yancey writes in Christianity Today in a recent essay about the homeless and mentioned in passing that the homeless commonly suffer from attachment disorder, which leaves men and women with a variety of social adjustment issues. One of these that Yancey related was a tendency to be tormented by deep and dark secrets:

After 25 years of ministering to the homeless, John, a trained counselor, has a theory that many street people suffer from attachment disorders. In childhood, they never learned to bond with parents or other people, and never learned to bond with God, either. They find it difficult to commit, to open up to another, to trust. They see the world as an unsafe, alien place.

John noted the ripple effect of this disorder: "Sometimes the people I work with go crazy, literally insane, because they can't stand being alone with their dark thoughts and secrets. A friend of mine ran a street ministry similar to ours. He had secrets about failures and financial pressures that he never told anyone. One day, his wife walked in the front door and found her husband, my friend, swaying from a rope attached to the banister."

I can relate to how difficult it can be to share secrets that inspire shame and a sense of failure. For me, having a wife whose unconditional love creates a space to safely share those secrets has been beyond helpful. But I know what it's like to feel alone with my dark thoughts and fears, and it truly is not enough to open your heart only to your God. Part of the reason that we are asked to "confess your sins, one to another" is because we will typically find when we do so that we are not as alone in our sin and failure as we think. When we share in our successes and failures, when we zero the delta between what the world sees in us and what we truly are, we can live with a sense of freedom and security knowing that we are not unique in either our successes or our failures, no matter how exhilarating the victory or shattering the defeat.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Are We Embezzling?

Craig from Out of Fellowship has posted a thought-provoking paper on how 85% of our tithe never leaves our local congregations, and that in the eyes of the early church this would be considered embezzling from the poor. I won't try to summarize it, because you should read it in its entirety.

When Nature Calls, I Want to Leave

Yesterday I drove with my family to the foot of Superstition Mountain one hour east of Phoenix for dinner. As I stood at the base of this dramatic and beautiful landscape, I again was struck hard by the desire to drop everything and leave. To climb to the top of this thing. To explore its nooks and crannies. To find shards of history, to imagine the feet that had been there before me. To go past it to see what's on the other side.

The desire for adventure and discovery that has been my constant companion since boyhood mocks me in moments like this, because while these hills are always so close--and interstate highways and airports are otherwise usually just a stone's throw away from me--I am anchored to obligations that I freely entered into and couldn't neglect without destroying my integrity and driving my family into the poorhouse.

I believe that some day I'll find a way to scratch this itch. Today, it seems just impossible.

New Year Makeover

It's a brand new year, and time for a One for Truth makeover (and no, that's not a picture of me, just something I GISed). New template, plus an expanded link section to the right that includes notable posts, blogs I read, podcasts I listen to, and tools I use. Also, there's a feed for the blog (more about that here).

Since I returned from hiatus and put up my 100th post just a couple of weeks ago, I've put up 24 new posts--a quarter of what I posted in the previous five months total. I've been virtually un-shutuppable.

And so it will be in 2006, I think. I have a lot to do and a lot to say, and I'm finding my stride.

Welcome, 2006! And happy new year, everyone. Peace.