Thursday, December 13, 2007

Of Rhetoric and Reaction

You just can't find sober, reasoned reporting in the media anymore. Well maybe you can, but it isn't coming from the major sources in English Canada anyway. The tragic story of the Parvez family of Mississauga is just the latest example. The news reports in all of the major media, as this example demonstrates, go way beyond "just the facts" to include speculation about how this sad event will become a major cultural "flash-point" issue. They hope. It would give them something to flog mercilessly to sell more papers and boost their viewer/listener share ratings.

My fundamental source for "what's goin' on" offers this short, but well reasoned opinion. Like a breath of fresh air it reminded me that at the root of this story is a human tragedy that has no real connection to social and cultural clashes. A certain number of white Anglo-Saxon protestant fathers, or Catholic Latino ones, or African atheist ones, or Asian Taoist ones have been, from time immemorial, and will continue to be, treating their daughters, wives and sons with violence for any number of perceived acts of disobedience. And every so often their anger will take one of them too far.

That the media should spin this story into a public debate over cultural and religious differences that cause social friction is the crime upon the crime. It should be viewed in the same way we view shouting "FIRE!" in a crowded theatre. I am a free speech advocate, but the opinions aren't being carefully kept on the Op-Ed page anymore. The "spin", the "opinion", the "agenda" and the (often way too narrow) "perspective" is everywhere in the media these days. And this constant barrage of sensational fear-mongering, speculation and rhetoric is having an effect.

I don't know about you, but I am encountering more and more people who view people of different cultures and races in stereotypical ways. I am hearing more and more broad-brush-stroke statements that begin with "those people", "they all" and "they believe". While I know the truth is that the uniformity of opinion, perspective, values and beliefs in any group in the world is the same as the uniformity in the tribe I belong to - which means not uniform at all.

If there was a common human experience in the Parvez story it began with the common human emotion of anger. We all know it. We all experience it. We all have hurt others and been hurt by it. Many of us fear it. Most of us respect it. We all try to control it. Almost all of us understand its destructive potential. Wisdom says, "In your anger do not sin." I don't care what god you believe in or what religion you practice or what culture you belong to or what tribe are your ancestors - these words are universally true. Because we all know what happens when we follow our selfish and dark impulses down a road fueled by anger. It NEVER ends well.

Too many will accept the rhetoric of the media in this story as reasonable and true. Too many will react to it and the results will be a further escalation of the cultural and social tensions we are already experiencing far to often. But I won't, and you don't have to either. We must remember that wisdom also says, "there, but for the grace of God, go I".

So if we're going to react to the rhetoric, let's go in the other direction. Let's agree that until each of us personally knows a person of another culture, race or religion we don't know anything about that group - and even then we only know one person. And one person, or one family, does not define a culture, a religion or a race. If you believe that then you better be ready to be the example to the entire world for whomever you represent - to be the one person the rest of the world measures everyone of your culture, race, religion and country by. Are you ready to accept that responsibility?

I thought not.

'Nuff said!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

In For a Penny, In For a Pound

My friend Rick often has a unique view of issues, especially as he's an American. Theology and politics can make for interesting debate and I think we've got one going at his blog.

Do obviously wealthy televangelists make you crazy? Me too! Do you think they deserve to be scrutinized? Me too! Should they lose their tax-exempt status? Seems just. What about shutting down tax-exemptions for all churches? Now that's Canadian!

Follow the dia-blog-alogue here!

Man, I just LOVES links!

*We're in yur web - debatin' yur ishyoos!*

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

In Search of the Free Lunch

At my friend Lee Distad's blog was a recent comment to an article he published that got my gears turning. You can read the article and the comments, including mine here.

I urge you to do your own investigation into the claims this company is making, if you want to be informed when the media "reports" on this subject. Sadly, you won't be getting useful information from most mass media outlets.

As promised, I am going to spend a few electrons in explaining the Biblical theological truth as to why we can't find an energy "free lunch" in the universe. As I do, remember that people have understood this truth for 5000 years or more, so this ain't news, folks.

In Genesis 3 we find the story of the fall. Humans mysteriously reject God's authority, in spite of having a relationship with Him and fully understanding their position in creation. Both men and women fail, there is no gender bias here unless you want to read it in. Both knew what they were doing was wrong.

God's response is gracious. Instead of wiping the slate clean and starting over, or not starting at all, He allows for hope, but there are immediate consequences. In Genesis 2 God made humans the "stewards" of the created earth. It was ours to care for in partnership with God, and it was easy work because our relationship with God was righteous, and thus our relationship with creation was righteous, too.

The fall and the introduction of sin created a series of events that changed all of that, resulting in humanity's relationship with God and the natural created order being broken. Nature is no longer our partner in life. We are at odds with the universe. But we are still the stewards of earth, though our job has become much, much harder.

In Genesis 2 we are in the garden with a purpose for the garden - "to work it and take care of it". After the fall only "painful toil" will garner us what we need to survive.

Unlike the media image of the "stereotypical evangelical", I'm not an anti-ecology guy. I am deeply concerned for the earth and I am upset by what we do to it. My family met and exceeded the "one ton challenge" and we still seek ways to do better. But I also have no illusions as to whether or not we can come to some Utopian point where we are in complete harmony with nature. Nature isn't even in complete harmony with itself. If there were no humans on the face of the Earth natural pathogens would wipe out massive populations of plant and animal life all on their own. Weather patterns, huge storms, forest and grassland fires, volcanic activity and other geological and climate events would shatter vast eco-systems and destroy natural habitats. Imbalances in animal, plant, bird, fish, reptile and microbe populations would spell doom for thousands of species. In truth, natural processes have brought many, many more species of plants and animals to extinction than humans have in our entire history.

Before we hear the argument that "natural processes" work and that "death" is part of life I must remind you that the Christian, and the more ancient Jewish understanding is that death is bad. That death can serve any purpose that appears to be good is a miracle of God.

Now all of this is no justification for the squandering of natural resources nor the raping of the earth's riches. And humanity will have to answer for that, of that I am most sure. But the path to shalom (which means essentially the "perfectly balanced life" or "true peace") goes directly through our relationships, firstly with God, then one another then the rest of the world. As long as our sinful greed, fear, violence and mistrust are prevalent, any attempts to heal our broken relationship with nature are doomed to ultimate failure.

The truth is that if we were to choose to live in a world where the one rule was to love others - to make a conscious choice of the will to choose the true good for others, all others - our ecological problems would be few.

My hope for the ecology and for humanity rests in Christ. The Bible says "God so loved the world". My faith is in the One who loves everything, crabs and cheetahs, sagebrush and sycamores, turtles and tigers, dolphins and dung beetles - and us. I know that when we live our lives in love with Jesus we will love what He loves - and the more of us who do, the more of us there will be to change the way we relate to the world and it's natural beauty and resources.

We won't find an energy "free lunch" that will allow us to continue to live self-indulgent lives of leisure and indifference. If you really think about it, such a discovery would spell our ultimate doom as the only possible destination for humanity at the end of such a road would be a world so decadent and corrupt that it would implode.

The irony is that Jesus is the "free lunch" we all need and are looking for. And He is free. But don't take my word for it. Read it for yourself.


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Lost in Translation

No doubt you were aware earlier this year of the publication of the “Gospel of Judas”(Please note: I am always suspicious of any Wikipedia article and you should be too, but the core facts in this linked article are accurate as far as I can determine.) by the National Geographic Society. The practical upshot of the publication of this recently discovered Gnostic gospel was that it purported to portray Judas in a favorable light. The spin went as far as to suggest he was a misunderstood saint, acting out of loving compassion and not at all the sinful tool of those who bore ill will towards Jesus.

Now an acclaimed academic language scholar has put her considerable skills to the task of translating the text and has found that the National Geographic scholars may have not only been rushed in their work to meet publishing deadlines, but may also have been coerced into rendering a translation that produced a much more palatable and thus marketable book. The story of this twisted translation is presented in an article in this weeks’ issue of MacLeans’ magazine.

The following is an excerpt from the article:

“It wasn't long before there was no joy at all in the effort. NG's provocative gospel turns on a handful of phrases, all of which DeConick translated differently. Judas, for example, was not a "spirit" destined for heaven, as NG would have it, but a "demon" with a far different ultimate destination; Judas would "exceed" the other apostles, DeConick agreed, although not in his reward, as NG states, but in the wickedness of his actions. Judas, in fact, was as evil as ever. The Gnostic Christians who wrote the gospel were bitterly opposed to what was already emerging as a core theological concept in Christianity's dominant tradition: the doctrine of the Atonement, whereby God so loved the world he gave his only son for its redemption. To the Gnostics the idea was repellent, no better than child sacrifice. It certainly could not have been God's plan. Judas could only have been acting for the forces of evil.
"I didn't want to write this book," DeConick says. "Some of the NG people are personal friends of mine. But when I mentioned my concerns to another expert, his reaction was 'Oh my God, me too!' The more I talked about what I was doing, I found all this underground support." So how did the eminent scholars on the NG team go off the rails?”

Well I guess MacLeans’ has more than justified my renewing my subscription. As for National Geographic, I’ll be sending them an email and I’m not sure yet whether or not I’ll re-subscribe next year. You might want to send them an email, too. They at least owe us an explanation as to why their scholars’ translation differs so very distinctly from one of their respected peers.


*The label "Made in a Hurry" is NEVER a sign of quality or reliability. - BJM*

Navigating "The Golden Compass"

This is what it sounds like when I try to communicate with my "tribe". Maybe some of you will find this interesting and thought provoking.

It appears that another pop culture anti-Christian conspiracy story is brewing again just in time for the Christmas season. The storm is gathering around the soon to be released film “The Golden Compass”. This conjures up for me memories of the hyper-rhetoric that surrounded the releases of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, the “Harry Potter” books and films, the “Narnia” film and other offerings.

I am a strong advocate that Christians everywhere “guard your heart” (Proverbs 4:23). This quote from the OT must be understood to also refer to the mind. Ancient Hebrews did not distinguish between the “heart” and the “mind” as later Greek thinkers did. For the writer of Proverbs the “heart” would have represented the core of a person’s reasoning, intellect, emotions, experience and character. Thus to effectively “guard” our hearts, and minds for that matter, we must use our minds.

The apostle Paul points out in 1 Corinthians 6:12 & 10:23 that the expanse of freedom the Christian has in Christ Jesus is all encompassing, but not everything we could choose to do or experience may be good for us. We have the freedom and the power to choose – so do non-Christians. One thing that I believe regularly turns off non-Christians about Christians is that very often we seem to choose without thinking, or expect other Christians to fall in line with our thinking because we must be inherently “right” in our views on a particular matter. While I do expect ALL Christians to agree on fundamental doctrinal issues (the divinity of Christ, the totality of sin in our nature, the full atonement of the Crucifixion, the supremacy of God in all things, the essential necessity of forgiveness and so on), I think we often stretch our credibility with others when we react – and expect an en masse "Christian" reaction – to things in popular culture which we object to.

Very often these urgings come to us from brothers and sisters who are sincere in their efforts to be helpful to the cause of Christ and who are acting out of honest feelings of love and concern for others. Very often these issues DO require sober consideration on our part. Very often these warnings ARE useful and should be heeded. But we need to proceed from a solid understanding of the issue at hand, and a clear sense of our purpose in regard to our mission for Christ in the world.

In the case of books, movies, TV programs, video games, internet entertainment and other mass media I believe our loving responsibility, to each other Christian or not, is to be informed and be able to speak the truth of Christ into these issues. Some brothers and sisters may not be able to deal with some material without it seriously affecting them adversely – they must know themselves in this regard and refrain. Some media does not need to be viewed to be opposed (pornography, hyper violent fantasy, promotion of bigotry, fascism and other obviously dark and reprehensible themes), however there are, I pray, those who are gifted by God to view, understand and refute these very dark and evil things well. Other media falls into a wider category where we need to be discerning by learning what we can about it, understanding what we may be able to glean from viewing it and using our experience and knowledge of God's Word and will (Yes, you're going to have to do some Bible study here people, but wouldn't it be refreshing for others to encounter some Christians with reasonable Bible knowledge for a change instead of just reactive dogmatism as their basis for argument? 'Nuff said!) to dialogue with friends and family about the Gospel as we talk about it.

As an example, I believe the “Harry Potter” phenomenon has provided untold opportunities to engage a whole generation of young people on the issues of power and its proper use, the struggle between good and evil, issues of morality and character and other ideas that easily lead to spiritually significant discussions. Frankly, I thank God for J.K. Rowling when I think of her, and I pray for her too.

Now we have “The Golden Compass”. The email I received that started all of this had an article attached that was verifiable and from a credible source. I am including the following links to help you broaden your perspective on this issue. Undoubtedly, some of you will view this movie, some of you won’t. Neither is a sin. Why you do or don’t might be though, because God is concerned with WHY we do things. It is the state of our heart (and minds) that He is most concerned with (see Philippians 4:7).

Dear friends please read, then pray, if this issue matters to you – but remember we are all accountable for our choices and decisions, so we should make them as well as we can in the Grace of God.

'The Golden Compass' - Atheist Propaganda for Children?

Director Defends Golden Compass

'Golden Compass' movie opening to controversy

Golden Compass Under Fire

"I'm Not Afraid of Atheists (Or Their Movie)"

Please consider that we can only show the grace of Jesus effectively when we understand what we are being gracious about.


Friday, November 09, 2007

Roll The Bones

Recently a good friend of mine sent me the following email message:

Hi Brian,

How much would you pay for a ticket on a chance to drive a BMW or another fancy car for one year…if only 150 to 200 tickets were sold? Curious.

Aloysius P Tackhammer
(he asked me to protect his identity)

My friend is a Christian as am I so this was my response:

Hi Al,

Generally speaking gambling is frowned upon in Christian circles – has to do with that nasty bit at the foot of the cross with the Roman soldiers casting lots for Jesus' clothes. I know that raffles and other pseudo-gambling activities are often part and parcel of church life. That being said, I guess it would depend upon the cause this "raffle" would be supporting. If I was interested – and the car in question was a Cadillac STS-V (see link below) – then I might get involved.

I guess $100 is the most I'd pay. I hope that helps you out.



P.S. Do you think a Baptist pastor driving a brand new Cadillac V-8 BMW killer is a bit "over the top" – or would it be a good advertisement for following Christ?

As you can see we kid around a bit, but Al didn't leave it there.


It could be the health and welfare gospel that some US TV preachers peddle. Really sad.

Is it biblical or by tradition that gambling is frowned upon? We would call it a contest because that's what a radio station would call it.


So I decided to give him a fuller response.

Hi Al,

It's Biblical. The disciples drew lots to replace Judas Iscariot because they couldn't decide between two candidates, and lots were cast in the OT when leaders couldn't choose between two alternatives that both had merit. These appear to have been moments of allowing God to work through chance, as it were, to affect the outcome of a situation. Basically it's a coin toss between two equally acceptable alternatives. The only scene we see in the NT of gambling for profit is the scene I referred to earlier of the Roman soldiers casting lots at the foot of the cross for Christ's clothing. Lots were probably dice.

The Biblical position is that gambling takes advantage of people by giving one person wealth at the expense of others. Truthfully, only the ones running the games truly benefit. "The House always wins." It is also true that raffles, Bingo and other "soft" forms of gambling have been a cultural part of church life for as long as fund raising has been an issue. The prime motivation for individuals participating in any of these activities is usually the hope of having an outcome that is very beneficial for them. Greed is the issue – or the love of money – which Christ called "the root of all evil".

It is true that I can't point to a specific passage of Scripture that says, "Thou shalt not gamble." However, we are all well aware of the personal and social cost attached to this "vice" that has gone beyond being a "bad habit" and has become a Government and community revenue stream at nearly every level. It's hard to reconcile broken relationships, shattered families and wasted lives with the "good" causes that use and promote gambling as a means to a better community for us all. And don't even get me started about the propensity for First Nations to see gambling as one of, if not the only, way for them to develop a viable economy for themselves – even though one could consider it a cosmic form of "payback" for the abuses these people have suffered.

I know it's hard to imagine children's extracurricular activities being able to exist without "casino nights" or local charities remaining solvent without the income provided by lotteries, raffles and 50/50 ticket sales at local sporting events. But the truth is "there is no free lunch". Somebody wins – many, many, many more lose. The hypocrisy is that gambling – however seemingly benign and helpful for good causes – is only really easily tolerated by the middle and upper classes. For the poor and marginalized it is always a cruel game that preys upon their meager estate and their desperate hope for a bit of the economic freedom you and I take for granted.

If there isn't a passage in the Bible that speaks directly against gambling then at least the miracles of the feeding of the multitudes (yes, it happened more than once) certainly speak against the ethos of the gambling mentality and human selfishness. The economic truth of the Kingdom of Heaven isn't like human economic structures. The Bible teaches us that if we share selflessly in Jesus Christ there is more than enough for everybody. Scripture says that God "owns the cattle on a thousand hills" – an OT image that would have imparted the concept of wealth beyond human comprehension or ability to handle.

You need to know that I'm not judging you or the methods you might use to do good work. Paul also said "everything is permissible" although he also said "not everything is beneficial". Bake sales and rummage sales often won't cut it when it comes to fund raising for critical needs and we need to remember that we also mustn't judge those who don't follow Jesus for behaving as they do. But I think we also need to ask ourselves serious questions about the methods we choose to use in our pursuit of doing what we believe to be the will of God. Sometimes we may have to forgo what seems to be an easy and effective strategy and rely on God to provide what we need. We may have to limit ourselves to what we will do in order to allow God to do what only He can do. Jesus did say "the way is narrow".



And Al replied:

Hi Brian,

So it's not the gambling but the MOTIVE behind the gambling that causes the problem. E.g. Greed. Middle and upper class might donate just because it's a good cause or they might really be greedy. The poor cannot participate. Of course, there's the whole addiction element too.

There is a part of me that would rather just auction the car off...but then only the rich will get a very good deal and get a crack at driving a fancy car while the middle class are driving Corollas.


What do you think?


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

School - Pride or Punk?

Recently students at Central Kings Rural High School in Nova Scotia made national and some international headlines with a brilliant response to bullying in their school. Their high school is an nearly twin like version of our own regional high school here where I live - similar in size, economic and social makeup. Now our regional school is poised to make a media splash of its own, but for an ironically opposite reason.

While students at the Nova Scotia school have spent time and their own personal resources to stand up against bullying the students at Greenall are doing the same in order to beat each other senseless.

Today I was standing in line at the local Subway during the lunch hour and overheard four lads from Greenall discussing the fascinating and finer points of fisticuffs. Youthful male exuberance is one thing but in our day and age it seems to me that teachers and authorities are hamstrung when it comes to responding to this issue. "Consensual" fighting is OK, or at least not a chargeable offense.

Parents may be able to influence some of their children, but frankly in my experience, if your young man or woman has a particular personality and perspective by the time they are 14 or so there is little if anything that can be done to change their way of behaving until they do something that truly has serious consequences. Some adults I know would even be of the opinion that the kids involved in these "cage rage" fights were showing good sense by wearing protective gear. The mind boggles.

While I have some thoughts on solutions, anything I might suggest wouldn't be worth two pins. What I wonder about is whether or not there are any senior students at Greenall with imagination, creativity and courage to match their peers in Nova Scotia. Are any of the senior class at Greenall upset by their sudden infamous notoriety - or are they all a little proud of their school's fleeting moment of media attention? Are there any students at Greenall who know why the fights going on among their peers are wrong - without having to have it explained to them?

The story from Nova Scotia was one of those ones that tends to restore my faith in the future and in the next generation. My own sons also frequently give me reasons to hope. I know that there are always some bad influences in every community - that is the reality - but we can make our communities better and give hope to ourselves and others when there are people of vision and courage in our community who will stand up to evil where it lives. I'm praying the Greenall story is in it's first stage - that the students who care are formulating their response. I'm waiting to see what the real character of the student body at Greenall is.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Dollars to Donuts and Back Again

My friend Lee Distad has weighed in on the subject of the Canadian Loonie attaining parity with the US Greenback. I've commented already at his blogsite, but I found the whole subject so fascinating I decided to place some of my comment here and expand further.

What I found really interesting was how much has changed culturally since the last time our dollar was worth the same amount as a US dollar. As my beloved Professor of Church Leadership and Pastoral Theology, the Rev. Dr. Gary Nelson, reminded us, "Only three things matter in ministry. Context. Context. Context."

It has been a generation since the last time the Canadian Dollar was worth as much as the US Dollar. At that time -

- the Canadian dollar was not called a "Loonie".
- Prince Charles was still single, and by all accounts, not even dating.
- Oprah was unknown and middle-class.
- there were no cellular telephone networks in North America.
- the three best selling home computers were the Commodore PET, Radio Shack TRS-80 and Apple II and they all had just been introduced.
- no one had a debit card and "bank machines" did not exist.
- other than friends or family, no one knew who Johnny Depp was.
- all of the members of The Tragically Hip were too young to go to the bar, let alone play music there.
- it had already been a decade since the Leafs last won the Stanley Cup.
- there was no MTV.
- more people watched TV broadcasts off antennas than cable in Canada.
- Pat Robertson launched the first satellite-delivered basic cable service, called the CBN Cable Network, in the USA.
- no one had e-mail.
- the Toronto Blue Jays launched their franchise.
- "Star Wars - Episode IV: A New Hope" was in theatres for the first time.
- fuel injection, front-wheel drive and airbags were not standard equipment on most cars sold in North America or worldwide for that matter.
- Michael Jackson was still a member of his family vocal group - "The Jacksons"- and no one even knew they had two sisters named Latoya and Janet.
- Lloyd Robertson's hair was still a "natural" colour, he had only been with CTV for one year and was the co-anchor alongside Harvey Kirk.
- the only people on the "internet" - which still didn't really exist - were the US military, some government agencies in North America, Europe and Asia, a number of universities around the world and a relative handful of scientists.
- no one was worried about AIDS, West Nile Virus, Lyme Disease, SARS, Bird Influenza, Mad Cow Disease or Superbugs.
- the video console game "Pong" by Atari had only been in bars and arcades for two years.
- Microsoft Windows did not exist.
- there was no such thing as "reality TV contests".
- "environmentalism" was a minority lifestyle choice - not a growing worldwide political imperative.

Economists, social & political pundits are making much of this "Loonie" issue. This morning the CBC reported that the Loonie had slipped just below the Greenback only a few hours previously. People, media, governments and institutions will start watching the dollar now with all the neurotic regularity we display when we check our wristwatches. And they will tell the public what will happen and how they should react. And many, many, many of them will do just that. I think we have to realize that for a huge number of people the Canadian economy has crossed over onto uncharted ground, despite the fact that people like myself can remember "the day when".

Like it or not, we now live in a society where the majority of people have the attention span of an over caffeinated squirrel with ADHD. And when our politicians, economists and cultural pundits are also part of that group then I say it's time to listen to Bette Davis -

"Buckle up kiddies. It's going to be a bumpy ride."

When issues like this one pop up and we see that there is a history we can draw upon for wisdom, yet most don't, I wonder if the postmodern rejection of the "meta-narrative" - the story that tells us how we got here and why - is such a smart idea. The philosopher Charles Santayana observed that, "Those who refuse to remember the past are condemned to repeat it." My friend Lee observes that what has happened to our dollar has happened before - things go up in economics and they come down. But this present generation seems to make the myopia of my generation (called the "Me Generation" by some) seem like a momentary lapse of focus by comparison. It hasn't happened before "to us" so therefore we have no way to know how to deal with it. The media echoes that sentiment every day if not in every story they report.

The wise author of Ecclesiastes wrote, "There is nothing new under the sun."

This is especially true of money.

Jesus talked about money - a lot - because money was just as important to people 2000 years ago as it is today. His bottom line was basically this - who is in control, the money or God? One of them will be. You get to choose.

Choose wisely.


Thursday, September 20, 2007

Where I Find God

We were discussing the Nooma video "Trees" last night and I was really jazzed up by Rob Bell's question, "Where do you find God?"

I find Him in nature. Every day.

I find him in people of passion. Every day.

I find Him in art. Every day.

I find Him in well made and done things. Every day.

My wife is friends with a Prof. at U of R. He's got eclectic taste in music as we do, so we trade CD's from time to time to introduce each other to new music we hope we all will appreciate. He just lent me Elyza Gilkyson's new CD Paradise Hotel.

Do you remember when artists made albums that seems to have a thematic core because it was obvious that they were dealing deeply with very personal issues and compelling ideas - rather than just trying to make some "product"? Maybe you've never discovered such a piece of work.

Well Eliza has done this.

In spades.

And my life is richer today because God made Eliza and put her in the world and blessed me with the opportunity to hear her art. She probably won't win a Grammy, or a Juno, or an American Music Award, or an American Country Music Award - even though she should. But she has won my appreciation and if you give her a chance, she probably will win yours, too.

As Rob would say her art is "drenched in God".


Monday, September 17, 2007

Matrimony, The State & The Church

After being AWOL for many weeks I am returning with a serious post. Arguably not the best strategy to increase my readership, but I stand by my blog tagline.

The following is an excerpt from my ordination paper. This issue became clearer to me as I attended a remarkable Christian wedding this weekend. The worshipful atmosphere that permeated the entire ceremony threw into stark incongruity the moment of the "signing of the registry" - the insertion of the state into what was otherwise an entirely Christian service of worship.

While the comments that follow are written from the Christian, and particularly Protestant perspective, I hope that one can insert the name of any religious confession that is in agreement with the orthodox Christian view of marriage and maintain the same argument.


Recent changes in Canadian marriage law have raised the issue of the relationship between the state and the church in this matter. The historical and current position is that the state, for the purposes of legal recognition and establishment, licenses and sanctions marriage in Canada. The state, at the provincial level registers specific persons charged with the solemnization of this contract. These persons are state employees – justices of the peace – and clergy - who are not state employees, but are "agents" of the state in this particular matter.

The changes in recent court decisions as to which individuals the state will allow to enter into marriage have caused considerable concern within Christian denominations and churches as well as other religious groups. The issue, as I understand it, centers on whether or not denominations and clergy can and/or should remain registered by the state to solemnize marriages if they are compelled to do so for persons whom their religious beliefs would not allow.

The first issue for me is whether or not any Christian – clergy or otherwise – is compelled by teaching in Scripture to officiate marriage ceremonies under any circumstances. My study of this issue suggests the answer is “no”. Before the Reformation marriage was, and still is, one of the “sacraments” of the Roman & Eastern Orthodox Catholic Churches - a position the protestant reformers rejected. Indeed, the North American Baptist Conference (with which the church I serve is associated) – and most protestant confessions for that matter – recognizes only two “ordinances” – those being “communion” and “baptism”. Therefore the protestant Christian church and clergy’s involvement in the state-sanctioned solemnization of marriage has been and is a matter of cultural convention – not church doctrine.

While our understanding of God’s will through our study of Scripture directs us to celebrate and practice marriage as a specific, God-ordained relationship - when in the proper circumstances - between a man and a woman, we cannot impose this view and practice upon the state if it should deem otherwise. This is also the same principle in the matter of what the state allows as reasons for divorce.

One serious theological question raised by the church being involved in the recognition or solemnization of marriage is that the rite generally includes the declaration of vows by the participants – this in seeming defiance of Christ’s admonishment against taking oaths:

"Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.' But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God's throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No'; anything beyond this comes from the evil one." Matthew 5:33-37 - TNIV

I suggest that we carefully consider whether our Christian marriage ceremonies contain “oaths” or is our understanding that these "vows" are statements of intent – a “yes” or a “no” - and thus acceptable.

While I affirm that the church, as a community, has the freedom to celebrate the union of a man and woman in marriage in circumstances that are in obedience to the prescriptions of Scripture, there seems to me to be no compelling reason for Bible-believing Christian churches or clergy to do so for any union that does not meet the Lord’s standards. To do otherwise would have the appearance of giving tacit approval to this behavior in the name of the Lord - this hardly seems to be something that could glorify His name or be seen as intellectually and spiritually honest in view of Biblical truth and church doctrine.

We must be careful in how we discuss and present this position to those outside the church and those within the church who may not have thought this through fully. Individual Christians should attend and celebrate marriages with people who are their friends, regardless of the couple's religious practice or the circumstances of the union. We are not called to reject or abandon those who do not follow God’s teaching and direction. We are to witness to them and treat them with love and grace. Relationships are important and grace must be our method in all interactions.

Having said that, the church is not required by law to agree with, affirm, support or enact the policy of the state in the matter of marriage unless it is in a legal relationship with the state. Indeed, the law clearly states that it is now illegal for a government licensed person or organization to refuse to provide a legal good or service to any individuals on the basis of sexual orientation. Churches who maintain their clergy’s legal status as registered marriage officiants, but hold to policy that would reject performing marriages for couples the state deems as legal, are in effect saying that they would disobey the law as established by duly elected and appointed officials. Ironically in such a situation the church or clergy’s “yes” would not actually be “yes”.

The church and its clergy should recognize and celebrate what God is doing in the lives of believers who come together in marriage in a way that is a worshipful and obedient corporate act before God. As long as the state requires a ceremony or rite before a registered official in order to legally recognize a marriage then Christian couples can do that also, if they choose to, before state officials at another time. Or even at the same time if the Justice of the Peace is agreeable to witnessing and officially recognizing the wedding. Wedding planners may get headaches trying to coordinate clergy and a J.O.T.P. but that’s why they get paid the "big bucks".

As a clergyperson, relinquishing my “official” status as a marriage officiant would be a powerful personal public spiritual statement, at least to me if no one else. It could only be done with the full support of the leadership and congregation of the church I serve. The political and social realities of our day will, at some point, most likely force churches and their clergy to face these tough decisions.

In essence I believe I am arguing for a clearer separation of the church and the state in our country. As long as churches maintain state-sanctioned and registered clergy for the purpose of the legal solemnization of marriage they have an obligation to observe and comply with the law of the land. But, the churches must understand that they are not compelled by law to maintain this relationship. Therefore those churches that do maintain this legal relationship should, in my opinion, honor the law of the land and honestly admit that they have placed it above the law and teachings of God.

The state does not agree with the position of the majority of the Christian churches in this matter. Such differences of position are allowable and, I believe, desirable in a truly democratic society that supports the concept of freedom of religion. If the churches of Jesus Christ choose not to be agents of the state in this matter I believe they will become free to follow Him in obedience and also to continue to be obedient and lawful members, albeit dissenting ones in this matter, of our society.

To do otherwise, in my opinion, is to try to "have our cake and eat it, too."


Thursday, June 28, 2007

Just In Case You Didn't Know....

I have been exceptionally frustrated with the "music biz" of late. Shopping for stuff at the retail level has been an exercise in monumental futility.

"Music Retail. It's not about selling you what you want. It's about making you buy what we have!"

Anyway, despite my frustrations I have uncovered some music "gems" so I'll share them for your summer listening.

In the Blues category you need to pick up The Road To Escondido by J.J. Cale & Eric Clapton. Eric has posted on his website that he's taking a couple of years off starting now, so other than his ongoing work at the Crossroads Guitar Festival in Chicago each year there will be no tours or recording projects unless something extraordinary strikes his fancy. So get The Road To Escondido and be thankful that every single tune on it is a masterwork 'cause it's gonna hafta satisfy ya for a while!

Patti Smith always had - in my never-to-be-humble opinion - one of the most evocative and powerful voices in rock music history. Now she has released an album of cover tunes that demonstrates that she still possesses a voice of singular presence and power. "Twelve" is an addictive romp - as if anything Patti does could be characterized as a "romp" - through twelve carefully chosen pop/rock "standards". Her rendition of "Gimme Shelter" alone is worth the price of admission.

I'm going to get in trouble here because this next band uses some bad language - but if most Christians I know would be honest it isn't anything worse than what they might have already heard at the movies, theatre, read in books or listened to at the company water-cooler. And most importantly these guys are by far and away less offensive than dozens of other bands who use profanity or controversial subject matter to promote their careers, a manipulative tactic this group definitely does not use.

So if you haven't given Bowling For Soup a chance, this is the summer you should. I suggest you start with "A Hangover You Don't Deserve" which contains their ridiculously infectious Grammy Winning '80's nostalgia anthem "1985". Then if they get as far under your skin as they have mine you'll have acquired one of the most fun new musical obsessions money can be traded for.

Finally just go to and if you don't think "Ugly Is Beautiful" is a killer tune then I give up!

Now the trick is trying to find somewhere to buy these things. If you're patient the internet awaits to serve you AND it's not usually too busy to help.

Peace out children! It's summertime! Time to groove!

*Music hath charms.....OH YEAH!*

All I Have To Do Is Dream....

I know I already used this title from the classic Everly Brothers song elsewhere on this page, but I like to think Don and Phil are eminently gracious and generous guys - born as they were in another era - and they (hopefully) don't mind. Anyhoo - this reference isn't about me dreaming about ground piloting a Lingenfelter Performance Engineering massaged Corvette at near obscene speeds across a day long Texas road - top down, tunes up, grin wide. *sigh - drool*

Nope, I'm riffing on the fact that for nearly 5 years - maybe longer - I have not been dreaming. This has been due to the fact that I have been suffering from severe obstructive sleep apnea. Yep, according to the results of my polysomngraphy test - taken just over 2 weeks ago at the Regina General Hospital Sleep Disorders Laboratory - my brain was trying to wake me up 130 times an hour so I could breathe!


I know I can be persistent and annoying, but I had hoped that less-than-charming facet of my personality would be damped down a bit while I am unconscious (or semi-unconscious). But, hey! Wherever you go - there you are! The practical upshot of my brain seeking oxygen with such vigor was that I couldn't experience all the levels of sleep - REM sleep being one notable level I haven't visited in a looonnngggg time!

I hadn't dreamed in so long I wasn't even getting reminders anymore - like that guy in the TV ad about sleep disorders. My dreams weren't hanging out in my kitchen or office complaining that I never spent time with them anymore. Evidently they had simply left me a note saying;

"Dear Brian,
Well we're pretty much totally frustrated here so we decided to move to a retirement community in south Florida. If you decide to look us up our phone number is 786-32X-XXX5*. Call sometime, schmuck!

Pleasant dreams.


You know you're in trouble when your dreams abandon you!

Well I got my CPAP unit a week ago Tuesday and I'm back to dreaming, sleeping, waking up not feeling dead and getting through the whole day without falling asleep in the afternoon. I use a Mirage Swift pillow-style mask. It's fairly unobtrusive, but we're getting used to it. I say "we" because for the last couple of years my snoring and stopping breathing was not just interrupting my sleep but my wife's sleep too. We actually have slept in separate rooms for almost one year.

The first night we were so unused to being together we thought the bed had shrunk - 'cause we sure couldn't admit we might have gotten bigger, eh?!? And we actually spent 3 days shopping for and considering moving up to a king from a queen-sized mattress. But a week has gone by now and things are settling down. We seem to have re-accommodated each other and we are happy to be "together" again. The last year was one of those challenges in marriage they don't warn you about.

While I'm on a personal health note here I've also found something to help me with my tinnitus. Actually, I haven't gotten a proper diagnosis of that, despite seeing an ear specialist over a year ago. The whole experience with him was quite disappointing.

*Digressive Commentary - If I had a reasonable amount of compensation for every time we have used the term "quite disappointing" in reference to health care since we have moved to Flatland I suspect we'd be nearly debt free. Whatever you think is wrong with your local health care system just amp it up a few orders of magnitude and you'll get the picture of what it's like on a daily basis here. I call it "Your tax dollars in inaction." - End Digression.*

He told me I had chronic listening fatigue and that I also had some considerable loss in mid and high frequencies in my left ear - something I already knew. My prescription? Wear earplugs while driving! For that this guy gets a six figure income! Sheesh!

Thus I was left to self-diagnose. I may not have full-blown tinnitus but I have enough symptoms to suggest a mild case or possible Meniere's Disease. The reality for me was that the hissing, rushing sound in my ears was getting so loud I was having trouble hearing, especially voices in ambiently noisy conditions. This was getting really traumatic for me because I am a HUGE music lover and the thought of losing the ability to rest in the arms of my musical muse was chilling to say the least.

I once got into a heated debate with my mother-in-law about whether it would be worse to be blind or deaf. I'd take blindness if I had to choose. I might not be able to see, but I could still hear the voices of the ones I love, experience the music that moves and motivates me and communicate with others relatively easily. In fact, it would probably make me a better listener - something I have been told many times I need to work on, and I do.

So one night I'm watching Jeopardy - God love Alex Trebek - and on comes an ad for a product called Lipo-Flavinoid. Well faster than you can say "Google that" I'm doing online research, a couple of hours later I'm ordering some and now I'm blogging that I'm already feeling better after only taking this stuff for a few days. The websites say I should take this product regularly for at least 6 months, but I'm sure I've already experienced some relief. And you can't get this in Canada. Pity. Again our socialist, government-controlled, big-business friendly wonky health care system does not fail to disappoint.

Nevertheless, it seems the internet has just given me a new reason not to write it off as nothing more than a cesspool of porn and self-indulgence in that I can order life-altering substances online for reasonable prices - thanks to a buoyant Canadian dollar - and have them shipped to me with a minimum of fuss. All that and I can find out of print books, comics and lps - maybe I'll let the internet live after all.

And now all I have to do is dream. Dream about being rested and re-energized as I learn to sleep and dream again. And I can dream of a day - hopefully soon - when I can clearly hear all the subtleties in a song, the delicacy of a bird call, or the words spoken by my wife, or son, or friend. Now I all have to do is dream that my dreams have not abandoned me and that nightmares are not all that lies before me. And praise God, it seems some of my dreams may be coming true, soon.

*Pursuing it.*
*Sharing it.*

*You know if I hadn't put those X's in that made up phone number some goof would have tried to dial it.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Of Real Estate, Gambling and Getting Rich

Lots of crazy stuff seems to be going on in the real estate market (don't I know it!). If we had moved only 3 years later from Edmonton to Saskatchewan our house would have sold for double what it did in 2002.

My friend, Lee has a post at his blog that comes from someone intimately involved in the market in Edmonton. The following was going to be my comment/reaction, but I think it better belongs here.

Please understand that I do not want to in any way disparage the hard work, effort, study, training and ability of those who through their diligence and effort make a living in investing in all manner of ways. The following comments are aimed at those who pursue get-rich-quick strategies.

Seems to me a career as a professional Texas No Limit Hold 'Em Poker player would be about as stable as being an undertaker by comparison to gambling in any endeavor without putting in the hard work of learning how to do it well.

As a Christian I have some theological and moral issues with gambling, but I'm always surprised how many of my self-proclaimed brothers and sisters are willing to gamble big-time in real estate, the stock market, commodities or multi-level marketing scams schemes opportunities. And how quickly those with more knowledge in these fields are willing to fleece the naive investor. I am aware that "Caveat Emptor" is the rule of the day, but there are predators about who use the purported "respectability" of many investment disciplines as a mask to hide their duplicitous agendas.

Las Vegas may be the ultimate gambling "sin city", but the establishments there always seem morally superior to me when compared to most of the investment world when it comes to gambling. I mean, at least you get dinner and a show when they take your money, which is more than Wall Street or my adviser at Investors Group offers. And in Vegas they will tell you the odds. Try getting that information from most investment prospectuses.

Waitaminit, what about this - maybe these folks looking to make some money could try this - trade someone work for money! A radical idea I know but it's just crazy enough that it might work. (Please adjust your "Sarcasm-O-Meter" at this point by calibrating it for "10" on the "Snarky Scale". Thank you.)

"How high are the stakes?
How much fortune can you make?
Should I carry on?
Will this matter when I'm gone?"

- lyrics from the song "How High" by Madonna from the album Confessions on a Dance Floor

Now those are really interesting questions considering the source.

We all have to make a living, again I offer the idea that how really, really matters.

*It has the novelty of having never actually been tried before.*

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Signs of the Apocalypse

Over at my friend Lee Distad's blog are a number of disturbing entries that have gotten me thinking about the "end of days". Certainly my parent's generation witnessed cataclysmic events, and so have I from the fall of the Berlin Wall to 9/11. Still when many strange and inexplicable things begin to happen people are often inclined to see destruction looming on the horizon.

Whether it is the voice of satirical investment advice trumpeting the imminent demise of the investment market or yet another article documenting how the once-mighty Sony has lost its way in an even more dramatic way, the general market news isn't very good it seems. And for those of us with nothing little in the way of investments this comes as even more of a shock as we have not been paying that close of attention to anything having to do with money.

The utterly astonishing is now passing for the highest of quality these days. Those who claim some level of education or to at least be in the process of obtaining knowledge can't pass the weakest pop quiz. The marketplace is rapidly becoming a third-world minefield of substandard and dangerous import products. The marketing sharks are going after your money through the lives of your not-as-yet teenagers. And private equity firms are prepared to finance every bad idea they can get their hands on.

Then there's the fact that Lee created 7 new posts in only one day leaving me with a hopeless backlog to catch up on. And finally, Lee is mediating grace and forgiveness between previously warring factions in a manner that might make all pastors unnecessary in the very near future. (Undoubtedly, Lee will modestly demure regarding his involvement in this affair, but we the cognoscenti know differently.)

It sure looks like the apocalypse to me.

*I hope!*

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Alive, Alive, Alive

After reading this excellent article by Gordon McDonald I've been inspired to simply exhort you to read it and encourage you to respond to it.

On Monday I was driving to Southey to meet with my brothers-in-arms in ministry here in Flatland. The sun was shining, I had the windows down and my car stereo was blasting John Hiatt's "Real Fine Love" while I sang along at the top of my lungs - "You've got a real, fine love. One I am unworthy of."

I was simultaneously singing to my Lord and about my wife and the moment was perfect!

I get to be alive.

You do, too.

*Seeking all I can find - sharing all I have.*

Sunday, June 03, 2007


If ya can't beat 'em.

My pirate name is:

Iron Sam Cash

A pirate's life isn't easy; it takes a tough person. That's okay with you, though, since you a tough person. You're musical, and you've got a certain style if not flair. You'll do just fine. Arr!

Get your own pirate name from
part of the network

Get a BETTER name.

He's named after a bird.

A little bird!

Jack Sparrow (pah!) meet IRON SAM CASH!

I'm probably taking this whole Johnny Depp/Cap'n Jack Sparrow thing too far but, hey - PIRATE!


Thursday, May 31, 2007

One is the Loneliest Number

On my friend Lee Distad's blog site is an article about the imminent closure of the iconic Sam the Record Man on Yonge Street in Toronto. The current management of the store comment that they are forced to accept that the day of the recorded music retailer is drawing to a close as alternative forms of distribution, primarily based in the internet, are taking over.

While consumerism is a issue with deep, difficult and wide ranging implications for people of faith, commerce in and of itself is not sinful - only out attitudes and actions stemming from those attitudes can make our shopping choices sinful. I see the loss of Sam's as a cultural loss that goes beyond the music world as it sends us signals about what may draw us into the public marketplace, or what may make us decide to remain cloistered within our private spaces. As I opine in the comments section on Lee's blog, portions of our culture and society are becoming less and less communal pursuits and more and more individual pursuits. This raises troubling questions regarding what sort of society and culture we may be moving towards.

I am ambivalent about what the power of the internet is doing in regard to our communal/individual experience. I watch my son regularly communing with his peer group from his desk as he simultaneously chats with anywhere up to half a dozen friends. I can keep in touch with my sons in Edmonton, friends all over the place, missionaries in other countries and forge new relationships through the power of email, blogs, text messaging and even voice and video. But at the same time the same forces are beginning to limit some of my interactions on other levels.

The physical marketplace has served a vital social and cultural function for all of recorded human history and we may be on the doorstep of the first generation we know of that will live without this physical presence as a dominant force in their lives. As more and more business can be transacted online, as more and more relationships can be engaged in online, people will face a life with increasingly less need for direct physical human contact. If, as some modern era historians suggest, the television drove those in Western developed countries (and eventually everybody else as the technology became available) into their private homes, killing some forms of communal interaction and recreation, what then might the internet do in this regard to further our isolation?

A story in today's news reports about the tragic deaths of an east cost mother with MS and her disabled daughter, who both died unnoticed in their own home, may be a disturbing symptom of what is emerging as the "new culture" of personal physical isolation. I have to deal with this issue personally as someone I care for deeply, living in another city, is experiencing loneliness and some isolation. Do my interactions over the internet with this person help or hinder their ability and desire to go out and have face to face relationships with other people? Is the telephone better because it engages another sense besides sight, or is it merely the precursor to our internet chat interactions? Do my online relationships interfere with my "meatspace" ones. What does a word like "meatspace" and its creation say about emerging attitudes towards physical interaction?

There is a deep spiritual significance to physical presence in relationship as well as Scriptural exhortation to maintain such relationships. Christ came physically. Being God there were much more efficient and effective options available to Him to bring the message of the Gospel to the world, including individual, personal revelation transmitted directly to each living person. But efficiency and expediency were not the point of the revelation of God through Jesus. The point is more closely wrapped up in our created nature and God's ultimate intention for us. We are "Created for Community" as the title of the book by late Stanley J. Grenz proclaims.

We will be able to find new ways to experience and enhance community through the potential of the internet because I believe Christ will grant us the wisdom to do so. He wants the internet to be redeemed as He wants all of creation to be redeemed, but the potential of our sinful nature will also mean that we must be on guard against allowing damage to happen to our relationships through this same medium. There will also be forces that will harness the influence of the internet to twist its potential for good into something that will damage our humanity. The more obvious uses in this vein are already well established (pornography, gambling, rampant consumerism, fraud, theft, infidelity, etc.). We are now beginning to face more subtle issues and challenges that are just as, if not more dangerous. The influence of the internet is shaping our common cultural experiences - the public marketplace for one - and we do not seem to have the power to control such shifts.

That being the case, we must then decide how we will respond. We cannot seek a path through anachronistic entrenchment of bygone church customs and practices. We need new and creative approaches that recognize and reflect the reality of our lives today. This will take more brain power and prayer than any of us can muster individually - again we see the power of the community becoming more important.

If the very foundation of community is at risk, then we who are "created for community" have interesting and challenging days ahead.


Thursday, May 24, 2007



My wife bought tickets to the new "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie. Three days in advance of the day we will go. She's home right now watching the first movie, and will likely watch the second movie too before we go on Saturday to see more.

My marriage has officially gotten very crowded now that Johnny Depp has moved in.

First there was the safely quirky "Edward Scissorhands".

Then the innocent and cute "Benny and Joon".

Next thing I know the guy's playing "Don Juan DeMarco" with every woman in North America.

And now the guy's a PIRATE and he's everywhere I LOOK!!!

But can I go on and on about Marg Helgenberger...(gimme a break guys - I'm a bit older, OK?)...Noooooooooooooooooo!!

Bloody pirate!


Old Tech Rules!

Before your church writes that big cheque for that Power Point/Multi-Media Nightmare System you better contemplate this.

"Gosh, Pastor, the power's out. Where did we store the candles and Hymnals?"



Going Off On the Links

This title is slightly humorous because I don't golf - sort of. Indeed, I've frequently threatened to call my memoirs "The Pastor Who Would Not Golf". The Scots - my tribe - may have invented the game, but a Scot gave it the most accurate description ever. Robbie Burns said, "Golf is a good walk, spoil'd."

I have to be truthful though, I play computer golf, only because I can do so on the easiest setting and thereby kick everybody's butt. The thing that scares me is that after playing all of Tiger Wood's PGA Tour '06 I only made one hole-in-one! How rare would that achievement be on the expert setting?! It would probably be frustrating enough to make Billy Graham go postal.

I know a lot of pastors who golf, but I just don't get it. This gig is frustrating enough without going out and volunteering to take on some more. It would be like being an auto mechanic who always bought the worst cars reported in the Lemonaidcars Report just because he - or she - didn't think there was enough stress in their lives or grease under their fingernails.

Anyway, digressions aside, I'm just here to point you to the "links" section of this blog. If you've wandered here by mistake as 99.9% of our visitors do and you've figured out that this is a CWOT (Colossal Waste Of Time) as 99.9% of our visitors do then I hope you'll find something amusing to follow in my links list. This list is still evolving and will undergo periodic changes and updates, but it is probably the most accurate reflection of my tastes and interests on this page. Try not to let your pity for me overwhelm you, and maybe click on a few.


As a note of caution, due to the very nature of the intermessnet some links may lead ultimately to places with questionable material for viewing at workplaces or by minors or by narrow-minded 'fraidy-cats.

In the first case - go back to work! There's nothing you need here for that quarterly report. Seriously, your company is paying you for your time. Do you really want to have to explain this to the sys-admin? I mean playing Sudoku online is one thing, but getting caught looking at my blog - that's just sad!

In the next case, if you don't know what your kids are doing online why don't you just build a basketball court or skate-park for them in the middle of the Trans-Canada Highway? Or maybe buy them a Colt .45 revolver but refuse to send them to firearms safety training? Again, seriously now, what are you thinking? If you've been paying even the most cursory attention lately you'd know there are more ways for your kids to get into trouble on the internet than there are ways to use/lose/spend money in Las Vegas. Those children are your responsibility, so suck it up and exercise some parental prerogative - and don't say you're "scared" of your kid. I know you can take 'em! And hey - you're the parent - who says you have to fight fair?!

And if you happen to be one of "those kids" just cruising the 'net let me say this - if you wouldn't look at it with your mom or dad looking over your shoulder why the heck would you look at it ever while your young, inexperienced and helpless butt is still being fed, clothed and sheltered by your parent's hard work and sweat? They're the ones paying for the IP you're using and you spit on them by breaking their rules and disappointing their expectations? Wanna be a grown-up? Pay the bills sunshine - and don't complain. Until you can do that you owe your parents your obedience. Don't break their trust in you. It's impossible to completely repair. I know from personal experience.

In the third case, just know this - I may see stuff from time to time that is ugly, profane, frightening, gross, violent or otherwise icky. But I don't revel in it. It's not my desire. And the truth is that, in life, the divine is found often amidst the profane. Christ was called a "friend of sinners" and accused of having what Garth Brooks would have called "friends in low places". But Jesus wasn't low. I know I'm prone to temptation and sin, but I am trying to not be afraid to go anywhere or face anything if it will help me understand others and follow Jesus closer. There are many disturbing things in this world, but ignoring them will not change them. We need to face them with the mind of Christ and see what God is already doing. If you close your eyes, you close your heart.

Hey, I suddenly feel much lighter. Blogging can be therapeutic!

*Breathes deeply - a smile steals across his face.*


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay Too Serious

There hasn't been much that could be called "amusing" in "a musings" lately. I just re-read my entries and it's no wonder nobody reads this stuff. I'm positively morbid lately. Sheeeesh!

So here's my attempt to lighten up.

What can you find on most middle-class North American Christians and also on their Bibles? - (Love) Handles.

What's the single most popular Christian bumper sticker?
The one that best covers the scratch on the bumper.

If a "Pastor's Office" is the position of authority and responsibility he or she is the steward of within the church body then what's a "Pastor's Study" for?
About 20 hours a week if their sermons are going to be worth listening to.

What's the best way to frustrate a fundamentalist Christian?
Tell him or her that you don't agree with them, but stubbornly refuse to argue about it.

If obesity is becoming a world-wide problem then what will it mean when we sing "He's Got the Whole World in His Hand"?
God may soon be suffering from carpel-tunnel syndrome.

When I was a kid I thought the benches in church were called "pews" because of the way they smelled.

My dad used to say, "Point weak? Pound pulpit harder!" I used to think that was how they came up with the term "Bible thumper".

In grade 8 everyone in my class agreed that if our math teacher asked "How do you find the hypotenuse?" on our geometry mid-term we would all answer "Look for tracks around the watering hole." He did. We did. He didn't think it was funny. We thought it was hilarious.

The first time I was in a Catholic Church I thought the folding kneeling rails were padded footrests, but that they weren't very comfortably placed.

Hey I said it was an attempt! It was not qualified by any adjectives.

On Sunday the Pastor bragged that he could write his sermons in the time it took him to walk from the parsonage to the church. Believing that quantity might lead to quality the Church Board sold the parsonage, which was next door to the church, and bought a new home for the pastor on the other side of town.

Excuse me now, I need to go for a long walk.


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Interconnectedness of Things

I was listening to The Current this morning on CBC and was struck my some interesting connections. The RCMP is about to open their new museum in Regina, not far from where your humble servant makes his home, and excitement for some is running high. This new facility will be a place that celebrates, educates about and promotes the storied history of Canada's national police force. Meanwhile the community of Houston, B.C. will be the site of a public inquiry into the death of a man in RCMP custody last October as covered by The Current this morning. And here in Saskatchewan, while the new museum opens, the RCMP detachment responsible for policing the community I live in has not been fully staffed since before we moved here 5 years ago, and they have not had a detachment commander for over 7 months as a direct result of decisions made by persons higher up the chain of command.

I am a great supporter of the RCMP. My parents told me that the first career I ever said I wanted to pursue was being an RCMP officer. It stuck for a while, too. I remember wanting to pursue this line even as late as Jr. High School. My Kruder Preference Test scores said I'd be best suited for social work, and the police are at the decidedly pointy end of that particular line of work. It amuses me that I'm in social work now, albeit in a different role. I even work fairly closely with the RCMP as I serve as the chairperson of our local Community Justice Committee.

That's why I'm going to say my piece here. One of the biggest flaws I've detected in the leadership of the RCMP in the past several years is their intense aversion to scrutiny and criticism. Let me just offer this one observation - when, now ex-Commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli took his post several years ago I noticed one other news story about him besides the announcement. The story related how he purchased a (as I recall) $7000 pair of custom made dress riding boots during the first week of his service as Commissioner. I remember thinking that was a very interesting priority for the new leader of the RCMP to act on in the first days of his new job. I'll let you draw your own conclusions about Commissioner Zaccardelli's legacy, but I can safely say I'm not impressed.

There is something seriously wrong in the leadership echelon of our national police force. The hard-working, dedicated and utterly selfless members of the detachment that services our area are worked beyond their capacity, frustrated by their limited resources - especially human - and appear to be under supported by their leaders. In the meanwhile, we are dealing with serious issues in our town that could be addressed effectively by being able to forge creative initiatives with our local police, except they can't be here for us to work with because they are literally running from pillar to post trying to meet the demands placed on them. And tens of millions of dollars have been spent over the last 5 years or more on the new museum.

I'm frustrated, other leaders in our town are frustrated, I know members of the detachment are frustrated. And the message keeps coming from the top - "Everything's OK!"

The truth is always somewhere in between. What is disconcerting is that one would hope that the RCMP would be more interested in the truth, rather than the spin.

I'm involved in justice issues because through the Community Justice Committee I get the opportunity to work on restorative justice issues and initiatives. I get to contribute to my community and help raise the quality of life in our town and area. I get to work with people who are passionate about truth, justice, community and relationships. I get to work with the best police force I know of, the RCMP. But our police partners are suffering from a lack of visionary leadership and political support. Ultimately this comes down to us - that's the way democracy works. Ultimately if the national police force has a problem it is a political problem and thus our problem. And you should care because it's your money that pays for it.

I want to be happy about the fine new RCMP Museum in Regina. I want to whole-heartedly congratulate the force for the fine work they've done in creating such a wonderful resource for us to share. Only, I can't be fully happy, or completely whole-hearted in my response until some very serious issues get taken care of. Such is the interconnectedness of things sometimes. No pure joy - no pure sorrow. But it is worthwhile to work towards joy - more joy than we have right now.

Someone once said, "Wherever you go, there you are." I don't believe anyone is anywhere by choice. You don't have to believe what I do, but I know this, no one ever chose the time and place of their birth. When Israel was in exile in Babylon, God basically said the same thing to them, essentially, "As long as you are here, make things better."

We're working on a few things here, trying to make them better. Maybe if we do they will help make other things better here and elsewhere. Because we're all connected and this isn't a "local" issue, I'm praying that some of you will get involved, too. Write a letter asking why things are the way they are. Visit your local detachment and ask about the civilian volunteer programs the RCMP has. Get involved in your community - city and provincial police face the same challenges the RCMP do. If the RCMP prospers nationally we'll all benefit.


Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Beyond the Typical Church Rummage Sale

The Christian church in North America has garnered the reputation in recent years of being unwilling to truly act sacrificially on behalf of the needy and more particularly those who it has wronged. This perception has been fueled particularly by some of the response of the Roman Catholic Church in the US to findings of abuse of its parishioners at the hands of some of its priests. The unfortunate dialogue demonstrating unwillingness to take responsibility in the case of the Archdiocese of Boston being one of the prime examples of this decidedly un-Christ-like reluctance.

Canadian mainstream churches have added their own unwitting and unfortunate examples to this issue as well. The response of the Archbishop of the Anglican Church of Canada Diocese of Richmond in BC to the findings of the superior court in the case of its oversight of the ill-fated residential school system under its watchcare was to suggest bankruptcy was their only choice while the Anglican Church overall seemed to turn it's face away from the problem. This raised the spectre of many claimants being left with little or nothing in compensation while the tax-exempt church found relief in bankruptcy legislation. Thankfully that outcome was avoided when the Anglican Church of Canada's leadership finally stepped up to the plate.

While I am adamant that all Christian churches in North America still have much to answer for in regards to abuse, both historical and present, that they either tolerated or participated in, I am beginning to become hopeful that the lesson is being learned and that God is reforming the hearts of church leaders everywhere. This is evidenced by the numerous local and the less numerous national apologies some denominations have proffered in recent months and years to the victims of such abuses. And now today a news article reports that at least one Roman Catholic Archdiocese in the US is willing to sacrifice what it must to make appropriate reparations to those who were abused by its priests. The sale of its assets goes far beyond what most of us would believe they would be capable of doing.

The mainstream media will no doubt under report these stories - it is significant to note that the story linked to in this entry regards a US church but was reported by a British news service. Nevertheless, reconciliation is happening, and we must applaud and encourage it when and where ever it takes place. Reputations and perceptions can be changed. It begins with us paying attention to what is really going on, praying that it will continue in God's will and doing our part to diligently seek grace where we live and work.


Where Do The Children Play?

The unintentional spotlight of media frequently seems to shine its vexatious light upon apparent trends in our society. So it seems this week with a trio of stories regarding the brutality of the life of children in Canada. While it may seem that this has been a particularly brutal week, the more awful truth is that daily children across Canada suffer much and find little protection afforded them by the state.

It would be easy to point fingers here at government agencies, political or social agendas, blame moral decline or simply rant about racial inequalities, but I'll try not to. The sad realization is that what the children of this generation are experiencing is no different from any previous generation or time in human history. Even the Biblical record attests to Israel sacrificing their children to bloodthirsty gods of the day.

The children always pay the highest price for our greed and anger. But they can be saved. I have a friend who has risen above the cruelty of the childhood abuse they faced and is becoming one of the most beautiful people I know. I have faced my own experience of abuse and come through it to a place where I can forgive and be released. But, even so, even as these stories give me hope that God can reclaim what we throw away, I am convinced that we do not yet do enough to protect the least vulnerable in our society.

Our society is voting not to have children. The number of childless couples by choice has risen to over 17% in the last generation. Canadians no longer produce enough offspring to replace our dying numbers, let alone replace our retiring workers. In such a state can children ever hope to become a priority?

Right now as I write this entry I'm listening to the sounds of 5 children attending the play school held in our church. They are upstairs, gleefully playing on a plethora of percussion instruments. In the face of ugly stories about children abused and lost it is the most beautiful sound in the whole world to me.

Any society can best measure its capacity for fairness, justice and compassion based upon how well it cares for the most vulnerable of its members and how far it will go to protect them. I refute what P.E. Trudeau said about our nation. We are part of a society that is neither fair nor just. And until the children of Canada occupy the position of most cherished of our citizens - we never will be.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Farewell Falwell

This blog could definitely get a reputation as an obituary obsessed site based on several of my most recent posts, but it's true that what has provoked me to comment has recently been the passing of significant persons who have trod the cultural stage in North America, particularly.

I am decidedly ambivalent regarding the passing of the Reverend Jerry Falwell. I suspect I am not the only confessing evangelical Christian in North America who is so conflicted today.

While I will leave it to more learned persons to assess the life and career of Rev. Falwell and his impact on our culture, I will say this - his uncompromising stand on many issues was inspirational in the fervor he showed and also frightening, too. I simply wish that he had shown more grace from time to time as Scripture suggests we should if we are truly followers of Jesus. I will not argue here for or against his positions on several controversial matters - that would take more time than I can dedicate to this post and it would probably bore me to write it as much as it would bore you to read it.

Rev. Falwell was and still is a believer in Jesus Christ. Christ was and still is a very controversial person. He said Himself that He would bring conflict. Sometimes as preachers we need to deliver unpopular and controversial messages from God's Word, but I am convinced that this can always be done in a loving and gracious manner. It may not make for good TV or news headlines, but I don't believe we've been called to attract undue attention to ourselves - we are to attract as much attention as we can to Jesus. Often, in my opinion, Rev. Falwell missed his opportunity to do just that.

I have to confess that I don't personally know, nor understand, the pressures of having a mega-church ministry, a popular cultural presence and a considerable political influence. As such I want to state clearly that I do not judge Rev. Falwell on his decisions and choices in these matters - none of them could have been easy. What I am commenting on is the personality he presented. It is not an insignificant thing that Rev. Falwell's on air persona has become the paradigmatic example of what I call "the insufferable Christian". It is a stereotype that even evangelical Christians are reacting against as evidenced by these ad-like teasers created by Community Christian Church to promote a sermon series they delivered in 2006.

I am supremely confident that God will deal justly and mercifully with Rev. Falwell, just as He will deal with all of us, but I can't help but wonder if the most useful work Rev. Falwell accomplished was to clearly define the Christian stereotype that all true followers of Jesus would most earnestly desire not to emulate.

And even in that seemingly dubious work brother Falwell - flawed as he was; as we all are - served the Lord and His good purposes. Such is the gracious truth of the One who loves us enough to die for us.


A good friend pointed me to this. It states things much more clearly that I could ever hope to. I shouldn't always get the last word 'round here.