Thinking Out Loud

December 30, 2012

Parables for Our Times

Filed under: current events, Humor — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 11:07 am

Subtitle: Not Your Grandma’s Prince of Peace

James Martin is a Catholic Priest and author of The Jesuit Guide to Almost Everything.

The Smart Samaritan

1. Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 2. Jesus said to him, “What is written in the Law? What do you read there?” He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” 3. And Jesus said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.” 4. But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

5. Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers. Fortunately, the man from Jerusalem was no fool and was carrying a big wooden club. So he beat the robbers senseless. Just then, a Samaritan came by to help him. 6. The man said to the Samaritan, “Don’t worry. They got what they deserved.” Later, though, the robbers’ friends waylaid the man. Together they had four clubs, so they beat up the man from Jerusalem. 7. Immediately the Samaritan, who had now learned a lesson, ran away, and sold his field, and with the money he purchased ten clubs. 8. The Samaritan armed his entire family, including his wives, his sons, his slaves and all his cattle and sheep. Among his heavily armed family was his elder son, who was angry at his father for not treating him as well his younger brother, who had spent all his money on loose living and had returned and was given a feast.” 9. “Lord, I’m getting confused,” said the lawyer. “Weren’t we talking about being a good neighbor?”

10. “Let me finish,” said Jesus. “The father knew that his son was angry, and potentially dangerous, so the father purchased an even bigger club that he hid under his bed. 11. That night, when father was asleep, the son came to father to apologize for being envious. The father, thinking it was a robber, hit him over the head. 12. Now which of these three, do you think, was a wise person?” said Jesus. 13. The lawyer said, “Actually, none of them. If the father hadn’t brought those weapons into his house, then no one would have gotten hurt.” Jesus was grieved at the lawyer’s blindness. 14. “You’re missing the point.” Jesus said. “It’s a violent world out there, and my advice is to purchase as many clubs as you can.” The lawyer was sad, for he was a peaceful man. 15. “Lord,” he said, “are you saying I should be like the Samaritan who has a houseful of weapons?” “Yes,” said Jesus. “Go and do likewise. And while you’re at it, buy me a club too.”

Read two more updated parables here.

August 14, 2011

God’s Blog Attracts The Expected Comments

This article appeared a few days ago in The New Yorker, and was pointed out to me at the blog The Ironic Catholic.  It was written by Paul Simms and purports to be something God posted on His blog after a particular six-day project with which you might be familiar.  It ends up attracting all the usual types of people who leave blog comments…

First, God posts:

UPDATE: Pretty pleased with what I’ve come up with in just six days. Going to take tomorrow off. Feel free to check out what I’ve done so far. Suggestions and criticism (constructive, please!) more than welcome. God out.

And then…

COMMENTS (24)


Not sure who this is for. Seems like a fix for a problem that didn’t exist. Liked it better when the earth was without form, and void, and darkness was on the face of the deep.


Going carbon-based for the life-forms seems a tad obvious, no?


The creeping things that creepeth over the earth are gross.


Not enough action. Needs more conflict. Maybe put in a whole bunch more people, limit the resources, and see if we can get some fights going. Give them different skin colors so they can tell each other apart.


Disagree with the haters out there who have a problem with man having dominion over the fish of the sea, the fowl of the air, the cattle of the earth, and so on. However, I do think it’s worth considering giving the fowl of the air dominion over the cattle of the earth, because it would be really funny to see, like, a wildebeest or whatever getting bossed around by a baby duck.


The “herb yielding seed” is a hella fresh move. 4:20!


Why are the creatures more or less symmetrical on a vertical axis but completely asymmetrical on a horizontal axis? It’s almost like You had a great idea but You didn’t have the balls to go all the way with it.


The dodo should just have a sign on him that says, “Please kill me.” Ridiculous.


Amoebas are too small to see. They should be at least the size of a plum.


Beta version was better. I thought the Adam-Steve dynamic was much more compelling than the Adam-Eve work-around You finally settled on.


I liked the old commenting format better, when you could get automatic alerts when someone replied to your comment. This new way, you have to click through three or four pages to see new comments, and they’re not even organized by threads. Until this is fixed, I’m afraid I won’t be checking in on Your creation.


***SPOILER***
One of them is going to eat something off that tree You told them not to touch.


Adam was obviously created somewhere else and then just put here. So, until I see some paperwork proving otherwise, I question the legitimacy of his dominion over any of this.


Why do they have to poop? Seems like there could have been a more elegant/family-friendly solution to the food-waste-disposal problem.


The lemon tree: very pretty. The lemon flower: sweet. But the fruit of the poor lemon? Impossible to eat. Is this a bug or a feature?


Unfocussed. Seems like a mishmash at best. You’ve got creatures that can speak but aren’t smart (parrots). Then, You’ve got creatures that are smart but can’t speak (dolphins, dogs, houseflies). Then, You’ve got man, who is smart and can speak but who can’t fly, breathe underwater, or unhinge his jaws to swallow large prey in one gulp. If it’s supposed to be chaos, then mission accomplished. But it seems more like laziness and bad planning.


If it’s not too late to make changes, in version 2.0 You should make water reflective, so the creatures have a way of seeing what they look like.


S*H*O*E*S!!! Manolo Jimmy Choo Vuitton Prada +++ All sizes Great deals Free shipping! @@@ [www.shoezwarehouze.com]


Penguins are retarded. Their wings don’t work and their legs are too short. I guess they’re supposed to be cute in a “I liek to eat teh fishes” way, but it’s such obvious pandering to the lowest common denominator.


There’s imitation, and then there’s homage, and then there’s straight-up idea theft, which is what Your thing appears to be. Anyone who wants to check out the original should go to http://www.VishnuAndBrahma.com. (And check it out soon, because I think they’re about to go behind a paywall.)


Putting boobs on the woman is sexist.


Wow. Just wow. I don’t even know where to start. So the man and his buddy the rib-thing have dominion over everything. They’re going to get pretty unbearable really fast. What You need to do is make them think that there were other, bigger, scarier creatures around a long time before them. I suggest dinosaurs. No need to actually create dinosaurs—just create some weird-ass dinosaur bones and skeletons and bury them in random locations. Man will dig them up eventually and think, What the f?


Epic fail.


Meh. ♦

~Paul Simms

July 24, 2011

The Dinosaur Mystery Finally Explained

Filed under: cartoons — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 11:51 am

While searching for the first of three cartoon panels below from the Bizarro comic strip drawn by Dan Piraro, I suddenly realized the number of times he’s waded into religious themes and/or the degree to which certain Biblical imagery is part of the broader culture.   Anyway, I felt this is as good an explanation as any for what happened to the dinosaurs:

In the process, I stumbled across this little hiccup that may have befallen Noah during the early stages:

Hopefully God would have been sympathetic, because the creation of the world was no small task…

You can read more at the Bizarro website.

I believe Christians can take it as a compliment when Bible themes make it into the broader cultural media, especially if the writer or artist doesn’t necessarily claim to be a believer.  But some Christ-followers take everything so seriously that they feel that in comic panels like these the Bible is somehow being mocked or ridiculed; or that Biblical imagery belongs to us and cannot be expropriated by them

Do you feel that as a Christian you are easily offended?  I Cor. 13 may have something to say about that. 

June 5, 2010

Blessed Are The Broken: Our Hope for the Future

I want to say that this picture was contrived.   I really do.  But even it is, is it that far from the truth?

I also want to believe that the various meetings advertised here are outreach events the church itself is presenting, but in all likelihood they are simply room rentals.  Does it matter, if the need is real?

I want to believe that the sermon advertised for Sunday morning will address this dichotomy, but  in all likelihood, it will consist of “heads in the clouds” platitudes.  Did anyone at the church see the contrast?

I want to wish for things to be different, but deep down, I know that the people who attend Monday to Saturday are often the same people who are seated in the pews on Sunday morning.   Or their proxies.  These are the people for whom Christ died.

Jesus can do more with broken people than he can with people who have it all together.   The addicted, the abused, the abusers, the impoverished, the homeless, the users, the people with no self image, the people dealing with temptation, the people on the brink of despair; these are all the people who can be America’s hope for the future.

The future never looked as bright as when you know you’ve reached bottom and there’s nowhere lower down you can go.    I hope it was a great sermon!

Picture is from Friends of Irony, a Cheezburger Network website.

March 29, 2010

Stuff Christians Like: The Epic Novel

Back on January 17th, I promised I’d return to reviewing Stuff Christians Like once the book actually hit the shelves, which I realized on the weekend is now.   This puts me in a rather precarious situation, since my last book review here was Flanders’ Book of Faith. I promise my next review will be all 38 volumes of The Early Church Fathers.   Nonetheless…


“Christianity is in an ‘imitative’ mode.”

So said Larry Norman when we sat down together at midnight in a California recording studio.   He was thinking more about the arts 25 years ago when he noted that.   We tend to borrow forms and concepts from the world and then ‘Christianize’ them.

That was the original premise of the blog, Stuff Christians Like.   Author Jon Acuff — he goes by the more formal Jonathan on the cover — will tell you how the blog borrowed its title from Christian Landers’ Stuff White People Like and then went on for the past two years to become a Top 5 Christian blog listing all the other ways we Christianize things from the broader culture.

But the book version — Stuff Christians Like – is really so much more than that.   It’s the kind of book that comes around every generation or so that totally nails it when it comes to spoofing Christian living in general and church life in particular.   Unlike a number of other books that have recently taken on this challenge, Stuff Christians Like is written by someone within the Evangelical culture, although to my recollection, the book never actually uses that E-word.

Somewhere in our house is a copy of the book Games Christians Play by Judi Culbertson and Patti Bard, published by Harper & Row in either 1967 or 1973, depending on what online source you check.   It is a hilarious title and the time-specific references are overshadowed by the authors ability to get at the underlying motivation for why we do the things we do.  I’ve always wanted to see someone do a modern version of this title, and found it interesting that Harper & Row became HarperCollins which owns Zondervan which published Stuff Christians Like, which continues the tradition.

As I noted in January, the paperback version of SCL is considerably different from the blog, with much new material added, and themes contained on the blog mashed up in concise way.   But at over 200 pages, there is a lot of content to read here, something you don’t always get in books that are shelved among the ‘humor’ genre titles at the Christian bookstore, such as the Youth Specialties title from the 1980s, 101 Things To Do During a Dull Sermon by Tim Sims and Dan Pagoda, recently re-released.   Rather, SCL is funny, but in a ‘makes-you-think’ kind of way.

There are three strengths that Stuff Christians Like has that I want to mention.

Timing.   This book is hitting the stores as North America pulls out of a couple of years of recession, mortgage failures, job losses, etc.    We could use a laugh right now, and there’s never much in the way of competition in the ‘humor’ genre of Christian publishing.

Insight.   The book is partly autobiographical, and Jon Acuff is both a really funny guy and the son of a pastor.   He may attend a megachurch, but apparently it doesn’t stop him from being signed up — “voluntold” — to help with the dishes after a church banquet.  There’s an “everyman” quality to his writing so you might argue that anyone could have written this book, tough I doubt anyone could do it as well.

Fearless.   A lot of Jon’s blog readers are younger; in their teens, twenties or thirties and therefore a lot of them are single.    I thought at one point single readers might wince at the section on ‘the gift of singleness,’ but as an author, Jon isn’t afraid to take risks, or say what everybody else is thinking but afraid to say.

But there’s one giant feature about this book I saved for last.   It’s not overt, in fact it’s buried in a phrase about two-thirds of the way through, where he mentions, “I’m the token Christian at work.”

Think about it…  Given the number of Christian books out there published by theologians, seminary professors, pastors and John Maxwell, it isn’t all that often that you come across a book by someone whose nine-to-five gig is the same of yours; who is living out life in a cubicle, or on the shop floor or behind the cash register just like you are.

To this reader, that’s Stuff Christians Like‘s main asset.   It’s a book about you and me written by someone who is so eerily similar to you and me that it resonates fully.  The book’s major sections deal with God, the Bible, prayer, family life, church, witnessing, etc., but also a section called “My Bad” which is an honest, transparent look at ways we mess up.   The theme in “My Bad” returns with five or six short articles at the end of the book that indicate there’s a lot more depth to this author;  I really hope it’s a clue to what future Jon Acuff books might contain.

Buy this book.   Jon’s wife and two daughters need to eat more than just Skittles.  If you’re not a reader of the SCL blog, click here and bookmark the site, which is updated daily.

March 12, 2010

Currently Reading: Flanders’ Book of Faith

In the Christian blogosphere you are judged by the books you review.   Academic, church growth books, and anything by Mark Driscoll or John Piper are acceptable.   The latest edition of Bible Word Search Puzzles doesn’t count as serious reading.   Neither does anything remotely related to The Simpsons TV series.

So it was with great fear and trepidation that I decided to write this.   But it was with different motives that I decided to take the half-hour or so necessary to cover all of Flanders’ Book of Faith (HarperCollins, 2008, no specific author credit.)  I wanted to see how they actually treat Christian belief.

I’ve always been aware of the fact that from Rev. Lovejoy’s sermonizing to Ned Flanders’ diploma from Oral Roberts University (not mentioned in the book) the writers have an intimate knowledge of Evangelical Christianity.   They get the culture.  (And if you grew up with those little Jack Chick tract/booklets, you’ll see how well they get it.)

There’s another issue at stake here.   I got multiple copies of the title in a book remainder sale and decided to put them on display in our Christian bookstore.   Seriously.   They’re there right now.

There are episodes and themes in The Simpsons that are downright offensive to Christian sensibilities.   I knew that going in.  Many of you reading this do not allow the program to be viewed in your home.   But I wasn’t sure that their religious references — more specifically Christian references — were part of that offense.

My multiple purchase hunch was correct.   There’s nothing in particular in the book that attacks or degrades belief.    They understand the issues of faith, the complexities of theology and the thorny areas of doctrine, but it’s really no different than things you might read online in blogs.

The book will stay on display.    Rather than being offensive in and of itself, it’s really part of the larger issue:  Some Evangelicals have a low tolerance for humor and satire.    They’re offended by the infamous “Laughing Jesus” sketch print because scripture doesn’t record Jesus ever laughing or even having a sense of humor.

I beg to differ.   The Christ I follow expects no less than my complete transparency, and my personal ethic is to fellowship with people who share that view, which includes the ability to laugh at our various foibles.  (This issue will reappear next month when Zondervan releases Jon Acuff’s Stuff Christians Like; bet on it.)

I can’t wait for the first complaint so I can launch into my book choice apologetic, though I won’t get the chance if the copies sell out.

December 19, 2009

If Target Operated Like a Church

Filed under: Church, Humor — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:38 pm

I was going to save this for the next link list, but it’s too good not to reprint here in full.   This is from Tony Morgan Live, which you’ll have to visit anyway, because the comments are too good to miss.   [Canadian readers: Target = Zellers]



‘Tis the season to shop for Christmas gifts, so I recently made a trip to Target. I love Target because I don’t have to spend a lot of money, and I avoid going to Wal-Mart.

After spending a little bit of time in the store, it struck me how different Target is from most churches I’ve visited in the past. That led me to wondering how Target would be different if it operated like the typical church. So, with that in mind, here’s my initial list:

What if Target Operated Like a Church?

  • Instead of having men’s and women’s clothing departments, they would be called clever names like Impact and Embrace that are completely meaningless to new shoppers.
  • Each department in the store would have its own logo to go with their clever name. And, of course, all those logos would be different than the logo on the front of the store.
  • The workers in each department would all have their own t-shirts and flyers to promote what’s available in their departments. The youth clothing department would, of course, have the best flyers.
  • The store manager and his wife would be pictured on the front page of the website.
  • You wouldn’t actually be able to buy anything from the website, but each department would have its own page explaining why they are such a great department and the the information would be several months out-of-date.
  • If you are in the shoe department and have a question about flashlights, the shoe department employee has no idea how to help you because it doesn’t have anything to do with shoes.
  • Shoppers would be able to start their own departments so that they can buy the items that they want to buy. Don’t worry…that means there will certainly be a clothing department for singles.
  • Shoppers would also be able to appoint their own store manager and then serve on committees and boards to tell the store manager what to do.
  • The store would only be open one day a week between 9:00 a.m. and noon and on the first Wednesday evening of every month.

Hope this makes you laugh. (Emily and I did.) And, maybe it also challenges some preconceived notions. After all, churches are sort of notorious for worshiping methods and traditions whether or not they actually produce results.

What would you add to the list?

~Tony Morgan

I’ve closed off comments on this one so you can add your comments directly on Tony’s blog.

December 14, 2009

World of Dod’s Blog: Charismatic Cartoons

After mentioning this site in December 2nd’s link list, I finally found a couple of  ‘toons on World of Dod’s Blog that were of a size I could screen-shot them for you.   This blog is part funny, part thought-provoking, but you really need to have spent some time in the Pentecostal or Charismatic community to get all the nuances.   And that crowd isn’t known for a lot of introspection, let alone humor.   It’s a whole other world out there!   (Been there, done that, bought the T-shirt…)  So when you find a diamond in the rough…

Here’s another one:

These are just a couple of the recent ones.   Be sure to visit the site at: http://worldofdod.wordpress.com/

All cartoons are copyright of Dod Cartoonist, © 2009. www.worldofdod.wordpress.com

December 2, 2009

Best of this Week’s Links

Before we get into this week’s lynx links, I want to refer back to something on this blog a few days ago.

When I wrote a post a few days ago questioning some aspects of the Samaritans Purse Christmas shoebox project, I was simply giving voice to some things that were rumbling in the back of my mind.   I was hesitant to formulate much more than a few random thoughts because I really thought I was alone in criticizing a program that is so widely subscribed to by local churches.

I was wrong.   When Sarah’s comment came, I realized I had only begun to scratch the surface of issues raised by the program.   Here’s a reprint of her comment, but I want to strongly recommend you visit the link, which documents why in one Canadian province, a large denomination isn’t encouraging support of the program.   It takes you to a 16-page (.pdf file) report of which pages 4 to 11 are most important and will only take you a couple of minutes.

Thanks for this article–I think all your questions and concerns are excellent. If you’re interested in more, with a powerful eyewitness story about shoebox problems, see http://ucskco.sasktelwebhosting.com/TheGiftMattersSchoolkit.pdf

It shouldn’t be about followup for the giver at all; that’s a form of strings-attached giving.

Additional questions:

Does this encourage children to value Western cultures more than their own?

Do “shoebox” gifts become better than something simpler made lovingly by a family member?

Are they introducing commercial gift-giving into a culture that doesn’t celebrate Christmas in that way?

Do they respect people of other faiths who don’t celebrate Christmas at all?

Do they portray one race/culture as being better or more successful than others?

Most importantly, how do they work to bring about real change, in places where the needs are for justice, peace, and access to the necessities of life?

~ Comment by Sarah Shepherd

Your responses to this can go here or in the comment section of the original post.    If anyone has seen other good pieces online where the program has been critiqued, feel free to put the link in a comment as well.

Other links this week:

  • Bill Kinnon looks at youth culture ministry and points out that, “What we win them with, is what we win them to. Win them with entertainment, and you’ve created customers – who expect to be continually entertained.”
  • Here’s a book that’s got me curious.   Trevin Wax reviews Chris Armstrong’s book Patron Saints for Postmoderns. “Chris focuses on ten ‘saints’ from Christian history and offers insights from their lives that can be learned and applied today.”
  • Some of the Christian cartoons I use here are a lot of fun.  This one digs a little deeper, and could only be written by someone with an intimate understanding of life in the Charismatic or Pentecostal environment.  So some of you are going to really, really connect with this, and others maybe not so much.   But if you’ve been in those circles, you won’t want to miss this.   Check out World of Dod’s blog.
  • Speaking of all things Charismatic, over a week ago Christianity Today did a really good article on that community’s voice of reason, Charisma magazine editor J. Lee Grady.   I also recommend subscribing to Lee’s weekly e-mail, although it’s bundled with other things from Strang Communications, so it’s an all or nothing subscription.
  • Our iKettle still needs the support of our Canadian readers.   Money given to the Salvation Army stays in the donor’s community.   Click here.
  • Jessica at the general-interest blog, Indexed accurately sums up why people feel the way they do about their wealth.    It’s all relative.    Ain’t that the truth!
  • Paul Stoecklein, author of the general market humor book You Had Me At Idiot, has a very irreverent post about surviving the Thanksgiving holiday in a ‘religious’ family.  Sample:  “Protestants are different. With them, saying grace is like really bad performance art. I swear, I think these people believe that saying grace should have been one of the categories on Star Search… Read — if you dare — the whole piece here. [HT: Shallow Frozen Water blog]

  • Christian apologist Josh McDowell and coauthor David Sterrett discuss why they wrote a book, titled ‘O’ God, about Oprah Winfrey and why they don’t think Christians are equipped to respond to Oprah’s ‘teaching.’  This link takes you a four minute video on YouTube.
  • Speaking of Christian Apologists, New York Magazine profiles Timothy Keller and his Redeemer Presbyterian Church in the Big Apple.  “Although relatively few secular New Yorkers know about it—Keller prefers to keep Redeemer mostly under the media radar… —an Evangelical Christian megachurch is growing in the heart of Manhattan.”
  • Carlos Whitaker invites readers at his blog, Ragamuffin Soul, to leave their favorite quotation.   So far, over 80 responses, but plenty of room for you to add yours.

November 21, 2009

The Most Incredible, Amazing Video Ever

Filed under: blogging — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 12:47 pm

This is a gift to all my blogger friends in the U.S.:

This is — more or less — what we in Canada, The UK, Australia, New Zealand and other parts of the world get most of the time when you embed certain videos in your blog.

Please stop torturing us.

 

 

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