Thinking Out Loud

October 24, 2008

Christians and Halloween — Is it “Yes” or “No” at Your House?

Filed under: Christianity, family — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:36 pm

Michael Spencer, a.k.a. the Internet Monk, sort of sums up what I feel about Halloween in this post here.   Of all the things that we could NOT do when I was younger — card playing, Sunday shopping, dancing, etc. that we now CAN DO; it’s interesting that there is this one area where we COULD do something years ago that now Evangelicals feel we can NOT do.   Check out the article and feel free to cut and paste your comment THERE to our blog HERE.

<<<Look twice; it’s a pumpkin!

October 21, 2008

Michael Moore — Comedian, Artist or Prophet?

Filed under: books, election, Humor, issues, politics — Tags: , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:25 pm

So what’s a Canadian doing spending $13.95 to read Michael Moore’s take on the U.S. election?   A few times, I wasn’t sure.   Basically a pocket book without any picture plates, and with a larger print that I could read without my glasses, I thought about it a few times before taking the plunge.   Having finished this morning, here’s a few quick observations.

First of all, the minute someone posts a comment on this, I am going to be in way over my head because I don’t understand all the nuances of what’s going on south of the 49th Parallel.    So trust me, I’m not taking sides.  I know Moore is very biased.   I’m not trying to wade in on the vote itself.  We had our election here last Tuesday, I voted, and that’s about all I can say.

Secondly, while I may or may not agree with the man’s politics, I really like his style.   Or lack of style.   The book is written with a sharp wit.   Or by a half wit.   Hey, I’m just trying to preemptively anticipate what some of y’all are thinking; which is what Moore himself does in an appendix where he takes chunks of his own book out of context to save his critics time misquoting him.

Thirdly, this guy is a producer of several investigative and documentary films.   He sees the upcoming through the lens; the eyes of a filmmaker.  He’s a journalist.   He’s an artist.    He’s two Mikes in one.  The filmmaker in him starts with a wide shot and then slowly zooms in on particular features.   The journalist does the necessary research and is prepared to back up his criticisms with hard data on how life plays out in places outside the U.S.A.   (And lets be honest here, for some of his readers, it will come as a major surprise that there are places outside the U.S.A.)

Fourthly, more importantly, and truer to the reason why I bought the book; Moore is a visionary.   He clearly sees the world differently, yes.  But mostly, he sees another set of possibilities.   An entirely different world that might have been, or could yet be.   Or at least an entirely different United States of America.   He marches to the beat of his own drummer.   He makes no bones about the fact that for him, the issue is not whether or not he loves his country per se, but whether he loves its people.   Which he does.

Finally, and most importantly, I bought a copy because Moore makes Canada look very, very good.   And also, France; which I have to admit came as a bit of a surprise.  But I only spent a week there.  On a high school trip.   So for me, this was a feel good read.   The last 25% of the book was lost on me, since it concerned itself with individual state races for congress.

And while I hate to rub it in, I want to remind you all that up here, from the time the election was proclaimed, to the time we finished counting the last ballot was all of 36 days.   We just got the whole thing over with very quickly.   As Moore points out, with a vast land mass, spread out over six time zones, and voting using only #2 pencils, we had final results within a few hours of the polls closing.  And now we’ve moved on.

(Did you like the use of “y’all” in the 3rd paragraph?   Just trying to fit in.)

Graph, not entirely related to this post,  from

October 14, 2008

Porn Again Christian: Believers and Pornography Addiction

Filed under: Christianity, Church, theology — Tags: , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 11:33 am

Pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill (Seattle, WA) has written an excellent online resource for Christian men who are dealing with addiction to internet (and print) pornography. The online book is called Porn Again Christian.    Because I also have something online — The Pornography Effect — on this same topic that we’ve referenced here a few times, I thought it would be useful to point out some similarities and differences.

  • Both contain 15 chapters and they are short chapters which deal with different aspects of this issue in a direct and concise way.
  • Both are currently available online.   Porn Again Christian is adding new chapters every few days, The Pornography Effect is presented over two spreads of a blog page, the chapters appear in order, you click “previous entries” to get to chapters 7- 15.
  • Porn Again Christian is directed at men who are caught in the trap of pornography, while The Pornography Effect is directed at women who really don’t have a clue how the whole thing works and are trying to figure out what someone else in their life is viewing and the effect that it is having
  • Because it’s written to men, the language in Porn Again Christian is quite blunt, and the spiritual admonition is hard-hitting.  Okay, now let me say that again:  The language in Porn Again Christian is very blunt and direct at times. Because it’s written to women (or other collateral victims of someone else’s addiction) the language in The Pornography Effect is toned down somewhat.
  • That said, there’s nothing stopping a man from reading The Pornography Effect, and there’s nothing stopping a woman from reading Mark’s message to men in Porn Again Christian.  Both resources also point out that the issue of internet porn is not restricted to men, either.
  • The Pornography Effect deals with the mechanics of the internet in general, and looks at this issue from a Christian perspective.  It presents some new ideas as to what constitutes porn and the intentions of the producers.   Porn Again Christian deals much more directly with the theological implications of the lust and self-control issues associated with viewing pornography as a Christian.   As with everything theological, not everyone will agree on everything, but that does not diminish my enthusiasm for recommending this resource.

So here are the links:  Porn Again Christian and The Pornography Effect.

October 8, 2008

Anti-Christian Violence in India

Filed under: Christianity, Faith, Religion — Tags: , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:27 pm

The article — by J. Lee Grady, editor of Charisma Magaine — that was originally in this space simply will not post properly to WordPress.   We have transferred the original document to an e-mail; tried transfering it to Microsoft Word and back again, and spent 30 minutes editing the HTML.   The problem is that in every case WordPress “remembers” things about the original document which in fact are not even visibile there.   To read this article you’ll have to go to this link, but it becomes problematic as you’ll have to specify in “archives” underneath the main banner, that you want the article for Wednesday, October 8th.   So basically what you’ve got is a really good article that’s being posted on a really wonky website, that is completely unacceptable to a really wonky blog.   I have a gazillion issues with the way Strang Communications conducts their business online, but I really like this particular writer.

October 6, 2008

Thinking Out Loud Makes the Alltop Top Church-Related Blogs List

Filed under: Christianity, Church, Faith — Tags: , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:26 am

As the saying goes, it’s an honor just to be nominated; but it’s really nice to be chosen a winner!   The Alltop Church list is always listed in our own blogroll — further down the list under “links” — and contains some of the best blogs of Christian interest.   We’ve also got a link to the Alltop Religion list which contains general religious blogs, including some Christian ones.

If you’re visiting for the first time from the Alltop site, WELCOME!  Take a minute to go back a month (or more) and see what we’ve been up to.

Now that we’re being watched by more people, we’ll have to make sure we include nothing but the best.   But the real fun in blogging — and what I believe to be some of my best work — is the stuff I post on other peoples’ blogs.   And now, some of those writers might be more likely to drop some of their comments off here.

September 29, 2008

The Pornography Effect

Filed under: Christianity, issues, parenting — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:29 pm

We have good news and bad news regarding the book project, The Pornography Effect:  Understanding for the Wives, Girlfriends, Mothers, Daughters and Sisters.

The good news is that you get to continue to read the book online for the foreseeable future.   The reason is the bad news:  the publishers we’ve been talking to have either broken off communication or indicated they don’t see the book happening in the next 90 days.   Frankly, the way the U.S. economy is, who can blame publishers for not wanting to take the risk?   This is a “crisis” book on a “crisis” topic that’s been written in a “crisis book” limited length so that pastors can keep multiple copies on hand.   Despite the past successes at marketing multi-packs, publishers aren’t beating a path to our door over this one.

I still think we’re on to something here.   The book tackles the problem of men and online internet addiction by explaining to the women in their lives — and anyone else who’s interested — just exactly what’s going on online.   It offers some new insights and presents some different hypotheses about internet addiction.   It doesn’t offer any easy, three-step solutions to a very complex problem.

So what we do right now?   I’ve been in talk with one pastor about taking the project full circle and doing it in seminar form.  Then we’re back to same issue:  Women in small towns aren’t going to identify another family member’s addition by showing up for such a seminar.   However, people are never as afraid of ratting out their kids!   So we’ve proposed a seminar for parents that would deal specifically with the challenges that are faced by people at the junior high, high school and college level.   Instead of 15 sections, the seminar would have a simple theme:

  • What’s in the picture?
  • Who saw the picture?
  • Who took the picture?

True to form, the seminar would also introduce one additional new idea, which, if you’ve been reading my comments on other blogs, should be familiar to you by now:   An entire generation is growing up without a sense of shame.   And as a result, an entire western society is losing its sense of shame.

They say that one key thing that separates us from the animals — and there are others — is our ability to blush.   We’re losing that.  Big time.  Very quickly.   And if you have kids in the age/school brackets mentioned above, you should be very, very concerned.   Perhaps that would make a good book premise, too.   Why have one unpublished book when you can have two unpublished books?

In the meantime, if you or someone you know has concerns about a third-party’s internet viewing patterns, be sure to send them to link to this online book.   It will help bring clarity of thought to a major issue in our communities, churches and families.

If you’re sending the link to non blog-readers, it’s important to tell them to click on “previous entries” when they get to the end of chapter six.   This book was simply posted on a blog page in reverse chapter order, so that opening the web page, it reads from first to last chapter.   But some people aren’t familiar with clicking on the link to get to the “previous” pages, which in this case, are actually the “next” pages.

Also, while I’m not a counselor or pastor, we did set up a special e-mail address associated with this blog, for people who have questions in dealing with this particular issue.   But you guys get to comment right here!

September 2, 2008

Authoritarianism 4

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:22 pm

So you’re a Christian teenager and you want to do what’s right.   What’s right in this situation:  Your parents are opposed to your newfound faith, and tell you they don’t want you praying in their home.   The Bible says to honor your father and mother.  But it also says to pray without ceasing.

Several years ago I owned — and have now misplaced — one of those little booklets that InterVaristy Press publishes that was written by a Dutch author whose name I’ve forgotten.  (If you know, please leave a comment. I know it’s now out of print.)  He worked things out this way:  there are:

  • rules, which apply to particular groups of people in particular places or at particular times; and
  • principles, which apply to all believers in all places at all times

“That’s nice;” you’re thinking, “but what does that do for our teenage friend?”   The author argued that principles have to come before rules, and in the case above, where two principles seem to clash, you have to defer to the “higher” principle.   But “pray without ceasing” is a line from one of Paul’s letters, but “honor your parents” is a COMMANDMENT.   (Note the use of very scary capital letters.)  But the latter is “old covenant” and the former is “new covenant.”  And prayer is a much-mentioned spiritual discipline, while parent-respecting now remains somewhat in the background.

Anyway, like I say, I lost the booklet.   But if I find it, it would make a better post than this one.   Hey, I’m a blogger, not your pastor.

This wraps up this particular series, but look for a post later this week called “Rule Bound” which deals with similar issues.   As this blog goes, this post was particularly lame, but I hope it gave you something to think about.   Finding the booklet would have helped.

September 1, 2008

The Pornography Effect

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — searchlightevents @ 3:38 pm

Although it appears at the top right corner of this blog page above the blogroll, we wanted to draw attention again to the book, The Pornography Effect: Understanding for the Wives, Girlfriends, Mothers, Daughers and Sisters, which you can read for free online, usually in under an hour.   This weekend, in discussion with some people, I was reminded as to how much this is needed.   This book is not last word on this topic, but it’s a window into different aspects of internet porn addiction.  Although it’s one of the few resources especially written for women, if you’re a male aware of online addiction issues involving a son, brother, father; even another male friend; or even yourself, feel free to read this also.   If you know someone who needs this, tell them about this site.

August 26, 2008

Authoritarianism – 3

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:00 pm

So there they were: Four police officers with two squad cars and a radar gun. The limit on this street was once 60 kph (that’s just under 40 mph) but about 15 years ago got changed to 50 kph (just over 30 mph). There are no houses or offices or stores in the area where they were clocking the cars driving by, though there is a big hill which causes everyone to pick up speed. I wasn’t going fast enough to be pulled over, but I’ll bet they made a lot of money that day. Every main access road around our town — north, south, east and west — is 50 kph.

On the street where I live, which has the same speed limit, cars often race by at about 80 kph (about 50 mph) around a curve. There are parked cars, children on bicycles, seniors walking dogs, and lots of houses. I have never seen the police set up radar on my street. There is simply no money in it. And that’s entirely what it’s all about: Money. Not public safety. (A U.S. town was recently featured on a network news story because something like 95% of their town budget was raised through various type of entrapment, including charges for things like speeding, failing to stop, unsafe lane changes, etc.)

I have no respect for the police in my town. There… I said it. There are lots of reasons for this, and many stories I could tell, and possibly will later on. Most concern my efforts as a quiet, law-abiding citizen to try to get the police to back up my rights to peaceful enjoyment of my home and property. Instead, they tend to side with those who are not quiet, not law-abiding. Once, someone abandoned two bicycles on my property for several days. When I tried to get the police to come and get them, it was me that was made to feel like a criminal. Another time I called about my neighbor’s all night party, which included cars parked on my front lawn. I was told my neighbor “.________would never do that.” When I mentioned that I hadn’t actually mentioned ________’s name, the dispatcher promptly hung up the phone. Yeah. Really. Seriously.

My lack of respect is a problem for me because as a Christian, I have been taught to respect those in authority. What child didn’t, at least once in Sunday School, get told to “respect the policeman.” I have often dismissed this as simplistic Sunday School theology. And if the policeman asks you stop and wait when you’re eight years old and crossing the road, respecting them IS good advice after all. And it was good advice when our family was caught in a lockdown on a beach in Toronto when there was a suspected sniper. (Yes, they do risk their lives.) But the police are for the most part simply entrusted with enforcement. They are neither appointed nor elected. Surely my respect issues ought to be limited to the authorities that are legislative (the government) and judicial (the interpretation of the law).

But then a quick look at The Message translation of I Peter 1,13-17 shoots that full of holes.

“Make the Master proud of you by being good citizens. Respect the authorities, whatever their level; they are God’s emissaries for keeping order. It is God’s will that by doing good, you might cure the ignorance of the fools who think you’re a danger to society. Exercise your freedom by serving God, not by breaking the rules. Treat everyone you meet with dignity. Love your spiritual family. Revere God. Respect the government.”

Did you catch the line, “authorities, whatever their level…”?

My second problem with lack of respect stems from the fact that one such peace officer in my town is himself a Christian. I’ve met this guy several times. We’ve talked. We’ve e-mailed. I like him. I feel we have Christ in common, which matters the most. Yet, I can’t see how he is able to reconcile his faith and values with things like the radar dragnet I witnessed. (I don’t know that he was actually there.) A person can be technically guilty of speeding in a stretch like this, but be somewhat morally innocent at the same time. How do you “enforce the law” when you know you’re pulling over, in some sense, the “wrong” criminals?

Now that the town has annexed an area to the north of the urban area proper, they have decided that this area should also be 50 kph. It consists of mile after mile of farm properties, open fields, no housing, no intersecting streets.

I couldn’t resist a letter to the editor of our local newspaper:

As soon as the lower speed signs are posted… police enforcement will surely follow, and what a cash cow this will turn out to be as unsuspecting locals and tourists alike are picked off one after the other.

For locals, reprogramming the brain cells on this one is not going to be easy. Call it the urbanization of [our community] if you will, but there is nothing in visual range that will reinforce that urbanization. Furthermore, even the most law-abiding citizen, who has never driven over 80 km/hr on [one of the main roads] will suddenly find themselves not only speeding, but in demerit-point territory, with possible insurance repercussions in addition to very high financial penalty.

None of this will impact the safety of the children and seniors on my block. None of this will catch some of the worst drivers. Why? Because everyone who lives here knows that the radar only gets set up in the middle of nowhere; so they slow down in the known speed traps and then speed up when they turn on to my sidestreet.

For a very brief time I attended a church where I had no respect for the pastor. I told people I didn’t respect him, though I respected the office. In other words, on an individual level, I thought the guy was a bit of a knucklehead, but I respected the office of pastor — and a belief in the sovereignty of God at work in his hiring — enough to temper some criticisms I might have made or temper the choosing of people I might have made them to.

Does that apply here? Can I respect the office of policeman even though I view some of the individuals so serving with contempt? Is it even possible to separate the two?

Respect the authorities. I really, really want to. My devotion to God’s word in I Peter chapter one demands that I do.

photo: generic Internet image

part one of this article on August 13th

part two of this article on August 14th

part four will deal with the issue of authoritarianism in homes and families

Sin While You Can: Limited Time Offer

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 12:56 pm

Canada is about a month away from having a national “do not call” list that should put an end to dinnertime telephone solicitation for those who don’t want any more calls. Needless to say, telemarketers have redoubled their efforts to get as many calls in as they can over the next few weeks. Some are live, some are pre-recorded, and all are a nuisance.

At the local level, the town where we live is supposedly banning the use of chemical pesticides on residential properties for cosmetic purposes, as of the end of this season. I say supposedly because the purveyors of pollution are fighting this to the bitter end. One of my neighbors, who works in the equally environmentally-unfriendly field of nuclear power (but without the charm of Homer Simpson), has actually signed up with TWO different companies. His lawn is a chemical soup, but looks absolutely no different from mine. The trucks are spraying so much of this stuff locally that the entire town reeks of it, and with two family members with severe asthma, it’s all I can do to not scream. A bike ride on Sunday ended after suddenly realizing I was inhaling and ingesting large quantities of the toxins.

The obvious metaphor? Society as a whole. Everybody trying to see what they can get away with, knowing deep down that a day of reckoning is coming. Knowing that the sand in the hourglass is going to run out. What should we be doing instead?

3 Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. 4 They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” 5 But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. 6 By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. 7 By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. 8 But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.

11 Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12 as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.

II Peter 3: 3 – 12a TNIV

Cartoon: Clay Bennett, The Christian Science Monitor

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