Thinking Out Loud

December 25, 2009

The President’s Not So Politically Correct Christmas Message

…No, not that President; Ronald Regan in 1981.   The blog One Man’s Thoughts reminds us what life was like 28 years ago.  Though you still have to go a long way to match Charles Schulz scripting the speech Linus gives in the first Peanuts Christmas special.

The scary thing about the woman who attacked the Pope on Christmas Eve isn’t that she tried the same thing the year before, but that she was wearing the same outfit.  Especially when you think she could have been doing something creative, like the Bowen Beer Bottle Band did.  Then again, when it comes to Christmas and beer bottles, it would be hard to beat this Chinese project.

A more nobler project however, is the kind Nashville pastor Pete Wilson heard about while watching the news last week, only to discover the people showing kindness were from his own church!

But when it comes to doing good, it’s easy to not see the big picture, have wrong motives, or misplaced priorities.   Jumping into the Shoebox debate with what I believe is one of her best blog posts ever, Ruth Wilkinson (who may be related) discusses charity vs. justice and introduces a third possibility — presence — into the mix.

Sadly though, sometimes those who give themselves to the service of others pay the ultimate price.  Pray for the family of Little Rock, Arkansas Salvation Army Major Philip Wise who was shot and killed — in front of his three young children — in a Christmas Eve robbery.

And while you’re praying remember blogger Michael Spencer, the Internet Monk, and proprietor of Boars Head Tavern –two of the most popular Christian blogs — as he faces some uncertain health challenges;  blogger and pastor Matt Chandler facing a battle with cancer; Canadian blogger and former sports chaplain David Fisher; and Stephen Weber, writer of the Daily Encouragement devotional site recovering from hernia surgery.

See ya back here in 24 hours, Lord willing.

October 8, 2009

To Engage or Not To Engage

ARMOR OF GODChrist-followers are expected to walk to the beat of a different drummer.   We’re reminded that “A soldier does not entangle himself in civilian affairs.”  (II Tim 2:4; my paraphrase.)    There may be people in your community who are embedded in civic causes for the purpose of building relationships and sharing “the hope that lies within” from that context, but supposedly we’re not supposed get too attached to this world purely on its own merit.

But what about justice issues?   Who better to speak out in cases of injustice than those who believe, as Micah (and Amos) remind us, that we are to do justice and love mercy?

What about environmental issues?   Who better to speak out in cases where the planet is being abused than those who believe we are stewards of creation?

What about compassion  issues?   Who better to feed the poor and clothe the naked than those who believe that when we do it to the least we are doing it unto Jesus?

Is there not a part of any activity or any cause where we can shine the light of Christ into that situation?

So what line in the sand is II Tim 2:4 drawing?

March 7, 2009

Jesus for President – The Tour Documentary DVD

jesus-for-presidentWe just finished watching all two hours of the DVD based on the book, Jesus for President by Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw.   Since I’ve already reviewed the book here, and because Claiborne’s take on politics is widely known, I thought I’d focus on the superficials of the DVD for those who might be considering the purchase.

The DVD opens with Shane describing what is about to happen as “a theological circus.”   Apt, perhaps; though there’s only one center ring and only four main performers.   The end-product isn’t really a documentary; there is no narrator, no backstory behind the tour, and only a couple of very brief special features showing how the tour bus was powered by cooking grease obtained from various restaurants along the route.

shaneclaiborne3thumbnailInstead, there is a live reading of much of the book by authors Haw and Claiborne, delivered in a kind of tag-team approach; while graphics and simple animations scroll by on the giant screen behind them, occasionally copied full screen for us to watch at home also.

They share the stage with two musicians who perform a rather raw, eclectic mix of music that is no doubt partly derived from the Tennessee hills where Shane was raised, part negro spiritual, part chant, part classical hymnody, part blues, part roots music, part Appalachian and one song that has an almost Asian influence.   The two, one of whom doubles as bus driver, play a host of instruments, are not credited, in fact there are no credits at all, which is unfortunate because the origin (and copyrights) on much of the music will certainly be the object of much speculation. (Did Shane write some of the songs?)

chris-hawThe documentary aspect of the film figures in as the camera cuts between different cities on the tour, which seemed to favour older church buildings for most of its venues.   (For my Canadian readers, the Toronto date wasn’t part of the film.)   There are a few road shots, but the book’s content and the music takes up a good 98% of what you see.

Having read the book, I found the DVD to be a good refresher.   There are a few adlibs where Shane particularly reminds us of the parallels between church history and the present place the U.S. finds itself in Iraq and Afghanistan.   The projected graphics add an extra dimension, although the book itself contains many of the same images.

Shane’s writing and mission are well known to many of us.    The DVD is a good introduction for those who haven’t heard him speak in person, and also introduces us to Chris Haw who I’m sure we’ll also hear from again.   For some however, both the music and film footage will prove to be just too raw, and for those, the book itself might be the better purchase.

Photos:  Shane (upper) Chris (lower)

Related Link on this Blog:  Jesus for President – Book Review

Today’s Bonus Item
funny-dog-pictures-jesus-shepherdA few days ago this blog brought you a Biblical reference on the ‘lolcats’ site, ICanHasCheezburger; and obviously the dogs don’t want to be outdone.   This one is from their related site where you too (as opposed to U2) can create laugh-out-loud dog pictures.   This one, however, may be a little sacreligious.

November 22, 2008

When Innocent People are Charged With Crimes

Filed under: ethics — Tags: , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 3:38 pm

Although I try to keep this blog faith-focused, every once in awhile, I get passionate about an issue which is more civic in nature.  This is dangerous in itself, because scriptures tell us that soldiers (i.e. in God’s army) do not entangle themselves in civilian affairs.  I heard one pastor, Bruxy Cavey, suggest to his congregation that a Christian person really has no business running for President of the United States.   He said if could ask George Bush one question it would be, “What exactly are you doing there?”   Nonetheless, I needed to unburden myself of this one.

speed-trap1In the province where I live they passed a law a couple of years ago that states that if you are driving along on a divided highway or freeway (for you U.K. readers, that’s a dual carriageway, I think) and there are emergency vehicles pulled over on the side you are driving on, and there is nothing impeding you from making a lane change, you must change lanes and drive in the lane away from where the emergency vehicles are located.   Presumably this includes police, fire, ambulance and tow trucks with emergency lights flashing.

Trouble is, most drivers don’t know this law was passed.   You don’t get a letter in the mail when they pass laws here; it’s assumed that you get the newspaper delivered daily, or that you listen to the news on the radio daily, and that you don’t go on holidays or get sick so that you might miss any of these pronouncements.  While this law exists in many U.S. states, we’ve seen signs posted there to indicate this.  I have never seen signs with respect to this law in our province, and I do a lot of driving.

While the law is intended to protect emergency workers from undue risk, it is also gigantic cash cow.  I don’t buy the “it’s about safety, not revenue” argument.    People are being pulled over and fined $500 CDN and given three demerit points in situations that were set up purely as entrapment situations.    Consider this story told to me this week.   This driver:

  • was driving the speed limit to begin with
  • slowed down further as he passed the tow truck at the side
  • discovered as he approached that a police car was nested in front of the tow truck, generally invisible to the naked eye, not to mention the added factor that he…
  • was driving directly into the evening sun, making the police vehicle’s flashing lights invisible right up to the moment he was parallel to both vehicles
  • had the policeman suddenly step into his lane to wave him over, even though the policeman later said the ‘safety trap’ was to ensure that he ‘could get home safely each night to his wife and family;’ which means he’s missing the point that stepping into moving traffic isn’t the best way to ensure this
  • there was no emergency taking place; no vehicle or driver was receiving aid; presumably none had previously; was the tow-truck driver being paid?
  • the police officer was completely unapologetic; one of the reasons why I believe that it’s extremely difficult for a Christian to be a policeman; not to mention on the basis of the same scripture verse mentioned here at the outset; the job is simply riddled with inherent predilections to corruption or at least a blurring of the lines between honest law enforcement and entrapment, and this story to me best exemplifies a disregard for ethics.

The bearer of the story decided to fight the charges in court.   He hired one of those “ticket fighters” who sometimes advertise here in North America.  (Not sure if you have these in the U.K., NZ or Aus.)   He charged $300.   The fine was reduced to about $250; the demerit points thankfully were removed.   Because the court case was held in the jurisdiction where the driver was charged, he had to take a day off work and drive about three hours to that area, and then home again.  He figured it was about a $1,000 day; for breaking a law he didn’t know exist.

BTW, the reason we got into this conversation in the first place is because he was telling me about a notification that I am supposed to post in my store for my employees, which, if I fail to post it, can result in a fine of $300 if anyone drops by for inspection to see if the note is up.  I would estimate the vast majority of employers in my town do not know about this law; are unaware of the fine; and even if they are, not all employees would know where the notice is posted.    Furthermore, the notice is never sent to employers as a separate mailing.

This kind of story just makes me angry.

“But;” you say, “we’re not to entangle ourselves in civilian affairs, right?”  Yes, that’s what the Bible verse says.  But we’re also, according to the book of Micah, expected to “do justice;” not to mention “love mercy.”  Grace and mercy and complete unknowns in stories like this.   As Philip Yancey says so well, we Christians operate by the law of grace, while the larger society operates by the law of un-grace.   And justice is simply not being served by this kind of entrapment.

I believe, for that reason, that this kind of story makes God angry, too.

Yesterday, we were on the freeway for about six hours.   I drove almost the entire distance in the passing lane.   That way I didn’t have to think about it if there was an emergency on the right side, which is usually the preferred side for rendering assistance.

Of course, driving extended distances in the passing lane is probably also punishable by fine.   But I’ll bet it’s less than $500.

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