Friday, April 21, 2006


sadly, one of the major failings of the american education system is that we no longer teach economics. gas companies are not sticking it to the public through severance packages such as exxon’s lee raymond got - $400 million. i mean let’s enter the land of make-believe and the liberal mind and give the $400 million to joe six pack to buy gas. folks must realize that the US uses 360 million gallons a day in gas. at $3.00 plus a gallon, you do the math. why is gas so high? government regulations via our green friends, taxes, and lack of using our own natural resources in the US (ie supply and demand and our lack of self-sufficiency). we’ve got the technology to do it clean. and it’s there for the taking. let’s do it. and if we run out (which ain’t gonna happen), the market will provide a suitable alternative. the last time i looked, the downfall of the horse and buggy and railroad industries did not impede advancements in travel. oh yeah - and if you point the finger at W, be sure you check the stock portfolios of your favorite dems who also hold oil stocks. god bless wall street, capitalism, and the free market system. and while we're at it . . . if anyone needs to be giving folks back their money, it's the federal government that needs get their hands out of our pockets!

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

it's getting hot in here. ice cream anyone?

i’m no scientist. i’m a humanities guy. so, for me, science is situated in history, not a lab. i read about science, but usually in straightforward layman’s terms type articles - nothing much heavier than national geographic. so maybe i’m wrong here. but - i’m convinced that the presentation of scientific “facts” are often sorta like looking at the debate surrounding the kennedy assassination. on the one hand, you can find qualified experts who swear lee harvey oswald acted alone; while, on the other hand, you can find equally bonafide scholars who claim that the russians were behind it. or the cia. or lbj. whatever. the point is, we may never know the truth.

but - we’ve got al gore at it again with his disney meets the sierra club movie, an inconvenient truth. and that’s fine. there are a whole slue of other folks, some even real scientist, that refute gore’s slickly packaged lecture. basically, there are two things that bug me about an inconvenient truth.

one is the basic knowledge of history that tells us that there have been at least four major ice ages. which means, if my reasoning via history is correct, there have been at least three interglacial, or non-glacial, periods of time that are, by default, NOT ice ages. during these warmer times what happened? i don’t know, but i’m pretty sure it had nothing to do with those theories that insist upon modern man’s ability to cause our current ice age to melt into an impending interglacial period. the industrial and technological ages are but a blip on the screen of the earth’s history. it seems folly at best and arrogance at worst to believe that we, mere mortals, can cause something so incredibly awesome as the end of an ice age.

the other thing chaps my hide until it begs for salve is how folks pervert a seemingly honest concern for our home into political propaganda. take richard cohen of the washington post. in his article, gore movie puts heat on bush, cohen claims that “‘An Inconvenient Truth’ is a cinematic version of the lecture that Gore has given for years warning of the dangers of global warming. The case Gore makes is worthy of sleepless nights: Our Earth is in extremis. It's not just that polar bears are drowning because they cannot reach receding ice floes or that ‘The Snows of Kilimanjaro’ will exist someday only as a Hemingway short story. It's rather that Hurricane Katrina is not past, but prologue. Katrina produced several hundred thousand evacuees. The flooding of Calcutta would produce many millions. You cannot see this film and not think of George W. Bush, the man who beat Gore in 2000. Bush has been studiously anti-science, a man of applied ignorance who has undernourished his mind with the empty calories of comfy dogma. For instance, his insistence on abstinence as the preferred method of birth control would be laughable were it not so reckless. It is similar to Bush's initial approach to global warming. It may be that Gore will do more good for his country and the world with this movie than Bush ever did by winning in 2000.”

now really - scientific data or not - doesn’t abstinence work 100% of the time? and was there a bush to blame in the first four ice ages?

i’m willing to cut gore a break on his green theories. clearly, he believes in protecting the environment. so do i. so does ben and jerry. gore lectures and makes movies. i bemoan those folks who toss their cigarette butts out the window or flick them onto the ground. ben and jerry, the faces of big ice cream - they support the green movement by encouraging the release of countless chloro-fluorocarbons into our air.

Monday, April 03, 2006

rolling stones theology

i went down to the chelsea drugstore
to get your prescription filled
i was standing in line with mr. jimmy
and man, did he look pretty ill
we decided that we would have a soda
my favorite flavor, cherry red
i sung my song to mr. jimmy
yeah, and he said one word to me, and that was ‘dead’
you can’t always get what you want
you can’t always get what you want, no
you can’t always get what you want
but if you try sometime you just might find
you get what you need

in this month’s christianity today, chuck colson, already one of my heroes of social commentary, hits a grand slam in my book. in soothing ourselves to death: should we give people what they want or what they need? colson rails against endless repetition in church of meaningless ditties that have zero theological content and could just as easily have been sung in any nightclub. he opines that churches are becoming more “theater-like” and christian radio stations are dropping “serious programming in favor of all-music formats.” The reason? because, as one station manager pointed out, “(w)e don’t want to do anything that will upset our listeners.” we are “so busy . . . taking care of the kids, family activities, Bible study, cooking etc., that (we don’t) even read the newspaper or care what is happening in the world around (us). Church for (us) is getting (our) spirits lifted.”

so, why the shift from active participant to passive receiver? colson notes, correctly, that cognitive thinking, which is necessary when engaging such heady stuff as discipleship and discussions of how christianity works within moral and ethical constructs, is becoming increasingly difficult in america. “According to a recent study,” colson notes, “the average college graduate’s proficient literacy in English has declined from 40 percent in 1992 to 31 percent today. The study defines proficient literacy as the ability to read lengthy, complex texts and draw complicated inferences. Think about it: one out of three college graduates cannot read a book or absorb a serious sermon.” sadly, as a professor, i witness this daily in the classroom. and, sadly, as a life-long church goer, i have seen it in the pew. life being what it is and humans being who we are, most of us find it more comfortable to be passive receivers than active participants in life. these facts beg the question, “why?”

in the article’s title and body, colson nudges us toward another of my heros who was on to the answer decades ago. neil postman knew that television would eventually impair our capacity to think. indeed, the center of most american homes is no longer the kitchen table, but the home theater - bigger screens, louder sound systems, and more comfortable chairs. postman prophetically predicted how television’s influence would effect the home. however, the effects of television have spilled out of the home and into the church. unfortunately, our churches are no longer setting the standards for the home; instead, churches are following the trends of the american family. more and more sanctuaries echoe the informality of the american living room, complete with comfortably squishy theater seats instead of hardwood pews, and projection screens that remove the worshiper from the text of things like hymn books and, well, THE TEXT. as an academic whose primary tools are texts, this is alarming. as a worshiper who sees american churches becoming a blend of the home theater and the country club, this is frightening. many american churches, in my estimation, tend to focus on filling, not a spiritual void, but a social void via egocentric entertainment as opposed to the individual focusing on god.

the projection screen is doing for american churches what larry mcmurtry says the 24hour gas station did for travel. in the latter case, a traveler can literally drive across the continent and never actually not have a roof over his head. he can leave his house and enter his car in a garage, obtain fuel under covered pumps, and purchase pretty much any amenity he needs in the gas station itself, most of which offer more choices than walmart did in the early days of sam walton. in other words - travel has become comfortable and, therefore, easy. similarly, in the former case, the projection screen has made the american sanctuary a mirror of the home. in other words - worship has become comfortable and, therefore, easy. come in on sunday morning in casual dress, flop down in a cushy seat, pat our feet to the band, watch the screen. this is fun stuff. but having faith in the real world is not always fun. in fact, more often than not, it’s hard work. and if we are not used to the mental and physical heavy lifting required of church worship, what will happen when the real world becomes uncomfortable? maybe this is why i am drawn to “high church.” preparation is a pain. i have to iron my shirt on saturday night. i don’t really enjoy wearing a coat and tie on sunday mornings. i get hot. my neck itches. and if i’ve strained or pulled a muscle in a weekend activity, the wooden pews acutely remind me of my physical limitations. sometimes, while juggling a hymn book, a book of common prayer, and the bible i drop things, and i am reminded of my clumsiness. at other times the predictability of the liturgy makes it difficult to keep focused on the task at hand, reminding me of my mental weaknesses as well. and yet, each of these inconveniences work in concert to keep me focused on the act of worship itself. each discomfort is a reminder that worship is not about me - it’s about god.

maybe mr. jimmy read chris van allsburg’s children’s book, the wretched stone. maybe not. but in the end, church ought not to be about what we want - our favorite flavors. church ought to be about what we need.