Tuesday, April 28, 2009

"It means getting in trouble"

I'll update more in full from the Sojourners Mobilization to End Poverty Conference (M2EP) when I have more time (and I'm more rested), but for now, here's this awesome little tidbit.

On Sunday night, Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) gave the message at Shiloh Baptist Church, encouraging us to stand up for what we knew was right, namely the fight against poverty. He said, and I paraphrase, "When God tells you to do something, often it means getting in the way, it means getting in trouble."

Well, John Lewis, a veteran of the US civil rights movement, isn't just one for words. He leads by example and on Monday, after speaking at the first plenary session at M2EP, he picketed the Sudanese embassy in DC in non-violent protest, calling for a reversal of Sudanese President al-Beshir's decision to expel international humanitarian groups from Darfur, and he (along with a number of other protesters, including four other congresspeople) was arrested.

You want an example of talking the talk and walking the walk? Look at this 69 year-old congressman, whose faith inspires him to get in trouble.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day!

It’s Earth Day!

A couple things of interest:

First, a Wired article by J.J. Abrams (of Felicity, Alias, Lost, Cloverfield and the new Star Trek movie) on the magic of mystery.

And second, check out this short film, Chicken a la Carte. It was a top prize-winner at the Berlin International Film Festival 2006.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Jon Stewart on Torture

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Culture, Technology & Theology

One of the classes I'm in is Theology & Culture with Barry Taylor. I love it. We're looking at the way in which God can be found in various aspects of culture. This week, we looked at media, and we noted how technological advances have revolutionized not just media and media communication, but how technology has also lent itself to a developing theology. Barry made the point that technological advances have laid the groundwork for imagination to play a more central part in shaping our realities; not that imagination (or vision, as someone else phrased it) was not previously involved in the process of seeing and working towards a better or alternate reality, but that it's place is becoming more central and its potential is becoming more wide-ranging. At least, that's how I understood his point.

A year ago, I wrote a paper on spirituality and technology in the 21st century. My basic point was that technology is a boon to us--it allows us to do so much more than we were ever able to--in this specific case, in terms of communication, with email, with social networking, with sites like YouTube and Twitter; but that we need to be aware of how it impacts us and how it influences us. This is a particular challenge since technology is such a part of our lies that it is often difficult to see what influence it has upon us. But we need to be active and proactive in engaging with culture, in seeing how God is working in the culture we inhabit, in the technological advances that we see and the benefits that they bring, as well as being aware of the pitfalls and risks. Media and technology and their benefits for culture and spirituality can only be properly enjoyed and appreciated if its challenges to culture and spirituality are also properly understood and engaged--the best way to engage is with an eye on the whole picture.

I love technology. As a musician, I love the convenience of being able to carry my entire music collection around on my laptop. I have over four thousand songs in my library, and assuming (generously) that a CD can hold fourteen or fifteen songs, that would equal almost three hundred CDs. As someone who lives on a different continent to most of my family and many of my closest friends, I appreciate th ease with which technological advances have allowed me to chat with friends over IM or talk to people long-distance for cheap (or free). As an activist, I love that the internet can be utilized to bring people together for a common goal, to share with and to encourage one another.

But I'm also distinctly aware of the challenges that technology poses: the temptation to avoid silence and contemplation having so much with which to distract myself, the tendency to waste time browsing inane websites (and there are A LOT), the abuse of the internet to spread falsehoods and malice, the multiplicity of creative TV shows that can take up much of one's time (to the point where one doesn't even take time to be creative oneself!).

As a church, as Christians, we need to be engaging with culture; we need to be seeking God in culture and seeing where he's working. I think if we really open our eyes and look for him, we'll be surprised where he shows up.

Speaking of media, there's a new NBC drama that I love. It's called "Kings," and it's based on the biblical story of David, translated to a fictional modern kingdom. Apart from the fact that Chris Egan, who plays David, seems to always have a look on his face as if you've just wounded him (I suppose that's the natural look for a young, righteous hero), it's been interesting to see how the writer Michael Green has brought this story to life for modern times. Here's a teaser video for the premiere episode.

And here's Ian McShane, who plays King Silas, talking about the show:

Also, Jars of Clay released their latest album, "The Long Fall Back to Earth," this week; check it out.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Talking with our enemies? Oh dear.

In recent weeks, the criticism of President Obama has shifted to his foreign policy, and specifically his stance on talking with our enemies (namely, that we should do it). This weekend, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and John Ensign (R-NV) decried Obama's warm handshake with President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela as "irresponsible" and naive.

Venezuelan TV posted some video of Obama and Chavez conversing. As Jake Tapper of ABC notes, the body language isn't quite as warm as it's been cast.

Chavez Obama
by noticias24

Anyway, I suppose it's possible that people might see Obama being open to people like Chavez. the Castros of Cuba, and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as going soft on America's 'enemies'. As Gingrich put it, "It does matter to the world if the United States tolerates a vicious anti-American propaganda campaign, and then smiles and greets the person who has systematically been anti-American his entire career."

I'd raise a couple of points in response to this:
  1. What happens when America is acting anti-American, contrary to the ideals that we seek to propagate? What happens when we aren't in favor of freedom, liberty and justice for all, if not in word then in deed, policy and action? What happens when we let tragedies like Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans happen, tragedies that belie a lack of care and even racism, whether conscious or unconscious? What happens when we deny human rights to prisoners, when we torture? Don't these things undercut the foundation we claim to stand upon? Doesn't that make these things un-American or anti-American? [While this isn't what Chavez and Ahmadinejad criticized about the US, I think the point remains.]
  2. Building on the previous point, as Christians, we have even less stake in a "my country, love it or leave it" approach. Jesus tells us love both our neighbors and our enemies. How exactly this translates into a political sphere is tricky and requires nuance, but the point remains, I think. God's heart, as revealed in Scripture, is and always has been for the nations, and not just for a chosen people; our loyalties lie with the kingdom of God, and an ethic of love, life, mercy, grace and justice, before any earthly kingdom. So we extol these qualities wherever we find them, in whatever nation we find them; and we decry their abuse wherever we find that.
  3. Not talking with a country because they don't like us strikes me as rather counter-intuitive. I don't think I've ever really changed my opinion of anyone because they stopped talking to me; isolation only reinforces already-held positions. What disagreements or misunderstandings or differences have been worked out by not talking to each other? I understand that at an international and political level, it's a little more complicated than this, and there are arguments about security, caution, etc. And I'm not saying that we go in blind or ignorant to the dangers--I'm certain President Obama isn't either--but you don't defuse hostile situations by being hostile. Unless you wipe out the other side. Which is (1) a strategy for an antiquated age; (2) even less Christian.
That's my two cents on the topic. Or my tuppence. Depending on which side of the Atlantic you live.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Checking off this weekend

Play softball: check.
  • My first proper exercise in five weeks! And I went 6-8 in our pickup games and got a little sunburned to boot. Oh, how I've missed the glorious ache of well-used muscles.
Get homework done: check.
  • Wrote a journal entry and a book review, and read about 250 pages on Bonhoeffer, including the first half of Letters & Papers from Prison. Expect some quotes, poems, and more things Bonhoeffer on the Nog soon.
Get ASC work done: check.
  • Attended to various emails, forms, admin stuff. Tiring. But it needed to be done.
Go to church: check.
  • This morning, Don Miller--author of Blue Like Jazz, To Own a Dragon, and a few other books that adorn my bookshelf, as well as a good friend of Ecclesia--gave the sermon from John 20:19-31; Liz has a good writeup. I like Don and agree (generally) with much of what he has to say (as found in his books), but like Liz, I was a little surprised at the tack he took regarding doubt this morning. I'm not sure whether or not he meant to be as down on doubt as he actually was, or whether it was an unintended corollary of being so assertive about the necessity of having faith in Christ (with which I agree). You can check out the podcast by searching Ecclesia Hollywood on iTunes; or just go here: it's up now.
Watch Arsenal beat Chelsea in the FA Cup Semi-Final and the Mariners sweep the Tigers: ...
  • I suppose I had been riding high a little bit, sports-wise. Can't have that lasting too long now, can we? *sigh*
Finally, go support the movement to free Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi. You can do this on twitter (@freeroxana) and Facebook. And for more information on the story, check out this BBC news article.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Mariners lose

Yeah, I'm not gonna blog about them for a little while ...

Tax Day

I love Jon Stewart.

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“Taxed Enough Already.” Protesting high taxes and government’s wasteful spending.

Okay, part two first: as Jon Stewart notes, protesting wasteful spending by buying lots and lots and lots of tea bags—and I may be going out on a limb here, but I doubt they’re going to use those afterwards—doesn’t spell anything as much as it does irony.

Second, protesting high taxes against a President who offers a tax decrease for 95% of the population is like biting the hand that just fed you some good food.

Anyway, in other news … the Seattle Mariners stand at 7-2 and are off to their best start since 2001. I’ve been loathe to mention this in case I jinx their run of six straight wins—my superstition is linked only to sports; and if they lose tonight, don’t expect me to blog about them again for awhile. But it’s SO good to have Ichiro and Griffey back.

[Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images]

And Arsenal beat Villareal comfortably last night to sweep to sweep into the Champions League semi-final, where they’ll face Man U on April 29th (at Old Trafford) and May 5th (at the Emirates). It ought to be a cracking encounter! Meanwhile, enjoy highlights of last night.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Have you heard?

“Why are you looking for the Living One in a cemetery?” they said. “He is not here, but raised up.”

Every person dies.

Only one has been raised from the dead.

What a weekend.

[From The Passion of the Christ. Graphic content. All images belong to MGM and Icon.]

Saturday, April 11, 2009

A little splash of music

With Lifesize

From the Bull & Gate, March 2006:




From Coffee by the Books, December 2006:
"Whispers and Wind"

From Coffee by the Books, February 2007:
"For a Rainy Day (Laura's Song)"

From Coffee by the Books, November 2008:
"Winter is Over"

"All I Want is You" (U2 cover)

The Morning After

[Frank Bramley. A Hopeless Dawn. 1888. Oil on canvas.]

Daybreak brings cold, harsh sunlight. It’s the day after …

And he’s dead. The rabbi, the teacher, the prophet, the messiah. Dead as dead can be.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. This wasn’t the glorious end we’d all imagined for the Chosen One. A walk of shame up to a hill of death instead of a procession of victory through the streets of the city. A cross instead of a throne. Jeering instead of cheering. Baying for blood instead of celebrating the grace and goodness of God.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. My hope, my heart, feel like they’ve been ripped from my chest, torn into a million pieces and stomped into the gravel. Repeatedly.

The air seems somehow less oxygenated, and every breath is a gasp for life, for hope, for light, for anything to keep me going.

But there is nothing. Jesus is dead, and there is no hope.

Do you work wonders for the dead? Do the shades rise up to praise you? Is your steadfast love declared in the grave, or your faithfulness in hell? Are your wonders known in the darkness, or your saving help in the land of forgetfulness? (Ps. 88:10-12).

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday

How could anything so tragic be good?

[From Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, 2004.]

And the account from Matthew's Gospel (27:27-54):
Matt. 27:27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole cohort around him. 28 They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on his head. They put a reed in his right hand and knelt before him and mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 30 They spat on him, and took the reed and struck him on the head. 31 After mocking him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.

Matt. 27:32 As they went out, they came upon a man from Cyrene named Simon; they compelled this man to carry his cross. 33 And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), 34 they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall; but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. 35 And when they had crucified him, they divided his clothes among themselves by casting lots; 36 then they sat down there and kept watch over him. 37 Over his head they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.”

Matt. 27:38 Then two bandits were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. 39 Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads 40 and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” 41 In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking him, saying, 42 “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he wants to; for he said, ‘I am God’s Son.’” 44 The bandits who were crucified with him also taunted him in the same way.

Matt. 27:45 From noon on, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 46 And about three o’clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 47 When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “This man is calling for Elijah.” 48 At once one of them ran and got a sponge, filled it with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink. 49 But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.” 50 Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last. 51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split. 52 The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. 53 After his resurrection they came out of the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many. 54 Now when the centurion and those with him, who were keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were terrified and said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!”

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Maundy Thursday post-op

Today I had my three week post-op appointment with my surgeon; the next time I see him will be in a month. Everything’s pretty much going according to schedule (or perhaps even ahead); I’m on soft foods for another month, since my jaw is held together by three screws on each side (not one as previously reported) … and little screws at that. In the last week of ‘eating’, I’ve put back on 2lb of the 7lb that I lost the previous two weeks.

As you can see above from the pre-op and post-op cephalometric x-rays, there’s a slight but noticeable difference. (And of course, you can see the little screws.)

In non-surgery news, life is as busy as I expected it to be, and I haven’t yet settled into a routine in terms of when I’m gonna get everything done. But hopefully this Easter weekend, as well as commemorating the momentous events of two thousand years ago, I’ll be able to collect my thoughts in preparation for the remaining eight weeks of the quarter, which’ll undoubtedly be full pelt (apart from the week I’m in DC/MA).

Finally, as I mentioned in the title, today is Maundy Thursday, or the day we remember the Last Supper. Here’s the account from Luke’s Gospel (22:14-27):
Luke 22:14 When the hour came, he took his place at the table, and the apostles with him. 15 He said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; 16 for I tell you, I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” 17 Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves; 18 for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19 Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. 21 But see, the one who betrays me is with me, and his hand is on the table. 22 For the Son of Man is going as it has been determined, but woe to that one by whom he is betrayed!” 23 Then they began to ask one another, which one of them it could be who would do this.

Luke 22:24 A dispute also arose among them as to which one of them was to be regarded as the greatest. 25 But he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. 26 But not so with you; rather the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves. 27 For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.

[Nicolas Poussin. The Last Supper. 1640s. Oil on canvas. The Trustees of Rutland Trust, Belvoir Castle, Grantham, UK.]

Happy Maundy Thursday!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Palm Sunday

[Alexandre Bida, Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, engraving, from Christ in Art by Edward Eggleston (1874).]

Yesterday was Palm Sunday, marking the start of Holy Week and commemorating the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. Here’s the account from the Message paraphrase of Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 21:

When they neared Jerusalem, having arrived at Bethphage on Mount Olives, Jesus sent two disciples with these instructions: "Go over to the village across from you. You'll find a donkey tethered there, her colt with her. Untie her and bring them to me. If anyone asks what you're doing, say, 'The Master needs them!' He will send them with you."

This is the full story of what was sketched earlier by the prophet:

Tell Zion's daughter, "Look, your king's on his way, poised and ready, mounted on a donkey, on a colt, foal of a pack animal."

The disciples went and did exactly what Jesus told them to do. They led the donkey and colt out, laid some of their clothes on them, and Jesus mounted. Nearly all the people in the crowd threw their garments down on the road, giving him a royal welcome. Others cut branches from the trees and threw them down as a welcome mat. Crowds went ahead and crowds followed, all of them calling out, "Hosanna to David's son!" "Blessed is he who comes in God's name!" "Hosanna in highest heaven!"

As he made his entrance into Jerusalem, the whole city was shaken. Unnerved, people were asking, "What's going on here? Who is this?"

The parade crowd answered, "This is the prophet Jesus, the one from Nazareth in Galilee."


In other news, umm, a significant sliver of the Arctic ice-shelf has fractured. I don’t think this is good news. Even if, for some reason, you don’t believe in global warming, rising sea levels are not a particularly good thing.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Say, "Ahh ..."

Today, two weeks after I had my jaw broken, I had my first post-op visit with the surgeon, and finally had the rubber bands—that have been my bane over the last fortnight—removed. I can open my mouth again, I can eat (soft foods), I can brush my teeth properly; it’s the little things that I’m able to appreciate again. ☺ I lost 7 pounds over the last couple weeks and I’m looking forward to putting it back on!

It’ll take a little while since I’ll be on the soft food diet for a good 6-8 weeks, during which time my jaw (which was fractured on both sides, aligned by the surgeon going inside my mouth, and then reconnected by a screw on each side, and the punctures sewn shut on the outside) will continue to heal, and my jaw muscles (which have been inactive over the last couple weeks) will get used to working again. Right now, I can open my mouth, but nowhere near normal capacity. That’ll take awhile …

… which also means that my singing abilities are limited for a little while. But I’m hoping to be back and ready to go by the end of May, when I’ll hopefully play one more time at Fuller before I graduate.

In other news:
  • I’m loving my classes so far, and I’ve been to three out of my four: I’m particularly looking forward to reading a bunch for my Theology & Politics in Modern Society seminar (even though it’s all guys—first all-male class in my time at Fuller). And I’m also enjoying starting out with the All-Seminary Council (so far!). ☺ It’s gonna be busy. But it’s gonna be good. I can feel it.
  • It looks like the G20 summit was actually fairly successful, at least in the sense that something was agreed upon. And what’s more promising is that it includes substantial provisions for combating poverty. Hopefully, something concrete will come out of these proposals.
  • Thinking about the economic crisis: the markets have been improving somewhat in the last few days, and some economists think that we’re past the worst of the recession, which would be great, right? Now this is just amateur economic theorizing, but if the economy is going well, isn’t there less incentive to change things such as health care and the auto industry and financing regulations and market practices? Of course, if the economy is going badly, this is not good coz people are suffering, losing jobs, losing houses, etc. But I wonder if the momentum for change comes most when people are unhappy with the current situation?
  • If and when we get through this economic downturn, will we still recognize the need for health care reform, for cutting back on greenhouse gases, for making our cars and transportation greener, for investing in clean, green energy sources, for making sure that free market capitalism isn’t allowed to run amok and the few aren’t allowed to prosper at the expense of the rest? I hope so.
  • In South Africa, Archbishop Desmond Tutu is accused of “sacrilege” for criticizing the African National Congress, whose leader Jacob Zuma has been embroiled in corruption and an arms scandal. I’m with Bishop T on this one: if he’s innocent, well and good; if not … should he really be running the country?
  • And back in the US, the House approved legislation that will, for the first time, give the government the powers to regulate tobacco products (in the same way that they regulate food items).
  • Finally … Opening Day is Monday!! Baseball season is back!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Today's news

  • I have tickets to go see U2 when they come to the Rose Bowl here in Pasadena in October 25. Obviously, I’m still not even sure if I’m going to be in Pasadena, but still … I’m so excited!

  • The G20 summit is going on; let’s hope they can figure something out.
  • At 9:30am on Tuesday April 7, Antonio Villaraigosa, Mayor of Los Angeles, will hold a press conference on the steps of City Hall to declare by proclamation that Los Angeles is a “ONE City” fully committed to the work ONE members are carrying out every day to end global poverty and preventable disease. Go here to sign up if you want to attend.