Saturday, October 27, 2007

Hope in the ashes...

This week, fire has me thinking about rain.

In 2005, I couldn’t believe the vitriol of “religious” pundits suggesting that Hurricane Katrina was an expression of God’s wrath on New Orleans. At that time, I argued that such statements are preposterous coming from finite creatures lacking access to the motivations of God.

This last week, we have watched as walls of fire have consumed significant parts of our beloved Southern California. Some structures destroyed by the inferno—like Malibu Presbyterian Church—held a special place in our hearts. We have received many phone calls from across the country wondering if we were out of harm’s way. We are. What we didn’t receive was the same condemning attitude expressed post-Katrina.

This reality has spawned several questions that refuse to leave my mind. Why would we pick and choose our natural disasters, interpreting one here as a deliberate and message-bearing act of God and one there as a consequence of human negligence? What gives us the right to play prophet, especially when we have proven over and over that we play that role so poorly? Perhaps an even more important question: what reading of Scripture would ever justify such expressions of animosity and hopelessness in a time of great pain and loss?

In Romans 8, as he and the Roman Christians around him suffered incredibly, Paul’s words were not condemning and judgmental. Rather, the apostle called everyone’s attention to hope. The hope of glory that lies beyond this fallen and broken world with its imperial persecutions, hurricanes, and fires. We, as the body of Christ, ought to radiate hope in all circumstances, and uniquely in times of national pain. We must keep our eyes focused on “the glory that is to be revealed” and call others to match our gaze.

Two years later, Katrina’s effects continue on. Continue to pray for the city and people of New Orleans, especially areas such as the Lower Ninth Ward which still lie in shambles. Similarly, California will feel the effects of these fires for years. Continue to pray for the people of Southern California, many of whom face a long road back to normalcy. Two thousand years later, the Church is still wrestling with what it means to be light in the darkness. Continue to pray for the Church, that we would take our role as imago Dei seriously, and represent well the God of love, mercy, and hope in this desperately painful world in which we live.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The playoffs...

I'm not usually one to attempt to trumpet my own humor (that would be a rather infrequent endeavor). But the other day, I was actually pretty funny.

My blessed wife wrote me the following email on behalf of her office:


Can you give us a brief summary of the Indians, Rockies, Sox, and DBacks play-off and/or World Series History? We'd like to make some informed decisions about who we support based on under-dog status."

I replied as follows:

"Here are your brief histories:

The Diamondbacks came into the league as an expansion franchise in 1998. Although they revealed the type of poor taste that could only be accepted by doddering retirees in Arizona when they named the franchise after a venomous beast first made famous by embodying the Prince of Darkness, nonetheless, God granted them mercy and allowed them to win the NL West in only their second season in the league. Stunningly, the D-Backs won the World Series in 2001, led by future Yankees-washout Randy Johnson and future Boston loser Curt "I Love Being in the Limelight and Will Say Anything Necessary to Anyone Around in order to Keep Myself There" Schilling. In that series, they beat the New York Yankees, 4 games to 3. Although they likely cheated to do so, investigations have yet to uncover any wrongdoing. Clearly, the D-Backs are not a team that fans should support, given their already obvious run of success and shameless tactics of bringing in pricey free agents in order to compete.

The Rockies came into the league as an expansion franchise in 1993. They originally played in Mile High Stadium, home to the NFL's Broncos. The spacious setting allowed them to set somewhat dubious attendance records early in their existence. In 1995, the Rockies moved into Coors Field, a beautiful park disgracefully named after the devil's drink. They first made the playoffs in 1995, winning the National League wild card. They were subsequently beaten by the Atlanta Braves. Pitching has always proven tricky in the Mile High City, given that baseballs tend to fly very far in thin air. In response, the Rockies began to place baseballs in humidors in hopes of keeping them in the park. It has produced favorable results, although too late for once promising pitchers whose careers have gone to Denver to die (see: Neagle, Denny; Hampton, Mike; Kile, Daryl). It seems logical, given the options, that the Rockies are the preferred choice in the National League, although since they play an inferior brand of baseball in which the pitcher bats, thereby sacrificing quality for a weak attempt at a bunt once every nine batters, that's not saying much.

The Cleveland Indigenous People Group were a charter member of the American League in 1901. They have a long, if not very successful history. Originally named the Cleveland Blues, they later switched to the completely insensitive and geographically ignorant nickname Indians (the racially offensive mascot/logo was still to come). Since the Indigenous People Group has such a long history, it would follow that there would be much success to celebrate throughout the years. Unfortunately, this is Cleveland we're talking about, and such success is rare. Speculation remains that the city was built on a landfill, but soil samples are inconclusive. Cleveland first played in the World Series in 1920, defeating the Brooklyn Dodgers. The team's only other World Series win came in 1948, giving them the second-longest span since World Series victories of any team in baseball. Their place is safe, however, since the longest such streak belongs to the Cubs (1908), who are an entirely awful impersonation of a baseball franchise. Although the Indigenous People Group had an opportunity to end their years of misery in 1995 and 1997, instead they lost to the Atlanta Braves and the Florida Marlins, respectively, thereby besmirching the World Series crown by allowing it to be worn by a team from the vastly inferior National League. Cleveland, given its history of losing and racial insensitivity, would not seem to be a good candidate for your American League support, however...

Boston sucks.

Hope this helps,


Monday, August 20, 2007

A change of demeanor...

I realize that this blog has lacked my attention lately, and I have a great explanation for that: my job has kept me super busy.

Yes, after two months of unemployment—the first of which was welcome and very restful, incidentally—I have found another employer crazy enough to hire me. This time, it’s Westmont College.

Actually, my job is an incredible mixture of things that I really love and care about. The type that only God could come up with. I serve at the College as the Campus Life Coordinator. In that capacity, I get to serve as an adviser for three student groups. In no particular order, the groups are:

Potter’s Clay: PC is a ministry that sends around 300 students to Ensenada, Mexico, every spring break for ministry and service. They also participate in a service trip in the fall that includes assistance with Ensenada’s Special Olympics.

Spring Break in the City: Exactly what it sounds like. Students go to San Francisco over spring break and serve predominantly in the homeless and AIDS communities.

Emmaus Road: ER sends Westmont students on overseas mission trips each summer. Past locations have included Uganda, Ukraine, India, and Japan.

As someone who loves college students and has thoroughly enjoyed serving numerous times in Mexico, once in Romania and twice in inner city settings (St. Louis, 2006; Chicago, 2007), this job is pretty much just what I would dream of.

I met my student leaders this weekend as we went on a retreat. I’ve had tons to do to get ready and tons to do before school begins next week. In short, I’m super busy, my students are great, and God is so faithful.

The process was something only God could have arranged. Funny how things go better that way.

The psalms also include declarative praise psalms that tell of God’s response to a lament. Consider me praising.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Left Coast Lament...

I feel guilty even posting this, but if lament was a legit expression for the psalmists, who am I to quibble?

I’ve wandered down this path you pointed out,
asking few questions, trusting you to guide.
Now, it seems we’re lost, or,
rather, I’m lost and you took off.
Where am I? How did I get here?
How can I get back to where I should be, wherever that is?

You made this trip seem appealing, but it’s sucked.
Sure, great weather and all,
but so what?
Where have you brought me?
I know where you brought her;
that we can all see clearly.
Am I an afterthought? A tag along?
Feels like it.

I probably shouldn’t blame you, but I do.
Hate to admit it, but what’s the use in lying about it?

Where have you gone?
When are you coming back?
Your silence is thick like the fog in the harbor.
I hate to hear the nothing,
but nothing’s what I’ve got.
Nothing but her, and a promise from you.

I guess you want me to wait, to trust.
Honestly? That sucks.
I feel like you owe me.
I busted my ass. For what, exactly?
A series of rejections? Data entry? Sounds swell.

I am proud past arrogant. Disgusting.
Show me what you want me to see.
Teach me what I didn’t learn in the books.
Make me who I need to be.
Past faithfulness should create some trust in me.
But I’ve only got frustration.
Please be faithful now.
Please be faithful soon.
I hate being

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Dancing with the Elephant...

I went to the DMV yesterday. (No, this will not be a DMV rant.) I don’t particularly care for trips to the DMV, but, all things considered, yesterday’s wasn’t too bad.

I had to take the written test for renewals. I knew of this test. I chose not to study. I am, after all, simply a native Californian returning home from the front lines of theological conflict. I failed the first time.

I missed two questions that I hesitated on and chose against my original instinct. (I know, I know. The original instinct is usually the one to go with. Unless you’re George Costanza, in which case every instinct you’ve ever had is wrong, and, therefore, you should do the opposite.) You can take the test up to three times without paying again. I passed the second one.

But it isn’t the test or anything else about the DMV experience itself that causes me to write about it. Rather, the paperwork I filled out previous to my appointment is sticking in my mind.

While filling out the paperwork, I made two decisions that caused me a little deliberation (three if you count the question: “Weight?”). The first was whether I wished to register as an organ donor. Ever since Mickey Mantle campaigned for people to become organ donors in the wake of his life-threatening issues in the mid-90s, I had always contemplated it. Yet, there is something totally different about officially designating it on my driver’s license. Facing that blank box, I wrestled with some significant questions. A little glimpse at my fragile psyche as I weighed my options:

What if I die and other people get all my pieces? Will they all have to give my parts back to me at the resurrection? If so, will they get stuck with their defective parts again? Could I really do that to someone? (These are the actual concerns that crossed my mind. I couldn’t make this stuff up.)

In the end, I concluded that everyone will be okay once they get their glorified body, so I might as well make someone’s life better prior to all that. I checked the “Yes! I want to be an organ donor box” and felt like that was the “pro-life” thing to do.

The second question was not as easily resolved. In fact, I’m still thinking about my decision. As I registered to vote, one section asked if I wished to claim affiliation with a political party, and, if I did, which would be my party of choice.

Understand, that at almost any other time in my 29 years previous to this moment, I would never have hesitated on this question. Yet, recently, my affiliation with the elephant has caused me a little concern, a little embarrassment, and not a little head shaking.

For the first time in my life, I thought seriously about turning my back on the Republicans and checking the “I do not wish to claim affiliation with any political party” box. That would teach them a lesson, right? When the long-time faithful begin turning away, they notice, right? They stop doing stupid and embarrassing stuff, right? As I debated, I envisioned me leaving the party, followed within hours by a pleading, if nearly unintelligible phone call from Governor Schwarzenegger begging me to return. I also envisioned a congratulatory phone call from Michael Moore, a rather chilling thought, to be honest.

The choice was tough: does the situation call for me to behave like Luther and break all ties, or like Wesley and seek to be a catalyst for change from within?

In the end, I decided I was more Wesley than Luther: I checked the “Republican” box. I concluded four things—See? Luther would have had 95!—that helped me make my decision:

1. Nobody in the GOP would notice if I left.
2. Since my convictions aren’t determined by party affiliation and I choose to vote my convictions rather than the party line, I wasn’t selling out by staying with the party.
3. Remaining in the party, seeking to change it from within, seemed the more honorable thing to do. This party—like Gotham City—is not beyond saving.
4. If I switched, what uncomfortable topic could come up at dinner parties that could possibly parallel the tension introduced whenever the divided political affiliations in my home are mentioned?

I decided to dance with the one that brought me, no matter how ugly her behavior after we arrived at the dance. Maybe someday I’ll want a different dance partner, but for now I’m content to straighten my bow tie and head back out to the floor. Hopefully soon, she’ll learn a new dance step or two. Maybe I can help.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Wire to Wire Waste of Time...

I just got off the phone with my wireless company. Stunning example of customer service and efficiency. Here’s the play-by-play:

My cell phone rings. Hmm, 1-800 number.

Me: “Hello?”
Automated voice: “Hello, this is your wireless company, calling about your account. Please return our call at 1-800-…”
Why did they just call me only to tell me to call them? This is stupid. Why not just put a person on the phone and then I don’t have to call them back?

I call the number:
Automated voice: “Thank you for calling your wireless company, if you are calling about account number ----------, please press one, if you are calling about a different account number, please enter it now, beginning with the area code.”
I press one.
Automated voice: “Please enter the account number, beginning with the area code.”
But I just pressed one!
I enter the account number, beginning with the area code.

Automated voice: “Thank you. If you are calling to pay your bill, press one. If you are calling about new services, press two. If you are calling to report a lost or stolen phone, press three. If you are calling to get a report of your available minutes, press four. If you would like to speak to a customer service representative, press five.”
I have no idea which number to push! You people called me.
I press five.

Automated voice: “If you are calling to speak to a customer service representative about a billing error, press one. If you are calling to speak to a customer service representative about payment options, press two. If you are calling to speak to a customer service representative about any other issue, press three.”
I don’t know why I’m calling! YOU CALLED ME!
I press three.

Female voice: “Hello, could I please have the number of the account you are calling about?”
I already gave it to you twice!
Me: “Sure, it’s ----------“
Female voice: “Thank you. And I have some security questions for you…”
To make sure that the person who returned the phone call you made to me is really me? Are there impostors out there who would gladly go through this inane procedure in my place?

After the security questions:
Female voice: “How can I help you today, sir?”
Me: “I have no idea. You called me.”
Female voice: “Oh, right. Let me see what that call was regarding. Sometimes the system calls people for various reasons. It says here that you may be eligible for free upgrades to your phone.”
Me: “What? We just got these two months ago.”
Female voice: “Oh, yes, I see here that you just started your service in April of 2007. In that case, you will be eligible for a free upgrade at the end of 2008.”
2008?! YOU CALLED ME ABOUT 2008?!
Me: “Okay.”
Female voice: “Yeah, it looks like the system called you about the upgrades. Also, your account is current and your bill is up to date.”
Me: “Great.”
Female voice: “Is there anything else I can help you with today?”
Me: “No.”
Female voice: “Well thank you for calling the wireless company and you have a great day.”
Me: “Sure thing.”

Does that interaction/business model make sense to anyone?

Monday, June 11, 2007

Finally home...

After three long years, we have finally made it back to the Left Coast, and, let me tell y'all...Cali's never looked better.

Our arrival here signals many things:

The completion of two master's degrees (I'm still looking for "His" and "Hers" diploma frames), the acceptance of one new job, the search for another, the possibility of once again getting a fantastic hamburger (Enoch - you're out of your mind. "Somewhere between Whataburger and Krystal"?!?!) All good things.

This site will be updated more frequently now that life has returned to normal. Thanks for your patience.

As I breathe deeply of the ocean air, I can only blink back tears as I think, "It's good to be home."

Monday, May 7, 2007

Thoughts a Republican thinks when he marries a really cute Democrat...

Greta and I used to participate in a small group. This group—filled with bright, young married couples—was a rather eclectic crew. We had Texans, Yankees, mid-westerners, and us, the token left-coasters.

One day in group I mentioned how I had seen a funny bumper sticker that week that read, “Why Care About The Poor When You Can Be A Single-Issue Voter?” One of the members of my group said, “What do you mean?” I proceeded to explain how Christians have ignored concern for the poor while only trumpeting the issue of abortion. This group member then grew animated and began her retort with, “You know what the problem is? We already give too much to the poor.” I shan’t tell you the rest in order to protect the guilty party.

I tell this story because I’ve had politics on my mind a lot lately. I would love to see ’08 be the year that Christians finally decide to vote the whole Bible. Certainly, abortion is an important issue, but it’s one of many issues we need to take seriously. The teachings of God’s Word should influence our thinking regarding the poor, peace, the environment, and a host of other “issues.” The whole Bible—not just selected topics—should be on our minds when we go to the polling place.

The other night, Greta read an excerpt from Sojourners that mentioned that a few evangelical “leaders” were calling for the removal of the vice president of the National Association of Evangelicals because he was getting behind the fight against global warming and deviating from the apparently pre-approved platform of promoting the family—whatever that means—and the fight against abortion. Could we be a little more well-rounded? These leaders don’t represent my thinking nor my faith. My Bible simply won’t excuse such political myopia.

What issues does your faith make important to you?

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

The Once and Future Graduate...

In an exercise of complete anti-climax, seminary has ended...except for not.

My spring semester is over. Since I'm doing the hooded walk on Saturday, May 12, I had to get all my stuff in early. Kinda sucked then, but really nice now, 'cause all I have to do is show for class (a task that has grown shockingly difficult). So, how have I celebrated my new-found freedom? By starting on my work for summer school.

See, I get to walk on Saturday and then go to class on Monday. Funny how that happens when you've only finished 117 of the 120 units. I still have to take my last Greek class, which covers Romans.

I'm really not in the mood to do school work. Everything around me says, Relax and do nothing for a while. You've really earned it. Everything around me, that is, other than the Greek New Testament I've started lugging around again. It says things I don't feel like translating into English.

Somehow, it will get done. It has to. I just don't feel like doing it myself. Maybe it will be easier if I put on my robe and hood and then translate Romans...nope, even harder.

In other semi-related news: Getting a job is hard. Swallowing my sizeable ego and being willing to obeidently do whatever job God has in store for me: super difficult. I'll have to update. You know, in all that pseudo-spare time.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Say a prayer...

Since we live on a college campus, news like today’s from Virginia Tech hits especially close to home. During our three years at UNT, a handful of students have died. It takes a big enough toll when it happens one at a time. I can’t even begin to imagine what the people in Blacksburg must be experiencing.


Include Virginia Tech in your prayers.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Weekend in review...

We spent Resurrection Weekend in H-Town (that’s Houston for you Yankees and left-coast, hippie tree-huggers). We’d never been down I-45 quite that far, so it was a bit of an exploratory endeavor.

Some highlights:
On Friday, we slept in before leaving for Houston. This developed into a wonderful theme.

The Galleria mall was pretty okay. Entirely too expansive and filled with too many “how-the-heck-do-you-pronounce-that-and-what-on-earth-do-they-sell-there” type stores for my taste, but we weren’t there long. Just long enough to get the gist and avoid the coveties.

We “discovered” a restaurant called the Grand Lux CafĂ©. After driving around for a while on Friday night, we agreed that we would be adventurous and try out the “sketchy looking place that says it serves steak, seafood, pasta, sandwiches and everything in between even though the sign looks like it’s a low-rent Chinese buffet.” Uh, book by its cover? Turns out the joint is owned by Cheesecake Factory—which was, ironically, right across the street—and makes some wicked-good food. And the final ironic touch? There’s one in Dallas and in LA. Maybe we should have known this.

On Saturday, we slept in.

We did a little shopping on Saturday. Not so much the American Express variety available at the Galleria, but more of the “this shirt’s only $10!” at Marshall’s variety. Good times.

Jamba Juice is good for the soul.

Saturday also took us to Minute Maid Park, home of the Houston Astros. Those of you who have ever sauntered over to my other blog—mistakenly or otherwise—will know that I love baseball. Accordingly, a life goal of mine is to watch a game in all 30 major league cities/stadiums. Having never traveled to Houston during our sojourn in Texas, an Astros game was naturally on the list of things to do in the next 8ish weeks. Let’s just say, it was worth the wait. Not only does the roof close for days when it’s raining—like Saturday—but we got foot-long chili-cheese artery-clogger hot dogs. I love this country! (By the way, if you’re interested, that’s 12 cities/stadiums down.)

Sunday morning we got up too early—see the lowlight, below—and went out for Easter breakfast before heading over to First Presbyterian Church of Houston. We arrived at church at a time that seemed early, but found a pretty-full parking lot and a past-pretty-full sanctuary. But the shoehorning into a pew and repeatedly sitting on some random Houstonian’s suit coat was a low price to pay for an outstanding service. Any worship service that boldly proclaims the resurrection of our Lord and then closes with a selection from Handel’s Messiah is worth squeezing in for.

We closed our Easter weekend with a trip to the Museum of Fine Arts to see an exhibit of French painters from 1800–1920 on loan from the Met in New York. Think Monet, Pissarro, Cezanne, Manet, Seurat, Picasso, and even a couple of van Goghs, even though he was most certifiably Dutch. (Can’t picture them? Click here.) Simply, wow. Great stuff. We spent nearly two hours in the one exhibit. Seemed like a great museum except for the notable absence of foot-long hot dogs. (Greta was once told that she was the symphony and I was baseball and that such a combo could make for an interesting match. Actually, it makes for a delightful weekend in Houston.)

And now, the sole lowlight:

The next time we travel, I think I’m going to request the “king-size bed, non-smoking, no freaky, screaming children next door” room. Not a child from the “Smell him. Does he need changing?” category. Rather from the “I told you to turn off Hannah Montana and do your multiplication tables” wing of the elementary school.

Apparently, banshees are real and can reproduce. The child next door to our room—a room with the really unfortunate option of opening a central door to create a suite—screamed lots of things this weekend. Yet, never between the hours of 6:00am and 11:00pm. No, there was too much screaming to do once we had tried to go to sleep or long before any rational person would want to be awake. Each of the outbursts sounded exactly the same, like someone had inhaled helium and then attempted to recite lines from General Hospital.

At 5:30 on Sunday morning we awoke to a blast from the lunatic-child: “Get out of here!” Either the child’s parents had woken him up or there was an exorcism taking place. Frankly, I’m still not sure which is more likely. Using the same exact pitch and tone of voice, the child further upbraided the demons/parents: “I need some toilet paper! I have to blow my nose! It’s getting all over my hands!” Nothing worse than a mucus-covered imp.

Finally, with the snot cleared away, the demons/parents must have presented the banshee-child with his Easter outfit. “It’s ugly!” Only a banshee-child could turn “ugly” into a dogs-come-running-five-syllable word.

To make matters worse, the head demon/father sounded like a Southeast Asian version of Ahnold and felt completely free to yell, “Shut up!” at 5:30 in the morning, presumably because the banshee-child was going to wake the neighbors. I appreciated the thoughtfulness.

Greta and I laughed about it all day. We’ve also found hours of unexpected enjoyment from randomly yelling, “Get out of here!” in our best banshee-child voice. So, in retrospect, maybe even the lowlight turned out to be a highlight.

Banshee sightings? Travel nightmares? Things to do in Texas before we bail? Easter thoughts? Life goals? That’s what the comment link is for.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Finally finished...

After 12 months, I've finally conquered the beast. And it only took 53 pages and 13,000+ words to do it.

It feels fantastic to have my thesis done, like someone handed me a "Get-Out-of-Library-Free" card. I'm already enjoying the benefits of more free time and a chance to get work done for other classes on time. An added bonus might just be a reduction in the number of sleepwalking incidents. We'll see.

I guess I should start thinking about getting a job for June, now.

What about you? What's the big thing you're trying to accomplish?

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Joes for Jesus...

Growing up, I loved the cartoon G.I. Joe. On the screen in front of me strode incredible men and women who represented their country as “Real American Heroes” and who sported sweet nicknames to boot. My mom wasn’t super-fond of the show. She said she didn’t appreciate the violence. I have a sneaking suspicion her dislike stems from her being a girl and all.

The funny thing about my mom’s objection was that I took it to heart and exercised constant vigilance in order to find non-violent elements to redeem the show. I undertook this task with solemnity because I recognized the intimate connection between my mother’s approval and my continued ability to partake.

In response to her distaste for stylized warfare, I offered up great lines of logic like, “Mom, they’re just shooting lasers, not bullets,” (in my mind, decidedly less violent), and “Mom, the planes never crash from the sky or anything. They just catch on fire and then disappear” (She stumped me on cross-examination: “Disappear to where?”). Then, the show responded for me. At some point a new character was introduced. Someone had watercolored my trump card. Code name: Lifeline.

Lifeline was the Joe team’s medic. He was the goodest of the good guys. And here’s the best Mom-can’t-argue-with-this part of it: he didn’t carry a gun. Yup, that’s right. Lifeline didn’t pack heat. He said it seemed a little incongruous (I’m sure he used a different word). He couldn’t see how it worked out for him to swear to “do no harm” and then mow folks down like he was in a Scorsese flick.

I thought about Lifeline today. I decided that I want to be more like him. Here’s some context.

I recently heard someone use warfare imagery to refer to evangelism and service. In fact, the audience was encouraged to adopt a “wartime mentality” and to prepare to “bring back captives.” Granted, these figures of speech stemmed from a larger conversation which I didn’t partake in. I won’t destroy the speaker, since I love and respect him and since the context in which those phrases were first spoken would likely influence my understanding of the snippets I heard. Yet, at its base, there is something disturbing about such terminology.

This was my primary critique of John Piper’s Let the Nations Be Glad. I thought that he really overplayed the military and war imagery. Before the Piperphiles begin commenting incessantly, let me say that I in no way disagree with Piper’s point about our need to have a passionate desire to see the light of Christ shined in dark places. I totally support mission endeavors to reach the previously unreached. I’m simply saying that I found the military theme a bit distasteful.

Perhaps I’m overly sensitive about the fact that young men and women have been going off to a real bullets war for the last couple of years and giving their lives. Perhaps from my post-9/11 perspective, such metaphors just seem hollow. I admit that I read Piper from a different place than that in which he wrote. I know that. I own that. Yet…

Here’s the point. Paul certainly never shied away from military imagery. Battle is not against flesh and blood. Armor of God. I’ve read all that. But, what if Christians are enlisting for the wrong types of jobs? What if my role in the Lord’s Army is not first gunner but rather field medic? What if we’re called to find the wounded—on both sides of the lines—and tend to their wounds with the balm of grace?

I have a feeling that those of us who serve the Great Physician have likely been given the duties of medic anyway, even if we didn’t realize it. That doesn’t mean that we don’t address the cause of the wounds. A good field medic not only treats the superficial wounds, but removes the shrapnel that caused the wounds, too. As believers, we must address the spiritual lostness of those around us. But, when someone is lying on the battle field of life, wounded by the malicious weapons of the enemy should we throw another grenade at them or break out the bandages? Me, I’d rather see Christians left and right signing up to be field medics.

That’s military imagery I can support. That gets me excited. I guess deep down, I’d really rather be Lifeline than Roadblock. I have a feeling that that type of soldier would even make a mother proud. And a Father, too.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

I would have shared my faith but it was too damn hot...

The other day I was in a high school classroom that featured a political cartoon taped to the wall. In it, the President addressed global warming. His comforting message? “Sure, the planet's going to get a little warmer. But it won’t feel so bad because you’ll be ankle-deep in water.”

Five years ago, who could have anticipated that global warming would develop into the cause du jour? We’ve already got major awards shows that somehow evolve (yes, I can use that word and not worry for my salvation) into extended public service announcements. How long until we see television commercials with has been actresses (I vote for Janeane Garafalo) weeping uncontrollably while they lament the steadily decreasing ski jacket market?

The thing is, there are some who refuse to believe that global warming is a real threat. Or even real. That’s cool (ha, a weather joke!) with me. I don’t know if it’s real, and if it is real, I'm not sure it’s man-caused. There are super-scholars on each side who swear up and down that their view is the right one. And far be it from a cat who never took chemistry to trifle with them. If it’s real, okay, if not, okay. But, here’s the thing…some people are telling me I should be more concerned because of my faith.

Jerry Falwell recently commented that global warming is more than a hoax, it’s dangerous that Christians would pay it any heed. Falwell insists that global warming is drawing believers away from the real task of sharing their faith. That to believe that there’s a problem with the environment and take steps to fix it is, somehow, un-Christian. I’d like to nominate willful exploitation of the environment as un-Christian.

Falwell’s rant essentially says that to take the steps outlined by the “liberals” is to deviate from our task of evangelism. What if evangelism is more holistic than simply, believe these things and your soul’s good to go? What if environmental care is the strongest sort of evangelism to those with whom our paths rarely cross? In the end, it’s all about what sportscasters like to call “upside.” Let’s play the environmental version of Pascal’s Wager.

Let’s imagine for a moment that global warming is real, and we believe it. In response we become more responsible citizens. We reduce, reuse, recycle. We save energy by turning off lights. We drive automobiles that reduce emissions. We become heroes to the next generation.

Let’s imagine for a moment that global warming is false, but we believe it’s real. In response we become more responsible citizens. We reduce, reuse, recycle. We save energy by turning off lights. We drive automobiles that reduce emissions. The next generation admires our fervor—misplaced as it was—and they enjoy the benefits of our concern.

Let’s imagine for a moment that global warming is false, and we believe it’s false. We respond by continuing to consume non-renewable resources. By wasting energy, oil, and trees, knowing that the weather won’t be affected. The next generation regards us as greedy, self-concerned opportunists.

Let’s imagine for a moment that global warming is real, and we believe it’s false. Actually, let’s not.

That’s the point here. There is far more to be gained by living as though global warming is a real danger than by living as though it’s not. What Falwell fails to establish is the downside.

He asserts that if evangelicals are taken in by global warming, they will be distracted from the task of sharing the gospel. Simply untrue and the problem with “slippery slope” arguments. A Christian driving a hybrid can share their faith just as well as one driving an SUV. And if the person listening is environmentally sensitive, perhaps the Hybrid driver has an even better chance.

Falwell sees this as a case of believers being carried away by empty and deceitful philosophy. I see it as just one way our generation has the opportunity to become all things to all people.

Scripture insists that someday God is going to remake the heavens and earth. If the broader biblical pattern is any indication, this will not be a “start from scratch” kind of a thing, but a re-creation of what’s already here. Why wouldn’t Christians reflect a similar attitude toward the earth and lead the way in environmental causes? As those created in God’s image, let’s resolve to treat the rest of God’s creation as though He cares about it, too. Because He does.

Someday, perhaps we’ll be ankle-deep in blessing.