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,