Saturday, September 30, 2006

Downloads From New Attitude

I just recently discovered this new website and it is chock full of resources. Here is a link to some mp3 downloads I would heartily recommend. The titles are:

The Truth:Rediscovering Humble Orthodoxy
By Joshua Harris

The Mission:Reaching the World Next Door
By Eric Simmons

Cultural Discernment from aBiblical Worldview
By Dr. Albert Mohler

Cultural Discernment from aBiblical Worldview
By Dr. Albert Mohler

Also, New Attitude is liveblogging the Desiring God National Conference with D. A. Carson, Tim Keller, Mark Driscoll and of course John Piper.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

I Have Been Watching Two-A-Days

Well, this is my second highly critical post in a row of boob-tube programming. You will have to excuse me as we only recently procured cable services again. We usually do not have cable as it typically sucks out my braincells and keeps me from reading and interacting with my family.

Also this is my second post on television and it's intersection with football. This post regarding the MTV hit show, Two-A-Days is much more serious than the first. The first was simply frustrating and I have not given it much thought since posted. However, this is not the case with the present subject.

There are a few reasons why I have been watching Two-A-Days (here via the internet).

1. Most of the High School Students I work with are watching the show. It is and I quote, "better than Laguna Beach." SO, I was intrigued.

2. I am from Birmingham and my last address in God's country was in Hoover. Hoover is a suburb of Birmingham.

3. My nephew played on a couple of the state championship teams of Hoover High football and my niece was on the dance team. She will more than likely show up on the show if she has not already.

So needless to say my interest was piqued with sufficient reason for tuning in and suffering through more mindlessness.

Let me say up front the show has some qualities that make it genuinely entertaining. It has a few truly encouraging moments. There is not much ammunition given for those who would love to find reasons for berating the South. And the editing and music make for some intense game-time moments.

But that is about it...Really. Now that might be enough for my students (much to my chagrin) but it is not enough for me. The negatives overshadow the positives to the point of rendering the positives negligible.

So what is wrong with it?

Let me start with a few subtle things:

1. Since when do we suspend the rules of common decency and allow coaches to berate and degrade players in the name of motivation? The simple fact is these coaches come off as bullies growling and barking out obscene-laced insults: You're an embarrassment, dumbass, etc. No teacher would ever get away with this in the classroom. A DHS worker would be called to the scene if a parent spoke to a child this way. Hoover wins for certain and this is obviously the price the administration is willing to pay along with parents and players.

2. It is hard for me to believe that allowing a TV show to film throughout the day does not affect the culture of a school. Watching the show online has left me wondering how ho-hum the rest of school-life might be if you are a cheerleader or football player. And of course, the question must be asked if there will be residual affects for those not part of the cheerleading squad or the team. Maybe not...But celebrity has a way of separating itself from the common.

3. Speaking of celebrity...has it ever built character?

4. What kind of parent lets a TV camera pan across their teenage girl's body in a bikini? Not to mention the making out in the pool!?

Some of the above are heinous. Maybe not all of them. This final point is damning.

There is a theme running through the first four episodes and it is not the drama between Arrogant Alex and clueless Kristin. The theme is that for Hoover High and the city of Hoover, football is a religion. It is even stated by Alex, "Welcome to Hoover, Alabama...Where football is a religion and the players are celebrities." A cook at a local restaurant agrees. That should be an indictment not a cause celebre'.

Now that might be just innocent but ignorant use of jargon...except for the fact the team chaplain says and does far worse.

The team chaplain (name withheld here but made public on the show) is also a student pastor at one of the largest churches in Birmingham, just a few footballs fields away from the High School. Everything he says is in the context of the prayer breakfast for the athletes and cheerleaders previous to school on the day of the game. And he says things that made my heart hurt. If anyone ever said what he does to my students, I would publicly disavow them. I would call every parent and write a letter. From rooftops I well yell, "NO."

"OK, but what does he say"? The following is a list of the most obviously heinous that cannot be written off as edited. I will analyze as I list them.

1. "Let them know they (the opposing team from out of state) have come to the state of Alabama where football is King." So, I know it is possible that he said this after a devotional he gave. But even if that is the case, how can any team chaplain and minister of the gospel want anyone to prove that football is King...anywhere. Shouldn't a team chaplain yearn and labor in prayer for football players, etc. to play as if Christ is King? If football is King in the state of Alabama, then should he not have said it as a rebuke. This is simply an encouragement for these young men and women to be idolaters. Perhaps he did not mean it that way. But this pastor is older than me and I am almost 35. He should have known better. What a tragedy.

2. After letting them know he will be reading from Luke 12:35ff., he says, "Tonight there's a thief coming, there's a thief coming at Wildcat Field and they're trying to take everything you worked for..." He says other things about how they should play but those might have been edited in. But the quote above was not edited. He said those exact words. Now this will only be seen for what it is if we look at the passage he reads to the students...

"Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, 36and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks. 37Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them. 38If he comes in the second watch, or in the third, and finds them awake, blessed are those servants! 39But know this, that if the master of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have left his house to be broken into. 40You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect."

So Jesus is saying that we ought to be ready for his return and as we do not know when a thief is coming to our house we will not know when he is coming. Jesus is comparing his stealth in returning to a thief.

The problem is the team chaplain for the Hoover Buccaneers proceeds to use this passage to say a thief is coming to take away victory from the Buccaneers. So not only is this bad hermeneutics but this is twisting theology to motivate footballs to "get up in their grill...stick it in their earhole and knock them off their feet." Listen, this is not just a slip of the tongue. This is not a semantic issue. This is bordering on blasphemy.

3. In the fourth episode, again during a prayer breakfast the team chaplain says, "Be a bold witness for the Buccaneers." And again let me say this was not edited. He might have also said, "Be a bold witness for Christ." Possible. Not likely though. A trend has already been set that leads me to believe he was truly concerned that the players not embarrass their community or school...he actually said such things in episode three.

Since I am a youth pastor, I take such things to heart and head. I have tried to examine myself to see if I have implicitly communicated such things. The fact of the matter is sports is a religion where I lived in Hoover and where I live now. there would be very little difference in my town if people once or twice a week walked out in the middle of a field and bowed to "the great maker of the ball that is thrown and kicked and hit and caught." Sports is a priority and their affection for Christ is a hobby.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

"The Ballad of Big Mike"

This story about Michael Oher, the offensive tackle for the Ole Miss Rebels is enough to make even a Auburn fan cry.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Young, Restless, REFORMED

This is a very interesting article on the resurgence of Reformed pastors and pew-sitters in Baptist churches. Of course, that bastion of Calvinist sanity, John Piper is a major part of the article. I was very surprised that Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle was not part of the discussion. He is a Calvinist, a Baptist and very young. Oh yeah, he is the pastor of the largest church in Seattle, the most unchurched city in the country.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Bob Dylan: The Essential Interviews

Last week, I finished trudging through the alternately entertaining and frustrating Bob Dylan: The Essential Interviews. Entertaining because it is Bob Dylan we are talking about; enigmatic and engaging, forthright and unforgiving, liberal and conservative. Frustrating because there was far too much repetition. Let me repeat, there was too much repetition.

Three are three kinds of people in this world. There are those who hate Dylan for a myriad of reasons, the least of which is his voice. Some are still mad about Masters of War or With God on Our Side. But there are many, many of us who love his music. And there are two kinds of us who want every album even if our wallet forbids such a monumental task.

There are those of us who because of his talent and legend of mythic proportions take his statements as pronouncements as if from the highest of peaks – on the level of the Oracle of Delphi. He is not to be challenged since he is after all, Bob Dylan. I am not sure if such people think one day they will have an opportunity to be his friend or what.

But I am of a different stripe. I am a fan of Dylan and my “fan-ness” keeps growing year after year. I only own about twelve albums of his so some would think I am not much of a fan. But there it is. However, I am quote willing to see inane and stupidity in everyone. And let’s face it, Dylan should be no exception. He has made some bizarre statements. And I am not one of those who will be sold on the idea that he was always trying to put off interviewers with dumb responses to dumb questions. He did this to be sure in the 60s but not so much in the 70’s and after.

The thing is, his interviews in the 60’s were at least interesting compared to some of the interviews in the 70’s. He was trying to be profound…I think. But usually he talks like some new-age guru discussing the color of the number nine and “disappearing through walls.” Renaldo & Clara is the subject de jour of these interviews…and man is it painful at some points.

But I really want to talk about the most bizarre and irresponsible thing he said in the whole book. This is from a 1986 interview with Rolling Stone. The interviewer is Toby Creswell.

TC: There's a lot of red-baiting going on again.

BD: That's been going on since the Fifties.

TC: The cold war seems to be coming back.

BD: I don't think it ever went away, you know. It just lays low for a while. People need something to hate, you've got to hate something. As soon as your old enough, people try to make you hate something or somebody. Blacks are a little easier, Communists you can't really see. The early Christians were like Communists. The Roman Empire treated the Early Christians the same way as the Western world treats the Communists.

TC: So it doesn't really change?

BD: No, things don't, it's just got a different name on it. There's always someone you're told you've got to step on so you can rise up a little higher.

Now, I understand what he is trying to say. But the only resemblance between the Christians in the Roman Empire and Cold War Communists is that some people did not like either of them. But the differences need to be pointed out. Christians in the Roman Empire were martyred or stepped on because they would not participate in the Emperor cult. Cold War communists were disliked because of their infiltration of the US Government and their influence over foreign and domestic policy coupled with their murderous reign throughout the Soviet Empire.

This bothers me so much because I am reading Mao by Chang and Halliday. You see, Mao, as a communist is responsible for the deaths of 70 million people…during peacetime. Add to that the more than 60 million killed in the short life of the Soviet Union. Comparing Christians and communists is like comparing God and Satan because they both have people that do not like them.

And so I am consistently amazed at how often Dylan gets reality right in his lyrics and then botches it in his interviews.

However, I do want to point to two things which were interesting because I am sure the interviewer felt the need to nod in agreement but probably found it impossible to understand…since Dylan said it. They are both from Rolling Stone which makes it them all the funnier.

The first is from an interview in July of ’86.

"Well, for me, there is no right and there is no left. There's truth and there's untruth, y'know? There's honesty and there's hypocrisy. Look in the Bible: you don't see nothing about right or left. I hate to keep beating people over the head with the Bible, but that's the only instrument I know, the only thing that stays true."

I would have loved to have seen the interviewer’s face…here is another from a Rolling Stone interview printed in December in of 2001 but the interview took place just a few weeks after the terrorist attacks.

RS: Do you have any hope for the situation we find ourselves in?

Dylan: I don’t really know what I could tell you. I don’t consider myself an educator or an explainer. You see what it is that I do, and that’s what I’ve always done. But it is time now for great men to come forward. With small men, no great thing can be accomplished at the moment. Those people in charge, I’m sure they’ve read Sun – Tzu, who wrote The Art of War in the sixth century. In there he says, “If you know the enemy and know youself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself and not your enemy, for every victory gained you will suffer a defeat.” And he goes on to say, “If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” Whoever’s in charge, I’m sure they would have read that. Things will have to change. And one of these things that will have to change: People will have to change their internal world.

Hah! Dylan the hawk?

I love it…Dylan favorably quoting Sun – Tzu.

Anyway, the book is a must read for Dylan fans. There is a lot of comedy and insight from him and otherwise. His dodging of questions he does not want to answer is always fun to read. You can sometimes feel the interviewer squirm. So whether you are the kind of fan who feels as if Dylan and you could be friends or you are like me and feel free to love his music, warts and all it is a great read. I actually think Dylan would like me more though…

Monday, September 18, 2006

Covenience over Belief

Update: The article was in the Greenwood Commonwealth on Fraiday, September 22.

The following is an article I wrote for the "Religion Page" of my local paper, The Greenwood Commonwealth. For months they published my pieces and asked for more. Now there is a new person in charge of this page and I have yet to be published. Hummm?

Most fans of Dylan are willing to admit he has a few albums that missed the target. One of those is Knocked Out Loaded released in 1986. It gets panned all over the place. I have not heard all of it. But I do know one song from that album. And ironically, it is one of my favorites.

Brownsville Girl is the one song that critics and fans alike see greatness in. It is a greatness seeking the size of a horizon. Just over 11 minutes long (or short?) it’s a narrative I am almost always trying to get my head around. Mostly this is because it is full of images of the Desert, the Southwest and Dylan standing in line waiting to see Gregory Peck movies. Tthere is plenty of nourishment for the imagination. The sedate verses and a rapturous chorus are forever locked up in my mind’s safe. Like an heirloom, I pull them out and look them over and run my hands along the contours and edges.

There is one line I might actually call my favorite of all his many lines. It is a line he puts in the mouth of this Brownsville Girl,

You always said people don't do what they believe in,
they just do what's most convenient, then they repent.

Cynical? Maybe a little. But lets face it, rings true wouldn’t you say? There is enough of this lived out before all the world for us to say it is true for the great majority.

Liberal, conservative, rich, poor, white, black, young, old, non-Christian and Christian alike are under this indictment. More and more this may be what separates Western Civilization with its enemies. We may scoff at the beliefs of Islamic Militants. We may hate and decry their suicide bombings and their taking of innocent life. But we must acknowledge - what they are doing is a result of what they believe in.

Us? We choose Convenience.

The modern day Christian, mired in the values of Western Civilization has heard the siren song of convenience and crashes against the craggy rocks of unbelief. Convenience buys us comfort and gadgets. It trades in the currency of a conviction-less culture. Its poison ignored, convenience courses through our veins infecting all we cavort with.

Those who confess belief in Christ have so little affection for him their unbelief is conspicuous. The belief is stated, the unbelief is lived out. And it is lived out through tens of thousands of lives shot through with a lust for what is convenient. We are afraid of losing respect, status and a million little 30 second false gospels beamed into our homes. And so we choose what’s most convenient, then we repent.

The repentance the Brownsville Girl is not repentance at all. This repentance is the “just kidding” after a startling insult. Problem is, real repentance fights against being convenient. A rebel admitting his hatred to the King’s rule and his need for amnesty is never convenient. Admitting the presence of the 400 pound gorilla in the corner vitiates against our sense of convenience. We must now do something…which is real repentance and belief.

Therefore it is real hard to not think of the many Christians throughout the World who are not lulled to sleep by the love songs of the free West. They are martyred. They are ripped from their families. They are ridiculed and they are thrown to the lions, metaphorically speaking and otherwise. When pressed on what they believe, they count the cost and then they “do what they believe in.” Like their King they refuse “whats most convenient” and find themselves “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross,” – Hebrews 12:2.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Popular Mechanics Debunks Loony 9/11 Myths

This is the famously popular article (for everyone except those who are part of the MSM) which is the basis for the book, Debunking 9/11 Myths: Why Conspiracy Theories Can't Stand Up to the Facts.

The article is fascinating and makes the conspiracy theorists look like...well, conspiracy theorists. There is a lot of unintentional humor making it very hard to parody these guys. Satire is all but impossible. The only thing that could make these conspiracy theorists sound more ridiculous is if they implicated the not dead yet Colonel Sanders "with his wee beady eyes."

Monday, September 11, 2006

A Tribute to William Joseph Wik

As part of the 2,996 campaign to remember the victims of 9/11 I am posting my tribute to William Joseph Wik...who went back in. A hero.

William Joseph Wik A Gift for His Bravery
September 24, 2001

The rescue workers who pulled William Wik from the World Trade Center ruins figured he was a firefighter. He wore the same gloves as the five firemen he was found with, and a flashlight and radio lay near his body, his wife said.

But Wik, 44, worked on the 92nd floor of Tower Two for Aon Corp. and apparently had volunteered to help emergency workers when he was killed during the terrorist assault.

His wife, Kathleen Wik, counts herself among the lucky because his body was recovered and properly buried last week. Many families have not been as fortunate.

"I got him back because he helped the firemen," Kathleen Wik said. "That was my gift for his bravery."

New York City police officers delivered Wik's wallet and wedding band to his Yonkers home on Sept. 15, a day after he was found.

Kathleen Wik said her own farewell to her husband, touching the rose tattoo on his upper left arm before his funeral.

She laughed about the tattoo, something her husband had done in his youth that he tried to hide under long- sleeved shirts as an adult. She now plans to get a similar rose tattoo.

"No one would believe he had a tattoo because he looked so conservative," Kathleen Wik said. "He was quiet and unassuming."

Wik was an assistant director in risk management services for Aon. He started his job in May after working for a company in White Plains.

He spent his weekends and free time with his children - Tricia, 16, Katie, 12, and Danny, 8 - and whatever athletic or musical activities they were involved in. "At this point in our lives, our hobbies were the kids," Kathleen Wik said.

Besides his wife and children, Wik is survived by his mother, Carol Wik of Sag Harbor; brothers Tommy Wik of Sag Harbor and Ray Wik of Florida and sister Kathy Simon of Southampton. He was buried at Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Valhalla.

-- Ann L. Kim (Newsday)
Sept. 20, 2001

His family held a funeral for William Wik Tuesday. But they have other memorials planned for the 44-year-old husband and father of three.

Wik, of Crestwood, N.Y., was killed when the south tower of the World Trade Center collapsed. In May, he had started work for Aon Corp. as an assistant director.

Wik loved caring for tomato plants in his home garden. His son, Danny, 8, has taken over that task.

Wik had a rose tattoo on his upper left arm. His family and friends are getting rose tattoos, too, his wife Kathleen said, "but not as big and maybe not in as obvious a place."

When the first hijacked plane struck the north tower of the World Trade Center, Wik saw it from the 92nd floor of the south tower, where he was in a meeting. He called his wife.

"Kathy, I have a lot of people to deal with here," she recalled her husband saying.

Wik's body was found in the rubble of the south tower. He was wearing firefighters' gloves, clutching a police radio in one hand and a firefighters' flashlight in the other, she said.

"Because he did what he did and was brave enough to pitch in, I found him," she said. "I saw his tattoo and I kissed his arm."
--Ted Gregory (The Chicago Tribune)

A Hero