Saturday, April 18, 2009

Subversive Power

A quote from Rock, Paper Scissors:

"But the truth, which screams at you from any newspaper, is that authority needs power, and those with power almost invariably use it to pursue their own interests. Benevolence, however much the powerful might preach it, is the last thing on their minds."

Touche. May those who follow Jesus prove him wrong.

Rock, Paper, Scissors

I started reading this interesting book by Len Fisher a few weeks ago. It is subtitled "Game Theory in Everyday Life." It takes different facets of game theory (Nash's equilibrium, the prisoners' dilemma, etc) and shows how every day we make decisions that show game theory to be true.

What I really find interesting though, is that--even though Fisher makes it a point to say that religious authority hasn't been sufficient for changing behavior--I find it interesting that applying the teachings of Jesus would throw game theory "win-lose" or "lose-lose" situations out the window. This is the subversive teachings of Jesus--make yourself a servant. Take care of others first. Do what's best for your neighbor. We too much make these out to be not doing the negative version, e.g. when we say we love our neighbor what we really usually mean is that we don't hate our neighbor. Instead of looking out for others good, we try not to have a negative impact on others while looking out for our own good.

But following Jesus demands the positive, proactive version of actually loving and serving.

Back to the book though, it's worth the read. I thought it had some challenging mathematical concepts, and was taking the time to read it well to hopefully understand it.

Then my 14 year old genius son read it in 2 days and we had some great conversations.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Worlds colliding

It's no secret I love Seinfeld.

I will watch it every time it's on tv, even though I've seen every episode probably hundreds of times. It has to be one of the cleverest sitcoms in history (albeit sitcoms have a short history in the overall scheme of things).

One of my favorite episodes is when Elaine starts hanging out with George's fiancee Susan, and Susan looks to be entering the circle of relationships that is the core of Seinfeld. George is extremely anxious about this. Like many men feel, he knows there is a difference between "relationship George"--the George that has to be a certain way when he's with Susan--and "regular George"--the fun-loving, conniving, partying guy he normally is. And he knows that when these worlds collide...

"Jerry, if relationship George walks through that door, he will kill regular George."

And then, in perhaps the greatest paraphrase of Scripture in sitcom history: "A George divided against himself, cannot stand."

I know the feeling of worlds colliding. We all do who attempt to follow Jesus. This morning I was tempted to post some heresy on my Facebook status, something like "Arnie is celebrating the best holiday this weekend...the Masters. Is something else going on?" But alas, in deference to "relationship Arnie", I chickened out. But truly, I would much rather watch the Masters coverage all weekend that watch "The Passion" again. Forgive my heresy.

The truth, though, is that worlds collide for those who want to follow Jesus. Our attempt to follow him collides with life--family life, work life, and in many cases, even religious life. Maybe especially religious life.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Anne Rice's "Christ the Lord"

Anne Rice is best known, at least by me, for "The Vampire Chronicles." But apparently a few years ago, she became a Christian, and wanted to write something about Jesus. The result is "Christ the Lord", a novel that describes the year before Jesus publicly announced his ministry.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the book. It's a pretty easy read (I read it all yesterday in 4 hours of airplane travel). The plot involves Jesus' interaction with his family and kinsmen and the difficulties of being "Yeshua the Sinless", the name they (often derogatorily) call him. The absolute best thing about the book is the portrayal of Jesus' humanity without compromising on the deity. Jesus really struggles with the temptations of life--anger over people's treating each other poorly, desire for marriage and family, responding to untrue accusations, and the like. When the writer of Hebrews talks about Jesus being tempted in every way as a man but still without sin--Rice describes that in a real and understandable way.

I have always wondered what was on Jesus' mind as he grew up--what did he know and when did he know it? When he was 6 or 12 or 20, did he know everything about his calling and nature? If not, how did he learn it? Does having to learn it somehow deny his deity? The book approaches this from the standpoint of "choosing not to know" certain things, which I think is pretty good theology, and the story works well.

On the downside, I thought there were too many characters, none of which is developed as well as they could be. This is especially true as she introduces the first disciples of Jesus. For example, she talks about Jesus' renaming of Simon to Peter, and calling James and John the Sons of Thunder, but it's like he just made it up on the spot and there wasn't any meaning to it. I picture those nicknames being come up with in circumstances where everyone there understands why Jesus calls them that. But she apparently wanted to get them in, so that's all crammed into one short chapter at the end of the book.

Again, overall I really enjoyed it. It's definitely within Roman Catholic theological realms as it deals with Jesus, Mary, and their family situation, but non Catholics shouldn't find anything that makes the book disagreeable on foundational issues.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Christian End Zone Celebrations

This is one of the funniest things I've read recently. As someone who scored 9 touchdowns in college, and who had the reputation of being the good Christian guy on the team, I could have used some of these. [Side story: Sean Kugler, a teammate, had nicknames for everyone on the team. Mine was "Arnie, Jesus Loves Fat People Too, Adkison."]

How cool would it be to score a touchdown then heal a teammate's torn ACL...

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Best April Fools media joke...

Rush Limbaugh agreeing to speak at Sojourner's "Mobilization to End Poverty" conference. Here's the story they sent:

Rush Limbaugh to Speak at Sojourners' Mobilization to End Poverty
Get a free issue of SojournersIn an inspiring display of bipartisan bridge-building, talk radio personality Rush Limbaugh has accepted Jim Wallis' invitation to deliver a keynote address at Sojourners' Mobilization to End Poverty conference in April.
"I've always said the monologue of the extreme right is over, and a new dialogue has begun," said Wallis. "Well, that dialogue is about to get a whole lot louder."
Limbaugh, longtime champion of conservative media, announced his acceptance of the invitation on his daily radio show. Interrupted occasionally by call-ins of incredulous listeners, Limbaugh detailed months of off-the-record conversations with Wallis during which the two forged a deep friendship despite political, theological, philosophical, ideological, ecological, anthropological, eschatological, and soteriological differences. That dialogue came to a head one night when an anguished and sleepless Limbaugh called Wallis after 3:00 a.m., seeking spiritual solace.
"I responded like any good evangelical would," said Wallis. "I told him he should read his Bible. And then I hung up and went back to sleep."
Vexed but desperate, Limbaugh grabbed his trusty KJV, fanned it open at random, closed his eyes, and thrust his index finger upon whatever page it might find, landing upon this passage from James 5:
Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten. Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days. Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth. Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter.
"I admit, of all the verses for him to read, this passage sounds a bit harsh—especially in the King James," said Wallis. "But with 2,000 verses on poverty in the Bible, Rush was bound to hit one of them."
Limbaugh's response to the Word was swift and dramatic: "Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount."
As part of Limbaugh's dramatic change of heart, he has reciprocated Wallis' speaking invitation by naming him the new co-host for his daily radio show, giving it a more faith-based focus.
"The way Kathy Lee needed Regis, that's the way y'all need Jesus," said Limbaugh. "That's what Jim will bring to the show on a daily basis—that good ole’ Red Letter Christian gospel!"
Limbaugh further detailed his plans to team up with Sojourners and others to fight domestic and global poverty, issuing this challenge to all Dittoheads in a recent broadcast: "I want everyone within the sound of my voice to call upon their members of Congress to cut the number of Americans living in poverty in half in the next 10 years, and to support America's commitment to the Millennium Devleopment Goals. ... And always remember to recycle. ... Oh, and one last thing: fur is murder."