Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The places God lives

I'm in Amarillo tonight.

When I was a kid, Amarillo was the biggest city in the world. At least to me. And as I flew in from the southeast, and saw Palo Duro Canyon out my window (it's the 2nd largest canyon in the country; do you know which is first?), I thought about the places I had lived, and the differences between them.

The Texas Panhandle, where I was born and lived until I was 14, is the flattest land you can imagine, with only mostly dry riverbeds interrupting the plains. Two trees together constitutes a forest.

The south central part of Oklahoma, where I sojourned like Jesus in Egypt as a baby, is a beautiful piece of hill country. Hills and bottoms, with a little town on the top of every hill. And I loved how those little towns consolidated their school districts--Velma, Alma, Loco, Weed, etc all towns that went to my school. And I still only had 25 classmates.

The Permian Basin is like half desert, half plains. And flatter than the panhandle. Okay, so I lived in Hobbs, NM, but let's be honest--it's really Texas. We would run to Texas and back during off-season football; it was only 2 miles to the border.

The El Paso desert and Franklin Mountains remain one of the most beautiful places in my mind. The city wrapping around the mountains, the twinkling night-lights that Marty saw from the sky--El Paso's beauty must be looked for, but when you do find it--wow, it's awesome!

San Antonio and the hill country are perfect in October, when leaves start to turn (as much as they can in Texas), and we're still working on learning the north Texas tastes.

But the greatest thing about every one of those places is that God lives there. David said you can't escape from his presence--and he was right.

One of the greatest books of the 20th century was "The Divine Conspiracy" by Dallas Willard. In it he discusses the kingdom of heaven. We have this bad tendency to think of heaven as "way out there." God lives way out there in heaven. But truthfully, heaven is like atmosphere, it is the air we breath, it is all around us.

And God lives there.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

The caricature debate--a soapbox plea to Christians

Caricature: a picture, description, etc., ludicrously exaggerating the peculiarities or defects of persons or things. (HT:

I'm going to get on a soapbox. Leave now if you want.

Those who know me well know I love a good debate. I was having dinner with a member of my team and mentioned that when I was in college I loved debating just about any topic, and he commented that I had not stopped that in college. Yes, the very name of this blog (stimulation) invokes the thought of irritating in order to stimulate good thinking. I appreciate good thinking, whether or not I agree with the conclusion.

But there is a complete lack of good thinking going on these days. I am sick and tired of the caricature debate.

As says above, caricature is defined as "ludicrously exaggerating" a person or something about them. I'm not opposed to caricature--in fact it can be an important point of stimulating thought. In private conversations, good caricatures can be funny and witty. But even when used this way, it's obviously caricature. The dark side is when caricature is used to shout down an opponent and shut down a conversation. And honestly, even if those in the world want to use caricature in this way, it's not going to bother me too much.

No, the problem that makes me sick is that followers of Jesus are using caricature not as a ludicrous exaggeration, but as a point of factual argument. From my soapbox I'm going to call this like I see it--lying.

We have a horrible tendency to see someone who disagrees with us and "extremify" their positions, ludicrously exaggerating, or worse, mocking them. And when we do this, when we caricature or exaggerate, we are not portraying truth. We lie, either ignorant of the truth because we no longer think well, or promoting doomsday because we know fear-mongering might cause a knee-jerk reaction in our favor.

I say that this has no place among believers.

Are you a fiscal conservative who believes the current government is overstepping bounds and indebting our children and grandchildren to pay for current programs? Great, argue those points without caricaturizing the president or Democrats.

Are you a progressive who believes that we somehow need to have universal health coverage and take of those who cannot care for themselves? Great, argue those points without labeling all Republicans as greedy, uncaring rich white people.

I could go on and on (war, sexuality, abortion, etc. etc.)--but let me end my rant with these thoughts:

1. Diversify your source of news. Stop getting all your information from one source or one viewpoint.

2. Think. Boy, I wish I didn't have to say more about this, but much of this rant boils down to people who just regurgitate what they hear without checking facts or thinking about consequences.

3. Do not mock. This is inappropriate for followers of Jesus to mock as a form of argument. If you're mocking because you think something funny, then portray it as such. Don't use it to bolster a discussion.

4. Discuss. Discuss passionately if you need to, but discuss. Discuss spiritedly. But discuss. Discussion requires relationship, and it's no secret that I believe we need relationship even (especially?) with those we disagree with.

And so I step down, knowing that I fall short of my own standards. But lets hope that caricature debating gives way to well thought and reasoned debating.