Thursday, November 30, 2006

thursday reflection for week 10

In my last post, I commented that modernity and technology have made life impersonal with things like internet communication and text messaging. As opposed to talking to people on the phone or seeing them in person, we can speak to that person without even using our vocal cords. Furthermore, I said that this impersonality is not conducive for the kingdom of God because the kingdom finds its stronghold within communities. Ryan talked today at the end of class about communities that are built around the global information culture that we find ourselves in. Perhaps, my judgments on what constitutes community was stated too quickly.

According to Ryan, these communities in the global information culture could be centered around common practices that unite the people regardless of the place they occupy or the amount of space between them. Logically then, things like blogs could build communities. Moreover, Ryan gave the example of being connected with people all over the world because of the types of jobs that we have. We might have an opportunity to meet someone in our workplace that lives on the other side of the country. An immediate connection is possible because of the similar practices involved with your work.

This is a great idea to explore, perhaps people are even practicing this as we speak, because whether we like it or not, many of relationships are not face-to-face. I hate that our relationships are not face to face, but this seems to be the situation (story?) we find ourselves in. If we are going to be faithful followers of Christ, then we need to allow the kingdom of God to influence these placeless and spaceless relationships. However, in the process, we must not lose value of physical communities and our face-to-face relationships because these are extremely vital to our well being.

Thanks for a great class, Wes and Ryan. peace

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

tuesday reflection for week 10

When I hear the word "postmodern," my mind always associates it with "better than modern." "If postmodern is better than modern," my mind says to itself, "then there must be nothing wrong with postmodern." Of course, I realize this a naive statement, but until recently I did not recognize that I was saying this to myself.

Modernity gave rise to many technological advances, and in the postmodern era, people have further developed many of these advances. For example, the information structures in the postmodern culture. These structures include, in general, the internet, instant communication, mp3 players, etc. Specifically, these structures include Facebook, MySpace, any blogging company, email, cell phones, iPods, iTunes, etc. Most of these things are great, but in this "information economy" the social structures in our cultures have been replaced by information structures.

Consequently, disembedding, a modern characteristic in which the social relations are lifted from their contexts, is perpetuated. Face to face relationships with others are not as valuable. Talking to people on the phone is devalued because of email, text messages, and blogs. In short, life becomes more impersonal.

From a Christian perspective, the impersonality of life is terrible because the kingdom of God finds its stronghold and background in communities. More specifically, these communities consist of people who are in face to face contact with one another. At least, that is how I perceive it. I love the technological advances that we have developed and appropriated into our life—hence the fact that I have two blogs, an iPod, and a cell phone...I even text message my friends (gasp!)—but I often think we give too much weight to some of these things.

Aside: I might be too short sighted in my views of "community." As I think about what I wrote in this post, I wonder if kingdom of God communities could develop through blog communication. My first answer is "I don't think so." But I realize that my be too short sighted. Call me on my short sightedness if it is there.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

tuesday reflection for week 9

I like to dabble in the study of physics every once in a while. One of my friends loves chaos theory within the study of physics. I know I will not explain this theory perfectly, but my understanding of chaos theory is that all of the actions that occur in our world, even a butterfly flapping its wings, come together and create detrimental effects, such as a hurricane or tsunami. I see Max Webber's "irrationality of rationality" characterization of the McDonaldization Thesis in the same line of thought as chaos theory.

All of the rational things that fast-food, and other businesses or organizations now, companies do actually adds irrational effects in the long run. For example, the desire for every burger to taste the same at every location of a fast food chain causes health risks for the consumer. The company will give the cattle hormones and steroids to assure the taste and amount of beef in each serving. The slaughtering process of cattle becomes inhumane and unhealthy. The desire for a uniform burger seems mundane to us on the surface, but when you see the means for attaining uniformity, uniformity, at least for me, becomes undesirable.

Sadly enough, this chaos theory or McDonaldization Thesis has affected the church. For example, our conception of knowing God's will has been tainted. We think that if we do actions X, Y, and Z, then we will have the output of knowing God's will. If we pray enough, fast long enough, or live a certain aesthetic lifestyle, then God will show us what to do. To me, the rationality of wanting to know God's will is great, but desiring that rationality at the expense of taking responsibility for your decisions, if you even make a decision with "hearing the voice of God," is irrational. We often desire to know God's will so much that we forget our part in the action.

For a great book on a different approach to knowing God's will, check out Kyle Lake's Understanding God's Will: How to Hack the Equations without Formulas.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

thursday reflection for week 8

Jesus' encounter with Zacchaeus is quite interesting. This story is so interesting to me because it does not say that Zacchaeus ceased being a tax collector. Luke recounts Zacchaeus' words, "Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much" (Luke 19:8). We can safely assume that Zacchaeus continued his profession, but he obviously changed the way in which he performed in his profession.

Zacchaeus' example says a great deal for us today. One of my big critiques with Shane Claiborne's book centered around his limited view of impacting culture. Claiborne followed Christ's command to love your neighbor so far that he moved into a neighborhood where the poor and oppressed live. However, what about the people in the business world or the entertainment world who need a prophetic voice? Claiborne seemed to neglect this part of our society. Jesus' encounter with Zacchaeus, being a tax collector and man of power, shows that we need to pay attention to the world of affluence and transform that part of society as well. Perhaps this passage gives an exegetical tool for reading Jesus' command to the rich young ruler to "sell all that you have and come follow me."

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

tuesday reflection for week 8

The church I went to while in college, UBC, never ceases to amaze me. Many of things that we talk about in class are things that UBC does naturally and has done for a long time. For example, today Ryan gave us statistics about the efficacy of church involvement in the lives of Christians. These statistics come from the Barna Research Group. Ryan said that researchers have begun to notice that the lives of Christians are not noticeably affected or different until they are involved in six to ten hours a week of "church activities." So, those people who are in and out on Sunday mornings and feel they set their quota for the week are not going to feel compelled to live differently. I'm sure occasions exist where these people are compelled to live differently, but for the most part, Sunday morning or evening church has no effect on their life.

These statistics stress the realization that church does not happen on Sunday mornings. Sunday mornings are simply the time to come together as a community and celebrate the other activities in which they have been involved with their smaller group of people at the church. This is why UBC amazes me. They have activities—community groups and sports activities namely—throughout the week that encourages people to be involved in "church activities" outside of Sunday morning. Also, you can tell the difference between the people who are involved in these other activities. Some people think that being involved in a church like UBC is too difficult because you have to put forth an effort. DUH! If you want to be a part of a community and find your identity within that community, then you are going to have to work for it.

You cannot be spoon fed your entire life. Unfortunately, people see church as the time to be spoon fed. Thus, they come on Sunday mornings to "get something out of it," and if they do not get what they want, then they are upset. The real church happens between Monday through Saturday. This is the church that each person contributes to, and spoon feeding is not allowed because, frankly, life is not spoon fed to us. The good and the bad come flying at us whether we like it or not.

Toss the spoon. Get involved. Build relationships.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

thursday reflection for week 7

Today in Dr. Jude Tiersma Watson's lecture Children and the Kingdom: Our Mission, Watson mentioned a few quotes from Mother Teresa that are thought provoking and heart breaking. One of these quotes was, “We have forgotten that we belong to each other.” Thanks to Kant and the Enlightenment we have been obsessed with autonomy. In the process we have forgotten that we belong to each other.

I recently read an article by Stanley Hauerwas called "Should Suffering Be Eliminated," in which he argues that our fear of being needy and suffering has caused us to want to rid of suffering. However, if we rid of the suffering, he argues, we rid of who we are as human beings. To be human is to suffer. We hate suffering because it causes us to be needy, and this neediness forces us to realize that we cannot go it alone. [This reminds me of Bono singing, "You don't have to go it alone."] Hauerwaus says that suffering steals our identity. In other words, suffering steals our false sense of autonomy. Suffering shows us that we are not autonomous people making a priori decisions completely devoid of our passions and loyalties. By nature, we are social beings. As Watson said in her lecture today, to be an authentic Christian, we cannot go it alone. [Again Bono, "You don't have to go it alone."]

We must come to realize that we are dependent on one another. We must come to see that mutual dependence and vulnerability with each other is the way of the kingdom of God. This is the way of being great through servant-hood. This is the last becoming the first. This is transforming our current societal situations.

When we begin to realize that we are connected to a larger story and a larger community that goes beyond blood relations or kinship, we begin seeing the poor, oppressed, children, our nieghbors, as more that simply "those people." "Those people" connotes that the poor and oppressed are unlike ourselves and different from who we are. However, we are as needy, we suffer as much, and we need help as much as the poor and oppressed do. Mother Thersa also said that the poverty in the United States is much deeper than the poverty in other parts of the world because it is a poverty of community, a poverty of hope, and a poverty of love.

We are all broken. Thus, we are all the same people: broken, suffering, needy people created in the image of God who need redemption. This redemption ultimately comes from God, but we begin this redemption now, on earth. So, as Jesus preached and as the prophet Micah says, "We must do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly before our God," (Micah 6:8) the God who is I AM, the God who
is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob working in the present through us to bring redemption. Transform your autonomous tendencies. "You don't have to go it alone."

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

tuesday reflection for week 7

Today Ryan told us the story about St. Thomas Crookes in England. This church's philosophy of evangelism is incredible. Basically, the people do not share their faith with other people unless people ask them. The people of St. Thomas are not out trying to proselytize or force their faith on other people. Instead, the church simply makes sure that about fifty percent of the people involved in their activities are non-Christians, and they wait for these folks to ask about why the other people live and act differently. Ryan said that one of the persons at St. Thomas said, "If people are not asking you about your faith, then they do not see a difference in your life in the way you live, and you probably are not living in the way of Jesus." The way the Christians at St. Thomas live should invite people to ask questions about their different lifestyle.

This model or philosophy is great because the conversation about faith comes form an organic, natural situation where a relationship has been established outside of trying to "win" the other person to Christ. No one is forcing their views upon someone else. The conversation is between two friends. I think evangelicals in the U.S. could learn a great deal from the people at St. Thomas.

This way of evangelism reminds me of a song by the Frames called "Star, Star." I leave you with a few lines from the song:

Star star teach me how to shine shine

Teach me so I know what's going on in your mind

'Cause I don't understand these people

Who say the hill's to steep

Well they talk and talk forever

But they just never climb

We tend to be the talkers in the U.S. The people at St. Thomas appear to be those who have stopped talking and are climbing. Which do we choose?