Thursday, December 19, 2013

Not A Post Entirely About Phil

I'm not going to blog about Phil. That's being handled by others.

I would like to point out that all the controversy boils down to an old man telling an old dirty joke. I mean he didn't tell it the usual way, but at it's root it is the same as hundreds of other gay vs. hetero dude jokes. I heard them all in middle school. The underlying humor is more about mechanics than morality.

It is a lame joke that, judging by the writing of the GQ journalist, would go over well with their target readers. It is politically incorrect and irreverent. The journalist makes it clear he would never say such a thing, but he doesn't go so far as to say he wouldn't laugh at it. Way to play it safe.

Actually, I think the most interesting part of this story is Magary's extensive self-referencing in the story. It comes across to me as his attempt to brag about the time he met the legendary man of the swamp and got to shoot his guns and ogle the old man's bare feet on the recliner. It switches schizophrenically between admiring the manly, adventurous life of a rags-to-riches pioneer and snickering behind his back because the preacher talks a lot. There are moments where the journalist shows his skill as a writer describing landscapes and characters. Then, just in case his readers had lost interest or started to think him uppity, he awkwardly drops profanity like a nerd trying to earn street cred. My guess is that Magary is potentially a good writer but is inclined to lower his standards to appeal to his readers (or editors, judging by the crude pun of a headline).

The reaction to all this should cause Christians to check themselves. Are we willing to listen enough to understand why his remarks are offensive to some? Sure, this is mostly media blow out and headline seekers looking to cash in to gain some political capital or perhaps a few more mouse clicks. But there is a percentage of people who are shocked and hurt that a "nice guy" could say such a thing. Honesty is a good thing, but it doesn't keep people from getting hurt. Phil wasn't given the luxury of a face-to-face conversation with the people he was talking about. If he had been, perhaps he would have pointed out that we are not only the perpetrators of sin, but also its victim. What sounds to the world like condemnation from a self-righteous fundamentalist, is more likely meant to be a wake-up call from someone who knows and has experienced the power sin can have over us. If the world isn't hearing the message about grace then we have to speak it more clearly. They can't get past the "you're a sinner going to Hell" part to hear the whole "But God who is rich in mercy..." part of it.

We are in danger of doing the right thing for the wrong reasons. It is probably good for so many to come to the defense of Phil, but I would argue that we don't need to do so to protect the rights of Christians. It's not really about free speech. If we are going to stand with Phil then let it be on the part of the interview that isn't being talked about. I'm talking about the part that is truly offensive where he shares the Gospel with his interviewer. My prayer is that people are offended at the interview, but not because of a lame dirty joke. I pray they are offended by the Gospel because then I know they have heard the truth. Remember, friends, the Gospel is an offence to those in rebellion against it. At one time that included all of us.


New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Ro 9:33.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Advice to Myself

Put your hand over your heart. Beneath your hand there is a heartbeat. There is breath going in and out. Feel it! That means something. You know it is true when I say it. The staunchest naturalist will deny it, but deep down you know it is true that there is meaning to what is happening beneath your hand this moment. That meaning may be inexpressible to you, it may seem tragically indecipherable, but a strong and yearning feeling tells you that it is there.

And what if I’m wrong? Are we afraid to ask that? What if the naturalists are right and all that is currently happening inside our heads and chests are the mechanical and chemical interactions of matter randomly existing under the inexplicable yet unflagging influence of natural laws that, beyond the probability of each moment, continue to apply without cause or influence from any source? Many have resolved in themselves that this must be true. Though it leaves the questions of life unanswered they admit defeat and claim that there is no meaning or purpose to life. No one except the criminal and the lunatic lives out the full implications of this admission, and even criminals and lunatics cannot claim to live a life fully without meaning. So even those who claim to believe in the meaninglessness of life cannot help but seek to discover truth and purpose long after they have admitted that they do not exist. Some suppose this is a quirk of human nature, a vestigial remnant of an evolutionary advantage, produced naturally and randomly in humankind, that helped humanity develop into an advanced society. They see it as a weakness in themselves that can be tolerated and even accepted in order to have a pleasurable existence. Yet, they see themselves as “playing along” with inferior minds so as not to upset the order of things. They believe that all is vanity and existence itself is basically a joke against humanity--an illusion. When they feel a twinge of the desire for meaning they laugh it off like the boogey man and congratulate themselves on having the courage to admit something (even if only to themselves) that their fellow men cannot. They may even, at times, venture down a path toward exploring the meaning of life, but sooner or later they recoil and abandon the search because, they tell themselves, it only leads to make believe and nothingness. If they do happen to stay on such a path for long (most likely out of boredom) they only do so with half a heart. They see it as a scientific undertaking to learn more about how humans act rather than a chance to learn what it means to be human. They see themselves as undercover. They are only pretending to believe there is purpose and meaning to life so they can see what it is like. After they have gathered the experience they know, in the end, it too will be meaningless.
He's not seeking meaning. He is experiencing it.

But most people do not go so far as to accept the meaninglessness of life. Most people are willing to believe that there is some greater purpose even if it does seem to be against all odds. Scientists tell us (though Science does not) that we are an accident of the Universe. Our hearts tell us that we have a reason to live even though, at times, it sounds like the most foolish thing imaginable. If for no other reason than this shared foolish feeling we have, we must press on. The fact that all of us share the awkwardness of humanity, that feeling that we are both powerful and ridiculous, should encourage us to keep trying. Yes, the awkwardness of humanity. It is the paradoxical nature of life that shows creation to be a great joke, and yet, makes us feel most alive. When we are lonely, afraid, rejected, dissatisfied, bored--it is in those moments when we often share most fully with the rest of humanity. When we are severely rational, sufficiently satisfied, merely entertained, distracted; it is then we forget our awkwardness. We experience neither joy nor mourning. In those moments, human beings as merely natural creatures make sense. Then un-looked-for, reality comes. We have irrational feelings. The loneliness creeps in. Perhaps we are stirred to love or to seek adventure or to desire revenge. Suddenly, life feels incomplete. In our joy we feel a hope for better things. In our sorrow feel a loss of how things should be. Behind all these feelings is a sense that life does have meaning if only we can find it.

You, dear reader, should chase that feeling. Here’s why. If it is all just a joke, the only way to know will be to enter into the joke fully. No one can make a joke funny by explaining it. All they can really do is tell the joke again. If you don’t get it from the telling you won’t “get it” from the explaining. The meaning of life can be put into words perhaps, but hearing those words will not help you “get it.” The only way to find the purpose in life is to experience it. If you think you are watching a magic trick then by all means seek to discover the trick, but not by ripping away the curtain. To really enjoy an illusion you must observe it on its own terms. If you can, you will then discover that the meaning of the illusion is not how it was achieved but the effect on the audience. In the same way the meaning of life will not be discovered by understanding with greater and greater detail the mechanisms that produce our existence; rather, it is by observing the effect that our existence has on us that we can begin to see our purpose and what this life means.

So when you are tempted to give up seeking purpose, do not retreat into distraction. Do not recluse yourself into a world of shallow relationships and frivolous entertainment. Do not close the door to meaning by scoffing at the paradox of our existence. I challenge you. Venture out onto the stage of life. Perhaps you are the butt of a cosmic joke. If so, play the fool to the fullest. You have nothing to lose. Perhaps your seeking will never lead to satisfaction in this life, but at least you won’t be ignoring your desire. If life is a comedy then earn the right to laugh all the harder. If a tragedy, set yourself up to wail the louder. If a romance, strive for the passion to love most deeply. In any case, I believe this is what we were made for. The desire for Truth and Beauty is built into our hearts so that one day--That Day--we may be satisfied. All the better if we spend our days hungry in anticipation.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Beyond Evolution v Creationism

I grew tired of the evolution vs. creationism debate sometime during college. Mainly this was due to my realization that the vast majority (close to 100%) of people who embark on this debate have very little clue exactly what it is they are talking about. Creationists tend to attempt to debunk the science of evolutionary theory without fully understanding the claims or the evidence or the processes involved. Evolutionists tend to dismiss the deeper concerns of Creationists without offering tangible evidence or allowing any room for doubt or listening. I feel like the people who are willing to debate these things are forgetting an important aspect of humanity. We are limited.

Seems obvious, I know, but I believe that this simple fact is effectively ignored when it comes to debates about origins. You see, we are limited in many ways. Most of them are easy to see and demonstrate. We are limited in size. We are limited in how high we can jump, how high we can sing, and how many marshmallows we can fit in our mouths. There are some ways we are limited that are harder to understand. Why can't I remember my 11th grade teacher's name? Why can't I find my keys? Why can't I reach that itch on my back? Our self-perception makes us think all these things are achievable. The limitation that bears weight on this topic is in regards to our knowledge. We can easily understand that our knowledge is limited. To prove it we simply think of something that we don't know. What is the height of the Eiffel Tower? I have no idea; therefore, my knowledge is limited.

Go ahead. I'll wait...

Now that you are back from your internet search you know that the Eiffel Tower is 324 m tall. So we've proved that our knowledge is limited, but we've reinforced another idea that I'd like to challenge. By doing a quick internet search and discovering a new truth we help ourselves believe that even though we don't know everything at least everything is knowable. To state it more simply, we are under the impression that our knowledge is only limited by our experience. Given enough time and resources we think there is nothing that we could not know. Even when we come across concepts we don't understand our experience tells us that we may one day understand. Once upon a time I had no idea how cars were made. I would repeatedly ask my grandad to tell me. Each time he would obediently launch into a discussion of assembly lines while I zoned out and finally sighed disappointedly. I had no clue what he was talking about. Much later in life as I learned about all that goes into manufacturing I finally gained enough knowledge to have somewhat of a grasp on how cars are made. Episodes like this make me think that eventually, everything will be understandable to me. So we believe the only limiting factor on our understanding of the universe is Time.

Still with me? I'll cut to the chase. I believe that we ARE limited in our ability to know things. Specifically, I believe that we are limited in our ability to scientifically know our origins.  That's right. I believe it is impossible by scientific means to discover the nature and circumstances of humanity's creation.

Here's why. The nature of time itself is unexplainable. Observation, memory, existence are all dependent on time, yet there is no real way of explaining why time is what it is. Time is something all humans experience more or less the same way, yet none of us really knows why. Yes, we try, but it always amounts to nothing. I believe it always will.

At this point I would point you to Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle. I would, that is, if I felt like I understood it. Suffice it to say that in quantum physics there is a very clear understanding that our knowledge is fundamentally limited. In overly simplified terms, it appears that it is impossible to observe both the position and momentum of a particle at the same time. Moreover, it is theorized that a particle does not have a position and momentum a the same time. This is why quantum mechanics offers to predict the statistical probabilities of a particle's location rather than simply a precise location.

If you've skimmed down to this point, I don't blame you. Here's your reward. A thought experiment. How old was Adam on day seven of Creation? About a day old? How old would he appear to a scientist? We always imagine him in his 20-30's. My point is, for us to believe in a "literal" interpretation of Genesis, we would have to believe that God suspended or amended the rules of the universe in order to create a man who appeared older than he actually was. This isn't just true for Adam. It is true for the trees, the rocks, the stars, beams of light, butterflies and everything. So this kind of understanding of our world automatically tells us that our scientific observations cannot show us the truth about our origins with certainty. The Bible suggests that God miraculously created everything. Miraculously created things look old the moment they are created.

Take one of Jesus' most famous miracles--water to wine. Wine cannot be created in a moment. It takes time, yet it is reported that Jesus took what appeared to be water one moment and turned it into what appeared to be wine the next moment. In fact it seemed to the steward that it was really good wine! He didn't have to be a scientist to observe that this stuff had been around for a while. His observation, however, was incorrect. That wine had just been created. It was a fact without scientific explanation.

In the same way, the search for the origin of Adam or the universe is ultimately a dead end. In the face of claims about miracles there will always be reason to doubt the science. It seems to me that if we are looking for scientific evidence of Biblical creation it is like trying to see the back of your head with your own eyes. You are literally looking for scientific evidence of something there can be no scientific evidence for.

On the other hand scientific theories make assumptions about the fundamental nature of the universe and time that beg the question, "Where do these things come from?" Those who use science as an excuse for non-belief in God are using a method based on existence to prove that there is no real basis for existence. To say that God is impossible itself implies that "possibility" is a real thing. If there is a such thing as possibility and impossibility then where did the rules for such come from?

We have scientist arguing that we should only believe the things that we can "know." Then we have creationist arguing that belief is more important than observation when seeking to arrive at Truth. With such a fundamental difference of opinion about what Truth is, why do these people bother arguing over evidence, science, scripture, etc. They have a philosophical difference from the very beginning that makes it a forgone conclusion that there will be no agreement. It boils down to the fact that we are limited.

So that's why I don't like the debate. It feels a lot like beating a dead horse shaped piece of Jello. I vote we move beyond the debate and just learn as much as we can about what each other believes. Maybe then we can at least appreciate and respect people even if we disagree.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Something I wrote over a year ago

Originally written 2/23/2012 
Two thoughts on the innovation of technology came together in my head recently. One is the impact of social networking on the amount of stored personal data available. When one died a generation ago the amount of data generated by and about an average person may be enough to fill a file drawer. Some pictures, some letters, medical records and the like--enough to get a general idea, maybe enough to write a respectable obituary or biography. The generations living today have a vast and ever-increasing amount of data about them stored in the cloud in the form of pictures, videos, blog posts, etc. The direction we are going is ultimately to have a complete copy of our memories, personalities, and more in digital form. As computers get better and better at processing large amounts of data there are interesting ramifications. Ever thought about how that info get’s used after you die?

The other thought on innovation was sparked by Google’s latest news maker, a heads up display that integrates the power of smart phones with augmented reality technology. Basically, they want to put all the information available on the internet directly on top of what you are looking at at the moment. Wearing Google glasses you could, for example, look at the products in a store and see product information floating above each item or price comparisons from other stores. You could look at a restaurant sign and see reviews and recommendations. The possibilities are endless.

When I put these two thoughts together along with the fact that more and more social content is becoming searchable and computers are getting better and better at interpreting social content I begin to see a world that is hardly recognizable. A world in which there are increasingly less secrets. The anonymity that comes with being a face in the crowd diminishes greatly. Here’s what I mean. Let’s assume you had some magical Facebook glasses that could bring up the Facebook profile of any person you looked at. Instantly, you would have access to who this person was friends with, where they worked, what they looked like in high school, what they had for breakfast in 2007. Assuming everyone adopted the technology and the glasses carried your id and location, as I’m sure they would, you would be able to enter a crowded room and scan the room for “suggested friends”. The social implications are mind-boggling.

Currently we seem to have a large amount of control over our information though it is much less than it was ten or even five years ago. At this point the rule of thumb is, if you don’t want people to know about it, don’t put it on the internet. But the direction of information technology and trends in marketing suggests that it will get more and more difficult to keep corporations, government entities, and even benign social networks out of your personal information. If you carry a smartphone or even use a credit card there are a lot of steps you would have to take to keep your location, purchase history, and other information to yourself. If the people around you carry smartphones then there’s really nothing you can do to keep your image off the internet. I received a text from an acquaintance the other day with a picture he had taken of his son in a restaurant. There I was in the background. We hadn’t noticed each other at the time, but when he looked back at his pictures he noticed me there.

Is this bad? It got me to thinking historically. Is this really such a huge shift for the human race? A few generations ago most people lived in small communities or in a rural setting where their family or tribe was the only social interaction they had. Secrets were considered dangerous to the community. Privacy only existed inside your head and even that wasn’t safe from the probing questions of your elders. The result was social conformity and greater checks and balances over morality. If a man abused his family, it would be found out, and he would be dealt with. If a woman lied to her neighbor everyone would soon know about it and she would face the consequences. What if the proliferation of widely available personal information is actually bringing us to a state of greater community and the ideal of a “global village”? Privacy groups assume a lack of privacy is a bad thing, but what will it really lead to?

If history is a guide then none of us know.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Giving Up MY Rights

Now that I am 34 years old, married with three kids and working as a pastor, it is obviously a good time to start thinking about becoming a man. Society (I'm looking at you Nickelodeon!) has taught me to delay this process for as long as possible. I'm starting to think that society may have mislead me a bit. It has been fun and all, but now I'm feeling somewhat unprepared to be, well...ME.

Both of my grandfathers are deceased, and I live a long way from my father. I can't really go back in time and pay more attention to the lessons they taught me (yet!), but I can scour my brain for memories of "man lessons." One thing all of these men taught me by example was sacrifice. I knew each of them as men who had consistently sacrificed their own desires and comfort in order to provide for and protect others.

I'm bringing up sacrifice because I wanted to talk about something that all husbands, daddies and pastors need to do. You'll notice a link on my blog for k9 Web Filtering. It is a program that runs in the background on your computer and simply blocks access to all websites in categories that you or your accountability partner chooses. I'm telling you right now, you should definitely install and use this or a program like it.

Here is why you might think you don't want to do it:
  • I don't look at anything bad, so why should I junk up my computer with another program.
  • It might block something useful that I really need from the internet.
  • My wife/mom/roommates will think that I am a pervert if I use this.
  • What if a regular site gets reported as a bad sight and it reports me and someone thinks I went to a bad site?
  • I sometimes secretly look at bad stuff. This might make me get caught, and disrupt my secret source of pleasure.
Here is why you actually DO want to do it:
  • Even if you NEVER are tempted to look at bad sites, this will help protect you from accidentally coming across them.  I have detected no negative affects to my system's performance. Actually, it has protected me a few times from accidentally going to cleverly disguised scam sites.
  • The chances of anything on the internet actually being useful is really small, but even if something you MUST have is blocked, your accountability partner can give you temporary access.
  • Your wife, mom and roommates already know that you are a pervert. If you want to avoid the awkwardness of admitting it, just tell everyone you want to make your computer safe for "kids." No one can say anything to that.
  • In my experience nothing from my regular web surfing gets reported as questionable. Hopefully, the person holding you accountable loves you and isn't out to ruin your reputation because of a slip up or misunderstanding.
  • If you are doing ANYTHING secretly, and you are scared of getting caught, you need to stop right now. You have been building an imaginary dream world that is slowly turning you into a monster capable of terrible things. You should do whatever it takes to stop this behavior as soon as possible. This will include telling someone close to you about it. If you can't do that then you are a slave and a fool and pain is on it's way for you and those you care about.
You may think this is an inconvenience that isn't worth it. I'm arguing that being a man means that you will make sacrifices for those you are responsible for. The minor inconvenience and humility it takes to be accountable with your web activity is WELL worth it if only for the sake of presenting a good example to those who look up to you. Maybe you aren't tempted by anything on the internet (really?), but many of your friends and family are. When you set the example by giving up more than you are required it helps the community around you take those same steps. When your wife knows that you love her so much you are willing to admit weakness and give up some control of your life, her respect for you can grow. When you shine light on the dark areas of your life, your children can grow up with a firm faith in your integrity that will be an anchor for them the rest of their lives.

So what are you waiting for. Click the K9 link right now and get started. Let me know if you need tech support.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Best Post Ever

One morning as I read from Galatians, my mind started to form an idea that made me really excited. It was an idea for a blog post that would be so amazingly amazing. Before the idea was even fully formed I was imagining how the post would get passed around Facebook then get picked up on Twitter. Soon Christian celebrities would be retweeting me, I'd be getting offers for book deals. Yes, this idea was a game changer. I just needed to write it down.

Suddenly, a long screeching wail of auditory flambé wrestled my focus away from this most excellent of ideas. I didn't move. I barely blinked. I knew exactly where the sound was coming from, and it didn't cause me the least alarm. I sighed. I looked back at my reading. Where was I? Oh yeah, the idea. It will be so great to get that written down and posted. What a difference it will make for so many people! The idea that...the What was it again?

I tried to retrace my mental steps to come up with it again, but the screeching continued. The idea was lost to the mist of distraction. The screeching, of course, came from my almost two-year-old whose negotiation skills are basically binary. You give him what he wants or he screams like a Ringwaith at Buckleberry Ferry. The cause of his vociferation was, as is the case one out of three times, his sister. She was sitting on the cushion that he wanted to move. I glanced up and saw her staring blankly ahead as he tried to remove her apparently using only the force of sound waves. The word he screamed only resembled English in that it began with a "nuh" sound. The rest of it was made up of vowel sounds too complex to render using traditional letters.

 When I told this story to my wife she quickly responded, "This is the season of life you are in." She delivered this response like a doctor explaining aches and pains to a mid-lifer who didn't expect age to come so quickly. She diagnosed me on the spot because she's been there. Being an at-home mom she lives with the near constant distraction that comes with raising kids (especially three of them very close in age).

So if my problem is that my season of life is one of distraction, interruption and compromise, what is the answer? Here are some guesses.
  1. Roll with it. That's the first approach I try to apply to any problem. 
  2. Get creative. Sounds hard to me, but all the people on Pintrest are doing it.
  3. Call for back up. Funny how doubling the number of hands and brains in a room can help make life easier.
  4. Hold on tight and weather the storm. Sometimes survival = success.
 So what, if I didn't come up with the Bestblogpostever? I'm a daddy, dadgummit! And daddies have to make sacrifices. The world may have to wait to be enlightened by the treasures being created in mind, but in the meantime I intend to make the best of it. To help me keep track of this I intend on documenting my progress.

I once saw jugglers on TV ask for items from the audience to prove they could juggle anything. They ended up with a cake, a squid and something else I can't remember. They succeeded, and it was amazing. The title of this blog (Husband Daddy Pastor) represents my great juggling act of being a husband, a daddy and a pastor. And listen folks, I'm terrible at juggling so, this could get interesting.