Friday, February 23, 2007

Now I want demographics...

Well, I finally read an article that describes how I feel towards people in Santa Barbara.

Just to set the scene, when it comes to housing, EVERYONE here rents. Engineers for 25 years rent. Pastors rent. Newlyweds rent. Homeless people, had they the money to set aside for non-homelessness, would be renting.

And yet, the vanity that permeates this place dictates that they should not be left without fashionable wheels.

Enter this article. Basically, people are overspending for their rides. They are getting too much car.

This quote REALLY applies to Santa Barbara:
Treating cars as a status symbol. You can't watch television for long without being bombarded by car commercials, and many of us have absorbed the idea that we are what we drive. It's complete BS, of course, but some people have been so brainwashed that they literally drive themselves into bankruptcy.

And yet, they rent.

The real reason, I think, is that people fail to see the big picture. A car drops by a quarter of its value the instant you turn it over for the first time.

Historically, over a 10 year span, houses have always gone up in value.

So why?

Three reasons:

1. You are seen out and about in your car. Being the vain place it is, Santa Barbarians must be seen in the latest/greatest/coolest. Anything less would lessen their social status.

2. People don't visit much here. I thought LA was flaky until I moved up here. People here in SB will say "oh, sure! We'll be down!" All the time. It rarely happens.

3. A house anchors you. People here take pride in their ability to pick up at a moment's notice. Making deep roots means that you have to invest in your community. People here are wary to make any kind of social commitment to one another. It interferes with their free spirit-ed-ness. In my opinion, it also detracts from building a sense of community.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Amazing Grace...

So I went to the Scottish Festival down in Long Beach this past weekend.

On Saturday, I hung out at the Clan Inebriated booth, and helped out as I could (got a free t-shirt out of it too!)

Turns out that a certain leader from Clan Stewart is trying to get Clan Strachan un-invited to the Pomona Scottish Games.

drama drama drama.

Oh, on Sunday morning, I went to a church service that they put on. Included was a "Kirkin' o' the Tartans". Its actual history is in dispute, but the story goes that after Bonnie Prince Charles defeated the Scots, he banned the tartans in the hopes of killing any Scottish pride.

However, the canny Scottish would, being devout Christians at this point, would conceal a piece of the tartan, and show it at a certain part in the service, where they would re-avow their faith.

Now days, it's a yearly event, where those in Tartans (which, I hope, will be me next year) come up and declare their fealty to God.

However, later, we sang "Amazing Grace" to a bagpipe. I had arrived late, so I took a seat in the back. Which isn't a bad thing.

However, nobody notified me, and the bagpiper walked up the center aisle. From the back. Scared the snot out of me.

Those things are LOUD!

The service was good. It was about the tribe of Israel failing to learn from the lessons of the past, and repeating their mistakes. He equated it to the US failing to learn from its mistakes, neglecting to keep a careful watch on things, and/or taking the steps necessary to defend ourselves.

Yes, the pastor was an ex-marine.

This was the first time I ever thought the pastor would end a service not with "amen", but "ooo-rah!"

Friday, February 16, 2007

A new analogy...

There is a lot of talk of how God "grafted" us into the promise of the Jewish faith, most often using the whole olive tree/fig tree analogy...

Well, I was in my shower the other day, when I came across a new know how when you get to the end of a bar of soap, you use it until it goes down to a tiny nub, then you get a new, fresh bar, and sort of merge the two?

At first, it looks kind of silly, but as you use the bars together more and more, they become one bar.

I think that you as Gentiles (I'm Jewish by blood...neener neener!) have been grafted into the promise in a similar fashion.

Of course, the fact that I claim Jesus Christ means that I have completed my Jewishness, and now need His promise just as much as any gentile. Plus, I love bacon, have worked on the sabbath, and have never been inside a synagogue.

So, we are all the remnant of a Suave soap bar grafted onto a Dove Ivory body bar.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Conviction vs. Guilt...

So, there was a mix-up on one of my previous posts about guilt from a pastoral point of view (it has since been resolved...just a case of misunderstanding), and it got my wheels turning.

Where is the line drawn?

At what point has a pastor crossed the line from exhorting his congregation, and placed them in a spirit of bondage over guilt?

One of the earliest memories I have on the subject was during Summit '94, when Tony Campolo was speaking. He related the story of a (in his mind), promising intern of his.

As I remember the story, he lost track of the intern, and discovered that he had become a plastic surgeon. The venomous diatribe that Mr. Campolo spewed made it seem as if Lucifer himself had turned this kid.

His tone of voice spoke as if being a plastic surgeon was the worst vocation a man could choose, if he neglected ambulance chasing. (I believe his exact words were "He could have been mighty for the Kingdom of God, but instead, he's a PLASTIC SURGEON")

Two weeks later, my dad went in for a surgery.

He had smashed his nose during a bicycle wreck when he and my mom were first dating. For at least 17 years, he had lived with a deviated septum, which affected his breathing, caused him to snore, etc.

Guess what kind of surgeon he had to see?

Yup, you guessed it, a plastic surgeon.

It was at that moment that I realized that from the stage at Long Beach Arena in the Summer of '94, Mr. Campolo had placed thousands of kids in spiritual bondage over his inability to see past his own point of view.

When someone goes to see a Plastic Surgeon, many times they are in a state of low self-esteem, depression, etc. Thanks to Mr. Campolo, those Christians who would heed the word of clergy have quite likely removed themselves that vocation, thus cutting themselves off from people who are in desperate need to experience the Love of God.

Church On The Way had a nasty reputation for getting people to come to its meetings. They would start with "If you consider yourself an ongoing part of this congregation, then you should come to [insert meeting here]". People would come, but they would come out of a sense of obligation than real joy. It should be noted that they have drastically scaled back the usage of that language in exhorting people to attend.

So where is conviction? What does it look like?

The image that comes to my mind is a thousand hamsters in a huge version of those plastic roller-balls you see.

Ignoring food/water/air considerations, let's look at this: a thousand hamsters, thrown in together. How do you get them all to move in the same direction?

Well, there are two ways to do it. The first is for an outside force to push the ball, forcing the hamsters to collectively move. However, they will tumble inside this ball, and not really enjoy the trip. Most people put pastors in this position: on the outside, moving the church as he/she sees fit.

the other way is for the hamsters to all run in the same direction. In this scenario, the pastor is another hamster in the ball. Seeing the hamsters all running, he gets in front, and harnesses the momentum of the running hamsters, guiding them around possible obstacles.

Pulling ourselves out of the analogy, what does this look like?

A pastor's job is to make a congregation spiritually mature. From there, the pastor has to be able to recognize where the church wants to be led to. Right now, a hot point of care is AIDS in Africa. A lot of churches are making big news getting involved with that point of care.

If, however, a church matures, and the point that really strikes home is about Civil rights abuses in Chinese orphanages, the pastor has to recognize that as the conviction of the church, and lead them there. That is where they are most effective, and that is where their passions lay.

If the pastor should show them the latest video of emaciated Africans and tell them that they aren't doing enough to help ease the suffering there, he has just guilted the church.

In our example, the church is/was motivated to help in a way they felt called to. The momentum was moving to assist as they could for Chinese Orphanages, but the pastor used spiritual contexts to make the church feel culpable for not doing enough for the AIDS in Africa crisis.

But at what point does it stop? At what point do you feel called to say, "Yes, that is a tragedy, but the attention/time I can devote to this is minimal".

You can find hundreds of causes to champion. Because you feel drawn to one does not mean that you are ignoring the others, or are somehow less caring.

And yet, it seems perfectly acceptable to throw up a heartbreaking picture, put up a Bible verse that has something to do with it (and very often, is taken out of context), and end with a phrase like, "What are YOU going to do about it?" ("Nothing. I'm busy trying to feed the homeless here in America.")

People should feel the freedom to mature spiritually, then decide how they want to help out. When all the hamsters start running in one direction to solve a problem, and the church learns how to capitalize on that momentum, we'll see true ministry out of a conviction through the Love of God, rather than out of a spirit of bondage over Guilt.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Ezra's spiritual way made ready by Nehemiah...

The US is coming into a new period of Nehemiah, after much of the Ezra-like spiritual groundwork has been established.

Let's set a bit of a background, as I understand it.

God's people, in captivity, have been told for 70 years to get ready. Priests have prayed, they have been told to expect it, and, true to His word, the people are released to go back to their land.

However, once there, they find the walls in ruins, and Jerusalem in no way to be called a homeland.

Enter Nehemiah. Having been granted favor with the king as his cupbearer, he requested the clearance and materials necessary to go back to Jerusalem and rebuild the walls.

One might say that he was the first example of an engineer in the bible, save Noah.

In my walk, he was instrumental in showing me that it is necessary to be practical, even when you are dealing with the spiritual.

Nehemiah was the fulfillment of what Ezra was praying for.

What correlation does this have with the US?

After much worrying/fretting/praying over many of the major social issues there, the US is about to step in in a major way.

A few days ago, the President ordered the creation of AFRICOM. Its goal is to set up stability in the region..

Now, more than ever, we need to be praying for wisdom, guidance, and protection of our troops, as they are being committed long-term to a very just cause: making things hospitable in a very turbulent region.

The Nehemiah has come for the Church's Ezra-like preparation of Africa.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

People...some common sense please...

For those of you out there who have no idea what is going on, A local newspaper, the Santa Barbara News-Press has been taken over by a woman by the name of Wendy McCaw.

Evidently, she took it over, is not playing nice with the unions, has some sort of personal vendetta against Rob Lowe, has reduced the journalistic quality of the paper, and is fighting to make the beach in front of her house private property.

Ladies and gentleman, we have the anti-Christ.

At least, according to Santa Barbara standards.

Everyone loved their little paper, and now it is no more.

So what is everyone doing? Trying to fight to make it back the way it was by writing nasty things about her, organizing protests, etc.

In other words, acting like they are still in University.

People: welcome to the professional world. "Freedom of the Press" means that the government can't censor the paper. It does NOT mean that you can impose your ideas of "journalistic integrity" on the paper.

However, in the quasi-socialistic setting that the people around here seem to prefer, they would rather curse the darkness than light a candle.

In the spirit of capitalism, and taking positive steps, I present you with the only other option: stop buying their paper. Lack of money has been known to make a newspaper change. Also, if nobody is buying it, what they say won't make a difference.

Do you know why the "Enquirer" has been around for so long? People buy it.

If you are afraid that The Santa Barbara Free-Press will stay in business because people who are not up to your level of sophistication might keep them in business, you are being elitist, and need to take a look at yourself and your attitude towards your fellow man.

This is a clear-cut case of the free market deciding. Quit the 60's dream of a protest changing everything. Bumper Stickers espousing the decline of Ms. McCaw only serve to make you look foolish and hopelessly out of touch with economics. Vote with your dollars.

Start here. If Ms. McCaw buys that too, if you REALLY believe that EVERYONE is on your side, form your own newspaper, don't make it a publicly traded company, and put out the news that you think EVERYONE will want to see in a local paper.

If not, I suggest you discover something else to be worried about. It's a big world, I'm sure you'll find something.

So....what are you saying?

UPDATE: Please note that Pastor Billy didn't advocate commune living. This was something I was wondering about when the verse went up. It seemed like something worth investigating on my own. Pastor Billy was simply making a point about living in community in general.

So our Pastor had an interesting message the other night...he was talking on the subject of community.

He referenced Acts 2:42-47:
They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

For a second, I almost thought that they were announcing "The Aqueous Commune".

But then it came to me: what does that mean for me? What is the application in my life. A couple of things stand out:

They did not quit their jobs. It does not say that they "quit their jobs, pooled their money, and cut themselves off from the responsible world".

So, the hippies got it wrong.

Which is good...I suck at the Tambourine.

So what is to be said here?

I know of no communes that have lasted with any success, save the Amish and maybe some Mormons.

But, I think regressing is not the way for the church to head, and, frankly, from what I've heard, trying to connect with one wife is hard enough, let alone many.

The ATF proved a deep theological point, namely that Sun Tzu's thoughts on fire trumps nutbag every time.

And who can forget that one compound that proved conclusively that cherry beats apple flavor, hands down.

So, commune living is out.

So how do re reconcile Acts 2 to our present method of living?

I notice that Acts 2 does not say anything along the lines of, "as it should be". It simply gives an example.

Pastor Jack Hayford blew my mind when he casually dropped in the middle of a service that: "God is not limited to his actions in the past". In other words, repeating what happened in the Bible in terms of configuration of people, resources, and specific prayers are no guarantee of God's will, unless it says so.

For example, The Lord's Prayer, starts with "This then, is how you should pray."

It is an explicit instruction.

The verses in Acts 2 offer no such wording.

It was how they acted in that time.

Furthermore, the footnotes in my bible point out that this was done so that they could pool their resources and provide for those that did not have enough for the essentials of living.

In current time, we live in a country where the poorest amongst us are still overweight. Our churches and church-affiliated non-profit organizations provide the most aid to foreign countries than the second and third placed countries combined.

So the reasons for a "sell everything and move in together" model of community are no longer strictly necessary.

Which is nice.

No offense to those who are/were hippies, but I really like to bath.

Interesting side note: reading through the Bible, I came across Exodus 36:3:
They received from Moses all the offerings the Israelites had brought to carry out the work of constructing the sanctuary. And the people continued to bring freewill offerings morning after morning.

The "Freewill offerings" was the construction of the tabernacle and all its components. So, by definition, giving of your time is an offering to God. So the next time some church attempts to guilt you into volunteering, you can gently remind them that it is an offering, not a requirement.
UPDATE: Please note that Pastor Billy doesn't do this. I meant this for the church in general, which does have a bit of a reputation for guilting people into service.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

When having faith is a bad thing...

While haunting Wikipedia, I stumbled upon this essay by Dr. Michael Crichton.

In it, he argues that environmentalism is a substitute for Judeo-Christian thinking wrapped in a tortilla of socially acceptable feel-goods.
"There's an initial Eden, a paradise, a state of grace and unity with nature, there's a fall from grace into a state of pollution as a result of eating from the tree of knowledge, and as a result of our actions there is a judgment day coming for us all. We are all energy sinners, doomed to die, unless we seek salvation, which is now called sustainability. Sustainability is salvation in the church of the environment. Just as organic food is its communion, that pesticide-free wafer that the right people with the right beliefs, imbibe."


He then proceeds to once again knock down all the precepts we've been spoon fed as "truth".

An interesting point he raised is about how ridiculous it is for us in the Western world to have glorified "nature", never having seen it's viciousness or callous disregard for all forms of life.

"Nature" has never been anything but an ugly, murderous mix of the stronger preying on the weaker until the weaker has been dominated or the stronger is temporarily placated (I.E. "I'm full").
" And so it is, sadly, with environmentalism. Increasingly it seems facts aren't necessary, because the tenets of environmentalism are all about belief. It's about whether you are going to be a sinner, or saved. Whether you are going to be one of the people on the side of salvation, or on the side of doom. Whether you are going to be one of us, or one of them."

At what point does a commonly held idea become religion? When it takes faith to believe in it? Ironically, that would make Atheism and Agnosticism religions as well.

Is it simply a set of instruction? I tend to think that when it crosses the line to guiding and dictating your actions and how you live your life, you have made that idea into your religion.

By putting the environment as the forefront of all things, we have made it a god, and worship daily. We accept social change blindly in the name of "the environment".
We ban chemicals that can help our fellow man in third world countries because the royal priests of environmentalism have decried them as bad, and a book was made in the 1970s. Never mind that they never were a threat to either nature or man. The most despicable part is that those attempting to ban DDT knew it was not harmful when they attempted to outlaw it.

We turn the stewardship of forests over to those that in the name of conservation and fire prevention, set change into motion from which the forests will never recover in their current incarnation.

We attempt to change ourselves to create a fictional, static environment that we think we have lost, ignoring the fact that nature around us will change with or without our interaction. A magnetic reversal of the poles is already underway, the Sahara desert is shrinking, the Antarctic ice sheet is growing and getting thicker, the hole in the ozone is shrinking, etc. You'd think that scientists would be questioning this.
"...because the beliefs of a religion are not dependent on facts, but rather are matters of faith. Unshakable belief."

But shouldn't study of environment be based on science? You'd think environmentalism would be moved from a state of mind to a scientific study. But you'd be wrong.

From Forbes' article "Clean and Green":
"Global revenues from clean technology, broadly defined, nowsurpass $150 billion a year, according to the Cleantech Venture Network, a for-profit membership group that connects venture and institutional investors with entrepreneurs."

So it's a multi-billion dollar industry.

And it's not just industry. Universities have been corrupted with the infusions of cash. $20 billion as a conservative number.

Be sure to read the Crichton article. In it, he suggests a plan to eliminate the religious aspects of environmentalism and get it back to hard science.
In the interest of starting anew, I suggest a term for those who choose to ignore the emotions, politics, and religious overtones of the study of the environment:
Terralogy. The scientific study of Earth.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Why I think Church On The Way will be around for 100 more years...

For those of you who have been following along with Pastor Billy's blog, I've had an ongoing debate with him regarding how appropriate it was of Rick Warren to have Sen. Obama on the pulpit to "raise awareness" for the AIDS crisis.

Pastor Billy claims that it was simply a senator who cares raising awareness.

I make the claim that it was Mr. Obama's way of stumping for his presidential run. Especially considering that he hasn't been overly vocal about the fact that the new Congress is not funding what they promised for AIDS research. I further make the claim that the real way to get the AIDS crisis dealt with is for the church to quietly go about doing it without needing the fanfare and hoopla with politics.

I've always been told to judge any action by the fruit it produces. As a result of Mr. Obama's appearance on the pulpit, people who would have helped to fund the AIDS crisis are now bound up in political debates regarding the church. The focus has been removed from the potential to help people. If Mr. Obama was really concerned, I would suggest he partner with Rick Warren in a non photo-op moment.

Another on-going debate with Pastor has been the discussion about Sudan/Darfur.

He makes the claim that because it isn't in the media daily, we are the "arrogant, overfed, and unconcerned west".

I pointed out that back in 2004, Blair pushed for 150 million in aid for the region. Congress approved $850 million for all of 2005 and 2006, and the white house requested an additional $880 million (at the bottom).

Both the problem, and the solution are being dealt with quietly. Personally, my solution would involve the use of massive amounts of ordnance, but that's not the "Christian" way to do things, I guess...

So you may be wondering where/why the title comes into play:

I visited my old home Church, "Church On The Way", and what do I find out on the tithe envelope?

No fanfare, no politician "raising awareness", just quietly doing what needed to be done. I wholeheartedly believe that God will reward their giving quietly, with the left not knowing what the right is doing.

With ethics like these, I believe God will continue to bless the little Church that could, now can, and does.

Places like COTW are examples of what make me proud to be from the west. We are doing things that no other country in the world can do, and are blessing people as we are able. May people like Pastors Tolle and Hayford continue to define the heart and generosity of the western church.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Fake blogs (the heck you say!)

Soooo, the "fake blogs" award came out. "Flogs", as they are called. I won't give it away, but someone very deserving got the award.

Speaking of the award, it's worth the price of admission alone to see the actual award they hand out. Priceless.

I would like to volunteer to be a "Shlog". A shill blog. I will endorse almost anything in exchange for money. I can make a convincing "swoosh" noise with my mouth, and I can claim that McDonalds helped me to lose 5 pounds.

Heck, if Dow Corning paid enough, I'd make the claim that asbestos tastes like chicken.

So c'mon, hit me up. I want a Wii. :)

Ok, going to go live my life now.