What Is A Trichoplax?

A Trichoplax is one of the simplest organisms you can find. It has no discernible organs or structure, and is basically a flat blob of tissue that moves around. Is it alive? I don't know. But I thought I'd ruminate on other conundrums in this space.

I Agree

Old vs. New Miracle Workers

My first semester at seminary is over and now that I'm in the Christmas break, perhaps I can find more time to write out some thoughts about this last semester. It was a good semester, by the way, rigorous in all the right ways. I found myself enjoying all my classes, even as I was challenged academically unlike I ever had been before.

I should say that my semester isn't completely over. My Church History class still has some reading requirements to make up and I'm finishing a book of stories about early figures from early Christian monasticism. Some of these stories are pretty crazy. For instance, there's St. Anthony who, it was claimed, would fight with legions of devils and bore the marks of the battles on his body. Another story about St. Anthony by a different author relates how he sought out a certain monk and, in the process of the journey, happens upon a real live centaur and, not too long after that, a satyr as well. All of the stories of these early monks relate particularly their great humility, their extremes of poverty, their devotion to Jesus, the fantastic spiritual warfare they engaged in, and the numerous miracles that followed them.

On another note, I have also had in my mind lately an article written by leading evangelical John MacArthur who challenges Christians to stand up against so-called faith healers and boldly calls some of them out. His point was that many of these men and women use God's name largely for their own gain, accruing large amounts of lucre for themselves, all the while promising wealth and healing for their followers in the name of Jesus but in the end do not really proclaim Jesus' Gospel at all.

As I read the stories from more than 1600 years ago, I began to see a connection between these desert monks and the men and women John MacArther decries today, primarily in the sensational aspect of their careers: miracles. Both the monks and the modern day miracle workers claimed exorcisms and many healings and both lived in a world defined by their battle with spiritual forces. I have no problems believing in a God who can do miracles (if you assume a God who created this world, how can you not assume a God who continues to do with Creation as He wishes?), but even I find myself feeling a bit incredulous at the claims of either party.

But that was were the similarities end. As I continue to read about the monks of the desert I don't find my credulity growing, but I do find myself growing in respect for their personal lives. Whatever I believe about their miracles, these men were humble to a fault. Jerome wrote of the monk Hilarion that he spent most of his life fleeing the effects of the miracles worked through himself. From one place to another, he would have compassion on the various ills of people who came to him asking for prayer, and when word spread of the ensuing miracles he would speed away as fast as he could to avoid the accolades and offers of recompense that would follow. Jerome said of him that "he grieved that although his tongue kept silent about himself, his miracles would not keep silent." In the end, Hilarion wanted only to be by himself in the presence of his God, and from that his power derived.

It grieves my heart that I cannot find such humility from the many people today who claim to work miracles. Far from pushing away any offered reward for these miracles, the whole theology of these false prophets revolves around getting what they want from God, showing a greed covered in false piety. Instead of a life of almost ridiculous discipline and absolute dedication to purity, this group of miracle workers is marked by a string of scandals that seem to never end.

I still think some of the miracles I read attributed to the old monks are a little weird. But I cannot deny that I wish the current crop of miracle workers looked more like them.

Cheap Fun

So, if you're into gaming, or even if you're not, this is too good to pass up. A game called World of Goo is celebrating it's one year anniversary by allowing people to purchase it at any price. Any price. You could purchase this (really fun and well thought out, review here) game for a mere $.01 if you were so inclined, though I would suggest something reasonable, like $2. Do it. I did.

GEEK OUT: Sober News for Windows Users

Sooo... I haven't posted in a while, but now that school is getting into a rhythm I might start doing so again.

What brought me back was this sobering news from a Washington Post technological security writer. He says he has been investigating "organized cyber crime gangs" and finding out how they pilfer thousands of dollars from businesses using trojans and such-like nasties. His recommendation for said businesses after all his fact-finding? Don't use Windows. Yup. Not: get anti-virus software; not: follow good password practices; not: use a firewall. Just don't use Windows. There's no other way to ensure 100% that you won't have some nasty malware on your computer that's sniffing out your bank info.

Instead he recommends using a Linux live CD, which I think is brilliant. (He also suggests using a Mac, but not everyone can afford to do that). Basically, it's a CD with an operating system on it that you pop into your CD drive, boot up with your computer, and run it straight off of the CD (as opposed to from your hard drive). You can then access your bank via the web, free from worry. My favorite Linux live CD (which I've used extensively) is the Puppy Linux CD. It's fast, fully featured, and very cool. If you're curious about using this CD, I can help you figure it out...

Revelation Chapters 19-22

I finished my series on the book of Revelation last night, not without some bit of sadness. Certainly I feel the accomplishment of having made it through such a challenging study, but I also feel like my involvement with The House ministry is wrapping up too. In any case, I've enjoyed preparing for these studies and I've learned a TON. I feel like my knowledge of scripture and of God's plan has been profoundly affected by the book of Revelation.

So, what did I talk about? Well, it's the end of the book so John is wrapping up loose strings. We see a progressive defeat of God's enemies (the harlot, the beast, Satan, and finally death), the millennium in the midst of that, and then the New Earth and New Heavens. There is a lot in the text to point out that it's not meant as a verbatim account of what will come, but as a spiritual guide of what to expect. So, for instance, we shouldn't expect New Jerusalem to literally come as a ginormous cube out of the sky, but we should understand it as a symbol of who and what the church is, in shadow now and in fullness then.

Mainly, what I wanted to express was that catching a glimpse of God's plan, of His mercy and His love for us, can create hope in us. I believe that hope can really change the way a person lives. Furthermore, what a person hopes for matters too. As Christians, if we understand that anything this world has to offer us pales in comparison to the promise of God's presence, how can we not live differently in that light? That, I believe, may be the entire point of the book of Revelation. I'm hopeful I got that point across.

Survey my notes here.

Revelation Chapters 14-18

My friend Jason Leonard gave me a break last week and led the discussion on Revelation 14-16 on the topic of judgement, which is so clearly a theme of Revelation. I think our knee-jerk reaction to the judgements described in the Bible is to put ourselves in the place of the people being judged and thinking, how unfair! The reality is that God is fair, and that judgement is delayed as long as possible so that people may come to repentance (see 2 Peter 3:9). The question for us is whether we trust and believe God to be "just and true" as the angels in Revelation put it. You can see Jason's notes here.

This week I jumped back in the fray with a discussion on Babylon in Revelation, from chapters 17 & 18, and a little bit of 19. What it boils down to is that Babylon is the anti-church; it is a culture and a people that are the opposite of what the Church is and will be. This is why God calls His people out of Babylon in Revelation 18:4-5, and why He continues to call us out of it even today. We are called to live in the tension between witness and purity, speaking God's life to a dead world. I ended the talk thinking about Hebrews 11:13-16, thinking about how we are "exiles and strangers" who desire a better world. Really, I don't think we should fear and shun our culture as much as we should desire and live towards a better place, on God has planned for us. I think hope in God's promises will make a much more profound effect on how we live life than shunning our culture will. You can see my notes from this talk here.

The Mist of Despair

Just watched a movie called The Mist last night, and aside from what I've said earlier about how Hollywood characterizes Christians (since there's a crazy Christian in this movie) I have some thoughts about the movie. Be forewarned, that my thoughts mostly concern the ending of the movie so I will be dishing out *spoilers*, though I don't necessarily recommend the movie for viewing.

The premise of the movie is that scientists have opened up a portal to another dimension, unleashing blood-thirsty creatures that hide in a spooky mist on an unwitting town in Maine. The story follows the plight of a group of people holed up in a grocery store as they fight the creatures off, as well as deal with conflicts among themselves (mostly caused by the aforementioned crazy Christian). In the end, the hero and a few others decide to make a break for it and manage to get in a car and drive as far south as they can to try and make it out of the mist. They eventually run out of gas and, surrounded by the sounds of foul beasts in the mist, the contemplate suicide instead of the inevitable fate of being ripped apart, as had been the fate of so many of their friends. The protagonist, equipped with a gun with only four bullets (when there are five people in the car) does the "noble" thing and shoots them all, including his own son. In despair, since he can't end his own life after such a horrific act, he steps outside the vehicle into the mist and dares the creatures to kill him. As he stands, waiting for the creatures to become visible, instead a tank laden with soldiers rumbles through the mist. Astonished, he stands watching as the army rolls by. The movie ends with him, a broken man on his knees as the mist recedes and survivors proceed past him to safety.

What a horrible ending! I could deal with the sight of disgusting monsters attacking people, because that's all make-believe. But the hopelessness that pushed him to such a horrific act was all too real.

I have lately been studying Revelation, and it's clear to me as a Christian that hope in the goodness and justice of our ultimate end is one of the main themes John deals with in that book. Not only that, but hope is described in 1 Corinthians 13 as a pillar of our spiritual walk, along with faith and love. I have to believe, that if the hero of that story had been a solid Christian (not a crazy one), he would have understood that God is good, and held out for deliverance one way or another. Instead, devoid of any thought for the sovereignty of God or His goodness despite the difficult circumstances, he gave into despair and made the worst possible decision. That, unfortunately, is an all too real situation for far too many people.

Shuffle 20

I don't normally respond to chain letters on Facebook, but this one was so amusing to me (considering my arcane tastes in music) I couldn't resist. If you have one of these songs in your playlist, congratulations. Enjoy:

"Once you've been tagged... (1) Turn on your MP3 player/iPod/ITunes. (2) Go to SHUFFLE songs mode. (3) Write down the first 20 songs that come up--song title and artist--NO editing/cheating, please. (4) Choose 25 (or so) people to be tagged. It is generally considered to be courteous to tag the person who tagged you. "If I tagged you, it's because I want to know more about your musical tastes, or at least a random sampling thereof. Or maybe you tagged me. Or maybe I thought you tagged me a long time ago and I'm just now getting around to responding. "To do this, go to "NOTES" under tabs on your profile page, paste these instructions in the body of the note, enter your 20 Shuffle Songs, Click Preview to tag 20 people then click Publish."
  1. Escena Poeticas I: Eva Y Walter - Enrique Granados
  2. Concerto de Aranjuez: Adagio - Joaquin Rodrigo
  3. 2nd Improvision Op. 47, The Threat - Nikolai Medtner
  4. Medal of Honor: Securing the Codebook - Michael Giacchino
  5. Symphony No. 3 in C major, Op. 52 Andantino con moto, quasi allegretto - Jean Sibelius
  6. Final Fantasy VIII Piano Collection, The Castle - Nobuo Uematsu
  7. Four Lyric Fragments, Op. 23 I. Allegretto commaodamente - Nikolai Medtner
  8. Quartet for piano, violin, viola and cello No. 2 in G minor Op. 45. Mvmnt. 2 - Gabriel Faure
  9. Tomb Raider: Dangerous Foe - Nathan McCree
  10. String Quartet in C Major, K. 465 'Dissonance', Menuetto & Trio - Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
  11. Prelude in B Major, Op. 16, No. 1 - Alexander Scriabin
  12. Star Wars: Episode III, The Immolation Scene - John Williams
  13. Pride & Prejudice: Dawn - Dario Marianelli
  14. Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor Op. 16, Andantino, Allegro - Sergei Prokofiev
  15. Sonata No. 6 in D major, Allego Spiritoso - Gioachino Rossini
  16. Excursions, Op. 20: Allegretto - Samuel Barber
  17. Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Cirith Ungol - Howard Shore
  18. Piano Concerto in A minor, op. 54, Intermezzo, Andantino Grazioso, Attacca - Robert Schumman
  19. Intermezzo in B-Flat Minor, Op. 114, No. 2: Andante non troppo e con molta espressione - Johannes Brahms
  20. Piano Concerto No. 3, Allegro Ma non Tanto - Sergei Rachmaninoff

Revelation Chapters 12 & 13

Ladies and Gentlemen, more Revelation notes! *The crowd goes nuts* Please, please, contain your excitement.

Okay, seriously. Last night I talked about the vision of the woman with child, the red dragon, and the two beasts. There's lots of historical context that helps make sense of this passage, and is pretty fascinating to boot. What it boils down to is an allegory of the church being protected, an assurance that Satan's time is short, and an expose of the political, economic, and religious forces that Satan has used, and continues to use for his ends. You can find the notes here.

Also, I used a list of verses last night concerning Eternal Life Now. I had some requests for that list, so it is here. I would highly recommend anyone reading to print out that document and prayerfully consider the verses included. You might also consider taping it up somewhere (like your bathroom mirror) and meditating on one of the verses a day. It could change your life.

Revelation Chapters 10 & 11

Last night I went over the central part of Revelation, the parable of the two witnesses. Yes, I said parable. I know that many people understand that passage to be literal, but considering how many elements of the passage are clearly figurative (especially the "mystical city") it is much more illuminating and powerful (and internally consistent) when we understand it as a parable. It is particularly a parable about the church's role as a witness to the people of the world, and of the life of Christ lived out through us which is God's plan for the redemption of the world. Not sure? Check out my notes here and then leave a comment.

Irrational Truth

It's amusing to see the occasional scientific article come across concerning some aspect of human behavior that is incredibly "illogical" when it concerns ethics or religious beliefs. I pointed this out months ago with an article on teleologic statements (statements that say there is purpose to creation) that found people tend to subconsciously believe there is purpose in creation, regardless of their stated beliefs otherwise.

The latest is this article from Ars Technica that talks about a behavioral experiment set up to determine how rational people would be about money. From the article:
The basic rules of the Ultimatum Game are simple. One person is given a stack of cash, and told to divide it between themselves and a second party. That second party is then given the chance to accept or reject the offer; if it's rejected, neither of them get any money. Clearly, any of this free money should be better than nothing, so under assumptions of strictly rational behavior, you might expect all offers to be accepted.

They're not. Things in the neighborhood of a 50/50 split are accepted, but as the proportions shift to where the person issuing the ultimatum tries to keep seventy percent of the total, rejections increase. By the time they hit an 80/20 split, nearly 70 percent of the offers are rejected, even though that 20 percent of the total cash would leave the recipient better off than where they started.
The authors of the experiment went on to refine the experiment to ensure that people could make more rational decisions about the money, but at least 40% of the time they rejected any offers they considered "unfair".

Initially, they try to pin it down as a form of "primate behavior" centered on ensuring "cooperative behavior in small groups" but even that explanation was rejected because they found that even if the only consequence was guilt for accepting an unfair offer, it was still rejected a significant portion of the time.

So, once again, a behavior experiment has teased out the notion that we all have an innate idea of what is right and wrong. Particularly in this experiment, an idea of what is "fair" and what causes guilt. I wonder where that came from?

Anyway, sorry if my exposition of the experiment isn't that clear, the original article is much more in depth. Enjoy.

Ground Zero

It's a good thing the internet was around in the 50's or people would have gone bonkers over this. It's a "simulator" of sorts that lets you type in your hometown and then shows you the potential destruction of varying types of nukes. In Chattanooga, for instance, for almost every bomb but the colossal "Tsar bomba" made by the Russians, I'd be fairly safe from the initial blast but I'd eat it with the fallout. Good to know...

Revelation Chapters 8 & 9

Well, I promised my weekly notes on Revelation so... you can get them here.

This week I talked about John's vision of the six trumpets. This passage is one of the more bizarre parts of Revelation and doesn't really make sense until you understand that it has to do with idolatry (which becomes clear in Revelation 9:20). It becomes even more clear when you compare it to the account of the Exodus of the Jews and the plagues of Egypt and see the similarities. Some of the main things about the passage in Revelation include:

1. That God's response to the saint's cry of "How long" is one of judgement (just as it was for the Israelites in Egypt). I intend to explore the subject of God's judgement more in depth at a later time.
2. That God first judges the idols (both in Exodus and in Revelation) to show that they are powerless.
3. That there are demonic influences behind idols, and ironically, the things that we worship end up causing us torment and even death.
4. God intends for judgement to lead to repentance.

There are so many other things to cover but these are some of the main points. You can see it all laid out in my notes!

Fear and the Muslim "Threat"

I've been asked to post my response to an e-mail I received recently concerning a video on Youtube that's been circulating recently concerning Islam. So here goes.

First, the question:

Larry, I know you have done a lot of study on the growth of Islam. How accurate is this video?

Then, the video:

From my e-mail response:

Well, a couple notes about this video.

First, I'm a little put off by the tone of fear from the video. We forget that God is sovereign and is well aware that Muslims are growing as a people group. He doesn't need us to "wake up and take action" to complete His plans. Also, the video creates the picture that there is a vast conspiracy afoot, perpetrated by Muslim leaders, to overrun the worlds population by breeding. In truth, Muslim culture considers child-rearing differently (PDF link) than our secular western cultures (i.e. as a good thing) and really, Muslims move to the U.S. and Europe because they're like anybody else: they want a better place to live. So let's tone down the hysterics first.

Second, it's true that Europe, especially, has been in decline as a culture and as a people group. They're well aware of it, too. In Spain, (and likely in other European states), you can earn a government stipend just for having children. Yes, they pay you to have children because they recognize their population is shrinking. But that happened because God was kicked out of Europe. A cultural shift occurred sometime last century and we now see the results. Muslims are moving in because there are job opportunities and a higher quality of life available to them, not because they want to take over the world. A similar kind of Europeanization and decline is occurring in the states, though it will certainly look different however it pans out.

Third, the narrator throws out a comment at the end of the video about how Christianity is being eclipsed by Muslims currently in terms of numbers. Coincidentally, I was looking into these numbers just last night so I can shine some light into what this really means. Currently there are about 2 billion professing Christians in the world. Only approx. 680 million would consider themselves to be "born again" though, so, for the sake of conversation, we'll consider there to really only be about 1 billion "real" Christians, give or take. Well, we've already lost the numbers game then, because there are about 1.3 billion adherents to Islam. But that's not the whole story. Let's talk about growth rates. Currently, Islam is growing at a rate of about 2.9% a year. Christianity (or those who would call themselves Christians) are only growing at about 2.3% a year. But then look at these growth rates:

- Pentecostals: 8.1%
- Evangelicals: 5.4%
- All Protestants: 3.3%
- Roman Catholics and Others: 1.3%

So what we really see is that nominal Christianity (what I would consider most Roman Catholics to be, and a fair number of Protestants too) is dying, as we would expect. However, the Church is alive and growing much faster than Islam. Are we outnumbered? When have we never been?

The truth is that the Gospel continues to conquer throughout the world, whether we know it or not. On the other hand, America as a nation and a culture is on it's way out (whether we like it or not) and other nations are taking the lead in spreading God's word. Sure, we need to be obedient to God and ministering at home and abroad, but if we weren't doing that already, I'm not sure a video on Youtube is going to make us do that.

One last thing I'd mention. I think Americans don't realize how young our nation is, and how promptly the world changes. Americans are not students of history as a rule, and when change looks like it's coming we tend to panic. The truth is, our nation or culture is not guaranteed to last forever. I'm not saying I'm not unsettled by what's happening in our world. But am I surprised? Would I be surprised to find that the world my children grow up in will be vastly different, perhaps even hostile? Not at all, even though I'm certainly not comfortable with it.

In times like this we need not put our hope in awareness campaigns, programs to increase child-bearing, or even in our nation. We need to look to the God's Word and understand that the Church and the Gospel is eternal, will survive the fall and rise of many nations and religions, and that our hope rests not in this world.

Anyway, I hope that's not too bleak for you. But those are my thoughts.

And some post-thoughts:

It is unfortunate today that people have so much information available to them, but most don't take the time to analyze that information. There are a number of assumptions from the video (such as, all Muslims are the same, believe the same thing, have the same agenda, that what's true of Europe is true of the U.S., and so on) that I imagine many viewers will take at face value. The only good assumption one should make when watching videos like these is this: things are never as simple as they seem.

The unfortunately corollary to the lack of analysis is that misunderstanding breeds fear. I doubt that the vast majority of American Christians watching this video have ever talked with a Muslim, but most of them have preconceptions about what Muslims are like. Saying those words fills me with sadness, as I realize what a statement that makes about Christians in this nation. God desires that no man should perish, and that we should fear no one, and painting a caricature of Muslims as bogey-men will get us no closer to spreading God's love among them.

A Long Revelation

Well, the posts on this blog have dwindled a bit, but for good reason. Most of my creative output has been dedicated to a study on the book of The Revelation of Jesus to the Apostle John as of late, and if you've read Revelation you'll know there's quite a bit to concern one's self with. Anyway, I thought I'd post links to my notes here (perhaps with some comments) so that others could study along if they wanted to. My notes include copious verse references so there's plenty to learn!

evelation Chapters 1-3. Get my notes here.

For the first week I went over some basic assumptions, basic interpretation models, then covered historical context and talked about the first vision John has of Jesus. My word for this talk was, fittingly, "revelation". I asked the question, "What does Jesus reveal about himself?"

Revelation Chapters 4-5. Get my notes here.
John has a vision of the throne room and of the Lamb who is able to unlock the scroll. The scroll probably represents history itself. I concentrated on the idea that only Jesus is able to redeem history, and even our personal struggles, because only redemption makes sense of suffering and pain. My word was "redemption" and we asked, "How has God redeemed my struggles?"

Revelation Chapters 6-7. Get my notes here.
In this lesson I tackle the contents of the seals on the scroll, which I take the position as being a summary of all history up to the end. Then I talk about the two visions of the multitudes (the 144,000 and the great multitude in heaven). I tied it all together by talking about "perseverance" (my word for this section) and how the saints were encouraged to overcome our current struggles for the hope of joining the multitude who know no hunger and whose tears are wiped away. I asked the question, "What do we hope for?"

Well, that's what I've been doing lately. I'll continue to post each weeks lesson with a little blurb about what I talked about. Otherwise I don't think I'll be able to post much else on here!

Bad Boy, Watcha Gonna Do?

So this is a bit odd... The guy in the video below is being arrested for an outstanding warrant, but says some really interesting things as he's getting arrested. In particular, he calls out to Yahweh and invokes the protection of angels. After that he improvises a really fun song (while being pinned to the ground). The best part? He gets away after being tazed. Watch it all unfold below.

Trite Practices of Hollywood

I've noticed that whenever I watch a movie with a character that is supposed to be a Christian, it often ends up being a fairly clichéd representation, or at least a skewed one.

Many movies I've seen represent Christians as being fundamentalist, judgmental, and often psychotic. For example, in the film
Sunshine, one of the characters (the captain of a doomed space flight) is a fundamentalist Christian who is so beholden to his beliefs he will murder his crew to see them through. Somehow, the fact that he screams about God a lot makes him representative of the Christian faith (that's sarcasm folks). The movie There Will Be Blood casts one of its main characters as an off-the-wall Christian type who is, of course, really only seeking for money and power (as a sort of competitor to the main character, Daniel Plainview), not the will of God.

In a slightly different take, I saw
The Soloist recently which had a Christian character who wasn't malicious, simply misguided in his efforts to help a mentally ill man. I still felt like this was a damaging stereotype, because he was portrayed as naive, single-minded, and ultimately devoid of any emotional and spiritual depth or insight. I could go on and on with examples of Christians in films who are portrayed negatively.

Most of these films don't outright say, "All Christians are like this!" but because it is such a recurring theme it makes me wonder if some people don't get that impression. It's almost like Christians are a classic bogey-man, alongside the pedophiles, serial-killers, rapists, and other villains that populate movies. This guy
here points out that you don't see Buddhists or Hinduists as the villains of films nearly as often. And while Arabs (usually as Muslim fundamentalist terrorists) certainly have seen their days as villains, you've got a lot of films coming out lately that are almost like Muslim apologetics, casting Arabs as wise, peace-loving sages. I understand this is probably a reaction to the Muslim cliché of a terrorist, but nobody seems to care to correct the Christian cliché of a fundamentalist.

Of course, I don't expect this to change much. Hatred for Biblical Christianity has been a constant theme for the past 2,000 years. Our views will continue to be skewed, and our wisdom will be mocked and vilified. Personally, I grow tired of having to swallow such hatred when I'm only hoping for a good movie.

Granted, if you want to see a movie that does portray Christians in a good light, The Mission and Shadowlands are excellent examples of that. Those kinds of movies are out there, but they're rare diamonds in the rough. Unfortunately, the movies that Christians make for each other often end up having little to no artistic merit, for whatever reason, or are so whitewashed they have little meaning even for Christians.

I don't think the solution to this is to complain to the movie industry. I don't think it's such a great idea to make movies only for Christians either, since so many of those attempts have failed to have much mainstream appeal, thus making them fairly irrelevant (arguably so even for Christians) and trying to give Christianity that mainstream appeal is the path to the dark side. I just think this is The Way Things Are, and always will be, until Jesus comes.

A Brave New World?

I'm a big fan of Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death, a book about how our media obsessed culture is drowning itself in too much information and distractions. I swore off regular TV watching years ago and sometimes think even the internet can be a tad overwhelming.

Anyway, here's a comic book representation of the prologue to Postman's book that is well done, and informative too! Read it here.

The End of Church In America?

It's been interesting as I've been beginning the ordination process with my church to think about denominational identity. Quite frankly, I wouldn't say that I have one (though I'm definitely being ordained by a denomination and a church that is strongly part of that denomination). I would say that I feel quite ecumenical, in the sense that I believe more in the Church universal than I do in any particular denomination. In a sense, I'm disillusioned by many church's club-like mentality. Apparently, I'm not alone.

This article proclaims the headline "Young Americans Losing Their Religion", though the details of the story don't quite back that up. It points to a recent study that says that 30-40% of younger Americans claim no religious affiliation. This is a trend that has been increasing since the 90's, and I'm not terribly surprised by it. This generation, more than any other, seeks to know itself, and in the process will claim no identity. What's more interesting is that this group, while not affiliating themselves religiously, are not necessarily atheists either.

What it sounds like to me, is that America is breeding a generation of spiritual orphans who've either abandoned or rejected their background in faith, but not necessarily to give it up entirely. It is, in a sense, a modern day reformation; millions of Martin Luther's nailing their thesis on the proverbial door of the Church. As the article points out, these youngsters have become disillusioned with an institutional church that seems to espouse mere political or doctrinal views. This view of American churces is, I believe, in large part true. And as a generation that seeks meaning, today's youth will reject that.

And this is why Jesus' teaching on the Kingdom of Heaven is as "near" 2,000 year ago as it is now. Today's youth want to hear that the Church is not just a club of believers all holding the same doctrine or political inclination, but a force for real meaning and change in the world that effects every day life as much as it effects eternity. Of course, this is what the Church should be. But in America, church leaders have become sidetracked, concerned with affecting society from the top down while the roots wither away.

Time Poll Was Hacked

So if you take a look at a
recent poll by Time Magazine to determine the top 100 most influential people in the world, you'll notice that the first 21 people on the list spell out the peculiar phrase, "Marblecake also the game." Obviously, Time Magazine didn't intend for this to be. No, the vote was hacked by a group of hackers that go by the name 4chan, with their founder as the top result in the poll. Hilariously, Time is going ahead with the results, claiming to have avoided the hacks 4chan used. I find really amusing that old-school institutions are seemingly oblivious to how "new-school" tactics can totally change the game. You can read more about how 4chan pulled this off here.


Most people who know me know I use Macs and I love them. I also do PC repair so I know intimately how much a Windows computer can suck sometimes.

Yesterday Apple came out with some new "I'm a Mac" ads and the one that was particularly amusing to me was called "Legal Copy". Go ahead and check it out, I'll wait.

Anyway, if you don't bother to watch it, the ad involves PC making statements such as "incredibly easy to use" while legal copy increasingly grows in size at the bottom of the page. What's funny to me is what the legal copy actually says. A website called MacJournals.com actually took the time to read what it said, and came out with humorous, though sometimes admittedly exaggerated, gems like this:

Please note that when you first receive your PC there is some suggested work that needs to be done before PCs can perform at their peak. These steps include, but are not limited to, downloading and installing necessary drivers for peripherals. These drivers may include printers, scanners, cameras, storage devices, music players, and other media devices. There may be more depending on your needs. It is also recommended that first time users remove all unneeded bloatware and remove all operational components.

Ever Wondered What Being Inside A Tornado Was Like?

I've always enjoyed the movie Twister that came out a while ago, especially because of the improbable plot. Surviving the inside of a tornado by tying yourself to a pipe? Laughable but fun, especially with lots of whiz-bang effects.

As it turns out, the laughably improbable has happened. You can read a lengthy, but fascinating story here of a minister that survived a tornado in nearby Murfreesboro, Tennessee by holding onto a tree. His description of the eye and of passing through the walls of the tornado are vivid and gripping, though some of his theological ideas are a little odd. (Telling people that their loved one's felt God's love if they were killed by a tornado? Might be a stretch.) If you just want to read it for the account of living through the tornado, you can start on page 6.

The Hallelujah Epiphany

For the Easter service at our church the choir sang the Hallelujah chorus from Handel's Messiah. It was, of course, majestic, but I was unexpectedly quite moved by the song.

While they were singing it, I was thinking about a story my friend Jason had referenced last week in a blog post. It's the story of a South American Indian who was hearing Handel's Messiah for the first time. Upon hearing the Hallelujah chorus she began to cry, and later explained that she'd heard the chorus before. She was, in fact, one of the famous Auca Indians, the tribe that had killed Jim Elliot and his fellow missionaries in 1956. (If you're not familiar with the story, read a short synopsis here.) She recounted that, as the missionaries were being speared to death on the Curaray river, she saw men in white on the opposite side. They were singing the Hallelujah chorus.

While the story is pretty neat, I didn't really think much of it. I cynically thought that it was a little cliche, the idea of angels singing the Hallelujah chorus. It wasn't until I heard the words of the chorus Sunday morning that I realized something that really shook me to my core:

The kingdom of this world
Is become the kingdom of our Lord,
And of His Christ, and of His Christ;
And He shall reign for ever and ever.

Those angels weren't singing about Jim Elliot or Nate Saint. They weren't singing about the Auca Indians. They sang only about God. And I realized that was kind of the point. When those missionaries were getting murdered it looked like defeat. But those angels were proclaiming that God really was the ruler of this world, and that he would reign forever, even as His subjects were being humiliated by the forces of evil. We know, of course, that those Indians eventually became Christians by God's grace. In the end, God won.

That, I realized, was why angels would sing that song. Handel ripped those lyrics straight from Revelations and the point of that book is simply that no matter how things appear, in the end God wins.

Game of Miscommunication

Many of us remember playing the game of Telephone when we were younger, or perhaps we still play it on occasion. Either way, it was always a hoot to hear what the inevitably mangled result of an original phrase was as it was whispered down the line. Now you can experience the same thing, except online! Broken Picture Telephone is the name of a new website that accurately recreates the experience of mutilating language, but now with total strangers hiding behind bizarre avatars! I had a big laugh when I played one game, which went from the phrase: "She dreamt she was a bulldozer, alone in an empty bed..." to "An ambulance has run over a mutant rabbit, which bleeds acid and blood." Yes, that really happened. To see how, go here.

GEEK OUT: Networked Hard Drive Edition

So... occasionally I'll happen across something of a technological nature that I think is really awesome, but a great deal of people might not. For example, I described the gadget I'm soon to talk about to my wife last night and her response was a kind of "mmm hmmm" in so many words. But that's okay, prepare to have your collective minds blown.

What will do said exploding to you? Why, the Pogoplug® of course. Ha, you may scoff, how could something with such a retarded name be so profoundly awesome? (I may be exaggerating at this point, but bear with me). Well, let me describe what it does for you first. Essentially, it'll take any sort of hard drive or thumb drive and turn it into a network drive, no fuss, no muss. What that means is that any hard drive you have can be accessible by any computer on your home network or over the internet. Okay, perhaps you're a bit underwhelmed right now, but let me describe a few scenarios of how this could be really handy.

Scenario one: let's say you're chatting with your buddy about your awesome music collection and you'd really, really like to share an album with him, but you're nowhere near your computer. That's no problem with your Pogoplug®! You jump on his computer, log in to my.pogoplug.com and wala, all of your music collection is instantly available to download onto your friends computer because you have your hard drive with all your music plugged into your Pogoplug®. You can even preview the songs in the browser! The same goes for videos, documents, whatever; whatever you put on your hard drive instantly available over the internet through the Pogoplug®.

I'm sounding like an advertisement, but stick with me here. If you're a Mac user, you might be familiar with Time Machine, a really easy way to backup your stuff built into OS X Leopard. Well, with a Pogoplug®, you can now use Time Machine on any Mac you've got on your network and back that puppy up to your networked drive! That way, more than one computer at a time can work with the same backup hard drive. This, of course, would also work with Windows but it'd be a different process (read: not as easy).

Basically, the idea is that all of your information would be accessible from one central location and accessible anywhere you go, whether it's between computers in the same house, or you're at someone else's house. It's not that this hasn't been possible before, it certainly has. But it's now easier, and cheaper (only $99), to do this than it ever has been. Anybody can set this up (maybe).

So did anybody else out there see the potential in this device, or are you "mmm hmmming" me?

Desperate Times?

Did you know that you can use a "Berkshare" to pay for your purchase in Berkshire, Massachusetts instead of a dollar bill? In Detroit you can use a "Detroit Cheer" at the Bucharest Grill. In fact, apparently 75 local currency systems have started nationwide recently. They basically work like a coupon: you buy $100 for $95 and spend them at participating locations. But still, the idea of using something resembling a currency (that's not the dollar) here in America is both clever, and a bit surreal.