Weekly Meanderings


Good story from Marko about Michael: “the sunday morning he returned, not one person asked him where he’d been or how he was, or expressed that they’d missed him. a switch flipped, and michael suddenly, in that space (remember: he was a 14 year-old 9th grader at the time), saw that he didn’t belong. and he never came back. ” Go to the link above to read the whole story, but this is the clincher: “after a dozen years, michael felt the pull to try out a local church he’d heard about. funny thing is, while it might have been god’s spirit prompting him to return, michael’s entire reason for giving it a shot was to prove, to himself, that he was right about how cold and hypocritical the church was. by this time, michael had tattoos up and down his arms. he purposely wore a sleeveless shirt that morning, as an intentional dare to whoever would look at him funny or say something negative about his tattoos. michael was walking across the parking lot of this church, steeling himself for the negative response he was confident he would receive. but the first person he encountered said, “great tats, man. who does your work?”

Here comes the Epic Fail Conference: description and site.

Scott Simpson, at Wineskins, with this reflection on baptizing the American Dream so that it becomes Christianity: “Can we see this? Can we see how radical the Kingdom is? Can we allow our own baptism to truly end life as we knew it, and reshape everything? Can we take on the gospel dynamic that says death actually leads to resurrection? That giving is actually better than receiving? That love has nothing to do with keeping things fair and everything to do with grace? If we get this, it means we won’t have a home in America anymore. It means we won’t fit into the free market system anymore. We’ll frustrate the cogs of the capitalist way of life. We’ll reveal the nightmare that is the flip side of the American Dream. We’ll be taken, ripped off, put out of the marketplace… maybe even left for dead… just like our King.”

A blog to keep on your radar, by Johnson Thomaskutty.

Matt Papa evaluating Christian radio: ” Over the next month or so, I’ll be writing a series of posts about the current state of the christian music industry, more specifically, the current state of that which spearheads it, namely christian radio.  By saying radio “spearheads” the industry, I realize I have begun with a proposition a small percentage of people could find disagreeable.  Certainly, there are a few christian artists who do not utilize radio and still have a good deal of influence (Lecrae, John Mark McMillian, Phil Whickam).  But for the most part, despite the rise of the internet, radio remains the key player in getting songs and artists ‘out there’.  If you don’t want to take my word for it, check it out for yourself HERE.  I will speak more to this later, but essentially, you can think of it this way: christian radio is to the christian music industry what the movie theatre is to the movie industry.  If a movie hits the theaters, you hear about it.  If it doesn’t, you usually don’t. As you might have gleaned from the title, what will follow will be a hard, honest, word of rebuke.  I have no idea if anything I say in these posts will mean anything for the sake of change, but someone has to say it:  Mainstream christian radio is altogether banal and shallow in both a musical sense and a spiritual sense.  The songs are man-centered and the DJ’s and radio programmers are man-pleasers…..they play the songs that will attract the most listeners to their station, period.  Christian radio is like Joel Osteen in musical form….safe, happy, and untruthful.  It is the TBN of music…a large-scale, embarrassing presentation of Christianity to the world.”

Stanton L. Jones, a well-known expert on research about homosexuality, offers this lengthy sketch of the state of research.

Roger Olson has said he could not worship the God that some Calvinists depict, and some have gotten after him for that, but they are missing the important premises: Roger’s premise is that God is good and the Bible is his source; those critical of him are saying he is calling into question what the Bible teaches about God (because they differ on some passages). Roger responds here.

Rick Warren and the Saddleback Daniel Diet: “Members of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., on Saturday celebrated their success in losing extra weight at a rally to mark the first anniversary of theDaniel Plan, which Warren launched in collaboration with cardiac surgeon Dr. Mehmet Oz, brain expert Dr. Daniel Amen, and metabolism expert Dr. Mark Hyman in January 2011. At the beginning of the program, the over 15,000 participants, including Warren, promised to avoid sugar, white bread, white rice, pastas, white and wheat flour, hydrogenated fats or oils, caffeine and processed food; the results were thrilling.”

A good review of the theology of Rowan Williams by Chris Green.

Meanderings in the News

If you are interested in T.S. Eliot, this piece is for you!

The 5% and the 1% when it comes to health care costs, by Jordan Weissmann: “When it comes to America’s spiraling health care costs, the country’s problems begin with the 5%. In 2008 and 2009, 5% of Americans were responsible for nearly half of the country’s medical spending. Of course, health care has its own 1% crisis. In 2009, the top 1% of patients accounted for 21.8% of expenditures.”

Omega-6 and Omega-3 balance in the diet.

Gotta play more, with Esther Entin: “Play is important for the emotional, social, cognitive, and physical development of children. In addition to being critical for general health and a preventative against overweight, play develops life skills for children and communication skills among peers and family members. But because of over-scheduling, over-supervision, lack of appropriate play environments, and too many entertaining screens many children have less access to play time and play spaces than children in the past. Children living in poverty experience these barriers and more, according to a recent clinical report from the American Academy of Pediatrics. Underprivileged children often have less access to recess and school-based creative arts, music, and physical education programs. Additionally, the socioeconomic stressors on poor families often conspire against parents having the time, energy, or skills to engage in play with their children.”

Kodak: “According to the Wall Street Journal, camera manufacturer Kodak is preparing to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, following a long struggle to maintain any sort of viable business. The announcement has prompted some commentators to claim that Kodak’s near-demise has been brought on by:

  • a failure to innovate, or
  • a failure to anticipate the shift from analogue to digital cameras, or
  • a failure to compete with the rise of cameras in mobile phones.

Actually, none of these claims are true. Where Kodak did fail is in not understanding what people take photographs for, and what they do with photos once they have taken them.  Where Kodak got it wrong was its perception that people were still taking photographs which they would then print. But this is increasingly no longer the case. From dedicated photo print shops to automated kiosks, Kodak persisted with this notion for longer than it should have. A large part of the company’s more recent business strategy has focused on printers and ink. But here, as with their digital cameras, Kodak only holds a small market share – roughly 2.6%. In the days of film cameras, personal photography was principally about holding on to personal memories, with photos usually ending up in a shoebox. But recent research by anthropologists, sociologists and psychologists suggests personal photography has moved from being mostly a tool for remembering, to one of emphasising communication and our individual identities. As with most change, researchers have noted this switch most prominently in teenagers and young adults.”

If you are into memory, here is an interesting site.

Male demand for modesty in how women dress sexualizes women: “But there is another point missing from all of the discussion of the new vigilance on modesty and the backlash against it. The extreme focus on distancing from women turns them into sexual objects. There is something perverse about the obsession with female dress of these “guardians of modest,” and I don’t mean perverse just in the sociological sense. These men are so focused on sublimating their own sexual impulses that they see women only as sexual objects, whose images and very personhood must be contained to the point of invisibility. And it is internalized all too quickly by too many religious women. … But there is a flipside to focusing on modesty to the point of seeing women almost only as sexual objects. It is a paradoxical sexualization amid all this repression of perceived sexual danger, and something I would love to see some Haredi defender of the faith explore.”

Iran, Israel and USA — and war by Anthony Billingsley: “Relations between Iran and the United States and its ally Israel have descended into the worst crisis in years. Concern is growing that the situation could quickly degenerate into conflict… While Ahmadinejad and Khamenei represent a detestable regime and there are grounds for concern about Iran’s intentions over nuclear weapons, enhanced diplomacy rather than military action is needed. Experts in the US and Israel have warned that an attack would ultimately be unsuccessful. Sanctions also have little impact. When sanctions started, Iran had no centrifuges. Sixteen years and many sanctions later, Iran has about 8,000 operational centrifuges and a supply of low enriched uranium. The danger is that key people in Washington and Tel Aviv are not listening.”

SCOTUS and other courts are considering “ministerial exception” and religious cases: one, two, three.

Meanderings in Sports

The sort of golf partners that annoy you. This one is flat-out funny (and accurate).

Brandon Wood, at the Michigan State Spartans, got it going at Highland where my brother-in-law was the coach.

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  • On the annoying golf partners, I confess I’m #11.

  • Jason Lee

    The “male demand for modesty” piece is really interesting. Interesting to think about male-female segregation on the one hand leading to strong sexualized views of women. On the other hand–and more obviously–you have the way that the marketeers of our world try to display female sexuality through media to sell anything and everything, which of course also leads to strong sexualized views of women.

    The first is much more counterintuitive and interesting to consider.

  • Susan N.

    [Deep breath…and slow exhale] — I’ve only been able to read through the third link, and must move on to other tasks, but wanted to comment primarily on the Wheaton paper.

    New research findings on “epigenesis” and brain plasticity are hopeful news, in the main.

    The prominence of s*xual identity in our larger culture has become a hyper-focus of personhood. It’s completely out of hand.

    I always wonder (mournfully) at the brutality perpetuated in schools, peer-to-peer, on the basis of social conformity to the prevailing s*xual ideal. I have heard many reports (and my children have never been in an institutional school setting, so I have to take it on faith based on the veracity of second-hand reports by those who have been in the system) of boys in junior high being labeled as gay *if* they cannot boast of having had a hetero-s*xual encounter, or if they’re not athletic, etc… We’re talking 6th to 8th grade (11- to 14-year-olds) kids! I wonder how many kids get stuck with this label early on, and just assume it is true and live into it. I’m not saying that real differences in s*xual orientation do not exist; just that, sometimes, we live into the labels that others slap on us. Heartbreaking.

    As far as the role of the church…

    Again, I do not think that emphasizing distinctly male and female identity is at all helpful in ministering to those confused about s*xual identity. This from the Wheaton paper struck me:

    “It is increasingly obvious that for many individuals, their lives are marked and arranged around their sexual orientation.”

    Using Mark Driscoll as a case-in-point, is it helpful to hold up an extreme model of masculinity? Those men who are not the hunt-and-kill/punch ’em in the face type may end up feeling “less” of a man. The same could be said of “ultra-feminine” models for women. It’s just crazy.

    This in summary from the Wheaton paper:

    “…we [the Church] failed and continue to fail to engage individuals who embrace homosexual identity with compassion, understanding, and love, and to seek to defend them against unjust discrimination and violence.”

    To reiterate my comment on the ‘warning passages of Hebrews’ concerning perseverance in the faith, if condemnation is the main message we are sending, the love of Christ is MIA in our witness. We often like to gloss over the “speck(s)” in our own eye; it’s a nice distraction, isn’t it, to busy ourselves looking for the planks in others’ eye, and setting to work to “fix” others. Please now refer to Marko’s story about Michael (link #1). If we aren’t persevering in Christlike love, then I think we aren’t living our faith.

    Thank you, Scot and Kris, for these excellent links.


  • Joe Canner

    Dr. Jones’ article on homos*xuality research is a very helpful resource and is particularly useful for countering those who hold to any of the following extremes:

    1. All homos*xuals are mentally ill / Homos*xuals are just as healthy as straights
    2. S*xual orientation is a choice / Born that way
    3. All homos*xuals could change if they wanted to / Once homos*xuals always homos*xuals
    4. Homos*xuals cannot have successful and healthy marriages and are not good parents / Same-sex marriage and parenting is the same as straight marriage and parenting

    Unfortunately, it seems the more research is done, the more muddled the picture. And, because of methodological and statistical issues, the picture is unlikely to improve any time soon.

    Nonetheless, Dr. Jones’ conclusion (quoted by Susan in #3) is right on. In fact, I would say that compassion, understanding, and love are in order regardless of what the research says. What the research tells us is that everyone has their own story and needs individual attention, rather than being lumped together using one extreme view or the other.

  • cas

    Having waded through the entire Wheaton paper, despite its pale, tiny text, I was going to suggest jumping to the conclusion … especially this paragraph:

    “As moral and religious traditionalists face this profound polarization, it is important that we confess our own culpability in creating the mess we are in. We were complicit, even if ignorantly and passively so, in the cultural embrace of the disease conceptualization of homosexuality. We offloaded responsibility for the articulation of a thoughtful, caring, theologically rich and pastorally sensitive understanding of sexual brokenness onto the disease conceptualization, and thus were unprepared for the vacuum created by its timely demise. We have failed to articulate thoughtful understandings of human sexuality in light of evolving scientific findings and cultural developments. Perhaps most importantly, we failed and continue to fail to engage individuals who embrace homosexual identity with compassion, understanding, and love, and to seek to defend them against unjust discrimination and violence.”

  • Luke Allison

    In regards to the piece on the “featherweightiness” of belonging:

    That’s a fantastic observation, and one that’s so obvious it may be easily hurdled.

    While we can spend lots of time trying to figure out the sociological and anthropological reasons why Michael left the church, the easiest is to simply say: “He didn’t think people would accept him for who he was.”
    This is both immature and profound. Young people put a great deal of weight on their latest “look” or what they’re into at the moment (music, art, movies, books, etc). Luckily, adults tend to drop that as they age (hopefully) and achieve a more refined sense of self.
    But in the midst of dropping it, we can easily forget that we ever had it. And then we project our current state of security in self onto young people who have no such security, and wonder why they act the way they do.

    Frankly, if all it takes to get a young person to hang around is saying “Yeah, I think Kanye West is a really interesting artist too” (and I’ve seen this work numerous times), then we should do whatever it takes to engage them on that level.

    Of course, I was that young angry embittered tattooed guy, and an accepting church body made all the difference to me as well.

  • AHH

    A similarly worthwhile contribution to that of Stanton Jones, more focused on scientific evidence about orientation and possible reorientation, is a contribution in Calvin Seminary’s “What I wish my Pastor knew …” project:

  • The Daniel Plan? Ugh. Diets don’t work. We were designed by God to naturally recognize our hunger and satisfaction signals. The biggest indicator of weight gain, is having been on a diet. 95% of dieters gain back all their weight within 5 years, and typically gain even more. Most develop disordered eating patterns. Dr. Daniel Amen? C’mon. He is a quack. Do the research.

    I think the Church can do better.

  • Jerry

    RE: Christian Radio . . . would the author be writing this article if his album were top of the charts? Seems a bit self serving to me. That said, I do agree with him–I haven’t bothered listening to Christian radio in almost 20 years.

  • anton

    Hi, just a stupid, maybe-not-on-topic and probably European question: why do you (Susan, Joe) write sexual as s*xual?

  • Susan N.

    anton (#10) – Sometimes, certain “banned” words, if used in a comment, have been programmed to cause the entire post to be blocked/rejected.

    I did notice, after posting successfully, that the quote I cut and pasted from the Wheaton article included the word “sexual” and did not cause a problem.

    This comment system must be sophisticated enough to consider the context in which a word is used 🙂

  • Susan N.

    Eating as a Path to Yoga (#8) – I think there’s a lot of truth in what you have said. While good health and being a good steward of our whole selves is a worthy goal, too much focus on weight and appearance, in the context of religion and spirituality, can quickly slide into legalism and vanity/pride.

    My main issue with such “programs” is, that by tying dieting and weight loss to religious piety, there is a big, imho, risk of feeding into the unhealthy cultural obsession with thinness and appearance, to the point of an epidemic of eating-disordered society. Wouldn’t a guru like Rick Warren advocating for a church-wide “diet” plan tend to sanctify such eating behaviors and lead to potential harm, at least for *some*?

    Do we say that, because more are helped by such corporate weight loss programs, that we can’t be concerned with the few who are weak and will be harmed by it?

    That just seems off to me, catering to the strong and saying, essentially, to h*ll with the weak.

    My teen daughter has been bombarded by pressure (from peers and in the media) to be thin(ner) and look a certain way (i.e., straight hair is “in”). I wonder if other mothers struggle to convince their daughters that they *are* beautiful, just as they are? No amount of talk seems to even register; she doesn’t believe me. At her well-check, doctor told her weight was exactly where it should be — in the normal range. *Still*, she looks at her girlfriends, who are obsessing about their weight, and feels HUGE in comparison.

    I directed my daughter to a blog by a formerly homeschooled young woman, Kate Fridkis, ‘Eat the D*mn Cake’. Its articles are themed around “learning to love and accept yourself.”

    Just last night, my daughter was having a conversation with a slightly younger girlfriend, who was lamenting how “fat” she is. My daughter encouraged her by affirming how *tiny* she really is, and suggested that her friend NOT get on the scale every day. Our strategy (mine and my daughter’s) is to get weighed once a year, whether we need it or not, at our annual well-check/physical exams 🙂

    As with the topic of the Wheaton article, and the overemphasis with gender roles in the church, weight and, specifically, the quest for ultimate thinness, has gotten completely out of control in our culture.

    Rick Warren has never been my guru, but I will say that I have seen his far-reaching influence in the words and actions of other leaders. He has clout in the evangelical world.

  • http://www.intuitiveeating.org/content/warning-dieting-increases-your-risk-gaining-more-weight-update

    Warning: Dieting Increases Your Risk of Gaining MORE Weight (An Update)

    A Brief Summary:
    By Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD “The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) asked if I would contribute an article on the dangers of dieting (specifically, how dieting increases weight gain) as part of their outreach for National Eating Disorders Awareness week, which begins February 26, 20”

    “No diet or meal plan could possibly “know” your hunger & fullness levels, or what satisfies you. Only you know your thoughts, feelings, & experiences. Only you, can be the expert of you.

    So what’s a chronic dieter to do? The answer lies in attunement with your mind and body, an inner-oriented process.

    ‎1. Unconditional permission to eat when hungry and what food is desired 2. Eating for physical rather than emotional reasons 3. Reliance on internal hunger & satiety cues to determine when & how much to eat.”