Monday, August 21, 2006

Invisible Children

Invisible ChildrenNightfall in Northern Uganda brings more than darkness: fleeing brutal abduction from the elusive Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), literally thousands of impovershed children cram themselves into basements, alleys, and hallways of Ugandan towns. Each night these children flee the LRA, African rebels who routinely beat and brainwash scores of little kids as "recruitment" into their war against the African government. The children who are murdered to make "examples of what happens if we try to run away" are considered the lucky ones. The unlucky ones are trained and brutally forced to be soldiers in the rebel army with one objective: kill or be killed.

Invisible Children is a film documentary by three North American twentysomethings who set out for "an adventure" and unwittingly find their way into the cramped hallways and crowded auditoriums of Ugandan towns, where the children hide. Today I previewed Invisible Children, which will be shown at the college/young professionals gathering I attend. The footage was both touching and disturbing and well beyond the typical African scenes of poverty and disshevelment; 8-year olds, so proficient in killing, it is all they know ("I get a headache if I don't see blood."); survivors of the raging civil war, their young bodies mutilated and brutalized; young escapees too desensitized to even cry for the loss of life and innocence ("Here, even fear is an understatement."); a boy, in a rare unguarded moment, sobbing for the loss of his best friend; children praying for their own deaths, so they can see their dead friends and family again.

I watched all that, then went to an air-conditioned restaurant where a generous friend paid $8.79 plus tip so I could eat a turkey burger with cheese, avacado and bacon. Afterwards, I went back to my windowed 2nd story office, stared at my $2000 dual-monitor computer, and drank a tall glass of cold water from a fountain down the hall. I drove home on my three-dollars-and-fifty-cents tank of gas in one of the two cars I own. I ate Thai leftovers for dinner with my wife. I got annoyed that I could not find the remote control with which to change the channel on my 31" television while sitting eight feet away on my plush couch (I suspect my remote is buried somewhere in the mass of toys my one-year-old had strewn about my living room as he played today.) I hugged my son goodnight and kissed his forehead as I lowered his sleepy head down in his crib. I told him I loved him and thanked Jesus that the Lord's Resistance Army would not, in all likelihood, steal him from me this night.

In all the comforts that surround me, I have been most uncomfortable this day.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

"Abortion is OK - The Bible Tells Me So"

Filling Up Space recently responded to an article from The Boston Globe that featured "a profile of believers who have reconciled their faith with the right to abortion." One Paul Simmons, apparently a Baptist minister of sorts, is quoted in the Globe's article as saying "Jesus never mentioned abortion." Simmons also points to the fact that the apostle Paul never mentions abortion ("...If anyone was a common-sense moralist, Paul was...") to promote the idea that abortion, by virtue of express Scriptural omission, is a morally neutral issue.

Jesus never mentioned a lot of things, but that doesn't make any of them "right" simply on the grounds of omission. Weak exegesis leads to weak conviction, and weak conviction leads to weak morality, every time.

I would wager that the overwhelming majority of folk like Mr. Simmons simply support "the right for people to have control over their own bodies" or "the freedom to choose... whatever I want." That is to say - in my estimation - they are not defending abortion so much as they are defending an abstract idea of personal autonomy. Abortion is easy to support when it has has no real meaning or context outside of its association with "personal rights," "freedom of choice," and other ambiguous terminolgy. My guess is that Mr. Simmons has never seen an abortion and is sadly ignorant of what he is actually promoting. For a man of pastoral persuasion, that is uninformed ideology at best, blatant heresy at worst.

My humble thanks to Travis McSherley and the FUS gang for including some of my comments in their follow-up article.

The Boston Globe Article - Pious and Pro-Choice
FUS Response - Abortion is OK - The Bible Tells Me So
FUS Follow-Up Article

Abort73 - info about abortion (Thanks to Off the Wire for the referal to this site in one of his past posts. As a warning, some of the videos and the 'photographic evidence' sections are very graphic.)

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Cheating the Church

Andy Stanley, senior pastor at North Point Community Church in Atlanta, wrote a book a few years back called Choosing to Cheat. Although few people really think about it in a practical way, the premise is pretty simple - you only have so much time to give, so something must be "cheated" at the expense of something else. In other words, most folks must divide their time between work and family. Spending time in one area, by default, cheats the other area. If one area must be cheated in the giving of your time, Stanley says, choose to cheat work, not family.

At last weekend's Willow Creek Leadership Summit, Stanley touches on this issue as it relates to building the Church. Conference-goer Tony Morgan remarks, "Andy explained that God has never commanded him love the Church. He was commanded to love his wife. He was never commanded to build the Church. Jesus said He would do that. Instead, we get it backwards. We try to go build the church, and we pray that God will take care of our family."

As a vocational minister, there are certainly times (more often than I care to admit) that I am guilty of failing to find good balance between time spent at the church and time spent at home. While not to be taken to the extreme, (disproportional neglect of one area for the sake of the other), Stanley makes an interesting point - certainly worth consideration.

Check out the rest of Morgan's comments, including the impact this has had in Stanley's church and ministry, here.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Tagging is the New Forward

I was tagged by Off the Wire to fill out the following book list. I guess you could answer "The Bible" to any of these - although true, that might be cheating. At any rate, I love me some readin', so here you go:

1. One book that changed your life: Mere Christianity - C.S. Lewis (I consider this Lewis' quintessential work . It cleared out a lot of cobwebs in my early days) Bonus book: Wild at Heart by John Eldredge (While I don't endorse this book for its underlying theology, I will say much of Eldgredge's insights in this book resonated deeply with me when I read it; it served a good purpose in helping me deal with my tendancy towards passivity.)

2. One book that you've read more than once: The Holiness of God - R.C. Sproul (This was the first "Christian" book I ever read. It completely rearranged how I viewed God. I try to read it annually.) Here are some bonus books I've read more than once: The Dark Tower Series & The Green Mile by Stephen King, Perelandra by C.S. Lewis, The Dark Elf Trilogy by R.A. Salvatore, The Death Gate Cycle by Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman. I know, I know... they are not theology. I'm such a sinner. (My wife, by the way, will love that I have posted fiction. She loves fiction. She goes through like five a week. No joke. I call her fiction "brain candy." Look honey - I read brain candy too!)

3. One book you'd want on a desert island: Knowing God - J.I. Packer (Rich in both content and clarity - in my estimation, Packer does a great job of balancing theological soundness with grounded application and understandibilty. It's deep and wide; perfect for desert island reading.) Runners Up: Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne (a classic precursor to modern science fiction, giant squid included. Booyah.) and Desiring God by John Piper (you didn't think I'd get through this list without a Piper book, did you?)

4. One book that made you laugh: A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Applicachaian Trail - Bill Bryson (Bryson's account of attempting to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail - Hi. Lar. Ious.)

5. One book that made you cry: Where the Red Fern Grows - Wilson Rawls (I cried like a baby when that boy's dawgs got kilt. Tell no one.)

6. One book you wish had been written: I wish I knew.

7. One book you wish had never been written: The Openness of God: A Biblical Challenge to the Traditional Understanding of God - R. Rice, J. Sanders, C. Pinnock, W. Hasker (In my opinion, challenges the "traditional" view of God simply on the basis that it is tradition, using weak theology to "save" God from culpability when "bad" things happen and presenting God as sovereignly ... not sovereign. I think. I think these guys present a dimished view of God by disproportionally promoting human will at the expense of more comprehensive theology proper.)

8. One book you're currently reading: The Mystery of the Lord's Supper - Robert Bruce (Old school sermons from Scotland on communion - solid. The old school was a good school.) Bonus books: The Mortification of Sin by John Owen (Ouch.) Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman & The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter (Almost every night at bedtime.)

9. One book you've been meaning to read: Above All Earthly Pow'rs - David F. Wells (Comes highly recommended... and it was the inspiration for this year's Desiring God conference.)

10. Tag: You're it - GrahamCracka, The Diddy, TruittTwoFive, Neto, WildFlower, Allie the Jewish Girl, Good Will, Old Hops, Samb, Puergg

11. P.S. : Hey, at least I wrote something...

Subservient Chicken

A month-and-a-half hiatus, and this is the best I've got for you: a man in a chicken suit. I accidently stumbled across this oddity the other day. It is a creature of unrivaled hilarity, but at the same time it is somehow profoundly disturbing. You should probably drop everything and go here now:

He moonwalks, cartwheels, and even breakdances. Truly amazing. How do people come up with this stuff?! Says The Diddy, "Dood... I asked him to take his mask off and he shook his finger at me. Mutumbo style." A word of warning though - don't ask him to get close. He will freak you out with his creepy chicken eye.