Monday, January 29, 2007

Digital Blasphemy

Have a soul you're not using? is an anti-Christian website that offers a free movie to the first 1001 people who will "record a short message damning yourself to Hell" and upload it to YouTube. From the site:

"You may damn yourself to Hell however you would like, but somewhere in your video you must say this phrase: 'I deny the Holy Spirit.'

Why? Because, according to Mark 3:29 in the Holy Bible, "Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin." Jesus will forgive you for just about anything, but he won't forgive you for denying the existence of the Holy Spirit. Ever. This is a one-way road you're taking here."

I assume that most folks who read this blog are Christian(-ish), and as such may have some strong opinions about yon "Blasphemy Challenge." While I am begining to find this sort of thing too juvenile and sophomoric to be deeply offensive (maybe I'm just getting old), there are plenty of folks who take campaigns like this pretty seriously. Maybe the Blasphemy Challenge should be seriously addressed by the Church... but maybe not. To be honest, I have a hard time believing the Blasphemy Challenge and the anti-Christian activists who sponsor it, like The Rational Response Squad ("Fighting to Free Humanity From the Mind Disorder Known as Theism!"), are really much of a threat.

Before you go all fundamental on me, let me briefly explain. First, I'd be hard pressed to say that putting a video on YouTube would keep the Holy Spirit from calling folks to Christ if He in His good pleasure wants your soul. Secondly, I highly doubt droves of good Christian folk come across the site, see Penn Jillette denounce the Holy Spirit, and immediately become atheists. Like much of the Christian church (sadly), I would say the Blasphemy Challenge reaches no further than their own choir. (And, speaking of racism, why is it that all the videos are pissed-off white kids? I guess YouTube blasphemy is not racially diverse.)

My question though, is how should a Christian respond to something like this? Should we just shake our heads and talk to each other about what a sad shame it is? Those sinners! Should we write these folks some nasty, scripture-quoting emails telling them to go to hell? Should we upload some "I believe in the Holy Spirit" videos on YouTube? Or hack the Blasphemy Challenge servers? Maybe start up

What manner of response to this sort of thing - if a response is even needed - is both effective and glorifies Christ?

Monday, January 22, 2007

Monday is a Fun Day

Yesterday, Truitt sent me a link to a post by Adam Omelianchuk about breaking off your dating relationship according to theology. Pretty funny stuff. Here they are, shamelessly reprinted:

Atheist: The burden of proof is on you to establish the existence of this so-called “god” but I believe that if there was any such divine entity “it” would not want us to continue dating.

Intelligent Design Theorist: Our relationship bears the marks of irreducible complexity making it too difficult to explain by way of natural causes. Therefore, there the most reasonable conclusion is that we were designed to break up since things have gotten so complicated.

Calvinist: We were predestined before the creation of the world to break up according to God’s good pleasure. I am, on my own power, unable to break up with you apart from the irresistible draw of God’s sovereign grace which leads me to end this relationship. Those that truly break up will not get back together in the end.

Arminian: While you love me and have a wonderful plan for my life, I have the power to resist your will. If I did not, love would not be possible. For our relationship to be loving it needs to include the possibility of breaking up—something I am doing right now.

New Perspective on Paul Scholar: Rather than earning God’s blessing, it is established on the basis of our covenant courtship (I asked your dad to date you didn’t I?) which requires the proper response of an intentional and deliberate pursuit of marriage. Yet there is no such pursuit, therefore God’s blessing on or relationship is no longer maintained.

Open Theist: I am not really sure if we are supposed to be together, because neither is God.

Theistic Evolutionist: The beauty and rhythm of random variation and natural selection over long periods of time has presented us with a world where God has shown us that our relationship is too biologically expensive to maintain and is destined for extinction.

Young Earth Creationist: No, I do not believe we have been going out for that long. Our relationship is only six days old and the on the seventh God rested. I think we need a rest too.

Emergent: The question if whether we are in relationship or not is mired in Modernity’s obsession with propositional truth. A better a way to look at this is to enter into God’s story about how he lead us together and is now leading us apart.

Catholic: Honey, I think the Virgin Mary is leading us in different directions. I think it is her will that we break up.

Nice work, Adam. There are a few add-ons in his comments section that are pretty funny too. Enjoy.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Marijuana with a Side of Injustice

Is justice really blind, or just stupid?Here is a case of backwards justice: Today two border patrol agents serve the first day of eleven- and twelve-year prison sentences, respectively. In February of 2005, the two guards stopped a suspicious-looking van on the U.S. side of the border. Inside they found an illegal Mexican immigrant, who had successfully (well, up to that point anyway) smuggled nearly 750 pounds of marijuana into the U.S. When the illegal immigrant/drug smuggler tried to escape by running toward the Mexican border, one of the agents shot him in the butt in an attempt to prevent his escape.

The drug smuggler did get away, but was later contacted by a U.S. Homeland Security official who heard about the incident and offered immunity to the smuggler if he would testify against the two officers. Last March, a jury found the officers - the U.S. officers protecting our country from 750 lbs. of marijuana to be sold and distributed to your friends, neighbors, and children - guilty of several charges including assault with a dangerous weapon and violating the drug smuggler's "civil rights." Does that seem strange to anyone but me? An illegal immigrant smuggling drugs into our country is - at the initiation of an agent of our own government - is given excessive liberties while U.S. officers in charge of stopping said illegal immigrants/drugs are punished, and punished severely.

At this point, nearly two years after the incident at the border, there are allegations - and even some evidence - that the border patrol guards did not follow standard operating procedure in firing upon the smuggler. Whether that is true or not, the fact is that these two officers are serving double-digit jail sentences (away from their families and children, I might add) for preventing over $1M worth of illegal drugs from entering our country. One of the officers (Ramos, who was nominated Border Patrol Agent of the year in 2005) is quoted as pointing out, "There's murderers and child rapists that are looking at less time than me."

Meanwhile, as these men serve the first day of their decade-plus years in jail, Osvaldo Aldrete-Davila, the illegal immigrant attempting to smuggle in the drugs, has been granted complete immunity from all charges by the U.S. That's right - because someone thought the U.S. border guards needed to be made examples of, Davila is no longer legally culpable for entering the U.S. illegally or bringing in almost a ton of pot with the intent to sell and distribute to American citizens. He is now actually suing the U.S. Border Patrol for $5 million, citing that his civil rights were violated. (I suspect he is doing so with the help of several opportunistic lawyers and U.S. officials looking to make some cash.)

Has justice been served here?

If you don't think so - and I certainly do not - let the White House know. You can call the White House directly and leave a message at 202-456-1111 or email them at Ask that President Bush pardon Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean, the two border patrol agents imprisoned for doing their jobs and guarding our borders. They'll know who you are talking about. Seriously. In less time that it took you to read this, you can send an email.

Monday, January 15, 2007

I Wish I Weren't Racist

Being a white guy on staff at a predominately white church does not often lend itself to thinking outside of my own racial culture. That is not an excuse, just an observation. I am ashamed to say that in the four years I have been here, I cannot recall racial issues ever having been discussed beyond a few comments here and there. Those comments were generally about the need for our staff to strive to be "culturally sensitive." While I am not apathetic toward racial issues, I cannot say that I have put the thought and effort into these issues that perhaps I should. In the end, is not my negligence its own passive form of racism?

For MLK Day, Edward Gilbreath, editor of Today's Christian, wrote a thought-provoking article for Christianity Today regarding why so many blacks are leaving evangelical ministries and churches. His admonishment:

White Christian, you have people of color on your staff, but are you seeking their ideas and perspectives? Does your corporate culture reflect sensitivity to the feelings and concerns of nonwhite individuals? You've spoken to the black people who attend your church, but have you had them over to watch the game after service? Have you invited them to join your small group?

Black Christian, have you been keeping at an arm's distance those white acquaintances who have attempted to get to know you better? Have you written off some whites as racists because of silly comments they didn't realize were offensive? Have you taken the time to educate them about your culture, answering all of their probing questions about your hair care or your opinion of some black celebrity?

White Christian, you hugged and apologized to that nameless black person at an out-of-town conference, but have you made any new friends across racial lines since you've returned home? Are you now more attuned to the subtle ways society treats whites differently from blacks?

Black Christian, are you hanging on to unresolved bitterness against whites? Are you harboring bigotry of your own? Have you been ignoring God's command to extend grace? Are you resisting his call to become a bridge between the races, because you realize that bridges, by definition, must be stepped on?

As Christians, it's possible for us to do wonderfully holy things cross-culturally without ever experiencing a fundamental change in our thinking. To break out of the monochromatic status quo of today's evangelical movement, we must confront hard truths about ourselves and about the things that truly drive our institutions. If we don't, we'll never find ourselves in that place of total freedom and faith and unity that allows us to be used by God in radical ways. (READ THE ARTICLE | HT: BETWEEN TWO WORLDS)

Friday, January 12, 2007

Piper: God "Kicks Our Ass"

potty mouthAt a breakout session at Passion07, Pastor John Piper used a phrase that some may find inappropriate. Here, Pastor John explains why and his reflections afterwards. Of notable quotability:

I think if I had it to do over, I would not say it. On the one hand, I don't like fanning the flames of those who think it is hip and cool to swear for Jesus. That, it seems to me, is immature. On the other hand, I want those hip people to listen to all I say and write, and I hope that the Lord may get a hold of them and draw them out of immaturity and into the fullness of holiness. But it backfires if one becomes unholy to make people holy.

I like where he is going here. I realize this is a debatable issue, but there do seem to be some biblical evidences for the use of strong language in certain circumstances. It seems like there could indeed be cultural situations where it could be appropriate. The problem though, as Pastor John states here, is crossing the line into becoming "unholy to make people holy." I don't think the pulpit is an appropriate context to drop some language bombs, but are there times and places where strong "non-churchy" vernacular (i.e. cussing) could be culturally permissable - even useful - in relating to folks outside of the Church?

Thursday, January 11, 2007

In the Army Now

Below is an email sent this afternoon from my brother in Colorado Springs, who serves as active military in homeland security:

Greetings friends and family,

My original intent of this note is to inform you of the possibility of our Army Chaplains being prohibited to use the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, in their prayers. This is most absurd. Being a follower and believer in Jesus Christ myself, and in the Army, this of course concerned me greatly.

I don't know how you feel about signing petitions, but there is an online petition at the American Center for Law & Justice ( that you can sign if you like which expresses your opposition to this attack on our faith. There is also a lot more info on the above mentioned website concerning this issue, if you'd just like to read more about it.

Peace in Christ
-Jeremiah VanDorsten

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

I Want One

As any self-respecting technophile or Mac geek will know, Apple introduced three new devices yesterday: a widescreen iPod with touchscreen capabilities, a phone, and a "breakthrough internet device." The kicker was that they are all the same device. Experience has generally led me to believe that devices that try to cram a lot of functions together into one inevitably trade quality for quantity and rarely do any of said functions well. Apple's iPhone, however, could be the exception to that rule. Time will tell. In the meantime, if anyone has an extra $500 they'd like to donate to my iPhone fund, just let me know. Now please excuse me while I wipe the drool off my keyboard.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Gimme a Burrito

As a bonafide out-of-the-closet Chipotle burrito addict, Crossings Church in Richmond, VA may be on to something here:
"They worked a deal with Chipotle to give each visitor a free burrito. Crossings passes out a playing card (provided by Chipotle) that serves as the free burrito coupon. If you've never been to Chipotle, this ain't your momma's Taco Bell tortilla roll-up. This thing is huge, and costs about $6-8." [HT: Church Marketing Sucks]
I like the idea of local churches building a rapport with local businesses in the community. I also like the idea of free Chipotle burritos. Free. Huge. Burritos.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Person of the Year - Me?

Let me just say how honored I am to have been chosen as Time magazine's "Person of the Year." Oh, hey - you won too.

"The annual honor for 2006 went to each and every one of us, as Time cited the shift from institutions to individuals - citizens of the new digital democracy, as the magazine put it. The winners this year were anyone using or creating content on the World Wide Web." (Larry McShane)

Rasberries to last year's winners, Bill Gates and Bono.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Snow Bunny Part 3: Death of a Dream

The ride up Copper Mountain was slow, cold, and utterly beautiful. Dozens of skiers and ‘boarders whipped down the slope, which lay roughly three vertical miles below my dangling feet and board. I tightened my kung-fu death grip on the rail. The snowfans below zigged and zagged, leaving flowing streams of fresh powder in their wake as they gracefully wove through the beautiful evergreen trees that spotted the landscape. Soon, brethren, I will join you! You and I, bound by board and blade and powdery snow! Soon, we will… wait –hold up. Who the crap puts trees in the middle of a freakin’ ski slope? How the heck am I supposed to rip it up while dodging large copses of evergreens? Easy, friend, I think to myself. Don’t forget - you’re a natural at this. Trees shmees. You’re the Chosen One of the snowboarding elite.

Well, no matter now, anyhow – here comes the top, the end of the lift. After a passable (if slightly unsteady) dismount from the lift, I was ready to show the world my previously unknown snowboarding skills.

My first attempt at actual movement with both feet strapped to the board took me a grand total of about six feet. Not bad. Unfortunately, that six-foot trek left me flat dab in the middle of a flat spot just off the side of the lift. It did not take me long to understand why someone had earlier referenced flats as “snowboarder’s hell.” With no way to gain momentum, I spent the next ten and a half minutes crab-crawling/butt-scooting over to the actual slope. Determined not to further humiliate myself, I joined my brother and his friends at the crest of the slope, regained my composure, and tried to catch my breath after that initial display of jaw-dropping athleticism.

What followed was the death of a dream, and can only be described by two words: UTTER. DISASTER. I would go into all the gory details, if I could actually remember them. It will suffice to say, however, that I spent the next several hours falling, tumbling, rolling, sliding, and/or scooting my way down the slopes. I’m pretty sure the high altitude must have affected my memory, but there are several highlights that stand out between long periods of gasping for air and recovering from massive quad cramps. In no particular order, here are my top ten most memorable moments:
1.) On my first of three runs, I “deviated” from the “recommended path” (read: I careened into a pit of trees) and ended up chest-deep in soft powdery snow. Chest-deep, I kid you not. With a six-foot board strapped to both feet. Twenty minutes later, I finally managed to haul myself back onto packed snow. Fifteen minutes after that, I managed to make it back to the actual slope, where I had to rest for another ten minutes.

2.) My least favorite people on the slopes were the dudes who were really good who zipped by and sprayed snow all over my newbie face while I was crashed out. C’mon guys. Seriously. I know you did that on purpose. And if I could catch you…

3.) My favorite people were the five-year-old kids doing insane jumps, flips and spins. Interestingly, they were also runners-up to my least favorite people, but only because I was really jealous.

4.) I also liked the parents who had “ski leashes” for their kids. That was pretty funny. Seriously, their kids skied while their parents held them back on a leash. Funny.

5.) Did I mention I fell a lot? Mostly on my face. Hard. The best (or worst) fall was the time I landed squarely on my back, which whiplashed the back of my skull into the ground while simultaneously flipping my legs all the over so that I landed facedown. One of the slope medics actually came over for that one. I told him I was fine, but I cannot remember if I was actually telling him the truth or not. He must not have thought so, because he followed me at a distance for a little while after.

6.) After my second run, I realized my cell phone, previously secured in my Camelbak, was gone. For those who left voicemails while I was away, I’m sorry I never called you back. It’s not that I don’t like you, I promise. It’s that I no longer have your phone number.

7.) While recovering from a fall, I saw a man in skis going at least 120mph down the slope. Backwards. It was amazing because he was not at all looking where he was going. Mostly because he was drinking a huge bottle of water.

8.) By my third run down the slopes, my body was so tired, it mostly stopped working and generally refused to do what my brain told it to do. I was warned earlier that this would happen, but scoffed.
My Brain: "Go, Body, go!"
My Body: "Who's scoffing now, sucka?!"

9.) I remember seeing a man in an orange vest riding a snowmobile up the slope. He stopped to check something just a few yards from where I was resting. I briefly considered sneaking up behind him and clubbing him in the back of the head with my snowboard so I could take his snowmobile and ride it the rest of the way down. But then he drove off.

10.) At one point, I saw a man ski down wearing only boxer shorts. No kidding. But it is quite possible I had altitude sickness and/or a concussion and was hallucinating.
By the time I limped back to the car, I was convinced that I had shattered both my wrists, knees, my left elbow, and my tailbone (which my friend Joy, who is a nurse, told me is called the coccyx when I later lamented about having much pain in that region). I pretty much felt like I had just done 10,000,000 push-ups while someone punched me repeatedly about the face and throat.

So, in conclusion, snowboarding was pretty much awesome.

And yes, I would definitely go again.