Pointless Rant of the Week

February 27, 2006

Figure skating and ice dancing are NOT sports.

There. I’ve said it.

They aren’t sports any more than oil painting, cello playing, or ballet dancing are sports.

For something to be a sport, it needs to involve an athletic feat (or series of feats) that can be measured in an objective fashion.

You can have a COMPETITION involving figure skating if you like. But in the course of that competition, someone will have to be a judge, and – while that judge may look at some technical issues that are relatively objective – that judge’s final decision will be based on a subjective opinion about the artistic merit of what you are doing.

When you win because someone made a subjective observation about the artistic merit of something you just did, that is not a SPORT. I don’t care how much athleticism was involved – what you did is not ultimately an athletic accomplishment. It is an accomplishment in creative expression.

We KNOW why Bodie Miller stinks (and was grossly overhyped). He was .42 seconds off of the top run on the downhill, and he missed a gate in the combined. He then crashed and burned in a variety of other ways, all of which are directly, objectively measurable.

We know which hockey teams won which games because there were goals to be counted.

The victors in figure skating and ice dancing competitions can’t make the same claim. In the end, the main reason they got their gold, silver, and bronze CDs-with-ribbons-looped-through-them was because someone LIKED them better than they did the other competitors. Where’s the sport in that?

Imagine: in early February, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Seattle Seahawks meet for the Superbowl. They play 60 minutes of football. Then, after the game, the players go sit on the sidelines and hold flowers while they look at the scoreboard with nervous excitement.

The Steelers get good points for technical merit, but OH, LOOK – the football judges liked the Seahawks more because they appeared to be more graceful and intense during the course of the game. SEAHAWKS WIN!!

C’mon! Where’s the fun in that?

I say this not because I am a sports purist, but because I am bitter and resentful that, out of a typical four hour Olympic broadcast, three hours, fifty-eight minutes of NBC’s air time was devoted to figure skating or ice dancing. This left only two minutes for real sports. And what with all of the press conferences wherein various members of the US speed skating team whined about each other, there was often only a half minute left for anything else.

Coming soon: Why NASCAR isn’t a sport, either (followed by an apology to figure skating and racing fans the world over, coupled with desperate plea to stop sending profanity-laced emails)

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A Close Call

February 27, 2006

“What is Emergent Christianity?”

The question came from my thirteen year-old daughter, who had seen those words on several CDs that I was transferring onto my music player. The CDs, which were loaned to me by my friend Amy Boone, featured several messages from Brian McLaren at a Zoe worship conferencence a few years ago.

It was a passing question, expressing a small degree of curiosity, asked on a lazy Sunday afternoon while she laid on a bed beside our computer desk.

“Welllll….” I began, looking up toward the ceiling, trying to gather my thoughts into a coherent description that I thought she might be able to follow.

I probably thought about it for about five or ten seconds, formulating a description of postmodern culture and then a brief discussion of the importance of being relevant in that culture. Maybe, in the end, I’ll even give her a few examples of how she is already experiencing this form of Christianity, I thought. Shouldn’t take more than five minutes.

It was, I had convinced myself, one of those important “teachable moments.” And school was about to be in session.

Then, I looked down from the ceiling, ready to dispense my parenta wisdom, only to find my daughter’s head buried in a pillow.

I could practically hear the words coming out of her mouth.

Oh, no! What have I done? I’ve asked daddy a QUESTION. Now he’s going to ANSWER. And there are going to be WORDS. Then more and more and more words until my brain turns to mush! The words will never, ever end! Please, God, can you turn back time by about thirty seconds? I’d really like to NOT ask that question.

I was merciful, however, and spared her the hellish experience of the five minute discourse that I had just planned. Instead, I put the whole thing into about two or three sentences. It went something like this:

“Our culture is undergoing some pretty radical changes. In that culture, a new way of thinking about Chrisitanity is beginning to take shape. Thats where the term Emergent Christianity comes from.”

“Thank you,” she said, “for the brief answer.”

I’m pretty sure she was sincere about the “brief” part.

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Endangered Evangelicals and Cooking With Cell Phones

February 26, 2006

Right now, it is about 3:00 on a Sunday afternoon. It is probably a sign of a serious mental illness that I’m blogging rather than: (a) taking a nap, (b) doing something, anything outside in some very beautiful, sunny 60 degree weather or (c) getting my butt soundly kicked by Levi in Empire at War (awesome game, by the way. More on that later.). However, I just stumbled across something that is way too blogworthy to ignore.

If you can laugh at yourself, you need to immediately have a look at an exerpt from The Field Guide to Evangelicals, which can be found here. What I’ve read thus far is so funny on so many levels that my side may soon split. Milk will spew out my nose at any moment.

I won’t ruin it for you. Just go look, and be ready for some seriously hard-hitting parody. I’m buying this one as soon as it hits stores.

Also, if you – like me – have wondered whehter there is some way to combine the magic of information age technology with the preparation of breakfast foods, look no further. Someone has figured out how to cook an egg using cell phones.

If any of you get a chance to actually try this out, please let me know immediately. We need to have a long talk about what you are doing in your spare time.

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The Kingdom and the Law: Who Would Jesus Sue?

February 24, 2006

After what was probably an unnecessarily long trip, which I summarized in my last post, I’m now ready to talk about something that is a little more pragmatic: under what circumstances should a disciple of Jesus become involved in civil litigation?

The discussion today starts with an angry brother’s encounter with Jesus:

Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

I love this story more and more every time I come back to it. It is exactly what you would expect to get from Jesus – by which I mean, Jesus says to this guy exactly what no one would expect him to say.

Jesus is not in the business of meting out justice. If justice is what you want, he is happy to refer you to the proper authorities, who will take care of the matter for you (though, as I’ve already pointed out, you may not like the result). But don’t bother him with your complaints about how you are getting the shaft from your brother, your business partner, or the guy who ran a stop sign and hit you last year. He is not worried about your legal rights. He is worried about what the pursuit of your legal rights is doing to you.

If Jesus is in any business, it is the business of redeeming people from greed. And, having spent almost a decade and a half, now, dealing with things that happen at courthouses, I can tell you that it isn’t a coincidence that he ends up addressing the whole issue of greed in the context of the administration of civil justice.

Discipleship to Jesus isn’t about getting what you are legally due. To the contrary, if the sermon on the mount is to be taken in the least bit seriously, it is about doing exactly the opposite thing: willingly surrendering your rights to those who seek to take them from you.

I’ve read the gospels very closely for many years now looking for Jesus’ advice about the courts, and I can find nothing that he has to say on the subject other than this: stay out of them. Again, as I’ve already said, lawsuits, just about any lawsuit of any nature, is a breeding ground for anger, greed, uncharitableness, and deceipt.

Can you survive a lawsuit without succumbing to any of those things? I suppose so – in the same way that you could walk through a porn shop without experiencing sexual temptation. You can make it (maybe), but its not the best place for your spiritual health to begin with, and you’d better have a very good reason for being there.

Am I advocating a wholesale abandonment of the judicial system by all Christians? Not really. The reality of the world is that disputes develop (especially in business contexts) and that sometimes – by choice or not – you end up in a situation where you are in court.

I am, however, saying three things:

1. I can think of very few situations where it would be anything other than an act of Christ-likeness to give up one’s interest in a lawsuit – wholesale – to one’s opponent for no purpose other than to make peace. I’m not dissing people who make other choices. I’m just saying that this choice will always be a choice that follows in the Way of Christ. Especially when the stakes are high.

I have yet to see someone liquidate their business to compensate someone else for an alleged wrong that may or may not even be recognized by the court system. But such an act – if done in the name of Jesus – would be a powerful testimony about the nature and presence of God’s kingdom – a kingdom that values peace with one’s enemies above one’s own interests.

2. If you do choose to press forward into litigation, you should have a very good reason for doing it. And – as Jesus made clear repeatedly – the need for justice for yourself does not qualify. Nor, I might add, is the bare belief that someone else should’t be allowed to “get away with” some deception or false claim.

3. If you do choose to press forward into litigation, you need to be prepared to deal with some seriously difficult temptations.

Accountability – especially for Christian businesspeople in business litigation contexts, but also for individuals who are asserting or defending personal injury claims – is a key component in my mind. Is there someone who knows what is going on to whom you have to answer? If not, you’re in a particularly vulnerable place.

Up next: how liablity insurance changes the landscape (sort-of)

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Grief and Hope

February 23, 2006

Today, our our faith community is grieving over the loss of Kerri Lane, a mother of two beautiful young girls. Kerri was diagnosed with melanoma some months ago, and I am told that she succumbed to the illness last night.

We’re all reacting differently. Grant is feeling sucker punched. Mike, our preaching minister, imagines her now, free from illness, dancing with God. Val, wisely speaking with few words, offers only a few lines of verse.

In my own thoughts, I am drawn to a discussion that Sheila and I had last night, before we had received the news. We talked about how to know Jesus is to long for his coming. This world is ravaged with decay and signs of mortality. Everything that is good ends. Mothers – wonderful, loving mothers – end. The promises of scripture, though they seem far off at times like this – promises to make everything new – the world, our flawed personalities, Kerri’s once healthy, beautiful body – seem almost too good to be true.

Yet God has made few things more clear to us in scripture: “Yes,” Jesus tells us, “My reward is with me. I am coming soon.”

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

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A Cool Overview of Christian Spirituality

February 21, 2006

Thanks to Jason Clark for calling everyone’s attention to this table, which is posted on the Renovare’ web site:

What a great way to describe Christian spirituality! It refuses to “pick sides” in any dispute over which traditions are more important than others. Instead, it honors all of the major traditions of the church and expresses a form of spirituality that is balanced and Christ-like; more than the sum of its parts.

For more on each of the ideas expressed in the table, check out Renovare’s site.


Even More on Being “Saved”

February 20, 2006

Some months back, I posted (here and here) about how I thought that evangelical traditions have reduced the word “saved” to something that, while more definable, is also less rich and less mysterious than that which is is present in scripture. Last night, I had a really good conversation with a friend on a similar subject, and I was hoping some of you might want to weigh in on it. Here, in short, is the issue:

There are at least two ways to look at what it means to be “saved”:

1. An event (the traditional evangelical perspective): you profess Jesus as Lord, sincerely accepting him as your Savior. In some traditions, such as my own, there may be a little more to it. You may need to be baptized, for example. Or, in the charismatic traditions, you may need to experience a manifestation of the Spirit. In all of those variations, however, being “saved” is an instantaneous event. One is “saved” from one’s sins because they have accepted Jesus’ sacrifice and God has forgiven them. There is no room for being “more” or “less” saved. Either you are, or you aren’t.

2. A journey: professing Jesus as Lord is still significant, but only because it starts you on a journey of spiritual formation. During that journey, you are shaped into the image of Christ, and as that shape is formed within you, you are less subject to sin. That is, you are “saved” from your sins because you are made into a person who is no longer sinful. In this viewpoint, a person can, in a sense, be more or less “saved.”

I am not ready to completely give up on the first perspective. However, I believe that scripture leans more toward the second perspective, and I am at a point right now where I am wondering how much of the first perspective really gets at what God is doing in the redemptive process. My friend, on the other hand, accepts the second as being a part of scripture, but still believes there is something important that instantaneously happens when a person confesses Jesus and is immersed.

We both recognize that we don’t have all the answers, and believe that our best chance of getting closer to the truth is through conversation on the subject.

I think that this is a really important question, because it goes to the heart of some of the differences between mainline evangelicals and more progressive, so-called post evangelicals.

Anyone else want to weigh in on this one?

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