Friday, March 28, 2008

belief in an age of apathy

i would be the first to admit that perhaps i am arrogant enough to try to add something to tim keller's literary project in defense of christian belief. but the thing is, i think his subtitle is wrong. the subtitle to his new book, the reason for god, is "belief in the age of skepticism." and i think it's wrong. now, hear me out before you call me a heretic. it is undoubtedly true that we live in a skeptical age, and much of that skepticism is aimed at religious belief, christianity in particular. but that skepticism is really just intellectualized cynicism, and that cynicism has produced apathy toward belief of all stripes. what i am saying is that the man or woman you meet on the street may be well inclined toward skepticism, but that skepticism comes from cynicism born out of malfunctioning institutions, one of which is the organized church. the end result of this cynicism is that belief in anything, much less god, is not really possible. therefore the battle is not over who has the best arguments, or really if you can defend the reasonableness of christianity - although i think that it is vital to do so - the real challenge is to so rattle this embedded cultural cynicism as to awaken people from their intellectual malaise.
during the q + a time that keller had after his speech at google a young man came and asked him a question. at the end of his question he said, quite directly, that none of keller's arguments really mattered because he simply didn't believe the existence of god had any direct impact on him. this is the ultimate example of the apathy that i am talking about. it says, to paraphrase, "frankly, my evangelizing friend, i don't give a damn." this is a far more difficult thing to combat because it's so nebulous and undefined. it would be one thing if the task of the evangelist was to give reasonable answers to difficult questions, but it seems that is no longer enough. the task now it seems is to shake our generation out of its apathetic stupor and declare itself one way or the other.
i can remember a conversation i had with a friend sitting at a bar. what if, he said, there were aliens on another planet. would god have died for those aliens. did god die for aliens, he asked. now, this series of hypotheticals came at the end of a long list of objections that my friend had tossed into my lap, and it became quite clear the whole thing was just so much bull shit. this was an exercise for him, but it had nothing to do with his inclinations, either toward or away from belief. finally i said to him: look, perhaps these are serious questions, perhaps you lie awake at night and wonder if jesus actually died for aliens or not, but it seems to me that this is your way of putting off having to make a judgment about your own commitments. so, maybe jesus did die for aliens, i don't know, maybe he didn't. he died for you, so what are you going to do about that. perhaps i was too direct. i don't know. the point was that the argument only really served to illustrate his own apathy toward belief. he had no desire to believe, or to make a judgment, and even though he was a few years older than me, i think his ambivalence is typical of many of my generation.
another observation is that apathy is also a response to extremism. on one end you have fundamentalists of all kinds - islamic, christian, you name it, and on the other end you have raging atheists like harris, hitchens and dawkins (although, i prefer dorkins, which my church history professor called him today). while the latter group may stir much emotion and excitement, i would wager that the kind of rabid anti-religiosity of these writers is not shared by many, even those who may repeat their arguments are unlikely to be as opposed to christianity as these men seem to be. in an effort to find a comfortable middle, most people seem to find a cozy niche in the vague and undefined world of religious apathy, where skepticism and cynicism can ward off all comers, but a commitment of any kind, even to non-belief, is held at arms length.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Tim Keller speaking at Google

My buddy patrick o'banion, of the boston o'banion's made me aware of this. very inneressing.

you must go to this show

if anyone reads this blog, then i am doing you a service; alerting you to the existence of this show. bon iver, april 8th at the billiken club. don't forget. it will be great. it will better than great. i don't really know that, but i'm pretty confident about it. see ya at the show. did i mention already that it's free?


Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Bon Iver with Collections of Colonies of Bees

Saturday, March 22, 2008

thank god for chris hedges

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this is chris hedges. he is a former foreign correspondent for the new york times, harvard seminary graduate and son a presbyterian minister who decided to take on the new atheists in his humorously entitled book, "i don't believe in atheists" - in it he argues that the new atheism is as dangerous as the religious fundamentalism it criticizes. in short, it is itself a form of fundamentalism. amen to that. and thank god for you chris hedges.
you simply have to read this interview from he locates the crux of the problem: neither christian fundamentalists nor the "new atheists" believe in sin. hah! check out my post last month on the competing narratives of both political parties in this country. the disconnect for the christian in looking at both parties is that neither believes in destructive power of sin, and both promote a kind of utopian political vision that is utterly out of touch with the reality of sinfulness that christians belive in.
i have asked myself why bother with stuff like this? why read books like sam harris'? the answer is that whether i like it or not books like harris' have an impact on our culture. it shapes and molds people's opinions on religion, often for the worse. these are the same people that i have been called to preach the gospel too. so i have an obligation to know what he is saying. fortunately there are people like chris hedges who actively engages with the crap being spewed by the new atheists, and calls it for what it is.

Friday, March 21, 2008

lego movies

i love legos. always have. my favorite game on the wii is the lego star wars game. absolutely fantastic. so, here is a great clip from monty python's holy grail, featuring...legos!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

you cannot serve god and bad food

so yesterday was my anniversary. four years ago i was married to my love, lindsay. in celebration we decided that we would eat at the sydney street cafe in benton park. before that however we made a trip to barnes and noble. i heart books. and bookstores. we had two gift cards totaling forty dollars, but i wanted to buy the whole store. i settled instead on two books, the reason for god - tim kellers new book, and letter to a christian nation - sam harris' sequel to the end of faith.
i have read most of harris' book at this point, and it is a typical piece of atheistic nonsense. so many of his arguments succumb to basic logical fallacies it astounds me that this kind of crap gets such public praise, but then on the other hand i am not surprised at all. the thing which makes books like this so successful is that it nestles up to peoples already existing prejudices and using suspect arguments makes them feel that they now have logic standing behind their biases. sadly, it's a sham. honestly this book is such a pathetic example of argumentation a freshman philosophy major could pick it apart.
there are so many examples, here is one: "everyone recognizes that to rely upon 'faith' to decide specific questions of historical fact is ridiculous--that is, until the conversation turns to the origin of books like the Bible and the Koran, to the resurrection of Jesus, to Muhammad's conversation with the archangel Gabriel, or to any other religious dogma."
really? "everyone recognizes" this? i suppose he means, everyone who is in a state of denial about what an act of historical cognition is. every act of belief about some historical event relies on something analogous to the passing of a baton in a relay. in short the recipient of some piece of information stands at the end of that relay, and faith is a fundamental part of accepting the baton. you have to believe that the information relayed to you is trustworthy. this is inescapable. belief, is always a product of faith. you cannot, with any real confidence, believe anything that you have not witnessed without placing faith that it has accurately been relayed to you. either harris does not understand this, or he does, and he's just being disingenuous. either he's stupid or ignorant.
second, harris falls into a kind of laziness in which he doesn't bother to distinguish between religious traditions. this is especially pathetic given that his stated purpose for this book is "demolish the intellectual and moral pretensions of Christianity in its most committed forms." He conflates the motivations of islamic terrorists who fly planes into buildings with missionaries who preach against condom use. it's so inane. i keep reading it because the fact is that this kind of stuff ends up being ammunition in the battle over belief in this country.
the really scary thing about this is that harris seems oblivious to the implication of his position. he wants religious faith to be a disqualification for any kind of involvement in the public square. this is frightful. and should scare the shit out of anyone who understands the full implications of this kind of intellectual fascism. the irony of this position is that he is doing this in the name of freedom...ha!

now about the dinner. i had apple wood smoked duck breast and duck confit with a wild mushroom ragout and a port wine reduction sauce. yummy. two weeks ago i bought a duck from the soulard market and attempted to my best with it. my best was not good enough. it was pretty bad. the duck i had at sydney street is the way it should be done. tender, juicy and immensely flavorful. of course the duck breast was significantly different from the confit, as they are the result of two separate preparations. and it was fabulous. lindsay had a herb tenderloin, roasted root veg and garlic mash. yummers! also, if any of you ever go there you have to get the lobster turnovers for an app. we washed down the dinner with 2007 pinot noir from washington state. it was a great evening and a memorable fourth anniversary. love you lindsay!

bernie miklasz and francis schaeffer

yesterday, during bernie miklasz's radio show on 1380 he and partner randy karraker played a game called fact or fiction. the first scenario sketched by mr. miklasz was a quote from a well respected theologian pastor. the quote was this..."If there is a legitimate reason for the use of force [against the US government]... then at a certain point force is justifiable." and then this: "There does come a time when force, even physical force, is appropriate... A true Christian in Hitler's Germany and in the occupied countries should have defied the false and counterfeit state. This brings us to a current issue that is crucial for the future of the church in the United States, the issue of abortion... It is time we consciously realize that when any office commands what is contrary to God's law it abrogates it's authority. And our loyalty to the God who gave this law then requires that we make the appropriate response in that situation..."
then bernie said to partner randy, fact or fiction, the pastor said this was jeremiah wright, senator obama's pastor. randy said, fact, the only pastor who would say these kind of things is dr. wright. bernie: fiction, it was francis schaeffer, well known evangelical pastor.
i was shocked to hear anyone, let alone bernie miklasz, mention francis schaeffer on the radio, especially in this context. his point was of course that dr. wright is not alone in making incindiery remarks regarding america. bernie went on to say that dr. schaeffer was regarded as a great american by many republicans, ate in the white house, consulted presidents and on and on. these points were very familiar sounding as many of them came from frankie schaeffer's blog post on the huffington post sight. i had a link to that in my last post below.
after hearing that i was compelled to write a brief defense of schaeffer on bernie's pressbox (a message board on i did so and received a pleasant response from bernie. it seems to me that the comparison to make is not schaeffer and wright but wright and falwell. futhermore, i think schaeffer's son in making the comparison mis-represents his father's points. he was not talking about actual military action against the united states but was talking about the importance of civil disobedience as an expression of our primary commitment to god over and against our commitment to america.

Monday, March 17, 2008

franky schaeffer - fathers and sons

during the late 70's and early 80's my father was the chaplain of the main post chapel in heidelberg germany. at the time it was the premier post in germany for a chaplain. as such, my father was in charge of putting together the national prayer breakfast. (fascinating isn't it that that stuff slid under the ol' seperation of church and state?) so, my father decided that he wanted francis schaeffer to lead the thing. it ended up being a bit of a political/diplomatic crisis, but they got through that. in short, switzerland is neutral and have very strong rules regarding their airspace. dad flew an american military transport plane into switzerland to pick up francis, this was an obvious violation of their airspace and they were none to happy about it. fortunately nothing came of it, but it was still dicey there for a bit.
the perkins and the schaeffers developed something of a relationship. the schaeffers had a number of meals at our house in heidelberg, and when francis died in 1984 my father was a pall bearer at his funeral. because of that relationship, my parents often discussed francis' son frankie in none too endearing terms. he had a rather public break with his fathers' legacy, and converted to the greek orthodox church in 1990. they used words like traitor, apostate, punk. these things.
anyway, a few years ago i read frankie's novel portofino. it was a good read. i sympathize(d) a bit with frankie, not that my father was ever of the significance of francis schaeffer, but i do share something of an analogous childhood. the contest that is the relationship between father and son has been no less informative on my life as it seems to have been in frankie's life.
recently i had to write a paper on my life as a presbyterian, specifically a pca presbyterian. in concluding the paper i was to answer this question: describe your appreciation of your presbyterian identity. the best i could muster was simply that god, through his providence, has placed me in this context. i am committed to it for no other reason. that was it. as i sat in class on friday i listened to other students extol the virtues of being presbyterian. "i appreciate the emphasis on justification by faith", communion, church polity, the cycle of creation as articulated by creation-fall-redemption-restoration, etc. that's all fine and good, i just couldn't smile and say, "yes" to any of it. and it occurred to me that this was okay. i don't need to affirm any of that at this point in my life. but why? the fact is that the legacy of faith left to me by my parents has resulted in more destruction than construction. as such, i am rebuilding, from the ground up, what it means to be a believer in jesus. and consequently the question of denominational identity is just the last thing on my radar at the moment.
so, it was with a great amount of interest that i read frankie schaeffers blog post this morning on the dr. wright/sen. obama incident from last week. check it out here. it was interesting not simply because it is timely, and deals with something that is of interest to me, but more so because it brought to the forefront of my mind the crucial importance of the father-son relationship. there is nothing so profound as a relationship between a father and son. It shapes, in either positive fashion or negative, the future direction of that son. my father called me two weeks ago and asked me to write out a list of all the things that he has done in the past year and a half to damage our relationship. i have a feeling he really doesn't know what he is asking for. maybe i'll post that list here, before i send it to him.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

something for your funny bone

this is a hoot, especially given my obsession about drinking other peoples milkshakes. 'I've abandoned my child. I've abandoned my child. I've abandoned my boy! Oh, there you are." HA HA. Enjoy.

new music thursday
this is the best album i have heard in a while, just cant' stop listening to it. here is the pitchfork review. by the way, bon iver, will be in saint louis on april 8th at the billiken club. weird place to see a show, but usually its free, and that aint bad. by the way what's up with all the good shows coming to stl? jose gonzalez (heads up from david richmon) next week. rogue wave (heads up from jase carter), bon iver and someone still loves you boris yeltsin (heads up from stephen lockridge) in april, and then the swell season and radiohead in may. sheesh people! that's rich!