Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Why Christianity Must Change or Die

"Why Christianity Must Change or Die" was easily the most radical book that I have read recently. In this book, Spong (an Episcopal Bishop) essentially takes a sledge hammer to every sacred cow of the historical church. For example, the first chapter basically argues that the Apostle's Creed is barbaric and blatantly masculine, and the church would do well to leave it where it belongs in the 4th century. For orthodox Christians, reading this book leaves you consistently questioning whether or not Spong is intentionally being a heretic, which appears to be a role that he is comfortable embracing.

I actually strongly agreed with Spong's thesis that the Church must be radically transformed or it is in danger of becoming completely irrelevant. I also appreciated that he addressed his book to "believers in exile," because there are a good number of people, including myself, who resonate with this type of identity. My central problem with the book was the Spong spent a lot of time being destructive and not enough time being constructive. His attempts to describe the direction the Church should be going and the language it should be using were vague and not very plausible. To his credit, he clearly admitted that he did not really have answers and that he was merely trying to name an existing problem. I am not sure if Spong has written much since this book was published, but finishing the book certainly left me wishing he had more to say about where the Church needs to go.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Don't Hassle the Hoff

I have to admit that I have a strange fascination with David Hasselhoff. I am literally amazed that he has been able to maintain his status as a pop icon for so long. And the fact that he is a mega-star in Germany makes him so much more interesting.

I found this video on YouTube about 3 years ago. I bet I have watched it at least 15 times, and I sincerely laugh every single time.

The reason why I laugh so hard is that I honestly cannot tell if he is being serious or not. Is this video a corny joke or did he really attempt to make a legitimate music video? The ambiguity of this leaves me laughing every single time.

This post is completely random, but I just had to share that video.

Friday, August 22, 2008


Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov was another book on my classical reading list. Even though this book was written extremely well, I had a difficult time getting past the the main idea of the plot. The book is narrated by Humbert Humbert, and begins when he is a teenager. As a teenager, he has a girlfriend who is the love of his life, but she dies of an illness and crushes his heart. He never recovers from this blow, and almost becomes stuck as a 13 year old kid. Well, this poses major problems for Humbert as an adult as he is attracted to young teenage girls. The book is essentially his obsessive love affair with a young girl that ultimately ends in murder.

If you can get past the aberrant nature of the plot, this book will give you insight into the mind of a madman. The prose is really good and it is amazing how the thoughts of a lunatic start to make sense once you are able to see things from his perspective.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

You Can't Be Neutral On A Moving Train

We watched this documentary in the house church a few weeks back, and I thought it was fascinating stuff. The movie basically documents the life of Howard Zinn, who is now a history professor at Harvard. Zinn is probably best known for his book, A People's History of the United States of America, which I strongly recommend reading. My review of that book is here. In addition to being a professor and a writer, Zinn was also a major player in the Civil Rights Movement and the movement against the Vietnam War. He continues his activism today, continually speaking out against injustice and war.

I recommend this documentary because of the great pearls Zinn drops in the movie. Although not in these words, Zinn argues that there are two types of people in this world: oppressors and those who are being oppressed. You are either in one group or the other, and by not saying or doing anything to help the oppressed you are, by default, going along with the oppressors.

I find this argument to be a great challenge because I find myself, along with just about everyone else I know, to be in a group that is not exactly oppressed, but is also not exactly in a position of power to oppress others. It is disturbing to think that ignorance or non-action could be a silent form of evil.

I will end with a good quote from the movie:

“When one person kills another person, that is Murder; but if a government kills 100,000 persons, that is Patriotism. And they’ll say we’re disturbing the peace, but there is no peace. What really bothers them is that we’re disturbing the war!”

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Buy Local Art

Those five of you who actually read my blog know I have a running list of things that annoy me. Well, "Perception Without Deception" has been a negative blog for too long. I would like to start an alternative "make the world a better place list" and see how that turns out. Oh, I will still write about things that bug me, but it will be good to balance it with some positive posts.

Last Friday, Laura and I had a great night out in Durham. Every third Friday of the month, the city of Durham hosts an art work where several art galleries are on display within walking distance of each other. Laura and I went around to the various places and had a great time checking out what local artists have been doing. Well, we came across a piece that we both really liked, and in an unlikely spur of the moment decision, we bought and brought it home. You can check out what we bought here. It was done by a local artist named Todd Bond, who seems to be doing some cool stuff.

As I study and learn more about poverty, I find that poverty is often an economic problem. This may seem obvious, but people are poor because they do not have good job opportunities. Tied together with poverty is violence, because people who do not have good economic choices tend to turn to violence as a means of securing life's essentials. Both poverty and violence are cyclical, meaning they are cycles that will be repeated over and over again unless that cycle is broken. As I wrestle with these realities and struggle to find answers, I am starting to think that art is a creative and positive way to break cycles of violence and poverty. If more people used their creative energy for making art and not violence, then this world would be a better place. If a community can support more and more artists, that community will have better alternatives for exercising creativity in a positive way. Therefore, I believe that buying local art is a small, but effective way of working to make the world a better place.

Here is the better world list as it stands right now:

1. Buy Local Art

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Virtual Insanity

So yeah, I have a facebook page now. Those of you who know me understand what a big deal it is for me. I went back and forth in my decision to do this, and finally decided in the affirmative because I really do not want to be that guy who is out of touch with reality. So, I created my profile, doing the least amount that I could. When I got my profile up, I wrote a sarcastic little note basically saying "I am here, but I am not happy about it." Well, I received several responses from people who were not too happy about that note. I find it highly ironic that my so-called "friends" did not understand my tongue-in-cheek humor.

I am seriously contemplating taking the profile down and washing my hands of it. However, I do think that, for better or worse, it is an effective means of connecting with people you have lost touch with, so I am hopeful to re-connect with friends who are real. I am concerned that our culture seems to be moving toward relying on the digital world to develop and maintain relationships.

Also, I have a very difficult time wrapping my mind the whole concept of facebook. Here is a video to show what I mean.

If you ask me, the whole thing is virtual insanity, so I have to put it on the list. [By the way, for those of you who do not know, "The List" is my attempt at sarcastic humor]

1. Wearing a cell phone on your hip
2. The idea that a nice smile is the "normal" way to pose for a photograph
3. People who cut to the front of a traffic back-up when they know they need to get over
4. Local TV Newspeople
5. Confirmational Reactionist
6. Wearing a blue tooth headset as a fashion accessory
7. Putting Bullethole stickers on your car
8. Placing a fake baseball on your car that gives the allusion that it has shattered your window
9. People who litter
10. Ignorcycles
11. Bumper stickers
12. Cheesy Church Signs
13. The player introduction part of Jeopardy!
14. Power Companies
15. Facebook

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Jesus for President

I read Jesus for President by Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw back in July. It is a solid book divided into two parts. The first part is a primer in narrative theology, telling the story of Scripture, mainly the Old Testament. Even though there is a lot of blood and guts and violence in the OT, there is also a constant theme of God delivering God's people from slavery, fighting on their behalf, and calling them to be a different type of people. Jesus for President focused on the ways in which we are to be different - sharing our resources with those that have none, looking out for the widow and the alien, and also, culminating in the life of Jesus, refusing to kill other people. The second part of the book challenges followers of Jesus today to use their imaginations to creatively and lovingly engage the powers and empires of our day that are producing oppression and death.

I also went to the Jesus for President book tour when it came to Raleigh. I actually was a little disappointed in the book tour because of my expectations. The book tour was basically a dramatic presentation of the book. Since I read the book, I did not really hear anything new, and I expected that the book tour would be a conversation about practical applications of the material. Dispersed between the dramatic readings from the book, a band named the Psalters performed. They were a very interesting band to say the least.

I read this weekly hippie newspaper called the Independent Weekly and they gave a very positive write-up of the book tour. You can read that article here. The same night as the book tour, the Obama campaign opened its Raleigh headquarters on the same exact block as the church that hosted the Jesus for President tour. The article mentions the fact that the Jesus rally outnumbered the Obama rally by 3 to 1. I guess that is a sign of hope in a world gone mad.