Prayer: Doubt’s Doorway (on the Philippine typhoon)


de-Goya-The-Giant“So, like I said, we’re trying something different by spending some time each week praying for something in the world or the city, and not just for our own issues. Does anyone have anything?”

“One of my best friends is in the Philippines and–you know–the huge typhoon is heading their way. I’d like us to pray for my friend and everyone there in danger.”

“Oh yeah, that’s supposed to be the biggest storm ever in history or something.”

I was embarrassed. Anyone that knows me knows that I stay glued (too much) to various news sites throughout the given day. And yet, I hadn’t heard of this storm. While someone in the home group prayed for those in the path of this storm, I snuck a peak at my New York Times app. Yep, the top story was still about the FDA all but banning trans fats.

Why hadn’t I heard about this?
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Charismatic Confessions, pt. 3: Praying in Tongues for Everyone!


flickr-sculpture-worship-kiss

{abstract: “Praying in tongues” is not really a “gift”, but rather a way in which God makes Himself known, and we commune with Him. Therefore, I believe it’s open to all of us, not just those with a “gift”. It is a sacramental, physical participation in the “real presence” of God praying within you. It may very well be random and not a “real heavenly language”, but nevertheless, God is sacramentally mediated to us in it. I conclude by offering some brief practical encouragements.}

Last week, I started writing some posts in response to a New York Times piece about research concerning the practice of talking in tongues. I wrote about how this piece reminded me of my own charismatic side and how I’ve been neglecting it. I then talked about my views concerning the use of tongues in a corporate Sunday church context. Today, I want to give people a realistic and (hopefully) sensible framework for understanding the private use of praying in tongues.

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Abstinence is Not Chaste (Exercise Your Celibacy!)


Sandorfi-AngeYeah, I’ll admit it. I belong to that ever-decreasing group that thinks that our human sexuality is a big enough deal that how we exercise it has profound implications for human, societal, and spiritual flourishing. Further, I believe God has woven in the design of the world particular rhythms and ways in which sexuality lends itself to that flourishing. I see it as something so integral to our souls and bodies that there is a type of care and stewardship that we are lovingly called to exercise with it. And sometimes “stewardship” means placing limits on oneself.

I’ve talked about what this stewardship looks like in various other contexts, but for the purpose of this post, I’m focusing on one in particular. My focus today–to put it plainly–is on the idea that people who aren’t married aren’t “supposed” to have sex.

This isn’t a systematic defense of that idea. I know there are lots of differences of opinions and nuances (even among Christians) on this. I know that we talk about this in the abstract in one way, and when we get to particular people and situations, these “clear” ideas break-down quickly. I get that. But just walk with me for a little bit.
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Fleeting: our Societal Anger; our National Substance


This week’s WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge theme is “Fleeting“. I’ll be posting a more meaningful “photo sermon” based on this theme later in the week, but I saw something last night I wanted to share.

This blog has not shied away from its concern over the civil liberties and privacy issues that have been exposed this week. I hope to post some more in-depth thoughts on these specific revelations later today or tomorrow. For this photo post, though, I ran across a couple of images that show just how fleeting any American societal anger, attention, or protest really is.

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Advent & the Connecticut Shooting: Ross Douthat’s “The Loss of the Innocents”


winter-snow-trees-bw

In the same spirit as today’s earlier post by Austin Ricketts, I wanted to share with everyone this incredible piece by New York Times columnist Ross Douthat (one of my favorite writers), entitled “The Loss of the Innocents”. It’s a beautiful and haunting reflection on the human condition and the theological senselessness inherent in events like last week’s mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown Connecticut. He then concludes with these beautiful words of Advent hope in the midst of such darkness:

In the same way, the only thing that my religious tradition has to offer to the bereaved of Newtown today — besides an appropriately respectful witness to their awful sorrow — is a version of that story, and the realism about suffering that it contains.

That realism may be hard to see at Christmastime, when the sentimental side of faith owns the cultural stage. But the Christmas story isn’t just the manger and the shepherds and the baby Jesus, meek and mild.

The rage of Herod is there as well, and the slaughtered innocents of Bethlehem, and the myrrh that prepares bodies for the grave. The cross looms behind the stable — the shadow of violence, agony and death.

In the leafless hills of western Connecticut, this is the only Christmas spirit that could possibly matter now.

Read the full piece here.

Some critical words for the Left on Gay Reparative Therapy (ii)


Update II: I posted some important final words on these posts.

Yesterday I began giving some of my thoughts on Exodus International‘s recent repudiation of gay “Conversion Therapy” that was supposed to have “cured” gays of their homosexuality. I began by talking about my experience reading the primary text on this type of therapy in college, and then I criticized some of the common thinking of those on the more conservative side of the spectrum when it comes to this topic, especially how Evangelicals have reacted to Exodus International’s President, Alan Chambers. I also wrote some further thoughts responding to some questions about “homosexuals ‘persisting’ in their ‘sin'” (Update: I clarified some thoughts on that post).

But today, I’ve got some words for the Left…
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Exodus International is Right on Gay Reparative Therapy (i)


Update III: I wrote some final thoughts on these posts.

Update II: The second part of this post is up.

Update: I wrote some brief thoughts on a frequent reply I’ve received to this post: “what about gays that are wilfully and persistently disobedient in their sin?” Check it out.

Why on earth am I writing such lose-lose posts as these? I have no idea. Well, here we go.

Last week, Exodus International, one of the biggest and most-well-known Evangelical ministries to homosexuals, came out against what’s called “Reparative Therapy” or “Conversion Therapy”. The New York Times had a big write-up on it (as well as NPR) and an interview with Alan Chambers, the President of Exodus International. And now the whole news cycle is all a-flutter over this. Right when I think the story is dead, I see another headline about “rifts” forming in the Evangelical community and such.

Reading these articles has made me so frustrated with both the Right and the Left in their treatment of this discussion. There’s so much to say, I apologize for the lack of flow or organization that follows.

There are some really important things that seem to be getting lost in this discussion–on both sides.

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Obama’s War on the World (and Americans) vs. the War on Women


No, this isn’t a full post (I’m still not blogging). Just wanted to vent. A week ago, a damning piece of journalism was published in the New York Times. Or at least, it should have been damning. It was a piece by Jo Becker and Scott Shane on Obama’s free use of, and unilateral decision-making authority in, Executive “kill lists” against those he uses secret intelligence to deem as “threatening”, including American citizens. Times editors, commentators, and blogs were writing about this all last week.

And nobody cares.

I was shocked that this article made barely a ripple in the media, the blogosphere, the twittersphere, facebook, and our societal conversation in general. As others have wondered, have we really let this nation go this far down this path, that it no longer phases us? These actions by Obama are a neo-conservative’s wet dream, and liberals don’t want to–under any circumstances, it seems–criticize their guy whom they, perhaps, feel is the “lesser evil”. After all, it’s an election year.

But what does phase us as a culture? What causes the blogosphere and editorials to go crazy? A New York Times article about a tech lawsuit with this golden opening line: “Men invented the internet”. (It also has a few other gender offenses.)

Is this article insensitive and silly? Yes. Should it be talked about and criticized? Yes. Is there consistent inattention and inaction given to the needs, abilities, rights, and presence of women in our national story (and Church)? Absolutely.

But is this “War on Women” worse than Obama’s War on the World, our civil liberties, and American citizens themselves? I challenge you to answer that yourself.

(And once again: no, I don’t consider this blogging.)

Ross Douthat: a new hero of mine


Look at that face. If I saw him walking down the street, I would think he was just another guy; I’d have no idea the kindred spirit that lay in this man’s mind.

Ross Douthat (don’t ask how to say his last name), like myself, seems to be a man that life has continually thrown from one-extreme to the other: born in San Francisco, and then transplanted to New Haven, Connecticut; attended Harvard and then turned around three years later and wrote a book denouncing the Privileged culture there; started out as a Pentecostal, then converted to Catholicism; wrote for his college newspaper and is now the youngest-ever Op-Ed columnist at the New York Times.

These extremes seem to have helped him settle in nicely with a well-informed and balanced view, able to to comfortably exist, engage, and critique in a world of poly-everything.

Over the past year or so, I’ve seen (and been sent), a few of his articles and blog posts, but I think I was missing something. All I knew of him was that he was a Catholic writer with a sharp mind, and I didn’t pay him much proactive attention.

And this was to my great detriment.

Somehow I stumbled upon this set of exchanges on Slate, where Will Saletan, one of the most thoughtful secular liberals I’ve ever read, engages Douthat on some issues raised in Douthat’s newest book Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics. This exchange cemented Douthat’s stature in my mind, as well as his place in my reading repertoire. It’s great. You all need to read it.

I’ve started to read the book, and it’s definitely going to be a personal classic for me and a turning point in my development as a solidly religious person firmly engaged in the body politic. I also have the privilege of attending a book talk/signing with him next week here in Philly.

I have much more I could say and commend about him (including the fact that he’s a Catholic who fully-embraces praying in tongues–kindred spirit indeed!), but to do so would steal precious time from you, the gracious reader of this blog post, that could be spent reading Douthat’s work itself. Here’s a representative piece to get you started.

Oh. And you’re welcome.

David Brooks on “Centralization” [REBLOG]


Paul Burkhart:

Great post by this philosophy professor in New York whose blog I follow. He points out the hyperbole and absurdity of a recent David Brooks article. I like a lot of the things Brooks usually says, but this is a little ridiculous.

I like the sound of Brooks’ eventual conclusion of “centralizing goals” but “decentralizing processes”, but how he describes what this might look like in health care ends up looking awhole lot like the Affordable Care Act.

Originally posted on Samir Chopra:

On May 23-24, 1865, the victorious Union armies marched through Washington. The columns of troops stretched back 25 miles. They marched as a single mass, clad in blue, their bayonets pointing skyward.

Those lines, dear reader, are the openers of a David Brooks article about the “centralization” of power in Washington via the “Obama health care law” (whose official moniker is “The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act”). “Obama health care law,” then, in the next sentence or so, becomes just plain “Obamacare.” Another sentence or so later, as Brooks commences a four-step listing of how “Obamacare” has “centralized” Washington’s authority, we are told about how “Obamacare centralizes Medicare decisions — and the power of life and death — within an unelected Independent Payment Advisory Board.”

At this stage, I am eight paragraphs through this seventeen-paragraph missive, and thus far, I’ve been exposed to civil war imagery, Obamacare, and the…

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Good News: Blogging is Dying!


According to a new study by the Pew Research Center, as discussed in The New York Times yesterday, blogging is declining among those age groups that originally led to its popularity.  Apparently, between 2006 to 2009 blogging activity among those between the ages of 12 and 17 feel by half.  Even among my own age group, the 18-to-33-year olds, blogging activity has dropped by 2% in the past couple of years.  Considering that almost 505,000 post were published just today and just on the WordPress blogging platform, 2% can add up to a lot of posts.

The article goes on to say that these younger bloggers have moved on to using Twitter to share things they find interesting and Facebook to share their “original” thoughts with the world.  Using a blog has just become “another step” in communicating ourselves that these kids find unnecessary and unappealing.
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Anti-Wikileaks Legislation Already Passed by Congress


Here’s a quote from the bill, already voted upon and passed by Congress (the excerpt is shortened for readability, emphasis mine):

Section 1. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled…That if any persons shall unlawfully combine or conspire together, with intent to oppose any measure or measures of the government of the United States…or to intimidate or prevent any person holding a place or office in or under the government of the United States, from undertaking, performing or executing his trust or duty;…whether such conspiracy, threatening, counsel, advice, or attempt shall have the proposed effect or not, he or they shall be deemed guilty of a high misdemeanor….

Sec. 2. And be it further enactedThat if any person shall write, print, utter or publish, or shall cause or procure to be written, printed, uttered or published, or shall knowingly and willingly assist or aid in writing, printing, uttering or publishing any false, scandalous and malicious writing or writings against the government of the United States, or either house of the Congress of the United States, or the President of the United States, with intent to defame the said government, or either house of the said Congress, or the said President, or to bring them, or either of them, into contempt or disrepute; or to excite against them, or either or any of them, the hatred of the good people of the United States,…then such person, being thereof convicted before any court of the United States having jurisdiction thereof, shall be punished by a fine not exceeding two thousand dollars, and by imprisonment not exceeding two years.

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Wikileaks, Lies, & Truth: Who to Trust?


I have been watching, reading, and pouring over the events surrounding Wikileaks, wanting to write some sort of thoughtful commentary. But, as The Atlantic points out, this event has brought about some of the best journalism, political analysis, and writing we’ve seen in years and I find it difficult to try and say something newer or more insightful than those that are more knowledgeable of the past and have more time and acquaintance with the primary sources in question. With more of these leaked diplomatic cables being released every day, this coverage is literally non-stop. My productivity at worked has suffered because of the tangled web of links one can get caught in going from one story to the next to the next; I have at least a couple dozen quotes and links saved in my Evernote notetaking app in order to use in some future writing (or present).

But nevertheless, even among my friends who care about this situation, there appears to be some common misconceptions about this whole situation, leading them to direct their frustrations, diatribes, and anger in the wrong direction. I wish to clarify some of those here today. First, I must say on the outset that I am absolutely, entirely in favor of most all that Wikileaks has done and is doing. I think they are serving America’s longterm interest and the well-being of its citizenry far more than even our own federal government is doing. Do I think they have done everything perfectly and responsibly? No, but no four-year old media organization can be said to have done so. Wikileaks has (and will) make mistakes–its founder has even admitted that–but so will/has our federal government in its own “attempts” at serving the greater good. The only question remains: who do you think does more damage when they make those inevitable mistakes (the government or Wikileaks?), and therefore, who requires more scrutiny, responsibility, accountability, and fear of being out of control? I (as well as Glenn Greenwald and The Economist) wholeheartedly fear the results of a government out of control more than a Wikileaks out of control. But, in fact (as we move on to the misconceptions) ….
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An Amazingly Thoughtful Discussion on Gay Marriage


Thanks to David Sessions, the editor of Patrol Magazine for bringing this all to our attention.

Now, I have remained in the closet for much of this discussion (forgive the pun), though I have spoken of this in-person with others, with varying reactions. For a myriad of reasons, it’s generally wiser to controvert into a half-empty coffee cup or beer pint than it is to do so on the web. But nevertheless, this is a charged issue that demands response, both public and private, from those that have (hopefully) given it deep and communal thought, allowing both time and others to help refine and nuance one’s opinions. I hope I may be so bold as to include myself in those numbers.

Someday.

For now, I’m still figuring it out, and discussions like the one I want to bring to your attention today both clarify and confuse the issue for me.  I find myself agreeing with each article you will find below; a similar reaction Sessions has eloquently articulated in his Patrol article.  I appreciate his public candor and can easily relate.

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Pogue vs. Cell Industry, pt. 2: “Take Back the Beep” Campaign (and some thoughts on Capitalism)


photo by user Kyle !!!11!!one!! on Flickr

photo by user Kyle !!!11!!one!! on Flickr

On Tuesday I wrote up an article on an exchange between New York Time’s Tech columnist David Pogue and Lowell McAdam, CEO of Verizon.  An article which Pogue himself commented on, by the way (I’m still waiting for McAdam to take notice of little ol’ me, even though I am a Verizon customer.  Hmm…)

Well, as is mentioned in Pogue’s comment on that article, he has started a new campaign on his blog to make our cell phone lives slightly easier (at least for three hours out of the year).

What is the object upon which he has called his followers to descend?  Those annoying 15-second long instructions at the beginning of either leaving or checking a voicemail on your phone.  Apparently, Pogue has been told point-blank by various phone company reps that these instructions really are to make us use our minutes.  And it works.  According to Pogue’s calculations, we spend three hours a year listening to those messages and the cell companies rake in about $670 million a year (and that’s just Verizon! By the way, those calculations are based on leaving and checking voicemails twice a day, every weekday, for a year).

To accomplish this, Pogue has contacted the cell companies and has received from them info on where we, their customers, can complain about this.  Pogue writes:

“Let’s push back, and hard. We want those time-wasting, money-leaking messages eliminated, or at least made optional. . . We’re going to descend, en masse, on our carriers. Send them a complaint, politely but firmly. Together, we’ll send them a LOT of complaints.  If enough of us make our unhappiness known, I’ll bet they’ll change.”

Of course, the companies just gave their general web complaint areas (though the AT&T guy gave his own email address.  Impressive.), and of course they’re probably a pain to navigate.  For example, I tried to do it on the Verizon site, but being on a family plan with my parents, I don’t have all the very specific information they demand of you from your monthly statement before you can even leave a comment.

I don’t know about the other sites, but I hope this actually works.  Honestly, not so much because this specific complaint ruins my life so much.  Rather (if I may wax philosophical for a moment), I think Western Capitalism is coming of an age where power players have emerged such that they have become disconnected from the consumers that strengthen them.  I have just recently become hyper-aware of the fact that we as Americans have lost control of the very institutions we are supposedly responsible for.  CEO’s are supposed to rely on the customers.  Food companies are supposed to be dependent upon their consumers.  Politicians are technically our employees and should be terrified of not producing the results we want.

But no, we sheep of the “American dream” have relinquished the control of these institutions preferring ignorance, entertainment, and comfort as our opiates.  I would love this campaign to work so I might still have hope that people, policies, and institutions can really change- that the status quo is not fixed.  I pray that the steep terrain of the proverbial slippery slope might tip.

So won’t you help us show CEO’s that they are finite- dependent upon us, the customers, for all that they enjoy in their posts of power and influence?  Might we find some bright light still left in a somewhat Capitalistic managed economy?

Or maybe we should all just become Distributists and all our problems will be solved.

Here’s the contact info provided by Pogue in his blog post today:

I’ve told each of the four major carriers that they’ll be hearing from us. They’ve told us where to send the messages:

* Verizon: Post a complaint here: http://bit.ly/FJncH.

* AT&T: Send e-mail to Mark Siegel, executive director of media relations: MS8460@att.com.

* Sprint: Post a complaint here: http://bit.ly/9CmrZ

* T-Mobile: Post a complaint here: http://bit.ly/2rKy0u

P.S. – as is mentioned in Pogue’s post, apparently Apple made AT&T take these messages off of the iPhone.  One more reason why Apple is what it is and has accomplished what it has.  I feel like they (and Starbucks.  Yeah, I said it.  What?) are the only large companies out there that get it.  They care and put people before profit.  And that’s profitable.  If only cell companies felt the same way.