14 August, 2008

We've Been Pronouncing It Wrong!


Some of you will recall that I've been obsessed with the answer to the question of Life, the Universe and Everything for some decades now. It is the very question which Douglas Adams' fictional computer, Deep Thought, was brilliantly and successfully invented to answer. Deep Thought's answer, though, was as inscrutable as the question itself.

Deep Thought told them the answer to the question of life, the universe, and everything was, "42."

The philosophical conniptions Mr. Adams imagined as a result of this one little answer filled a book and more.

But, you see, that's the very problem. Mr. Adams wrote a book, so we never got to hear the answer as spoken by Deep Thought its very self. Had we heard those words from its own sub-woofers, we'd have understood everything!

I was toodling along this afternoon when a car had to merge from two lanes over. It was an interesting car mostly in that it made a Mini-Cooper look like an SUV. I really hadn't previously realized you could make a roller skate street-legal, but the owner of this ... whatever it was .. obviously had looked the regs over a little more closely than me.

In fact, the roller skate could seat two people. I know this, because his license plate said so, plainly, for all the world to see, Four 2.

That was when I saw it. Or rather, heard it.

"For two."

Deep Thought never said, "Forty-two." He surely must have said, "For two" and some stenographer wrote it down in a messed up kind of shorthand that wasn't phonetically based like all rational shorthand must be, and we were left to pick up the pieces for all time. (And, of course, the world would not be here at all if it weren't for that mistake, but we'll not go there.)

Look at the universe around you and tell me it isn't for two!

Right down to the Creator and His bride. :-)

10 August, 2008

The Church's Biggest Problem

KB put together a great post on the evolution of the church, tracking it from the fellowship it was in the 1st century to the enterprise it is now. His take is fascinating, and as usual I cannot comment on it due to technical bugaboos. I cannot even go back and reread it before I pen this knock-on post. Ah the joy of technological limitations.

Way back when I was able to read KB's post that once through bloglines, I agreed and disagreed with it. I agreed that an ideal 21st century church would look different from an ideal 1st century church, and that the differences would be gains for the church overall. I disagreed that the paradigm of an enterprise could ever be a profitable one for any church, ever. I was tongue-tied, though, because I am not sure exactly what KB meant by "enterprise." I know what enterprise means to me, and I don't support that. I just don't know what it means to KB, and I'm sure if I did I would support whatever he means.

I think maybe the biggest problem facing the church today is our obsession with finding and fixing the biggest problem in the church today.

Along those lines, KB's post brought to mind an email I wrote a month or so ago (while I was busy not blogging.) It was about a book review I'm currently not writing while I'm not blogging. In the book, the author relates a life-changing experience he had doing a particular spiritual discipline, and proceeds to sell that discipline as the "one thing" missing in the lives of all Christians and the one thing that, if it were present, would change everything.

Here's what I wrote in that email:

The answer to fixing Christianity has to lie somewhere else than finding 99% of it's best and brightest certifiably insane.

The author tells persuasively of his experience learning how to do this method on a 6 week retreat. He gives ample evidence of changed lives in everyone learning it and of the lasting, beneficial effect the experience had on people from very different walks of life.

But is that proof of the method? I doubt it.

As I was reading his story, it occurred to me that the Navigators, the Promise Keepers, the Holiness Movements, the Charismatics, the Legalists, the Missionaries, and Everyone Else can produce equally stirring anecdotal evidence.

Maybe that's proof that all anecdotal evidence should be rejected? It probably should, but I doubt that's the lesson here too.

Instead, I think this is proof of overly narrow root cause analysis.

Each of these groups was doing a different thing, but they were all doing it "together" with other believers. The common factor in each of these widely varied stories is that a group of Christians was wholly committed to really connecting with each other to do something profitable.

Given any silly excuse, if Christians get together with love in our hearts, we will touch each other and the Lord in life-changing ways. It takes a little excitement, a little leadership, a little hope, and a little focus to start that flow of love between brothers and sisters that bonds us together.

It's those bonds that change our lives.

It's like being in a family. Which is most important? Financial security? Emotional security? Passion? Purpose?

Just try living without any one of those things.

The church needs doctrine. She needs connection. She needs worship. She needs purpose.

I think I still believe a little bit in the house church movement. It's hard to say, though, because there are other needs that are more important. When a man is out of oxygen, he doesn't care so much that he's sleep-deprived. I wish I might see the church organized differently, but before I spend energy there it seems there are other things that might be more important.

The need to find and fix the most important crisis facing the church today seems universal, and it seems to be driving us further and further apart. I'm tempted to name this tendency to obsess over the church's biggest fault, "The tree-trunk of division springing from the taproot of Laodicean Pride." We proclaim that we see when really we're blinded by the lumber in our own eyes. I know I blew 10 years of my life chasing that wild goose.

I think I know what to do about the tree-trunk.

Quit trying to fix the church.

Our worst problem is trying to fix every problem. Maybe it's because we imagine we're wise enough to know every problem. Or maybe it's that we like fixing big things instead of doing little things. Or maybe everything's pretty much OK and we need to get on with the business of doing that which God's been preparing us to do for all these centuries.

Whatever it is, we need to put 80% of our energies into loving the Christians to whom we are closest. Maybe with whatever's left over we can tinker with trying to revolutionize the church in our generation. I don't know, but I know I really need to pour my life out for brothers and sisters whom I can touch. I need to form bonds with my brothers and sisters that can survive the fires of disagreement, repentance, and boredom. I need to commit to people with all their messy needs, rather than ideas or disciplines or quests with all their manageable sterility.

And if that means learning to bond with emergent Christians, then show me the way to Starbucks. I can always buy a lemonade smoothie. :-)

08 August, 2008

A Chip off the Old Block

It's not every day my son sends me an email, but when he does it's usually some pretty rich stuff. Yesterday's email was the kind of stuff that makes a father stop and say not just, "That's my boy!" but, "Dang. That's right."

I figured I'd share it here.

You might enjoy watching the video first, before you've heard his take on the things Obama says.

Obama proposes a gasoline price solution to struggling families


And a young man analyzes Obama's thoughts


The first thirty seconds are all I care about.  The situation: consumers give money for product; companies increase prices because demand is increasing faster than supply; they make a lot of money, the majority of which is spent building the infrastructure necessary to provide five billion gallons of oil a day to the world; Obama, desiring sovereignty, promises to take money, willingly given in exchange for product, from the receiver, and return it to the consumer if the consumer votes him sovereignty.  We have gone past the age of Rome, where the leaders provided bread and circuses with their own, albeit ill gotten, money.  We have returned to some sort of barbaric feudalism where we choose our leaders based on whether they promise to earn us spoils.  With his eyebrows hunched, his spine strait, in a calm, oratorical voice, he promises to break the trust of capitalism, which is that if you produce something people will give you what they produce for it, you can keep what they give you in exchange for your goods. 
Who would not vote for a candidate who promises that you can spend your money and spend it again?  A candidate who will have the police, the national guard, and the army behind any policy he manages to get through. 
Perhaps I am making an excessive fuss about a throwaway comment, but the symbolic nature of it is so frightening. 

02 August, 2008

Terminator: Spawn of the Machines

In the heat of a fascinating discussion of whether a human can truly believe God, my son said that humans became self-aware at some point in evolution, and that when that happened evil became possible. He was countering my point that evil cannot be explained by evolution. Bad can, but not evil. His argument was that evil is a necessary possibility given self-awareness.

I basically had to concede the point.

Anyway, in a flash of insight, his statement brought back to my mind two things at once.

The first was that Adam and Eve "became self-aware" when they ate of of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. In fact, from now on I believe that's the phrase I'm going to use to describe the fall. With the serpent's help, humanity became self-aware. It is out of our self-awareness that all manner of good and evil flow.

The second was the ominous history from the movie Terminator 2, "The Skynet Funding Bill is passed. The system goes on-line August 4th, 1997. Human decisions are removed from strategic defense. Skynet begins to learn at a geometric rate. It becomes self-aware at 2:14 a.m. Eastern time, August 29th."

For those of you, my faithful readers (and if you're still reading me at my blistering pace of 2 posts per month, then you are faithful indeed) who know the story of Adam and Eve a little better than that of the Terminator, Skynet was a massive supercomputer that became self-aware and began trying to destroy humanity. That's the premise of the whole Terminator series.

Hal is the computer in 2001: A Space Odyssey that becomes self-aware and tries to destroy it's human operators. Wargames is about a computer that becomes self-aware and accidently tries to destroy humanity. I, Robot features a computer protected by the 3 Robotic Laws from ever hurting humanity that attempts to destroy humanity (yes, while obeying all 3 laws - that's the magic of Aasimov's work.)

What we have here, folks, is an archetype!

Of course, the theme is as old as Frankenstein's monster, but the thought was new to me. And I don't know how far Shelley really explored her theme. (Suddenly, I want to read the book. :-) )

On the 7th day of creation (I picture Adam falling on God's Sabbath; I don't know about anyone else) humanity became self-aware - and very scared of the Creator we were trying to supplant.