Monday, June 29, 2009

Christian comedy only the Devil could laugh at.

Through Itunes, I found a podcast in the category of "Christian comedy." I listened to the first episode I downloaded. The speaker had attended the funeral of an atheist. He pointed to the irony that some Christian songs were played at the non-believing man's funeral. He also pointed out how the selection of songs played at one's funeral has no bearing on one's salvation. Fair enough.

The problem was that it wasn't just ironic, but a source of great offense by the comedian. He even said, "Now don't go do that." I on the other hand can think of three reasons to praise God that songs with evangelistic content would be played at a funeral:
  • The living persons in the room will hear the gospel
  • The deceased may have arranged for it secretly because he was, all along, a believer.
  • The deceased may have arranged for it secretly because he had a late-in-life conversion experience unknown to the comedian.
I might add that I've been to too many funerals in my life, and I don't think I've ever heard pop evangelical songs being played.

But the comedian didn't let it stop there. As part of the "comedy", he rewrote the song that was playing, "I Can Only Imagine". Instead of having some religious meaning the song was now about how boring it was to be a corpse pushing up daisies.

Martin Luther spoke of how there was a conflict in the church between two theologies, a Theology of Glory and a Theology of the Cross. I think that too much of what the TV preachers like Jerry Falwell were about was Theology of Glory. A Theology of the Cross might involve a focus on your sins and Christ's work. Too much of the preaching in a Theology of Glory is about either mocking folks who've chosen the wrong spiritual "football" team, or positing criticisms of the actions of your team as the cross you have to bear. Other folks could call these criticisms "calls to repentance."

Let's imagine the open-minded non-believer, and use male pronouns out of laziness. Last week, he heard the same group of Christians mock the idea that there was anything to repent of in how society treats the poor and planet-- there was only government regulation to fear. This week, he hears this song mocking atheists. What can be had but hardened hearts? The philosophical base starts out with the idea that the elect are to be protected from criticism. Hopefully, non-believers (and believers) reject this.

What would actual evangelistic Christian comedy sound like? Here's my take, and it starts out with C. S. Lewis' Mere Christianity
For the trouble is that part of you is on his side and agrees with his disapproval of human greed and trickery and exploitation. You may want him to make an exception in your own case, but you know at bottom that unless the power behind the world really and unalterably detests that sort of behavior he cannot be good.

Is there a way that Jerry Seinfeld could read this chapter, maybe throw in some modern observations from NY City life, and have us all chuckling and tingling with fear and joy at the same time?

You see, the problem is that too many modern evangelicals have taken "greed and trickery and exploitation" off the radar screen of sin. That is what an unbelieving world finds unbelievable.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Health care debate

Here's a debate between Jim Wallis of Sojourners and Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council.

Jim is kneejerk liberal. Even though I probably agree with him 80% of the time, I often find him unconvincing. But even more disappointing is the response from the one allegedly picking up the mantle of evangelicalism and biblical conservatism. The only thing that Perkins brings to the table is a fear of government takeover. I think it's an unfortunate use of language, and could just as easily be applied to all the baby-step approaches to providing health care that Perkins was in favor of.

Is this the mantle of the 19th century, bible-believing evangelicals, the ones who were as much social reformers as evangelists?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Animated textures and spaceship construction.

Just goofing around.

The spaceships are made in povray. I got some interesting effects without calling any threshold in the blob.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Truth Project

I had set up a "Truth 'versus' Love Project" about five years ago to decry the fact that so many Christians tell us we have to choose between theological orthodoxy and compassion, that a theology of the cross and a bleeding heart are incompatible.

Some conservative evangelicals have now set up The Truth Project to decry the fact that only nine percent of Christians have a biblical worldview. Interestingly, this statistic comes from a Barna Group Study, A Biblical Worldview has a Radical Effect on a Person's Life". It says that a half percent of Catholics hold to this view while still only 13% of evangelicals do. The article makes a fascinating read. The Barna Group study defines a biblical worldview:

For the purposes of the research, a biblical worldview was defined as believing that absolute moral truths exist; that such truth is defined by the Bible; and firm belief in six specific religious views. Those views were that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life; God is the all-powerful and all-knowing Creator of the universe and He stills rules it today; salvation is a gift from God and cannot be earned; Satan is real; a Christian has a responsibility to share their faith in Christ with other people; and the Bible is accurate in all of its teachings.

Hey, I got no problem with that! Interestingly the article goes on to mention a very strong correlation between the biblical worldview and positions on some touchstone conservative issues like abortion and gambling. (And as they are stated in the poll, I have no problem with either).

I've been very bothered by reports that evangelicals are more likely than the average American to oppose the moral positions of the human rights and humanitarian groups. Things like torture-- evangelicals are more in favor of it. They supported the war. Ronald Sider even wrote a whole book about this-- entitled Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience. Sider pointed out how evangelicals did everything from getting divorced more often to being less likely to give to effective AIDS relief programs. This blog is full of "let me off the bus" stories about how the evangelical movement as a whole is not nice (but at the same time that you should be an evangelical).

Here's where it gets really interesting. I would LOVE to see the Barna group ask some more questions, like on torture. Who are these evangelicals that are more likely to support torture-- are they also the 8% of Baptists who have a biblical worldview? My earnest prayer, and sociological hunch, is that they are not. I bet that the small fraction who believe in the bible to Barna's degree are not the Sean Hannity and Glen Beck fans. That's because I think those pundits tap in to a nationalistic spirit that is very carnal and antinomian. I always wondered with The New York Post, with staunchly conservative political coverage, always had to have a bikini shot somewhere within the first three pages.

Barna, please do another poll. I'd love to meet and organize with Christians with a biblical worldview who are also nice people.

Friday, June 12, 2009

What an extremist, reverse-racist judge will mean to America

Seen at, from the SCOTUS blog:
"Other than Ricci, Judge Sotomayor has decided 96 race-related cases while on the court of appeals.

Of the 96 cases, Judge Sotomayor and the panel rejected the claim of discrimination roughly 78 times and agreed with the claim of discrimination 10 times; the remaining 8 involved other kinds of claims or dispositions. Of the 10 cases favoring claims of discrimination, 9 were unanimous. (Many, by the way, were procedural victories rather than judgments that discrimination had occurred.) Of those 9, in 7, the unanimous panel included at least one Republican-appointed judge. In the one divided panel opinion, the dissent’s point dealt only with the technical question of whether the criminal defendant in that case had forfeited his challenge to the jury selection in his case. So Judge Sotomayor rejected discrimination-related claims by a margin of roughly 8 to 1. (emphasis added)

Oh wait, um.....WS