Location: Columbus, Ohio, United States

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Sea Change

Today at band practice I worked on a rewrite of the song, "I have decided to follow Jesus." The band I play in at my church had a fun rendition with a blue grass feel, but it was not working. It was too cute. Anytime you need to take the balls off of something, make it adorable. Adorable is non-threatening, safe, pliable, plush. Adorable can be handled.
We modernized the song--it's decent (I'm probably better than average as a song writer but only if you count that guy over there who really sucks). The beauty of working on the song is that you have to face the lyrics, and they'll knock you on your ass.
I have decided Jesus to follow Jesus...no turning back.
The road behind me, the cross before me...no turning back.
Though none go with me still I will follow...no turning back.
The Jesus you see in that song is less cute than the one I go to church with. That Jesus wouldn't take us on terrifying adventure and soul thrilling struggle under the burden of which strong men would turn back. Our Jesus is plush, not steel.
This is true for most guys I know...and I know good guys.
The problem is this: men are made to fight for Kingdom things. Three bad things have happened, either we a) Don't fight at all; b) Fight for stupid crap like pride, sex, and money, or c) Define the wrong stuff as working for the Kingdom.

C is the most important. We battle wrongly because we think wrongly of God. God is personal, but not private. Our theology of the Kingdom of God sucks right now. We talk about the Kingdom as a purely spiritual place (fundamentalist theology) or a purely physical place (liberation theology). Jesus Christ was sacramental. The eternal became flesh to transform the physical and in so doing the world was eternally changed.

Right now a popular book (That I own) is called "Every Man's Battle." What is every man's battle? Is it...I don't know...radically transforming this broken world so that widows and orphans are cared for, different kinds of people love each other, people are free, people have hope and joy and promise and are able to give their lives vocationally to causes they believe in and for all of this God gets the glory? Or maybe every man's battle is the internal struggle to find purpose in an increasingly disconnected world void of larger narrative. Or perhaps every man's battle is to live with honor. No stupid...it's sex.

If generations are defined by the battles we fight I think we'll be on the B Team in eternity.

An impersonal God is a theory. A private God is self help. The God of the Bible is a hero.
When our theology embraces a purely private God we castrate faith.

Monday, February 07, 2005


We have also lost the ability to analyze policy in light of sound Christian or even moral teaching. It seems to me we've lost the ability to analyze policy from any perspective. I believe moral right flows primarily from God and that the nature of any genuine faith is to invite, but that's not what I'm writing about today--before we can choose faith we need to learn to choose. Our capacity for choice is dying. Later we can discuss the role of faith in that guy's life, today I want to talk about a few basic rules to analyze any policy:
1) Everything is complex: If the solution to a problem is ever distilled to a few hard, simple truths, something is being missed. The argument may be compelling, or passionate, or powerful. It's also crap--dig deeper.
2) Everything is simple: Most of the time things happen for fairly simple, organic reasons. Anthropologists describe this as the rule of parsimony--if one must choose between a few alternatives, the simplest one is probably right. As an example Political Scientists struggled to figure out why AIDS rates were so much higher in Thailand than Singapore, despite similar socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds. The answer was because Thai people have more open attitudes toward sex.
3) Follow the money: Budgets are moral documents. People spend on what they value. When looking at a campaign (I'll define this as a set of policies) what items are capitalized. Those are what the leader thinks is important. (According to our family budget I like lacrosse a TINY bit less than Church)
4) Stories Lie: Anecdotal evidence is valuable IF the story teller is fair. It's easy to find an outlyer to underline any point--and if someone is trying to convince you of something they will.
5) Numbers Lie: The larger the number set, the more numbers you can play with to determine spurious, worthless results. You can do this even if you're stupid. In fact, stupid people do this all the time and then they make charts and they show up on the news. Don't be stupid.
6) There are NOT 2 types of people: Left and Right. Christian and Secular. Social Gospel and Fundamentalist. We love opposition. We love dichotomy, and we are often tempted to relegate ideas and beliefs to a side. Don't. Iron does sharpen iron, but you're not always making a sword.
In my opinion what's truly needed is a new voice or even set of voices. Some people say the we therefore need more political parties. That's stupid for two reasons. The less important reason is that 4 of 5 dentist reccomend sugarless gum which means that 1 of 5 dentists is out in crazy sugar gum land, and I don't want him running the machinery. The more important reason is that every significant political change has come from people who influence hearts and minds and let the politicians catch up. When powerful moral leaders jump on to political machinery they realize that money is nice for buying things with, power kind of rocks, sex is way fun, and they lose their moral voice. Jesse Jackson anyone?
We need more voices acting to advocate justice. Ralph Nader would be a creepy president, but he makes products safer and the air cleaner. My international relations profs would suck at balancing the budget, but they can make AIDS happen less. Some economist knows a lot about social security, and I should see him on the news more often. Someone spent the last ten years doing research on what policies make abortion happen less, and he needs to be talking. Better yet all of these people could form a group, and make T-Shirts, and make the wind blow.