Location: Columbus, Ohio, United States

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Pi and Babies

There will be no craft to this writing. I apologize for the stream of consciousness.

On Wednesday mornings I have breakfast with a friend. He's an (almost) PhD in theoretical mathematics. We've been having breakfast because I'm working on a project and the math is a bit above my head. We show up, we drink coffee and eat Panera, we talk about the project for about an hour. Usually we make what feels like a quantum technical leap, which bring us one big leap forward in a project that has required lots of big leaps. After we've hit a wall we talk for about fifteen minutes more about friend stuff. I talk about the day. He talks about one of two things:
--Theoretical math:
For example--my friend taught a lecture on the search for finding pi to infinite digits. This is theoretical, and figuring out that digit z is 4 barely matters. In this case the process matters more than the outcome.
--His soon coming baby
For example--my friend's wife had a dream that he's already had the baby and he held his baby and cried and was happy. Another time he accidentally referred to the process of the baby pushing out his wife's stomach as glacial. That was a mistake.

Sometimes we also talk about faith.

Leaving our meeting today I was thinking about some conversations I've had recently. Pretty much every Christian I know is coming to grips with what might be defined as the broadening of the evangelical mind. I mean by this the idea that most twenty somethings are giving a more thorough treatment to the reconciliation of faith and reason. The goal is no longer to pimp slap postmodernism, but to attempt to reconcile it with biblical reality and see how well the two reconcile. This is a good thing. But as always in subcultural Christianity I think we're swinging too far on that particular pendulum.

A lot of the Christian life is a pi question. The process matters more than if we ever actually get there. The pursuit of God's heart trims me to fighting weight and that's good. This pursuit is pretty much theoretical because I'm still broken, but that's OK. The fact that I'm not going to perfectly reflect his likeness in no way diminishes the pursuit.
Some of the Christian life is like finding pi...but not all of it.
Right now the young church has an intellectual hard on for the fact that we can question stuff and not feel as ostracized as we once would have been. Again this is Good. What's not good is when everything becomes a pi question. Sometimes things are just true. My friends love for his child may not be empirically demonstrable, but it is still and absolutely TRUE.

I fear that as a church we are reacting to a pretty stupid evangelical culture that doesn't value wisdom and the pursuit of truth by creating a pretty stupid evangelical culture that values sophistry.

Perhaps the reason it bothers me is that I love a vision of Christianity where there is certainty over love, and over God's awful goodness, and over the call of the Spirit to adventure. If the "look I'm edgy" crap that passes itself off as neo Christian insight is truly the best thing that faith has to offer my mind it provides de facto confirmation that faith and reason truly are divorced.

Put in fewer words: The love of Christ is not theoretical.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Five Funny Shirts

My five favorite t-shirts from the Marathon today:
5. "Why the hell am I doing this?"
4. Two twins with matching shirts--"I'm not Becky." "I'm not Beth."
3. "No excuses. No whining. Let's go."
2. "Chafed yet?"
1. "My other legs are Kenyan."

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Interesting Post

A guy who knows some people who I know wrote a thing.
He's going to go and try to be Jesus in a strip club.
It's the kind of thing that you read about and that other people do.
I like it because it's ballsy.
Check it out here.
It's also woth checking out a comment by a lady named Grace.
Here's a link to the thing.
I don't know if he should do this. I think I'd have trouble having pretty, naked girls bring me drinks and still think about Jesus. That's a good argument for me not doing this. That might even be a good argument for ONE not doing this. It's not much of an argument for this guy Steve not doing it.
In either case, even if this guy is doing the wrong thing, you gotta love the way he's doing it. One of my favorite philosophers is a Christian Existentialist named Soren Kierkegaard. He wrote once that it is by the absence of passion that men will die.
I love the idea of passionate Christians. I love the idea of a group of Christians who aren't tepid and pusilanamous. I love the idea of a passionate, full bodied, bold, Christian existence. I love the idea of our offices littered with dry wall and the us shaped holes in the wall as we run after hope and justice and truth.
I don't know much about the guy whose going to be sitting in this bar but me and Soren are cheering.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Cognitive Dissonance and Jesus

A buddy of mine wrote a thing in his blog about his beliefs. It raised a question:
How big is the tent of what we call "Christian."
I think there are some ideas of doctrinal belief that lots of us struggle with. In some ways though, what we call struggle is really just a Christiany way of saying, "Crap, this doesn't make any sense to me and I don't think I really believe it when I'm honest with myself, but I do believe in Jesus and I've been told that this thing goes along with that" As such we use the term struggle of faith to arrest the cognitive dissonance that we feel as educated Christians when presented with fossil records, the crusades, gay friends, the death of a nonbelieving loved one, or an amazingly compassionate and loving agnostics. These things confound the bullet point faith that passes itself of as contemporary Christianity.
For a long time I prided myself on the ability to go nine rounds with an agnostic on the rational underpinnings of faith and avidly read books to sharpen my apologetics. That's fine, and it's important to know you can believe and not be a moron. Sometimes though, I think what we in the church have referred to as defending the philosophical underpinnings of the Gospel have much more to do with defending philosophical modernism than truly defending the gospel.
I've heard some Navigators staffers say, "The Bridge is dead" referring to the logic based illustration for the gospel that was created to connect to thinkers with a modern world view. I don't know if "The Bridge is Dead" but I'm certain that the gospel of Christ had more to do with transformation of the Hebrew conception of the heart (the seat of the mind, will, and emotions) and less to do with formulaic doctrinal purity.
The missing piece of my argument is that sound theology absolutely matters to real life. The theological conceit that "God is still God and I'm still not" probably kept my faith alive for about a year. That said any theology that isn't focused fundamentally around the life, teaching, and words of Christ is no theology at all. Put more simply Jesus was never bound by bullet points.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Microlevel Entrepeneurship

Just out of college I wrote a book/curriculum called The Agincourt Project. The concept of Agincourt was to develop a series of learning activies that allowed gifted High School students to enact change on a targeted area. Often the programs would piggy back off of a USAID or NGO effort to reach people. Most of the projects seeked to create both connectivity and to support microentrepeneurship in a way that allowed kids to learn more about themselves, the developing nation, and the underlying social or economic principle.
Agincourt was three things:
1. A neat idea.
2. A piece of clever if incomplete scholarship.
3. Written by a guy who at the time had no experience in the rigors of execution.
Because of item 3 it hasn't really changed that many lives, a fact that I lose sleep over.
Someone else is doing something similar in practice, if not in concept. I haven't assessed their program as well as I will but the concept is to connect anyone with a Paypal account with a specific entrepeneur in a developing nation. THIS was the gap I couldn't fill. At the time I could get to the concept of why microlevel entrepeneurship was a great way to teach High School kids about pretty much everything. The problem was that establshing the transaction was more than could reasonably be asked of a High School teacher.
Go to their site and learn more.