Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Moe’s law of stuff on its menu that’s not good

(By Erik)

Such a thing does not exist.

(These are getting harder to write.)

Friday, March 17, 2006

Review: The God Who Wasn't There

(By Erik)

I recently rented The God Who Wasn’t There through Netflix. It’s a Michael Moore-style documentary by Brian Flemming, an atheist who went to a fundamentalist Christian school when he was a child.

I wrote the following review to post on Netflix’s Web site, but the limit was 300 words. Here’s the complete version:

I am a born-again Christian and work for a Christian newspaper.

And I think that every Christian should see this film.

It is imperative that we, as believers, expose ourselves to competing and alternate beliefs. Some members of my own church likely will disagree with me, but I believe that the truth stands up to all scrutiny.

Brian Fleming gives an honest, heart-wrenching look at his own belief system. (We all believe in something, whether it’s God or not. And we all worship something, whether it’s God, possessions or science.)

And he makes some wonderful points. First of all, we’ve done a lousy job of educating people about Christian history after the life of Christ. We must be more aware of our history — the good and the bad. Fleming accurately points out that a lot of people have said and done a lot of stupid things in the name of Christ (from Waco to Pat Robertson).

Fleming’s statement, “Moderate Christianity makes no sense” absolutely blew me away. All I can say is “Amen!” Too many of us these days think Christianity is all about having a weekly “worship experience” with a kickin’ praise band and a bunch of other people who look just like us.

Not so. Jesus didn’t teach that. Nor did he teach anti-Semitism or violence, as Fleming asserts. The whole argument that Christians are violent, bloody people seems to be based on the success of the film The Passion of the Christ. That film’s success among Christians had more to do with the publicity and the fact that it was one of those rare movies that played to large-scale audiences.

There are a few other things I want to point out about the film. First of all, Fleming’s assertion that the apostle Paul himself denied Jesus’ mortality is simply wrong. He cites Hebrews 8:4 as proof of this: “If Jesus had been on Earth …”

You’ll have a hard time finding a version of the Bible that uses the word “had” in this verse. Most use the word “were,” and the context tells us that the meaning is more along the lines of: “If Jesus were on the earth right now …”

(And if you want to quote Paul, you really shouldn’t use the book of Hebrews. In all likelihood, Paul didn’t write it. Some scholars have attributed it to Barnabas or Apollos.)

Fleming also stacks the deck against Christianity in his choice of sources. For the cause of atheism he includes interviews with religion scholars and other academics.

Representing Christianity, he uses a rather combative interview with the headmaster of the Christian school he attended and an interview with a contractor who has set up a Web site to send e-mails to people “after the Rapture.” Plus he throws in some “on-the-street” interviews with Christians that come across much like the “Jaywalking” segments on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

It’s also obvious that Fleming’s understanding of the “unforgivable sin” hasn’t matured much since his days in the pews of his Christian primary school. Many scholars believe that “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit” is the willful denying of the Spirit’s power when you know it to be the work of God. I’m not sure about that, but I know it’s not something you can do by accident.

When Fleming describes his experiences at the Christian school, he’s describing the same kind of doubt that all of us go through as believers. Questioning our beliefs is important to our spiritual formation. It bothers me that he didn’t seem to have anyone to hear his concerns and discuss his questions.

Despite his “attempted blasphemy” at the end of the film (denying the Holy Spirit on camera) I believe that Fleming isn’t beyond saving.

Truth is, our faith needs more people like him — people of talent and conviction who have confronted their beliefs (or lack thereof) and have something to say.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

I'm a Mahatma? Who'da thunk it?

(By Erik)

I took a "What political leader do you resemble most?" test that I stole from Stacey's blog.

Here's my result.

(That is to say, I resemble this person philosophically, not physically, I think. -- I still have my hair!)

Take the test yourself and let me know how you fared!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

More details on the Chronicle's site

We've just posted a story about the Sooners and the Pepperdine Waves online at www.christianchronicle.org.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Who to root for?

(By Erik)

Everyone around these parts is overjoyed for Sherri Coale, head coach of the University of Oklahoma's women's basketball team. Coale's Sooners handily won the Big 12 tournament just a couple of days ago. Coale is a graduate of Oklahoma Christian University and a member of the Westside Church of Christ in Norman.

The brackets for the NCAA national tourney were released today, and guess who the Sooners face in the first round? Pepperdine University, Malibu, Calif. — a school associated with churches of Christ

So it's Church of Christ coach vs. Church of Christ school.

Prediction: Sooners

PHOTO: Coconuts, anyone?

Originally uploaded by eandjtrygg.
(By Erik)

Here’s the photo from Nigeria I referred to in the previous post. This guy went amazingly high, using a simple rope and his feet, to cut down coconuts for us.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Thoughts on oil, Nigeria and all-you-can-eat restaurants

Originally uploaded by eandjtrygg.
(By Erik)

A Nigerian man who lived part of his life in the United States once told me that the best thing about America is all-you-can-eat restaurants.

“You couldn’t open an all-you-can-eat restaurant here,” he said, as we drove across a bumpy village road. “People would never leave.” We both laughed.

Most of us don’t keep up with the news in West Africa these days, and I’ll be the first to admit that, as I sit here looking at the treehouse and dry grass in my backyard, Nigeria seems millions of miles away.

But if you want to see the effects of what’s going on in Nigeria these days, look no farther than the nearest gas station. A number of factors are driving up the prices at the pumps. One of them is a group of rebels that is attacking oil facilities along the Niger Delta.

Nigeria is one of the world’s biggest oil exporters — the eighth largest, I think. Vast reserves of the stuff are just off the country’s coast and big oil companies including Shell are taking it. It’s not uncommon to see American oil workers in Nigerian airports, walking in and out of frequent-flyer lounges.

Nigeria also routinely is ranked as one of the world’s most corrupt countries, according to the British Broadcasting Corp. Take one look at the people who live in the Niger Delta and it’s obvious that not one dime of the country’s oil money is getting back to them. Giant potholes line the streets. People live in modest huts — and live hand-to-mouth. They take what’s called “palm fruit” and press the oil out of it, selling it for whatever they can get.

Granted, just because I live in a country that has oil reserves doesn’t mean I’m entitled to a share of the profits. But compare the standard of living in another oil rich country — Norway — to Nigeria and you see that something is off balance.

I’m not trying to portray Nigerians as impoverished or objects of pity. They are among the happiest and friendliest people I’ve met. I remember taking photos in one village while another American shot video for a promotional film. A group of youths stopped us as we were attempting to get back in our car, shouting at us loudly. I assumed they wanted money or were angry that we didn’t ask for their permission to film.

Our Nigerian host told us that they didn’t want us to leave without a gift. We followed them into the bush and watched as one of the youths climbed a tree and, using a machete, chopped off some ripe coconuts.

I got a photo of it, of course.

I don’t know much about these “oil rebels.” They kidnapped a bunch of oil workers not too long ago. A group of British journalists arranged a meeting with them, and the rebels granted the reporters an interview with one of the hostages.

Then they actually released a hostage, Macon Hawkins, to the reporters. He was in his late 60s and was diabetic. He told the reporters that he’d been treated well, and that the rebels called him “papa.” (Nigerians, like many Africans, have great respect for the elderly. “Old man” is a term of respect.)

I can’t say that this means the rebels are all noble people. Not likely. Nigeria, like many parts of Africa, has seen too much violence already. It must not become a way of life. I’m praying for peace in the Niger Delta.

Going back to that conversation about all-you-eat restaurants, I remember looking out the window of the car as it bounced along the village road and saying to my Nigerian friend, “This ain’t right. A country with this much oil shouldn’t be like this.”

I think he just nodded.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Much Apu about nothing ...

The Yellow Album
Originally uploaded by eandjtrygg.
(By Erik)

I got on iTunes recently (where I get all of my “world” music) and found only one album by The Simpsons — “The Yellow Album.” I don’t own it, but a few seconds of listening to the previews told me it was no good.

What was far worse, I thought, was the appallingly bad reviews on iTunes. Horrible spelling, bad words, nonsense statements … quite frankly, the Simpsons deserve better. So here’s the review I just submitted:

“Since most of the reviews seem to be written by the barely literate, I’ll put in my two cents. After the phenomenal success of the Simpsons in the early 1990s, a record label released “The Simpsons Sing the Blues,” which featured “Do the Bartman” and “Deep, Deep Trouble,” both of which got radio airplay and even charted.

“The record label prepared “The Yellow Album” as a follow-up, but then shelved it when they realized that it was no good (and started believing that the Simpsons’ album would be a one-hit wonder).

“In the late 1990s the label compiled many of the songs heard on the TV show into “Songs in the Key of Springfield,” which included the show’s title and many of its standards (“Mr. Plow,” “Who Needs the Quickie Mart?” “New Orleans” etc.) The album sold very well and prompted the label to release a follow-up, “Go Simpsonic with the Simpsons.”

“The label also re-released “The Simpsons Sing the Blues” and, for the first time, released “The Yellow Album.” So the album has a 1998 release date, but is composed entirely of material from the early 1990s, before the show hit its stride. The Kamp Krusty song, for example, was brand new when the album was recorded (it was the season premier of the show’s fourth season, I think.)

“So, to sum up, this album was never really considered good by anyone and was released only because of the popularity of the two albums, compiled years later, which contained the songs that helped make the show great.

“Avoid this bad boy. Hopefully iTunes will add the other albums soon.”

Yes, I know, I need a life!