Monday, December 15, 2008

Fans of track and field you are ...

Track and Field = Globally Aware
Of all sports fans in America, track and field fans are arguably the most globally informed. Think about it. If you were to give a test on matters of foreign affairs, which fan base do you think would score highest?
Soccer fans immediately strike as strong candidates for being globally on the ball. Yet, Major League Soccer remains largely ensconced within our American culture; and though American soccer fans might well watch Premier League English Football or Primera División de Mexico on satellite television, is the U.K. or Mexico really foreign in terms of world affairs? Hardly. Cycling pops to mind as an internationally savvy sport, but it is largely limited to athletes and fans from Western nations - not exactly global.
To be a track and field fan is to be, by definition, globally aware. You have no other choice. The runners at the top of the sport hail in preponderant numbers from Africa, who each year come to America and routinely win the New York, Boston and Chicago marathons. The most intriguing thing for me as a boy and a fan of track and field in the 1980s was the strange names connected to the runners who were native to obscure places such as Mozambique and Romania, competing in what seemed to me exotic locales such as Göteborg, Oslo and Zurich. I learned about Apartheid by way of South African Zola Budd who was born in the Orange Free State and made headlines for her world championships, world records and bare foot running, along with the controversy of running for the Apartheid suffering nation that in turn made her ineligible for the Olympics. She resolved this by immigrating to Great Britain.
In 1984 the Moroccan track star named Said Aouita became as familiar to my ten-year old mind as Magic Johnson. This was not because my elementary school specialized in teaching the current events of Morocco, nor was it because Moroccan culture is popularly known in the U.S. I knew of Aouita, and therefore Morocco, because I am a fan of track and field. Aouita dominated the middle-distance events from the 800m-5000m throughout the eighties, winning the 5,000m gold in the 1984 Olympics, the 800m bronze in ’88, and for several years held both the 5,000m and 1,500m world records. Aouita not only captured my young imagination but also the imagination of the young Moroccan Hicham El Guerrouj, who shares my birth year of 1974. It is said that El Guerrouj was inspired to run by watching Said’s performance in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. It makes me wonder: where did he watch the race? Did his family own a television with rabbit ears wrapped in aluminum foil, or was there a favorite café that hosted for soccer matches and track events?
El Guerrouj, dubbed the King of the Mile, is the current world record holder in the 1,500 meters (and the mile, 2000m and indoor 1500m/mile), wresting it away from Algerian Noureddine Morceli who dominated the event through the nineties, winning gold in the ’96 Olympics, the same race that El Guerrouj made his Olympic final debut, only to trip and fall at the gun lap. He would have to wait until 2004 for his first Olympic victory that came in a pair, becoming the first Olympian since Finland’s Paavo Nurmi won both the 1,500m and 5000m in the 1924 Olympic Games. Following his twin victory, El Guerrouj acknowledged the Flying Finn as one of the great legends who marked the history of athletics, “He left his name at his point in time. Now I’m able to put my name with his. He is from another time, a time when my grandfather was watching him. To stand alongside him now, how can I express it? There are no words.” The intimate respect of a fellow runner is tied together by the bonds of knowing the same distance raced and the pain and glory that goes with it.
Aouita, Morceli and El Guerrouj are all men of small stature, sinewy and light boned, built for running speedily and with endurance, each 5’8” or less, no more than 140 pounds. Three men descended from tribes of the Atlas Mountains on the fringe of the southern edge of the Mediterranean, home to the ancient Berbers and more recently Arab tribes that includes luminaries such as St. Augustine, born in present day Souk Ahras, Algeria; Tertullian, who coined the term Trinity in reference to Father, Son and Holy Spirit; Arius, who generated the famous theological battle with Athanasius that shaped Christianity; and Ramses the Great, a Pharaoh of Pharaohs. Anthropologically, these North African tribes are related closer to Sicilians, Egyptians and Spaniards, then Nigerians, Ethiopians and Saudi Arabians. These athletes wear on their singlet the red star and crescent of Islam (Algeria), and the interwoven pentangle star symbolic of occult law in ancient days and the five pillars of Islam today (Morocco). This is a people with a long and variegated history who have weathered centuries of hardscrabble living as farmers and herdsmen over rugged land that has developed a tenacity of mind and body. These intangibles of genetic lineage and adaptation cannot be prescribed by a coach standing on an all-weather track holding a stop-watch, but they do arguably help produce world champions in the sport of track and field.
My familiarity with these North African track athletes made possible an appreciation for Muslim people when the Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran and despots like Libyan President Momar Khadafi were the types of Muslims popularly featured in the news. Because of track and field, I know Muslims to be amongst the greatest of athletes in a sport I cherish. I watched Abdi Bile of Somalia compete long before the Black Hawk helicopters were shot down in the Battle of Mogadishu. This is not to say that my appreciation for Somalia’s superb miler changed the impoverished and violent horrors of the country, but it changed me. It expanded my perception of who a Somalian could be outside the realm of guerilla warlords, terrorism, and politics.
When Hassiba Boulmerka, the Algerian middle-distance runner was forced to move to Europe to train because of the fundamentalists at home who deemed her running attire unacceptably immodest, I realized just how significant the Muslim culture war with the West is. Through exposure to the international competition of track and field, nuanced aspects of the Muslim culture were revealed to me long before the Taliban and Al-Qaeda became household names and popular signifiers of the Islamic faith. Despite opposition, Boulmerka went on to win gold in the 1,500m at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.
Most recently, Moroccan born Rashid Ramzi, competing for Bahrain at the Beijing Olympics, won gold in the 1500m, perpetuating the long-line of gold-medal middle-distance runners from the Maghreb nations of North Africa. In these days of protracted struggle with the Muslim world, we in the West would do well to familiarize ourselves with the story and lives of individuals who cannot be easily vilified as Evil Doers. Recognition and gratitude for athletes such as Rashid Ramzi gives a human face to the diversity of Muslim people who are relatively unknown and often misunderstood by Americans. When we can acknowledge people for something more than the politics, religion, economics, and leadership of the nation states in which they live, the people become human and therein of value. By virtue of being a fan of track and field, and a friend so to speak of the sport’s greatest runners, my global awareness of troubled and little known nations is enhanced, leaving me more astute in matters of foreign affairs and sensitive to world events. In the words of the Glasgow based indie-pop band Belle and Sebastian, “the stars of track and field are beautiful people.” Indeed. How has your sport influenced you lately – on a global scale?

Harvey Milk

“My name is Harvey Milk and I want to recruit you.” This was the phrase Mr. Milk became known for in his struggle for the gay community in the United States during the 1970s. After moving to San Francisco in 1972, Milk lived and worked as a businessman, activist, organizer, politician, and was the first openly gay man elected to a major political office (San Francisco Board of Supervisors/City Council).
The recently released movie, Milk, starring Sean Penn, who plays Harvey with devastating effect, is a masterful homage to the man.
Admittedly, what I know about the late Harvey Milk is largely limited to the well-crafted film, written through the sympathetic pen of an openly gay man who was brought up in a Latter-Day Saint (Mormon) family. And this is exactly why the film has the power that it does. It provides a poetic insider view to the personal experience of what it was, and is, to be gay and fighting for identity, understanding, personal dignity and civil rights. Doubtless, there is much more to the story of Milk’s life and the public and personal events than can be depicted in one film.
However, this picture provoked in me reconsideration for the struggle that gay individuals encounter. This film should evoke compassion, especially from the Christian community in the United States that is sadly and deservedly known for being anti-gay. Sadly, I doubt the response to Milk by the religious community will be characterized by an up-swelling of goodwill. Likely, the film will serve to promote an entrenched opposition expressed with righteous platitudes for what it is to live a righteous life before God. The film specifically targets the Christian Right’s strident attempts to fight off the ‘homosexual scourge’, by way of several propositions across the country, most notably Prop 6 that proposed outlawing gay and lesbian school teachers in the state of California. There is a clip of then President Jimmy Carter saying, “Vote against Prop 6.” President Carter was not the kind of Christian that the Christian Right likes. But perhaps he is a Christian more in the likeness of Jesus Christ – the one whom Christians purport to follow.
The story of Prop 6 is especially relevant, and interesting to me because of California Prop 8, recently passed, limiting marriage to a man and woman. Not surprisingly, the proposition was aggressively pursued by the Religious Right, perhaps especially the LDS Church. Ironic that the LDS church would enter so prominent a fray that deals with what a legal marriage is, given the history and ongoing polygamy within the family of the Latter-Day Saints.
My name is Zach Hancock and I want to recruit you – to be a person who will vow to seek friendship with at least one gay person(s) before you make any attempts at opposition to the gay community. Begin by viewing Milk.

Monday, November 3, 2008


We have a Constitutional Amendment on the ballot this year in Colorado, addressing said issue from a State level. 
The Amendment seeks to define a Person as taking legal effect at time of fertilization. As it stands today, and has, 
to the best of my knowledge since 1876 (State's birth), a person is recognized at birth. The complications with the
Amendment are legion, so to speak. What about invitro for example? Eggs are fertilized and then disposed of. You 
all know some one who has had this procedure done, if not you. We had better check our hearts on this. For example, 
inflammatory language by "Christians" such as Partial Birth, is not helpful. And what about the personhood of mothers - 
and all of the complications that enuse in the many circumstances that can arise in pregnancy. How do you use, we use, 
technology of ALL kinds. When do we talk about individual right? Repubs and Libertarians and Dems love individual rights 
for everything they support personally, but then want the LAW to step in for everything they don't support. My suggestion 
is that you and I "vote" our conscious by being a living example of what we believe in. Caesar's Politics are not, and never 
will be God's Politics. Where do we get on and off the political platform? Good question. But I sense very little real listening 
to the opposition - and a lot of answer giving.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Ease & Oblique

There are several different sorts of people in the world. Victor Hugo taught us that there were at least five. But out of these several I observe two primary categories, which don't have any definite name necessarily, but they could generally be labeled as: Nuanced and One Dimensional. If you find yourself in the nuanced category (all of life really resides in this category, only tragically, many don't realize it) you are likely sore beyond belief in your general appraisal of society, and peppered with riotous moments of joy and painfully good humor. If however you find yourself in the One Dimensional category, well, life is a peach, except for when it is not. This sort of sunny disposition is often praised by religious types who take it as sure sign of peaceful, God-induced harmony, made possible by utter submission.
There are two authors who plainly represent for me these two sides of life, and each of them, in my experience, has routinely, if overly, used a word in their respective writing that gives their temperment away: John Grisham - ease. J.D. Salinger - oblique.
Early on in my reading career I devoured the novels of J. G., these easy tails of intrigue and witty turns of plot made for enjoyable reading, until that is, I discovered the word that was used to distraction: Ease. I began underlining it with red ink. I routinely found the word within four or five pages of the last use. Every character was easing in or out of this or that room. Easing into this or that chair. It became intolerable, and probably ten or more years ago I put down a half-finished J.G. novel out of exasperation with the word that had become a nauseating presence. This was fortuitous, and is probably the same sort of reason that drives all who read better writing than pulp fiction onto better authors and their titles. It is not so much that we aspire to anything more, but out of necessity if we are to maintain reading as a hobby and also value our sanity to any measurable degree. So off I went to explore authors beyond the likes of Grisham. In so doing I realized a world of writing awaited me that loomed large, something like the high mountains climbers from the East coast find when they come out to climb in the West. These ranges were heretofore unexplored for me, as my high school education wasn't exactly rigorous or inspired beyond the thin writing of F. Scott Fitzgerald and other thin works deemed manageable for our teenage middle-class mainstream intellects. For the first time I confronted authors such as Herman Melville, Dostoevsky and Salinger and along with him, the word oblique.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Amendment 2 / Supreme Court

I was chagrin to see the Supreme Court ruling on gun laws in D.C. the other day -- anachronistic maintenance of a constitutional reading that is not good for communities across the U.S. Unfortunately, the Roberts led Supreme Court and the conservative lobby is going about 'having' and 'possessing' the Constitution in a way that is not appropriate to these times but follows the letter of the law, as they read it, and is arguably contrary to the spirit of the Constitution. Justice Antonin Scalia in his comments following the ruling admitted that indeed we live in a different world than 18th Century America, but that it is not the Supreme Court's privilege to make the 2nd amendment extinct.
While I am not sufficient to argue with Justice Scalia, Judge Stevens is. Stevens dissent stated, "The Court would have us believe that over 200 years ago, the Framers made a choice to limit the tools available to elected officials wishing to regulate civilian uses of weapons.... I could not possibly conclude that the Framers made such a choice." Agreed. Thomas Jefferson made the observance that it is the responsibility of each generation to determine and construct a moral and civil code.
Are we so dim and impotent as to imagine that our responsibility as U.S. citizens is to rigidly abide by and preserve a Constitution written for a people over 200 years ago? If we are not more progressive and relevant than this we will soon be discussing the Empire that declined and fell that we were so busy and intent on trying to preserve as if it were flawless. We must get over this infallible view of the Framers and their dear Constitution, which is still dear, but should not be static, but used as a guiding light for future days of governance and living in a sane Republic.
Justice Breyer filed a separate dissenting opinion, that is worth noting, which sought to demonstrate that, starting from the premise of an individual-rights view, the District of Columbia's handgun ban and trigger lock requirement would nevertheless be permissible limitations on the right.
The Breyer dissent looks to early municipal fire-safety laws that forbade the storage of gunpowder (and in Boston the carrying of loaded arms into certain buildings), and on nuisance laws providing fines or loss of firearm for imprudent usage, as demonstrating the Second Amendment has been understood to have no impact on the regulation of civilian firearms. The dissent argues the public safety necessity of gun-control laws, quoting that "guns were 'responsible for 69 deaths in this country each day.'"
With these two supports, the Breyer dissent goes on to conclude, "there simply is no untouchable constitutional right guaranteed by the Second Amendment to keep loaded handguns in the house in crime-ridden urban areas." It proposes that firearms laws be reviewed by balancing the interests of Second Amendment protections against the government's compelling interest of preventing crime.
I agree with the more 'liberal' Justices that we need to recognize a use of the Constitution that is appropriate to our times - i.e. wielding wisely fire arms in our present culture with the aid of the wisdom of the 2nd amendment.
Further, as Stevens observed, it is crucial that we recognize that the authors of 2nd Amend would not intend to aid and abet crime with the Constitution, and it is not a stretch to imagine that they would intend for us, these many years later, to legislate ourselves, as opposed to laying that responsibility at their feet some 200 years in the past.
With this train of thinking, I believe we need to go further even, and in certain aspects 'reconstruct' the Constitution or our changed world. Amendments do this in part, but some things, like the 2nd Amendment, need changed de facto for the circumstance we live in. It is not a matter of'interpretation', it is a matter of what we need for a better nation, a better self-governance in this day.
The mentality of the conservative Supreme Court majority - seems to be playing the role of 'protector and preserver' rather than thoughtful and dynamic Judicial minds. Inane policies and stunted mentalities such as this ruling provides, in defense of a literal reading of the Constitution, defines the conservative politic. Arguably, this brand of politic was not in the spirit or minds of the architects of this Nation nor in the Constitution that helps govern it. After all, the Framers were revolutionaries and visionaries, unwilling to accept a detached rule over their lives, but very willing to throw off King George of England in favor of making smart decisions for themselves.
If we cannot make smart decisions for ourselves, preferring to abide in static conservation of what went before, our plight will be met with peril.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Reflection on The Killer Angels

General Longstreet opposed General Lee in much of the battle strategy at Gettysburg, in retrospect, arguably the decisive battle of the Civil War. On the third morning Longstreet said to Lee, “General, it is my considered opinion that a frontal assault here would be a disaster.” (The Killer Angels p. 191) Just prior to engagement on the third day Armistead watched Longstreet’s face and saw that he was crying.
Lee desired Longstreet’s approval in each of the three battle days at Gettysburg, but did not require it – they went forward despite. Had Lee lost his touch? Or, was Lee simply inflexible in battle strategy? Or had he developed an inappropriate sense of confidence? To be sure, Longstreet’s theories on defensive warfare were generations ahead of his time, as Generals of Europe were still ordering massed assaults against fortified positions – and Lee was no exception, the 2nd and 3rd days of Gettysburg prime examples.
I contend that this kind of classic "Napoleonic assault" involves the following attributes in some mix: a feared leader on the scale of General Lee, a company of soldiers stoked by pride of nationalism/regionalism, hate of enemy and a searing fervor that thrives in ignorance. Attributes the South possessed in spades and attributes that human beings gravitate to uncorrected.
Longstreet’s opposite in temperament was George Pickett, just the sort of man made for assaults of heroism in the name of honor no matter how imposing the odds, such as marching across an open field, up hill, against a well armed opposition – the very description of day 3 at Gettysburg.
“Pickett was out in the open, waving his hat and yelling wildly. Longstreet sat on a fence rail motionless crouched forward, the tear stains still visible on his face in anticipation of the bloodbath to come. Pickett turned back through the smoke with joy in his face – and then the Union artillery opened up.” (paraphrased and amended from The Killer Angels p. 206)
Following the Rebel Army defeat at Gettysburg and subsequent defeat in the war, Longstreet and Lee went their separate ways. Longstreet being the younger man, sought political position to help rebuild the South, an effort he was reviled for, referred to by Southern newspapers as “the most hated man in the South.” Years after Lee’s death, a man who symbolized all that was fine and noble in the South, Longstreet stated an opinion that held Lee responsibile for losing the battle at Gettysburg. For this observation, Longstreet was branded a turncoat.
Lee lived a few short years following the war, enjoying a status as a living legend in the eyes of the Southern people. In death his mythical status only soared higher - to the heights of god-like status in the South and one of the most beloved and respected Generals for all America.
George Pickett, the epitomy of military vain-glory and obedience born of pride, would say bitterly of Lee following the war: “That man destroyed my division.” Pitiful. For more than any other, Pickett chomped for glory on that third day, unthinking to consequence, as Longstreet wept.
Gettysburg, and the dynamic between Lee, Longstreet and the Southern Army, is one small story in the longer narrative of humankind, but in my opinion it starkly represents the factions of ego, loyalty, heroism and dissent that characterize human interaction through the ages. The masses, whose power and reward is seemingly nested only in courageous heroism, become grist for the mill operated by the powers.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Pennsylvania Primary

The PA results were predictable - and while a loss for Obama and boon to Hillary, it was also hopeful for Obama given the close results in a state full of Hillary type supporters: working class white, long time democrats, and women who lean left.
It may or may not hurt the Democrat's chances to take the White House by continuing a nasty race - I tend to think it won't hurt, as long as neither Hillary or Obama bloody one another with personal attacks too badly. However Hillary seems to be taking a cut-throat approach - in an attempt to win at all costs. The attitude of contempt is written all over her face everytime she refers to Obama. It seems to me that she is insulted by a real challenge for a position that she deems hers by way of entitlement. This is an unfortunate attitude. Even Bill has the nasty mentality going, evidenced by the recent expose on his race bating (South Carolina Primary). Even if some of the media attention sensationalized Bill's comments, he didn't do himself any favors by responding with spite and anger towards the media. The fact is, Bill made the comments out of the same attitude of entitlement that Hillary conveys: Sure, S.C. might vote for Obama, but this means nothing. Even Jesse Jackson won S.C. After all it's a state full of black people.
This is more than a tad insulting to Barack, implying that he is a two-bit candidate and that his blackness has everything with his vote getting. Assuming that everyone knows black won't go the distance. This is utter nonsense and inflammatory talk by a man who likes to self-prop himself as the "first black president." Whatever that means. Hillary and Bill need to get over themselves.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Pope

Pope Benedict was in America this week - in his words one of the most important things for Catholics to do is to be obedient to the teachings of the Catholic church. This is not a novel statement or unusual thing for a Pope to say - this is how it has always been.

I was sitting at a coffee house in my little mountain community when two elderly people sat down at a table next to me. The man was reading to his wife from the newspaper. He cited the Pope's comments to his wife with contempt and a laugh, as if it was the dumbest thing they had heard in recent memory. I thought to myself: "First, what the hell do these old people know - and do they have sufficient understanding and exposure to history, theology and the like to credibly criticize the Pope? My hunch is: hardly. Second, why do they act as if they are an authority on determining whether or not the Pope's advice is ridiculous? Simply put, they are self-advised Americans, and like so many, they seem to believe that their limited perspective is not only valid but normative. Rather pathetic in my estimation. And sad, because it is so blatantly naive. Certainly Americans have the freedom to navigate their ship through life without sound, informed spiritual advice, but most would probably not do this with their retirement account. However, when you don't have solid insight, please do not feel that you are theologically informed enough to credibly deride the Pope or the Dali Lama for that matter. To do so would be the equivalent of criticizing the Fed chairman Ben Bernanke on his financial policies - having no formal financial education yourself!

A little Catholic Church understanding:
Unlike those who follow a self-directed spiritual path, the Catholic church has a tradition and interpretation of Scripture that is not ad hoc, but has been carefully understood over several centuries. This does not mean to imply that these traditional understandings, nor the people involved are flawless in conduct or interpretation, but that there is an authority of interpretation attached to the community of Catholicism. In the realm of Christian church life in America this uniformity of tradition is unique to the Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians. Many Chrisitian churches are led by a Pastor who is relatively autonomous, save the church board perhaps, which rarely weigh in on theological matters. Often times the Pastor is not particularly educated and in many instances shapes a theology according to his own best guesses and the whims of the congregants (read: constituents). Unaffiliated churches - often called by the misnomer "non-denominational" - function by the same self-rule that dominates the general American mentality. The thinking goes: We will do what we want to do, in the way that we understand things, and no one will tell us otherwise. If a community is poorly informed and abides by self-rule, they will in turn make poorly informed decisions. The Catholic church, like it or not, has an extremely well educated clergy from Pope, to Bishop, to Priest, and while one may not agree with Catholic theology - which is not as monolithic as many construe - at least one can know that it is informed through centuries of study, reflection, practiced tradition, and debate; and further, it is a community that interfaces with the other major religions and Christian traditions.
This is quite a contrast to the local church leader who has read and interpreted the bible with his or her own interpretation. Sometimes this leader is a relatively good one and sometimes not. However, a good case can be be made that individual reading, interpretation, and application of Scripture is not only shallow and ill informed, but also dangerous, and never intended by the Jewish faith community that wrote these Scriptures, nor the Christian faith community that grafted the New Covenant (New Testament) into the First Covenant (Old Testament).
My advice: before making criticism, be informed yourself, which usually requires, amongst other things, getting to know those who you are intending to make criticism of.

On the verge of Barbarism

I went skiing this weekend -- it was a spring ski day -- lots of sun, soft snow, and nowadays revelers who wear colorful costumes in celebration of the end of the season. I asked one man why he was dressed as he was, like some kind of blue sequined super hero with a cape -- and he said it was to appease the snow gods so that they would be as kind next year. The snow gods huh?
I was interested to note that this is a mentality (not a unique one) that is no different than the one carried by humans for as long as there has been recorded history. The mentality of the 'gods'.
I was also interested and startled by the sheer barbarism of this crowd. A certain moderate level of debauchery infused the mood of the day at Arapahoe Basin.
Two men, probaby in their twenties or thirties, carried two inflatable fuck me dolls - with all the parts needless to say. Crass. But more than that. It was not particularly out of place for the scene I was witnessing, which is disturbing to say the least. The general public has gone somewhere near the edges of barbarism. Why and how is this the case?

Friday, April 18, 2008

Entrepreneurial Church

Free Market Capital -- this is what drives the emerging church scene today in America and world wide. The new 'hip' churches are built on a business model that requires the skills of marketing majors and actors more than theologians and pastors (By the way, this has resulted in many dynamic personalities on stage but fewer and fewer well-trained/educated preachers and pastors). Being a 'church planter' requires what? The same repertoire as a business entrepreneur because the basic model is the same: Get as many people through the doors as possible. Therefore, entertainment has become the locus of the service - as opposed to the eucharist as it has been historically in Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, theology/praxis, or the Word proclaimed, as it was/is in Protestant theology, represented by Presbyterian, Reformed, Methodist, etc.
This entrepreneurial type "church business" springs from the Protestant fold primarily, a movement originally built off the notion that the Word proclaimed is next to, if not above (in real practice) the eucharist. The preaching moment so elevated has over time resulted in an increasing amount of grand standing by one individual - the preacher. Churches with good preachers grew. Nothing wrong with this, but hearing a good preacher tickle your ears and inspire your mind is not worship of God. The service became more about one person's wit, intelligence and oratory than about worship and submission to God through the eucharist. Slowly this model has developed into something that has dropped the inconveniences of liturgy and has sought to be whatever the general public wants, which is usually entertainment and to feel good. Indeed, what the masses want also includes the important desire to belong and search for meaning. But hyper sensitivity to the masses wants, in order to draw them, has shaped a service and church movement that has fixated on brilliant marketing in order to draw numbers. As one church planter coach told me recently: "It is about getting butts in seats." Is it?
For what? So that we can peddle a load of propostitional truths as the way to salvation? Are the motives more admirable than this? Perhaps. Such as drawing people into the community of Christ and thereby exposing people to the Spirit, whereby lives are transformed both through relation with other people as well as with the Spirit of God. Sure. I hope this is so. But what seems more dominant is that the new era of Church entrepreneurs are more about being Free Market Capitalists than they are in attending to living out the Gospel. Which is what? "Saving" more souls and gaining more followers? I submit that no, this is not the primary charge of the Gospel message. For the Free Market Church, an obsession with numbers seems to be the driving force, both for financing and for accomplishing the goal of converting souls - which for some may only be an excuse on the way to building their own personal church empire.
If converting more souls is not the primary action of following Christ, what is? Obeying Christ. In part this includes evangelizing souls for conversion, but this is only one piece. And by the way, we are not the ones who convert, only the Spirit of God can do this. The greater part of the Gospel message brought by Jesus is loving our neighbor. Full stop. And this is evangelism. The basic premise is this: The Entrepreneurial Church movement is at risk of self-love and pouring energies into being more like Capitalists than followers of Christ. What is the difference and can Capitalism and following Jesus coincide? First, the emphasis of Capitalism and Jesus are different. As a Capitalist, your chief command is to follow the money and engage profitably with the economic activity and in making certain that you do everything possible to be a relevant player in it. As a follower of Christ the goal is to love neighbor - which includes everything: the environment, wildlife, your family, your enemy, etc. The motive is not profit per se.
Jesus has been and should be a stumbling block to all that is not fully in sync with the Kingdom of God. Capitalism has had a hard time reckoning with Jesus because by definition it is driven by a consumer mentality - which is quite a distance from loving neighbor as a chief mission statement. And while Capitalism and Jesus are not necessarily mutually exclusive, the elements of capitalism, I submit, are not to be the backbone of the Church movement.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Jesus - in our image: Macho

I was watching a "Jesus" film the other day called Joshua, an adaption of a book by the same name by Father Girzone. The book was pretty fair as I remember - however the movie portrays Jesus the same way that so many recent films, produced by well intentioned Christian filmmakers have: As a macho man who looks as if he has just stepped out of the weight room and put on street clothes. He walks with a swagger, makes women swoon and instills confidence in men, all the while employing a gentle intelligence and ready laugh. The problem is - this kind of depiction seems to solely reflect the ambition and values of conservative christians in America. A shallow move - making Jesus of Nazareth into our own image. But then, what else would be expected from the popular evangelical church that has given us mega-sized, consumer friendly, entertainment driven churches informed largely, if not strictly by a sheltered ideology.

Day One

This is my first entry on my new blog account. Testing testing 123.