Thursday, August 28, 2008

Thoughts During Convention Season

Quote of the week:

I don’t take politics very seriously; I see little point. Politicians always win elections, which means the rest of us lose.
-Mary Q. Contrarian, via Positive Liberty.

Joke of the week:
While walking down the street a US Senator is tragically hit by a truck and dies. His soul arrives in heaven and is met by St. Peter at the entrance.

'Welcome to heaven,' says St. Peter. 'Before you settle in, it seems there is a problem. We seldom see a high official around these parts, you see, so we're not sure what to do with you.'

'No problem, just let me in,' says the man.

'Well, I'd like to, but I have orders from higher up. What we'll do is have you spend one day in hell and one in heaven. Then you can choose where to spend eternity.'

'Really, I've made up my mind. I want to be in heaven,' says the senator.

'I'm sorry, but we have our rules.'

And with that, St. Peter escorts him to the elevator and he goes down, down, down to hell. The doors open and he finds himself in the middle of a green golf course. In the distance is a clubhouse and standing in front of it are all his friends and other politicians who had worked with him.

Everyone is very happy and in evening dress. They run to greet him, shake his hand, and reminisce about the good times they had while getting rich at the expense of the people. They play a friendly game of golf and then dine on lobster, caviar and champagne.

Also present is the devil, who really is a very friendly guy who has a good time dancing and telling jokes. They are having such a good time that before he realizes it, it is time to go. Everyone gives him a hearty farewell and waves while the elevator rises.

The elevator goes up, up, up and the door reopens on heaven where St. Peter is waiting for him. 'Now it's time to visit heaven.'

So, 24 hours pass with the senator joining a group of contented souls moving from cloud to cloud, playing the harp and singing. They have a good time and, before he realizes it, the 24 hours have gone by and St. Peter returns.

'Well, then you've spent a day in hell and another in heaven. Now you choose your eternity.'

The senator reflects for a minute, then he answers: 'Well, I would never have said it before, I mean heaven has been delightful, but I think I would be better off in hell.'

So St. Peter escorts him to the elevator and he goes down, down, down to hell. Now the doors of the elevator open and he's in the middle of a barren land covered with waste and garbage. He sees all his friends, dressed in rags, picking up the trash and putting it in black bags as more trash falls from above.

The devil comes over to him and puts his arm around his shoulder. 'I don't understand,' stammers the senator. 'Yesterday I was here and there was a golf course and clubhouse, and we ate lobster and caviar, drank champagne, and danced and had a great time. Now there's just a wasteland full of garbage and my friends look miserable. What happened?'

The devil looks at him, smiles and says, 'Yesterday we were campaigning. Today you voted.'

Note: the above isn't meant as a partisan jibe against anyone in particular, despite the timing of my post. I find both parties to be equally corrupt and equally worthy of criticism.

On a slightly related note, Timothy Kincaid's piece on political intolerance is worth reading. It's difficult to claim the moral high ground if you can't extend the same respect to those who disagree with you that you expect from others.

Thursday, August 21, 2008


The other day as I was walking through downtown, I saw a man holding a "Jesus Saves" sign. It's not as common a sight as it was just a couple of decades ago, but apparently street evangelism lives on. What made me pause, though, was wondering whether it was a sign of creeping cynicism that the first thing that came to my mind upon seeing his placard was a picture of Jesus backing up his hard drive.

Then again, maybe it says more about the inevitable consequences of reducing the gospel to catchy slogans and soundbites. How many people have we immunized against the message of Jesus by giving it the same treatment that Madison Avenue gives to toothpaste?

Monday, August 18, 2008


Real Live Preacher has posted a challenge on his blog to those who believe in a literal Hell: prove its existence, using only biblical (especially New Testament) passages. It's a tougher request than one might think, given how saturated most Christian traditions are in imagery of the afterlife, and how adamant most are about the necessity of some sort of outward confession of faith if one wants to avoid eternal torment.

In reality, the Bible offers only limited support for any theory one cares to put forward about what happens after the end of this life. Those who believe that an elect few will live in bliss with God while the vast majority burn forever may actually have a weaker case than those who believe that everyone will be saved in the end, but ultimately neither side seems to have a decisive biblical mandate.

My own belief that some alternative to heaven must exist for free will to properly function is based as much on reason (and the writings of CS Lewis) as it is on any specific biblical passage, but I have yet to see a counter argument that doesn't rely just as heavily on human reasoning and extrabiblical sources once the proof texts have all been trotted out. If anything, it seems that God isn't deeply concerned with our knowing specifics about what happens after death. He wants us to draw closer to him in this lifetime, but the "carrot and stick" approach seems to be primarily an invention of human religion.

Whatever that ultimately means for our theology, I look forward to reading the results of RLP's challenge.

A few more links of interest:

-Anita at Sisterfriends Together has posted an interesting piece on the Song of Solomon and its ramifications for Christian arguments about premarital sex. (This is a follow-up to a previous post).

-Peterson has another good piece up on the Shame and Blame game that many ex-gay programs play.

-Finally, Pomoprophet is back in the blogosphere, and he could use your thoughts and prayers.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

On Being an Introvert

A friend pointed me toward this article on introversion, and what extroverts need to understand about it. Leaning toward the extreme "I" end of the scale in Myers-Briggs terms, I found myself agreeing with the author numerous times, both in terms of what we introverts need to do to better relate to extroverts, and ways that extroverts can be more understanding.

I remember one time when a student intern came along with a group of coworkers that I regularly went to lunch with. She was a nice person, but she literally could not stop talking from the moment we met up at the office until God only knows how many decades later. Even as she ate her food, her chatter was nonstop. I'm now a bit more sympathetic to the fact that, as an extreme extrovert only a year or two out of high school, she probably couldn't help it. Hopefully she's cultivated more self-control in the years since then, but it's the kind of discipline that takes a long time and a lot of work to develop.

What irked me, though, was a comment she made in passing at the restaurant. In between several other thoughts, she looked at a guy reading a book by himself at a nearby table and exclaimed, "Look at that poor man! He must be so lonely!" For her, I'm sure that eating alone would have been a painful and traumatic experience. But to presume that everyone else thinks and feels exactly the same way is an insult to those who don't, no matter how innocent the assumption may be. It's a very fundamentalistic way of viewing the world, even if one isn't dogmatic in other ways.

So to those reading this who may meet me at some point (at a GCN event or otherwise), you're far more likely to get to know me if you talk to me one-on-one. Chances are it's never going to happen in a group setting, especially if I have to battle with one or more attention magnets to get a word in edgewise. And it is a battle for me; the natural rhythms of such exchanges elude me, and more often than not somebody else will start talking over me in mid-sentence whenever I do try to insert myself into the conversation.

I realize that's just how group dynamics work among extroverts, and I really do try harder than I get credit for to participate in such situations, but if you're going to dominate the conversation, don't turn to me afterward and say "you sure haven't said much" and expect it to somehow enhance our relationship.

Now I'm just getting cranky, so I'll stop while I'm still ahead. But seriously, if you're an extrovert, please don't forget to consider the introverts around you.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Life Soundtrack 8

Wherever You Will Go, by The Calling

Another love song I've always really liked, fittingly paired here with clips from Brokeback Mountain. The official music video (which isn't available for embedding) can be viewed here.