Culture

Random Observations from a Foreign Citizen

I’m sitting in the town square of a community in the hills of Puerto Rico.*  It’s a place called Aibonito – away from the beaches, the resort hotels, the tourists that congregate in San Juan.  It’s a quiet, friendly town.  Every so often, though, the quiet is pierced by a pickup truck, loaded down with Massive speakers, blasting what I assume to be advertisements for stores or political candidates or Chuck Norris jokes – it’s all in Spanish, which I don’t understand.  (How can someone live less than an hour from the U.S. border with Mexico for nearly 35 years not be able to understand this beautiful language better?  Shameful. ) As I sit here, I notice that this town is full of runners – I must have seen 25 of them just in the past couple hours here. Giving cultural commentary on a place after only being there for […]



Thinking about Drinking (. . . and Driving)

I’ve spent the last few days driving all around Scotland.  I walked the streets of Glasgow and Aberdeen, but also drove the highways and country roads.  While doing so, I listened to BBC Scotland on the radio, and intentionally left the station on whatever the current programming was.  This gave me a mixture of Scottish politics, culture, news, and music.  I heard dance music and bagpipes, which really completed my experience of driving those country roads – including the times I had to stop to wait for the sheep to cross the road, being led along by their shepherds. One of the things that I noticed while listening to the various talk shows, though, was the frequency of discussion of alcohol.  I heard a news story that traced some of the history of the Scottish temperance movement of years gone by.  I heard a talk show noting the high rates […]



Emergency! 2 million people in jeopardy!!

A recent survey revealed a frightening level of lack of preparation.  As a result, more than 2 million USAmerican households are in danger of losing their television signals.  These are people without a digital converter box for their TV, and won’t be able to receive the over-the-air broadcasts from TV stations.  Have you noticed the frenzy that TV channels are going through to make sure everyone is prepared.  It’s like there’s some impending natural disaster or something. It sure does reveal something about the centrality of our idolatry.  I’m completely and totally guilty of this form of idolatry myself, so I don’t mean to make some elitist, moralist stand here. Whatever the case, I hope that they do some follow up surveys with these 2 million households.  Something along the lines of tracking increased levels of literacy, quality of family relationships, community involvement, and physical health among those who got […]



Quick Take Review: The Next Evangelicalism

Last week I got a chance to sit down with a book that’s been getting a bit of buzz in the circles I run in.  It’s called The Next Evangelicalism: Freeing the Church From Western Cultural Captivity, by Soong-Chan Rah.  I believe it’s a very important book, and one that I hope will find its way onto many seminary course readings lists – and not just in specialty classes like “Multi-cultural Worship.”  Rah has some good words to share, but they will be put to best use in a broad marketplace. The book is an uncomfortable read, especially for a white midle class USAmerican dude.  I have attempted to sensitize myself and the people I have influence with to issues of race, power, and control, but I know I’ve fallen well short of ideal.  There’s still a lot more to be done in my own heart, as well as in […]



I am so not cool

Working with a bunch of college students gives me the frequent opportunity to realize that I’m out of touch.  Whether it’s the movies I haven’t seen, or the music I haven’t heard, I know I’m behind the curve.  That’s o.k., though.  I think God gave me a gift of grace when I was in high school, and actually cared a lot about being cool.  At some point, the heavens parted, and I had a rare moment of clarity in which I realized that even in my small, private school, there were several different sub-groups that each had their own distinct version of what it meant to be cool, and they were seemingly only concerned about living up to their own groups’ versions of cool.  The punk kids didn’t try to be cool by surfers’ terms, and the preppies didn’t try to score style points with the band geeks.  In that […]



What if we started over?

Last week, in an effort to fool myself into thinking that I’m a tech geek (even though I know zero coding languages, don’t know most of the fancy acronyms, and don’t use the tools I have access to very elegantly), I watched the 80 minute video from Google’s I/O Conference, in which they rolled out their latest brainchild, Wave.  The video demonstrates some pretty cool stuff that will be game changing – like integrating e-mail, instant messaging, blogging, Twitter, wikis, collaborative projects, and entertainment.  If you’d like, you can watch it here. The video stimulated a lot of questions and thoughts in me, particularly about the implications of these technologies, and how they will be used (both well and poorly) by Christians.  But the statement from the video I keep going back to actually happens very early on (at about 5:00 or so).  The lead developer, who is doing the […]



Inerrancy and Alcohol

I’ve had some conversations lately – some of which have sparked anger in me (not toward my conversation partners, but toward institutions and power brokers in them).  I assure you, dear reader, that I am not angry as I write this – just musing here.  These conversations been around the topic of alcohol and denominations.  The thoughts these conversations have produced go a little something like this: I work for a denomination that is conservative – very conservative.  The past couple decades have witnessed a “conservative resurgence” within the denomination, which has reacted to a perceived “liberal” shift by a small handful of denominational leaders, seminary professors, and others.  The conservatives “won,” and most of the “liberals” have been driven away.  What we have now is an almost universal insistence on conservative readings of the Bible, including a stand for inerrancy.  “We” say we believe the Bible word for word, […]



Dissertate This! pt. 2

Here’s my second post taking a trip through the dissertation that kept me busy over the past few years.  In my previous post, I talked about the rapid spread of Christianity in the global South and East, even at the same time as there has been a noted downturn in Christian practice here in the Western world.  While asking questions about what “we” in the West can learn from our sisters and brothers in other contexts, I thought it was also important to address one of the essential realities of our time – globalization.  <PAUSE: I just got THE biggest guilty pleasure inserting that link for globalization – the link is to Wikipedia.  Citing Wikipedia as a source in academia is a major no-no, so I had to do it here for kicks> Thomas Friedman brought the topic of globalization to the masses in his book The World is Flat, […]



Global Missional Leadership

I had the pleasure of enjoying a couple of hours at the SeaTac airport this morning with Jason Clark, who had a layover between his flights from Portland to LAX (I know, the route doesn’t make sense, but since those flights made our little meetup possible, I’m not complaining).  Jason is a pastor from London, and a point-person in the Emergent UK conversation.  He’s also a graduate of the George Fox Seminary program that I’m set to finish up (tomorrow morning!!!). We met to conspire about a brand new program that Jason is developing with George Fox – a Doctor of Ministry in Global Missional Leadership.  It is geared toward reflective theological practice within a global context.  There are a number of things that excite me about this new program.  First, it isn’t “global” in name only – in addition to the course content and readings, there are three face-to-face […]



Movie Review: Slumdog (Untouchable) Millionaire

Note: This isn’t really a movie review per-se.  It’s more of a reflection from a guy who doesn’t watch many movies, and is, therefore, unqualified for such a task. This weekend I followed the masses and went to a theater to watch the recent Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire.  I had heard from a wide variety of people how good the movie was.  I had heard a couple of radio interviews with the director as well.  The fact that the film told the story of extreme poverty in India, which I was able to witness first-hand last summer, was all the motivation I needed to see it. The movie was as good as advertised.  It tells a compelling story of survival, love, and faithfulness.  It does so while giving a glimpse of the complex changes taking place in India – the extreme disparity between the super-wealthy and the slums.  The framing device […]