Archive for April 2008

No Recession

April 30, 2008

FEDS: No Recession; Economy Grows 0.6%

Don’t misinterpret the posting of this news article. I am not happy about a slowed economy, the sub-prime mortgage crash, or lowered consumer confidence. These are worrisome stats.

But this posting in an I Told You So from a couple months back in some discussions a few of us were having on FaceBook. I said that we were not in a recession, even as the media kept repeatedly using the word.

Words mean things. A recession is defined as 2 consecutive quarters of negative growth in the GDP. We haven’t even had 1. And there are some signs that we may beging to pull out of “slow growth mode” by the fall.

Bottom Line: Don’t listen to the media.

Booya.

P.S. Eric, Joel, JK, Bryce and Avin…and don’t even bring your Ron Paul-Austrian Economics smack-talkin’ over here.

I’m sorry, Harvey.

April 30, 2008

I owe Harvey an apology.

When I was about 17, I used to work with a guy named Harvey. He was a gifted musician. (a real “shredder” – as this was circa 1988). He was into Speed Metal and “Industrial” music at the time (he got me into the band Yello).

But not many people in our little town really “got” Harvey. Harvey was eccentric. He was artsy. Has very west-coast. Well, he was a little weird. But weird in the cool, creative, artsy kind of way – not the creepy perverted kind of weird.

Harvey wore tight pants and loose shirts, old sneakers and had a Sideshow Bob curly red mop of hair. He was a little socially awkward. But I really liked him. I saw potential in him. Aside from the religion stuff, I kind of looked up to him.

Anyway, Harvey and I would often talk about religion. Harvey knew I was a Christ-follower. He would ask questions, and I would do my best to answer them. It must have made some sort of impact on him because the day I invited him to go to church with me, he actually said he would consider it. I was thrilled! It was one of my first ever experiences with relational evangelism and I was pumped about it.

But then suddenly a feeling of dread came over me. Wait a minute – my church (pre-Oakbrook) was full of old white people who liked twangy music. Our pastor at the time was a once-retired Southern Baptist minister who specialized in fiery sermons and cute anecdotes. Our congregation was the kind who “dressed up” for services and called one another “Brother” or “Sister”. I was starting to sweat now. We had some pretty agressive hand-shakers there, too. Would they scare Harvey off? I wondered what people’s reactions to Harvey would be.

Well, Sunday came and Harvey actually did show up. I was excited, but I was also nervous. The service was just beginning and Harvey walked in. I got up and shook his hand and asked him to come sit with me. He declined, saying he’d prefer to stand against the back wall by the exit. (I understood.)

People were generally nice to Harvey, but there were some obvious “looks”. Who’s the new guy? Why is he here? Is he with Jeremy?

The next 90 minutes or so is a blur to me. I was nauseous. I wanted SO MUCH for Harvey to heard the good news and to understand what Jesus was all about. But it didn’t happen. Instead we sang lame song after lame song, the announcements took forever long, and the sermons was about as applicable to Harvey’s life as a 3-piece suit. I was embarrassed by my church. And Harvey left – early.

This story came back to my mind today as I was reading Tim Stevens new book, “Pop Goes The Church.” And it has prompted me to write the following:

Dear Harvey,

I owe you an apology. I’m sorry for dragging you to a place that offered you nothing of the wonderful saving grace of Jesus Christ. I’m sorry that experience cemented in your mind that Christians are completely out of touch with reality, and that their faith experience would never be relevant to your life. And I’m sorry that I just wasn’t mature enough in my own faith to recognize these facts in advance, and try to steer you to another path that would have been more, “you”.

If you ever read this, I hope you will find some satisfaction that your experience with my old church had a radical impact on my life. I became determined after that to be part of a congregation that values people who are far from God, who tries to relate to people who are searching for answers, and one that would welcome people of all spectrums with open arms.

Harvey, if you’re still out there, and you still have spiritual questions…I hope you’ll look me up again and give me (and Christianity) another shot. I promise it will be different than last time.

Your friend,

Jeremy

Vindication!

April 29, 2008

MPAA Chief Concedes: Pirates Also Go To The Movies
IMDb Studio Briefing

The head of the Motion Picture Association of America, an organization that some Internet users have accused of using legal strongarm tactics to prevent them from downloading recent movies from the Web, has acknowledged that the downloaders go to movie theaters in far greater numbers than others. Speaking to the National Press Club in Washington on Monday, Glickman suggested that his organization is attempting to come up with a business model that will accommodate Internet users. “There’s no question in my mind that the studios hear their customers loud and clear on this point,” he said. “There are technology and policy issues to work through. But we’ll get there, advancing both the theatrical experience and the anytime, anywhere enjoyment of movies that consumers clearly want today and that technology is making possible. I think we’ll soon see some progress that will really open up how exciting this future could be for all of us.”

Obama and Christians

April 27, 2008

I hesitate to post this one. I decided to go ahead anyway, but first I wanted to point out a few things:

  1. As is true with all posts on this blogsite, these thoughts are entirely my own and have no reflection on Oakbrook Church or any of the rest of its staff.
  2. Remember that you are visiting my blogsite – and this space is reserved for whatever thoughts I am having at the moment. You can write whatever you want on your site. 🙂
  3. If you don’t like the topic or the content of this article, then please be invited to take a pass on this one..but don’t forget to come back for the next one!

OK. Enough disclaimers.

I have noticed that quite a few of my Christian friends and aquaintences all across the country seem to be supporting Obama these days. I can tell by the “bumper stickers” on their FaceBook accounts, their announcements on Twitter about rooting for Obama in the debates or in the Jermiah Wright controversy, and I’ve seen references on their blogsites. Some of these people are involved with highly visible and influential churches across the country…probably names you would recognize.

One commonality these supporters have is the kinds of churches they come from. They are all from ultra contemporary, post-modern, or emergent style congregations.

Another commonality these Obama supporters have is their youth. They are almost all in their 20’s and 30’s.

A third commonality is that these supporters are attracted to the causes of social justice, fighting poverty and disease, environmentalism, and volunteerism. This one should not surprise anyone. Anyone who has an authentic, vibrant relationship with God SHOULD have some righteous anger about them. Taking care of the world, feeding the poor, freeing the oppressed, healing the sick are VERY CHRISTIAN values.

A fourth commonality seems to be war fatigue coupled with a disenfranchisement of the existing political system. This is also understandable. A lot of people feel this way (not me – but that’s another post.)

Something that makes total sense to me is Obama’s “hope and change” mantra. People ARE sick of certain things. People want to be part of something that seems to be a positive turn. This makes total sense to me. But here’s my big problem: those things that are attractive about Obama come with strings attached. They come with a high cost (and I’m not talking dollars.) What is that cost? What are the strings?

It’s this: no matter what public perception is, no matter what the P.R. people have “packaged” for us, no matter how many cool YouTube videos will.i.am makes or how many stump speeches Oprah makes, there is the following truth:

Barack Obama is a hard-core liberal. And everything that comes with it. (visit OnTheIssues.Org if you don’t believe me.) Here’s what that means:

That means abortions – and lots of them.
Obama even voted to protect the grotesque practice known as “partial-birth abortion”. He supports Roe v. Wade. And he would no doubt nominate justices who believe as he does – that the Constitution is a living, breathing “conversation”, not a static declaration of law.

It means being pro-homosexuality.
Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) told a crowd at Hocking College in Nelsonville, Ohio, Sunday March 2nd that he believes the Sermon on the Mount justifies his support for legal recognition of same-sex unions. He also told the crowd that his position in favor of legalized abortion does not make him “less Christian.”[…] “If people find that controversial then I would just refer them to the Sermon on the Mount, which I think is, in my mind, for my faith, more central than an obscure passage in Romans.”

He has also stated that he would be “the most pro-gay president in history.”

It means higher taxes, more spending on entitlement programs.
These policies hurt (not help) poor minority families the most on the following basis – we create an underclass that is dependent on the government to survive. That is cruel. We should instead be teaching people to become self-sufficient. I think there is a spiritual component to this. It is economic enslavement.

It means being lenient on criminals, expecting the state to do the job of the Holy Spirit.
Obama supports alternative sentencing and rehabilitiation over jail time. When has the government ever succeeded in changing hearts and minds of criminals from evil to good? As Christians we should know that the only thing that can do that is the power of God working in us. But he does support harsher penalties for one particular type of crime – Hate Crimes. Obama supports you getting extra punishment if you thought bad things about your victim because of race, sex, religion, or sexal preferences.

And…
He wants to pass out condoms at taxpayer expense, says its OK for Public Education Kindergartners to be taught about homosexuality, and wants a path to citizenship illegal immigrants and guest workers, and even extending welfare and Medicaid to them (this is all verifiable at the OnTheIssues website).

So I’m sorry if this offends you, but as a Christ-follower myself, there is no way that I could vote for this. I love you guys at these other churches and what you do. I love you heart for people and your passion for ministry. But I think you guys are sacrificing too much with Obama.

Hope and Change are wonderful initiatives. But what is the object of that hope? Is it in the government of men or is it in the power of God? Consider Chuck Colson’s message frrom 1994:

“Where is the hope? I meet millions of people who feel demoralized by the decay around us. The hope that each of us has is not in who governs us, or what laws we pass, or what great things we do as a nation. Our hope is in the power of God working through the hearts of people. And that’s where our hope is in this country. And that’s where our hope is in life.”

AFI List Progress

April 26, 2008

This article was originally posted February 22nd and Mar 6th 2008 on my Facebook “Notes”. It is reprinted here because I am moving some of those posts over to the blog site.
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As many of you know, one of the things on my “Bucket List” (yes, long before the movie came out), is to see every single movie on the American Film Institute’s 100 Years…100 Movies list. So how am I doing? I’ve only got 14 movies to go! That’s right – I have seen 86 of the best movies ever made.

What are my thoughts so far?

MOST OVER-RATED FILMS IN MY OPINION:

#4 Gone With The Wind. (1939)
Seriously. These are dysfunctional people. Grow up! (Beautiful cinematography though.)

#8 On The Waterfront. (1954)
I’m sure Brando’s method acting was a smash hit in 1954. Just please…make it stop now.

#21 The Grapes of Wrath. (1940)
We get it. The depression sucked. It has important life lessons…blah blah blah.

#25 E.T. (1982)
How did this after-school television special make it into the top 100?

#36 Midnight Cowboy. (1969)
OK, in 1969 this might have been cool….no really, it’s terrible and would suck even if you were on acid.

#37 The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
Help…I’ve fallen asleep…and can’t wake up!

#39 Dr Zhivago (1965)
If I hear that song one more time I’m going to stab myself in the ears.

#47 Taxi Driver (1976)
Ummm…OK…it’s the “anti-hero” thing. I guess.

MOST PLEASANT SURPRISES

#12 Sunset Boulevard (1950)
It’s smart, sharp, dark, and daring.

#16 All About Eve (1950)
A bunch of chics having backstage drama? I thought it would suck…boy, was I wrong.

#26 Dr. Strangelove (1964)
It was cool before cool was cool.

#38 Double Indemnity (1944)
Wow…the My Three Sons dude can really act!

#40 North By Northwest (1959)
So how far CAN you drive the mistaken identity thing?

#59 Rebel Without A Cause (1955)
I can’t tell you exactly why, but I really loved it.

#67 The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
If you’ve only seen the remake – please erase your memory and then see this version instead.

#82 Giant (1956)
Wow…a wonderful epic film. Makes startling racism commentary for its time.

#89 Patton (1970)
I really tried to hate this film. But I just couldn’t.

#93 The Apartment (1960)
A very pleasant surprise for me.

#96 The Searchers (1956)
Long, drawnout western – are you kidding me? NO! It’s awesome! John Wayne at his finest.

#99 Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner (1967)
If you’ve never seen a Syndey Poitier film all the way through, then YOU suck.

Recent Screenings:
Saw “Sophie’s Choice (1982)”, “The Wild Bunch (1969)” and “A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)” this week.

Sophie’s Choice (1982)
I really enjoyed this one – even though I thought I wouldn’t. I thought it was a chick flick and never really gave it the time of day. But it was an extremely well acted drama with two of my favorite actors in it (What? There’s other people in it besides Meryl? Of course!). The lawyer dude from Alley McBeal is actually the main character, and it’s the feature film debut of Kevin Kline (whom I love). The ending will leave you thinking about it for weeks.

The Wild Bunch (1969)
I think the Director intentionally did a big “screw you” to the audience, a la “I’m going to make you care about some characters, and then intentionally make them die needlessly and extremely violently right in front of you.” I guess the film could be taken as a metaphor for the death of the western genre given that it came out in 1969, but it seems to me to have more in common with the anti-hero films of the early 70’s. In many ways, this film could be seen as the predecessor to Quentin Tarrantino type films.

A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
I’m glad I saw the supposed “director’s cut” which has the additional 3 minutes of footage in it, because even with them I nearly missed the inference of sexual assault (I mean it WAS 1951). Reading some things on the net after I watched the movie also helped, as it filled in the holes for me (because I’ve never seen the play.) In particular it helped me understand why Stella makes her choice at the end. It is a very interesting character study – and I did come to appreciate the awesome acting in the film. I even liked Brando in it – which is something considering how much I hated On The Waterfront.

The Three-Legged Stool

April 26, 2008

This article was originally posted February 4th, 2008 on my Facebook “Notes”. It is reprinted here because I am moving some of those posts over to the blog site.
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This is certainly not my original thought, but it does seem appropriate to bring it up on the eve before Super Tuesday.

True Conservatism can be likened to a 3-legged stool. The first leg is National Security/Foreign Policy. Conservatives are for a strong military, an enforcement of legal immigration, a strong stance against terror, and a belief that America should take the lead in foreign policy, protecting American interests and sacrificing our sovereignty to no one.

The second leg is fiscal conservatism (which actually has a lot in common with Libertarianism.) The basic gist is lower taxes, smaller government, less intrusion and regulation – get government out of the way and let people prosper.

The third leg is social conservatism. Everyone knows what this means. It is the moral center – the conscience of a conservative. It is what causes us to be pro-life, to fight injustice, to promote families and protect people’s right to practice their religion. It influences what kind of judges we appoint and where we fall on issues like embryonic stem cell research.

This three-legged stool metaphor is the foundation of modern conservatism as taught by Barry Goldwater, and flawlessly applied by Ronald Reagan.

As I see it, there is only one candidate remaining which can make a credible claim to each of the three legs. McCain has actually said in interviews that he is not interested in attracting fiscal conservatives or social conservatives. The only leg he can claim is National Security. Huckabee is strong on the social issues, but is weak on the fiscal ones and is non existent on Foreign Policy. Ron Paul owns fiscal conservatism, but he stops there. But Mitt Romney could make a legitimate claim to all three.

But even so, I still have my problems with him. He is slick and polished and totally reeks of established politics. He is totally whitebread and appears clueless about the cultural world I relate to. He is a Mormon, which gives me pause. I am not sure I can trust him all the way – and I’m not even so sure why that is. There is just “something” about him…

But stepping back a bit, selecting Presidents is not supposed to be like American Idol, where you vote for the good-looking superstar. It’s not like the Oscars where you reward people who major in superficiality. We are not selecting a spokesperson or a poster boy or a mascot. Looking good on television and delivering the wittiest 10-second soundbite should not be the highest qualities on our list. We are choosing a leader who is supposed to have the undeniable gift of leadership, principled and firmly-held beliefs that he can articulate, an optimistic vision for the future of all Americans, and impeccable personal character.

I wish we could find one like that.

Thinking about Race

April 26, 2008

This article was originally posted January 21st, 2008 on my Facebook “Notes”. It is reprinted here because I am moving some of those posts over to the blog site.
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I do not believe there is such a thing called “race”. I believe that every single human is descended from Adam and Eve. I believe that every person now on the planet is descended from the sons of Noah – a single family. Their descendants repopulated the earth. I believe that God instituted difference in language at the tower of Babel. This caused people of like language to separate from the whole and create smaller groups (subcultures.) Then these groups migrated and spread out all over the earth. But then they primarily married with only each other (like culture), producing children with a pre-disposition to the genetics of only that group and not the whole of human DNA . Is it any wonder that, over time, we could end up so different?

Just take a look at dog breeds for a moment. At one point in time, they all came from wolves. But over time with selective breeding (eugenics) it is possible to make thousands of very distinct breeds from miniature poodles and yorkies to St. Bernards and Great Danes. Some breeds are defined by color – others by muscle tone and bone structure. The same thing has happened to humanity.

The concept of “race” as it is expressed in the contemporary world is a flawed concept that I do not accept. We are all people. We are all from the same family. Many times, I am offended by the mere presence of the word. When I see the word on a form, I am tempted to write the word, “none.” There are no races. We are all humans made in the image of God.

So how do I teach my kids about skin colors or cultures you might ask. Easy. First, you should know that we never draw attention to skin color if we can avoid it. It’s not that we’re afraid of doing it – we are just intentionally trying for our kids not to think skin color first, no matter what. But if we do have to say it, we form our sentences the proper way – putting the emphasis on the nouns and not the adjectives.

Hypothetical Examples:

Instead of saying “the black man over there”, we would say to our kids, “that man over there with the brown skin”. And we don’t use this structure exclusively with only other colors, because we don’t use the term “white”, either. We say, “the girl with the peach skin.” Our girls know that they have “peach” skin.

If it is a female, we often say, “the girl with the pretty brown skin”, making sure there is a positive message to the color difference.

We had to use this wording recently with our 4 year old daughter. She often is playing with the same girl every day when I pick her up from day care. So I asked her, “Whos was that girl you were playing with? Is she your friend? What’s her name?” And she replied, “which one? I played with all the girls at school.” So I said, “the one in the pink shirt.” She didn’t remember. So I said, “she had braids in her hair.” She said, “a couple of them had braids in their hair, Daddy”, and named the possibilities. So I finally asked, “the one with the pretty brown skin, honey”, and she said “Oh! That’s my friend Jessica.”

On some days, I think the U.S. is getting closer to Dr. King’s dream – that “one day we will be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” On some days, its painfully obvious how far we have to go. But I look in my children’s eyes and hope that our efforts will pay off. That they will grow up not knowing anything of “race”, only that different people have different colored skin – no big deal.