The Pope of America Takes on Reality TV
March 29, 2007, 8:07 am
Filed under: culture

What? You mean you didn’t realize America had a pope?? Say it with me – “Oprah.” Massive financial success and power, fiercely loyal following, self-styled spirituality for sale, generosity to others, literacy, oh the list goes on.

Her latest venture is sure to be an interesting one: unscripted drama (read “reality TV”). Variety.com is reporting that her company is developing a show for ABC called “The Big Give,” which “follows a group of 10 people who will be handed money and resources — and then challenged to find dramatic and emotional ways to use the coin to help others.” Whoever wins gets one of their own wildest wishes granted.

So many interesting questions here. Like this one – “Is this the commodification of generosity?” – or another way of putting it, “Who’s making money from other people giving it away? ABC? Oprah? Advertisers?” Or how about this one – “Are non-dramatic, non-emotional forms of giving now somehow inferior?” The questions about what all this communicates could go on for hours. I’ll leave it to you to ask some more. Mind you, I’m not trying to be a cynical jerk here – there are likely some more positive questions to be considered. I’m just trying to get the ball rolling.


Perkatory Cafe
March 28, 2007, 5:01 pm
Filed under: coffee, perkatory cafe, the purple door

Earlier this week, the Perkatory Cafe went live at The Purple Door. It’s a partnership between the college ministry I’m a part of, and a local church. We’re open for some limited hours to start with, but hopefully we’ll expand those as time goes. Good, fairly traded coffee will be served, along with a homey vibe, free wi-fi, and 15% more love than the other guys’ coffee shops. If you’re in Seattle, come on by and say hello. One hint, though – take the bus . . . sadly, vast amounts of parking isn’t on the menu.

And now for something completely different
March 28, 2007, 4:23 pm
Filed under: uncategorized

I quote the entirety of a local television “news” story:

A blind woman in Texas said she is coming under fire for her choice of a service animal. Tabitha Darling said she is being harassed by her property management because she and her 12-year-old pony, Trixi, live in a one-bedroom apartment in suburban Fort Worth.

Darling said Trixi is a seeing eye “dog” and wheelchair combined and is protected by federal law as a service animal. The woman rides Trixi several miles to work at Wal-Mart everyday, and Wal-Mart managers accommodate the pony with a specially built pen behind the store. Darling hopes to move to a house soon and said she got similar hassles when she lived in Idaho.

Denmark Observations – entry 4
March 25, 2007, 4:15 pm
Filed under: uncategorized

This will probably be my last entry in this series. I may have a random thought here or there, but this’ll do for now. Unfortunately, I don’t seem to be ending the series on an “up” note. Oh well.

While at a conference that involved missiologists, denominational seat holders, and other sorts of theological types, I was struck at how very stale the spiritual dynamics were there. Apparently, there was more interest in the state of Christianity at work in the world than interest in the way the Triune God is at world in the world. One could argue about the inevitability of an institutional feel at an academic conference of scholars, but if that’s truly the case, then I’d like to opt out of the academy. I just don’t believe that academics, and the dynamics of a living, working, redemptive God, are mutually exclusive. It’s far too easy to lose our way. The topic of Christianity in the Global South is hugely important – way more important than most Western Christians can conceive. But isn’t it the Spirit of God at work? Aren’t we called by the name of one that we believe has risen from death? The kinds of changes that we need to embrace in our radically changing world are not of the scholarly, reserved, staid variety – they are the changes brought about by compelling passion that refuses to stand still and be respectable.

I do not mean this post as a knock on anyone at the conference – they were a wonderful, gracious, hospitable group. I just hope that they (we) are able to integrate our hearts and souls into this intellectual work in a way that creates excitement and movement.

Denmark Observations – entry 3
March 22, 2007, 10:15 am
Filed under: Christendom, conference, culture, emerging church, travel

At the conference I attended at University of Aarhus last week, I very quickly noticed that I was the only person there that didn’t have some sort of affiliation with some form of the Lutheran church. There were faculty members from a few “public” universities in Denmark and Sweden, but by virtue of these countries having state-endorsed churches, they’re connected. Also, a couple of participants were there from the Lutheran World Federation mothership in Geneva.

I had one very interesting discussion over lunch with a couple of professors – one of whom has served at very high levels in the World Council of Churches. I was asked about the nature of the emerging church movement in North America, so we talked about that for a while. We also talked about the degree to which this kind of a renewal movement would be possible/likely within the Scandinavian context. They didn’t give the emerging church much of a shot at bringing about renewal – at least not within the state church. In large part, they said, it’s because if you start messing around with the ways they do church, you’re literally messing around with the ways they do citizenship in the country. Wow – very different. Interestingly (frighteningly?), one comment was made to the effect of, “You can deny the resurrection of Jesus, deny the virgin birth, deny the Trinity, but don’t you dare mess with baptism because that’s how citizenship is sealed.”

Is it any wonder that while everyone “belongs” to the church, virtually nobody shows up? Not to these professors. They’re in an interesting position, though – they are not officially employed by the church, so they don’t fear for the loss of their jobs, and yet they’re able to make some critiques based on their observations.

I actually do have a bit more hope for the emerging church viability than my learned friends. Mainly because of the decidedly non-Christendom approach that the emerging church ethos involves. It won’t require or significantly involve the state church to make it work. Tony Jones‘ recent trip to Scandinavia is a good example of some connections being made.

Within the context of a conference discussing the church in the global south and east, it’s more than a little ironic to me that the theological conversation is still very Euro-American centric, despite the fact that the church is far more alive in the south and east than in the west. It’s validated some of the directions of my doctoral work, but also potentially significantly shifted the practical focus of my work. I’m still chewing on some thoughts in that regard, but maybe I’ll put some sentences together here in the days to come.

Denmark Observations – entry 2
March 21, 2007, 7:32 am
Filed under: conference, culture, travel

I think it’s because my trip was so short that I never adjusted fully to the time shift, but I slept very poorly while in Denmark – average of about 3, maybe 4 hours of sleep. So I did a bit of Danish/German TV channel surfing. I watched a fair bit of CNN Europe (or whatever they call it). Anyway, this “world” news was extremely U.S.-centric. I wasn’t that surprised about it, but there were a couple of times where I thought, “Why do people in Denmark or Sweden or Germany need to know about an anti-meth ad campaign in Montana?” The funny thing was that there were all these U.S. news stories, with a few world (as in non-Iraq) stories mixed in . . . and then they went to the sports update. Rugby, soccer, cricket, sailing, formula one car racing . . . and one quick Kobe-Bryant-had-a-big-game basketball highlight. I think there was a gold update too. So the “world” aspect of CNN’s coverage appears to primarily concern sports. Apparently Europeans don’t care about regular local news, just sports.

In a somewhat related story, while I was at the conference in Aarhus, one of the speakers was from Nigeria. After he presented his paper, during a Q&A time, someone made mention of Western political and media influence – he responded to the question, but made an aside reference that woke me up: “Much of the time when it comes to how evangelicalism is presented in Africa, it is assumed that George Bush speaks for the evangelical church.” Well, now, that’s a bit of a problem, isn’t it? Regardless of how you personally feel about this prez and his performance, it’s jarring to hear that he’s assumed to be speaking not just for the U.S. government, or the people of the U.S., but for mainstream Christianity in the U.S. Apparently Christendom is alive and well. We have far to go.

Denmark Observations – entry 1
March 20, 2007, 6:17 am
Filed under: coffee, culture, travel

While only in Denmark for a few short days, I noticed some cultural stuff that surprised me. First, I was surprised at just how similar the popular clothing fashions are. In one sense, because of the global media and marketplace I shouldn’t be surprised, but my past experience traveling to Europe has been that there are a lot of similarities, with a few distinct oddities mixed in. This time there was an almost total lack of those oddities – about the only thing I noticed was that the females there LOVE the look of form fitting jeans tucked into calf to knee high boots (most with high heels). As for the guys, all I noticed was that they like scarves . . . oh, and all the shoe stores I saw were well stocked with these dress shoes that have extra long toe space with a squared off front.

Anyway, perhaps my biggest cultural surprise was something I didn’t see there: Starbucks. Not one. News of their global takeover has not reached Copenhagen. Long live the Danes!