Monday, December 28, 2009

Identity Crisis and the Evangelical

I'm always concerned with the amount of energy many evangelicals put into defining what they are not. It is really quite sad. It reminds me a a certain pericope where Jesus describes two men praying - you know the one. The evangelical says, "I thank you God that I'm not like this Catholic, damned to hell and really not getting what you are all about Lord." Seriously, isn't it about time we focused on what we are? Better still, isn't it time we learned to see what is good and best about others instead of trying to stake a claim that alienates us from everyone else including others who call on the name of Jesus (really the only scandal I think we can claim with authority). Maybe I'm just realizing how my training to seek out Christ in any and every circumstance I find myself in has jaded my view of exclusivist stances. It certainly hasn't made me a naive inclusivist, but I'm certainly more inclusivist than exclusivist. Jesus got really upset at his disciples for wanting to rebuke certain Jewish exorcists for using Jesus' name. If that doesn't at least warrant a look before your leap attitude towards other people of faith - then what does? Just some food for thought.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

A Secular Age - Introduction

"This is typical of the modern condition, and an analogous story could be told by many an unbeliever. We live in a condition where we cannot help but be aware that there are a number of different construals, views which intelligent, reasonably undeluded people, of good will, can and do disagree on. We cannot help looking over our shoulder from time to time, looking sideways, living our faith also in a condition of doubt and uncertainty." C. Taylor, A Secular Age, p11.

Taylor opens up this monster of a book with his effort to describe a current trend of secularity. Taylor presents three understandings of a secular moment in history: the removal of references to ultimate reality in public spaces; a decline in participation in religious practices; and the loss of support for religious practices because such activities are no longer considered culturally normative and may even be spurned by large segments of society. This last definition is what Taylor feels describes today's Western society, faith is no longer assumed rather it is questioned when it is exhibited. I think Taylor is right and I'm looking forward to his tracing of this secular condition.

A couple of comments though, and I'll let everybody weigh in.

1) I think Taylor is careful to trace out the dimension of care for cultural diversity (especially in regards to religious experience/expression) that ultimately leads to this secular age. This is the big question for political philosophers - how do we deal with diversity in a liberal democracy. As is the case in other Taylor works, his Hegelian search for historical displacements, moments when society opted to resolve the tension between two or more views on issues such as human freedom, and to trace out what is lost in those transformations will come in handy to define how we got to this secular age.

2) In this introduction Taylor hints that he will trace the influence of academia on public thought. I am hoping. As a theologian I've seen a lot of disconnection between my discipline and the lived experience of religious communities. I suspect that a robust theological imagination would help these religious communities navigate this secular age. I am referring to something more intellectually honest than the current anti-postmodern apologetics that I too often see being read by religious practitioners. I'll be watching this aspect of Taylor's discussion keenly.

3) Taylor has a bigger goal than merely tracing the loss of a religious core to society. He sees this secular age as a moment of "purely self-sufficient humanism" which Taylor sees as a transitional form spelling the end of naive religiousity and beckoning a new era (axial perhaps) of religion that relates to society in intellectualy and spiritually engaged ways. This is similar to the idea of postmodernity as a provisional name for a shift that we are in the midst of, and a moment that might hint at where we are going but really is throwing open possibilities the modernist mind is not willing to entertain. Unfortunately this moment also is a time of retrenching and trying to recapture the lost naivity; the rise of religious fundamentalism throughout the world is evidence of this trend.

A Time to Recharge...

Sorry if it has been quiet around here. This has been a great time of recharging. I'm trying to get caught up on my Early Reviewer's book reviews! Three books are in the queue and one from Thomas Nelson, which is a study bible that I'm frankly bored with. Oh well, work needs to be done. I am also mulling over the intro to Taylor's Secular Age which I need to blog about soon. Soon...

Sharon got a really awesome camera for Christmas, so I've been playing with that a lot. A Canon Rebel XSi. We have been talking about buying a DSLR for about three years and last year we were going to spend all the Christmas money from family on one - but life intervened. This year we made good, it was really the one big gift we got and it is something for both of us. Sharon does a lot of scrapbooking so she takes lots of photos, and well I like shooting them! Although the 16G SD card was definitely overkill - I almost fell over when I saw how many photos it can hold. After playing with it for a few days now I can see why my buddy Richard loves his Rebel so much, it is a fantastic camera, with tonnes of shortcut controls all over the body. I'm working through the for Dummies book for this model, Richard recommended that one to me, it is really thorough.

I've also been back at my stamps. I cleaned up my office and as soon as my desk was clear I was able to pull out an album and start working. I've cleaned up a few stock pages of Chilean stamps that came from Andrew's dad's collection and two pages of state stamps from India (I love the older and odder material). Now I'm working on India (national) and my oldest has been helping me. I had a bunch of stamps like the one in the picture to sort, I asked her what the difference was - so she stared at them for a while correctly identified that some said postage and some had & revenue on them. Once we sorted those into two piles I told her the one with just postage has two possible watermarks, or thinnings on the paper in a specific design that shows up when the stamp is wet. So we laid them out to see if they had one star or many stars. I think that's the first time she's used watermark fluid - so exciting to share my hobby with her. Once they were sorted we mounted the one I was missing and put the rest into my trader stock. Then we went off to play picto-chat together on our Nintendo DSs (I'm not sure why they like that especially when they like to sit next to each other and chat??? But it was a chance to hang out with her which I appreciated.)

Today we have a bit of a party. I have to get back at my school work soon too - I have a deadline of the 6th for an outline of my project proposal. I think it will take me a few months to put together - will I ever get used to feeling inadequate to the task? I feel like there is so much work at the front of the PhD that I'm not able to adequately devote myself to research until I've locking in on what I'm doing? I would like to take a few months just to do exploratory research and then draft my proposal. But that is not the programme.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Avatar was all kinds of Awesome!

After hearing my buddy Richard reluctantly telling me how good this film was I knew I had to see it. I highly recommend this film, in 3D if possible. The 3D isn't kitschy here, it only adds to the immersive experience. The visuals are stunning. I'm not a big fan of excessive CGI and this movie has a lot of CGI. But it is convincing, you are in an alien environment. I saw Cameron's IMAX The Deep and so I was not expecting Cameron to do CGI well - I was wrong. It was amazing!

The story is simple, but that works. The environment is an amazing rich character in this film - so having a huge complex story would just be overwhelming. Just because the story is straight forward do not assume there is no depth here. I should say that story is classic and allows Cameron to explore deep themes in this film. The obvious theme is one of cultural domination that is rooted in the ignorance of the dominating species. But there is so much more in this theme. The ecological themes actually take a similar track - and turn back on the humans as a indictment against our own despoiling of our planet.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Remotely Saddened

Is it right to have so little faith in your government? I have really not been paying more than peripheral attention to Copenhagen because I felt Canada would be more obstructionist than helpful. I really dislike this government - I voted, just not for them. So why am I so sad about it? Part of the problem is that what this administration is doing will continue to be an obstruction to the next government. But really, my kids are the ones who will pay the price. And seriously, the price will not be near what it will be for those in the have-not countries. What will it take for our species to pull our collective heads out of our asses and do something? Probably more than our species will be able to survive.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

From Dread Oom to Bedroom!

So we have a house guest for the next month or so. BJ has been in Yellowknife for the last couple of years and it is good to have her back. She has some great stories! Next week I'm back to work, I have to outline my thesis proposal and spend some time researching a few areas I identified through my comp prep. I am still riding the high from finishing my comps so well. I have two big jobs I want to accomplish before Christmas - shopping and cleaning out my office. It sure felt good to clean up the studio. If I can get my office in shape then I'll be all set for next semester.

Just a heads up. I'm starting to read Charles Taylor's Secular Age with some friends (historians actually). We are going to be posting as we go, I have the intro so it should be up in a week or so. If you are interested in joining in on the fun you will have lots of posts to comment on and I'll post the reading schedule so you can follow along. I'm also open to guest posts for those so inclined - just let me know and we'll trade emails.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The Dread Oom

Years ago we partitioned off almost half the basement as a practice studio. I built a rack into the wall (I have enough gear to provide sound for a small concert) and a custom mixing desk and one wall has many, many coat pegs for all my cables. It's really quite crazy considering we've only used it as a studio a handful of times since the kids were born. We used to use it all the time too, and I suspect we'll use it again. But right now we need the space for a friend who is coming to Ottawa and needs a place to stay for a few weeks.

Right now the room holds tonnes of miniatures and terrain for gaming, boxes of unsorted stamps on paper, CDs, more CDs, liturgical supplies, defunct computers (I counted four!) and music gear (including a full drum kit!). Oh did I mention dust bunnies? I've been sucking those beasts up all afternoon. I also have a few old computers in the garage so I'm going to make a trip to the recyclers soon. I'll probably scam the hard drives from the computers just in case - I used to do sensitive IT work.

I found a whole whack of cassette tapes, working tapes from when the studio did more than collect dust. I fired them up and was delighted to hear sessions with some old friends, and a tape an old dear friend made me a few years before he took his life. I carefully organized all these tapes and tossed a few others in the trash - mixed tapes? I also discovered that my CD player isn't working? It isn't the cable, my iPod worked fine. I'll have to see if I can fix it. Also I don't have a working set of headphones anymore, my really nice pair were trashed by one of the kids.

Once I have everything either thrown out or compressed into one side of the room, I have great plans to set the room up with a futon (we have) for our guest. I think we'll have a nice little room setup down there.