Friday, June 29, 2007

[LIF] RPG Article

Hey all, a friend over at the Christian Gamer's Guild posted a link to this article. I always appreciate articles like this. I still run into Christians who bought the lies from the 80s about games like Dungeons & Dragons.

Just got back from Fantastic Four II, it wasn't that good. Better than the first FF, but that isn't hard to accomplish.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

[LIF] It is finished!

I just got back from the University. I dropped off my final paper - Bottled Water: An Ethical Inquiry. I get a bit preachy towards the end (and I bit Berryian). That is the final work left in my Bachelors of Theology degree! What an amazing feeling.

Monday, June 25, 2007

[THO] What is Sacred?

I've heard the critique of the sacred/secular split like this, "how dare we call our shit holy?" I understand that this sacred/secular notion has been used to entrench and justify a lot of liturgical insanity. We sometimes call this playing the God card, "well God gave it to me, so it has to be holy." I think this is a valid critique but it is far from sufficient. There is a deeper issue with maintaining a sacred/secular split.

The way we interact with the world, our elements and each other reveals a disturbing feature of the sacred/secular split. That of devaluation. We have devalued the earth and raped the planet. We have devalued humanity and sold our daughters into prostitution. Some might jump up at this point to protest their complicity. Before you do, I am not pointing fingers at any one of us - it is a problem of how we see things. And until we remove this false notion of sacred/secular we will always have the capacity to take our children, families, neighbours and world for granted. As long as we relegate those interactions to the realm of the secular we will have this problem, and we will be part of the problem.

For God there is no sacred/secular split in creation. Creation is at its most basic moment - very good. In fact the project of humanity is also part of that which is very good. There is an incredible potential locked within our species, it is so sad that we so rarely see it in full blossom.

Potential is always a double edged sword, and we demonstrate our understanding of this truth through the Adamic story. Sin is originary with humanity. Seen positively it shows the incredible capacity of humanity. In fact the curse turns this around and says that salvation will come out of humanity, or do we think that the incarnation of Christ was insignificant?

What we have done with the story of Adam's fall is to take all of creation down with him. Instead of seeing creation as full of potential, we have vilified creation. The more we submitted to this paradigm, the more we envisioned salvation as an escape from this "fallen" world. No longer were we able to recognize that all of creation declares the glory of God. We literally ripped heaven out of the earth and with it we sacrificed our souls on the altar of fear.

This leads us to an intense devaluation of creation. We see our world and humanity as something to struggle against as we reach for some celestial pie in the sky. We are desperate for something holy and so we fill that void with our ability to symbolically name our own constructs, created from our wants, desires and likes, as holy. And like good humans, we differentiate. Differentiation is a safetly reflex, we use it to determine good and bad, right and wrong. We use it to protect our own interests. So we lose our ability to see in creation many wonderful modes of divine mediation. We are empoverished. We are lost.

How can we turn this around? Well we need to change the way we tell the story. Instead of a flight from this world, we need to understand creation as God sees it. Living, holy, suffuced with God's presence, in God, held together by God's very Word, alive and full of life, good and full of potential. We need to recognize that we are home and our prayer is always to bring heaven to Earth, not the other way around (check out the Lord's Prayer).

Here are a few things worth meditating on:
1) God thought we were worth redemption - so why don't we see anything good in humanity?
2) God sees creation as very good, this is the first thing we learn from our Bible.
3) Jesus sent us to the world, just as he was sent to the world - God isn't joking about so loving the world.
4) Why do we live like God is something we claw our way to when Jesus promised to always be with us no matter where we are?

Saturday, June 23, 2007

[LIF] Games Galore

I showed up at my bi-weekly dungeon crawl to find an awesome surprise. The DM was parting with a boatload of games, IIRC he is downsizing the house since retiring. Now this wasn't just a few games, there were 6 or 7 players and we rolled off to see who got to pick when, we each had 10 rolls and that still wasn't enough! So I walked out of there with more than a dozen new-to-me games! My best score has to be RoboRally, the previous owner had wonderfully painted the robots too. This is a game simple enough to play with my daughters, and I tried it tonight, it is fun.

I got a number of what are called book shelf games, mostly military simulations. I'll probably not keep too many of those, finding a good home shouldn't be hard. I'm just not into recreating war - we have enough of the real thing already! I like short skirmish games a lot though, and adventure type games. Two of the games I picked up are the board game version of Civilization (with the Advanced set too) and the basic set of Talisman. Rich says Talisman is a great game, so I'm looking forward to trying that one with the kids when they are older.

I also picked up two from the Axis and Allies series. I remember playing these as a teen and liking them, at least the original. I'll probably not bother playing the Fortress America version as I heard it is hard for the US to lose, that sounds too rah rah America for my liking. Besides the US needs to have their arse kicked a bit.

I'd say that there were as many computer games to be given away, but thankfully I dodged that bullet. I find computer games far too addictive, my quality of life is much better without them. Oh and I picked up Trivial Pursuit with an expansion. Sharon wasn't as interested as I thought she'd be so I'll probably just find a new home for that one too. I'm going through the games we have and ditching those we never play. We are a family that loves games, all sorts of games. So it is nice to have a few new ones to throw in the mix. Thanks Ross!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

[THO] Paved Paradise

I have that old Joni Mitchell song playing in my head ever since reading about the ways we are destroying our last fresh water supplies. Probably a good thing, I need to have reminders like this to remember that warm water pouring over my head in the shower comes at a greater cost then the pittance we pay for it represents. Yet, let's be certain that the major players in water waste has to be industry, especially the agricultural industry.

Yeah, I've been reading Blue Gold (Maude Barlow & Toni Clark) in preparation for a paper I'm doing on the ethics of bottled water. It is so easy to ignore the basic facts of our situation. We simply don't want to think about it. Like Joni says, "you don't know what you've got til its gone." This makes me both sad and angry, especially at my complicity in this whole mess.

Studies have shown that simply by laying down pavement we are depleting the total sum of available fresh water on our planet. Water is not able to trickle down into the aquifers, instead we redirect it into rivers which take it out to sea where it becomes salinated, usable only at great energy cost which compounds the problems. Energy use is implicated in the overall warming of our planet which is decimating the great polar caps and glaciers at an alarming rate. For those who think the water levels won't rise, remember much of this mass of ice is over land (Greenland for instance) and will affect the sea level - don't take my word ask a Vanuatian. Sea water also intrudes on the sea coast aquifers we are draining faster than nature can replenish, this is a big problem because we absolutely need fresh water to survive.

So as I dried off from my costly shower, I made myself a coffee and came down to type this up on a computer (the IT industry is very water wasteful) and remember that my body is mostly made up of water! Something to think about.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

[THO] Guest Post at Theology and Faith

My contribution to Ben Meyers' recent series on transitions from one faith tradition to another is up. Check it out!

Monday, June 11, 2007

[LIF] Party Review - 5 out of 5 stars!

I have the most awesome wife ever! And I have some very incredible friends! Sharon invited a cross section of my friends, which was amazing. And Bergen and Anastasia helped her serve up an awesome dinner party, one that I'm sure we all will remember for a long time to come. Many, many thanks!

My night started when John and Mari showed up in their orange Element. John came in to get me and Mari wouldn't tell me where we were going. Sharon had left a earlier in the day to make ready at some unknown location. When we finally got there I recognized it was at Bergen and Anastasia's place, a para-transport was parked up ahead and I was excited because that meant my friends Andrew and Lori would be there as well! But alas the bus was there to pick up someone else.

We started into their building and missed the Diagon Alley sign Sharon had put up. But we didn't miss the Leaky Cauldron sign on the door to Bergen's place. So I knew it was a theme. When we went in Anastasia had her shirt on funny, she said it was to dress like the muggles who might show up. Sharon and Bergen also had some interesting arrangements to their outfits. Just inside I instantly saw Andrew! Yay. Andrew and Lori were there as well as Timo and Leah and Jeff and Melanie. This was going to be good. We started chatting and finding our places, the tables all had these amazing name tags on them - Sharon had worked hard! Soon Byron, the best next door neighbour in the world, came holding a beautiful wine box spouting Wild Thing! He had rigged it with a Hallmark gift thing and had a nice bottle of chilled sparking wine inside. Steve came and then my friend Richard to finish the even dozen dinner guests.

Gifts came out, including an expansion to Space Munchkin, a bottle of Port, a beautiful leather bound NET Bible and a copy of Dale Carnegie's Pathways to Success in hard cover. This was really cool because at Chapter six "How to make people like you instantly" there was a surprise! Let's just say you can't read anything past that point until page 535 which has the heading "I Found the Answer". Mari and John really know how to make Carnagie useful.

We were seated and the fun really got underway when out came a cake, black icing, huge candy cockroaches and enough candles to start a serious housefire! It was awesome, I did manage to blow them all out but just barely. I bet there were actually 40 candles on it!

Next the menus magically multiplied for our tables. They consisted of a list of Harry Potter references: Gillyweed Goop, Holly and Pheonix, Firebolts, Puffskein, etc. You got to pick three things and hope that one was a drink and the other utensils, you had three chances in this nine course meal. Timo's table found no cutlery the first go around, but they found out that the Daily Special was messy ice cream cake - fun to eat with your hands!

We figured out the beer was Boarshead (Moosehead beer) so we were set after that. The meal was awesome! We finished the courses, laughing up a storm. After the kitchen was opened up and we all ate our fill.

The best part though had to be surrounded with so many good friends from all over the landscape of my life. Bergen I met at St. Paul, Rich online as a fellow gamer, Steve I've known forever and he stood with me at my wedding, Timo was part of the old Vineyard and has been a good friend for years, Leah was part of the original Freedom Vineyard team, Lori was my friend at St. Paul and the Vineyard, Andrew was my pal from when I taught computer stuff, Jeff is my gamer buddy, Melanie I met through Jeff and is quite a poker player, Byron was the best nextdoor neighbour ever, Anastasia was part of my original D&D group, Mari is a really cool neighbour who became friends with Sharon and her hubby John is a gamer buddy playing in my current D&D campaign. And of course my dear wife Sharon is the best wife in the whole world!!!!!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

[THO] Anticipation

Sharon is planning a party for me tonight but there is a lot of secrecy on her part as to what it will entail. I am not even sure who is coming. The feeling is actually quite exciting and it reminds me of the anticipation of the Kingdom*.

Recently I've been chatting with a few folks about the misunderstandings of heaven. In our reading last Wednesday night Mark's gospel tells of an encounter with Jesus and the Sadducees where they try to trip him up over the issue of the resurrection. See the Sadducees didn't really believe in the resurrection, so they thought for sure they were going to nail this would-be prophet. But one phrase catches them and most of us, "You are badly mistaken!" (Mk 12:27b) A lot of us have our ideas of heaven so packaged up that we too are badly mistaken.

Heaven is not a straight forward concept in the New Testament. It exists in the beyond and the unknown. Someone asked if I believe in heaven, and I do. But I think we are often badly mistaken about the nature of heaven.

The primary reason is that we recognize the groaning of this world and it incites our flight response. Wouldn't it be great if we just got to completely start again? I think many of us are convinced that is exactly what will happen. There is a level on which this is true, but there is also the reality of this life that we need to take seriously. In fact it is this reality we should be committed to, because it is the only one we are fortunate enough to have agency in and towards. God knows that. He sent Jesus because of that. He sends us because of that.

Heaven is part of the hope package, but not in terms of a pie in the sky where someday we'll fly pipedream. No it is grounded in something imminently more real than that, and I find even more compelling. Heaven is part of the hope of the Kingdom. It is the utopian edge to this reality. Heaven for the OT prophets is the restoration of the goodness of the whole created order. When we see the Kingdom come, we see heaven break into our time healing, righting, loving and restoring! So indeed we taste the future that is coming in the present that is groaning, longing for the manifestation of all that is hoped to be. Unfortunately we live in the neverland of being badly mistaken and miss the fact that the gospel is supposed to be good news and not a story of destruction, decline and suffering.

In this sense Heaven, and the anticipation of heaven, is very much like me waiting for my party tonight. In some ways I can't wait. In others I am frustrated because it is not yet, which is so evident by my struggle with keeping the kids occupied while I await the promised event (they are mercifully eating lunch right now). Not that I don't enjoy this time right now, the time when the kids are doing things that grab my heart in a good way. Much like we should enjoy this life and the fundamental prelapsarian goodness that creeps around the edges of life. People are amazing. I spent last night with two of my dearest friends, and it was a really good time. But good as those things are the reminders are constant that we are only seeing in part. Injustice abounds at all levels of life. Including my own lack of patience with my kids. But I have hope, heavenly hope.

I have hope that tonight will be another night where the Kingdom of Heaven will shine in around the edges. But my anticipation is the edge that I want to focus on. We want to know who is in, who is out, who is coming, who is not. We want to know what it will be like, just like those Sadducees, we want to know who's wife she will be. But it is the unknowing anticipation that fills us with expectation of the goodness of God pouring forth. It is that sense that anything is possible, especially with God, that God calls us to live in. Not a waiting around for wings and a harp, but a looking for and forward to the Kingdom of Heaven breaking into the now with a taste of the future. We should stop pretending we know what beyond is like and enjoy the now God has graciously given us.

Otherwise we are just badly mistaken. I'm hoping you are not badly mistaken. God is good. We need to live like we really believe that. I'll try if you will? Let you know how the party tonight goes, and I hope to see you in the final party still to come!

* I know I promised a series on the Kingdom of God, and I will get around to it. But at this point things are just too hectic.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

[THO] Antichrist

I spent yesterday reading Nietzsche's Antichrist, let me tell you he doesn't pull out any punches! I am giving a short presentation on Nietzsche's critique of Christianity Monday morning. I read a bit more than Antichrist, but the bulk of my analysis is from this work. I pulled out three key criticisms:

1) Christianity precludes the more rational atheism of Schopenheaur and Feuerbach.

This is interesting because from my reading on these young Hegelians, the Christian God is God in man's image. In fact Nietzsche's project seems to be a positive one of trying to adopt Schopenheaur's atheism without also taking up Schopenheaur's pessimism. But apart from my obvious objections to claiming atheism is the only rational option there is something valid about Nietzsche's critique. Christianity hasn't played well with the other disciplines, especially science. While we shouldn't have to sacrifice our theism to engage with science and philosophy, it seems that even in Nietzsche's day fear ruled this crucial relationship. Thank God there are those who have decided to broaden the dialogue partners of theology in our day.

2) Christianity focuses on an otherworld and ignores the natural world.

I've echoed this criticism many times on this blog. I don't buy Nietzsche's efforts to connect this to the slave morality of a vengeful priestly class, but it is an important criticism to consider. Are we too heavenly minded to be any earthly good? I think so. The track record of Christians in response to the environmental crisis is the strongest affirmation of this indictment. There is obviously a need for understanding the Kingdom of God, but it is too easy to miss that the Kingdom is a reality that breaks into the natural reality. It is too easy for talk of heaven to be a lotus causing us to miss the call of the prophets for justice and mercy.

3) The doctrine of sin prevents Christians from growing as moral individuals.

Nietzsche rails against the idea of pity. His concern is that this idea is used to make the claim of equality. Hence the slave morality is enforced and Christians remain content with their lot in life. While Nietzsche takes this in some bizarre directions, he is right that Christianity hasn't been good at developing whole, mature moral individuals. The problem is that we focus so much on personal sin that we miss that there is so much more to life. Nietzsche is heir to the Lutheran emphasis on personal sin, he knows what he is talking about here. We need to be careful not to miss the great themes of life and scripture, yes sin is part of that, but it is not all there is to the Christian life.

Nietzsche is a hard read, like I said earlier he doesn't pull his punches. While I am not convinced by his philosophy of morality, I do find his critiques worth wrestling with. Maybe I'll try something a little less inciting next time though.

Friday, June 01, 2007

[LIF] Eco Tip #1

One of the things that has been frustrating has been finding eco-friendly alternatives for products we use frequently in our home. We are a busy family and it so unfortunately we rely on things like our dishwasher and our vehicle. I posted a while back that we managed to lease a VUE hybrid, and although it is probably the worst of the hybrids, it is better than nothing. Next time we are hoping the plug-in hybrids will be out!

On the cleaning product front we had found one product we really liked and then it was discontinued in Canada. Imagine how frustrating that is. It was a People Against Dirty product, not sure why Shoppers kept their spray products and dropped the dishwasher soap, but they did in Ontario at least. Sharon works for Shoppers and still couldn't get it. The problem with a lot of eco-friendly stuff is that it just does not work as well. It isn't like we can use extra elbow grease in the dishwasher, so I am ecstatic to tell you about our find!

Seventh Generation makes a dishwasher detergent that is non-toxic, chlorine and phosphate free, not tested on animals, free of perfumes and dyes, and get this - it works! In fact it is probably one to the best dishwasher detergents I've used!

We picked it up at Rainbow Foods, it is a bit more expensive than your typical dishwasher detergent, but personally I think having a home planet is worth more than the added cost!

BTW if you have found other really good solutions for the toxic products we keep putting into our drinking water, please let us know.