“It means getting in trouble”

I’ll update more in full from the Sojourners Mobilization to End Poverty Conference (M2EP) when I have more time (and I’m more rested), but for now, here’s this awesome little tidbit.

On Sunday night, Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) gave the message at Shiloh Baptist Church, encouraging us to stand up for what we knew was right, namely the fight against poverty. He said, and I paraphrase, “When God tells you to do something, often it means getting in the way, it means getting in trouble.”

Well, John Lewis, a veteran of the US civil rights movement, isn’t just one for words. He leads by example and on Monday, after speaking at the first plenary session at M2EP, he picketed the Sudanese embassy in DC in non-violent protest, calling for a reversal of Sudanese President al-Beshir’s decision to expel international humanitarian groups from Darfur, and he (along with a number of other protesters, including four other congresspeople) was arrested.

You want an example of talking the talk and walking the walk? Look at this 69 year-old congressman, whose faith inspires him to get in trouble.

Happy Earth Day!

It’s Earth Day!

A couple things of interest:

First, a Wired article by J.J. Abrams (of Felicity, Alias, Lost, Cloverfield and the new Star Trek movie) on the magic of mystery.

And second, check out this short film, Chicken a la Carte. It was a top prize-winner at the Berlin International Film Festival 2006.

Jon Stewart on Torture

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Culture, Technology & Theology

One of the classes I’m in is Theology & Culture with Barry Taylor. I love it. We’re looking at the way in which God can be found in various aspects of culture. This week, we looked at media, and we noted how technological advances have revolutionized not just media and media communication, but how technology has also lent itself to a developing theology. Barry made the point that technological advances have laid the groundwork for imagination to play a more central part in shaping our realities; not that imagination (or vision, as someone else phrased it) was not previously involved in the process of seeing and working towards a better or alternate reality, but that it’s place is becoming more central and its potential is becoming more wide-ranging. At least, that’s how I understood his point.

A year ago, I wrote a paper on spirituality and technology in the 21st century. My basic point was that technology is a boon to us–it allows us to do so much more than we were ever able to–in this specific case, in terms of communication, with email, with social networking, with sites like YouTube and Twitter; but that we need to be aware of how it impacts us and how it influences us. This is a particular challenge since technology is such a part of our lies that it is often difficult to see what influence it has upon us. But we need to be active and proactive in engaging with culture, in seeing how God is working in the culture we inhabit, in the technological advances that we see and the benefits that they bring, as well as being aware of the pitfalls and risks. Media and technology and their benefits for culture and spirituality can only be properly enjoyed and appreciated if its challenges to culture and spirituality are also properly understood and engaged–the best way to engage is with an eye on the whole picture.

I love technology. As a musician, I love the convenience of being able to carry my entire music collection around on my laptop. I have over four thousand songs in my library, and assuming (generously) that a CD can hold fourteen or fifteen songs, that would equal almost three hundred CDs. As someone who lives on a different continent to most of my family and many of my closest friends, I appreciate th ease with which technological advances have allowed me to chat with friends over IM or talk to people long-distance for cheap (or free). As an activist, I love that the internet can be utilized to bring people together for a common goal, to share with and to encourage one another.

But I’m also distinctly aware of the challenges that technology poses: the temptation to avoid silence and contemplation having so much with which to distract myself, the tendency to waste time browsing inane websites (and there are A LOT), the abuse of the internet to spread falsehoods and malice, the multiplicity of creative TV shows that can take up much of one’s time (to the point where one doesn’t even take time to be creative oneself!).

As a church, as Christians, we need to be engaging with culture; we need to be seeking God in culture and seeing where he’s working. I think if we really open our eyes and look for him, we’ll be surprised where he shows up.

Speaking of media, there’s a new NBC drama that I love. It’s called “Kings,” and it’s based on the biblical story of David, translated to a fictional modern kingdom. Apart from the fact that Chris Egan, who plays David, seems to always have a look on his face as if you’ve just wounded him (I suppose that’s the natural look for a young, righteous hero), it’s been interesting to see how the writer Michael Green has brought this story to life for modern times. Here’s a teaser video for the premiere episode.

Talking with our enemies? Oh dear.

In recent weeks, the criticism of President Obama has shifted to his foreign policy, and specifically his stance on talking with our enemies (namely, that we should do it). This weekend, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and John Ensign (R-NV) decried Obama’s warm handshake with President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela as “irresponsible” and naive.

Venezuelan TV posted some video of Obama and Chavez conversing. As Jake Tapper of ABC notes, the body language isn’t quite as warm as it’s been cast.

Chavez Obama
by noticias24

Anyway, I suppose it’s possible that people might see Obama being open to people like Chavez. the Castros of Cuba, and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as going soft on America’s ‘enemies’. As Gingrich put it, “It does matter to the world if the United States tolerates a vicious anti-American propaganda campaign, and then smiles and greets the person who has systematically been anti-American his entire career.”

I’d raise a couple of points in response to this:

  1. What happens when America is acting anti-American, contrary to the ideals that we seek to propagate? What happens when we aren’t in favor of freedom, liberty and justice for all, if not in word then in deed, policy and action? What happens when we let tragedies like Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans happen, tragedies that belie a lack of care and even racism, whether conscious or unconscious? What happens when we deny human rights to prisoners, when we torture? Don’t these things undercut the foundation we claim to stand upon? Doesn’t that make these things un-American or anti-American? [While this isn’t what Chavez and Ahmadinejad criticized about the US, I think the point remains.]
  2. Building on the previous point, as Christians, we have even less stake in a “my country, love it or leave it” approach. Jesus tells us love both our neighbors and our enemies. How exactly this translates into a political sphere is tricky and requires nuance, but the point remains, I think. God’s heart, as revealed in Scripture, is and always has been for the nations, and not just for a chosen people; our loyalties lie with the kingdom of God, and an ethic of love, life, mercy, grace and justice, before any earthly kingdom. So we extol these qualities wherever we find them, in whatever nation we find them; and we decry their abuse wherever we find that.
  3. Not talking with a country because they don’t like us strikes me as rather counter-intuitive. I don’t think I’ve ever really changed my opinion of anyone because they stopped talking to me; isolation only reinforces already-held positions. What disagreements or misunderstandings or differences have been worked out by not talking to each other? I understand that at an international and political level, it’s a little more complicated than this, and there are arguments about security, caution, etc. And I’m not saying that we go in blind or ignorant to the dangers–I’m certain President Obama isn’t either–but you don’t defuse hostile situations by being hostile. Unless you wipe out the other side. Which is (1) a strategy for an antiquated age; (2) even less Christian.
That’s my two cents on the topic. Or my tuppence. Depending on which side of the Atlantic you live.

Checking off this weekend

Play softball: check.

  • My first proper exercise in five weeks! And I went 6-8 in our pickup games and got a little sunburned to boot. Oh, how I’ve missed the glorious ache of well-used muscles.

Get homework done: check.

  • Wrote a journal entry and a book review, and read about 250 pages on Bonhoeffer, including the first half of Letters & Papers from Prison. Expect some quotes, poems, and more things Bonhoeffer on the Nog soon.

Get ASC work done: check.

  • Attended to various emails, forms, admin stuff. Tiring. But it needed to be done.

Go to church: check.

  • This morning, Don Miller–author of Blue Like Jazz, To Own a Dragon, and a few other books that adorn my bookshelf, as well as a good friend of Ecclesia–gave the sermon from John 20:19-31; Liz has a good writeup. I like Don and agree (generally) with much of what he has to say (as found in his books), but like Liz, I was a little surprised at the tack he took regarding doubt this morning. I’m not sure whether or not he meant to be as down on doubt as he actually was, or whether it was an unintended corollary of being so assertive about the necessity of having faith in Christ (with which I agree). You can check out the podcast by searching Ecclesia Hollywood on iTunes; or just go here: it’s up now.

Watch Arsenal beat Chelsea in the FA Cup Semi-Final and the Mariners sweep the Tigers: …

  • I suppose I had been riding high a little bit, sports-wise. Can’t have that lasting too long now, can we? *sigh*

Finally, go support the movement to free Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi. You can do this on twitter (@freeroxana) and Facebook. And for more information on the story, check out this BBC news article.

Mariners lose

Yeah, I’m not gonna blog about them for a little while …