Death of the Conscience

Abbé PierreI just wanted to post a quick thought as I observe the mourning of the death of someone who many French people have been quoted as saying was France’s conscience: the Roman Catholic priest and advocate for the poor, Abbé Pierre.

I was talking to my Senior Bible class about the heroism of this man, and mentioned in particular his 1954 radio address to the nation calling for life-saving aid to the poor from the everyday people now.

What has struck me is that when you hear the people of France speak of l’abbé Pierre, it sounds like they’re talking about Jesus. Now of course, not a one of them mentions anything about God or Christianity (despite the fact that he was a priest, his motivation for helping the poor being spiritual in nature). In fact, here’s a quote from President Jacques Chirac (the language, of course, intentionally evokes the image of Christ by its employment of theologically-loaded language):

We have lost an immense figure, a conscience, an incarnation of goodness.
—(‘French homeless campaigner dies’ from the BBC)

What I’m wondering is, first of all, when will Christians start to realize that to live as Christ did is the best way to evangelize and make a difference in the world? and second, is the life of abbé Pierre actually going to make a difference in the public life of France (and perhaps Western Europe)? As I said, it was weird to hear people speak of this man in such an irreligious way. Is this cause for despair, or is his life a cause for hope for Christianity in Europe?

Third Wheel? (Blog #3)

Holy Spirit, Cathedra PetriPart of the Creed‘s statement about the Holy Spirit is that “with the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified,” which makes sense if we are to say that the Holy Spirit is God. However, I sometimes wonder if our worship is so equally distributed as the creedal statement seems to suggest.

Do we Christians acknowledge the Holy Spirit enough? Has he become, in our thought and practice, the proverbial Third Wheel of the Trinity? Do you personally feel that the Holy Spirit is given his rightful place in your life? How is that accomplished on a corporate level (i.e., within the Church communty) and on a personal level?

If you are not a student of mine, you can view this entry for a brief explanation of what I’m doing here.

Thoughts Inspired by a Grilled Cheese Sandwich

BVM_Grilled_Cheese.jpg

I came across an article today mainly about a skeptic responding to an occurrence I hadn’t heard about before.

That occurrence was, of course, the appearance of an image of the BVM on a grilled cheese sandwich. I guess the lady who noticed the image on her sandwich (ten years ago, by the way) is now selling it on eBay. Here’s an article about the actual story of the lady’s discovery and sale:

“Bids roll in for Virgin Mary grilled cheese”CTV News

I guess the bidding got upwards of $70,000.00…

Anyway, what really got me thinking was not even the sandwich, but this skeptic I read about in that first article. I guess he’s been “debunking” supposed myths like these for a long time. He goes around to all these different places with different images and pretty much just tells everyone how wrong they are. He is also appararently an expert on symbols, simulacra, etc.

I’m wondering why there are people so hell-bent on robbing people of their faith. What did a grilled cheese sandwich ever do to this guy? Another aspect of this is that these people are usually talking about how they are enlightening the dimwitted superstitious masses. I guess, at least in this instance, there is the issue of people “ignorantly” spending thousands of dollars.

Related to this, why do most of us feel the urge to have every little thing explained? Why can’t there be a little mystery? What happened to faith? And, bothering me the most at this point, why do we have to figure everything out for everyone else, even if they don’t necessarily want it to be figured out?

That skeptic said that images of the Virgin are more common because we all see simulacra (for example, an image in a cloud), but those who come from traditions with heavy use of visuals (i.e., icons/religious art) will be more likely to see these more religious images. More and more, I’ve been drawn to the more mystical side of Christianity, and I actually am okay with unanswered questions. I’m realizing that I need to be much more humble than I am and just be okay with my finiteness. God didn’t tell us everything for a reason.

So perhaps the skeptics are the ignorant and superstitious ones, clinging to the myth that human reason can solve and/or explain any problem. Maybe that sandwich, an iconic revelation of some divine mystery, really is worth seventy grand…

UPDATE: Hey, have any of you read Simulacra and Simulation by Baudrillard? I’ve had my eye on it for a couple years now (haha), but haven’t gotten around to getting it. Let me know what you think of it if you’ve read it.

UPDATE #2: I wish I could actually post to my own blog! Oh irony of ironies! The spammer fiends have free reign with my site, while I cannot even post comments to it! Anyway, the whole theological question of knowledge, especially the question of why God chose to limit our knowledge, is interesting. One thing that keeps coming back to me is that pursuing and gaining knowledge usually results in a loss of innocence. It seems like you have to betray part of yourself, trade it in so to speak, in order to gain most knowledge. Maybe that’s part of the whole thing. Oh, and the fact that we aren’t God. I guess that’s kind of important, too.

The popular religion facet got me thinking about a quote from The Brothers Karamazov. Maybe I’ll put it up later, if it’s practical (I think it’s going to end up being kind of long…)

Escaping, it is wasteful

evilpinkjapbear.gifSomewhere in Japan (perhaps Osaka), as you read this, there is a psychotic person who draws disturbingly violent images of, except for its razor-like claws and the bloodstains on its chest, an otherwise cuddly-looking pink bear. My dear, sweet friend Nancy sent me a link to a website in Japanese that opens with a large image of this psycho-bear, bespattered with blood and twitching in a post-gore frenzy (Nancy was bored at work).

A visit to this site, for English-speakers at least, is most enlightening (and most disturbing) when viewed through the magical lens of a translation site. I use Babel Fish. Just go there and paste this URL into the field for translating websites:

http://www.chax.net/frameset.html

Make sure you select “Japanese to English” in the accompanying menu. Once you follow these steps you will be taken to the English version of the site. Once you’re there, the first page you should visit will be accessed by clicking on the link entitled “CHAX.” There you will find links to myriads of images of all kinds of violent grotesquerie the Japanese mind is capable of conjuring.

Anyway, check it out. And then for more Japanese insanity, you can always check out Japan Today. There’s always something on there about some psycho mom who drowned her two-year-old, or a middle-school girl who slashed her best friend’s throat or something. In fact, you, my dear reader, are in luck. The latest is the plumber who kicked his four-month-old daughter to death “because of her night crying and because his wife would not listen to his complaints.” (??) And he only gets seven years for this!! Jeez. Check it out for yourself:

Plumber gets 7 years for kicking 4-month-old daughter to�death

Ah, Spam

I’m sorry I have to do this, but I’m going to be disabling the ability for readers to post comments to my entries from now on. I’ve gotten well over a hundred (maybe over two hundred) spam comments posted to the site in the last twenty-four hours from some idiot. It’s horrible.

Anyway, if you want to respond to anything I post, I love that, and I want you to just email me your response and I’ll post it to the site and maybe respond to your response.

This sucks, but I feel like my site is being hijacked and I’ve got to put an end to this.

Drew out.

Derrida Dead at 74

derrida.jpgOne of the most interesting and thought-provoking thinkers of the twentieth century died Friday. Derrida’s philosophy is probably known to most, at least casually, and certainly has spawned quite a bit of discussion, especially concerning meanings in literature.

I think he was recently a scholar in residence at Claremont, about an hour’s drive south of where I live.

He died in Paris.

“Deconstruction icon Derrida dies”BBC

I just noticed, this is my 100th entry. Yay.

First Debate ’04

kerry _debate_1.jpg

I just saw today that the iTunes Music Store has the first presidential debate available to download free. You can download it by clicking on this nifty little button:

2004 First Presidential Debate: Bush Vs. Kerry (9/30/04)

Check it out, if you are so inclined. I only watched the first half, and neither of them impressed me much. I think it was worse for Bush, though, because this debate was about a topic he should be pretty strong on. The subsequent debates appear to be more in Kerry’s territory. Whatever.

On a side note, I know Steve Jobs and Apple in general are rather Left-leaning; I wonder, if the next debate were to go in W’s favor, would they post that one for free too? We’ll see…

bush_debate_1.jpg

UPDATE: Haha, Drudge has a piece on Kerry supposedly bringing some piece of paper onstage, which was against the agreed-upon rules for the debate. He even has a link to video which does seem to show Kerry pulling a piece of paper out of his jacket. Check it out.

My Blog Is Naked!!

Now that I’ve finally posted something, all my ancient entries that had previously and so graciously occupied the empty frontspace of this site have been relegated to the oblivion of the archive!

Let’s see… what can I do to spruce things up. How ’bout some random pictures. That’ll do the trick…

ferdinand.jpg Lady_Godiva.jpg hermvase.jpg alchemy_stone.gif kiss_maiko.jpg Kant_stamp.jpg daikon.jpg qtips.gif it.jpg eva_crosses.jpg BedouinWoman.jpg mask3.gif

Women & Men Aren’t the Same???

I found an article, via Drudge, entitled “Men, Women More Different Than Thought.” It’s about the fact that scientists in the US are realizing more and more that men and women may require slightly different treatments for the same diseases, because there is a marked physiological difference between the two sexes.

This has seemed obvious to me, and probably to most people, what with all the talk one hears of hormones and mood swings and things like that just in casual conversation. What surprised me was (and this might just be the way the article was written) that the way scientific and medical research has been conducted has been so, dare I say it, patriarchal! This article I read was full of statements like the following: “It turns out that major illnesses like heart disease and lung cancer are influenced by gender and that perhaps treatments for women ought to be slightly different from the approach used for men.” After reading a whole article of this, I came away with the impression that medical research has mainly focused on cures in men, and then whatever worked was assumed to work with women. Is that right? If it is, then I didn’t realize how absurd the whole field of medical research was! Or was Lindsey Tanner simply exhibiting preconceptions she had about this field of research? Anyone have any knowledge about medical research and the sexes?

On a side note, I just wanted to let everyone know that I have a few things I’ve been wanting to write about, but I’ve been very busy and very exhausted! It looks like things are going to begin to settle down though, so hopefully I will have something up soon!

Seven Deadly Sins

I had a little bit of an eye-opener just now. Those of you who have blogs, or just websites of any sort actually, probably know the pain I had been feeling as I was going through and deleting all the spam messages posted to this site, as well as banning the IP addresses. I unexpectedly got an interesting quote, supposedly from George Bernard Shaw. These spammers, if they don’t put a message about their product in the body will put some kind of filler in. Examples range from “Get a huge penis!” to “Cool site, dude” to “kjahflkhsarwoihreo.” But this one had a quote.

I don’t know much about Shaw, and I read a lot of ranting and wailing about “humanism” from some of the ultra- (dare I say wacko?) far right people in the Christian education community, and I’ve even thought about humanism, and I wouldn’t say I’ve learned anything. But this quote was an interesting specimen. Here it is. This is a copy and paste job. I don’t know if it’s spelled correctly (milestone instead of millstone?):

The seven deadly sins … Food, clothing, firing, rent, taxes, respectability

and children. Nothing can lift those seven milestones from man’s neck but

money; and the spirit cannot soar until the milestones are lifted.

— George Bernard Shaw

This is obviously an instance in which the messages of Christianity are turned on their head, so to speak, and therefore made into their negative. The message of Christianity is one of selfless love and sacrifice for God and fellow-creations. This statement by Shaw is a humanistic message employing (by my count) three famous Christian concepts or images.

The first and most obvious, of course, is the seven deadly sins. According to some segments of the Church, these are the most grievous. Those in other parts of the Church still recognize these as particularly grievous as well, partly because they all involve a way of life, a wellspring which produces other sins and injustices. They are: pride, envy, gluttony, lust, anger, greed, and sloth. One could write a meditative piece on these and easily argue that they all actually are manifestations of a self-centered existence. All of Shaw’s “sins” are entities or situations or phenomena that require effort on the part of an individual, with no easily recognizable and gratifying rewards to the personal well-being. Some are simply requirements for existence, others may be the result of unfortunate mistakes.

The answer to all these sins, Shaw says, is money. This is the second reference to Christianity. The Bible is full of statements about money, and Jesus’ statements concerning money are quite revolutionary (cf. Lk. 18.21 for one example). One of the messages about money is that putting it at the center of your existence is wrong. It results in misery and is an idolatry. You could even say that all of Shaw’s “sins” (so-called because they bring discomfort or annoyance upon the human being) are actually a result of having one’s focus on Shaw’s solution. Notice, also, what Paul says about those who have “wandered away from the faith” in pursuit of money. They have “pierced themselves with many pains”:

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains. —1 Tim. 6.10

The third rebellion against Christian teaching in the statement is the reference (I think) to Jesus’ statements regarding “the millstone.” The quote says “milestone” and I’m not sure if that’s correct, or if some dumb spammer accidentally changed it. One of the versions of Jesus’ statements is found in Mark 9.42:

If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea.

Interestingly, this statement involves “little ones,” which happen to be one of Shaw’s “deadly sins.” The self-focused existence is so extreme that even (one’s own?) children are seen to be a “sin” or a curse (which is essentially what “sin” apparently means in Shaw’s humanistic parlance).

If we look at how one would live out Shaw’s maxim, we can easily think of the results in society, because the results are showing themselves all around us. Our culture is so self-consumed, that the only concern most people have is their “right” to do this, that, or the other. It’s a sad and scary state.

It’s sad but not surprising. The only answer is response to the call of the gospel of one who is other, one who is outside of our very existence, one who provides a comparison, who contextualizes our very reality.

Have you ever got caught up in your own problems or situation that you have eventually lived your very life according to what you feel you need or want? I can’t remember who wrote this, but it sticks with me, haunts me. This person said that the call of the Gospel is a call to death. (If someone could help me out with that quote, that would be cool.) God loves all of us, but he’s not necessarily in it to make you or me happy. If you read about the lives of the martyrs or the missionaries, even something fictional like Silence by Shusaku Endo, you realize that there is pain involved in living an authentically redeemed life.

Jesus, as well as Paul and other Christians since him didn’t accidentally use the metaphor of dying when speaking of positively responding to the call. There is pain and even mortification involved. Christianity is actually not always a happy way of life. There is joy to be found in living out a relationship with God that is right, but there is a lot of pain. Have you ever considered that perhaps your call to the Gospel may involve never being happy in the ways you once were? never being happy with the things of this life? Consider that statement again: the call of the Gospel is a call to death. That’s powerful and scary.

I guess the challenge I am taking from this piece of spam and the challenge I would give to my reader is to take this opportunity for self-examination. Are you living the life according to Shaw? What are your “deadly sins”? Are they simply things that obstruct your path to happiness and self-gratification? If you have either consciously or unconsciously lived a life in which you expect God to make things easy and happy for you because you said the sinner’s prayer, I challenge you to consider the possibility that maybe God has called you to something much more grave, something even harrowing from George Bernard Shaw’s point of view.

Well, I need to go to sleep. I want to leave you with a passage from Lamentations that has captivated me since I was probably eleven or so. When I read it for the first time, I cried. It is something that is a reality for the follower of God, even if it is skewed by the lamenter’s perception of events. It can also be a powerful antidote to the George Bernard Shaw way of thinking:

I am one who has seen affliction under the rod of God’s wrath;�he has driven and brought me into darkness without any light;�against me alone he turns his hand, again and again, all day long.�He has made my flesh and my skin waste away, and broken my bones;�he has besieged and enveloped me with bitterness and tribulation;�he has made me sit in darkness like the dead of long ago.�He has walled me about so that I cannot escape; he has put heavy chains on me;�though I call and cry for help, he shuts out my prayer;�he has blocked my ways with hewn stones, he has made my paths crooked.�He is a bear lying in wait for me, a lion in hiding;�he led me off my way and tore me to pieces; he has made me desolate;�he bent his bow and set me as a mark for his arrow.�He shot into my vitals the arrows of his quiver;�I have become the laughingstock of all my people, the object of their taunt-songs all day long.�He has filled me with bitterness, he has sated me with wormwood.�He has made my teeth grind on gravel, and made me cower in ashes;�my soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is;�so I say, “Gone is my glory, and all that I had hoped for from the Lord.”�The thought of my affliction and my homelessness is wormwood and gall!�My soul continually thinks of it and is bowed down within me.

But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:�The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end;�they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.�”The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”�The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him.�It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.�It is good for one to bear the yoke in youth,�to sit alone in silence when the Lord has imposed it,�to put one’s mouth to the dust (there may yet be hope),�to give one’s cheek to the smiter, and be filled with insults.�For the Lord will not reject forever.�Although he causes grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love;�for he does not willingly afflict or grieve anyone.�When all the prisoners of the land are crushed under foot,�when human rights are perverted in the presence of the Most High,�when one’s case is subverted – does the Lord not see it?

—Lamentations 3.1-36