Thursday, December 08, 2005

Long Time No See

I finally got caught up with a long-time friend last night. Even though Rusty and I were best friends in high school and college, we hadn’t really got to hang out in years. Now that he and his wife live 15 minutes away instead of 90, it makes visiting a lot easier. We got to reminisce about college stories and whatnot. It was really great. It’s amazing how you can see someone after so long, and it feels like you just pick up right where you left off.

As a side note, if you haven’t watched the new show in NBC Wednesday s yet, you need to. It’s called E-RING and it focuses on the day-to-day functions of the Pentagon, specifically the special-ops units. Even though it’s fiction, it gives great insight into the kind of operations of military carries out all over the globe (most of which we never hear about). It’s a nice switch from my usual run of sitcoms and law/cop drama. If you wanna give it a try, it’s on Wednesday nights on NBC at 8:00 (we have to set our DVR, since we’re @ the church).

Speaking of TV, there is the distinct possibility that I will be able to watch the Fiesta Bowl on a new HDTV in my living room. They’re out of stock now, but I hope to get one before New Year’s. We’ll see…

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Is TV Getting A Makeover???

So, I just got done watching my first episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (it was the Boardman, OH edition, which is 20 minutes from me). And, just last week, my wife convinced me to watch the final episode of the latest The Biggest Loser contest.

After watching those shows, my outlook on TV has changed a little. Those two shows (and hopefully a lot more in the future) are examples of what I think can be called “redemptive television.” They move beyond the idea of merely being entertaining, and the try to improve lives. And, they tend to spur their viewers on to doing the type of redemptive work that they’re advertising. The local news that preceded the Makeover show discussed the groups and organizations being formed in the Boardman area that want the idea of improving lives (and their community) to not stop with a one-time event. I’m sure that there are many people motivated by The Biggest Loser to shed those holiday pounds, after watching other “normal” people lose over 100 with just exercise and healthy eating.

Now, I’m sure that the all-powerful dollar plays a role in these shows being on the air. They’re popular, which means people want commercials during their time slots. And, I’m also not saying that TV can’t serve purely entertainment purposes (I’m a Seinfeld fan after all; the show about nothing). I guess it’s just encouraging, since you always hear about the junk that’s on TV, to see shows that have real and lasting meaning in real life.

Now, I need to go see if there are any late-night re-runs of Seinfeld on… :o)

Monday, December 05, 2005

The Game I've Been Hoping For

Ohio State v. Notre Dame in the BCS Fiesta Bowl

That's all you need to know

GO BUCKS!!!

Friday, December 02, 2005

iPod theology?

There’s a new study out about teens and religion. Called the National Study of Youth and Religion and conducted last year, the study has some interesting findings.

It seems that teens are looking at their spirituality like they look at their music collection. With the advent of the iPod (and other MP3 players that cost WAY less, but aren’t nearly as trendy, of course), teens have totally control over their music collections and they manipulate them with dictatorial style. Don’t like a song? Delete it. Wanna skip to another track? Go ahead. Need to change the order of your song list? No problem at all. This is all well and good when applied to digital music. What’s disturbing is that this same attitude is carrying over to spiritual decision making as well. Don’t like the idea of sex being restricted to married couples of the opposite gender? Delete it. Wanna skip over the idea of loving your enemies? Go for it. Need to reorder your life’s priorities to reflect a more realistic approach to life? No problem whatsoever.

The main researcher (Christian Smith from UNC at Chapel Hill) calls this “iPod religion.” And, it’s part of a wider belief structure that he calls moralistic therapeutic deism. Here’s how it breaks down: Moralistic: teens value values, as long as they get to choose them (and don’t EVER judge anyone else’s self-chosen values), Therapeutic: religion’s main reason for being is to make you feel good, Deism: there is a distant, uninvolved God overseeing everything (He allows good people into heaven), and His main concern is that you are happy.

This combination of items for the buffet of spirituality sums up what the vast majority of teens I come in contact adhere to. And, I can see why. It’s comfy. It’s easy. It’s very self-serving. It fits like a tailor-made suit, just for you. Instead of looking for external standards for life, you can create your own standards that take little work in meeting. Though I see how attractive it can be, it still saddens me. These teens have no idea that this is just a new form of worshiping themselves. They create a “religion” that most reflects them, and then follow it.

There is hope. According to the study, there is a small, but solid minority of students (8%) who know what they believe about their Christian faith, why they believe it, and they allow their faith to affect the way they live. We, as a church (and youth ministries specifically), need to put some serious thought into how we can grow this small righteous remnant.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

I'm no scientist, but...

I'd like to chime in on this evolution-Intelligent Design debate. I just got done reading an article in the latest Newsweek. Darwin is on the cover. It's a pretty good article about his views on science and it's effects on religion. But, it's really just a fancy way to set up a discussion about evo vs. ID, which, by the way, is making the public school system it's battleground of choice.

First of all, let's not pigeonhole all Christians as strict fundamentalists who want to hide from anything "worldly" and dismiss anything that science says or proves. That's just not the case. Matter of fact, most Christians are pretty level-headed when it comes to mixing well-accepted scientific facts with faith. I, for one, have no problem with science itself. Science has made breakthroughs that allow me to drive more safely, take care of myself better, and wear tiny pieces of plastic on my eyeballs that miraculously make me see better.

Second, let's make a distinction between macro-evolution and micro-evolution. Micro-evolution claims that animals change and adapt over time, and those that adapt best survive. The key to micro is that it doesn't make the jump that says that these adaptations create new species. For example, fish adapt and change over time, but they don't eventually "evolve" into frogs. Macro-evolution agrees with all of micro, but also makes the claim of the creation of new species through adaptation. Micro-evo I have no problem with. Macro-evo I do.

Third, Intelligent Design is not tied to any specific religion. It simply states that the vast amount of complexity in nature is evidence of a creative force behind the universe. Intelligent design arguments are not "Christian" in nature, but they leave the door open to a possibility of Creator who is beyond the universe.

Also, the evo-ID debate is kind of a moot point if you don't consider a bigger question. Where did the "stuff" of the universe come from anyway? Even if you adhere to macro-evolution, you still have to account for where the ingredients of evolution come from. No matter where you stand in this debate, you are left in one of two positions in relation to this important question. Either: a) Matter itself is eternal -OR- b) An eternal God created matter. It takes just as much "faith" to believe either one, since no one can prove anything in relation to eternity.

Finally, the article closes with a prominent scientist talking about how the complexity of the human eye and its many interdependent is still a mystery to evolution, and an "unknown" celebrated by ID followers as evidence of God's handiwork. He then goes on to say, "What happens when science discovers the origin of the eye? What happens to God then?"

Here's my answer. My faith in God does not simply exist in the shadows at the edge of science. Therefore, when science advances, my faith is not trampled underfoot. There will never be a scientific finding that "disproves" my belief in the God of the Bible. Ultimately, religion and science deal with two separate questions. Science tells us WHAT is here and HOW it works, while religion tells us WHY we're here.