Friday, March 17, 2006

Fish Tank as Ministry

Several months ago i decided to get a Betta for my office. Partly I just wanted to add a little life to the place, but also i knew i could get a blue Betta to match my blue office. Also, i hoped it might make the place a little more inviting. And, like few things in life, it's been all that and more. The teens i work with have little interest in it, but i do think Titus (and his new roommate Scampi, a shrimp) make the office a little more welcoming. But the young children at the church love my fish tank to death. Yesterday two of them were there with their mom for something, and the first thing they did was come racing to my office and stare at my fish, getting as close to the tank as they could. They didn't even say hi to me until later :) It makes me feel good that people want to be in my office, and it's nice to know i'm already building a relationship with kids who hopefully will be in my youth group one day. Maybe Titus really is like an assistant pastor after all. :)

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Stargate & Monotheism

Ok, this one is a rant about a pet peeve that might only matter to "gateheads," but here goes. Have you noticed Stargate SG-1's relationship to monotheism? I love the show and watch it every night but this is starting to bug me.

I noticed a while back that it seems that they have managed to bring basically every human mythology into their understanding of the universe. Merlin, Thor, Ra, the fountain of youth, and various other mythological people and things have found a way into the stargate lore. Each of them is discovered to be a real person/thing that has something to do with the cosmic balance of power.

Most of these mythological things had to do with somebody's religion at some point in history. And then i realized that one huge area of mythology/religion has stayed completely off the radar - any of the major current world religions. You won't find them saying that Buddha was an ascendant or that Abraham was an Ancient.

It became particularly noticeable that major current religious figures are taboo for the show in the episode just preceding this season's finale. Vala finds herself in the confusing situation of being quite pregnant without having "done the deed," as she puts it. She asks the Stargate team if they've ever heard of such a thing happening before. Carter begins hesitantly, "well, there is one," at which Teal'c continues, "Darth Vader." Carter seems surprised that Darth Vader was the only one Teal'c could think of, but doesn't actually speak. Mitchell continues, "King Arthur." It's obvious that Carter is thinking of Jesus and is surprised that the others aren't, but she never actually says this. They can't even say His name to put it in the same group with Darth Vader and King Arthur.

Part of me is glad for this taboo. I don't want them "discovering" that Jesus was an Orai or that Mohammed recieved his visions from an ascendant. And they can't exactly spend a whole lot of time talking about who Jesus really is, so they just keep it quiet all together. Part of me wishes that God wasn't considered irrelevant to the quest for understanding the universe and our place in it, but i understand that it's all or nothing, and a secular show basically can't do "all."

But where it really gets frustrating is that when Christianity is hinted at, it's portrayed negatively. The only references to a Christian perspective (that I've noticed) are represented by none other than the cowardly, foolish, pompous, proud, short-sighted jerk Senator/Vice President Kinsey. In one episode he wants to shut down the Stargate because he thinks its unnecessary. When told that earth is facing the threat of global disaster if the Stargate program is shut down, Kinsey reminds the SG-1 team that the US is a nation "under God," and states that he doesn't believe God would ever allow anything like that to happen to earth. His confidence in Providence is framed as ignorant pride. However, his faith in Providence doesn't stop him from desperately trying to flee to the Alpha site when earth comes under attack. As a side note, Kinsey is also the only one i've heard use the term "Hallelujah." He is the stereotypical arrogant Christian.

I love the show. I understand why they can't acknowledge God. But it bothers me a little that everything supernatural is systematically explained away each time they discover a new race of aliens or new technology. Everything is biology and science - as Jackson comments "there is no magic." And the only time anything resembling Christianity shows up on the radar, it's found in the loathed antagonist. All this conveys a world view that science is truth and faith is irrelevant, or even a hindrance.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Asking Questions

I hate posting twice in a day (and this makes four), but this one's been on the back burner too long.

What if we asked more questions? What if even those of us who have something very important to say weren't afraid to ask questions in addition to preaching?

When we ask questions, we lead gently. We give people the opportunity to speak their mind, tell their story, and even challenge our assumptions. We communicate that we value them and that we are safe to be around. Contrast that with an approach that begins by firing off the correct information and it's logical justification. What is the motivation to listen for the person who already believes something different from what you're preaching? If the person has a lot of respect for you or agrees with what you're saying, they'll listen to the monologue. But if we ask questions, we can draw even our opponents into the conversation. Isn't it our opponents whom we most desire to engage?

If we just start with our assertions, often others will feel attacked. They feel like they have to be on guard against our verbal assault. Asking questions makes us vulnerable, not them.

But it's not the same thing as abandoning our assertions. We don't have to pretend we don't know anything, we just have to act like we don't know everything.

On a roll . . .

And another : Wright off the bat

Blog of Interest

If you like my blog you might also like this one : Living Between the Trees. Not many posts yet but good stuff.

If I Wrote Grammar Rules

  • "You," "He," "She," and "They" would always be capitalized. Just because a Person's name isn't listed doesn't make Them any less important, and Everyone else is just as important as I am.
  • "Me" would always be capitalized, just like I. I am just as important whether I am the object or the subject in a sentence.
  • "Biblical" would always be capitalized since it is referring to the Bible, which is rightfully always capitalized. Why Biblical Scholars haven't done this already is beyond Me.
  • "Black" and "White" would always be capitalized when referring to race. "Blacks" and "African-Americans" refer to the same group of People, Who are just as important regardless of what You call Them. Same goes for Whites and Italians, Germans, the British, etc. This would also apply to other racial designations by color, but I can't think of any other common ones.
  • We would have a gender-neutral pronoun to use. Him/Her is so cumbersome, always using the masculine is misleading, and trying to "take turns" with masculine and then feminine pronouns gets confusing. We refer to People in gender-irrelevant situations all the time: We need a word to do it with.