Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Kingdom vs. Country -- Where is Our Allegiance?

This comes as a follow-up to Saturday's writings on celebrating America and patriotism. I have all of these ideas in my head, all of these thoughts that need to be said, but I'm not sure how to start other than to rip the band-aid off.

"Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. 20But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself."
--Philippians 3:19-21

Somewhere along the way we've gotten confused. We've traded in the assurance of grace and eternity for the comfort of the land in which we live. We've traded the power of God to save us for the power of democracy to enable us. Instead of pledging our allegiance to eternity in heaven we pledge it to a flag. It seems as though it isn't enough to be Christian if you live in America. It used to be "God, country, and apple pie," but somewhere along the way country took precedence.

Saturday I stated that we need more patriotism. Today I'm saying we need to keep it in perspective. It's okay to celebrate the country we live in. It is this country's commitment to freedom that allows us to worship where we want, when we want, and how we want. The problem comes when that respect colors our belief.

We can never forget that God created the world, not just the United States. We can never forget that Jesus died for the world, not just the United States. We should not allow ourselves to be comfortable here. This is not where we are going to spend the rest of our lives. Our call, our privilege is to help bring the kingdom here.

The problem comes when we mix patriotism with worship. I know this is going to be an unpopular opinion. The moment we mix patriotism with worship we cross into dangerous territory. The line can become blurred. Are we worshiping God or country? Are we pledging allegiance to our country or to heaven?

Too often as a church we get caught up in patriotic celebrations around Independence Day, Memorial Day, and Veteran's Day. We intermix our services with music and speeches that don't pay tribute to God above, don't add to the worship, and don't point to the good news of the gospel. In doing so we fail to live up to the grace that has been given to us freely, we fail to uphold the living God in Jesus as the center of our lives.

This is not meant as an attack on anyone. This is meant to provoke thought in everyone. I agree we need to be thankful for the nation we live in, but I am bothered that we have become more concerned with the country and less with the kingdom.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

The Difficulty of Writing

I'm still working on the piece I mentioned a couple of days ago. I think I have finally found the voice, but I'm not sure I want to express it openly. It is a difficult piece for me to write because the opinions I express in it are going to clash violently with the opinions of people I respect. I'm trying to find a voice that is firm enough to say what needs to be said, but respectful enough to say it in a way that doesn't come across as harsh or arrogant.

Beyond that I don't have anything in my mind to write at the moment. This of course makes writing everyday, or nearly everyday as it now stands, a challenge at best.

I did remember what I wanted to point out a couple of days ago. Mark Steele of Steelehouse Productions, writing, and podcast fame has a new book coming out in the beginning of August called 'Christianish: What If We Aren't Really Following Jesus At All?" It can be pre-ordered through Amazon here:

http://www.amazon.com/Christianish-What-Really-Following-Jesus/
dp/1434766926/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1246838645&sr=1-3


I've read his first two books and enjoyed both immensely. He writes in a humorous style true stories about his life and ties them into a bigger theme of his relationship with God. Two chapters of this book were released in audio form around Christmas through his podcast and they were both side-splittingly funny and thought provoking at the same time and I'm really looking forward to reading the whole thing.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Nothing new today

I'm working on article, but it isn't quite ready for prime-time.

There was something else I was going to comment on here as well, but apparently I'm drawing a complete blank here so. . .

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Happy 4th of July

I know a little late to the party, but it is still technically the 4th so I'm in under the wire.

Had a good, restful day. Spent time with good friends, eating good food, and generally just hanging out. Which is really what I mean by a restful day yesterday. I had regrets about the general lack of doing anything yesterday late last night and vowed to not let that happen again.

As I sit here typing I hear the random pops of fireworks going off around the neighborhood. I'm not sure that any of them are all that spectacular to watch as the laws in Kentucky are pretty prohibitive. I have doubts that my neighbors went anywhere to get the "good stuff."

I think I'm probably in the last generation that was instilled with a sense of patriotism growing up. Our grandparents were the Greatest Generation having fought in World War II and being the last generation that probably genuinely cared about the country. Some would say it is because it was a simpler time when patriotism and love of country was more generally accepted. The government wasn't as corrupt and cared more about the people. Etcetera etcetera.

I don't believe that for a second. I think the government has always had problems with corruption. It may not have been as out in the open in their generation, but it was there. The advent of first television, then satellite television transmission, computers, and finally the internet have lent themselves to more information getting out faster to more people.

Our parents generation, aka the Baby Boomers, still held onto some of those patriotic ideas, but it was also the first generation where people were aware of the scale of dissension. World War II is probably seen by many as the last war that we were justified participating in. Korea was the beginning of America the police force, not America the defender. Vietnam took that a step further and the backlash from that conflict at home started down the path to where we are today. One could argue the first war in Iraq back in 1991 was somewhat justified because Iraq was the aggressor. However, the current Iraq war, while starting with more public support, took a wrong turn and is now very divisive causing impassioned opinions that haven't been seen since Vietnam.

All this to say that Independence Day, along with the other patriotic holidays, draws a lot of cynicism from the current generation. There are always exceptions to the rule, but by and large this is more a day of cookouts, fireworks, and an extra day off. It is not a day we reflect the cost of freedom for freedom is taken for granted. We've always had it and it is assumed we always will.

I started this by saying I grew up in what is probably the last generation to have a sense of patriotic pride and I have that pride, but even I find cynicism creeping in with the seeming crumbling of the nation around us. A lot of people seem caught off guard by the recession and genuinely surprised by the house of cards our economy has been built on. Not to say I had any special insight, but the longer I've lived the more I've wondered when it was going to happen. We've become too indulgent and too greedy as a nation. Historically when that happens it signals the beginning of the end for the country/empire/civilization involved.

So today I salute the men and women who served to protect us and protect our freedoms. I salute this nation, its principles, and the core ideals it looks to for guidance each day.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Introversion

I'm having a very introvert day. Yesterday was great. I had an early day off of work, got a haircut, did some yard work, and spent the night hanging out with some guys playing poker. I capped all of that with 11 hours of sleep.

Today I'm recovering. Today I'm quite content to do nothing and that's pretty much what I have done. Outside of writing this I may actually do some reading later, but no guarantees.

I used to have issues with this, always feeling like I needed to be doing something and not wasting time. The older I get the more I realize the importance of these days and while it still causes some psychological discomfort, I try to embrace them for what they are.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Writing Challenge - Day 1 - Let the Games Begin

Today is day one of the writing challenge I issued to myself for the month of July. Today I present a review of an audio book I recently finished.

Audio book review: Salmon of Doubt: Hitchhiking One Last Time by Douglas Adams

The Salmon of Doubt was released in May of 2002 one year after Douglas Adam’s passing. It is a collection of interviews, short stories, articles, and speeches of/by Douglas as well as the beginnings of Douglas’ next book. Those elevenish chapters are presented as the next Dirk Gently book. However, as many of the interviews point out, Douglas wasn’t sure what the finished product was going to be. He did mention that some of the ideas felt more like a Hitchhiker’s Guide book. He was looking in that direction as he felt that he ended that series on a down note and wanted it to really go out on a high note.

The audio book is narrated by Simon Jones who is probably best known as playing Arthur Dent in both the entire Hitchhiker’s Guide radio series and the television series. He also had a cameo as the holographic message from the planet Magrathea to the spaceship Heart of Gold in the Hitchhiker’s Guide movie. His voice is forever associated with Douglas Adams' in my mind and it is fitting that he would narrate this final chapter in a wonderful career.

The audio book is a fascinating listen. Given the number of interviews there is certainly going to be repeated information, but they string them out far enough between other bits that it doesn’t become too redundant. Putting aside the novella for a minute, there are two pieces that really stuck out in this book. The first was his interview with an magazine written by and for athiests. The second is the transcription of a speech Douglas gave to a group of scientists at Cambridge discussing, or more accurately debating himself, about whether or not there is an artificial god.

I find it interesting that whether or not I agree with him, Douglas provides a comprehensive argument in his speech that is littered with insightful humor. That same personality shines through as he answers the interviewers questions. He answers are never demeaning to those he disagrees with. I find this to be in sharp contrast to Richard Dawkins, whom Douglas counted as a friend, and his seeming arrogance when comes to espousing similar views.

This is not totally unexpected though. In all of his fiction books Douglas hit the right notes with intelligent insight, humor, and humility. It only makes sense that those qualities were in play in all of Douglas' life.

Beyond those pieces the Dirk Gently novella provides a satisfying, if brief, end to a wonderful career. Unfortunately the story gets as far as setting up the plot, the characters, and then abruptly ends. It had the potential to be a great Dirk Gently book based on what he had written. Above the Title Productions, who have produced three Hitchhiker’s radio series and two Dirk Gently radio series for BBC4, has been commissioned to produce a radio series based on this incomplete script. Hopefully it will live up to the foundation that has been provided.

If you are a fan of Douglas Adams this is worth picking up. If you aren’t, start with the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and work your way here. And don’t forget your towel.

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Random quote overheard today: "Is that Cobra Commander?" --some guy on a call in a cubicle near mine.