Friday, February 7, 2014

January 2014 - A Month in Review

       After my last post I received quite a nice compliment for my blog.  Now that I know that someone, whose job isn't to like my blog, actually thinks that my blog is awesome, I hope that I don't develop any performance anxiety...

       Anyway, that also let me know that my core readership is now up to a whopping total of five.  I actually only know four of those people in real life.  My fifth reader is actually some person in Russia who checks my blog almost everyday.  In terms of page views Russia constitutes my second largest readership behind the United States.  здороваться!  Приветствую Владимиру Путину нашего Господа и Спасителя! Мой он вести Россию-матушку в славное возрасте богатства и процветания, как он едет верхом без рубашки. Хахаха шучу, но я надеюсь, что Олимпийские игры идут хорошо на Soxhi. США США!

January in Review

       Before we get too deep into February I figured I would write about what happened to me in the past month.  A lot happened in January: I moved, a new semester started, and I experienced an interesting string of events.  These events taken individually will seem small, but taken together and given their proximity to one another they seemed quite providential.  Now, I'm not saying they were miracles...

       But, they were providential nonetheless, and hopefully you didn't actually watch that video.  Also, I think  that our reluctance to call something a miracle is simply a product of our modernist bias against the supernatural as well as not wanting to be branded as one of those people who calls even the most trivial things a miracle.  That is another blog for another day.

       The first event in the line of providence occurred shortly after I moved out the snuff film set that my landlord called an apartment.  I left that place for four reasons: it was a piece of crap, the particular odor of marijuana emanating from my neighbors apartment, I found out that the building manager is an alcoholic has a history of assaulting tenets, and I found out that one of the dorms at TEDS is cheaper and less of a hassle.  So I thought.

       While it is cheaper it did not turn out to be devoid of issues.  When the first polar vortex of this year made its way down to the Chicago area to chill out the pipes in the dorm froze.  Then when the thermometer rose to a balmy 15 F outside the water came pouring out of the ceiling.  Only two occupied rooms were affected by the deluge.  Guess who was living in one of those rooms, - that's right Mung.  Guess who was living in the other one - that's right me.

       Some of my things were damaged such as my mattress, my phone charger, and, most tragically, my complete set of Barth's Church Dogmatics.  However, the school has been cooperative and is replacing my damage goods.  Also, the school moved me into a bigger and nicer dorm room, which is about $1000/a semester more than what my first dorm room cost, for no extra charge.  My new place is set up like a three bedroom apartment with a kitchen, bathroom, and living room.  I share all this with two other people.

       Speaking of roommates their names are Mung and Danny.  Mung is a Phd candidate from Burma who is working on the final stage of his dissertation, and Danny is an M. Div candidate in his last semester.  Danny is also body builder and a jazz musician.

Doctorate.  Body building.  Jazz.

Mind. Body. Soul.

At least I'm a whole person when it comes to my image issues now.

       Later that week I went to get my oil changed and my tires rotated at Merlin, it's kind of like a slightly less shady Jiffy Lube.  Only go there because an oil change is only $19 before 10 AM.  After they changed my oil and rotated my tires they tried to sell me on a whole package of good that would be necessary because my car has a whooping 24k miles on it, also my air filter was "dirty."  I know that the air filter is the oldest trick in the book, but I figured it would be worth the $10 to get them off my junk.  Well, they no sooner swapped out my air filter, and undoubtedly laughed it up, when a transformer down the street blew.  This meant they were unable to open the giant bay doors to get my car out.  After making me sit for a half hour they finally decided to open the bay doors manually.  The manager then told me that everything was on them because they had made me wait.  That and the registers didn't have any power, but I'm sure it was because he felt bad for making me wait.

       Then the day before the second polar vortex came calling I hit a pot hole on my way back to school from Beth's house.  It was also late at night and frigid.  Since my wheel wasn't ripped off the axle I didn't think anything of it, but as I was about halfway to Deerfield I heard a thumping sound and noticed that my car was tilting.  So, I pulled into the parking lot of a shopping center.  My tire was completely shot.

       I had never changed a tire before.  My parents are night owls so I gave my mom a call so that I could talk to my dad, and get some pointers.  After I got off the phone with him, I consulted the manual and got to work.  I was having a slow go with and I screwed up the jack placement which added body panel damage to my car's woes.  A man in pickup truck with a plow on it pulled up next to me.  The man rolled down his window and asked, "You okay there?"

"No, my tires flat."

"Ha! I don't have time for that, I have to clear of this lot."

       After that beloved child of God apologetically told me that he couldn't help, I got back to work.  Then another snow removal guy came over to me.

"You need help man?"

"Yeah my tires flat."

"Alright, don't worry me and my dad got you.  He fixes cars all the time."

"Thank you so much.  My names Ben by the way."

"I'm Carlos."

"Good to meet you, and what's your name?"

"Carlos, too"

"Oh, ha, well good to meet you guys."

"Yeah man my dad does this kind of stuff all the time.  He also owns this snow removal company."

       It took Carlos Sr., no more than ten minutes to change my tire.  He was something to behold.  His jack rotation technique was fluid, and we worked with the deliberateness of an artist.  When he was done both Carlos and Carlos Jr. refused anything in return.  The younger Carlos simply said, "Naw, we all been in those places man.  Get home safely.

       The first man who stopped to ask if I needed help looked like me and sounded like me.  Male, white, and from the Midwest, he should have been the one to help me, but he was too busy.

       Carlos and Carlos did not look like me, and Carlos Sr., didn't even speak English, or at least not very much.  However, they both took the time to help.  What's more Carlos Sr. was the first guy's boss yet he was not too busy to help someone out.  If you are familiar with the parable of the Good Samaritan you know where this is headed.  If you are not familiar go read, because I don't have time to recount it all here.

       There have been a lot things that could have easily discourage me in the last few months as I have studied in seminary: not seeing my friends as often as I would like, classes that repeat what I learned in my undergrad, alcoholic building managers, worrying about paying the tuition and rent, and other things.  Thankfully, January gave me a lot to be happy about, and overall it was a good month.  Indeed, it was a providential month.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Why I Dislike "Away in a Manager," an Epiphany Special.

I know that Christmas was over a week ago, but it is technically the last day of the Christmas season. It is Epiphany so this is fairly relevant.

I have been mulling over whether or not I should do a Christmas themed post for quite some time now.  When I finally decided to make one I had way too many options, and my indecisiveness took over.  I could have written any traditionally themed post or maybe something a little edgy but actually isn't because it is overdone.  I almost wrote a piece defending the inn keeper, but I found out that has already been successfully done.  "Let It Snow," was begging to be made fun of, but I figured that could wait until after Christmas, because it is technically a seasonal song not a Christmas carol.  Then I heard "Away in a Manger" and decided to write about how much I hate it.  Actually, how much I dislike the song, because hate is a bit too strong.  In the words of Henry Francis, "I hate Nazis."


I have disliked "Away in a Manager" for at least 18 years.  My earliest memory of despising the song is from Sunday school when I would have been about 4 years old.  Admittedly back then I did not have a good reason for disliking it.  My main reasons were that a girl named Megan and few other kids kept requesting it even when it had already gotten really old, and the music is nowhere near as exciting as the music to "Joy to the World," "Angels We Have Heard on High," and the like.  Simple reasons, I know, but now that I am older I have deeper reasons for not liking this perennial favorite.


Before we go any further I figured I better put down the lyrics for everyone to read.

Away in a manger, No crib for His bed
The little Lord Jesus, Laid down His sweet head
The stars in the bright sky,Looked down where He lay
The little Lord Jesus,Asleep on the hay
The cattle are lowing,The poor Baby wakes
But little Lord Jesus, No crying He makes
I love Thee, Lord Jesus, Look down from the sky
And stay by my side, “Til morning is nigh.
Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay
Close by me forever, And love me I pray
Bless all the dear children, In Thy tender care
And take us to heaven, To live with Thee there

I really have two issues with the song: it is borderline heretical and sickeningly sentimental.


The line, "But little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes," is quite problematic.  At its best it means that Jesus wasn't crying which is problematic for newborns; at its worst it is docetic.  It seems to suggest that Jesus is only appearing to be a baby, because a real baby would be crying its head off.  The funny thing is that docetism, along with Arianism, was rejected by the First Council of Nicaea, the same council in which Santa knocked out a heretic.  So now we have a popular Christmas song that promotes a heresy on a holiday closely associated with a man who got so worked up in his defense of orthodoxy that he felt the need to physically assault a heretic.


The other issue is that the song focuses on the warm fuzzy feelings that sweet baby Jesus gives us.  My issue with that is that it strives to keep Jesus in the manger.  It is a very popular thing to do, implicitly if not explicitly, especially in popular American Christianity.  I don't know if that is what Will Ferrell was trying to get at in Talladega Nights, but this scene is a great parody of how many view Jesus.

In his book Godric Frederick Buechner gets at the reason why we prefer to keep Jesus in the manager.  The book is a retelling of the life of Saint Godric of Finchale.  At one point Godric is recounting the time he attended Christmas Mass at Durham.

"An easy thing it is to love a babe.  A babe asks nothing, never chides.  A babe is fair to see.  A babe is hope for better things to come.  All this and more.  But babes grow into men at last.  That's where it turns a bitter brew.  'He has no form or comeliness,' Isaiah says.  'No beauty that we should desire him.  A man of sorrows we despise."  Christ minds us to be good, to feed his sheep, take up our cross and follow him with Hell's hot fires if we fail.  All this and more our Savior bids when he becomes a man, and to a man we say him nay.  Thus when the Bishop tenders me with his own hands Christ's flesh and blood, I slobber them with tears"  (124).

We can make a baby what we want it to be.  All our ideas and dreams can be forced on a baby, but a man can talk back.  Examples abound of parents having this happen with their children.  It is the same with how we look at the Christ child.

The desire to keep Jesus in our mind as a cute baby in an adorably dumpy manager is a desire to make Jesus palatable.  Have a white American Jesus, a Jesus that would've been bros with Che Guevera, or any other variation starts with confining Christ to the crib and then moves to looking at some of the things the man said or did while ignoring other things that he did.  It is is similar to when a parent praises their teenager for doing something they approve of and then saying to the other parent, "He is your son," when the kid does something his parents disapprove.

But even our attempts to make Jesus feel safe by looking at just the baby fail.  The Incarnation is one of the most mind boggling doctrines taught and held by Christians.  The shear metaphysical divide that God had to cross is ridiculous and incomprehensible; it scandalizes the intellect.  I don't know about anyone else, but it makes me feel uncomfortable, awe inspired but uncomfortable, when I think about it.  We then have to start asking questions like:

"How can the Almighty be confined in the form of a man nonetheless a baby?"
"What does the kenosis mean exactly?"

These questions then lead to ones that are a bit more touchy for some:

"Did Jesus ever get a math problem wrong?"
"Did He have a libido?" (If we are consistent and say with the Church Fathers that which is not assumed cannot be redeemed then we have to say that Christ had a sex drive.)
"If God is willing to undertake the ultimate work of contextualization what does that mean for my desire to force, implicitly or explicitly, my culturally biased forms of Christian worship/practice onto other people groups?"


The last question is extremely relevant for today, Epiphany.  This holiday celebrates Jesus' visitation by the Three Wise Men and the revelation of Christ to the Gentiles. God desires to be worshiped by all nations which means He desires to be worshiped in a variety of tongues and ways, and when we make out our brand of Jesus to be the only Jesus we have trouble sharing the Gospel cross-culturally.   However, if Jesus was going to stay confined to one culture it would have been the Jewish culture of His day, but he did not even stay confined to that culture.  Instead He took the place where it would have been the easiest for us to put Him in a box and turns it into the very place that He begins subverting our perceptions of Him by having the Wise Men worship Him.

That is why I dislike Away in a Manager.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Problems I Have With the "God's Not Dead" Movie

I promise that one day my posts will be edifying to those who read them, but I figured that before I start writing stuff worth reading I should first get into the habit of actually posting on a semi-regular basis.  The turn between posts is slightly faster than it last time, so I'll take that as a minor victory.

Before I launch into today's topic I'll give a little update.  Since my last post I have finished two classes and started two others.  The classes I finished were Intro to Counseling and Bioethics Clinical Pastoral Issues.  One class was great and other was meh, but either way I hope to write about what I learned soon, or relatively soon, eventually, whatever.

Problems I Have With the "God's Not Dead" Trailer

If you have not heard there is a movie coming out in the next year titled "God is Not Dead."  If you haven't seen the trailer here it is.

The gist of the movie, as gathered from the trailer, is that a young Christian man, named Josh Wheaton, goes to college where his evil philosophy teacher tries to convince him that God does not exist.  Josh then excepts a challenge to debate his teacher in order to prove who is right about the existence of God.  The movie will feature appearances by Willie and Korie Robertson of Duck Dynasty fame and Newsboys.  I wasn't even aware that the Newsboys still existed until I watched this trailer.

There are all kinds of issues with a movie like this, but I won't focus on how this is the epitome of everything wrong with conservative Christian media, the fact that the guys last name is Wheaton, that this will help fuel the fear some Christians have of higher education, or that now I'm going to have to answer questions like, "You study philosophy?  Aren't all philosophers atheist?"  That used to be something only the biology and other science studies had to answer.  I also won't go into how this movie is basically a knock off an episode of a TV series called The Stranger that I once watched late at night with my brother, Jake, on JCTV.

No, as a philos...uh, someone who majored in philosophy I will focus on how this movie misrepresents a philosophy class.

One more thing.  I'll just apologize right here for phoning it in and writing this post in the most overused blog/web article format ever - a numerated list.  I promise that this will not be the start of this blog turning into Buzzfeed.  That website sucks, but the numbered list lends itself to this kind of discussion.

5. There Would Not Be That Many Students in a Philosophy Course

The film is suppose to take place at a big secular school.  The thing is more and more state schools are removing philosophy as a gen-ed and some are even firing philosophy profs left and right.  If a typical college student is given the choice to take philosophy or not most are going to choose not to take philosophy.  Due to our cultures love affair with the sciences little Josh Wheaton in real life probably would not even take philosophy in the first place.

4. Even if There Were That Many Students The Prof Wouldn't Go on an Anti-God Rant

In reality the professor would spend more time trying to get his students to read The Allegory of the Cave and to convince his students of the worth of philosophy.  Due to our society's perception of philosophy, and the humanities in general, as a worthless, money wasting degree the professor would probably be more concerned about showing how philosophy is relevant today.

3. Even if 5 and 4 are true the professor would probably be ecstatic that a student cares enough to argue back.

This movie is basically about a student volunteering for an extra research project.  Just think about it.  That professor is probably just hoping that he won't have to hear any lame excuses for why Bobby and Sally's papers are late and along comes our hero who is willing to do some extra-syllabic work.  A student who actually cares!  In a gen ed nonetheless!

2.  A student would never be failed simply for their religious beliefs.

One word: Lawsuit.  Granted this is not philosophy course specific, but it still holds.  If a student were to be failed simply for their religious beliefs then the university opens itself up to a major lawsuit or at least some bad press.

1. The Professor Keeps Shouting, "God is Dead," Without Giving the Context

Just about everyone knows it was Nietzsche who proclaimed God to be dead, but considerably fewer know what he meant by that statement.  Context is important here.
God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. Yet his shadow still looms. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?
—Nietzsche, The Gay Science, Section 125 (Source? I got it from Wikipedia.  Where else?)

In the popular mind Nietzsche was simply saying God does not exist.  He was saying that, but he was also saying much more.  Nietzsche was saying that the belief in God was dead and that philosopher's, the "we" in the first line, have killed him.

There lies my biggest problem with this movie.  No philosopher is going to reference that quote without giving himself the credit for helping to kill God.  This isn't a character trait of just atheist philosophers, but philosophers - we're all smug deep down inside.

Bonus: Fan Theory

Alright time for a little fan theory I came up with.  Before anyone says it it I will admit that what follows makes me guilty of shipping.

Anyway at one point in the trailer Wheaton is confronted by his girlfriend who tells him, "You have to decide who is more important in your life, me or God."

Except she doesn't.  I was expecting her to say God.  That or some Christian girl they were going to introduce as a potential love interest.  But she didn't.  Instead she said, "You have to decide who is more important in your life, me or Professor Radisson."

I'll state it clearly here: Josh Wheaton, the student, and Professor Radisson, will wind up getting over their difference and begin a relationship together.

In teen movies that kind of confrontations only happen when the hot/mean girlfriend is giving the conflicted, handsome guy an ultimatum to choose between her and his quirky/cool/smart platonicfriendwhohappenstobeagirlbutsecretlywantstobesomuchmore.  The makers of this movie are geniuses.  They took one of the most common scenes in a teen movie and subtly changed it.  They have set us up for a movie arguing against the evil, secular academy, but really they are going to give us a movie about forbidden love.

Some might think that is ridiculous but I have seen crazier A Song of Ice and Fire theories come true on less evidence.

Guess I'll have to see this movie after all...

Monday, October 14, 2013

Yeah, yeah, I know I said I would actually post on this thing.

Yeah, yeah, I know I said I would actually post on this thing.

Why I haven't written more

I have been really busy. Since promising to actually write more back in July I haven't had any significant time to sit down and write. The week after that post I started working 48 hours a week until the school year started. Then I moved from the place where I was house sitting to a wonderful basement apartment in a decrepit old house. Actually, it was a hell-hole until my wonderful parents showed up and did some redecorating and remodeling. Then after the move I started my full time course of study at TEDS/TGS while still working full time at C2 Education, the tutoring center I started working at this summer. So, I have not had many opportunities to maintain this blog, and when I have had the chance I decided to seek a more immediate pleasure than sitting down and writing more. So, this little post is to simply placate those who have given me those who have given me crap for not writing more (Chi Won, Frances, Alex, etc).

A Week in the Life

The following is a typical week's schedule.


9 AM - Wake Up
9:07 AM - Crawl out of bed and turn on the coffee maker while wondering who I am and what I am doing in my life.
9:45 AM - Head to Trinity's library while the caffeine I just ingested makes my life look less bleak. As hard as I have tried these last 21 years I am still not a morning person, so I am sure for the first few hours of my day I could be easily diagnosed as clinically depressed.
10:00 AM - Do school work in Rolfing Memorial Library. Trinity's library is to Buswell as Buswell is to an elementary school's library. I overheard someone say the other day, "Actually I am doing my MA at Wheaton Graduate School, but the library down there sucks so I drive up here to do my research."
2:00 PM - Head back to my apartment, get ready for work, and eat lunch. Sometimes the eating lunch part doesn't happen for one reason or another.
3:00 PM - Commute from Deerfield to Schaumburg for work. This is easily the worst part of the day. Also, I am convinced that I am going to be killed by a middle-aged person who is texting while driving their luxury SUV.
3:45 PM - Begin tutoring.
9:25 PM - Finish tutoring and head to Beth's house.
9:45 PM - Have dinner and hang out with Beth.
11:00 PM - Head back to my apartment.
11:30 PM - Take a shower and get ready for bed.
12:00 AM - Do a little more homework.
1:00 AM - Go to sleep.


Same as above only I wake up at 6:45 AM and I am in class until 5:00 PM and I work from 5:40 - 9:25 PM.


9:00 AM - 5:00 PM - Work


10:00 AM - 11:30 AM - Attend church at Church of the Redeemer in Highland Park. I thought by going there instead of Church of the Resurrection I would be getting away from the Wheaton College church scene. I was wrong. The rector is a Wheaton grad and his wife teaches in Wheaton's intercultural studies program; Dr. Kalantzis attends from time to time; and there a number of other Wheaton grads both recent and old.
12:00 PM - About go into cardiac arrest as I watch the Bengals.
2:00 PM - 7:00 PM - Live it up at Rolfing

So, I have been busy, but it has been good. A little trying, but good nonetheless.

Last Things

I have decided not to update the look of this blog. It is a monument to internet crappiness. Alex seems to appreciate how terrible it looks so I will leave it as is. Also, I have been learning HTML from Codecademy and I have typed this using Blogger's html option. I will not preview this post before publishing as part of my decision not to edit these posts. So, hopefully it all looks good when I hit publish.

Two of my classes wrap up at the end of October, so I'll be free to write more after that. I'll follow through in a more prompt manner this time. Srsly.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Let's Try This Again

Two years ago I started and then failed at maintaining this blog.  I was busy with Wheaton in the Holy Lands and when I got back from the trip I had six weeks of unemployment before my junior year at Wheaton was scheduled to start, but MW2 got in the way.  That all feels like it happened a millennium ago to a completely different person: I didn't even have a mustache back then.  That is not to mention that much has changed, most notably I am now a Wheaton College graduate.

My life may have changed quite a bit but this blog has not.  I will be working on updating my profile and layout as I find time between work, reviewing Koine for Trinity's competency, and giving Beth enough attention to keep her happy.  The first couple of posts will most likely be short and simple recaps of my life as I get my blog boots on.

So why resurrect this crappy old blog?  First, I had a bit of following when I started posting, and chief among my fan's was Frances Griswold whom this post is dedicated to.  I'm not only doing this for Frances but for all my dear friends, near and far; from the Midwest to the Middle East and everywhere between. Second, I want to see if I am up to the challenge.

I will make no promises about the quality of my posts, content or grammar wise, but at the very least I can promise that it will be interesting and that I will figure out how to indent paragraphs on this stupid website.

Since this reboot post is dedicated to Frances I figured I would share a picture of me, her, and Jordan at graduation.  The girl in the background on the right creeps me out a bit.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

With Apologies for Not Posting

We just got back yesterday from a four day swing through Galilee and I'm going to be really busy the next few days so I'll post when I can.  In the mean time check out Jamey O'Connor's vlog for a different perspective on the trip.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

If Only Every Class Was This Easy

We got back last night from a three day trip through the Shephelah and the Negeb.  I honestly barely remember anything from the first two days because they consisted of alot of similar looking ruins and landscape.  However the I do remember one thing from the second day worth telling and a couple from the last day.

We finished the second day by looking into Maktesh Ramon the largest erosion crater in the world.
 I honestly prefer the "Don't molest the animals" signs found in US National Parks.
I would add more photos of the crater but they all look the same after awhile.

Yesterday we started our last 11 hour field study of the week by visiting Masada which is where the Jewish rebels made their last stand against the Romans in the late first century.  Contrary to popular belief it is likely that the Jews did not commit mass suicide to stick it to the Romans.  That is because honorable suicide is forbidden by the law and the rebels were religious zealots and archaeologists found an interior siege ramp built after the main one suggesting that the rebels were massacred.  The sight was constructed as a palace fortress by Herod the Great and contains impressive features such as a million gallon cistern to trap the 1 inch of rain that falls on the sight each year.  That doesn't sound like alot but 1 inch times half a mile times a quarter of a mile is alot of rain.

 Staying hydrated is key.
 The cistern
 A view from the siege ramp side.

The Snake Path on the Dead Sea side.  I instantly regretted not taking the cable car down.
Masada provided a great view of the Dead Sea which is where the field study more or less turned into a field trip.  We were given the opportunity to "swim" in the Dead Sea.  Even I can float in the Dead Sea which is 35% mineral content compared to Great Salt Lakes 17% and the ocean's 7%.  The water feels kind of oily on the skin but leaves your skin feeling very soft.  It was wonderful except for some slightly uncomfortable burning in the backdoor area.

After the Dead Sea we then headed to the En Gedi springs which according to modern tourist tradition David visited when he was fleeing from Saul as mentioned in 1 Samuel 24.  As the name suggests the springs are home to wild Ibex but there are also these little critters known as rock hyraxes.  So after a brief intro we were then allowed to climb up and swim in the springs which featured some nice waterfalls.

 The Dead Sea as seen from Ein Gedi

En Gedi was followed up by a brief visit to Qumran which is where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found.  We then headed back to Jerusalem where we had to get out and walk 30 minutes to campus because the roads were blocked for some two day national holiday.