Ride the Bike

After twenty-nine years of church membership and four years of formal theological training, I have come to a stunning realization:

I have no idea how to talk to people about religion.

Not that I never say anything about religion. It's just that I usually find myself in the role of the "devangelist"--someone ready to acknowledge the faults of my religion and empathize with those who have rejected it, rather than put forth my own views in a positive and respectful manner. And, I have little or no understanding of how to go about that.

My wife has similar experience. She took an evangelism class at her college, and all she got was tract passing and "Way of the Master." It's not that those things never work, they just don't work for us. And, I don't feel like anyone is teaching anything that works for us. I have yet to see a great example of a way of dealing with religion between "offend everyone" and "say nothing."

I was wondering what experience you all had with this. Do you guys find it as easy as I do to play the role of the "enlightened" and end up defending your opponents more than yourself? More importantly, have you had any success sharing your faith effectively yet intelligently? If you have, I'd love to hear about it. I'm more than a little stuck.



Six months ago Chinese electricity blew up X-Box. A sub-sonic WHUMP and I knew that I wouldn't be playing any video games for a long, long time. Last month I picked up some replacement parts in Guangzhou, and with a little help from my self-appointed computer parts helping man, got everything back on line.

That may have been a mistake. Even though I can't buy any new games here because China doesn't believe in intellectual property rights and Microsoft doesn't believe in letting people play pirated games online, I am finding that my appetite for gaming is essentially infinite. It's like being twelve all over again, only instead of being able to stop after a cumulative twenty-four hours or whatever it took to beat a relatively long Super Nintendo game, these things are massive, self-evolving worldscapes that NEVER REALLY END.

So, basically, if it takes me another two months to finish the game I've been building that I said I was going to have out in November, you'll know what happened.

  • Current Mood
    annoyed annoyed


I think I need to change my Twitter name. I'd love to be the Diet Coke Robot, but I haven't seen one in six months. Even though the Chinese people have seen fit to import Lebron James, Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, and Louis Vitton, they have fallen under the tragic impression that Coke Zero is equal to or superior to Diet Coke. And, perhaps it is, but if you're like me and you've been acclimating yourself to the taste of aluminum-laced phenylalanine for the past twenty years IT IS NOT THE SAME THING BY ANY MEANS!

I did actually undergo a forced detox last week when the wife and I took a slow train to Xinyu and spent a week in the countryside. The village itself was an incomprehensible mixture of modern and medieval, like it had started as the set of a kung fu movie, undergone a halfhearted transition into a middle rent condominium, and was then abandoned for fifteen years and resettled by Katrina victims. Squat brick buildings with wooden beams and traditional tile roofs sat or ran right into a wide variety of newer buildings, some unpainted concrete, some with clean but bright wood paneling and trim, and others, like the one I was staying in, coated in what in any other place would be called bathroom tiles. I tried asking several people how old the village was, but I could never quite understand the responses, hearing anything between sixteen and sixty. Nothing about the place gave any clues as to why one or the other could have been wrong.

Anyway, I am rambling, and not in a good way. To sum up, the lessons of the week:

  1. Most things I can live without, like heat, internet, and life-giving caffeine. I don't enjoy it, but I can live with it.
  2. It is entirely possible for one's host to bend over backwards for you during the day and light fireworks outside your window at five that morning.
  3. One can kill a rat with an aluminum washbasin.
  4. Chickens are jerks.
  • Current Music
    Pendulum - Granite

Lux Aeterna

Heard about project on the radio today to discover the neurological roots of morality. The purpose of this research was to explain morality in mechanical terms in order to eliminate the philosophical need for a soul. Apparently there are tons of people working on all sorts of different research, all with this same goal of rendering our eternal component redundant.

I think it's a pretty mean-spirited project myself. The larger implication is that people believe in souls because they just can't comprehend brains. Certainly an argument that could run both ways. But, I do wonder if I believe in souls myself. I do believe that all humans will be eternal, but only because God wills it. After all, if you take Genesis at its word, humans were meant to live forever in their bodies. Why would they need a special piece to go on living without them? The fact that we are allowed to grasp the eternal even though we gave it away is not a right, or an inviolable part of our nature--it is a gift.

At least, that's what I think. I wouldn't be too surprised if I was wrong on this. But on the other hand, these scientists do have a point that the "necessary" functions of the soul, especially identity, morality, and lasting meaning, really can be carried out in its absence. Very weighty conclusions. I just wish I had more confidence they were using these conclusions for the advancement of our spiritual knowledge rather than belittling their opponents in a culture war.

  • Current Music
    Discovery - Orange Shirt

I Hope My Body Can Take It

I just worked my last night shift. From now on I'm just a regular nine-to-six kind of guy! Watch as I participate in such mundane activities as being available for normal socializing! Online gaming with people on my own continent! Sorry Norwegians! Also, not watching Dilbert re-runs at 10 A.M. on a Thursday! Not sleeping in when I feel like it will be a bit of an adjustment, but the extra hours in the day will be a nice bonus. Hooray for normalcy!


So Listen Again

In which I actually do that thing I said I was going to do over a month ago.

  • Lacuna Coil, "What I See," Karmacode - I know this comparison is really weak and probably insulting to both bands in its own little way, but my first thought was "311 with the white boy knocked out of them." Tight yet discordant--very awesome!
  • Dizzee Rascal, "Road Rage," Tongue N' Cheek - What is it about British rap that makes it sound simultaneously more sophisticated and more ghetto? Also, if I ever have a talk show with a "Moment of Zen"-style ending bit this will totally be in it at least once.
  • Natalie Portman's Shaved Head, "Sophisticated Side Ponytail (Extended Version)," Glistening Pleasure - This and the associated album were my clear favorites in terms of listenability. As a band, though, they're a little disturbing. Are they actually sexual predators, or is it just a parody? Or is it a little of both? In any case, extra kudos for such well-played ambiguity.
  • Gogol Bordello, "American Wedding," Super Taranta! - There are people who make me feel out of the loop, and then there are people who make me realize I may have been unaware of the very existence of the loop. This song does that, vigorously.
  • As Cities Burn, "Made Too Pretty," Hell or High Water - An excellent palate cleanser after Natalie Portman.
  • Ginny Owen, "Be Still, My Soul" - For quite awhile now I've thought about doing a really slick remix of "Of The Father's Love Begotten," until I remember that I don't have a great singing voice and don't really know anything about song mixing.
  • Wolf Parade, "Dear Sons and Daughters of Hungry Ghosts," Apologies to the Queen Mary - I should listen to more things like this, as it seems it would actually enhance one's opinion of me if I were caught listening to it. Unlike most of the stuff already on this computer.

My apologies to jetski, whose music proved the hardest to track down. Otherwise, though, a very successful experiment!

Also, I just had a massive schedule change at work. I will go from working all evenings without two consecutive off days to string together to Monday to Friday, nine to six. Please bear with me as I make the transition back into actually having a social life as well as being online at the same time as the rest of the non-deadbeat world.


Why Go To Church?

Considering my history with the church, some of you may be wondering why I still put up with it every week. Honestly, I don't always know myself, but I thought I could at least try to tell you.

First off, I don't go because I have to. Many people inside and outside the church believe that it's sinful to skip church. While the attitudes that lead one to skip church may be sinful, the skipping itself really isn't. Consider the basis for the belief. The main proof texts are The Third Commandment ("Remember the Sabbath...", Deut. 5:12-15), and some passages from the Epistles (ex. Heb. 10:25, "Let us not give up meeting...").

Jack Black Jesus
This is the same line of reasoning that produces that "shellfish" argument I hate so much.

The first one at least would seem like an ironclad requirement for church attendance. That is, until it is interpreted along with the second. The better part of Hebrews 10 is spent explaining how the Sabbath and other rituals were not sufficient restitution for man's wrongs and should not be counted on for power beyond themselves. Luther reinforces this view in his Large Catechism, stating "As regards this external observance, this commandment was given to the Jews alone..." Most Christians at least tacitly acknowledge this when they come to church on Sunday instead of Saturday, when the Sabbath was actually instituted.

If anything, the epistle verses are always focusing on the supposed benefits of church rather than the act of church itself. These include community support, mutual education, and unified praise of God. But, what happens when these benefits don't materialize? Would such an assembly really be encouraged by the Bible? It's actually very common.

The praise, for one, is practically always lacking. It's not like we can expect to impress God with our poetry or musical prowess, but we should be working a lot harder to at least make an impression on each other. Seriously, what is the point of making people with no musical training, half of whom are half deaf, sing four-part harmony to an instrument played by someone trained for only half as many keyboards? The modern music is a little better, having made its way out of the seventies and into the nineties, but could still stand some serious improvement. I won't go so far as to say the music at every service I've ever been to has sucked goats, but I will say that most places simply can't list it as a selling point.

Strait Jacket
My level of awkwardness in church.

And those of you know have known me for a long time know that I haven't picked up a single long term friend from any church I've been at. For whatever reason, I am simply not wired for fellowship. Sometimes I even come intentionally late so I won't have to do that weird hand-shaking thing where I have to smile and nod at the guy next to me while pretending I didn't forget his name for the tenth time this year. I'm sure plenty of people are capable of socializing in this situation, but I am not one of them.

Strangely enough, though, the people are a big reason I come to church. Sure, I'm completely impaired in dealing with them and I don't like most of them once I get to know them, but without them it'd be so easy to just shut out the world entirely, to forget that the world is full of people with hopes and fears and dreams completely foreign yet completely legitimate. The thing is, we all form our own churches, whether we go to one or not. Seal yourself in, and it's not long before your thoughts become your dogma and every stranger your heretic. For me at least, spending time with a group that simultaneously embodies my beliefs and rubs me all kinds of wrong is a great way to keep me anchored to reality.

Is there another way for me to go about getting this anchoring? Probably, but it wouldn't have sacraments. Unlike church attendance, which is enjoined for the actions it produces rather than the act itself, sacraments are commanded by God and directly invested with his power, making them that much more essential to Christian life and that much harder to screw up. That's the best part, really. Since they depend on the power of God and not any kind of clap-for-Tinkerbell mojo we will into them, they are by definition virtually impossible to flummox, at least in the way we bonerize fellowship or praise music. In a way, bad services are almost better than good ones, because they'e that much more a reminder that even though we're not worthy of it, God still saw fit to come down and be with us, in his son Jesus and in the gift of his sacraments. That's something you just can't get anywhere else, and for me, enough reason to keep coming to church no matter what else happens to it.

Star Wars Rock
In conclusion, sacraments are awesome.

So Listen

Nothing on the radio here but Top 40 and I'm simply incapable of finding good music on my own, so here's what we're gonna do:

  1. You post the name, artist, and album of your current favorite song. It doesn't matter what it is, how much you think I'll like it, or how much you think I'll like or dislike your for it, all that matters is that you would like to be listening to this song right now more than any other song.
  2. I will make an honest attempt to not only procure this song, but listen to it, generously, in its entirety, and give it three benefits of the doubt with a disposition toward loving it.
  3. Once I'm done, I'll post my thoughts on the whole lot of them. Artistry ensues.

UPDATE: The single song rule has proven too mighty, so I hereby officially grant permission for multiple entries, with the disclaimer that I may pick and choose what I actually download if my iTunes budget suddenly dwarfs that of Lithuania.


Nick and Ashley's Guide to Inappropriate Nomenclature

Unacceptable baby names:

  • American presidential surnames (Madison)
  • Scottish surnames (Mackenzie)
  • Questionable occupations (Hunter, Gunner, Conner)
  • Major biblical heroes (David, Moses, Nathaniel)
  • Major biblical women (Ruth, Esther, Debra)
  • Major archangels (Michael)
  • Anything related to any popular entertainment at the time of the child's birth (Bella, Edward, Jacob Blackwolf Moonblood)
  • Bob