Friday, March 30, 2007

You are my density

There is a word I have heard a lot since entering doctoral studies. The word is, "Dense."

I can't help but think of George McFly when I hear this word. However, it has never once been used in reference to George McFly. Rather, it has always, without fail, been used to describe the writing style utilized in scholarly publications.

Journal articles are dense. They are dense in that the meaning per word ratio is intentionally very high. The goal is to pack as much meaning into as few words as possible. For example, this paragraph is not dense in that I am making the point a couple of times in slightly different ways. There is no room for this kind of writing in scholarly journals. Repeating yourself is a waste of space and paper. Yes, going over something more than once is unacceptable in scholarly writing.

As you can see, I am going to have a hard time being dense - in my writing that is.

Furthermore, there is usually a certain hint of "I'm freakin' smart because I understand this article" going on when someone talks about how dense the article is. And thusfar, everytime I have sensed this assertion of intelligence, that person was actually super smart.

Well, I am learning to write scholarly. I might even annoy you with something posted on this blog at some point in the future. Hopefully, I can be your density.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Branjaya

My brother-in-law, Brandon, is a worship minister in Nashville. He is well connected in worship and music circles and is quite gifted in many ways. He is well-respected by many...

...until now.

It appears that he has been lead astray by the American Idol phenom known as Sanjaya.

I promise that I did not doctor up this picture at all. Nope. This is an authentic representation of the extent to which Brandon (or should I say Branjaya?) is going to in order to get Sanjaya elected as the next American Idol.

Please comment here on this blog or comment on his blog and ask him to stop his campaign for Sanjaya. Tell him that he is ruining the integrity of the show and destroying the sterling reputation of reality television.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

1 Year and I am OK

Today marks one year since my father passed away. I am OK.

it has been one of the worst, if not the worst, year of my life. I am glad to be done with it. I look forward to a better year ahead.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Tony Jones says...

...when other hermeneutics stagnate, deconstruction shouts, "There's more here, there's a perfect justice to be had, and we can't rest until we get there!"

And then he says more than that here.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

communion

The person who does not commune does not live.

To commune is to pursue transcendance with others. Nothing is more human than this.

Things

There are so many things in the world, and yet, we insist on turning people into things.

Church

People who have church are lost; people who are church are found.

Generosity

People who require gratitude for their generosity are merely purchasing self-esteem.

Materialism

Having encraoches on being; much having leaves little room for being.

Our Task

To be human; it is our only task.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Rules for March Madness

You should not trust what I am about to write since I never win, but here are my rules for March Madness (that I do not folow often).

1. Never pick fewer than 2 #1 teams for the final four.
2. Never pick 4 #1's for the final four.
3. Always pick 1 team with a rank of #6 or lower (worse ranking) to arrive in the Final Four.
4. The Big Ten will always disappoint you and no matter how many teams get bids, they will send one team to the Sweet 16 - maybe two on a good year.
5. The Big East will often disappoint you, but not as often as the Big Ten.
6. Bobby Knight gets worse every year and can no longer be trusted past the first round.
7. Gonzaga's run is over and it will be until 2015.
8. Pepperdine will rise again.
9. Flipping coins to pick is just barely worse than making informed picks.
10. Watching Sports Center increases a person's odds of winning by 10% and no more.

Vandy will be...

...in the Final Four.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

9 Paper Route Driver: The Semi-spiritual Journey of a Not Very Religious Man

Dad loved the paper route. It was more than a job to him, it was a declaration. Each morning he traveled those couple hundred miles, each bundle of papers he opened, each newspaper he folded and inserted into the newspaper tube was an identity-affirming and existentially profound declaration of independence that went something like this:

"You're not the boss of me."

And to be sure, no one was the boss of my father, not even himself if we're going for total accuracy, which I think is the point.

My father had too many people in his life vying for position of boss. His father was his first boss. That arrangement lasted 16 years. My father left his father's house in protest at the age of 16 and never returned as a boy; he walked out the door a 16 year old boy and entered a world that required him to be a man. A world that requires a boy to be a man can be a place so hostile, so cruel that only a fool would enter it too early. My father was no fool, or if he was, he was the lesser of fools. Even the hostility of an unforgiving world was an improvement from life with his father.

As a young boy, my father asked his father a simple and innocent question about God and religion. The response was harsh and abusive. With hate in his eyes, my grandfather looked down on his young son with a piercing glare and said, "There is no God; I AM YOUR GOD." Now, I believe there is an honest way to arrive at the conclusion that there is not God. It's a false conclusion, but I believe you can get there honestly. On the other hand, there isn't any honest way to arrive at the conclusion that you yourself are God. There is something besides honesty driving that self-assessment.

When you are at a young age and your father declares himself to be God and insists on abusing you so harshly and frequently that you launch from home prematurely, there is this chance, methinks, that there might be some authority issues on the horizon.

How does a boy whose father has made a divine self-declaration prove the untruth of the claim? Such claims cannot be ignored or brushed off by a son like others from the outside can. A boy becomes a man by way of the man he calls father. Although my father knew that his father was not God, he didn't have enough proof to be convincing. When your father lies to you, it's hard to be convinced that he is lying unless he allows himself to be convinced that he is wrong. My grandfather was never wrong.

One way for a son to prove that his father is not God is to replace him as God. It is the way of the Sith. I think my dad had moments when he tried to believe that he was God and not his father, but my dad had at least sense enough to realize he did have some failings which disqualfied him from Deity status.

Another way for a son to prove his father is not God is to make a daily declaration that what is a lie really is a lie. It is the daily discarding of the lie and daily hope that there is truth - hope enough in truth to look for it. This declaration needs to be consistent, ritualized, and affirming that there is truth beyond oneself.

And when you think about it, doesn't that define worship? Isn't worship the discarding of that which is not God in the hopeful search for that which is? Isn't worship a declaration to everything not God that, "You're not the boss of me," in hopes that there is something worthy of being my boss?

Most people practice this ritual inside the walls of a church. My dad did it on the dirt roads of Lakeville, Minnesota - delivery in the daily news.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

What is Social Justice?

I've got a few questions for you.

1. What is social justice?


2. Where did you personally first hear about social justice?


3. Besides "everyone," who or what groups (organizations) should be most interested in social justice?

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Join my March Madness Pool (free) NOW!!!!!

I have created an online March madness pool via yahoo.

Join it now!!!

Step 1: Click here.
Step 2: Select "Join Private Group."
Step 3: Enter "147096" for Group ID#
Step 4: Enter "fajita" for the password.

Follow the directions from there.

Please do not make me winner by the fact that I am the only one in my group.

Friday, March 09, 2007

I Want Him Back

This month marks one year since my father died. The actual date of his death is March 28th, 2006. But today, I am so sad.

Today I made my Social Identity Presentation in my Multicultural Issues course. It was a great assignment. And yet, I had to talk publicly about my father. I didn't realize how hard that would be until I was actually doing it.

What I thought was just the normal nervousness that accompanies speaking in front of people was really a tsunami of sadness that had been neglected for too long. I cried as I talked about my relationship with him. I tried not to, but there is something about grief that can only stand neglect for so long - and then it asserts itself.

I needed it. I needed to talk about my father. I needed to cry about my father. I needed the hug I received. No, I would never have asked for it, but there was no way I was going to deny it either. I did recover enough to finish the talk.

Even as I write, the tears come. Today I am not thinking about the day he died. No, I am thinking about the best day of my life - when he and I reconciled.

You see, I secretly hated my father for nearly 2 and a half decades. No one knew - even me. But when I realized it, I had rage - and then I longed to forgive him. I longed for his forgiveness.

You know what? I got it. We talked and I got everything from him I was looking for. I remember my tears then were tears of relief. Hate is a thing that suffocates you. Carry it around and pieces of you either start to die or never get a chance to live in the firtst place. For the first time in my life, I didn't hate.

I got 13 more years with him after than - and it wasn't enough. I want him back. I miss my father. I want him to be at my PhD graduation. I want him to see me wear the funny cap and gown. I want him to tell me how proud he is of me. For numerous health and work related reasons, he was not at any of my graduations, my wedding, or the birth of my children. I don't blame him for that. But never the less, I don't get to have it either.

It's my son's birthday party tomorrow. He'll be 7. I am going to be there, capturing it on tape, having as much fun as I possibly can. Even though I do not get to have my father for the important things happening in my life, I get to be a father in the important things happening in my son's life.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Should Japan Apologize For War Brothels?

Until a Korean friend of mine pointed this out to me, I was not aware of the hideous war brothels of Japan back in WWII. This kind of sex slavery is sickening and there is no reason for it to ever happen.

Japan will not formally apologize for this past sex slavery.

Read about it here and then go ahead and vote on the question in the lower left hand corner of the article.

As an American, this one really does hit close to home when you think of the worst of American history. Maybe there needs to more political and national apologies.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Why does there have to be a god?

Phil from Minnetonka asks, "Why does there have to be a god?" in response to this post.

This is a great question for many reasons. For one, concepts god have incredible historical value so far as the shaping of societies and cultures is concerned. It is almost impossible to talk history without at least mentioning how people have responded to what they believed was god.

Another reason it is important has to do with the extreme diversity that exists in current beliefs about god, including theological, political, philosophical, and cultural (and a whole lot more) perspectives.

I am not fool enough to go about proving anything on this blog (or anywhere else) about god. I am not equipped to prove anything. In fact, I would wager no one is capable of proving god. Any arguments that can be made in favor of god, which there are many, can be countered by other arguments exposing the confounding paradox of evil and pain and a loving god - and the debaters end at a stalemate. Often times arguments over god end up being Rorshock tests, merely measuring what is already there rather than talking people into or out of faith.

However, I would make the same wager in the opposite - no one is capable of disproving god either. The paradoxes and mysteries, the evidence and "proof" of no god often end up making a strawman out of god. These arguments crush the strawman and ignore god altogether. Evolution somehow disproving god is one of my favorite strawman arguments, as if god were enclosed within a little 6000 year box.

What is regrettable (and I am guilty of this critique) for believers and nonbelievers alike is the generally little amount of evidence that is needed in order for one or the other to settle and say, "See, I told you so." Lowering the bar on evidence doesn't help anyone. For the believer, defaulting to "I just believe. It's faith," with no further thought required is tantamount to taking their ball and going home. On the other hand, those who do not believe in god cannot just paint all people of faith as mindless idiots or even some benevolent patronizing such as, "they mean well." That's just as bad as the believer's blind faith.

If there is a god, then there must be a sort of elusiveness about him (I use 'him' for convenience and not to gender god) that defies being boxed in either by people who do not believe, but perhaps even more importantly, for the people who do. It is dangerous for people to believe that they are too familiar with god and begin to assert their power against others in his name. Who couldn't name wrongs done in god's name? And to those who can't name any wrongs, please, open your eyes and see how much death and oppression results in people believing they have a lock on god.

Such "people of faith" present a paradox. People who act counter to god's nature (assuming god's nature is love as most major religions do) in their familiarity with him prove only that they are as far away from god as they think themselves to be close. Not only do these people supply those who do not believe with troops of strawmen to tear down to believe they have disproved god, these false believers in fact are worse off of all people, even the nonbelievers they so pity or despise. At least those who do not believe in god are not dishonesty about their unbelief in god. Honesty against god is better then dishonesty for him.

No, it is too dangerous for god to be known in completeness, at least throughout history until now. So, if there is a god, he is not all that easy to find.

And yet, throughout the ages, people ranging from the simplest to the intellectually elite have claimed to find god. People have martyred themselves, sacrificing everything for god. Incredible institutions that benefit all people were established in god's name. Massive medical, educational, artistic, and scientific advances have been initiated or developed in people's sincere pursuit of loving their neighbors and their god.

And yet, facts are facts. But what lies beyond the facts is everything else. As humans we have the capcity to assign meaning, practically any meaning, to the available facts. We might not have the ability to assign Truth (notice the caps) to the facts, but we cannot help but assign meaning to the facts. I think we all strive toward Truth, but arrive at our individual little truths.

Thus, I would challenge that our beliefs inform the evidence and not the other way around. Belief almost always drives the meaning of proof and not the other way around. Everyone thinks that they start at proof and then arrive at belief. I think we are all to one degree or another seduced into this self-deception. Once a person settles on a belief, the proof is merely a mental exercise.

In the end, I think we're all wrong about god. How could we do any better? And yet, there is no shame in being wrong about god. If there is a god and he is good and compassionate and loving, then some sort of rescue from all of our collected ignorances is in order.

I'll cast my lot with the idea that there is a god and try to live my life with god as I understand him as a compass I'd like to get really good at following. The worst I can do is be a good fool. Not bad for a guy like me.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Minnesota High School Wrestling

When I was in high school, I was part of one of the best high school wrestling programs in the nation, Apple Valley. That was 20 years ago. Tonight, little has changed. Apple Valley High School has once again won the state wrestling tournament.

It was inspiring to watch these guys giving it all they have.

Apple valley is in brown.

Here is an escape for one point.

Pinned!

Actually, this was not considered a pin and I can't for the life of me figure out why. This guy looks flat as a pancake.

Just about a pin.


Looks like trouble.


Locking horns.
Minnesota's winningest coach ever (percentage wise), Jim Jackson.

The finest coaching staff ever. Bill Demaray (left) is the legend who is responsible for starting the dynasty that is Apple valley wrestling. He now serves as an assistant coach.

Jim Jackson (center) inherited Demaray's dynasty and has only made it better.

Dalen Wasmund (right) is a long time Apple Valley assistant who was once an olympic wrestler.

Apple valley wins. 15 team state championships in the past 27 years.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Campaign Finance Reform and a Motivated Electorate

I am sick and tired of some things in our democracy. 1. Obscene amounts of money spent on campaigns. 2. People not voting. One of my political science profs in college said America was governed by an apathocracy. I think that he had a point. Here is my plan (stolen mostly from Larry James Blog):

1. Institue a lottery in which voting enters you into the lottery.
2. All money raised for campaigns requires a dollar for dollar match of raised funds for the lottery (applies to candidates, parties, and Swift Boat/Move On types of organizations as well).
3. $50 fine for not voting, which also adds to the lottery money.
4. $100 Tax credit for voting.
5 . Lottery dollars are awarded in $1000 pieces according to how much money is raised.

Think about this for a minute. Voter turnout would surge. Poor people, who typically do not vote because their vote "doesn't matter" are given a chance to matter, even if it only for a tax credit and a shot at $1000 (bt I think they would come with their values as well).

Yes, this might be considered coersion, but let's look at it from the opposite perspective. So much has been to suppress and discourage voting that going overboard in the other direction couldn't be as bad, could it? Why not encourage voting with incentives even if you think your candidate is going to lose?

I bet this would transform the American political system back into a democracy.

Let's run some numbers. Let's say there are one billion dollars raised for the 2008 presidential campaign, which in total is likely to be a low estimate when Senate and Hose campaigns are taken into consideration and with Obama and Clinton alone accounting for $200,000,000.

$1,000,000,000 in the lottery makes 1 million winners of $1000. That's ends up being abot a 1 in 150 shot at a thousand bucks. Not bad odds compared to POWERBALL and MEGAMILLIONS.

What do yo think?