Sunday, 23 March 2014

I love you, now change.

A form of love that doesn't really love the individual where they are, but insists on a transformation to become more like the lover doesn't really seem like love to me. Christians can appear to be saying "I love you, but I want you to become more like me."

Is this love? A Christian might respond, "but it is not love to want someone to stay where they are, their potential for transformation unused."

Yes perhaps. But that feels a lot more like paternalism than it does feel like love.

Are we only satisfied when everyone has the same prejudices and beliefs as us?

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Sunday, 8 December 2013


Note to self: do not read the Stoic philosophers when you have a hangover.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

A spiritual moment for the ones outside of the tent

Sometimes when taking a walk with headphones on having a moment with Bruce Springsteen is about as good a spiritual experience as any I can imagine.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Lyric of the day

A prisoner of their own mind
Can never be free
~ Charlemagne

Sunday, 22 September 2013

God as parent. Believer as teenager.

We begin our faith as children looking to their parent. God is flawless, always looking out for us and all things will work out well in the end - if we just have faith.

Some believers become teenagers. Rebelling against all the flaws we see in our creator. We resist the crushing embrace of guilt, conscience and goodness. The gaze of creator exposed in each selfish thought we tried to keep unrevealed and for ourselves.

Some move beyond the teenage rebellion against God and love God despite the failures, weaknesses and unanswered questions. Because we see so much of ourselves in our creator.

Even though it might not all be alright in the end.

Even though its quite possible none of this is even certain.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Springsteen's "cowboy album"

Devils and Dust is a hugely underrated album. I can only think its lack of commercial success upon its release must be due to the world not being ready for its themes of betrayal and loss.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

The Onion: Exhausted Noam Chomsky Just Going To Try And Enjoy The Day For Once

From the Onion...

Describing himself as "terribly exhausted," famed linguist and political dissident Noam Chomsky said Monday that he was taking a break from combating the hegemony of the American imperialist machine to try and take it easy for once.
"I just want to lie in a hammock and have a nice relaxing morning," said the outspoken anarcho-syndicalist academic, who first came to public attention with his breakthrough 1957 book Syntactic Structures. "The systems of control designed to manufacture consent among a largely ignorant public will still be there for me to worry about tomorrow. Today, I'm just going to kick back and enjoy some much-needed Noam Time."

Full post here.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Nick Shager on the dying art of action movies

A thoughtful piece on how action movies have given in to Chaos Choreography.
"The Wolverine" is many things—another piece of Marvel's big-screen superhero puzzle, a sturdy vehicle for Hugh Jackman's soulful ferocity, a moderately gripping fish-out-of-water story of self-discovery and redemption. Yet just as important, it's an action film helmed by a director who is, by any reasonable measure, not an action director. Although he's staged solid, classically conceived action in "3:10 to Yuma" and "Copland," he's better known as an actor's director, more at home with the intimacy of "Girl, Interrupted" and "Walk the Line." 
By employing directors with backgrounds in drama, the studios hope action-heavy films will be infused with greater depth. The catch, however, is that drama directors are usually inexperienced at, and thus incapable of, properly handling their material that is the film's main selling point, or one of them. 

The full post is at roger ebert.

Ehrman on the Bible

“Different authors have different points of view. You can't just say, 'I believe in the Bible.”  
― Bart D. Ehrman

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Losing my Christian labels

I'm sympathetic to the postmodern/postChristian movement and I'm sympathetic generally to socially liberal causes, but I can't bring myself to join any of the groups that go along with it.  I've always been uncomfortable with labels - I feel they distance us from each other more than they help to define us.

Even the "anti-group" groups feel like a group now.

After all I'm not really sure what my position on most of this is - and that makes it hard to belong to any group or cause.

I really respect Pete Rollins and what he is trying to do with Pyrotheology and Jay Bakker over at Revolution.  A big part of me admires someone who can put themselves out there and standing for something.

In one of Shusako Endo's novels there is a character who simply stands by when his fellow Christians are hauled off to be tortured.  Shusako voices the character in the first person which makes it achingly confessional.  He is one of them, but he finds himself unable to stand for anything when it really matters.  He is simply there in the background, throughout the persecution, watching from the sidelines.

That character could have started a modern religion.

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Life philosophy - starting this Thursday

On the advice of Tyler Cowen, I've decided to adopt a regret minimization heuristic.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Arnold Kling on the three languages of politics

EconTalk is ostensibly a 1 hour weekly podcast on Economics... but it is really more about life.  And after an uncomfortable conversation with a more conservative believer, a friend of mine recommended I give Arnold Kling's viewpoint a try.  There is a fundamental flaw with all of our debates about politics and religion - our opponents wouldn't recognize themselves in our descriptions of them.

The podcast can be listened to here.

Here is the excerpt from the EconTalk site about the show:
Arnold Kling, author of The Three Languages of Politics, talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the ideas in the book. Kling argues that Progressives, Conservatives, and Libertarians each have their own language and way of looking at the world that often doesn't overlap. This makes it easier for each group to demonize the others. The result is ideological intolerance and incivility. By understanding the language and mindset of others, Kling suggests we can do a better job discussing our policy disagreements and understand why each group seems to feel both misunderstand and morally superior to the other two.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Woody Allen: we're not alone

 I believe there is something out there watching us. Unfortunately, it's the government.
~ Woody Allen 

Monday, 1 July 2013

Man of Steel - Can we reopen the Batman versus Superman debate?

It is reasonably fashionable these days to ridicule Superman as the "this is how American sees itself" superhero.  When film fans discuss the the age-old is "Batsman better than Superman?" argument, it is decidedly pointed in the favor of Batman - at least in the trendy neighbourhoods.

After all, Batman is a superhero without superpowers.  He is the gritty, flawed, and dark one with a gloomy view of the human condition .  Superman is so... 1950s.  All American, flawless, the superhero of a simpler time, when good and evil had a clearer dividing line.

Except... it's really a lot more complicated than that.

The power of the Superman story isn't about a man with no weaknesses.  Its power is in Superman showing us our own limitations as we contrast ourselves against him.  It's in Superman losing his powers and becoming "one of us" and in doing so, showing us what it means to be human.

The Superman projection is a way of figuring out who we are as flawed humans, in a similar way that Star Trek's Spock is mirror that helps us see our own irrationality.

Superman isn't about a Man of Steel.  It's about how we don't measure up to our own ideals.  So I'm just going go on record and risk losing the little "cool" factor I still might have had. 

I actually kind of liked the new Superman.  There I said it.

Saturday, 29 June 2013

David Chase's eulogy for James Gandolfini

You know, everybody knows that we always ended an episode with a song. That was kind of like me and the writers letting the real geniuses do the heavy lifting: Bruce, and Mick and Keith, and Howling Wolf and a bunch of them. So if this was an episode, it would end with a song. 
And the song, as far as I'm concerned, would be Joan Osborne's "What if God Was One of Us?" And the set-up for this – we never did this, and you never even heard this – is that Tony was somehow lost in the Meadowlands. He didn't have his car, and his wallet, and his car keys. I forget how he got there – there was some kind of a scrape – but he had nothing in his pocket but some change. He didn't have his guys with him, he didn't have his gun. 

And so mob boss Tony Soprano had to be one of the working stiffs, getting in line for the bus. And the way we were going to film it, he was going to get on the bus, and the lyric that would've one over that would've been – and we don't have Joan Osborne to sing it:
If God had a face
what would it look like?
And would you want to see
if seeing meant you had to believe?
And yeah, yeah, God is great.
Yeah, yeah, God is good.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
So Tony would get on the bus, and he would sit there, and the bus would pull out in this big billow of diesel smoke. And then the key lyric would come on, and it was:
What if God was one of us?
Just a slob like one of us?
Just a stranger on the bus
trying to make his way home 
And that would've been playing over your face, Jimmy. But then – and this is where it gets kind of strange – now I would have to update, because of the events of the last week. And I would let the song play further, and the lyrics would be:
Just trying to make his way home
Like a holy rollin' stone
Back up to Heaven all alone
Nobody callin' on the phone
'Cept for the Pope, maybe, in Rome.

The full euology is available at Rolling Stone

R.I.P. Tony...

Sunday, 23 June 2013

The Ambivalent Manifesto

From Tyler Cowen, as applicable to spirituality as it is to economic
We are the Ambivalents, unable not to see both sides of the argument, frozen in the no-man’s land between armies of true believers. We cannot speak our name, because there is no respectable way to confess that you believe two opposing propositions, no ballot that allows you to vote for competing candidates, no questionnaire in which you can tick the box, “I agree with both of these conflicting views.” 

So the Ambivalents avoid the question, or check “I don’t know,” or grit their teeth and pick a side. Consequently, our ambivalence doesn’t leave a trace. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

Ambivalence refers to the state of experiencing conflicting beliefs or feelings simultaneously.

Ambivalence is not the same as indifference, with which it is often confused. Someone in an ambivalent state of mind is experiencing an excess of opinion, not an absence of it. 

An ambivalent person may feel very strongly about the subject at hand without reaching anything like a coherent point of view on it.

- See more at: Marginal Revolution.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Joseph Arthur - The Saint of Impossible Causes

I need the saint of music need the saint of love
I know what you're thinking and you're right...

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Lovink on Social Media

‘We are honoured to be invited by the Machine to submit our opinions and preferences. We give in to the pressure to categorize data and join the swarms of ‘collective intelligence.’ Donate your wisdom to the crowds. We are invited to create reading lists, rank music and evaluate the products we consumed. 

User bees working for queen Google. It is so tempting to become part of the online ‘pollination’ world, as French economist Yann Moulier coined it, with billions of users acting like bees that fly from one website to the other, adding value for the owners.’ 

(Networks Without A Cause)

Hat tip to Kester Brewin for the quote.

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Maybe God calls some people to disbelief

Some people are called to have a close personal relationship with God.  Maybe for others, that never happens.  Maybe their path is never to have that kind of intimacy and confidence with this version of God that you have.

Maybe they're called to a lack of faith, or a silence.

They don't get to stand up and share their testimony.

They don't get to be certain.

Maybe their place is on the outside looking in.

Maybe God calls them to doubt and disbelief.

And this is their place.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

The postmodern theology of Walking Dead

I don't think I've ever been quite as theologically gutted by a show as the Walking Dead.

Whether it is a character praying for a sign from God and being answered by having their child taken from them, or whether it is just the slow gradual extinction of all hope - 21st century theological despair runs deep in this one.

It's what your 16-year old Christian self feared might happen when you open the door of doubt and skepticism: that the floor will disappear beneath you, that you will keep falling and falling... with nothing and no one to catch you.

It's the locked chest many of us decide to leave untested. 

What if...?

What if there is no God?

What if we when we die, that is just it?

What if we just return to the void?


What if all of this... just hinges on chance, on infinite possibility?

All you're left with is a group of people, bound by their loss of what was formerly certain and taken for granted. No more hope of a meaningful life under the old rules and soon enough, even talk of the possibility of hope is dismissed as foolishness before it finally succumbs to silence.

No more return to "before". Just a relentless march forward into an uncertain future - and then extinction.

Heck, it could just as well be Pete Rollins blog, if you didn't know any better.

I think I need some Eastbound and Down to bring me back from the edge.
"The believer continually lies out on the deep - 70,000 fathoms of water beneath him." ~ Kierkegaard

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Arcade Fire on Money and God

"Never trust a millionaire who quotes the Sermon on the Mount.
I used to think I was not like them, 
 But I am beginning to have my doubts"
~ Arcade Fire

Thursday, 25 April 2013

My dark night of the soul

As you may have figured out its getting harder and harder for me to post on here. This isn't the "life is busy" excuse. I have often felt hypocritical on here and I think my decade long "dark night of the soul" is starting to weigh down on me.
For some reason I feel a weight of expectation on me about what I am supposed to feel or believe. Or that I am not supposed to lose the faith or something.
That somehow beginning a blog on faith means you're supposed to live up to it.
I really don't know where all this is going and I'm not sure what sort of label I am supposed to place here.
It's easy to say "oh don't worry about that". But the truth is... It bugs the hell out of me. Like a nail scratching the inside of my skull.
I see the church - and I can't relate.
I see atheists - and I can't relate.
I see agnostics - and I can't relate.
To paraphrase the Dane:
"Whether you put faith away or you don't put faith away, either way, you will regret it."
Even my Springsteen albums don't really do it anymore.

Saturday, 30 March 2013

All the damage we did trying to help you

"We were worried about your personal salvation... was it heaven or hell that you saw when your eyes closed?
You smiled at us floating high above the question like you knew something we didn't know."*
Our spiritual interventions ended up doing more harm than good. We could not even consider the possibility that we were wrong. We put you in the state of fallenness, casting ourselves as defenders of the truth. It was the marker from which we would no longer discuss your inner life.
Well intentioned, but in the end, we did more harm than good.
And so. Old friends no longer discuss God or spirituality. Former lovers no longer talk. Parents and children are in different spaces and places now.
And still we tell ourselves "We were worried about their personal salvation."
* Taken from "Virginia"

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

David Bazan on questions of spiritual salvation

I've had this song on loop for a few days now.  Classic Bazan, really.  I can't help but think that it's about the pain of looking back and realizing how damaging it was when you asked those close to you to prove they were "true believers".
But then again... maybe, that's just me.

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Cameron Crowe on the glory of being uncool

"The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what we share with someone else when we're uncool."
 ~ Lester Bangs (Almost Famous)

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

God-shaped hole... or Hole-shaped God?

Pascal is famous for a quote about there being a God-shaped hole in the heart of each us.  But I've been thinking about what we do to God to make him fit inside that hole.  Do we cut off the pieces that don't quite fit in?  Or do we fill in the spaces where we find our spiritual hole still not filled by this God.
Just how far are we willing to twist God to make him fit into the God-shaped hole that we defined for him?
[Inspired by the atheism for lent project.]

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Atheism for Lent

In a nod to the "religious uses of modern atheism" school the team at iKon have a novel twist on this season of Lent. Instead of giving up something like chocolate or alcohol -  the idea is to experience a spiritual desert / dark night of the soul for Lent.
It is a 5 week Lent series covering strong atheist critiques of Christianity by Freud, Marx, Nietzche, Zizek with the aim of allowing believers to feel the full weight of the absence of the divine for Lent.
Here is the link for Atheism for Lent.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Don't Live in the Moment

Mitchell on why watching Andy Murray may or may not give you an insight into the pursuit of pleasure as a basic philosophy of life.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Dexter on Truth

"Trust those who seek the truth, but doubt those who claim to have found it."
~ Dexter
Of course whether you should take advice from television's most popular fictional serial killer is still a matter of interpretation.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Runaway Train

Soul Asylum's Runaway Train was a hit over twenty years ago. I never thought getting old would happen so quickly...
Every now and again that kind of thing hits you. Like how Marty McFly would be pushing fifty about now.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Kakfa on starting over again

"I don't know... only away from here, away from here.  Always away from here.  Only by doing so can I reach my destination."
"So you know your destination?"
"Yes. I have already said so. Away-from-here.  That is my destination."

Monday, 14 January 2013

There is no cure

"No religion is gonna cure you of your pain
How much have you changed?  
No, you're still the same..."
~ Joseph Arthur
For every one teenager raised up on unscientific tales of creation who loses his faith when he encounters the body of critical knowledge I fear there may be two more who were promised a cure for their depression and lose their faith when they find that, no, even after all of this, they're still the same.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

What I learned about being a father last year

Christmas is a lot more fun with kids.

Fatherhood doesn't really begin in the delivery room.  What happens in there is more like getting hit between the eyes with a steel hammer with lots of blood and water thrown in the mix (none of it yours). Fatherhood begins a few months later, the moment your baby has their first chuckle with you.

Life before parenthood is just a dream you wake up from that you can't quite remember all the details of.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Monday, 24 December 2012

For those without a Christmas tree this year

Friday, 14 December 2012

Did heaven and hell betray Christianity?

If we found out that our neighbour visited someone who was ill, or fed someone who was hungry, simply because they were going to receive a monetary reward for it, we would never look kindly on that act.  We would not say it was good, it would be viewed as selfishness - a calculated pulling of the strings in order to manipulate benefits for oneself.

But if someone converts to Christianity in order to receive eternal life, we don't seem to mind at all.

Friday, 30 November 2012

Patriotism and discrimination

From the Twittersphere:

"One day we’ll see legal dis­crim­i­na­tion by *place* of birth as evil as dis­crim. by other fea­tures of birth –gen­der, orientation, color."

— Charles Kenny (@charlesjkenny) June 25, 2011

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Dostoyevsky vs Zizek


If God does not exist, then everything is permitted.


If God does exist, then everything is permitted.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Gays and the church

When I hear people in the church talking about how they really aren't anti-gay people, it's just that they want what is best for them, or that they aren't promoting discrimination towards gays, only they want to keep the institute of marriage "sacred", I can't help but think of the old racist justification "separate but equal'.

Sadly, we still have to keep this conversation alive.  The message isn't getting through.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Red States and Blue States

This American Life had a great show this week on relationships ruined by political views. While listening to stories of estranged families and ruined friendships because one person voted Romney or Obama I couldn't help thinking how similar this sort of poison is to the way that religious disagreements infect relationships.

It is easier to just cut off those who really disagree with us.  We "agree to disagree" but that really means removing them from our lives. We're stuck between either trying to aggressively convert people or simply cutting them off.  We don't attempt to understand the position of the "other" and we don't try to see how our own positions can appear to others.

We don't need religion to divide us. We do a pretty good job of that without it. It's just our way.

Here's the show:


Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Hurricane Sandy

Stay safe friends and family.  We're thinking of you...

the White Buffalo on wishing it were true

Country, I was a soldier for you

did what you asked me to

it was wrong and you knew

Country, now I'm just a stranger to you

A number a name it's true

Throw me away when you're through

The home of the brave and the free

The red white and blue

Well I wish it was true

Hat tip to my buddy Jeff for uncovering this gem of a songwriter for me. You can find more of the White Buffalo here.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Parenting II

I have seen the future. It involves eating at less expensive Italian restuarants. It possibly also involves bits of food being thrown around in public.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Not John 3:16

Saw this while checking out a Brian McLaren book online:

 "For God so loved the church that he gave to himself his only Son, as a penal substitutionary sacrifice, so that those elect few who believe in this atoning doctrine would not suffer eternal, conscious torment in hell as a result of original sin (Not John 3:16)"

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Don't Fade...

"Lead me well, don't clear my way 
It's fascinating how the pallor can stay upon your face 
When you are light like a little boy 
Flying kites and shouting to the world 
You're shouting to the world your joy 
Don't fade, you're staying here with me 
Don't fade, I need to know that someone still believes 

Look around, see for yourself 
He led us down and at the water's edge we knelt 
Petals in the lake and red upon my face 
She's crying as we pray 
And it all comes down to money, again 
How could you forsake the love of God that way 
Don't fade, you're staying here with me 
Don't fade, I need to know that someone still believes."

You can find more of Toad the Wet Sprocket here.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Welcome little one

Welcome to planet earth, little Zoe.  You're surrounded by our love.