Archive for June, 2009

Greed

If one desires a short, and invigorating read about the evolution of greed in western secular and Christian culture, Phyllis Tickle’s Greed is an ideal read. Greed is a part of the Seven Deadly Sins series, a joint effort between Oxford University press and the NY public library – it is also a series on my Amazon wish list.

Before diving into the book it is important to note two qualities. First, the shortness of the book is primarily due to the fact the book is an edited transcription of a lecture given by Tickle at the NY public library. This causes the reader to feel somewhat out of place. One senses that they should be present, hearing these words, not in their home or a coffee shop attempting to read them. The format of the book also includes a relatively lengthy prologue and epilogue. Honestly theses are my least favorite parts of any book so they will not receive more than this mention.

The second aspect of Greed is Tickle’s dictum, candor and language. As she often does, Tickle evokes one’s intelligence. She jogs the mind and necessitates multiple synapses to occur within one’s brain. However, Greed also flirts with waxing intellectual and academic pontification rather than prophetic wisdom. This may cause a reader to turn off in the middle of the text. However, it is worth persevering. At the least, struggle though the text once and then read it again. The historical insight becomes clearer and more profound with repetition.

Tickle begins by examining the Apostle Paul’s commentary on greed. Perhaps most interesting in this section is Tickle’s examination of the Pauline phrase “the love of money is the root of all evil”. This phrase – originally Radix Omnium Maloran Avaritia –, when viewed as an acrostic makes a powerful social statement.

Radix

Omnium

Maloran

Avaritia

Though Tickle does not say this directly, the creative relevance suggests that Paul meant to both resist falling in love with money in and of itself and the seduction to the materialistic ways of the Roman Empire.  I personally, connect this to our present state in the USA and the ease in which Christians can fall into the “American way” rather than Christian values of money and subsequently preach the Gospel of Capitalism with word and dead.

After examining Paul, Tickle moves on to the  Psychomachia which is a literary work which chronicles a series of battles between seven virtues and vices. They story of Greed (indulgence) tells of Greed’s initial failure to overcome then her transformation into thrift. This is one of my favorite sections of commentary. Thrift is so often viewed as a virtue; as an act of restraint. However, thrift suggests a lack of willingness to give what an item is worth and a preoccupation with retaining – or hording – money. Thrift is not congruent with stewardship. Thrift encourages the purchasing of cheap goods rather than durable ones. Thrift is the ideology which says “because it is cheap it is good”. It is the mantra of the American culture. Thrift is we purchase cheap goods to retain money not to serve others and end up purchasing abundantly more because of perceived and designed obsolescence.

Tickle then goes through a series of works of art – The Seven Deadly Sins, the Haywain, Big Fish Eat Little Fish, Greenspan Buddha, the Christmas Carol, Greed and Wall Street. In the midst, Tickle refers to Hebrew College professor Solomon Schimmel’s observation of the secularization of greed. His concern is that evil has become viewed to have only social implications rather than spiritual ones. This dimension – somewhat Gnostic – has not  allowed the church or the individual to connect greed to a break with God or evoke a need for reconciliation.

Within Tickle’s essay one can easily see her burgeoning ideas of the Great Emergence. Tickle believed then – and is more convicted now – that we are one the fourth 500 year seismic shift in which a re-formation within the church occurs. Though I am unsure I agree that this is a global occurrence – perhaps it is relevant in the Western church. Despite my questions, this aspect is important to realize as Tickle presented an urgency in re-spiritualizing greed.  And viewing it’s impact as broad in pervasive both personally and socially. Tickle’s perspective is continuously imaginative and thought provoking.

Greed is a worthwhile read. And though short in words, packs a punch of an espresso or jalapeño seed. You will not read Greed and remain static in your views and your examination of Greed’s interaction with us a contemporary creations of God.

Still Proud

We lost to Brazil 3 -2, but I am proud of the American soccer team. Coming into the came I was excited that we had actually made it to a final and as the game proceeded I couldn’t believe that we scored not only one goal, but two goals & we were leading 2-0 at the half.

We played an incredible first half, one that is hopefully a foretelling of what things will look like  at the World Cup. If we keep up that style of play and intensity, we will be a forced to be reckoned with on the world stage.  The world got a taste of American soccer this southern winter, hopefully in a year we will be able to give the world the full meal.

Dyson and Obama

Michael Eric Dyson comments on the Obama Presidency

Is Dyson on point here?

Is is way off?

What points does he have?

What do we glean from this commentary?

Thoughts?

Should we expect something more/different of Obama?

USA Soccer – NOW WHAT?!?!

USA -2, Spain – 0

The U.S. shocked top-ranked Spain 2-0 on Wednesday in the semifinals of the Confederations Cup, ending the Spaniards’ record-tying 35-match unbeaten streak. Spain had won 15 straight matches and had not conceded a goal in 451 minutes.

The Americans advanced to their first-ever FIFA tournament final. Miami Herald

I had to post this, I just had to. I know it isn’t typical commentary, but  I can’t tell you how excited I am – though I am disappointed at Spain because they did not trade jerseys after the game, a customary action.

This win doesn’t mean we are a world soccer power, far from it.  We have another match to play before we  even when this tourney and we still have plenty of kinks to work out as a national team.

All and all this was incredible because it was an upset. But, I think it does let people know what USA has a good soccer team (not football club, I’m ok with not trying to be like Europe). I love and respect this quotation from Spain’s coach, “We faced a team that played with good energy, was good in attack and was fast . . . we were surprised. The entire team was very dangerous.”

Yes, the USA plays the game differently – we have always done so, we did so when we beat England in 1950 – , but the way we play gritter, rougher, slower, and more athletic than mainstream football is apart of who we are. It is our style and honestly refining that style and playing it well is perhaps the best option we have to be continuously competitive. I hope that we begin to accept that and stop trying to play the European game.

Either way we are in a FIFA final, I hope this encourages American soccer players, quiets some of the cultural critiques of soccer, gives us more credibility on the world stage, and brings out more Americans who are willing to support their soccer team – not just say “we aren’t good”.

I could talk about some of the details of the game, but really the best thing to say is. . .

Well done red, white and blue; well done.

Here is video of the two American goals and other highlights.

The Gospel of Obama

As featured on “Musical Soul Food” radio show

The Pledge of Allegiance describes our country as “one nation, under God.” And our Declaration of Independence speaks of the equality of men.

Now listen as Juanita Bynum, Donnie McClurkin, William Murphy, and others honor the man who represents these important founding principles of our country … as well as our best hopes for the future.

A Gospel Tribute to President Barack Obama is a one-of-a-kind musical celebration that will both inspire you in your faith and make you proud to be an American.  Order your copy today.

ilovegospelmusic.com reported that they are releasing a Gospel album dedicated to Barack Obama.

Really?

Really?

Last time I looked Obama was a new president who is proving himself , but he hasn’t done anything incredible yet.

More importantly the Gospel is the Good News of Jesus Christ.  I understand that it is a musical genre, but I suggest that Gospel Music has lost its soul to commercialism  and consumerism and has become simply another style of music that isn’t always representative of true worship of God and thus sacrilegiously using the term “Gospel”.

When we lose this grasp on Gospel music we loose the essense of why we clap our hands, why we dance, and why we sing. In many ways when we lose the focus of Gospel music, we become worshipers of idols rather than God.

Perhaps a better tittle would be a Musical Tribute to Barack Obama. Although premature, I can deal with that.  But Gospel is more than a style it is more than Sunday morning music on BET. It is worshiping the Almighty God.

Beautiful Togetherness

Sf Gate

The Rev. George Cummings looked out over his congregation in the Laurel District of Oakland and saw white faces sitting next to black ones. Piedmonters sat next to Oaklanders.One of the most intractable racial divides in America – the self-segregation of churches – was being bridged before his eyes.

“The God who calls us to be together, calls us to oneness,” said Cummings, pastor of Imani Community Church.

“Amen,” said someone in the crowd.

“We are not always there yet, but we are on our way,” said Cummings, who is black.

“That’s right,” said another voice from the pews.

Cummings’ church and Piedmont Community Church decided that they would come together as one people. They will worship together periodically. They’ve started to mix into each others’ Bible studies. Their choirs sing together. Their children have gone on a mission trip together to Tijuana. On Sunday, May 3 and May 17, they had ceremonies affirming their covenant with each other.

Piedmont Community Church is predominantly white, as much as Imani is black. They are only 10 minutes apart by car, yet before this relationship began, neither pastor had been to the neighborhood of the other’s church. All sides see bridging the divide as bearing fruit. Read More

My heart was blessed by this article. Seeing the Kingdom of God uniting and overcoming racial/ethnic barriers is satisfying to my soul. What is wonderful about this situation is the fact that churches are literally 10 minutes from one another, thus the potential for collaboration and eventually integration is there. I am sure that if they decided to integrate permanently there will be culture collisions, but those tensions would be growth pangs that lead one another towards Godliness.

Shallow differences of style and preference often get in the way of us being true community together.

One of the congregation members made a wonderful comment to bookend this article.

Jan Hunter, an Imani member, said doing the right thing sometimes means feeling uncomfortable. A few years ago, the Imani congregation christened the child of a lesbian couple. It was a first for many in the congregation.

“I don’t know what we thought was going to happen,” said Hunter, 54, who is black. “Everyone was happy. Lightning did not strike.”

She said it was probably uncomfortable for some to worship with people they’d had prejudices about – in both directions. But, she said, “You have to start somewhere.”

“Doing the right thing sometimes means feeling uncomfortable”; simple and profound. We are a comfort seeking culture one of the ways this is manifested is the continued racial and socioeconomic segregation of our churches (and neighborhoods).

One of the most important elements of this article is that these are old churches. They aren’t church plants by young folks who see the need for multi-cultural congregations. While new plants are beneficial, there is something rich in reconciliation when churches change directions and acknowledge the ills of their separation. These two churches have histories, they existed for years. The fact that they are willing to understand the biblical call for unity, acknowledge the social rift between ethnicities and humble themselves is simply incredible.

I am encouraging my church to participate in this type of relationship. We live approximately 30 minutes from any church that is not predominately white,  so whatever relationship we form will not be one that leads to one integrated local church. But, racial reconciliation between Christians can most definitely be done . Churches can learn to worship and serve with those “different from them”, understand the needs of different communities and become a larger body of Christ.

Huntington, Indiana has a dark racial history and although things have changed there are mutual negative perceptions between he minority communities in Fort Wayne , Marion, and Huntington.  If something can occur it will not only mend the brokenness with the church, but within our communities.

Gibson vs. Ruth

After that posting about Satchel Paige I became all baseball nostalgic so I thought I would post this.

It is often said that Josh Gibson was the “Black Babe Ruth”  but many forget that Gibson was so good that many fans who saw both Gibson and Ruth play called Ruth  “the white Josh Gibson.”

They were mutually incredible. What if they had been a pitcher/catcher combo?