Wednesday, December 31, 2008

book report: Samson Occom - marriage sermon

In light of the current debates on the definition of marriage in our country these days, I found Samson Occom's marriage sermon to be refreshing, if we forget his opposition to marrying "down", to Africans that is, but by the pictures in this edition of Love's biography, marrying "up", to whites, seemed frequent enough to make the Brothertown elders in Green Bay, Wisconsin look like my white neighbors today. Regardless, this journal entry of his regards 2 Indians marrying.
When I got up, I spoke to them Some Time upon the nature of Marriage, the Honourableness and Lawfulness of it, whereby we are distinguished from Brutal Creation: Said Some of the first marriage in Eden & of the Marrage where Christ and his Disciples were invited and the Honour he did to it by working the first mericle he wrought in the World in turning water into Wine and then we prayed,... p.251
I enjoy the point that marriage is one way we are distinct from "Brutal Creation." I also enjoy John Piper's proclamation that marriage, which is God's idea, is also God's display of the relationship of Christ and his church.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Planned Parenthood does not love math [video]

Which do we see here? Lies? Damned Lies? Or statistics? I see lives sacrificed to an idol named "choice."

another atheist commends Christian missions

No video this time, but a quote from British columnist and atheist, Matthew Parris of the Times (UK) who writes from his experience of growing up in Malawi and recently revisiting. He's convinced that Christian missionaries are needed in Africa for the well being of Africans. Is he racist? Or is he observing the difference between a theology of pantheism and monotheism? But he isn't calling for Muslim expansion in Africa. So it's not just monotheism that changes the world. Perhaps its the Holy Spirit, something Parris has no language for since he denies a God, moreso a God in three persons, a Triune God, who sends his Spirit to abide with his people.

Anxiety - fear of evil spirits, of ancestors, of nature and the wild, of a tribal hierarchy, of quite everyday things - strikes deep into the whole structure of rural African thought. Every man has his place and, call it fear or respect, a great weight grinds down the individual spirit, stunting curiosity. People won't take the initiative, won't take things into their own hands or on their own shoulders.

How can I, as someone with a foot in both camps, explain? When the philosophical tourist moves from one world view to another he finds - at the very moment of passing into the new - that he loses the language to describe the landscape to the old. But let me try an example: the answer given by Sir Edmund Hillary to the question: Why climb the mountain? “Because it's there,” he said.

To the rural African mind, this is an explanation of why one would not climb the mountain. It's... well, there. Just there. Why interfere? Nothing to be done about it, or with it. Hillary's further explanation - that nobody else had climbed it - would stand as a second reason for passivity.

Christianity, post-Reformation and post-Luther, with its teaching of a direct, personal, two-way link between the individual and God, unmediated by the collective, and unsubordinate to any other human being, smashes straight through the philosphical/spiritual framework I've just described. It offers something to hold on to to those anxious to cast off a crushing tribal groupthink. That is why and how it liberates.

For all the grief that Christian missions is blamed for, perhaps the final outcome is indeed better than if cultures had not been engaged. I'm thinking of Samson Occom and the praying Indians of New England.

Monday, December 29, 2008

a healthy organization

A friend who blogs at Member Care muses on organizational health and lists these 10 qualities of an ideal organization.
1. Mutual respect among staff
Is this enforceable? It sure would be nice to be respected by everyone at my job but I'm also guilty of not respecting everyone, especially of those who, I perceive, are cheating the system.
2. Fair pay/compensation
My department frequently complains about promotions they don't agree with.
3. Opportunities to make contributions
I think I have that
4. Opportunities for advancement and personal growth
I think I have that, but it really depends on your supervisor
5. Sense of purpose and meaning
This must be hard in retail
6. Management with competence and integrity
Dilbert would not be so popular if this were common
7. Safeguards to protect individuals (staff and customers) from injustice
8. Responsibility for actions: owning mistakes, not blaming others or covering up
Now this is where I only see Christians doing this and not all of them. It also can be expected sometimes from the more mature people on staff
9. Honesty in communication and public disclosures: not slanting the truth or exaggerating
10. Accountability for personal/work life: seeking out feedback and ways to improve, not ignoring or pretending
Mentorship in the workplace can help this, but discipleship in the church can really facilitate this.

Churches are organizations too and they need to aspire to these things as well. They fail because they are full of sinful people at various stages of redemption or perdition. Someday, Jesus will return and set things right.

book report: Samson Occom by Love 1899 - abolitionist

Samson Occom was a complex man. He was highly accomplished, intelligent, gifted and full of the Holy Spirit. Regarding human rights, opposed slavery but also opposed miscegenation of Indians and Africans. His biographer in 1899, W. DeLoss Love, wrote
We may as well just here make record of this Indian's opinion as to slavery. At that time most wealthy families in New England held slaves. The ministers very commonly had one or more lacks as servants in their households, and the servant class being then small they could hardly do without them. Doctor Wheelock himself [Occum's Christian mentor], in 1757, paid ₤50 for a negro, "Ishmael" by name, whom he bought from William Clark of Plymouth, Mass. The Indian of the full blood generally despised the negro and such of his own race as would marry among them. It was Occom's opinion that such marriages wrought degeneracy in both races. At the same time he had a warm sympathy for the slave, whose estate was not always pleasant or respectable, even in New England. Who would think to find in Samson Occom an abolitionist? Such, however, he was. He lifted up his voice boldly for emancipation seventy years before Uncle Tom's Cabin was written. In one of his discourses he made the following pointed application on the subject referring to slaveholders:
I will tell who they are, they are the Preachers or ministers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It has been very fashionable for them to keep Negroe Slaves, which I think is inconsistent with their character and function. If I understand the Gospel aright, I think it is a Dispensation of Freedom and Liberty, both Temporal and Spiritual, and [if] the Preachers of the Holy Gospel of Jesus do preach it according to the mind of God, the Preach True Liberty and how can such keep Negroes in Slavery? And if Minsiters are True Liberty men, let them preach Libery for the poor Negroes fervently and with great zeal, and those Ministers who have Negroes set an Example before their People by freeing their Negroes, let them show their Faith by their Works.
p. 176
Occom provides a great example of the use of biblical reasoning to oppose slavery within the church. He appeals to first principles, Liberty, which is not prevented to slaves in the Bible but encouraged. Occom's opposition to African-Indian miscegenation will be looked at a little more in a subsequent post.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Brothertown Indians

I finished the biography of Samson Occum by Love yesterday and will have a bunch of quotes over the next few days. I was looking for the location of the first Brothertown in New York state and came across a great site of someone else's research into Brothertown from the final home of the Brothertown Indians in Wisconsin. His summary of their history is helpful. He writes,
Brothertown was officially founded on November 7, 1785. “We now proceeded to from into a Body Politick-We named our town by the name of Brotherton, in Indian—Eeyamquittoowauconnuck” (Occom 1785). Unfortunately, the Brothertown Indians did not escape some the land issues that they had moved west to avoid. Euroamerican land speculators and settlers placed constant pressure on them to sell or lease their new lands (Love 1899). In an effort to protect the Brothertown Indians from losing their lands, the New York state government appointed commissioners to advise the tribe and passed laws that forbade the sale/lease of Brothertown lands to Euroamerican settlers (Love 1899). Due to these land conflicts, New York officials divided the Brothertown lands, allowing Brothertown peoples to remain on one part with the other portion to be sold to Euroamerican settlers.
My interest in Occum is due to living near his birthplace, his Christianity, and the remarkable success he found among whites.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Husbands in the doghouse for Christmas

An hilarious ad suggesting the only safe present for wives this Christmas is highly compressed carbon. HT: The Jolly Blogger

I know I've put up too many videos lately, but they are easier than composing every day.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Statuatory rape not a problem with Planned Parenthood

Remember the video I shared last week? Well there's another one from the Mona Lisa project. And they promise more after this one. How does PP help women? I'd like an explanation. Here is the introduction of the press release from the project.
INDIANAPOLIS, IN, December 16 -- Undercover footage from a second Indiana Planned Parenthood clinic shows an emerging pattern of abuse, as more clinic counselors evade their legal responsibility to report the statutory rape of young girls. The new footage is the second video in Live Action Film's "Mona Lisa Project," a series of investigations documenting how secret abortions keep young girls trapped in cycles of sexual abuse.

book report: Samson Occum by Love 1899 American Indians and the "lost tribes" of Israel

I knew Joseph Smith, founding prophet of the Latter Day Saints, believed that the Indians were "missing" Israelites. I also knew that he was not alone in this belief in the mid-18th century. But then, while reading Jeff Siemers great blog, Algonkan Church History, he mentions in the post The Hope of Israel how Puritan missions to the Indians were partly motivated by this theory as well. His blog also has motivated my latest choice from the library shelves, Samson Occum and the Christian Indians of New England by W. DeLoss Love, 1899.

I am enjoying this history, especially the foibles and failures of minsters, both English and native, that are not unfamiliar to our times and seasons. One of these weaknesses is false motivation for good purposes, including redeeming these "lost" Israelites. John Eliot, apostle to the Indians founded separate villages for Indians to get civilized in the English way. Love writes,
The experiment at Nonantum had not been two years under way before Eliot discovered that an enlargement of his plan was necessary. The grant of land was not large enough, and it was too near the English. Moreover, it was not a suitable place to gather hi converts from other native villages and tribes into the Indian town which had come to be his ideal. This latter fact was important. So early as 1649 his original design had grown to a hope of founding a community where all the Christian Indians should be governed after the theocratic ideal of the Scriptures. He seems to have been impressed with the notion, then entertained by many, that the American Indians were the lost tribes of Israel. He even thought that such an assembling of dry bones might be a fulfillment of prophecy. p.11

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Bikes for missionaries

Last year I linked to a story about a woman evangelist in North America who bikes and preaches. Today, I received in the mail an opportunity to provide bikes for missionaries in India through a ministry I support, Gospel for Asia. Perhaps some of my readers would like to bless a South Asian evangelist with a bike.

recumbent riding respite

My recumbent bike is not responding well to this winter's road conditions, not like last winter. In last week's ride in the low teens Fahrenheit a brake cable and a shifter froze up and would not move, even after WD-40 treatment. I keep the bike in a garage, so it isn't protected from the temps. When I got to work I brought it inside to warm it up. That resulted in my front tire deflating. Fortunately, I had a spare tube. Not 10 minutes into the ride home, in the afternoon when it had warmed up to the 20s, the cables re-froze. I didn't ride for the rest of the week but Monday morning I went out to the garage, the temps were then in the upper 50s (hear, hear, global warming) and the bike's repaired front tire was flat again and the rear brake was stuck in the engaged position. Time for the Trek 7200 commuter. Despite the uncomfortable post that I had to adjust to sitting on, and wrist pain, I do have to commend the quality of the components. Although the Trek has half the miles on it that the 'bent does, it is a year older but the shifters and brakes felt new. The suspension was nice as well as riding without hands. I think I will give the 'bent a winter rest and tune-up. It's tires are full of holes. I need new ones. 2 or 3 thousand miles on a pair of tires is nothing to complain about.

I still desire a trike, like this one by I.C.E., a Trice QNT, but I need the exchange rate to work in my favor, stronger dollar, weaker pound. Last year, 1600 British pounds exchanged for $3000, now it's $2500. C'mon...c'mon.

It is nice to have more than one bike.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Love as a filter

Guy Muse, missionary/blogger, shares a love quiz and muses,
As we approach a new year, I intend to use the "love factor" as a filter for everything we decide to do. Before embarking on yet another busy schedule, does the activity encourage a greater love for God? Are we really loving others in a way that they "feel" loved?
Make sure you visit his blog and take the quiz.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Cinema review: The Nativity Story(2004)

I enjoyed Keisha Castle-Hughes in Whale Rider and I enjoyed her presentation as the virgin Mary, Theotokos, in The Nativity Story. Not only was the movie well acted but also lushly filmed. The best part of the movie was the focus on the all the earthly, human issues surrounding the pregnancy of a betrothed adolescent of excellent reputation and her honorable husband-to-be and the political issues of Deliverer-expectation during the reign of a homicidal paranoid despot. Theology is not delved into. The movie has no qualm with taking as truth the appearance of angelic messengers and prophetic dreams, which is good. The timeline is compressed, as happens in most movies, for the sake of keeping the story moving along. It assumes a Protestant back story, Joseph is not a widower with children from the first marriage. My only complaint is the appearance to the shepherds did not include a heavenly choir. It's a great movie to complement your preparation for Christmas.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Monday, December 08, 2008

book report: Boomtown by Nowen N. Particular

I thought I'd give another children's book from Thomas Nelson another chance, even though I didn't enjoy my previous choice. This new book is for older children. It's full title is Boomtown: Chang's Famous Fireworks, by Nowen N. Particular a.k.a Marty Longé. If you want the short review, don't bother. It has potential, it's almost funny, but it's not one a parent would enjoy reading aloud to a child. My 13 year old daughter did find it fun, but she also saw my furious notes in the margins when I got to the really bad middle part of the book.

What was really bad in the middle of the book? Stereotypical American Indians, the Hopontop tribe who were circus Indians that traveled around the country doing crazy circus tricks with names such as Chief Knife Thrower and the Fire Diver, Flaming Arrow, and Dark Cloud the Magician. How would it fly if he set the story in the South and wrote about an African American village who ran a circus and had dumb names? But it's OK for Thomas Nelson authors to write about the Indian tribes in the Northwest as caricatures.

They live in a "neat encampment of teepees, each with a curl of smoke climbing into the clear, frosty sky. In the center was a longhouse built out of logs and roofed with bark shingles." p. 138 Since the story is set in northern Washington state, the wooden lodge is appropriate, but tipis are housing for Plains Indians who migrate with their game. Somehow all is meant with no intent of harm because Mr. Flaming Arrow who performs the Fire Dive has a degree in civil engineering, "he's also pretty good with a bow and arrow. When he's not busy with the circus, he teaches math and science in the Hopontop school." p.145 Mr. Particular is not very successful in escaping the caricatures in his mind. Slapping a backstory on a stereotype does not make the stereotype acceptable.

Another example of American Indian ignorance is the foil of the orphaned Indian baby left on the pastor's doorstep. The Hopontop tribe won't take her back because she's not pure blood Hopontop. Now this is the clearest example of a white author reading his own beliefs onto a minority group. American Indians are generally not racist. Adoption was a normal method of tribal enlargement. In my area, the Mashantucket tribe have an amazing exhibit at their museum of the diversity of skin color among their members. I can't imagine any elder saying of a non-pure blood baby, "'We could adopt the baby ourselves, but that is not as easy as it sounds. I have a duty to preserve the heritage of my people - we have had to fight for it for hundreds of years - mostly agasint our white neighbors...It is better that she be rasied among her mother's people.'" p.149 Those seem like words ripped from a Southern mayor brought a baby who wasn't purely Anglo, not a tribal elder of an Indian tribe in the real world.

That chapter was pretty bad, but the next chapter introduces the genius-escaped-slave-originally-from-South-Africa. Now we move from bad stereotypes to bad history. South Africa was not a source for North American slaves. Most of them came from the horn of Africa, up to a third of all slaves came from present day Benin and Nigeria. South Africa was too far away from buyers on the plantations. The horn of Africa was much closer and allowed fewer slaves to die en route. So the author got his source of the slave unlikely, but then he got the date completely wrong, 1854, p.157. The trans-Atlantic slave trade was outlawed to the U.S. in 1808. Most slaves in the U.S. afterward were born in the U.S.

After these offenses, the book tries to return to a Willy Wonka sense of goofiness. It swings but usually misses. I simply did not laugh out loud, ever. The theme of grace is very nice. But it is no excuse for the use of Indian stereotypes and historical cluelessness. I hope the author spends more time learning about and meeting real people different from himself before he drags out worn cardboard props of people.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Help refugees resettle in Providence RI

My friend, Keith, helps refugees resettle in the Providence area. Part of that effort involves learning job skills. He and my friend Geoff have hit on the idea of selling granola made by these folks. You can order the granola by mail, and even subscribe for a monthly delivery. Please consider making a good ethical Christmas purchase and visit the Providence Granola Project.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Cyclist pulled over by Traffic Cop!

Groton, CT (UMN*) Dec 5, 2008
"I was so busted," said cyclist John Umland. "I'm coming down this sweet hill to a 5 street intersection, and pass this long line of cars, of which, at the head, was a City of Groton Police SUV waiting at the red light. I don't run this light indiscriminately, I always check. And I didn't think the cop could even see me in my low recumbent or care if he did. But, he cared."

Friday afternoon, an unidentified CIty of Groton Police Officer, pulled over the brazen cyclist. "I asked him if he knew running a red light was not allowed. He got smart with me and claimed he was a pedestrian on two wheels. I reminded him that cyclists have to obey all the rules of the road like any vehicle driver, no exceptions. He seemed humiliated. Plus, he had alot of gray on his beard, so I figure he's old enough to be losing it a little bit, so I let him go."

Umland added later, "Inertia is a precious gift that keeps giving if you don't needlessly stop, especially at the bottom of hills."

Will he start obeying traffic laws? "I know I should. I need additional motivation though. After work, it's like the Tour de Thames for me. How fast can I get home? However, the holiday meals are adding too many pounds. Perhaps if I stopped and started at all signs and lights, I'd burn more calories. God help me."

*UMN = Umland News Service

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Lee Grady's take on Lakeland in hindsight

Great editorial by Lee Grady of Charisma magazine. Todd Bentley is still in sin with an intern/nanny, still seeking to divorce his wife, hasn't seen his kids since July, and, obviously, remains unaccountable. Grady says the lessons are: Accountability from the beginning, teams not stars, Sabbath, character matters more than gifting, don't cheer to quickly, and repentance as a reliable sign of revival.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Cinema review: Bolt (2008)

I just got back from the theater with my new-qu-leer family where we saw Disney's latest, Bolt. I have two words and then some, "loved it." We all laughed. I might have laughed harder than my kids, but not because of any innuendo. This movie is clean. But it's really funny with especially endearing moments. Love your pets. Don't abandon them. Watch out for the pigeons. Don't over-indulge your guinea pig. Don't lose hope. Keep your priorities on people not success.

image source, Croatians in America

Monday, December 01, 2008

Culture and Christianity

My religious friends of the progressive persuasion like to accuse unnamed brethren on the conservative persuasion of co-mingling their faith with their patriotism, see here. However, those of us who have been around recovery circle know the expression, "whenever you point at someone, there are 4 fingers pointing back at you." No one is out of their culture, we are, hopefully, learning to wear our heavenly citizenship more and more and our earthly stuff less and less, except for the earthly stuff that is in agreement with the heavenly stuff. In light of this, this author sounds interesting. He writes,

Here is my question: if in every age the church has benefited and suffered from its engagement with culture, should we expect that our postmodern age is any different? Our postmodern context rightly reminds us of the biblical concern for humility, social justice, and care for the poor. But postmodern Christians can be so humble that they mumble, and they can be so focused on social ethics that they begin to use “following Jesus” as a substitute for believing in him.

A few years ago I attended an Emergent church conference, where I was moved by the participants’ passionate zeal for social justice. I resonated with their belief that the gospel must make a difference in our world here and now. But one thing bothered me. As I asked one of the presenters at the end of conference, “I have heard many fine appeals this week for fighting poverty, racism, and every form of social injustice. But I haven’t heard anything that isn’t already expressed in our postmodern culture. Do we believe anything that would offend a good postmodern person?”

He also warns

Here is the point: the church always gains insights into Scripture from its surrounding culture. The postmodern world is no exception. But the church has always been captured, at least in part, by its surrounding culture. Our postmodern context is no exception.

So I urge all of us to become more self-aware. Every one of us reads Scripture through some cultural lens—conservatives as well as liberals interpret Scripture from a specific cultural perspective. Since every culture is fallen, we must ask ourselves how long it has been since we read Scripture in a way that convicted our cultural viewpoint. Are our views of truth, Scripture, salvation, the atonement, other religions, homosexuality, and hell grounded in the Word, or do they merely parrot the prevailing wisdom of our cultural context?

Let us be more Biblical. Let us be more Christlike.