Thursday, March 30, 2006

Wish granted...

Uh oh.

Apparently, the US has broken its ties with the Hamas-controlled Palestine. This move came only a few weeks after we plotted with Israel to get rid of the Hamas altogether ; undoubtedly paving the way for more turmoil to mount in the Middle East. What I don't get is how the U.S. and Israel can get so wrapped up in their warped sense of values/morality, thereby creating more unrest than what they claim to want to eliminate. They try to promote freedom and democracy, and then call Palestine evil since they selected the Hamas (emphasis on the word selected).

No matter how you slice it, the Hamas regime is product of free elections. For the West to oppose and, ultimately, attempt to destabilize, a government created under the process of democracy is hypocritcal; especially when they want democracy to be the world's mantra.

This just goes to show: Be careful what you wish for. You just might get it...


Tuesday, March 28, 2006


I hate my church.

I hate the mindlessness of our routine. I hate some of the silly man-made norms that we follow. I hate that we don't have any real goals. I hate how we've developed the "Keeping up with the Joneses" mind set. I hate how we hate on people who don't fit into our inner circles. I hate the shallowness of our fellowship. I hate when the my pastor constantly solicits people to say "Amen" to every little thing. I hate hearing wordy and scripted prayers. I hate seeing kids exploited in "Children's Church". I hate the classist mentality that exists in our congregation. I hate not being able to understand the sermons. I hate when my ex-sort of-girlfriend keeps text messaging me during service. I hate how we've erected a multi-million dollar life center, while we're located in one of the poorest parts of one of the poorest cities. I hate how our foreign mission contributions dwarf the efforts of our our church expansion. I hate that I've been forcibly appointed to the deacon's ministry. I hate how our service is dictated by our radio broadcast. I hate the suspicion and mistrust that's the product of our refusal to be open and honest.

So Andre, if you hate this all so much, why don't you just leave?


I love the 70+ year old lady who embraces me every week and tells me that she's "praying for me". I love the support that I get from my pastor. I love the knowledge that is imparted to me by many of the older people in my congregation. I love the lady who tells me how handsome and intelligent I am. I love when my pastor's wife calls me "her son". I love my best friend (and spiritual partner) who hasn't given up on me just yet. I think it's safe to say that I'd go crazy without her. I love the other young minds who are caught in the middle of the same issues that I have, but refuse to give up on the church. I love the group of kids who crowd around me, but are a little 'too cool' to come out and say "We love you." I love how our choirs, even on 'off days', can lift their hearts in worship. I love the feeling of accomplishment that I get when I play the drums well. I love the commitment that many hard working members have to the various ministries in our church. I love the support that our church provides (funerals, financial assistance, clothes, food, etc.) for people who haven't stepped foot in the church for years. I love the elders of our church who may be trapped in their 'old ways' of thinking, but who have suffered and endured for a long time. I love my "Sandy"; who has been a true mentor to me and who has nothing to gain by giving herself to me. I love the organization of our church. I've been to churches where they make up the order of service as they go. I love the deacon who, despite his lack of education, can talk to God as well as any theologian. I love being 'put in check' by people if I'm missing for too long of a time; a sure sign that people care about me. I love the people who selflessly give extra offerings to support the church in whatever way possible. I love the people who take time to call or leave encouraging messages on my voicemail. I love that, even when people don't always agree with, they love me anyway.


...I love my church.


Monday, March 27, 2006

Move outta the way!

Not too long ago, a Catholic co-worker of mine bursted in my office (without knocking, by the way), almost to the point of tears. Apparently, she was "disturbed" by some artwork in our University gallery which -- depending on how you look at -- could have been offensive to Christians. The artwork had a cross that was submerged in a bowl of urine. According to the atrist, this piece was created to capture the humanity of Jesus while He was dying; suggesting that He may have either urinated or deficated while on the cross. Despite a pretty reasonable explanation from the artist, this co-worker of mine was beside herself. She declared how fed up she was with Christians being "persecuted" and that she "wasn't going to take it anymore". Despite my best effort to calm her down, in Christian love, she fell deaf to everything I was trying to say. She just couldn't seem to realize that she was doing the type of fighting that Jesus doesn't need. Let me explain...

First off, have you ever noticed how hard it is to talk to really religious people like this? You know...the ones who are so hung-up on their system of beliefs. Most often, it's difficult (seemingly impossible) to talk to people whose idea of right and wrong is limited to their own beliefs.

What I've started to notice with many Christians is that we've become too caught up in practices, rituals and customs; without placing any emphasis on doctrine and, most importantly, the love of Christ. We find comfort in hangin' out in our 'invisi-square', where everything is safe, secure, unquestioned, and familar. For the record: this cultural phenomenon is not unique to the church. This happens just about everywhere. However, as Christians with a higher calling, we need make sure that our beliefs, norms, and agendas don't get in God's way.

The Bible illustrates that even Paul adjusted his thought process once he realized that he was inteferring with God. At one point in his life, he really believed that he was called to silence the people who were following this 'Jesus' guy. He was merely defending God from (what he thought) were some radicalize messages from this dude claiming to be the Messiah. The truth is: Paul wasn't really that bad of a guy. He simplied governed himself by what he thought was right. But once Paul had a Close Encounter of the Third Kind with Jesus on the road to Damascus, he was never the same.

As followers of Christ, we need to share in a similar experience. We must be careful in examining the beliefs and values that we hold so sacred. There is a strong possibility that we could be wrong about them. And we all know how much people hate to be wrong, don't we?

The Gospel reminds us about how much difficulty Jesus had talking to the religioius folks of His day. They were so focused on rules, customs, norms, and rituals that they often lost sight of the 'Big Picture'. They made it a habit of challenging Jesus on everything. Even when they thought that they were going to bat for God, the reality was they were only defending their beliefs about God and His law.

But here's a shocker: God doesn’t need us to come to His defense. Nor does Jesus.

In fact, if you remember when Jesus was getting arrested, Peter tried to save Jesus by cutting off the soldier's ear...only to have Jesus tell him to go sit down somewhere. Peter was only getting in Jesus' way.

Doesn't that seem to be the story of the church today? I mean, you've got people who grab their swords every Sunday in an effort to defend Jesus. They try to cut down and kill anybody or anything that they feel poses a threat to Him. But what they usually don't realize is that they're not defending Jesus. They're defending their beliefs of Jesus. I can just see Him telling us to "Put away our swords. Those who live by the sword shall die by the sword."

In a nutshell, I think that Jesus is telling us to get out of His way.


Friday, March 24, 2006

Thankful for slavery?

So, I think that I've found a prime candidate for natural de-selection...

I just read this unbelievably offensive editorial by columnist Adele Ferguson. In it, she makes the argument that God somehow used slavery to help blacks and that we should be thankful that we are here in the U.S. She's also baffled why so many of her black "brothers and sisters" support the Democrats since she thinks they are responsible for our conditions.

Rather than try to aggregate blacks in one category based on her interactions, wouldn't it have been easier for her to ask why some blacks supported the Democrats? The truth is: I'm not a fan of Democrats. I never have been. They're just as guilty of sustaining the permanent underclass status of blacks as Republicans are. So, to that extent, I agree. Blacks shouldn't support Democrats just because they tolerate us a little more than Republicans.

But, it's very easy to get lost in her message after reading the first paragraph where she tries to use, what I call, the "history card", by claiming that we should be grateful for the opportunity to be in America; even if it meant going through slavery. She goes on to juxtapose the Middle Passage to other movements involving indigent groups who had to 'endure hardship' in this country. I'm speechless.

Apparently, so many people complained about the article that it was pulled from circulation. However, it wasn't before it was copied, pasted, and emailed to several people/groups.

Now, I'm not in a fan of censorship in any form. A fellow blogger recently posted a compelling entry that shares in my sentiments. Censorship, unless done to protect a person's physical well-being, is hypocritical and a blatant violation of the First Ammendment. And, yes, this includes censoring Fergusen's nonsense. So, to that end, she has my support.

But, at the same time, I think that it's imperative for a person who steps on this type of platform to be knowledgable about the subject on which they are commenting. It appears to me, from this article, that this woman truly is ignorant of history and doesn't really know anything about the conditions that our ancestors had to endure aboard those slave ships. I mean, you had men, women, and children alike crammed into every available nook and cranny. They were denied adequate room, fed diseased and contaminated food (if they were even fed at all), and left to wallow in their own human waste. The conditions were absolutely appalling. The atmosphere was so inhumane, in fact, that many died before they ever set foot on these shores; whether from the conditions or from suicide. Some historians say that the death toll was in the hundreds of millions. How someone could callously say, "we should be thankful" for slavery simply amazes me.

But, again, I'm not for censorship. I can't be. I mean, if I became too much of a proponent of silencing others for their beliefs, then that would mean that half of my blog would be deleted. However, if someone were to...let's say... 'accidentally' blow up this lady's computer and place her in an asylum, I wouldn't lose too much sleep over it. Hint, hint.


Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Taking punches

Yesterday, I was watching Million Dollar Baby. This is undoubtedly one of my favorite movies. I can go on and on about how great this movie was; from the controversy surrounding euthanasia to the struggles that we have to endure to pursue our dreams. But, I'll save all that for another day. This movie blessed me in another significant way...

The opening scene of the movie really struck a chord with me. In this scene, Clint Eastwood's character, a legendary cut man and long-time boxing manager, shows his true skills in dealing with his fighters' wounds. During one point of the fight, one of his boxers had a cut that was so deep that the referee threatened to stop the fight. Eastwood advises his man to take a punch, allowing the oppenents punches to close the wound. Eastwood didn't have to raise another finger.

You may be asking me what's so interesting about this? Well, read on...

You see, I think that God works in the same way. I think that sometimes He tells us to take the punches that come with life in order for our wounds to heal.

As I mentioned in a previous post, we can't always spend our time waiting around expecting for God to fix our problems. We have to be willing to do things, sometimes uncomfortable, to resolve our issues. This includes taking punches to the most hurtful and wounded places in our lives.

Lately, I've been dealing with a hurt that I can't even begin to describe. Don't worry: I'm not depressed about my ordeal, especially not to the point where I'm deranged, suicidal or anything crazy like that. But I will admit that a huge hole has opened up in my life, exposing my vulnerability. I've been continuously going to God in prayer about this, but seemingly to no avail. Often times, it seems like God is turning a deaf ear to me. The more I pray, the more the 'situation' pops up in my face. Maybe... just maybe...God is telling me to take this punch to face so that my wounds can heal.

Perhaps the biggest question for me is whether or not I'm willing to accept His advice. I can imagine that the fighter thought that Eastwood was crazy for suggesting that he take a vicious shot to face. Not only did he stand to sustain even more bleeding, he could have been put in a position where he would have never fully recovered from the wound. The damage to his face could have been permanent. Nevertheless, the fighter placed his trust and...well...his face in the hands of his manager. The results were better than anyone could have ever imagined.

Do you have the courage to follow God's advice by taking a hit, or are you too concerned about the possibility for long-term damage?

My new prayer involves me asking God for the courage I will need to do whatever I must to experience His gift of healing. Most important, I must be ready to accept whatever He says, even if I have to take a beating for it.


Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Credit or debit?

Damn the devil.

In a dramatic move before the mid-term elections, your boys in the Senate recently approved a bill which will raise the Federal Debt Limit to $9 trillion. This bill will allow for the government to pay for high costs of war, Medicare, and other expensive programs without raising taxes. Instead, these funds are going to continue to be a product of TONS of borrowing. So, rejoice and be glad people! You won't see any of these expenses deducted from your paychecks by way of taxes!

Why, then, am I not excited about this?

I don't know. I think it may have something to do with the estimated $30,000 of debt that this fiscally irresponsible move will create for every single person in this country. That's right. $30,000. That's a Cadillac.

Each of our grandchildren will owe the government a Cadillac.

On the one hand, I accept the fact that this was a messy solution to an incredibly intensified problem. If the government doesn't borrow more money now, then it seriously runs the risk of defaulting on all of its Treasury Bonds; the first time in history that this would ever have happened. So, to some extent, the end justifies the means. But, if we want to avoid indebting the government any further, how 'bout we just stop spending so much frickin' money on pointless things?! This silly war is costing us a fortune while little, if any progress is even being made. Are the mass killings and rampant insurgency attacks an indication of an improved Iraq?! I mean, what's wrong with your blitheringly idiotic president?! Most of this nonsense is his fault anyway.

I guess that what bothers me most is the fact that our nation is facing its largest deficit in history, and all we have to show for it is even more chaos in the Middle East. It sort of reminds me of the "My (friend or relative) went to (name a cool place) and all I got was this lousy T-shirt" message that I see on t-shirts now-a-days. With all of this money being spent, every school in this country should be state-of-the-art, every family should have health insurance, and every person should be off the streets. Why haven't our nation's financial investments done anything to actually add value to our nation?!

Would any of you max out all of your charge cards and destroy your credit to buy a car; add expensive accessories, toys and gadgets; buy gas; and pay for maintenance, only to watch it depreciate over time?! Why should the government be allowed to do so with Iraq?! Oh! That's right. We have a "war president", instructed by God Himself to liberate Iraq. How could I forget?

Silly me...


Monday, March 20, 2006

Dirty hands

I don't know why, but lately I've been feeling weaker in the spirit. I told myself that I need to adjust something -- probably my prayer life -- because I felt like God wasn't listening to me anymore. It was a pretty hurtful feeling.

In a strange turn of events, I was instant messaging my best friend today when the question of our prayer lives resurfaced. While I was talking with her (well, more like typing), I remembered a really good quote that I once heard: "Jesus is more impressed with dirty hands, not dirty knees."

When I first heard this quote, I didn't get it. But after thinking about it, I started to realize that maybe I was asking for the wrong things when I prayed. Was I asking God to do things that I could get up and do myself? Was I spending too much time getting my knees dirty and not enough time getting my hands dirty?

I think that we spend so much time on our knees trying to get God to reveal things for us, that we don't spend enough time looking around for His revelations. God provides us the opportunity to find Him in virtually any situation and around virtually any type of person. God's revelations could come from annoying co-workers, the morning news, the guy we ran into on the elevator, physical examinations...anything! I guess what I'm trying to say is: we don't always have to bow down in prayer to find God's revelations.

Don't get me wrong. I fervently believe in prayer. More importantly, I believe in the power of prayer; especially in dealing with things that are beyond anyone's control. But, I also believe that prayer is not just about calling on God to 'do something' or to 'reveal something'. Rather, prayer also includes us asking God for the wisdom and the courage neccesary for us to experience Him, to live for Him, and to live through Him. After all, that's all a part of our calling, right?!

I believe that we can get a sense of individual empowerment if we spend enough time on our knees in prayer. But if we stay on our knees begging God to do something for us that we could do ourselves, aren't we really praying, "Lord, let this cup pass from me" (in other words, "Lord, don't make me do this...")? How can I ask God to bless the homeless when I walk right past them everyday? How can I ask God to forgive someone whom I haven't forgiven yet? How can I ask God for a "financial breakthrough" (as so many of the pimps in the pulpit insist that I should do), without getting a job? How can I ask God to help me get along with people if I deliberately avoid them? How can I pray to God for deliverance for disaster victims without dedicating my time, energy, and money to help the cause? Can I really expect for God to come down to Earth and write a personal check, payable to the State of Louisiana for what happened during Hurricane Katrina?

As my best friend and spiritual partner reminded me (and I quote), "we need to be more proactive in our prayers, instead of sitting back waiting for God to come to the rescue". I couldn't agree more.

What if our hands got as dirty as our knees?

Holla at me!



Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah...

Ever feel that way?


Friday, March 17, 2006

Happy "Crazy Drunk White People" Day!

So, am I the only one who thinks that St. Patrick's day is a ridiculous holiday?

Well, I guess it's not so stupid if you like:

  • Going to pubs to to get drunk off near-fatal consumption of alcohol.
  • Pinching girls (for not wearing green), and not getting charged with sexual harrassment
  • Throwing up green vomit to match your clothes
  • Watching a bunch of drunk white people do crazy stuff.

I guess that, considering that last point, St. Patrick's day isn't so stupid after all...


The Birth of a Nation

Although New Orleans has been trying to use Mardi Gras as a tool for 'recovery', the truth is: this city won't ever be the same. Hurricane Katrina completely ravaged the city. But equally as significant is the fact that Katrina exposed this country's patterns of racism, poverty, and neglect.

Understandably, most commentators have focused on the woeful response from the federal government of today; as they very well should. Others, however, have used this sad situation as a way to awaken this country from the historical coma that its been in. It is time for us to come to terms with how our government has historically neglected the needs of the poor and marginalized, while supporting agendas that led to the creation and sustaining of two completely different Americas.

As history reminds us, it was during the presidencies of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman that great progressive policies like Social Security, protective labor laws and the GI Bill were adopted. But with these initiatives came a pretty subtle and destructive movement: the creation of "Affirmative Action for White People." It's not a movement that you'll ever read about in history books, but it's something that plays a significant role in outlining the states of Black and White America today.

Although the late 1930s/early 1940s virtually spelled the end of Jim Crowism, Congress was still largely controlled by southern lawmakers. Under southern-controlled legislation, policies that dealt with welfare, working relations, and war either excluded the vast majority of African Americans or treated them differently from other groups (particularly whites). Between 1945 and 1955, the federal government dedicated more than $100 billion in support of retirement programs, job skills development, educational opportunities, homeownership and small-business formation. Together, these programs dramatically reshaped the country's economic and social framework by creating a modern, well-schooled, home-owning white middle class. At no other time in American history had so many resouces been devoted to a current generation for completing its education, entering the workforce and forming families.

Unfortuntely, however, the black generation was left out of this governmental support effort. Southern members of Congress, who relied on the use of occupational exclusions, took advantage of the concept of American federalism to ensure that national policies would not disturb their region's racial order. In simple terms, they wanted to make sure that racist institutions of segregation and disparity were allowed to survive in their areas of the country. This is unsettling history, especially for those of us who keenly admire the New Deal and the Fair Deal (if you don't know about these initiatives, I would strongly recommend that you look into them).

What's disturbing is that while many public policies were providing priviledged white Americans with valuable tools (in the form of good jobs, economic stability, educational opportunities, middle-class status, security blankets for their old age, etc.), black Americans were left to fend for themselves, battling against an oppressive, exclusive, and destructive system.

When you think about the hurricane relief provided to predominately white Floridians a few years ago versus the hurricane relief of predominately black Gulf Coasters today. What does that tell you?

I strongly recommend "When Affirmative Action Was White: An Untold History of Racial Inequality in Twentieth-Century America" by Ira Katznelson. It's a very interesting read.

But, be prepare to be unnerved...


Thursday, March 16, 2006

Mission Accomplished?

According to CNN, Iraqi police have found the bodies of at least 86 people who have been killed, execution-style. Many officials think that these killings were performed in a wave of sectarian reprisal slayings.

Incidentally, the mass killings include both Shiite and Sunni Iraqis, supports the idea that the country is on the brink of a civil war. Don't be fooled by what Condi is saying: this country really is in conflict.

Now, throw in 2300+ dead U.S. soliders and about 100,000 dead Iraqi civilians, and you've got an international disaster. It's odd, because I thought that the whole point of this Iraqi war was to 'spread peace and democracy abroad'. So much for that idea.

We've removed the Iron Fist of Saddam and replaced it with a gauntlet.


Wednesday, March 15, 2006

You scratch my back...

Recently, I found this list of contributing Political Action Committees (PACs) during the 2005-2006 fiscal year. These PAC 'donations' go to various House leaders and Committee Chairs in exchange for legislative support. Oddly enough, this practice is legal and has existed for a long time.

What disturbs me is that this whole thing demonstrates how these rich donors play a significant role in shaping public policy. By paying substantial amounts of money to politicians, corporations and rich individuals have been able to gain direct access to political representatives and lobby effectively for their causes. Inversely, low-income and poor people who do not offer financial contributions don't have the same opportunity to have their voices heard.

This list of PACs only proves that (1) we need money to buy Democracy and (2) only certain interests are really being served by Congress.


Asking the right questions

I was reading an interesting post from one my new blogger friends. In it, he's contemplating the "mixed feelings" that he has for a girl that he barely knows.

As I read his words, I was found myself really impressed by the way he's dealing with his situation. Rather than jump in headfirst, he's taking a moment to objectively analyze his position and his feelings toward her. I think that this is a critical step to forming a great relationship with another person.

Why didn't I think of this earlier?!

If I would have relied on the same analysis that he did, maybe I wouldn't be in the strange and hurtful place that I'm in now. In the past year, I've been burned by...not one...but two different people. Though I could try to cheer myself up by telling myself that "It was them, not me...", I don't think I believe that. In fact, I think that my downfall was really the product of me not asking myself the same self-assessment questions that I read on his blog. Instead, I jumped in the pool headfirst, assuming that there would be nice, cool water in there. What actually wound up being there was nothing but concrete. Ouch...

All I'm left with from my experiences are those cartoon-sized lumps on my head; reminding me not to go "jumping in" to areas of uncertainty without asking myself the right questions.

Damn. The truth really does hurt...


Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The "Real World" of Reality TV

"We're living in a material world…”

- Madonna

Yesterday, my best friend and I were talking about the ridiculously popular reality show, "Flavor of Love", starring the great-great-great grandfather of Hip Hop, Flavor Flav. In this show, a host of beautiful women (with a couple of bad apples) vie for Flav's love and affection by doing crazy s***.

That's it. I don't know what else there is to say about it.

This show, along with other thousand reality shows out there remind me of how surreal the entertainment world has gotten.

American materialism has never been more evident than it is now; as we’ve seen a proliferation of “reality television” seep its way into our culture. This so-called "reality" TV is one of the newest tools being utilized by the media to hook people into a shallow and vacuous TV-centric society. But is it really "real"? With shows like "Survivor", “The Apprentice” and "Big Brother", it often feels like I’m watching a primetime drama, complete with all the bickering, rather than a contest.

Other shows such as "The Bachelor/Bachelorette", “Joe Millionaire” or "For Love or Money" demean the allegedly "holy" institution of marriage (I threw this one in for people who object to gay marriages, but don’t mind seeing a guy who marries the girl who can ram her tongue the furthest down his throat). Should one of life’s most sacred moments be reduced to a contest?

Then you have shows that are designed to completely destroy a person's psyche. You're either too fat, too unattractive (dare I say "ugly"), or not talented enough. "American Idol", "The Biggest Loser", "The Swan" and "America's Top Model" remind us that only the thin, pretty, and 'talented' people can ever 'make it' in industry (yet, no one has been able to explain Paris Hilton to me...)

As if that's not enough, you have shows dedicated to chronicling the lives of celebrities. As cameras follow the likes of Paris Hilton and Nicole Ritchie (the no-nothings that they are), Jessica/Ashlee “Lip Sync” Simpson, Anna Nicole Smith and...yes...Flavor Flav; the idea is reinforced that we have become mindlessly obsessed with the lives of rich people.

“Fear Factor” is in a world of its own. I’m still trying to find the right words to describe it...

Reality TV represents the ongoing decline in media morality. The pursuit of money/fame has become so dire that these shows thrive off the “Dog Eat Dog” mentality (Marxism at its finest!). Since rewards (money, fame, employment, or mates) are usually involved, the worse sides of humanity are exposed; as people greedily stopping at nothing to achieve their goals. Is this really what society is about? Is reality TV reflective of true human behavior?

I don’t deny that people have their shortfalls and are usually self-centered. But I also believe that everyone has their good side as well. However, the good side often goes unexposed. I mean, it makes perfect sense. The media simply doesn't like to promote niceness, unless they stand to benefit from it (Can you say "Oprah"?!). The media doesn't go for sugar, it goes for spice. We’ve all experienced racy programming at some point but it was originally just in acting. But, now we have real people engaging in real activities.

So what is the solution? Better yet, IS there a solution?

Reality TV, sadly, has become an American phenomenon which creates cult-like followings from millions of viewers. A sizeable portion of these shows’ audiences actually take a sort of guilty pleasure in sneeking a peek at these shows or, in stranger circumstances, vicariously living out their own lives through the contestants. One critic described reality television as “Dumb people who get lots of cash, win mates, or achieve their 15 minutes of fame by having camera follow them around everywhere they go; as they attempt to lead a drama-filled life". When you break it down to that level, you can really start to understand the pathos of this type of programming. It all starts to make sense.

Your thoughts?


Monday, March 13, 2006

Celebrity look-alikes

If you think that the George Bush/chimp resemblance is striking, get a load of this...


Crashing Down

Does anybody remember The Passion of the Christ?

When the movie first came out, there was this incredible wave of hype. Some people thought that it was the greatest evangelism tool ever. Churches were renting out entire movie theatres. Some churches were posting Passion-type signs outside of their buildings. My sister told me about strangers hugging each other in the parking lot after the movie. I can't tell you how many cups of tears I lost during the movie. Allegedly a man turned himself in to authorities for crimes he had gotten away with after watching the movie. This was a mega-success for followers of Christ. Sadly, though, not much else resulted in the hype. Not long after the novelty of the movie wore off, much of the fervent support and energy generated from the movie seemed to get cold and faded away.

But, lately, I came in close contact with -- hands down -- the most significant and culturally relevant movies in cinematic history: Crash. Now, I'm really starting to understand why this movie got so much Academy Award hoopla. This movie was seriously the most important movie I've ever seen.

To me, the church needs to promote this movie just as much as it did for Passion. I think that the church, as well as many other institutions, should use this movie as a discussion piece for many of the core elements and principles of which Jesus spoke during His ministry; priniciples involving human nature. Yes. This movie had harsh overtones. Yes. There was violence, foul language, and sexual themes. But, more important, this movie provides critical analysis on important topics like racism, oppression, hate, and fear; things that we, as Christians and humans fight on a daily basis.

Never mind The Passion of the Christ. Crash, in my opinion, is the greatest evangelsim tool to ever hit the big screen.

Your thoughts?


Sunday, March 12, 2006

Getting down & dirty

I didn't go to church today. I just couldn't get myself moving. I know, I know....I need Jesus! :)

To make up for not going to church, I thought I'd flip through some channels and watch a televised morning service. I found some minister (the name escapes me right now) who shared an awesome message about Jesus' parable of the woman with the lost coin (found in Luke 15:8-10). After listening to his sermon (or about as much of it as I could before going back to sleep), I started thinking again. Since I've been in the habit of discussing Jesus' radicalized messages lately on my blog (while stirring up a little controversy in the meantime), why should I stop now?

I've always loved this parable; probably more than any other. This parable, in my opinion, shows the true extent to just how radical God’s love can be. In this story, Jesus compares God to a woman who lost a coin, one of her most valuable possesions. She got down on her hands and knees looking for this coin; through all the dirt, mud, and filth. After crawling through the dirt, she finally found the coin. With her discovery, she began to rejoice. All this work for one coin..

What’s cool about this story is that Jesus points out the true nature of God. We are so valuable to God that He has no problem getting on His knees to find us…even if it means going down into the dirtiest, most filthy places in our lives. How’s that for love?! You see, as God’s creations, we are His most prized possession. When we are lost, God will stop at nothing to seek us until we are found. When He does find us (more like when we allow Him to find us), he rejoices over it. Did you get that? He rejoices over it! God rejoices over us, the finite, sinful, and sometimes idiotic creatures that we are. How cool is that?!

Plus, by us being the "lost coin", we are considered victims in this story, not criminals. God doesn't view us as dirty, vile, and sinful people who deserve to be lost, but rather as victims to sin. Knowing this, He will stop at nothing to free us from the guilt and condemnation that comes with sin.

I think that's why I love this parable. It suggests a radical idea about God.

A God who gets down and dirty for us...


Friday, March 10, 2006

Really, Really, Really Pro-Life...

I'm not the biggest fan of abortion, but I can't help but to be amazed at the ridiculous bill passed in South Dakota which basically outlaws abortion in all cases unless it's done to save the woman's life.

Yes, this includes victims of rape and incest. Not even they are exempt from this abortion ban.

So long Roe v. Wade...


Dubai pulls out


Apparently, your boys from DP World are going to divest themselves of all U.S. port operations in order to avoid an ugly showdown between its allies in the White House and a pretty skeptical Congress. Despite support from Bush (who threatened to veto any legislation in opposition to their control), DP has decided to abandon any ideas of seizing control of any ports. According to the article:

"DP World will transfer fully the U.S. operations … to a United States entity," the firm's top executive, H. Edward Bilkey, said in an announcement that capped weeks of controversy.
Relieved Republicans in Congress said the firm had pledged full divestiture.

So, when Mr. Bilkey says a "U.S. entity", does he mean...oh...let's say...the Shell Corporation?! I guess we'll have to wait and see. I think it's interesting that Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has been quoted as saying that "the devil is in the details." I can't say that I disagree.

One important thing stood out for me in this article:

It was unclear how DP would manage the planned divestiture, and Bilkey's statement said its announcement was "based on an understanding that DP World will not suffer economic loss."

Does that mean taxpayers will be reimbursing the firm for "loss of profit," sort of like in corporate suits against state policies under NAFTA? Again, we'll have to wait and see.

One thing's for sure: I don't think that we've heard the last of DP.


Thursday, March 09, 2006

Racial Redundancy

So I decided to watch FX's new series: "Black. White." last night. Other than during Bush's State of the Union address, I couldn't think of another time when I wanted to throw my TV out the window.

For those of you who haven't been exposed to this nonsense (and I'm praying that you don't), this show is about two families -- one black and one white -- who "exchange" places. Using makeup (which, for the record, isn't really that convincing), they are transformed into some sort of undercover race detectives. Am I the only one not impressed by this?!

For one, this experiment has already been done before. One of the writers, John Howard Griffin, made his mark back in 1959 when he turned his skin from white to black and traveled to the south. He was able to experience, firsthand, the true depths of racism and classism. But, for some bizarre reason, he and Ice Cube have decided to redo this 'experiment'; as if something has actually changed. Why...?!

Since we know what racism is still alive and well, why do we need another silly documentary to prove that point? Why are we dedicating our resources, our intelligence, and our capital to identifying a problem that we already know exists?! Why not use those resources to combat the issues?!

Ooh! I know!

Ratings, right?


Did He say what I think He said?!

Yesterday, I had a pretty interesting conversation with a girl on campus who belongs to a student group, "Students for Christian Values". We were discussing the performance of President Bush. For the record, this girl fervently supported Bush for his so-called "Christian and family values". I, on the other hand, think that he's a moron. During our discussion, I called him a "dumb shit" (I stole this line from one of my favorite movies ever, The Shawshank Redemption). Knowing that I’m a Christian, she quickly called me out on what I said. “Is that how Christians are supposed to act? Is that something that Jesus would say?”


Would Jesus ever call someone a " dumb shit?" Would He ever use cuss words? I’ll let that one marinate for a second…

That was a terrific question she asked me. “Is that something that Jesus would say?” This question ties in perfectly with the late-90's "WWJD" wave that struck our culture. My initial thought was, “Of course not! There’s no way that Jesus would ever use that kind of language. So, neither should I.” In fact, I still hold true to that philosophy. So, in that respect, yes; I was wrong for calling Bush a "dumb shit" (I guess I'm just as wrong for repeating it, right?!).

But after I thought about it for a moment, another question popped up in my head. I thought to myself, “Who cares?” There are people suffering all over the world. Children are dying from starvation every day. Women are getting abused at this very moment. There are far worse things that are happening in today's time. I know that this sounds like I’m justifying my wrongdoing. But, let me assure you, I’m not. Trust me. I’m going somewhere with this…

People who try to use their understanding of right and wrong to criticize others remind me of the devoutly religious folks of Jesus’ time. You know…the guys whose actions were based solely on following the Law word-for-word. So, from that end, I think that I could see Jesus using cuss words. But, here’s the catch: I think that if He did cuss, He’d do it directly at those religious folks. I think that He’d do it to radicalize the same laws that most religious folks use to tear down the very people that they should be trying to lift up.

Now, obviously I can only speculate what Jesus would really do. But, since the Gospel gives us a good indication of His demeanor, we can suspect how Jesus would respond to certain situations. The Bible reminds us that, despite his status as a rabbi, He broke numerous "laws"-- particularly those used to smack others over the head with. For instance, religious folks were more concerned about Jesus ‘breaking the law’ by healing on the Sabbath, than they were about human suffering. The truth is: Jesus didn’t need to heal on the Sabbath, but I think He intentionally did so to prove a point. I think that He deliberately broke the rules used by dominant religious figures so that He could create relationships with those who were considered “outcasts” of society. He ate with sinners. He spoke with the poor. He healed the sick. He cast demons from the “mentally challenged”. He was intimately involved with the very people who were excluded by the religious society for not obeying the Law. There's no question that Jesus used unconventional tactics to prove His point. So if using cuss words would awaken the religious community to the Spirit of the Law; as opposed to the specific rules of the Law, then I wouldn't be all that surprised if Jesus threw one out every now and then. In doing so, Jesus would’ve showed the Pharisees of the world that they were more concerned about following rules than they were about living in the Spirit.

The reality is, I seriously doubt that Jesus would rely on cussing to do His work. Not only is He a perfect being, but He is at a much higher level -- mentally and spiritually -- than we could ever be. However, since Jesus was known for shocking the uppity religious folks of His day, I wouldn’t be all that surprised if He flipped the script on them by calling them "dumb shits". Wouldn’t it be something to see how Jesus would suprise all those guys who thought that they had mastered the Law? It would show them that they’ve completely missed the spirit of the God through their exclusion of people who they have marginalized.

All of this from a few cuss words…


Tuesday, March 07, 2006

How to be bipartisan

Also, in the news...

According to this report, Congress recently approved the USA Patriot Improvement and Reauthorization Act; with a vote of 89 - 10, with 1 not voting. This new piece of legislation reauthorizes all expiring provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act, while adding additional safeguards to protect Americans' privacy and civil liberties, strengthening port security, and providing tools to combat terrorism.

Whether you agree with the vote or not, one thing you can say: the widespread Congressional approval shows that, partisanship aside, Democrats and Republicans can actually work together on something. Though they didn't all agree on the Patriot Act (Personally, I hate it), at least they're all willing to work with it...with some adjustments.

This, to me, is the first step to leading the nation toward recovery.


National Security: Ours & theirs

About a week ago, I blogged about New Orleans celebrating Mardi Gras while most of the area was still @#$!ed up. I guess I still haven't gotten over it; especially after I found the following disturbing information:

This is the Dutch levee system; especially important since most of its land is below sea level.

This is a diagram of Italy's levee system. The giant platform (the yellow part of diagram) rises us to break up waves.

This is the levee system in the UK...

And yet...

This is the levee system that the 'leader of the free world' uses to protect itself from flooding.
After looking at the levee systems of these other developed nations, can you honestly tell me that there isn't something fundamentally wrong with our country?! Why haven't we pushed for more work to be done so that we can offer the same kind of protection to our people that these other nations provide for their citizens?! Oh, that's right! Because Mardi Gras time is upon us.
Simply put: there is absolutely no excuse why New Orleans is spending their time partying, exposing breasts, and acting like fools, while many parts of the area are still in dire need and are still vulnerable to disaster. What happens when the next Katrina comes around? Would you rather see stronger levees protecting our cities or levess that use Mardi Gras beads to patch the holes?