Archive for October, 2005

Good bye Elway

Good bye Elway


I generally love dogs and Elway was no exception.  He was a very much loved part of the Cooper family.  He will be missed.

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What is wrong with the church?

 What is wrong with the church?


I’ve been asking some friends this question. What are you most concerned about with the church? If you think the church has gone off track what is the main reason why it is off track? I’ve heard some very interesting answers.

I’d like to hear what you think? It seems there is a vast majority of people I never hear from that read this blog. If you’ve never commented I encourage you try on this post. Post anonymously if you would like.

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Fear, the bible and Homosexuality

Fear, the bible and Homosexuality


One of the most important things to remember when studying the bible is to know who you are and what your potential biases are.  The study of homosexuality in the bible is polarized.  On one side of the issue is the cause of human rights and an honest desire to protect those who have been mistreated in the past.  On the other side we have tradition, the assumptions of most of the world’s societies and religions, and sometimes an irrational fear of homosexuals.  

We can’t approach the bible with a hermeneutic of fear.  Many evangelicals are afraid of becoming liberals. For them accepting homosexuals is the primary gateway to liberalism and heresy.  When we interpret text with an underlying fear of reaching a certain conclusion we are naturally biased against reaching that conclusion. 

I’ve seen this in a denomination I’m very familiar with.  There is a move towards affirming women in all areas of church leadership.  Among some this is perceived as another step down the slippery slope towards *gasp* affirming homosexual marriage.  People valiantly defend the status quo like it was a trench on the plains of Europe.  

I know that deep down a lot people would say that they don’t want even consider the idea that the bible doesn’t condemn homosexuality because they feel that the church has compromised too much already. They believe that through each ethical compromise the church descends down the slippery slope to moral corruption and irrelevance.  This may be true of a lot of things but living in this fear does not help us interpet the bible.  There are a number of perceived moral compromises which turned out to be very good.  The Anglicans couldn’t handle the Methodists preaching outside.  In the era of slavery the south had a far stronger biblical case than the abolishionists.  For many the defence of slavery was considered a defence of the authority of the bible much like the issues of women in leadership and homosexuality are today.

Those who approach the bible through the lens of human rights or victimization are similarly sidetracked.  Hurt and bitterness change our percpetion.  Negative experiences will impair our ability to interpret biblical text.  Someone who has been abused by a spiritual authority will be wary of submitting to authority.  A woman was abused by her father may have a hard time with the concept of God as a father.  I wouldn’t blame either victim in these examples but that doesn’t change the fact their perception will probably be skewed.

The lens of human rights skews us to a predetermined conclusion as well.  In much the same way that evangelicals fear the slippery slope, those who are committed to the cause of human rights are afraid of affirming the oppressors. 

As I look at the texts pertaining to homosexual sex there are number of words and phrases that can be taken more than one way.  It is on these key words where interpetive bias can show through.  I see people deciding to go one way or another without providing much of a convincing rationale. 

On the issue of homosexuality I’d say there is less of a calm rational middle that cares first for God’s desire.  The bible has become a pawn between competing world views rather than an authoritative source of truth.  What would it look like if we took an honest look at scripture and accepted it for what it says despite the ramifications.  Maybe the authors of scripture say something we don’t like.  Some may choose to disregard scripture as the primary authority for understanding God and what we would want for us.  I think that people who do this should be honest about it.  Hiding it to yourself and others won’t ensure salvation. 

Fear is what makes smart people stupid and rational people irrational.  As Christians we ought to be people of faith rather than fear. 

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Sober thoughts on wikipedia

Sober thoughts on wikipedia


Ok, ok, ok so wikipedia isn’t as great as I thought it was.   I’ve read a lot of fascinating articles on Wikipedia and at times found myself in a wikitrap.  I’ve been caught in a vortex of hyperlinks spinning me deeper and deeper in the annals of history.  I didn’t find any glaringly obvious problems in my travels.  Apparently some of the content is really bad.  

I think the problem with Wikipedia is that there is no way for the crowd to credential the best writers.  The input of crowds must have an effective mechanism to be judged by the wisdom of crowds.  The blogosphere works better as the collective conscious of the net because it naturally elevates many of the best and does a good job of filtering out the worst. 

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Tags just like Flickr

Tags just like Flickr


One of the coolest things about Flickr is that you can tag your
photos.  I setup up my blog software (Fusion Publisher) to start
saving tags but I hadn’t coded anything to display them.  Today
I’m testing out my new Tag page.  Feel free to check it out and let me know what you think.

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Canada more corrupt with a Liberal government?

Canada more corrupt with a Liberal government?


It looks like we are slipping a bit.  According to Transperency International Canada has fallen to 14th ofn the list of the least corrupt nations.  If I remember correctly Canada used to be in the top 10 on this list.  Most Canadians can console themselves knowing we are 14th but America is 17th.  As long as we are beating the USA all is right in our world.

If we could just get rid of Gurmant Grewal and Jack Layton’s moustache we might gain a point or two.

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ADHD, Homosexuality and Judgment

ADHD, Homosexuality and Judgment


My adopted son has Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder. His biological father had it which gave him about a 1 in 5 chance of getting it. It is thought that his condition is caused by a lack of a brain chemical that helps people maintain focus and control.
 
My son has a condition that inevitable causes him to sin. In the past he has had uncontrollable fits of rage that lead to verbal and physical violence. It is clear that from the very beginning of his life he has struggled with impulses that drive him to do things he would rather not do.
 
Watching this has given me a new perspective on Homosexuality. Scientific research has concluded that there are several factors involved in sexual orientation and most of those are well beyond the choice of the individual. Factors such as genetics, pre-natal development, early childhood development etc… Just like my son most homosexuals had no choice in the way their brain was going to work. In both situations people have nearly irresistible impulses to do what Paul seems to condemn.
 
The following article outlines some of the common theories and research on homosexuality.
  • This article references the story of two identical twins. One is so feminine he thinks he is a girl and the other is “all boy.” Both were brought up in the exact same environment.  Chances are strong that the feminine one will have a homosexual orientation.
  • Research has found that “Exposure to male hormones in utero dramatically raises the chances of being sexually attracted to females”.
  • There is a correlation between our physical attributes and our sexual orientation. Lesbians are more likely to have more masculine finger lengths, inner-ear functions and eye-blink reactions.
  • “Homosexuality runs in families – studies show that 8 to 12 percent of brothers of gay men are also gay compared with the 2 to 4 percent of the general population.”
I don’t intend to make any statements about where the biological factors begin or end. I don’t have that much interest in that debate but I have been convinced that biological factors are in play. It only stands to reason. Our bodies are not perfect and sometimes people are born with conditions outside of the parameters we call normal. Just because environmental factors play a role in sexual orientation that doesn’t mean the biological factors aren’t in play and vice versa. Just because some people can change their orientation that doesn’t mean everyone can and vice versa.
 
What is becoming abundantly clear is that most homosexuals did not choose to be the way they are. I imagine that a great many homosexuals would have flipped a switch to become heterosexuals as they began to process their sexual identity.
As far as I can tell there are two plausible options when viewing homosexuality from a biblical perspective.
  1. Paul condemned homosexual activity that exploited others but would not have condemned monogamous homosexual relationships if they existed at the time..
  2. Paul condemned certain kinds of behavior because same sex sexual activity is unnatural and goes against God’s design for humanity.
For those who would be terribly interested in exactly where I stand I think the stronger biblical argument is the on option 2. It still leaves me with some big questions. How big of sin is it to go against God’s design? God seemingly designed women to be shorter and physically weaker but does that make it a dark sin for a woman to embrace weight training?
 
So far I’ve found the biblical arguments on both sides of the issue shallow and unconvincing. Many of the arguments condemning homosexuality are no stronger than the ones made here. The arguments I’ve read that argue for monogamous homosexual relationships don’t adequately deal with Romans 1 or simply disregard Paul as a product of his time.
 
Some purpose that God would not judge people for behavior they can’t help. Some also conclude that because people are born homosexual it must have been God’s design. I don’t buy this argument. The truth is sin is still sin even if we can’t help it. My son’s brain is likely low on a brain chemical that would help him focus and control his emotional impulses. When he is violent or verbally abusive it is sin. My son was born the way he was but no one would say God designed Him to be more violent than other kids.
 
That being said I don’t believe God judges us all the same way. Jesus indicated that judgment is more severe for some than other because of the knowledge they had. I believe in judgment and that we are all judged relative to what we have been given in life. Those have been given much is expected. Those who have been given little less is expected of them.
 
I honestly struggle with this issue because I would have a hard time condemning people for doing what their body wants to do. In the same vein I look at my son through the lens of his condition. At the same time I wouldn’t want to compromise on God’s design for human relationships or convey to my son that he isn’t responsible for his actions.
 
If half the homosexuals in Canada got married it may have a minor impact on how society views marriage. It won’t have near the impact that divorce has already had on marriage. When I told some friends I’ve worked with that I was marrying someone I hadn’t had sex with they scolded me. When I told some relatives I was getting married they questioned why. Many people don’t believe in marriage because they don’t think it is worth the risk. It is the apparent failure of marriage in our society that has caused people to lose faith in it.
 
When evangelicals get divorced as much as anyone else how can they possibly say they oppose gay marriage to preserve the family. If we really cared about the family then why aren’t we any better at staying together? I really can’t stand the hypocrisy. Divorce is one of the greatest sins of our time because it causes all manner of problems for people that linger on through future generations.
I don’t think there is much real concern for the preservation of the family. I believe most Christians oppose gay marriages because they think homosexuality is a sin in a class all its own and God will judge the nation if we give it legal endorsement. I think this is misguided as well. As I look at the scriptures they seem indicate that judgment is stricter for those who know better.
 
Matthew 11 (NRSV) 20 Then he began to reproach the cities in which most of his deeds of power had been done, because they did not repent. 21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I tell you, on the day of judgment it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? No, you will be brought down to Hades. For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.
 
John 9 (NRSV) 39 Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.” 40 Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not blind, are we?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, “We see,’ your sin remains.
 
If 1/4 of the marriages in the church fail and we know God hates divorce (Mal 2:16) where then would judgment fall? I think it is easy to condemn homosexuals because we like to think we are standing up for truth and we pick issues that cost us nothing in the short term. The church has bigger issues and if it is truly concerned about divine judgment it ought to puts its own house in order.
 
My experience with my son has given me a new perspective and has forced me to look at the human consequences of my theology.  It has forced me to ask some keep questions.  I want to be faithful yet loving, compassionate and understanding.  At this point I’m not sure what that will look like.

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World is headed for an energy crisis

World is headed for an energy crisis


Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Saturday said the world was headed toward an energy crisis but said there was little chance of OPEC countries increasing production because they were near "the limit of their capacity."
"There is very little chance because nearly the whole world right now is producing petroleum at their maximum capacity. In Venezuela, for example, we can’t produce a single barrel more," Chavez told reporters in the central Spanish town of Salamanca where he is attending the 15th summit of leaders from Spanish-and Portuguese-speaking countries.
Link

In the last little while I’ve run in to people who question whether the EnergyStar rating actually means something or whether our Toyota Echo really gets 41 mpg (US). Yes these things make a difference and if we are really upset at the oil and gas companies it is time to start changing our lifestyle. We have almost reached the point where world demand for oil has exceeded capacity.   The price will only go up from here.  Most Canadians should look at high efficiency furnaces which will more than pay for themselves after the next round of natural gas price hikes. It is time to plan to trade in vehicles that use more than 10 litres of gas to go 100km.  It’s time to recycle.  Large organizations should start looking at Geothermal energy.  It is time to stop sticking our head in the sand about this. 

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Randall's latest creation: Drycold.com

Randall’s latest creation: Drycold.com


I really like Randall’s new photoblog. I’m super impressed that he is using my blog software (FusionPublisher) to do it.

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The religion of materialism

The religion of materialism


I’m in Edmonton for thanksgiving.  As I toured around I met some people who are cashing in on the Alberta “gold rush.”  Huge houses, new cars, big bills and an unflinching dedication to the acquisition of more stuff.  It is a religion all to its own.

A couple of people made remarks about our main family vehicle.  In my eyes the Toyota Echo is a remarkably efficient, adequately roomy, reliable vehicle.  In the eyes of the people I met it was a tin can not worth driving.  The acquisition of bigger and better things is the new religion.  The sinners are those who choose to live measured and moderate lives.  It made me appreciate Saskatoon so much more. 

I reject these values.  I love buying new gadgets when they become affordable but I see no need to live in a house that costs more to heat than I pay in rent.  I see no need to drive an expensive car.  What do those things bring us?  

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