Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Jakob and Esau

I have been reading Brian D. McLaren's a Generous Or+hodoxy and other materials about the emergent church trends. I like this line of thinking because it reminds us that Christ's love is for everybody, not just the Christian elite. This is often forgotten and Christianity soon becomes a better-than-thou club.

I wrote this short story based partly on a friend's rejection of Christ and my thoughts recently about the post-modern church. (I do not support the extreme brand of post-modernism that says such wrong ideas that blends truth with everything else-- that is not the idea)

Jakob and Esau

“Jakob the American. No, no, no. Jakob the Jewish-American. Hmmm. Jakob the American Jew-turned-Jesus-Follower. No, it’s all wrong.” Jakob, just Jakob, he decided on. He was young and seemingly ever-changing. He had changed his mind about his political party, religion, and serious girlfriend several times during his short life. Now it was time to apply for graduate school, to hammer out his identity.

He had two sides to him; he called them his Jacob and Esau. The large half of him had grown up in his Jewish roots. They weren’t exactly Jewish, they were American. His father worked too much and his mother kept house. They bought him a fancy car and sent him to private school. Jakob’s mother glowed about the synagogue about as much as she did about him. Their synagogue, built in the sort of neighborhood with churches on each block, stood out boldly, festively. The young synagogue had a rock-lined path connecting it with a Lutheran church. The churches were friends; a mirror of Jakob’s new friendship with Christ.

In high school, he never minded reminding his evangelical friends that he didn’t celebrate Christmas. He didn’t even mind missing visits from the Easter Bunny each year. Up until late in his college career, Jakob enjoyed the blasé identity that he had inherited. After all, Jews like him were considered upper-class, mobile, deep thinkers. Phrases like closed-minded or judgmental were never directed toward his family.

“Go with me to junior prom?” He had asked her the day before. For all her quick fumbling and shopping, he treated her like a princess for the night. Mia had been what seemed like “in love” with Jakob in middle school. Now she was cool, collected, down to earth, and confident. She had developed a liking for church, he knew, but he didn’t mind.

A desire to go to undergrad out of state kept them connected in school. His parents saw the opportunity as a chance for him to enter a land flowing with milk and honey. Soon they started undergrad on different sides of the country. Mia became profoundly Evangelical, while Jakob found himself wandering through a desert of confusion.

Mia wasn’t close-minded and uncultured, he reasoned. She wasn’t even judgmental. She stayed away from the party scene and meaningless relationships, just as he did.

The 700 Club had come up once while he was flipping channels. The speakers talked too fast for him, one pointed at him and cursed him.

Are you a Republican? Do you want to be a stay-at-home mother? Do you believe women should submit to men? Did God create the world in a literal seven days? Jakob drilled Mia with questions, wrestling with his curious heart. For him, the Kingdom of God was not yet restored. For herm, the Kingdom was restored, welcoming any and all into its dance.

He knew he despised baggage. Jakob carried around the baggage of busy parents and no siblings, and an empty feeling about his spirituality. But why, he asked her, why did believing in Christ come with so much baggage? He wanted spirituality that brought truth, love, acceptance, and empathy; he had only found elites in her world.

Broken and compassionate for him, Mia could only muster the words “I’m sorry.”

Jakob’s ancestors lived religion in their normal, everyday lives. They did not just incorporate stringent views and have a once-weekly acting out of religion. A belief in God led to upright living, hoping, and giving. He knew they did not live elite lives, as one who joins a yacht club might, while Jesus-followers had made him feel like a second-class citizen in America. “I’m sorry,” was all she could say.

Why did you take this religion? Finally, in desperation, he had asked her what he had been aching to ask anyone who could tell him. Mia, carefully and sweetly, told him she did not take religion but Jesus. She did it differently. She molded American Christianity into consideration, kindness, and relevance.

He knew full well that historians no longer debate whether Jesus was actually a man. They have had to accept this, he had too. Now they wonder inquisitively—are His claims true?

Jakob finished up undergrad quietly, he made his parents proud. They would have the same struggle he had if he told them he became a follower of Christ. But Mia had taught him the true way. What his ancestors had hoped for, prayed for, and were promised was fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ in the first century.

He never became a Republican and he never watched the 700 Club again. He never spanked his children, he never prayed for America. His childhood quietness grew into manhood. No longer needing a fake birthright, Jakob was accepted as a son into his God’s Kingdom. The truth had clung to him, refusing to let go. He had fought it with all of his might, not realizing what it truly was.

Mia lived an unconventional life. She spoke of blessings through suffering, and Christ’s acceptance of everybody. Jakob connected his Jewish roots with a beautiful, struggle-lined path to the truth of Christianity’s Jesus, but he never joined the discourteous camp he saw too often. He lived a blessed life because He found the person of Jesus holding no baggage but rather open arms.

At that time, says the Lord, I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be my people. Thus says the Lord: The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness; when Israel sought for rest, the Lord appeared to him from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you. (Jeremiah 31:1-3)

I hope to write more short stories and articles, both fiction and non-fiction, about these new ideas. I'm looking to get published, either in complete book form or on a per-article basis. If you have any leads, please feel free to e-mail me. Thinkingsand -at sign- gmail dot com.

Key words/tags:Jewish, Judaism, religion, Christianity, Christian, American, Jacob, emergent, Christ follower, Esau, relevant, church, unchurched, follower of Christ, salvation, conversion, conversation, religious, life path

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

awww... Craigslist shows on-line chivalry

Chivalry! What's that? Craigslist.org has Christmas cheer, that's for sure. The poor company is under scrutiny this week for its unwillingness to put money-making ads on its pages. The New York Time's DealBook blog overs the catastrophe:
Craigslist charges money for job listings, but only in seven of the cities it serves ($75 in San Francisco; $35 in the others). And it charges for apartment listings in New York ($10 a pop). But that is just to pay expenses.
Mr. Schachter still did not seem to understand. How about running AdSense ads from Google? Craigslist has considered that, Mr. Buckmaster said. They even crunched the numbers, which were “quite staggering.” But users haven’t expressed an interest in seeing ads, so it is not going to happen.
Commenter Doug replied thoughtfully:
I would think that this sort of “profits not primary” mentality is something that the establishment could find threatening. Let’s hope it catches on as the internet continues to democratize the population’s ability to interact more directly.
My response? Can't a company not want to rule the Internet with all power and unknowing supporters raising millions of dollars in profits??? (ah-hem... YouTube!) I think most on-line start-ups today are in it for the short run. They want to build, build up, and sell out. The alllll popular Facebook, YouTube, and MySpace come to mind. Facebook, which claimed on their site for over a year that they would never sell out and allow high school students to use their service (they serve a college niche) finally gave in this year. Ads have somewhat unobtrusively found their homes on pages such as Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, even FoxNews forces readers to watch 21 second commercials before news stories. Perhaps Craigslist stays away from this because it is not trying to draw in a crowd from every possible niche and be a global dinner-table-conversation clique. That's okay. Way to be, Craigslist!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Media spins story over the top

Today headlines filled my feeds about an ice skating rink in Alabama that was torn apart in a thunderstorm. The worst part? The building had 31 preschoolers in it. Headlines looked like this:

Storm destroys skating rink full of preschoolers  (cnn.com)
Storm Destroys Montgomery Skating Rink, Preschoolers Inside (wtvynews4.com)
Devastating Storms Leave Death, Destruction (wdiv)
Storm destroys Montgomery skating rink full of children (The Decatur Daily)
Storm wrecks skate rink; kids inside (Yahoo! News)
Storms wreck Ala. skate rink filled with preschoolers (San Diego Union Tribune)
Preschoolers Hurt in Stormy Weather (First Coast News)
Children escape death in storm (azcentral.com)

Hmmm. Where did your mind go while reading those? Did you think about Columbine,or  the Tsnami? Well, once you click the link and actually read the story you learn that one kid suffered a broken arm and another got a cut. NO ONE DIED. Granted, there was great danger and trauma for the children. But on-line publications are desperate for people to view their ads. They have to spice up headlines, especially ones that play into human emotion... Thanks for conning me into viewing ads, crapfaces. At the expense of kids. Geez.

My return to the blogging world

After taking a hiatus from blogging the past few months I have come back to my senses. After beginning the application process to teach English in China I panicked-- a world war could go on and I wouldn't even know! No more news, no more blogs (I read a few dozen!), no more political and social thought! Ick! Then my normal flow of political, social, spiritual, and why-are-we-living-this-life thoughts began to invade my brain. It would be too clique to say "I couldn't eat! I couldn't sleep!" I just had to blog.
My blogs: http://thinkingsand.blogspot.com news, politics, thoughts, current events, cultural stuff, religious ramblings, thoughts of society and the world today-- whatever fills my brain and leaps into words on screen. http://whatisgwbushdoing.blogspot.com pretty self-explanatory. I take a fairly neutral stance on Bush, sometimes bashing him, sometimes encouraging the media to give him a break. All in moderation, of course. Very U.S. government news heavy. So that's that. Hi. Engage me.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

lawsuits and the rich

Sicko O.J. Simpson is after money... your money... and he wants your coffee table to be his pulpit. Simpson is publishing a book!! hahahahahaha. I don't often use IM-speak in blogs, but this situation necessitates it. HAHAHA. O.J. Simpson is publishing a book called "If I Did It" in which he explains how he "hypothetically" would have killed his wife and her friend. Regan books is publishing the trash-bloid. "This is an historic case, and I consider this his confession," Regan told The Associated Press. Exactly. Anyone ever notice how easy the rich have it? Here's one prime example...:

The former football star was acquitted in 1995 of murdering his
ex-wife and her friend Ron Goldman after a trial that became an instant cultural flashpoint.

He was later found liable for the deaths by in a civil wrongful-death suit filed by the Goldman family. In the years since, he has been mocked relentlessly by late-night comedians, particularly for his vow to hunt down the true killers.

Simpson has failed to pay the $33.5 million judgment against him in the civil suit. His NFL pension and his Florida home cannot legally be seized. He and the families of the victims have wrangled over the money in court for years. (CNN.COM, digg it)

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Freedom of Speech... continued

Today's Freedom of Speech headline news...
-American University professors are signing a petition that denounces Israel's aggression against Lebanon. One thousand American professors have signed the document that says Israel is wronging Lebanon in the Israeli/Hezbollah crisis.(read more, digg this). Perhaps it is American university professors who have unlimited freedom of speech and unlimited listening ears.
-Apple misquoted. LOL. Correction: "iPods built to last 'for years,' not 'four years'" (read more)
-And lastly, another Jihad tragedy. Just today, a Muslim man opens fire at a Jewish Center in Seattle, killing one woman. The shooter also injured five others, including a pregnant woman. The only information known at this time about the shooter is that he is an American and a Muslim.(read more, digg this)
Ok, this isn't a "freedom of speech" blog or a Jihad-following blog. It's just been on my mind a lot today and I think there are events everyday that are related to the struggle that comes with the freedom of speech. There are also many events that happen because of the struggle between Muslims and the rest of the world. Today they especially mingle. I'm glad I have the freedom to blog about it and try to process it.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Freedom of Speech... Anarchic Freedom or Responsibility?

My favorite post on my favorite blog by Michelle Malkin is called "SUPPORT DENMARK: WHY THE FORBIDDEN CARTOONS MATTER". In a move so brave and forward, one I'll never be able to replicate, Malkin posted the political cartoons that a Denmark newspaper (the Jyllands-Posten) ran in Sept. 2005. The 'toons are now dubbed the "forbidden cartoons". The cartoons depicted the Muslim prophet Mohammed. Muslims worldwide were instantly offended, even taking to burning flags, rioting, and demonstrating. Perhaps we take for granted the political freedom and the freedom of speech we see exercised all the time here in America. Each of us can think of cartoons, paintings, or art that has "bashed" Jesus Christ, God, President Bush, and other world political and religious leaders. Muslims think it is wrong to create images of Mohammed, I guess especially if you aren't Muslim. But there is a painting of him next to other historical religious leaders (like Hammurabi, Moses, and Confucius) in the United States Supreme Court building in Washington, DC. Due to controversy surrounding the image, the words "bears no resemblance to Muhammad" had to be added.
SouthPark aired an episode in 2001 depicting Muhammad, but in 2006 pulled another such episode from running. They did, however, run an episode showing President George W. Bush defecating on Jesus Christ. Shameful?
The newspaper ran the following statement in Jan. 2006 in response to the eruptle response to its cartoons:
30 January 2006 In our opinion, the 12 drawings were sober. They were not intended to be offensive, nor were they at variance with Danish law, but they have indisputably offended many Muslims for which we apologize.
The chaos has since died down over the media, but still the Jihad continues worldwide. A group that continues to spread hatred for Jewish and anti-Muslim people groups, including and especially Americans, demands to be respected. Are political cartoons spurners of hatred and bigotry or a guiding mechanism used to question, ponder, and explore truth? The Jihad, meaning to exert utmost effort or struggle in Arabic, now brings fear into hearers of the term, now taken to mean "holy war". The struggle between the Muslim world and the rest of the world, literally the Jihad, has resulted in much terrorism, death, fear, and censorship. Should requirements for religious tolerance, including censorship of speech in press and the blogsphere, be unanimous? Should blanket rules be applied that protect religions from being insulted and depicted by outsiders, or should people everywhere uphold and revere the freedom of speech? The freedom of speech, the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, was probably created for the time when problems like this would arise. It does not just protect unbiased and simple ideas, but controversial ideas. Wikipidia describes the freedom of speech like this:
The right to freedom of speech is guaranteed under international law through numerous human rights instruments, notably under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, although implementation remains lacking in many countries. The synonymous term freedom of expression is sometimes preferred, since the right is not confined to verbal speech but is understood to protect any act of seeking, receiving and imparting information or ideas, regardless of the medium used.
Blasphemy as a crime?
Some recent restrictions on the freedom of speech have included:
* Some consider the deportation of a foreign peace activist Scott Parkin from Australia in September 2005 to have been an attack on free speech, claimed by the federal government to be a risk to national security.
* Dr. Elsebeth Baumgartner currently faces up to 109 years in prison in the state of Ohio for her criticism of, and accusations of corruption against, government officials in Ohio.
* In Finland, a new copyright law was enacted in October 2005, which prohibited "services making possible or facilitating the circumvention of effective technical [copy prevention] measures".
* Blasphemy is illegal in Finland and several other Western countries. Defense of freedom of religion is cited.
* Gunns Limited, a Timber and woodchip product company in Australia (Gunns Website) is suing 17 individual activists, including Federal Greens Senator Bob Brown, as well as three non-profit environmental groups, for over 7.8 million dollars. Gunns claims that the defendants have sullied their reputation and caused them to lose profits, the defendants claim that they are simply protecting the environment. The defendants have become collectively known as the Gunns 20 (Friends of the Gunns 20). Although this example involves a private law suit, not government censorship, some claim that it is an abuse of defamation law, since it ties up the environmental activists in court proceedings, during which time Gunns may build a Pulp Mill in northern Tasmania. According to this view, the plaintiffs are not genuinely seeking to vindicate their reputations and they are seeking to scare off other activists with the prospect of ruinous legal expense. Such cases raise interesting questions about the extent to which powerful corporate interests should have access to defamation law.
* In the UK Parliament passed the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act in 2005 banning protest without permit within 1km of Parliament. The first conviction under the Act was in December 2005, when Maya Evans was convicted for reading the names of British soldiers and Iraqi civilians killed in the Iraq War, under the Cenotaph in October, without police permission.
* In Italy, media Tycoon Silvio Berlusconi censored the satirical Raiot series by Sabina Guzzanti after the first broadcast on RAI (the state TV), arguing that it was plain vulgarity and disrespectful to the government. As his company Mediaset threatened a lawsuit for €21,000,000, the RAI board of directors, appointed by Berlusconi's political majority, closed the series effective immediately, claiming that such a lawsuit was an economic liability for the company. Ms. Guzzanti went to court and won the case, but the Italian government and RAI refused to follow the court order and the show never went on air again. Berlusconi had previously had two highly esteemed journalists (Michele Santoro and Enzo Biagi) and a comedy actor (Daniele Luttazzi) removed from RAI by saying explicitly, in a press conference in Bulgaria, that the new board of directors, which his majority had just appointed, should not allow their "criminal usage" of television.
* In some European countries, holocaust denial is a criminal offence. A prominent proponent of this view, David Irving, was sentenced for 3 years in Austria for denying the holocaust in February, 2006.
* In Canada, school teachers have limited freedom of speech, both on and off the job, regarding certain issues (e.g., homosexuality). Chris Kempling was suspended without pay for writing letters, on his own time, to a local newspaper to object to LGBT-related material being introduced into public schools. Kempling pursued the freedom of speech issue all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada without success.
* The first clause of UK's Terrorism Act 2006 punishes "Encouragement of terrorism" with up to seven years in jail.
* Some countries still have censorship laws that are rarely used. British law technically still prohibits blasphemy, displays of erect penises and promotion of suicide.
* In Sweden a law called "Hets mot folkgrupp" (Roughly translated "people offense") denies promotion of racism and homophobia. (found here)
Now it's getting sticky. Not all of those sound like bad things to censor-- some could be considered "hateful". But some, of course, are not and are infringing on people's rights! But which ones are which?
With freedom comes responsibility. With our right to the freedom of speech also comes a responsibility to speak up for the lost, unheard, and quieted. With our freedom comes a responsibility to use the freedom for good and for useful pursuits. Gosh, that's hard to judge what is useful and good and what is harmful and unuseful. It seems like most instances of free speech bring both good and harm. Obviously, speaking against a certain people or practice may bring harm but also may bring good.
Consider this: The Chinese government censors on the Internet information about such things as Tiananmen Square, religion, and democracy.
Food for thought:
"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." - Evelyn Beatrice Hall

"If liberty means anything at all it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear." - George Orwell

"...When compared with the suppression of anarchy every other question sinks into insignificance. The anarchist is the enemy of humanity, the enemy of all mankind, and his is a deeper degree of criminality than any other. No immigrant is allowed to come to our shores if he is an anarchist; and no paper published here or abroad should be permitted circulation in this country if it propagates anarchist opinions." -Theodore Roosevelt

"The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic. [...] The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent." Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. (found here)
You are encouraged to link to this post and blog about this topic! :) Discussion will be engaged. Want to discuss a topic or get linked? E-mail me!

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More power to women worldwide

A hidden gem of lucsious value! "Sister" Solje teaches us an invaluable lesson. Through the website http://www.womenforwomen.org, she has sponsored a woman from a war-torn country. She blogs of her experience,
I decided to make a purchase at the Women for Women International’s Virtual Bazaar–items created by the women being helped through this organization. I purchased a handbag that was made by my sisters in Kosovo, banana leaf note cards by my sisters in Rwanda, and a bracelet created by my sisters in Afghanistan. When I opened the package today of these items, I held them and thought about how each of my sister’s histories led her to this organization. It made me feel that the struggles I go through on a day to day basis literally pales in comparison. Today, I wear the bracelet knowing it’s a physical item that can link me at every minute of the day to a sister who is on the road to becoming an independent woman. Quite possibly a woman who has a history of such horrific atrocities, that I can’t even begin to fathom how her will to survive was stronger than the desire to give up.
"Sister" Solje is currently going through the adoption process. She has created and posted a beautiful and artistic on-line photo on-line scrapbook slideshow here. It just warms my heart. The adoption process is a beautiful one. A homeless and family-less child is ingrafted into loving arms. The Adoption Institute reports that there are 1.5 million adopted children in the United States, over 2% of all U.S. children. About 60% of Americans have a personal connection to adoption. Back on topic. The Women For Women website promotes a message that men and women worldwide can and should support. They are not a feminist movement. In a letter they wrote explaining the danger to women and children caused by the Israeli/Lebanon crisis, they explain their movement:
As advocates for women, Women for Women International believes that before engaging in war, any and all non-violent methods should be used to resolve conflict.... The international community must do all it can to ensure that women do not continue to be the invisible casualties of war and that their perspectives on and participation in peace, security and development is ensured. (here)
The organization hosts on their website a bazaar where shoppers can buy gifts made by women in war-torn countries that the program supports. What better way to make an unselfish purchase, perhaps even better as a gift for friends or family? I think the gifts promote awareness and humility. The gift shop is here: http://www.womenforwomen.org/bazaar.htm. Empowering women. And it's not about feminism!!! Hoorah. Too many good intentions get lost promoting feminism. The point isn't to be better than men (or anybody else), but equality. Don't you think? "Sister" Solje is a great example of a woman empowering other women around the world.

Allow me to express myself...

After keeping up a blog that reports solely on politics, I noticed that comments ran few, readers few, and community non-existent. I've realized that the blogging sphere needs to be more connected. I want to keep up my political blog (Here: http://whatisgwbushdoing.blogspot.com/), but I also want to expand myself. I love to read other blogs and I want to see myself responding to what those blogs are saying. Let me introduce myself; I'm a college student. I'm female. I'm a follower of Christ. I'm an academic. I'm an avid reader. Those things define me, but I'm open to being defined. I don't want to preach, I don't want to bore, I don't want to be ignorant. I want to learn, dig into issues and thoughts, and create a community of bloggers who do the same. This is a journey for all people. Won't you join me?

I love politics, religion, books, debates, poetry, facts, daydreams, world changers, the human condition, the extraordinary, the ordinary, and everything else blogs should be about.

Now, let me express myself...