Monthly Archives: October 2006

Searching for a Theology Metaphor

I’m searching for a theology metaphor this morning. We often use the term “construct” in reference to theology, as in, we take the components and hammer out a theology. But is this helpful? Is it misleading?

There are so many directions to run in at once here. Let’s take a look at what goes into theology first.

Theology is derived ultimately from God and his revelation through the Spirit and scripture. This is handy since theology is supposed to be about God. So if we are looking to God as a source for the study about him, we’re certainly on the right track.

Theology happens in a local context that addresses particular issues within a certain cultural framework. The New Testament was written in the Roman/Hellenic world, while today I am writing in the Western world, a context that has been shaped in many ways by popular postmodern thinking. In addition, the mission of the church, knowing and making God known, should be the driving force behind theology. Why else should we do it? Just to have it?

Theology has a number of participants, namely the historic church (or tradition) and the global church today. Both have important things to add to our study of God.

And now the question, how can we describe what takes place when we jam all of these factors together?

And now for the metaphor . . .
Some have used the metaphor of dancing. That may not sit well with some Baptists and flat-footed fools such as myself.

Construction sounds too rigid. A recipe sounds too formulaic, almost scientific in nature.

Would it be too vague and predictably emergentese to describe theology as a cultural, historical, communal, and spiritual conversation? I fear that it is too unspecific and unspectacular to do any one any good. Nevertheless, what else is theology if it is not a conversation? Building a theology sounds too rigid, formal, and permanent.

Theology as conversation implies life, open participation, and contextual relevance (ah, don’t you love that word!). I think I’ll stick with theology as a conversation for now. Whaddaya think?

Eat Up Those Pesticides

The exact effects of pesticides on humans can be debated. Some claim there are no definite links to cancer, while others make provocative statements such as:

“The research used to compile this list is from extensive independent tests run by the FDA and the USDA from more than 100,000 samples of food. The chemical pesticides detected in these studies are known to cause cancer, birth defects, nervous system and brain damage, and developmental problems in children. In other words, panic if it isn’t organic.”article

However you want to construe the research, I think we can at least agree on a few things:

1. Given a glass or pill that contains pure pesticides, we would not partake. In other words, when faced with a blatant choice concerning the consumption of pesticides, it’s a no-brainer.

2. If we have feasible ways to eat foods with less or no pesticides, then it’s at least worth considering.

I should also state that my Christian world view is my guide here as well. Since God created my body, I have an obligation to care for it. In addition, the pesticides used on fruits, vegetables, and in who knows what else are polluting our streams and rivers. I think that clean drinking water may come in handy sometime in the future. Just a guess.

So there are a number of reasons to buy organic, all the more so if the organic farm is local. Buying from local businesses and farms is a great way to keep your money in the community and to preserve your community’s unique character (a really big deal for Vermonters!).

Now that I’ve frightened and guilted you into considering organic foods, here are some practical steps forward.

First of all, it is helpful to target the worst foods that should never be purchased without the organic label, courtesy of About.com (a web site that is mostly about ads and is secondarily about information):

  1. Nectarines – 97.3% of nectarines sampled were found to contain pesticides.
  2. Celery – 94.5% of celery sampled were found to contain pesticides.
  3. Pears – 94.4% of pears sampled were found to contain pesticides.
  4. Peaches – 93.7% of peaches sampled were found to contain pesticides.
  5. Apples – 91% of apples sampled were found to contain pesticides.
  6. Cherries – 91% of cherries sampled were found to contain pesticides.
  7. Strawberries – 90% of strawberries sampled were found to contain pesticides.
  8. Imported Grapes – 86% of imported grapes (i.e.Chile) sampled were found to contain pesticides.
  9. Spinach – 83.4% of spinach sampled were found to contain pesticides.
  10. Potatoes – 79.3% of potatoes sampled were found to contain pesticides.
  11. Bell Peppers – 68% of bell peppers sampled were found to contain pesticides.
  12. Red Raspberries – 59% of red raspberries sampled were found to contain pesticides.

But it’s not all doom and gloom!

Continue reading

Munich: The Most Disturbing Movie I Have Ever Seen

Though I do not seek out violent or depressing films, I am not a stranger to them. In fact, one of my favorites is Saving Private Ryan. This is not because I have a lust for violence, but because this film shoes war in all of its ignominy and asks important questions about the value of life.

Munich is another such film that confronts terrorism and counter-terrorism, showing the endless depravity that grips both sides. There are no heroes in this movie, only small pieces caught up in something far larger and more ruthless than they can ever imagine.

With a series of assassination attempts and murders, it is by far the most violent movie I have ever seen. It’s disturbing in many ways, but it has to be.

I have always been astonished by the endless circle of violence that is so easy to perpetuate. The Middle East is certainly caught in it and has been for some time. One of the main points of the movie was that with each assassination, another terrorist who is far more violent rises to replace the fallen leader.

The main Israeli assassin is confronted with this truth along with the approval of many at home. They see him as a patriot who is defending their country.

The final shot of the film shows the disillusioned main character standing in a park by himself with the twin towers looming in the background (remember this took place in the 70’s). That haunting scene is a challenge to the way in which we deal with terrorism.

Read more about Operation Wrath of God, the Israeli assassination campaign.

This Blog is Powered by Cow Manure

Cow manure can produce methane gas. Methane gas can be used to produce energy. And that explains the source of our home’s energy. All of it.

Really, our home is powered by cow manure. Read all about CVPS’s Cow Power program. For the state of Vermont, a big dairy farm and energy conservation state, cow power makes way too much sense.

I can’t remember when I realized it, but one day I realized that all of the electricity in my home has to come from somewhere. It’s embarrassing to admit, but I really never gave the source of my electricity much thought. Perhaps all of the hemming and hawing over the Yankee Power Plant in Brattleboro, VT opened my eyes to the energy question. Seeing this book also helped: Big Coal: The Dirty Secret Behind America’s Energy Future.

Let’s face it, human civilizations have generally got along OK without electricity. In fact, some people today go without such as the author of this book: Better Off : Flipping the Switch on Technology.

Now I’m not one to decry technology and electricity, but . . . Let’s at least face up to this: our consumption of energy is ruining our environment whether through nuclear power, mining for coal, or burning coal. Also our reliance on natural gas, a fossil fuel, will eventually catch up with us in the form of pollution and climate change.

“Fossil fuels produce emissions that pollute the air we breathe and altering climate patterns over the long term. The use of fossil fuels in electricity production is a leading cause of these global climate change and air quality problems. On the other hand, clean energy technologies produce no emissions, with the exception of biomass which still produces significantly fewer emissions than fossil fuels. As a result, increased use of clean energy benefits the global environment and local human health.” From the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative

A responsible path forward includes both clean/renewable energy sources and energy efficiency. Dishing out the extra cash for more efficient light bulbs or only using the light you need can go a long way in cutting an electric bill in half.

But all of this talk about clean/renewable energy and energy efficiency seems to suggest we have a bit of work to do. Why can’t we keep things the way they are?

Well . . . a couple of reasons. First of all, my guiding principle above all else is our status as caretakers or tenants of this world. This world ultimately is the Lord’s. He made it and maintains it. He placed humans here to use it for their own benefit, but also to tend it.

Conservation and consumption are a both important. The problems come when we consume more than we conserve or our consumption damages our conservation.

And think about this. Our lives are mere blips on the screen of history. Who are we to wreck the world for the generations to come? (yes Adam, provided that God and Kirk Cameron tarry in laying waste to things)

About God’s destruction of this world . . . I’m not so sure that is the correct interpretation of a really wacky book of the Bible. The church fathers almost tossed Revelation because it made no sense. That should give us pause.

The book of Revelation talks about a new heavens and a new earth. It talks about all kinds of destruction. But does that mean that this world will be obliterated? Could this book be interpreted in a spiritual sense? Could the new earth be a renewal of the earth we have now? The possibilities are endless.

There is more to say about our use of energy. If our use of energy is contributing to climate change, then we are really making some trouble many, many people, if not ourselves. Rising sea levels won’t just wipe out the large trophy homes dotting the east coast of America, they will also destroy the homes of thousands upon thousands throughout the world, including Asia and Indonesia.

I should note in the midst of all this, that I am a city/suburban guy living in the country (well, Arlington is a small village, but you get my drift). My first thought during my first evening as a Vermont resident was: “Dang, it’s really dark out here!” I’m still uncomfortable in the vast darkness of the country. Even a neighbor on one side doesn’t make me feel any better.

My point? I have a long way to go. I have grown used to artificial light. I expect to have light in the evening . . . and lots of it. It’s uncomfortable, difficult, and disrupting. What else should I expect?

And now I expect high winds to knock out our power tonight in honor of this post!

If the Earth is the Lord’s, Then We’re in big Trouble

Psalm 24
24:1 The Lord owns the earth and all it contains,
the world and all who live in it.
24:2 For he set its foundation upon the seas,
and established it upon the ocean currents.

Let’s say someone is house sitting a moderately sized home with tremendous historical value and a decent plot of land. 30 acres or so should do the the trick. I like colonial houses, so we’ll say it’s a colonial.

He doesn’t have to pay any rent. In fact, the owner encourages him to use the house to keep himself warm. The gardens outside, if properly tended, should provide a good bit of food. The land beyond the gardens can supply lumber and animals to eat. This is a bit far-fetched, but bear with me.

Now let’s say this fellah doesn’t want to go all of the way back into the woods to find food, lumber, or whatever else is needed. He decides to just tear down one or two rooms, chop up some of the furniture, and tear apart some books for his fires.

He also begins stealing from his neighbors’ gardens. This is a much more cost effective way to find food. With all of the time and money he saves, he is able to engage in all kinds of leisure activities such as lawn darts, croquet, and basket weaving.

Over time he decides to start selling parts of the land to others for lumber, mining, or whatever else they want with it. He doesn’t really care what happens to the land so long as he can make a good profit off it.

To make matters worse, he decides to cut back on utilities and services, so he begins to dump his garbage out back. This only destroys his garden and the gardens of his neighbors.

Over time he finds that he doesn’t like what has happened to the house or to the land, but he’s already stuck in a cycle of theft and exploitation. He finds change to be costly and disruptive.

Please pardon the overdone parable. I hope to start blogging a bit about God’s ownership of this world and the implications for our lifestyle and treatment of the environment. This is my cheesy way of introducing this topic.

How often do we consider that this world belongs to God? Are we really aware that he’s invested quite a lot into creating this world? I think he spent a heck of a lot longer than six, 24-hour days, and that should make him all of the more infuriated with our poor management of the world.

Some topics that I hope to hit on are:

  • energy
  • organic food
  • farms
  • lifestyle
  • streams and rivers
  • household products
  • global responsibility

For now I’ll leave you with a snippet from the creation account of Genesis. The translator’s note will be of particular significance for future discussion here.

Genesis, Chapter 1
1:28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply! Fill the earth and subdue it!(58) Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and every creature that moves on the ground.” 1:29 Then God said, “I now give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the entire earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 1:30 And to all the animals of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to all the creatures that move on the ground – everything that has the breath of life in it – I give every green plant for food.” It was so.

Part of the Translator’s Note on Verse 28:
“58tn The general meaning of the verb appears to be “to bring under one’s control for one’s advantage.” In Gen 1:28 one might paraphrase it as follows: “harness its potential and use its resources for your benefit.” In an ancient Israelite context this would suggest cultivating its fields, mining its mineral riches, using its trees for construction, and domesticating its animals.”

Testing Out Qumana

I previously used w.bloggar to do all of my posts on my last lap top, but I kept hearing that Qumana is a better blog editor. I’m giving Qumana a go, so I’ll know in a few days what to think of it.

What I will say about w.bloggar is that I really liked the editing screen where you basically can see the source, but you are essentially using a simple notepad editor. I know that I didn’t figure out all of its features, but it got the job done reasonably well.

I’m a bit miffed right now at Qumana because my categories aren’t showing up. Sigh, more things to figure out.
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Choose This Day With Whom You Will Browse . . .

Firefox 2Wired News has provided a nice little review of Internet Explorer 7 and Firefox 2. The final verdict? Well, I guess I can spoil it for you. Firefox of course is declared the better browser.

Yes the open source world once again triumphs over the large corporation that keeps its source code top secret. While Microsoft is just adding new features such as tabbed browsing and a search box integrated into the toolbar, Firefox has had these for a while.

In fact, Firefox is innovating and perfecting these features. Both browsers are good choices, but if you have to pick one, Firefox is the way to go.