Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Urge to Escape

So, what to make? Well, that WOULD be a great stunt, if I thought the "winners" weren't corporate plants in crowd! (It’s got to be tough to predict that a guy’s vision of a perfect escape will be a trip to Lapland!) But think of the truth inherent in the recognition that we humans have an incredible desire for escape. Loren Dean (in the great and under-seen movie "Mumford") says that humans have always found a way to escape, "even if it's just banging our heads against a rock." In the movie, he's talking about his drug use, but the fact remains, escape is a tantalizing prospect. Dean’s character can’t take the depths to which his life has sunk, and turns to drugs as his means of escape. People turn to virtual worlds (like World of Warcraft or Second Life), pornography, or literal travel to “get away.” The problem with escaping is that you always have to come back. The drugs wear off, the computer gets shut down, or the headache (from the rock) dulls. I wonder if the guy's trip to Lapland has a required end? Is it a round trip ticket? Bet it is! The fact that a person (disbelief suspended for a moment) would press a button on a scary black box for the chance at escape is evidence of the pressure (what we MBirders…and St. Paul before us…call "the law") we all feel all the time. But like trips to Lapland, human- (or coporate-) provided escapes always end. It's only the escape (or, more accurately, the death and resurrection) provided by Christ that is forever (2 Cor. 5:17).

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Catholic Action!

There are a lot of different Bibles out there. Go to your local bookstore, and you'll find Bibles for groups ("Make some non-Christian friends"), Bibles for teens ("Don't look at bad internet sites"), Bibles for the retired ("You can still have a vocation in your golden years"), Bibles for men ("Remember, don't look at bad internet sites"), Bibles for women ("Right now, men are looking at bad internet sites") and on and on. The text of these Bibles are almost always from the NIV, and therefore the same. It's the notes, the exercises, and the study guides that differentiate them.

This in mind, I went into my sacristy before church last week, and saw the book pictured to the left. I'm curious, what notes, exercises and study guides might we find inside? Got any ideas? Serious and funny ideas welcome...

Example: For group discussion: Who would win in a fight, The Pope or The Terminator? And go deeper: In what ways are the Holy Spirit and the T-1000's liquid metal constitution similar?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Who Can Give to the Church?

A very interesting article was recently posted on about Mexican churches re-evaluating their donors. The church in the picture is in Pachuca, Mexico, and features a plaque thanking the donor who made its building possible, Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano. The catch is that Lazcano is also known as "The Executioner," and is the head of a "ruthless crime syndicate" called the Zetas. The question Mexican churches are asking is: "Should we be taking money from such people?" My good friend Jacob posted about this article on the popular (and recommended) Mockingbird blog, and it has sparked some mild blog-troversy...

Some comments:

"This long history of a cozy, "non-judgmental", relationships with the power elite, back to the conquistadors, is exactly why the RC church is so hated by a large segment of the population in Mexico and throughout Latin America."

"If money earned impurely is given to the Church as a form of atonement to do good, then I think this has merit. The money has to go somewhere after it leads the criminal's hand so it might do some good."

"A history professor of mine, who was from an aristocratic Southern family, told the story of a large group of KKK men coming into her church, in full white-robed regalia, during the offertory, and depositing a large sack of cash at the alter, then processing out. Her father, the warden, insisted that the church refuse the money and made it known why. I...think he was one hell of a Christian."

"My church was built by and has plaques dedicated to J.P. Morgan, John Noble Stern, etc. We call them bankers and buisnessmen, but the truth is one could just as equally call them criminals."

So what do you think? You can check out the entry and all the comments (including some from yours truly) HERE.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Could YOU Go To BYU?

The BYU men's basketball team is on a roll this year. Ranked #3 in the nation, and boasting a leading candidate for the Player of the Year Award (Jimmer Fredette), BYU is 27-2. On Tuesday, though, their chances of winning the National Championship were dealt a crushing blow when Brandon Davies, a starter, was dismissed from the team for the remainder of the season for "a violation of the school's honor code." The nature of the violation has not been made public (UPDATE: this morning, Davies was said to be dismissed for having sex with his girlfriend), but the nature of the violation is not what I'm writing about here. I'm also not writing about whether or not someone should be dismissed from a team because of such violations. What I am writing about is the code itself, and a question posed by ESPN's SportsNation on Wednesday: "Could you live up to BYU's honor code?"

A famously Mormon school, named in honor of the second most famous Mormon ever (and wearer of the most famous Mormon beard ever), here is BYU's code in its entirety:

1. Be honest.
2. Live a chaste and virtuous life.
3. Obey the law and all campus policies.
4. Use clean language.
5. Respect others.
6. Abstain from alcoholic beverages, tobacco, tea, coffee and substance abuse.
7. Participate regularly in church services.
8. Observe the Dress and Grooming Standards.
9. Encourage others in their commitment to comply with the Honor Code.

My seminary had a similar Code of Conduct that I had to sign before being admitted. I signed it, knowing that I could fulfill it only by the broadest and most superficial definitions of the "commandments." Be honest, indeed.

SportsNation posed the question, though, and what do you think the answer was? Interestingly, there have been 13,700 votes cast (as of this writing) and EXACTLY 50% of people said that, yes, they could live up to the Honor Code for a year.

What are people thinking? That they can be completely honest for a year? How regular does regular church attendance have to be? How clean does clean language have to be? That a "virtuous" life only refers to their naughty bits and not to their minds? And that's not even bringing up the uber-amorphous "respect others" dictum. Do we think that 50% of people are being dishonest about their human capability, or do we think that 50% of people underestimate the power and depth of a commandment like Be Honest? Could you survive at BYU?

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