On Ferguson.

THOUGHTFUL LINKS
Ferguson, MO has been on everyone’s radar, so I don’t need to roll in here with a big post.

It’s just that I’m really disappointed to see so many people dismiss the entire question of racial inequality and police militarization as just thugs rioting because they’re lazy. Wow. There’s so much racism in that statement, it makes me sick to type it. But it’s black and white on my Facebook and Twitter feeds, sometimes coming out of the mouths of Christians.

So if I may be so bold, here are a few of the great posts & articles that other people have been writing. I appreciate these viewpoints, and hope you’ll take time to read them.

First, a Facebook post & comment from my friend Mark Robinson, a PCA pastor. I’m sorry that I can’t get the “embed” feature to work, so screenshots will have to do.

Screen Shot 2014-08-24 at 7.20.15 PM

Screen Shot 2014-08-24 at 7.20.25 PM

A few articles:

Not as helpless as we think: 3 ways to stand in solidarity with Ferguson

Anger can be startling, certainly, and it might even make us uncomfortable. But anger is not a sin. Anger is the right and just response to inequity and inaction. When people of color express anger or frustration regarding the racism they have experienced, the worst thing white people can do in response is shrug off those stories as insignificant in an attempt to return to our emotional comfort zone.

Desmond Tutu said, “true reconciliation exposes the awfulness, the abuse, the hurt, the truth. It could even sometimes make things worse. It is a risky undertaking but in the end it is worthwhile, because in the end only an honest confrontation with reality can bring real healing. Superficial reconciliation can bring only superficial healing.”

#Ferguson #race #whiteprivilege (Em-I-Lis)

[an excellent personal reflection by a mother of two]

The Crucified God in Ferguson (OnFaith)

“You have the luxury of being surprised.”

Is it “Goodbye evangelicalism” or “We join you in your suffering”? (Thabiti Anyabwile/TGC)

Nevertheless, most of what’s been said by evangelical leaders thus far (including my post yesterday) has been a general lament. It’s been the expressing of sentiment. There’s not yet been anything that looks like a groundswell of evangelical call for action, for theology applied to injustice. It’s possible (even likely) that I’ve missed a call for action from my colleagues and peers in the evangelical world. But I don’t think I’ve missed our most influential leaders with the widest reach. They’ve been silent en masse. Today I think we need to be pushed a couple steps ahead.

… This post is a recognition that evangelicalism is useless in its own back yard, with its own neighbors, while it changes its twitter avatars to identify with persecuted Christians half a world away. Evangelicalism should show outward solidarity with persecuted Christians. But it should also be the good Samaritan religion, a religion of justified people who demonstrate their justification in practical acts of compassion for its beaten, robbed and left-for-dead ethnic-other neighbors. Do we see that from national evangelical ministries and leaders? No, we don’t. Ours appears to be the religion of the Pharisee who asks, “Who then is my neighbor?”

 

 

 

Late August Notes

Hey folks!  I offer here an overview of some of the cool media I’ve been reading/watching/playing/eating (you can’t eat media, but I need to give a shout-out to some great August food) this month.

I’ll be honest,  it’s been really busy at work and things aren’t going to let up until later this fall.  I’ll write more when I can match up brain cells to blocks of time.  Till then….

COOL TUNES
Snarky Puppies have changed my life. Seriously. If you like music at all you owe it to yourself to watch this and revel in the fusion of jazz and horns and awesomeness. Just hit play and enjoy the background tunes for the rest of the post…. don’t turn it off before you hear 1) the fun guitar tune and 2) the awesome keyboard riffs.

Dose horns, doe!

KICKSTARTER FINDS
I find Kickstarter to be pretty amazing. Yes, you can get taken for a ride if developers suck. But that’s not happened to me (yet) and I’ve really enjoyed everything I chose to support on the kickstarted platform, from an indestructible wallet to hold all my random loyalty cards to games to music projects and even a few friends’ projects. (Like David Benedict’s outstanding album.)

At the moment, I’m most excited about a pinhole camera kit that you assemble yourself: VIDDY   It’s an analog way to do your Instagram. 😉 There’s still time to get on this campaign if you find this fascinating, as I do.

Also, The Printshop has opened up in Greenville, SC, offering more space for local artists and printmakers to do their thing. Cool.

And emberlight – a quick way to connect normal lightbulbs to your phone for easily dimmable lighting. Also still open for backers.

ENTERTAINING GAMES (IRL)
Jesse has arrived and brought his massive collection of board games with him. How massive? Massive. The pile currently threatens to overwhelm the small corner of our library where I thought we could shelve them.

Since last week, I’ve been introduced to half a dozen board & card games I’d never even heard of, with several dozen more to go.  We could host our own board games tournament here at the house.  Maybe that should be a fall party…..

I have enough material here to do a separate post reviewing the games we’ve played (and what skills they teach), so hit the post before this one to see my reviews of

Compounded
Mars Needs Mechanics
Arctic Scavengers
Space Realms
Sushi Go!
Archipelago

ENTERTAINING GAMES (VIDEO)
Finished playing the classic game Shadowrun (in the re-issued version from Steam, called Shadowrun Returns).  Good cyberpunk atmosphere & storyline, interesting story.  Built on the essential D&D game mechanic of turn-based combat (really, this is very close to Baldur’s Gate or other D&D style games).

Also enjoying Sanctum 2, which combines tower-defense play with FPS aspects.  You play as one of 5 classes (i.e.: different kinds of guns, different styles of play) and lay down gun towers or barricades on each of the game’s levels.  Wave after wave of enemies attack, but instead of just sitting back and watching helplessly, you get down in  the trenches with each wave to beat back the alien hordes. It’s a nice blend.

FUNNY THINGS I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN ABOUT SOONER
How did I live this long before discovering the online video series Hey Ash, Whatcha Playin’? (HAWP)  It’s random and intelligent (sometimes).

Language warning.
Hey Ash, Whatcha Playin’? MINECRAFT

AMAZING FOOD
I’ve told everyone I can find to make this carnitas recipe. Seriously. Will. Change. Your. Life.

Buns In My Oven: Authentic Texas Carnitas

I'm only sorry that the Internet can't provide a sense of smell along with this tantalizing photo of my carnitas.
I’m only sorry that the Internet can’t provide a sense of smell along with this tantalizing photo of my carnitas. Just add corn tortillas, a little sour cream, some shredded crunchy cabbage, and cheese.  Eat. Repeat.  Stop before you get sick.


INTERESTING STAGE PERFORMANCE

Last evening, we had the privilege of seeing The Restoration’s local-color album Constance brought to life via a stage performance of the album at the Trustus Theatre in Columbia.

Constance is one of my favorite albums musically. Its story is quite dark, offering a brutally honest look at the racist history of Lexington, South Carolina.  I’ve written about it before – here and here.

Check out the band’s videos & album coverage to hear samples, or read the story.

Translating a musical album to a stage production takes knack. I liked seeing the story more fully explained, but the musician part of me struggled to let go of how much I loved the album release show, where Daniel Machado (the band’s lead singer) voiced each of the characters through the words of the songs.  There’s a subtlety to that storytelling that I liked…. but I’m glad they’re pursuing a stage version of Constance, and glad to have seen this first step.

READING ANYTHING GOOD?
I am working my way through a book about using science fiction as a teaching tool. It’s a collection of essays, so the writing quality is uneven (to be expected), but the book sparks a lot of good ideas about how to evaluate sci-fi from literary perspectives, and how sci-fi can be used to generate cross-displinary integration between science and other fields (or literature and science).

Practicing Science Fiction

~~~~~~~

I’ll try to swing by the blog and write as I have time over the coming weeks.  My creative juices are being absorbed by work much of the time – developing a museum exhibit, planning a major event, designing stuff, managing projects.  It’s all good but it drains my tank by the time I get home, and all I want to do is read or veg or play a game or watch something.

Leave me a comment if you’d like — I’d love to know what you’re reading / watching / playing / doing / eating. 

August Game Reviews

Been playing a lot more board games lately.   Check these out:

Top picks for August:
Archipelago is a clear winner for me among everything I’ve played this week. It’s a semi-cooperative game that’s like Settlers on crack.  “Semi-cooperative” means the game is definitely competitive because each player pursues a personal objective (win! in a certain way) that diverges from the other players’ objectives, but at the end of the game, each player scores points based on other players’ objectives.  Yeah< I realize that won’t make any sense until you’ve played it but seriously — if you’ve played the crap out of Settlers of Catan and are ready to try something new, especially if you’ve mastered SC: Cities & Knights, then Archipelago needs to be on your list.   It’s all cut-throat and awesome.

Compounded (Kickstarter, now available for purchase) – enjoy chemistry without having to do any actual chemistry. Not sure how educational this is, but it’s fun to play and a well-designed game (both in play mechanic & in printed materials/graphic design). You build compounds in the “lab” using foundational elements like carbon, hydrogen, sulfur.  The chemical formulas for the compounds ARE correct.  Very playable.

Star Realms is a deck-building game and really reminds me of the excellent PC game Homeworld by Sid Meier.  I’d never played deck-builders before, but they use a simple mechanic (collect better cards & trash cruddy ones to give yourself a juggernaut of awesome cards for each round of play).  Don’t let the simplicity fool you – the game demands strategy in addition to the luck of the draw.  This particular game is just gorgeous – the art style for the ships & space bases (your cards) made my jaw drop.  Hats off to the artists here.  We’ve played this both “every man for himself” and co-op, and I enjoyed both.

 

An example of the Star Realms art style (from Kickstarter)
An example of the Star Realms art style (from Kickstarter)

Arctic Scavengers is another deck building game. Technically the first one I’ve ever played so it took me a few rounds to catch on.  A good play.  You build up your deck to accomplish a variety of purposes, including fighting (which nets you better gear or more people) and digging for resources in a junk pile. Since the ultimate goal of the game is to have the most people in your tribe, I like that you have to balance acquiring tools with keeping people cards who might not otherwise seem “useful.”  Just like in real life – the tension that “people are more important than things.”

Also played:

See? Isn't this cool??
See? Isn’t this cool??

Mars Needs Mechanics – this game gets a +5 for incredible steampunk graphic design and a gorgeous overall aesthetic, but a -1 for having somewhat confusing directions, and another -1 for being built entirely on an economic game mechanic. You manipulate a market of commodities via “machines” and player action.  It’s set on Mars but the game does nothing to really expand on what could have been a really cool setting.   However, if you’re looking for a way to teach supply-demand dynamics in a game that’s not otherwise too complicated, this is a good choice.

Sushi Go! wins for being the cutest game EVER.

from http://www.savvyeat.com/sushi-go/
from http://www.savvyeat.com/sushi-go/

Would be a lot of fun for kids – teaches matching, some basic strategy, and appreciation of sushi. Hey, that’s worthwhile.  You collect various cards as you pass your hand around.  Easy.

 

I’m sure we’ll be playing the rest of Jesse’s 50 or 60 games, and adding more. There are also tabletop RPG’s worth mentioning, like the gorgeous Fragged Empire that I just backed on Kickstarter — because #Australia and because #futuristic #cyberpunk  … but that’ll have to wait for another day.    🙂

Time to play some Civ V ….

Oh, and did I mention we’ve got a couple friends developing their own game? Yeah! if you’re in the Upstate, keep an eye on your local board game or comic book store for a playtest of The Specialists. It’s a co-op heist game for up to 5 players, and the guys would love to know what you think!

 

I appreciate the people who, as leaders or directors or administrators, must confront hard decisions and the discomfort they cause.

It is the burden of leadership to pick up the awkwardness of change or hardship and clear a path for the people under their care.

Today, it’s cool & hip to distrust anyone in authority. That distrust isn’t unwarranted, but systems and institutions cannot function apart from trust. Leadership — and follower-ship — is relational.

Questions, Doubt, and Faith: Reading Faith Unraveled by Rachel Held Evans

Held Evans is a bit of a controversy in Evangelicalism these days.  She’s on Christian-world radar because of her posts that challenge commonly held opinions about gender roles in the church, Christian responses to homosexuality, the creation-evolution debates, and universalism.  I’m pretty sure I could go type her name into my status Facebook status bar right now and spawn about 15 comments.  I’d guess that at least half would be negative, and of those, 2 or 3 would be downright derogatory and dismissive without even considering whatever point I was bringing up.

RHE is a lightning rod.  No argument from me.  So I picked up her 2010 spiritual memoir Faith Unraveled and read it today. Straight through, one sitting.

I may not agree with everything Evans believes. I strongly doubt that I do.  But I applaud her journey through doubt, her willingness to ask hard questions without accepting pat answers, her desire to seek faith in the midst of ambiguity.

Faith Unraveled is a book about doubt and a book about faith.  Both-and, not one supplanting the other.  Her narrative about leaving the intellectually-driven Evangelical world-view Christianity and wandering in a desert of uncertainty doesn’t match my story, but it resonates with me.  We’ve asked many of the same questions; it’s just that mine came in a different order.

Rachel’s Christian faith unraveled when she smacked hard into the Problem of Evil but couldn’t swallow the easy answers — that we should overlook hard questions about genocide in the Old Testament, about hell and the afterlife, about the horrors of war or rape or abuse because God’s plan turns evil to good.   It’s easy to flip out that answer as if it makes rape not rape, or genocide not genocide, or Hurricane Katrina not horrible. (I created my own dust-up about this topic after reading N D Wilson’s book Notes from a Tilt-a-whirl.)

And Evans’s doubt-story centers in the heart of the painful, terrifying question — what kind of God does Evangelical Christianity offer if He destroys 200,000 humans in a tsunami or entire Canaanite cities without a pang of sorrow?  “They were going to Hell anyway” is hardly an appropriate response, but it’s what Evans heard from many of her Christian friends. And I’ve heard it too.

And all of my years of seminary coursework taught me there’s more nuance and ambiguity in the biblical texts than many of the hot Christian authors or preachers are willing to live with.

I could hand Rachel Held Evans’s book to my friends who are searching, doubting, agnostic, uncertain, wounded, or even hostile and I believe her words would open doors to good conversations about the difficult spaces within my Christian faith.

I’ll leave you with a few passages that stuck out to me, and a recommendation to read for yourself, whether the book or the controversial blog.

From Faith Unraveled (I read on Kindle, so I don’t have page numbers):

My friend Adele describes fundamentalism as holding so tightly to your beliefs that your fingernails leave imprints on the palm of your hand.

We would all like to believe that had we lived in the days of the early church or the Protestant Reformation, we would have chosen the side of truth, but in nearly every case, this would have required a deep questioning of the fundamental teachings of the time. It would have required a willingness to change. We must be wary of imitating the Pharisees, who bragged that had they lived during the time of the prophets, they would have protected the innocent (see Matt. 23:30), but who then plotted against Jesus and persecuted his disciples.

Evolution [as a believer] means letting go of our false fundamentals so that God can get into those shadowy places we’re not sure we want him to be. It means being okay with being wrong, okay with not having all the answers, okay with never being finished.

To Jesus, “by faith alone” did not mean “by belief alone.” To Jesus, faith was invariably linked to obedience.

Some Christians are more offended by the idea of everyone going to heaven than by the idea of everyone going to hell.

What if I’m wrong? It was a question loaded with uncertainty, possibility, and hope, and it was a question to which I often would return. To be wrong about God is the condition of humanity, for better or for worse.

In the end, it was doubt that saved my faith.

God’s ways are higher than our ways not because he is less compassionate than we are but because he is more compassionate than we can ever imagine.

I can never open my Bible without being aware of my own presence beside it. It reminds me that I’m always there, that I cannot read a word of this glorious, God-breathed book without bringing myself along, baggage and all.

Perhaps our love for the Bible should be measured not by how valiantly we fight to convince others of our interpretations but by how diligently we work to preserve a diversity of opinion.

I am convinced that what drives most people away from Christianity is not the cost of discipleship but rather the cost of false fundamentals.

Taking on the yoke of Jesus is not about signing a doctrinal statement or making an intellectual commitment to a set of propositions. It isn’t about being right or getting our facts straight. It is about loving God and loving other people.

Doubt is a difficult animal to master because it requires that we learn the difference between doubting God and doubting what we believe about God. The former has the potential to destroy faith; the latter has the power to enrich and refine it. The former is a vice; the latter a virtue

Sometimes Christians worry that if we don’t provide bullet-point answers to all of life’s questions, people will assume that our faith is unreasonable. In reaction to very loud atheists like Richard Dawkins, we have become a bit too loud ourselves. Faith in Jesus has been recast as a position in a debate, not a way of life.

Most of the people I’ve encountered are looking not for a religion to answer all their questions but for a community of faith in which they can feel safe asking them.

Yes.  The Truth is big enough to handle your questions. Your hard, agonizing, terrifying doubts and what-if’s about God and the Universe and How Things Work.

*****
Get a copy of Rachel’s book on Amazon (affiliate)

Gender, Church, and More Questions

10 Ways Male Privilege Shows Up in the Church | The Junia ProjectThe Junia Project.

^ I appreciated this post because it sets in front of us a difficult question regarding male-female roles in the conservative Church.

I fully understand why leadership positions are reserved for men in most Evangelical churches. It’s a long discussion, so if that idea is new to you, I’ll have to refer you elsewhere rather than giving all of that context here.  This link offers a fair statement of the viewpoint I’ve heard from pulpits my entire life, though this author is more emphatic about a woman’s role in the home than most pastors I’ve sat under.

But I think there’s a failure here to consider the whole counsel of Scripture, the illustrations of women in leadership, and (especially) the negative effects of a myopic, one-gendered viewpoint when it comes to corporate decisions.

(It was Dr Mark Minnick, in one of the pinnacle churches of Fundamentalism, who hammered home the point that I Cor 11 clearly assumes a woman is involved in verbal public ministry when it takes up the question of wearing head coverings.  “If a woman prays or prophesies …..” I’ve rarely heard anyone else bring this up.)

This is a difficult question, and one that many others have tackled recently. So I’m not going to reinvent the proverbial wheel.

I guess I’m just here to wish that conservative Christians would revisit exactly what they think Scripture prohibits, not set up fences to make sure there’s no possibility of crossing a line.

Many women in our churches do the work of deacons (even wielding considerable de facto authority) but are stripped of the title, salary, recognition, or respect for their work.

And the question of whether women can be pastors is not at all the same as discussing the extent to which women should be active teachers and participants in the ministry to the Body as a whole — as adult Sunday School teachers, in worship, and in guiding the direction of the assembly.

Maybe let’s start there?