The Speckled Mind

Monday, June 26, 2006

Had Enough of Illinois?

Neither have I. If you loved Sufjan's last album as much as I did, you'll be excited to know that he has a second album of material from the Illinois sessions coming out July 11. The album is called "The Avalanche." Props to Zalm for finding this--if you can't wait a few more weeks for some fresh Sufjan, you'll be happy to see that Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 of "The Avalanche" are available for streaming online RIGHT NOW. Woohoo!!

In other music news, I have really been enjoying the new Gomez album, "How We Operate." Good song craft--poppy but not too poppy. I also like the 'everyone does everything' approach that Gomez takes. A few different guys sing lead, and I think all the band members can play just about any instrument with equal greatness. My two favorite tracks are probaby "Notice" and "Girlshapedlovedrug." Clever Brits.

In other, other music news, if you're a fan of David Bazan (former lead singer of Pedro the Lion), you will likely appreciate this. I like tape-friendly artists! His new E.P can be found here, or you can listen to it for free online here.

Artists that are coming out with new albums in 2006 that excite me:
  • Dashboard Confessional, David Crowder* Band (June)
  • Ani Difranco, Thom Yorke, John Mayer (July)
  • Pete Yorn, M Ward (August)
  • Jars of Clay (September)
  • The Decemberists, Evanescence (October)
There is also talk of a new Smashing Pumpkins record that may or may not come out this year. Either way, it should be a good Summer/Fall for music.


Monday, June 19, 2006

Some Speckled Politics

Those of you who frequent this blog know that I don't get political very often. It's not a primary area of interest for me and, to be honest, I'm not that politically adept. That being said, when politics ventures into the realm of good comedy (as it often does), it's fair game. Check out this video:

Here's the transcript:

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, Peter. Are you going to ask that question with shades on?

Q I can take them off.

THE PRESIDENT: I’m interested in the shade look, seriously.

Q All right, I’ll keep it, then.

THE PRESIDENT: For the viewers, there’s no sun. (Laughter.)

Q I guess it depends on your perspective. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: Touche. (Laughter.)

So why, you ask, do I bring up this situation? Well, it turns out that this reporter is legally blind, and wears the sunglasses because of his condition. Way to George W. I guess it's not the first time our president has stormed into a situation with guns blazing before knowing the sensitive nature of a situation. **Shrug**

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Straw Man and the Nature of Theological Language Games

With a title like that, this post had better be good.

The short version is this: I've grown tired of conflict, division and strife within the community of God. That which follows isn't the only reason for ecclesiological fracture, but I believe it plays a large role. I'll try to cite examples from multiple perspectives, and at the end everyone will likely be alienated...

Possibly causing more division...

The irony is not lost on me.

Here goes. First some information about the Straw Man from Wikipedia so that we are all on the same page:

A straw man argument is a rhetorical technique based on misrepresentation of an opponent's position. To "set up a straw man" or "set up a straw-man argument" is to create a position that is easy to refute, then attribute that position to the opponent. A straw-man argument can be a successful rhetorical technique (that is, it may succeed in persuading people) but it is in fact misleading, since the argument actually presented by the opponent has not been refuted.
The entry goes on to list possible ways this technique can be used.
1. Present a misrepresentation of the opponent's position, refute it, and pretend that the opponent's actual position has been refuted.
2. Present someone who defends a position poorly as the defender, refute that person's arguments, and pretend that every upholder of that position, and thus the position itself, has been defeated.
3. Invent a fictitious persona with actions or beliefs that are criticized, and pretend that the person represents a group of whom the speaker is critical.
Is all this starting to sound familiar? I know being in seminary turns a person into a bit of an idiot savant with regard to theology. But still, I believe this is important for everyone to realize; this tactic is not just used in master's level theology books--it is dripping into the mainstream in many places right now. If you hear or read anyone starting statements with any of these phrases, beware:
  • Evangelicals tend to...
  • I knew someone who was big into the emergent church and...
  • Progressive Christianity's agenda is to...
  • Most churches under represent Jesus teaching on the kingdom of God because...
  • The institutional church is not what God intended because...
I'm sure there are others that could be added, both in the political and the theological realm--not to mention the interplay between the two. Please bear with me on a few more thoughts on this issue.

First, I am a big fat ugly sinner on this one. I'm sure you could read back through this blog and find plenty of examples in which I've erected a straw man only to burn him in effigy. Let's face it, it's easy to hit one out of the park when you're playing T-Ball twenty feet from the fence. That said, I repent.

Second, if you are doing this kind of thing--especially if you are currently in or aspire to church leadership--knock it off and repent. You're causing division. If you think there are problems with 'the Church' or 'Evangelical Christianity' or 'Liberal Christianity' or any other expression of the kingdom, do something about it. And by "do something about it," I'm not saying blog about. I'm not saying run off at the mouth to friends to present the image that everyone else has got it wrong and you've got it right. I AM saying that everyone should act according to the Spirit's leading and conscience.

Third--and this is important--there is a reason that other people believe differently on theological issues than you. If you catch yourself thinking that these differences are always due to stupidity or ignorance, you need to repent. Your sin is pride, and it's just as bad (or worse) than stupidity or ignorance.

The goal of Christian Community is unity in the Spirit. If you feel like you've been critical of other Christians lately, regardless of their position on certain issues, take a long hard look at Ephesians 4 in the near future. What Paul is describing in that passage is NOT tolerance. Tolerance is a shallow, mess-free substitute for true Christian unity. Instead of tolerance then, we need to cling to the truth and transforming power of the Scriptures, and let them be the inspiration, motivation and guide for our Christian discourse.

Leave the Straw Men in the field where they belong. Straw Men are for the birds.


Thursday, June 01, 2006

A New Law

This song of Derek Webb's has been haunting me for months now. Please take a minute and read the lyrics, then watch the video. It's incredibly powerful. Ok, there's a lot more I could say about it, but I'll let others make comments first.

Don’t teach me about politics and government
Just tell me who to vote for
Don’t teach me about truth and beauty
Just label my music
Don’t teach me how to live like a free man
Just give me a new law

I don’t wanna know if the answers aren’t easy
So just bring it down from the mountain to me

I want a new law
I want a new law
Gimme that new law

Don’t teach me about moderation and liberty
I prefer a shot of grape juice
Don’t teach me about loving my enemies
Don’t teach me how to listen to the Spirit
Just give me a new law

I don’t wanna know if the answers aren’t easy
So just bring it down from the mountain to me

I want a new law
I want a new law
Gimme that new law

What’s the use in trading a law you can never keep
For one you can that cannot get you anything
Do not be afraid
Do not be afraid
Do not be afraid