The Speckled Mind

Monday, July 31, 2006

Good Night and Good Luck

Dear Kyle:

What can I say? We've had some good times together, you and I. Oh, wait. I can't say that. Because it would be a lie. And lying is wrong, Kyle.

You know what else is wrong? The way you've pitched in your career with the Twins. Especially this year. With an ERA over 7.00, I didn't think anyone would take you, but fortunately the Reds organization had a little leaguer available that they were willing to give up. I'd say we got the better end of the deal--that kid has got all the potential in the world. In truth, I think Terry Ryan would have taken a sandwich and a dinner roll in exchange for your 'talents'.

I hope the folks in Cincinnatti enjoy your composure, skills and personality as much as we did. Today is a very good day for every red-blooded Twins fan. Oh, and Kyle--don't let the door hit you on your way out.

Good night and good luck,

Tim Johnson


Friday, July 14, 2006

Riggs, Rigging and the Hope Brokers

I used to work with a guy named Riggs at the local butcher shop when I was in high school. Riggs was a middle aged guy with an unhealthy interest in firearms, women to whom he wasn't married and meat. I guess his interest in meat wasn't unhealthy, per se, but he did lose part of a finger in the meat saw once. Anyway, Riggs was also an armchair conspiracy theorist--the kind who was convinced that Big Brother was always looking over his shoulder and that Tupac lived. All things told, I think his time in 'Nam had something to do with the bizarre way he viewed reality. I never took his rants too seriously though, and I often had a good laugh at his expense.

One of the most curious conspiracy theories Riggs held was that EVERY sports game was rigged. The players weren't actually trying to win a game as much as they were following a script. From the fumbled snap to the finger tip catch, every Football game was planned in advance. From the shootout to the headbutt, every Futbol match was crafted by the higher-ups. The strikeouts. The grand slams. All part of some larger plan. Oddly enough, Riggs was still an avid sports (read *Packers*) fan. It seemed to me that the emergence of this theory correlated a little too closely with the Packers' loss to the lowly Colts in 1997. One way or another, the whole idea seemed crazy. If the purpose of sports is not pure, unpredictable entertainment what's the point? After all, who could possibly benefit from such a grand organized system?

The 'Hope Brokers', that's who.

Stick with me on this one. After watching the Twins and the Vikings for a number of years, I think Riggs might be on to something...either that or cheering for Minnesota sports teams has finally gotten the best of my sanity. What else could explain the 'on again, off again' talent of these teams? How else do the Twins look like nation's best team in June and then lose with Liriano on the mound last night? How else do the Vikings lose with Dante calling plays and then burgeon with a 40 year old white guy at the helm?

So here's the deal. I don't think "they" are trying to entertain us, as much as they are selling us a measurable quantity of Hope like it's an addictive substance. That's the reason we keep coming back. Not because we like the Vikings. Not because we like the Twins. Not because we like the Yankees...okay, that one is a given. Rather, it is because we all need something to hope in. And what's great about sports teams is that you can look in the morning paper and see if your hope was realized or held in vain. There's been more vanity than realization with me and the Twins this summer...a bit more more Ecclesiastes than Revelation in that sense. But every morning, I come back like a junkie looking for his fix.

So what if the Twins are 12 games back in the Central? So what if the Vikings have a team full of no-names. I am a man who has plucked Hope from the Tree of Knowledge and eaten my fill; now no amount of morning-after statistics in the paper can cover the shame of my addiction. "They" have lured me into the Hope vaccuum, and I am now a captive consumer of a phenomenon.

So maybe Riggs was right. Maybe he was insane. One thing is for sure--I like the Twins' chances tonight against Cleveland.

Labels: ,

Friday, July 07, 2006

For the Love of the City

Lately I've been listening through the audio archives from the Reform and Resurgence conference that took place at Mars Hill Church in Seattle this Spring. It's a pretty cool thing that I didn't have to fly to the West Coast or pay a single shiny dime to get all the goods from this conference; though after listening, it would have been worth a number of shiny dimes to attend...even if they were MY shiny dimes.

The average looking white guy directly above this sentence is Dr. Timothy Keller. Rather than recite his bio, I'll just directe you to the Wikipedia article. The short version is that Dr. Keller is one of the country's biggest advocates for Urban Christianity. The following quote is taken from this audio program, which I highly recommend for your edification.

"Christians should be living in cities in far greater numbers than they are now because they want to...not out of guilt. There's nothing in the Bible that says you have to live in cities. But there's everything in the Bible that says you ought to want to."

This is just one of a hundred quotable moments in the program. Did I mention that I highly recommend listening to it? I can hardly think of a better way to spend the next hour and twenty-two minutes...of course, my imagination has never been that impressive.

In another thought provoking part of the presentation Dr. Keller talked about Churches becoming dynamic counter-cultures in society. In his words, as Christians we are called to be "radically the same and radically different" with regard to the people who live in our cities. The key is to choose carefully--and on a Biblical basis--which aspects of culture can be adopted, which aspects can be adapted, and which aspects should be ultimately rejected. Said differently, none of H. Richard Neibuhr's categories is sufficient in and of itself.

So that got me thinking.

Where do we take our stand? What are the core issues of Christian belief on which we must stand firm against howling cultural winds? What are the issues that have been forced into the core of Christian belief that should not be there? How does this all affect the way we should live within culture?

I'd love to hear feedback on this. I'll try to post some of mine as well.