Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Wednesday Devotional: ‘God Is Love’

“God is love.” Although many Christians dismiss this saying as trite and even unorthodox, it’s entirely biblical. The Apostle John summaries all of God’s character into that one word, ἀγάπη (I John 4:8). Love is so central to His nature that having love is equated with knowing God (I John 4:7-8; cf. John 8:42). So it should be of no surprise that we as humans, made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-27), are repeatedly called to love each other (Matthew 5:43-48, 22:34-40; Mark 12:28-34; Luke 6:27-36, 10:25-37; John 13:34-35, 15:9-17; Romans 12:9-10, 13:8-10; 1 Corinthians 13; you get the point.). Love isn’t just evidence of the Spirit of God dwelling within us, but it’s a fundamental part of our God-like nature.           

This post’s topic is based on the Wednesday Devotional Theme covered on the fourth Wednesday evening service at Alhambra Church of Christ.

Friday, June 8, 2012

A Look at Entrepreneurs’ Do-It-Yourself Marketing Month

The buzzword is “branding,” and I believe it illustrates exactly what’s wrong with Entrepreneurs’ “Do It Yourself” Marketing Month (June). Every blogger, self-published author, and start-up owner wants to get his or her name out there. Perfectly understandable. They want fame and fortune like the rest of us. Yet have you noticed that those who focus on “branding” tend to forget about producing anything? You must have seen some of those blogs. No content for months because the blogger is trying to attract a readership. And those social network profiles. They say “Follow me!” on Facebook and Twitter, but the number of status updates since activating the account is…zero. And what about working day and night on designing the perfect company logo before a product is even available…because…oh, it hasn’t even been developed yet.

For the small firm, do-it-yourself marketing makes a lot of sense. You just don’t have the budget to hire an advertising staff. However, there needs to be an appropriate balance between doing that and actually spending time on whatever it is that you love and hope to be successful at. Take six-year-old artist-entrepreneur Ruthie from this One Big Happy comic strip. It looks like she’s learned her lesson about directing all of her resources towards a highly effective marketing campaign. I hope a number of bloggers out there follow suit.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Team Paul Versus Team Jesus

If you’ve hung around a non-denominational church, chances are that you’ve heard a preacher or other leader brag about following God, not man. As Christians, we strive to be “of Jesus” and not of anyone else – Paul, Apollos, Cephas, etc. (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:11-13). This is especially true within the Restoration Movement independent Christian Churches and Churches of Christ. Many members despise the term “Stone-Campbellite” precisely because it implies the sort of denominational bickering over manmade doctrines and ideas that Calvinist, Lutheran, Mennonite, and a whole host of other non-biblical names suggest. Well, I’ve got news, people. We’re most definitely “of Paul.”

What do I mean by that? When the New Testament canon was debated over and organized, the question was whether or not a particular book conformed to the “Synoptic Gospels” (i.e., the accounts written by Matthew, Mark, and Luke). That was the standard up to which all teaching and preaching was to be held (cf. Galatians 1:6-9).

Unfortunately, the norm tends in a different direction. The words of the Apostle Paul are used to introduce pet doctrines and generally serve as the final word in debate. He’s the go-to person for discussion about the purpose of baptism and the nature of grace. Arguments on dispensationalism and predestination pretty much stand or fall on his word. Now, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. After all, Paul provided us with more material to work with than any other first century church author. However, I’ve seen how fanatical Christians can get as they use their understanding of Paul as the foundation for interpreting the rest of the New Testament.

Why not go in the opposite direction? Because the Gospels and non-Pauline Epistles are considered inferior to Paul’s letters. First, everyone is still subconsciously in lock-step with reformer Martin Luther’s decision to base his theology entirely on Paul and tear James out of his Bible. Second, many Christians consider the Gospels to be less relevant to the Church today than Paul’s letters because Paul addresses so many practical issues. Third, Peter and James are shunned as perpetual sinners because of the situation involving the Judaizers (cf. Galatians 2:1-14), which somehow nullifies everything else they did and said. I’m not sure what excuses are used for Hebrews and Jude, but it’s apparent that all five of John’s books are treated as mere eschatologically appendices to Paul’s books.

Not only does this elevation of Paul’s letters above the rest of the New Testament force a particular method to interpretation (e.g., “What does Paul say?”), but it also allows people to rely too much on their sense of a “plain reading” of Paul. Peter did tell us: The things Paul speaks of are difficult to understand, and the result is false doctrine (cf. 2 Peter 3:15-16). I’m not going to outright claim who is and isn’t too ignorant to understand, but I will suggest that, before any personal or group Bible study on anything written by Paul, Christians should ask, “What about me?”

Monday, June 4, 2012

Review: ‘Face 2 Face’ – The Off-Line Social Network Documentary

When I first heard about filmmaker Katherine “Kat” Brooks’ film project, during her Kickstarter “crowdfunding” campaign, I told myself I would attend the Los Angeles movie premiere and add to her growing collection of off-line hugs. Haven’t managed to meet the second goal, but yesterday, I did at least get an opportunity to see Face 2 Face at the Dances with Films Festival in Hollywood.

Kat Brook’s film was motivated by the cruel realization that, after major surgery and a suicide attempt, none of her real-life friends had come to visit her. So she sought out fifty strangers from her Facebook Friends list to connect in person. Dare I say, they ended up being the real friends.

With so much interview footage, the film could’ve been taken in any number of directions. Brooks chose to highlight the human need for physical affection, sympathy, and emotional support during trials. Her own experiences – fractured family situation, child molestation, rape, confusion over lesbian identity, smoking and drug addiction, feelings of loneliness – are interwoven with those of her Facebook friends as she tries to make sense of her purpose in life.

There’s a saying, “Humans are a social animal.” For me, Face 2 Face seemed to reveal the truth in that statement. By nature, we are socially-dependent, seeking love, understanding, and appreciation. In other words, we yearn for acceptance, and we thrive on it. And it’s most important to receive that acceptance, not when we’re at our best, but when depression leads to suicidal thoughts. When a beloved rejects advances. When cancer or car fires shake our sense of security in life.

Face 2 Face is a powerful film, but a little sad in that it provides no real answers, probably because the filmmaker is still on a quest to find them. What she did achieve, however, was provide her audience with a reminder that a Facebook friend is not just a number but a real person with real hurts and real needs.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Political Wives

Surely, they’ve crossed your path a few times. They’re probably the most delusional people on the planet. No, I’m not talking about the cast of a new reality television show. And no, I’m not talking about politicians actual wives…or their mistresses for that matter. I’m talking about campaign managers, local organizers, and the whole lot of worshipping peons that are quite willing to devote the best years of their lives to promoting their favorite candidate.

Really, in the most painfully traditional sense, political campaign staff and volunteers make good “wives.” And they’re only too happy to be in polygamous marriages. They’ve pledged eternal fidelity and genuinely wish you would do so too. In fact, they insist on it. They’re extremely vicious when you refuse to blindly support their man. Don’t think Mr. Third-Party or Mr. Little-Fish-in-a-Big-Pond has what it takes to win the election or primary? Keep it to yourself. The Mrs. will find you – I guarantee it! – and corner you in broad daylight. Or bombard you with links to really bad YouTube propaganda.

And I could go on for hours about broken campaign promises and positional flip-flopping. Take for example an incident involving one local promoter when I voiced concern that my congressman wasn’t adequately representing those who put him in office. “So-and-so didn’t support the bailout.” Excuse me? He wrote a tome and preached a sermon about why he acted contrary to the angry demands of an overwhelming majority of his constituents. Political wives aren’t even puppets. They’re pre-programmed robots designed to contradict anything negative without thought.

What about legal or social misconduct? Indeed, love covereth a multitude of sin. And you’re a bad person for not loving unconditionally and unquestioningly.

What about poor etiquette or dress? You’re a snob.

What about studies showing that sign waving on street corners is a waste of time? You’re a bad person for not getting the word out. Eight hours in the hot sun is nothing compared to one car honk from an already-committed voter.

What about the cell phone minutes eaten up by recorded reminders to vote? Don’t you like receiving personal messages from God?

What about cell phone minutes eaten up by pushy salespeople? If you’re not making phone calls, you’re not one of us and need to be converted.

What about the sixtieth email soliciting funds? The political wife has given up a career, family, and all self-respect to ensure that “God’s will” happens on Election Day. And you’re complaining about money?

And what’s the most hilarious thing about all this? Ha! Political wives almost always are men. Often men who have too much pride to act that way for their spouses: Fight for Men’s Rights! For their bosses: Fight for Workers’ Rights! For their religious and political leaders in general: Fight for Individual Sovereignty! Yet when it comes to working the clock for a campaign, they welcome social emasculation. They’re so committed to the man that they don’t care. I hope they receive nice Valentine’s Day gifts.