Wednesday, November 30, 2011

When Ideas Meet Real Life... (It Gets Messy)

I assume that when PERF plans the various Occupy evictions IN THEORY, it always looks neat and clean. But in reality there is a total disconnect between the theoretical plans and the human beings performing the evictions. Recent clashes between police and protesters indicate that the "powers that be" are failing miserably to take into consideration the human element of the Occupy Movement. This became even more clear last night as hundreds of Philadelphia police came out to evict the Occupy Philly movement.

My good friend was there through the night as human emotions ran wild. What is evident to me from both his eyewitness account and the videos posted here is that the not all human beings (or animals!) can handle such intensely emotional situations.

My friend shared with me how a police officer hit him from behind without warning while he and others were walking. Many of the police officers were using their bicycles as a ramming or blocking device and such was the case as the cop hit my friend in the back.

Not only did police use excessive force, but my friend shared that police had also removed their name badges so as to not be identified by protesters (which, by the way, is illegal). Cops also refused to give their badge numbers when asked by protesters.

The worst incident last night, however, came when a group of officers on horse charged a crowd on a sidewalk. The videos above and below speak for themselves.

Life is messy. Human beings are complex, emotional creatures. How long will it be before city governments start considering solutions that take seriously our human nature? When human beings are put into emotionally-charged situations such as these, it's a recipe for disaster. How many more incidents of fear-filled individuals acting out of their intended behavior before PERF changes their tactics?

Perhaps most important (and tragic) is that it is not the Occupiers who behave violently out of emotion and fear but rather the hired forces who are unapologetically thrown into these calamitous environments.

Monday, November 28, 2011


Economists are banding together to support new ways of looking at contemporary economics in order to benefit the people, the planet, and the future. See more at the website

Occupy Economics from Softbox on Vimeo.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


The Global "Buy Nothing Day" is here again (official website here). But does it truly help the cause that it aims to address?
The Occupy Wall St. movement is rallying the troops to participate in an international day of non-consumption called "Buy Nothing Day." Ad Busters, the Canadian-based anti-consumerist magazine (who, by the way, initiated the Occupy movement) is also plugging Buy Nothing Day.

On the surface, BND is an exciting and creative way to live out the message of Jesus: it is an act of fasting and an explicit "No" to mammon. Jesus invites his followers to both of these practices. In Matt. 6:24 Jesus teaches, "You cannot serve God and mammon," (mammon is an Aramaic word that means "money, wealth, greed"). Jesus' words resonate exceptionally well with the principle motivation behind Buy Nothing Day. (Highly recommend this fantastic essay on mammon as a spiritual reality)

Beneath the surface, however, I am concerned with the ramifications of BND. Most specifically, I worry that a "successful" BND will only hurt the very people the Occupy movement desires to help. When "Black Friday" profits plummet, who takes the hit? The employees, not the CEOs. If seasonal sales are low, then companies are less likely to hire those extra holiday helpers. In short, my concern is that this all or nothing approach only hurts the middle class.

This is the catch 22 of our economy and, frankly, I think it is evil. We are told that the only way out of debt is to spend more. The only way to economic recovery is to shop! Do you remember President Bush's advice after 9/11? He told America to go shopping!

So... what do we do? As a frugal, graduate student who couldn't care less about holiday shopping, I am no bank of creative solutions. However, it seems to me that instead of quitting the game of consumerism altogether, we need to spend our money in smart, ethically responsible ways.

This means shopping at clothing stores like these rather than GAP or Banana Republic. It means shopping at NMC Toys rather than Five Below! There are countless companies trying to participate ethically in our capitalistic economy. Check out the Buyer's Guide on the website Or try

As far as I'm concerned, BND is a great idea. But in the long run, I'm worried that utter non-consumption will only hurt the middle class and motivate company execs to seek alternative ways to maximize profit.

By playing the consumption game ethically perhaps we can transform things from the inside out (like yeast?).

Friday, November 18, 2011

***Hurry Up, We're Dreaming***

Remember how excited you were when you first saw the preview for Spike Jone's Where the Wild Things Are? The imagination. The childlike adventure. The pure and joyful fantasy. The movie promised to take us back to the mystical worlds of our childhood.

Well now you can have it in audio (and superior) format. Like Jone's film, M83's new album Midnight City is a fanciful voyage back to childhood. The 22-track album sweeps listeners away to that world beyond where we all use to dream and play.

Here's a little taste...

We didn’t need a story, we didn’t need a real world
We just had to keep walking
And we became the stories, we became the places
We were the lights, the deserts, the faraway worlds
We were you before you even existed

Carry on, carry on, carry on
And after us the flood
Carry on, carry on, carry on
Our silver horn it leads the way
Banners of gold shine
In the cold, in the cold, in the cold
Footprints of snow
Blind from the road

We carry on, carry on
Follow us, we are one
The battle’s fought, the deed is done
Our silver hum runs deep and strong
Hand to the heart, lips to the horn
Hand on my breast, I’ll keep you warm

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Nicodemus Approach to Homosexuality

Allow me to show my cards from the outset: I am Christian, heterosexual, and I won't be taking an explicit side on the issue of homosexuality in this post. This issue is far too complex for 600 words. What I do intend, however, is to assert that nobody should hold a strong opinion on homosexuality until s/he has personally interacted with homosexuals. I call this the "Nicodemus Approach."

I grew up in a fairly conservative evangelical community where nobody talked about homosexuality except when sharply condemning it. More accurately, I grew up in a community where nobody knew any homosexuals.* The issue did not concern specific human beings in our community; rather, it was about "them," those hypothetical people "out there." Accordingly, I learned that it was okay to hold conclusive opinions about matters that I knew little about and/or had never encountered in person.

Over the past four years, however, I have learned a different approach. During my four years in Philadelphia I have worked closely with a homosexual youth pastor; was mentored by a brilliant, homosexual chaplain supervisor; and walked alongside a handful of gay peers in Christian ministry. Unlike the former method of judging what I do not know, I came face to face with people instead of ideas. Enter Nicodemus.

Nicodemus was one of the Pharisees and a member of the religious elite. He belonged to a community that saw Jesus as a sinner because Jesus did things that were contrary to what was written in Hebrew Scripture (John 4:9; 5:16; 9:16). But John's portrayal of Nicodemus is fascinating: instead of remaining in his comfortable, homogeneous community, Nicodemus goes to encounter the man who had stirred up controversy (John 3:1-15). Then, at the end of chapter seven we meet Nicodemus a second time (7:45-52). That Nicodemus reappears in the Gospel is one thing; but he does not return as a static character. Nicodemus advocates for Jesus (v.51)! Here we see the impact of Nicodemus’ face-to-face encounter with Jesus.

We meet Nicodemus a third and final time at the foot of the cross. When all but one of Jesus' disciples had abandoned him, who is there? Nicodemus. The Pharisee who risked his religious identity to meet Jesus in person is the man that is forever remembered for laying our Lord to rest.

For me, this confirms the absolute necessity of personal encounter when forming opinions toward people. It is such a simple method, yet very hard to practice. However, I think that both Nicodemus and, more obviously, Jesus demonstrate this method clearly. Furthermore, the kind of opinion about which I am writing is specifically a strong opinion. I am quite aware that everyone will have an opinion no matter what; for that is natural. My challenge is to go and test your opinion (Lamentations 3:40).

I can imagine a reader asking, "Should we also not take a stand against abortion or capital punishment if we've never personally experienced it?" No, take your stand; for this misses my point. We must be careful to distinguish between acts/events and people. My point is that we ought to take an approach to homosexuality that takes seriously the fact that, in truth, there is no such thing as homosexuality the concept. There is only the homosexual - the person.

* Statistically this statement cannot be true. There must have been homosexuals in that community. However, the issue is that a community can create a statistically false reality (i.e. no homosexuals in a community) through pretense and silence.

Friday, November 4, 2011


When I see this video I see the visions of Jesus and Zechariah coming together.

Zechariah's vision of the Saviour Child was this: "You, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways... to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death." (Luke 1:76,79a)

Jesus' vision for humankind was this: "He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." (Luke 4:18-19)

Beautiful Waves. Beautiful Stories. Beautiful Theology.

I was re-watching the famous "Double Split" experiment on YouTube tonight (for about the tenth time!) and I later found myself pondering the mystery and the beauty of the event. If you have never seen the experiment, watch it and then return to this post.

In the experiment physicists fire electrons toward two rectangular holes in a wall to see what kind of pattern will be produced on the opposite side. The problem is that electrons behave as both particle and waves. Thus, depending on "who's watching," the electrons may produce a particle-like pattern, or they may produce a wave-like pattern.

As one can see in the video clip, the wave-like pattern is produced when intricate supervision is not happening. However, when the experiment is closely observed so that physicists might "figure it out," the electrons produce the particle pattern.

This got me to thinking about the difference between particles and waves as an analogy for the difference between propositional statements and stories. I was working on a statement about my Christology tonight and I realized as I was writing it that I did not want to simply list statements about Jesus; I wanted to write a narrative of Jesus' life. That, I thought, is how one comes to know Jesus; not through propositional statements but through story.

Propositional statements are like the scientist who wishes to observe the Double Split experiment up close so as to figure it out and possess the truth. The problem: that makes things boring and less beautiful. In fact, quantum physics suggests that reality actually behaves differently under these circumstances.

But when mystery is embraced reality creates beautiful wave-like patterns and shares more light! I wonder if this too can be said of theology. Perhaps what we need is a bit more comfort with mystery and stories rather than propositions and doctrine.