Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Alister McGrath on William Temple:

"Temple basically made the following statement (paraphrase): 'If you educate a bastard, all you get is an educated bastard.'"

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

South Park on Communion:

Have any of you seen this double episode: "Do the Handicapped Go to Hell?/Probably"? In the end, Satan learns to love himself after leaving his "90s man" boyfriend for Sadam Hussein. God turns out to be a Buddhist (see picture for their hilarious picture of what God, the Buddhist, looks like), and, as far as heaven is concerned: "The answer was: Mormon." Only Mormons in heaven.

(Cut to Sunday School. All the kids are sitting around a table. Sister Anne is their instructor.)

Sister Anne: Hello, children! I'm Sister Anne and I'll be teaching you so that you can all receive your first communion!


Sister Anne: Well, hopefully not! That's why you're gonna need to receive communion!

Cartman: A'and as long as we get this communion thing, we're safe?!

Stan: What if we haven't really done anything that horribly bad in our lives?!

Cartman: Yeah! What if we hadn't!

Sister Anne: It doesn't matter, because we are all born with original sin! Now, let me explain how communion works! (takes out a plate of communion waffers. picks one up.) The priest will give you this round cracker and he will say "The body of Christ.", and then you eat it!

Cartman: Jesus was made of crackers?!

Sister Anne: No!

Stan: But crackers are his body!

Sister Anne: Yes!

Kenny: {What?!}

Sister Anne: In the book of Mark, Jesus distributed bread and said, "Eat this, for it is my body"!

Cartman: So, we won't go to Hell as long as we eat crackers!

Sister Anne: No, no, no, no!

Butters: W'well, what're we eatin' then?!

Sister Anne: The body of Christ!

Stan: Nononono! I get it! Jesus wanted us to eat him, but he didn't want us to be cannibals, so he turned himself into crackers, and then told people to eat'im!

Sister Anne: No!

Stan: No?!

Butters: Uh, I can't whistle if I eat too many crackers!

Sister Anne: Look, all you have to know is that when the priest give you the cracker, you eat it! Okay?!

Kenny, Stan, & Cartman: (a little confused.) Okay!

Sister Anne: And then, you will drink a very small amount of wine, for that is the Blood of Christ!

Cartman: Aw, come on, now! This is just getting silly!

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

I'm the one in the top hat.

I used to perform birthday party magic shows. My business card read: "JAZ is his name. Magic is his game!" This is me at age 11, in Charleston, after performing for a bunch of 5-year-olds, including Will Rhodes (now a visiting student at Wadham College, Oxford via Sarah Lawrence).

19 Favorite Christian Bands:

Joy Electric
The Violet Burning
Lift to Experience
The Normals
Mars Ill
Cross Movement
The Billions
Starflyer 59
Sufjan Stevens
The Danielson Family
Reliant K
Dave Crowder Band
The Orange County Supertones
Ester Drang
Pedro the Lion

p.s., Please feel free to add to this list in the comments section. I would love to know of some others, particularly those with real artistic/conceptual motivations!

Monday, January 23, 2006

Bishop Colin Buchanon quotes:

taken from "What did Cranmer think he was doing?"--

"In the past it has been conventional to expound as though (Cranmer) designed to bring together the 'consecration' and the reception. But this is to read 1552 through post-1662 eyes. It is far more internally consistent to read 1552 as having no consecration at all...Thus the contention stands that Cranmer had no objective consecration whatsoever in 1552, and that his two-stage process via 1549 to 1552 enabled him to remove everything, whether text, rubric, or ceremony, which might suggest it." (pp. 22, 25)

(A totally de-mystified anamnesis!)

"It is anybody's guess which of the changes listed were directly inspired by Bucer (i.e., read: Calvin). My own guess would be that the only ones where this causation appears really plausible are iii. (no mention of portional homilies) and x. (chapels annexed not mentioned in rubric, meaning, no distinct attention given to the rich) in the Bucer list. Everything else was a natural next step (on Cranmer's pre-suppositions) in any case." (p. 32)

(In other words, Cranmer's sacramental theology was far from equivalent to that of Calvin, though it also resembled Luther consubstantial thought little. Rather, it reflected a certain down-to-earth, pastoral sensitivity, one of a seemingly Zwinglian tenor.)

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Go Steelers?

"It's only football. But since the mills closed and the Steelers arose in the 1970s, this football team and its on-field exploits have been part of the fabric of Pittsburgh, of Western Pennsylvania, of the Steelers Nation. Perhaps they're even too closely woven."

--quoted from The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Jan. 22, '06)

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Dennis Wilson (of Beach Boy fame) on Jesus of Nazareth:

"I know a carpenter who had a dream. You killed the man, but you couldn't kill the dream."

(In the comments below, someone wrote the following: "I once read someplace that Dennis was married twelve times. I'll have to double-check. But I'm fairly sure that the last woman he married before he died was Mike Love's 19-year-old niece, Sherry Love. Since Mike and Dennis were cousins, I can only assume she and Dennis were related as well." Here are my thoughts on the matter. Whoever wrote that, you're flying pretty close to the sun!):

Actually, it was Mike Love's illegitimate 18-year-old daughter (even worse). He impregnated her seemingly out of spite for Mike Love. He also regularly used to take women into Mike Love's "Meditation Chamber" on the Beach Boys' touring airplane. I like to think of it more abstractly as an acrimonious apologetic against Eastern Religions. Anyway, as far as Mike Love is concerned, the stories involving Dennis are painfully terrible. Mike actually got a restraining order against Dennis! An amazing, almost unbelievable story.

With the Beach Boys, nothing is ever simple. They are impossibly difficult to reduce to a simple interpretive paradigm. As David Zahl (the real Beach Boys expert, who is at this moment researching a book he is writing about the Beach Boys, the definitive Biography!) once remarked: "One thing you can't say about Brian Wilson is that he has completely lost it!" "Wow," I thought, "I was always pretty sure that that was the one thing you could safely say about Brian..." That's more or less how I always feel when I start interacting with the Beach Boys.

As far as I'm concerned, Dennis Wilson was the ultimate rock star. He bought and totalled a Rolls Royce in the same day. He is by far my favorite beach boy, and the only member of the band who could surf. Dennis may have been the world's most sentimental song-writer as well. And like the infamous "Smile" album, that remained uncompleted and secretly traded for so long, Dennis himself had a secret solo project, the Smile within Smile, called (no kidding) "Bamboo". I've spent hefty dough to get most of that material. It's some of my favorite stuff ever. His songs: "Companion" and "Love Surrounds Me" are all-time faves, and the break on "Pacific Ocean Blues" will have you convinced your listening to an instrumental out-take from the Beastie Boys "Check Your Head" sessions.

But, in light of his profoundly sentimental tendencies, and his severe alcoholism, he prayed and sought the Lord in times of distress. He wrote songs about Christmas, songs about Jesus, endless amounts of songs that describe in mushy detail the need of the heart for love from outside, and, in a binge-y moment with his brother (Brian) he recorded a song called "Oh Lord" in which he cries out to God: "Oh Lord, let me see what there is to see...etc". It is gut-wrenching (as is most of Dennis' most heart-felt gravelly singing), and a fantastic call from the sinner seeking God's absolution. In CS Lewis terms, we are dealing with the ultimate Edmond! I'm convinced we'll see him in heaven.

P.s., DZ was joking about Two-Lane Black Top. I got two copies of it for Christmas a few years ago. Unbearably slow. I tried to watch it all the way through twice, and after what seemed like hours, discovered I'd only reached the 45-minute mark (both times). --JAZ

Friday, January 20, 2006

PZ back at home, feeling much better, and on the way to a full recovery!

Thanks so much for all of your prayers. It turned out Dad had a big ole kidney stone. He plans on being back at work next week. PTL!

p.s., more details are available in the comments section of the initial post about him going into the hospital.

David Zahl reviews Derek Webb's new album:

(Dave is a youth minister with FOCUS. He works predominantly with kids from New England boarding schools.)

There’s one thing about my upbringing that I find more and more remarkable the older I get. Our parents managed to raise us in a home that was unmistakably Christian, evangelical even, but with scarcely any influence from mainstream American “Christian culture”. Sure, we had pictures of Jesus around, and there were definitely a few pillows with embroidered Bible verses. But there was nothing contemporary. No Amy Grant or DC Talk, no Left Behind (speaking of which, there must have been an 80s equivalent – anyone?). I can honestly say I didn’t know who Billy Graham was until I went to boarding school. John and Simeon can back me up.

My intention isn’t to rag on this stuff, tempting as that may be. Just to say that in my four years as a youth minister, I have had to play serious catch-up. Of course, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I’ve always found this aloofness pretty impressive/cool.

A few years ago, my brothers and I set out on a quest (Simeon) to find out if we’d missed out on anything good. Buried under all that Nashville-MegaChurch nonsense, there just had to be some quality stuff. So we looked for self-identifying “Christian bands” that we could have more than just an ironic, Stryper-ish interest in, and we found some. Not a ton but definitely a handful: The Normals, The Violet Burning, The 77s, Duvall, even Jars of Clay. The list goes on… a bit.

You’ll notice Caedmon’s Call is missing from that list. Try as I might, I couldn’t get into them – too slick, too nice, no Gospel. Derek Webb used to be one of the lead singers and songwriters in Caedmon’s Call. But he left in 2003 to pursue the solo thing. A student gave me his first record, She Must and Shall Go Free, and I was surprised to find a couple interesting songs on it, especially “Wedding Dress”, where he refers the Church over and over as a whore that runs down the aisle to get away from Jesus.

It got me interested enough to check out his second record, I See Things Upside Down. This time, a full half of the songs rocked. He made no secret of the fact that he’d been listening Yankee Hotel Foxtrot – the first song is even titled “I Want a Broken Heart” – but more amazingly, almost every song pointed to the Gospel. He constantly refers to himself as a sinner, not just a guy who “struggles” but a straight-up enemy of God. The song “I Repent” remains my favorite Derek Webb tune, with lyrics like, “I repent I repent of my pursuit of America’s dream/I repent I repent of living like I deserve anything… I repent I repent of parading my liberty/I repent I repent of paying for what I get for free/for the way I believe that I’m living right/by trading sins for other that are easier to hide/I am wrong and of these things I repent”.

In interviews, he would quote Luther and go off on American pop-Christianity: “We’re so fearful that people would know who we really are. More is wrapped up in trying to look like Jesus than look like people who need Jesus. Which I think is a tragedy. I’m not like Jesus. Not at all, actually. I’m a wreck of a person. I need him. Without him I’d be lost. And I’d rather people see my potential losses than some made-up fictional righteousness that doesn’t get me anywhere. Because if that’s all I show them, they’ll be shocked when they find out that I really am a wreck of a person… And I’d rather people just know that now. I’d rather there be no pretense about whether or not I’m a good person, whether or not I’m somebody they should listen to. I’m not. At all. But I know a guy…” Pure Gospel!

This past Christmas he released Mockingbird, his best record yet. Wilco is still the touchstone, but gone is any trace of Christian-y affect in his voice. The instrumentation is sparse, and the drumming surprisingly good. The vocals are nearly all double-tracked. The lyrics are bold and romantic and political. On “A New Law”, probably the highlight, he sings, “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 want a new law/gimme that new law”. He ends the song by repeating the phrase, “do not be afraid” over and over. You can get it on itunes.

Of course, he’s not perfect and neither is the record. But keep in mind that his audience consists at least partly of home-schooled kids who grew up on The Newsboys and Michael W Smith, and you’ll be able to forgive him if he gets a tad heavy-handed. This guy deserves our support. Let me know what you think.

p.s. if anyone reading this happens somehow to know Derek Webb, tell him to come to New England, pronto.

Thursday, January 19, 2006


Dad is sick. Here is an excerpt from my mom's email regarding his condition:

"They suspect a blockage
or paralysis of part of his intestine. We have not yet gotten the full
report, but he is in the hospital, having nothing by mouth. His
spirits are good, and the surgeon thinks he does not look too bad, and
the problem may be righting itself. Regardless, we will not know until
tomorrow what the plan is. Surgery is a possibility, but I was
relieved that the surgeon is not knife-happy.

"That's it. What is the prayer? For healing, however God wants to do
it, and preferably, the quickest and easiest way possible."

Thanks for all your support!

love, ever, JAZ

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Same ole Song and Dance:

Here's a brief summary of my current thinking about church and its relationship to theology as stated many times here previously. This also touches importantly on the distinctions that exist between denominations (as posted on Pontifications). I thought a discussion (should you so desire) might be in order on my blog as well:

"Fitz Allison once remarked: “You know you are preaching the Gospel when people start calling you ‘antinomian’.” What Lutherans call ‘the offense of the Gospel’ is found predominantly in the fact that the Gospel denies our ability to do anything “good” or “righteous” apart from God’s gracious intervention. Calvinists believe that, post-conversion, Christians exist in a new relationship to the Law in that they can now, at least at points, respond positively to the Law (they posit the 3rd Use of the Law to be primary to the Christian life, i.e., as it exhorts/instructs the hearer, rather than, say, convicts, which is the 2nd Use), thereby in some sense co-operating with the Will of God. Lutherans dispute the matter. Melancthon and most Lutherans confess a 3rd use of the Law, though most still deny its primacy. Some Lutherans though, such as Elert, deny its practical reality altogether. This is the ground where the NP’s understanding of Grace and the more “hard-core” Lutheran one part ways (i.e., this is not covenantal nomism, the thing which the New Perspective on Paul suggests to be good Protestant Christianity). It lines up better with Calvin than Luther definitely, not to mention the end of Article IX of the 39 Articles that refers to “sin perpetuate in the regenerate”. I’m an Anglican who holds the Lutheran position on this issue (as it relates to the reception of the Gospel by human beings), though I part ways with the LCMS (and Luther) on other issues (e.g., sacraments, etc.). This produces a view that suggests the message of God for people is identical for both Christians and non-Christians alike. For this reason, no matter what any Lutheran believes, because they deny the 3rd Use’s primacy, Calvinists always think me/us anti-nomian. It is true that, in Luther’s famous commentary on Galatians, he speaks only of “The Two-fold Use of the Law” (I.e., not “The Three-Fold Use of the Law”). The distinction plays out significantly in a Sunday service. Both start with the Law (in its 2nd Use), but one service concludes with the Gospel (Lutheran), the other reasserts the Law in the sense that it can (supposedly) now be received post-Gospel (Calvin). It seems to me that this difference is not so glaring between the Roman Catholic understanding of the Christian life, and Calvin’s, though not Luther’s. Am I wrong in thinking there to be less tension where Calvin and Rome are concerned?"

Monday, January 16, 2006

Simeon Zahl responds to Al Kimel:

(for background, read the posts and comments below dealing with imputation. Simeon is writing in specific response to comments made on Al's blog, Pontifications, where two articles re: Simeon's thoughts can be found. Here I link to the most relevant one: "Losing the Bible" by Al Kimel)


Thank you once again for a great piece, for flattering me again with such a thoughtful reponse, and for furthering this discussion of what I think are some of the most important issues there are. You are a great dialogue partner and host.

I agree that there is more to understanding the Bible than looking at isolated texts and their singular grammatical-historical meaning. I agree wholeheartedly that we must look to the wider Scriptural witness on various issues if we in our sinfulness are to approximate anything anywhere near the “true meaning of Scripture.” Even so, would you agree that the first step towards such a more comprehensive view is to assess as best we can the grammatical-historical meaning of individual passages in Scripture?

To apply this to the imputation/ infusion discussion, I would agree that 2 Corinthians 5:21 and Galatians 3:13 are not enough in and of themselves on which to base our entire doctrine of justification. But I see imputation everywhere in Scripture. As I have argued before, I think that atonement, and the very forgiveness of sins, imply an imputational framework. That an atonement for our sins through someone else bearing them for us took place on the Cross surely is not in doubt here. For us to be treated in any sense as righteous on the basis of the righteousness of someone else—an idea that permeates Paul, however you interpret “on the basis of”—it seems to me must be an imputational rather than an infusional event. And I do not think you can have both—this particular issue is an either/ or. I have already argued this, and many are not convinced. But neither have I as yet been convinced by the responses.

For our present purposes, the point is that I see imputation as basic in Paul, and as profoundly present in the major emphasis in all four Gospels on the Passion that results in the Death of the Innocent.

Furthermore, I see imputation as absolutely necessary to any idea of loving the unlovable, of loving sinners. The Incarnation is the first word to us of a love from God that we do not deserve, a love we did nothing to earn or even accept. John tells us, in fact, that we did not accept it (“He was in the world… yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive Him”- 1:10-11).

Justification is true in the here and now, in our lives, not just in the abstract. This means that imputation and infusion each have their own practical consequences in how people are treated. To love a sinner in practice is to impute righteousness to them. It is to love them although they do not deserve it, because of what Christ has done. We see imputation in practice everywhere in the Gospels. The injunction to love our (sinful) neighbor, much less our enemy, would mean loving sin for its own sake, were it not for the imputation that stands behind it. Let me explain.

Jesus’ loving interactions with sinful and unlovable people also permeate the Gospel texts. We all know that God does not and cannot love sin. Therefore for Jesus to love sinners, he must have loved them on the basis of a righteousness, a sinlessness, that was not theirs. This is imputation practiced. Jesus practiced it with the woman caught in adultery, when he treated her precisely as if she had not broken the Law, though she undeniably had. He practiced it when he raised Lazarus and Jairus’ daughter and the widow’s son from the grave—that love was certainly not contingent on their active, willful “response” to his love! He practiced it when he restored Simon Peter following his denials—He responded to Peter’s sin by restating Peter’s position of leadership in the Church! This, too, was love based on imputation, not infusion.

God meeting us in our sin is not the exception, but the rule, at least if you see Jesus’ treatment of sinners in the Gospels as paradigmatic of God meeting us in our sin. I do. A perfect and perfectly just God, the God of whom the Psalmist says “Evil may not sojourn with thee” (5:4), cannot love sinners unless there is some mechanism behind it—he can love sin only if he does not see it as sin, and that is precisely what imputation enables. Or, rather, imputation explains what is going on when he loves us and we do not deserve it. It is a thoroughly biblical description of an even more thoroughly biblical love of a perfect God for sinners.

You may argue that he loves sinners not on the basis of their sin but because there is yet some good in them—the image of God left over from Creation, that persists in spite of the Fall—but I cannot accept this argument. To me, it sounds like a cop-out: the clear emphasis in the Gospels and in Paul and John and virtually everywhere else is on the love for the sinner, not the love for the one who is mysteriously good deep inside where no one can see. He did not love the adulteress in her secret, intrinsic, albeit thwarted goodness. He loved her in her sin, and that can only take place if his righteousness is imputed. His strength is not just made manifest also in weakness, it is made PERFECT in it (2 Corinthians 12:9). Here is my thesis: Love for sinners means imputation.

And for all its origin in the subtle mechanics of atonement, imputation is alive and real today. When we love our sinful neighbor. When a shepherd loves his wayward flock. When my wife loves her proud and absurd husband.

Al, as a priest, you have far more pastoral experience than I do. When someone is difficult in your congregation, someone is acting out in their sin in a way that is extremely distasteful and uncomfortable for you and everyone else, on what basis can you love them as Christ loved them? They do not deserve love, and yet Christ loved them, and so I have no doubt you loved them too. What I am saying is that your love for the unlovable, your mercy for the merciless, by definition is based on an imputational rather than infusional model. Do you disagree? I would appreciate you thoughts on what it means to love a sinner, in light of our differing views of justification.

But what of all the verses you say imply transformational models of justification, i.e. that say we must be improving or else we are not Christians? The verses that supposedly see sanctification in this life as a requirement for acceptance at the final judgment? First of all, this supposed profusion of verses is often appealed to in abstract, very rarely more specifically. If you want to talk about “those verses”, then please cite them, and we can discuss. The only verse that has been quoted so far in this discussion concerns God pouring his love into our hearts (Romans 5:5), an event that can be understood perfectly well in an imputational framework. I would just say, “Yes, his loved is poured into our hearts. But it is his love, not ours. It has nothing to do with an infusion, with an improved state in terms of less tendency to sin and greater tendency to love in our very nature. It is his love, not our love activated by his love, as an infusional view would have to assume”.

You referred to the wider Pauline and NT witness to “regeneration, adoption, union with Christ, baptismal incorporation into the Church, growth in holiness, death and resurrection, final judgment.” First of all, of all of these categories, the only ones that are remotely problematic for a full imputational view are “regeneration” and “growth in holiness”—and I think they too can be understood by imputation. Adoption? What a great metaphor for imputation! Union with Christ? Absolutely, though with no fundamental ontological change in our nature in this life. Baptismal incorporation into the Church? Yep, but only on the basis of his righteousness, not ours. Death and resurrection? Of course! “Death, where is thy sting!” Christ defeated death for me, not on the basis of my righteousness, but on the basis of his. Final judgment? Thank God I will be covered with the blood of the Lamb on that Day, or surely I would be damned.

But what about regeneration and growth in holiness? The imputational view accepts these, too, but only descriptively, not prescriptively. I believe that imputation really does produce fruit in our lives, that there is real love that is poured in our hearts for others. But it does so on the basis of his righteousness and most emphatically not our own, so that He is always the initiator, we always the theologically passive object of his initiating love. So yes, I believe believing Christians do change, and do bear fruit. But I do not think this has anything to do with an ontological change that results in a new ability not to sin located in the believer’s nature. And when it does not appear to be occurring, when believers do not appear to be producing fruit, we can only say, with Paul, “Oh the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” (Romans 11:33).

The dominant NT metaphor for sanctification is that of “fruit”. Jesus says that a good tree will produce only good fruit, and a bad tree only bad (Matthew 7:17-20). The fruit metaphor (in addition to Matthew, see especially Galatians 5:22-23) is a profoundly passive one. Does the tree have control over whether or not it is healthy? Can it “participate” in the production of fruit in any sense that could involve the will? Does a tree even have a “will”? Are the water, the good soil, the weather, and its very genetic makeup, in any way a result of the tree’s initiative or participation?

Of course not. It is the most passive of metaphors. With the Lord as our planter, Creator, and gardener, we cannot but produce the fruit he chooses. But our status as a “good tree” is based on imputation, not infusion; substitution, not progressive improvement. So insofar as “transformation” is occurring in us and fruit is being produced, it is on the basis of his action, not ours. Infusion requires that we in some meaningful sense “participate” in that transformation. Imputation says that it simply happens, because of what has been done to us, not because of how we interact with what has been done to us. If we love back, it is with his love, not our own. Imputation, not infusion.

Finally, the infusion perspective deals very poorly with recidivism and persistent sin in the baptized believer. And show me a Christian who does not “backslide” every minute and every hour! Who is not enraptured with love for themselves on a regular basis! Whose first instinct is not to defend themselves against ad hominem arguments…! You did not defend yourself earlier in this thread when attacked by someone in this way: you just defended your point, and I applaud you for it. But if you are anything like me, who was also subject to that attack, your initial feeling was anger at being treated unfairly, and a desire to retaliate in kind. The loving dismissal you gave was not your first instinct, surely? If it was, you are a better man than I; I can tell you, love was not my first reaction!

It is in such things that I see the highly apparent lack of an infusion of righteousness in my nature. I cling to the Blood, which effected my righteousness through imputation, because without it I am damned. Otherwise, I missed my infusion, and that is a very scary thought. Some would dismiss my subjective account of my own sinfulness as missing the deeper and hidden reality, the “mystery” that the infusion is real even if I can never see it. But if the infusion is so “mysterious” that I never see its results, and never feel comforted in my sin by a sense of improvement, what use is it to me? It becomes a mere fantasy, totally out of touch with the reality of my sin and need. It morphs into a dreadful judgment on me for not bearing more fruit—it leads to guilt and death and exhaustion, subjected once again to a Law from which I thought Christ had freed me. Imputation covers me in this; infusion does not. Imputation allows for recidivism, without condoning it. As Thomas Nipperdey once described the Lutheran view of justification over and against the Reformed view (which is eerily similar in practice to the RC view), it is “an ethic of mercy” instead of “an ethic of probation”.

I find far more mercy in imputation, and I need far more mercy. Thank God I do not have to look far in the Scriptures to find a persistent love for sinners, based not on their own righteousness but on His. It is acted out in the Gospels. It is achieved on the Cross. And it is explained by Paul, not to mention Peter and John. It is far more than a first-phase exegetical grammatical-historical step.

Again, in your open-minded and absolutely fair treatment of my views, and your willingness to discuss them in light of your own, differing views, you have imputed to me a right to your time and gifts and experience that I do not deserve. As my brother put it recently, “When you disagree with someone strongly, you have two options: to impute love to them, or to hate them.” You have certainly done the former, and I thank you for it.

Simeon Zahl

Trey Parker on actors:

"But really the main reason we wanted to use puppets instead of actors is because we hate actors...all of 'em, every single one. That's why we do all the voices in South Park, and we do animation. No matter how big or small the actor, they always just have such an attitude and think that they're all rad. There's no lamer thing you can be in the world than an actor. It' the most self-serving...I'm just going off right now. We just wanted to do a show that ripped on celebrities and how much people love celebrities..."

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Rize! (a date movie)

Have you seen 'Rize'? It's a documentary that tells a story only God could invent:

The Problem: Gang violence in the LA ghetto.

The Solution: Birthday party clown entertainers dance their way up and out en masse. At least 50 of these "gangs" have grown up in the heart of the hood. This movie tells their story. The dancing is incredible; you have never seen the human body move like this!

...And they all turn out to be Christians.

p.s., It's a wonderful depiction of Isaiah 41:18 in action ("I will open rivers on the bare heights, and fountains in the midst of the valleys. I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water..."). God's work is more creative than the law would lead you to believe! ---JZ

Brennan Manning quote:

--from "Lion and the Lamb"

"Unfortunately, the whole concept of grace is alien to the American psyche. In our culture the tradition of “rugged individualism” has assumed a religious dimension. Americans are the people par excellence who get things done. Give us enough time, money and manpower and we can achieve anything. Listen to all the Sunday sermons with their emphasis on willpower and personal effort, and you get the impression that a do-it-yourself spirituality is the American fashion, that the Pelagian heresy is very much in vogue.

"Though the Scriptures speak insistently of the divine initiative in the work of salvation, that by grace we are saved, that the Tremendous Lover has taken to the chase, American spirituality still seems to start with self, not with God. Personal responsibility replaces personal response. We seem engrossed in our own efforts to grow in holiness. We talk about acquiring virtue, as though it were some kind of skill that can be acquired through personal effort, like good handwriting or a well-grooved golf swing. In seasons of penance, we focus on getting rid of our hang-ups and sweating through various spiritual exercises, as if they were a religious muscle-building program designed to produce that Christian Charles Atlas.

"The emphasis is always on what I do rather than on what God is doing in my life. In this macho approach God is reduced to a benign old spectator on the sidelines. The American mystique orients us to attribute any growth in the spiritual life to our own sturdy efforts and vigorous resolutions. We become convinced that we can do a pretty good job of following Jesus if we just, once and for all, make up our minds and really buckle down to it. Well, if that’s all there is to Christian discipleship, then in the words of singer Peggy Lee, “Let’s break out the booze.” All we’re doing is transferring the Horatio Alger legend of the self-made man from the economic sphere to the spiritual one" (pp. 159-160).

Friday, January 13, 2006

Insightful comment about Narnia:

"Most churches will try to turn you into a 'Susan'."

Fernando Botero (possible genius)

Nino de Vallecas, 1959

Wednesday, January 11, 2006