Confirmation bias: the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms one’s beliefs or hypotheses, while giving disproportionately less consideration to alternative possibilities
I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that the past few weeks have afforded you a few opportunities to observe humans behaving badly on the Internet. Maybe even more than a few. The Syrian refugee crisis has polarized people—particularly Christian people, sadly—in a way that few issues that I can recall have. Ever since, “the post” and the many unpleasant responses it generated, I have a rapidly expanding email folder full of often very kind messages from people around the world that often begin with something like, “I’ve been so discouraged lately by the things I’ve been reading about the refugee crisis online…” Read more
So, terror remains on everyone’s minds. Paris, of course. But also Beirut, Baghdad, Kenya, and the countless other less glamorous places in the world, places deemed unworthy of inspiring memes and hashtags or temporary profile pictures or any of the other ways that we express our compassion/outrage and brand ourselves appropriately during dark and fearful times.
This is the world we live in. Read more
You know the drill, by now. “Miscellany” means fragmentary, unrelated mind scraps hastily assembled and lumped together for your reading, um, pleasure?
I’ve talked to enough pastors over the years to know that I’m not unique in saying that I have some ambivalence toward the whole “visitation” thing. Some pastors are born for the task and seem to enjoy it immensely, but I’ve also had numerous conversations with colleagues that run something along the lines of, “Yeah, it’s not really my thing… It’s something I have to talk myself into doing… It’s hard to find the time…” And, of course, the ubiquitous, “I should probably do more of it than I do, but it’s just so hard…” Read more
I got into the car this morning in a bit of a surly mood. A few things hadn’t gone as I had anticipated the previous day, I had received an unwelcome email that morning, and I was behind on sermon prep. Again. I stabbed the key into the ignition only to be greeted by the ear-splitting strains of the local top 40 station that my wife and daughter were, evidently, listening to on the way home from their evening activities last night. The part of the song that I was forcibly subjected to heard before frantically locating the combination of knobs that could lower the volume and/or change the station went something like, This is my fight song, take back my life song… Read more
We are bargain hunters, all of us. We make bargains with God, with reality or the cosmos or karma or whatever. We are convinced someone or something out there is keeping score, and that our lives are like a bet we are daily making that the things we do are somehow a reliable indicator of the things we will get. Read more
I’ve been thinking about doubt over the past few days. It started when I read a recent piece over at Pete Enns’ blog about a pastor who confessed his doubts about the existence of God in front of his congregation. It continued when a friend pointed me in the direction of The Liturgists podcast, and particularly the episodes where the host (Michael Gungor) and co-host (Mike McHargue, or “Science Mike”) discussed their de-conversion and reconversion narratives. Especially interesting was the shape of the faith that was eventually returned to. Gone was the black and white faith of their evangelical upbringings. In its place was a postmodern faith more comfortable with grey, increasingly open to mystery, and less certain about the doctrinal content of orthodox Christianity.
Even more interesting were the “axioms about faith” that Science Mike had come up with as the “scaffolding” for this new approach to faith. Read more
It usually takes about five or six days. When one of my wife or I am traveling, this tends to be the threshold beyond which I start to feel strangely disoriented or unsettled or somehow, I don’t know, adrift. When I am the one at home—as is the case now, while my wife visits friends in Germany—this tends to be around the time when the kids have begun to peer dejectedly into the refrigerator, sadly pondering the prospects of another evening of dad’s “cooking.” The pets have started to wander around the house full of confused longing, being generally accustomed to warmer treatment than they tend to receive from me. It’s as if the entire house senses that things are not as they should be. Read more
I’ve been paying attention to Germany lately. And not just because my wife happens to be there visiting dear friends of ours who live in Bavaria (my daily act of spiritual discipline this week has been to attempt to suppress the feelings of jealousy that regularly flare up as I think about her wandering the streets of Munich while I clean the cat’s litter box and make dinner…). I’m also paying attention to Germany because this is the nation that was and remains a focal point of the refugee crisis that took a dramatic turn in early September with the discovery of Alan Kurdi’s body on a Turkish beach. Read more
I voted today. I spent forty-five minutes in an advance polling line to plunk my little x beside the candidate that I thought might do the best job of representing our little corner of the country in Ottawa. Or, at the very least, the one that I thought might do the least damage. Read more
Amena* is very warm and personable. She speaks clearly and confidently. Her smile is infectious. We have met several times now to discuss the possibility of our local refugee sponsorship group helping to bring members of her family who are currently refugees in Lebanon to join her in Lethbridge. Our conversations seem like such strange and weighty things. There is so much that hangs in the balance. Probably more than I can even know.
In a post last week I reflected a bit on having the “heart of a stranger” when it comes to how we think about the present Syrian refugee crisis. I wondered if some of our unwillingness to welcome the stranger might be due to the fact that many of us have never actually been strangers in any meaningful sense. I ended with a discussion of the twin biblical injunctions to remember and imagine well—to welcome the stranger either because we remember being strangers ourselves or because we can imagine what it would feel like to be one and how we would want to be welcomed.
Remembering is probably easier than imagining. Personal experience is worth a lot. But imagining is a lot easier when you are thinking not of abstract “refugees” or “immigrants” or “victims” out there but real human beings with names and faces. Imagining has not been difficult for me these last two days, mainly because of two conversations. Read more
Hassan is short, slight, quiet. He says little as he approaches the counter at the soup kitchen. He’s wearing black pants, black hoodie, and a black hat pulled down over his ears. He smiles, almost shyly, as I give him his plate, but does not hold eye contact for long. He takes his food to a table where he sits, alone, and eats his lunch. Read more
It’s been quite a week. The photo. The frantically updating news stories, the backtracking when the facts turned out to be less factual than we hoped, the politicking, the mud-slinging, the blaming and shaming and holier-than-thou-ing. The frenzied recirculating of the same articles from the same sources by click happy, guilt-ridden technophiles. The endless liking and sharing that we reflexively do when we don’t know what else to do. The [shudder] piled up blog posts from anyone with an hour to kill and an opinion or two. Read more
Every day, it seems, the refugee crisis in Europe worsens. Every day, the headlines that jump out at me when I open my computer in the morning are grim and foreboding. Last week it was capsized boats and trucks on the side of the road. This morning, it’s a train station in Budapest where police are preventing thousands of migrants from boarding trains bound for Germany. And tomorrow? Next week, month, year? Who knows? Read more
Two pictures popped up on my computer this afternoon.
The first was of the two families from Syria that will be coming to Lethbridge as part of a refugee sponsorship initiative that our church is a part of. No names, just a picture of nine pictures on a table. Nine precious people currently living as refugees in Lebanon, far from home, waiting for their claims to be processed. Nine people whose city and country lies in ruins. Nine people who can probably never go home. Nine faces in nine photographs laid out on a brown table. What have those nine faces seen, I wonder? What hopes do those nine faces have for their future? What might those nine faces make of a place like Lethbridge, AB, Canada? I imagine speaking with them, of playing with their kids, of becoming their friends. But these nine faces still seem a world away. Read more
It was thirty-six degrees Celsius around these parts yesterday, which, for many Canadians used to considerably more chilly climes, means a general experience of sticky, sweaty unbearableness that makes us despair of life itself. Well, that’s probably a bit dramatic. The heat is clearly going to my head.
At any rate, I had grand plans last night to do something virtuous like read a book or play a game with the kids or something. But I fought the heat and the heat won. I ended up collapsing into the couch after supper, and after aimlessly drifting around Netflix on my laptop for a few minutes, I settled on Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance. I had seen a previous film of his (2008’s Biutiful) and I had a vague sense that Birdman had won a bunch of awards. Plus, all that aimless drifting around Netflix was getting tiring in the heat. Read more
I ran into two friends this morning for whom the month of August is an excruciating one. Two fathers for whom August is the anniversary of the unimaginably painful loss of a young daughter. For both, August brings an acute reminder of the ever-present reality of the gaping wound at the heart of their lives. For both, August means the rehearsal of a crippling loss that no parent should have to endure.
It is impossible to think of these two friends and their losses without thinking more generally about fathers and daughters. Read more
A few long and rambling reflections on my first experience of the Big Apple this past week… I’ve included a few pictures, too, for those who will undoubtedly tire of my wordiness. :)
New York City is one of those places that looms large in our collective imagination as Westerners and, more particularly, as consumers of media produced in the USA. Its streets and buildings and cityscapes and rivers and landmarks provide the backdrop for so many of our films and television programs and advertising. New York is where famous people live and work and play and produce moments for the rest of us to observe. And, of course, since September 11, 2001 many people feel an even deeper connection, however conflicted, with the city. We watched as its towers came down, as the already intense media glare was sharpened still further, as its citizens were lionized and held up as emblematic of all that was good and true and virtuous about America. New York is where the action is, where it all happens. New York is where people want to be. Read more