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Friday Miscellany

Over the last few months, I’ve noticed an increase in the phenomenon of bloggers putting up something like a weekend roundup of links, videos, or whatever else they found interesting over the past week. I’m not sure what I think of the “weekly link dump” genre of blog posting yet—I confess that I almost always just ignore these posts in my reader—but today I find myself with a handful of interesting and completely unrelated ideas and links bouncing around in my skull, so I will unload them where I unload so much of my disorganized mental freight: here.

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Ever since I left Regent College in 2008, one of the ways I have tried to stay connected to the college is via Regent Audio. There are many excellent lectures, chapel talks, sermons, and audio courses that you can purchase here. There is also FREE stuff. And there are few things that make a Mennonite happier than FREE stuff…. So, as a result of my commitment both to Regent and to FREE, I found myself listening to, of all things, an Advent sermon by New Testament professor Rik Watts on my way to work this lovely June morning.

The sermon was called “Whom Do We Seek? And Why? The Humility of the Incarnation,” and addressed, among other things, our postmodern tendency to focus on the experience of being abandoned by God rather than the experience of hope, and our tendency to argue for and believe in the god(s) that we prefer rather than the God revealed in Scripture and made known in Jesus Christ. I hastily scribbled down a few memorable sentences in the car—these seemed relevant to me in light of many of the conversations that take place on this blog, and in light of many of my own tendencies to fashion a god in my own image:

The experience of loss and abandonment can go along with a believing cry of hope.

Re: why we postmoderns find it so difficult to hold these two together:

The Scripture is being trumped by my desire to hang on to my existential pain. [The pain] now becomes, the ultimate truth.

Hmm, so you’re saying that even my obsession with doubt and pain and suffering can be little more than an expression of selfishness? That dwelling on these can be an attempt to flee from confronting reality as it is? That my existential angst can become one more inadequate idol for me to clumsily and confusedly bow down to? That my doubt might not be simply a pure and virtuous expression of my intellectual courage, spiritual insight, and moral sensitivity?

Huh.

You can download this sermon—for FREE—here (but you really should buy some stuff too…).

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One of the joys of being the parent of pre-teens who are involved in everything from soccer and hockey and swimming to 4H club and piano lessons, is… yup, you guessed it, fundraising. Hooray! Those who know even the slightest bit about me will appreciate that I enjoy fundraising about as much as a root canal with no anesthetic. So, you can imagine how excited I was by the prospect of spending 5 hrs (!!) at the Bingo Hall last night. What could be more delightful, after all, than trudging around a concrete warehouse selling bingo cards with the monotone drone of the caller’s voice ringing in your ears, and the smells of burnt popcorn, bad coffee, and greasy hamburgers wafting through your nostrils? Sounds pretty good, right? Did I mention it was 5 hrs?

At any rate, at around hour two I was taking advantage of a break in the (riveting) proceedings, and began to wax eloquent to my wife about the demographics represented in the Bingo Hall—about the “type” of people who tended to come and play bingo. I was just hitting my (eloquent) stride, when my wife stopped me in my tracks, saying “Do you remember what Gabor Maté talked about at the lecture the other night? About how everyone has a story? About how there is always a complex chain of events that leads to someone being in this or that particular situation? About how we should avoid labels and focus on relationships?”

Gulp.

Um, yes. I remember. Although not very well, apparently.

Later that evening, I found myself in the washroom with a gentleman who would have fit every conceivable stereotype of the “kind of person that spends five hours at the Bingo Hall.” I decided to ask him how his night was going. His face opened up into a huge grin and he said, “Well, I haven’t won anything yet, but I’m just getting started. How are you doing?” I said, “I’m doing pretty good—I haven’t worked many Bingos, so I’m still learning what I’m supposed to do.” He replied, “Aw, you’re doing fine. Just keep up the good work. It’s always nice to learn a new skill, after all, and you get the chance to meet new people.”

My (comprehensive) reproach was complete.

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Finally, I appreciated Julie Clawson’s recent article about kids and superheroes over at Mennonite World Review. This one hits home, as a parent trying to teach his kids about nonviolence in a culture where violence is glorified at every turn:

[M]y biggest struggle with superheroes is the portrayal of violence as the answer to everything. Even the characters that try to resist violence always end up facing a bad guy so evil that they have no choice but to respond with violence. Any commitment to peacemaking is cast as essentially choosing to side with evil. And on a visceral level, this is what the audience wants from this genre. It comforts people to have the world cast as good versus evil where the good guy is stronger and can beat the bad guy in the end. People want the solution to all the world’s problems to be as simple as the Hulk shutting up Loki’s endless prattling by smashing him back and forth into the floor. Who cares what Loki was actually saying (or that it sounded eerily similar to what a lot of theologians and politicians are saying these days), it’s funnier and more cathartic to have him beat into a pulp through mindless anger.

Yes it is. God help us, as we try to teach our children about what true heroism looks like.

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I hope you have a great weekend.

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Thoughtful as always Ryan! I too have felt ambivalent about the ‘weekly dump’ on a lot of blogs and have toyed with the idea of making a post about the ‘least interesting’ articles I’ve read all week or the least popular posts on my blog of all time. Your approach of miscellaneous reflections culled through out your week might be more fruitful (and better reading).

    June 1, 2012
    • Thank you for the kind words.

      Incidentally, I think you should go for the “least interesting” angle. It’s biblical, after all—the last shall be first and all that… :).

      June 1, 2012
  2. The bathroom story made me laugh out loud – both funny and true!

    June 5, 2012

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