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Posts from the ‘Culture’ Category


I’ve come across references to this study twice in the last week, and have thus interpreted this as a divine sign that I am to blog about it (just kidding, in case you’re wondering!). Last week, the Boston Globe ran an article entitled “New Reason to be Happy: It May Go a Long Way” citing the work of Nicholas Christakis (Harvard) and James Fowler (University of California, San Diego). The researchers have, apparently “discovered” through social network analysis that people tend to be happier when those around them are happier. Happiness, as it turns out, is kind of contagious. Read more

The Perils of Television

Turns out, it’s even worse than your parents led you to believe.  Not only does watching television make you stupider, but it makes you unhappier as well—at least, if the experts in this article are to be believed.  Here’s a quote: Read more

Used Up All the Words?

A while back a film/book came across my desk via the MB Herald called “Lord Save us From Your Followers” (my review for the Herald can be found here).  It’s the brainchild of Oregon film-maker Dan Merchant, and asks the question, “Why don’t Christians in America look more like Jesus?”  Merchant travels around the USA in a bumper-sticker/Jesus-fish clad set of coveralls in order to generate dialogue with people who don’t think like him—to challenge the confrontational, antagonistic, and polarizing nature of religious discourse in America. Read more

Truth, Fear, and Fairy Tales

Three or so odd months after finishing my thesis, I still find myself perking up when I come across some headline or article discussing the latest bit of wisdom from the pen of Richard Dawkins.  Apparently the good professor is now directing his attention toward children’s fairy tales and myths, hoping to uncover the pernicious effects on scientific rationality contained therein (h/t: First Things).  Those familiar with Dawkins’s bestseller, The God Delusion, will notice some similar themes: Read more

Responsible Consumption

Yet another shameless self-promotion alert!!

The MB Herald (our denominational magazine here in Canada) has graciously published another one of my articles as a part of their ongoing column focusing on issues around consumerism and individualism (readers of this blog with a long enough memory will notice similarities to a post from a while back). If you’re interested, you can have a look here. Read more


I’ve been thinking a lot about the word “nature” lately—a word which I think is seized upon in confused and inconsistent ways in our ecologically-sensitive times.  Several streams contribute to what follows: 1) Stanley Fish’s amusing editorial in today’s New York Times; 2) a piece I came across on the First Things blog a while back; and 3) a chapter from Matt Hern’s Watch Yourself which discusses our views of nature in the broader context of our cultural obsession with safety. Read more

Scientists Have Discovered…

It seems like every week or two I come across an article bemoaning how distracted we’ve become with our over-reliance on technological gadgetry, our inability to turn our devices off, and our constant foraging for information, checking email, etc. Usually this is framed as a negative thing primarily because of its detrimental effect on the economy—too many work hours down the drain due to our inability to focus on a single task and our proclivity for allowing our minds (and mouses) to get distracted and wander off into cyberspace or BlackBerry land. Read more

What’s in a Name?

Every Saturday night over the last year or so, from 10:45-12:00, I play hockey with a group of guys I connected with through one of the dads at the kids’ school. After the game last night, amidst the usual mélange of sweat, beer, colourful language, and conversation about what this or that guy has “under the hood,” one guy came over to me and said (loudly) “So, I hear you’re leaving us in a month.” “That’s right,” I said. He continued, “and I hear that you’re a minister?” Hmmm, well how to respond to that. “Well, I will be,” I said. “What denomination?” came the reply. Hmmm…. Read more

Religion and Violence: An Interesting Conversation

Some friends are visiting from Alberta and we spent part of yesterday over at a market in North Vancouver. After a bit of shopping our friends’ kids were getting a little restless so we camped out in the play area for a while and let them run off some steam with the other kids. As we were sitting around watching the kids play, we struck up a conversation with a gentleman who was there taking care of his granddaughter. After a bit of pleasant small-talk, the conversation turned, as it inevitably does, to where everyone’s from and what they do. Read more

The World According to lululemon

Like the dutiful Vancouver husband/father that I am, I marched off to lululemon on Saturday to see if I could find my wife a gift worthy of both her maternal skills and her status as an emerging distance runner. lululemon is a Vancouver company famous mainly (I think) for its yoga-wear (although I couldn’t help but notice that their tags say “designed in Vancouver, made in Cambodia”). At any rate, it is, apparently, where all the cool moms get their workout gear so off I went to see what I could find. Read more

A Circuitous Path to Environmentalism

When I was a kid I distinctly remember feeling, at times, somewhat resentful of my “Mennonite-ness.” It wasn’t anything distinctly theological (although like many kids, I suppose, there were moments when I didn’t like being “the Christian” amongst a group of friends who mostly were not) or cultural (I don’t recall particularly liking borscht at the time, but ours was not a family that clung to any of the typical cultural identifiers of German “Mennonite-ness” too fiercely). I knew enough Christians to mitigate the unpleasantness produced by my status as a “cognitive minority,” and there were enough sweet German pastries to offset those Mennonite dishes that happened to offend my palate. No, the source of my resentment lay elsewhere. Read more

Offended by God?

Over the course of my thesis research over the last year or so, I have come across a lot of different reasons for doubting the existence of God. One major stumbling block for those who reject Christianity is those parts of the Bible which seem to justify actions that we consider to be culturally backward, confusing, and irrelevant or, even worse, immoral. And I think that most Christians, if they’re honest, will agree that there are parts of the Bible that they find baffling, frustrating, or, possibly, just plain offensive. Read more

Wishful Thinking

“Hope” and “change” are words that are being slung around quite regularly lately. From Obama, Clinton and McCain south of the border to Ed Stelmach in my home province of Alberta to the eminently hopeful Oprah Winfrey, everybody’s selling something revolutionary—something which will offer us a brighter future, one in which things will, finally, change for the better. Hope might not be very realistic, and it may be historically unjustified, but it certainly does sell, as politicians (and Christopher Hitchens) know as well as anyone. Read more

(Grateful?) Cognitive Minorities

I count it a good Sunday morning at church when I leave the building empowered with good ideas for living well. Among other things, I think, the Sunday morning service ought to provide people with tools for interpreting their experience (at an individual or collective level) through the lens of the biblical narrative. Church ought to be a place where people can go to have both the world, and their beliefs about it (religious or otherwise) rendered in intelligible terms, and in a manner that both challenges and encourages the way in which they participate in it. No small task, to be sure, but this morning’s service managed to accomplish all of these things, benefiting greatly from a little “outside help.” Read more

The Real Thing

I’m rather loathe to hop on two horses that have been ridden as promiscuously and enthusiastically within some Christian circles as U2 and C.S. Lewis, but coming across both in the same week is bound to be at least somewhat thought-provoking, right? I’ve been a U2 fan for quite a while now—at least since The Joshua Tree was immortalized as my first “secular” music purchase in 1987 (by “secular music purchase” I mean the first cassette tape (!) that was not selected from among the six meager offerings at the local Christian bookstore). While I’m not one of these rabid fans who think that life as we know it began with U2, or that Bono is going to save the world, I do enjoy their music immensely (and I’m not quite as cynical as some re: the perceived endless moralizing of Bono). Read more

The Poverty of Consumerism

Shameless self-promotion alert!

For those interested, the MB Herald—the denominational magazine of the tribe I happen to belong to—has published an article on consumerism that I co-authored with friend, fellow-Menno, and thesis-weary Regent student Jonathan Janzen. In it, we attempt to both describe and critique this prominent cultural mentality which views many, if not all, decisions as needing only to pass through the grid of individual preference and choice. We also suggest some areas of Christian theology that may have been lost or obscured and might serve as correctives in attempts to resist this cultural trend. Read more

An Atheist Christmas Homily

Due to the nature of my thesis work, my radar is unnaturally (and often annoyingly) tuned to any and all occurrences of the word “atheist”—especially when found in conjunction with the word “Jesus.” For the first part of this opinion piece by Andre Comte-Sponville in today’s Washington Post I was thinking, “OK, here we go again… another angry atheist, endlessly ranting about the evils of superstition, the innumerable deleterious social effects of Christianity, etc, etc.” Read more

Which Story?

One of the things we’ve talked about in the course I’m teaching out at Columbia Bible College this semester is the importance of understanding how all world-views—whether they consider themselves to be “religious” or not—offer their own set of explanations to questions about the nature of the world, the nature of human beings and the problems that plague us, and the potential remedies that are available. The nature of the story one accepts about the world will determine both the kinds of questions one will be inclined to ask and the nature of answers that will be deemed acceptable in response to those questions. Read more