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Archive for the ‘Belief’ Category

Invite David Bazan.

This last Sunday I was fortunate enough to host Mr. Bazan (or Dave as he likes me to call him) at my house for one of his living room shows.  For those of you who don’t know – this very blog is named after one of his songs, so to have the man playing in my house was certainly a highlight.  For the past few years Bazan has been playing these intimate venues with about 40-50 people in attendance – alone or sometimes with a friend backing him.  At our show he played an electric into a tiny amp, no mic, and a simple floor lamp by his side.

Bazan played for a little over an hour, with quite a bit of dialogue in between songs where he would answer questions – a practice that he encouraged, rather than was forced upon him.  It was very refreshing to hear someone speak frankly about the struggles of being a musician – most especially in the financial sense.  Knowing my pride, I would have tried to play it up as if I was killing it, but Bazan admitted to performing these house shows because of the practicality of them being more profitable than traditional shows that require a lot more cost and effort – and that it is needed to be able to keep playing music for a living.

He played a selection of songs from Pedro, Headphones, and his solo albums.  His “$300 guitar” didn’t quite keep tune, and the playing wasn’t flawless by any means – but it was more than made up for with the power of his voice, and the overall coolness of such a rarefied show.

After the show, Bazan stuck around briefly and folks were able to grab pictures and buy some albums.  Though I hosted the event I didn’t really talk to him much, other than a couple phone calls leading up the the show – but he seemed like a very genuine and likable guy, and this night only served to enhance my love of his music.

God bless you, David Bazan – whether you want it or not.

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So yesterday I saw a flurry of activity on my Facebook news feed which I thought was unusual.  The usually heavily loved and supported Susan G. Komen for the Cure was being lambasted by many people after news spread that it was pulling grant funds from Planned Parenthood that had been targeted towards cancer screenings.  Many people were sad about the development, and saying, “shame, shame on you” Komen, intimating that this was grievously putting women’s health at risk.  And not only that they were putting women’s health at risk, but they were doing it on implied orders from the VRW (vast right wing) and religious right as a means to try and defund PP – them being the largest providers of abortions in the U.S.

I proceeded to post an inquiry on my wall about whether PP was the only entity that offered cancer screening – and that this backlash against Komen seemed to be more people angry at a pro-life agenda than anger at reduced cancer screenings.  A civil discussion (seriously) ensued from both sides.

But this whole episode served to highlight a couple things that I think can be learned about people’s feelings on these related matters.

  1. Many thoughts are illogical — One of the commenters was outraged at how this affects women’s health and that it was hypocritical of a women’s health organization to remove funding.  She then proceeded to imply that she would be removing her support from Komen —- thus removing funding for women’s health.  I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that Komen put women’s health, specifically breast cancer awareness, on the map.  According to trusted resources (wink wink, wiki!!), since its inception in 1982 Komen has raised and invested $2 billion towards research, education, and health services.  The amount of funding they pulled was $700,000, and PP’s revenue last year was over $1 billion.  So it seems illogical, and disingenuous to try and state that 1) Planned Parenthood is really going to suffer, and 2) that Komen has hurt women’s health.
  2. Abortion infects everything — Whether you are pro-abortion (I refuse to use the word choice, I consider myself being reserved for not saying pro-death) or pro-life it is impossible to deny that anytime this subject comes up it causes emotions to boil and inflated feelings to emerge from both sides.  As I said in the post above, many people want to paint this as a critique of Komen’s irresponsibility towards breast cancer screening.  But that is false I think.  In addition to the reasons above, there hasn’t even been enough time to determine if Komen reapportions that money to another organization that performs screening as well.  Let’s even suppose that Komen had simultaneously (and now I wish they had) announced just such an organization as the recipient of the money.  Do you think there would still be no uproar?  I believe there still would have been.  Because at the core of this is the fact that Komen’s actions do seem to stem from internal affiliation with the pro-life movement, or at least succumbing to pressure of pro-life groups (though I still haven’t heard what that pressure was).  So while this is ostensibly about cancer – it is actually about abortion.  The issue that infects everything.
  3. Finances don’t really matter only agendas — There are a lot of dollars floating around this story.  Grant money de-funded, annual revenue for the different organizations, money that Komen will lose from potential donor loss, and $650,000 raised by PP in the hours following the news.  But what remains true is that neither organization is going to stop doing the work they are doing.  We’ve already identified that $700,000 won’t hurt the billion-dollar Planned Parenthood, and though Komen may in fact lose some support, they will not stop trying to follow a mission of ending breast cancer.  So what has all this hoopla done?  Just added a news story for people to get worked up about, and to attack each other.  What if the pro-life gang had said, “dang, it’s just $700,000 let’s just let them have it but we won’t renew in the future”?  And what if pro-abortion folks had just shrugged and said, “stupid pro-lifers – I’m going to go donate some money to Planned Parenthood now”?  We could have avoided this – but no, agendas must be met.
  4. Both sides have idiots — As is obvious I am rabidly pro-life, but when I hear and read about people protesting at abortion clinics and telling the girls and women they are going to hell I want to punch them in the face.  No – I want to hurt them.  Not very Christian of me, I know.  But when I hear people rage against the horrible religious right, when they proclaim this is a woman’s choice and my opinion does not matter, or when Planned Parenthood staff are caught covering abuse, or encouraging teen abortions I want to punch them too.  No – I want to hurt them.

Those are my thoughts.

Oh wait – one more.  If this is not a life, then why does it need to be removed?

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Why I like Tim Tebow

The day after the Broncos lost to the Patriots and ended their winning streak, one of my Facebook friends posted the following on his status update:

“Can we shut up about Tebow now. One of the most overrated a-holes in the NFL.”

I definitely take issue with this post. It clearly shows that my friend in no way understands the Tim Tebow excitement.

First of all, Tim Tebow is not overrated. On the contrary, I have heard almost nothing but criticism for his skills as a quarterback, especially his throwing skills. He, himself, is probably his own harshest critique. What we like about him is that he’s over-achieving.

Secondly, — he’s not an a-hole. I find him to be the complete antithesis of such a character. He has carried himself with far more dignity and class than we’ve become accustomed to expect from professional athletes. So far, I’ve heard of no DUIs, wife-beatings, womanizing, dog fighting, tax evasion, or anything else that cause me to put him into an “a-hole” category.  Instead, we see exemplary sportsmanship, positive personality, humble interviews, and unprecedented determination.

Well, then there’s the Christian thing. I will concede that I’ve always had cognitive dissonance over the role God plays in professional sports. It’s kind of troublesome — while God gives one team a victory, the other gets a defeat, so is it divine intervention? Does prayer or faith really play into it? Or is it really just that one team is better than the other? Furthermore, I would venture to guess that God has much more important endeavors than the outcome of a Bronco game. But that’s just not the point when it comes to Tebow.

The Tebow point is this: He has turned his talents, successes, and celebrity over to Christ. Tebow’s success and subsequent attributions to God inspires all Christians to give God the glory in our lives. I certainly don’t know the guy personally, so I certainly can’t question his true heart. Does he give God the glory because he believes that it will help him win football games? Or does he win football games so he can inspire people to follow Christ? I don’t know. I do know that I’ll take his antics over Randy Moss’s any day.

I was disappointed by the loss to the Patriots, and I hope it doesn’t spoil the momentum, but it’s not going to make me shut up about Tebow. I will shut up about Tebow, however, if he’s unable to display the same quality of character in defeat as he does in victory.

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Some Good Friday reading from Lost in the Cloud about Christ’s death and his and our shame.

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I saw this link on Drudge the other day about secret “Jesus” codes inscribed on weapons.  I figured it was probably silly and ignored… but today I saw it again, still thought it must be silly, but checked it out.  Guess what, I think it is silly.  The article is all about this Michigan-based company Trijicon, that has contracts with a couple different branches of the military to provide rifle sights and optics.  The problem apparently is that the company identifies itself as a Christian faith-based organization and admits to stamping bible references next to model numbers on their product, such as here:

Translation: Jesus says, "convert or die!!!"

I have two thoughts on this.

  1. As a military contractor this company would probably have been wise to not put any scripture references or what not on their products.  The upside is minimal if anything (encouragement to a Christian soldier who discovers it???).  And the downside is what is currently taking place… a media denouncement of a Christian crusade.  A private company providing services to people that ask for them and listing bible verses on their product (such as In-N-Out and their verses) is different than being a parts supplier for the government and Trijicon should know that.  I’m not saying Christian-run companies shouldn’t supply the military… but it’s not too much to ask them not to embed stuff on their supplies.
  2. I challenge the media to explain how this could even remotely proselytize an Afghan or Iraqi person?  The process would need to follow this path: kill an American soldier in order to have access to their weapon – randomly happen upon a small inscription on the weapon – decipher the fact that out of 14 characters (in English mind you) on this inscription, that 6 refer to a verse found in the bible – have a bible handy to look up this verse (likely) – know how to read English and be willing to read a text that is most likely forbidden by your religion – say a prayer and convert to Christianity.

I’m not saying this is a huge story that is being blown out of proportion, since I’ve only seen it mentioned on Drudge… but it is just the type of story that makes you realize why people go to journalism school – to learn how to make something out of nothing.

Let me know if I am wrong and you see bigger implications in Trijicon’s verses.  I’m sure Christian’s would get all fired up if some Wiccan literature ended up in some military supplies, but I would think that is ridiculous too.  With all the things that we could be concerned about in this nation, this ranks pretty far down the ladder for me.

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The AP is running a story about Californian John Marcotte who is trying to get signatures to support a ballot measure that will ban divorce as a response to a ban on gay marriage.  I find this not only amusing, but exactly what was talked about in the comments to this post from last year.  Marcotte has no aspirations that this measure will ever become anything, but sees it more as a movement to try make voters rethink why they want to ban gay marriage.

“Since California has decided to protect traditional marriage, I think it would be hypocritical of us not to sacrifice some of our own rights to protect traditional marriage even more,” the 38-year-old married father of two said.

If you think marriage needs to be protected then it seems logical that this step would be a natural progression on the gay marriage ban.  But the fact that most people would blanch at this idea, should cause some to reconsider their thinking process on proposition 8 which passed last year.  Surely, many people supported prop 8 for reasons other than “protecting the sanctity of marriage”, but for those that didn’t, this satirical measure should be right up their alley… right?

I’ve never heard a good clarification from a supporter of traditional marriage, as to why making divorce illegal wouldn’t be even more justified than banning gay marriage, so if you have one please let fly.

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Have you ever talked with people about fair trade, the idea of branding certain commodities that have passed muster as delivering a fair and decent price to its third-world producers?  I have, and they are usually boisterously supportive of it, or at least passively not opposed to it on the grounds of why not?  I remember being a part of a discussion at a class at my church where a woman was espousing her belief in fair trade and what it does… and when I proposed some critiques of it, was looked at as if the Holy Spirit had just left my soul or something.  But I am more and more convinced of the bad economics of fair trade, and see its support as more to assuage peoples consciences more than assuage third-world poverty.  Cardus, a Christian think tank in Canada (yikes! – just kidding), has an article by Robert Joustra that briefly discusses some of the implications of the “Hollywood campaigns” that raise awareness of fair trade, but not enlightenment on fair trade.

Fair trade offers farmers (coffee and tea are the most traded) a higher price than the true market rate.  This defacto subsidy causes problems when it encourages farmers to stay in business, when perhaps they shouldn’t.  The article quotes Paul Collier:

The price premium in fair trade products is a form of charitable transfer… the problem with it, as compared to just giving people the aid in other ways, is that it encourages recipients to stay doing what they are doing. The fair trade brand exists because the global market somehow masks the true cost of production—which is to say the people who do the actual production do not receive the appropriate dividends. This is, in short, unprofitable work, and subsidizing unprofitable and undiversified economies is the surest recipe for ensuring that those economies remain dependent on that subsidy.

Collier is hard on fair trade, but is a huge proponent of third-world aid in general, which is a topic that the article addresses as well.  There is a great Munk Debate that the article links to (Be It Resolved: Foreign Aid Does More Harm Than Good) that I highly recommend you check out.  It features Collier and Hernando de Soto (whom I am very fond of) alongside two other colleagues as they debate the above resolution.  It is heady stuff and it serves as a reminder of a view of mine – that our emotions and feelings many times cause us to pursue policies that are destructive.  If you are a continued reader you may have seen me write many times before about the unintended consequences of certain policies.  That is why I continue to try and support as free a market as possible, with as few distortions, subsidies, tariffs, etc. as possible.

Well I believe fair trade is an unnecessary distortion.  We want to feel good about buying a product that may pay a farmer in South America more money for his work, but don’t consider that maybe that forces another farmer out of work, or keeps that farmer sowing a particular crop when maybe he or she shouldn’t.  We must always try and look at the big picture of our actions.  As Joustra says:

There is a danger in religious circles that as our consciences are reawakened, our intellects are not always so equally roused. These practices of fair trade and foreign aid have come under considerable attack in the last few years, mitigating the enthusiasm of fair trade and foreign aid advocates but also—importantly—pointing to a principle of social and cultural change that is much in need of recovery. Foreign affairs do not need Band-aids hastily slapped on by fringe grassroots populists, but long-term substantive critiques of the global social and political architecture.

I look forward to hearing any thoughts.  Like I said, I am more and more convinced that fair trade is not a valid solution, but I may be wrong.

coffee farmer

Happy... at others expense?

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