Sunday, April 29, 2007

Off to Princeton

I'm going to Princeton this afternoon for the Forum on Youth Ministry. Will likely only blog once this week as I will have limited connectivity and will be busy. Stanley Hauerwas is speaking so looking forward to it.


Web 2.0 at church

One of my congregants/friends sent me a link this week to a very intersting article about a church who used Web 2.0 technology to do outreach. The article is here but you will need to sign up for the 7 day trial.


Web 2.0

Maybe I'm behind the times but while looking through some stuff on Wired I came across this video. Seems to me to be good for teaching parents the technology that their kids are habitating in. I like it because instead of describing it shows. Even I find it a bit dizzying. More the speed than anything else.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The iGen Manifesto

Rex Miller has put out an "iGen Manifesto", not to be confused with the Manifesto of Hope by the Emergent Village folks. I have a hard time taking it too seriously although his general direction is good. Hyperbole reigns in the manifesto. "The iGeneration has the means to change every institution on the planet, bypassing the declining gyrations from older generations—if they so chose." Really? "Our world (even the very planet itself) is at an historic turning point. The turning point is big: bigger than the Renaissance/Reformation/Enlightenment revolution that launched the modern era." Ummm. The jury is still out.

I'm glad that Miller calls for engagement of a new generation. Moving past the diversions provided by Web 2.0 to the meat of the technology would be great but the manifesto seems too limited. We want content on demand but not more content? The salvation of the church is technology and not God?

There are other, maybe more trivial matters.
" Wikipedia, for example, has built an incredible knowledge resource that no longer depends on the knowledge and wisdom from a few credentialed experts. They have an open source tool and a process of open peer review to sift through contributed content. The result, according to Britain’s scientific periodical Nature Magazine is an accuracy rate comparable to The Encyclopedia Britannica. There is one full-time employee."

Agreed, however, there is a certain irony in the fact that Miller shows how good a Web 2.0 organization is by quoting print. [There is also a certain irony in publishing a manifesto in a magazine, even one like Relevant]. As authoritative as the peer review of Wikipedia is, it apparently doesn't match up to the peer review of Nature Magazine. All of this goes to show that as great as Web 2.0 is, and believe me I think that it is great, it did not spring ex nihilo nor does it exist in a vacuum. Some people are more adept at using the tools and methodologies of the academy, statistical analysis in this case, and Wikipedia would be poorer if traditional learning communities like universities did not provide a context for those people to learn them. The future includes Web 2.0, but it also includes traditional organizations like universities.


Friday, April 20, 2007

Apparently I'm Thoughtful

Marko tagged me as a thoughtful blog. It's very kind of him so I'll play along.

the church and post modern culture: conversation

Tony Jones

Glen Soderholm

Malcolm Gladwell

Marko (is that cheating? I like him and he makes me think so I don't really care if it is cheating)

This exercise is really an exercise of social networking. I traced the path back a little bit:

I can't seem to get back farther than that. I wonder what "Snooper" and "Miss Beth" would think of a Canadian (we are suspiciously socialist) tagging someone like Tony Jones or Malcolm Gladwell, both of whom are clearly part of the problem with America.

I need to add the following:

The participation rules are simple:

1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think,
2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme,
3. Optional: Proudly display the 'Thinking Blogger Award' with a link to the post that you wrote


The Paradox of Choice

I thought that getting laid out for days by a fever would have meant that I could have done some reading and blogging but no, the three draft posts are like pot smoking poetry - good only to the writer.

Here is a quick post as I come out of the haze. Finished this book last week and used it below. Lot's of interesting things here. (My friend/colleague J.P. sent me this link if video is more your gig.)

Vocation - Since being convinced by Miroslav Volf that our understanding of vocation is more rooted in the 16th Century than the Bible, and that the largely static society of the Reformation is not a good model for young people thinking about what they should do with their life, I've been on the look out for folks who will support me. Schwartz does indirectly. If the only choice that you have is between marriage and celibacy, your father's profession or the priesthood then you are unlikely to choose the priesthood unless you know a good priest. We don't tend to choose things that we don't know anything about because we are risk averse. It follows then that teens that do not have much 'social capital' and therefore do not know that they have choices will tend to make the same choices as their parent(s). This is not entirely negative given that the other extreme, the 'helicopter parent' who hovers around their kid, offering so many choices that the youth has no idea what to do, can be debilitating. 'Helicopter parents' are maximizers using Schwartz's language and fall into many, many pitfalls when it comes to making choices.

The church, in response to this, should do two things. One, for those youth who do not see choices, present them. Two, for those youth overwhelmed by choice, help in discerning the real choices amidst the masses.


Sunday, April 15, 2007

Numbers and the Race to the Bottom

I'm likely a little thick but two books that I've just finished (The Rebel Sell and The Paradox of Choice) both talked about the idea of a nuclear arms race in reverse. Great analogy by Schwartz is at a sports game where everyone is sitting down and then one person stands up to get a better view. Everyone in turn must stand up in order to maintain their previous sight line. Now, everyone is equal again but standing up which, from my perspective is actually worse.

We do this all of the time. All it takes is one person to do something then we as people feel compelled to follow just so that we can maintain our social position. One person gets something so obviously cool as an Ipod and then the standard is the Ipod. Clothes, cars, houses etc. are all areas we do it. It isn't just in the original purchase of something like a house. It is in the maintenance. One neighbour redoes their living room, more are to follow just to keep the same relative status.

Now, go and read Marko's post about numbers in youth ministry. All it takes is one youth minister at a conference to bring up numbers and then all others will descend to that level. I chuckle at Len's retort and it does deflate the conversation but that doesn't take away from the fact that the other folks at the table didn't have a comeback and now are stuck in the race to the bottom in terms of numbers. We are status concious creatures. It is something that we use to improve ourselves. We can't really tell if something is better without comparison and since we all want to be more faithful etc., then we all compare ourselves. I don't really know if there is a way to escape this except by internalizing a standard of excellence that is so resistant to outside influence that outside criteria becomes moot. People that comfortable and secure are highly attractive but also highly rare in my experience. Could we shift the criteria so that we have people competing in the right areas?


Friday, April 13, 2007

Bitter Boys #2

A number of you expressed amusement/interest in Bitter Boys #1 (what, I can't believe x was not on it! was the most common comment). Here is Bitter Boys #2:

Tenderness - General Public (84)
It's My Life - Talk Talk (84)
Always on My Mind - Pet Shop Boys (88)
Ball of Confusion - Love and Rockets (85)
Venus - Bananarama (86)
I Need You Tonight - Peter Wolf (84)
Burning Down the House - Talking Heads (83)
Games Without Frontiers - Peter Gabriel (80)
Big in Japan - Alphaville (84)
Love Missle F1-11 - Sigue Sigue Sputnik (86)
Call It Love - Images in Vogue (84)
Johnny B. Rotten - The Monks (80)
In a Big Country - Big Country (83)
Juke Box Hero - Foreigner (81)
Where The Streets Have No Name - U2 (87)
Loverboy - Billy Ocean (84)
Pale Shelter - Tears For Fears (83)
Everything Counts - Depeche Mode (83)
Eyes of Stranger - Payolas (82)
She Sells Sanctuary - The Cult (85)
Hold Me Now - Thompson Twins (84)
Modern Love - David Bowie (83)

Some rare gems on that list. Sigue Sigue Sputnik. Non hit wonder.


Wednesday, April 11, 2007


I'm a little incredulous at a stat that keeps reappearing in stuff I'm reading. Everytime the author makes the following assertion - that the average American person sees 3000 ads a day - but never says where that stat comes from. It strains my belief that it is possible but, hey, if someone could point to a study that says that then I'm all in.


Friday, April 06, 2007

Good Friday

Years ago when I was part of a ministry that did a Good Friday service every year, we struggled because we didn't know exactly how to present it. Many of our kids weren't part of a congregation so might no hear the Resurrection if we didn't present it on Good Friday. On the other hand, we didn't want to downplay the stark reality of Life submitting to death.

That tension of understanding why Jesus had to die in order for life to spring forth has been one of my core questions since then. At seminary, I encountered Don Juel who challenged me to think through that question. As a Good Friday meditation I reread his "A Disquieting Silence" which you can find in The Ending of Mark and the Ends of God. His thoughts are too complex to post here but they revolve around Mark 16:1-8. Jesus has promised resurrection, and is not there when the women arrive but the women leave in terror. God is on the loose, the door is open to the working of this terrible God who can even defeat death.

"Jesus has promised an end. That end is not yet, but the story gives good reasons to remain hopeful even in the face of disappointment. The possibilities of eventual enlightenment for the reader remain in the hands of the divine actor who will not be shut in-or out."

As we approach the open tomb and place our terror into the hands of the God who has gone on ahead of us, consider:

These are the words of the holy one, the true one,
who has the key of David,
who opens and no one will shut,
who shuts and no one opens: . . .
Look, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut.
Rev. 3:7-8


Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Posting Tips

Had some interesting experiences on Facebook lately where folks are either a) more honest than they should be about what they are currently doing b) posting things that likely will not look good in the future. This post would help avoid situations like that. Worth it for the commercials. Parents should definitely see these although they are aimed at teens. Here is a summary of the rules posted at Totally Wired.

- "Sexy" or provocative photos showing the subject(s) in any state of undress. Not only is this bad for employers, but these pics will attract predators.

- Photos showing the subject(s) drinking or using illegal drugs. This also expands into posting images of pot leaves or favorite liquor ads. Even if teens aren't drinking or smoking pot, it can give the impression they are.

- Blog entries that reveal too much or overshare. Tell teens to keep this type of online journal private so only they or a friend or two can read it. Potential recruiters or employers don't need to know about your personal drama.

- Blog entries or photos that show an anti-work ethic - like a big quote saying "Take this job and shove it!" Teens should also never denigrate a current or former employer online.

- Violent or sexually explicit lyrics, songs or videos. Even if it's just a band or song a teen loves, employers may get the wrong idea.


Monday, April 02, 2007

Too Long For Its Own Good

I agree with Ungar that adolescents need high amounts of both risk and responsibility in order that they might mature into adults. Our culture protects kids from risk in general and parents in particular tend towards over protective (avoiding risk) or absent (avoiding responsibility). Kids want adults to communicate that they are compentent, caring contributors to their communities or else they will engage in dangerous, delinquent, deviant and disordered behaviours. The best way to help kids away from the 4 D's just mentioned is to listen to their motivations since kids take risks for reasons. Most times we can find a more pro-social behaviour as a substitute for the 4 D's but we really need to listen to the kids motivation to determine what that substitute might be.

There you go - the book in one paragraph. Ungar clearly knows what he is talking about and occassionally his thought experiments could prove helpful to parents although most seem to involve getting in touch with accurate memories of our own adolescence, an exercise that all youth workers should do prior to getting into youth ministry. By and large though, Ungar repeats himself ad nauseum. I'd rather hear him speak since his anecdotes are interesting but he didn't have enough for a full book. This would be a great article with some real meat but instead is more like pablum - nutritious but very boring after three spoonfuls.

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Tony, James and Jacques

In looking over Tony Jones' blog I discovered that clearly James Smith and Emergent are talking. Check out Tony's short piece on why he likes Derrida and the myriad of comments that follow over at the church and postmodern culture conversation blog. Not only that, but they are posting some of On Religion.


Sunday, April 01, 2007

revisiting James Smith

A while ago I posted about a book called Who's Afraid of Postmodernism and I had a favourable enough review of it to assign it for my Canadian Youth Culture class at Tyndale. My hope was that the next generation of Christian leaders who specialize in youth ministry will have enough integrity to know post modern philosophy before they go and try to create ministry within 'po-mo' culture. We will see at the end of the semester how successful the students think that project has been.

After a reread of the final chapter in preparation for class tomorrow, I noticed that Smith was tackling Derrida/Caputo in a more sustained way than I had remembered. He offers a thorough going critique of Caputo's "religion without religion" idea. I bring this up because I'm kicking myself for not going to Philadelphia in a couple of weeks when Caputo speaks on this very topic at the Emergent Theological Conversation. To be fair, I think the conversation is more about justice than "religion without religion" but one of the assigned readings (which I just picked up) is Caputo's On Religion and Smith singles that book out as a "lucid and entertaining" exposition of Caputo's views.

Besides being interested in this because some of my friends in the Emergent conversation are, I'm interested in it because Smith locates part of his argument in a debate about culture, a current topic buzzing around my head because of the culture class. Derrida/Caputo are co-relationists in the tradition of Bultmann (using Heidegger's ontology) and Tillich (using existentialism). In the words of Graham Ward (another member of the Radical Orthodoxy posse) in his review of Caputo's The Prayers and Tears of Jacques Derrida, "now the transcendental horizon does not open within the human condition (the existential hermeneutics
of Dasein), rather the transcendental idealism is opened and kept open by the semiotic (social and literary)." Smith goes on to critique Emergent folks (although he is not overly specific like he is when he critiques D.A. Carson) that they too are co-relationists when they follow the path blazed by Bultmann, Tillich, and Derrida/Caputo.

Radical Orthodoxy cleaves more closely to Barth's understanding of radical revelation, an understanding that I have an emotive connection to but one that doesn't play out well necessarily in the practica of ministry. At least not yet.

I guess I may need to reconsider whether I can go to Philadelphia or not so that I can ask Caputo himself what he makes of Smith's critique.

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