Monday, September 20, 2010

Dude, you have no Qur'an!

These must be watched in succession - "Dude, you have no Qur'an!"

Good on you skater dude Jacob Isom. Nice autotune too...

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


Ronnie James Dio, 1972The 'Holy Diver' has taken his final swim - 5/16/2010.

I grew up in the 80s - class of '87... The music of the era for white kids was big and loud - punk, hair rock, and heavy metal.

Though I've acquired a finer taste for heavy metal over time - there's no denying how influential bands like Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Rob Zombie and Metallica were in the 80s. Without exception each of these bands, and a myriad of others, pay homage to the music and vocal stylings of Ronnie James Dio (RJD.)

Like the music or not, Dio is recognized as a pioneer in the heavy metal and progressive metal genres - first with Rainbow, then for a while with Black Sabbath and then as a solo artist. When asked about the 'dark' nature of his lyrics, he once said something like, "you can't fully embrace the light unless you've experienced some darkness."

And he seems to have had a heart for moving people toward the light. He and his wife founded the organization 'Children of the Night' which helps adolescent runaways, sexual abuse victims and prostitutes in Los Angeles get off the streets and reenter society.

So rest well 'King of Rock and Roll' - musician, husband, father, grandfather, son, and inspiration to many musical innovators around the world.

Monday, May 17, 2010

An update from Arizona

UCC minister, activist, community organizer and all-around great guy, Noel Anderson, is keeping me in the loop regarding actions in opposition to Arizona's new immigration law - SB 1070.

Here's his report from a Friday evening (May 14) protest in Nogales, Ariz. It is the U.S. side port of entry with Nogales, Sonora, Mexico...

Over 100 people gathered on the U.S. side to rally against the SB1070 law calling it unjust, unethical, uncompassionate and just plain racist. A mix of Latino and African American Freedom Riders bused in from Dallas and Texas to send the message clear they denounced this law and felt the responsibility and necessity to come to Arizona in order to support and be part of this growing movement to repeal SB1070.

Local speakers such as the Nogales Mayor who was part of passing a city resolution against this law stepped forward. Some of the Freedom Riders had actually been part of the original freedom riders down to the South during the Civil Rights Movement. Many organization are calling for a Freedom Summer to organize with greater strength over the next three months to repeal the law before it’s inception on July 28th.

In Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, protesters were present all morning and all afternoon blocking traffic from entering the United States. There was a boycott decree put out for the Friday and Saturday to ask Mexicans to not cross to Nogales on the U.S. side to show their economic power, while the stores remained empty all day.

Most people don't realize that “at least 23,400 jobs in Arizona depend on the more than $7.35 million that Mexican visitors spend every day in stores, restaurants, hotels and other businesses, according to a University of Arizona study sponsored by the state’s Office of Tourism(see link below).”

Not only was business empty or non-existent on the U.S. side, but shop keepers on the Mexican side said that business has been much slower as well since the Governor Jan Brewer signed the law, because people aren't coming to Arizona, and not visiting the border as they used to.

Noel has updated images on his Facebook page too.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Write me on your skin

So... I'm thinking about getting a tattoo - rather, thinking about getting two of them.

At nearly 41 I know this is a crazy thing. The last time the thought passed my mind I was about 27 and wanted to get a full-back Celtic knotted triangle symbolizing the Trinity. Not sure if it was the $1200 or the three six-hour sessions in the tattoo artist chair that turned me off...

With age comes realism. I'm still looking for something spiritual, but not quite as huge.

Twenty years ago (that is SO hard to believe) one my my favorite bands, The 77s, wrote the song "Tattoo." The main refrain says "If you say I'm written on your soul, then write me on your skin." Just awesome - it's sort of 80s/90s, but take a listen to it and anything by Mike Roe you can put your hands on.

Speaking of hands - the theological dimension I'm leaning towards came from a project I was working on that communicated the merging of spirit with human effort. The phrases "Spirit of God" and "Human Hands" combine to mean a lot to me personally - guided by God's spirit, we are agents of change and transformation.

So to be really cool, it has to be in a biblical language. Right? The Hebrew for spirit/breath of God (as in Genesis 1:2) is Ruach Elohim. Human hands is Yadayim Adam. Here's the image...

Anyone want to contribute to these puppies being inked around my biceps?

The whole project leads to a few bigger questions. What theological/spiritual concept moves you deeply enough to consider adding to your "bodily testimony?" What would prevent you from doing so? Do you think there is any comparison of such tattoos to religious identifiers of old and not-so-old (tonsure, collars, tunics, saffron robes, kirpan, etc.)?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Boobquake theory falls flat

Not since the invention of the push-up bra has cleavage received so much attention!

Purdue University student Jen McCreight was more than a little offended when she read an Iranian cleric's explanation of the recent spate of earthquakes...

"Many women who do not dress modestly ... lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which (consequently) increases earthquakes," Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi was quoted as saying by Iranian media. Sedighi is Tehran's acting Friday prayer leader.

To test Sedighi's theory, McCreight encouraged women to dress as immodestly as possible on April 26, letting it - er, well - all hang out for the sake of science. The moniker "
Boobquake" was chosen as the event's name, seeking evidence that scantily clad women are at the root of adultery and God's wrath that results in natural disasters.

Now, McCreight is a self-confessed nerd - a scientist at heart. And she's kept us abreast of her
quantifiable analysis of data from the Boobquake event.

Not only did Boobquake not produce more earthquakes - the mean magnitude of all reported earthquakes on the event day was less than average! I think it is safe to say that science has laid bare a mountain of misconceptions regarding cleavage as the root of all evil, impropriety and natural disasters.

All kidding aside (because Sedighi certainly wasn't kidding...), this is the sort of garbage we are used to from religious fundamentalists.

A "pact with the devil" - an urban legend about the establishment of Haiti's self-governance - was Pat Robertson's explanation for the massive earthquake there in January.

And we can't forget similar statements from Robertson and other dangerous manipulatives who found it easy to blame the San Francisco earthquake, the 9/11 attacks and Hurricane Katrina on the pervasiveness of "immorality" - especially hoe-moe-sex-you-ality and abortion - in US society.

We shouldn't be surprised. But we should be alarmed.

As progressive, rational, science-loving (not fearing) believers - Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, etc. - we owe it to society and the world to stop blaming God's wrath for disasters.

Bertrand Russell - my favorite author of my favorite book, "Why I Am Not a Christian" - targeted religion, specifically Christianity, as a fear-based system.

I read him while in seminary and really understood what he said. He's unfortunately right in many ways. So many people use religion as a means of control - and employ fear (fear of hell, fear of punishment, fear of leaders, blood sacrifice, etc.) as their primary weapon - that I really couldn't disagree with his analysis and reasoning.

But I do disagree with his conclusion - that all religions are necessarily rooted in fear. I'm one of many people (ordained or not) who really sees it as our mission to dispel fear from Christianity - we like to call it "progressive" Christianity, others have called it "liberal" in the past. We believe that love, not fear, can be the root of religious belief - hope, not cowering, can be a response to a God who in some way, shape or form, ordered the universe and gave us examples of the holy to learn from and follow.

So thanks to all of you who participated in Boobquake 2010; for laying bear the twin peaks of reason and truth - not only for science, but in helping to redeem the character of God with your lovely lady lumps.

(Thanks to Marcy D. for modeling. Other blog post titles that didn't make the cup were "Boobquake experiment an udder failure" and "Boobquake finds massive outpouring of support".)

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Online Marriage Prep!

I get an amazing number of press releases every day. Some are pertinent to the work I do for the UCC, some are loony and some are just funny/interesting. I received one today that was on the funny/interesting - sort of sad - side of things. A little of my own sarcasm is inserted below, so be forewarned...

You say you're too busy to attend a traditional marriage preparation course?

Say you value your privacy and don't want a professional prying into all the neurosis that are sure to sabotage this and all future relationships?

Then the good folks at theMarriageGroup have a great program for you.

No need to worry if you and your future mate have and overbooked double-carreer, see you when it's convenient for me, lifestyle - you can complete this marriage preparation course in the privacy of your own home. There's no need for your (might-be-)special(-when-I-find-the-time) someone to be in the same room with you.

Of course, honest discussion between you and your partner is the cornerstone of the program - but there's no need to air any misgivings or acknowledge shortcomings in front of a total stranger! What good would that do anyway?

Evangelism - Monster Truck style

This unique door hanger found its way into our offices. What was the big draw of this past weekend's Anniversary Sunday service, you ask?

Palm Sunday? The beginning of Holy Week? The cries of "Hosanna" preceding "crucify"?

None of the above...

Bible preaching, great gospel music and a MONSTER TRUCK EXHIBITION.


"If the people are silent, the monster trucks will shout out praises." (Luke 19:40, paraphrased...)

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Immigration Reform Rally

Immigration Reform Rally from United Church of Christ on Vimeo.

Immigration Reform Rally in Washington D.C. on March 21, 2010. Over 200,000 people rallied on the National Mall to urge President Obama to take up the issue of immigration reform as his next legislative priority. Many faith groups were present to urge for more humane treatment of migrants and to protect the unity of families. UCNews was covering the rally in conjunction with Ecumenical Advocacy Days held in the capitol the same weekend.

Video and production Gregg Brekke

Monday, March 08, 2010

This one's for the ladies...

Thanks to the efforts of many in the ecumenical community, there is a day set aside to highlight the need for gender equality, human rights and empowerment as it relates to women.

Church World Service has a great story on their efforts and there are lots of other resources on the web as well.

Given the importance of women in everyone's life (you have a mother, right?) it's good to be reminded that many women suffer injustices simply because they are women.

Speaking of women - happy birthday Melissa (my sister!)