Sunday, September 28, 2008

Presidential Debate #1

For whatever it's worth, messages I got from watching the debate:

Either McCain is highly misinformed about what Obama is saying and voting for and against, or he his advisers think he's a better spindoctor than he is. How many times did Obama have to clarify, saying, "That's not true, John." or, "You and I both know..."? I remember thinking that surely Senator McCain knew the details he was leaving out when he was spinning out accusations; he's an intelligent man.

I disagree that Senator Obama got thoroughly hammered on foreign policy. He made good points about Iran and Afghanistan. McCain was certainly stronger in this area, but I don't think that was a surprise to anyone. When Senator Obama talks foreign policy, I sometimes, not always, but sometimes get the feeling that he's only parroting his advisers. And that's okay really, because one man can never be an expert on everything; in fact, keeping company with wise counsel is a mark of humility, which is a mark of maturity. However, Obama's had to correct himself so frequently in this department, I worry a bit about the expertise of those advising him.

McCain's joke about not being able to reach that far across the isle was great. He had a couple of those moments where he really hit Obama with quick, unanswered jabs. "So let me get this straight," says McCain when debating about meeting with controversial (to say the least) foreign leaders, "you sit down with Ahmadinejad, he says, 'We're going to blow Israel off the face of the earth,' and we say, 'No you're not?' oh please!" I think these moments gave McCain a legitimate advantage in this first of these presidential debates. However, to be fair, I don't agree with McCain that having a meeting with these guys on air necessarily legitimizes their message; that seems like false logic to me. The way I figure it, when the world is exposed to the abhorrent ideals of a madman, it isn't going to to say, "Uh, yeah, that sounds legit."

Obama uses lists and plans ("Look. I have a plan: number one,... number two,... number three,... number four,...") while McCain uses anecdotes and key words or labels ("When I was a straight-talking maverick working with General..." Or, "My friends, Senator Obama isn't just naive and inexperienced, he's dangerous; he just doesn't get it.")

I think the debate was heated and interesting. I think it was close and a true indicator of this race. I'm looking forward to the following debates.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Virtuous or Vicious?

A former professor of mine made the following observation about speaking what we feel. I really appreciated the conversation that came out of it and felt that it speaks directly of the underlying hope for balance within the idea of SWWF:

Dr. Mitchell:
"You know there's a lot to be said for this idea, but I wonder when our right to speak what we feel violates the need of others not to hear these things from us. Any thoughts? Seriously, I don't always know where the line is."

My response:
"Agreed. We live in a ego-pampered, psychology-hyped culture, steeped in two generations that "talk about our feelings" and talk about everything; indeed, in (over)reaction against the generations before us who repressively talked too little, we talk too much. So again, I agree. A balance must be struck. Although 'struck' isn't quite right; it implies balance can be achieved, when in actuality, we are striving in constant tension. And balance ebbs and flows; it cannot be found in one spot. It is a chase, a dance. And this striving requires humility, thoughtfullness of the other. In this dance, we trip over our partner's feet and we trip over our own feet; we practice and we learn. With each new partner we must adjust our rhythm, learn new steps and relearn old ones. A pair dances as one, yet not at the cost of each individual's distinction."

Dr. Mitchell:
"I appreciate your dance metaphor and you're so right that we will trip each other up--in friendship, in marriage, in teaching and learning, and in community involvement. I was talking to two students today, and they suggest that they had begun to read poetry because it seemed (among other things) a path between dogmatism and relativism. I suspect that some poetry can model for us that mixture of openness and humble respect for the other. Of course, then, there's poetry that is the entire opposite of this--slam in your face and yo'motha's. . . "

An ellipses is the perfect way to 'end' this conversation; it embodies the ebb and flow of balance. Thank you Dr. Mitchell for your thoughts and your friendship.

Thursday, September 4, 2008


I just spent the weekend visiting the church I went to during college, and, similarly to when I came back to my home church in Plano, I was greeted with big smiles and bigger hugs. Many didn't know I was coming to visit, or even that I was back, so it was a huge surprise to them and super fun for me. Most encouraging was that the number one thing I heard as people were welcoming me home was, "I thought about you so much while you were gone, wanting to talk to you and wishing you were here; so I've been praying for you a lot." This was from friends my age and more so from friends my parents' age-ish. It was the same thing my first Sunday back in Plano.

Eventhough I knew that to be the case while in Switzerland and frequently anchorered myself to the sure but dim knowledge of those prayers during good times and bad, I'm still awed by it now. I'm humbled by the big-ness of life that includes me but isn't centered on me, reminding me of life's connectedness. I'm connected to a bigger community amid larger happenings. Somehow, when the ceiling began to crack and it seemed as though the roof was caving in over my head, beneath the surface lay a foundation deep and strong. Life is happening beyond what I can see and feel and I am connected to it. I know this is no great revelation, but it is humbling and encouraging, refreshing, energizing, motivating. And I just wanted to give a shout out to these two churches.

I'm fortunate, I know, because at the end of the day, regardless of the doctrines I disagree with and the things that really get me fired up and even down right angry, no matter what arrogant and shallow-minded, young, 'We Know Everything' attitude reveals itself in something I say or do, despite all of those things, we know eachother. We love eachother, these churches and I; it's family and it's home. There are endearing quirks and irritating entrenchments. We fight it out and laugh it off; we overlook certain things and agree to disagree. And it's worth it. It's worth putting up with and it's nice to know I'm worth putting up with too.

It's nice to know that this relationship is two-sided. If you're church-hunting and if you want my advice, once you think you might have landed somewhere, invest. Invest in the generation before you as well as the one after you. Invest in men and women who posses a faith that is long-suffering, producing in them a character that is charitable. Putting effort into a good relationship yields character-building benefits. I am fortunate. Because it is two-sided and sometimes one (or both) of the sides is crap: straying from true religion (Jm 1:27, 1 Tim 5:4), we forget Christ and expect white roses to be red, or we simply skip the whole thing and pretend by putting in perfect rows of plastic tulips. At any rate, I just wanted to write about church from a positive perspective, from the garden that springs up out of the manure as God tills and waters and prunes, creating good for those who respond to his call with loving duty: tilling, watering, pruning (Rom 8:28).