November 8, 2013

The New Pacifism - links galore for the seeking!

There are some really neat blog posts being written about "The New Pacifism."  It revolves around a synchroblog event and you can find links and comments on twitter at

Some really neat stuff discussed.  I'd love to chat more about it locally, too, especially at the intersection of Latino & Asian American worlds in CA.  Seems significant in light of immigration policies.

November 6, 2013

Loyalty, NBA, and the Transcendent Black Athlete

Ramona Shelburne wrote an interesting piece on the ESPN website in which she observes that the new NBA superstars are not as loyal to the franchise name as they are to their own brand.  Guys like LeBron and Kobe are worldwide brands selling all manner of things.  Unlike team equipment, much of the merchandise and endorsement money they earn goes directly to them, not their team.  She observes:
Since LeBron James' infamous 2010 decision, the rest of the NBA's best young stars have chosen to play with the rest of the NBA's best young stars. Franchise history and Q-rating have mattered little. 
It's at this point that the old guard starts railing about a generation of highlight-seeking, fundamental-lacking, self-absorbed superstars who have no concept of team basketball. 
But while the old guard rails, the young men running today's NBA have been cozying up to Wall Street CEOs and sitting in marketing meetings with the shoe companies and Madison Avenue executives who have been doing a better job at building their brands than individual NBA teams for the past couple of decades. 
The message those CEOs and "mad men" deliver is simple: The sooner you win, the better your brand becomes. The more you win, the bigger your brand grows.  James was the test case, and is now the example they all follow.

I appreciate Shelburne's insight and respect her perseverance in the hyper-male sports industry, but I think there is a further dimension to explore in her essay: race.  A lot of the head shaking, state-of-the-association bemoaning needs to be reconsidered in light of the racial composition of the NBA.
The transcendent black athlete has always been controversial in US sports, right?  But to bemoan the loss of team brand loyalty as the athletes themselves become the brand runs the risk of hoping black athletes would remain loyal to white billionaires who  begrudge the athlete's freedom. (Just look at the last collective bargaining agreement trying to limit player movement.  -they don't do that for day laborers.)  I'm still mad Howard left the Lakers - the Lakers are the home team, but it might be a good thing that the players are not under the thumb of the perennially wealthy WASP club.  (Who also donate to particular political campaigns....but that's another post)  Labor has a larger voice, in essence.

Of course, the sub-elite players still have their financial success tied to the franchise's performance, so the good-ole' boy team brand billionaire club isn't going away.  As Goldman-Sachs demonstrated, billionaires are good at avoiding that.  At least at the top, there is a class of NBA athlete - largely black- that is less obligated to them, and earning what the market commands.  (yeah, I know -market economy is a whole nother deal, too.)

October 23, 2013

Theological Confusions: Art

I have a couple of issues.  Well, more than a couple.  Somewhere in that mystical confluence we call "person" where the brain and the heart meet, I am aware there are deep seated confusions I harbor about the Kingdom of God.  I get the easy things in life twisted.  So here they are, offered as discussion material.

What is a real Christian rationale for art?  I will sometimes teach about the value of art in its sheer excess - art is a sign of excess, an overflowing of beauty that testifies to a superabundance of goodness in God.  I can accept that -in part.  It is a very romantic notion.  But there is a part of me that is too much like Judas - I am always left wondering about the wasted resources (including time), wondering if there is something more healing or fruitful that could have been approached instead.  It seems awfully wasteful to create paintings or buy instruments when that money very well could be used to feed someone hungry, contribute to their education, buy them a Bible, etc.

Permit me to be honest for a moment.  I love cars and woodworking.  I love the beautiful things people make from common materials, some of it practical, some of it simply breathtaking.  But these things require tools and materials, and expensive tools and materials at that (even the reclaimed stuff).  Especially cars - I am transfixed by the stuff people can do with an English Wheel.  I would call my self a hot-rodder but I've never built anything.  Who can afford it?  How can anyone rationally justify a $50,000 car as banks foreclose on responsible people who have lost their jobs due to health problems...

So these are examples of how I experience the tension.  I hear similar things about other media; music, pottery, etc.  Again, I don't teach this to people - I feel equally guilty squashing people's enthusiasm.  When I preach, I preach about the significance of Art.  I encourage people to it, valuing the creativity and expression.  But personally it is difficult for me to justify and I use the same line of logic Judas does when the woman anoints Jesus.  I rationalize my own teaching by focusing on the therapeutic aspects.

At bottom, I suppose my question is "when is it ok to not be explicitly actively loving people with your time and stuff?"  or, what "counts" as a spiritual pursuit of art," or maybe "how do we justify the resources art requires?  Even, what is a Christological justification for art?  When is there too much invested in it?  This is a deep theo-motional* confusion for me.  What say you?

(eat your heart out, Pat Riley)

October 10, 2013

Some October creativity

Um, so I do try to make music.
But I'm not so very good, nor is it all that normal.
I tend towards 3 genres in particular; pop/rock, country/blues, and electronic stuff.
(I dig melodic, upbeat e/idm and really falling for electro house lately)
I was greatly cheered to find that David Congdon, theologian extraordinaire is also a connoisseur of detectable electronica, as well.

Here is a little experiment of mine in build/release for October.

October 2, 2013

Money, Mark & Joy of Bible study: some exegesis

In our study of the Gospel of Mark,  Long said something that seemed really insightful  about the beginning of Mark.  We looked at Mark 1:
John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.
When we asked the question about why people were so receptive to the message of confession and repentance, Long wondered if perhaps the people from the Judean countryside were poor people shut out from the temple (which we learn was oppressing the poor in Mark 11). In this reading, the appeal of John's baptism of repentance might be a deep resonance with people who experienced first hand the exclusions and hypocrisy of the religious institution.  If so, it would anchor themes of money and justice in the very beginning of the Gospel.  John's message preparing the way of the Lord is one of justice. 
And what of Jerusalem coming out?  The phrase might only indicate everybody came out, hillbillies and sophisticates, but it might be a wink that the temple had failed even the religious.  Or it's just geography.  Still, with Mark's economy of words, I suspect there may be more here. Has this reading been entertained or explored elsewhere?   I would love to hear your thoughts or find resources addressing this issue if they exist.  I have never considered this before.  Praise God for studying the Bible in community.
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