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homophobia kills

Ronnie Paris, Jr. has been convicted of the second-degree murder of his three-year-old son, who died of swelling to the brain. He got those injuries from his father's "boxing" with him. He wanted to teach his son to fight (and he forbade his wife to hug the boy) because he feared his son might turn out to be gay. The family was deeply religious, and Paris was a regular participant in bible study.

The Tampa Tribune has coverage.

Lord, have mercy.

July 28, 2005 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

power corrupts ...

... PowerPoint Corrupts Absolutely. I love this article from Wired. In my experience, the vast majority of PowerPoint presentations at best add nothing to the presentation, and at worst actively detract from it (e.g., by taking up lots of time fumbling with cables and projectors). In most cases, I'd say, PowerPoint mostly takes a presentation with little solid or particularly memorable content and extends it, both in terms of length and in terms of how much effort it looks like the speaker put into preparing.

Of course, if your PowerPoint presentation really does make your presentation clearer and more memorable, I'd say you should use it, but I agree with the Wired article that the problem with PowerPoint is the extent to which it is becoming ubiquitous -- not something that you do when it adds something (and ONLY then!), but something that, in certain settings at least, one HAS to do whether it really adds anything or not.

I'm sorry to say that some church settings are becoming ones in which PowerPoint ubiquitous. I find it particularly worthy of eye-rolling when someone suggests that to make your sermon/liturgy/lesson work for GenXers and other 'postmoderns,' the main thing you need to do is turn it into a PowerPoint presentation. In particular, I think it's not very helpful when all you do is take song lyrics and add images that correspond literally to the words (i.e., if there's a line containing the word "eyes," putting up an image of an eye alongside it), a practice that often removes rather than expands interpretive possibilities and makes it harder, not easier, to enter the story or world of the song.

I do sometimes use projectors for liturgy and presentations (though I much prefer Apple's Keynote for presentations, and iPhoto for slideshows), but I think the key to using technology effectively in sermons, liturgies, and presentations is to get a strong sense of what works well and what doesn't work well -- and for whom -- by actively seeking out HONEST feedback over time as you try out technologies. When I preach, I try to ask people a few days or more after the service what they remember about the sermon and how they felt about it. I know that a sermon was really successful when I hear people not only remembering something I said, but applying it to a situation they're discussing. The last time I saw a PowerPoint sermon, though (I wasn't the preacher, and in fact had warned the preacher that this would probably happen), what people were talking about afterward was how difficult it was to make out what was on the screen in the bright morning light of the sanctuary, and how little they got out of the sermon when so much of what was said was something like, "If you can make it out in this photo, you'll see what a sheep fold actually looks like." Your mileage may vary, but in preaching I usually find it most effective even for visual learners to paint pictures with vivid storytelling and call upon people's imaginations for the visuals. Partly that's because I have a lot more training in biblical interpretation than I do in visual arts, but mostly, I think that's because giving people materials with which to imagine something and then inviting them to imagine it invites them to take an active role in shaping their experience of the sermon, and people better retain something when they have a sense of owning it personally.

In short, and to paraphrase Jesus, technology was made for humankind, not humankind for technology, and I think it's important with respect to any element of worship to ask what it serves, to assess how well it does that, and to pare back on anything that doesn't well serve the encounter with Christ and the Body of Christ that is the center of worship.

July 27, 2005 in Churchiness, Technology | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Friday catblogging

FosterstretchedoutFoster is an excellent spiritual director. Her life is an excellent model of Niebuhr's "serenity prayer." I want to be more like her when I grow up.

July 15, 2005 in Cats | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

we remain a one-cat household

Well, we got good news and bad news. The shelter temporarily misplaced our adoption paperwork on the kitten we applied to bring home, and so another family visited her and fell in love. We're letting the other family take her, and we'll look for another kitten. I'm a little sad about it, but at least another cat gets a nice home!

July 13, 2005 in Cats | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

outstanding take on Left Behind

AKMA rightly points to Fred "Slacktivist" Clark's take on the Left Behind series of books as something that more people would do well to read -- especially people who accept the Left Behind authors' ridiculous claims that their books are firmly based on the biblical book of Revelation.

AKMA's right, and as a longtime fan of Slacktivist, I'm happy to offer a few links that might boost Google ratings for Slacktivist's archive of posts on Left Behind. His "Left Behind Fridays" are a regular feature, so I encourage you to stop by regularly for new posts. Here's a favorite paragraph from his most recent post on Left Behind:

This is bad writing, but it's also more than that. Jenkins and LaHaye read the Bible through the same skewed lens. This same obsessive elevation of irrelevant detail shapes their interpretation of the scripture. Thus they read Jesus' sermon on the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25 and ignore everything it says about feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and caring for the least of these. Instead they latch onto the introductory bit about the Son of Man sitting on "his throne in heavenly glory" and speculate what that throne is made of, and where it its, and how big it is, and how many air miles there might be from that seat of judgment to Waukegan.

Succint and spot-on, I'd say.

July 10, 2005 in Religion | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

the best response I've seen to the G8 meeting

I haven't found the media all that helpful in evaluating what came out of the G8 summit at Gleneagles. Heck, I haven't found the media all that helpful in finding out just what DID come out of the G8 summit, though that may in part due to the coverage that had to be extended to the despicable bombings in London.

But this press release from the Make Poverty History campaign is very helpful, giving the main points of what was and was not promised at the summit. The ONE campaign's release wasn't nearly so detailed. I hope future releases from ONE will talk in much more detail specifically about what President Bush committed to do, as I don't have much hope of American mainstream media enlightening me on that while more gripping stories -- like whether Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are adopting a child together or Jolie is doing it individually.

July 9, 2005 in ONE campaign/Millennium Development Goals (MGDs) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Friday catblogging

ClareWell, we took the plunge and applied to adopt a new member of our family. Meet Clare, pictured to the left. Should she come home with us (there's still an interview and such), that's what I think we're going to call her because of her brown coat and her strong spirit. She's a bundle of energy, curiosity, and playfulness, so we think she might be a good match for our Foster (photo below), who even at the age of thirteen is very energetic and playful. At her last checkup, the vet said that if he hadn't known she was thirteen, he would have sworn from her condition that she was no older than five.

Anyway, I think a new playmate will keep Foster active and happy. Foster is definitely a people person, which I attribute to my having adopted her when she was very young and needed to be bottle-fed, but she's been sticking even closer than usual ever since Bette died. She clearly wants company, and though in my jobless state I can give her plenty of company, I'm hoping that I won't be jobless long. So another cat should do Foster a world of good, and if Clare should come home with us, you'll probably get some baby pictures!

Below: Foster loves her TiVo.


July 8, 2005 in Cats | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

search stringiness

Among the search strings that have led people recently to SarahLaughed.net:

gathering elephant dung (which got people to the post I wrote about the gathering for church planters in the emerging church)

pilates (I assume they were looking for information about the exercise method, but got here because of how often the lectionary blog uses the word "Pilate's.")

July 8, 2005 in Search Strings | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

going back to the drawing board

I think that Muhammad Yunus is right: we've got to go back to the drawing board to see how this whole world of injustice was built, so we can dismantle it, beam by beam. Or better yet, to blur the language of Bono and Desmond Tutu with my own:

We've got to dream it all up again. I think I've blogged before about how much, as I work in congregations, I see that our dreams are impoverished. Many of us who are wealthy don't know what to dream of for ourselves and our world beyond success for ourselves and a world in which we and our children can be successful. Many of us who are poor -- and I've been there -- have lost the vocabulary of dreaming. I see the central task I have as a preacher as passing on the best materials I've found for building dreams. God has been dreaming of and for the world, and getting in touch with that gives us the vision we need of God's reign to see God's will done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Poor people are not the authors of their poverty. Poverty is a creation of a complex system of conceptions, rules and attitudes we have thought up ourselves. Therefore, if you want to eradicate poverty you have to go back to the drawing board, discover where we have planted the seeds of poverty and make changes there.

This is how I figured out that our financial institutions have incorporated an enormously high threshhold -- collateral -- which means that poor people, who so desperately need credit to escape their poverty, never set foot in a bank. They'd be laughed at. We believe that poor people will never repay their loans. We consider it normal that banks -- like other companies -- must turn a profit and that they exclude some 70, 80 percent of the world population. Those assumptions are not up for discussion; this is simply the way it is. In reality, no one has ever tested those ideas. ...

To solve the problem of poverty you have to start thinking differently. You have to treat poor people the way you want to be treated. You have to offer them the same facilities you have access to. Indeed, like everyone else they should be able to go to the bank for a loan because with a loan you can create your own work, you can support yourself and generate income. Credit is one of the barriers we must eliminate so that the poor can clamber out of poverty. But it is not enough.

For example, they must also have access to information technology because knowledge is power -- and they haven't had power. For centuries, the supply of news has been dominated by journalists: an elite, in fact, that decided which information was appropriate to pass on and which was not. You always had to rely on journalists to find out what had happened in the country and the world.  But thanks to the Internet, a whole range of news sources has emerged that I can look to for information -- from independent organizations to private Weblogs around the world. I can weigh opinions against one another. I can form my own opinion based on various sources. That's a tremendous liberation because it ultimately means you can't cheat poor people any longer. ... Or at least you have to make more of an effort to cheat them.

-- from Ode magazine's interview with Muhammad Yunus, by way of slacktivist

July 7, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

grieved about London bombings

I was grieved to wake up this morning to the news of bombings in London. I hope that this doesn't have a negative impact on the movement for debt relief and increased aid to make extreme poverty history, and I'm grieved for the injured, those who have lost loved ones, and those who are waiting anxiously to hear from loved ones.

Sometimes, all you can do is pray.

July 7, 2005 in Current Affairs, ONE campaign/Millennium Development Goals (MGDs) | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack