Tuesday, August 08, 2006

BRAIN FOOD

I’ve got a genuine replica brain,
It’s a collectible rendition,
I grant it’s not the latest model,
But it’s in good condition.

It still processes data pretty well
Though there are some memory lapses
It knows the difference between good and evil,
And even between knaves and apses.

There’s minimal start up time with the help of good coffee
And it can occasionally multi-task
But if you want infallible or perfect
You’d best not ask.

This brain is not for sale,
Nor is it on permanent loan
But what with our new technology
I understand it can be cloned.

If you’re looking for help with the Bible,
Or music and books,
I’ve got a lot of things stuffed in the cortex
That deserves a second look.

If you find someone to clone it,
Please do make it known,
I would like a backup copy
Of my very own.

I’ve got a genuine replica brain,
Though sometimes the synapses aren’t properly firing
This accounts for the forgetfulness,
Just blame it on the wiring.

I was thinking of advertising this on eBay
But then I remembered I had a blog,
If you would like a data dump download
Then reply to this data log.

BW3 Aug. 8th, 2006

8 comments:

lhpoppop said...

I love it!

Lynne said...

ROFL! mind you, I think you could make a fortune if you sold some clones .. there's a great market waiting amongst those of us who seem to have the non-working replicas (you know, it looks like the real thing but can't actually perform ..)

Ben Witherington said...

what in the world does rofl mean?

Lynne said...

Rolling On the Floor Laughing
-- maybe we downunderites on the bottom of the world are a little more unsteady?

SingingOwl said...

Very funny!

I'll take a download from YOUR brain any ol' time. :-D

jean said...

Please comment on my blog, any of them, stating your FTP URL so I can download ASAP. Do you take Visa?

John Glynn said...

Jeffery Sheler, Believers: A Journey into Evangelical America (New York: Viking [Penguin], 2006), 324 pp. $24.95 ISBN 0670038024

In recent years the national media has begun to recognize the influence of evangelicals in American life, perhaps most notably in giving voice to such scholars as Darrell Bock, Ben Witherington, and Craig Evans in networks specials on Jesus, The DaVinci Code, and the like. In the print media a great deal of ink has been devoted to the impact of evangelicals in the election of George W. Bush, an association that once seemed to have promised much in potential political influence. Now this association appears to be an opportunity lost, negated by an ill-advised foray into democracy experiment in Iraq.



On the other hand, this newfound respectability which evangelicals have seemed to obtain has yet to trickle down to the level of primetime dramas (think Law and Order here for example) which continues to cast evangelicals as intolerant fundamentalists.



Into this breach steps Jeffery Sheler, religion editor for the US News and World Report and author of Is the Bible True? (HarperSanFrancisco, 2000; mostly by the way). Determined to demystify the stereotype of “fundies” typically held by his colleagues and the public-at-large, and having started out fundamentalist in Grand Rapids and eventually settling into a “conservative” Presbyterian congregation in Washington D.C., Sheler decided that it was up to an ex-believer like himself to set the record straight.



In Believers: A Journey into Evangelical America (Viking), he visits Saddleback Church, Wheaton College, the Creation festival (an outdoor contemporary Christian rock/folk fest), political operatives in Washington, and goes on a mission trip to Guatemala with a church group. He doesn’t always accurately portray evangelicalism, but tries to get it right. Reading this book is rather like getting a peek at your personal psychological profile. You just can’t wait to see what they’re saying about you!



For instance, politics “dominates” his interview with James Dobson, though acknowledging that the focus on politics was clearly irritating Dobson. Latching onto a touring Brethren couple on his way out of Focus headquarters, he discovers that “common’ people don’t think Dobson should focus so much on politics; they liked him much better when he talked family.



Moving on, he next gives high marks to Rick Warren, Saddleback Church, and Wheaton College; seeming at times wistful as if recalling the better angels of his fundamentalist past. The chapter on Wheaton perhaps makes the most poignant observation in the book (at least from the viewpoint of the uninitiated). Evangelical Christianity in America is no longer characterized by the anti-scholastic stance it adopted in the 1930s.



Oddly, in the Saddleback segment, Sheler recounts a conversation with a just-baptized couple who claimed that prior devotion to a Wiccan goddess brought them closer to Christ. After reading Mere Christianity, they became open to explore Saddleback where “One of the main tenets of this church is that you believe in Christ, but it’s not exclusionary to that extreme (people who are not Christians are going to hell).” Hmm. Sheler points out that they probably weren’t ready for the “meat.” In whose name was I baptized again?



Perhaps the highest marks Sheler divvies out is to a group of lay churchmen who habitually go short-term to Guatemala to aid in construction. He does recall, however, an encounter with an agnostic woman who had given up everything to join the staff of a Habitat for Humanity in Guatemala.



Likewise, the chapter on the Creation festival, the largest of a dozen national outdoor jamfests (of every scope) held each year, gets good press. Sheler’s conclusion: Christian teens suffer the same conflict with their role in the world as their secular counterparts (though for different reasons). As with other recapitulations, Sheler’s reconstruction of Christian Rock history is facile and well-documented. I got a kick out of the festival’s standard of conduct in regard to the mosh pit fronting the stage area, “Just up and down … no sideways please.”



Next, Sheler focuses on the presence of evangelical thinktanks in Washington, following the trail of Richard Cizik, the National Association of Evangelical’s liason for government affairs. On political activism in the evangelical ranks, Sheler is generally both irenic and agnostic in his analysis, suggesting that, in so many words, Christian activists have graduated from the “mosh pit” to the chessboard.



In the last chapter, he interviews two prominent evangelical scholars on the emergence of evangelicals as a political force. Al Mohler of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary concedes that political involvement is no longer an option, but that we need to have limited finite goals for government.



Conversely, Richard Mouw of Fuller Theological Seminary (early on [p. 65] Sheler had erroneously painted Fuller as symbolic of [neo-]evangelicalism while contrasting the SBC as representative of America’s fundamentalist past) suggested that Christians needed to construct a theology of engagement as a means to cautiously advance in the public square now that we are no longer socially marginalized. It wasn’t doctrine that presented a threat to unity, but preachers and leaders who advocate for partisan politics.



It may well be that Sheler’s book might accomplish what it sets out to do, that is, inform his media partners on some of the misconceptions concerning evangelicalism in America. Perhaps also, it might indirectly usher in those once skeptical about the kingdom. For a novice having taking a crash course in American church history, theology, and missions, he gets it right for the most part and displays this information dispassionately.



The index itself pretty much reflects topics advanced by the media, with the most frequently cited topics being: the Republican Party (20); the NAE (18); the Southern Baptist Convention (18); Pat Robertson (18); liberalism (15); abortion (15); Billy Graham, James Dobson, and Jerry Falwell (14 each); gay marriage (12); elections (11); George W. Bush, Mark Noll, and Bible infallibility (10 each).



Yet, I must admit a certain disappointment in regards to the promotional literature heralding this release; particularly its thesis that posits a major disconnect between Christian leaders and moderately minded “common” folk.



Actually, one can’t quite come away from reading his book without noticing that the ‘common” folk Sheler has in mind is the moderate himself. In this regard, Believers fail to deliver. Still, Believers is a book that many should read, if only for an enlightening look inside an outsider’s look inside.



Endorsed by former ABC correspondent Peggy Wehmeyer, Believers is more fair than Randall Balmer’s Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory (which appeared in its fourth edition this year). A counterbalance to Sheler in more accurately discerning fundamentalism's roots and its current manifestations, George Marsden’s second edition of Fundamentalism and American Culture (Oxford) has now appeared with a new chapter.

EVERETT OAKLEY said...

A friend and I pondered the idea if Joanna and Junia could be one and the same. Searching the Web we discovered that you and Richard Bauckham argue that this is indeed the case. But both of you talk about this in context of the possibility of a female apostle. What we were pondering was that Junia was a relative of Paul. That is in itself startling but if Junia is indeed Joanna that would seem to be possibly earthshaking in our understanding of the early Paul. It could mean that Paul was much closer to the Jesus movement than has before been imagined. Have you or someone you know written on this possibility? It could even mean that Eisenman got one right and that Paul was connected to the Herodians which could be interesting.

Thanks,
Everett Oakley