Friday, February 27, 2009

Generations and Learning Styles- and a Rant

So I spent some time viewing videos online concerning differences between Generations (X, Y, Boomer, etc.) Personally, the whole generations thing is often too overdone, not to minimize the differences between them, but sometimes it's all too trendy.
It is a useful tool to a degree. One thing I noticed was the relationship between childhood learning styles and the personality of a generation:

Gen Y: In school, these kids were taught through play and experimentation. (Educational toys, whole-word instead of phonics, etc.) They have become the generation that continues their growth and learning through experience and play. Thus the incessant multi-tasking, flipping back-and-forth, and desire for multimedia.

Gen X: In school, these kids were taught by the "Socratic method"- learn through asking questions. Their education focused on developing critical thinking skills in a distinct move away from simple memorization of facts. They have become the generation that continues their growth and learning through questioning and skepticism.

Boomers: In school, these people were taught through simple presentation of facts and memorization, requiring a high level of responsibility in study, both in effort and time. Responsibility and determination were keys to learning. They have become the generation that continued their development by plowing themselves into life's responsibilities and taking them seriously, often to the extreme.

Traditionalists: In school, these people were taught through rote in an authoritarian educational system, without so much of an emphasis on comprehension as with Boomers (think the 3R's- Reading, 'Riting & 'Rithmatic). While remembered as a much more unified and sacrificial generation, this was only possible because of trust. Questioning, play, and independent ambition took a backseat to one's place in society. They are the generation that continued their development and growth by supporting their families and other vital social institutions. Today, they are represented by the grandmother who worries about her grandkids and takes the time to catch up on what's happening throughout the family, providing support in numerous ways (babysitting, cooking, sending money, etc.)

It's all sort of academic to me until I get to the traditionalists. I am Gen X, and the traditionalists are my grandparents, and to an extent, my wife's grandparents, even though she is Gen Y. My mom and her sister have not been on speaking terms for years. All my grandparents wanted was for our family to come together. My wife's grandmother is always busy checking on her and her sister, always offering to help in any way she can. We need these people again. We need to become these people! If you read my blog you have heard me say over and over again we are a fragmented society.

Yeah I know, many of you will say they were racist. Many still are. Many, however, are not. What will it take for us to get back to that? Can we combine freedom of thought and action with selflessness and sense of obligation to society?

I suspect the children of Gen Y may be the ones to finally pull together again. It's hard to say, because it is going to take a crisis we have yet to encounter. The current economic crisis is merely an appetizer. The greed and human error that caused it are the result of our root problem- a fragmented, me-first, selfish, short-term thinking society.

In the meantime we would do best to put others ahead of ourselves. Put the good of society ahead of individual interests. Give a little more so others can have. Sounds socialistic? Well it is! Only the selfish complain about these things. Perhaps we can avert a greater crisis to come if we change ourselves and our country now.

Americans have not truly opened their hands and hearts to others for a long time. They have restricted their helping, not just for selfish reasons, but for ideological reasons. They become hypocrites of the rankest sort when speaking out against "socialist big government programs." Where were they when those segments of our society were falling and in need? Where were they when millions started losing health insurance? Where were they when our public schools began failing? Where were they? They did nothing to preempt government intervention so they have no right speak now. Let me tell you who "they" is. "They" are the leadership of the conservative right. "They" are the rich men, the fat cats, the CEOs, the only ones who truly profit from Republican emasculation of government through deregulation and unwise tax cuts. "They" are the ones who have convinced millions of Americans who are NOT served and actually HURT by their policies into siding with them over a "culture war."

You want to talk deficits? Behold the following chart:

Can you say "Republican?" Namely, Nixon/Ford, Reagan, Bush I, and Bush II.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

In the Ghetto

As the snow flies
On a cold and gray Chicago mornin'
A poor little baby child is born
In the ghetto
And his mama cries
'cause if there's one thing that she don't need
it's another hungry mouth to feed
In the ghetto

People, don't you understand
the child needs a helping hand
or he'll grow to be an angry young man some day
Take a look at you and me,
are we too blind to see,
do we simply turn our heads
and look the other way

Well the world turns
and a hungry little boy with a runny nose
plays in the street as the cold wind blows
In the ghetto

And his hunger burns
so he starts to roam the streets at night
and he learns how to steal
and he learns how to fight
In the ghetto

Then one night in desperation
a young man breaks away
He buys a gun, steals a car,
tries to run, but he don't get far
And his mama cries

As a crowd gathers 'round an angry young man
face down on the street with a gun in his hand
In the ghetto

As her young man dies,
on a cold and gray Chicago mornin',
another little baby child is born
In the ghetto

-Elvis Presley, "In the Ghetto"

Individualism and the Religious Right

I have written recently concerning the dangerous every-man-for-himself ideology of today's conservative republicans. Unfortunately, this attitude has found it's way into conservative churches. Since the beginning of the Moral Majority, the continuing collusion of the religious right and Republicans has fostered a cross-breeding of sorts. The conservative churches are less Christ-like as they fight for the kingdoms of this world, and the Republicans find themselves grandstanding on social issues that only marginalize their party and reek of hypocrisy.
Another unfortunate side effect of this on the churches is the loss of true benevolence. Because conservative ideology has reduced being poor to moral failure, withholding true benevolence is a matter of letting God punish the poor for their sins. If benevolence is extended at all, it is with a very meager hand and on condescending terms- even to their own members!
Because these churches see as their mission to pray and work for the revival of America (which essentially means victory in the culture wars, all the conversion talk notwithstanding) they further denigrate benevolence as "social gospel" and consider it tangential if even relevant to their work.
I like to say that if a man has a bad toothache, he won't be in any condition to pay attention in church. How many times did Christ heal and feed before He preached?
Individualistic self-sufficiency has become a doctrine in many of our churches, and that goes completely counter to the message and spirit of Christ. I quote Camille Lewis from her blog:

"Even while Gen-X and Gen-Y fundamentalists reject the term “fundamentalism” qua fundamentalism, the separatist rhetorical forms persist in conservative Evangelicalism. Having reified the American ideal of individualism into a doctrine, these sectarians have shattered any sense of community in conservative Evangelicalism. They attempt to rebuild a notion of the community with their discourses of “biblical” living in order to woo and contain, but these attempts simply mask the egocentric and splintering rhetorical forms. They have become too individualistic to be fully human."

In other words, while rejecting fundamentalism, many have carried the divisive individualistic separatist rhetoric into conservative evangelical(CE) circles, destroying a true sense of community in doing so. However, I would say that it has been there for a long time, courtesy of Jerry Falwell and the Moral Majority. The new crop of neo-fundies is finding a home among CEs that releases them from picky rules about music and cards and versions and overt "inter-varsity" divisiveness, but maintains a pathological antaganism to modern American society in general.
War mentality always requires an us vs. them outlook. It's baked in.
Gone is the ideal of seeking Christ together and seeing what He makes us into. Dominant is the paradigm of shoving the glass slipper on every believer in the name of traditional values.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Why Stand Ye Gazing?

And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.

-Acts chapter 1:9-11

So our world is crumbling around us. Our credit-driven, consumer-based culture is imploding. It isn't coming back, not anytime soon. The shadow banking system that supplied the credit is gone. The in-balances in our country and in our world, both socio-economic and purely economic, are correcting with a vengeance. These forces will drag us back to baseline kicking and screaming.
Stop gazing into the heavens! You can't get it all back, not with the best crafted stimulus package. The best that stimulus will do for us now is soften the landing, with the possible side effect of lengthening the suffering.
I hate to break it to you, but true global economic stability is 7-10 years away- with 10 years being more probable. The official unemployment rate will rise to 10% and stay there if we are lucky, if our government mis-steps then it will be even higher.
At that point an upswing will be in the works but not without a major world military conflict erupting alongside.
So forget about fixes, forget about getting it all back right now. Take your eyes off the heavens and focus on the work that all of us need to be doing at this time.
What is this work? Solidarity. Solidarity within families. Solidarity within communities. Solidarity within our nation. The trumping of stark, unyielding ideology by common concern for not only survival but progress.
Start within your circle. Make nice! Resolve family differences and squabbles now so you can function together later. Because you will need to pool your abilities and resources down the line.
Continue this within your community of friends, workers, and acquaintances.
When we begin to do this then our nation will come together... as it stands we are in a very lamentable state... we are strongly divided on many lines... witness the legislative standoffs not only in DC but also in California. As I said before, the current Republican every-man-for-himself mantra must be fully discredited in the eyes of Americans before we can join together and move forward. The current Republican agenda trends in the opposite direction of the national solidarity we need. A very welcome sign of the recovery of our nation will be continued Republican losses of congressional seats in 2010, it doesn't matter what party they lose them to, coupled of course with the re-election of Obama or the election of another non-Republican president in 2012. Even if Republicans get spanked in 2010 and appear to change their ways afterward, they will still not be ready to be trusted with the presidency. I pray that the electorate wises up.
It is interesting to note that it is an established fact, that if your family makes less than $50,000/yr, voting for the Republicans is not in your best economic interests. So why do lower-middle class families do it? The Republicans have co-opted the religious right's culture war to snare those voters. For these people, it's all about homosexuals, abortion, and God. It's ingenious really. If you are one of these people, understand this, that fighting the culture war on the level of government is a losing proposition for your cause. Give people social stability and they will sign on to stable lifestyles. Republican ideology does not result in social stability- it's essentially libertarian outlook results in a controlled anarchy where the powerful get to make the rules. The not-so-powerful either get socially raped by powerful interests or rebel not just through activism but also through lifestyle- and boom! The republican ideology has just succeeded in creating the "deviants" it pretends to abhor.
I don't want to blow government money on non-deserving projects and people either. But then the answer is strong regulation, which the Republicans have also consistently failed on. So I am justified in attributing libertarianism to their ideology. The Democrats haven't always pushed for enough regulation either, but there is still no comparison to be legitimately made.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

On the Effect of Economic Stress on Families

Filing for bankruptcy is better than losing your marriage.
Stop worrying if you can send your kids to college. College is obscenely overpriced. Your kids can join the military and get the GI Bill if they want to go and you can’t help them.
As the material things slip further out of reach we are being focused back on our families and communities. This is a good thing, and it will give rise to new era of civic unity and stability IN THE LONG RUN, as opposed to the culture wars and overweening individualism that have characterized our society for the last 30 years. This crisis (which has yet to run its course, economically, socially or politically) will end once our country draws together, truly together, and puts solidarity over ideology.
Part of this means the republican/conservative every-man-for-himself mantra is going to have to be thoroughly discredited in the eyes of the American populace. It will happen, either when America wakes up(not holding my breath), or things get so bad that few can stand alone anymore.
Oh and back on the subject of college. On the far side of this crisis, I do not believe making a head-of-household wage will require $40,000+ worth of college debt any longer. That’s just a taste of how much change is coming.

Friday, February 13, 2009

More on IFB and Ephesus

(This is part of my response to one of my commenters on my recent post concerning the letter to the church at Ephesus.)

Taken plainly, the letter to Ephesus is not a rebuke of doctrinal diligence. It is a rebuke of attitude.
Let me theorize for a moment. I think what has happened among IFBs, is the attitude became so overweening, that it supplanted true doctrinal diligence. In other words, I have been in IFB churches that knew what they "stood for" but their preaching was always topical, shallow, and/or philosophical, and when I dared air my opposing point of view they did not reason with me they ran me out.
IFBs, at least the ones I have been around, don’t fight the fight anymore. Sure, they often take brief swipes at evangelical leaders. But then it’s back to preaching to choir on versions, dress, and music. This has left them unequipped to formulate a reasoned offense to true threats such as postmodernism, the emergent church, open theism, new perspective-ism, and the like. The one message I have heard from an IFB on any of these topics in recent years (postmodernism) died when he identified examples of the effects of postmodern thought as evangelical churches. He proceeded to blast Jerry Falwell, "neo-evangelicals," and modern Bible versions. It always comes back to that, somehow.
(The message was by Dr. John Goetsch of Lancaster Baptist Church at Lighthouse Baptist Church, San Diego, CA, 12/5/04 PM)
Having the right attitude requires some openness of mind. Many IFBs pride themselves on having a closed mind, saying things like, "you don't want your mind so open your brains fall out!" But it's a part of humility.
We are fallible in our understanding of Scripture and of God. Did you know the Mormons prefer to use the KJV? Just using what some would say is the right Bible does not ensure that you have the truth. You have to allow a gray area for this very reason- not a personal gray area- you should know what you believe- but a collective gray area, where it is ok to disagree. That is what I mean about pencil and pen. Not everything in Scripture is worth starting a war over.

To me, the battleground is theology, not culture. IFBs today are fighting the fight of culture, not theology. This is a result of attitude trumping teaching and study. As a result, they are becoming weaker and losing their children. IFBs today, in my opinion, push a form of neo-monasticism in their teachings on personal separation. This is due to the Puritan roots of American Baptists which have dominated fundamentalism as it has spread throughout the world.
When people think of the Puritans they think good, if not austere, thoughts. I feel this sect is due additional scrutiny given its profound influence on American fundamentalism/evangelicalism and I plan to do some of that when I have the time & money for books.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Please Buy a Mac

I am a computer support professional with 6+ years of experience. This is how I start my resume and this is how I will start this post.
All that experience has been 90% Windows. I know Windows, inside and out. I can keep my Windows computer free from viruses and spyware and crap and keep it running fast without antivirus programs or optimization utilities. I can make Windows do my bidding. I can vanquish crapware in a snap.
The same is not true of the people I help day in, day out. One of my customers had a Vista system from Dell, a year and a half old. Slow as a dog, takes forever to restart. In other words, bogged down with crap.
"Install this toolbar!" "Click here to update Java!" "Click here to protect your computer!" "Download and Run the free Norton Security Scan!" I know better. These people don't, and you probably don't either.
And even if you did, you still might get hit with drive-by downloads that automatically install onto your computer without your consent.
And even if you know how to stop those, you might end up with system-slowing crapware that has piggybacked himself onto a program you actually intend to install. Even Vista's UAC can't help you here, usually.
So buy a Mac. Please. Save yourself and me the trouble. If a program is only available for Windows, avoid it, or use Parallels on your Mac if you have to have it.

EDIT: A lot of the simplicity of Apple is that you don't install software, you copy the software executable to your hard drive. Adobe has released a few of their Mac products that require you to run an installer. This is new and not widespread. Well guess what? IT'S PROBLEMATIC! Their FAQ on resolving issues with installation rivals the complexity of some Windows software installations.

Standing for Nothing & Going with the Flow

Am I? Are you?

If you know why you believe what you believe, you are standing for something.
If you are ignorant concerning your beliefs, you are standing for nothing.
You can shout from the housetops that you believe X, Y, & Z. However, if you can't answer "Why," or explain why it is important, or answer common objections to your belief, you aren't really standing for anything. You are not "standing firm" you are being arrogant.

Another part of this issue to consider is that many people define "standing for something" as going against the flow. You can go up the down escalator if you want- you'll definitely be making a statement and not going with the flow. But you will also be tremendously wrong and cause a lot of problems as you run into people. You are not "standing firm" you are being stupid.

I can explain all I want that I am going down the down escalator because it is going my direction, and that is the direction that will take me to where I want to get. I can also explain that I am much safer this way than if I went down the up escalator instead. However, it is by definition pointless arguing with someone who is arrogant and stupid.

The solution to this malady? Sometimes your opponents are right. Sometimes the majority is right. It is possible to be holier and stricter than God. You are not perfect, therefore you might be wrong. Your opponents are humans too and probably have good motives even if their judgment is off. In short- HUMILITY.

Lastly, think about it- we all go against the flow in some way or another. Everyone has an opponent or an oppressor.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Ark-building and Preaching

Mat 24:37-39 NKJV

But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.
For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark,
and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.

Recently I have been reading a book on the history of Creationism. What is really important is not how God created the world. What is really important is that the world was made perfect by a Creator then fell through man's sin. Christ came to restore all things including man's relationship with God, and through Him we escape the eternal curse and judgment.
This message is rejected today by many. We preach a Creator God and His crucified Son and it all seems foolishness to the world. It is all just as foolish as Noah's preaching that God would send rain.
So we are in the days of Noah again. The message is rejected but the coming judgment is sure. Noah's two duties were to build the ark, and preach of judgment to come.
Today's Christians have the same two duties- preaching and ark-building. Our preaching is a proclamation of the plan of God in Christ and a warning of the judgment to come. Our ark-building is the preparation of the church for a coming Christ.
Preaching is pointless if you are not ark-building, and ark-building is pointless without a message to preach.
Are we prepared to do both? Are we prepared to warn the world and build our brothers and sisters in Christ? What are you doing to help prepare the church for His coming? Do you shy away from opportunities to witness to the unbelieving?
God has set in the church body members as He appointed. I have been asking God to show me my part. Think beyond your local assembly on this. How would God have you minister to Christians inside and outside wherever you go on Sundays? Have you built up a Christian brother or sister lately?
As we see the judgment day approaching, we must continue to assemble ourselves to edification. If you go to church three times a week, great, but this isn't enough. Rarely do I find myself in a position to help and minister to others during church services. What a dreadful thing is the modern day Christian, who contents himself that his attendance at scheduled services satisfies the Biblical call to assemble.