The Native Tourist
reformed/biblical observations on Christianity and culture

Monday, September 29, 2003
Reading Suggestions for Thomas Kinkade
Needless to say, I didn't go to hear the Painter of Light (tm) do his spiel in Newberg on Saturday. I am way to busy with our addition (the drywall is now finished and I was beginning priming the interior!). But his is an article on his visit to Salem.

Kindade seems to really see his art as a Christian ministry. Many who buy his paintings speak of their healing, soothing qualities. As many have said before, the escapism he offers in his art is very disturbing, but it is no different from what we see in other mainstream dispensationist-inspired media. But if Kinkade is a sincere Christian (and I have no reason to believe that he isn't), we should pray that his personal theology and worldview will become more fully biblical and robust (dare I say reformed?). If this were to occur, his art-making would be bound to become more mature as well.

So what do you suggest that TK read?

Thursday, September 25, 2003
Salem, Oregon Hits the Big Time!
Da Man is coming for a visit soon.

Monday, September 22, 2003
Ugly, Really Ugly
Multi-part series in Forbes on "Christian Capitalism", which is not on a Christian defense of market economics a la Thomas Sowell (as one might hope), but an expose on the "big business" of the church growth industry. I believe in working toward Christendom, but its not supposed to be like this.

On the Home Front 7
Sheet rock goes in today. Roof is mostly done (just need some flashing on the part of the roof near the original house).

Wednesday, September 17, 2003
Shaggy Dog Story
A nice parable with cultural implications:

“There is an old comedy,” James Packer writes, “in which an escaped lion takes the place of the shaggy dog beside the armchair and the comic affectionately runs his fingers through its mane several times before realizing that, as we say, he has a problem. We act like that with regard to our sinful habits. We treat them as friends rather than killers, and never suspect how indwelling sin when indulged enervates and deadens. This, one fears, is because we are already its victims, never having known what it is to be really alive in our relationship with God, just as children born with crippled legs never know what it is to run around, as distinct from hobbling.”

(This quote is stolen from the article, "Finding the True, Noble, and Pure in Babylon" by Dennis Haack.)

Monday, September 15, 2003
Home is Where the Heart Is
One of the most important worldview matters is where we see our destiny. Where is our home? Where do we belong.

Such questions have major cultural implications.

Friday, September 12, 2003
The Limits of Environmentalism: Animal "Rights"
Adam (and by implication the rest of mankind who he covenantally represented) was call to be a steward of creation. Besides working the earth (which inevitably involved bringing changes to it), he was also called to keep the earth (Gen 2:15). Keeping (=guarding or preserving) at its heart was Adam's duty to maintain the beauty and fruitfulness of the earth. Any development which destroyed the fruitfulness was to be avoided.

Being a steward of the earth has many affinities with the modern (secular) environmentalist movement. But the similarities, where they are found, are, I believe, only superficial. What lies under the surface of each are radically different worldviews. It seems to me that many Christians are too quick to embrace the policies and solutions of environmentalists. They see a real need: repairing the effects of sin and curse on creation, but choose the wrong solutions to the problem.

Which brings me to this insightful quote from Stuart Buck's blog critiquing a wrongheaded view of animal rights (which is a key componant of the enviromentalist worldview):

"But if one believes that animals have intrinsic rights (even if they're not equal to ours) and it is the duty of society to protect these rights, then society is duty-bound to protect seals not only from hunters, but from polar bears and orcas! Because human beings have intrinsic rights, the police are obligated to come to my aid whether I'm being attacked by an assailant or an alligator. It doesn't matter who or what is interfering with my right to preservation, the police will help me because they protect my basic rights. If animals had similarly intrinsic rights, it wouldn't matter what was hurting them, man or animal, either. But while the police will stop a man from beating a chicken, they won't stop the fox with a chicken in its jaws (except to protect the property rights of a rancher that owns the chicken)."

Wednesday, September 10, 2003
is one of the cool terms found in the essay by Eric Jacobsen that I mentioned in yesterday's entry. Refers to real urban fabric ("folk" urbanism?) which New Urbanists try to recreate. Many urban connoisseurs consider paleo-urban environments (i.e. old neighborhoods) to be the best urban environments. They are genuinely organic. And the many of the people who inhabit these spaces have lived there for a long time and in effect are part of the fabric of the place.

One of the problems with New Urbanism is that it is all so new and, well, planned. Call it the Disney Land effect. It seems so fake and contrived - even if it is comfortable and appealing the the eye. Sadly the people of today don't know what to do with it.

Our new house (for us) is right in downtown Newberg. It is somewhat small and on a tiny lot. But we can walk to everything. We have seven families who are members of our church and/or send their kids to Veritas School within six blocks of us. And we can walk to the campus of George Fox University (with its library!) which is only three blocks away.

Call us Paleo-Urban homesteaders.

Tuesday, September 09, 2003
Blessed Are the Poor, For They Shall Have Nice Cities

"I live in a neighborhood that meets many of the conditions of the Traditional Neighborhood Design (TND) extolled by the New Urbanists. The buildings are laid out at a relatively high density, there is a good network of sidewalks for walking, and there are some lovely, public spaces and charming coffee shops within easy walking distance from my front door. I do love to walk to the park and the coffee shops and go there when I have time or money to spare. Where I really take advantage of the good sidewalks and the proximity of our houses is when I pop over to a neighbor’s to borrow a tool or an ingredient or to ask for help with picking up and moving some furniture. As much as I enjoy these little exchanges with my neighbors, if I had more disposable income, I would probably keep a better stock of food on hand, purchase all the tools that I need, and not worry about the twenty-five dollar delivery fee for furniture. I have come to realize that one of the things that makes Missoula a hospitable urban environment is that it is made up of people who have to get along because they need each other."

-- Eric Jacobsen, Author of Sidewalks in the Kingdom: New Urbanism and the Christian Faith (I found out about his essay in Markets and Moralisty on Seaside and new urbanism on Gideon Strauss' blog)

Seaside, Florida, which nearly all card-carrying new urbanists celebrate as the exemplar of what cities can and should be, turns out to be nothing more than a very aesthetic, finely crafted stageset for the super rich (ironically, Seaside was the utopian real-life set for the movie Truman Show.) As a mostly vacant vacation resort with house prices looming at a million dollars or more, Jacobsen found out that there no thriving community there - despite the sidewalks, front porches, village greens and quaint shops and galleries.

Although formal/organizational and aesthetic factors contribute to the life of a city, it is the people who really matter. Do the the citizans care about community at large and really want to take the time and effort to shape their lives so that they regularly interact with others, or do they want to hang out alone on their back decks and be numbed by television in their family rooms? Give me a group of people who really value community, and they will find a way to make it work, even in the most banal suburban sub-division.

Monday, September 08, 2003
This Is the Dawning of the Age of . . . Aesthetics
So says the author Virginia Postrel (read an interview in the Atlantic and and a brief piece in Wired magazine).

Sure the cofee makers, laptops, gel pens and even trowels are cool. But I wonder if Ms. Postell has seen some of the houses I've seen build in past six months.

Actually, in some of the new developments (row houses) I have seen going up near our new home, they appear to be trying - at least on the outside - to make the buildings have a traditional, crafted look, but I suspect the inside is the same old beige story. Maybe I am wrong. I hope so.

Wednesday, September 03, 2003
The Family and Culture (a Reply to R.C. Sproul, Jr.)
An insightful comment from R.C. Sproul Jr.:

"That is, we will never make manifest the reign of Christ on earth until we, ironically as the Lutherans have been telling us, pick up the theology of the cross. The kingdom of God doesn’t belong to muckety-mucks in suits. It belongs to children and babies in diapers. And our call is to change those diapers, to raise those children, not to seize control, but likewise to pick up the cross. The way to seizing cultural leadership, Jesus told us, is to sit in the back of the bus."

R.C. you are half right.

Raising our children to love the Lord and to joyfully think the Lord's thoughs after Him is crucial for Christian culture. But we (and our children) must do more. The family is infrastructural to Christian culture. It raises Christian culture-makers who do the actual work of transforming the earth and building a culture glorifying to God. If we are not out there painting artworks, writing books, crafting chairs, building houses, plowing fields, etc. in Christian manner, there is no godly culture, just a self-perpetuating social instution becoming more and more alienated and insulated from society at large.

Just like it happened to the church.

Tuesday, September 02, 2003
Labor Day Musings
As just about everybody has noted, yesterday was labor day. I did my best to honor the day keeping busy on our new Newberg house: I painted two rooms, put shelves in a closet and was going to put a new deadbot on one of doors. But alas, I couldn't find the philips head screwdriver. So my son (who had his first "real" day of school today) and I played frisbee golf instead.

Isn't it interesting that labor and work, which used to be fairly close synonymns, now have such different connotations now?

One of the hallmarks of the Reformation was how it rescued work from the ancient Notion of a necessary evil and (re)discovered it to be the profound blessing that it is (or at least can be). One of the modern tragedies is how industrialism and the labor movement has killed most of the (potential) joy in work.