The Native Tourist
reformed/biblical observations on Christianity and culture

Wednesday, June 30, 2004
Sticks and Stones
Doug Wilson says that all art historians are back seat drivers. Maybe that's why they're always so carsick? (I thought it was the art.)

Tuesday, June 29, 2004
A "Christian Woodstock"
(Found this on the Touchstone blog)

What happens when you take Willow Creek, and blow it up, say 100,000 times bigger? And make it global while you're at it, rather than Mid-Western bourgeois.

Well you get "New Christianity" . A quote from the article:

"The only Vatican correspondent who noted the impact of this image on the world, John L. Allen of the National Catholic Reporter, put the problem this way: “Can a robust Catholic identity really be forged by mimicking the modes of expression of the larger culture? Or would the Church do better to foster its own distinctive speech, prayer and devotions?”"

Seems I'm not the only one asking this question.

Friday, June 25, 2004
Wednesday, June 23, 2004
More on Buildings and Food
(well I lied about the food)

See fairly thoughtful article on urban design by Christopher Leerssen over on the PCA online mag. Leersen laments about the usual stuff: big box stores, surburbia, etc., but never really comes down on whether or not the civil nagistrate should intervene.

But I fully agree with him when he observes:

"These days, sidewalks are the exception, the town square is a quaint and nostalgic idea, and public benches and places to sit are discouraged. The neighborhood park often is an enormous tract of land on the outskirts of town; some might drive there, but no one really owns it. Where, in today’s communities, are the places that parades are held and speeches given? Where is the special nook for young lovers to become engaged to be married? Where can neighbors be neighbors to one another, and where can rich and poor walk down the sidewalks as fellow citizens? "

Purhaps no one builds city squares any more because no one knows what to do with them. Our culture by and large has no need for a place for public rallies, civic speeches, etc. But you WILL find loads of people at parks that have playgrounds, ball fields and picnic shelters. These are still included in new developments within cities.

Purhaps the key ingredient for community in our cities are families. Kids are frequently what bring households together.

Could it be that family are more important than the shape of the built environment?

Tuesday, June 22, 2004
discussion of John Davidson Hunter's "How to Change a Culture" over at Gideon Strauss' blog.

Here is a summary from David Koysis:

Hunter argues for five propositions: (1) "Culture is a resource and as such, a form of power"; (2) culture is deliberately produced; (3) "cultural production is stratified in a rigid structure of 'center' and 'periphery'"; (4) cultural change comes from the top down and hardly ever from the bottom up; and (5) "world-changing is most intense when the networks of elites and the institutions they lead overlap."

Monday, June 21, 2004
Well Versed
It must be in the air. A poetic convergence.

Matt Colvin quotes C.S. Lewis on appreciating Classical poetry in the original languages.

Doug Wilson laments the fact that boys today fail to appreciate poetry (see CA article on the topic).

Wilson also puts in a plug for Doug Jones' writing tutorial service. Jones' Scottish Seas (my favorite novel of his) is chock full of men reciting and composing poetry, including the psalms.

Friday, June 18, 2004
On Diversity and Calling
Some nicely put observations from Touchstonemag.com blog:

"The same is true of men. Each of us has been made differently, according to our many kinds, qualities of race, sex, mind, and body, and to the combination of them that makes a unique self, according to the mind and will of the Creator. We are never remiss if we seek to perfect what we see ourselves made to be, if we seek within ourselves the Glorious Design.


What happens to the Christian who is seeking to do the will of God in such matters, I believe, is that he works to become what he finds has been placed within him, and that as this grows and matures and bears fruit he has something excellent to offer to the Lord. In offering that excellent thing (in imitation, and indeed, in the person, of Christ) he discovers and takes up his cross—which means he finds his pain and his shame, but also his joy and his glory."

Thursday, June 17, 2004
Two Sources of Pleasure

1. Paper + Pencil = Joy

(what a simple, portable technology with unlimited potential)

2. We get to hear the Arizona-based music group CAVU tonight at the Coffee Cottage. We heard them three years ago and they were terrific. Real musicians.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004
Are Cultural Distinctions a Mirage?

From "Some Thoughts on Musical Style" by Kevin Twit at the ModernReformation.org site. The author defends the adaptation of new tunes to old psalm and hymn lyrics. I should point out that I have no real problems with this although I do question whether it is necessary.

At any rate, Twit says at one point:

"The rigid dichotomy between high art and pop art is unhelpful and naïve

Actually the historical basis of this is a rather racist argument. I am not saying that anyone who holds this distinction is a racist, but am pointing out a matter of historical origins. This distinction is really only about 150 years old, emerges during the nineteenth century as people try to separate themselves from the massive influx of Eastern European immigrants, and falls prey to a classic logical fallacy: just because something is popular does not mean it is of inferior quality! It may mean that it is of great quality and has connected with a large number of people for really good reasons! In addition, the attempt to make a big distinction between folk art and pop art fails to understand how popular art functions. I believe more Reformed thinkers need to appreciate those thinkers who understand culture in dynamic terms, rather than merely static ones."

To back up his claim, he sites this article from Calvin Theological Journal.

I wonder what Ken Myers would say about this? Could it be that there was a substancial shift in society 150 years ago that might account for this? Like say, immigration?

Another Doug Wilson Nugget
on the difference between Work and Jobs

Friday, June 11, 2004
Real and Pretend Urbanism
A little more about cities, "new" (="revitalized") neighborhoods and the "rise of the Creative Class".

Last week ago Thursday my wife and I went to First Thursday in Pearl District in Portland. (This is an evening when all the art galleries in the district are open, as well as the other shops, and in the summer the close down some of the streets and there are art and craft vendors.) What a zoo. Crowds. Loads of people clearly from outside of Porland (i.e. the suburbs) trying to be cool, pretending to be art connoiseurs, being entertained. It was the place to be. And it all seemed so fake.

I can remember regularly going to the galleries in Soho in New York City when there were only four or five galleries on West Broadway (circa 1979). It was still industrial back then. Artists living in lofts was a radical new idea. Then the neighborhood began to change. More galleries and soon upscale clothing stores, furniture "galleries" and craft boutiques. It was cleaned up. All the grit was gone.

My friend aptly called it "little Rodeo Drive."

Later came the rise of Tribeca and now I understand that Chelsea has followed suit. Most of the artists moved to Williamsburg section of Brooklyn where there is now a lively gallery scene. (Will this be ruined too?)

Richard Florida may talk about "authenticity" being a value New Urban Creatives desire in their neighborhoods. But any vestage of authenticiy disapears as soon as the upscale stores move in and things are cleaned up. It then becomes a tourist destination - not a real neighborhood. Besides who can afford $350K for 1000 sq ft loft in the Pearl?

When we were first married, we lived for two years in the West 50s in Manhattan. Hispanic men played dominoes on the street on card tables for hours Ninth Avenue. People hung out windows and talked to their friends on the street. The local waitress in the Diner new us by name. This was authentic neighborhood.

These new cool urban neighborhoods are about as "authentic" as Disneyland or Colonial Williamsburg. But the tourists like it.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004
The Limits of City Planning

By now many of you know about my article on Richard Florida and the Rise of the Creative Class (it is being discussed at GideonStrauss.com). It infaces with many issues of city planning, which is an interest of mine.

I regularly read David Sucher's CityComforts blog. Lately he has been (page by page) posting the intro of the new edition of his book. He says in part:

"The work of Christopher Alexander was inspirational. In an essay, “Cities as a Mechanism for Sustaining Human Contact,” he says that people come together in cities not only for the traditional reasons of trade, politics, and security, but because cities allow people the chance to increase their human closeness. The way to measure the success of a city, he says, is by how well it fosters and encourages human communication."

This sounds really, really good. I love cities and neighborhoods with a vibrant street scene. And are aesthetic. But to what extent can this be created by city planners?

Eric Jacobsen (author of Sidewalks in the Kingdom) laments that Seaside, Florida, the poster child of the New Urbanist movement, fails to function as it was intended. He observes that even though every single house in Seaside has a front porch, the residents rarely use them. The community/communication that "ought" to be promoted by such design features does not come into fruition. Why? The residents prefer to stay indoors (to take advantage of air conditioning), to watch tv or they use back porches for more privacy. In short most of the residents of Seaside choose to live what amounts to a suburban lifestyle even though they live in a ideal "urban village".

Ethnic groups that value social interaction will do so even when the physical structure of the environment works against it. The bottom line is that most Americans want to be left alone.

More from Doug Wilson
on establishing Christian culture:

"This is the basis for wisdom in Christian business as well. Woodworkers are called to Christ first, the glories of wood second, and their business with customers third. Auto mechanics are called to Christ first, the mysteries of the internal combustion engine second, and their business with customers third. History teachers are called to Christ first, their historical materials second, and their students third. Moreover, this ranking does not represent any kind of competition between them, but rather a ranking of wisdom. If this order is not present, then everything in the list eventually gets short shrift, and something else comes in to take their places. And it is usually mammon that performs that service, together with all his greasy crew."

Tuesday, June 08, 2004
Wipe Out
I guess surfing is culture too.

Doug Wilson
has a wonderful post on some simple (but not simplistic!) steps we can take toward establishing Christian culture.

Monday, June 07, 2004
Someone Is Talking
about Veggie Tales (lots of people, actually) over at the one-time august Touchstone magazine blog.

Where is the world headed!!!

Okay, true confession time: what is your favorite Veggie Tale video?

Friday, June 04, 2004
What the Cultural Mandate Is Really all about
Chuck Colson in a recent Breakpoint seriously misconstrues the core meaning of the cultural mandate when he says:

"If Christians do not seize the moment and act on the cultural commission, there soon will be no culture left to save. But when we do our duty, we can change the world."

This a common mistake. The cultural mandate isn't about tranforming existing culture. It is about tranforming the earth.

As the "salt of the earth" we may have a responsibility to inhibit our culture from becoming a festering mess. But even if it does crumble to the ground, there will still be plenty of cultural development for Christians to be involved in.

We need to get the BIG cultural picture.

Thursday, June 03, 2004
There once was a man who loved hamburgers. In fact he loved them so much that ate them for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It was pretty much all that he ate. No vegetables or salads, no potato chips, not even dessert.

And he always ate his hamburgers the same way: smothered with catsup, mustard and relish. He couldn't imagine eating them any other way.

Then a remarkable thing happended. By a string of circumstances not worth going into here, for six months the man was unable to purchase additional supplies of the condiments he put on his beloved hamburgers. The day finally arrived when he was forced to face the really of eating his hamburgers (gasp!) plain.

At first it was horribly boring. But after two or three days he began to notice how truly delicious the hamburger itself actually tasted. He learned gradually to notice the subtle flavor of the meat and the delicate nuances of the seseme seeds on the buns (which he had never even seen before). Then a more remarkable thing happened. Having learned how to actually taste food, he began to try other things. He learned to enjoy the taste of carrots and turnips and broiled flounder, ginger scones and mint chocolate-chip ice cream. "How could I have missed all this good food all these years!"

At the end of the six months he still enjoyed "naked" hamburgers (they were still his favorite). In fact he found that he loved them even more than he did in his "catsup, mustard and relish days".

Needless to say when the condiments came back into the market, he didn't rush out to buy them.

"What! And ruin my tasty hamburgers! Never!"

Tuesday, June 01, 2004
Preaching with Powerpoint
or how to turn your church into an executive seminar. From an article in the New York Times (found this over at Gideon's blog.)

"It's a countercultural thing," said Tim Lucas, 33, pastor of an emerging ministry called Liquid in Basking Ridge, N.J. On a recent Sunday, Mr. Lucas wore a Hawaiian shirt and used images from the "Lord of the Rings" movies and a clip from "Amadeus" in a sermon about I Samuel.


"This cohort may yet make its own demands. Mr. Lucas, the pastor at Liquid, speculated that hip, high-tech churches like his own might soon generate their own backlash. Already, he said, college students who wander in find the 45-minute sermon insufficiently interactive. "The church my daughter grows up in will be a critique of what we do at Liquid," he said. "She'll say, 'Why all this multimedia? What happened to sanctuary? I come to church because I want to be still in the presence of God.' I can see that coming very quickly."

"Popular culture is a wonderful buffet to dine at," he said. "But it's easy to overeat."

Think potato chips. Without the salt. Definately without the salt.