The Native Tourist
reformed/biblical observations on Christianity and culture

Friday, January 28, 2005
My Old Neighborhood
on Manhattan's West Side can be seen on Amazon.com at this link (if it works!).

How cool iz dat?

Monday, January 24, 2005
Leisure Suits
I attended a conference last Friday (which partially accounts for a dearth of posts of late) call Online Northwest. Cool stuff if you are a librarian like me.

The keynote speaker - David Levy - was very good. He teaches at University of Washington and has a PhD in computer science and a Diploma in book binding. He spoke on the deliterious effect of technology on our lives. He argued that what we need is more time for "quiet" and "reflection". He is a practicing Jew and part of his sabbath observance is no internet.

Along the way he quoted philosopher-theologian Josef Pieper (who has been getting a lot of press lately) and his book Leisure, the Basis for Culture . (I somehow missed this book!)
Pieper points out that religion can be born only in leisure – a leisure that allows time for the contemplation of the nature of God. Leisure has been, and always will be, the first foundation of any culture. He maintains that our bourgeois world of total labor has vanquished leisure, and issues a startling warning: Unless we regain the art of silence and insight, the ability for nonactivity, unless we substitute true leisure for our hectic amusements, we will destroy our culture – and ourselves.

I could help thinking about Richard Florida and his Creative Class myth. I wonder what Dr. Levy would say about him?

Wednesday, January 19, 2005
So, Ya Want to Make a Movie
Article from the New York Times on the odds of being able to make and distribute a movie. Pretty sobering stuff.

Getting published is a lot easier...

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep
streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed
music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so
well that all the host of heaven and earth will pause to say,
here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.

Friday, January 14, 2005
Mark Horne points out that John Murray's essay "Common Grace" in online.

Thursday, January 13, 2005
Quote from Flannery O'Connor

I think that the Church is the only thing that is going to make the terrible world we are coming to endurable; the only thing that makes the Church endurable is that it is somehow the body of Christ and that on this we are fed. It seems to be a fact that you suffer as much from the Church as for it but if you believe in the divinity of Christ, you have to cherish the world at the same time that you struggle to endure it.


Wednesday, January 12, 2005
Lordship and Culture (Doug W again...)
One of the striking aspects of NT Wright's "political" understanding of the gospel (i.e. that it fundamentally is about Lordship - Caesar or Christ?) is that the gospel is fundamentally about renewal: renewal of self, renewal of human commmunities, renewal of the earth, renewal of culture.

Doug Wilson has this observation in response to Wright's lectures at the recent conference in Auburn, LA:

To him, one public application of the lordship of Christ means the forgiveness of Third World debts. The way believing Americans would apply it would be more likely to involve protecting gun ownership. All this serves to warn us -- the Church needs to work through a lot of things before we take the show on the road. Americans would be prone to simply reproduce our radical individualism in the name of Jesus, which is not helped if the English evangelicals simply reproduce the quasi-socialism that they are used to -- in the name of Jesus.

We have got to get rid of our provincialism when it comes to Christian culture-making.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005
Two more Gems from Doug W
On city building and worship:

But here is the Word of God. Take and eat. Take and drink. For by this means, accompanied by a faithful word, you are building a City. And it is not an invisible, ethereal City either.

On Biblical inerrancy and absolute authority:

And so the Bible sets the standard for all the kids in the class, whether it is that modernist kid who wants to be an engineer or neurosurgeon, or the postmodernist kid who wants to be Nietzsche on a skateboard. And, just to be clear about it, both those kids are flunking the class, and to recruit the postmodern critique of modernity to help out the Christian critique of modernity is like the teacher asking the kid who got a 43% on the test to help grade the paper of the one who looks like he might have gotten around a 37%.

(from Doug's blog)

Friday, January 07, 2005
Grounds for Hope?
A very interesting piece on Opinion Journal about the resurgence of religious colleges (inluding evangelical ones). Will it make a difference?

"Most dress modestly and don't drink, use drugs, or smoke," writes Ms. Riley. "They study hard, leaving little time for sitting in or walking out. Most vote, and a good number join the army. They are also becoming lawyers, doctors, politicians, college professors, businessmen, psychologists, accountants, and philanthropists in the cultural and political centers of the country." Ms. Riley calls the 1.3 million graduates of such schools a "missionary generation" that aims to change today's spiritually empty culture.

(note the absence of writers, artists and musicians, etc. on this list)

Thursday, January 06, 2005
The Problem with the Theology of Cool
I was pleasantly surprised by this article at the Relevance Mag site. An exceprt:
If we dress the Gospel in the clothing of the latest pop culture trends in the name of “relevance,” we run the risk of making the same mistake of our parents’ generation and of countless other generations before us—of allowing society to set the agenda and push us into its mold. We will not have a politicized Gospel, as the previous generation created, but we may have an en-culturated Gospel. Instead of being political elites, mocking those who are out of touch with politics or who disagree with our brand of it, we may become cultural elitists, with the same arrogance and the same narrow mindset.

The Gospel isn’t about politics. America will not be saved by the election of a Republican president and a Republican Congress (as we are seeing right now). But the Gospel isn’t about the latest entertainment trends either, and America will not be saved just because Switchfoot and P.O.D. are hitting the top of the charts.

Christians of the last generation seemed to want the world to look at them and say, “Look how politically influential they are. We’d better respect them.” I’m afraid too many in our generation want the world to look at Christians and say, “Look how cool they are. They’re not that different than we are. Maybe we should like them and listen to them.” Yet Christians in the early Church didn’t strive for either of these things. The world looked at them and said, “Look how they love one another. They’re so different from the rest of us. How could this dead man named Jesus give them such hope?” Now, there’s real relevance.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005
Bride or Tramp? (or . . . Where's the Antithesis?)
Also from Books&culture.com is this quote from an article by Ron Sider:
Alan Wolfe, famous contemporary scholar and director of the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life, has just published a penetrating study of American religious life. Evangelicals figure prominently in his book. His evaluation? Today's evangelicalism, Wolfe says, exhibits "so strong a desire to copy the culture of hotel chains and popular music that it loses what religious distinctiveness it once had." Wolfe argues, "The truth is there is increasingly little difference between an essentially secular activity like the popular entertainment industry and the bring-'em-in-at-any-cost efforts of evangelical megachurches."

So Much for all that Gen X PoMo Seeker Theology
From a very intreguing interview with sociologist Christian Smith at Books&Culture.com:

[interviewer]You say that "today's youth are depicted as disillusioned, irreverent, uniquely postmodern, belonging to something that is next and new." Indeed, "when it comes to faith and religion," we're told, "contemporary teenagers are deeply restless, alienated, rebellious and determined to find something that is radically different from the faith in which they were raised." And yet, you conclude, this largely unchallenged perception is "fundamentally wrong." Why is that?

[Smith]Teenagers today (and I am talking about 13- to 17-year-olds) are invested in society as it is and in mainstream values. They are well socialized into the mainstream, they are committed to it, and they want to succeed in it. From the Sixties we've inherited the notion of the "generation gap," but that model simply isn't adequate to describe what we are dealing with today. For the most part, young people have a great deal in common with their parents and share their values. That may not be immediately apparent, but underneath, not too far below the surface, there is a lot of commonality.

[interviewer]You found that most of them are very conventional in their beliefs. Did you expect to find a more rebellious, anti-authoritarian youth culture?

[Smith]Yes, I expected to find more resistance, more negative views of religion in general. Of course, there is so much yakking out there about spiritual questing, we've been conditioned to look for kids who can't stand traditional religion. But that's just not the case! Most kids are quite happy to go with whatever they are raised to believe; they are not kicking and screaming on the way to church. On the contrary: most teenagers have a very benign attitude toward religion.

[interviewer]This is a controversial point.

[Smith]I presume it will be. Again, we are only making claims on 13- to 17-year-olds. It could be that when kids go to college, they engage in more spiritual seeking. But high schoolers and middle school kids are extremely conventional in their religiosity.

Maybe "Gen X" is just a construct made up to sell sneakers and other "cool" stuff...

Monday, January 03, 2005
Question of the Minute
Is it a sin to put lawn kitsch in one's front yard? (You know, like the "cute" wooden cut-outs of women bending over, etc.)