Posted by: alexanderbruce | September 10, 2008

The Myth of Private Ownership

I would like to prefix this by saying that this post is not about the government, but about how the church is and how it should be. With that said…

Among Christians, the idea of private ownership on the scale that it exists today is a fallacy. All one has to do is simply read about the first church in Acts and the subsequent years of church history until Constantine legalized Christianity to see what the church should look like.

Acts 2:42-47
42They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 46Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

Acts 4:32-35
32All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. 33With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. 34There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.

Now, some will say that Jesus didn’t say anything about this and that this was all the Apostle’s doing. Well, the apostles were basing it off of what Jesus had said –
Matthew 25:31-46
31″When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

34″Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37″Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40″The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

41″Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

44″They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

45″He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ 46’Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

So now the question is, I suppose, why does the church not look like this now? Why do church members live in houses in subdivisions miles away from their churches, in their own houses, driving their own cars, driving to extravagant buildings that are more about flair than service and love? And another thing, how does the modern day church defend itself from this set of scripture? Where does the Bible say that private property is okay? It seems pretty clear to me that the church should be communal. If anyone has any scripture that would defend private property and ownership, I really would like to see it. That’s why I’m asking this out there – multiple pairs of eyes are better than one.

Advertisements
Posted by: alexanderbruce | August 31, 2008

McCain’s nasty interview with Time magazine

I will link the article as well as copy and paste it.

http://www.time.com/time/politics/article/0,8599,1836909,00.html

For years, John McCain’s marathon bull sessions with reporters were more than a means of delivering a message; they were the message. McCain proudly, flagrantly refused direction from handlers, rarely dodged tough questions and considered those who did wimps and frauds. The style told voters that he was unafraid, that he had nothing to hide and that what you see is what you get. “Anything you want to talk about,” he promised reporters aboard the Straight Talk Express in Iowa back in March 2007. “One of the fundamental principles of the bus is that there is no such thing as a dumb question.” When asked if he would keep the straight talk coming, McCain replied, “You think I could survive if I didn’t? We’d never be forgiven … I’d have to hire a food taster, somebody to start my car in the morning.” Even after he won the GOP nomination, he demanded that his new campaign plane be configured to include a sofa up front so he could re-create the Straight Talk Express at 30,000 ft.

Sticking to the old formula seemed like a good idea. But with the press focused on Obama, McCain got attention only when he slipped up during one of his patented freewheeling encounters with reporters. And so in July, the campaign decided to clamp down on the candidate. Open-ended question time was reduced to almost nothing, and the famously unscripted McCain began heeding his talking points, even as his aides maintained he missed the old informality.

And so when TIME’s James Carney and Michael Scherer were invited to the front of McCain’s plane recently for an interview, they were ushered forward, past the curtain that now separates reporters from the candidate, past the sofa that was designed for his gabfests with the press and taken straight to the candidate’s seat. McCain at first seemed happy enough to do the interview. But his mood quickly soured. The McCain on display in the 24-minute interview was prickly, at times abrasive, and determined not to stray off message. An excerpt:

What do you want voters to know coming out of the Republican Convention — about you, about your candidacy?
I’m prepared to be President of the United States, and I’ll put my country first.

There’s a theme that recurs in your books and your speeches, both about putting country first but also about honor. I wonder if you could define honor for us?
Read it in my books.

I’ve read your books.
No, I’m not going to define it.

But honor in politics?
I defined it in five books. Read my books.

[Your] campaign today is more disciplined, more traditional, more aggressive. From your point of view, why the change?
I will do as much as we possibly can do to provide as much access to the press as possible.

But beyond the press, sir, just in terms of …
I think we’re running a fine campaign, and this is where we are.

Do you miss the old way of doing it?
I don’t know what you’re talking about.

Really? Come on, Senator.
I’ll provide as much access as possible …

In 2000, after the primaries, you went back to South Carolina to talk about what you felt was a mistake you had made on the Confederate flag. Is there anything so far about this campaign that you wish you could take back or you might revisit when it’s over?
[Does not answer.]

Do I know you? [Says with a laugh.]
[Long pause.] I’m very happy with the way our campaign has been conducted, and I am very pleased and humbled to have the nomination of the Republican Party.

You do acknowledge there was a change in the campaign, in the way you had run the campaign?
[Shakes his head.]

You don’t acknowledge that? O.K., when your aides came to you and you decided, having been attacked by Barack Obama, to run some of those ads, was there a debate?
The campaign responded as planned.

Jumping around a bit: in your books, you’ve talked about what it was like to go through the Keating Five experience, and you’ve been quoted as saying it was one of the worst experiences of your life. Someone else quoted you as saying it was even worse than being a POW …
That’s another one of those statements made 17 or 18 years ago which was out of the context of the conversation I was having. Of course the worst, the toughest experience of my life was being imprisoned, so people can pluck phrases from 17 or 18 years ago …

I wasn’t suggesting it as a negative thing. I was just saying that …
I’m just suggesting it was taken out of context. I understand how comments are taken out of context from time to time. But obviously, the toughest time of my life, physically and [in] every other way, would be the time that I almost died in prison camp. And I think most Americans understand that.

How different are you from President Bush? Are you in step with your party? Are you independent from your party?
My record shows that I have put my country first and I follow the philosophy and traditions of Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan. Sometimes that is not in keeping with the present Administration or my colleagues, but I’ve always put my country first, whether it’s saying I didn’t support the decision to go to Lebanon or my fighting against the corruption in Washington or out-of-control pork-barrel spending, which has led to members of Congress residing in federal prison. So I’ve always stood up for a set of principles and a philosophy that I think have been pretty consistent over the years.

Your tougher line on Russia, which predated [the Russian invasion of Georgia], now to many looks prescient. Others say it’s indicative of a belligerent approach to foreign policy that would perhaps further exacerbate the tensions being created with our allies and others around the world under the Bush Administration. How do you respond to that critique?
Well, it reminds me of some of the arguments we went through when Ronald Reagan became President of the United States. I think Russian behavior has been very clear, and I’ve pointed it out for quite a period of time, and the chronicle of their actions has been well known since President [Vladimir] Putin came to power, and I believe that it’s very important that Russia behave in a manner befitting a very strong nation. They’re not doing so at this time, so therefore I will criticize and in some cases — in the case of the aggression against Georgia — condemn them.

You were a very enthusiastic supporter of the invasion of Iraq and, in the early stages, of the Bush Administration’s handling of the war. Are those judgments you’d like to revisit?
Well, my record is clear. I believe that the world is better off without Saddam Hussein. I believe it’s clear that he had every intention to acquire and use weapons of mass destruction. I can only imagine what Saddam Hussein would be doing with the wealth he would acquire with oil at $110 and $120 a barrel. I was one of the first to point out the failure of strategy in Iraq under [former Defense Secretary Donald] Rumsfeld. I was criticized for being disloyal to the Republicans and the President. I was the first to say I would lose a campaign rather than lose a war. I supported the surge. No observer over the last two years would say the surge hasn’t succeeded. I believe we did the right thing.

A lot of people know about your service from your books, but most people don’t know that you have two sons currently in the military. Can you describe what it means to have Jack and Jimmy in uniform?
We don’t discuss our sons.

Wow, what a jerk.

Posted by: alexanderbruce | August 20, 2008

Christianity Should be a Commune

I do not think the US government should be communist, no. That is not the answer to anything. I do, however, think the church needs to return to the way of the early church which was, in layman’s terms, a “commune”. They took care of each other, clothed each other, fed each other, loved each other. When Christ sent out his disciples, did he not send them out with nothing? Did he not say that the worthy people/followers in the cities would take care of them? (Matthew 10) They did not want to be rulers, or rich, or to fit in to the world around them.

“I do not wish to be a ruler. I do not strive for wealth. I refuse offices connected with military command. I despise death.” Tatian

“The desire to rule is the mother of heresies.” John Chrysostom

“We who formerly treasured money and possessions mroe than anything else now hand over everything we have to a treasury for all and share it with everyone who needs it. We who formerly hated and murdered one another now live together and share the same table. We pray for our enemies and try to win those who hate us.” Justin Martyr

What happened to the church? What happened to the true community of the early church?

In 312 Constantine converted to Christianity and shortly afterward, the empire followed. With that empire went all kinds of people who had no interest in Christianity – it was a political move (much like the answers given at the Saddleback forum from both candidates). Thus began the ancestor of the popular American Christianity that we have today (I just skipped out on a lot, but it is a very long story). This is what I really think about the greed and selfishness of modern Christianity.

Now, I must say I’m frustrated at this because I am consumed by it. I want to live as the Christians who knew Christ lived, and frankly this is incredibly difficult. There are some communities spread throughout the country, but they are few and far between (three examples: http://www.thesimpleway.org/ http://worldhungerrelief.org/ http://larcheusa.org/). There are even some Christian health insurance “companies” (such as http://www.medi-share.org, which is more like a group health savings account than an insurance company). I want the community, the fellowship, the brother/sisterhood that the first church had, and frankly, if I knew that my money would be used in a community like this, where everything was shared, I would give gladly, gladly, everything I had to this community and would forgo any right I had to private property.

Posted by: alexanderbruce | August 13, 2008

Son of Hamas leader converts to Christianity

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,402483,00.html

Just goes to show that violence is not the only way, that prayer and patience and love work, and that not all Muslims are fanatical ideologues.

Posted by: alexanderbruce | August 10, 2008

The United States is a Coward and a Bully

I’m sure most of you have heard about the invasion of Georgia by Russia as seen http://www.slate.com/id/2197155/

and here – http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,401043,00.html

and here – http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/R/RUSSIA_OSSETIA_REFUGEES?SITE=CAANR&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT

This disgusts me and makes me ashamed to be an American. Bush claimed to invade Iraq to free it from an oppressive regime, and in 91 Bush Sr. invaded Kuwait to insure its freedom from invasion – why the sudden change of heart? It is essentially the same situation – small country with oil that is an ally (emphasis on oil, otherwise the US wouldn’t even bother being friends with it) is invaded by a bigger neighbor that is making some crazy claim that said smaller country belongs to them.

I’ll tell you why – its because the US is a bully and it has finally met its match. Just like a playground bully, it will only pick on smaller people it knows it can beat up. As soon as it meets someone as big or bigger, the bully reveals its true colors of cowardice. In this case, the bigger party is Russia. Russia has nukes and a large army, but they are poorly trained and equipped and would be far more afraid of the US than the US should be of them. I’m not advocating for any real military action, but something should be done to protect these innocent people.

However, the US was not always a coward and a bully. There was once a time when the US was the smaller party standing up to the bully. In WW2, Germany had one of the biggest and best equipped (albeit also poorly led) and the United States barely had a military and it had to put almost all domestic production on hold to get ready for the war effort.

As you may tell from some of the previous posts, I’m a pacifist. However, the only, and I mean ONLY reason I would say it is okay to us the military is in the defense of another people, especially a small group of people being attacked by a larger agressor (like the Jews in WW2, or the people of Darfur, and now the Georgians).

Anyway, I hope Bush and his cronies are proud of themselves. Someone is calling their bluff and they’re backing down, as is to be expected.

Posted by: alexanderbruce | August 10, 2008

Sovereignty, smovereignty.

Hey Bush and McCain, remember that whole thing about you wanting Iraq to be a sovereign nation?

http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/I/IRAQ?SITE=CAANR&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT

Posted by: alexanderbruce | August 4, 2008

The true heroes and mentors of the “war on terror”

(Parts taken from “Jesus for President”, by Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw).

Begin Claiborne and Haw, pg 208

The struggle between the church and the state is perhaps nowhere more painfully apparent than soldiers who are trying to integrate their national and spiritual identities. …We receive a lot of letters – letters from soldiers, from families who have lost their children in a war they never believed in, from parents whose kids came back from Iraq suicidal, depressed, addicted. Over and over we have gotten letters from soldiers who describe their crisis as a schizophrenia. One soldier said he is trying to serve two masters, the cross and the sword, and his arms aren’t big enough to carry them both. Many military chaplains have felt this collision most poignantly and express the crippling sense that they are simply preparing soldiers to kill and helping them to recover from killing, without ever having space to question the killing itself, and many of these chaplains end up looking more like prophets than timid pastors who blindly accompany the war machine.

AWOL soldiers have mailed us their uniforms and dog tags in their attempts to strip themselves of the imperial branding, and they ask for our prayers.

After a Sunday service, one soldier met one of us at the altar to pray and confessed that he was on the ship that fired the tomahawk missiles into Baghdad. Now he was having a hard time living with that. We embraced, cried, and prayed for God to take that heavy yoke from his shoulders.

An older commander told me he had just risked his life for the American dream, and then said he no longer believed in that dream and was convinced that the world could no longer afford it, and that God had a better dream for the world than what he saw in Iraq. … To refuse to kill for patriotic reasons is to show that we actually take our identity in Christ more seriously than our identity in empire.

(pg 211) Then there is Logan.

Logan wrote one of us a letter after returning from a tour of duty in Iraq, where he was a forward observer in the US army, a position in the front lines responsible for over 80 percent of the casualties on the battlefield. He had just been given a date of deployment for another tour of duty in Iraq. After six years in the military, he felt the collision of the cross and the sword and felt like he was trying to “serve two masters.” With much prayer and counsel, Logan decided to file for conscientious objector status, and we decided to support him. He had fallen in love with the Jesus of the gospel, the hope of enemy-love, and committed himself to live that gospel. He was willing to die for it but knew he could not kill for it. So he told his commanding officers he would be glad to return to Iraq, but he would not be able to carry a weapon because he was a follower of Jesus.

Some of the officers cursed him out; others justified the war using Scripture. When Logan explained that he was willing to go to Iraq but would not be able to carry a weapon or fire a missile, they thought he was crazy… He was discharged from the military a few months later. We reminded him that if he took a close look at church history, he would find himself in pretty good company.

(pg 217) Another Soldier Who Said “Enough”

Jesse arrived for boot camp at Fort Benning not sure what to expect. He   a gun and joined all the recruits marching in formation. As he marched, he internalized what he was training for, and the gun got heavier and heavier. Jesse felt a mysterious but clear whisper from God that God did not want him to kill or to carry a gun. The discomfort became more than he could bear, and he tried quietly to break formation to talk with the Sargent. Not so quick. “What the f*** are you doing, soldier?” the Sargent blasted. Jesse said gently, “I need to talk with you. I have a problem.”

“What the F***’s your problem, soldier?” he shouted in front of all the others. With all hope for a quite private conversation squelched, Jesse told his Sargent, ” As we were marching, I felt like God didn’t want me to carry a weapon. I felt like I should love my enemies, and that means not killing them.”

The Sargent fumed. “Get on your knees, soldier,” he said. And he had the other soldiers march in a circle around Jesse. “Soldiers, do you want to see what a piece of s*** looks like? This is a piece of s***. Left, right…”

On his knees, Jesse thought of how kneeling is a posture for prayer… The soldiers tore the cross from his neck. They ripped the flag from his uniform, insisting that he was unworthy to wear the red, white, and blue. He was handcuffed and taken into custody, branded as a deserter. In the holding area, his handcuffs were removed, and he was free to move about. Somehow he still had his cell phone.

He decided to call for a cab and leave the rest in God’s hands…. Jesse left the area and hid in the bushes to wait for the cab. After what felt like hours, he saw it pull into the long drive. When he hopped into the taxi he was greeted by a lovely old Southern woman. “Hey there soldier, where you headed?”

“To the Greyhound station,” Jesse said.

Se saw there the patches had been torn from his uniform, and she said, “I ain’t accusin’ you of anything, but I’d better say that we’re not allowed to transport no AWOL soldiers. I’m not sayin’ you’re AWOL. But if you are, you should know I ain’t allowed to take you anywhere. And you should also know that soldiers are stationed to check for AWOL soldiers at the bus station.”

Silence, and Jesse felt a moment of hopelessness, but then she continued. “So just in case you were AWOL, you would want me to take you by the Wal-Mart so you can get a change of clothes.” And she smirked.

(end of Claiborne and Haw)

Jesse made it to the bus station and made it home, where he eventually turned himself in only to be legally discharged later. This is a true story.

Matthew Chpt 5, 43 (NIV) – You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.       Jesus Christ

I know many people here will look at the old testament and the book of Revelation, which shows a rather violent picture of God and of Jesus (He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. Revelation 19:13, talking about Christ at the rapture.) And then of course there is Jericho, Sodom and Gomorrah, 3 cities where God killed every living being living in them.

There is a term called “Progressive revelation” that is used in theology. If one notices the 10 commandments, number one says “Thou shalt have no other Gods before me”. That doesn’t say anything about God being the only God at the time (even though he was). The people in that time were so ingrained with polytheism that the idea of a sole God was beyond them. At another point in Genesis Rachel is told to take her father’s household gods with her (Genesis 3:19). It is not until later that God says He is the only God.

So there is progressive revelation. With that said, I follow Christ, and I will follow whatever Christ said to do, and that is to love your enemies, even if in the past the Israelites were not exactly loving to their neighbors, yet alone their enemies.  And yes, Christ will come back and establish his Kingdom, but that is his responsibility, not ours.  Romans 12:19 – Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. (I will write a whole other blog about that in the near future about the “myth of redemptive violence”) Christ died for my sins and is the savior of the world, and it is His words and His examples I will follow.

In conclusion, I leave you all with the words of George Mizo, a US army veteran from Vietnam.

You, my church, told me it was wrong to kill… except in war.

You, my teachers, told me it was wrong to kill… except in war.

You, my father and mother, told me it was wrong to kill… except in war.

You, my friends, told me it was wrong to kill… except in war.

You, my government, told me it was wrong to kill… except in war.

But now I know, you were wrong, and now I will tell you, my church, my teachers, my father and mother, my friends, my government, it is not wrong to kill except in war… It is wrong to kill.

Posted by: alexanderbruce | July 29, 2008

Why Republicans aren’t even Republicans anymore

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. If one looks at what Republicans claim to be about and compare that to what they actually do, there are many discrepancies.  Let us examine this.

Talking point #1 – Smaller government.

One of the talking points that I would actually agree with, if it weren’t for the fact that Republicans haven’t done anything to make the government smaller in several years. For starters, they created a whole new government department with the creation of the Department of Homeland Security (created in 2002 by a Republican lead congress).

The military, a part of the government, has had a trend under the past few Rep presidents to grow in leaps and bounds. This is surely not “making smaller government”.

Thirdly, warrantless wiretapping is certainly not helping to make government smaller, and neither is expanding the power of the intelligence director (See story:http://online.wsj.com/article/SB121746456551398575.html?mod=todays_us_page_one ).

Talking point #2 – Pro Life

How can Republicans be “pro life” and yet send countless innocent people to their graves in meaningless wars.

Originally, Republicans were isolationists, almost never involving themselves in international conflicts. Remember in WW1 and 2, it took years for the US to get themselves involved militarily. I don’t believe it is in the United States best interest to be isolationist again, the world is too big now to allow that. However, this idea that the US is the world’s police is absurd and again goes back to the idea of having smaller government.

Talking point #3 – Immigration and Ronald Reagan worship

Republicans spread the blame for all the US’s problem across 3 groups – Terrorists, liberals, and illegal immigrants. However, the hero of the Republican party, Ronald Reagan, platformed in 1979 for a “North American accord” in which commerce & people would move freely across the borders of Canada & Mexico” (from ontheissues.org). That would be worse than illegal immigration in their eyes, as it would open the borders up like a flood gate.

Talking point #4 – Low taxes

They claim to like low taxes, and they have voted to keep taxes low, but this is insane considering how much money they spend on the military. From what I have read from many economists, Bush is the most fiscally irresponsible president the country has ever seen, yet Republicans love the tax cuts because they get to keep more money regardless of the harm it is doing to the country. I doubt that McCain would do much better on the economy, even he said he didn’t know much about it.

Now, this is not to say that the Dem’s are without their hypocrisies and fallacies, hence why I probably won’t be voting Democratic this election.

Posted by: alexanderbruce | July 22, 2008

The Evildoers (of American food)

As some of you may or may not know, I am one of those “shop/eat local” fanatics that so many people hear and read about. As for eating locally, this article, originally by Anthony Bourdain from his book, “The Nasty Bits”, very well sums it up. (pardon the language, he likes to swear).

I’m on the subway after a long, hard day in the kitchen, my feet swelling up like twin Hindenburgs; my back killing me; fourteen hours of hot, sweaty, uncomfortable toil and two hundred eighty dinners under my belt; and I want to sit down. There are three seats in front of me in the crowded subway car. Unfortunately, one miserable, fat bastard is taking up all three of them. As he sits glumly but defiantly in a center seat, his gigantic butt cheeks and thighs spill out of the molded plastic bucket onto the seats on both sides, and his beady eyes dare me to try and squeeze my bony ass into one of the narrow spaces next to him.

Dream sequence: I’m on a packed commuter flight and we’re going down for a forced landing in a Midwestern cornfield. Engine one is on fire, the cabin fills up with smoke, panicky passengers overturn their meal trays as they rush the emergency exits. The pilot manages to plow the plane belly-down onto soft earth, but the the plane – in flames now – comes to a full stop and the emergency doors pop free, the three-hundred-pound ectomorph in the window seat becomes lodged firmly and inexorably in the small doorway. At the dead of the aisle, another giant fuck collapses wheezing onto the floor, blocking egress. As my hair catches fire, the last thing I see is jiggly, crenelated back fat.

Whose fault is it? Who made my fellow American obese – if not morbidly obese? How did the age-old equation that poor equals thin and rich equals fat change so that now our working poor are huge and slow-moving and only the wealthy can afford the personal trainers, liposuction, and extended spa treatments required, it seems, to be thin? In whose evil snail tracks across the globe can we watch thighs expand, bellies pooch out over groins, so that fewer and fewer every year of the flower of our youth can even see their own genitals without benefit of a mirror? Who is making each generation from once normally proportioned countries swell up like grain-fed steer?

We know the answer. America’s most dangerous export was never nuclear weapons or Jerry Lewis – or even Baywatch reruns. It was, is, and probably always will be our fast-food outlets.

The Evildoers of the major chains live nowhere near their businesses. Like crack dealers, they know what they sell is not good for you, that it makes neighborhoods uglier, contributes nothing but a stifling sameness to society. Recently, with Eric Schlosser, the author of the brilliant and terrifying Fast Food Nation, I debated two representatives of the fast-food industry at a “multi-unit food service operators” convention in Texas. Our position, unsurprisingly, was that everybody in the room basically sucked. The opposition countered with tortured recitation of numbers and statistics, mostly to do with what a valuable service their industry provided, employing – for a few months at a time – hundreds of thousands of people who (they implied) might otherwise be sticking up liquor stores, setting fires, and sodomizing pets. They neatly deflected Schlosser’s own accurate and sobering numbers, mostly to do with workplace injuries in the meat-cutting industry, average length of employment, bankrupt “nutritional” value, the quantifiable path of ballooning thighs following in their businesses’ wake across the globe, and so on. But when I asked these folks, one by one, if they would live anywhere near their own overlit, maniacally cheery looking restaurants, I got, more often than not, a stunned look and a “Fuck, no!” When I mischievously suggested (opportunistically taking advantage of the current fervor of flag waving) that their chosen enterprise was basically unpatriotic; that they were deliberately targeting children with their advertising, then knowingly raising them to be no-necked arterially clogged diabetics who’d “never in a million years make it through basic training. God help us if we ever have to hit Omaha Beach again, those doughy overfed punks’ll drown like rats!” – they looked, actually…guilty. They know, you see. You think they eat their own gruel anywhere near as frequently as the average rube? I don’t.

But is fast food inherently evil? Is the convenient nature of the beast bad, in and of itself? decidedly no. Fast food – which traditionally solves very problems of working families, families with kids, business people on the go, the causally hungry – can be good food. If you walk down a street in Saigon, or visit an open-air market in Mexico, you’ll see that a quick, easy meal, often enjoyed standing up, does not have to be part of the hideous, generic sprawl of soul-destroying sameness that stretches from strip malls in San Diego, across the USA, through Europe and Asia and around again, looking the same, tasting the same: paper-wrapped morsels of gray “beef” patties with all-purpose sauce. The unbelievably high-caloric horrors of beef-flavored-sprayed chicken nuggets, of “milkshakes” that contain no milk and have never been shaken, of “barbecue” that has never seen a grill, “cheese” with no cheese, and theme monstrosities for whom food is only a lure to buy a T-shirt, is not the way it has to be.

There is delicious, even nutritious, fast food to be had in the world – often faster and cheaper than the clown and the colonel and the king and their ilk produce. In Japan (and increasingly in the West), there are quick, affordable sushi joints. In Tokyo, you can purchase yakitori, small skewers of grilled poultry and meat, from yakitori vendors clustered around business districts to serve executives looking for an easy after-work snack. In Spain, tapas (or pinchos) are served standing up; you grab something good at one tapas joint, then move over to another, a movable series of snacks, inevitably delicious – and again, usually good for you.

In Vietnam, fast food is everywhere, right out in the street: freshly made, brightly colored sandwiches on homemade French bread; steaming bowls of pho, noodles served from a portable kitchen carried on a yoke on the proprietor’s back; grilled shrimp kebabs skewered on sugarcane; tiny bundles of rice and pork wrapped in banana leaves; spicy calamari; crispy little birds; hunks of jackfruit; caramelized bananas and mango – all of it made and served by individuals, lone entrepreneurs for whom pride is not a catchphase or a slogan but an operating principle. In Mexico, one is likely to find happy swarms of people slurping posole, a sort of soupy stew, or menudo, a similarly delicious concoction, around primitive cars right out in the street, electric power provided by a chugging gas generator. A few pesos and a few seconds and you’re eating better than at any place run by evil clowns or steroid-overdosed action movie front men. Turn right and there’s an old woman making absolutely fresh quesadillas of zucchini flowers and farmer cheese, turn left and a mom and pop are slicing up a tender head of pork and rolling it into soft tacos with salsa fresca so fresh and wonderful you’ll think you’ve died and gone to heaven. Total time elapsed from time ordered to actual chewing? About twelve seconds.

Even in Russia they’ve got blintzes and piroshkis, served on fire-engine-red plastic trays – in the worst American tradition – but again, made by a human, fresh, on site, from real, recognizable ingredients, not shipped in frozen, pre-portioned vacu-seal bags from some meat-extruding facility near a far-away turnpike. And that cherished idea of the Russian as stocky, Krushchev-like babushkas is way wrong, friends. Most of the Russians I saw recently? The guys all looked like Dolph Lundgren and the women were tall, slim, and hard-looking enough to handle themselves in a street fight.

In Cambodia, a desperately poor cyclo driver, munching on a crispy little bird at a market, engaged me in conversation. “Is it true,” he asked, “that all Americans eat only hamburgers and KFC?” He looked truly sorry for me.

I wouldn’t really care what they put in those burgers – if they tasted good. And though I do care that the rivers of Arkansas are clogging up with chicken shit to satisfy the world’s relentless craving for crispy fried chicken fingers, I don’t believe that we should legislate these cocksuckers out of business. My position is kind of the Nancy Reagan position on drugs: “Just Say No.” Next time you find yourself standing slack-jawed and hungry in front of a fast-food counter – and a clown is anywhere nearby – just turn on your heels and head for the lone-wolf, independent operator down the street: the pie shop, a chippie, a kebab joint, or in New York, a “dirty-water hot dog,” anywhere that the proprietor has a name. Even that beloved British institution, the chippie, is preferable to the the clown’s fare; at least you are encouraging individual, local business, an entrepreneur who can react to neighborhood needs and wants, rather than a dictatorial system in which some focus group in an industrial park in Iowa decides for you what you will or should want. Deep-fried cod or plaice with vinegar, haggis with curry sauce; these may not be the apex of healthy eating, but at least they’re indigenous to somewhere – and washed down with enough beer or Irn-Bru, they’re quite tasty. The kebab shop makes food that is at least fresh, and a beef shawarma does not require the addition of beef flavor to make it taste like food.

Whenever possible, try to eat food that comes from somewhere, from somebody. And stop eating so fucking much. A little portion control would go a long way in slimming down our herds of heavyweights in their tent-like T-shirts, Gap easy-fit pants, and baggy shorts. (Apparently taking body-sculpting cues from some of our more humongous rappers, these guys ignore the fact that many of their heroes probably have to wash themselves with a sponge at the end of a stick.)

You may as well stop snacking on crap while you’re at it. You don’t need that bag of chips between meals, do you? You’re probably not even enjoying it. Save your appetite for something good! Take a little more time! All that rage and frustration, that hollow feeling so many of us feel – for so many good reasons – can be filled up with something better than a soggy disk of ground-up assholes and elbows. Eat for nourishment, yes, but eat for pleasure. Stop settling for less. That way, if we ever do have to get in there and “smoke the evildoers out of their holes,” at the very least, we’ll be able to squeeze in after them.

from The Nasty Bits: Collected Varietal Cuts, Usable Trim, Scraps, and Bones (2006: Bloomsbury Publishing):

Posted by: alexanderbruce | July 15, 2008

The American Church is pathetic.

By Spencer Spellman from RelevantMagazine.com

“Give Satan an inch, and he’ll be a ruler”. As I read these words from a recent church marquee, I couldn’t help but to laugh and turn my car around to take a photo. I would pay big bucks to be in the congregational business meeting when the church was looking for a new evangelistic catch phrase to scroll across their marquee:

“The last order of business for this quarter’s business meeting consists of what will now fill our church marquee. Remember that people daily drive by the marquee and nearly wreck into the nativity scene contemplating how these evangelistic statements can be applied in their lives. Momentarily I’ll ask for a motion to vote so that I can then ask for a motion to vote between “Give Satan an inch, and he’ll be a ruler” versus “Prevent truth decay by brushing up on your Bible.”

Is this where the Church in America has come to? Where Christianity is seen and communicated through t-shirts and marquees. We don’t communicate our business projects, vacation plans, and political positions through marquees and t-shirts, so we don’t need to communicate our faith through such means.

The church in America has simply taken out the terminology of America and replaced it with its own terminology with a Christian twist. Christian bookstores are taking on the feel of a Super Wal-Mart, but without the food, except for the “testamints” and crucifix lollipops at the counter. Clothes, video games, toys, comic books, food, and music has been changed just enough for it to appear on the surface as Christian. From shirts branding “a bread crumb and fish” (see the likeness to Abercrobmie and Fitch) to Bibleman action figures to Majorvictory Superhero to Dance Praise video games.

Having Christian clothes, toys, comic books, and video games aren’t bad things in themselves. But does it make Christianity relevant to the rest of society? And what is our motive in creating Christian super heroes?

In essence, the church has separated itself from America and created its own culture by putting a slight Christian twist to clothing, video games, toys, comic books, food and music. It has stated through its actions that it doesn’t want to be a part of culture, but rather create it’s own culture. It has become a “Christian pop culture” that is disconnected from the rest of society.

What are the implications of Christianity creating it’s own culture? First of all, culture can closely be defined as a group of people that are defined by their language, politics, customs, beliefs, etc. With this in mind, a Christian culture would be one in which the language, politics, customs, and beliefs are heavily Christian. Although it may not be wrong having Christianity mixed with these things, there is something starkly wrong when Christianity exists in a culture by removing itself from that culture and creating its own culture. This is how much of the Christian church in America exists: in its own Christian sub culture.

In this Christian sub culture, Christianity becomes exclusive. Rather than having a warm and fuzzy community feel to it, the church feels more like a cold and stuck up country club. Christians pay their dues, abide by the enforced rules created by the committee that oversees all the other committees, make people come to them, dress and talk with a certain distinction, participate in private social events, and regard their fellow country clubbers as “we” and “us” and those on the outside as “them”. What would our reaction be if a scruffy older man walked in during a church service carrying a 40-ounce Bacardi or if two younger female partners walked in together while holding hands? Just as Americans feel uncomfortable visiting another country, similarly do the un-churched feel uncomfortable visiting a church.

What is our motive for creating a Christian sub culture, whether we’ve created it consciously or unconsciously? Is it a motive of love? Sacrifice? Pride? Self-righteousness? Comfort? It could be a number of different motives. It could be a motive of comfort where we live among our kind, avoiding at all costs confrontation with others that may make us feel uncomfortable. It could be a motive of self-righteousness, where we want people to take notice of our external Christianity, so they see how spiritual we are. And it may be a motive of pride, where we see ourselves as superior to those around us. Whatever our motive is, it’s hard to believe that it could be a motive of love as Jesus demonstrated.

Can you imagine Jesus running the neighborhood Christian gift shop while wearing pleated pants, loafers, and a t-shirt saying “1 savior + 3 nails = 4given”? Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying that Jesus would be meandering around in his Leisure Toga. I personally think Jesus would mix some old school with new school, rocking Reebok Pumps with a popped collar. However, that is beside the point. The point is that it is unmistakable that Jesus’ life on earth was motivated by love.

One of the best examples of Jesus’ love and his association to those he didn’t even know, comes from Mark 6:30-44. In this account, Jesus sees a crowd of people that has just run from several surrounding towns in order to see him. Upon seeing them he is moved with compassion. The actual word for compassion is a deep feeling of pity, likened to a yearning or movement within the bowels (“bowels” certainly isn’t the word I would prefer to use but it’s what the Greeks and Jesus chose to use, so if you’re insulted because of my impropriety you can blame the Greeks or Jesus). Jesus’ so-called successors, also known as his disciples, told Jesus to just send them home. The disciples said this with it already being late and right after they had just spent solitary time with Jesus. They had been by themselves all day and without even spending a moment with the people, they tell Jesus to send them off. Not only did Jesus not send them away, but he met their physical need and spiritual need. He taught them and then he fed them.

So who are you in this account? Jesus or the disciples? If you say you’re Jesus then you’re lying because if Christians imitated Jesus’ example in this account then there would be an attraction to Christianity in America, but there is not. When was the last time you saw Christians being depicted as loving. Christians have been depicted as protesters, politicians, and moralists, while atheist celebrities are the ones being depicted as loving.

The challenge then is to recapture the love of Christ. We will never be able to recapture that love until we stop living out of our own Christian sub culture and start spending time with Christ and with people. C.S. Lewis said it well when he stated: “Love comes when manipulation stops; when you think more about the other person than about his or her reactions to you. When you dare to reveal yourself fully. When you dare to be vulnerable.” Let us be a people who reveal ourselves fully, and better yet, reveal Christ fully.

So that’s the article. This sums up something that I have been feeling for a couple of years now. As the title suggests, the American church is a pathetic shell that has almost nothing to do with Christ. It is a country club without the fun and maybe a little less exclusive, but perhaps just as expensive. How much money have churches spent on new buildings, big screen tvs, video game consoles, etc? Enough to feed, cloth, and shelter thousands, perhaps more. Do I need a big screen TV and a fancy building to serve Christ? No! And neither does anyone else…

Older Posts »

Categories