Friday, January 18, 2008


Lately we've been posting a lot of thoughts on our faith and politics, but we haven't really blogged in a while about general things we've been up to. So here's a quick recap.

Early December - As you saw, we began learning (or re-learning, for Ben) how to deal with the New England snow. I feel pretty proud of the fact that we endured what was the Boston area's second-highest snow total in history for the month of December. Again, I also need to give proper appreciation to Ben for faithfully shoveling around my car and warming it up for me in the morning.

 What a great husband!

Late December - We visited with Ben's family in North Carolina and spent Christmas with them. In addition to eating, opening presents, and hanging out at home with everyone, especially the adorable Caleb, we helped out with a clothing drive at a local rescue mission, took a Pun family portrait, and had a fun double date with Pat and Brenda. I think Ben and I also watched the most movies in a five-day span of time that I've ever watched. Among the plane trips, the family time at home and the double date, we watched Rush Hour 3, Happy Feet (although I fell asleep - sorry, I was sleepy), The Great Debaters and The Simpsons Movie.

Fun with Uncle Ben!

New Year's Eve/New Year's Day - I had to work on NYE and we considered trying to find some "real" plans with friends for the evening, but no one seemed to be doing anything special. So we ended up staying home, falling asleep long before midnight, and toasting shortly after midnight with some sparkling apple cider. For the record, we were planning to have champagne until we remembered that we are not allowed to have alcohol in our home. Oops. Thankfully this came to mind prior to us buying any. We slept in on NYD, took a late afternoon walk and then went to see I Am Legend. (I think we're overdue for a chick flick. Especially after Ben got me to watch Unbreakable this week, too.)

Early January - I'm continuing to settle into my job, even taking on some new responsibilities after a colleague resigned to take another job. Ben has been enjoying the rest of his winter break while studying for a Greek exam and reading in preparation for his spring classes. We also enjoyed a fierce game of Monopoly with our friends Erin and Ryan, as well as a fun potluck dinner with our Citylife community group. We've gone through yet another major snowstorm (surely not the last for this winter), during which I managed to drive through what looked like Narnia and get to work ON TIME...perhaps a mistake, since even a good chunk of my co-workers, who are mostly native New Englanders, did not come in that day. But at least I made it to and from work without much trouble, and I'm pretty proud of and thankful for that. 

I know I keep blogging about snow, but it's just such an interesting learning experience for me, and sometimes for Ben, too. For those Southerners who haven't been through this - if you want to get a taste of what it's like to drive in an active snowfall, next time you're in the shower, turn and face directly into the showerhead. See all that moisture coming straight at you at a rapid pace? Fun, isn't it? (I'm being sarcastic, of course.) Also, I'm sure this seems really obvious, but if you must drive on a snowy day, the key is to drive either BEFORE or AFTER the snowstorm has happened. If you drive before, obviously the snow isn't there. If you drive after, you give the plows a chance to come through and clear the roads for you. If you're out there when the snow is coming down, you will always be driving on a significant layer of snow, unless you have the great fortune of being behind a plow truck. Folks, there's my lesson of the day for my fellow snow newbies. But enough of snow for now - although we would like to take and post some photos of Narnia soon. It is scary and beautiful all at the same time.

More to come!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Christianity according to a Porn Star

I read an interesting interview today between Willowcreek church and porn star Ron Jeremy.  Not surprisingly, Ron Jeremy is not a Christian.  But he made some interesting observations about Christianity:

I think Christians have a very chauvinistic attitude, and I don't think Jesus would go for that; 'If you don't accept Him as your Savior, you don't go to heaven.'  I think that's really mean...What He would say is 'You were a good guy that wasn't born and raised to believe in me.  I'll teach you about me when you get here.'  He's going to penalize you because you were born a Jew, a Muslim, Buddhist, or Confucianist?  He's going to blame you for it?  You spent your whole life working with kids and being a good person and being a teacher in the Peace Corps, but because your parents didn't teach you about Christ he'll say, 'Sorry, you ain't coming up here?'...So you're going to sit there and tell me that Jesus Christ wants it like that -- where you can be a serial killer and slice people's throats, but accept Him as your Savior five minutes before you die, you're going to heaven?

I love debating.  Sometimes with religious fanatics I just can't get a point across.  They say, 'Well, Christ doesn't like that.'  Great, then the argument's over, isn't it?  How am I going to argue with that?  They just throw the Bible at you.

First, Jeremy is right about several things.  Far too many Christians refuse to think critically and show that they really haven't thought through important issues.  It is much easier to just condemn non-believers then to really engage them in conversation.  

Ron Jeremy also poses the classic problems that most people today have with Christianity: it is narrow and unfair to say that Jesus is the only way.  It's a hard question that I think I've only recently been able to have anything close to an answer to.  But it is a flawed argument.  When you say that "all religions are valid" you are actually are being just as narrow as I am.  You are saying that your belief, that all religions are valid, is the right belief and everyone should convert to your belief.  You would have the same problem as a Christian would: if someone wasn't born in modern America where this belief is prevalent, that person would never have a chance to know the "truth" of your belief.  So your belief that all religions are valid and my belief that Jesus is the only way are equally narrow.  There simply is no way to have a belief/worldview that isn't exclusive.  The real question is which belief/worldview truly leads to peace and freedom in our world and from the human condition?

But I think Ron Jeremy misses what separates Christianity from all other worldviews.  He thinks that all religions including Christianity basically say that if you are a good person, if you practice your religion and beliefs, you go to heaven.  He rightly concludes that in his view, he is a good person and that therefore he will go to heaven as well.  Jeremy is right that all other religions assert that you are saved by doing certain things and practices.  But Jesus is radically different.  He says you are not saved by what you do.  Christianity recognizes that we are broken, and no matter how hard we try, we can't really solve our brokenness by joining the peace corps or helping kids.  I know that even if people might think that I'm generally a "good" person on the outside, I know my thoughts, my motives and my darkest moments.  I am always doing and thinking things that I wish I didn't.  I am always being too self-conscious or too materialistic.  I am not a good person, and no matter how hard I try, I can't get away from it.  But unlike all other religions, in Christ, God became man and died in our place: he saw that we could not fix our situation, so he came down to us, became a lowly man, was spit on, mocked and killed for us.  We are not saved by anything we do, we are saved only by trusting and receiving Christ's perfect record in our place.  Only Christianity offers freedom from our human brokenness because we no longer need to try to prove ourselves.  Only Christianity gives me the power to truly love others who don't believe what I believe because after all, Jesus loved me and died for me even though I constantly reject him.
Thanks Ron Jeremy for making me think.     

Monday, January 14, 2008

Religion Saves and 9 Other Misconceptions

I'd like to recommend a free online sermon series to you entitled "Religion Saves and 9 Other Misconceptions".  Mark Driscoll, Pastor at Mars Hill Church in Seattle, who I think is one of the most gifted communicators of biblical truth to today's culture, created a website to ask people to submit the topics they would like him to preach on.  After tallying thousands of votes, he is preaching on the top 9 (my paraphrase of the topics):

1/06: 9.  Is birth control wrong?
1/13: 8.  Why do you use edgy humor when you preach?
1/20: 7.  How can a loving God predestine people to hell?
1/27: 6.  What parts of Christianity do you still wrestle with?
2/03: 5.  How do you get free of sexual sin?
2/10: 4.  Is salvation by faith alone or also by works?
2/17: 3.  What boundaries should we have on dating?
2/24: 2.  What can we learn from "emerging" churches?
3/02: 1.  Does the Bible determine not only the message but also our method as well?

Here's a sample from a Q&A session from his first sermon, responding to the question: "Is aborting a pregnancy as a result of rape is wrong?"


Friday, January 4, 2008

More Politics

For some reason, I've become fascinated with the upcoming election this year.  As Rachel said, this is the first time we've really been interested in politics, and I think this is a good thing.  Last night as I was flipping between CNN's coverage of the Iowa Caucus (I'm still not sure what a caucus is by the way, or how to spell it for that matter) and the Orange Bowl,  I was trying to analyze what was going through my own head in trying to choose a candidate I liked.  I was a little annoyed by the CNN people repeatedly saying that it was the "evangelical" voters who won Huckabee Iowa, I guess because it seemed like they were always using a tone: "those pesky biased evangelicals who always unthoughtfully just vote for the 'christian' candidate."  But I guess there are a lot of people who vote like this -- and I'm trying my best not to be "unthoughtful" in my voting this year.  I've heard Martin Luther quoted several times as saying he'd "rather be ruled by a competent Turk than an incompetent Christian", and though it seems like Martin Luther never actually said this (which leads me to another point -- look up your sources before you quote people!), I have to agree with whoever said this.  You could be a great Christian, and be a horrible political leader, and we shouldn't vote for someone like that.  On the other hand, I think it's obvious not only to Christians but to all Americans, that we all want to vote for somebody that we trust and that we think generally has good character.  This is what goes through my mind, at least: which candidate seems like he or she is actually going to follow through on all the promises he/she is making?  I don't think anyone wants someone who is just a sweet-talking politician, but rather a strong leader who leads firmly and thoughtfully: i.e., with integrity.  Another thing that annoys me is the hard-lined partisan talk: "the other party is filled with complete idiots and everything they stand for will lead this nation to doom."  It seems obvious to me that that we need both the Democrats and the Republicans: why else have they both survived virtually equally in our government throughout history?  It seems like our country basically survives on them balancing each other out.  I'll wrap up my long rant by saying that I think this is why Obama and Huckabee have emerged as the early leaders in this race: they seem to be appealing to the American people as the most honest candidates who are also striving to be less partisan and more understanding of opposing viewpoints.  I think that's good.             

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Election 2008

Ben and I have decided that for basically the first time in our lives, we are going to be educated voters. We have both voted before, but never truly made the effort to be informed about the issues and candidates' stances on them. So far we have done, started or are planning to start things like:

- Watch local and national news more regularly
- Watch the debates (including the CNN/YouTube debate - a few more thoughts on this later)
- Read "voter's guides" produced by various publications and organizations, in hopes of getting more perspectives and assessments of the candidates
- Subscribe to (and actually read) a national news magazine
- Pray about the election - the candidates, the voters, how God wants us to vote

We're excited about this, but it will be challenging, too. We would often rather be watching Friends, SportsCenter, or various other TV shows than watching the news or reading. But we know it'll be worth the effort.

Regarding the CNN/YouTube debate, I think it is interesting how the younger generations are being targeted more in this election with things like the CNN/YouTube debate, the ABC News/WMUR-TV/Facebook New Hampshire debates, and Mike Huckabee's collaboration with Chuck Norris on a campaign ad. Who knows, come 2012, the mud-slinging campaign ads will be solely broadcast on YouTube, the debates will be done via live blogging, and we will be casting our votes via text message, "Balloting for Blackberry" (I made that up) and accepting candidates' invitations to become their "friend" on Facebook.