Thursday, July 31, 2008

i can't decide which hashbrown preparation method would make the best wedding night joke. chunked and covered, maybe?

Andi, my dear, you dodged a bullet. Had I known that a Waffle House wedding was even a possibility, I would have spent the entirety of our engagement lobbying for our nuptials to happen at the Hillsborough St. Waffle House in Raleigh. Futhermore, I would have pushed for Ms Betty to get one of those internet church ordinations so she could have been our officiant. Readers, feel my loving wife's sigh of relief.

Since Laul Peeland sent this link to me, I'm simply going to assume that this is his way of announcing that his upcoming wedding has been moved from a classy downtown Raleigh church to one of the triangle area's even classier Waffle Houses. Laul, please let me know which location I'll need to show up to and whether a tuxedo is still necessary(or if we're just going to go with any of the t-shirts in the slideshow).

By the way, Scott, I know that you're super excited about getting your wedding on in an ultrawesome spot that I couldn't recommend more if I tried, but there are many different WaHo's in the area and I would completely understand if you wanted to change up themes.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

i have ideas. i'll share them with you. eventually. (prologue)

Let me be clear. When I say that the separation of church and state is vital, I mean that government should not be legislating anyone's faith. The government should never act only at the behest of any religious group. Nor should religion ever become an arm of any government body or political party.

I do very much believe that people of faith should very much let the government hear their voices. I just spent a week at Methodist University with some of the more political United Methodist Youth we have. I listened to them as they talked about an impressive range of political issues and encouraged them to carefully and prayerfully consider what the teachings we believe in have to say about those issues. I encouraged them to give voice to their conclusions in a way that challenged whomever it was necessary to challenge.

I've recently become pretty fascinated by the idea that the Old Testament prophets were in place to show governments what was right. This is where I think people of faith need to be in the political debate.

"But Ben," I hear you saying, "isn't this what the 'religious right' thinks they're doing?" "Surely," you say, "you can't be advocating their nonsense."

You're right. I'm not. There has to be something the, for lack of a better term, "religious left" can do other than blog furiously about people who use our faith to justify all kinds of different horrible.

We should be more than against them. We should be for something. More on this when I'm well-rested and reasonably certain I'm not just rambling at five in the morning.

To be continued...

Monday, July 28, 2008

the things you see when you cut off the television

I just saw two squirrels fight each other on top of my grill on the back deck. The victorious one is now perched on the corner of the railing and surveying the territory he undoubtedly won in the fight.

If you were looking for a useful entry, this isn't it.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

a question for myself. and an answer.

Am I enjoying Brett Favre revealing himself to be the most self-important douchenozzle in sports while simultaneously throwing the Packers' plans for the next few seasons into uncertainty?

Yes. Yes I am.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

funnybook of the week: Transforms Spotlight - Hardhead

Since IDW got the rights to the franchise, Simon Furman has been writing one of the greatest science fiction stories ever. No one will ever recognize this because 1) it's in a comic book and 2) it's in a comic book based on a toy line.

That's really too bad.

it's like raaaaaaiiiiiiiinnnnnn on your wedding day

Elizabeth Dole, who as we all know I find to be one of the most reprehensible people in the universe, has taken a break from being useless as a North Carolina Senator to attach a name that would be hilarious if it wasn't so infuriating to an HIV/AIDS relief bill going through the Senate. The name(for those who don't do the link clicking thing)? Jesse Helms.

This could only be more ironic if the relief was specifically for black, gay men. I don't know why people have been working so hard to obfuscate Helms' legacy of xenophobia rather than show it for what it was so we can learn from it and move forward, but this latest attempt from the worst senator since Jesse himself makes me want to throw up.

My only comfort is knowing that the king of the NC bigots would have dropped a brick in his pants if he knew his name was going to go on this thing.

Monday, July 14, 2008

i just watched pro wrestling from a luxury suite...and found hope

The JMatt, courtesy of his employer, scored some free tickets to the fancy pants section of the RBC Center for tonight's taping of Monday Night RAW. Stay with me, though, because here's what I found interesting.

Before the show, the WWE ran a "famous people who have been on our show" video package that included the embarrassing appearances from earlier this year of presidential hopefuls John McCain and Barak Obama. McCain scored zero reaction, but the crowd popped pretty large for pre-taped Obama(it was even a better pop than video packages of rasslin' fan favorite John Cena and hometown favorite Jeff Hardy).

If the rasslin crowd is ignoring McCain and popping for Obama in this state, maybe North Carolina really is poised to go blue in November. Wouldn't that be great?

tuomo ruutu is, in fact, a fun name to scream whilst wearing foam fingers

Courtesy of Red and Black Hockey, I give you this strange little number. These kids are either awesome, weird, or both. I'll leave the answer to the philosophers.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

obviously not including the rain delays...

I've found what can cause me to pay full attention to the Wimbledon men's finals. Glorious High Definition. Prettier sports are better sports is the less, I suppose.

UPDATE: Here, at the beginning of the 5th set, I'm beginning to think maybe Nadal deserves more credit than I give him.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Chapter Four: Joy to the World

Each time I attended a North Carolina Conference Youth Event, I found myself with something more than just quality role models. Each time, I found myself among peers who I adored. As we grew up together, that would become more and more important.

Just after I moved to the Greater Saxapahaw, NC area, I attended my third Summer Breakaway. It constantly struck me that the Louisburg College campus felt more familiar to me than the place I was suddenly supposed to call home. I never really got all the way past that initial feeling either. My time in Alamance County mostly saw me feeling like an outsider, even in the churches I was attending.

You'd think that with Mom and Dad serving different churches I'd have been able to find some good folks to enjoy my time there with. You'd be wrong. In one church, the only other person in the UMYF that was really even close to my age abandoned the weekly meetings pretty quickly. At the other one, I felt like I was reading a different Bible than most of the people involved - and it was very clear that I'd been raised with very different values. I certainly had friends at school. Good friends. None of them were too inclined to engage in Jesus talk for too long, though. When they did, it was very rarely in a supportive fashion.

Over the years at the Conference Events, though, I'd stockpile friendly and familiar faces. If we'd gone to the same school, we would have been scattered among several cliques. When we came together as youth of faith, though, who we were the rest of the year didn't seem to matter to us.* In between the normal trouble close-knit groups of teenagers can get into, we'd spend afternoons and evenings at a time enjoying conversations about the faith we shared and what it meant to the world around us. I'd found the community I felt was so important and with each event we grew closer as a group and my faith was explored in a place where I felt no judgment. Here, my faith became more personal even as it came to me in a shared environment.

The events would end. People would hug and say their good-byes. Then we'd go to Pizza Hut. We'd hug and say our good-byes again, and that would be that. Aside from the occasional letter (or phone call if you were supremely lucky - calls meant long distance rates and Facebook was still a long way away), you'd have to wait until the next event.

In the meantime, I had to go back. Back to the normal social nonsense that comes with high school. Back to UMYF meetings that felt like I was discussing an alien religion (eventually, I'd just shut up during these meetings rather than endure some of the sideways glances I'd least there were still occasional football, volleyball, or basketball games to participate in). Back to friends who didn't understand what this whole thing meant to me. Back home. Out of the bubble.

Trying to live as I did in these places never lasted long without the support those who I'd come to love so much around me for encouragement. The things I'd resolved in that company would start to crumble as I was constantly challenged from a lot of angles. I started to question whether or not my faith was actually workable outside the bubble.

Eventually, I would always come to the same conclusion. My faith was useless if it only worked in the safe places. We weren't there so we could get our Jesus in, get out, rinse, and repeat. We were there to take what we learned each time out into the world. It mattered that we did it. More importantly, it mattered how we did it.

Sometimes more damaged than other times, I always managed to come out of the challenges to who I was as a young Christian with my faith in tact. I would later learn that this had a pretty positive effect on some who witnessed it. It wasn't anything I said. It wasn't anything in particular that I did. It certainly wasn't beating anyone over the head with my beliefs. I adopted then, and still try my best to adhere to, a policy of not sharing too much without first being asked (but once you ask, all bets are off). Simply keeping the faith through sometimes punishing lines of questions (from people who I will only 11 years after the fact admit were much, much smarter than I was) is what impressed some of those same questioners into finding out more on their own.

I'm in the middle of a book called Jesus for President. Almost from the outset, this book strives to point out that Jesus' teachings were very rooted in the language, social structure, and politics of the world he lived in. To fully understand his teachings, you have to be aware of these things. He used jokes. He used puns (puns!).

People like to think that Jesus was speaking in timeless allegories that need nothing more than the book in which they've been collected to understand them. But just as I found that the Christian faith doesn't work only in the bubble, Jesus' teachings don't exist in a vacuum. While his themes and points were very much timeless, the specific words were rooted in the land where those ministries took place.

Jesus' teachings were for the people. Not the those in power in the Synagogues and not those who Rome placed in power, but the people. Jesus' church should be for the people, too.

*We'd find out in the years following high school that we'd formed what was perceived by those outside our little group as a pretty imposing and exclusive clique of our own. Yep. No one messes with the cool kids at church camp.

Friday, July 4, 2008

i come to bury jesse, not to praise him

Jesse Helms passed away. Normally, the announcement of the death of a retired senator wouldn't rate much more than a "Hmm, really?" from me. But this is Jesse Helms. I'm sure there are tons of right-wing writers that will sing the praises of Helms and talk about how appropriate it is that such a fine patriot expire on the 4th of July(unless you're on the west coast) and laud him for threatening Bill Clinton. And this is why I feel like I should also say some things.

I first became politically aware in 1990, when Jesse Helms was running some of the most overtly racist ads in the history of history. At 11 years old, I able to pick this out, and my earliest political opinions were formed so that I could be against whatever that tremendous douchebag was for.

He played on North Carolinians fears of anything different to the tune of five terms in the US Senate. For a long time, he was the first thing that anyone from out of state could identify about North Carolina when I met them. It was more than a little embarrassing.

Put simply, his legacy is one of xenophobia. His death shouldn't allow people to forget that.

I suppose I could say something nice about him, too. My mom, ever looking to find the good in anyone, would always cite the story of Helms using his stroke to get a friend of hers his lost passport replaced in a very short amount of time. She liked to tell this story and say that he at least tried to take care of the North Carolinians he embarrassed on a daily basis while in office.

I'm certain that this friend of hers was very white and very straight.

UPDATE: Catie Braly has brought to my attention that the URL to the WRAL story about Helms' death is kinda funny. If it's been discovered and corrected, here's the screenshot so you can read for yourself. It's totally worth it. Thanks, Catie.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

on the plus side, those awful "buckle up" spots at the rbc center are gone

Erik Cole, a guy I've enjoyed watching play hockey for years, has been shipped out to Edmonton for Joni Pitkanen; whom Jim Rutherford has apparently had a man-crush on for a while.

I'm not tremendously excited about the move after having done a little research. Pitkanen's stat lines don't seem that impressive, and the only analysis I've read that seems to think the Oilers are going to miss the guy has been written by Oilers fans on Oilers blogs. Oilers.

In the meantime, I'll miss Cole and his haphazard pushes to the goal between, around, or through defenders. I understand the Hurricanes need help on the blue line in the worst way, but I was hoping we'd find a way to get it without giving up a guy who has helped to define the team for the past several years.

In the past, Rutherford has proven to know exactly what he's doing when it comes to these sorts of things. So I suppose I'll be taking the usual wait-and-see approach before running into the streets and tearing my garments.