Monday, September 22, 2008

Pride in my lawn

I never really understood the vanity and attention that some people seemed to pour into their lawns. I also never imagined that I would ever be someone to have that kind of investment in the land surrounding my house. After this last weekend I am beginning to think that this might change. One of the flaws in the new house my wife and I purchased is the fact that instead of having nice lush grass, or really any grass, it was instead a weed covered desert. Yes, I do mean desert as in sand. One of the requirements of our purchase agreement was that we put in a lawn to make the city of Baxter happy. This meant a debate of how to best accomplish this. We talked about sod versus seed and decided that while sod sounded easy it was also really pricey. So instead we bought some seed, ordered some dirt and set to work. With the help of my parents we weeded 12,000 square feet of yard, pulling up anything that might get in the way of the new grass. Then once the dirt had been delivered and spread over the yard we set to work raking it to loosen it up for seed. After going over the entire yard with the rake we then started seeding, first horizontally and then vertically. Once the seed was on the soil it was time to once again go over things with the back of the rake in order to push the seeds into the soil and help them get started on their quest for life. Finally, after going over the yard time and time again, all I have to do now is water it as much as possible. Suddenly I have a great more invested in having a nice green lawn. Because of the effort I have poured into this I really do care about what happens to it. I think in our society we have a tendency to move towards specialization and that means that a lot of us, myself included tend to pay someone else to do jobs then spend the time doing it ourselves. While this does leave us free to do other things it lessens our investment in things. When we look to others for solutions we lose some of our attachment to the results. This is fine for a lot of things, even for lawns, but when it comes to things like ministry, we need it to be hands on, we need to have some attachment to the results. That is why I am really leaning to the notion that my job is not to be a specialist in ministry, but instead an empowerer of others to do ministry, so that all of us can have an attachment to work of God that is being done in the world.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Who are we to judge

As a political junkie I have been closely following the presidential campaigns of Obama and McCain as well as the primary season before hand. One of the challenging issues this year is the question of what makes something sexist or racist. Historically this has not been a huge issue since almost every major candidate before this year have all looked basically the same (white men). With the recent selection of Sarah Palin as the VP pick for McCain the conversation that started with Clinton and Obama has returned with a passion. Both palin and Obama create the challenging question of how to distinguish legitamate criticism from prejudical criticism. Often the line is a very hard to tell the difference. I would even argue it is possible that legitmate criticisms can be raised for prejudical reasons. I believe it is quite possible to argue that Obama has less experience in government than McCain does and that Palin has less experience in government than Biden does. These assessments are not based around issues of race or gender, but a person's concern in raising them can be more about race and gender than about experience.

I woud admit that there are clear instances of sexism, racism, and even ageism present in the campaign, but I want to focus on the grey area right now. The reaso it fasccinates me is it connects, at least in my mind to a struggle I have as someone seeking to be open-minded and yet also aware that there are times I want to be able to be judgmental. When it comes to religious beliefs I find a real struggle to both be open to the reality that I do not have a complete and certain understanding of God and that others may have different and yet equally valid concepts of God while at the same time wanting to ability to say that some things are just wrong, or perhaps simply less valid. I want to make these judgments not based on some sense of what I believe compared with that which is other, but instead on a more rational, objective evaluation of belief. I want to affirm the value of Islam while still saying that many of the Jihadists are misapplying the teachings of Islam and are wrong in their beliefs.

As I look at these two paragraphs, sip my chai, and try and think what the next logical step in this line of musing is, I find the struggle really coming down to my desire for some hybrid understanding of truth that is neither completely objective nor completely subjective. I greatly value the subjective nature of truth, largely because my experience of most objective truths is taht they are really subjective truths of one person or group of people that thien get forced onto others and so begin to seem objective. At the same time, when it comes to picking a presidential candidate or evaluating a person's beliefs and how their practices match their beliefs I am left wanting an objective understanding of things, even if it is only locally objective. The philosopher in me needs to make a distinction here, when I am talking about objective and subjective truths I am largely connecting them to the ideas of absolute and realitve truths. What I struggle with in all of this what to anchor my objective, absolute evaluative understanding to. Is there any way to say that it is bad if there are logical inconsistencies between a person's faith and their practices? or is that all based on my own understanding that practice is meant to perferctly and logically follow from belief? Is there something wrong with not voting for a woman because you do not believe women are as good as men? Certinaly I find the notion appalling, not backed up by any solid evidence and in fact contradicted on many levels, but who am I to judge?

I have not really gotten any where with all this musing, but I have found the process enjoyable. I was considering spending some time today musing on the start of school, and based on this post I can tell I really do miss school. I miss lingering over a,lunch or dinner at college and picking holes in the universe with my friends until it was time to move on to other things. In a world filled with hunger, pain, poverty, and war it seems silly to spend a quiet morning ponder on largely academic, philosophical, and not really practical questions, but when I think about the gifts that God has given me, this is something I am good at, so I have to believe that somehow God finds some value in it. And yes, that believe is highly subjective to me, but in the end my reality is the one I am most concerned about, just like everyone else.