Skip to content

Welcome!

16 Jun 2010

Thanks for visiting!  (Are you in John MacLean’s English class? Click here.)

My most recent blog posts are below. But to see an overview of what I blog about here and where else I am online (now on trunk.ly), click Read more…

Advertisements

The Blue Parakeet – Scot McKnight

14 Jul 2011

I recently read The Blue Parakeet by Scot McKnight.  Here is an unpolished review I wrote mostly for myself.

Great book about how Christians read the Bible – in addition to encouraging a historical, cultural, literary approach, McKnight emphasizes the “picking and choosing” that all Christians do when reading the Bible.  He repeatedly points out that we all do it.  It is not wrong, but it is important to understand the reasons why we do it the way we do.  He lists five ways that Christians have read the Bible:

  1. Morsels of Law
  2. Morsels of Blessings and Promises
  3. Mirrors and (Rorschach) Inkblots
  4. Puzzling together the pieced to map God’s mind – creating the “grand system”  McKnight emphasizes God revealed the Bible as story, not as systematic theology. But his real problem with this approach seems to be that it can result in people thinking they have the Bible figured out or have mastery of it – they know what it says – they have “caged and tamed the Blue Parakeet” (p52) (IMO, this happens when people’s first question is not what does this mean, but how do I make this fit in my system (as Fee has observed in Reading the Bible for all Its Worth).  But many of us do this to some extent – esp. in the West where system is such a huge part of our culture.)
  5. Maestros – reading all of the Bible through a favorite Bible person (e.g. Paul, or even Jesus).  The problem is ONLY asking What would Jesus do? or What would Paul say? or How do I understand this using Paul’s categories and ways?

(ch 3)

He encourages a reading “with” rather than “through” tradition.

He also encourages an understanding of and reading informed and shaped by the story of the Bible –

  1. Creating Eikons (image bearers) – Oneness – Gen 1-2
  2. Cracked Eikons – Fall – Otherness – Gen 3-11
  3. Covenant community – Otherness expands – Gen 12-Malachi
  4. Christ, the perfect Eikon, redeems – One in Christ – Matt – Rev 20
  5. Consummation – Perfectly One – Rev 21-22

(p67)

The “wiki-stories” (as he calls them) that make up the big story also reflect this overall story (or parts of it).  The importance of keeping it all in mind as we read – or we can get off track.

In the last section of the book, McKnight applies these principles in reading the passages about women and leadership in the church.  He defends an egalitarian – or what he prefers to call a “mutuality” position.

 

Overall the book was a great presentation of these ideas at a basic / popular level.  However, I did feel that McKnight was at times a bit too dismissive and perhaps a bit unfair with others. While I think I understand the underlying reasons for it (related to typical hermeneutics and interpretive practice of different groups), the blurb on the back of the book was OTT – presenting McKnight as the first to offer middle ground between “out-of-touch fundamentalists [and] unrealistic liberals”.  I actually saw this turn someone off of the book.  While this kind of unfairness / hero-solving-huge-problem does not happen this egregiously in the book, there are hints of it.  (find and include example here)

Also in the book, we can see that McKnight obviously enjoys teaching the Bible to undergraduates and it seems he does a great job.  As a not-young-person who teaches undergraduates, I do wonder how some of his attempts to be “hip” come across to young people.  I can’t say.  I either never try or fail when I attempt this.  If he is succeeding, that is great – I just don’t know.

I do think the content is needed and useful for young people – even if they disagree with his position / application re women in the church.  I think the content is presented in a friendly, readable way.  I am giving the book to a couple of high school graduates at our church.

 

Three Cups of Tea?

20 Apr 2011

I previously posted about Greg Mortenson’s Three Cups of Tea.  It looks like there are some questions about the accuracy of his account.  I have not seen the 60 Minutes program, or looked into it much, but here are some news items about it:

Three Cups of Tea: The Pakistan and Afghan side
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-13125953

Greg Mortenson’s Three Cups of Tea ‘inaccurate’ – CBS
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-13112799
Publisher looks into Mortenson book fabrication claims
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-13126900

Son of Hamas

9 Mar 2011

Son of Hamas: A Gripping Account of Terror, Betrayal, Political Intrigue, and Unthinkable Choices by Mosab Hassan Yousef

At first glance I was cautiously optimistic about this book.  I read the Postscript, his dedication / letter to his family, and the first chapter.  There seemed to be a better spirit and a fairer presentation than is typically found in this genre of books (Muslim terrorist becomes Christian – e.g. Kamal Saleem (The Blood of Lambs), Walid Shoebat, Zachariah Anani (see http://www.3xterrorists.com/biographies.php), and Ergun Caner).

And in many ways, this is true.  Mosab criticizes both Israeilis (settlers, the government, the military) and Palestinians (the PLO, Hamas, and others).  While he shows love and appreciation for his father, he despairs over his father’s “failure to see” that “the problem is Islam”.  He portrays the torture and abuse of both sides, as well as the corruption, self-serving orientation, petty bickering, in-fighting, and just plain evil.

However, the group that is, by far, portrayed the best (though not perfect) is Israel’s Shin Bet.  They come off as basically good guys who are the only ones doing any significant good in the conflict.  Given the goals and methods of any counterintelligence / internal security organization in the world, it seems to me that Mosab does not seem sufficiently aware of how he was used by them or what they did to him psychologically. (Not to mention many other things that Shin Bet does that many would consider evil.)

Also, while I agree that the core problem is people’s sin (to use a  Christian word for a concept that most looking at the conflict would agree exists), and that the ultimate solution – reconciliation – is truly only found through repentance, forgiveness and restoration, I am disappointed by Mosab’s shallow application of Christian principles to the conflict. I don’t remember any significant reference to any Christians or Christian organizations working for peace.

I guess my biggest question is why does he write an exciting, tell-all, espionage tale – which comprises most of the book?  He could have made many of his observations; could have told much of his story; could have offered critical analysis of the Israeli government, the IDF, Hamas, Fatah, other organizations, self-serving leaders, Islam, even his critique of his father; could have held up Christian principles as the ultimate solution – all without the spy tale.  Yes, this was his story.  But he had to realize the impact of this – and how it would be seen – by all of the audiences he mentions – Palestinian Muslims, Israelis, Christians, Middle East experts and policy makers.  I would argue that he could have made his points more effectively without the spy tale.  This is illustrated in his phone conversations with his father at the end of the book.  His father still accepted him when he found out his son was a Christian.  Communication ceased when he told his father he had been a spy for the enemy. (p245-6)  Basically, Mosab’s stated goals (p 247) and methods do not seem to be a good match.

I am also concerned about Mosab’s blog, sonofhamas.wordpress.org.  It is a mix of proclaiming a “no such thing as moderate Islam” message where he sees his father as sincere but not realizing that “true Islam” is the problem – and American exceptionalism (using “we” and “us” to include himself with the Americans) – at least based on two of the articles on the front page of the blog today (7 Mar 2011).  Here are a couple excerpts:

“One of the biggest lies that has kept Islam alive is the belief that there is a difference between radical and moderate Islam. Islam is one, no matter where someone stands on the ladder between culture and jihad.

Another is the nature of Muhammad. Today, 1.5 billion Muslims follow a man they don’t know. Modern Muhammad is the creation of their imaginations. He bears no resemblance to the vile man who built a self-serving dynasty by oppressing his people and killing, in God’s name, everyone who opposed him.”

–part of Up the revolution! In ISLAM on February 24, 2011 at 05:05 – on sonofhamas.wordpress.org

“But Mubarak is not the only object of Egyptian wrath. The United States is viewed as his co-conspirator, the muscle that enabled him to hold onto his dictatorship for 30 years.

The mobs hate him. They hate us.”

“Because the truth is that America is filled with good men and women. America is exceptional.”

–part of Middle East up for grabs In EGYPT on January 30, 2011 at 05:35 – on sonofhamas.wordpress.org

Finally, I want to say that I have no idea of what Mosab has gone through, but I can see how his experiences could have strongly affected him.  I would love to see him less categorical in declaring an extremist interpretation of Islam as “true Islam”.  I am sure he has very useful insights and critiques of extremist / fundamentalist Islam (some of which appeared in the book).  Already, as I mentioned above, Mosab’s book is better than other books in this genre, but I wonder how much more of a hearing he could get with a less one-sided view of Islam.  I don’t want Mosab to stop pointing out the problems he sees in Islam – he is in a unique position to do that – I would like to see him do it in a way that could be received and really considered by more people.

Bad news for Afghan women

16 Feb 2011

A friend who works with a NGO in Afghanistan told me about these two articles.  He said this will undoubtedly result in the death of many, many women in Afghanistan. One quote: “Under the new shelter regulations, if a woman’s family comes to claim her, she must be handed over.”

http://www.undispatch.com/afghan-government-cracks-down-on-womens-shelters

http://www.undispatch.com/facing-the-gatekeepers-afghan-women-fight-shelter-takeover


The Muslim Brotherhood and the Gospel of Christ

13 Feb 2011

Just read this piece in Christianity Today online:

The Muslim Brotherhood and the Gospel of Christ
Why Egypt’s Christians might actually be safer if the Muslim Brotherhood were a part of the ruling government.

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2011/februaryweb-only/muslimbrotherhood.html

Encouraging to see an informed, respectful article about the Muslim Brotherhood in CT. Kubinec informs us of (a bit of) the complexity of MB’s history in Egypt and their current statements.  Rather than calling their statements deceptive ruses, he highlights the expectations of Egyptians and the world that the MB will live up to these statements as a part of a future government.  Rather than endorsing those who have and would continue to suppress them (including torturing them) and deny them full participation in democracy, Kubinec encourages their presence in a democratic process that would hold them accountable.  Neither Kubinec (I assume) nor I agree with many of their beliefs, positions or values – but this does not mean we cannot talk respectfully with them about these issues – and expect them to live up to their commitment to do the same.

Encouraging to see an informed, respectful article about the Muslim Brotherhood in CT. Kubinec informs us of (a bit of) the complexity of MB’s history in Egypt and their current statements. Rather than calling their statements deceptive ruses, he highlights the expectations of Egyptians and the world that the MB will live up to these statements as a part of a future government. Rather than endorsing those who have

Egypt 3

1 Feb 2011

Looks like mostly peaceful demonstrations so far today.  I have seen estimates ranging from 100,000 to 1,000,000 demonstrators in and around Tahrir Square.  However, some have reported that the army is limiting movement – blocking roads from Alexandria to Cairo, trains are not running.  Also I saw video yesterday of police (or maybe army?) using water canons against people trying to cross one of the main bridges over the Nile to get to Tahrir Square.  I understand that state-controlled Egyptian TV is broadcasting close-up shots of pro-Mubarak demonstrations.

It seems some want to march from Tahrir Square (the main site of the demonstration in Cairo) to the presidential palace, but others think it would be too far to walk and that if they leave Tahrir Square, security may take over the square and not let them back in.

The army’s statement not to use force against the people ( BBC News – Egyptian army statement vowing not to use … ) was unprecedented.  This has surely emboldened many to join the demonstrations.  I hope that people will not push this too far – for example by storming the presidential palace.

One humorous tweet I saw was “If the government wants people to stay at home and do nothing, then just turn back on the internet.”  The internet has now be totally cut off and journalists are still reporting that they are being roughed up and their cameras, computers and phones taken away.

Also, in Jordan, King Abdullah has dismissed the government, including Prime Minister Samir Rifai whom the demonstrations were primarily against.

This movement (Tunisia, Yemen, Egypt, Jordan) could have huge consequences for totalitarian and dictatorial regimes around the world.  There are other places that would be ripe for this kind of revolt – but with governments which would not hesitate to put down such demonstrations very quickly and violently.  Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi in a statement to the BBC World Service (which may have had to be approved by the government?) acknowledged what was happening in a way that clearly referenced her country, but did not outright call for demonstrations: “I think after so many years, people have got tired of the military. I think what it showed is that people have much better means of getting in touch with each other and arranging mass public demonstrations. I think protests are one way of bringing about change, but not necessarily the best way. As for the president leaving, I think it depends on the situation in the country. I think if the situation has been such that there’s no other way, then surely they have take whatever opportunities they get.” (reported on BBC’s live news feed)

I have started using Trunk.ly for bookmarking – mostly news related stuff – and have several pages related to this bookmarked there. I have an interesting one on the propaganda on Egyptian State TV and another on some Arabic cartoons (with translation) about the current situation.

Continuing to hope and pray for a peaceful transition to a more democratic, more free, and more evenly prosperous country.

 

Egypt 2

31 Jan 2011

Here are a few other articles related to my post yesterday about Egypt and US foreign policy.  Interesting and important to think about, but, as I said yesterday, let’s not forget the people of Egypt who are facing uncertainty, possible food shortages, and possible violence (due to the conflict or lawlessness).

4 Reasons Why Egypt’s Revolution Is Not Islamic –  by Haroon Moghul
http://www.religiondispatches.org/dispatches/guest_bloggers/4133/4_reasons_why_egypt%E2%80%99s_revolution_is_not_islamic

Beware Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood –  by Leslie H. Gelb
http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2011-01-29/beware-egypts-muslim-brotherhood/p

These first two articles disagree with each other.  Good to read both as both make valid points.  I especially appreciate what Gelb says at the end about how to speak in public and what to say only in private to the concerned parties – very important always, but especially in much of the non-West.

An Open Letter to President Barack Obama (from political scientists, historians, and researchers in related fields who have studied the Middle East and U.S. foreign policy)
http://www.accuracy.org/an-open-letter-to-president-barack-obama

There is another lesson from this crisis, a lesson not for the Egyptian government but for our own. In order for the United States to stand with the Egyptian people it must approach Egypt through a framework of shared values and hopes, not the prism of geostrategy. On Friday you rightly said that “suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away.” For that reason we urge your administration to seize this chance, turn away from the policies that brought us here, and embark on a new course toward peace, democracy and prosperity for the people of the Middle East. And we call on you to undertake a comprehensive review of US foreign policy on the major grievances voiced by the democratic opposition in Egypt and all other societies of the region.

Obama’s Mideast Moment of Truth
http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2011-01-30/egypt-protests-palestinian-leaks-obamas-mideast-moment-of-truth

America is losing its grip on the region, as Egypt and the Palestinian WikiLeaks-style document dump shows. Thank goodness, writes Peter Beinart in this week’s Newsweek—now Obama must stop propping up their autocratic leaders.

What do the mass protests in Egypt and the leaked documents about the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations have in common? They show that the Middle East is spinning out of America’s control. For decades, Washington has backstopped Hosni Mubarak’s dictatorship and chaperoned the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Today both efforts are on the brink of failure. No wonder that intermingled with the pro-democracy rhetoric coming out of the Obama administration is a truckload of fear.

It’s time for Obama to choose. George W. Bush spoke endlessly about Middle Eastern democracy, but at the end of the day, he opted for American control. He never seriously pressured Mubarak or other pro-U.S. autocrats. And when Hamas won the freest election in Palestinian history in 2006, his administration pushed Fatah to overturn the results by force.

Israel urges world to curb criticism of Egypt’s Mubarak
http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/israel-urges-world-to-curb-criticism-of-egypt-s-mubarak-1.340238

 

America is losing its grip on the region, as Egypt and the Palestinian WikiLeaks-style document dump shows. Thank goodness, writes Peter Beinart in this week’s Newsweek—now Obama must stop propping up their autocratic leaders.

What do the mass protests in Egypt and the leaked documents about the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations have in common? They show that the Middle East is spinning out of America’s control. For decades, Washington has backstopped Hosni Mubarak’s dictatorship and chaperoned the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Today both efforts are on the brink of failure. No wonder that intermingled with the pro-democracy rhetoric coming out of the Obama administration is a truckload of fear.

It’s time for Obama to choose. George W. Bush spoke endlessly about Middle Eastern democracy, but at the end of the day, he opted for American control. He never seriously pressured Mubarak or other pro-U.S. autocrats. And when Hamas won the freest election in Palestinian history in 2006, his administration pushed Fatah to overturn the results by force.