Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Unlikely Disciple

2009 was a bit of a funky year reading wise for me. I'm sure I read some books, as I always do, but I don't have any serious recollection of them.

However, this year, I've already devoured 3 books and I'm looking forward to reading even more. The Pixar Touch fed into my tech geek and movie geek side (Excellent read). The View From the Bridge: Memories of Star Trek and a Life in Hollywood
fed my Star Trek nerd side (OK. The Star Trek parts were very interesting, but Nicholas Meyer's is a bitter, bitter man).

The most significant read I've done this year is Kevin Roose's The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner's Semester at America's Holiest University. And it might be one of the best I read this year. The upshot is that Roose is an Ivy League college student who decides he doesn't know enough conservative Christians. So he decides to take a semester studying "abroad" at Jerry Fallwell's Liberty University. But he decides to do it undercover as a conservative Christian. He rightly ascertains that Christians would put their "best face forward" if they knew he was writing a book about it or was not a Christian. So after a crash course from a Christian friend, he registers for classes and spends the spring semester of 2007 at Liberty University.

There are several excellent aspects of this book. Roose is an excellent writer. He has an engaging style and the fact that the book is written narratively makes it flow incredibly well. 2) Roose enters the world of a conservative Christian with as much of an open mind as it's possible for him to have, growing up outside of that world and having most of his opinions of Christians formed by the media. And it's because of this open mind that Roose himself is actually changed by his exposure to Christianity. Spoiler aalert: He doesn't become a Christian as a result of this, but what he does do is realize that Christian college students aren't much different than his friends at Brown. They're interested in pop culture and the world outside of Liberty. Roose also decides that he will abide by Liberty's rules (mostly) and do the things that a Christian would do. He dates but doesn't pursue sex (which he says frees up a man and woman to actually talk and find out about each other, rather than pursuing carnal pleasures), he prays (which he says forces him to focus on other people and their needs rather than his own [a lesson many of us Christians could stand to learn]), and he participates in a Spring Break mission trip (that one's best left for the book). Here's the other way I know this is a great book: Sheryl read it almost as quickly as I did and found it just as fascinating.

I've always been interested in alternate perspectives, especially ones of things that I believe or participate in. The Unlikely Disciple is a great example of this, and I think it's one that Christians should read to see what an outsider pretending to be an insider really thinks of us and one that nonChristians, especially nonbelievers in any religion, should read. Do we have flaws? Yes. Are these flaws sometimes so apparent that it's hard to see the good in us? Yes, maybe, but just as Roose looked at us with an open mind, not only would I hope that others look at us similarly, but that we should to those who don't share what we believe charitably as well.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Haiti is Not Cursed

What did it take to get me to break my blogging hiatus? Not the wonderfully entertaining insanity of the Late Night TV shuffling. And not even necessarily the tragedy in Haiti, but one Christian's response to Haiti. I understand that by even talking about this I'm giving Pat Robertson a smidge of publicity, but I also feel like I have to make a couple of things very clear.

First the comments from Robertson. "Something happened a long time ago in Haiti, and people might not want to talk about it," he said on Christian Broadcasting Network's "The 700 Club." "They were under the heel of the French. You know, Napoleon III, or whatever. And they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, we will serve you if you'll get us free from the French. True story. And so, the devil said, okay it's a deal."

"But ever since, they have been cursed by one thing after the other, desperately poor. That island of Hispaniola is one island. It is cut down the middle; on the one side is Haiti on the other is the Dominican Republic," he said. "Dominican Republic is prosperous, healthy, full of resorts, etc. Haiti is in desperate poverty. Same island. They need to have and we need to pray for them a great turning to god and out of this tragedy I'm optimistic something good may come. But right now we are helping the suffering people and the suffering is unimaginable."

Two responses to this.

1) The majority of Christians do not agree with this statement. I can't think of any that I know, and I'd love to say that no other Christian agrees with this, but I also know that a lot of people watch Pat Robertson's show, so there are probably many who do agree with him. But in the majority, Christians think Pat Robertson is wrong about this.

2) Even if he were right, this would not mitigate the need of Christians to act in support of the people of Haiti. That we would have a responsibility to assist in any way possible for the good of the Haitians. It seems that Robertson thinks that way as well, but it doesn't change the fact that I think not only is he wrong in his estimation, but somewhat dangerous as well.

However, even in my disgust for Robertson's comments, I have to remember that God loves him just as much as the grieving mother in Haiti, and that my love for him should not be affected by his unguarded tongue.

A couple of other pieces. One of my Facebook friends posted this about a cause of Haitian poverty. http://www.boingboing.net/2010/01/13/haitis-real-deal-wit.html It's well worth the read.

Also, Pat Robertson has issued a clarification on his statement. http://www.patrobertson.com/pressreleases/haiti.asp

And Donald Miller also posted a great and much more eloquent response than mine on his site. http://donmilleris.com/2010/01/13/1513/
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