Tag Archives: culture

What to tell my kids about Climate Change?

Disclaimer: I am not a scientist, nor a physicist, nor an ecological expert.  At best, I’m a decent teacher/thinker, but what I am most assuredly is a Dad who cares deeply about my kids and their future in this world. 

Having just read “Global Waming: A Very Short Introduction” by Mark Maslin, I’m left with so many questions, but I’m choosing to focus on just one:  What to tell my kids about Climate Change?

This is such a heated debate within the political, social and religious culture of modern America.  If you acknowledge any hint of conviction in a kind of Climate Change that is happening through the measurements of Science, you are labeled an immediate political and religious liberal.  There appears to be no category for economically conservative, evangelically traditioned and an ascent to at least a kind of Climate Change

Well, here it goes:  I do believe in at least a kind of Climate Change that appears, according to the science of certain measurements, to be the result of human agency.  The scientific community is in no way in agreement on every point on this matter to be sure, but there is relative aggreement that with the increase of carbon dioxide at the hands of human development is having environmental effects.  “One of the few claims of the global warming debate that seems to be universally accepted is that there is clear proof that levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide have been rising ever since the beginning of the industrial revolution.” (p. 7)   Clearly our expansive development through the Industrial, Space and Information age have created a quality of living, comfort and modernization as never before seen on this blue planet, but at what cost to our environment? 

There are so many issues to muddy the water in this debate:

  • Global Warming has become big business, and the point of big business is to protect and sustain big business which means profits.  This is a dangerous slippery slope to Science as it has been to Religion through the centuries.  There is no such thing as being ‘unbiased’, particularly when so much money and professional reputations are on the line.  The Scientific community is at odds a bit on this issue, see this article. 
  • The politicization of this issue particulary in the fractured American world of politics.  To be for ‘climate change’ means you are a democrat, and to be against it is to be Republican.  It would be professional and political suicide to differ from the ranks on this issue.  How did we come to this point?  It seems to have peaked with Al Gore’s participation with “An Inconvenient Truth” and now it is purely a political issue/stance instead of a human reflection. 
  • A postmodern distrust in media, institutions and organizations of power such as the UN and others from the scientific community.  Consumers are used to the over-statements of daily marketing messages and the dire warnings of climate change seem to fall into the same white noise. 
  • A fractured relationship between the Chrisitan Church and the Science community.  You can trace the origin of this fault line most likely all the way back to the Scopes Trial of 1925.  As a result, the evangelical Christian community within America has launched a culture war to “win back” America from the secular age.  The culture war created a bubble of it’s own music, books, movies, t-shirts, camps, concerts, video games, breath mints, schools, nightclubs, dating services, campus groups and a myriad of other versions of Christian industry.  At the very top of the list of this crusade to take back America is a severe distrust of the Scientific community for it’s lack of space for any kind of rational creationism.  Science is met with fear and reactive statements.  This fracture grieves me and perhaps one of the reasons why I have no home within the fuzzy middle of this culture war, it makes no sense to me as a person of faith. 

So, what to tell my kids about Climate Change?:

  1. You live in a global community.  You are a uniquely gifted individual that lives within the context of a global community.  With that comes responsibility to use your personal freedoms with the common good in mind.  Think tribe, think community, think inter-connectivity.  Your individual actions affect the whole and vice-versa.  The American propaganda of hyper-individualism is a fool’s gold, there’s no life in it.  Think of others, act on behalf of others, use your gifts to serve others; you’l find youself in harmony with the intention of a life-giving Creation.
  2. Re-use and recycle because it’s just a good idea of being stewards of Creation.  Will it affect global change when China is expanding it’s CO2 inducing industrial plants?  Probably not but it doesn’t make it a bad idea.  Act in your freedom to do what is doable.  Healthy living and thinking has its own rewards.
  3. Refuse more.  Learn to live on less.  Contentment is found in simplicity.  Don’t buy into the myth of “away”.  When we throw “away”, it doesn’t go to a magical land of nothingness.  It goes to a place on earth built for waste and it overwhelms our environment.  Be conscious of our contribution of waste in our communities.  Meaning is created, it isn’t purchased. 
  4. Embrace Science, it is a physical revelation of what we can know about the design of our Creator.  It is a lifelong wonder.  Read Science with awe as you do the Scriptures, they are describing the same God and His intent for humanity.  Learn to read and discuss important issues with people you disagree with.  Listen, think critically and then offer your measured response.  Learning sometimes happens in unexpected places. 
  5. Humanism leads to fear, the wonders of our world are astronomically far beyond us.  Most of what can be known, we yet don’t know.  Fear is not our story, our God is not nervous.  We act responsibly, we use our freedom to serve, we participate in a Kingdom that has come on earth as it is in heaven.  But it is not about us, salvation is beyond us.  Have a proper view of self in the scope of God’s Creation and history.
  6. Love this world, it’s a part of our expected hope.  Resist the dualism of this world being “bad” and the far off place called ‘heaven” being the good.  We believe in the restoration of all things, a coming of a new heaven and a new earth.  We will not be raptured away to a different land in the by and by, rather there will be an unveiling of the New Creation that will restore and resurrect the one we have.  The Scriptures are not linear, they are circular.  Revelation points back to Creation, our hope is that God is restoring the intentions of Creation itself.  As Howard Snyder put it recently, “Salvation Means Creation Healed“.  Start with the end in mind, our hope in Christ is the salvation of all of Creation.  We are not in a culture war, we exist to love our neighbors. 

Tricky and complicated issues to be sure, but they deserve to be wrestled with and sifted through.  With complete disregard, it may be the end of the world as we know it, for good or bad. 

‘Open Sourcing’ the Kony Arguments

The video that started it all (as of the writing of this post) has been viewed over 76 million times since being posted one week ago.  Friends, that is our new reality.  Images, awareness, causes, news, messages, agendas, movements etc. can be virally spread through communication devices without need for subscriptions or searching libray stacks.  It is all readily available at our fingertips or in our cargo shorts pockets. 

I do not want to focus on the validity of the idea of the “Stop Kony 2012” campaign, it’s value or the counter-arguments.  I simply am interested in the meaning and form of the new media that made it all possible to have this ‘open’ and global conversation.  The day the video started exploding, without precedent, it was an immediate ‘open source’ conversation

A great example of this can be found in the Guardian

A live blog was set-up this past Thursday in the Guardian (as just one example) and throughout the day, informed and educated people on all sides of the perspective argument chimed in with stories, information, additional videos and opinions.  It was a live, real-time critical inquiry into the heavy themes and subject matter of human atrocities.  Personally, I was somewhat informed on the issue of capturing children in East/Central Africa to be put into the rebel military against their will from watching the original “Invisible Children” film back in 2003.  However, I spent most of the days last week becoming a learner of dozens of other perspectives on the issues and how they should be resolved in action.  New Media made it possible for me to immediately get the perspective of mulitple Ugandans and other aid workers in the region.  Education and awareness was happening at a feverish pitch.  For those of us with a bend towards ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), it was like school the way it was meant to be. 

No matter how professional, artistic, powerful, polished, inspiring, emotional, informative your video post may be, it will no longer ever be a one-sided conversation.  New media has ushered in a culture and time of real dialogue, open source conversations and a dizzying volume of perspectives.  The ‘Kony 2012’ campaign could not stop with the viral video, daily it has had to update it’s website with public statements and defense of its strategy.  The day of the monologue is over, new media has ushered in dialogue with all it’s unfettered rhetoric. 

Recently, our cohort read “New Media: 1740-1915”  which was edited by Lisa Gitelman and Geoffrey B. Pingree by MIT press.  This was a fascinating read within the historical context of former ‘new media’ technologies like zograscopes, telegraphs, stereoscopes, telephones, phonographs and the emergence of cinema.  Each of these examples of new media did not have immediate definition or meaning of their significance, they were defined over transitionary times to serve the purposes of the cultural contexts placed upon them.  Meaning is found within its place of culture and time, it may often not be in the intention of its invention.  New Media finds power and form in these cultural meanings, defined by its use not it’s inventors intentions. 

New Media is on full display in meta-phenomenas like the ‘Kony 2012’ campaign and it’s subsequent backlash.   It was another coming of age moment for ‘social media’ and the expansive power of it’s networkng roots.  Politics, social movements and civic duties are no longer monologues happening behind closed doors and then spin-doctored to the consuming masses.  The people have power to be educated and informed, new media is making it all possible.  As an educator by trade, briniging this kind of definition to these new technologies is something I get very excited about.  What about you?

Fear and Pain


Read this today on this blog

“Riots are about power, and they are about catharsis. They are not about poor parenting, or youth services being cut, or any of the other snap explanations that media pundits have been trotting out: structural inequalities, as a friend of mine remarked today, are not solved by a few pool tables. People riot because it makes them feel powerful, even if only for a night. People riot because they have spent their whole lives being told that they are good for nothing, and they realise that together they can do anything – literally, anything at all. People to whom respect has never been shown riot because they feel they have little reason to show respect themselves, and it spreads like fire on a warm summer night. And now people have lost their homes, and the country is tearing itself apart.”

Couple this with the dramatic sell off of the US stock market and the economic global unrest and you have a recipe for fear and pain.  When the consumer dream dies, what will it look like?   After we are done blaming, pointing fingers, lashing out against races/classes/parties/establishments, what will we do?  Will we find a stable center to build from or will we deconstruct to unproductive nihlism?  I pray for peace and work towards peace, but I’m afraid this is more than just a blip on the screen, it’s our new reality.  Unrest, fear and pain.  Where will our healing be found?  Are there any carriers of the medicine already planted amongst us?  My rebellion is yet for hope and life.

 1 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.  (Rev. 22:1-2)


Future of Autism?

Autism is becoming an increasingly major US epidemic with little clues to cause nor cure.  Here is an article on how medications are showing little to no effect on helping to be effective against the symptoms.   The number of autistic children in the U.S. alone has risen from just 15,000 in 1992 to 365,000 cases in 2010.  Friends, that is significant. My son, Zach, is 8 years old and was diagnosed on the autism spectrum around the time he was 2.  We have been fortunate, we got early intervention and the school district we live in had resources to help us with some special needs resources and he has flourished in those.  He is healthy, he is happy, he loves his sisters, he learns about the world by observing and copying others, he can be affectionate, he is intelligent but every once in a while we see how his issues show themselves and we wonder what his future will be like in the real world. I had a bad dream a few nights ago that Zach was raised in a home that was full of conflict, he was neglected and without nurture for his heart or his issues.  The look on his face was soul crushing to me.  It was as if the “real world” had stolen his joy, his smile and his boyish energy.  He looked hard, angry, agitated and broken.  I wonder out loud if the purpose of that dream is to increase my awareness of what other kids and families are going through without the resources we have been blessed with.  It is a hard road of atypical challenges, judgments from others when your kid  is acting out in public, yearning for normalcy that will never happen, loneliness when your child can’t handle your nurturing touch and isolation when your child cannot speak the words and phrases they are thinking.  As a parent you desire connection with your child, but it’s painful when that child down deep may want that too, but physiologically they cannot execute it in the real world. What is the future of autism in the US?  I am not a medical doctor, researcher nor scientist so I can’t speak to that end.  But what I am is an architect of community.  Your autistic child needs community, needs people that will love them unconditionally and long for their future.  They need a tribe of belonging that defines their normalcy, not a world of false hopes and aspirations.  Patience is the key to working at unlocking the intelligence that is pent up within them, they need a community that is comitted to long-suffering.  The hope for proper nurturing is community, not isolation.  The rugged individualism of the western hemisphere, particularly in the US, is a fool’s gold, it’s an empty void of logic.  Needing each other is not weakness, it’s a tribal strength.  Our future is bright in authentic community, the future of autism is depending on it.



It Might Get Loud


Watched “It Might Get Loud” last night on NetFlix with the wife and I loved it.  It’s a documentary on the electric guitar from the point of view of three significant rock musicians: the Edge, Jimmy Page and Jack White.  I am a pretty big fan of Led Zepplin, U2 and the White Stripes so I found it particularly tasty.  I give it 4.5 out of 5 stars, the only reason not a 5 is because they tease you when the guys start going off on classic riffs and then cut back to the documentary.  I was ready for a full unplugged concert session in awe. I was particularly intrigued because I play some guitar, not that well though.  I taught myself back in college and can do enough to get by as a rythymn guy, but I imagine some lessons would have helped.  What I resonated with was not their guitar talents which are legendary, but it’s because that art was just in them.  Their craft is theirs, they own it.  They eat it, they breathe it, they bleed it . . . they are the result of the intersection of passion and talent.  I’m a sucker for raw passion, lots of it in this film. As well, I’m all about living life out loud.  Find what you love, and let it rip.  Why not?  Connect your heart to your art and do some living at high volume.  Life is fleeting, rock it out my friends. peace,Marshall

Resurgam for the church?


As the American church finds herself amidst drastic cultural shifts, economic new realities and divergence in macr0-thinking about life and meaning, how will she respond?  Will she lament only about the “good ole days” where she dominated cultural creation and was referenced as a major player in civic life?  Will she continue her obsession with “end times” theologies of a kind of Platonic dualism where this world is wretched and the hope is to hunker down wait for Jesus to come back to their spiritual home in the by and by?  (I see this approach as blatantly fatalistic)   Or will she find courage to think differently, to be creative and find new ways to serve and care for her cities and neighborhoods?The American mega church (churches 2,000 or more) have been built on the foundation of the hyper-individualism in later modernism.  Choice, preference, comfort, convenience, professional specialists, digital environments and a savy eye towards both mass and niche marketing have contributed to their growth and perceived relevance.

“The church of the third millennium finds itself amidst a culture that has become ‘nothing but a meeting place of individual wills, each with its own set of attitudes and preferences and who understand that world solely as an arena for the achievement of their own satisfaction, who interpret reality as a series of opportunities for their enjoyment and for whom the last enemy is boredom.” – Veli-Matti Karkkainen An Introduction to Ecclesiology (p. 228)

I used to be a voice against all things mega, but I have softened quite a bit in that area.  There are questions I have, but there are also questions I have about my own church, and I’m the planter of it ;-).  I really don’t see a right or wrong in the “how” of church anymore, I am just seeking true ekklesia.  I believe ekklesia can be found in mega, traditional, rural, mainline, micro, simple, organic, house, multi-campus etc. , I also believe that unhealthy church can be found in these same modalities.   I believe now that church structure is neutral, it is the response of the people to Christ and his Spirit that bring meaning to the structure.  Take those elements away and you can find institutionalization in mega and unhealthy cults in micro communities.Recently I have been in conversation with Joe Boyd and Kevin Rains , two guys who I deeply respect their hearts for God and their hearts for our city.  Joe is leading an initiative with Vineyard Community Church here in Cincinnati, a mega church of 6,000 plus that has a solid reputation for being people who serve and care about others.  VCC is branching out believing that their future is as a harmonious structure of mega celebrations (6,000 plus), campus sites (100-300) and micro-communities (3-15 or so).  They see value in each structure and believe the way forward is not more of the same, but trying things differently.  I for one, applaud their efforts and am glad to be advising with them on the micro-communities.Resurgam is Latin for “I will rise again”.  I wonder, both to myself and out loud, is a marriage between mega-church and micr0-church a way for the American church to move forward and rise again within culture?  Not from above, but from below.  Where we are known not for our dogmas, but for our communal nature and search for meaning.  There are idealogical differences in the ways of thinking between micro and mega, but there is one Christ and one Spirit who forms the Church.  If we keep our focus on them, there is hope for a Resurgam within the American Church.  I’m in.peace,Marshall

Community as Story


I had a chance to attend the 3rd installment of Formed this past Saturday at Cincinnati Mennonite Fellowship and the topic for this month was CommunityMark Van Steenwyk from Missio Dei in Minnieapolis was sharing his story of community with us.  There was a phrase he used as he was talking that just jumped out to me as both true and a bit painful.  He said in terms of our American living: 

“We stay in to watch and we go out to spend.” 

  I would have let this pass without a note if it wasn’t so true.  In that statement he adequately unveiled 2 of the greatest sicknesses of American life:  Consumerism and Individualism.     Our culture teaches us that the reasons you go out is to consume and to spend.  We spend on things that we hope will give us meaning, most of the time we remain unhappy.  The slick marketing campaigns of billion dollar businesses caress our ears with the message that if we buy what they are selling, we will find the happiness we are looking for.  Of course it’s a lie, but yet we have an engaging appetite to consume and try again.  It defines our “going out”.    When we stay in, we can tend to organize our lives, evenings and weekends around the tube or the telly (I like to call it telly).  The drama, the celebrity, the sport, the action . . . they are there to give us entertainiment in our leisure.  If we are not careful, they can become the very story we live our lives around.  And it’s unending, one season rolls into the next and rolls into sweeps week with cliff-hangers and to-be-continued til next season if only we will hold our breath in anticipation.  The media we watch at home can dictate to us how to arrange our time based on our consumption of their drama.  Years ago, I stopped watching the news.  Rather now, I read it online in print and have RSS feeds to local papers.  That way I’m informed, but I was tired of the news dictating to me what I should fear and what I should care about.  They don’t care about me nor my family, they just care about my viewership.   I say all of this not to prohibit spending or watching.  Both are a part of our culture that we live in and can be healthy alternatives to life as usual.  But they are not meaningful, if you are looking for life in things that are dead, you will find yourself perpetually empty.  I would suggest that the Story that gives meaning is authentic community.   Finding the definition of who you are not by what you buy or what you watch, but based on who you belong to.  When you find that kind of belonging, it’s permanent.  It doesn’t wane with sweeps week or spike during seasonal sales.  It remains true, constant, the kind of story you can build your life around.  How do you find that kind of community?  Our culture doesn’t sell it, our culture doesn’t produce it, I think it’s found in a spiritual quest.  Something that cries out much deeper in us than a yearning to consume or be entertained, it’s a primal search for meaning.     I’ll close with one of my favorite quotes in my reflections about Community as Story:

“Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one. ” Jane Howard


Education Paradigms

Are you a bored student?  Have you ever wondered why?Are you a boring educator?  Have you ever wondered why?Perhaps we should change things, or would that be too much learning?  😉[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/zDZFcDGpL4U" width="425" height="344" allowfullscreen="true" fvars="fs=1" /]

Formed: Simplicity


Last weekend I attended the 2nd module of Formed, a 12 part novitiate curriculum of spiritual formation led by a group of friends.  This month’s module was on the topic of “Simplicity:  Antidote to Consumerism” and the conversation was led by Will Samson.Will Samson was the right thinker/speaker for this conference conversation with practitioners on the value of Simplicity in a world of consumerism.  His background in Sociology and Theology was crucial to give this topic the depth and reflection it deserved.  He first analyzed the macro-issues of consumerism before he drilled down into the practical living out of simple community in today’s American culture.Samson laid out that our culture seeks for contentment in the consumption of things.  If we can acquire more “stuff” then that will lead to happiness.  However, instead of happiness, many Americans have only found overwhelming debt.  The over-arching response has been similar thinking from the government to the individual household; to get out of debt we must spend our way out.  This results in a spiraling down emotionally, the more we spend, the more depressed we are.  We live in a culture of mindless consumption; the desire for more is something we’re taught as “economic actors”.In my opinion, Samson’s most profound point was in our culture’s narrative of “away”.  We throw things away like it goes to a magical place and we don’t consciously know how that happens physically.  We are completed disconnected from our waste, we are disconnected from how food gets to us, we are disconnected from how money is made etc.  This narrative of “away” has perpetuated conspicuous consumption, debt and the obesity factors that come with the unhealthy eating of processed foods.  He describes that what we are doing is completely unsustainable and that the problems we face cannot be saved at the same level of thinking that created them.How do we practically move forward and do something about our mindless consumption?   One way he suggests is the biblical value of serving one another, it is the alternative to consumerism.  To serve one another means that we make sure there is enough for all, that the community needs are met. Samson suggests that being radical is simply just getting back to the roots of what it means to be human.  He proposes we can engage in at least five different, simple modalities to do something about it:

  1. Make something
  2. Trade something
  3. Grow something
  4. Slow down
  5. Eat together

Simple enough, thanks Will.