I fed the sheaf of paper into the shredder. I watched as it was pulled inexorably towards its disassembly, but felt no grief at the sight. From my desk I grabbed another. It, too, would be consumed.
It turns out I had underestimated our network drive usage: a dialogue box popped up telling me the disk was full. Impossible! I thought. But it was full. So I took some archived files off and searched for my co-workers MP3s. There were some MP3s on the network drive. But not for long.
I began to get frustrated with the note. No matter where I placed it, the sound was off. Or the position was off. Or both. It eventually maddened me to the point of deciding to watch an episode of The West Wing to cool off.
Staring at the quote, I rehearsed in my mind the litany of Machiavellian manipulations that had shunted this sorry excuse for a job to the forefront of my mindspace. Anger boiled within me, but also the power to focus my anger on the mongrel quote I was patching together. Like a computer-generated Frankenstein it rose before me, at once wretched and awe-inspiring, and with every addition, charge piled on charge, percentage point upon percentage point. I imagined the client’s face.
This is why you don’t make me angry, I though, grimly, as I hit “send”.
I began to realise just how bad my breath was, so I went to the washroom and gargled with Listerine, then brushed my teeth. It didn’t seem to help. I looked at myself in the mirror, then left.
I am unabashedly for sola scriptura.
That is, scripture is my only plumbline, my only yardstick. Not to say I’m good at it. Not to say I ever will be. But when push comes to shove, that’s where I’ll stand. When Jesus says, for instance, that the kingdom of God is at hand, meaning that it’s here, it’s now, it’s on this earth, I take that at face value. When Paul says that the kingdom of God is after the resurrection, I take that at face value, too.
But I am not ashamed to say people are imperfect. The “but” beginning that sentence may not make sense now; let me explain. Scripture only goes as far as it goes. It lays down hard and fast rules sometimes, but most often it lays down principles to follow, or guidelines to observe.
Our depravity as people enters here, that we are asked by holy scripture to figure it out for ourselves. (Incidentally, this is why the way of Jesus is so transferable, from culture to culture; there’s no one way to dress, for instance. There’s just decency and modesty.) The writers of the canonical books didn’t have a clue about optical information transfer and the hive mind of the internet, or internal combustion engines. They probably didn’t even understand the vast immensity of the universe that the Hubble telescope has unfurled for us in such vivid photography. Yet they had the seeds of it all there. Why is the free transfer of information good? Why is unlocking the secrets of the universe good? How should we do it? What should be our aim? And even when our goals and methods aren’t very good at all, what should be our response?
That God gave us brains to do this stuff is amazing. It draws glory to him above all. The fact that I can talk to some guy in Indonesia, the fact that I can send money to Come Over and Help to feed and clothe the young people of Eastern Europe, the fact that I can understand how I can’t grasp the vastness of the universe – these things all glorify God in their own way.
Yet, our brains, our beings, these things are all incredibly tainted. The vestiges of perfection are there, yes, but think of the ways humanity, created in God’s image, has mis-applied the gift. War. Weapons. Cruelty. Racism. Poverty. Sexism. Materialism.
These are things that even Christians have perpetuated on other Christians. Let’s not even mention what non-Christians have done to eachother in this and the last century alone! Even with our continuing personal reformation there is still a big chunk of absolute shit in each of our hearts. Think of what you, if you’re a Christian, have done to your brother or sister. To your fellow kingdom member. To your family. To your neighbor. I know: I’ve done my fair share and a bit more.
But focus merely on the application of scripture. Imagine the Roman Empire with its abundant slavery, and imagine Paul giving slaves the same dignity in Christ as their masters. Imagine how this will, eventually, snuff out slavery altogether. Now imagine Africans being sold by their fellow Africans to slavers, then sold again to the nominally Christian American southerners. How does that fit with the message of the Bible that slave, free, man, woman, black man, and white man are all equal under Christ? It doesn’t. Slavery is evil. Period. And those that promoted slavery while claiming to be Christians were committing a heinous crime against the ethos of scripture, and of Jesus’ and Paul’s message.
Imagine the battalions of Roman soldiers stationed over the known world, the emperors of which empire exercised every manner of cruelty against their enemies. Imagine Jesus’ message that the kingdom of God is not perpetuated with a sword, or with a spear, or Isaiah’s message of weapons being melted down and made into plowshares. Now imagine a nominally Christian president of a nominally Christian nation waging an unjust war against an equally unjust dictator, all while under a flag of a nation that mentions God in every pledge of allegiance. Imagine the thunderous trampling feet of nominally Christian armies lifting sword and shield to free a holy land. Imagine heretics being burned alive. War is evil. Unjust war is even more evil. And those that promote war in the face of scripture’s repudiation of it, and who promoted “redemptive violence” in the name of the Prince of Peace are committing and have committed a heinous crime in and against the name of Jesus.
All this to say, “We’re not perfect.” The sins of Christianity in the 2,000 years after Christ are many and complex. They are more numerous and more complicated that the sins of the Jews in the 2,000 years after Moses. I’ve mentioned some overt sins. But there are more, and they are personal. They are in the hearts of Christians who embrace a Hellenistic version of Christianity, or a rationalistic version of Christianity, or a Judaic version of Christianity, or a post-modern version of Christianity, or a materialistic version of Christianity, or a Pharisaical version of Christianity, and on, and on, and on.
We’re not perfect. This is the reason we stand on scripture as final authority. It is perfect. You can laugh at that from your modernist standpoint if you wish. I am convinced of it, like Paul was convinced.
But I am not convinced we Christians always get its spirit right. I am not certain I do, either. This is why I am unable to simply accept human tradition as an augment to the word. Isn’t that what the reformers fought against? This is why I am unwilling to simply submit to a certain cultural interpretation of scripture. This is why I am unable to say that things lacking clarity in scripture must go only one way. This is why I am suspicious of people who say that such and such is a necessary result of following scripture.
This is why I feel compelled to re-examine practice in the light of scripture over and over again, and to ask questions, and be convinced in my imperfection by that which is in itself perfect in every way. Have you done these things? I think they’re necessary. Essential, even. Simply because my evil runs deeper than even I know (and some of you will of course point out with a wink and a nudge a few places I haven’t noticed yet), and because, like the church, I am my own greatest enemy, and like the church, need Jesus, and only Jesus.
You can tell the spiritual from the non-spiritual merely by the titles of their blogs. Did you know this? It’s true. If, for instance, your blog’s URI doesn’t contain a portion of scripture, such as “thelordhasstretchedouthishandoverthesea.randombloghost.com” or “theirbodieswilllieinthestreetofthegreatcity.differentbloghost.com” you can be sure that your blog isn’t quite up to snuff. What sort of statement does “Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key” make to the visitors of your blog? Not a good one, that’s for sure. This is why, very soon, I will be renaming my blog “rmfo-blogs.com/gotaketoyourselfanadulterouswife”. Yes, very soon shall it be done thus.
I parked my car in the driveway, close to where the different colours of pavement divide my stretch of asphalt from my neighbors. Removing my key from the ignition, I unbuckled my seatbelt and opened the door. Down the steps to my basement apartment. Fumbling with the keys for a moment. Opening the door, crossing the semi-dark room lit only by a small window to the outdoor lamplight, I flipped the lightswitch.
Here’s an interesting post on Slashdot about a Face Search engine.
I’ve had this thought before. We’re about to become a nation of cameras, where public privacy is a thing of the past, as the ability to become lost in a crowd itself become slowly lost in the crowd of surveillance devices. But what if we all had access to these devices? What if the public in general is (as it should rightfully be) given the data? This assures the population that Big Brother simply can’t use the surveillance for anything it likes, and allows interesting technology to be built, such as Face Search. Want to know where your children are? Search them.
Don’t want to be searched? Who want to bet someone comes out with an obfuscation method to fool CC cameras? Something wearable, something small, something that would blur their face out. Like encryption for your image.
(As a side note, this is generally what happens: a massive hole opens up in our right to privacy, and someone comes along and fills it with a clever tool.)
In any case, something like this is going to happen eventually. The usefulness of ten million networked cameras is going to eventually overcome the cost of networking them. As storage becomes more plentiful and less expensive, I think we’ll find ourselves storing petabytes upon petabytes of camera data somewhere or other. And Google or Yahoo or Ask is going come along and index that material.
I’m not much for prognostication, but this one seems pretty straightforward. One day you will be able to find someone’s whereabouts with your browser. Maybe you’ll even be able to trace their path not only at the present moment, but in time. Essentially, 4D People Search.
So, what do you think. Good outweighs bad? Would you like to see something like this happen?
I reached for my cup of coffee and took a swig. Something didn’t taste right. I wondered if the cream had been in the fridge too long and had spoiled.