Beyond pure doctrine.

I have a real soft spot for Reformed/Presbyterian doctrine. I’m convinced that it is the most rigorously and fully true expression of the whole of scripture. Any church would be blessed, I think, to be taught it.

Yet, I want to push past pure doctrine. It’s good. It’s right. The statements it makes are, as far as I can tell with God’s help, an accurate reflection of reality. All of this is true, and pure doctrine is still not enough.

Pure water is good, but if you don’t drink the water, you still die of thirst.

Maybe what I want isn’t to push past pure doctrine. Maybe what I’m trying to say is that I want to stop choosing doctrine or practice. Maybe I’m trying to make myself less binary, less like a pendulum. This is the way I’ve thought for a long time, you see: the churches that have the good doctrine generally keep it to themselves as if to let it outside of the church family will make it fall apart, and the churches that have the great practice generally seem to think salvation is about hugs and roses and making everybody feel great about themselves.

If you recoil at this dichotomy, I don’t blame you. I don’t like thinking like that, and I’m probably not right about it.

But I’ve been to too many churches where they put a verse — sometimes even a whole chapter — about sharing the gospel and feeding the hungry and taking care of orphans and the vulnerable, but have no real corporate way to put the words into practice other than shunting some money into a basket every Sunday.

And I’ve been to too many churches that seem to be active in the community and concerned about social justice, but just can’t seem to get it that Jesus’ death and resurrection are the only reason that justice means anything in the end.

These aren’t really helpful categories, though. It’s not like every church has to choose along an axis which percentage of orthodoxy vs orthopraxy, and every prospective member has to choose which percentage they’re content with. Life isn’t like that, and hardly any churches are the gross caricatures I’ve drawn.

I want both. It’s not a difficult formula. The central message of scripture transcends both, bringing both in line. The central message of scripture is that God deserves glory and honour and praise and adoration. He does this by both saving people’s souls, and redeeming the world. He chooses to do so by means of the very people he has saved, and God help me, that decision seems a little daft some days.

System access fees are essentially robbery.

When I buy a cellphone, I am quoted a price for the accompanying plan. The price is essentially a lie, or at best an attempt at obscuring the real costs of the plan. If you get a $20.00 per month plan, you pay that, plus an additional system access fee, plus a 911 access fee, plus taxes. On a $20 per month plan, these costs nearly double the cost of the plan.

Isn’t this deception? Isn’t it misleading and underhanded? Why should I pay a fee to access a system that I’ve already paid to access in the form of a cell phone plan? The name doesn’t even make sense! I’ve already paid to access your shitty network! That’s what the plan is for! And to add insult to injury the cellphone companies may simply raise their system access fee at any time. If their profits aren’t quite where they feel they should be, boom, up goes the system access fee.

Frankly, I’d like to launch a class action lawsuit under consumer protection laws, if only to make sure that the full costs of each phone plan are actually named in the plan’s cost, including 911 access fees and whatever other fee cell phone companies want to foist on consumers.

The Separation of Church and State

When the founders of the United States first envisioned their country, it seemed they saw a country where religion would inform government, but government wouldn’t impose strictures on religion. Obviously, this sort of pragmatic stance resulted from the obsession old world’s states had with organised religion, as if without a state-mandated faith, their societies would crumble. It probably also had a lot to do with economics, but that’s a whole other topic.

We’ve come far from that point. In Canada, I’m pretty sure we never even were at that point. Now, separation of church and state means more that both government and religion should not inform eachother as much as is possible. This is what we call the secular state.

Christians of all stripes can view this a bunch of ways, I think. There are some that think that a secular state is an impossibility, and that trying to create one is a mistake. Others view the secular state as a sort of unfortunate necessity, a goal that can’t really be reached, but must be, under the circumstances.

I think both are fair positions to take. They both take a different kind of nation with different kinds of goals, sure. Yet they’re both reasonable.

I’m in the second camp, mostly. I say mostly because those categories are a reduction, a sort of boiling down of a whole range of though. I’m not expecting anyone reading this to fall exactly into either category. Life isn’t that binary. I’m mostly in the second on the list. Mostly.

Here’s what I think. The Christian faith has a bunch of goals, right? There’s an overarching purpose to it all, that God glorified himself, as he should. Yet there are smaller goals as well. Jesus restoring his creation to himself. His followers living like him and practicing true religion. Christians loving their neighbors, whoever that may be. Praise. Loving God. The pursuit of holiness. These are some of the goals of the Christian faith.

Nations-states, however, have a radically different agenda. Their overarching purpose, though it may unwittingly glorify God, is self-preservation. Like any other organisation, a nation-state takes on the agenda of its constituents, and exists simply to exist. There are smaller goals beneath that, like expressing ethnic identity, gathering around a shared value, or simply protecting a bunch of land. At the end of the day, though, nations are about self-preservation, whether offensively or defensively or both.

These goals clash. Christians simply don’t spread the faith through violence and force. Nations preserve themselves through force: it’s not a perfect world.

When these two entities co-mingle, the resulting monster is hard to put down. The state intrudes into the faith and suddenly there is tyranny and persecution. The faith intrudes into the state and suddenly there is fanatical nationalism and oppression.

Christians can be politicians, and politicians can be Christians, no problem. But the domain of the state is not conducive to the practice of true religion: you do not wage a “Christian” war, and you should not crouch a war in religious terminology. While the state must use force, the Christian absolutely must not.

On the other hand, though the government must not be a respecter of religions, religions are not bound by such strictures. Religions are about opposing truth claims. Christianity makes truth claims that say, among other things, that all the other religions of the world are counterfeits. And while governments must not make these sorts of claims, Christianity must be free to do so, whether it irks the tolerant soul of every civil servant labouring towards an equal commons.

This is essentially what I believe on this matter. Freedom of religion is essential, a secular state is essential, and the separation of the two is the guiding essential that keep both from collapsing into and ruining eachother.

Urban Terror

I know, I blogged about Warsow and how amazing it was, but the game I’m most hooked on at the moment is Urban Terror. Seriously amazing game, great graphics, and some of the best gameplay I’ve seen this side of Rainbow Six: Rogue Spear. It combines some of the movement techniques of twitch gaming (powerslides! whee!) with the more measured combat of Enemy Territory and Call of Duty. It also focuses more on urban and suburban environments than most games emerging from the Q3A scene.

Download it; it’s big, so please do everyone a favour and use Bittorrent. (I currently have a share ratio of 11; you’ll probably be getting some of your bits from me.)

Urban Terror runs on Windows (of all stripes), Mac OS X, and Linux (I currently have it set up in Ubuntu). It’s free. You don’t have to be a gaming genius to play it, either.

Here are some packages I would like to see added to Ubuntu’s repos.

I know Amarok and Deluge and Firefox are the glamourous children of the packaging world, but there are a few packages I’d like to see added to Hardy. Packages that would make my professional life just a little bit easier.

  1. Zimbra: PHPgroupware and OpenGroupWare don’t cut it. Zimbra — I’ve seen a functioning system! — is nice, and has risen almost to the point of competing with MS Exchange. It would be simply wonderful to be able to apt-get this sucker.
  2. OpenBravo: Such an impressive piece of software. One of the few OS ERP projects with a nice website, a nice interface, and a lot of great features.
  3. VMWare Server: It was in the repos, then it disappeared. I have exactly two programs I need Windows to run, and I’d like to host one of our ageing Win 2000 servers as a virtual machine running in an actually stable environment.
  4. Bugzilla: Okay, this one is in the repos, but I simply can’t set it up properly. Maybe it’s just me.
  5. ERP5: Apparently pretty powerful, I bet there’re quite a few people who’d want to give this a whirl.
  6. That’s it for now. But I will be back with more…

Warsow: A blog about a game.

I don’t play a lot of games. Really, I don’t. Granted, when I go over to my parents’ place, I might play a spot of Call of Duty 4. At home, though, there’s not really a whole lot of time to play, and I don’t have any disposable income with which to actually purchase any games.

That said, I’ve found a game to play lately, Warsow. It’s free, available for a variety of platforms, and breaks nicely from the traditional Quake-inspired Gothic darkness with cell-shaded graphics and an overall different appearance.

It’s also ridiculously difficult (for me) to actually play. Warsow is clearly geared to gamers and their trix. I, on the other hand, am just a lowly married man with bad hand-eye co-ordination. When I type cg_showSpeedMeter “1″ into the console (yes, it had a console, just like every other game worth its salt), I rarely if ever get over 400. I suck.

Yet I still have fun… try it out. Seriously. I double-dog-dare you.