Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Influence: The Church or Hollywood?

This may come as a shock to you but Hollywood has far less influence on our culture than does religion. Yes they have prominence in what you see on TV, but then again Hollywood virtually controls the medium. But prominent visibility doesn’t necessarily equate influence. As a nation, 120 million of us attend Church on a regular basis which is far more than the number who attend movies in a given week. When you consider that less than 25% of Americans read one book a year, and only 1% of them are in college, it is a safe assumption that listening to the weekly sermon is still the most widely practiced form of intellectual activity in America. If one were to look just at expenditures, Americans give 25 times more money to their houses of worship than they do to their local movie houses. So if the Church is so influential in our culture, why is it so seemingly invisible? The late news anchor Peter Jennings, himself a Canadian, was baffled by this. He thought it was odd that America was so deeply religious and yet it was nearly invisible to the news media. I have a couple of theories as to why this is so. First of all, unless you do something exceptionally weird, good, or flashy at your church, it’s of no value to the media. Every Sunday the vast majority of us come together and pray, worship, hear God’s Word, and fellowship with one another. It’s a good thing, but doesn’t create the kind excitement that plays well on film or television. Secondly, Americans consider their freedom to worship almost as sacred as their actual religion. In the name of respecting the freedom of others that we enjoy ourselves, we don’t make this an overt part of our personal or national discourse. It doesn’t mean our faith has no influence on America, it simply comes in through the back door of personal relationships which once again is hardly a media event. Perhaps a better gauge of understanding the Church’s influence in America would be to imagine if it didn’t exist or were suddenly removed (which would be a dream-come-true for militant homosexuals and radical atheists). Not to be over celebratory here, but the Protestant and Roman Catholic Churches of this country were huge partners in the building of our civilization and to this day provide countless hours of community services and emergency food and relief without any government help or incentive. The only real motivation is Christ’s great law: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and strength and you shall love your neighbor as yourself. If this great influence were removed from our society, America would be less like itself and more like the Hollywood Babylon that some think we should be.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

There is a God by Anthony Flew

Several years ago Anthony Flew shook things up in the world of philosophy and religion by changing his mind about the non-existence of God. In other words Flew is a theist now and not an a-theist. This should not be taken to mean that Dr. Flew is now a Bible believing evangelical Christian though. He came from a Christian home and his father was a preacher and expert Biblicist, but Flew was unconvinced then and now as an octogenarian is still so. But as someone who has made his life’s work philosophy, he has done something quite daring; when confronted with additional information he changed his mind and did so publicly. Some of his fellow atheists have accused him of hedging his bets ala’ Pascal’s Wager, but in reality Flew is very clear he doesn’t even believe in an afterlife much less a final judgment. Flew merely believes there is a Creator, omnipotent and omniscient, who has made all that we see and know in the universe. So some philosopher changes his mind and is no longer an atheist but is not a Christian; why would this book be important to read? First of all Flew gives a relatively nuanced breakdown on his change of mind about atheism that is very enlightening. Much of it has to do further scientific discovery which makes the idea of evolution occurring without an incredible mind behind it fairly untenable. An example that is given is the breakthrough work in understanding DNA , the basic building block of all living things. The idea that its highly sophisticated unfolding program would develop spontaneously by some mechanistic force seems more likely explained by a Creator. Perhaps of greater value to the Christian is the fact that the so-called traditional arguments for the existence of God which were articulated by theologians and philosophers in the Medieval era are not as unsophisticated and discredited as we’ve been lead to believe (for more information “google” the arguments for the existence of God). As Flew looks back to the classical Greek philosophers idea of God, he concedes their idea seems to most closely parallel the God of the Judeo-Christian scriptures, but for Flew to connect with that fact is going to be more a matter of relationship than philosophy.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

On Medford 97501

“The sad part of living in the same town so long is you start to resemble your (very dilapidated) neighborhood…”

---Sylvester Stallone in “Rocky Balboa”

Although I wasn’t born there, I have lived in Medford Oregon for 41 years. Statistically I am like 50% of Americans who live fairly close to where they grew up. I’ve often wondered about what it would be like to be like the other half who have lived more transitory lives. I suppose they know something I don’t, but I suspect that goes both ways. I have met many people through the years who have visited my hometown on their vacation and really liked the beauty of the area. I usually take it for granted until I go away for a few weeks and then fly home. When I see the blue mountains and tall trees again I just know I’m home and for some reason I’m strangely enchanted. I honestly can’t say whether Medford is a better or worse place to live than it was growing up. It has improved in many ways with size and worsened in some ways too. And it has certainly changed. If you would have told me when I was a teenager that Medco would be put out of business, that vineyards would be the chief source of agricultural income in the Applegate and the Britt Festival would largely feature nostalgic rock acts, I would have figured you had lost your mind. Time does move on and to quote the Bible, everything has its “time and season”. No matter where you find yourself living today may God give you the ability to see change with both grace and wonder!

I was thinking about the Medford I grew up in and 10 things I miss from the past in no particular order:

1. Jack’s Burger Haus, Dell’s Hamburgers, Stu’s Burger Bar

2. Sister Ray Records and The Tape Shoppe

3. The Starlite Drive-In

4. The smell of Flueher’s Bakery in the afternoon

5. Kim’s Restaurant

6. The Big “Y”

7. Bob Kennedy’s “House of Guns” and all the other cool stuff

8. Trowbridge’s Store

9. KYJC #1 Radio and KSHA with all the cool clocks saying what time it was around

the country.

10. Golf-o-Rama