Sunday, October 31, 2004

Election Predictions

I doubt there will be anything in the news tommorrow big enough to have to re-factor these; so without further ado, here are the official Pentecostal Gamer Election 2004 Predictions.

Electoral College (Changes from 2000)
Switches from Red to Blue: New Hampshire
Switches from Blue to Red: Iowa, Minnesota, New Mexico, Wisconsin
Presidential Tally: 306 (Bush) - 232 (Kerry)
Colorado Proportional Vote Referendum Fails

US Senate Predictions (Changes in Party)
Switches from Republican to Democratic: Alaska, Colorado, Illinois
Switches from Democratic to Republican: Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, South Dakota
Net Change: Republicans +2

US House Predictions
I don't think I care to put the research time necessary to make specific House predictions. As a general prediction, the Republicans will make single digit gains.

Governors
I haven't yet researched this at all. I might decided to do so and make a new post for them tommorrow.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Typologies of the Liberal Church

Mark Byron has an excellent post up with a three-fold typology of the liberal church and some measures the conservative church can take to "woo" them.

The three types are Anabaptists, the Grace Junkies, and the Proto-Unitarians. The Anabaptists (who are not necessarily actual Anabaptists, eg, Amish or Mennonite) are orthodox Christians (both Protestant and Catholic) who are have a keen interest in economic justice and in pacificism. Grace Junkies are basically orthodox Christians (mostly Protestant, I would imagine) who have very permissive attitudes towards sexual sin. Proto-Unitarians are heterodox psuedo-Christians in Catholicism and mainline Protestantism who no longer hold to any real belief in the Bible, sin, or Jesus' role as Savior. (See this post -- or really almost any post -- at MCJ)

Byron's prescription for reconciliation is one that I think I can basically endorse. With the Proto-Unitarians, it would be impossible to take them as they are. They are essentially in need of conversion and discipleship. With the Anabaptists, there is a real need for American evangelicalism to make sure that it is living up to the message of the parable of sheep and goats. With the Grace Junkies, though, it's a bit harder to say if I agree or not.

The Grace Junkies can be won over by more orthodox evangelicals with an earnest hate-the-sin-love-the-sinner approach to ministering to the sexually-active single seeker, bringing them to see a loving God who sent his son to die for them. Along the way, they'll see that there are some things that God doesn't want them doing, which includes doing the Wild Thang with their significant other. There's a fine line between being sensitive to seekers and being permissive, and the GJs err on the latter.

The stereotypical evangelical church focuses on sexual sins and substance abuse sins more than the others (like selfishness, gossip and materialism) since the effects of them are more dramatic. We might want to take a look at preaching against the "minor" sins, since they can be gateway sins to the bigger ones; people who are moving away from God on the little things may move away on the big things. That won't win over all the GJs, but it will win over some.

I think I agree, but I would think that the church needs to be far more active than just "preaching against the 'minor' sins": We need to be discipling. Formal discipleship is a something that I think that the American church needs very badly: spiritual children needs spiritual parents.

As for the effects of the GJs, I have to say that I've seen their impact first hand. I host a homegroup for my church which has as one of its purpose discipleship. My group is geared towards people my age (early 20s), and over the past year we've had a number of people come through who grew up in permissive churches and are now sexually active, often with non-Christian partners. My group leader (I'm only the host) has developed a policy of waiting until they bring it up to instruct them in proper Christian behavior, and it's had mixed results. Some accept instruction, others don't.

Regardless of my quibble with him over the GJs, I certainly agree with the refrain of his conclusion: The best route towards reconciliation and a stronger American church is to pray, pray, and pray some more.


All Ye Faithful -- Slate on George Bush's 'anti-intellectual' Christianity

This article raises questions that are incredibly salient to me:
  1. What does American evangelicalism's legacy of an anti-intellectual spirit mean for its future development?
  2. What does it mean for American evangelicalism that its most famous member is the President of the United States?
I should have more to say about this article that I do, considering that I hope to someday have a PhD in theology and am very concerned about the politicization of Christianity. But I've wrestled with both before without really coming to a conclusion, and I don't think I'd get anywhere new here.

However, I did want to point to this passage at the end:

On the one hand, [Bush] has brought great comfort to many Christians through his unabashed defense of his faith life. They feel represented at the upper echelons of American society, and less persecuted as a result. They believe Bush's faith has helped provide him moral clarity and inner strength.
I totally relate to those three sentences. As an American evangelical, I am one of those who feels exactly that way. Knowing that Bush is President comforts me in a completely non-rational, deeply intuitive way. It's hard to explain and even harder to defend. But it's true.




About that Jim Wallis Quotation

Last week, I said I might come back to that Jim Wallis quote at the end of "Without a Doubt".

"But when [faith is] designed to certify our righteousness -- that can be a dangerous thing. Then it pushes self-criticism aside. There's no reflection. Where people often get lost is on this very point. Real faith, you see, leads us to deeper reflection and not -- not ever -- to the thing we as humans so very much want.'

And what is that?

''Easy certainty.''

In thinking about it, I came to the conclusion that Wallis had confused a lack of certainty with humility.

My first thoughts were towards Hebrews 11:1: "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." (NIV) On the surface, at least, this flatly contradicts Wallis' statement. Faith not only leads to certainty, it is certainty.

And there is nothing wrong with certainty. I am certain in my belief in the central tenets of Christianity: in the innateness of human sin and our inability to overcome it on our own; in the mighty redemptive work of Jesus Christ, God Incarnate, on the cross; in the utter perfection of God's love and mercy, grace and justice; among others. This is an entirely appropriate attitude for a Christian: why half-believe?

Certainty is not arrogrance, however. Pride is one of the seven deadly sins, remember. It's not our truth we are proclaiming, it's God's. And there's nothing that we did to deserve to possess it; it's only by God's mercy that we come into it. It brings to mind the second verse of the Newsboys' Step Up to the Microphone:

i say hello
to anyone who's listening
the message ain't nothing new
i don't decide what's true
so when the stones get thrown
they either miss or
they turn to glory
here's the story as far as i know
It also brings to mind this poem by Maya Angelou, especially:

When I say..."I am a Christian"
I don't speak of this with pride.
I'm confessing that I stumble
and need CHRIST to be my guide.


So I think Wallis is quite wrong in what he says in the tail end of his quote. There's nothing wrong with certainty (the easy I'm not quite sure what to do with).

However, when at the beginning of this quotation, where he talks of a faith that "certif[ies] our righteousness[, and] pushes self-criticism aside," I think he almost has a good point. It is definitely possible to have a self-regard that puffs up our egos, that makes us forget our fallenness, that makes us think that somehow we in ourselves are good and godly -- in short, to have the self-importance, self-centeredness, and self-securedness of a Pharisee.

But that is not faith. That is sin.

Proud Member of the Realiiity-Based Community

No, it's not a typo.

And, no, it's the one that's popular to claim membership in. They wouldn't take me: I'm too post-modernist rather than modernist in my epistemology and supernaturalist instead of naturalist in my ontology. (I probably wouldn't want in either -- the goal is to transform the world, not to conform to it.)

Instead, it's Realiiity.com, my favorite Survivor website. It's primarily a message board but also includes cool games, albeit with unfortunately inappropriate names. It's one of a number of spoiling communities: folks who are such dedicated fans of Survivor that we gather together to figure out what's going to happen as many episodes in advance as possible.

At least, that used to be the goal, back in naive days of yore, when spoiling was done primarily through clues drawn from promos, interviews, and editing patterns. Somewhere around S5/S6, things changed, and spoiling became literally spoiling: through various forms of inside information, the boots became known (not merely speculated).

At riii, at least, this lead to a backlash, such that we have a seperate forum for "inside info". In the future, I'll be bringing various Survivor speculations to you. Alas, this week, I made the mistake of checking out this site without realizing that longer term boot lists were still available. So sadly I probably already know the victims for the next two weeks.

But I won't ruin it for the rest of you.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

New RK Album!

Just got the best spam of my life! (Must have signed up with Gotee Records at some point, but I don't know when...)

Anyway, there's a new Relient K album coming out on November 2! It's called mmhmm and you can listen to three of the songs here. Only listened to "I Hate Consequences" so far, but I'm liking it!

Preorder here.

Reason #87 Why I'm Weird

We got my favorite weather right now in Arlington. You're thinking "warm and sunny", right?

Nope!

It's cool and overcast with a light rain right. It's beautiful.

Monday, October 18, 2004

"Without a Doubt"

This NYT magazine article seems to be a popular topic in the blogosphere today. I mostly just skimmed it and wasn't too impressed (and I don't seem to alone). I think the author elided too much amongst various definitions of faith, but pretended it was really the same word through.
The final passage, I think, deserves further reflection, though.


That very issue is what Jim Wallis wishes he could sit and talk about with George W. Bush. That's impossible now, he says. He is no longer invited to the White House.
''Faith can cut in so many ways,'' he said. ''If you're penitent and not triumphal, it can move us to repentance and accountability and help us reach for something higher than ourselves. That can be a powerful thing, a thing that moves us beyond politics as usual, like Martin Luther King did. But when it's designed to certify our righteousness -- that can be a dangerous thing. Then it pushes self-criticism aside. There's no reflection.

''Where people often get lost is on this very point,'' he said after a moment of thought. ''Real faith, you see, leads us to deeper reflection and not -- not ever -- to the thing we as humans so very much want.''

And what is that?

''Easy certainty.''

Maybe more after some more thought.

The Kingdom of God (the first, no doubt, of a long series)

Good sermon yesterday. My pastor just started a sermon series preaching through Acts. Yesterday's text was Acts 1:6-11 (look also at 1:3). My memory of it is too shaky now to even paraphrase (I don't want to put words in my pastor's mouth), but in short, it was a warning against confusing the Kingdom of God with the kingdoms of men.

This is a theme that will probably be developed in the blog over time. I have a strong belief that the biggest strategic mistake of American evangelicalism today is its close association with the Republican Party. (And I saw that as a very partisan Republican.)

We Christians are on this Earth for a reason. We have been given a mission: "to go and make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28:19, NIV). To whatever extent we hamper that mission by entangling ourselves unnecessarily in the affairs of the kingdoms of men, we are failing. Unfortunately, defining that extent and determining its necessity are not easy.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Sky Captain and the World of Tommorrow

Just saw it. It's the ultimate little-boy-in-every-man movie: Dinosaurs, aeronautical derring-do, and giant robots that shoot lasers! What's not to like? Well, maybe the two-dimensional characters, cliched dialogue, and predictable plot. Oscar-worthy it isn't, but it's chock-full of pulpy goodness. Did I mention the giant robots that shoot lasers?

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Swingers!

I've really been enjoying the Swingers! series of articles at Slate. They're an in-depth look at some aspect of each of the 20-odd states that are most in play in the current election.

In the Washington State article, one learns that the state is almost an inverse bell-weather: "It chose Nixon over Kennedy but then spurned Tricky Dick by going for Humphrey in 1968. In 1976, Washington chose Gerald Ford, and in 2000 it went for Al Gore. " The article on New Mexico focuses on the influence of Gov. Bill Richardson on the election and the potential influence of the election on him. (cf. the 2000 election and Gov. John Engler of Michigan.) The article on Maine talks about the state's quirky electoral vote laws: two are awarded to the statewide victor, one each awarded by victory in each congressional district, of which Maine has two. Hence a 3-1 voting distribution is a very real possibility. The article on Oregon looks at the state's voting system, which is conducted entirely by mail -- it's a very different get-out-the-vote system here.

The most recent article is Delaware, subtitled "It's up for grabs, and no one cares." Until 2000, Delaware had the longest streak of voting for the victor in the presidential campaign -- from 1952 on. Delware has three counties and the Democratic-leaning northern one (part of the greater Philadelphia area) used to balance out the Republican leaning-southern two (which were more culturally Southern). But it's not quite the swing state it used to be. Recent population influx from Pennsylvania, Maryland, and New Jersey helped tilt the balance decidedly in Gore's favor in the 2000 election.

The more interesting part of story, to me, was the "no one cares" angle. Neither campaign seems to be seriously contesting the state. I remember reading that this was true back in the 2000, as well. Whichever article it was that I read claimed that to have received leaks about the states on the victory list of each campaign. Some dozen states were on both lists. Delaware was the only state on neither's. Read Slate's article for some clues on why, but some of it has to do with the political geography of television, an aspect of campaigning that is generally under appreciated. I might comment on it more at some point.

As for the Swingers! series, at the rate they've been going, I'm dubious of their ability to finish before the election. They're only about halfway through (Arizona, Florida, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennesee, and West Virginia are also completed), but hopefully they'll get to Michigan before too long. (It's my original home state.)

Friday, October 15, 2004

About the name

Pentecostal Gamer. [Wikipedia articles provided for reference only.]

The name refers to the two parts of my life that I identify most strongly with: my faith and my hobbies.

I am a Christian, more specifically an American evangelical, yet more specifically a Pentecostal. My particular denomination of choice is the Assemblies of God, but there isn't an adjective for that, really; and denominations aren't that important to me anyway. What exactly all that means to me is more than I want to put into a single blog post, but loosely translated, "conservative Christian" works as well as anything.

I am also gamer. I like playing games. All types of games: board games, card games, video games, roleplaying games. I like the mechanics of games, analyzing their rules systems. As my friends could tell you, games are probably the thing I get most emotional about. (A friend recently said that the only time she'd seen me break my poker face was during a poker game.) This enjoyment of games carries over into my television watching, which is predominantly "reality tv": Survivor, Amazing Race, Big Brother, ect.

My other major interest is politics, but again, I bring a gaming perspective to it. I'm a yellow dog Republican, but it's in much the same sense that someone else might be a sports fan. It's the team I root for. I don't care too much for policy; I'm more interested in the game of politics, campaigns and elections, and the making and breaking of the rules: campaign finance, redistricting, ect. It's not entirely a healthy attitude, and I've cooled off a lot on politics in the two years since I finished up my B.A. Political Science. That's the reason it's not in the title -- I don't want to have to talk about it, although I probably will.


Starting Up

I've tried this blogging thing twice before to no avail. Not that I don't like blogs. I do. Probably about a third of my online time is spent reading blogs -- and I spend too much time on the web as it is.

No, the real problem is my introverted personality. If I don't like talking for the sake of talking. However, having recently moved out on my own for the first time (no family, no roommates), I've noticed a definite lack of an outlet for my own random thoughts and observations -- it's hard to small talk yourself. Hence, blogging.

We'll see what happens.