22 June 2007

Running and Life

What running has taught me about life (in no particular order):
  1. You don't run a personal best every time; sometimes you feel like crap and have to take three walk breaks in five miles.
  2. What you eat definitely affects how you run. Indian food the night before a 5-miler is not a good idea.
  3. You'd be amazed how much farther you can go on when someone looks at you menacingly and taunts you from across the street.
  4. A lot of good music helps me cope with the difficult days.
  5. No matter how good you think you are, some little 10-year-old (or 80-year-old) will always beat you at your next race.
  6. It's so much easier to run a long race when people are cheering for you along the way.
  7. It's easier to stick with training if you've already paid registration fees for a future race.
  8. Some races are about speed; some races are about endurance. Knowing which is which is priceless.
  9. Sometimes, the best time to run is in the rain.
  10. If one part of your body (namely, the foot) is off, the whole body pays for it the next day.

That's all I've got for now; feel free to add your lessons in your comments.

19 June 2007

My Favorite King of the Hill Episode (Part Two)

If you haven't read Part One, read that first.

There are several things I like about this episode:

  1. That the show would even deal with Christianity, and that in a positive light.

  2. They rightly point out that different Christians worship in different ways.

  3. There are a ton of great lines from this episode (e.g., Pastor K: "Don't you think Jesus is on this half pipe?" Hank: "I'm sure he's a lot of places he doesn't want to be.")

  4. It raises questions for both edgy and traditional Christians to consider.

  5. It's hilarious.

What I want to discuss, however, is Hank's whole problem with what I'm calling Edgy Christianity (EC). EC takes on a lot of forms: hard rock, rap, and other intense forms of music; tattoos and piercings with a Christian message to them; Christian clothing (like Bobby's "Satan Sucks" T-shirt, or the once-popular "Hell, No!" shirts), offensive bumper stickers, and other related stuff. Hank's statement reveals his feelings: "Can't you see? You're not making Christianity better; you're just making rock-'n-roll worse."

Is that true? Is Christian rap good for Christianity, or is it bad for rap? When does becoming "all things to all people" turn into "making rock-'n-roll worse"? Is it true that "Body Piercing Saved My Life" as one T-shirt says? Yes, it's true that nails pierced Jesus, but is that the same as today's body piercing? Obviously not; what we have here is a classic case of equivocation, using the same word (or phrase) in two different ways to argue one point. All fallacies aside, why do we feel that we need to make Christianity cool? Is it cool? Is Jesus really our "homeboy"? What happened to Jesus being the "King of Kings and Lord of Lords" before whom "every knee will bow . . . and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord"?

My fear is that relevance has trumped reverance. Don't get me wrong; I want the gospel to be understandable to everyone. But why be relevant? What does "relevant" mean? Relevant to whom? If we don't ask and answer these questions, we are simply using relevance as a justification to toy around with the eternal truths of God. Is faith a product to sell? Is planting the seeds of the gospel a matter of proper marketing? Are we asking youth (THE main target of EC) to deny themselves, take up their crosses and follow Christ, or are we asking them to think that Jesus is cool and would be worth making a friend on their MySpace?

Maybe I'm (too) cynical. But I can't help but be reminded of what Simone Weil said about relevance: "To always be relevant, you have to say things which are eternal."

For the youth out there to whom we're trying to be relevant (btw: do we really think that we can keep up with all the changing trends of kids these days, always adjusting the message to be right on top of things? Ha!), we must communicate Christ in such a way as to prevent, five years from now, Jesus ending up in the box of trends which were cool at the time but are now rather embarrassing.

Becoming a Christian means your whole life is changed, not just your vocabulary. It means that you are transformed by the renewing of your mind, not that you transform your music collection to Christian music you don't mind. It's about putting on Christ and becoming a new creation, not putting Christ on a T-shirt or putting a fish on your car. Yes, you vocabulary should change; your music should be evaluated; your clothing might change. The question is: why?

14 June 2007

My Favorite King of the Hill Episode (Part One)

King of the Hill is one of my favorite TV shows. The Hill family, living in Arlen, Texas, go through many interesting life situations in this animated comedy. The usual story line goes like this:
  1. The first scene is Hank, Bill, Dale, and Boomhauer standing out in the alley drinking Alamo beer and saying, "Yup."
  2. The theme for the episode is usually introduced in their opening conversation (which does go beyond "Yup.").
  3. Most of the problems revolve around Bobby, Hank and Peggy's teenage son. He usually gets involved with a new hobby or group of friends who are quite different from him, and he begins taking on the new group's characteristics/language/behavior, causing conflict at home, especially with Hank.
  4. Bobby's involvement eventually leads to a situation from which Hank must rescue Bobby, with or without Bobby's desire for rescuing.
  5. Hank and Bobby reconcile, and everything returns to how it was before the whole mess got started.

My favorite episode is "Reborn to be Wild." Bobby is found rockin' out to heavy metal music, angering Hank. Taking Bobby to the church, Hank is referred to a youth group who would be glad to take in Bobby. Hank takes Bobby to a community center where they meet.

[Pause here for some of the dialogue from the episode:

Bobby: "Dad, this is totally not cool."

Hank: "You know what's not cool, Bobby? Hell."]

Bobby meets the group, which turns out to be a bunch of Christian skaters led by Pastor K, a skater himself with Christian tattoos and long hair.

[Bobby (after seeing Pastor K do a stunt): "THAT was AWESOME!"

Pastor K: "Thanks, but not as awesome as Jesus!"]

Bobby's hooked. And it shows. At dinner, Bobby, to Hank's delight, offers to pray. But what comes out does not delight Hank at all: "I wanna give a shout out to the man that makes it all happen. Props be to you for this most bountiful meal that sits before us. OK, check it: God, you got skills. You represent in these vegetables and in this napkin and in the dirt that grows the grain that makes the bread sticks that are on this table, yes, yes. [Hank tells him to wrap it up] Thanks, J-man. Peace."

Soon Pastor K invites Bobby to be on stage with him during his performance at MessiahFest, a Christian praise-a-palooza. Bobby gets an earring, which in turn gets him grounded. He sneaks out and goes to MessiahFest. Hank goes to the Fest and finds Bobby making a fool of himself on stage, shrieking out Psalm 23 to heavy metal music. Hank yanks Bobby off the stage and there is a final confrontation between Hank and Pastor K, which includes this classic line from Hank:

"Can't you see? You're not making Christianity better; you're just making rock-'n-roll worse."

The episode ends with Hank taking an angry Bobby home and showing him a box in the garage. In the box is all the things Bobby thought were cool and had since abandoned: a virtual pet, a Furby, a "Bean Bag Buddy" (obvious reference to Beanie Babies), and a photo of Bobby in a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle costume. Bobby can't believe he thought those things were cool.

Then comes the moral of the story, from Hank: "I just don't want to see, you know. . . the Lord end up in this box."

In my next entry, I want to explain why this is my favorite episode, as well as the lessons evangelicals can catch from it.