May 23, 2010

To The Steadfast

It recently occured to me that (a) I havn't been able to cohesively arrange my thoughts into a new blog post in quite some time (I'm trying to avoid the phrase "writers' block" [oops]) and (b) I havn't shared here about the new band that I'm playing guitar for, To The Steadfast. So for lack of any better ideas to write about, here is our internet-ghetto myspace page:

We have 2 recorded originals. Check it out. See what you think.


P.S.: Also, I'm now on twitter @jessevanderweid. Considering my former blog, you'd think I'd have done that a long time ago...

Mar 11, 2010

Private Parts

It's safe to say that our culture of online social networking is something that's here to stay. Since the Roman Empire, humans have been building roads and connecting with each other, and the world has since been getting smaller and smaller. And the internet is making this inter-human connection exponentialling greater every day via email, text messaging, blogs, and social networking sites.

Some will say that as the (metaphorical) world keeps getting smaller, the individual grows more and more lonely. We're losing face-to-face contact, they'll say, in exchange for mere 1's and 0's. And on top of that, the individual's privacy and people-skills are wrongfully compromised in exchange for instant access to anything and everything.

Connectivity, it seems, is the bad guy.

To this arguement, I present last Monday's episode of (...wait for it...) House. While treating a blogger who's spilled her entire personal life to her readers (including details of her marriage), House wonders why someone would purposefully give up their wealth of privacy in a modern, industrial, and privatized world where human connection (read: vulnerability) is only useful for self-service, thank you very much.

To this, Taub (a.ka. "the short one") and Chase respond, "It's for community and connectivity. Privacy is a modern invention. People used to know everything about everyone living in their village; now, the village is the whole world, and its people still want to be connected to each other." (Paraphrased.)

This got me thinking about the argument above that says as the world gets smaller, the individual gets more lonely.

I disagree. Privacy--at least to the extent to which Western culture values it--is the bad guy. This kind of privacy, where individuals only connect with people on a how-can-you-help-me basis, is an invention of modernity. (Yes, I read too much Brian McLaren. No, I didn't copy this from one of his books. Yes, you may make fun of me.) I used to, like House, wonder why people would blog about their thoughts, as if they think they're some kind of real journalist; or bug me with a Twitter feed about their latest workout routine, because obviously excercising is only effective if you tell somebody about it. But in an emerging postmodern world it seems that people (like myself) are rediscovering the value of that constant connectivity. They're craving it, and finding it on the internet.

As I've learned to embrace this thought myself, rather than taking on an attitude of "all I need is me (and God, of course, because I'm a good Christian... but really, just me)", I've found it very liberating:
  • I don't need to be famous anymore. My friends and family love me more than those 10,000 people in the audience.
  • What I do (i.e., my vocation) no longer defines me. I define what I do. And I define myself by what has been done for me. (See previous post, Blue-light Special on Grace.)
  • Rugged individualism no longer holds any appeal to me. Western work-ethic is a good lesson, but all of its side effects--The nuclear household, the SUV, the shame in asking someone for help and the guilt of having to return their favor--are bullshit. I shouldn't have to avoid community in order to be myself.
I realize I'm mainly talking to myself here. And I realize that blogging about blogging might blow a hole straight through my point. But actually, maybe not... I mean, if I lived in a little village, I'd be sharing this with someone, albeit face-to-face, perhaps while stroking some udders or fetching water. Perhaps the visual que of face-to-face contact is less important than the contact. Really, I can look at someone and talk to them every day and never get to know them. Maybe as technology increases and our constant exposure to visual stimuli via media, urban-life, etc., becomes more overwhelming, we look for a deeper meaning of community beyond the skin-deep visual que.

Maybe 1's and 0's aren't as shallow as people think. And besides... The medium of community has never been a village, an udder, or the internet. You are the medium.


Jan 14, 2010

Blue-light Special on Grace, isle 3.

First of all... Thanks to Karl of for giving me some love on his blog. (See the link on my blogroll to the right.) I have no idea how the guy who's blog I've been following for over a year found mine, but nonetheless I accept the gratitude.

Which brings me to today's topic (Uh oh): The word "accept" is very strange. We often talk about accepting gifts, compliments, etc., but is it really possible to not accept a gift? Well, yeah I guess it is. So, rather, does the rejection of a free gift make the gift non-existent? Of course not. So why do we do it so often? If someone give a child a toy and she doesn't like it, she'll throw it down and pretend to ignore it. But it's still there. It's still hers. The giver isn't going to take it back just because the child is, well, a child.

(On a side note--It's already the third paragraph of this blog entry and I've yet to bitch about Christians. I apologize for the delay. [Yay for "delay"! Ok Karl I hope you're reading this.] Hopefully paragraph 4 is soon enough for you. And by you, of course I mean me. Ok, back on track now.)

This idea of acceptance gets me thinking about the modern Christian idea of "accepting Christ as your Lord and Savior", or accepting him into your heart, or whatever. I've always secretly struggled with this notion, even though I can point to the time in my own life at age 9 that I participated in this blue-light-special ritual. "It's by grace you've been saved," they'll say, "so you better accept Christ so you can go to Heaven. Also--We have your credit-card information, right? Right. Ok, good. Where was I? Oh yeah--Bow your heads and say this prayer with me so that you can be saved by grace through faith."

If the word grace actually means gift, then one shouldn't have to actively accept it, because the act of accepting it becomes the price you pay for receiving it. In other words, saying "the prayer" becomes a good work through which grace is accepted. So really, it becomes "by grace through good works." And if good works are involved, it's not grace, it's payment. Which means it's something we've earned. Which means God owes us grace for being so awesome. Which He doesn't. Hence, the need for grace.

So if acceptance doesn't have anything to do with it, I'm starting to wonder if the Calvinists are on to something. Lucky for me, Dietrich Bonhoeffer offers some insight, noting the difference between "cheap grace" and "costly grace":
Grace as the data for our calculations means grace at the cheapest price, but grace as the answer to the sum means costly grace. It is terrifying to realize what use can be made of a genuine evangelical doctrine. ..."Justification by faith alone" is a misuse of the formula that leads to the complete destruction of its very essence.
When you think of grace as a way to justify an inability to stop sinning, you're left with cheap grace, the grace of the institutionalized post-Constantine Christianity. But when grace answers the question, "How?", i.e., "How can I go on?" or "How did I get into this mess?" or "How can this ever be made right?" or, to paraphrase Bono, "How can such a fucked up world ever be saved?", there true grace is found: Costly grace.

So I'm still left with this question regarding grace: If acceptance isn't a factor, then why do some people not have it? And quite obvious those people are--You know, bad people who murder and steal and rape and otherwise plunder Creation. And not to mention all the people that are perhaps not bad, but just have ignored Christ's call to follow Him--The people stuck in the daily grind, trying to achieve the so-called American Dream, at the expense of being the revolutionary human God intended them to be. And then there's... Oh, wait... The next person in line is... me. A mere 3 sentences down the line from "bad people"; a person who daily misses the mark when it comes to responding to Jesus' call to be the most human I can be: A disciple.

And that brings me back to grace--costly grace--the means wherein the mere opportunity to be a disciple is offered, and the notion of "being saved" becomes nothing more than a product of cheap grace. Faith doesn't help me become a disciple, I just have to do it. Then, obedience will lead me to faith, which will lead to more obedience, and so on, until the Word is as flesh.

But really... Will that time ever come?

(insert grace here)