Tag Archives: culture

Protect & Invest

The other day I sat down and re-read my friend Rudy Carassco‘s book, Protect & Invest.  It is a book about urban and multi-ethnic outreach and he gave me a copy while I was in Pasadena a couple years ago.  I am getting ready to give away about 1000 volumes from my library and this was one that I put in a pile to be kept.  The other night I was looking for something to read and I grabbed it and it was worth the couple hours that it took to read and digest it.

protest_invest135Rudy is writing from his own experiences in Los Angeles, Stanford, and now at Harambee and from his own Hispanic ethnic background.  While the racial make up of Saskatoon is a lot different than Pasadena and Los Angeles, Rudy’s observations transcend geography and make sense wherever there is racial diversity.

He talks a lot about the tension that existed in his own life in reconciling coming from a Mexican family, being born in the United States, and being a Christian which all have at least some sort of competing world views.  In some ways he reminded me of the first chapter of Hans Kung’s autobiography in which he starts with a history of Switzerland because to understand Kung, you had to understand Switzerland.  While Rudy does a good job of touching on it, our culture, background, and location has a tremendous influence on our faith and it needs to be thought through and wrestled with.

At the same time he reminded me that this is no small struggle and I see that daily with clients who wrestle with how to honor traditional native culture, life learned on the reserve, and now life in urban Saskatchewan which all have different values.  For Christians on top of that there is another dynamic and tension between culture, history, location, and the Kingdom.

It’s a good book and one that if you are involved in the melting pot experiment that is the United States or Canada’s idea of multi-culturalism, it is one that you will want to read.  You can purchase it from from Lulu.com.

The Cult of Cool

This was a part of a different post I decided to split out to it’s own idea.  It’s going to offend some of you but that’s okay once in a while.  If you are offended, I am sure you can figure out the comments.

Apple iPod 3G

I have been asked recently by some pastoral friends of mine if I have one of the new 3G iPhones that are now in Canada.  The answer is no I don’t.  I agree with Dion Oxford’s writing on the iPhone.  I don’t even have a iPod Touch.  I have purchased three of them and returned them before I had a chance to get them home.  Without being able to articulate what I was thinking, I was reacting to the idea of how much money one of these cost and where I work.  I am painfully aware that I go home at 4:30 p.m. to an amazing wife, sons, a great dog and a really stupid dog.  All of this is in my own home which I pay a lower mortgage rate than what you can rent a one bedroom apartment for in this city.  Walking in and out with a iPod Touch seemed to be sending the wrong message when that money could be used that much better.

I didn’t dismiss the idea of owning one lightly.  The idea of having one even in the building where I work at to check e-mail, research online, and keep track of notes in meetings appeals to me.  Considering our future integration with Google Apps, it would be a lot of help.  Many of the people I work on projects with have job responsibilities all over the building and a iPod Touch would make life easier.  It would also be easier to get e-mail wherever I am at home and at the lake because we all know how absolutely indispensable I am right?

A sober second thought reminded me that I am not indispensable, nor am I that important, and at the lake, my focus should be on the dogs, the boys, Wendy, or a good book to read.  The last thing I need to be doing is walking to the lodge so I can get my e-mail when I could be sitting in front of a fire.  (I also have a notebook computer that works really well if I need to work there).

I live a pretty good life already and the question is, will it remain a good life if I don’t have the latest gadget from Apple?  My other question is why do so many pastors I know have this love affair with technology?  I used to be like this and as far as I can tell, I liked it because it signified to others that my life was so important, I needed cutting edge gear to keep track of it.  I am not trashing technology but how much more productive was I when I had church names in my Palm instead of right beside it in the church directory.  Was my schedule so packed that I needed software to sync it in numerous places, plus make a backup to Yahoo! Calendar that a paper calendar wouldn’t do?  Do I really need to be accessible to the people in the church 24/7 by phone and e-mail that I need a Blackberry or iPhone 3G?  Is my parish so large that I need Google Maps and GPS software built into my phone so I can navigate to see them?

Of course not.  So why was I fixated on it?  It was one way I could keep up to other wealthier people in the church.  They had nice cars, bigger houses, better vacations but I had a cool phone and that is what we can afford.  Somehow I think we think that cool technology equates with cutting edge culture and this comes from a weird understanding of culture.

Culture and coolness is local.  It’s all local.  When I am in rural Saskatchewan, a leather John Deere ball cap is cool and a very important part of culture.  Yet when I hear people in the church talk about culture, we talk about “emerging culture” (there is no such thing), or global culture (sorry, culture is awfully localized).  The thinking is what is cool in San Francisco or New York is going to be cool in Saskatoon or Calgary is incorrect.  I always cringe when I read my blog as being listed as an important blog to read for understanding culture.  That is totally incorrect, you don’t understand culture by reading a blog about culture, you learn about culture by observing it or living in it.  Now there are those that are completely oblivious to popular culture but they aren’t trying to be cool anyways.

We do come by this obsession with tech gadgets naturally, it comes along with being obsessed with the new and the next.  I still am signed up for too many conference mailing lists.  Too many of them are peddling the next idea in church that will change everything.  We all know it won’t but too often we sign up anyways.  I wonder if the current culture of non-stop conferences has made the church lazier and too dependent on experts.  Instead of exploring solutions internally, we wait for the consultant or expert to lead us.  The “consultant class” replaces the Bishops, Superintendents, and denominational officials.

So why don’t we ever give up the perks that come with the job and spend some more time doing what we are called to do?   How come everytime a new iPod or a Zune (heh) comes out, we need to upgrade?  How many times do we need to see the same talking heads say the same stuff they wrote in their last three books to get the message?  How much of the stuff we carry is a financial or physical (time and energy) distaction from what I am called to do?

As Oxford painfully reminded us

After too much time online, I think I figured out the pricing. Rogers will be the sole provider in Canada (monopoly?). You can get the 8G iPhone for the low price of $199 or the 16G iPhone for just $299. Oh, did I mention you need to sign your life away for three years on top of that? No other options available.

Then there’s the monthly fees that you commit to paying for those next 3 years (with the occasional letter from Rogers telling you that they’ll be generously raising your prices so they can better serve you). $69 + applicable taxes and random arbitrary fees per month for voice services. Then $20 + applicable taxes and random arbitrary fees for data. so $89 + … per month; for THREE years. So this inexpensive toy will run each user in the course of three years over $4000.

What else might $4000 pay for?

  • It would cover close to 2000 meals in the shelter I work at for folks who live on the street
  • If you don’t believe that people locally need to be going hungry and don’t deserve your charity then
  • It would allow you to sponsor 3 children per month for three years through World Vision
  • It could purchase 50 school kits per month through the Mennonite Central Committee, each school kit helps one child in Bangladesh get through school for one year
  • It could provide the necessary labour and materials needed to provide 10 families the clean drinking water they need for the rest of their lives, for THREE years totalling 360 familes.

Or, you could buy a toy that you will fill a void in you for a few weeks or months until you grow tired of it and feel empty again or until someone makes a better toy.

I think i’m feeling grumpy about this. Forgive me for sounding pious, but the world is falling apart and we need to stop being seduced by the man and start waking up to the needs of people who are dying all around us.