Monday, September 25, 2006

New Blog!

Yes folks, it's true: I'm leaving behind this worn-out blog in favor of something new and exciting... or, well... at least new.

My new blog is called Quicksilver Commentary, and can be found at It's still kinda under construction, but that's where I'll hopefully be blogging for a while...

Thursday, August 24, 2006

I'm Thinking About Moving Again...

Moving blog services, that is. You see, I've wanted a paid blog for a while, so I could have my own domain name and such. Plus, this blog's getting kinda old. Over two years old, to be exact, and a lot of things have changed since I first started blogging. My views are a little different, my interests are different, and it just seems like it may be time to graduate to something else and get a fresh start.

So, despite the fact that I probably shouldn't spend the money, I'm looking at some paid blog services right now... Right now, TypePad looks the most promising. For all of you bloggers out there who use paid services, do you have any recommendations? Please keep in mind that I am quite inept when it comes to the technical aspect of blogging... the term PERL means nothing to me. :-P

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Please Enlighten Me...

What is it about trash that makes people want to throw money at it? I recently watched Lady in the Water by M. Night Shyamalan in theaters (and loved every second of it, I might add), and I just finished Shyamalan's Unbreakable... and now that I've seen all of his major movies, I have come to the conclusion that he is the most talented moviemaker of our time.

The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs, The Village, and Lady in the Water... All beautifully executed movies with complex and intelligent plots and vivid characters; and yet, they will forever be outsold by trash. Titanic will still have better box office results (I will now brace myself for unprecedented hatred, as I've now referred to Titanic as "trash"), Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill will forever be more beloved by critics, and Dumb and Dumber will forever be seen as a masterpiece by the majority of Americans.

What is wrong with these peoples' minds?

And while I'm thinking about it...

Why did The Tick only last three seasons and Frasier never receive popular acclaim, while Cops is in its 15th season, and Friends quotes were a part of American life for ten miserable years?

Why don't Reese Roper, Derek Webb and Sufjan Stevens get the kind of recognition and album sales that come so naturally for talentless wonders like Kelly Clarkson, Green Day and Fall Out Boy?

Art is meant to be beautiful. Beauty is not subjective. Truth is essential.

Don't be satisfied.

Monday, August 07, 2006

A Gargantuan Post

Here it is... over 2900 words, straight from my heart. I wrote this as an e-mail to Christians I know, and I decided to post it here as well.


Hi everybody...

What I'm about to write to you will most likely seem a bit out of character for me. I'm not cutting up in this message, and I'm not inviting people to go paintballing or see a movie; instead, I'm writing a letter that I want all Christians to read. I am not trying to single anyone out with this message, but I hope everyone who reads it will think about it, and consider forwarding it to other Christians if they feel it would be prudent.

I challenge you to read the whole thing. It will be long, but it is full of words that have been on my heart for well over a year. If you are my friend, and truly wish to know my heart, then please read it when you get the time. No need to read it all at once, either, just as it is convenient.

So, to begin...

Part 1

I view you all as my brothers and sisters in Christ our Lord, who was born of a virgin, crucified, and rose from the dead. We are all members of the Church; though many of us hold different doctrinal beliefs, we are all followers of Christ, and strangers in this world. We are all residents of Heaven, and it is our commission to make the most of our time in this place by spreading the Gospel of Christ, that others may come to Heaven as well.

Jesus Christ is our Savior; He died for your sins and mine, and for the sins of all the world. So why doesn't the world know this? Why is it that we can be confident that Heaven is our destination, while the world is drowning in what can only be called a hopeless Hell on earth? Does the church not see the suffering? Have we gone deaf to their cries? Why doesn't the world know and understand the salvation we were all so freely given?

I believe the answer to that question lies in what the world does know. The world knows that we in the Church sin, and go through pain and suffering just like they do. The world also knows that, unlike them, we try to cover up, ignore, and explain away our sin, and sugarcoat all our suffering ('cause gettin' saved will make everything better, right?). The world knows, then, that we in the church are nothing but a bunch of hypocrites, sitting in pews and singing hymns (or Praise and Worship songs) to make ourselves feel better about the fact that we just can't live up to the standards we face. The world sees us, in all our wretchedness, and laughs when we tell them to conform to the same standards we ourselves fail to meet.

They know what we expect. We expect them to abstain from premarital sex. We expect them to not have abortions. We expect the homosexuals to magically become heterosexual. We expect them to not curse. We expect them to not lie. We expect them to be good, something that we ourselves cannot do apart from Christ (and even when He makes us good, we will not always do good). Are these not the expectations we've communicated to the world? Through legislation and our blissfully ignorant personal actions, we've made it clear to the world that we believe we're better than them because we like to pretend we don't do bad things (and we expect them to do the same).

I write this letter to you all as a sinner, wretched and ignorant. I have sinned simply for the sake of sinning, and I exulted in it. I have lied, cursed, cheated, lusted, and lusted some more. I have been arrogant, spiteful, disrespectful,
manipulative, crude, divisive, and everything else that my fallen nature can conceive. I have committed many of the sins that males often fall into, and even so, I rejoice in my undeserved forgiveness. I rejoice because the state and destination of my spirit, in spite of what I've done, is a testimony to God's infinite love and forgiveness.

That is what our sin is supposed to be... a testimony. This doesn't mean we have license to sin with abandon, and claim it's because Christ has forgiven us; rather, it means that we can show the world all that we've done, and they can take comfort in the fact that Christ forgave our sin, and can forgive theirs too. But how will the world know this if we don't own up to our own sin? It is not nearly as harmful to the body of Christ for a member to sin as it is for member to sin, and then deny that sin. That is what causes the world to perceive us as hypocrites, and it is absolutely indefensible.

So I would urge you all to remember your sin, so you will never forget the magnitude of Christ's blessing and its ability to help even the most unlovely of the world. Jesus Christ isn't just the savior of the Christians; as Reese Roper said, He's the "Savior of the prostitutes, drunkards, rapists and the gays."

Part 2

There is another issue facing the Church (of which we are all members) today, which I feel I should address. Romans 12:2 says this:

"Be not conformed to the patterns this world: but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is the good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God."

The first question that must be asked is this: What are the patterns of this world? The short answer would be, quite obviously, "sin," as we are all born into it as a result of Adam's fall. The longer answer would detail exactly what is sin and what isn't, but I'm afraid that discussion is beyond the scope of this e-mail. Suffice it to say, though, that if there is a morally questionable behavior that the world indulges in, it is our "reasonable service" to God to stay away from it.

It saddens me, then, that statistically, the church is no different from the world. People who profess Christ have the same worldview as non-Christians; they do the same things, listen to the same music, use the same language, think about the same things, and believe the same lies that the world does, and they don't give it a second thought. Now I ask you, is this being "transformed by the renewing of our minds," or is it "conforming to the patterns of this world?" Go ahead, answer for yourself...

Now, you may point to Part 1 of my message, if you are hoping to maintain some pattern of the world to which you've grown particularly attached, and say "But Jacob, you're contradicting yourself! You just said that we should be proud of our sin so that it will be a testimony for non-believers!" Of course, that is not true. To essentially repeat what I said earlier, we are to use our sin as proof of the infinite nature of God's forgiveness; however, this does not mean we are to seek further sin. That's just plain ungrateful.

There is another group of Christians who might also attack my message, saying "Jacob, you Pharisee! By emphasizing our need to do good works, you are becoming legalistic, and attempting to impress your legalism on us!" To this, I would simply reply that James told us that "Faith without works is dead." I would say, then, that if someone professes Christ, but continually conforms to the patterns of this world without trying to glorify God, the quality of their faith is dreadfully low. I can't make a judgment about their salvation-- that is God's work, not mine-- but I am not ashamed to say that they are doing a very poor job as a Christian. That's not legalism, that's common sense.

Now, in addition to the fact that God commands it, we have another reason to avoid conforming to the patterns of this world (which I'm sure God was thinking of when He inspired Paul to write Romans 12:2). That reason is this: The world is watching everything we do. It is said that "actions speak louder than words," and it is true. The world knows this (smart people, they are), and they are watching us; they hear us profess Christ, and they watch to see if our actions bear the fruit of our faith. Again I say, faith without works is dead, as James 2:17 tells us, and if our own faith doesn't incite us to act upon it, then why would the world want that faith?

So are we acting on our faith, or suppressing it? Is it bearing fruit in our lives, or is it sitting there idly while we indulge our flesh with the same things the world uses to fill the holes in their own naturally depraved lives? I believe each and every one of us should take it upon ourselves to examine our actions and see if what we do bears the fruit of our faith, or our flesh. What we do reflects what is inside of us, so we should ask ourselves hard questions.

Do our words reflect our faith or our flesh?

Does the music we listen to reflect our faith or our flesh?

Does our attitude reflect our faith or our flesh?

If we are to lead the world to Christ, as is our commission, then we must strive to make every aspect of our lives reflect our faith in the One who is inside of us. This means we should put away from ourselves things like strife, envy, lust, and other carnal things, and instead we should take the advice Paul gave the Philippians:

"Whatever is true, whatever is honest, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things."
-Philippians 4:8

So these are the things we should focus on. We must focus on and do things that reflect the faith that is inside of us. If we are Christians, and we do not do this, then we are being unbelievably selfish, choosing to gratify our own flesh at the expense of the souls of the world, who will see our actions and thus have their hearts hardened against the Savior we've so poorly represented.

Let us as a Church cease this selfishness, for the sake of the lost.

Part 3

The final topic that has been on my heart to write about is the shallowness of Christians, and the tendency of the Church to unintentionally condemn non-believers. This is a complex issue, and one that is difficult to address simply. That is why I list it after the previous two topics; if the first part of this e-mail was about the attitude we should have about our personal sin, and the second part was about why we shouldn't sin, then this section is about what to do when others sin (as it is our shallowness of thought and communication that causes others to feel condemned).

Just as non-Christians are watching everything we do, they are also listening to everything we say, and in our zeal to "stamp out sin," some of us (myself included) have come across as condemning. We become so wrapped up in our "pro-life, pro-family" message, trying to sway those who are on the fence, that we forget how we come across to those who have had abortions, or who struggle with homosexuality. Essentially, we fall victim to shallow thought, assuming people who struggle with particular issues are going to receive our words the same way anyone else would, and this insensitivity alienates them. Then, when the "pro-life, pro-family" message becomes our vernacular, and we begin to speak about it without thinking about it, we appear even more shallow.

I'm afraid I haven't been very clear thus far, so allow me to use an example. Imagine a person who is a Christian, and thus believes the Bible when it says homosexual activity is a sin. He is, of course, correct to believe this, but he (like most people) sometimes forgets to be specific. One instance of this would be when he refers to "homosexuality" as a sin; he may well be correct, if he is using "homosexuality" to refer to homosexual activity, but he neglects to take into account the fact that homosexuals by and large define "homosexuality" as "the attraction of one person to his or her same gender." So, through shallow thinking, our Christian friend has alienated any homosexual who heard him say "homosexuality is a sin." Though the Christian was denouncing homosexual activity, the homosexual believes he is saying that the attraction which he has no control over is in itself a sin.

This scenario goes even further too. Imagine a Christian who openly says "I don't like gay people." Is this the right thing to say? Again, imagine what would happen if a homosexual heard someone who claims to represent Christ say "I don't like gay people." It would certainly alienate him. Therefore, we must refrain from speaking like that, no matter whose presence we are in. We are all sinners, and the fact that someone struggles with a particular sin is no reason to dislike them, since we all have sins that we struggle with. That is the nature of Man.

Now, I used the example of homosexuality, but Christians addressing many issues, such as abortion, euthanasia, Islam (and other religions), alcoholism and drug addictions have all succumbed to shallow thinking and poor communication with non-believers. This is why the pro-abortion crowd, pro-euthanasia crowd, pro-homosexual marriage crowd, and all the other "crowds" have become so radically anti-Christian. They feel attacked because we are too lazy to think all the way through the issue and communicate with them in ways they understand, so they retaliate with shallow thought and incendiary communication of their own. We may not like the way these people treat us, but we've brought it upon ourselves.

The solution, obviously, is for us to be careful of how the world receives our talk of sin. This doesn't mean that we shouldn't address sin, because without understanding sin, the world cannot understand salvation from sin, but it does mean that we should speak in terms they can understand, rather than our wonderful buzzwords and religious-speak that we use to let other Christians know we're "on fire." Perhaps instead of denouncing homosexuality, we should denounce homosexual activity. Perhaps instead of preaching so vehemently against abortion, we should preach more in favor of adoption. Perhaps instead of preaching against euthanasia, we should learn to take care of those in need. Perhaps we should temper all of our communications with compassion, as Christ did.

So we must learn to think through the tough issues, and be careful of our communication. As I said, the world is watching what we do and listening to what we say, and the way we react to hot-button issues like homosexuality and abortion will influence the way much of the world views the whole of Christianity, and Christ with it. Is our intellectual laziness worth the souls of people just like us? Is it worth it to condemn millions to Hell, just because we didn't feel like taking the time to communicate Christ's message properly? Of course not. We must be willing to think hard, and communicate well, because the souls of people just like us can be won or lost based on how we react to the sin in their lives.


If you've read all the way through this e-mail, I'd like to thank you. As I said in the beginning, this stuff has been on my heart for a long time, and I had to write it out and send it to you. It wasn't only meant for my friends though; this e-mail is written essentially to every Christian, though not every Christian will read it. So, now that you've read it, I ask that you do two things: First, if you find that it was profitable to read, I ask that you would forward it to other Christians you know, that they could read it too; and second, if you care to, e-mail me your thoughts on the issues I attempted to address. You don't have to do this, of course; I'd just like to know who stands with me, and who disagrees.

I don't know if this e-mail will do anyone any good. I only wrote it because I feel that God placed it on my heart. I have no illusions; as I said in Part 1, I sin just like everyone else, and I don't claim to always hold to the principles I advocate. I only believe in them, and try to uphold them to the best of my ability; the rest is up to God.

So again, thank you for reading this e-mail, and may God bless you all as you walk the path He has ordained for you.

In Christ,
Jacob Thrasher

Saturday, July 29, 2006

To Lead As Christ Did

Well well well, it's been a while, hasn't it? I'm afraid to click on SiteMeter to look at my hit count, and I'm a bit worried about even posting, for fear that no one reads this blog anymore, but I think I will anyway. I've been writing so much lately, it'd be a shame not to put something up here.

I just got back from Worldview Academy for my second year, and I must admit that it was every bit as enjoyable as the first time. I will say this, though: It was an entirely different experience this year, not because anything about it had changed, but because I viewed it from an entirely different perspective. Let me explain...

Worldview Academy is a Christian Leadership camp, training students in how to lead the culture as servants, how to defend the faith and how to analyze the various worldviews inherent in our culture. Last year, I did several things that I later regretted. First, I neglected to take enough notes; second, I did not take the lead in the Evangelism practicum; and third, I didn't ask enough questions in class or speak up enough in small group time. For all of these, I had an excuse: I didn't know what was expected of me. This year though, that excuse wouldn't work.

I was an alumnus this year, so I knew the ropes. I knew what was expected of me, and I knew what I had to do to get the most out of camp. I had to put the principles of servant leadership that we were learning into practice, even when it seemed a little awkward or unusual. I had to take the lead in the Evangelism practicum, which was essentially street evangelism, because I knew that no one else would. I had to ask the questions and speak up in small group time so that I would get the answers I need.

I remembered being a first-time student, and I knew what it was like. I knew that it could be a bit intimidating to go out witnessing, and that indecision could often get in the way of practicing servant leadership. I also remembered that when I didn't know what to do last year, I looked to the alumni to see what they were doing. The second-year and third-year students who knew the camp well were the ones I knew I had to imitate, so that's what I did.

This year though, I wasn't able to relax and let the alumni take the lead, because I was an alumnus. I knew that some of the first-year students would do what they saw me doing, just as I did what I saw the alumni doing during my first year. Last year, anything I neglected to do only hurt me; this year, my negligence could influence others. This year, in essence, was more like real life.

This isn't to say that I view myself as being some sort of trendsetter, or great leader. To understand what I am saying, I suppose you have to understand one of the basic lessons that Worldview teaches: The lesson thatwe all are leaders. Leadership is simply defined as "influence," and given that definition, everyone is a leader. We all have some sort of influence over other people, and it is how we use this influence that determines what kind of leaders we are.

Influence can come in various forms, but one major source of influence is the services we provide. If we provide any service to someone else (and we all do), or if they depend on us for that service, then we hold influence over that person. For example, when I am eating at a restaurant, and a waiter takes my order, that waiter holds influence over me. That influence extends from the obvious question of whether or not I get what I ordered, all the way down to how the rest of my day goes. If I sat down at this restaurant, and a surly waiter shows up to take my order, his attitude will rub off on me. If he messes up my order, is slow, or does anything else that is generally displeasing to me, it will affect the way I go through the rest of my day, and my attitude will change.

So we all are leaders because we all have influence, and we all have influence because we all provide services for others. Therefore, it could be said that whenever we serve, that is when we lead. This is the crux of servant leadership.

As a sidenote, who was the greatest servant of all time? If you answered "Jesus," you deserve a cookie. Jesus was the most humble of servants, God incarnate lowering himself to be sacrificed for a corrupt and ungrateful world. Thus when it is said that we are to be imitators of Christ, and when we take on the name "Christian," meaning "Like Christ," it is expected that we will serve as Christ did, that we may also lead as Christ did. That is what Worldview is all about.

Anyway, back to the relationship of the alumni to the first-year students. The reason I viewed it as my job (and the job of the rest of the alumni) to ensure that the first-year students got as much out of camp as they could is because we alumni are called to serve the first-year students. The service we provide to them is that of setting an example for them, and ensuring that they enjoy the camp. This is our influence over them, and if we use it wisely, then they will have a good camp experience and grow in Christ. That is why I took our responsibility so seriously.

So I was able to take many lessons away from Worldview this year, as my new perspective on it made me get more involved, and thus get more out of it. But now, the million-dollar question is how I will apply what I have learned.

All around me, I see Christians who don't understand how to represent Christ. They don't understand that the world is watching and listening to us, waiting to see if our actions will match up with our words. They don't understand that they are the very source of the world's disdain for our religion, that they are poorly representing something they don't understand, and that it is driving people away.

These people, adults and teenagers alike, don't even see the need to understand their religion, or to act in a Christlike manner, leading as Christ would and thinking God's thoughts after him. I could attribute this to ignorance, intellectual laziness, poor training, or any number of other possible causes, but it really doesn't matter, because all of these problems have the same solution. I must use what influence I have to effect what change I can; by this, I mean that I must serve to the best of my ability those who I feel the least obligation to serve. Not a pleasant thought, but it is the only way for the situation in my area to change. After all, if I really believe this, then I must take action upon it; otherwise, it is a hollow belief, for "faith without works is dead."

Worldview was a great experience for me this year. There is so much I'd like to write about, and so much I've learned, but this post sums up the concept that stood out the most to me, for it is the concept that is the most desperately needed in my youth group. I went to Worldview with the stated goal of growing in my ability to lead as a servant, and now with my new perspectives and knowledge, I am left with a choice: Will I put the lessons I've learned into action, or will I continue on in the same way I have for 17 years now? I pray that I will put these new principles into action, and I would appreciate your prayers as well.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Busy, Busy, Busy

That's what I've been. Busy. And it looks like things are only going to get worse into the summer... Though at least then it will be a kind of busy that I can appreciate.

My Summer starts on June 15, when I go to the ICTHUS MUSIC FESTIVAL!!! That's right, I'll get to see Relient K, Hawk Nelson, Kids In the Way, Slingshot 57, Project 86, Eleventyseven, and many more! This is great, considering that the only bands I've seen in concert before this were Third Day and Casting Crowns... you can imagine how disappointing that is.

That's not to say that Third Day or Casting Crowns are bad or anything... I mean... Yeah... Anyway...

While I'm at Icthus, I'll get to visit a college in the area I'm considering... Namely, Asbury. That promises to be fun... yes, it will be a good trip indeed!

After Icthus, my summer will be filled with Worldview Academy, Forward '06 (my church's youth camp), tennis camps, and much more... And I can't wait! Let's just hope that in all this excitement, I still find time to blog... I'll have a post of some substance coming soon (though it may be exceedingly short, and intended for discussion), so stay tuned!

And one last thing... I'll soon be adding a new link to my sidebar, the website of my fellow THH Mod Prm753. Until then, here is a link in a post...

Yes I'm lazy. I'm also happy. So what?

Monday, May 15, 2006

Two Invitations

Hey everyone, I wanted to alert you to something I'm trying to set up... It's a forum for playing the game of Mafia (also known as Werewolf). It's great fun!

If you've never heard of it before, Mafia is a game which pits an uninformed majority against an informed minority... in other words, it's kind of like having 20 blindfolded people fight two or three seeing people.

To read an overview of the game, go here, and to register with my forum, go here.

Also, I have an invitation for all my homeschooled readers: Recently, I joined a forum called TeenHomeschoolHang, a forum exclusively for homeschooled teens. It's a great place, and I'd love to see you all there. Oh, and the Board Administrator recently made me a moderator... Heck yes!

So anyway, I'd be much obliged if you'd check out those two sites.


Sunday, May 14, 2006

Voting with Your Dollar

So yeah... The Da Vinci Code is coming out in theatres this Friday. But then, you all knew that by now... I'm just the guy that comes in and announces the event to make himself feel important, even though it's too late to do any good. I've never claimed to specialize in 'breaking news.'

Too much pressure.

Anyway, I have a job for all my faithful blog readers: When The Da Vinci Code comes out, let's all... well, let's ignore it. If you really need a reason, then just listen to Brandon Booth of Worldview Academy, who says this:

In just a few short days the movie “The Da Vinci Code” is coming to theaters. What will you do?

If you’re smart, you’ll ignore it... Don’t vote for it with your dollars and tell Hollywood that you want more of this garbage. You don’t have to be vocal about it, just quietly treat it the way you treat the National Inquirer in the checkout isle, pass by it with a chuckle.

Oh, and if you want to read the book, borrow it please.

Fair enough, I'd say. I've always thought the uproar about The Da Vinci Code was a bit overkill, since it's just a book (and now a movie) that is repeating a theory that's been around for quite a long time. I think we'd do a lot more good if we ignored the book and movie rather than working ourselves into a frenzy about it. That way, we could focus our energy on defending ourselves against the ideas that this work of fiction could conceivably propogate.

Dan Brown had every right to write the book, which he admits is a work of fiction. Ron Howard had every right to direct the movie. If you don't like it, I would suggest exercising your own rights: Namely, the right to ignore the book and movie, and the right to prepare yourself to defend against its inaccurate portrayal of Christ.

Please note that this doesn't mean shouting about how stupid and untrue the book is. Fiction generally is untrue, and getting upset about this fact might be a bit counterproductive. You might also avoid trying to get the book banned, as I'm sure there are many books which are far more offensive than The Da Vinci Code sitting on your local bookstore's shelves.

So let's just ignore it. We'll ignore the book, and we'll ignore the movie, and if people start believing that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and that French Royalty was descended from them, then we'll explain how those ideas are untrue, and how a recent book that was admittedly fictitious makes a poor foundation for one's theology.

Ignoring The Da Vinci Code is the most effective way of opposing it. And it's rather thrifty too, because if you ignore it, you will save money. On the other hand, buying an admission ticket, or making signs to thrust in the face of those who do, requires money.

And then there's the gas it takes to get to the theatre in the first place. Gas prices are killer.

And driving kills the environment. Trees die.

And don't we all have better things to do with our time anyway?

So please, ignore the movie. Do it for the trees.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Top Baby Names

Jacob and Emily Still Top the U. S. Baby Name List.

This is because all the "Jacobs" out there are named after me. That's right, I'm famous.

And you're not.

Unless your name is Emily.

So uh... you want me to post something meaningful? Not right now...

I'm too busy being famous.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

This Made My Day...

Mallard Filmore on Homeschooling...

Wanna go out on a date?

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Excuses, Excuses...

Hey folks, sorry for my apparent inability to post lately. If you've been reading my blog for any length of time, you probably know that I have this strange compulsion to neglect posting, and then apologize for it. That's my way of doin' things.

My excuse this time is that I've been working on a stupid research paper. Yes, it's stupid, and no, I won't post it on here. No self-respecting human being would read the stuff I write for school. It's amazing how boring and uninspired something has to be in order to get an A... It's like the less the teacher enjoys reading through it, the higher the grade.

I fear for my future. By the time I've graduated highschool and college, I imagine I will have been reduced to writing expository papers on shoelace manufacturers in San Marino for fun. I say "for fun" because my writing will be so mind-numbingly bland by this time that no one would ever consider paying me for it.

Thus my life as a starving writer has begun before I was either starving, or a writer.

It seems that my parents are willing to contribute to this bright future in their own special way. I was recently informed that I must finish the research paper by April 30 (tonight), or face the consequences. Now, being as lazy and unmotivated as I am, I'm well acquainted with consequences, and just as I was considering whether or not it would be worthwhile to procrastinate a little while longer, I learned that the consequences would be my being kept from going to the prom.

The prom! I can't miss that! You can't be serious! I'm a good kid, with good grades, who will somehow finish all his work this year like he always does! Don't do this to me... I can't handle it!

My social life will be ruined! Girls will hate me! I'll never get married! Heck, I could very well meet my future wife at this prom (or discover who she is), so if I'm grounded, I will be something worse than a starving writer: I'll be a lonely starving writer.

Unless I write that paper... If the paper is written, then I will go to the prom, get married, and live a happy and fulfilled (though hungry) life. To me, the choice is clear.

It's going to be a late night at Neo's house...


Let it be known that I, Neo, did in fact finish my paper on time and will be going to the prom. This, however, will do nothing to help my writing, and I don't believe there will be any ramen noodles for sale.

How depressing.

And... uh...

"All in all, I say that you need to hold down the fort and take the pond by it's ears. Who can stop you when you have a donkey? Or a ducky?"

That was, hands down, the single most amazing quasi-paragraph I have ever read. Ever.

And I didn't understand a word of it.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Underground Music Spotlight: brave Saint Saturn

As some of you have noted, I like music. In fact, I like it so much that I link to some of my favorite artists on my obscenely long sidebar. Now, I do not have any sort of a rule that the music I listen to must be Christian, but by and large, that's what it is. Christian. The only reason for this that I can think of is that I prefer my music to be clean, and I have a rather hard time finding clean music that isn't religious in nature. Not that that bothers me...

That's why my Underground Music Spotlight for this [insert period of time] is such an enigma to me. Indeed, brave Saint Saturn is one of the most intelligent and overtly Christian bands I have found, and they also are one of the most controversial.

Headed by the inordinately talented Reese Roper and composed of several other former members of the ska legend Five Iron Frenzy, BS2 has only released two albums, and does little if any touring. The reason for this? Well, they're really just a studio project, and they use so many unorthodox effects in their music (such as synths and xylophones) that it's easier just to record their music and sell it.

And please don't look at me like that. Yes, I did say they use synths and xylophones... and it sounds great! Don't take my word for it though... check out this (most likely fake) MySpace where you can listen to four songs from their latest album, The Light of Things Hoped For. What does it sound like? Well... I think the most apt description comes from the band itself; they often say their genre is "Astro rock" or "space pop"; fair enough, since both of their previous albums and their upcoming one follow the crew of the USS Gloria on its voyage through space. Creative use of previously mentioned unorthodox instruments helps communicate the feeling of the utter loneliness and desolation of space as well...

So, besides the unusual sound, what makes BS2 so controversial? Well, no one can be quite sure, but it most likely has something to do with the fact that this Christian band's most recent album was censored by Tooth and Nail Records, the Christian label who produced it.

I saw that double-take. But please, let me explain:

On the entire album, three words were censored. Twice, the word "H*ll," and once "P*ss." But wait, I can explain! Two of the words were used on the song "Heart Still Beats," one of the most jarring yet profound songs I have ever listened to. It was written about the pain and suffering of so many around us, from the strung-out harlot to the ex-convict with a grudge against the world, and the life that remains in them even when we choose to ignore it. In the second verse, the song speaks of an ex-convict answering the door:

He always looks P***ed off//
And his sunglasses stay on//
I think he got his biceps and tattoos while in prison//
And it doesn't seem to bother him//
When he says "go to H***"//

Harsh, and maybe a little crass? I think it paints a picture of the individual that could not be adequately portrayed otherwise. And why is "H***" considered a curseword anyway? I can understand why every other word is considered obscene, but why "H***?" Either way, it was censored on the cd.

The other instance of censorship comes in the song titled "Enamel." I have no good excuse for it, except that it was used as a literary device which even some of the great Christian authors recognize as legitimate.

The uncensored versions of their songs can be found here.

Controversy notwithstanding, BS2's lyrics are very nearly beyond compare. Consider the song "Under Bridges" from their first album "So Far from Home":

Verse 1:
Yesterday while walking//
Beneath an overpass//
I saw the figure of Jesus//
Standing barefoot on broken glass//
His beard was greying//
The smell of urine filled the air//
Asking if I had some change//
Anything that I could spare//

And all have hated//
Crucified, and walked away//
The Savior of the prostitutes//
Drunkards, rapists and the gays//

Of course, not every song is about this sort of thing, but it's always a breath of fresh air to find a Christian band that is not afraid to deal with real life issues that are too often ignored by the Church.

In conclusion, BS2 is a refreshing change from just about everything you thought you knew about Christian music. With compelling lyrics and a musical style that is... rather memorable... Brave Saint Saturn's newest album is the crown jewel of my cd collection. This underground side project with a mere two albums has succeeded in impressing me more than the vast majority of mainstream Christian artists, and I highly recommend that you check them out!

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Top 10 Reasons Why You Should Blog

Blogs are great. I'm serious. They're absolutely great. In fact, I think they're so great that I'm dedicating this post to convincing my non-blogging readers that they should create their own blog. Having blogged for very nearly two years now, I should hope that I understand some of the benefits to blogging, and so with my usual pompous assumption that I know something you don't, I shall proceed to tell you why you all should blog.

10.) It's a great way to improve your writing. It's true! My writing style has grown in leaps and bounds since my first ventures into the world of commenting on blogs, and writing my own (thankfully) ignored rants in my isolated corner of the blogosphere. Please, don't try to imagine my writing style BEFORE I started blogging... It could lead to high blood pressure. And don't visit my old posts in my archives either... they're like cyber-cholesterol.

9.) It helps your college professors feel important. After all, unless you are the most boring blogger on the planet, your writing style will not be able to transfer to English 101, so your professor gets to feel quite powerful as he teaches you how to write "academically."

8.) It improves your vocabulary. Within a few short days of blogging, most bloggers discover that "blog" is actually short for "weblog." Soon thereafter, you'll learn the meaning of the term "hat tip," and if you're one of those annoying overachiever types, you'll probably even figure out what the heck "WYSIWYG" stands for.

7.) You can laugh at people who don't know what a blog is.

6.) You can laugh at people who think Myspace is a reputable blog service.

5.) It helps you network with awesome and extremely intelligent people. After all, we all need someone to help us write papers or fend off trolls from time to time.

4.) It gives you a reason to take your laptop into one of those hip internet cafes now. You know, the ones where you always wanted to go before, but couldn't because you'd immediately be labeled a poser by the guy looking over your shoulder?

3.) It gets rid of all that pesky free time. 'Cause we all know there are too many hours in the day to begin with...

2.) It's a great way to vent your anger after a really bad day. And, if you're mad at someone in particular, it's a convenient way to bring your grievances to light without seeming confrontational. "Oh, you mean you read my blog? Wow..."

1.) You'll meet the love of your life, and run away together to live happily ever after. ... Okay, so I made that one up. But you might end up with a stalker or two.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Our Greatest Strength, Our Strongest Weakness

Over the past few months, I've been giving quite a bit of thought to the concept of Christian Liberty. Can it truly be that we, as Christians, are free to act in whatever manner we want, and still go to Heaven? I do believe so; I believe we have a moral obligation to act in accordance with Christian beliefs, but we also have the freedom to act as though we are still complete heathens. This is part of the reason that I am loathe to judge any person's salvation based on whether or not they listen to the conviction of the Holy Spirit, and live a moral life.

Salvation is a gift from God, and it is one for which there are no requirements. We need not act a certain way to gain entrance to Heaven, and there are no actions by which we can conclusively determine a person's salvation. After all, since we cannot ever know the state of a person's heart or if they truly have been saved, and since salvation is a gift from God, and since "God's gifts are irrevocable," I believe it is impossible to say that we can question a person's salvation based on their actions.

But I digress... Back on the issue of Christian Liberty, I would suggest that it is one reason Christianity has endured so long. Let me explain...

The great beauty of Christianity is in its perfect melding of moral requirements and total freedom. This is the reason it has endured for so long, through so much persecution! No other religion so seamlessly combines the need and command to act in a manner consistent with the religion with the freedom to not do so. For example, a Muslim who does not act like a Muslim is not, in fact, a Muslim. He is a failed Muslim, one who will be eternally damned (according to his religion) because he did not uphold his religion's moral code. Then consider the Buddhists: A Buddhist with many possessions, who fails to follow their moral code, is not so much a Buddhist as a failed Buddhist, who has no hope of reaching Nirvana any time soon.

Christianity though, is different. Beautifully so. Our religion emphasizes love, forgiveness, mercy and grace, but it also requires Christians to exhibit these virtues. However, in order for the religion to truly practice love, forgiveness, mercy and grace, those who adhere to the religion must be able to live their lives under perfect love, forgiveness, mercy and grace. This means that they do not, in fact, have to exhibit these virtues or any others in order to call themselves Christians. They need not fear the eternal consequences of their transgressions against the faith.

This requirement to act in a certain way, but freedom to not do so is an integral part of Christianity, and at first glance, it seems as though it lead to the death of the religion. After all, if anyone may call himself a Christian, regardless of his actions, then it is no wonder we are seen as hypocrites by so many in the world. It is because of the freedom we have that people see our religion as being so hypocritical.

But it is that very hypocrisy that makes our religion so believable. No other religion is so forgiving, and so thorough in its worldview. Christianity takes no account of the wrongs done to it, and that is our call as well; and, when we fail in this area, it is just another great testimony of the beauty of our faith. The religion is strong because we are weak. Since we are weak, then something stronger than ourselves must be behind this irrationally strong religion, and that stronger power is easily seen to be Christ.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Failure to Communicate

(originally posted to a discussion forum that I help moderate.)

In my experience, Christians and homosexuals have a misunderstanding when it comes to talking about sexuality and sin. Christians, in general, use the term "homosexuality" to mean the actual practice of sodomy, and the term "homosexual" to mean an individual who actively participates in homosexual intercourse.

However, because of their situation, homosexuals define terms differently. They tend to use the term "homosexuality" as simply the state of being attracted to a member of the same sex, and "homosexual" as any person who experiences that same-sex attraction. Therefore, when we as Christians say that homosexuality is sinful, homosexuals believe we are condemning them for the attraction that they undeniably (and uncontrollably) feel.

Of course, this is not so. Christians do not (or at least, should not) condemn anyone in the first place. Secondly, feeling a homosexual attraction is no more sinful than feeling the urge to lie, or more relavently, the urge to masturbate. The temptation to sin, whether it is same-sex attraction or the urge to masturbate, is NOT sinful.

Furthermore, you will never catch me saying that homosexuality feels unnatural to homosexual individuals, or that they have some innate "knowing" or "feeling" deep down that it is wrong. It is what is known as a "signature sin": a particular sin that an individual struggles with more than others. Homosexual activity is sinful according to the Bible and a perversion according to nature, but no amount of preaching about this will change a homosexual's urges. It's the same as if you were to confront a compulsive gambler about his gambling addiction (as gambling would be his signature sin); laws of God and nature may be set against him, but words alone will not change his ways because he struggles with this particular issue more than with any other, and has begun to cope with it the only way he knows how. Namely, accepting the sin.

Now, I have already stated my case elsewhere that homosexuality (even homosexual activity) and Christianity are not mutually exclusive; however, it would be (as C. S. Lewis would put it) rather difficult to be a practicing homosexual and a *good* Christian simultaneously... but a homosexual can be a Christian just like a practicing liar can be a Christian, because lets face it, we've all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Another Kind of Total Depravity

I Don't Want to Die' Heard on Flight 93 Tape

"The last words heard as [Flight 93] nears the ground were repeated four times in Arabic: 'Allah is the greatest. Allah is the greatest. Allah is the greatest. Allah is the greatest.' Then, just the sound roaring static can be heard."
Does anyone else find it odd that someone as "great" as Allah is scared out of his wits by Jews and people who convert to Christianity? How great can he be if he needs a bunch of men with rugs on their heads to blow themselves and the infidels up? Sounds more like desperation than greatness... but then, what do I know?

I'm just a civilized Westerner.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Total Depravity

Okay, for my first foray into posting about Calvinism, I'll simply ask this question, in hopes that one of my kind Calvinist readers will explain it to me:

How do you define "Total Depravity?"

Of course, I believe in Total Depravity, but perhaps not in the same sense that Calvinists do... then again, we may completely agree, I don't know. Hence the fact that I asked the question.

I understand that Man's Fall led to a sin nature in all men, and thus Total Depravity, but beyond that, I don't think I fully understand the Calvinist point of view. Is Total Depravity the belief (or does it encompass the belief) that we are "incapable of doing any good on our own," or is it the idea that we all have the tendency to sin, and no amount of good works on our part can ever save us from that sin?

I would just research it myself, but this is quicker and I wanted to post before I go to bed. Now if only I can get the Great and Powerful David Ketter to watch my back and kick me in the head if I say something stupid.

Er, when I say something stupid...

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

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