Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Few Thoughtz: X-23: Innocence Lost

"Please forgive me. Even as I write the words, they ring so hollow. My mistakes...No, my choices...they cannot be undone, much less forgiven. All I can do now is tell you what happened. How all this came to pass...and the truth about Weapon X. Had it ended there, would I be less of a monster? Or More? Would I even know the difference? Of course I don't have to tell you about monsters. Your life is defined by monsters."

"It seems so incredible to me now, that in all that time, given everything I knew...what I was doing and what the end result would bear...I didn't give it a second thought. I told myself that you weren't real. I told myself this was science...not life. I was creating a weapon...not a child. I was wrong."

-Dr. Kinney

Peace and blessings,

The opening quote comes from the Marvel comic
  • X-23: Innocence Lost,
  • which is about a girl named Laura, who like Wolverine, was created to be a weapon. The story is narrated by Laura's mother, Dr. Kinney, and is told from the perspective of a mother deeply regrets the choices she made as a parent regarding her daughter's welfare.

    The story begins with Wolverine's escape from the Weapon X facility, and killing Dr. Dale Rice, the man responsible for turning him into a weapon with no sense of humanity. Years later, Dale's son, Zander Rice, under the guidance and leadership of Dr. Martin, a friend of Dale's, continued his father's research. Dr. Martin decides to bring in Dr. Kinney, the leading expert on mutant genetics. Ambitious and scientifically inclined, she set out to do what up until now has been nearly impossible: to recreate the "Weapon X formula" and create another weapon. Right when she's on the verge of accomplishing her goal, she encounters an "issue." Their goal was to "birth" another male weapon (i.e., using the X and Y chromosomes). However, the Y chromosome got damaged (or was defective) during the process, so the doctors had a choice to make: Cut their losses and start over trying to create a male weapon, or get rid of the Y chromosome and replace it with another X chromosome, thus creating a female weapon.

    Martin and Dr. Kinney chose the latter, but Dr. Rice thought that making the weapon female would be a bad idea ("you're supposed to be creating a weapon, not a...barbie doll!"). Upset about the gender-shift and jealous of Dr. Kinney coming in and stealing his mojo, Zander gives Dr. Kinney a proposition: either she carry the specimen to term (i.e., be the girl's mother), or he'll see to it that the project is destroyed. As the ambition permeates her thought process, she chooses to impregnate herself and carry the child to term.

    The goal of the Weapon X program is to create a machine who's only objective is to kill when told, and to never question those who give the orders. To achieve this, the weapon has to be treated like one: used only to kill and never treated like a human with individual thoughts, feelings, and beliefs. Despite the constant missions she was sent on to kill people (most of the targets she did not know, some of them she did), there were a few times within the story that it was clear that Laura was not fully a weapon, that deep down there is a little girl crying out to be recognized and treated as a human.

    Now that I've explained the gist of the story (discussing the story in any more detail would take a long time, and plus I don't want to reveal too much in case someone decides to read it), I'll take this last paragraph to share a few thoughts on why I liked the story. What i like the most about the story is how vividly it depicted the experiences of childhood abuse and neglect (by the way, Laura's mother, Dr. Kinney was abused by her father as a child), and the amount of resiliency many children demonstrate in the face of such harsh circumstances. Although in the story Laura was abused and neglected in the name of science (and eventually profit), the take home message is the same: Sometimes, children begin their lives by being treated in ways that should shame us as adults, whether we have children or not. Moreover, I would argue that for a variety of reasons, children are growing up in a world where they are experiencing more "adult-type" problems and issues (some of which are the result of their own choices, temperament, and/or disposition; others are not).

    What I think Laura's experiences in the Weapon X program represent (albeit loosely) is the idea that no matter what has happened to you in the past, it can never fully determine your future. There's always a part of us that reminds us that we are and have always been more than what our past struggles and setbacks tried to "tell us" we were. Although the environment is a significant factor in our lives, it can never fully define us. We weren't built like that.

    What do you think? Sound like something worth reading? What role do you think our childhood experiences play in how we view ourselves? Others? The world? Until next time, stay blessed and speekonit...

    Sunday, November 16, 2008

    Just a Thought...

    "Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn't matter with me now. Because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord."

    - Martin Luther King Jr.

    Peace and blessings,

    One of the things that convinced me that Obama was hands-down the best candidate, was his response to the following question asked to himself, Hillary Clinton, and John Edwards during a debate:

    "If Dr. Martin Luther King were alive today...why should he endorse you?"

    Unlike the answers of Clinton and Edwards (although I found nothing wrong with their responses), Obama responded with the following:

    "I don't think Dr. King would endorse any of us. I think what he would call upon the American people to do is to hold us accountable..."

    As I have had time to reflect on Obama's election and the meaning it has for a country that has its roots in fear, greed, and division, I couldn't help thinking about the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In particular, I have been thinking about the
  • last speech
  • he gave on April 3rd, 1968, the day before he was assassinated. One of the reasons why this speech is my favorite of all of his speeches (although the one on Vietnam and economics is a close second) is because of its prophetic element. He's speaking as if he knew that his days on this earth were coming to an end. However, in light of the election, and the fact that Obama's inauguration is on MLK's birthday (Jan. 20th), I'm beginning to think that his speech may have been prophetic in another sense. What if his assertion that God brought him the mountain top and that although he may not be around to see it, that we as a people would get to the "promised land," was foreshadowing the day when America would elect the first Black president? What if in the vision that God showed him, he "saw" that in the future there would be a black president? What if he saw this specific time period during his vision? Just the possibility alone is crazy...

    What do you think? Do you think MLK knew there would one day be a black president? Did you think there would be a black president in your lifetime? Take care, God bless, and speekonit...

    Wednesday, November 05, 2008

    A New Day

    Peace and blessings,

    As someone who tends to be very cynical when it comes to political process on a national level, I have to say that yesterday was a breath of fresh air. My friends and I were talking about how we did not think that an African American would be elected president in our lifetime, let alone this soon in our lives. For those who yesterday was the first time they were legally able to vote (and actually voted), they are beginning their life as voters with a different framework than my peers and those who came before us. My first real exposure to the national political process was in 2000, and my first time being able to legally vote was in 2004. So up until last night, my framework was pretty cynical. Not to say that "everything's cool now" because Barack Obama is the president, because he, like any human being in such a difficult position, is going to struggle and make mistakes. It's a part of life. However, it seemed like last night, the majority of Americans voted on the basis of principles as opposed to preferences; for the ideal of unity and personal accountability as opposed to maintaining division and playing the blame game.

    Now that Americans have made a statement with their ballots, I've been constantly asking myself the question, "What next? Where do we go from here? After the fact that history has been made (by the way, never in my life did I wish for MLK to still be alive than last night) has sunk into our thoughts and we fully acknowledge it's significance, what are we going to do next? What personal commitments are we going to make to ensure that we respect, love, and are accountable to one another? Are we going to continually work to inspire others to be the best of themselves, while striving to do so within ourselves? I'm not saying that Barack Obama's election represents all of these things, because he's only one man. With that said, his election does show that moral direction, principles, and character do indeed carry much weight when it comes to changing the status quo. We were able to set aside certain differences and feelings in the interest of choosing a common direction. The real test has to do with the extent to which we can do so in our everyday interactions with one another. Barack's overwhelming belief in the "core decency of the American people" suggests that we can. Not only do I agree, but I also believe that our fate as a people depends on it.

    What do you think? What do you think this election means/symbolizes for: 1) the country? 2) The world? 3) The everyday person? 4) You personally?

    Take care, stay blessed, and speekonit...

    Thursday, October 30, 2008

    A Few Thoughtz: White

    Peace and blessings,

    Last we left off, Justin was trying to intervene in the conflict between the scabs and "normal" humans, and as a result was brought up on charges of treason and executed. He eventually rose from the dead, appearing to Thomas and his "patnas." In the "world of the histories," the virus spreads and Thomas is killed in an attempt to stop it. So now comes
  • White (2007),
  • the conclusion...

    In the future world, the possibility of war is ever present, and at least on the scabs' end, inevitable. Realizing that the people and choices of this world is directly connected to those of the world of the histories, he tries to find out how he can come back to life in the other world. He hears about this fabled book called the "Books of History," which is supposed to contain immense power and knowledge. He remembers hearing from someone that the book covers the creation of the world, and that the book has a "living" element to it. To test out this idea, he decides to write a new chapter in it. In this chapter, Thomas did not die in the world of the histories (at least not yet), but survived. And of course, once he wrote the words and tested the book's validity, he woke up in the world of the histories, alive and well. I know, sort of cheesy but bare with me...

    Back in the world of the histories (i.e. the "current" world), Thomas has a second chance to stop the virus. Time is still running out though, as the one controlling the virus is demanding that every national power surrender their nuclear weapons in exchange for the cure (I can't remember if he actually has a cure or not). Furthermore, the virus is spreading ferociously, infecting lives, old and young alike. Convinced that the key to ending the virus in this world is connected to resolving the conflict with the scabs in the other world, he goes to sleep and wakes up in the future world looking for answers.

    In the future world, twelve of his "patnas" (i.e., members of The Circle) get captured by the scabs. In an attempt to try to free them, he offers himself to get taken into the scabs' custody. The scabs agree to let the twelve go free in exchange for Thomas. While there, he becomes a "tutor" of sorts to a scab named Chelise, and offers to help her read and understand the Books of History. While helping her, begins to view her as Elyon (God) sees her, and falls in love with her. She eventually falls for him to, and they escape and plan to marry. Of course this idea of a normal human marrying a scab runs into opposition on both sides, and hence comes more drama. After discussing how they should relate to scabs, and how Elyon and Justin would approach the issue, members of the Circle generally agreed with Thomas that he was doing the right thing (at the very least, they did not stop him). There were doubters and those who disagreed, however, but overall Thomas was supported. The scabs, however, were not as supportive. Thomas and Chelise were eventually captured and sentenced to be executed (with the permission of Chelise's father). Just as they were thrown into the water to drown, however, a couple of members of the circle found the source of the living water (i.e., the water that gives life to those who embrace it, and that Thomas told them to search out once he knew he was going to get executed). The Circle members were successful, and instead of drowning, Thomas and Chelise were given new life by the living water. Most notably, when Chelise came up from the water, she was no longer a scab: she was exactly how God made her. Afterwards, Chelise's father told her that while he now understands that she has a new life, he was unwilling to join her in that new life (She told her father to jump in the water and get "clean" was well, but he refused). Thomas and Chelise eventually get married.

    In the current world, it looks as if all hope is lost. Eventually, however, a solution is found. Dr. Raison discovers that there is something special about Thomas' blood: it cures the virus. The problem is that because the virus has spread so widely throughout the world, they would need all of his blood to have a chance of curing everyone. He willingly agrees, and saves the world through his blood. Sounds Familiar?

    So there you have it. That's how this epic ends (although I just found out that another book, Green, will be coming out soon). In terms of some of the details, my memory recollections may not be fully accurate, so for that I apologize. With that said, I'm pretty confident that I've summed it up pretty well (accurately). I think that the main message of White (and the trilogy as a whole) is that whether it's the proliferation of scabs or a deadly virus, we as humans are in need of a "cure," and that cure is Jesus. In future world it was the sin of pride and disobedience, which resulted in the bats getting loose and turning people into scabs. Then, it was the sin of hatred towards one another that further separated them from Elyon. In the current world, it was the sin of greed and corruption via one's lust for power that almost destroyed the world. These stories reminded me of the use of free will, the power and consequences of our choices (e.g., who we choose to become, how we choose to handle what life throws at us, how we choose to handle doubt and uncertainty, and how we choose to negotiate reason and emotion), and the intimate role God and Jesus has played and continues to play throughout human history...

    What do you think? Would you consider reading the trilogy for yourself? Why or why not? Do you think the weight that the trilogy gives to our choices and the consequences of those choices is accurate? Why or why not? Take care, stay blessed, and speekonit...

    Sunday, October 19, 2008

    A Few Thoughtz: Red (Part 2 of the Circle Trilogy)

    Peace and blessings,

    Hopefully you've gotten a chance to read Ted Dekker's Black (2007) since the last post. If not, then what are you waiting for? Anyhow, here are a few thoughts on
  • Red (2007),
  • the second part of the trilogy. Last time, I forgot to share how Black ended. In a nutshell, two things happen that significantly set the course for the other two parts of the trilogy. In the present world, Dr. Raison gets captured by a villain who wants to control the virus and anti-virus (that he's making Dr. Raison develop) so that he can dictate the actions of every nation in the world, therefore ruling the world. In the future world, one of the people breaks "the rule" and in an attempt to face the evil bats on his own, eats the forbidden fruit. This act enables the bats to wreak havoc on the people of the land, turning them into grotesque versions of themselves (referred to as "scabs"). And now for Red...

    In the present world, Thomas is able to convince more and more people that he's telling the truth about simultaneously living in two worlds, and about the virus. He also realizes that he is not the only person who is living in both worlds, and whose actions in one affect the other. However, he's unfortunately too late, as the virus gets released and people get infected, causing a scare amongst countries all throughout the world. In an attempt to stop the virus from continuing to spread, Thomas is killed...

    Although the spread of the virus in the present world seems analogous to the "spread" of the black bats throughout the future world, it is the events in the former that I would like to focus on. Once the bats start turning people into scabs, Thomas and a few others are able to escape and find some kind of sanctuary while on the run from the scabs. Eventually, armies are built on each side (the scabs versus the regular humans not "contaminated" by the bats) and it's clear that a war is on the horizon. However, one of the regular humans named of Justin proposes an idea that in their particular context is extremely radical. He believes that humans should not try to destroy the scabs, but to make peace with them. He told the regular humans that this is the way in Elyon (God) wants them to behave towards the scabs, who, like them, were also made in Elyon's image. As expected during war times, he was met with sharp criticism and branded as a traitor. He urged the regular humans to embrace the scabs and he encouraged the scabs to do the same. He tried to initiate a peace treaty between both groups, but was eventually turned over to the scabs by the regular humans (members of Elyon's council to be specific) to be killed. After he died, he appeared to Thomas and his circle shortly after. Sounds familiar?

    I thought that this was a very creative way to bring in the "Jesus element" of the story, because I'm not going to front, I was very skeptical of Justin's motives in the beginning and in the beginning thought he was a traitor. Why does he want them to broker a treaty with the scabs who are trying to destroy them, and on top of that be all calm, cool, and collected about the whole thing, lol? Once I thought about it, however, I started to think that this idea that seems so radical is not radical at all in God's (Elyon's) eyes. His goal is for all of us to view each other as being made in God's image, and to treat each other accordingly. What Justin was doing with the two armies, as Jesus did with the many different people he ministered to in His time, was bringing us closer to God and showing us the way.

    What do you think? What areas, situations, conflicts can you see Jesus intervening in today? What would this intervention look like? Until next time, stay blessed and speekonit...

    Monday, October 13, 2008

    A Few Thoughtz: Black

    Monica: Thomas? Can we talk on my level, just for a moment?

    Thomas: What do you think I've been trying to do for the past two hours?

    M: You've been talking on your level. Everything you're telling me makes perfect sense to you, but not to me.

    (A couple of exchanges later...)

    T: I don't know how I can be clearer. Either you believe me or you don't. You don't, so we have a problem.

    M: You still aren't talking to me on my level. I'm trying to explain my predicament so you can address me as a real person. A woman who is...confused and frightened by your antics.

    Peace and blessings,

    What is your initial take on the above exchange? Any thoughts as to what they could be talking about? The exchange came from the pages of Ted Dekker's Black: A Graphic Novel (2007). The graphic is one third of the circle trilogy (the other two-thirds are the Red and White graphic novels). More info on this graphic novel and the others in the trilogy can be found
  • here.
  • Since Black is part one of three, I'll only give a brief plot summary of part one.

    The story begins with Thomas, a young man who eventually finds out that he is alive in two different worlds. One world is the present-day world. The other world is a future world where good and evil are more easily identified. Further, the good life (i.e., the "Great Romance" as they call it) is available to anyone as long as they do not eat the forbidden fruit (you probably can see where this is going). He realizes that once he falls asleep, he wakes up in the other world. He is able to carry over his memory of one world to the other world, and soon realizes that these two worlds are connected. Once he realizes that these worlds are connected, and his purpose in negotiating this connection, he tries to convince others, among them is Monica who is featured in the above exchange.

    In the future world, Thomas finds out that his present world (i.e., the "world of the histories" as it's referred to by those in the future world) gets wiped out due to a vaccine that when heated at a particular temperature over a certain amount of time, turns into a deadly virus. Once Thomas finds out from the future world that Dr. Monica De Raison is the person who creates the vaccine (unaware of it's potential to become a deadly virus), he goes back to his present world to warn her. The above exchange is his attempt to convince her that (1) he is simultaneously living to two worlds (2) these worlds are connected and (2) her vaccine will turn into a virus that will destroy the planet. Piece of cake right, lol?

    The above exchange is my favorite part of this graphic novel, although the trilogy itself is one of the best comics/graphic novels I've read period. I like this exchange because in my opinion the "world is going to be destroyed if you don't listen to me" context can easily be replaced by another context: talking to a non-believer or someone who is just "not feeling God right now." Recently, I've realized that when I invite people to church and even at times when I share my faith with others, I do so without thinking about their past experiences with God, Christianity, another religion, or no religion. In other words, I realize that I at times I do not stop and think about how my offer to visit my church or the information I share with them regarding my faith in Christ is being perceived and processed from their perspective. Am I trying to share my faith without first understanding where the other person is coming from?

    Sometimes I feel like my exchanges with others can sound like the above exchange between Thomas and Monica. Moreover, I would go as far as to say that an important reason why we as Christians sometimes fail to bring people to Christ has less to do with what we say and more to do with the perspective from which we say it. Although what Thomas told her was the truth, Monica wanted to hear the truth on her level, not Thomas's. She wanted Thomas to relate to her as a human being, not simply as someone who needs to be convinced of the truth. I know that our own testimony is powerful and we need to use our personal experiences to reveal Christ to others. However, I think our personal testimony will be more effective if it is coordinated with the perspective of the person with whom we are sharing it with. I think Jesus' ministry was full of instances where he shared the good news with them in a way that took their thoughts, concerns, fears, emotions, and needs into account. As we are put in situations where God wants us to share the good news with others, I pray that we first learn about others' thoughts, feelings, concerns, and experiences pertaining to the truth before we try to convince them of the truth. Engaging in the difficult process of the former will better equip us to produce more fruit once we engage in the latter.

    What do you think? Can u recall any times when you tried to tell someone some valuable info you thought they needed to hear, but it fell on deaf ears because you did not take their perspective into account? How important do you think it is to consider others' perspectives when providing them with information you believe they need to hear? Take care, stay blessed, and speekonit...

    Sunday, October 12, 2008

    Following the Evidence...

    "Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him."

    - Psalm 34: 8 (NIV)

    "'Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.'"

    - John 14: 10-12

    "In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead. When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, 'We want to hear you again on this subject.'"

    - Acts 17: 30-32

    Peace and blessings,

    Aside from
  • Heroes,
  • my favorite show on television is CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (the Las Vegas team). In fact, CSI has been my favorite show since my undergraduate years, long before "Heroes" entered the television scene. Among the many things I like about the show (e.g., the fact that everyone has a distinct, yet inter-related role to play in the collective whole, the various depictions of man's inhumanity to man, etc.), the bedrock of the show has to do with the high value the team gives to evidence in their relentless search for the truth.

    Typically the idea is that everything is guided by evidence, therefore regardless of how good an idea sounds or how plausible a theory appears to be, the final arbiter of truth is the evidence. It determines who did what, with whom, where, when, how, and why. Of course there are those rare occasions when "the evidence doesn't add up," and cannot provide the full answer to a particular questions (there have been episodes when this has been the case). Despite these rarities, however, the general consensus among the team is that the best path to take in the pursuit of truth is the one that follows the evidence.

    In my opinion, one of the prevailing misconceptions about Christianity is that to have faith in Christ means to believe "all things Jesus" just because the bible says so, or because someone was told that they have to if they want to go to heaven. Even those who can clearly and cogently defend their faith in Christ are at times perceived as crazy, irrational, and close-mined. Even as a Christian, there were times when I held similar views. How much of this "Christian stuff" is really valid? Do I truly understand why I believe what I believe, or is my "assurance" just a cover for what it really is: speculation with conviction? Furthermore, does being a Christian mean that my relationship to the truth is devoid of evidence as it is used in non-Christian contexts?

    Thankfully, God has and continues to work with me as I pose these questions from time to time. Through speaking to me personally and through other people and life experiences, God has provided me with answers to these questions that I needed to hear. One of the more recent answers came from a sermon I heard by Bruxy Cavey of the
  • Meeting House.
  • While talking about the misconceptions that atheists and Christians have about each other, he used the example of Doubting Thomas to illuminate a misconception that atheists often have about Christians: that to be a Christian is to not value evidence. He said that Jesus' decision to ask Thomas to touch him so that Thomas would believe is not only proof that Jesus Himself was not against the use of evidence, but that evidence has a role in Christians' pursuit of truth. We believe not because faith is what's left when evidence is lacking, but because our faith is a result of us getting our "CSI" on and following the evidence. Whether it's the works of God (as the above scriptures refer to), present day miracles, prophet dreams, fate encounters, unexplainable coincidences, answered prayers, physical, mental, and emotional healing, or seeing the bible coming alive thousands of years later, the evidence is abundant for the believer.

    As Bruxy noted, Jesus could have responded to Thomas' "I have to see dude to believe he's alive" orientation by rebuking him for not believing, but he didn't (although he did bless those who believe without seeing Him physically). He have Thomas the evidence he needed, and allowed Thomas to follow the evidence to his own conclusions. Regardless of what type of evidence we may need (e.g., physical, spiritual, relational, mental, financial, etc.) God is faithful to meet us where we're at. I encourage everyone who may be unsure about this God thing to ask Him to provide you with the evidence you need to believe in Him, and then follow where it leads...

    What do you think? For Christians: What is your evidence that Jesus Christ is Lord in your life? For non-Christians: What type of evidence would have you consider/seek God more? Take care, stay blessed, and speekonit...

    Process - Oriented

    "Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us."

    - Romans 5: 3-5 (NIV)

    Peace and blessings,

    A month ago my pastor preached a message from this passage, and the focus was on what it means to have hope for Christians. Although I've read the passage before, this time it's like I saw it in a different light. Whereas in the past I interpreted this passage as encouragement during difficult times, now i interpreted it as describing a developmental process that we experience through in life, the outcome of which depends on the choices we make at each stage. In addition to it being a developmental process, In some way I think it is a reoccurring process as well. Reoccurring in the sense that I think that we constantly developing in the areas addressed in this passage, and the choices we make during these processes determine the extent of our growth in a particular area.

    The process described in the above passage is as follows: suffering - perseverance - character - hope.

    My interpretation of this process is the following: problem - persistence - purpose - and perspective. When we are faced with a problem, we have a choice to dwell on it and let it be the reason that we remain in the state or situation that we are in, or to work to solve and overcome it. Next, we are faced with two choices that determine whether or not we really want to address the problem. We can either persist until we overcome the problem, or we can persist for a while and then throw in the towel, succumbing to whatever it is trying to hold us back. Next there is the purpose aspect of the process, where our choices determine the character traits that we will make salient and strengthen in the midst of the problem we are facing. We can either sharpen traits that will strengthen our character, or we can feed those traits that dampen our character. Lastly, we come to a point where we must choose how we want this experience to contribute to how we will view similar problems we may face in the future. We can take on a more negative perspective and view future obstacles primarily as burdens, or we can take a more positive perspective and view these same obstacles as opportunities for personal and spiritual growth.

    I'm not justifying the existence of all problems on the basis that we can benefit from them. I truly believe that there are some problems that are "placed" on us and that we place on ourselves, that should have never existed. However, Jesus teaches us that we will face trials, and thus we need to be prepared. How we handle our problems influences who we become, and who we become influences how we view the world and our relation to it.

    What do you think? Stay blessed, encouraged, and speekonit...

    Thursday, October 09, 2008

    Random "Why" Question of the Moment

    In the midst of Washington D.C.'s national budgeting priorities, and my theory that the current Governor of California is turning Cali into Gotham City, the following question is current at the forefront of my mind:

    "Why is education not a priority in this country?"

    Marvel-ous (Throwback): X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills (1982)

    Peace and blessings,

    I wanted so share a few thoughts on my favorite comic book story as of yet, and arguably one of the most significant comic book stories to date:
  • X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills.
  • For those of you who are familiar with the X-Men, you know that the main themes their comics address are prejudice, discrimination, and intolerance. The X-Men are humans who were born with special abilities, abilities that typically manifest during adolescence. The X-Men's goal to achieve peaceful co-existence between mutants and humans. Their pursuit of this goal is often met with three types of opposition, two of which are external and explicit, and the third type is internal and more subtle. The external opposition comes from humans and mutants alike, with many humans fearing and hating mutants, and some mutants who are either (1) bent on world domination (2) view the X-men as compromising sell-outs to the mutant race or (3) agree with the principles the X-Men stand for, but disagree with their method. The internal opposition, although less often and less prevalent, is a result of striving long and hard for a dream and ideal that often seems unattainable. Many members have left and came back, and many have left with no intent on coming back. Even those who are longstanding members have times where they doubt whether or not their work is really making a difference. I doubt that there is one person who has not experienced at least one of these types of opposition...

    Ok, so on with the story. It starts off with two children (they look African American), a little girl with her older brother, being chased in a playground at night. They are eventually caught by their pursuers and are basically told that their birth justifies their death (i.e. because they are mutants, they do not deserve to live). Amidst the children's crying and pleading for their life, they are shot in cold blood and hung from the swings in the playground...

    It would take too long to describe the entire story, but the opening pages lets you know that this is no "fun-times, slapstick" comic. In a nutshell, the story is about a man named William Stryker (a human) who, after finding out his wife (also a human) gave birth to a mutant, killed the child and wife, and covered it up. Shortly after wards, he claims to have received a calling from God telling him that his purpose in life is to eliminate the mutants from the earth, and to let them know of their wretchedness. He then becomes a minister and creates this multi-million dollar world-wide ministry organization to achieve those ends. His foot soldiers (a group of vigilante humans who "enforce" Rev. Stryker's hate doctrine, and who killed the two children in the opener), are called the Purifiers (yes, that's their name). Rev. Stryker eventually hears about the X-Men and believes that they are not God's children, and are actually the devil's children. After the X-Men eventually thwart Rev. Stryker's attempt to destroy them, they have a debate on national television about whether or not mutants are God's children.

    This comic not only resonates with me as an African American, but as a Christian. As an African American because historically and in many ways presently, we have been treated like those mutant kids at the story's opening. As a Christian because historically and presently, "faith" and "conviction" can be the driving catalysts in developing a "Purifiers-type" mentality. Historically, groups such as racial minorities (Africans, Indians, etc.) have been brutalized and dehumanized under the umbrella of "Christianity," while presently homosexuals, those of other religions, and atheists are viewed as "ungodly" (and treated as such) by people operating under that same umbrella. Now I'm not pointing fingers, and I know that I personally have to work on being too judgmental towards others. I believe that as humans, we are all capable of distorting the bible and Jesus' teachings to achieve our own selfish ends. However, I also believe that we need to learn from the mistakes learned in the past, and how these learning experiences can be used to more accurately represent the scriptures and Jesus' teachings in our present day relationships,communities, and spheres of influence.

    It seems to me that Jesus was showing us how to live above the tendencies that have so often plagued us since Adam and Eve sinned, and that were so clearly on display in Chris Claremont's "God Loves, Man Kills." The more that we as humans start looking at each other as children of God, as having a creator who gave each creation His imprint, then I believe the better equipped we will be to face the challenges that face us in the present, as well as those we will encounter in the future. As we move forward, let's choose the capacity of God's love over our capacity for sin, because nothing good ever came out of fear and hatred for those who are different (e.g., with regards to ethnicity, point of view, life experiences, etc.).

    What do you think? Have you read "God Loves, Man Kills?" If so, what do you think? If not, any general thoughts? Take care and speekonit...

    Political Stategy 101

    Peace and blessings,

    Nov. 4th, 2004. I can remember it like it was yesterday. A couple of weeks prior, I had watched two of the preseidential debates between John Kerry and George Bush. With regards to the issues, it seemed to me that John Kerry won both debates hands down. His ideas seems to make more logical sense, and his rhetoric was more coherent. Although he wasn't dynamic or charismatic, I didn't think that come Nov. 4th, that would matter. I was wrong. The way John Kerry got "smashed" by Bush told me that I knew little to nothing about American politics. Granted I've never taken a political science course, and I typically do not pay much attention to political news, I naively thought that when it's all said and done, what's most important is the issues. While I feel like Kerry was on point regarding the issues, Bush spoke with a confidence and conviction that in my opinion connected more with his supporters, making them feel more comfortable with keeping him in office another four years. What I also remember about Nov. 4th 2004 was the morning after, when my boss (who was very disappointed in the voting outcome), asked me if from my opinion, what accounts for Christians' support of Bush (She knew I was a Christian). I first told her that Christians are a diverse group, and therefore we are not homogeneous when it comes a variety of issues, political views included. I also told her that as a Christian, I (and most of my Christian friends) personally disagree with Bush and do not think he should be leading the country.

    Unlike the 2000 and 2004 elections, I find myself not only more attuned to the candidates' positions, but I'm actually excited about this political season. It seems like the differences between the two directions our country can go in during the next four years could not be more clearer: either we're going to try to handle things at home and abroad differently, or we are going to continue to "ride things out" as they are. In addition, I am also paying more attention to the amount of strategy involved on both sides. The example I want to talk about here is each candidates' VP pick.

    McCain and Palin: When I first heard about who McCain chose for his VP, I was thinking about how "smart" the choice was in a political sense. Although she doesn't have much experience in vital areas, she has something else in her favor. She seems relatively young, she's a woman, and she's snappy/hip. In other words, she's everything that Republican candidates are usually stereotyped not to be.

    Obama and Biden: When first heard about Obama's choice for a running mate, I didn't think much of it. I mean I knew it had to be a well-thought out choice because Obama strikes me as someone who is very methodical. However, in terms of political strategy, I thought that McCain's choice represented a more "out-of the box" choice than Obama's. The more I thought about it, however, the more I realized that Obama's choice was just as politically strategic as McCain's. While on the surface it may seem kind of "suspect" that Obama would choose Biden, someone who in the past has said that he does not thing Obama is ready to lead, a closer reveals otherwise. Aside from Biden's experience (the fact that he has more than McCain was surely a factor in his choice), I think that Biden's initial uncertain of Obama's readiness for leadership is the reason why he was chosen as a running mate. Why? Because having someone who didn't think you had enough experience is consistent with Obama's overall message: that people can out aside differences and come together on principles.

    So there it is. Two politically strategic choices for two (seemingly) different reasons. McCain wants to give off the notion that he and the republican can embrace significant change when necessary. Obama wants to give off the notion that at the core, people have more commonalities than differences. I personally think that it's the latter reason that is going to be more important come Nov. 4th.

    What do you think? Take care and speekonit...

    Monday, May 05, 2008

    Marvel-ous: Bishop

    Peace and blessings,

    In this piece, I wanted to share a few thoughts on
  • Bishop,
  • one of the few African American superheroes in the Marvel Comics universe. Throughout the X-Men storyline and his appearances in the cartoons, Bishop is known as a time-traveler who, after witnessing future outcomes of past decisions, goes back in time to preserve the outcomes that are in the best interest of superheroes, and prevent the outcomes that are not. Within the X-Men storyline, Bishop stands asa constant reminder that the choices made in the present impacts how we live our lives in the future. Oh yeah, and his powers are "off the chain" as well. Below is an excerpt about his superhuman abilities from
  • Wikipedia:

  • "Bishop's mutant ability enables him to absorb all forms of radiant or conductive energy that are directed towards him and to release that energy from his hands. This power is passive, allowing Bishop to absorb energy at all times.

    When he releases the energy, he can release it as many different types of forms, usually in concussive blasts or in the same form as he had absorbed the energy although he can emit microwaves as well. He can also store energy in his personal reserves for increasing his strength, endurance, and (to an extent) his healing. He also has enhanced durability, resistance to poison and injury and is a skilled marksman and hand-to-hand fighter.

    His powers make it difficult to harm him with energy-based attacks; however, he can become overloaded from absorbing too much energy, though his upper limits are unknown, even to himself. He is however vulnerable to non-energy weapon attacks. If he were to be shot by a projectile weapon or hit with a crowbar, it could harm him. He carries guns that fire laser beams and plasma charges through which he can channel his personal energies."

    While my thoughts are only speculative, I think that there are some interesting parallels between Bishop's superhuman abilities and the experience of people of African Descent in the United States. For one, the fact that he can rechannel energy that is projected at him and use it for his benefit reminds me of how despite all of the hate, violence, and denigration my ancestors and previous generations of Affrican Americans have faced in this country, we have been able to thrive (and will continue t strive) in ways unimaginable. We have rechanneled many of the things that were originally used to keep us down in ways that enable us to stand taller. It is important to note that I am not including the use of the "N" word in this discussion, because I think that the word should be done with completely.

    On a less positive note, I think that the fact that Bishop channels his personal energies through his guns has implications for the prevalence of black-on-black violence that exists amongst black males. This male-on-male violence is by no means specific to blacks (American culture in itself is a violent culture), but I am focusing on black make youth in this piece because I think it is this demographic that Bishop's abilities most closely speaks to. It seems Bishop's use of his stored energy through his guns draws similarities to how some young black males engage in violent behaviors as a way to deal with many of the built-up anger, frustrations, and issues they face in a country where they are often devalued.

    Overall, it seems like Bishop's abilities have implications for the complex nature of the past and present experiences of people of African descent in the United States. One possible way for us to deal with the obstacles we may face as a marginalized people in the U.S. is to rechannel the negativity energies within these obstacles into positive energies that motivate us to succeed beyond measure. Now I'm not saying that we must be passive and "accept" things that happen to us; what I'm saying is that we should look at all situations, especially the negative ones, as opportunities to grow, better ourselves, and better our situation. Another possible, yet destructive way to
    deal these negative obstacles is to let them consume us to where we respond in ways that are detrimental to ourselves and to others. Unlike Bishop, we don't have the luxury of looking into the future to see how certain choices will play out, so it's important that we choose wisely.

    Sunday, May 04, 2008

    Marvel-ous: Civil War (2006)

    Peace and blessings,

    Given my interests in superheroes and comic books, it seems only natural that I share some thoughts on some of the comic book series' that I think are worth checking out, regardless if you're a comic book fan or not. Many of the issues addressed in these comic books that I will highlight address a host of issues that are central to our lived experience. The comic book I am highlighting in this post is Marvel Comics'
  • Civil War.
  • I'm not going to go into much detail about the storyline, but I will discuss the general plot and what I believe to be it's over-arching themes.

    Although the human/superhero beef (similar to the human-mutant beef in the X-Men comics) has existed for a while, the Civil War begins with a culmination of this beef that is marked by a tragic event. During a fight between superheroes, hundreds of children are killed during an explosion, which took place near a school. As a result, the government proposes that this is the last straw, and that humans with superhuman abilities (e.g., via genetics or technological assistance) must register with the government under the Superhero Registration Act. What makes this series interesting is that the superhero community are split between whether or not those with superhero abilities should have to register.

    The over-arching themes throughout the comic relate to issues of identity, rights, civil liberties, and freedom. While some, like Garrett (2008) suggest that the comic symbolizes the country's sentiment post 9-11, I would take it a step further and argue that it also relates to the national debate on immigration policy. Actually, when I first read it about a year ago, Immediately thought of the immigration debate, not post 9-11. Below are a few sources where you can learn more about the comic book:

  • Article on the Civil War

  • Review on the Political symbolism in the Civil War

  • Review discussing some positives and negatives of the Civil War

  • If you've read it, what are your thoughts on it? If not, would you consider it? Why or why not? Do you think comics have a place for addressing "real-world" issues? Stay blessed, encouraged, and speekonit...

    * Garrett, G. (2008) Holy Superheroes!: Exploring the sacred in comics, graphic novels, and film (revised and expanded edition). KY: Westminister John Knox

    Media With a Meaning (Throwback): X-Men Animated Series (1992-1997)

    Peace and blessings,

    I've talked about movies and TV shows, but now it's time to pay respect to cartoons. Although Voltron is my all-time favorite cartoon, the runner-up is definitely the X-Men animated series that aired from 1992-1997. I remember as I child I used to have satellite cable so I could watch certain X-men episodes before they aired nationally. I'll never forget how shocked I was to find out that Morph wasn't dead, and that Mr. Sinister had manipulated him into seeking revenge on the X-Men! I also remember the only time I "man-handled" my older brother, which was when he turned the TV channel while I was watching X-Men, and it was the episode when Wolverine fights Sabertooth! Sorry about the flashbacks, but I couldn't help it. Anyhow, below are couple of Animated Music Videos folks have made that contains a compilation of clips from certain episodes. In terms of dealing with issues of prejudice, discrimination, belonging, fear, diversity/difference, and tolerance, I don't know of any other animated series that has "held it down" like the X-Men.

    What do you think? Take care, God bless, and speekonit...

    Media With A Meaning: Heroes

    Peace and blessings,

    This piece is in regards to an idea I had about 6 months ago, but for various reasons I'm just now writing it. One obvious reason for the delay is because I've been pretty busy these past six months with wedding planning, school, and life, and thus haven't had the time to put update the site like I want to you. Another reason may have to do with the strike that took place with TV show writers, and the resulting cease in the production and airing of new episodes of major television shows. Anyhow, I'm finally sharing a few thoughts on the television show
  • Heroes,
  • which in my opinion is one the best television shows in terms of concept and overall quality in years. Although I am a huge fan of the show, this piece is not about the details of the show thus far, but about two "debates" that I think are highlighted within the show and plays out amongst the characters.

    Debate #1: Evolution "versus" Divine Creation/Ordinance

    The major premise of the show is that there are individuals in the world who are genetic anomalies in the sense that they have superhuman abilities. What I found interesting while watching the show (so far I've watched the first season twice, making me a certified, hardcore fan, lol) was not just the type of powers people had, but their beliefs about where these abilities came from. Relatedly, this debate reflects the larger debate regarding the origins of life itself. Some characters believe that these genetic anomalies are definite proof that science (esp. Darwinism) was right in that species are capable of large, qualitative evolutionary leaps. For these characters, superhuman abilities are primarily a product of gene transformation via evolution. Other characters, however, march to a different tune. They believe that their abilities are a gift from God, and therefore they must be used for a purpose. Although this debate may not be an explicit within the show, I would be interested to see if in the next season or upcoming seasons they identify characters who believe their abilities are products of both evolution and divine creation/ordinance.

    Debate #2: Freewill "versus" Pre-destination

    I think this debate is more evident throughout the show that the previously mentioned debate because in both seasons thus far, there has been the threat of a major disaster, and an intimately complex relationship between the past, present, and the future (e.g., a couple of characters can travel through time and see the consequences of past and present action and inaction). At the same time, however, there seems to bee a bit of ambiguity in that while some things can be changed through making different decisions, other things cannot. For these other things, simply making different decisions justs changes how a particular how an outcome manifests, not what outcome manifests. In this sense, there seems to be "discussion" throughout the show as to whether we as humans have freewill and are able to change life's course, or are we merely playing our parts in bringing about an inevitable outcome. Unlike the first debate, I think that the show does a good job of highlighting both sides, as well the middle ground position (e.g., we have freewill over some things, but not others).

    So there you have it. Two reasons that I really like the show (aside from its superhero/X-Men/comic storyline steez) is that in many ways, it addresses some deep questions that we as humans have wrestled with throughout history and continue to wrestle with today:

    1) How did life originate?

    2) What is the meaning of life? My purpose for being here?

    What do you think? Stay blessed, take care, and speekonit...

    Season 1 Trailer

    Season 2 Trailer

    Season 3 Trailer (visual and sound quality is suspect)

    Hip-Hop and the "Gospel"

    “Most of your songs/are just as foul as it gets/and as wild as it gets/
    People/they follow your steps/and how low is this?/
    Talking model chicks and bottles of Crys?/speakin’ out of your lips/
    The same lips you try to convince/
    That although your music is fowl/God’s behind your success/
    But nope!/that’s a misnomer/God hates your music He’s not a schizo/
    For real it makes no/difference/how you try to explain/
    That your heart ain’t same as the stuff that you’re sayin’/
    You see your heart’s the problem and your mouth’s the problem/
    You can’t appease the wrath of God with a gospel album/nope!/”

    - Da Truth
    “Whose Team?”
    The Faith

    "With young men and women looking up to me, I have to let them know that I’m a man of God.”
    - Young Joc

    Peace and blessings,

    Let me start off by saying that as I am writing this, I am praying that it is received in a way that gives God glory, and if for whatever reason it is interpreted otherwise, then I apologize. As I was reading a recent article about
  • Hip-Hop Artists Sharing the "Gospel,"
  • I was very disturbed about at what I was reading. The article (I encourage you to read it for yourself and weigh in) talks about how hip-hop artists like 50 Cent and Young Joc are talking about God during their performances and in other arenas, and how this can potentially have a positive impact on youth who may not be exposed to God otherwise.

    Before I get into what disturbed me about this piece, let me preface this discussion by making a few points. First, I am not saying that all Christian hip-hop is of God, nor am I saying that all secular hip-hop is of the devil. Although now I primarily listen to Christian hip-hop, one of the secular artists I still listen to is Joe Buddens. Although I disagree with some of his content and his conceptions of God and Jesus, I think that many of the issues he addresses needs to be heard, and I praying that he truly turns his life over to Christ(I got a feeling that he will in a matter of time, but that's another topic). Second, I am in no way trying to put myself or the Christian artists I listen to as being "above" secular artists in anyway. We all fall short, therefore this response is not about who is "without sin," but a call for us to examine the directionality of our thoughts, words, actions, and intentions. Lastly, although this piece may come off a little "bullish," I am making a clear distinction between being judgmental and taking a stand. I am in no position to engage in the former, yet I also realize that I cannot sit back and forego engaging in the latter. Therefore, this response is also a call for us to take a stand. With that said, let's get into business...

    The thing that bothers me the most about this article is that it seems to equate mentioning God with sharing the gospel. While I believe that God is working on them and will continue to work on them, I think we have a place these situations within context. I have no problem with secular rappers mentioning God in their songs if they feel led to do so; what I do have a problem with is the conceptions of God they are potentially expressing when they talk about God. In my opinion, sharing the gospel goes far beyond just mentioning God. It is having God be reflected and glorified through our lives. In other words, we have be transformed into a new person (2 Corinthians 5:17). Again, not to say that we have to be perfect, but the directionality of our thoughts, words, actions, and intentions have to be geared towards God.

    Another part of the context that is important to consider is the large amounts of star-power that these artists have. I'm concerned that people who look up to these artists as role models may view them as reflecting the God they are talking about. For instance, having one song that talks about God at the end of an album whose previous 15 tracks were about anything but, may potentially give off the impression that God is "cool" enough to know, but not "cool" enough to compel us to do away with things that are not pleasing to Him. Then again, can you really have the former without the latter? To me, it seems like the hoopla of this article has more to do with WHO was talking about God than WHAT they were actually saying about God. If it really was about the WHAT, then artists such as Cross Movement, 116 Click, Da Truth, Japhia Life, Flame, and countless others who have been talking about God and sharing the gospel for the past decade would have the same platform to reach masses as secular artists tend to have. I liken the situation to high school where the popular students say the same thing that was previously stated by unpopular students, but the other students give the popular students' words more weight than the unpopular students.

    In conclusion, I want to say that I am not saying that secular artists who talk about God are not sincere, or that they are "faking it." I'm just urging us to not be so quick to catapult them to the position of being THEE medium for reaching people (esp. youth) who may otherwise not know about God and/or listen to their music. I do think that secular artists can have a positive impact through mentioning God in their music or during their performances, but that doesn't mean they must be the end-all-be-all when it comes to who God is and what He requires of us. Just a few thoughts...

    What do you think? Take care, God bless, and speekonit...

    Saturday, April 19, 2008

    Best Time of Year (For Basketball Fans)

    Peace and blessings,

    I'm currently on a serious grind in terms of my graduate studies and planning for my wedding, which is why I haven't been posting as regularly. For those who consistently check on the page thank you and bare with me.

    The focus of this (very brief) post is sports, basketball in particular. Given that we just had March Madness and we are now in the NBA playoffs, I would argue that this is best time of the year for basketball fans. Before I throw out my NBA finals prediction, I want to preface this by saying that I am typing this as I just watch Tim Duncan hit the three to tie the game at 104 to send the game into double overtime. I know a lot of people are talking about a potential Lakers-Celtics final. However, I'm going to mix things up and assuming that these teams remain healthy, I pick a Suns-Pistons finals with the Pistons taking home the crown in 6 games, maybe 7.

    How about those pics? Bogus? Legitimate? Take care, God bless, and speekonit...

    Monday, March 31, 2008

    Extreme Measures

    "Jesus was driving out a demon that was mute. When the demon left, the man who had been mute spoke, and the crowd was amazed. But some of them said, 'By Beelzebub, the prince of demons, he is driving out demons.' Others tested him by asking for a sign from heaven.

    Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them: 'Any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and a house divided against itself will fall. If Satan is divided against himself, how can his kingdom stand? I say this because you claim that I drive out demons by Beelzebub. Now if I drive out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your followers drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. But if I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come to you.'

    'When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are safe. But when someone stronger attacks and overpowers him, he takes away the armor in which the man trusted and divides up the spoils. He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me, scatters.'"

    - Luke 11: 14 - 23

    Peace and blessings,

    Last month I watched an episode of "Wife Swap" that was extremely hilarious and entertaining. I've watched episodes before and for the most part they too have been hilariously entertaining. This one, however, was particularly interesting because both of the families were Christian. Keeping true to the show's tradition, these families differed greatly in terms of some of their views on managing a household and raising children. One family was very liberal with the husband being a seminary graduate and being an at-home dad while his wife worked. They didn't appear to really instill Christian values to their children, but instead encouraged them to be individual thinkers. The other family was more "traditional" in that the husband was the provider and their children had to follow strict behavioral rules.

    I don't really need to recap the rest of the show or explain the outcome to illustrate my point, which is that in my opinion, these two households represented (in one form or another) two major types of Christian thought prevalent throughout America. One type is the traditional Christian thought and the other is the more liberal/contemporary Christian thought. Once these types of thought are "hijacked" by the media, they take on an over-exaggerated form of their own. As a result, these ways of thought are put forth as extreme opposites of one another. What this episode of "Wife Swap" and the above scripture has showed me is that we must be careful to not be so quick to a) become so polarized in our own views that we neglect some of the essentials of the gospel (Matthew 28:18-19) and b) be so "open" with everything that we dilute some of the essentials of the gospel.

    The question is not how do we choose between the traditional and the liberal, but how do we use elements of both to maximize the effectiveness and relevance of the gospel to a constantly changing, yet remarkably stable world. For instance, we are constantly evolving with regards to medical, technological, and scientific developments, and with regards to our understanding of how and why humans think, feel, and acts in the ways we do. At the same time, however, sins and vices such as murder, lust, greed, envy, jealousy, betrayal, pride and so forth has been around since the beginning of time, and is just as prevalent today. We must seek God for discernment regarding which aspects of our Christian faith and thought that could potentially be rethought and which aspects cannot. Reflecting on my personal experiences, I have been blessed to have great pastors who have given me tools to discern some of these differences. The deity and tri-unity of The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit is an accepted fact of the Christian faith and cannot be changed. How Christians should interact with others is something that has and continues to be revisited and changed when appropriate (e.g. slavery, anti-semitism, racial/gender discrimination, homophobia, economic exploitation). However, I would argue that anyone who practiced or practice hate with regards to any of these groups and claim to be doing so in the name of Christianity is not really following Christ in the first place.

    What do you think? Do you think that certain areas of Christian thought or too polarized? God bless, take care and speekonit...

    Friday, March 21, 2008

    Holding it Down: Samuel Rodriguez and the NHCLC

    "The Latino, African- American, Anglo and other ethnic segments of the church must go beyond the mindset. Pastor Nick Garza, an Assemblies of God Pastor in Sacramento, Ca. sees the functional structure of this web site as the anti-thesis to successful biblical outreach. " is a world wide internet phenomenon because it enables the subscriber to determine who has access to his/her profile, pictures, stories and information. In other words, unless you have been given access, you can't come in. Only my friends, who share my interests are granted access. All granted of course if you initially become a Friend of Tom (Tom being one of the co-founders of this virtual social networking site). Accordingly, the Church has operated under a model. As long as Christ is our default friend, we are somehow allowed to build our own space with limited access to include only those who we know or permit."

    -Samuel Rodgiguez, "Latino Friends"

    Peace and blessings,

    I came across an interview with Rev. Samuel Rodriguez of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC) a while back, and was really feeling what he had to say. He talked a lot about the social justice aspect of Christianity as well as the political trends of Hispanics throughout the country. Check out the links below to learn more about Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, the NHCLC and their position regarding immigration reform, which according to him is just as much (if not more so) a spiritual issue as it is an economic and political one.

    Share your thoughts and let me know what you think. Stay blessed and encouraged, and speekonit...

  • Mission of the NHCLC

  • 2)
  • NHCLC's stance on immigration reform

  • 3)
  • More on Rev. Samuel Rodriguez

  • He's the First Speaker at the revival:

    Thursday, February 28, 2008

    A Very Thought-Provoking Movie

    Peace and blessings,

    Given the recent post on Phillip Johnson's "Darwin on Trial," I am really looking forward to the movie
  • Expelled,
  • Which talks about some of the same issues that Johnson raised. Namely, the movie talks about how scientists and others in general are "bullied" by those who are "riders" for Darwinism. The movie raises the question of why those who disagree with Darwinism are not given the same respect and platform to present their thinking as those who agree with Darwinism. Check out the extended trailer and let me know what you think. Have a blessed weekend and speekonit...

    Thursday, February 14, 2008

    A Few Thoughtz: Darwin on Trial, pt. 2

    Peace and blessings,

    I just wanted to briefly clarify my position on Darwin's theory of evolution (as well as the idea of evolution in general), because I realize that it was not clear in the previous post. As someone who is training to be a social scientist, I have the upmost respect and appreciation for science, theories of evolution included. After all, our ability to hypothesize about the world and search out to test those hypotheses is one of the characteristics that make us human.

    Before proceeding, I must preface this discussion by acknowledging the fact that my take on this issue is heavily influenced by my Christian beliefs. The issue I have with some scientific theories, however, is that some theories try to replace God's ever-important role in the creation of the earth and in humanity. I feel that because we as humans could never possible understand the complete nature of God's creations, then the best that we can do as thinkers and scientists is to identity and analyze to the best of our ability, observable phenomena. In doing so, we must realize two things:

    1) we will never get it "fully" right because there is way too much variation in human actions and observable phenomena for our human (limited) faculties to catch everything, let alone accurate describe it.

    2) regardless of how accurate we get at identifying and analyzing the things we are able to observe and grasp, we cannot deny the fact that there are many things that we will simply never be able to observe, but yet are nevertheless "real" in every sense of the word.

    By realizing these two things, I feel that it is perfectly normal for the "things of God" and science and intellectual inquiry to co-exist, insofar as it is understood that the former always precedes and takes priority over the latter. Therefore, I do not deny that evolution does not occur in certain instances, such that for example, over time dogs who live in regions where they have to constantly run from predators will probably develop stronger legs than dogs who live in regions where they are not threatened by predators (I know that wasn't the best example but bear with me, lol). What I do deny is the claim that evolution is so encompassing that it can explain the origin of life itself, and that it can account for all types (or at least most types) of purpose-driven developments, structures, and behaviors.

    What do you think? Take care, God bless, and speekonit...

    Wednesday, February 13, 2008

    Random "Why" Question of the Moment

    Peace and blessings,

    Here is a question that dawned on me today while picking up a prescription:

    Why is it that doctors' handwriting is often illegible?

    Sunday, February 10, 2008

    A Few Thoughtz: Darwin on Trial, pt. 1

    "I do not think that many scientists would be comfortable accepting Darwinism solely as a philosophical principle, without seeking to find at least some empirical evidence that is true. But there is an important difference between going to the empirical evidence to test a doubtful theory against some plausible alternative, and going to the evidence to look for confirmation of the only theory that one is willing to tolerate. We have already seen that distinguished scientists have accepted uncritically the questionable analogy between natural and artificial(e. g. intentionally breeding species to increase chances of survival) selection, and that they have often been undisturbed by the fallacies of the "tautology" and "deductive logic" formulations (e. g. the fittest of species are those who survive/evolve, and the reason why they survive/evolve is because they are the fittest). Such illogic survived and reproduced itself for the same reason that an apparently incompetent species sometimes avoids distinction; there was no effective competition in its ecological niche."

    - Johnson, p. 28-29 (words in parentheses are mine)

    Peace and blessings,

    One of my professors often emphasizes the importance of scientists (social, physical, electrical) to having a default orientation towards theories and ideas (including their own) that is skeptical. In other words, he says that the purpose of our research is not to seek to confirm our theories and ideas; but to dis-confirm them. One of my favorite TV shows is "CSI" (Las Vegas), one of the reasons being due to the importance they give to evidence and its ability to reveal "truth." Although there are exceptions and there are times when even the evidence may be misleading in certain situations, for the most part, the path to truth lies in following the evidence. As a Christian, there are all kinds of evidence that I witness (first and second hand) that reveal the truth of the presence and sovereignty of God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. while the evidence sought on CSI requires the use of our physical eyes and for Christians the evidence of God is seen both through our physical and spiritual eyes (e. g. our ability to see things in the spiritual realm and the things we are assure of through faith), the idea is the same: one of the best ways to seek truth is to follow the evidence.

    In Phillip E. Johnson's book, "Darwin on Trial" (1991), he applies this relationship between evidence and truth within the context of Darwin's theory of evolution and natural selection. As with any issue that is controversial and/or involves academic/intellectual inquiry, it is important for those involved to acknowledge potential personal biases and to do their best to check them. Johnson does this from the jump:

    "I am a philosophical theist and a Christian. I believe that a God exists who could create out of nothing if He wanted to do so, but who might have chosen to work through a natural evolutionary process instead. I am not a defender of creation-science, and in fact I am not concerned in this book with addressing any conflicts between the Biblical accounts and the scientific evidence....My purpose is to examine the scientific evidence on its own terms, being careful to distinguish the evidence itself from any religious or philosophical bias that might distort our interpretation of that evidence. I assume that the creation-scientists are biased by their pre-commitment to Biblical fundamentalism, and I will have little to say about their position. The question I want to investigate is whether Darwinism is based upon a fair assessment of
    the scientific evidence, or whether it is another kind of fundamentalism." (p. 14)

    As a law professor, Johnson approaches Darwin's theory not from a scientific perspective, but from a legal one. Therefore, the book is sort of organized like a quasi-court case, where Darwin's theoretical formulations and concepts are each outlined and examined in terms of its related evidence, and the conclusions Darwin made and his proponents made and continue to make, based on this and other evidence. In addition, he discusses Darwin's theory on a more ideological level, and poses the question of whether or not the popularity of the theory as well as the potential "power" it could yield if it were actually true, work to shape/create dominant interpretations of the evidence so that anything that could potentially be evidence is treated as valid and anything else treated as not valid.

    Of the many aspects of Darwin's theory addressed in the book, I will only mention a couple of them here. The first is Darwin's notion of natural selection, which is pretty much the meat and potatoes of Darwin's theory. This notion has two related parts. The first part holds that new species exist as modifications of old species , and that this trend can be evidenced throughout life's history. The second part holds that such evolution with modification can account for pretty much of life on earth, because all life originated from common ancestors. One of the points Johnson (1991) raises is that a necessary piece of evidence needed to strongly support this notion are transitional fossils, which are for the most part absent from scientific findings. A very simplified example of a transitional fossil is the following: If it is true that humans evolved from fish, then there should exist fossil evidence of a fish-man. To elaborate on this point, he asserts,

    "The question is not whether natural selection occurs. Of course it does, and it has an effect in maintaining the genetic fitness of a population. Infants with severe birth defects do not survive to maturity without expensive medical care, and creatures which do not survive to reproduce do not leave descendants. These effects are unquestioned, but Darwinism asserts a great deal more than merely that species avoid genetic deterioration due to natural attrition among the genetically unfit. Darwinists claim that this same force of attrition has a building effect so powerful that it can begin with a bacterial cell and gradually craft its descendants over billions of years to produce such wonders as trees, flowers, ants, birds, and humans. How do we know that all this is possible?" (p. 16)

    The other issue I wanted to briefly touch on was the fossil problem. Johnson (1991) notes how that the famous "Piltdown Man," which was believed to be a pre-human fossil and thus groundbreaking evidence for Darwinian thought, was a hoax (it turned out to be nothing more than a modern human head placed on the body of an orangutan). Further, he notes that the "Nebraska Man," which was was claimed to have included a pre-human fossil tooth turned out to be a misfire, as the tooth actually belonged to a kind of pig. Darwin's theory claimed that (pretty much) all life could be traced to common ancestors and classified according to those ancestors. However, the Burgess Shale fossils contain 15-20 fossils that cannot be related to any known group, and should be classified as separate phyla (i. e. a level of species classification). Lastly, he mentions two characteristics of most fossils that appear to not support Darwin's theory. The first is "stasis," or the fact that most species exhibit no directional change while on earth, therefore their fossil record shows very little change if any. The second is "sudden appearance," which is the fact that in any local area, species appear all at once and fully formed, therefore not exhibiting any evidence of transformation (evolution) from earlier ancestors.

    Overall, Johnson (1991) concludes that to be so widely supported in many scientific circles, Darwin's theory has not appeared to be subjected to the same rigorous scientific testing as other theories are normally (and should) undergo. Why the easy pass and wide acceptance without conclusive evidence? Johnson suggests that Darwin's theory represents not just a theory, but an ideology. Further, it is the only "contender" against the belief in divine creation. In this sense, hardcore supporters of his theory without conclusive evidence and/or despite evidence to the contrary is no less a demonstration of fundamentalism and close-mindedness than the religious fundamentalists the theory contends with.

    What do you think? Any thoughts on Darwin's theory? Divine Creation? Similarities/differences between the two? Take care, God bless, and speekonit...

    Tuesday, February 05, 2008

    Holding It Down: Maria W. Stewart

    "It is not the color of the skin that makes the man, but it is the principles formed within the soul."

    - Maria W. Stewart, p. 29

    "Alas, O God! Forgive me if I speak amiss; the minds of our tender babes are tainted as soon as they are born; they go astray, as it were, from the womb. Where is the maiden who will blush at vulgarity? And where is the youth who has written upon his manly brow a thirst for knowledge; whose ambitious mind soars above trifles, and longs for the time to come, when he shall redress the wrongs of his father and plead the cause of his brethren?"

    - Maria W. Stewart, p. 31

    "When I consider how little improvement has been made the last eight years; the apparent cold and indifferent state of the children of God; how few have been hopefully brought to the knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus; that our young men and maidens are fainting and drooping, as it were, by the way-side, for the want of knowledge; when I see how few care to distinguish themselves either in religious or moral improvement, and when I see the greater part of our community following the vain bubbles of life with so much eagerness, which will only prove to them like the serpent's sting upon the bed of death, I really think we are in as wretched and miserable a state as was the house of Israel in the days of Jeremiah."

    - Maria W. Stewart, p. 32

    " I am of a strong opinion that the day on which we unite, heart and soul, and turn our attention to knowledge and improvement, that day the hissing and reproach among the nations of the earth against us will cease. And even those who now point at us with the finger of scorn, will aid and befriend us. It is of no use for us to sit with our hands folded, hanging our heads like bulrushes, lamenting our wretched condition; but let us make a mighty effort, and arise; and if no one will promote or respect us, let us promote and respect ourselves."

    - Maria W. Stewart, p. 37

    Peace and blessings,

    I know I have mentioned this phenomenal woman before, but last summer I had the opportunity to read "Maria W. Stewart: America's First Black Woman Political Writer" (1987), which is a compilation of her essays and speeches. Instead of outlining the man things she did throughout her life, and the significance those actions had back then and to this day (because doing so could take hours), I will keep with my usual pseudo book-review format and just touch on a few highlights, with the hope that you engage in further inquiry yourselves.

    In the introduction, the editor of the book, Marilyn Richardson, describes her best as,

    "...the first American woman to lecture in public on political themes and leave extant copies of her texts, was a woman of profound religious faith, a pioneer black abolitionist, and a defiant champion of women's rights. Her message was unsparing and controversial, intended as a goad to her people to organize against the tyranny of slavery in the South and to resist and defy the restrictions of bigotry in the North." (p. xiii)

    Her first "political" lecture took place in Boston, Massachusetts in 1832 in the midst of a black and white crowd. Her focus during the lecture was on speaking out against the colonial movement, which sought to send Black Americans to West Africa for subjugation and oppression. In a nutshell, her lectures and writings (many of which were composed during her time as a writer for the abolitionist journal, "The Liberator") focused on two distinct, yet in her eyes related themes. The first theme was more pertinent to the social, political, and historical context of the times, and dealt with the abolition of slavery and the freedom of Blacks (domestically and abroad) from their white oppressors. If a woman running for president represents a huge step forward in the U.S. today, you could imagine the extent to which women (especially black women) were denied access to prominent, public-figure type leadership roles during the early and mid 19th century. It was also huge for her exert her ideas during a time when the "big names" in the abolitionist movement with regards to orators centered around a Black male, Fredrick Douglas. Both were intelligent and morally motivated (I think Fredrick Douglas was a Christian as well), and both were doing there thing. Unfortunately, however, she was not as "popular " amongst the public as Fredrick Douglas or other abolitionists for that matter. Potential reasons for her unpopularity will be discussed shortly.

    The second, and I would argue more controversial theme, that Stewart focused on was self-improvement through moral conduct and intellectual pursuit. One of her major textual references used in her speeches and writings was the bible. One of the books she to which she gave considerable attention was the Book of Jeremiah, as she likened the condition of the Israelites during that time to the state of Americans during her time. In essence, she believed that while Blacks had to demand and thus deserved their human rights from their white professors, they could not afford to do so passively. Namely, they could not sit back and wait for social change to happen. Instead, they had to continually work to change them selves, morally by living a life pleasing to God and intellectually and embracing education and the expansion of the mind. By doing these things on an individual level, she believed, social change must follow suit. As with anyone who touches on topics which make audience members feel convicted in one way or another, she had difficulty garnering support and was often criticized and ostracized by those she was advocating for. Come to think of it, this may be why she like book of Jeremiah, as he was undoubtedly ostracized and criticized as well. This is not to say that he had no followers or made no "real" impact. Her lectures and writings have inspired many different people, and her work as a teacher in New York once she left Boston most assuredly impacted her students' lives in a positive way.

    I'm always fascinated in people who do documentaries on the life of a figure who, although may not have had the mainstream success of more well-known leaders, nevertheless made a commitment and sacrifice to encourage us as humans to better reflections of who God intended us to be. I have finally found that person for me: Maria W. Stewart. If I did decide to do one of those documentaries, it would definitely be about her life. What do you think? Take care, God bless, and speekonit...