Archive for April 2009

The Nature of Relationships

A friend of mine sent me an email asking me my take on the following question:

I have a question…does having a non-christian friend preclude you from having a deep and meaningful relationship? Does not having the same “spiritual” foundation and being different mean you can’t have a real relationship with someone? But you can have a superficial relationship with that person….and that Christians have agape love, and the “non-christian’ only has “phileo” or whatever that brotherly love thing is.

I just heard that today, and am wondering if all Christians really believe that.

Here is my rambling response:

I need a break from accounting. This question will give me that! I’m not gonna proof it before I send it though :-)

When I was a younger guy, there was a t-shirt that showed a friendly smiling icthys Christian fishy swimming against the stream of menacing, frowning and saber-toothed piranha fishies. The shirt said Go Against the Flow and it quoted Romans 21: Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world…

I’ve long hated that shirt because it communicates two completely false ideas: That Romans 12 is about doing the opposite of the world and that goodness only resides with Christians. Or to state it more pointedly as a corollary, Non-Christians are evil.

Add to this another factor that Christians believe the only purpose of relationship with “non Christians” is to convert them and you have a fairly complete picture of how many Christians — particularly evangelicals — view their relationships with non Christians: they are evil people who must either be converted or opposed. Even the very phrase “non-Christian” belies the perception that we view relationships with people in terms of the condition of their relationship with God. Of course, we make this judgment ourselves, even though no one has the slightest clue as to where each person is in their relationship with God. I personally do not use that phrase; I prefer “undiscipled person” instead. I feel more comfortable assessing a person’s patterns of discipleship than I do in judging their heart and mind’s affiliation toward God.

I believe most Christians have difficulty loving undiscipled people regardless of whether that person ever confesses discipleship toward Jesus. I see at least two forces that cause this lack of relationship: an overemphasis on the teachings of Paul and an incomplete reading of John 17. Paul’s attitude toward salvation seems to me to be very works oriented and when people falter, Paul seems to respond with a black and white assessment of the issue and a fairly harsh response to human sin. I think this fuels a lot of the motivations Christians have toward moralism, self-righteousness, and judgment. These manifest in several ways, the most pronounced being perhaps opposition to homosexuals.

In John 17 (and Romans 12, as well as other places like the story of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abdenego), there is definitely a teaching oriented around separating ourselves from the order of the world. But people miss two important facets of John 17: we are told we are to remain IN the world but at the same time to not be OF the world. In other words, don’t identify too closely to the world but also, don’t be so separatistic that you completely lack an ability to relate to other people. The second facet often missed is Jesus’ promise that our interaction with the word is what keeps us from being too tightly identified with the world. This is important:

The solution to avoiding tight identification with the world is not withdrawing from it or opposing it but by having a relationship with the Word and the word. I believe people miss this because they have a tighter relationship with church or moralism or self-righteousness than they do with Jesus. And when all you have to protect you from the world is church or moralism or self-righteousness, then it makes sense to oppose the world because those aren’t enough to protect you. But if you have a relationship with the vital Word (and you actively work out what the hell that actually means to you philosophically and practically) then tight identification isn’t as much of an issue. (I make this claim but dont have time to defend it. Think about it for a bit and let me know what you think).

Is it amazing that we even have to ask the question you did? A new command I give you: love one another. All men will know you are my disciples if you love one another. How have we perverted that? Debate one another. Judge one another. A new command I give you: protest against each other’s sins. All men will know you are my disciples if you protest against each other. All men will know you are my disciples if you are rigid, graceless moralists to one another.

So my answer to your question is: absofuckinglutely it does NOT preclude you from a relationship with a “nonChristian” friend. That close relationship is precisely the kind of relationship that reveals God to people. If we quit trying to get people to come to our church or read the Bible or listen to Christian music or protest against homosexuals and instead just had a great friendship with them, how things could change. If Christians valued messy, vague, imperfect relationships more than they valued morals or politics or sexual orientation, other people might find Jesus a lot more attractive, interesting and worthy of pursuit.

Oh and one more thing: the relationship should be one of equals not one where we are showing them the way to live. Too many Christians go into relationships thinking they will show others the right way. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.” But when we acknowledge our own messed up lives and spirits and minds and we come to a good friend needing their support and their counsel, that’s a relationship of equals. If all I ever do is try to convert or guide my friend, it’s just a sales pitch and it’s not about love.

For me, my perspective on relationships with other people changed when I got to a place where I was okay with people going to hell. I think I mentioned that to you before. I don’t like that reality and I’m not entirely sure I believe it as it is taught but when I stop viewing myself as a Jesus salesman, I can be open to relationships with people who are just as messed up as I am and just as cool and good as I am (if not more!).

Check out the movie The Big Kahuna with Kevin Spacey and Danny DeVito. It’s a slow movie but it’s basically about what you’re asking along with a much deeper set of questions about evangelism, separation from the world, honesty and love. It’s a genius flick.

Yahoo! Messenger Blog » Yahoo! Messenger for iPhone is here

It’s finally arrived – the all new Yahoo! Messenger for the iPhone application.

Now you can take the best of Yahoo! Messenger with you and stay in touch with friends through your iPhone or iPod Touch, no matter where you are.

via Yahoo! Messenger Blog » Yahoo! Messenger for iPhone is here.

Obama Gets Past Ideology and Deals With Reality

It’s one thing to get elected on populist and ideological ideals. It’s quite another to get into the office, be sobered by freaking reality, and have to make hard decisions.

On one hand, I respect Obama for making the shift in perspective but this is offset by the fact that he’s just showing how much of a politician he really is. Not a change agent. A politician.

What amazes me is how persistent his rep is. In this article, Conyers simultaneously calls Obama the smartest man in American politics and “embarassingly naive.” Which is it? Smart or naive?

Answer: he’s a smoov politician. That’s all.

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama plans to request new funding from Congress for the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, but he risks a backlash from antiwar lawmakers.

Mr. Obama is expected to seek congressional approval of $75.5 billion for the wars, perhaps as soon as Thursday. The issue is already raising tensions on Capitol Hill, especially among liberals who are sympathetic to the president’s broader agenda but voice concerns about his timeline for withdrawal of troops from Iraq and his plans to beef up forces in Afghanistan.

via Obama Risks Liberal Backlash on War Funding – WSJ.com.

McLaren Appear Before WMSC

McLaren must eliminate the culture of dishonesty in its organization.

The FIA has released the following statement:

“Vodafone McLaren Mercedes has been invited to appear before an extraordinary meeting of the FIA World Motor Sport Council in Paris on Wednesday, 29 April, 2009, to answer charges that, in breach of Article 151c of the International Sporting Code

via The Official Formula 1 Website.

The Geithner-Summers Plan is Even Worse Than We Thought

Here’s how. Consider a toxic asset held by Citibank with a face value of $1 million, but with zero probability of any payout and therefore with a zero market value. An outside bidder would not pay anything for such an asset. All of the previous articles consider the case of true outside bidders.

Suppose, however, that Citibank itself sets up a Citibank Public-Private Investment Fund (CPPIF) under the Geithner-Summers plan. The CPPIF will bid the full face value of $1 million for the worthless asset, because it can borrow $850K from the FDIC, and get $75K from the Treasury, to make the purchase! Citibank will only have to put in $75K of the total.

Citibank thereby receives $1 million for the worthless asset, while the CPPIF ends up with an utterly worthless asset against $850K in debt to the FDIC. The CPPIF therefore quietly declares bankruptcy, while Citibank walks away with a cool $1 million. Citibank’s net profit on the transaction is $925K (remember that the bank invested $75K in the CPPIF) and the taxpayers lose $925K. Since the total of toxic assets in the banking system exceeds $1 trillion, and perhaps reaches $2-3 trillion, the amount of potential rip-off in the Geithner-Summers plan is unconscionably large.

via Jeffrey Sachs: The Geithner-Summers Plan is Even Worse Than We Thought.

Today’s Interwebs Throughput

Todays Internet Speed at Home

Today's Internet Speed at Home

Evolution of Math

Last week I purchased a burger at Burger King for $1.58. The counter girl took my $2 and I was digging for my change when I pulled 8 cents from my pocket and gave it to her. She stood there, holding the nickel and 3 pennies, while looking at the screen on her register. I sensed her discomfort and tried to tell her to just give me two quarters, but she hailed the manager for help. While he tried to explain the transaction to her, she stood there and cried.

Why do I tell you this? Because of the evolution in teaching math since the 1950s:

1. Teaching Math In 1950s

A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is 4/5 of the price. What is his profit ?

2. Teaching Math In 1960s

A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is 4/5 of the price, or $80. What is his profit?

3. Teaching Math In 1970s

A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is $80. Did he make a profit?

4. Teaching Math In 1980s

A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is $80 and his profit is $20. Your assignment: Underline the number 20.

5.. Teaching Math In 1990s

A logger cuts down a beautiful forest because he is selfish and inconsiderate and cares nothing for the habitat of animals or the preservation of our woodlands. He does this so he can make a profit of $20. What do you think of this way of making a living? Topic for class participation after answering the question: How did the birds and squirrels feel as the logger cut down their homes? (There are no wrong answers, and if you feel like crying, it’s ok. )

6. Teaching Math In 2009

Un hachero vende una carretada de maderapara $100. El costo de la producciones es $80. Cuanto dinero ha hecho.

FIA ‘believes Lewis Hamilton has paid his dues’ – Times Online

I made this very point in a post a few days earlier on FB: that McLaren have a culture of deceit and it must be removed from the team.

“The FIA believes that McLaren, who were fined a record $100 million (now about £67 million) for cheating in 2007, are still infected by a culture of dishonesty and the organisation wants to see clear steps taken to eradicate it. ”

I thought that the $100M penalty in 2007 was Draconian but given the events from last week, perhaps there is wisdom in it.  It might be tempting to blame Martin Whitmarsh, since he is now acting CEO now that Ron Dennis is no longer active in the daily management of the team, but I think ultimately, responsibility rests with Dennis for two reasons:

1. He has been team principal for years
2. He still presides over the McLaren operation and the accountability is his

The FIA believes that McLaren, who were fined a record $100 million (now about £67 million) for cheating in 2007, are still infected by a culture of dishonesty and the organistion wants to see clear steps taken to eradicate it.

The disclosure that Anthony Hamilton spoke to Mosley about his son’s future is the most dramatic evidence yet of the damage that the affair has caused to the relationship between the Hamiltons and McLaren, which goes back to when Hamilton was signed as a brilliant prospect in go-karts at the age of 13.

via FIA ‘believes Lewis Hamilton has paid his dues’ – Times Online.

A Meaningless Post

Kevin Guest Blog Image

I haven’t posted on Dave’s blog for a while, and I don’t have anything interesting to say right now. I just decided to post when I realized that one more post would knock the autoplaying video about the remote control bluetooth car off the main page.

You’re all welcome.

Latest sport headlines, news and results – Bild.de

Ummm. You lied, Lewis. That’s the definition of lying.

McLaren Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton has insisted he is not a liar following his disqualification from the Australian Grand Prix for misleading race stewards. Speaking for the first time since the scandal was revealed, Hamilton said: “I’m not a liar or a dishonest person. I could not tell you how sorry I am for the embarrassment. I apologise to the race stewards for wasting their time and making them look silly.” The incident is a major embarrassment for McLaren, and according to the BBC, Dave Ryan, sporting director of the team who has served with McLaren for 35 years, has been suspended in response.

via Latest sport headlines, news and results – Bild.de.

Hamilton: Ethical Lapse

Uncool. Both Ryan and Hamilton were complicit in this deception. Ryan takes the fall, Hamilton loses his points but keeps his job.

McLaren needs to get their shit together. There seems to be a few people on the team who are willing to do whatever it takes to win (StepneyGate and now this). Martin Whitmarsh and Ron Dennis need to address this problem forcefully and make it absolutely clear that cheating and deception are not part of the team strategy.

McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton has publically apologised for the events that culminated in his disqualification from last weekend’s Australian Grand Prix. Speaking to the media in Malaysia on Friday, Hamilton said sorry to the Melbourne stewards and his fans for what he described as a ‘huge mistake’.

He finished the season-opener in fourth, but was handed third at a post-race hearing, after Toyota’s Jarno Trulli was penalized for passing his McLaren under the safety car. A second inquiry in Sepang, however, heard fresh evidence that showed that McLaren sporting director Dave Ryan and Hamilton had ‘deliberately misled’ the stewards by denying the British driver had been told to move aside to allow Trulli to pass.

via The Official Formula 1 Website.

Grocery Gadget – Shopping List App for iPhone, iTouch, Smart Phone | Flixoft

Tanya and I have purchased this app for our iPhones. I have been whining that a truly useful product would allow synchronization across members of a household. We were using Pick and Choose but all we could do with P&C was email our lists to each other.

Grocery Gadget seems to let each of us build lists and update common lists together. This means we can sync up lists and be all coordinated on shopping day!

I’ll update how this goes after a few uses.

With the Grocery Gadget, you can now say goodbye to paper shopping lists forever! The Grocery Gadget for iPhone / iTouch is perfect for the household member who regularly shops at supermarkets, pharmacies, convenience stores, office supply vendors, or any other provider of consumable goods.

Save time and money by preparing and managing reusable lists that are always at your our fingertips! Easily arrange list items in the same order you keep them at home, so you can quickly zip through your pantry, refrigerator, bathroom, laundry room, etc. and easily mark items for purchase.

Need to describe a list item in precise detail? Take a photo that’s worth a thousand words. With the Grocery Gadget, you create fast photo-enabled shopping lists that get you through the supermarket in record time, and with the correct items – Even if someone else has created the list!

Sign in now to easily create and manage multiple shopping lists from your desktop computer! With Grocery Gadget Portal start building and managing lists, add list items, upload photos, or sync lists between multiple iPhone/iTouch phones. It’s that easy!

via Grocery Gadget – Shopping List App for iPhone, iTouch, Smart Phone | Flixoft.

Bar Wars – WSJ.com

A “normal good” is a good whose consumption increases as consumer income increases.  An “inferior good” is one where consumption increases as consumer income decreases.  Some examples:

  • Pepsi or Coke: normal good; generic soda: inferior good
  • New car: normal good; used car: inferior good
  • Car: normal good; public transportation: inferior good

This story is interesting because high-end restaurateurs are converting their “normal good,” i.e. dining tables to an “inferior good,” lounge space. As consumer income decreases, demand for normal goods will also decrease but demand for inferior goods will increase. Restaurateurs have observed decreased demand for dining and have spotted an opportunity to make money by selling the inferior good of lounge space.

Around the country, proprietors are turning their restaurants — or significant parts of them — into glorified bars. They’re ripping out dining-room tables to make more bar space, applying for late-night and cabaret licenses and adding the word “bar” to their names. Top chefs are serving up bar snacks like grilled cheese sandwiches and hot dogs.

The reason: While consumer spending at restaurants is falling precipitously, drink orders, particularly for cheaper drinks like beer, are barely dropping off. For restaurants, it’s now proving more cost-effective to serve lower-priced dishes that diners can munch on as they buy drinks.

via Bar Wars – WSJ.com.