December 29, 2009



You’re my client
But I don’t know you
I've read your case file
But it’s not your story
I've typed your résumé
But it’s not your identity

19 years old
18-month-old daughter
Boyfriend in prison
Parents across the ocean
Looking for housing
Living on the beach

Daughter is healthy
Misses her daddy
You met him at the skate park
He took you to a bonfire
Made you feel special
You thought it was love

He’s not a bad father
But drinks way too much
Works hard as a painter
Controlling in private
Sometimes cruel and abusive
The scars aren’t all visible

One night you defended yourself
With a kitchen knife
The cops called it a weapon
And you accepted the blame
Convicted of assault
With 2 years probation

Whether “homeless” or “poor”
You don’t look like the labels
Your handbag is stylish
Your voice pleasant and poised
You’re no threat to society
Just a girl with a baby

How am I supposed to know
What it's like to be you?
Grad school never taught me
How to fix your life
Am I teaching you anything?
Or are you teaching me?

December 16, 2009

Blogrolls and Pigeon Holes

"My momma always said you can tell a lot about a person by their shoes. Where they're going. Where they've been. I've worn lots of shoes..." - Forrest Gump

Let's be honest. What's the first thing you look for when visiting a new blog? Do you head straight for the main content by reading the latest post in its entirety? Or is it more important to 'size up' the author from his/her bio, affiliations, blogroll and other bell-whistle peripheries? If you're anything like me, the initial moments at an unfamiliar blog are focused on gathering enough data to make a theological/political diagnosis: conservative, liberal, moderate, libertarian, evangelical, mainline, ecumenical, academic, pastoral, missional, traditional, postmodern, Reformed, charismatic, emerging, egalitarian, complementarian etc.

This process of instinctive categorization smacks of superficial stereotyping, but is it really much different from scanning dust jacket bios at the bookstore or channel-surfing with a remote? Do snap judgments represent the height of consumeristic self-absorption or a practical necessity in the age of information? Who has the time to judge a book by anything besides its (back) cover? If Forrest Gump's human taxonomy theorem applies to the internet, you can tell a lot about a person these days by their Facebook profile, Amazon wishlist or bookmarked sites in their web browser. Even a seemingly innocuous blogroll can be a window into one's soul.

So if you're as interested in labeling me as I am in labeling you, here are some quick facts about the authors of my top 20 church and theology blogs:

- All of them are evangelical Protestants of one stripe or another.
- At least 13 have a graduate degree in theology or Biblical studies.
- At least 11 are egalitarians.
- At least 9 are under age 40.
- At least 7 are women or minorities.
- At least 7 released a new book in 2009.
- At least 6 are current pastors or church planters.
- At least 6 live in the Chicago area.
- At least 4 live on the West Coast.
- At least 4 have earned a Ph.d.
- At least 4 are complementarians.
- At least 4 are affiliated with Christianity Today in some way.
- At least 4 are affiliated with the Evangelical Covenant Church.
- At least 3 are Southern Baptists.
- At least 3 are TULIP Calvinists.
- At least 3 could be described as part of the emerging movement.
- As least 3 were born outside the United States.
- At least 2 are editors at book publishing houses.
- At least 2 are Presbyterians.
- At least 1 is Pentecostal.
- At least 1 is Anglican.

Have I sufficiently tipped my hand? Should I begin measuring the drapes for my pigeon hole? What does my blogroll tell you about me? What does your blogroll say about you?

December 3, 2009

Is Afghanistan Another Vietnam?

I was born after the Vietnam War ended, but it's not like American involvement in foreign policy quagmires is a thing of the past. In his big speech Tuesday night, President Obama offered 3 reasons why the current war in Afghanistan is different from the Vietnam War:

1) "Unlike Vietnam, we are joined by a broad coalition of 43 nations that recognizes the legitimacy of our action.

2) Unlike Vietnam, we are not facing a broad-based popular

3) And most importantly, unlike Vietnam, the American people were viciously attacked from Afghanistan and remain a target for those same extremists who are plotting along its border."

Sitting in rush hour traffic yesterday, I heard an NPR interview with Gordon Goldstein, an international affairs scholar who acknowledged Mr. Obama's points as fair ones, but proceeded to list 4 key "strategic parallels" between Afghanistan and Vietnam:
1) "Both Afghanistan and Vietnam are small powers that have been historically extraordinarily resistant to the efforts of large powers to impose order.

2) Both Vietnam and Afghanistan had corrupt and ineffectual regimes.

3) Both Vietnam and Afghanistan have contiguous border countries, through which support and sanctuary for an insurgency flows and fortifies that insurgency.

4) But most importantly, the parallel, really, that drives Afghanistan and Vietnam is in the realm of military strategy. In Vietnam, it was a strategy of counterinsurgency and clear and hold. In Afghanistan, General McChrystal has called for a strategy of clear, hold and build. So there are some parallels that I do not think can be easily dismissed."
So now that we've established there are both similarities and differences between Afghanistan and Vietnam, what should we make of Mr. Obama's war plan? In his Washington Post column today, E. J. Dionne describes the President's attempt to find middle ground as a "Goldilocks strategy: neither too hawkish nor too dovish, but just right."

I'm not sure I like the taste of this porridge.