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8/31/2005

STAGING HOME

I spent lunch at the cult de sac with Brian and his family. Our realtor called warning that she was heading our way with a prospective buyer so we quickly mopped, dusted, stuffed stuff under the beds, threw covers over abandoned pajamas and headed out the door.

Of course our house looks great these days, to the naive, and so the woman who perused it wants it if her husband agrees. She'll be back with him in tow this weekend. Thankfully I'll be out of town and unable to participate in the mopping, dusting, stuffing of stuff under beds, throwing of covers over abandoned pajamas and heading out the door to eat Sonic in Brian's front yard again. Too bad.

I say it looks good to the naive because only someone without a clue, or someone extremely optimistic about the living habits of a family of five, would truly believe this place is so meticulously groomed at all times. In reality the Cheeto stains were only recently painstakingly concealed with a fresh coat of paint, covering only the bottom three feet of every wall. The deck was only recently completely stained and before then sat for more than a year only two-thirds washed in the chocolate colored pain-in-the butt stuff. (I hate staining.)

And the coffee tables and end tables, glass of course for making the place look bigger, were added by our realtor. Along with a thin layer of cheap mulch in the flower beds and a few strategically placed scented candles and a cookbook on the kitchen island - opened to some fancy chicken spinach tartar something-or-nother - that says "Me cook fancy meals. We have it together. Move here and you will too."

She calls it "staging." Some would call it "lying" or, at best, "faking."

She also added plants, pillows, throws, lamps, a fountain, books and nick knacks (I asked if we should add any paddy whacks. Not amused. You'd think for this kind of money she could fake a smile too.)

So the place looks amazing. Amazing enough to give me second thoughts about selling it before I left for El Salvador. I came back though and added a few things myself. And started looking for our next home. I'm partial to a place over in Brian's cult de sac. Got to go in it. Looks great. Smells great. They have two kids but they seem to have it together...and they cook a lot.

HOW DOES THIS WORK AGAIN?

Radio stations receive a stack of singles each week. The independent artists are filed in the trash can. The major labels and artists with big names get heard first along with, possibly, any artist from a label who's given the program director a flat screen TV, golf trip or baseball tickets in the recent past (actual examples). But that still leaves a lot of songs to fish through for a hit. So program directors then, usually, hire a company to test this whittled down batch of songs, then play the best testing songs.

The test group is usually, for AC stations, Christian females 25-44 who listen primarily to Christian radio (BONUS: These folks are called P1's. P2's are those who listen but not primarily to CCM radio).

Well, we at Rocketown Records figure if this system works so well for radio types why don't we use it to choose my next single and save our pals in radio world a little money and time. And I'm just tired of hearing "Your song doesn't test well for us." We'll see about that. We've now completed testing on a large group of P1 females nation-wide in hopes of their collective "wisdom" guiding us to the best choice for my next single - a song that we know in advance will test well for radio stations.

But, and this might surprise you all, music, as it turns out, is subjective. Huh. Who knew? So it's apparently hard for a group of people to reach a consensus about whether a song is good or bad. Huh. Go figure. Instead we got what stations get from testing: a big pile of expensive conflicting data. One man's, I mean woman's, upbeat and positive is another woman's play-this-and-I'll-kill-myself apparently. Enjoy SOME of the slew of real opinions from test subjects asked "WHAT DO YOU LIKE OR DISLIKE ABOUT THE SONG 'AMEN'?"

Awesome song! Love to hear it on the radio often! I liked the music, the beat, the words!

Classic rock is it? That is at least the feel of this song. Great arrangement and production.

Don't care for hard rock music

I like the heavier rock sound

Does not sound so much inspired as it sounds made up.

i like it because it seems honest & genuine

Don't like his voice

i like his voice

I can relate to the song, asking God for mercy. This is a good song.

hard to relate to this kind of music- i'm sure it helps some people. the music is like secular music i hear when flipping the channels and if that is what it is supposed to be like then it fits.

I like it because you know it's a christian song...Some you never know it is until you hear who the artist is.

I like the words, but the music and how it is sung seems dark instead of christ-like.

I like the words. They seem to be very biblical.

too slow

it's upbeat

its uplifting

Not very uplifting

It sounds outdated

It's a new kind of sound - I really like it!

just didnt have a good beat

Love the beat

Matthew West? I have the new CD but haven't listened to it yet.

not charismatic enough

Sounds like every Christian pop song

Breaks the mold a bit of CCM.

too slow starting, didn't grab me

This song captured me within the first 10 seconds! Great sound, great vocals!! Would love to know who this is?




Well, there are the results. Testing obviously works like a charm. The verdict is obvious isn't it? Well, not until we hire a pricey radio consultant to interpret all this for us. Hey, isn't it consultants who told program directors to test singles in the first place? Wait a minute...

EL SALVADOR TRIP DAY 1 #3 (8 23 05)

More from my travel journal about my recent trip to El Salvador to investigate the work of Compassion International:

DAVID’S HOME:
David hasn’t said a word on the trip to his house. His face is round. His hands stay hidden away in the pockets of his red project uniform fiddling with marbles. We met David at his project in San Salvador, an after school program run by a church with the support of, and oversight from, Compassion International. The program is like all other projects, serving a good meal and glass of milk, tutoring students in math and reading, teaching skills like computer science or sewing to those with more initiative or interest.

In the crowd of children at the project today David didn’t stand out. He blends in. He stays quiet. But not because of melancholy. No, David looks as if he’s always thinking, his mind running far away from this place, maybe dreaming of a life different from his own. Something is being turned over in his mind and when he bothers to speak to the rest of us, the people in the real world, he is well spoken and obviously intelligent.

Roberto, our guide for the day, warns us to watch our step. He pulls the chain on the flap of scrap metal posing as a door and David bounds past us and down the stairs into his home. This is where David lives, part of what he escapes each day at the project, where he plays marbles, sleeps and dreams of something else perhaps.

Two dozen steps made of dirt and pieces of pipe take us down ten feet into a small tent made from mud and fragments of metal, plastic and large sticks. A wall of root-riddled earth is his front yard and his roof is cardboard and corrugated metal, full of holes and held down by rocks.

Beside his house is an area with no roof, a side yard I guess, the wall of earth still blocking the outside world from view and maintaining the closed in and safe feeling of this place. It’s there under the large trees that David’s grandmother drags two plastic chairs into formation, shoos arthritic scraggly chickens from her path with a wave of her bare foot, and motions us to have a seat. Her face is round like David’s but she is not as quiet. Her voice belongs on the radio, low and sonorous, hearty and expressive – almost as expressive as her face. Her eyebrows rise almost to her dark brown hairline when excited and bow almost to her cheeks when her lips pucker into disgust or denial.

“Do you go to church?” Roberto asks.

“No. No,” she puckers, “I do laundry so we can eat. I would like to go sometime but how would we live. I must work.”

Roberto turns his questions to David. “What are your dreams, David?” And David lights up, lifts his hands from his pockets and, gesturing as if holding a gun, says, “I’d like to be a soldier.”

His grandmother interrupts, “I don’t want him to go to Iraq.” And Roberto explains that some men in David’s town have died in Iraq. Many men from El Salvador are fighting with the American led allied forces. And may boys long to follow in their boot steps.

The United States, Roberto will later explain to me, funded El Salvador’s government forces in the country’s war from 1979 to 1992 with it’s own people. El Salvador is a democracy. A democracy ruled by twelve wealthy families who own coffee plantations, car dealerships, shopping malls, and other businesses of enormous riches. Members of these families intermarry in a monarchy-like fashion and from this pool of elite citizens is elected politicians and presidents. The revolution began when the poor, later funded by the Soviets, assassinated wealthy aristocrats. The wealthy retaliated by sending “death squads” into the poorest areas to torch every structure and every peasant regardless of gender or age. Their tactics were supported and financed by the United States and the eventually negotiated peace with the poor leftists. Neither side was innocent. Both were brutal.

And today young men like David dream of being soldiers, not caring which side they fight on or what they fight for, because a soldier eats and gets paid. If a soldier lives he’s better off than before. That is David’s dream.

Grandmother wants something more for David. She’s grateful he’s going to the project and learning how to use a computer and to read and write. She’s hopeful that he’ll be better off without risking his life. She says her dream for him is that he’ll be a good man and work hard and live a long time.

“That’s what we all dream for our children isn’t it? Good people living a long life?” I ask.

“Si,” she smiles.

We spend a few more minutes at her house talking about David and his sponsor in the States, about Soccer and praying for her and her family, huddled in a circle, our arms wrapped around each other like friends. One God. One Church. We love our children more than ourselves. And we want them to live.

We hug and say good-byes and make our way towards the steps and up to the outside world again. It’s been nice here, in the shade - palpable love and acceptance from a grandmother doing her best to replace a father and mother who abandoned their son.

I bet David misses this small house when he’s gone - and his grandmother’s big smile and bobbing eyebrows, the safety of a refuge hidden from view and filled with so much adoration. David has a good life, family and faith leaving him better off in the wake of war than some of his neighbors.

I say a prayer to myself as we leave. I pray his life will be long and spent taking the love his grandmother and the project lavish on him to others who dream of a life without poverty. I pray he loves them the way his grandmother loves him.

Even now, she wishes she could do more for us strangers. “I did not know you were coming. I would have cooked. The next time you come visit me,“ his grandmother promises, “I will kill this chicken for you and make a soup. I promise you.”

A bent bird scrambles away from her club of a bronze foot. I believe her.

8/30/2005

EL SALVADOR TRIP DAY 1 #2 (8 23 05)

From my journal. More from day 1 of my trip to El Salvador to observe what Compassion International is doing and how they do it:

SANTIAGO'S HOUSE:
Less than ten feet from a railroad track stands a small mound of wavy metal resembling a collapsed shed more than someone’s home. But it is a home. Santiago’s. We just toured Santiago’s Compassion International project. We visited his classroom where he’s learning how to read. He beamed with pride showing us how well he can write and giggled at how poorly we spoke his language. In fact, Santiago giggled at just about everything today.

I’m told he’s poor, his family being clothed and fed by the church Compassion partners with in his neighborhood, one of over a hundred in El Salvador. But it’s hard to believe. He looks like an ordinary eight year-old, just with an extraordinary charisma.

Santiago walked quickly with us from his Compassion project, eager to show us the way. But we took our time, our guide watching out for gang members that patrol the neighborhood. We passed a small witchcraft operation a hundred feet from Santiago’s home. The hand-pained sign draws the downtrodden to the "temple", a house concocting a brew of Catholicism and magic spells promised to smite enemies and protect anyone willing to pay. Everywhere we turn it seems like good and evil, despair and hope, live next door to each other in San Salvador. And both have growing armies of converts.

Past trash heaps. Past the same breed of "third world dog" again and again. Past shoeless children and open fields shadowed by brooding clouds. Thunder warns us from a distance.

We open the door to Santiago’s house, peeling back one five foot tall rectangle of tin with no handle, and walk across the dirt and rock floor. “Hola,” I say to his aunt and take her hand. Roberto, a local administrator from Compassion, knows this family but asks them questions for our benefit, translating into English as he converses.

“Who here takes care of you, Santiago?”

“Just my aunt.”

“Where is his mother? His father?” he asks the aunt.

“His mother is with a gang and his father is a drug dealer. They aren’t together and left Santiago when he was small. They don’t care for him.”

The families we meet here talk about cruel realities in front of children like I ask my wife to pass the salt.

“What about his grandfather?” Roberto motions towards a shadowed man across the small room buttoning his shirt and leaning hard on a pole that holds up one corner of this plastic quilted house. The grandfather I assume. He laughs to himself but doesn’t look up.

“No,” the aunt answers, “I take care of Santiago alone.”

“Who pays? Who works here?”

“Santiago does odd jobs when he can find them. I do laundry for people.”

“How much money are you able to make?”

“$4 this week. It’s been good,” she grins.

“Good. Good. Santiago, what are your dreams?”

When we stepped into his home Santiago’s demeanor immediately melted, his frame bent, his steps shuffled, his eyes drawn to the floor. The happy child at the project devolved into a slumping boy doing his best to disappear. Something tells me he isn’t safe here. He isn’t at ease here. There’s tremendous fear or embarrassment or something weighing him down under this roof. But this question about dreams resurrects him.

He smiles and looks up again.

“Come on, Santiago! Tell us your dreams!” Roberto lifts Santiago off the dirt floor and sets him on a stump. And Santiago confidently and quickly answers, “I want to be a policeman. I want to help people.”

“Bueno. Muy Bueno, Santiago,” I said. And praise pours from the other white faces who came with me. “Muy Bueno.”

“What is a good thing about your project, Santiago?” Roberto asks.

“I play with my friends. I eat. I read.”

We talk more with his aunt and his cousins, all living in this small space with few walls, one bed and rusted tin roof balanced on sticks and bent poles someone threw away once. They tell us they’re grateful for the Compassion project and say we can pray for them. Roberto asks grandfather to join our circle and we take each other’s hands.

“Will you pray for us, Shaun?” he asks me. And I agree but don’t know where to start. Words, even words to God, seem trite and inadequate in this place. And after a long pause, longer than any I may have ever taken in my life, I pray. Small words. Simple. Love. Protect. Feed. Clothe. Teach. Thank You. Roberto translates. And we all say, “Amen”, then hug one another and I look at every set of eyes trying to nail these faces to the walls of my mind. I hope they never come down and I never stop talking with God about them, asking big things with small words.

8/29/2005

EL SALVADOR TRIP DAY 1 #1 (8 23 05)

From my journal. My first thoughts upon arriving in San Salvador, capital of El Salvador, on my trip to observe Compassion International:

SAN SALVADOR:
McDonalds. Shopping malls. Sherwin Williams. This looks like North America. This looks like a place blossoming with the fruits of capitalism and democracy. And it is.

Prostitutes. Broken glassed storefronts, graffiti. A passed out bearded man on a sidewalk. This looks like North America too. This looks like a place choked by the weeds of selfishness and politics. And it is.

San Salvador, Central America perhaps, is just North America fast forwarded or under a magnifying glass. The disparity between the haves and have nots is here in different proportions, in exaggerated contrast. The living and the dying share the smallest nation in Central America, splitting it in half. Fifty percent of El Salvador’s people are impoverished, living on less than the equivalent of $1 a day. The other fifty percent have more. They are living somewhere between getting by and luxury.

And that is what makes the Americas so much more frustrating to me than some other impoverished nations. In parts of Africa exist tribes in which poverty is the norm. There is no wealth, no getting by, no other kind of life within view to compare oneself too. There is no hope down the street. No one to plead with, no neighbor to help. It is easy in such places to believe that such a neighbor, one that was blessed with more, would share if he only existed. And maybe he does in some far away land. Maybe he’ll arrive on an airplane and save us – they might wonder.

But in the Americas the neighbors with more than enough exist in abundance and every poor person knows it. I was slapped today by this realization that in the Americas help IS down the road and needn’t arrive from a far away place by plane. If only the houses we passed on the way to the Compassion International projects today would look beyond their own front doors. If only the patrons of the malls and fast food chains and home improvement stores would keep just enough and spend the rest on fighting poverty next door. If North Americans would look at their daughter’s dance costume as three Salvadorans that could be saved, at their new stereo as six stomachs that could be filled, at a church sound system as ten thousand bodies clothed, fed and revived by the love of God – If only.

If only the Church, in every nation it lives in, would stop and stoop and dress the wounds of it’s own members and then it’s own countrymen and then those beyond it’s borders.

If only I could do this. Only enough. But what does that look like?

8/24/2005

UPDATE FROM EL SALVADOR

I have only a few minutes to pop in on SHLOG.COM and give a quick update about our trip. Everyone is well and aside from losing our luggage (we have it now) there haven´t been any hitches in our travels. We tour the homes of children sponsored through Compassion International everyday and play with the children at Compassion´s ¨project¨ sites. I´m slowly learning Spanish, enough to ask where the bathroom is, and learning that tickling and falling down to get laughs are international forms of communication all kids understand.

I´m accumulating stories, journaling daily, and will have a lot to share when we get back. The moral of every story I´ll tel though is that the Church is a global politic, a powerful alternative to the parties and presidents of nations, able to reach into souls in ways that policies and administrations cannot, able to care for the whole person in ways that no one else is able. I´m seeing that proven here in El Salvador where half of the nation is living on less than $1 a day, 80% of little girls are sexually abused before age 12 and gangs rule the country side. Even here, in poverty that makes prayer and words feel trite and insignificant, chidren smile and eat and learn and mothers and fathers have hope. Doctors, teachers, policemen, pastors, singers and painters, lovers of other peeople are born at these orojects daily. People are being transformed and seeds are being sown for a future with less hunger and sickness. And it is the Church reaching through the arms of Compassion International to the people we´ve been with here this week.

To everyone who has sponsored a child through Compassion, please be encouraged. The children treasure your letters and ask us if we know you (they have no idea how many Steves there are in America). You are solvingreal problems for real people and God is getting the attention and credit for it. Thank you for loving children. By doing so you are loving Jesus. And I´ve seen him smile back at us this week. I´ve heard him say ¨Gracias.¨

More when we land.

Thanks for the prayers,
Shaun

8/21/2005

FROM PASTOR SARAH McLACHLAN

My pastor is a keen communicator but today his message on the tenth commandment bidding us not to "covet" was overshadowed and outgunned by Sarah McLaughlin. Her music video for "World On Fire" prefaced his message and created compulsions in me that three points on a screen and thirty minutes from a pulpit just didn't. Amazing how powerful the duo of song and sight is for some of us, especially when tied to the lived example of giving.

I leave town tomorrow for El Salvador, where I'm promised I'll walk through poverty like none I've seen before, and today's plea from a rock star to take less in order to give more was a sobering preparation of my heart and mind for all that waits for me this week.

Thanks, Sarah for your inspiring sermon this morning.

8/20/2005

FROM THE ROAD: LEWISBURG, TN

Show today in Lewisburg.

Pics and more afterwards.

And I still owe you the same for last night's show. As soon as I get a break.

Then tomorrow I leave for El Salvador for the week. So SHLOG.COM will probably go dead for a few days. I doubt I'll have internet access in a third world country. I'll catch up when I get back.

-SG

8/19/2005

JUST WAR PART 5: UNDER THE INFLUENCE (NATURAL LAW)

PREVIOUS POSTS IN THIS SERIES:
JUST WAR PART 1: THE TIMES OF AUGUSTINE
JUST WAR PART 2: THE THEORY OF AUGUSTINE
JUST WAR PART 3: AQUINAS BUILDS
JUST WAR PART 4: UNDER THE INFLUENCE (Crusades)

Aquinas wasn't just under the influence, to some degree, of Catholic crusaders though. He was also blazing a new trail for Catholic theologians by allowing the writings of Aristotle and other non-theologians/philosophers to color his thinking on God. Specifically, Aquinas was among the first to say out loud that he believed a theology (a belief about God) could be arrived at and supported by natural law alone with no backing from scripture or Church tradition.

Natural law, dumbed down so that I can better understand it, is the common sense or practical considerations behind what's "right" and "wrong." It's the "it makes sense" part within us all. People with no understanding of God, who've never read the bible, can know not to steal, for instance. Their reasons for respecting the property rights of others are governed by natural law or instinct. That law causes them not to steal on the grounds that they A) don't want their property taken away in a reprisal or don't want to be harmed if they get caught stealing and/or B) think that stealing would hurt the common good, the society and therefore possibly hurt them. So with no influence from the bible human beings, because we all follow natural law within us to some degree, may still ACT "right" if "right" works best for us and our society.

Aquinas admitted to forming his additions to Augustine's Just War doctrine based not upon scripture (Divine law) primarily, but upon this built-in need to be practical and preserve society and self (natural law). He believed this natural law in us all was inherently good because God put it there. So what works, what is arrived at by observing natural, is divine law, is what God calls "right". This was the beginning of a new era of practical or natural law theology within Christendom which is still alive today.

What beliefs do we hold that have their basis in natural law more than biblical revelation? I have plenty. When, if ever, is that a bad thing? Why?

Got thoughts? Post a comment below or discuss on my message-board.

FROM THE ROAD: JACKSON, TN

I played on a stage just outside the entrance to Pringles Park , the stadium built for the Jackson, TN Jacks. A radio station was there. Veggie Tales' Bob and Larry were there. Fans of Christian music were there.

But so were many non-Christians. And I wondered how "Faith Night" looked to them. And as I did I began wondering if I should do shows like this again. Should I throw out shows in shopping mall food courts as well? I'm just thinking - and maybe that's my problem - maybe I should just take my check and go home - but I'm wondering how this kind of taking-church-public show is different from praying on a street corner. Just wondering for now.

The ball park does the show to increase attendance and make money. The radio station increases listenership and might even get advertising money from the ball park. I get paid. But I'm unable to do what I do well in this setting. And I'm uncomfortable trying to.

What I do is like the musical version of a family meeting. It's not about "yea Jesus" or "every head bowed, every eye closed". It's about having fun while provoking us all to think about what it means to follow God and not just believe in Him. It's an intimate conversation. Serious at times. Light at others. But a dialogue with other Christians always. It's an effort to preach to the choir until they leave the loft and serve outside stained glass walls. Feels out of place, like a bad fit, to do that publicly as non-Christians are winding through the crowd of "Do the Jew" and "Property of Jesus" shirts worn by Christians with their hands raised. Very odd. Not a show built around communication. Didn't fit me. Seemed pointless to me. Fun, but pointless.

Got me thinking more about what Andrew Osenga and others have touched on here. What is the point of Christian music...for me? I sometimes wonder, on days like this, if it isn't just about making money off of Christians and making Christians feel like evangelism is taking place because of the money they spend. I'm wondering. Wonder with me.

I know I did this show for the money. I confess. I "needed" it. And when I sell my house I won't need it as much. So I probably won't do this kind of show again...unless I find a better reason than bill paying to do it.

8/18/2005

HAIGOO FOR YOU

Here are just some of the searches leading seekers of many things to SHLOG.COM - combined for your pleasure (or just mine) into a new form of "art" (looks like a list to me) I've dubbed "HaiGoo." Enjoy.

chaps spank porn free
kudzu carolina lyric
download music video Weezer free

mormon music blog
surfing magazine relevant
cia war vacation plane

comfort inn cleveland airport
apple ibook logic law
shaun groves tickets


Anyone wanna claim these? That first one in particular?

BETTER THAN INSURANCE, BETTER FOR EVERYONE

One of the things I missed about my "real job" is cheap insurance. I didn't realize how much my employer's group plan truly saved me until I became a musician by trade.

My insurance company - found after a long thorough search for the best - charged me over $6,000/yr for a very basic health policy and only paid me $325/yr in actual benefits. So I canceled. And I signed up with Samaritan Ministries.

Their program is like no other, and it's not an insurance policy. For all you musicians and ministers, self-employed or just jobless out there, I'd highly recommend Samaritan Ministries' program as a replacement for your current over-priced basic health insurance coverage.

If only local churches would create programs like this of their own, for their own, and then use the money members save on covering the health needs of those outside the Church. Now that would be better for everyone.

Got thoughts? Post a comment below or discuss on my message-board.

8/17/2005

LITTLE PAPA

My kids call my father-in-law "Papa". And Papa is best known for his slew of stories just before bedtime each night of his visits.

Each tale the same as his last. Each begins with "One day little Papa..." Then the plot moves quickly and predictably, always retracing Papa's supposed childhood. The story moves through some mundane activity like "little Papa was picking strawberries" or "little Papa went to bed" and then there's a brief, very brief, suspense.

"One day little Papa was walking to school and he saw a little old lady standing on the corner. She looked like she needed help crossing the street so little Papa walked over to help her. 'Can I help you,' little Papa asked. And little Papa reached out to take her hand and...'AHHHHHHHH!!! I'm gonna eat you, little Papa.' 'OH no! It's that big bad wolf!!"

And screams erupt from wide-eyed faces and quickly cross-fade into shrieks of laughter followed by, "Tell another story!"

And he does. "One day little Papa..."

Honestly, he's a bad story teller. Predictable. Brief. No characterization. No denouement. No tension and resolution. Always little Papa. Always a wolf big and bad.

But it's good to the audience. They're enthralled and thrilled every time. Not because of the words spoken but because of the one speaking. In the right company, in the right voice, the most unprofessional yarn is heard as an epic as grand as the listener's love for its teller.

Got thoughts? Post a comment below or discuss on my message-board.

8/16/2005

MEET STANLEY HAUERWAS

From time to time, when there's nothing interesting enough about my life to journal for others, I'd like to introduce you to great minds and lives that have in some way impacted my own. Today: Stanley Hauerwas.

This introduction is from The Progressive...

"As a theological ethicist, Duke University Divinity School professor, and as a writer cruising through his forties and fifties, Stanley Hauerwas enjoyed the twin blessings of personal achievement and professional obscurity. Then, in 2001, the assessors of talent at Time magazine declared him "America's best theologian." Oprah Winfrey gave him air time. Invitations to talk, exhort, and entertain poured in.

Hauerwas, a Texan who speaks in the twangy cadences of Jim Hightower and is as adept with the barbs and jibes, guffaws when recalling the praise from Time: 'Best is not a theological category! Faithful or unfaithful are the right categories. The last thing in the world I'd want to be is the best.' "

Hauerwas is full of quotable quips that provoke us to anger and holiness. Here are a few that have made me think:

"I do not have a foreign policy. I have something better--a church constituted by people who would rather die than kill."

(On the movement he calls religious conservatism) "Christianity is defended not so much because it is true, but because it reinforces the `American way of life.' Such movements are thus unable to contemplate that there might be irresolvable tensions between being Christian and being `a good American.' "

"Generally, I think the strongest argument against pacifism is it’s immoral. Namely, we abandon the innocent who should be protected. Just war is committed to believing that you cannot commit an evil that a good may come. You cannot bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It’s better for more people to die on the beaches of Japan than to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki. That’s murder. So we are people, those committed to just war and non-violence equally, who often have to watch the innocent die for our convictions."

"The problem with capitalism is it makes us wealthy, and being wealthy is not a very good thing for Christians to be, if we believe the Gospels."

To read more about Hauerwas check out this list of links.

Got thoughts? Post a comment below or discuss on my message-board.

8/15/2005

A RARE THING

Our church got a new pastor when I was eighteen. He wasn't like the old one. Sure his hair was regulation for a Baptist minister; short and parted to one side. His suit was pressed and usually blue and his shoes were wing-tipped and shiny leather. But he was different I soon found out.

I discovered it the night I first rang his doorbell. I wasn't there to pay him a visit though. It was one of his daughters I was interested in. I didn't care which one. Any one of the three would do. I was meeting up with several other rival suitors (and a few girls from church we'd grown too accustomed to having around to be attracted to) to watch a movie with the preacher's kids at their house.

They were always having people over. And we all came I suppose because they, the sisters, were the only remotely new things in Tyler, TX that Summer after high school. So I rang the doorbell, excited to meet these rumored sisters and the new pastor face to face for the first time.

I was early, too early to be cool at all. I was nervous. I'd spotted the oldest sister at church that morning and really hoped she was home that night. She was a few years older than me. RIght out of college. I wondered if she'd taken a job in Dallas or left to get an advanced degree somewhere like I'd heard she wanted to. I wondered and hoped. I rang the doorbell again.

And waited.

And waited.

And when the door opened there he stood. My formerly suited pastor. Scratching his stomach. No suit. No shirt. No shoes. No pants. Just socks. And underwear. And a grin that gave away the joke.

My father-in-law was - is - like no other pastor I've ever met. A head full of theology, enough to make him a Doctor of something-or-another, but a desk drawer full of fart machines and a mouth spilling stories that all end the same way: with a laugh that borders on a scream.

My mother-in-law needs prayer. She lives with the man and the desk drawer and the mouth that came with him. And she raised three beautiful and giving daughters somehow in spite of him. And then gave one away, the oldest one, to a musician as irreverent as her husband. Poor woman.

I'm consoling her and humoring him this week. They've taken our bedroom and sent me to the couch and Becky to a kid's floor. But in exchange my mother-in-law is cooking - and she's the best cook - and my father-in-law is helping me ready the house for sale - painting the deck. And I'm grateful today for in-laws that tell jokes instead of being the butt of mine. And for family that plays and thinks and works together after all this time. That's a rare thing.

SWELLING REBELLION

From my seat near the bottom of the Christian Music food chain, I'm witnessing what I can only describe as a swelling rebellion by those in the Christina Music industry against one another - especially against radio and retail. Artists, being inherently self-absorbed and whiny, lacking self-control and a volume knob, and the hardest hit financially when things don't go their way, are the loudest and most venomous voices of the rebellion at the moment. I have not talked with an artist in the last year who is pleased with the current state of affairs in the industry and who doesn't in some way blame radio for its woes. The artists are culled from all the major labels and a couple independents and their opinions range from livid or disinterested to saddened and leaving.

But radio isn't the only face on the dart board. Artists, both successful and not, are increasingly engaged in the bashing of other artists seen as less than their ideal, of labels and radio stations seen as out to make money first and represent their Jesus second, and of retailers for screening CDs for the word "whore" while not applying the same this-might-offend filter to t-shirts and books because those products, unlike CDs, are sold with a return policy.

But artists aren't the only one's raising their voices and shaking their fists. Labels are angry at radio stations for not helping them sell records, and lots of them, better than they do. Radio stations, wielding most of the industry's power at the moment, are pissed off at ungrateful labels and artists for complaining at all while station ratings and revenues continue to increase. Retailers are pissed off at artists for selling their wares on-line and at labels for selling them on iTunes and at radio stations for not playing more artists, which would help them sell more CDs.

Can't we just get along?

Not right now. There seems to be some good coming from this tension. And so this fighting may be a necessary evil used to move us towards understanding and a better representation of Christ together. The animosity has gone on long enough in some of us that it has fizzled and turned into self-examination and a craving for peace.

The hold up to peace at the moment, in my opinion, might not be our differences, but instead what we have in common: a desire to be successful that at times outweighs our desire to be faithful. And the inability to pursue faithfulness at the possible expense of personal financial success.

So for my part in making in peace I'll begin by confessing. I was mad at everyone, all of you, fans included, for more than a year - a wasted year I can't get back. And my hostility made me say and do things I deeply regret today.

And I'm moving to step two of peace-making by entertaining all points of view, asking all parties what they want, what they're mad about, why they do what they do and why they think the rest of us should do what we do. That's a good place to start: listening, believing no side is all good or all bad (especially my own), believing everyone can teach me something. And they are.

There are many voices to hear in the rebellion at the moment. Many confident and brave people daring to say publicly what they are feeling and thinking about the strange mixing of commerce and faith. I'll post links to them when I find them. Let's listen together with a teachable mind, willing to appraise all points of view and judge ourselves first in light of them. Maybe with enough listening and self-examination we can stop being pissed and start getting better.

Here's the first of many voices I hope to bring to SHLOG.COM's many industry ears. This is not an endorsement of any point of view. If you work in the industry and have a different viewpoint, feel free to blog it or e-mail it for the rest of to hear. I promise to listen.



Peace,
Shaun

8/14/2005

HERE, LET ME HELP YOU WITH THAT

Why are you here at SHLOG.COM? You're probably goofing off instead of working. Well, you can do better. Here are some better places to go to waste time:

BLOGS TO READ:
Lord Vader's Blog
This is Lord Vader's blog. Read about his daily activities and thank God for your job. It's hard defending an evil empire against rebels with bad hair.
How I Am Becoming An Astronaut
This woman is an astronaut in training. Read the realtime development of the right stuff.
Bring Back The Couch
The best I can figure this is a blog by the former couch of the Daily Show on Comedy Central, recently replaced by a chair and not thrilled about it.
Casual Friday
Read the 10 highlights of a guy's every day - things like "Sniffed fingers aggressively in crowded elevator" and "Regained the record for who can hold their breath under water the longest at the pool...I beat Jaimie (9 yrs. old) by 5 Mississippi's"

STUFF TO WATCH:
Vintage21's "Jesus Videos"
StrongBad's e-mail at homestarrunner.com ("Guitar" is my favorite one.)

T-SHIRTS TO BROWSE:
Threadless.com
People upload their shirt designs. You vote on them. The best get manufactured. You can buy one for $10. Fashion for the people, by the people, at a price the people can afford.
RandomShirts.com
Random shirts sold for $10. And the money goes to a good cause.

FONTS TO DOWNLOAD:
DaFont.com
FontDiner.com

HUH?:
Men Who Look Like Kenny Rogers

That oughtta last you 'til lunch. Happy goofing off. Glad I could help.

Have a another suggestion? Share it here in a comment below or over on my message-board.

SPANKED BY SPURGEON

"I believe that, at this present time, we are in great danger of being burdened with a crowd of so-called converts who do not really know anything as it ought to be known. They attended a revival meeting, were much excited, and thought they were converted; but just ask them to explain to you the simplest truths of the gospel, and you will soon discover how little they know. Could they explain the three R's, ruin, redemption, and regeneration Do they know what the ruin is? Do they know what the remedy for that ruin is? Do they understand at all what it means to be born again? Do they comprehend what the new nature is, or what "justification by faith" means. Perhaps someone says, "They do not comprehend your theological terms." I do not mind whether they know the meaning of the terms that are familiar to many of us; but do they know the truths themselves? There is a certain degree of Christian knowledge which is absolutely necessary to salvation."

--Charles H. Spurgeon

TO LEARN MORE ABOUT CHARLES SPURGEON:
Many resources at Spurgeon.org
Buy books by Spurgeon
Christianity Today profile on Spurgeon

WHO CARES ABOUT DENOMINATIONS? SHLOG.COM POLL

denompoll One fourth of us SHLOGGERS don't care a bit about denominations. But the vast majority (82%) say that while no one denomination owns the market on truth they do prefer one denomination over others for themselves. The Church of Christ folks chimed in with 5% of the vote, believing they're the only ones that are right. (Please, no hate mail from the Church of Christ folks. It's a joke.)

And for the 1% who said they don't know what a denomination is let me explain it like this. Denominations are factions of Christianity. They're like brands of the same product. (Wow, we could take that analogy some scary directions couldn't we?) These denominations were usually created by one group of people leaving another denomination to start their own because of some issue that at the time seemed like a big deal and the right thing to pout about.

Southern Baptists for instance, the denomination whose logo is on the sign in front of the church I currently attend, were formed to keep slavery alive. The American Baptists became the against slavery group and the Southern, who wanted to stay rich and white, did not accept African-Americans as human but as property. And we're still pretty much rich and white while American Baptists are still very racially diverse.

Free Methodists didn't like Methodist churches selling assigned seats for the church service so they broke off and did their own thing: open seating, first come first served. Just two examples of the kinds of things that have created these schisms that still exist today. Some divisions formed around weighty life and death issues and others over making church a non-ticketed event. How did your denomination get it's start? You might be surprised when you find out.

Got thoughts? Post a comment below or discuss on my message-board.

8/13/2005

NICE SCAR

Gresham, age almost 3, went to the emergency room last night just after dinner. He jumped off of an ottoman and onto the couch, which was bouncy enough to catapult him over the back of the couch and into a wooden table a few feet away. Apparently he's got a vertical.

Three hours later, Dr.Todd at Williamson Medical Center's emergency room tells us he's fine. He'll just have some gnarly scars on his right eye lid and eyebrow for life and a golf ball sized knot just above for a few days. He looks like Rocky in the third round. Cool.

It's kind of sick I know but I'm proud. A trip to the emergency room is a rite of passage into manhood, or a mark of stupidity. Maybe both. Either way, he's a little more like me now.

8/12/2005

BLAM

I hate blog spam, usually found in the comment sections. If you seem to be posting a comment only to promote your new miracle drug or your blog that's really a home loan showcase I will delete your comment immediately. So why bother?

Fighting capitalism everywhere,
Shaun

CHRISTIAN RADIO LOWERS EXPECTATIONS

Half of WAY-FM's West Palm Beach morning show comes clean with his take on the purpose of Christian radio and some spanking words for it's critics. My tan friend Brant Hansen writes the following:

"I work at this radio station that plays CCM. We play "positive and encouraging" music. This turns off some of my more reflective friends (more than a dozen who read this thing, muchas smoochas...) when they hear this phrase. I love my friends. But honestly: What do you expect? Spurgeon? Aquinas?"

Read the rest of the Brant rant here. And then discuss amongst yourselves while I formulate a "positive and encouraging" response of my own.

Got thoughts? Post a comment below or discuss on my message-board.

8/11/2005

FIENDISH FELINE STYLIST STEALS PRIZE

The winner of the "SEND THE MOST PEOPLE TO SHLOG.COM" contest is...



Still stings a little but I'm laughing more than crying. TINY CAT PANTS, an irreverent and sometimes hilarious Nashville blog, posted the above as her (I think it's a her) "link" to SHLOG.COM. Sure, there was obviously some cheating going on since most of the hits from TINY CAT PANTS came from the same person, but I left that loophole open I guess.

Thanks TINY CAT PANTS for giving me a lot of humility and quite a few hits too.

Did it work? Did we hit the 300 mark? Did we ever! SHLOG.COM received 472 VISITORS (not just visits) yesterday from sites like these that kindly linked to us:

BillHobbs.com
RodneyOlsen.blogspot.com
What It's All About
WhyWouldWeCare.blogspot.com
More About Nothing
The Y Blog
Pardon The Interruption
AdamHaynes.com
Mind The Gap
FocalElement.blogspot.com

Thanks everybody.

SPEAKING OF CATS



And...



And there's much more where that came from.

JUST WAR PART 4: UNDER THE INFLUENCE (CRUSADES)

PREVIOUS POSTS IN THIS SERIES:
JUST WAR PART 1: THE TIMES OF AUGUSTINE
JUST WAR PART 2: THE THEORY OF AUGUSTINE
JUST WAR PART 3: AQUINAS BUILDS

It's not enough to discuss what theological bricks each builder of Just War doctrine contributed to the Just War platform most modern day Americans and politicians stand upon and preach from. Not only is it not enough but it's not the point of this series.

The main benefit to me in studying Just War, and the history of other modern Christian beliefs, has been gaining a better understanding of how we Christians have historically decided what is "right" and "wrong". What influences theologians and people like you and me on the every day quest towards truths big and small? What should influence us?

So the last post in this series jumped to Aquinas' conclusions about what makes war just. But today's contribution backtracks to unearth what might have influenced - what probably did influence - his theology of war.

Like Augustine, fearful of losing the Catholic Church and his nation to warring parties within and without, Aquinas may also have been shaped by the wars of his day. The crusades, now admitted by the Catholic church as a grave mistake and misrepresentation of God's values on earth, had just ended - and ended badly - when Aquinas wrote about war. The crusades were a series of wars waged by the Catholic Church (only Western European Christians at the time) and Rome. They were carried out at the demand of Pope Gregory VII in an effort to claim cities considered holy by both Muslims and Christians. Muslims had used force to prohibit Christians from making pilgrimages to these holy cities. The campaigns of the crusades (seven in all) would mean the death of a multitude of Muslims and Catholics - men, women and children - soldiers, civilians and clergy.

The Church leaders of his day seem to have unanimously accepted these wars as tragic but also holy and God pleasing.

Aquinas, born in 1225 AD, was twenty-three when the seventh and last crusade battle ended. While I have been unable to find any writings by Aquinas explaining whether or not and to what extent the crusades affected his theology of war, it's reasonable to assume isn't it that such a lengthy military effort instigated by the Popes and Church he pledged his life to would have some affect on such matters? Reasonable in the same way we can assume the views of war held by us patriotic modern American Christians are somewhat influenced by our nation's past and present military campaigns.

Got thoughts? Post a comment below or discuss on my message-board.

8/10/2005

THE PURCHASE DRIVEN LIFE

Check out this eye-opening post from a SHLOG.COM reader.

ALMOST 300 DAILY

Every day close to, but never more than, 300 people read SHLOG.COM. We're going to change that today.

If you have a website or a blog, I need your help. If you post a link to SHLOG.COM on your site today odds are someone will click it and visit this page. When they do my site tracker will log your url (website address) in a ranked list. At the end of the day today I'll look at the rankings to see which site sent the most people to me. Then, I'll e-mail the winner, get your address, and send you a Shaun Groves t-shirt and new WHITE FLAG CD - a $30 value. (Hey, it's all I have.) And everyone who links to me will have their site linked TO from SHLOG.COM the next day - as if you need as much help getting visitors as I do.

Wow, what a deal!

Why? I just hate being so close to a mile marker and unable to break through it. I'm a goal setter. Humor me.

-SG

PS. Some sites' url's are "blocked" and will not display their address to my site tracker. Sorry.

8/09/2005

JUST WAR PART 3: AQUINAS BUILDS

PREVIOUS POSTS IN THIS SERIES:
JUST WAR PART 1: THE TIMES OF AUGUSTINE
JUST WAR PART 2: THE THEORY OF AUGUSTINE

NG002104Augustine got the Just War ball rolling in the late 4th Century by outlining three kinds of wars he believed God's people can support. And his theories were not changed for the most part but instead grew in popularity among Catholics.

Then along came Thomas Aquinas 900 years later, in the 13th Century (1225-1274), to spearhead the next big evolution in Just War theory. The High Middle Ages in which Aquinas lived were more academic and systematic than the times of Augustine. So Aquinas felt the need to make Augustine's teachings more relevant to his culture and its modern situations and did so by systematizing them, setting definite criteria that must be met in order to justify a war.

He crafted three conditions, based on logic/pragmatism and not scripture, for deeming a war legitimate:
1. A just cause
2. A right intention
3. A declaration from a "legitimate authority"

Aquinas also made it clear that he and Augustine saw no glory in war and did not view war or violence as a "positive moral good"(1). "He made a presumption in favor of peace and held that one who wants to go to war had to be able to explain why the greater good demanded rupture of the peace."(2) A good explanation, a just war, were the exception and not the rule, not the majority of man's wars at the time - in Aquinas' thinking.

Just War theory began gaining massive theological authority among Catholics once Aquinas agreed with Augustine's basic premise on the justification of war and then added his own criteria on top of it. So much so that the opinions of these two men approached the status of dogma within the Church.

SOURCES:
1. George Weigel, Tranquilitas Ordinis (new York: Oxford University Press, 1987), p37
2. Air Power History, Vol.39, No.3, Fall 1992, p38. Copyright and published 1992 by the Air Force Historical Foundation
Picture Inset: 1476 St. Thomas Aquinas by Carlo Crivelli

Got thoughts? Post a comment below or discuss on my message-board.

OUCH






Warning to all you country music loving SHLOGGERS: This is gonna sting a little.

Check out a recent rant over at RelevantMagazine.com about country music. They even take a swing at Music City itself. Here's a taste:

"Country music used to have real men like Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Lyle Lovett and Johnny Cash. These men you would actually believe grew up in the country and worked hard for a living. In the last 10 years country music has made a joke of itself, and if I were a country music artist, I would be embarrassed to be a part of it. These new country artists live in their mansions in Nashville, have never worked a day in their lives and sing about NASCAR, watermelons and women. The songs range from cheesy to cheesier, no one bothering to attempt anything that hasn’t been done before. It’s hard to tell one song from the other. The men sing in the same “speaking more than singing” voice trying to sound like they grew up on the ranch. It truly is a sad day for country music because there is no room for innovation, and unfortunately the Redneck Comedy Tour has had a direct effect on the market all too much. Now people think it’s somehow “cool” to be a hick (which I would define as “an unintelligent man or woman with no social graces and no desire to better themselves in any way or sometimes take a shower”). "

Off course it's only fair to mention that Relevant Magazine is created and published by Floridians. Maybe the humidity has molded a few brain cells. Or maybe they're right. What do you think?

Got thoughts? Post a comment below or discuss on my message-board.

WILLIAMSON COUNTY FAIR

GOATS, RIDES, FUNNEL CAKES AND FERRIS WHEELS.

fair

PLAY

TWO KIDS + ONE OFFICE CHAIR = FUN

chair

"We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing."
~George Bernard Shaw

8/08/2005

ENOUGH

AX048719An apartment. A bike. A card table and chairs. Three meals a day. A black and white TV and a beanbag chair.

Is that enough?

A two bedroom siding covered house. A garage with a car bought used inside. A couch and overstuffed chair. A grill on the back porch and the occasional steak in the freezer. A color TV with basic cable.

Enough yet?

A three bedroom brick and siding house. A two car garage with a SUV and four door car inside. A couch in the den and one in the bonus room. A deck, basement and playground for the kids. A neighborhood swimming pool and association dues to match. Eating out a couple times a week. A 32 inch TV with extended cable.

How's that?

A four bedroom brick house with hardwood floors in a gated community with pond out back. A sports car and SUV in the garage. A boat in the works. Couches and chairs and coffee tables and lots more in the sun room, den, sitting area, master bedroom, bonus room and finished basement. A wrap around deck, swimming pool, fenced in backyard with benches beneath lush shade trees. Intercom, speakers and built-in vacuum system throughout. Membership at the club. Golf once a week. Eating out daily. A flat screen HD-TV with full cable pumped through a surround sound entertainment system.

How about now?

There are 6 billion people in the world.

“Today, 1.3 billion people live on less than one dollar a day; 3 billion live on under two dollars a day; 1.3 billion have no access to clean water; 3 billion have no access to sanitation; 2 billion have no access to electricity.” (James Wolfenson, The Other Crisis, World Bank, October 1998, quoted from The Reality of Aid 2000, (Earthscan Publications, 2000), p.10)

We're putting a "For Sale" sign in our yard this week. Our first step away from the American dream and towards helping those without enough. Your move.

Got thoughts? Post a comment below or discuss on my message-board.

8/06/2005

SUPERSIMBO

simboMy favorite blog at the moment is Supersimbo , a space mainatained by Ally Simpson, age 27, of Ireland. I don't know where Ally lives exactly but his church is in Ballymena - wherever that is.

I'm a stupid American. And like most other stupid Americans I have generally had no knowledge of the world beyond North America, and little desire to have any. But in the last few years, as I've grown old and boring enough to actually watch the news now and then, and as I've been taught more and more about the vast spiritual and physical needs of people beyond out borders, I've learned words like "Asia" and "Australia." And I've had the opportunity to go to far off exotic lands like Norway, Ecuador and, yes, even Ireland.

My only trip to the land of fish, chips and Guinness was about two years ago while touring with Michael W. Smith in the UK. We stopped in Belfast and played at a Protestant church. I was the opener, playing only fifteen minutes each night, and as I finished my second song of three that evening a man began climbing the stairs to the stage. The crowd hushed as he approached the microphone, whispering to me that he had a brief announcement to make.

"Just a brief announcement. If you're parked in lot C you need to move your car. There's a group burning cars."

*giggling from a few in the crowd*

"If you're laughing right now you must be a visitor to our church. I'm not joking. They're burning cars and you need to move them if you're parked in lot C."

*a brief pause while a few people casually rose to, presumedly, move their cars from lot C*

He then explained that the violence was being carried out by a group of Catholics in the neighborhood who did not want this crowd of Protestants parking in front of their houses. This group had had harassed Protestants in the area before. These Catholic fellow Christians called their protectors, an armed gang in the area with ties to a political faction, to run the Protestant concert-goers off. Then...

"Back to you Shaun."

I was dumbfounded. I didn't want to sing. I wanted to pray. So I did.

We prayed for a few minutes for the enemies of the crowd, for the crowd to be empowered supernaturally with the ability to love their enemies, for healing and unity among Christians in Ireland and around the world, for the protection of those in the parking lots moving their vehicles, for this church to be a beacon of peace and forgiveness and gentleness to a neighborhood inhabited by hatred, and for God's names to gain renown somehow through the night's drama.

Then I played my last song. I left the stage. And I retired to a pastor's office where I sat, nosed pressed against glass, looking for any signs of trouble, any reasons to flee, and wondering what I would do if I lived in Belfast for more than a day. Would I be as persistent in my church going, as forgiving as I was that night, and as casual about the beliefs I held? Probably not.

Ally's faith looks different from mine because his life is different from mine. His language is harsh by American evangelical standards at times. He drinks alcohol openly and so does, I'm guessing, every Christian he knows. His faith appears through his writing to be impassioned and urgent, graceful, focussed on the matters that matter and not legalistically trivial and nit-picking. His words on politics, faith, music, sports and daily life where he lives keep the window open to a night and a nation where I learned to pray for my enemies and first felt tethered to, knitted together with, another kind Christian and the Church world-wide.

Thanks Ally for your honesty and faithful blogging. My prayers are with you and the rest of my spiritual family fighting within itself in N.Ireland.

Got thoughts? Post a comment below or discuss on my message-board.

DAY OFF

I'm taking today off to watch cartoons, eat Cheerios, and just do as little as possible that resembles work. See you tomorrow.

8/05/2005

HAPPY CAMPER

I'm heading out the door in a minute to meet with two guys who want to create a youth camp called "IKON" with me as a lead teacher. They have many years of experience in this field, yet they're letting me have a say in just about everything. (?) They want my input on what this camp should look like, where it should be, what the schedule of the day will be, what will be taught and how, any other activities we'll offer and anything else I have suggestions for.

Problem is I didn't go to camp much as a youth - only three times. Maybe you did. So if you could create the perfect camp experience for a younger high school aged you, knowing what you know now, what would it look like?

JUST WAR PART 2: THE THEORY OF AUGUSTINE

PREVIOUS POSTS IN THIS SERIES:
PART 1: THE TIMES OF AUGUSTINE

AAMB001061"In Augustine's theory, three kinds of war were morally defensible: a defensive war against aggression, a war to gain just reparations for previous wrong, and a war to recover stolen property."(1) There may be biblical foundations for Augustine's deciding only to accept these three kinds of wars, or to accept any war at all, but none are given by the many sources I've read on the subject. Instead, what I've found most often given in Augustine's defense, as his rationale, is his seeking a practical logical compromise between rejecting all wars as evil and accepting all wars as virtuous.

"By limiting war to these categories the great theologian and bishop believed he had been faithful to both his religious doctrines and his civic duty."(2)

Augustine adapted church doctrine on war, largely accepted but not without it's detractors, and made it easier for Rome to swallow - whether this was his intention or not. Christians fearing for their lives and the Emperor fearing for his empire were now given permission by God's representative to wage three kinds of war. This change in doctrine had momentous repercussions, for the Catholic Church was soon the dominant institution in the West, posing less threat to principalities fond of the sword.

"In midieval Europe the writings of Augustine acquired a status next to the Bible and became the chief authority in matters of faith and ethics...And so, for hundreds of years the writings of Augustine provided Western civilization with its notion of the morality of war. The chief feature of this understanding was that at times a nation had a right, indeed a duty, to go to war."(3)

SOURCES:
1. George Weigel, Tranquilitas Ordinis (new York: Oxford University Press, 1987), p29
2. Air Power History, Vol.39, No.3, Fall 1992, p38. Copyright and published 1992 by the Air Force Historical Foundation
3. Ibid

Inset picture: ca. 1490 "Saint Augustine in His Study" by Sandro Botticelli

Got thoughts? Post a comment below or discuss on my message-board.

8/04/2005

SHLOG SHIRT

Why make a SHLOG.COM shirt? Because I can.

This is the one idea created so far. If there are more I'll let you guys choose the final design to be printed. The artwork is in black and white for now but colors will be chosen later...by you again. Comments are welcomed as always.

FRONT:
SHLOGSHIRTFRONT

BACK:
SHLOGSHIRTBACK

Images not actual size.

-SG

JUST WAR PART 1: THE TIMES OF AUGUSTINE

I DON'T CARE ABOUT JUST WAR!! I know you don't. I didn't either until I accidentally studied it and realized that it's history has much to teach us about how we modern Christians decide what is right and wrong. In the end this series is not about just Just War doctrine but instead has serious implications for any Christian belief we cling to today without question or reservation. I hope we all ask ourselves when this series is over what other beliefs we hold fast to without knowing their history or biblical basis. Why do we baptize the way we do at my church? Why do we have these books in the bible and not some others? Why do I believe that about salvation and this about heaven? I hope we start asking tough questions about ideas we've believed too easily.

Upfront I must admit I am not a subscriber to Just War doctrine. But I will do my best to present the facts of it's history and give many sources along the way from those wise men and women who do support it. This history then is not hewn from the theories of its detractors but from it's most notable supporters. It flows from the pen of one of it's fiercest opponents: me.

As always I teach to learn. Help me get my facts straight and my thoughts sharper. Post comments as often and as long as you'd like. I'll read them all and learn a lot I'm sure.

So let's get started. Part 1: The Times of Augustine.

DB006640The story of the Just War tradition begins with Augustine, a Catholic bishop in Hippo. Augustine, who died in A.D. 430, wrote and ministered at a time when Christians were becoming popular - a significant percentage of the Roman population. This popularity occurred in part because of the strange conversion of the Roman Emperor to Christianity - what some see as a miraculous blessing to our faith and others view as the beginning of the end of true orthodox Christianity.

Constantine "converted" to Christianity, unifying the Christians and the kingdom of Rome in the process, while at the same time keeping his position as high priest of the official pagan state religion of the Empire. Then, in A.D. 313, Emperor Constantine made Christianity's acceptance law, declaring the religion legal and embarking on a grand church building project and eventually the establishment of Catholicism - modeled after the Roman government's structures and hierarchy.

Now, with Constantine's blessing, Christians could engage in every facet of civic life. And with the government's support Christians soon infiltrated every level of government, acting as soldiers and advisors and rulers in a kingdom created and maintained by warfare. Christian theology on war would soon change.

Enter Augustine. Living in Hippo, a Roman province in Africa, he was endangered by the Vandals moving across Spain and, by the time of his death, attacking Hippo itself. Augustine also feared the fall of the Roman Empire and the now massive Church in Rome as a result of constant pressure from the "barbarians" attacking every major city and the Visgoths invading Rome. Rome was built through conquest and had earned many enemies along the way. It was envied and lusted after by seemingly every neighbor and continually under attack on all sides. To make matters worse, some Christians had splintered off from the Catholic Church and were burning Catholic churches and harassing their members. Rome was under siege from within and without. At stake was not just an Empire but the very kingdom of God on earth: the Roman Catholic Church.

In the face of such dangers "Augustine could not simply reaffirm the strain of Christian thinking that had rejected all use of force. He foresaw social disaster if evildoers were not opposed, and he sought an answer that both PROTECTED SOCIETY and MAINTAINED CHRISTIAN FAITH. "(1)

It was under these hostile conditions and with this intent that Augustine began crafting a theology that other generations would build upon and later call Just War doctrine.

SOURCES:
(1) Air Power History, Vol.39, No.3, Fall 1992, pp.37. Copyright and published 1992 by the Air Force Historical Foundation

Inset picture: "Constantine the Great"

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8/03/2005

PERSPECTIVE

91720-09I'm grateful for an imagination, for the ability to run through reality a thread of fantasy. I like that my present is always infected with blurry fragments of the past and unbound wonderings about the future that keep me sane. My life is less boring and my mind a lot cluttered and circus-like because my inner child is surrounded by mad scientists and historians, philosophers and adventurers whose sole purpose for taking up space inside my brain seems to be to distort and enrich my perspective on everything - to increase my appreciation and awe of the most mundane experiences.

Caesar talks to me on a visit to Manhattan to see my sister-in-law. He asks me how so many people are governed and can't understand how we've turned stone into such shimmering towers. He holds his ears in defense against the constant buzz of the modern city and ducks at the siren shrieks of a passing police car.

Mozart scratches his head on a recent car ride to the grocery store. He stares, head tilted to one side, at the melodies of centuries-dead musicians pouring from the speakers in the door. And he argues with me about whether Nirvana, or any modern music for that matter, is music at all. But as it turns out he's a closet fan of VanHalen, the David Lee Roth era, and doesn't know why - and that disturbs us both.

Moses meets Jesus. Jesus meets Luther. Luther meets Spurgeon. They all meet Tammy Fay Baker and Benny Hinn and decide to change the channel. Then we grab some Starbucks at church and debate every nuance of the service until Jesus makes us feel foolish for doing so by simply shaking His head and laughing to Himself at the grape juice passed to Him in a tiny plastic cup. At Cracker Barrel afterwards I try to get the gang's take on predestination but they're too fascinated by the singing snowmen and light up nativity scenes in the gift shop to ever give a satisfying answer.

Solomon cleans out the basement with me and marvels at the stuff I throw out and put in the Goodwill sack by the door. He tries on an old velvet jacket, petting its silk lining and fumbling with it's buttons. He gently holds a discarded scratched CD in his hand and slowly turns it in the sunlight, stunned by it's other worldly beauty.

A cro-magnon man clutches the arm rest as we take off from Denver. White knuckled and extremely confused he eventually eases his body close enough to the window to peer down through the clouds at the twinkling cityscape. His chest puffs out as his hairy face littered with pretzel crumbs beams with childlike exuberance. He must feel like a god.

I talk to an independent artist after a show and I'm joined by a younger more optimistic and unguarded me. I see my shoulders slumped and my finger nails chewed. I hear the quiver in my voice and spot a bulge in my back pocket - a cassette tape of the three songs of mine my mom likes the most.

My dad once told me around age five, on a grueling trip to see grandparents, that a bored person is a boring person. I second that and add that a bored person has lost perspective. Perspective is recaptured for me by peering at the world through another set of eyes, even if those eyes are imaginary. Anything can become technicolor. The present can become science fiction. The numb modern man can become sensitive again to the wonderful details all around him. And the mundane can be made over. Gratitude and inspiration are just right around the corner then and life is anything but boring.

The trick is to somehow keep listening to the voices in my head, keep nurturing the optimism and whimsy in my brain while parents, therapists, spouses, bosses and responsibilities do their best at times to strap us all down, pour into us a heaping dose of gray reality, brand today and us "average" and shove us in with the rest of the herd.

But Einstein won't let them take me like that. Not today. He's got Pythagoras coming by to help me hang some pictures in the bedroom for Becky. After that we're taking a trip to the zoo with Francis of Assisi and we might take in a little Veggie Tales after nap time and get Walt Disney's and Rembrandt's take on the talking cucumber and tomato. Should be anything but an ordinary day.
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8/02/2005

FROM THE ROAD: ESTES PARK, CO (DAY 2)

pianoestesCompassion International invited me to play at a concert they put on last night here at Music In The Rockies in Estes Park, CO. The week's festivities in general are organized and funded etc by the Gospel Music Association, but there are individual classes and concerts all week sponsored by organizations like Worship Leader Magazine, Gospel For Asia and the creators of the how-to Songwriter's Experience DVD to name a few.

guitarestesLast night's Compassion sponsored concert was MC'd by Geoff Moore and showcased Ginny Owens, Zoe Girl, a reunited Big Tent Revival, independent artist Alli Rogers and headliner Jeremy Camp. I was afraid that this would be a stoic snobby industry crowd but instead most of the 1000 Music In The Rockies registrants and many from the surrounding cities came together - 1800 in all - to enjoy music and sponsor over 200 children around the world in need of food, shelter, education and the mind-boggling revelation that God sees and loves them. It was one of the liveliest laughingest crowds I've ever had the privilege of playing for. Thank for coming out.

After the show Brian and I hun out at Cafe Estes, a late night showcase of independent talent that's supposed to represent the day's best competitors. Oh yea, I guess I forgot to mention that for many the focus of this week is the song writing, singing, and instrumentalist competitions - a la American Idol, but without the promise of a record deal. More helpful than winning is the opportunity to be heard by industry professionals and chew on their critical input and advice. For the teachable musician the competition, shows, seminars and hang time with professionals is a catalyst for improvement and an incredible one-of-a-kind education. It's not "useless" for the registrant choosing the classes they take and the conversations they start wisely. It is not, however, the place to be discovered or signed. Music In The Rockies is simply a beautiful humbling classroom for musicians.

roomWe woke this morning in our luxurious nature-cooled cabin, did some ironing and showering, and headed out to my classroom for the day. I taught a crammed room of students about the theology of worship and challenged us not to define worship by the way our pastors use it every Sunday (brother so-and-so will now lead us in worship) and not to allow the music business, magazines, radio stations or anyone else define it for us either. Instead I urged the class to study the writings of God to discover what it means to worship Him. What we learned together in our short time together this morning was that the word "worship" in the bible never refers to music but often refers to actions and attitudes like submission, reverence, service and slave labor. I hope the folks who came to my session leave Estes Park, whether "winners" or "losers", knowing that God doesn't call us His worshippers because we can sing but because we serve and slave and make His invisible character visible here, not by raising our hands and voices, but by stretching our hands out to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and fight for the poor and oppressed long after the music fades. I hope they leave better worshipers as well as better musicians.

mountainsBrian and I are currently at a table in the main lodge at Estes, intermittently meeting new musicians who come over and introduce themselves and catching up on e-mails and other work. We'll leave shortly for the Denver airport and fly back to suburban life where the beauty of creation is a little less obvious to the hurried eye. But we're re-energized having spent so much time the last two days with wide-eyed optimistic musicians who want to be where we are doing what we do. Flattering. Humbling. I guess I really do have a pretty cool job and a great opportunity daily to use it to inspire and redirect lives. I'm thankful for that reminder this week.

Thanks GMA, Compassion International and everyone who stopped to talk with me. See you next year I hope.

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8/01/2005

FROM THE ROAD: USELESS PARK, CO

When I first moved to town, back when I worked as an intern at a publishing company, the writers and suits are the place talked about this great golf trip they took every year to Colorado - to a place they called "Useless Park." They did some writing, some mingling and lots of swinging at a little white ball. And they loved it.

I had no idea what Useless Park was or why it was so...useless. Was that a gripe or a compliment? Hard to tell among jaded music professionals sometimes. There's a fine line between cynical and thankful sometimes.

rockies_eventsummaryBut now I'm here and about to discover for myself what this place is all about. Turns out it's actually called "Estes Park" and it's a gathering of independent artists and professional musicians of all "Christian" genres coming together to learn and refresh and take in the beauty of the Rocky Mountains.

There are two views of the Gospel Music Association's Music In The Rockies conference held here every year: 1.It's an essential and life changing conference for anyone in pursuit of a "Christian" record deal. 2.It's a waste of a lot of money for the independent artists it claims to benefit and is instead created as PR for the industry and recreation for it's professionals.

I'll weigh in with my two cents of course after I experience it for myself and do my best to make my participation in it meaningful for me and those in attendance.

6-1Even if Estes really does turn out to be useless, at the very least I got to wake up in a corridor of America whose skyline is interrupted by snowcapped and tree dotted mountain peaks instead of steel and concrete creations of man. As artists it's fitting and humbling to come together at God's footstool, in the middle of his masterpieces, naked and unadorned by our doodlings and rendering of Him. Here it's hard not to feel small. And that's good for us big rock stars every now and then.

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