Sunday, August 26, 2012

What if we were made to do nothing?

A while ago, I was geeking out on some NOVA videos, and ran into this:

For those of you too busy to watch a little under 3 minutes of video, it's basically a story about how some rabbi some time around the advent of the modern era defined electricity as "lighting a fire" and therefore "work" on the sabbath, and so many observant Jews don't operate electric things from Friday night sundown (sundown is the start of the Jewish day) until Saturday night sundown in order to keep a the Sabbath. But what do you do if you live on the 15th floor? Hence, sabbath elevators that are programmed to stop on every floor.

Why is the sabbath such a big deal to Jewish people? At times, it really seems like more work to keep it than it would be to just push an elevator button. What's the big deal? Why all the fuss? Why is it in the top 10 along with "no adultery" and "no murder?"

"Far from idleness being the root of all evil, it is rather the only true good."--Søren Kierkegaard

 If you look at the Ten Commandments in Deuteronomy 5 (the reasoning is slightly different from Exodus 20) there's an interesting comment on this:

 Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.
I've never been a slave, but I have struggled not to be a work-a-holic, and I think they have some striking similarities. When you need to work to feel significant or for your life to have value, then the way you spend your time (which adds up to be the way you spend your life) isn't really up to you, is it? It's up to the job. Or the boss, or the company, or the church, or the people in your employ. All the while your soul is dying the death of a thousand tiny paper cuts completely unaware. Then you look up and realize you hate your life, and you deserve it.

But God would spare us that pain. He commands us to go a different way. We were never created for slavery, but for His pleasure, and because He is good, our own. We were made for shalom--for peace, joy, and life in abundance. But we don't want it. We want to do things our own way. We want to earn our worth and our happiness, and it fails every time.

It's not like there isn't work to be done, or that all work is bad. In fact, if you read the story, Adam was a very busy farmer/biologist before he met Eve, and presumably for the time he spent with her before the fall. Work is a gloriously good thing. But like any good thing, without God, it becomes a curse.

So, we're in the process of moving across the country to plant a church (great activity for a guy who struggles with being a work-a-holic right?). Through a strange sequence of events, we found ourselves with a "month of limbo" in which we couldn't stay in our old place or move into the new place. The plan was for me to go out and stay with friends and look for a job while Kara hung back and took care of Bolt and spent some time with her folks. Then the day before I would have left to drive across the country, Kara got a great job with benefits! So she went out to start working, and I stayed behind with the baby. At first I had to mourn the loss of an adventure and the challenge of job hunting all by my self in the big city. I'm sure finding the job all on my own and all the things I could have accomplished would have made me feel invincible--a very dangerous place to be, especially when attempting to live for Jesus. But God arranged things so I was forced to hang back and bond with my son, read books, mooch off my parents, and do a lot of nothing.

It took some time getting used to. I have been working 50+ hours/week for most of the last 7 years. I actually prefer to be about that busy or I don't feel like I'm getting anything done. Meanwhile my poor wife is out in the big city all alone, without her baby. But this was the growth we both needed. Kara's been stretched, and we've missed each other and appreciated each other in ways we weren't previously aware of. I've been challenged to see the quality of life I would settle for vs. the kind of life my loving Father offers. Spending a lot of time playing with Bolt, I've had to meditate on how needy he is and how much I want to care for his needs, and how much I like him. I've had to see how much he needs me (and his mom) and how much I need God. I've seen how oblivious he is to my plans to one day not change his diapers and how liberating that will be for him, even though he obviously can't conceive of such a thing. I so love it when he giggles. He's even cute when he cries. I'm watching him change and grow up before my eyes and realizing how short and important the time is that we have together. I'm realizing that I'm called to be a good father, that the desire to protect, instruct, & equip my son with the skills and values he'll need in adulthood is not merely an evolutionary impulse built into us for the survival of the species, but something God desires for me to experience so that I and Bolt can get ready to spend eternity with Him. I've drank a lot of beer and wine around a fire pit with my dad, and we've shared stories of football, and ministry, and mischief. I've had time to experience the blessing that this life is and what it can be, and I'm inspired to give to my son what I've received from my dad and my Heavenly Dad. And some other really great stuff I haven't processed yet.

I'm sure that sleeping on a bunch of dudes' couches would have been fun, particularly because I like all the hospitable people I was going to stay with, but I'm positive that it wouldn't have been all that. Some things you just can't get through working. In fact I think all of the really important stuff we gain in this life is a gift that literally, according to definition, can not be earned. Things like faith, hope, love. These are the things Jesus intends to give us and that we can't fully appreciate without taking a break from our toilsome labor.

And that's why rest isn't optional.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Some thoughts on Editing

Let me begin by saying that editing--in print at least--is a largely lost art to most Americans, and that this is a great tragedy that results in a lot of crap on the internet (and perhaps this blog is not exempted from this criticism).

How is it that we have missed the power of editing?

It seems to me that in an age of social media, editing ought to be more intuitive than at any other time in history, since we all engage in it whenever we manage our facebook profiles. We delete the bad photos, post the best ones, update about things that are interesting, or make us seem interesting, and generally try to make ourselves look awesome. We are making resumes of our coolness. Editing is an integral part of this process, although it occurs to me that maybe the editing process is only the accidental by-product of an insatiable pursuit of connection and acceptance from our cloud of peers--not something that occurs with any sort of thoughtful intention.

(I recently cleaned up and made some changes to my own profile, since I'm moving to a new city and will be applying for jobs and hopefully making new facebook friends, and real friends. I want the picture I present to be accurate, and slightly flattering. Who wouldn't?)

So this week my dad and I hauled something like 11,000 paintings from my grandmother's basement in Pittsburg, KS to my dad's basement in Overland Park, KS. Whatever you say about Norma, and whatever you think about the quality of her work, you must admit one thing.

She was prolific.

Most of her paintings were not done on canvas, although hundreds were on canvas. Most of the canvas ones have been given to various United Methodist Churches in Southeast Kansas. Or youth home facilities, or banks, or public buildings. I'd bet it's pretty difficult to walk into a city building in Pittsburg, KS without running into one of her paintings. A good chunk of the paintings are on 1/4" particle board. And thousands are on poster-board.

A few of her paintings look like this.
How much would you pay for this?

Some of her paintings look like this.
This one's on foam presentation board. It's in the "Norma Bombing" pile.

I love my grandma. She was a painter. She was a grandma. She was a prayer warrior. She never really reconciled with her sister. She held grudges. She gave generously. She was a lousy cook. She spent the years after her husband died busying herself cooking for the AA groups at her church, painting, and teaching writing classes for other widows in her church. One of her old-lady friends published 3 books as a result.

We always edit when we conceive of a person in our minds, even with ourselves. It's impossible not to do. It's difficult to not let a first impression determine the entire course of a relationship.

At some point while packing all these pieces up, my dad quoted an artist friend:

"You have to make 1,000 crappy paintings before you make a good one. The trick is getting them out." 

I think there's some truth in that statement for almost anything in life. Writing. Song writing. Conversations with a person you care deeply about. Preaching. Praying for the sick. Wine making. Window washing. Programming. Kissing. Well, some people are just naturally gifted at some things. But one thing that separates really "good" artists from the mediocre is how well they edit. 

Back to kissing and conversations and prayer: some things you can't edit. You just have to take risks and muddle through if it doesn't go the way you want it to go. There's no way to pray for the sick and get a 100% success rate. (Although I dare say God has a different definition of "success" than we do.) A first kiss will always be awkward and a little scary--it's part of the fun right? Without honesty there are no hurt feelings, and no true communication.

The nice thing about editing is it allows us to cover up our mistakes. The dangerous thing is that we get addicted to the feeling of control it gives us. 

But sooner or later, somebody's going to go through and look at every painting you've ever painted and have an opinion.

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them.  And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars —they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”--Revelation 20:11-21:8 NIV, emphasis mine.
No use playing it safe or trying to hide our true selves from God. Good news is he likes us, and is merciful, because of Jesus.

Maybe you can measure the depth and importance of a relationship by how much you edit (or are able to edit) yourself in that relationship.

Facebook profile = highly edited = shallow "friendship," they only see what you want them to see
Work/school colleagues = edited, for sake of "professionalism" = some degree of being known
Nuclear Family = less edited = pretty important relationships
Spouse of 30 years = not able to hide much = known by this person better than anyone else
God = He sees right through you = He knows ALL your crap, loves you deeply in spite of it

(Of course, just because a relationship is important, doesn't mean that it's healthy. That takes intention on both sides.)

Part of me wonders what my grandma would think of me putting her art up in public places. What sort of impression does it give people of my grandma? Would she be proud or upset?

I guess I'll find out later.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

On the Ignorance and Poverty of my Wealth

By the grace of God I am very blessed to live in a wonderful 2 bedroom apartment with my pregnant wife in Springfield, MO. We're celebrating our 6 year anniversary this year with a "stay-cation." We're not going anywhere or doing anything, really. I took today off of work and we sat around watching season 6 of Lost on hulu using our free trial of hulu plus, which we absolutely have to cancel at the end of this week, and enjoyed each other's company. I went garage-saling this morning. It was nice. I'm a very blessed man.

But I just took the trash out. And while this week I might find it a little easier to count my many blessings, especially in light of the devastation of Joplin, MO that is getting national attention, at the garbage bin I was suddenly struck with the ruinous ignorance and poverty I'm subject to by being a normal, American citizen.

In the garbage bin I opened, I see that someone has emptied out their refrigerator, presumably because many leases are up this weekend. I always hate to see food go to waste, but something about it struck me as particularly tragic. There was a loaf of sliced wheat bread, only a few pieces missing, not moldy. A box of unopened, slightly thawed (can you tell I dug through this a little bit?) frozen taquitos. A reusable-disposable container of some kind of leftover casserole, a few half-full bottles of hard liquour, a jug of milk, now about half spoiled, I'd guess it's been there for about 2 hours, it was still cool to the touch. The most notable, and potentially salvageable thing--the item that made me dig around and look at all this--a 24-pack of Rock-star Energy Cola, one or two cans missing, still cool to the touch. I thought seriously about grabbing it, but I don't know that I like Rock-star Energy Cola because I've never tried it, and I know enough about nutrition and I'm an old man enough to know that I know that I don't want to like it. So I just let it sit there.

100 miles away, just an hour's drive down I-44, hundreds of people are suddenly homeless without food and shelter, and here is a refrigerator's worth of edible food, just spoiling in the trash can. And I'm not really scrambling to try to save it because it's been in the trash can.

We have our fair share of homeless people that wander our neighborhood here too. With our proximity to the 2 large Christian charities, Victory Mission and the Kitchen, we get a lot of homeless traffic, and even the occasional knock on the door asking for money.

Something within me is tempted to launch into a tirade about how wasteful this faceless, nameless enemy (& neighbor) is, but it's the plain truth that I am just as bad. I don't want to eat the perfectly good food or even try to salvage it for some other cause because it's "dirty." In many places around the world people would kill for these scraps, and there are even many without shelter and struggling to get their basic needs met less than an hour away.

I do not mean to complain about my station in life, on this week of all weeks, at this time when we recognize the sacrifices others have made so that we can enjoy the wealthy standard of living we all take for granted--indeed--that we even apparently discard before use for the sake of convenience. But I do think that it is appropriate to note simply the truth that in many ways our wealth, the opulent abundance that is "common" to millions, this ease and convenience of living disables us. We know very little about how to make it without the many conveniences we take for granted. And the smallest inconvenience of walking--or even driving 2 blocks to make a food donation to a local charity, or to get our hands a little dirty in order to save something wasted--this inconvenience is apparently too daunting or too expensive or too risky. We are, by and large, hopelessly dependent upon convenience and comfort.

Except for the survivors of Joplin, MO.

A particularly inspiring case is that of my friend Arin Gilbert's dad. He is a truck-driver from Joplin who (miraculously?) survived the tornado in the shelter of his sofa. His response to the case of the tragedy is particularly inspiring, and gives me hope for humanity and our nation.Link
If a tornado suddenly swept away my home and all my possessions, I would have no idea how to survive. I would have no idea how to hunt or gather food, or to build a shelter. In a very real way, my wealth makes me vulnerable, and weak, and stupid. I've never been forced to come up with a solution to these problems and so I am more or less helpless to solve them at 28 years old. If I were in the place of many people in Joplin, I would be utterly dependent on the mercy of others. I could not help myself. And praise God for that, because it means I have been very blessed with riches that would be unimaginable to most of the millions of people who have ever lived.

It is important to count our blessings and to share them, particularly at this time and place in southwestern Missouri. And I also believe that it is healthy to recon how fragile our apparently secure existence is on this earth, and to recon our very survival a blessing to be cherished. Take a note from Quincy Gilbert, who lives.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Disabling Comments, Enabling my Voice

I'm taking a note from Mark Sayers and Ty Melgren and disabling the comments on my blog.

Who is Ty you may ask?

Ty is this fantastic guy whom I admire very much who is a faithful member of our church and who serves Jesus and almost anyone he meets with gusto and intensity. He does so quietly and will almost never toot his own horn. Actually, I don't think I've ever heard him brag or say a single self-aggrandizing thing. He must be one of the best people that I know, and a few months ago he did a radical thing. He quit Facebook. He just closed his account. I went to tag him in a photo and found I couldn't do it. And I couldn't leave a comment on his wall to ask him why I couldn't tag him. I just had to ask him in person.

Let that sink in a moment.

I did ask him about it in person, and his answer challenged me, and I have checked in with Facebook much less often since we talked. He told me that he was finding himself constantly concerned with his status and the status of other people "in" his life. That he was only relating to people online that he used to relate to in person, and that too much of his life was constantly obsessed with these shallow and fleeting sound-bytes of self-edited reality. He found himself worried and stressed out by whether or not people would comment on his status--particularly the fact that others seemed to be interested and leave 20 comments on the most banal of posts and would seem to completely ignore the ones that he had intended to spark deeper, meaningful discussion. Frustrated with this, and following the example of a few peers (looking at you Mr. Eaton) and rumors of those brave souls who live their lives without being "connected" to the 500 million accounts of Facebook. He just opted out of the narcissism and constant striving for the praise of other people that occurs through updates and "likes."

Ty's example has caused me to question my own motivation for blogging. I have wondered whether or not the kind of things I talk about here and the things I want to see happen can happen through this media form or not. I feel that I want to have my cake and eat it too. I want the benefits of "engaging" with the bells and whistles of my culture without the cost of getting soiled by its unseemly side-effects. As a person who tends to see even the most clear-cut issues in shades of grey, I have, perhaps out of fear, opted for a middle ground.

I don't care what you think about this post.

I don't say this out of spite, malice, or some sense of superiority. In fact, I am sure that if you and I were to sit down and talk about the things that you think really matter, you would teach me a great deal about myself, God, the nature of reality, and my own weakness and ineptitude, for the simple fact that you are fearfully and wonderfully made by a loving Creator who has hidden aspects of Himself inside of you, and that no matter how broken and twisted He has placed there on purpose and will redeem if you will but ask, even if you are someone that many people consider to be a loser or a jerk. For God's love for you and for His glory revealed by your existence, you are worth knowing and listening to.

But I say this for myself. Your praise is ultimately just that. Your praise. Your opinion. What you "like" or "unlike" or find worthy of comment, while I value you inasmuch as I know you and know how to, I just can't make myself vulnerable to your whims and judgments. You aren't a just judge. You don't have the information, the goodness, or the wisdom to be. There's a lot you don't know about me, and as much if not more that I don't know about you, and for us to really hash out our disagreements, to really value each other and have a relationship worth having, we'll just have to do that by other means. And I find myself, like Ty, and like I suppose... every other person, tempted to bend my will to get you to "like" me--to approve and to praise my ego. This is wrong. And this way must be abandoned if we are to proceed in a way that is good to each other.

This is a very long way to say that I have come to think that when it comes to a blog--in which prose is posited thoughtfully and carefully for consumption and meaningful consideration for the simple fact that it takes more than a second of your time--if something is worth blogging about, it is worth blogging about with comments disabled.

What I am saying, I am saying whether or not you like it, whether or not you think it is interesting or worth commenting on, because it is worth saying and broadcasting on the internet, because it is good and true and ought to be known. Take it or leave it. If you like it or don't like it, that doesn't change what I have written, and you can certainly e-mail me or talk to me in person, but I am using this space to say things that I believe ought to be said, and if I enable the comments, I might think too much about you and your subjective little preferences. This isn't to say that those who enable comments are posting their posts in order to attract many positive comments and "likes." But I find myself too weak to engage in this meaningfully and well. At the same time, I'm proud enough to think I have something to say, even if only to the dozen or so friends who might read this thing. We can talk about it over a pint or a cup of Joe anytime you like. We could write e-mails or talk over the phone about it, or better yet write real letters! But I just can't do the comments. They gum up my creative works with insecurity and sin. So I'm opting out.

And by the way, Happy Easter. The Lord is risen! He is risen indeed.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Invitations vs. Sales

Every now and then I get up the guts and think it's wise to invite somebody to church.

Why should such a thing take courage and wisdom? Let me give you my perspective.

We live in a culture where we are constantly inundated with advertising. Many people, understandably, mistake an invitation to a Christian worship gathering as a form of advertising for a spiritual product. In fact, Western Evangelicals have done a lot to cause this misunderstanding by directly engaging in forms of communication in the name of Jesus that are indistinguishable from the predominant folk-religion of our culture, which is completely oriented around the purchase and consumption of experiences. The result of living in a culture so full of advertising with many people leads to a default position of skepticism and cynicism concerning the advertised "promise." We have cliché adages to communicate the wisdom in a position of skepticism and cynicism towards the plastic promises of so many advertisers--modern proverbs if you will-- "I'll believe it when I see it." "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is."

For example, Geico "could save me 15% or more on car insurance with a 15 minute phone call," but in reality they expect you to have detailed records about every car accident you've had in the last 5 years, including the time of day and date, and ticket number for the accident, as well as the insurance claim number and the insurance company of the other drivers involved in the accident. No one is prepared with this level of detailed information when they call, the call takes longer than 20 minutes, and they can't really offer a rate reduction of 15%, if they can offer a reduction at all. Now, let me tell you what Jesus can do for you in the afterlife.

That's one challenge. I think that it's a challenge that can be overcome if the person being invited is convinced that the person inviting them is doing the inviting out of a sincere care for the invited, which simply takes time and sincere love. It can't be overcome if the person doing the inviting thinks that they are advertising a spiritual product or is attempting to sell the other person their brand of religion or spirituality.

Here's the bigger challenge.

Everyone has faith. Everyone. There isn't a human being that doesn't have deeply held beliefs that guide the direction of their lives and daily actions. It is impossible to be a person and not have deeply held basic assumptions that drive the course of our actions, upon which we trust and hold to be self-evident and unquestionable to the point of risking our lives on them. The fact that a lot of people aren't aware of what they trust to be the absolute truth doesn't change the plainly observable fact that they have a certain subjective perspective on reality in which they operate that they do not regularly question and which guides the direction of their lives. This is true for the Christian, the Buddhist, the Jain, the Jew, the Atheist, and the apathetic. A person who believes that all religions are just different paths to the same mountain top, or a person whose disposition towards questions of ultimate reality, meaning, and purpose in life is apathetic or disinterested has no less faith than the Mormon or the Muslim, the only difference is that their faith isn't as well thought out or articulated as someone who fervently ascribes to a more trial-tested tradition. The person who says, "There is no god but Allah" as well as the person who says "it doesn't matter what a person's religion is," or "no one can know whether there is a God or not"--they all live and act as if those beliefs are absolutely true. They put their trust in those basic assumptions about reality and act as if their reality is really real. And although that person can give reasons for why they believe or don't believe whatever they believe, no one agrees on how to evaluate these beliefs. Without a way to test the truth of these perspectives, out of necessity we let them drive our thoughts, actions, attitudes--the very content of our time on earth and our understanding of the certain end of that time. (In that way, some of us have a test.)

The subjective nature of these beliefs and how these beliefs are formed is a deeply personal and emotional thing. To varying degrees there may be layers of reason and intellect that defend these beliefs, but if anyone tells you that they have faith in God or don't have faith in God for purely intellectual reasons and that they are completely emotionally detached from the issue, they either 1. don't understand what is being discussed or 2. aren't being honest with themselves. (I guess a third possibility is that they're not human.) It is only natural for a person to be defensive when those beliefs are challenged. This defensiveness is not rational, as can be seen in the rhetoric on many a YouTube video about evolution--on both sides. If we're really asking these questions about ultimate reality, then we all have a dog in the fight.

Now, in operating out of my faith, in acting as though the things I say I think are true on Sunday morning are actually true all the rest of the time, it is only natural to invite someone who doesn't gather for Christian worship to investigate the claims of the Gospel and into the experience of God found in giving worth to this God. How could I believe in these things, experience these things, and not want to share what I've found to be a very good thing? How cold must my heart be to not invite someone I care about? How low must that care be to not give an invitation to that experience of God?

But what of the other person's faith? Won't they be offended at the suggestion that their faith might need adjusting, that they might be wrong? Is it inherently disrespectful to call another person's faith into question even if the questioning happens only obliquely and implicitly through an invitation to share in the "fruits" of one's own faith?

I submit that the issue of where to place our faith--what we trust, what we consider real, what we bank on being true, what orients and directs the course of our lives, what we risk spending our time, effort, even our very lives on--that this issue is important enough to risk offending a friend, and to the degree that a person believes they have found real Truth, they must share that Truth. It would be wrong to hold Truth about that kind of thing to one's self. At the same time, it takes wisdom to know how to let people in on your truth in a way that they will be able to accept, since nobody likes to find out that they're wrong. (At least, whenever my faith needs adjusting it always hurts a little bit.)

But are we brave enough to face the conflict that might ensue with humility and love if the other person doesn't agree with us?

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Stop Reading This

Seriously, turn your computer off right now. Turn off your cell phone and your computer, and go outside. It's a beautiful time of year.

Or listen to this. (Thanks NPR.)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Blasphemy or good advertising?

This is a screen shot from my computer while looking up a verse reference that I used to be able to find easily before I grew so dependent on Bible search engines.

What a wonderful modern world we live in, no? The Bible is available for anyone with internet access to search in at least 50 languages, for free! Can't remember that verse reference but have a vague memory of a word or phrase contained in it? Just type it in! You can even refine the search if you have an idea of whether it's in the new or old testament. Pretty sweet, really. And, as you might expect you get this service for FREE, with the exception of having to view a few family-friendly, Christian-friendly banner ads for "Christian" products (that is, if products could accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.) Voice of the Martyrs will send you a FREE copy of their founder's personal testimony there on the left. But what's this banner across the top? It seems to be a reference to the Gospel of John chapter 1, identifying Jesus as the Word, the divine Logos that was with God in the beginning, whose light shines in the darkness, though the darkness has not understood or overcome it. Then it goes through its other two states:

Just to be clear, the banner reads "In the beginning was the Word. Now there are maps, charts, notes & more. The bestselling Bible in the #1 translation. Click to learn more. (Picture of NIV Study Bible.)"

Now, I'm all for the study of the Bible and the resources like maps, charts, notes, "& more." That stuff is great, it makes the message of the Bible more accessible, and it would be wonderful if we could sell more stuff like that and pay more scholars and professionals to produce more resources that would make studying the Bible easier for everyone. Great. I believe in the business of Bible study. Pay the professionals. Make the materials. Sell them. Wonderful. Translate the Bible into English in a way that does justice to the original Greek/Hebrew/Aramaic but phrases things in a way that most people don't have to struggle to understand. Yes. Great. That takes professionals. I'll pay for it.

But am I over-reacting? Or did that ad just say, "In the beginning was Jesus, but NOW there's maps, charts, and this awesome translation of the Bible with all these resources and notes attached to it!" (Implication: you don't need Jesus, you need our Bible product.)

I understand that this isn't the only way to interpret this ad, and hopefully the people who thought it up weren't thinking that it could be interpreted this way, but... seriously? How is this not blasphemy? Anyone who gets the reference "In the beginning was the Word" ought to be offended. Everyone else won't get the "cute joke" that they seem to be trying to make with the reference.