Monthly Archive: March 2009

Proving God

Some of you may be familiar with philosophers’ attempts to prove God’s existence. The simplest is put forth by Descartes, who in doubting reality, realized the only thing he could be sure of was that he doubted. Here’s my paraphrase:

I doubt, therefore I think.
I think, therefore I exist.
I doubt, therefore I am imperfect.
I am imperfect, therefore imperfection exists.
Imperfection exists, therefore perfection exists.
God, by definition, is perfection, therefore God exists.
God is perfect, therefore God is good.
God is good, therefore God would not deceive us.
God would not deceive us, therefore the world and my experiences in it are real.

This proof actually shares the same fatal flaw as the other God proof I’ve heard:

Something can exist either in thought or in reality.
I can think of God, therefore God exists in thought.
It is more powerful to exist in reality than in thought.
God is, by definition, the most powerful, therefore God exists in reality.

The flaw, of course, is that we are asked to accept that because something is conceptualized, it must exist in accordance to its intrinsic characteristics. Yet if I believe that God is, by definition, a delicious jelly donut sitting on my desk, there is still no jelly donut on my desk. Those of us not well schooled in metaphysics may not be able to articulate exactly why we know these proofs are bogus, but we do know it.

(Note: I am not a philosopher, so if you’re outraged at how much I screwed up my summary of these ideas, I apologize.)

However, in some of my musings this year, I have come across my own conditional proof that God exists. Conditional in that it does not prove God, but makes God a necessary derivative of another belief. Here it is:

If we have free will, God exists.

Of Playgrounds, Chicago Housing and Ning

crossposted from As of Yet Untitled

Last Saturday I rode my bicycle out to First Church of the Brethren for meetings. along Van Buren Street. As I biked away from the loop, west along Van Buren St., commercial properties gave way to the brand new condos where young urban professionals have recently arrived from the suburbs. As I went farther west I began to see a mix of older, more run down housing mixed with blocks full of brand new condos, a combination typical of neighborhoods in transition driven by property speculation and developers. I was reminded of the abrupt halt that the economic crisis has brought to the gentrification process. For some this has meant a major loss of invested capital, for others it has meant welcome breathing space on the brink of being pushed out of their homes due to rising rent costs and property taxes.

Just after the last block of new condos, I noticed remnants of an apparently under construction playground abandoned amidst dead tree branches and litter:

Playground at former Rockwell Gardens site


Christians: the vanguard of American anti-capitalist sentiment?

Shane Claiborne breathes fire

I’ve been wanting to write up a longer introduction to this link for two weeks, but I haven’t gotten around to it. Zach over at Revolution in Jesusland was visiting European lefties and told them that Christians are on the vanguard of American anti-capitalist sentiment:

So when I bring up the “Revolutionaries” of the American church, people over here completely freak out. They cannot believe it. They will not believe it. Their faces wince up, because they know I can’t be making this up completely, but it’s just too much to process. They dismiss it. There’s a strong stereotype of the “ignorant protestant preacher” and they can’t reconcile it with what I’m saying.

Somehow, eventually, these two mainstream forces that are questioning capitalism on both sides of the Atlantic will have to get to know each other, but that’s probably a while off.


Search for next Executive Director of Mennonite Church USA

Given all that we’ve talked about here, maybe there are some opinions on what the next Executive Director should do? Who it should be? How they should act? What salary (if any) they should be paid?

This is a chance to weigh in to the process. The search committee is consulting far and wide across the Mennonite church. Feel free to add your voice in the comment section below. (more…)

Haud Metus. Haud Fastosus.

“Haud Metus. Haud Fastosus.” That’s my personal motto. It means “No Fear. No Pride.”…I think. Maybe it means “No Pride. No Fear.” I can’t really remember. It’s been a while since I looked it up on an online Latin/English translator. Those things are unreliable anyway. But I believe that’s what it means, I guess that’s the important thing.

I originally made my slogan for my lucrative career in sales. It hung above my desk in that bold impact font. You can’t sell something with fear or pride. You have to be this whimpering fool begging for a sale or you’ll starve to death. But you can’t let anyone know you are whimpering fool. If you do you look like a pathetic whiner, then no one will buy anything from you. You have to be confident and ooze charisma while secretly, on the inside, you’re crying.

I got rid of pride because I don’t really care what anyone thinks about me. Unless of course my hair’s messed up or my fly is down or something is stuck in my teeth. And fear was kinda pointless because what’s really to fear besides AIDS, random gun violence, and facebook addiction? Okay, so maybe pride and fear have their places. The jury is still out. Maybe we should have some sort of governmental department of concerned citizens to debate the merits of these things along with honor, political correctness, and internet smilies :). We’ll call it the Department Of Personality Enforcement, or DOPE, for short. (more…)

US gun manufacturers fuel Mexican drug cartels

Crossposted from As of Yet Untitled

It’s rare I pick up the newspaper in the morning and read an article about the war on drugs that leaves me feeling encouraged. In fact, I don’t think its every happened before. But this morning, I read about hearings in congress that are identifying the role of the US government in fueling the growth of massive drug cartels just across the border in Mexico.

If you’ve been reading the news on the drug trade from Mexico over the last couple years (if not see the wikipedia article), you’ll have heard about the increasingly powerful and violent cartels that have infiltrated the Mexican police and who regularly carry out kidnappings and assassinations. Reading this news its often easy to put the blame solely on the shoulders of corrupt Mexican government officials or lack of legitimate economic opportunity in Mexico. But it’s not that simple.

Recession Revolution

This is part of a discussion on the PNMC Peace And Justice Forum:

I think it is time for the church to reconsider its politics.. I’m not advocating that we all try to get elected or take over the government necessarily. But I do think we might be entering a 1930’s scenario where if we think things have been bad for the middle-class and poor through the 1970’s, 80’s and 90’s, you ain’t seen nothing yet. I know I’m going to hear it from those who like to keep Jesus out of politics (and I do still harbor many healthy anabaptist political hesitations myself) but I’m becoming equally angry with a church that seems more interested in building new administrative centers and benefiting from our MMA retirement portfolios (well, up until 6mo. ago at least), but seems less interested in walking the neighborhood, asking how people are doing and searching for real ways to bring hope and healing to those who know first hand what it feels like to search for scraps beneath the “master’s” table. I’ve recently been inspired by reading about church leaders of the 1930s who searched for ways to move beyond insular spiritualism to both care for the poor AND passionately advocate for significant social change. I wonder if the coming revolt might need some committed nonviolent Mennonites who can help keep it nonviolent.
-Matt F.

I think, Matt, that you’re barking up the wrong tree. I feel I can say this as a person who is deeply involved in my communities here in Portland. I personally think that the governments and corporations and banks are so full of their own self interest, especially in maintaining whatever status quo there is, that the system itself is unreliable. I believe that if we as Christians took over the system, then we would do no better than those who hold it now (or previously). Part of the problem is the structure of the system itself, whether that be the U.S. government, capitalism, the banking system, or modern labor being controlled by large corporations. What is needed is a complete breakdown of the systems– which we will get when Jesus returns. (more…)

Coming Clean: A Confession

[Note: This post was originally posted at Cramer Comments. I understand that its revelation may not be quite as shocking here.]

I have a confession to make.

Some of my friends and colleagues are already fully apprised of what I am about to say. But for many other family members and peers, all they know is what they have heard in rumors or gleaned from suggestive comments on previous blogs.

Today I must put this mystery to rest. Today I must accept myself for who I really am and trust that others will learn to accept me for who I am too. (more…)

pink Menno campaign

NOTE: Read first before commenting:

This is a very very simple little post put up way back when only a couple dozen people have heard about Pink Menno (my, times have changed!) meant simply to announce its presence for YARers who might be interested.  If you want to actually find out about Pink Menno, go to  If you want to talk to Pink Menno directly, you can email  I think a number of people have found their way to this post because it’s pretty high up if you google “pink menno”, and it seems to have attracted some non-YAR people looking for a place to share their hellfire & pinkstone.   If that’s you, please see the YAR guidelines & required reading, as well as the sermon on the mount (especially the beatitudes) – Matthew 5. That said, some good discussion has also happened, so I’ll leave this post up.

original post (March 4, 2009):

If you’d like to do something to help the Mennonite church become more LGBT-friendly, check out the pink Menno campaign. We’re organizing an effort focused on the convention in Columbus this summer to start a lot of informal conversations with people and show that queers are already a central part of the church – and that most people probably know a lot of us already.  And that we’re really very friendly and good and Mennonite-y.

Anabaptist Humor: FAIL

Reliable truck fail

This evening I decided to lazy-research (aka googling) Anabaptist humor. It turn’s out we don’t have any. According to the first result for Anabaptist humor on Google:

[Anabaptist] interpretation of the New Testament, especially Ephesians 5:4, did not allow for jesting or joking. The Christian was expected to prune the heart and mouth of all unbecoming thoughts, words, and actions. Unseemly light-hearted behavior was often summed up in the word “levity.” In addition, the Mennonites were concerned that houses of prayer and worship not be turned into houses of entertainment and mirth through humorous allusions and stories.

This serious mien was reinforced by the long period of intense persecution in the early development of Anabaptism.

So how bad is our serious mien? (more…)

The Capricious hand of ICE and Lenten fasting

crossposted from As of Yet Untitled

On Thursday evening Charletta and I watched The Visitor. Charletta and I watched the The Visitor last night. Friends had recommended it and I expected a quirky, lovable independent film. It’s this, but it is also a devastating portrait of ICE detention centers from the inside and draws us into the story of the way they tear apart families and dehumanize people. Yet its not a depressing film. It combines gritty honesty and playful hope in an strikingly un-Hollywood way.

After the film finished, I thought of my friend Anton Flores (see my profile of him from last fall) whose life work is supporting those who have become ensnared in the immigration system. The next morning I woke up to an email from Anton describing his DriveFast, in which he will abstain from driving at all during Lent. His pledge, however, isn’t just motivated out of green sensibility. Instead it points to the way drivers license restrictions are used to control and dominate undocumented workers in the small town in Georgia where he lives. He’s told me stories of standing besides immigrants as they are belittled by judges for driving without a license, even as they embody the system that is taken that right away. I stayed with a family in his neighborhood who must drive every day without a license because they have no other way to get to their job. They live in constant danger of being pulled over and possibly deported (more…)