Monday, July 31, 2006

Tour tour tour

I leave for tour tomorrow, so today I have to pack and not forget to do anything before I leave. This time, I'm going to try and pack as light as possible...I always say that though and I end up getting paranoid while packing, I start thinking things like, "what if I end up getting really cold, should I bring this jacket". Luckily, since global warming is making the earth one big hot oven, causing wild fires to sprout up all over the place, it shouldn't get that cold right? The show at the Norva went very very well...the first show of tour is always a nerve racking one, and also, shows for us at the norva are always riddled with problems, but this time, the show went off without a hitch, it felt good to play again. Although, at one point, I swung my guitar around to my right and it slammed into the lighting truss (did I spell "truss right?) and that was embarassing. My brother and I played ping pong all night, he beat Rob too, and he beat me most of the time, but I beat him twice playing we're neck and neck. Later on

Friday, July 28, 2006

car trouble

Apparently there is a hole in my car's gas on earth does that happen?

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Is it all relative?

I saw Ryan Adams play the other night and it was a great show, although, during the show I found myself wondering the ever so pressing question--is music worst today than it was 30 or 40 years ago, or is it all just relative? When I think about the bands today, they always seem to come up short when comparing to earlier rock n roll bands...even the good bands today, do they really stack up next to bands like Qeen, the Beatles, the Doors, Bob Dylan, etc. Did the time period lend itself to more artists that seemed socially relevant, and timeless? Bruce Springsteen vs Conor Oberst? Queen vs Foo Fighters? There are some bands who seem to pass the test of time that might be rather suprising. It seems that what is popular today all depends on the cycle of trends, and when I say popular I mean mainstream pop success. We can go on all day about indie bands or some obscure artsy bands that speak very strongly to they very small fanbase it has. The Beatles, the Doors, Jimi Hendrix--these bands had mainstream pop success, and at the same time, their music seems to exist on such a deeper level than pop bands do today. I suppose there are a lot of variables to factor in, one being the change in the way the music industry works. It seems that today, the whole system is set up to capitalize on one song, not one band, and if you focus on one song, the bands loses it's value..the band is only as good as the single, which last maybe 2 months and then gets knocked on out by the new single. Honestly, the answers can go either way...who's to say that certain bands popular today won't turn into iconic rock legends? Only time will reveal the longevity of bands, not predictions or record sales. What is success in music? Longevity or financial stability? The question is not new, but the conversations and debates that follow the question is always entertaining? Has music actually gotten worse, has the industry become hurtful to music and artists? eh, who knows, does it really matter?

Saturday, July 22, 2006


"Perhaps all the questions we ask of love, to measure, test, probe, and save it, have the additional effect of cutting it short. Perhaps the reason we are unable to love is that we yearn to be loved, that is, we demand something (love) from our partner instead of delivering ourselves up to him (her) demand-free and asking for nothing but his (her) company."--The Unbearable Lightness of Being

this reminds me of pride, a sickness we are all victim of at one point of another, Kierkegaard said this about pride--

"Pride is rightly called the root of al sin, because it is invisible to the one who is guilty of it and he can only infer it from results"

this next quote has nothing to do with pride, but i like it--

"Moreover, the essence of human existence is uncertainty, the very realm in which faith must live to become meaningful. This indirect suggestion toward truth is the only adequate vehicle for its mysterious character"

Thursday, July 20, 2006


Does anyone else feel like the world is ending? I'm gonna stay inside and watch Seinfeld and wait patiently, it's too hot to go outside anyway.

Friday, July 14, 2006

This is an excerpt from a chapter in Fyodor Dostoevsky's book, "The Brothers Karamazov." I like it, it talks about the temptation of Christ, and specifically the first of the three questions. It concerns the burden of free will, of freedom of conscious. The whole chapter is called, "The Grand Inquisitor" and it tells the story of Jesus coming to earth and then being arrested by the Grand Inquisitor because He threatens the Church's teachings and laws that had been in place for centuries. It's so friggin genius.

"But what happened? Instead of taking men's freedom from them, Thou didst make it greater than ever! Didst Thou forget that man prefers peace, and even death, to freedom of choice in the knowledge of good and evil? Nothing is more seductive for man than his freedom of conscience, but nothing is a greater cause of suffering. And behold, instead of giving a firm foundation for setting the conscience of man at rest for ever, Thou didst choose all that is exceptional, vague and enigmatic; Thou didst choose what was utterly beyond the strength of men, acting as though Thou didst not love them at all- Thou who didst come to give Thy life for them! Instead of taking possession of men's freedom, Thou didst increase it, and burdened the spiritual kingdom of mankind with its sufferings for ever. Thou didst desire man's free love, that he should follow Thee freely, enticed and taken captive by Thee. In place of the rigid ancient law, man must hereafter with free heart decide for himself what is good and what is evil, having only Thy image before him as his guide. But didst Thou not know that he would at last reject even Thy image and Thy truth, if he is weighed down with the fearful burden of free choice? They will cry aloud at last that the truth is not in Thee, for they could not have been left in greater confusion and suffering than Thou hast caused, laying upon them so many cares and unanswerable problems."

Thursday, July 13, 2006

hey, this is a long post, but for those of you who care about things like this, it is awesome.
it's from a pastor at a church in austin texas who let an athiest join his church, there is also a blog on the same site from the athiest, talking about why he joined the church.

After years of advocacy for progressive causes, I am used to angry mail -- often from fellow Christians -- when I take a political or theological position that challenges conservative or fundamentalist views.

So, I wasn't surprised when many were unhappy about the decision of St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church in Austin, TX, where I am the pastor, to let a self-professed atheist become a member. But the intensity and tone of the condemnations were surprising; this wave of mail feels different, more desperate, like people have been backed against a wall.

Ironically, the new member, a longtime leftist political activist and professor in Austin, has been getting mail from fellow atheists skeptical of his decision.

"How can you do this?" both sides are asking. To me they ask, "How can you let someone join the church who cannot affirm the divinity of Christ? Does nothing matter to you liberals?" To Robert Jensen they ask, "How, as an atheist, can you surrender your mind to a superstitious institution that birthed the inquisition and the crusades?"

Neither the church nor Jensen views his membership as surrendering anything, but instead as an attempt to build connections. Such efforts are crucial in a world where there seems not to be a lot of wood to build the bridges we need. And the shame is, while we fight among ourselves, the world is burning.

In my ministry, I have had to live in two worlds. I have spiritual friends who are trying to celebrate the mystery of life, and activist friends who are trying to change the world. Somehow these two enterprises have been separated, but I don't believe either option represents a complete life. Apolitical spirituality runs the danger of giving charity instead of justice, while atheistic humanism runs the danger of offering facts instead of meaning. This divide between spirituality and activism is a betrayal of the deeper roots of both.

The Book of James argues that merely believing in the existence of God means nothing; he jokes that even the demons believe that. Some of the meanest people I have ever met believed in God. The Nazis marched across Europe with belts reading "God is with us," singing some of the same hymns and reciting some of the same creeds that the church uses today. With a few notable exceptions, the German church hid in liturgy and theology while their brothers and sisters burned. Surely, the holocaust is a permanent rebuttal of that kind of detached creedal Christianity.

It's been interesting to see that atheists can be just as narrow-minded as believers. Some of Jensen's critics expressed an infallible belief that religious people like me are idiots by definition. Inflexible beliefs on matters where one has no experience is superstition whether one is a believer or in an atheist.

Atheism can become self-parody when it forms a rigid belief system about religion. There is a difference between true atheism and anti-theism. Atheism can be the naked pursuit of truth, but anti-theism is more often the adolescent joy of upsetting and mocking religious people.

I can understand the urge to make fun of religious people; many of the voices which speak for religion make me want to crawl under the table. But we also must remember that Stalinists -- claiming to be atheistic materialists -- were as savage and superstitious as the inquisitors.

Without religion we would eliminate some of the worst chapters in human history brought on by the religious inquisitors and religious terrorists. But we would also eliminate some of history's best chapters. Imagine a world with no Gandhi, no Martin Luther King, and no Dorothy Day.

Some people argue that evolution disproves religion. I would say that evolution helps us understand why religion is inevitable in human beings. Our upper brain functions are built on top of a marshy swamp of animal instincts, and we are rational only in spurts. Much of our most important processes are irrational, even more are unconscious altogether. To say we will be purely scientific and objective is an act of imaginary dissociation from the liquid core of our own being. In Sartre's words it is "bad faith".

Advertisers know this swampy core and sell to it. Televangelists know this swampy core and manipulate it. Politicians know this swampy core and appeal to it. While progressives are trying to be purely logical, propagandists are playing that irrational core like a drum.

If there's hope of saving the world from the clutches of propaganda it will not be because we refute it rationally. If we save our world it will be because we learned how to speak about personal meaning in a way that is adaptive to natural processes and compatible with universal human rights. Nothing else will do.

Hegel defined religion as putting philosophy into pictures. Strange and foreboding topics like hermeneutics and metaphysics can be taught to almost anyone if they are put in story form. While it is important not to accept these images literally, it is just as important not to reject them literally.

Because life is an ineffable mystery, religion speaks in pictures and symbols. To accept or reject the symbols literally is to miss the point from two different sides. Those who fight over whether God exists are like foolish pedestrians who praise or curse a red light as they step into oncoming traffic. The question isn't whether God exists like a brick exists, but rather "what part of our experience does the symbol 'God' reveal and what parts does it obscure?"

The problem with most religious discussions is that we are usually swimming in a sea of undefined terms. What sense does it make to ask whether God exists if we don't define what we mean by the term "God." For some it's easier to reconcile themselves to the universe by picturing a large person overseeing the process, while others reconcile themselves to the ground by using impersonal elemental images. These approaches are in conflict only when we forget what we are trying to do in the first place, which is to harmonize with the ground of our being.

Locke and Kant struggled to identify the ultimate categories that shape human perception, which is also the business of religion. We cannot think about being itself because it is too basic. We are like flowers that immerge out of a soil too primordial to be understood in plant terms; we can neither speak about the ground of our being nor ignore it. Religion is a kind of art that reconciles us to the ground out of which we emerge.

As William James pointed out, religion is not merely hypothetical opinion about the world. Religion is most essentially a decision to be engaged in a world that cannot be understood and offers no guarantees. "God" is a symbol of the truth that stands outside our widest context. "God" is a symbol of the reality deeper than our ultimate concern. "God" is a symbol of the mystery that lies between the poles of our clearest rational dichotomy. The point is not to affirm the reality of the symbol itself, but to affirm the reality to which the symbol points.

Part of the apoplexy triggered by Dr. Jensen came from his statement that he was joining our church for "political reasons." If one defines politics as partisan wrangling then Jensen's comments can be seen as calculating and manipulative, but if politics is about how we treat each other, then he is joining the church for the same reason the apostles did -- to help save our world.

The religion of Jesus is both spiritual and political. Jesus said in his first sermon that he had come to preach good news to the poor. He taught that love fulfills the law and the prophets, and spoke of a coming movement of God that would lift up the poor and oppressed. Jesus let a doubter like Thomas serve that cause long before the disciple could affirm any creed. Jesus said that people who blaspheme him or God would be forgiven but those who blaspheme the Spirit (of love) would not be. Religion is not about groveling before a savior, it's joining in the work of saving our world.

One last irony is that early Christians were sometimes accused of being atheists. Like true Muslims and Jews, the early Christians refused to worship human images of God. While I have nothing against the creeds per se, if they do not sing of a love for all humankind they are evil and must be renounced as idolatrous. Surely the essence of Christianity or any religion is not found in dogma but in the life of love of which the creeds sing. If God had wanted us to simply recite creeds, Jesus would have come as a parrot.

Is there still room in the church for Thomas? Doubters are an essential part of the team. The atheism of Ingersoll and Kropotkin is very much like the mysticism of Schweitzer and Dorothy Day. In fact, I cannot help but imagine they would all join in common cause to serve our world had they lived at the same place and time.

"Whoever has love has God." That's what the Bible says. So the question before my church was not whether Dr. Jensen could recite religious syllables like a cockatiel, but whether he would follow the core teachings of Jesus and learn more and grow more into Christ's universal love of which the creeds sing. This he pledged to do.

I repeat: while we are fighting among ourselves, our world is burning. Jim Rigby is pastor of St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church. He can be reached at

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

A touch on the political.

These are just two questions from an interview done with Noam Chomsky. I recommend reading his books.

Geov Parrish: Is George Bush in political trouble? And if so, why?

Noam Chomsky: George Bush would be in severe political trouble if there were an opposition political party in the country. Just about every day, they're shooting themselves in the foot. The striking fact about contemporary American politics is that the Democrats are making almost no gain from this. The only gain that they're getting is that the Republicans are losing support. Now, again, an opposition party would be making hay, but the Democrats are so close in policy to the Republicans that they can't do anything about it. When they try to say something about Iraq, George Bush turns back to them, or Karl Rove turns back to them, and says, "How can you criticize it? You all voted for it." And, yeah, they're basically correct.

What do you think should be done in Iraq?

Well, the first thing that should be done in Iraq is for us to be serious about what's going on. There is almost no serious discussion, I'm sorry to say, across the spectrum, of the question of withdrawal. The reason for that is that we are under a rigid doctrine in the West, a religious fanaticism, that says we must believe that the United States would have invaded Iraq even if its main product was lettuce and pickles, and the oil resources of the world were in Central Africa. Anyone who doesn't believe that is condemned as a conspiracy theorist, a Marxist, a madman, or something. Well, you know, if you have three gray cells functioning, you know that that's perfect nonsense. The U.S. invaded Iraq because it has enormous oil resources, mostly untapped, and it's right in the heart of the world's energy system. Which means that if the U.S. manages to control Iraq, it extends enormously its strategic power, what Zbigniew Brzezinski calls its critical leverage over Europe and Asia. Yeah, that's a major reason for controlling the oil resources -- it gives you strategic power. Even if you're on renewable energy you want to do that. So that's the reason for invading Iraq, the fundamental reason.

Now let's talk about withdrawal. Take any day's newspapers or journals and so on. They start by saying the United States aims to bring about a sovereign democratic independent Iraq. I mean, is that even a remote possibility? Just consider what the policies would be likely to be of an independent sovereign Iraq. If it's more or less democratic, it'll have a Shiite majority. They will naturally want to improve their linkages with Iran, Shiite Iran. Most of the clerics come from Iran. The Badr Brigade, which basically runs the South, is trained in Iran. They have close and sensible economic relationships which are going to increase. So you get an Iraqi/Iran loose alliance. Furthermore, right across the border in Saudi Arabia, there's a Shiite population which has been bitterly oppressed by the U.S.-backed fundamentalist tyranny. And any moves toward independence in Iraq are surely going to stimulate them, it's already happening. That happens to be where most of Saudi Arabian oil is. Okay, so you can just imagine the ultimate nightmare in
Washington: a loose Shiite alliance controlling most of the world's oil, independent of Washington and probably turning toward the East, where China and others are eager to make relationships with them, and are already doing it. Is that even conceivable? The U.S. would go to nuclear war before allowing that, as things now stand.

Here's a little something extra from Howard Zinn:
Mark Twain, having been called a “traitor” for criticizing the U.S. invasion of the Philippines, derided what he called “monarchical patriotism.” He said: “The gospel of the monarchical patriotism is: ‘The King can do no wrong.’ We have adopted it with all its servility, with an unimportant change in the wording: ‘Our country, right or wrong!’ We have thrown away the most valuable asset we had—the individual’s right to oppose both flag and country when he believed them to be in the wrong. We have thrown it away; and with it, all that was really respectable about that grotesque and laughable word, Patriotism.”

Sunday, July 09, 2006

This is odd to me. Can we figure out some better way to represent Jesus in new media, it all seems a tad counterproductive. The first "mainstream" video game for real "gamers" to bring the "Prince of Peace" into the picture, with God's army let lose, guns a' blazin. Apparently, after you've been shot up a whole bunch, to regain your health, you "pray" and then get right back into the battle, shootin up non believers and evil doers alike.

(from MSNBC) March 6, 2006 issue - Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition: Christians are finally getting a high-caliber shoot-'em-up videogame of their own. Due out on PCs in the second half of 2006, Left Behind: Eternal Forces is the first game adapted from the blockbuster books by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. Gamers familiar with the largely uninspiring and unprofitable history of Christian videogames will quickly notice two differences in Forces: the top-shelf design, which offers an eerily authentic reproduction of the game's Manhattan setting, and a level of violence reminiscent of Grand Theft Auto. The game revolves around New Yorkers who are "left behind" after the rapture. Players scour the streets for converts, training them into a work force to feed, shelter and join a paramilitary resistance against the growing forces of the Antichrist.

I think the Ten Commandments have a little to say about this, or am I interpreting the 6th Commandment wrong?

Friday, July 07, 2006


my head has been an empty vessel of late, just swimming around brief thoughts never really running with anything specific. i feel dry. My friend recommended E. E. Cummings a little while back, so I bought a poetry book of his. It was endearing, here is one of his poems, I like it.

"when god lets my body be

From each brave eye will sprout a tree
fruit that dangles therefrom

the purpled world will dance upon
But my lips which did sing

a rose shall beget the spring
that maidens whom passion wasts

will between their little breasts
My strong fingers beneath the snow

Into strenuous birds shall go
my love walking in the grass

their wings will touch with her face
and all the while shall my heart be

With the bulge and nuzzle of the sea"

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

It's July 5th, and I want to take this opportunity to say that I hope everyone had a good 4th of July with friends and fireworks and all of that traditional type stuff. We in the house ("we" being Jacob, and Benj and I) had some friends and family over, played some poker, I put my room together, and finally went to bed in my new bed. I'm watching coldplay on MTV HD right now, and Foo Fighters is on next, and I'm "tivo-ing" them both. Score. So, as easy as it would be to launch into some soapbox rant about American Foreign and Domestic Policy, I would think that it would just be a waste of time. Politics..hmmm. Dangerous realms.