Entries Posted in "April 2004"

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Our Very Own Washington (D) State Rep. Doesn't Believe in God?
April 29, 2004

Duh. So if you hadn't heard, I know it made the network news, our very own US Representative from Washington state Jim McDermott has been under fire since he left out the phrase "Under God" while leading the pledge of allegience on the House floor. While many are charging that he deliberately left those two words out, McDermott has claimed it was an accident to be blamed on the fact that when he learned the pledge, the words "under God" hadn't been yet added (they were added in 1954). In addition, a McDermott spokesperson noted that he was apprehensive about including a reference to God since the Supreme Court is currently reviewing a lower court ruling about the unconstitutionality of those two words being said in schools. Okay now wait a minute, did he forget the words, or was he worried about a pending court case. Which one is it? I'm a little confused here.

Jim, Jim, Jim, just tell the truth buddy. No need to dance around the issue. You forgot those two llittle words on purpose and that's okay. Let's just all be honest with ourselves here. Washington is a liberal state, you're a liberal, lots of liberals are anti-God (no not all), what say we connect those dots eh? I mean, Christians are all in uproar about this, I can somewhat understand their sentiment, but I'd rather have people just put the truth right on out there so everyone can see instead of hiding behind this facade of actually giving a care. I mean, let's just keep it real folks.

Posted by Ambra in Politics | Link to This Entry
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The Pervasive Deification of Education in Black Communities
April 28, 2004

Like most middle-class black families, I grew up in a household where we were pretty much expected to go to college. There were really no other options. Community college was not an option. Trade school wasn't even close to being an option. The military was definitely not an option. A year abroad with a service organization wasn't even a close second. No. We had no other choice but to go to college, or be kicked out of the house. (The kicking out of the house threat was done in a very Bill Cosbyesque nature, and we all know how successful Cliff Huxtable was at kicking kids out the house).

My parents's expectations weren't unfounded of course. College would allow us the "most opportunity for success". In fact, we all (my siblings and I) had a pretty clear path laid out for us from birth. My parents mandated that we became successful in life, did whatever God called us to do, and were passionate about our careers. That of course, unequivocally, meant that somewhere in the plan was a college education; perhaps even graduate or law school. So you can imagine their disappointment went I told them three years ago that my elite university wasn't "teaching me anything" and was a "waste of our money". I said "our" because I too was footing some of the bill.

Then there was the time this past Fall when my sister decided she'd defer college in order to go into a 1-year intensive ministry leadership internship at the Honor Academy in Texas. These were of course horrifying words for well-educated black kids to even utter. College was the "Great American Way" and we weren't worshipping the idol as we should have. This is the story of my life.

(I must preface what I'm about to say with a bit of history. This is not a victimization or a boo-hoo sob history. If you've been reading my blog long enough, you can pretty much tell, I'm not about that nonsense. I say what I'm about to say for contextual reasons)

The rich history of Black Americans is one of struggle, survival, and finally, triumph (although many would like to stay in survival mode). The right to an education was not always something that could be so easily trounced upon by the likes of me. I feel it is important to recognize that many black people were once denied even the right to learn how to read. It is also important to recognize that quite awhile before the civil rights movement was even a thought, there were certain black Americans who rose up in the face of adversity to be great intellectuals of the black community. This is not a history lesson so going into all the names of those to whom I am referring is not really relevant here.

During the time of the late 1800's and early 20th century, there was a fear by many black intellectuals that an "overemphasis" on industrial training would permanently relegate most blacks to positions of manual labor and second-class citizenship. This was very much a reality. In fact, even today it always amazes me when I travel to certain parts of the country how that dynamic is still ever-present. One place that rings a bell for me in this reality is the St. Louis, Missouri airport. Every time I'm there, it is clear that about 99.8% of the black employees are doing something manual like janitorial work, or pushing baggage carts. All non-labor jobs like ticket agents, clerks, and service reps are held predominately by white people.

You'll only see that dynamic in certain parts of America, but more than 100 years ago, scholars like Harvard-educated W.E.B. Dubois pushed for there to be a greater emphasis on higher education among blacks to the avoid that very reality. He coined a phrase and concept called "the Talented Tenth" whereby he believed that ten percent of "Negroes" should be cultivated in higher education to fill positions of leadership (doctors, lawyers, teachers, ministers, etc.) within the community and lead the rest. Now whether or not I agree with this concept is not really the issue. The throughline in DuBois' thought is fundamental, and that is the need for leadership. At that particular juncture, education was the only visible means to that end. Time would tell us that universities were not exactly embracing black students with open arms. Black people were essentially being "left out" of the opportunity to higher education and a struggled ensued.

There were entire generations of black people that simply did not get the opportunity to go to college. This could have been for a number of reasons, however, all found their roots in the race issue. I only have to go back a couple of generations or so in my family before I start getting to the non-educated folks. That would be, in a most traditional, higher educational sense. That's actually more generations than a lot of other people. These days, you will often hear black teenagers say things like, "I'm the first one in my family to graduate from college", or even worse, "I'm the first person in my family to graduate from high school".

I have the sincere privilege of being blessed with a highly educated family. My dad's a math whiz, my mom a Ph.d and professor, my grandmother was a teacher, my grandfather is a dentist, and there are about three other doctors on my mom's side. I can certainly appreciate that. However, we have not forgotten as a family that just a few decades back, the same opportunity for advancement was not "readily" available to us as black people. These days, a lot of teenagers are pushed into higher education because their parents "never got the opportunity". Thus, there is a clear expectation placed on them based on their parents' prior disappointments. Sound familiar?

So why do I say all this? Well, it has become increasingly apparent to me that the past denial of higher education to many blacks has resulted in what I feel is a present over-appreciation for this privilege and a deification of education to an unhealthy position. Central to the black community is this notion that education is the "end all and be all" of success in this country. Long ago it was the missing part of our success equation and now it seems we must fight never to lose it.

I always laugh when I see inspirational phrases like, "Knowledge is power" or "Education is the key to success" plastered on billboards for the United Negro College Fund. Well, those statements may very well be true, but they're not absolute. The problem is, we've treated higher education as an absolute. I can't tell you how many lectures I got when I was in high school from various adult figures and passing admonitions like, "just make sure you get an education". Subtext:

It doesn't matter if you have no clue what you want to do or be in life, just make sure you get that education. In fact, it doesn't even matter what your major is or how deep in debt you have to go. It will all be worth it for that college degree.
I've found that highly educated people are much more susceptible to worshipping their education if they are very successful because they attribute their success to their education and nothing else. In our community, education has become the source and God has faded into thebackground. Humanity was created to worship and we have a long history (even in the Bible) of acknowledging everything but God as our source.

It seems we have left something out of the success picture. Something huge. I can't even count the number of young people I talk to who tell me they want to be lawyers. Who didn't at some point right? My first comment to them is usually, "Are you called to be a lawyer, or are you just saying that because it sounds cool?" So it seems that Du Bois' former doctrine of the "talented tenth" is not too far off from today. Let's just be realistic, when you were growing up, what did most kids say when asked, "what do you want to be when you grow up?" It is most likely they boldly proclaimed the same words every other kid across America did, "Doctor, Lawyer, Teacher, or Dentist" and maybe a few others in there. As a black person, I can understand the aspiration to that. We're underrepresented in many of those areas and if that's what a person is truly placed on the earth to do, than by all means, be that, do that, succeed in that. However, I am increasingly troubled at the idea that we are sending young people off to college to "find themselves". Let me just debunk a most popular myth right now: college is not the place to find yourself. In fact, if you're not careful, college will jack you up.

People need to figure out who they are (or at least have an inkling of it) beforehand lest they fall prey to what I call the "breeding ground" or "petri dish" of free thought and licentious behavior that is so rampant in the average American University (yes Christian ones too). This is not a popular message. I believe we have a flipped concept of higher education and that's why we're producing so many confused young adults today. We ship off unsuspecting teenagers to go "find their way" by switching majors 87 times, bumping into many walls, only to land themselves in a career in which they lack passion or vision. We chalk it up to the "almighty degree". Meanwhile, 20 years after graduation, we find some unhappy 42 year olds scattered throughout the country, trying to find their "passion" in life.

We often send young people to college ill-equipped. They lack a clear vision. They lack a clear purpose. They lack identity and end up finding it in their profession which is quite a tragedy. Most commonly, when vision and purpose are lacking, human nature will self-destruct. Self-destruction manifests itself in many ways. As a former college student, it's pretty safe to say the self-destructers were very apparent. Perhaps the biggest problem in this respect is that the black community has often confused "perceived success" with self-destruction. So when we haven't seen Mrs. Johnson in a long time, we'll ask things like,

"Hey how are your kids doing?" And she'll respond,
"Oh they're just wonderful. Johnny just graduated Summa Cum Laude and is starting law school, Sally just got an accounting job at a Big 5 firm, and Derrick just got a full-scholarship to play basketball at Penn State!" And we'll say,
"Wow, that's so great!" and be on our merry way.
Our perception walking away from that conversation is that Johnson kids must be doing great. Meanwhile, both Johnny & Sally are struggling to find significance and meaning in their lives. Sally's miserable in her 9-5 job and can't imagine doing this for 25 more years. Johnny just wants to stay in school as long as possible because he doesn't know his purpose in life and only has identity in being a student, and Derrick is about to crack under the pressure of his parents' expectations and is looking forward to the "groupies" more than he is the degree. But it's all okay, as long as we're all educated right?

Posted by Ambra in Culture, Education, Race | Link to This Entry
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Graduating Slaves
April 27, 2004

I have once again come to the conclusion, that debt is a most horrific thing. I imagine that when I have paid off all my school loans I will do cartwheels from the rooftops and maybe even fly. At this point, flying is not an option, and I wish to inflict great bodily harm on Miss Sallie Mae. I don't think she's alive anymore, but I'm certain that if she had known the sound of her name alone would conjure up the sensation of dry-heaving by college graduates everywhere, she may have thought twice about establishing "college loans" in their family name. Now, color me silly, but there are certain things about this country that simply baffle me. The average college student has taken out some sort of student loan at one point or another in their college career. Even the cost of in-state tuition is rising for public universities. I was reading the Princeton Review's annual college statistics and my former university ranked as the number one private university who has the most graduates with the most student loan debt. A whopping 40% of the graduating class snagged a degree along with some serious baggage. The other 60% was just plain rich, had some nice college money saved, or earned a great scholarship. I can safely say that knowing our tuition was a sickening $36,000 a year (not including housing, books and other fees).

A research called the "Higher Education Project" noted that 39% of students graduate with "unmanageable" levels of federal student loan debt. "Unmanageable" meaning their monthly income, along with other living expenses barely allow them to make their monthly payments. A student's monthly loan payment shouldn't exceed 8% of their monthly income. In addition to that, the percentage of students who borrow Federal Student Loans has risen upwards of 64% since the early nineties. Let's not also forget the barrage of Visa and Mastercard applications that come the way of the average high school senior, and the Chase Manhattan people who set up "information stands" on the University lawn during move-in day. My brother is 15 years old and he's already begun to get credit card solicitations in the mail. In fact, I'm pretty much certain that "The College Board", the company behind the SAT, sells their list of those who've recently taken the SAT to credit card companies among others.

A Tufts University Newspaper Notes:

U.S. secondary education tuition rose 32 percent between 1992 and 2002, according to nelliemae.com. In 2002, according to National Center for Education Statistics, the average undergraduate graduated $18,900 in debt, an increase of $7,500 in just five years. Thirty-nine percent of undergraduates receive some sort of federal financial aid. As college becomes more expensive, the student body is becoming more homogenous by category of class.

The average U.S. medical student has $104,000 in student loan debt, according to the American Medical Student Association (AMSA) and first-year medical residents earn on average $33,387 a year. What's say we do the math folks? Granted, yes, doctors increasingly make more money once they complete their residency, but my gosh, $104,000 is a house in some parts of the country. Now in Seattle it might buy you something size of Saddam Hussein's hole in the ground. The fact that the average undergraduate has around $18,900 in debt (and that's a conservative figure if you ask me), is just mind-boggling. I'm not really one to be gung-ho on statistics, but I know this is a reality. My friends and I sit around all the time and commiserate around our student loans. We compare whose are greater, and laugh at the little guy with a mere $2500 borrowed. Then there's graduate school, and that's an entirely different motherload of slavery. My mom got her Ph.D back in '92 and she's just now emerging from the clouds of shackles.

I think something is wrong when we are launching young adults into their careers and the world toting a small mortgage behind them. What we have is a generation that's already in debt at the start of their adult life. And yet we wonder why so many Americans are caught up in consumerism and debt. Generational wealth is really a concept only the wealthy understand. I think we do young people a disservice by promoting a system whereby the average 22-year-old can incur more debt in four years than some people can in a lifetime. College tuition rates are steadily rising. Part of this is an attempt to bring college back to the place of being only for "the elite". It is also clear to most that a bachelor's degree these days doesn't mean much more than a high school diploma since they are so common. There is quick action being taken to change that by eliminating the opportunity for so many to go to college. Lastly, the economy is showing us now more than ever that higher education does not equal material success, no matter how many degrees one has. The number of non-college educated millionaires and business successes being pushed out in the last decade has proved to be a slap in the face to so many who have championed the "almighty degree".

I count myself in the midst of all this craziness. Myself being one who countered the culture, I realize that many people don't feel my sentiment. I think we need to stop with this college=success formula that's so deeply entrenched into the fabric of our culture. I can speak more specifically for the black culture, who has somehow managed to deify education to a place that makes me very uncomfortable. We truly have made that college=success equation our mantra and it is sometimes to our detriment. I'll post on that topic tomorrow perhaps. I am bothered by the number of young people and older adults I talk to who went to college because it was expected of them, never really had a vision for it, graduated with a degree in a subject they don't even like, or never use, and managed to incur some major debt in the process. I myself intend to be debt-free by the time I'm 24, but not without much hard work and determination. Last year, my eyes were opened to much of what I'd experienced in college when I read Martin Anderson's, Imposter's In the Temple: A Blueprint for Improving Higher Education. It's a dated, however very relevant piece of work where Anderson explores the "country-club" like nature of many universities, the liberal bias of most professors, and the tuition money that's being wasted on professors who barely teach at all. It's a good read for anyone who can withstand lack of eloquence for truth.

Posted by Ambra in Education | Link to This Entry
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A Little Friday Fun...
April 23, 2004

Things That Bother Me

  1. People who don't know how to yield on the sidewalk
  2. Macrome anything
  3. Parents who engage in dialogue with their 2-year-old in the grocery store aisle about potential discipline, "Now, Aaron, I'm going to need you to stop knocking the cans of the shelves please. Mommy's going to count to five or else you're going to have a time-out" This is not the Dr. Phil show so please, stop with the psychology.
  4. Trendy Books (A Purpose-Driven Life, Fast Food Nation, you get the jist)
  5. People who stand in the same place and relentlessly pass out flyers to their latest "Poetry Jam", which is usually an excuse for a bunch of pseudo-deep people to wrap cloth around their heads and get together in a dark room, under the haze of incense and scent of patchouli, and stroke eachother's artistic egos, snap their fingers and complain about opression.
  6. Metermaids = evil spawn of satan
  7. People who talk on their cell phones in restaurants
  8. People who eat cottage cheese and pineapples (gross!)
  9. Internet shorthand (So, R U gonna go 2 the store 2day? OK, I'll brb. LOL)
  10. NAACP

  11. When Halatosis Jim tries to invade my personal space by talking to me within 2 milimeters of my face
  12. 38-year-old women who shop in the Junior's department
  13. Booger Eaters
  14. Public wedgie-pickers
  15. People who don't know the difference between merge and yield
  16. People who read the nutritional facts of the very good meal I'm about to enjoy out loud to me, "Did you know this has 300 grams of fat and 100 mg's of salt!? Ohmygoodness and the calories!" Shuddup already and let me be. I have a good metabolism okay.
  17. Belligerent Bikeriders

Posted by Ambra in Life | Link to This Entry
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On Behalf of the Jesus Clothing Donners
April 22, 2004

Should Jesus' name be on clothing? Well, in light of recent discussion on the ever-popular, "Jesus is My Homeboy" t-shirts, I thought an interesting issue has been broached. Now let's take our minds off those particular t-shirts for just a moment. Let's also take our minds off of Jesus slingshots (though I've never seen them), and any other repulsive or disgusting things that Urban Outfitters is currently selling, plans on selling, or has sold in the past. By the way, they are not the only ones who sell the shirts, but we're not thinking about the shirts anyway so...moving on. There is a greater issue I'd like to discuss. I know it's hard, but please just try. I know it is difficult for many people to take off the stuffy fundamentalist/traditionalist hat too, but I need you to try to do that too. Just for a moment. I took off mine a year or so ago and boy did it feel good. I had "hat hair" but hey, it went away in a couple of weeks.

Many people have taken issue with things of the shall we say "Christian" nature being marketed. I used to hang around a group of people who scoffed at things like Jesus movies, pencils, erasers, books, calendars, and the like. I'm with you, a lot of that stuff is just plain tacky. This is usually because it's poorly designed. My problem here is less with the fact that Jesus' name is being marketed and more with the fact that it's being done in a crappy way. Whatever happened to the spirit of excellence folks? Ahem, remember Daniel, ring any bells? Anyway. (I hope the producers of Left Behind and the Omega Code are reading this). I too can be numbered among the scoffers. This is where we become "Christian elitists" (myself included). Some people take issue with people profiting off of anything around, near, or pertaining to Jesus. We cry "sac-relig!" and wave our hands in disgust. To you I shall wave adieu from the other end of the thought spectrum. I myself figure that since I do not intend on putting my hands to do anything that doesn't incorporate Jesus, I would be one broke son-of-a-gun if I don't make some money by lifting up the name of Jesus in all that I do. (Yes, I do realize there's room for argument there, and probably some major conceptual holes, but this is my blog dangit so I'm just gonna say it how I think it).

Now, per this issue of Jesus clothing (not including the controversial shirts of course), and by Jesus clothing do understand I don't mean a burlap tunic or purple robe, I must for once, speak as some one not too far from high school graduating age. Humor me for a moment...This is 2004, and I am 22-years-old. I've never been to a club in my entire life (I suppose I should say, I've never been in a club, I tried once when I was 14, very unsuccessfully). I am a virgin. I can probably count the number of times on one hand that I've ever cursed or used profanity. Okay, two hands. I've never had a drop of alcohol in my entire life. (With the exception of rubbing alcohol, but that was at the Dr.'s office, and it's not consumable anyway). I actually like and respect my parents. I dress modestly (most of the time). I read my Bible in high school. Publicly. I've never smoked. (Of course with the exception of tea. My sister and I rolled it in paper once and smoked it in the garage back when I was 12, she was 8. It was Earl Grey okay, and I didn't inhale.) I do not say all this for cool points or the accolades of men. These were all choices that I made only by God's grace and I still somehow managed to sin then and even now each and every day. Point being, I am perhaps the most imperfect example of a modern-day square, who by all standards in the world am a relatively good kid, yet I've completely deprived myself of all things "good" and "carnal" in the world, and if you challenge me for wearing a Jesus t-shirt, I just may be forced to thrash you. If I want to wear a hoodie with the name of my Savior on it, dangit, let me be.

There. Now that I got that out, let me further explain. I represent a generation that desires to champion a cause. I think it's important that we realize the language of the up and coming generation. Clothing is a powerful medium to spread a message. The t-shirt slogan industry is booming now more than it has over the last couple of years. More than that, it is both an unfortunate, but true reality that much identity can be associated to clothing. Come to think of it, that concept is also Biblical. (That's another post) Now maybe that's not you. Maybe you're not into paraphernalia and such. I know I'm not. I think we should all recognize that no object or garmet of clothing will save or transform an individual. Only God can do that. I also understand Christians taking issue with non-believers raking in a profit in the name of Christ. It's almost modern-day exploitation. So why do we complain so gosh darn much instead of getting in the game and making something happen? I've had a million different clothing line ideas; a few of which, I intend to start in my lifetime. Speaking of paraphernalia, I remember when my sister gave her life over to Christ a year or so back. She's was completely consumed by the work He did in her life. She went to the closest Christian bookstore and stocked up on these little tacky stickers that said things like "Pray Hard" and "Jesus Loves You" and whatnot. She plastered them all over her laptop, binder, and school books. I could've made fun of her. I could have told her how capitalistic the makers of those stickers were. That was truly where she was in her life. Those stickers were an expression of a true reality in her life. It was an external representation of something internal, and I respected it.

I stand in the gap for that 16 year-old kid who just wants to serve God and doesn't want to rock "Sean Jean", "Pure Playaz", "Ecko" or "555 Soul" (not that there's anything against those brands). I stand in the gap for the kid that just wants to be identified with Christ. Man, can the kid just have Jesus' name on his t-shirt? My best friend has a jersey that says "Christ First" and it's hot. It's made by believers of course, and everytime he wears it, he gets compliments. Here locally in Seattle, there's a brand of urban wear called "Adonai". It's hot. I'd wear it if I wasn't such a girlie girl. I love my generation. I love our passion and loyalty. I love our fashion sense (when it's modest). I love our desire to bust out of the mold. I realize that my being a part of my generation means that I have to be just a little bit rebellious. And trust me, I embrace this role with open arms.

Some Non-Cheesy Christian Clothing Wear Sites
One Truth Clothing
Alleluia Wear
Sword of the Spirit Clothing
Holy Cotton

Posted by Ambra in Culture, Life, Theocracy | Link to This Entry
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The Cheap Gospel

Every now and then I have those days where I just want to throw my hands up and utter some profane language. There are so many time indicators in the media that would point people towards making some serious life decisions. Today was one. Our premier member of the Jackson 5 was indicted today for child molestation. Man I'm sad. Talk about a family with some serious identity issues. I'll be the first to admit I've had fun at the Jackson family's expense. However, anyone who can read off the first line of the vision test can see that something is not right about that entire family. And let's not fool ourselves folks, Dr. Phil ain't gonna cut it. Neither is the cushy Christianity that runs so rampantly throughout the entertainment industry. You know, that belief that it's okay to do "A" and still thank God and say you're a Christian even if "A" is directly in opposition to God. You know, relative Christianity.

Ghandi stated a very powerful truth when he said (paraphrased), "The biggest enemy of Christianity is not other religions. The real enemy is those who say they are Christian but live a life contrary to that reality". As much as I disagree with some Ghandi's philosophy, I have to co-sign on that statement, and then hold up a mirror immediately thereafter. It often amazes me that America calls itself a Christian nation. Foundationally, perhaps. Historically, perhaps. On paper, perhaps. By and large, America has got some serious explaining to do about keeping that title in all honesty. Throughout the months following the greatest attack most people my age had ever seen against America, "God Bless America" bumper stickers were rampant. If you don't have the words to that song memorized by now, then you must have been in a coma or something because not since Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On" has a song been so over-played in all of America. My best friend and I had some plans in the works to market some "America Bless God" stickers, but alas, we didn't move fast enough and the idea was long snatched up and somebody made a nice profit off that one. Money aside, America really needed to bless God. See, asking God to bless us, that's easy. Anyone can do that. That's why the kindergarten reading-level book The Prayer of Jabez flew off the shelves nationwide. I highly doubt that if Bruce Wilkinson wrote a book called, "The Prayer of Repentance" or "The Prayer of Sacrifice" it would be nearly as popular.

The face of Christianity is under intense scrutiny. The current battle is not really for the world and those that don't know God (although it should be). The battle is for revelation of the truth of the total reality of the Gospel. No half-steppin'. Are you in or are you out? There is something quite unsettling about anything lukewarm. Have you ever pulled your twice-warmed leftovers out of the microwave, taken a bite, only to find out that while the outside is hot, the center is well, warm and tastes pretty disgusting. I can't even imagine how God feels. So many of us straddle a foggy line. On one side of that line is evil, the other side is righteousness, the middle is morality. Somehow, morality gets confused with righteousness and that's where the mix-up begins. Morality is a hard word to define. There's really no standard from one sphere to another. What's moral to me, may not be moral to you. Once, in having a conversation with a co-worker about another friend, she mentioned to me, "Oh you'd love to meet her, she's got great ethics!" I wasn't sure what that was supposed to mean except maybe that she doesn't lie, cheat, steal, and she picks up after herself. So maybe those are things we all can agree on. But what's the definition of stealing? Does downloading a $499 copy of Adobe Photoshop via a filesharing program free of charge count? What about lying on your taxes? What about taking extended breaks on the clock? We often fall short when we allow morality to be determined by popular opinion and good conscience. Yet, we find these days, so many Christians are on the "choose-your-own-adventure" path in life. What we end up with is a hodgepodge of thoughts, belief systems, pet doctrines and ideosyncratic methodical Christianity.

I reject this cheap Christianity. This ideology that following Christ doesn't cost us something. I can honestly say there have been times in my walk when it would have been ten times easier to just sin. I call that the "woe is me Job syndrome". The reality is, following Christ costs us everything, and some. The even harsher reality is we don't have much legroom to complain about that fact. But instead, we'd rather straddle the line for the sake of "comfort". I suppose that's the curse of this nation. Comfort and instant gratification. While we're dwelling in our "Christian easychairs", there are people literally dying slow and painful deaths of low self-esteem, self-hatred, oppression, depression, and hurt. I'm not really sure what my goal is for saying all this. All I know is, we can't afford to make this thing look cheap. Too many people have bought into the "cheap" lie and they're struggling in a world that lacks authenticity and deliverence. Man we've got work to do. This thing is no joke.

Posted by Ambra in Theocracy | Link to This Entry
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Jesus is My Homeboy T-Shirt Debate
April 21, 2004

Funny, I'd actually planned on writing about this a few weeks back, but other things took precedence. However, Joe Carter, over at the evangelical outpost has once again broached the subject with his most recent post, "Jesus Ain't My Homeboy". I realize I take an un-popular stance regarding a quite popular shirt. See Joe's post for context, however, I'll excerpt a part here:

The idea of Jesus as our "friend" is deeply rooted in our particular religious culture. Our lack of reverence expresses itself in everything from our worship to our evangelism. How many times, for instance, have we seen an earnest Christian approach someone (including us) and ask, "Do you know Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior?"

While intended as a means of carrying out the Great Commission, the question is asking something else entirely. In essence, it's asking whether we possess God rather than whether God possess us. By claiming God as our "personal" friend we are putting him in the same category as our "personal trainers" and "personal assistants", people who serve us, rather than someone whom we are expected to serve. When Jesus becomes someone we can befriend he becomes someone we can take lightly.

Jesus, however, is not my homeboy. He is not my friend or my buddy. Christ is my master, my redeemer, my Lord and my God.

I actually think Joe makes some good points in his post. I think where I disagree is on the notion that Jesus Christ cannot be called our "friend". That's just not Biblical. And he later admitted he maybe took a tangent too far on that point. I also disagree with his take on the idea of using the name of Jesus in different mediums. Although, I understand his premise for the critique, I had to put on my 22-year-old, rebellious generation, youth hat and speak accordingly. Check out the dialogue taking place in the comments. Maybe I'll write something later. But this topic is really a symptom of a greater debate. I think the elephant's crept into the room at this point.

Posted by Ambra in Culture, Theocracy | Link to This Entry
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Revealing Columbine
April 20, 2004

Five years ago today, a great spiritual attack was launched on high school campuses around the nation. I'll never forget watching the news that morning as I always had prior to leaving for school. I was a Junior at the time, and I think I was late for school that day. The media coverage was incessant. Most morning shows had been pre-empted for coverage on the school shooting at Columbine High School. What was taking place in Littleton, Colorado that morning was horrifying to everyone who watched. The media sensationalized it. They trailed the clip of that boy hanging from the broken window, bloody, wounded, about 90,000 times that day. No one questioned whether or not it was tragic, most discussions centered around the "why" question and wondering who was to blame. Not long after most of the funeral services for the 13 victims, the vultures thought it a good platform to push the gun-control debate and start pointing the finger at social problems.

About my freshman year in college I took great interest in not only what took place at Columbine High School, but also the other seven plus school shootings that took place in that year and the years prior at high schools around the nation. I began researching. This wasn't some sick sadistic project, this was a burning in my gut. I began reading books, journals of the victims, news articles, watching videos, interviews, and anything I could get my hands on to push past the news reports and fully understand what had really taken place. I became completely disgusted with much of what I found and not for reasons most would imagine.

The journal of Rachel Scott, one of the victims, revealed a very candid and typical teenager struggling with issues of identity and peer pressure. Her journal also revealed a young lady who was hungry for a deeper relationship with God. This was also a young lady who prophesied her own death. She wrote almost to the day that it happened in her journal, "this will be the year that I die". I remember sitting on the ground at one of the bookstores in the mall, skimming through the book Rachel's Tears, a book which incorporates clippings from her diary, when I read this. My hands started to shake as I turned the pages and I was completely taken back by the power in the words of this modern-day martyr.

In my research about different school shootings there were certain consistencies that were failed to be mentioned by the media. The majority, if not all of the victims were Christians. Not only were they Christians, but they were "out" so to speak. They were the ones who led campus Bible studies and prayer circles before and after school. Many were faithful attendees at their local churches and youth groups. They were the ones everybody knew were Christians. They weren't the "closet Christians" so many of us are. That fact didn't really get much press. The school shooting that took place at Heath High School in west Paducah, Kentucky specifically targeted the group of Christians that met every morning to pray in the hall. In fact, the student charged actually opened fire on the prayer circle. It was an event he had planned for weeks. It was a pastor's son who stopped the shooter from taking any more victims.

In the case of Columbine, suspicion around why Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris targeted the victims they did involved a lot of smokescreening by the media. Meanwhile, countless believers who reached out to the Littleton community, and personally spent time with the victims' families can testify to the fact that the majority of the Columbine martyrs were in fact Christian, and Klebold and Harris were very specific in who they wanted dead. This was clearly a spiritual attack. When we seek to understand things in the natural, we often come up short and must rely on hypothesis and rough theory. The reality is, there is evil on this Earth and there is an enemy who is threatened by representatives of the Gospel of Jesus. Intimidation is a weapon that can be used to hinder the effectiveness of believers on this Earth. So why did they do it? Could we have done some pychological profiling? No. I have not a single doubt in my mind that Klebold and Harris were operating under the complete and total authority of the devil. He seeks to kill, steal and destroy. And where did this rampage lead the two? To death. Everything about this event and others like it smacks of demonic principalities and wickeness.

Major media conglomerates may have muffled the truth, but the reality of what was taking place on these campuses was apparent to the Christians there. It was a clear and definite effort to tear down the work that God was doing on many of these campuses. Fear was placed in the hearts of many believers. Fear to preach the truth. Fear to pray in public. Fear to carry a Bible to school. Fear is not of God. Fear opposes God. I believe the truth of Columbine and the other school shootings was not preached for a number of reasons. One, because many did not understand what was happening spiritually, two because the reality of anti-Christ sentiment in the United States would have to be acknowledged, discussed, and addressed, and three, because the revelation of the truth would mean people would have to deal with themselves and their own sinfulness and could not lay blame on Smith & Weston, K-Mart, the NRA, the Republican Party, or conservatives. Yet we still ask, "what Liberal media?" Our failure to recognize what really happened is truly in dishonor of those who died and I think it's disgusting. It certainly wasn't for the namesake of Michael Moore's half-truth telling documentary.

The fact that many of these young people died is not tragic in my opinion--not if they were believers. Death is not sad. Christ conquered death on our behalf a long time ago and believe me when I say they are in a much better place. The tragedy was that so many were unable to see the spiritual ramifications, the wickedness of the media, and the false reality that is still being preached regarding this event. These deaths were not in vain.

For more information on the truth of Columbine, and the ministries that have been birthed out of this spiritual attack, see the below resources:
Columbine Redemption
Rachel's Challenge
ChristianityToday.com - Videos of Hate
Atheists.org Decry Reality of Columbine
Truth About Bowling for Columbine

Posted by Ambra in Culture, Culture, Theocracy | Link to This Entry
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Putting A Little Flesh to Thought
April 19, 2004

It always amazes me what things people can get away with writing on the internet. Last year or so, I became a semi-frequent visitor and poster at an interesting, relevant although sometimes questionably Christian messageboard. I can't tell you how many times I thought to myself, "I'm entirely way too cool for this". But I kept posting nonetheless and when I'd had my last share of circular discussions on whether or not Christians should drink, smoke, swear, vote Democrat, vote Republican or have pre-marital sex, all conversations which I find utterly ridiculous, I left. I definitely met some cool peeps, but my patience ran thin and liberty of thought and profundity became the exception and not the rule (in my opinion). Then I got hip to the blogging trend and I started reading and posting comments on other peoples' blogs. Whoever is responsible for allowing the masses to so easily become pundits should be shot. If you are like me, and take most all you read on the internet with a grain of salt, then you can remain unaffected by the peons who spout bogus untruths via their weblogs. However, for the poor souls whose life is swayed by most all the internet has to offer, I feel obligated to tell them that there are idiots on the internet too. Myself included at times.

The internet is a powerful medium whereby anyone, with just a lick of common sense can publish just about anything they so desire, barring any direct threats towards the President or a trickling indication that you might want to blow up stuff. I have come to the decision that internet, while being a great place for peeps like me to express their thoughts to the masses, is also a place where the cowardly trolls come to dwell. You know, the people who, behind the cloak of anonymity leave rude and annoying comments on people's blogs; write spiteful emails or hateful and ill-informed op-ed's on the New York Times, or tout bad theology on messageboards and poorly-designed websites. Reveal yourself oh silent rogues, oh wretched miscreants!

It reminds me of that scene in the Wizard of Oz where "The Wizard" is finally revealed to be a tiny man talking into a microphone. That is the reality of so many that dwell on the internet. Even revealing one's true name is not real indentification. I challenge that a good percentage of bloggers/internet writers wouldn't say a lot of what they've written in a public setting, or even to another person's face for that matter. Now me? Call me crazy, but I feel quite certain that I would feel comfortable reading my blog verbatim to a group of ultra-radical, liberal, Ph.D, homosexual, Jesse Jackson-loving, Britney Spears-listening atheists from San Francisco with loaded guns and fresh tomatoes in hand. That could also just be my personality.

Don't get me wrong, I think it is valuable that much of what is on the web, may not have been otherwise spoken by timid individuals who've found a voice behind some html code. But the other part of me wonders if there's not something wrong with the fact that many people will never be able to put some flesh to their words. This post-modern generation is a lot more hesitant to connect their bodies with their values and beliefs. People think these little wimpy protests, marches and hunger strikes these days are really powerful. In my opinion, they don't compare to the major sacrifice many in the world have endured for the sake of what they believe (no matter how silly they were). However, I challenge that when the rubber meets to road, few people would be willing to die for what they believe or the controversy of what they write.

Posted by Ambra in Culture, Life | Link to This Entry
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Buy-A-Gun Day Observed
April 16, 2004

Yesterday, April 15th, Aaron of Aaron's Rantblog aka "Aaron the Liberal-Slayer" (prize for the funniest tagline), dubbed it Buy a Gun Day or (BAG Day). Umm, putting guns in the hands of the people on the day taxes are due? Okay, yeah sure whatever. On his website he's got an ad up called "Help Aaron buy his first gun" where people can donate towards the purchase of a 1911 . Aaron's covering of BAG Day is perhaps the funniest thing I've seen all week with the exception of this, oh and this (those would be pictures from my friend's "Save-the-Date" Cards for her upcoming wedding). In any case, Aaron's claim is he's "atrophying Second Amendment rights". Right on brother. Now, me personally, I won't be buying or obtaining a gun. This is because when it comes to weaponry, I am a sissy girl who'd be more likely to shoot her own toe off than to protect herself. Growing up, my dad and brother used to shoot targets with a BB gun in the backyard and even that freaked me out. You know that blonde white girl in most movies who while being chased by a bad guy, always picks up the gun, fumbles around, doesn't know how to use it, and then ends up shooting the air, wasting the only bullet that could save them. Yeah, that's me. Except I'm black and I'm not blonde, I only have blonde highlights, but you get the jist. So I'm with all you gun-toting citizens in spirit. I ain't mad atcha. But I observed this holiday from the sidelines. Now when it's Buy-A-Machete day, let me know and I'll be there.

Posted by Ambra in Politics | Link to This Entry
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