Fear Of Whales

Archive for September, 2010

P-Con

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I spent a year in Collegiate Debate, it was some of the most fun I’ve ever had in school. I often lament that not everyone had the same experience. Debate is excellent for training one to think and communicate quickly and critically, It is an introduction to logic class on steroids, and it inbeds the information it teaches is a very permanent part of the brain.

To this day I can communicate with debaters more quickly and easily than almost any type of person. Both of us have been trained how to relate universal implications of intricate government decisions in 5 minutes or less, so when the topic of Nuclear disarmament comes up and they can say “Nuke Prolif increases MAD which reduces GTNW’s likleyhood” and I’ll know exactly what they mean. Then I can say “Martyrdom”  and they’ll know exactly what I mean. Debate over.

That means when we’re in a group arguing about whether to go to Panera or Carl’s for lunch she can say “CP Chipotle”  and I can say “No disads” and we can turn the car around and start heading there before anyone else has figured out what just happened.

It’s a beautiful thing.

One particularly powerful concept from debate is called “P-Con” it stands for Performative Contradiction. Here’s how it works:

Suppose you get the short end of the stick and are assigned to defend some terrible proposition. Maybe you are against a stimulus bill which, though expensive, is really the only choice we are to prevent the stock market from crashing. Well you know it, and you know the other team knows it and is preparing all sorts of arguments against any criticisms you can come up with for the bill because after all wasting money is better than everybody starving.

Suppose then that you get a brilliant idea, instead of opposing the bill on the grounds that it’s insufficient somehow, or to expensive, or full of pork, you oppose it on the grounds that it will save the terrible american capitalistic system, and in doing so, you render all of their preparation useless.

Suppose you speak passionately from the podium about the evils of capitalism and the free market society. You demonstrate that our rampant consumerism is destroying the planet and multiple third world countries, you enrapture the audience until they are eating out of your hand believing that if they continue to worship the almighty dollar they will never truly be free, and the only thing we can do to save ourself is crash the economy as soon as possible!

Then suppose your opposition asks as a POI “Say where did you get those sunglasses?”

“Oakley why?”

“P-Con”

You just lost the debate.

The reason is because it’s now obvious to everyone that you don’t believe a word you are saying (and if anyone missed it. your opponent will be sure to make it clear to them in his next speech) His argument, which he offered simply by saying that half a word  “P-Con” is that by reviling yourself as a person who shops for designer eyewear you have betrayed a truth within your heart that you cannot possibly be the anti-capitalistic hippi you claim to be, so even if he doesn’t show your argument is false, you have proven it by persisting to live in contradiction to it.

And it really is that brutal, P-Con, you lose! This debate is now about your sunglasses.

This comes up in other ways also:

Suppose you are assigned to defend same-sex marraige and you happen to mention that “this is a way to ensure equality for the gays”

“The Gays?” did you mean “The GLBT Community?” P-Con, You Lose.

Suppose you have built yourself halfway into a Kritik about profanity, and the evils thereof, but you happen to stub your toe as you return to your seat, shouting an expletive.

“What do you just say?” P-Con, You Lose.

I can’t tell you mow many times I’ve wanted to explain this to non-debaters.

Say I’m arguing about theology with some friends of mine within earshot of a freshman girl from Point-Loma

“Ummmm… Excuse me, but like, Arguing is stupid! It’s like, not like, you’re going to convince one another”

“Oh Yeah, arguing is stupid huh? Would you like to argue about it?” P-Con! now leave me alone!

Here’s the point, and I know I took a long time to get to it, but I was having fun.

Most people do not have the vocabulary to describe what I just described, and if you are a Christian, and you try to tell people about Christ, and you try to counter their arguments You might very well win. Christianity is true which comes in really handy for winning arguments about it. But if you don’t live as if it’s true, If you are a nasty selfish argumentative person, they will not believe you.

Even if you’re just a little xenophobic, or just a little hypocritical, or you got drunk that one time and kissed that girl you shouldn’t have… They won’t believe you.

They might not be able to explain why not, They might not know why not, They might offer other objections that they do understand to what you’re saying, but if you do not get your life straight those objections will never run out, and the people you talk to about Jesus will never believe you, because your life and your words form a performative contradiction so they know that you don’t really believe what you are telling them to.

P-Con, You lose

Key:
Nuke Prolif: Nuclear Proliferation- The spread of nuclear weapons technology to new countries.
MAD: Mutually Assured Destruction- The concept that you won’t destroy me if you know destroying me would also destroy you
GNTW: Global Thermal Nuclear War-  WWIII which most debaters can show is likely to happen if the other team gets their way, regardless of what that team is arguing for
CP: Counter Plan- An option that had not yet been considered
Disad: Disadvantage- A negative result of the plan coming to fruition
POI: Point of Information- A question asked during the middle of a debate round by ones opponents
Kritik: a Critique- We debaters refuse to use the hegemonic male-dominated spelling of the word critique because it is just another tool the white man uses to keep us down!
Point Loma: Point Loma Nazarene University- A Christian College on the beach in San Diego, California.

Written by RyanGaffney

September 28th, 2010 at 7:00 am

Language Learning

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I believe that the language a person speaks is one of the most important, if not the very most important factor in determining how they think. If you speak English you think in English, and that comes with all sorts of connotative meanings to English words.

I’ve studied some Spanish, but not nearly enough to begin to think in Spanish. When I speak Spanish, I have to translate what my friend is saying into English in my head, then formulate a response, and then translate my English response back into Spanish.

Eventually through practice I’m told it’s possible to develop enough fluency for me to begin to think in Spanish, and I aspire to do that, not only because it would help me avoid embarrassing mistakes, but also because Spanish has a different feel than English and learing to think in Spanish could hardly help but open my mind.

When I think of what it means to “Know Jesus” I have very little choice but to use that English word “know” in my head. “Know” is related to “Knowledge”. It associates in my head with facts and figures and books. I automatically think of knowing Jesus in terms of what I believe, and whether or not those beliefs correspond to reality sufficiently.

If I spoke Spanish I wouldn’t have that problem because I would find in my Bible a variant from the root “conoser” which is related to “ser” meaning “to be” it is a word that refers to familiarity, as in “I know my friend Jessica” while contexts like “I know the formula for the area of a triangle” use a different Spanish word. (“Saber”) so the biblical term would associate in my mind with the person of Jesus, as an associate of mine, and being familiar with his ways.

And that’s just one word!

Do you know how many words Spanish has!!!

So I’m excited by languages and language learning, I think it’s a force for peace, unity and broad mindedness. Which is why I was so incredibly excited when I found this.

It’s called “Where Are Your Keys?” and it’s an open sourced language learning game put together by some nerds in Portland who are obviously insanely awesome. I’ve not played it, They’re in Portland, but I’ve read up on it and watched some videos, from what I can tell, it’s like Mao, but instead of a soul crushing sensation that you are wasting your life, you get to learn Mandarin.

I think the church should rock this thing. Do any of you readers know anybody in Portland?

PS. If you don’t know what Mao is, e-mail me, we’ll get a game on!

Written by RyanGaffney

September 24th, 2010 at 9:13 am

Protecting the Sanctity of Marriage.

with 11 comments

Mawwaige!Would somebody please explain to me how having a battle with the federal government in the courts about the interpretation of the constitution is supposed to protect the sanctity of a God ordained institution between men and women?

Seriously, use the comments section and explain it to me, I just don’t get it.

How can we possibly say out of one side of our mouths that marriage is a sacred institution which God alone is in control of, while at the very same time saying that if this or that bill passes it will be ruined?

It seems to be that the only way we can truly interfere with marriage in the church would be to allow ourselves to become convinced that what the government has to say actually has anything whatsoever to do with who is and who is not married in the eyes of God!

So on one side we have the holy institution of marriage, a part of what Lutherans call the “Right Hand Kingdom” a Godly practice undertaken by two people who love each other and form a covenant to death. And then on the other side you have the civil institution of marriage, a part of the “Left Hand Kingdom”, wherein two people decide to file with the state in order to garner certain benefits and hold all assets jointly until they file for divorce.

And these two things, though they often coincide, have absolutely nothing to do with one another. the fact that they are both called “marriage” is an unfortunate circumstance. But considering the word “bow” can mean anything from a decorative knot to a device used to play a violin I should think were more than able to overcome the idea that the same word might have two different meanings.

This is a lesson I really wish we would learn well as a church, it affects more than our theology of same-sex marriage.

Consider the number of young couples, who being sexually tempted, remember the words of their youth pastor, and decide to get married. And so they file with the state and have a left handed ceremony, but fail utterly to comprehend the significance of a lifetime covenant of sacrificial love with one another. I call it “Premarital Marriage” and it is notably more damaging and immoral than premarital sex, what it essentially does is create two problems out of one, where now the couple is not only sexually active prematurely, but also married in the eyes of the state, causing problems with bitterness, divorce, and children.

And speaking of divorce how many couples in the church today have broken their covenant before God to love one another in sickness and in health? How many married couples hate one another? How many supposedly unbroken homes exist where husband in wife sleep in separate beds, separate rooms, or separate houses because they can’t bear to look one another in the eye? Ans what is it that’s gone wrong with a church that tells such couples not to file for divorce, because that would be a sin?

That is the same perverted logic that causes catholic school girls to become pregnant at 15 because they thought using a condom while having premarital sex with their boyfriend would be immoral. At the point where you hate one another, you’re already divorced. The paperwork just makes it easier come tax time.

Now just to be clear: I’m against divorce, and against premarital sex, I think young couples should get married, and older couples should seek reconciliation in their marriages, but I also think that if you are not going to do that then you might as well be honest about it in the eyes of the state and make it easier on yourself.

So in closing consider this:

When you fall in love, and promise one person that you will be theirs and they will be yours as long as you both shall live, and when you have a wedding in Paris at Notre Damme presided over by Billy Graham himself and doves descend into the sanctuary as a sign from heaven above that even The Father God is celebrating your union on this day, remember that even on that great morning there will be couples plotting the murder of their spouses in their heads, teenagers driving to Vegas, to “make it legal”, former strippers marrying 70 year old millionaires for their money, and a whole host of illegal immigrants marrying for citizenship. But none of that will matter. You will be joined in the eyes of God with the person you love and the US government could do nothing to tarnish that in a million years.

And neither can Adam and Steve.

Written by RyanGaffney

September 20th, 2010 at 1:08 pm

They’re Making Christian WOW

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World of Warcraft (WOW) is a massive online game made by blizzard entertainment. It has absolutely revolutionized the genre of Online RPG gaming and perhaps gaming itself. So much so that we Christians decided we needed to get in on the action by creating one of our own!

Yes you heard right. WOW is fun, safe, and not explicitly Christian, and that just won’t do! “The Bible Online: Heroes” however will finally provide Christian nerds with an MMORPG that they can play without having to learn to relate with to all of those pesky…normal nerds.

Am I the only person who is really offended by this?

I feel like:

First they came for our secular books, I stayed silent, because it happened 100 years before I was born,

And then they came for our secular music, and I stayed silent because when I tried to say anything people just told me that I “don’t get it”

Then they came for our secular clothing, and that one really kinda ticked me off but it was like, what was I going to do? Endorse the regular clothing industry?

They’ve come for our bumper stickers, and Our coffee shops and out breath mints (seriously)

And Now they’re here for our awesome computer games that don’t take place in bible times and I fear it’s too late

It’s not okay people!

It was never okay. The entire dichotomy, the whole separation of the sacred and the secular is heresy!

I’m not using sensational language either. The book of Colossians was written to combat the heretical notion of the Gnostics that there was the material, and the spiritual realm, and the Material was bad, while the spiritual was good. The Bible says no, Jesus was both, deal with it!

I really do think that’s the problem. I think we have Christians walking around today who are really Gnostics.

Wikipedia defines Gnostics as believing in “esoteric knowledge through which the spiritual elements of humanity are reminded of their true origins within the superior Godhead, being thus permitted to escape materiality” In other words they think they’re better off because they know something the rest of us don’t. And this knowledge of theirs is going to help their spirits fly away from everybody who doesn’t believe forever.

Does that sound like what you believe?

Because it’s in direct opposition to the teachings of Christianity.

Written by RyanGaffney

September 16th, 2010 at 10:08 am

I Didn’t Know Any Worse

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http://www.werismyki.com/imgs/image-911cross.jpgAll those years ago today, I can remember where I was… I was a sophomore in high school, we got a call at about 7 in the morning, before breakfast, he said that something terrible had happened, and I should turn on the news.

I think the second tower had just fallen as we turned it on. The news footage that day was almost all of the standing towers, replaying the shots of the crash, of the towers smoking.

I still had to go to school. My first period Geometry Teacher Mr. Duskett had a phrase on the board “September 11th 2001 a day that will live in infamy” quoting FDR’s famous speech about December 7th.

In second period English we didn’t study at all, we just watched the news. My friend Salim sat right behind me and we both watched in awe as details began to pour in about the attacks. By this time it was clear that this was no accident.

“Who would do this?” he asked with tears in his eyes “Who could do this?”

I brought that story up recently in a discussion, when the anti-American sentiment of Islam was brought up, hoping the prove a point.

My mother asked why I’d never mentioned it before, she said when I got home from school that day I had told her we barely talked about it we just sat in stunned silence.

There certainly was a lot of that. I told her “I guess at the time I didn’t think that comment was terribly relevant”

At first I didn’t know why, and then I realized. Why would it be relevant? On 9/11 an American was upset, aghast, and confused about who could do such a thing? Of course he was. So was I!

Salim was my friend, he wasn’t my “Muslim friend” or my “Middle Eastern friend” he was just a guy, I went to Jr. High with him, we talked, I gave him an old laptop once. I was compassionate loving and non judgmental to him, Why? Because at the time, I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to be.

I didn’t know any worse.

Salim’s comment was in second period. It wasn’t until Mrs. Delong’s Social Studies 5th period we learned Osama Bin Ladin was responsible. And it wasn’t until several days after that we high scholars figured out who Al Queda was. (actually we called them the Taliban back then) and it wasn’t until the following months and years that our understanding of the middle east, and of Islam and of Muslim people began to change and sour

So now when you think of the Middle East you think of words like Haamas and Jihad and Hezbollah, you think of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the terrorism in Israel. That wasn’t the case at 9 in the morning on September 11, 2001.

I thought of Salim… and Omit, and that little guy from wrestling what was his name? …Salmaan. Nice guy.

None of them hate America

None of them want to hurt Christians

It’s become commonplace now for Christians to cite that Islam is a dangerous religion, that they want to take over the United States, that they lie, that their prophet was a murderer, that it’s a theocracy over there in the middle east. It’s usually backed up by some half remembered verse in the Koran about what you should do to infidels…

I dunno what the Koran says, I can’t read Arabic, and translation is considered theologically problematic. But if it says you should hurt people then these guys don’t believe it, and there are others like them. As a matter of fact, they’re ALL like them, nice guys and gals who love America and were shocked at the 911 attacks.

Of all the Muslims I’ve ever met in the US, Not one of them was cheering that day.

And a great many were crying.

They must have known what was coming.

Written by RyanGaffney

September 11th, 2010 at 12:06 am

A Creed

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I’ve been working for a while on a new kind of creed. I want to figure out what a belief statement would look along the lines of the Apostles or Nicean creed, that focused less on the historical facts, and more on the teachings of Jesus and living as a christian. This Is what I’ve come up with, It’s a work in progress, this is my third draft in as many years.

I Believe in the Christian Life

In the depravity of mankind.

And in the desperate need of every human being for love

I believe that the world will be a better place if everyone who was asked to walk a mile, walked two, and everyone who was asked for a hundred foreskins gave two hundred.

I believe that is more productive to respond to someone who has hurt me by allowing him to hurt me again, than it is to hurt him in turn.

Though I often fail, I believe in loving my enemies.

I believe that more can be accomplished through peace than through violence. That wars can be won by laying down to die. And that under the right circumstances victories can be earned only by admitting defeat.

I believe in truth

I believe that truth is always better than falsehood, that it should be sought after, fought for, and protected

I believe that everyone everywhere is important, and that the things that separate us mean less than the things that unite us.

I believe that men are supposed to cry. And so are women. I also believe we are supposed to laugh, and sneeze and live life,

I believe in life, in love, in hope, in faith, in sacrifice

I don’t believe I should hide, and pretend like I’m the same as other people, but sometimes I wish the televangelists would.

I am a Christian. This is what I believe.

Oh Yeah, I also think some stuff happened in Jerusalem a long time ago.

Written by RyanGaffney

September 8th, 2010 at 3:55 pm

Not Exactly My Fault

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I was going through my phone tonight. Particularly the notepad app where I store little tidbits of information that I don’t want to write on scraps of paper lest I lose them. Contact info, driving directions, ideas for books, those sorts of things. Once in a while I write down a lesson I’ve learned or a thought to ponder, so as I went through my phone tonight, I got an opportunity to remind myself of things of some life lessons I’d forgotten.

One note I found was about a time a little over a year ago when I was at the Dallas airport with Don, on my way to a gathering of evangelists who specializes in apologetics so see if I might have a future in their organization. Don was, and persists to be one of the kindest and most sanctified men I have ever known, and he had mentored me for a year or so in his ideology of ministry, this trip was a sort of a culmination of that.

As we were waiting for the layover in Dallas I got myself distracted and lost track of time. When I eventually returned to the Gate, Don was there waiting for me, with a smile on his face, to inform me that I’d missed my flight, and that he had waited so I wouldn’t have to fly alone. Then he rescheduled our flights and took me out to dinner.

That however, despite being awesome, is not what the note was about. I had written it down to remind myself how I felt afterwards, as we continued to travel. It was a tremendous amount of personal responsibility.

I had caused Don to miss his flight, and in so doing, I sent us into a contingency plan, after that, No matter what went wrong, I felt it was at least partially my fault. If I hadn’t of missed the flight we wouldn’t even be here.

And I realized. Isn’t that always the case? No matter what you do or where you are, or what goes wrong in your life, In some ways it was only able to happen because of you and the choices you’ve made to impact the world. If things were different, things would be different.

In my phone The line in the note said:

“This helps me take responsibility for things which aren’t exactly my fault”

What a lesson! How often am I accused of something falsely and I curl up and get defensive and look at everything else that caused it. The fact is everything might have been different if I had done different things, and I can own that. And if there’s even a low percentage of responsibility that’s mine, well then I have to admit that if that percentage weren’t there, it probably wouldn’t have happened.

Now I can say it “I’m sorry about that”

I got out of a relationship a few months ago and I was totally exhausted. My girlfriend and I had been fighting to make it work for months, and both of us are really good at fighting. She became generally unsatisfied with me and I felt there was nothing I could do to change that. Anything she asked me to do or change or improve about myself that I succeeded in doing, in my mind only reminded her of 10 more things she needed fixed about me.

As a result when it finally ended, I got this breath of fresh air and self justification. I felt, and with considerable support, that she was simply unsatisfiable, and that no matter what I did to please her it would not have been enough. After all I had bent over backwards in many ways and it didn’t seem even to help, let alone solve, the problem.

I felt perfectally justified to say “It’s all her fault. If she would have been satisfied by anything I would have found it, I would have climbed any mountain for her, but even if I had she would have just coldly told me that she wanted me to climb a bunch more. There was nothing I could do, It’s her!”

There was another note in my phone tonight.

It read: “Plumerias, Gladiolas, Jasmine, Garden Roses”

Those were her favorite flowers.

There was a time in our relationship (or, as happens to be the case, a time just before our relationship) when I was so enamored with her and excited to surprise and please her, that when I happened to overhear her mention her favorite flowers I wrote it down so I wouldn’t forget.

Shoot man. I barley got her flowers at all near the end. When I did I got her regular roses. She liked garden roses, with the vines. I forgot!

Something somewhere in me that was there in the beginning of the relationship left. I stopped caring enough to surprise her with flowers. I started to feel imposed upon by her.

And it’s true that forgetting about flowers, that my losing that lovin’ feeling isn’t what finally killed the relationship, but it’s also true that if things were different, things would be different.

So now I can say it “I’m sorry… It could have been different if not for me”

And I hope I can learn to be sorry more often for even those things that aren’t exactly my fault

Written by RyanGaffney

September 4th, 2010 at 11:51 am