Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

Why Wikipedia is mad at me (and why I deserve it)

October 26, 2009

So, for those of you who read my previous post on my wikipedia experiment, you may notice that int he comments, many wiki-folks were none too pleased about my “experiment.” The common strand in their thoughts was that what I was doing was not as innocuous as I had thought, but was doing damage to their project, and was undermining what they try to do over there.

In hindsight, it was irresponsible. I came to the project with a couple of assumptions (both conscious and subconscious):

1. Since wikipedia belongs to the people, I can do what I want with it

2. What I did had no long lasting harm to anyone

3. Since I was doing it with the intention of gaining data and quantifying information and whatnot, it was ok. You can do anything in the almighty name of SCIENCE!

In the end, I don’t know if all of these are legit. First off, you can’t just mess around with someone’s project and think that it is OK. It does not matter how I view the legitimacy of the information on Wikipedia. It does not matter what I think about their work. It matters that they are trying to put something together and I was tinkering with it for my own curiosity. That is no good.

On top of the fact that I, in practice, do use wikipedia as an authoritative source. And, to be honest, you do too. Maybe not for papers, maybe not for scholarly works, but if you want to know a bit of trivia about anything, and you find it on wikipeida, you believe it. When I ask when Martin Luther was born, and the first entry on google is the wikipedia page, I doubt that very many people at all say to themselves: “I can’t check wikipedia, it is not a credible source.”

So, all in all, my idea was ill advised, and I am going to desist from adding false information to wikipedia in order to test the wiki-editor response time.  I did not mean harm, but harm was done. And so….

Sorry wikipedia. I won’t do it again.


My Wikipedia experiment

October 8, 2009

Today was the beginning of what will probably end up some weird hobby of mine.

It started with a joke about the Newsboys with a friend. At the end of our witty interchange, he added a false single in 1997 to the Newsboys Wikipedia page. 1 hour and 15 minutes later, the revision had been undone.

That kind of speed is impressive.

So, this made me want to see how quickly wikipedia can correct itself. How good are their editors? Was it a fluke?

I needed more source data

So, I went ahead and made a slight revision to the page un Huldrych Zwingli, the Swiss Reformer and contemporary of Martin Luther. I wanted the false fact to be indisputably false (not just a debatable opinion), and yet not glaringly obvious (Like “Also, Zwingli invented the light bulb and flew into space”)

[I would like to note, that while I considered this to be an interesting study, my wife considers it just being a jerk.  She does have a point.]

So, in the historical context section, I added that Zwingli participated in the Old Zurich War, which ended about 40 years before Zwingli was born.

Ten hours later, it was still on the site. I took it down, as to not be a TOTAL jerk, although inside I seriously wonder how long it could have stayed.

Now, it was inserted (accidentally) right before a footnote which was intended for something else, potentially making it look more credible, and thus would be passed by on first glance by an editor. But why did it make it so long, while an addition of a single to a Christian rock band’s library was so quickly corrected?

I feel like there is some sort of potential spiritual truth here, and maybe even a criticism of Wikipedia or postmodernism or the wiki-trend as a whole.  But that is for a later post.

What is really important is that I may have found a new fun thing to do. I plan on collecting more source data on figuring out how long it takes for errors to be corrected on Wikipeida. Expect either more blog posts or an entirely new blog on the subject.

**Edit – see my apology in the next blog post:

rock concert church

June 7, 2009

Today I got the following question via text message from a friend:

“What are the implications of the parallel between the rock show/movie theater experience and the contemporary worship service experience? Positive and negative.”

First off,  I love having friends who write text messages in English rather than that awful hybrid “txt” language. Makes me feel like the medium isn’t necessarily plunging the English language into oblivion (as if I had room to make such judgments – see: my punctuation in this post)

Now that I have sated my need for a tangent, on to the question at hand. I am a bit of a biased source for these sorts of questions. I moved away from mainstream Evangelicalism almost entirely for this reason.  Because I did not want to attend a rock show on Sunday mornings, I wanted to worship God.

I can hear the backlash already: “Rock music can be worship!” “You are just a sour traditionalist,” “Make a joyful NOISE unto the LORD” etc. I know, I know. I was there at one point in my life. I made those arguments. And those statements are not invalid. This discussion often hinges on electric guitars and drum sets, which are part but not the root of the issue.

I dislike when worship looks more like a rock concert exactly because of how powerful I know rock concerts are. Or, I should say, because of how that emotional power happens. When I saw Five Iron Frenzy play on their farewell tour, I was swept away. This was a band that I had come to love and fanatically pledge allegiance to for years of my life. They were playing not just songs from their final album, but a wide range from their entire library including a medly off old songs that had not been played for years. It was amazing. When they finished their set with their timeless ‘Every New Day’ (still my favorite song of all time), I was a big ball of emotion. The response of everyone in the room was palpable. I will remember that concert for a long time.

“So should that not be a model for worship? A palpable experience that we remember? A time where we get swept up in how great God is?” Maybe, the experience alone can’t be the aim. I love those concerts, but they accomplish something very different than what worship should be. Worship – and therefore Sunday morning (or Wednesday night or Saturday evening) worhsip services – is all about giving glory to God.  It is about coming together as a congregation and singing to Him. But often in ‘contemporary’ (a broad term which almost has no definite meaning at this point) worship service where there is this rock band feel, the congregation can’t hear themselves sing, they can’t hear each other sing, and they are all drowned out by the band on the stage.

Even that term, ‘stage,’ makes me want to cringe.  By calling the front of your sanctuary a ‘stage,’ you are saying that there are performers, not leaders. You then have to call the congregation an audience – who are then not joinging in song but observing. When worship is a rock concert, it is not congregational worship, because it is about an audience watching someone else worship.

And while rock concert churches might say that they don’t actually believe this,  there is a phrase I learned this year in school that sheds some light: “lex credendi lex orandi,” loosely translated “the law of worship is the law of belief.”  How we worship shows what we believe.  The church fathers used this to defend Christ’s divinity – He is worshipped as God, so either they were idolaters or Christ was truly divine. Similarly, someone might say that loud music overpowering the congregation does not intend to make them feel excluded from worship – but look at the rock concert for an example. When is the audience most encouraged to sing along? When they cut the music and turn the microphones away from the stage. When you use terminology and methodology that turns your congregation into an audience, no matter what you say about worship, your actions have spoken your beliefs.

Now, this goes the other way as well. A congregation that sings hymns with no feeling, that seems to hate having to sing in the first place, and that seems to dread music says a lot about worship through their actions. To give some positive spin on the ‘contemporary’ (there’s that word again!) worsihp scene, there is a reminder to ‘traditional’ folks that God cares about our hearts. God wants us to love Him, and that happens with our emotions. As my pastor said today in his sermon “doctrine does not work until it is lived.” If you are singing to God, and make it look like you are bored, something is wrong.

To sum up my rant here, the issue of the rock concert church is one of properly leading God’s people in worship. If you turn them into an audience, either through terminology or performance choices you have failed at your job of guiding them in an offering of music to the LORD.

P.S. Big thanks to my dad, Dr. Melvin Unger, who has talked with me about these things for countless hours, and is influential in my theology of worship. He is also a terrific writer

new Bible

May 3, 2009

One of the worst parts about having my briefcase stolen is that I lost my Bible and moleskine. Now, I wasn’t an avid notetaker, certainly not as much as most. I underlined a verse here and there, and I would go through a week or two when I would be writing all sorts of life changing tidbits of knowledge in my journal so I could reflect and be changed in the future. But for the most part, I only had a few things in there.

But those few things were comfortable. My moleskine had a feel to it after I had put it in my back pocket and sat on it so many times. I had a clever Easter haiku. My Bible would easily open to 1 Corinthians because I once was reading it while it was lightly raining, and the pages were forever morphed by their encounter. A friend wrote that it was to me from “Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law.” Not very inspirational, but it made me laugh. It was comfortable.

I am realizng that a lot of my spirituality was found in the comfort of that thinline ESV and it accompanying jounral. Every time I thought about buying a new part, I ouldn’t bring myself to do it because of what I had invested in those items. 

Potentially, I put too much into them. My faith shouldn’t feel rattled because I am reading from a different copy of a translation of a copy of a copy of what Paul wrote. The words are no different (sticking with the ESV). This one is not red-letter (which is good or bad, depending on who I’m talking to).  

But in thinking about it, there is a lot of our faith that gets tied up in comfort. The church building, the people, the translation. And I am not sure if that is innherently bad, but I am going to try and guard myself into turning that bound group of pages into my faith, which can be aided by the comfortable, but can’t be defined by it.

It can’t be about me

March 19, 2009

This ties into what the last post was about, but what I do can’t be about me.

I heard recently from a friend that pastors should not stay at churches longer than 10 years (or even 5), because at that point what becomes most important is not God or the gospel but the pastor. The person can’t be the center of the ministry.

So, I can’t be what Zao Anglican Youth Ministry is all about. I can not be the center. When students show up, it can not be because they want to see me, but because they want what the ministry is all about – a community that draw them closer to Christ.

But it is hard to make that the case. It is hard not to try to be a funny, charismatic person (not that I succeed at that…). Being funny helps people like you. People like to come to hear someone they like.

I pray that I learn how to point past myself, so that students know that the real reason I do anything is to try and figure out how to get them to love Christ and others more.

Christian celebrity

February 24, 2009

I learned a lot about the status of Christian celebrities through the Christian music scene.

My first big lesson about what it means to be in the spotlight was after a Christian concert. An artist (whose name I will leave out) had a long line of adoring fans just waiting for his autograph. His set went late, and because he was tired, he only signs a few things belonging to fans. Many adolescent girls were sorely disappointed. My friends were among them. They left wishing they would have been lucky enough to just get to speak with him face to face.

The other lesson came from the same music festival, albeit a different year. I went to see my favorite band play, and since they were early in the evening, they were walking around and meeting people. I, like any ninth grade boy, ran around trying to find all of them, seeing if they would sign my tshirt. After finding several, I ran across the lead singer. I awkwardly approached and asked for his autograph.

And he said no.

But it was his reason that stuck with me. He said that he doesn’t consider himself anything special, and didn’t want anyone to hold him on a pedestal, so he didn’t want to sign any autographs to make him seem like a big deal. I was disappointed,  but that encounter has stuck with me for a while.

And I overheard him give that same answer to fans every time I saw the band live.

Two different pictures of celebrity – one who won’t sign autographs because he doesn’t have the time, another because he didn’t want to seem like a big deal.

Christian celebrity seems like, to me, an oxymoron. If the purpose of all Christians is to point to Christ, then any Christian should not try and be known, but rather to try and make Christ known. When I am at my best, I hope that anyone who hears my lessons completely forgets that it was me who gave it, but remembers whatever truth God spoke through (and despite) me. I am rarely that humble in mindset, but I think that should still be the goal.

Now, you can’t totally say no one should be known. Apostles were known, bishops are known, and fame isn’t always bad. But there is a certain tension we should all feel when we hear a preacher or an artist or anyone that we admire, between knowing that they do what they do well, and focusing on the fact that what they do should ultimately have us not think about them, but about God.

How do we reconcile the need for recognizable figures (which contributes to order within the church and being able to recommend good books, etc.) and realizing that we can easily fall into pseudo idol worship and love the messenger instead of the message?

Truth and change

July 7, 2008

So, oddly enough, I had an interesting thought while listening to Flobots.

For those of you who don’t know, Flobots is the band whose recent hit ‘handlebars’ is currently getting some moderate radio airplay. They are also very heavy handed in their opinions. If you generally like subtlety, the government, or American foreign and Domestic policiesi, I would highly recommend you avoid their music. I like them dispite the “bludgeon you over the head with our opinions” lyrics which they give me. Mostly because every now and then, at heart, I secretly want to be a peaceful guerilla liberal, protesting war peacefully and starting revolutionary community programs.

So while I am listening to claims made about the terrible ethics in the government (specifically the idea that we have been ‘overthrowing leaders with legitimate views, democratically elected but we didn’t approve’) when I thought about the effect that this would have on my life, were it true. What if everything they said about the government were true, and they were really doing all sorts of terrible things, and killing people for private industry? I certainly, as a Christian, could ot let that sort of thing go by without trying to somehow correct it, eh? I would want to do something, anything, to change that fact. Were that completely true, it would require me to make some sort of change.

Truth, especially truth that contradicts how we currently think, often requires some sort of change. And I think this is why there is so much resistance to truth. If Wal Mart really is mistreating their workers,  destroying small businesses across the country, and forcing distributors to lower their prices or else lose a giant client, then I really ought not support that business. But, if I ignore this truth, if I turn a blind eye, then I can continue to save money on all my purchases and live a content life.

This is a clear pragmatic foundation for the insistance that truth can be relative. If something can be true for you and not for me, then I can afford to stay exactly how I am. If I can remain comfortable and not change my personal status quo, then all is well. I will not accept something that tells me to change, because I have things set up juts how I like them, thank you very much.

But what I want to focus on is not postmodernism (because that dead horse is being beaten by a thousand different bloggers). No, I think it is Christians who need to hear this message.

Because there are lots of truths that upturn our apple cart and force us to change and act. An easy target is capitalism. I know we won the cold war (USA! USA! USA!), but perfection is not found in a system that tells everyone to work for themselves and do whatever it takes to build up what they can, without restrictions. For the Christian, that system says “Love your neighbour by telling them the gospel, but do not be concerned with their financial well being. That is their problem, not yours.” It says that when it comes to money, we should not be encumbered by the society around us. The greater good is nonexistant. So, tear down your proverbial barns, fill them with all your grain, and don’t worry about the poor and oppressed around us. Take a look at the Old Testament prophets if you want an idea about how God feels about that.

I could go on, (I almost did, and had to erase some of what I wrote to get back on topic) but I think you get the idea. When someone points out an error to us, we don’t want to hear it, because truth often requires a change of action.

I recently had to hear a very difficult truth. I was informed (by my awesome wife, without whom I would be a huge jerk) that the way I youth minister is very me focused. More than a few events or policies that I planned were more because I liked them, rather than looking out what was best for the group. I did not like to hear that, and it is still hard to swallow. But I am learning that what is most important is not me feeling comfortable with what is going on, but me hearing truth and changing so that my life looks more and more like what God wants it to be.

To bring this full circle, back to my good friends the Flobots, I would like to think that every condemnation that they throw out is left wing, pinko commie stuff. But maybe it isn’t, and maybe what I need to do is take a hard look at how things really are. And if I find out that there is really a need for change, may God give me the strength to do what I ought to make a difference. Because if God’s people do not serach for truth and correct what is wrong, then who are we expecting to do the job for us?