Friday, July 25, 2008

Rogue Morimoto Soba Ale with Chicken Salad

I had just written an article about beer-and-food pairings. I had not included chicken salad in the beer-and-food pairings mix, but the next day, a friend visited for lunch and we had chicken salad sandwiches with Rogue Morimoto Soba Ale.

Excellent pairing. My friend agreed. I knew it would be close. Rogue includes little pairing icons on its larger, single-sale bottles (one pint + six ounces), and the Morimoto Soba Ale included a fish icon and a bird icon. Morimoto Soba Ale was light enough and zippy enough to compliment white meat, even when that white meat is mixed with mayonnaise and grapes.

You can read the beer-and-food pairing article here.

Digg this

God, Hugh Laurie, and 'House, MD'

A new article has me thinking more about the religious content of my favorite show on television: House, MD on Fox, starring Hugh Laurie as Dr. Gregory House.

I don't like to record it because I don't like to wait for it. My world stops for the start of a new episode.

My affection is against the rules.

I am a theist -- frustrated, searching, liturgically minded, often-doubting, usually more philosophical than theological, yet ultimately a Christian of some sort.

Laurie and his TV character House are both strident, stringent atheists. The actor and the character ridicule all stripes of believers with ease and regularity.

Oddly enough, series creator and executive producer David Shore has twin brothers who are Orthodox rabbis, according to an article in the Spring 2008 edition of Religion in the News (which just arrived in my mailbox today, in late July).

The brother of rabbis creating and guiding a show about an atheist? Maybe that's why I find the religious content of House, MD to be remarkably well-informed and true to the state of religious thought in our time. (I'm not totally ignorant of the subject, either -- hey, I won a Medal of Distinction in the Battleground God game at The Philosopher's Magazine Web site!)

"To ignore issues of faith is to ignore a pretty fundamental part of all people's lives when they're in the hospital, facing death," Shore said in an NPR interview last year. "I'm not saying all people find God, but they certainly do ask those questions."

I'll never forget the episode (can't remember the title or season) in which Dr. Robert Chase, played by Jesse Spencer, spends time talking with a nun who has (what else?) an undiagnosed illness. We learn that Dr. Chase had once been a seminary student, and the way his lingering knowledge of the Christian faith -- and his apparent desire but inability to believe -- are brought to the surface rings true. Kudos to both the acting and the writing.

Here's an example of the program's religious content, from Christine McCarthy McMorris's article "Playing Godless" in Religion in the News:

In "House vs. God" (Season 2), a teenaged faith healer is brought to the hospital, where House sets up a scoreboard for both him and God to win points. Although he discovers that the young healer has contracted a sexually transmitted disease that he is hiding from his father, exposure to the boy's virus seems to (miraculously) shrink the tumor of a cancer patient at the hospital. Although House remains unconvinced ("I fear for the human race. A teenager claims to be the voice of God, and people with advanced degrees are listening,"), by the end of the program the score is even.

But some people have to latch onto the most simplistic, surface-level interpretations, rather than identifying the messiness of life and faith and doubt, and rather than understanding that television programs, like many creative works, are at their best when they jump into ambiguities and uncertainties, following William Shakespeare's genius as explained by John Keats: "I mean Negative Capability, that is, when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason." Uninspired by such an approach would be The Parents Television Council, the leadership of which called Fox "the most anti-religious network" and accused House, MD of "consistently mocking religion and people of faith."

Indeed, Dr. House's ridicule of religious people has included not only Christians, but also Mormons and Orthodox Jews. But the program's story lines don't actually allow a cut-and-dried verdict on complex topics. Maybe that's why I find it so rewarding to watch.

--Colin Foote Burch, member, Society of Professional Journalists, and affiliate member, Religion Newswriters Association

Digg this

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Lewis Black is an antique

As I'm ignoring my daughters' pleas for breakfast this morning, Lewis Black is hosting a show about comedians on the History Channel.

It's a History Channel program because Lewis Black and unseen producers are interviewing dozens of comedians, each with essential historical information at the bottom of the screen, like:

Kathy Griffin
Comedian for 13 Years

See? It's history!

Maybe they should do a segment on another historical era, like back when Kathy Griffin was funny.

Digg this

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Lutherans promote cremation

Digg this

Monday, July 14, 2008

Sign of the Times

Digg this

Sign of the Times

I don't know where this came from, because I received it from a forwarded email, but it sums up our times, no?

Digg this

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Definitive review of Myrtle Beach's beer now online

Hey folks -- my Weekly Surge cover story about Myrtle Beach's locally brewed beer was published on May 29, but the newspaper's Web site didn't seem to have a permalink for story until recently. Now, at last, you can find it here. Note that at the bottom of the main article, there are links for two related stories that ran with the same package.

The main players are:

1. The microbrewery New South Brewing Co. in Myrtle Beach;

2. The brewpub Liberty Steakhouse and Brewery at Broadway at the Beach in Myrtle Beach;

3. The brewpub Quigley's Plate and Pint in Pawleys Island;

4. The new Gordon Biersch brewpub at The Market Common on the former Myrtle Beach Air Force Base.

Digg this

Review: Sloane Crosley's 'I Was Told There'd Be Cake'

I Was Told There'd Be Cake
by Sloane Crosley
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Published: April
Pages: 230
List Price: $14

Synopsis: Sloane Crosley, evidently in her late 20s or early 30s, turns her life's fumbles and misadventures into wry, humorous essays. Crosley's self-mockery lends a ring of truth. You can't make this stuff up.

Why it's a good beach book: It's funny and easy to follow. It puts everyday life at arm's length - exactly what you want at the beach. It views life, love, and jobs through humor-tinted glasses. Plus, it's paperback: easy to tote.

Details, details, details: In the essay "Fuck you, Columbus," Crosley tells the story of moving from a two-bedroom apartment in New York City to a studio apartment three blocks away. She locks her keys in her old apartment, and pays $280 for a locksmith. Later the same day, she locks her keys in her new apartment, and gets a whopping $20 reduction on the second bill. She amicably parts ways with her roommate. She "had the bonus of living with someone with a healthy penchant for childish pranks. Into our newly adult lives there crept the occasional short-sheeting of my bed or setting of my alarm clock for an obscure time. And then hiding it. Who would keep me on my toes now? You can't exactly scare yourself out of the hiccups or glue your own toothbrush to the ceiling." At times, Crosley is easier to understand if you've lived in a big city; at other times, she will be easier to get if you're female. But overall, these essays are down-to-earth and for everyone. I can't speak for Dave Sedaris' most recent book, but Crosley's I Was Told There'd Be Cake belongs on your shelf next to Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim.

-Colin Foote Burch, member of the National Book Critics Circle and the Society of Professional Journalists

This article originally appeared in this summer book roundup in the Weekly Surge of Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Digg this

Plantinga on natural selection and naturalism

Alvin Plantinga, professor of philosophy at the University of Notre Dame, made an interesting comment in the July/August edition of Books & Culture:

"[N]atural selection doesn't care about the truth or falsehood of your beliefs; it cares only about adaptive behavior. Your beliefs may all be false, ridiculously false; if your behavior is adaptive, you will survive and reproduce."

Plantinga does not rule out evolution in his article.

In fact, the name of the article is "Evolution vs. Naturalism."

How's that?

Here's a hint:

"Naturalism is the idea that there is no such person as God or anything like God; we might think of it as high-octane atheism or perhaps atheism-plus. It is possible to be an atheist without rising to the lofty heights (or descending to the murky depths) of naturalism. Aristotle, the ancient Stoics, and Hegel (in at least certain stages) could properly claim to be atheists, but they couldn't properly claim to be naturalists: each endorses something (Aristotle's Prime Mover, the Stoics' Nous, Hegel's Absolute) no self-respecting naturalist could tolerate." [emphasis added]

Digg this

Friday, July 11, 2008

Ten out of Tenn Tour

Click the poster to enlarge it and see the cities and dates.

Digg this

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Pentecostalism and the evaluation of personal experience

In the current edition of Books & Culture, Arlene M. Sanchez Walsh reflects on an afternoon tour she took of Angelus Temple, where the late Pentecostal hero Aimee Semple McPherson ministered. Sanchez, herself a licensed minister in the Pentecostal denomination called International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, writes that "the Pentecostal cult of personality tells us more about who Pentecostals are than it does about the leaders they hold in such high esteem."

The personality cults abound in Pentecostal and charismatic versions of Christianity. Right now, in Lakeland, Fla., some of my friends and family members are visiting an "outpouring" that is being presided-over by one of the latest personalities to gather a cult following: Todd Bentley, who can be seen on numerous YouTube videos leading crowds into near-hysterical frenzies.

The problem, these days, in our mass culture, is that charismatic personalities (using charismatic in the broadest sense of the term) and intense experiences are considered indications of reality or truth or God's presence. No one seems to think that senses and perceptions could be manipulated -- wittingly or unwittingly -- by a leader or by a crowd, in politics as well as religion.

"When a leader has the quality of charisma, he is able to arouse an extraordinary level of trust and devotion from his followers," wrote Wendy Duncan in her book I Can't Hear God Anymore: Life in a Dallas Cult. "The charismatic leader attracts people to his ideas and causes them to desire to be in his presence."

What follows that initial devotion, though, is a movement from one personality to the next, from one "move of God" to the next, from one "outpouring" to the next, from one "revival" to the next. Len Oakes, in his book Prophetic Charisma: The Psychology of Revolutionary Religious Personalities (Syracuse University Press, 1997), wrote, "The followers surrender not to the person of the leader but to the power manifest in him, and they will desert him if his power fails. The followers attain freedom from routine and the commonplace by surrendering to the leader and -- through him -- to their own emotional depths."

Following Oakes, it seems to me, based on my own 20 growing-up years in neo-Pentecostal/charismatic churches, that the promise of a new personality, as well as the alleged new move of God that comes with him, is never delivered and eventually fades away, so one is always eagerly looking for that next fix, whether it is a fix that will finally bring healing or guidance, or a fix that will bring a new experience of "emotional depths."

Consider again Oakes' phrase "freedom from routine and the commonplace." It is interesting that a common accusation against institutional churches is that their rituals and their orderliness smack of spiritual deadness. To be sure, as Jaroslav Pelikan said, "Tradition is the living faith of the dead; traditionalism is the dead faith of the living." But what are the accusers of institutional churches seeking from the charismatic leader and the latest outpouring, the latest revival? Not truth. Instead, they seek experiences. The accusers of institutional churches never seem to consider that rituals and orderliness might be structured in such a way so that truth could be handed down to generation after generation.

But if a guy has been brought up with television and rock 'n' roll, how is he going to see the value in quietness and orderliness and the repetition of old texts unless he has the help of a little teaching or training? He wants sensation. Sensations dictate to him whether or not truth is being communicated. If the sensations come with Jesus' name attached, then they must be from God, never mind all affronts to historical doctrine and theology, never mind the atmosphere created by music and the mantra-like repetition of phrases.

Perhaps he should consider that church and worship are not about his personal experiences.

The fact that he does not consider such thoughts is evidence enough that Sanchez was right: "the Pentecostal cult of personality tells us more about who Pentecostals are than it does about the leaders they hold in such high esteem." All they want, as Oakes said, is "freedom from routine and the commonplace" and the resulting experience of "emotional depths."

-Colin Foote Burch

Digg this
Links Add to Technorati Favorites