Monday, February 26, 2007

My neglected profile

Some of you have been reading me for awhile and when you've checked my profile in the sidebar you've probably noticed how barren it is. For some reason I've never felt very motivated to fill it out. Birthday? Wishlist? Occupation? Interests? Bo-ring.

I had more fun filling out this media questionnaire that my pastor sent out to all his congregation members today. I'm not sure what he plans to do with the info, but I learned something about myself doing it. I like movies and books. I don't like television, radio or magazines. And I have somewhat dark tastes. So if you've been disappointed by my neglected profile, let this questionnaire serve as a substitute.

1. What are your favorite TV shows (past or present)? What shows do you watch regularly?

Present: Criminal Minds, CSI Miami, CSI NY
Past: Twilight Zone, Homicide

2. What are your top 10 favorite movies?

1) The Shawshank Redemption
2) Pulp Fiction
3) The Matrix
4) The Abyss
5) Brokeback Mountain
6) The Empire Strikes Back
7) Groundhog Day
8) The Ice Storm
9) Seabiscuit
10) The Exorcist

(Runners-up: Chariots of Fire, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Glory, 12 Angry Men)

3. What websites/blogs do you visit/read regularly?

Andrew Sullivan’s blog (
Post Secret (

4. What radio shows do you listen to regularly?


5. What magazines/journals do you read regularly?


6. What newspapers do you read regularly? What sections of the newspaper do you read regularly?

L.A. Times: front page, calendar, local, sports

7. What are your favorite books? What books are you currently reading?

Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
The Lord of the Rings (J.R.R. Tolkien)
Love Undetectable (Andrew Sullivan)
The Remains of the Day (Kazuo Ishiguro)
Dune (Frank Herbert)
Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card)
Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)
The Kid from Tomkinsville (John R. Tunis)
Bang the Drum Slowly (Mark Harris)
Dracula (Bram Stoker)
The Chocolate War (Robert Cormier)
Bruchko (Bruce Olson)
Something Wicked This Way Comes (Ray Bradbury)
The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand)

Current/recent reading:
The Conservative Soul (Andrew Sullivan)
The Body (Stephen King)
On Writing (Stephen King)
Bruchko (Bruce Olson)
Bruchko and the Motilone Miracle (Bruce Olson)
Bird By Bird (Anne Lamott)
Pendragon Book Three: The Never War (D.J. MacHale)
Hostage to the Devil (Malachi Martin)

8. What other sorts of media do you enjoy?


Monday, February 19, 2007


In the fall of 1986, six months after I had become a Christian, I felt God calling me to become a missionary one Sunday morning while I was sitting in the pew at the Chinese church I used to worship at. I was eighteen years old. More than twenty years later I am still waiting for God to bring about the fulfillment of that call. But in the waiting period I have done a lot of thinking and reading on the subject of missions. The one book that I keep picking up and rereading is called Bruchko (1978) by Bruce Olson. I reread it again for perhaps the tenth time last week.

"[Until] you really understand a people, don't judge." This is what Olson learned from his brief stay with one South American Indian tribe called the Yukos. The Yuko chief greeted Olson into his village by flogging him with whips, throwing him inside a hut and ordering his men to shoot arrows at him through the walls until he was covered with bloody welts. Olson said he later learned that two of the tribe's young men had just been killed by white settlers, so the Yuko chief had reason to be touchy about a white man's presence in the village. Later Olson would go to live with the Motilone Indians who gave him a similar reception. They shot him in the thigh with an arrow, marched him three hours to their village and held him hostage for a month while he developed a severe infection with fever and dysentery. He escaped, but returned to the village a month later and has lived with the Motilones for the last forty years. Since the Motilones couldn't pronounce "Bruce," they named him "Bruchko." Not only did he learn not to judge them, he became a part of their tribe.

Because of Olson's unintrusive, self-effacing way of sharing Christ's love, the Motilones' spiritual transformation took place without having their traditions and way of life upended. Olson reports in his more recent book that currently nine out of ten Motilone Indians consider themselves followers of Saymaydodji-ibateradacura (their name for Jesus Christ). Yet it was the missionary who became conformed to Motilone culture instead of the other way around. "We had to teach him how to speak our language, how to suck the juices from insects, how to survive in the jungle," the Motilones will tell inquiring outsiders. "When he was naked we clothed him. Bruchko is not the leader who brought peace to our people . . . It is Saymaydodji-ibateradacura. God incarnate in human flesh."

Fundamentalists are naturally suspicious of missionaries because their cross-cultural experiences force them to think outside the box. I learned this the hard way when I tried to explain to the leaders in my former denomination that my writings on homosexual issues are, for lack of a better analogy, a kind of missionary endeavor. You have to understand people before you judge. You have to be self-critical about your own way of thinking and doing things. You have to abandon your fears and prejudices and allow God to show you a new perspective. You can share the love of Christ with people, but you have to understand that they need time and space to find Jesus Christ for themselves in a way that makes sense out of their own context and situation. I had hoped this analogy would click with my former leaders, but I don't think they were very impressed.

People write to me all the time and say, "Where are the real Christians who really try to live as Jesus Christ once did?" For all of you who've asked me that, I recommend that you read Bruchko. It's an unpretentious story about a frail human trying to walk by faith, not a saint practicing a rock-hard piety. I can't think of many Christian books I'd recommend to both Christian and non-Christian readers without hesitation. This might be the only one.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Anything but homosexual

I didn't miss Ted Haggard’s announcement last Monday. I’ve just been through a crazy busy week and got sick again on top of it. But even aside from that, it’s hard to know what to say about a guy who is so sadly self-deluded.

As evangelical Christians we freely admit to being sinners. Great. Except a lot of us apparently don’t believe it. Why else would people go through so many strange contortions just to deny struggling with this one sin of homosexuality? I mean if 1) homosexuality is a sin and 2) we are sinners, then it should be no surprise that 3) some of us will struggle with the sin of homosexuality. It may not be a happy conclusion but it is a logical one, right?

Yet Haggard is willing to admit to being Anything But Homosexual. He’d rather admit to lying . . . publicly. He’d rather admit to deceiving people in his own congregation. He’d rather admit to buying illegal drugs for crying out loud. But homosexuality? Nooooo. We thought he had made a breakthrough when he finally admitted to getting those massages for three years from a male prostitute and committing “sexual immorality,” whatever that means. But now he’s digging in his heels on terminology. He “acted out” he says, but he’s “completely heterosexual.” You feel kind of dumb asking the obvious question: “If you’re completely hetero, why didn’t you ‘act out’ by having, uh, a heterosexual affair?”

I’ve read enough ex-gay literature to know what the answer will be. He was acting out because of “emotional needs that became sexualized,” “unmet needs for same-sex love that became eroticized,” “the need to feel affirmed as one of the guys,” or “feeling inadequate before attractive men.” It will be words piled upon words with terms like “neurological pleasure pathways” thrown in for good measure. All to avoid having to use the One Word that he doesn’t want to use.

I guess if Haggard wants to believe that about himself, that’s his private business. But it makes me cringe that this man the evangelical church had exalted to such a high position appears at his core to be so delusional and self-deceived. As long as so many evangelicals would rather hear anything but the truth about homosexuality, we'll have to come to grips with the fact that Ted Haggard was a fitting leader for us in more than ways than we realized.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Joey Oglesby, not Joel

If you clicked on the link from Monday's post, you would have seen the correction that the comedian who calls himself "Donnie Davies" is actually Joey Oglesby, not Joel Oglesby. Has anyone else had the refrain of that song playing crazily in their heads all week? That tune is catchy.