January 2006 Archives
January 31, 2006
January 29, 2006
A couple of weeks ago, I went to a photo exhibit at the Minnesota Historical Society: Capture the Moment, The Pulitzer Prize Photographs. The images were amazing. I saw many of these images while studying to be a photojournalist, but for me a photo's impact is magnified when they are printed large for a musuem show and you can get up close. I am always amazed at howpowerful a still image can be and how images can evoke a physical and emotional response.
Michael Ignatieff seemed to some up this mysterious ability images have in his introduction to Magnum °.
Despite the coming of television, and the demise of the photo-weeklies, photography retained its ability to define the essential iconography of key historical experiences…Images seem inexhaustible in their capacity to disclose new information because, unlike film, they freeze experience as memory does and hold up time itself to examination. Television seems to tell us all everything we need to know. It drains reality of mystery by suggesting that what we see is all there is. Good photography restores the mystery of the world by stopping time so that we can both see and reflect upon what is there. Hence the unending strangeness of photography: that it both documents the world, establishes what is essentially there, while at the same time showing to us what we cannot see with our eyes alone. So if photography has a redeeming or cleansing effect on our vision, it is because it seems to restore both the reality of the world and its essential elusiveness.
Photographs give us time to see, to think, and while we will never know the whole truth of a situation we see, photos give us a window, a way to enter into others' lives and wonder what they may be like.
January 24, 2006
I have decided to drop the subtitles of photographer and theologian from the banners of this blog and my photography site. I was finding that the subtitles were leaving me feeling confined and also a bit fractured. This blog will still largely be about my explorations of media, religion, and culture, but may also include future posts about photography or other interests I am chasing.
January 19, 2006
January 18, 2006
I think it is wonderful that Nightline has taken an interest in what we at Spirit Garage and others are doing and that they have cast us in a positive light. Some folks have asked about the title. Personally, I didn't mind the title of the piece, Prayer Party. It isn't far from the truth of what is going on; we're trying to have fun with church, trying to have it be meaningful, so really it's not a bad summation.
I have also heard from a number of people who don't like the focus on potential controversy between emerging and traditional churches. Spirit Garage certainly has a great relationship with it's sponsoring congregation and denomination, but I am certain that there are people who are not going to like what we do at Spirit Garage. If we aren't being at least a little controversial I would wonder if we are really taking enough chances and are really trying to stretch boundaries. I don't think conflict is something that should be sought, but it is a natural product of trying something new.
January 17, 2006
In some fun news, I was interviewed as a part of a story that ABC News: Nightline did on emerging churches. They brought a film crew out to Spirit Garage a few weeks ago and the story ran on Friday. They don't subtitle with names so if you don't know what I look like, I'm the bald guy in the green sweater. My wife Kari was also interviewed as a part of the story, she's the woman with the black coat and multi-colored scarf, and if you look closely you can see my dog, Arlo, in the background. The story is called Prayer Party and they have the video posted on the Nightline site if you are interested in watching it. See it now on YouTube - Thanks Matt & Paul for the links.
In a related and cool note, the ad that often appears before the Spirit Garage story is a Discovery Channel Health story that features a woman we know. Melissa is the short haired brunette in the green shirt. You can view more on her story here.
January 12, 2006
Out of curiosity, I went to SimplyHired, a vertical search engine for jobs, and looked for openings containing the keyword “evangelist.” Amazingly, there were 611 matches--and none were for churches. It seems that “evangelist” is now a secular, mainstream job title. Indeed, the first eight matches were for evangelist jobs at Microsoft--go figure. As people hit the streets with this title, they need a foundation of the fundamental principles of evangelism.
He then goes on to talk about basic principles of product evangelism. This one is my favorite.
Look for agnostics, ignore atheists. A good evangelist can usually tell if people understand and like a product in five minutes. If they don't, cut your losses and avoid them. It is very hard to convert someone to a new religion (ie, product) when he believes in another god (ie, another product). It's much easier to convert a person who has no proof about the goodness or badness of the evangelist's product.
It is interesting that in his short search, Kawasaki did not find any church evangelist positions. Even more interesting is how he frames product loyalty in the same light as religious zeal. This may not be all that suprising as Kawasaki has roots working with Apple, one of the great cult brands, a brand that is explored in The Culting of Brands by Douglas Atkin. (Read my review of Atkin's book.) Corporations and brands are looking to be nodes of meaning and community and I belive that Kawasaki is right, evangelism has become mainstream.
January 10, 2006
I came across the article Is God Dead in Europe? by James Gannon on Yahoo! News. Gannon highlights the increasing secularization that is occurring in many western European countries and how this trend of secularization may be possible in the United States. Increasing secularization is indeed likely in many sectors of the U.S. population but the causes outlined in the article may not actually be the root of what is happening. The article paints secularization in the U.S. as part of a liberal political agenda.
In his 2001 book, The Death of the West, conservative commentator Patrick Buchanan argues that a European-style "de-Christianization of America" is the goal of many liberals - and they are succeeding.
Court decisions that have banned school-sponsored prayer, removed many Nativity scenes from public squares, and legalized gay marriage are part of that pattern, as is the legal effort to erase "In God We Trust" from U.S. currency and "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance.
Europe is showing us where this path leads. It is not the right path for America.
While secular values on the rise, they are doing so because of value changes in the adult population. In their analysis of secularization trends worldwide, Sacred and Secular, Religion and Politics Worldwide, Pippa Norris and Ronald Inglehart identify that one of the largest determiners of secular values has to do with a low level of existential insecurity during the formative years of childhood. More simply, as standards of living have risen in Europe and in the U.S., people are less threatened in their daily existence by weather, disease, starvation, etc. People growing up in secure environments tend to hold more secular values including a decreasing likelihood of attending a church. While Norris and Inglehart indicate that the current religiosity of a society will influence church participation rates, it does not counteract secularization trends.
While Gannon is correct in his estimation that the U.S. will become more secular, it is the result of an affluent and safe society, and not the result of a de-Christianizing political agenda. The liberal agendas implicated by the article are likely another form of the values held by an increasingly secular adult population. The sections of the U.S. population that have been shielded from existential threats will likely continue to become more like secular Europe.
I'm very excited, today, I started a new Moleskine notebook for 2006. These things are incredible, and it was probably the greatest aid to creativity for me last year. The notebook fits beautifully in my pocket and goes everywhere with me, so whenever inspiriation strikes, I have something to write in.
I also keep a few index cards paperclipped into the back for my to-do or shopping lists or for those notes that I don't want bound in my book. Check out 43folders for a number of incredibly useful Moleskine Hacks and the related Hipster PDA. Do yourself a favor, pick one up and use it this year.
January 7, 2006
January 6, 2006
I will be hosting the first ever Emerging Leaders Network Minneapolis / St. Paul Cohort Gathering on Tuesday January 10th at 7 PM - 10 PM at my house. I would love it if you joined me..
The Emerging Leaders Network is a relatively new group of people gathering to support one another and work to imagine what it means to gather as the church in the 21st century. At the gathering, we will hob-nob, get to know one another, ask questions, explore the ELN web site and how you might become a contributor, and drink frosty beverages. I will provide the place to meet (my house), a case of cheap beer, and a case of coke. If you desire anything else, please feel free to bring it with you. If you have friends that might be interested in coming, please feel free to bring them along. If you are interested in coming, please email me and I will send you directions.
January 5, 2006
I love the New Year because it is a chance to evaluate life, see where you’ve been, ask some questions about where you are going in the next year, and if you’re lucky like I was, you can do this with the help of some good friends.
One of the big questions on my mind recently is: What do I want to be when I grow up? I am well into the process of getting a masters and I need to make some decisions about the direction of my MA thesis, and where I should look to do doctoral work. While the scope of this question is far larger than one post can handle, there is a related question that was inspired by a great conversation I had over the holiday. Should the title of this blog remain ryantorma / theologian or should I change it to my friend’s suggestion of ryantorma / philosopher? Honestly dear reader, I am flummoxed, so I turn to you for help. Here are some of my reasons for liking and disliking each. Your thoughts as comments would be greatly valued; what should this blog be titled?
I am very interested in questions about religion, media, culture, god, churches, and how people make sense out of their lives. And since I am asking these questions as a student at a seminary while working at a church, Theologian seems a good title. Plus there are some excellent theologians who have some writings I very much admire. However, there seems to be at least some limitation in the name. Theologian as a word seems to indicate that there may be some assumptions about god, religion and church that come with the title that I may not be willing to make personally. As a theologian are some questions off limits because they challenge assumptions made by the church?
This title has a lot more room for questions and it doesn’t seem to have the problem of being implicitly tied to a particular church denomination or belief system. I am also a fan of the translation of Philosophy from Greek—“love of wisdom.” On the other hand, I don’t know of any philosophy working with media and religion, plus primarily working with a specific belief system is not a bad thing. What to do, what to do?
Do you like either, neither, both, or something different. I am curious about your thoughts, so please post them. Thanks.