It means "writings." I write things.

I just saw on CNN that their New Year's show is being hosted by Anderson Cooper (okay, I can see that) and Kathy Griffin (okay, I can see th...wait what?).  Kathy Griffin?  Really?  Are they trying to one-up Ryan Seacrest for the "Most Obnoxious New Year's Host" award?  Were all of the other 3 million people more qualified to do this job already busy?

Jesus' return must be imminent.

8:46 AM


Posted by Brad Polley |

Incarnation.  It's a word that Christians throw around a lot.  I think it's best explained in the gospel of John where it says, "The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us."  It's a fancy way saying that God put on skin and in order to relate to us.  It's something we celebrate this time of year when we focus on God arriving on earth with poor shepherds and farm animals as his only pomp and circumstance.  All of that is nice, but for some reason we humans tend to need more here and now and concrete examples to understand a concept as mind-shattering as the Incarnation.  

The Church is called to be the Incarnation of Christ to the world.  That football team is a simple example of a difficult concept to grasp.  Merry Christmas to everyone reading this.  May you remember that God decided he couldn't get close enough to us being where he was, so he decided to walk around here for awhile.  

Thanks Dad for the heads-up on that article.

11:31 AM

God as a crutch

Posted by Brad Polley |

I've often heard people who don't believe in God say something to the effect of, "You Christians/Jews/Muslims just use God as a crutch.  If I'm honest, this has offended me at times in the past and I'm generally not an easily offended person.  It's offended me because it just assumes that I'm a weak minded person, who, instead of using my brain and my strength, I prefer to lean on a figment of my imagination.  

Recently, I've been less offended by this statement and have taken the approach of: So what?  What's wrong with having a crutch?  If someone is limping and in pain, they need a crutch to help them.  If someone is in pain and can't walk on their own, they need help.  The reality is that sometimes we need a crutch, so why not God?  

I can never convince you that God is real.  I'll never try to convince you of that.  All I know is my own experience.  My recent struggles are no secret to anyone who reads this blog.  In the last couple of weeks, I've seen how God is my crutch, whether I ask him to be or not.  He has sustained me, blessed me more than I deserve, and is bringing me back to standing.  

Could I live without God?  Yeah.  Could I live without him?  No.

9:11 AM

Not intended for consumption

Posted by Brad Polley |

I followed a tanker truck into town today that had this to say on the back:

"Inedible.  Technical Animal Fat.  Not intended for human consumption."

So this led to one big question in my mind: what makes animal fat "technical?"  What does that even mean?  

I can only assume that this tanker was headed to a McDonald's somewhere.   

9:22 AM


Posted by Brad Polley |

We bailed out another American industry.  How much this time?  Only a measly $14 billion.  So the message is this:

Is your business struggling?  Have you driven your business into the ground by making crappy products that no one wants?  Have you used shady business practices that have blown up in your face?  Don't fret, Uncle Sam will come to the rescue.  And don't worry about that little thing called accountability, we won't have any of that.  Continue what you do, and if you need more money, just give us a call.

Pop quiz.  How many people in the world have zero access to clean water?  Over 1 billion.  Approximately how much money would it take to eliminate this problem?  About $10 billion.  At least we're a Christian nation right?

12:44 PM

He restores my soul

Posted by Brad Polley |

I'm currently reading a book by Harold Kushner called, "The Lord is My Shepherd: Healing Wisdom of the Twenty-third Psalm."  He breaks down each statement from, what is most likely, the most well-recognized passage in the entire Bible.  I would venture to guess that almost everyone, at least in this country, has heard this Psalm.  If you've ever attended the funeral of a loved one, you've probably heard this Psalm that begins, "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want..." and continues with "though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil..."  

As any of you who read this blog know, I'm a person who is almost constantly plagued with doubt about my life.  I posted a couple of weeks ago about the level of discontent in my life.  One of the biggest reasons for this discontent is that I'm wondering whether or not I'm still valuable in my current occupation as a youth pastor.  Today, I received an email from one of my college students telling me how much he appreciates me and the fact that I was responsible for changing his life (I would argue that God did the changing, but that's for another post).  

In the twenty-third Psalm, the psalmist says, "he (God) restores my soul."  I've been thinking about that line all day because it seems that in my times of greatest doubt concerning my ministry, someone always comes along with a kind word, or I stumble upon a certain passage of Scripture that lifts my spirit.  It's as if I'm walking through the desert, wondering when I'm going to die of thirst, only to stumble upon a small stream flowing with cold water.  It's not necessarily an over-abundance of water, but just enough to continue on the journey.  It's a restorative drink, one that gives the energy needed to continue on in the heat and wilderness.  In fact, as I look at the history of the Bible story, I see this kind of thing happen all the time to God's people.  He provided a spring to the Israelites wandering in the desert, manna and quail for them to eat, a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, etc.  

God won't necessarily speak to you directly (presumably with the voice of Morgan Freeman or James Earl Jones), but he will bring people into your life to restore you when you need it the most.     

3:05 PM

This probably won't be popular

Posted by Brad Polley |

I think we, in churches, sometimes worship the Bible more than we do God.  There I said it.  Now here's what I mean.  

I've heard so many sermons (probably some of mine as well) in my life where the preacher has said something to the effect of: The Bible is the answer.  Of course, the question that the person may have is irrelevant, but the Bible is, apparently, the answer.  Over the last few years, I've tried to analyze that idea to figure out whether it is true or not.  The idea that the Bible is "God's answer book" bugs me greatly and here's why: we aren't called to follow the Bible, we're called to follow Christ.  There's a major difference between those two things.  The idea also bugs me because the Bible was never intended to be an answer book (more on this later).

I know people who know the Bible front to back, inside and out, and yet they, in no way, model the life Jesus laid out (this obviously isn't true of everyone who knows the Bible well).  They put the authority of Scripture up so high that they miss out on following Christ, which, it seems to me, is the point of being a Christian.  We need to remember that the earliest Christians didn't have the Bible as we know it.  The Bible as we know it didn't exist until almost 400 c.e., and even then you could only read it if your were a higher up in the Church.  It wasn't until Martin Luther (and the printing press) came along in the 1500s that people were allowed to read the Bible at all.  That means the church got by for 1500 years without really being able to study Scripture at all.  However, millions of people found a way during that time to worship God and follow Christ.  The only guide they had was their community of believers and the Church.    

So what's my point?  The point is this: the Bible is important, but it isn't as important as Jesus.  The Bible isn't an answer book, although it has some answers to life in it.  The Bible is a collection of stories of how God relates to people and how we relate to God.  It's a beautiful text because, upon reading it, we find ourselves as part of the story.  We find a bit of ourselves in Moses, David, Peter, Paul, Mary (did you know that Puff the Magic Dragon lives by the sea?), etc.  We have the benefit of the Bible today that 1500 years of worth of Christians really didn't have.  It's an important document, but it isn't as important as Jesus.  That may not be popular with some of you, but it's true.  

The Pharisees knew the Scriptures, but, according to Jesus, they didn't really know God or truly follow him or his intent with the Scriptures.  Jesus was constantly saying, You do what the Scripture says, but not what it intends.  They knew the word, but they didn't know the Word, and that makes all the difference in the world.  

3:40 PM

Why does it always boil down to this?

Posted by Brad Polley |

A few weeks ago, I encouraged my middle school students to email me or call me they had any questions about anything.  I did this because middle school students generally have a million questions but either a) don't feel comfortable asking them or b)think the questions are stupid so they refrain.  I always strive in my ministry to create a space where students can ask the tough questions that they all have without fear of being judged or condemned for a lack of faith or whatever.  

One of my students called me yesterday.  This is a girl who has very little experience with church or Jesus or whatever, but, because of a great family in our church, is being lovingly introduced to it.  She asks the best questions on Sunday nights and I genuinely love when she's there.  Anyway, here's the question she asked me.

If you don't pray, will you go to hell?

My response?  No.  When I told her, there was a couple of seconds of silence and then she said, "Oh...okay."  I told her I would email her a better and more extended response.  I stand by my answer and I would love anyone to argue this point with me biblically (you can't).

I got off the phone and I thought: why does it always boil down to heaven and hell?  Let me be very clear about this next point: BEING A CHRISTIAN ISN'T ABOUT GOING TO HEAVEN AND AVOIDING HELL.  I can't be any more clear than that (I mean, look at all the caps).  Avoiding hell, attaining some heavenly reward has never been, nor will it ever be, the point of following Jesus.  The point of following Jesus is to follow his way of life, that just so happens to lead to real life here and now.  It's a life of peace, joy, and love.  It's a way of life that Jesus describes as a "narrow way" that few find.  

This doesn't mean that stuff like prayer, reading your Bible, etc. isn't important.  Those things are done as a response to living this way of life, they aren't the way of life itself.  Jesus would seem to suggest that the calling card of this way of life is love and love alone.  So we pray because we love God, not to garner his love.  We pray because we want to, not because we have to to avoid a fiery end.  

This girl's question happened for a reason.  It happened because, somewhere along the line, she's been given the understanding by the Church that the reason to be a Christian is because, well, it's better than the alternative.  That kind of thinking will never lead to the kind of life Jesus lived.  It will lead to nothing but a life based on fear.  Fear will only get you so far and eventually you'll give up on the whole thing.  Jesus never guilted people into following and he never scared them into it either.  We probably shouldn't either.

11:46 AM

Dear Santa

Posted by Brad Polley |

Looking for a good Christmas gift this holiday season?  Are you wanting to find the perfect gift without being trampled to death at Wal-Mart?  Are you looking for that one-of-a-kind gift that will show your youth pastor just how special you think he is?  Look no further than this amazing infomercial. 

2:15 PM

Happy Thanksgiving to all and to all a good night

Posted by Brad Polley |

Oh wait...wrong holiday.  Anyway, happy Thanksgiving to all of my 10 readers.  Enjoy your turkey, the inevitable triptophan crash from said turkey, watching football, poking a new hole in your belt to accommodate the abdominal swelling, and vows to never eat that much again.  

Personally, I'll be getting my Michael Vick on (but you know...without all the dog killing) in the annual Turkey Bowl flag football game in the booming metropolis of Francesville, IN.  My team is undefeated in five years, and we don't plan on losing this year either.  As an aside, congrats to my wife on finally not being pregnant and able to play in the game.  I look forward to stiff-arming you into oblivion if you get in my way.  

10:23 AM

How long does it take to forgive someone?

Posted by Brad Polley |

Peter asked, "Lord how long should it take us to forgive someone?  Immediately?"

And the Lord said, "I tell you, not immediately, but at least 42 years."

Let me say, firsties, that I really have nothing against Catholic people.  In fact, I read a great deal of books from monks and nuns, and I adore them.  That being said, how does it take the Church 42 years to forgive someone who's been dead for almost 30 years?  What's the point in forgiving said dead person?  Is there anything Christian about this?  Why does the Church, as an organization, have to issue a statement of forgiveness in order for someone to be forgiven?  

My understanding of forgiveness is that it is a deeply personal thing.  It is an act that frees me from bondage by not allowing hurts and scars to control me.  It's not something that I withhold from people, because all that does is enslave me.  How can it take 42 years to forgive something that someone said?  How many more people is the Vatican withholding forgiveness from, and for what offenses?  This all strikes me as incredibly ridiculous.

If I'm Catholic, I'm very concerned about how my church can maintain any cultural relevance when this is the kind of crap they're spending their time on. 

1:09 PM

His name?

Posted by Brad Polley |

There's a guy that's been coming into our office for the last few months asking for help.  He usually needs help with things like gas and food.  We've been helping him as much as we can with a few bucks here and there.  He has stomach cancer (with a hole in his belly to prove it).  He's had it since 2004 and it's been an up and down roller coaster ride of remission and resurgence.  He can't walk straight because of the hole in his stomach so he walks with a Quasimodo-like posture. He can't eat solid food because of his cancer.  He's gone as many as 8 or 9 days at a time without eating because he just isn't hungry sometimes.  He used to weigh around 250 pounds, but now weighs about 140.  A year and a half ago he had a stroke which has left him with a stutter.  About six months ago he actually died from a heart attack in his grand-daughter's living room, but her husband gave him CPR and brought him back.  Let all of that sink in for a minute.  

He came in today and he just looked terrible.  I talked with him for about twenty minutes and said a number of times, "I just feel like giving up.  I feel so terrible, I just want it to be over."  After he left today, I just felt sad.  I was literally on the verge of tears.  I wanted to pray for God take him peacefully to end his pain, but I wasn't sure how I felt about doing that.  

Here's the thing, I feel like God has placed him in my life for some reason.  I almost feel like he's been put into my life so that I can help him die with grace.  That isn't a prideful thing.  In fact, I'm not sure how to handle it.  I feel like all I can do is treat him with respect and treat him like a human being; show him compassion and make his remaining time on earth (however long that might be) be as comfortable as possible.  I'm not sure if I'm up to this, but the reality is that I don't think God cares if I feel up to it.  He's here, he needs comfort in the form of gas money and food, and that's the deal.  

So what's his name?  It would appear to be Jesus.      

11:00 AM


Posted by Brad Polley |

Ok, this has nothing to do with my post, but what happened to fall?  I don't know about where you live, but in Indiana, we didn't have one.  It seemingly went from being 80 to being 30 (like it is today), with no in-between.  It is colder than a well-digger's anus here.  At least climate change is just a liberal myth right?  Right?  Who's with me?  No?  Ok, moving on.  

I'm extremely discontent with my life right now.  The weird thing is, I'm not alone.  I meet with a house church and we were all talking a couple of weeks ago.  As we were talking about things we're struggling with, it became evident that no one in the room was content with their life. Everyone seemed to be echoing the same sentiment.  

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying my life sucks or anything, I've got plenty to be thankful for. I have a great wife and two amazing boys.  I have a church family that seems to think I'm alright (a lot of pastors can't claim that).  I have a family that loves me who I love back.  So I guess the question is: what is the freak is wrong with me?  If I have all of that going for me, what is my deal?  My parents would be quick to state that it's probably because I'm an overly pessimistic person.  They would be right, but not in this account.  I am a pessimistic person; something that I have tried to correct over the years to little avail.  But this isn't a pessimistic discontent. The only way I can describe it is that it's a state of being where you feel like what you're doing and how you're living isn't it.  You feel like you're treading water, but you've been treading for so long that you're starting to sink.  I'm not discontent with my circumstances in life, I'm discontent with me.  I'm not even sure I can fully articulate exactly what I'm feeling, but I just have a feeling that the life I'm living isn't the life I'm supposed to be living.  The frustrating part of this is that I don't know how I'm supposed to be living.  Every time I think I know, I start formulating all the reasons why that can't be it.

For instance, I have felt for some time that my family is supposed to be living communally with other people.  What I mean is that a bunch of people all live in the same big house or in the same near vicinity.  Every time I think, "That's it" I start to think about all of the ways that it just won't work.  So-and-so would be hard to live with (like I wouldn't be), who owns the house, what happens when...etc.  

I'm tired of youth ministry.  Let me clarify.  Youth ministry doesn't work (maybe some do, but mine doesn't).  There's nothing particularly Christian about most youth ministry.  Most of it is based on getting kids to show up by playing games and entertaining them.  I've always shied away from that, but my way isn't working either.  There has to be a third option, but what is it? I have no clue. 

I'm so tired of being discontent.  I have zero faith that God will give me the answers, because I'm pretty sure he wants me to be this way right now, not to mention I'm having trouble finding the desire to even talk with him right now.  He's probably just waiting for me to move, which is the most frustrating part of all.  He's waiting for me to take a step off the cliff, all the while having the trust that I'm going to walk on the air.  Have I mentioned that I'm afraid of heights? 

10:06 AM


Posted by Brad Polley |

I found out today that I'm not getting a raise next year.  Does it bother me?  A little.  Do I think I deserve one?  Yeah, and the elders of the church told me as much.  Our church's financial picture isn't all that grand right now, thus no raise.  

Here's why I'm not going to lose sleep over it.  Today, 75,000 Citigroup employees are finding out that they don't have a job anymore.  Given the snail-paced economy, their chances of finding a new job aren't good.  Today, 16,000 kids in the world will die because they had nothing to eat.  Today, my brothers and sisters in Haiti are waking up and wondering where their next meal is going to come from.  

It could be worse.

2:12 PM

Starbucks and church

Posted by Brad Polley |

This is an interesting video that shows what Starbucks would be like if it acted like a normal church.  

4:57 PM

The lottery sham

Posted by Brad Polley |

I've known for a long time that the lottery is a total joke, but standing in line at the gas station today just reaffirmed my thoughts.  A lady in front of me presented a "winning" scratch-off ticket to the cashier.  "What did she win?" you may ask.  Five dollars.  Keep in mind that all of these tickets are at least $3 to buy.  So how did this woman spend her winnings (I think you know where this is going)?  She bought $8 worth of scratch off tickets.  I wanted to shake her and ask her if she knew what she just did.    

I don't understand this addiction, I really don't.  The only time in my life that I gambled was on my honeymoon when my new bride and I went to a casino.  We took in a grand total of $50, played the slots, and walked out with $42.  I felt euphoric that we only lost eight dollars.  That's when I realized how much of a sham the lottery/gambling really is.  

The whole incident with this lady today just made me sad.  All I could think of was her getting home, sitting down with a coin to scratch with, her heart racing as she starts to scratch.  "Is this the big one?" she might ask herself.  I can also imagine her disappointment with the results.  I want to tell her that her life doesn't have to be that desperate.  It doesn't have to be the endless cycle of spending money to make money to spend more money.  There's more to this life.  

1:17 PM

Autistic Artist

Posted by Brad Polley |

This is the craziest thing I have ever seen in my life.  Absolutely incredible.  

(ht to Marko)

10:19 AM

My final thoughts on the election

Posted by Brad Polley |

Yesterday was just an interesting day.  I don't care who you voted for, yesterday's election was historically significant.  To watch a black man become our president-elect was something that actually gave me chills, and I'm the whitest dude around.  I can only imagine what it means to someone who lived through the civil rights conflict in the 60s to see this happen.  It's significant and it shows that maybe, just maybe, this country isn't full of ignorant, racist hill-jacks.  

I voted for Obama, and here's the biggest reason why: thanks to President Bush, our reputation around the world is shot.  Obama has the ability to restore our reputation around the world.  If you don't believe me, go around the Web and peruse some international newspapers.  One international newspaper read, "Welcome back friends."  America's reputation may seem like a stupid reason to vote for someone, but I think it's significant.  If no one is willing to work with us (which they aren't now), then we will never be able to truly solve some of the global problems that face us today.  If we're going to be a world leader again, we need a President that can work well with other leaders, not in a position of pride, but one of service.  When I hear Obama speak, I don't hear the same prideful "we're right and you're wrong" cowboy crap that I've had to listen to for the last eight years.  I'm tired of American arrogance.  It is contributing to our downfall as a nation and I feel like Obama can remedy that problem.  He'll never deliver on all of his promises, because no politician ever does, however, I don't see him making things worse.  

I watched McCain's concession speech last night.  It was extremely classy (minus his hateful audience who repeatedly "boo'd" every time Obama's name was mentioned) and I couldn't help but wonder how the outcome would be different had he taken the approach he took last night instead of eviscerating Obama for the last four months.  All of the hate-speech from his campaign in the last few months seemed insincere to me (at least coming out of him).  Last night's speech seemed sincere to me.  It made me see that McCain is a good and honorable man who was given some really, really bad campaign advice by whoever was pulling the strings.  It was good to hear his words and I gained a great deal of respect for him.

Finally, we all need to keep in mind that it isn't up to the government to fix everyone's problems.  In fact, Obama said as much last night in his speech.  The government can't totally eradicate poverty, but individuals can.  We all need to get off our butts and make a difference. As Obama mentioned last night, change doesn't happen because one person gets elected; change only happens when people get out do something about the problems we face as a nation.  It's time for Christians especially to step up and show the world what love and compassion looks like. 

11:27 AM

My favorite Kentuckian monk

Posted by Brad Polley |

I'm currently reading a book titled "The Nonviolent Alternative."  It's a collection of essays from Thomas Merton, written mostly in the 1960s, as a response to the Cold War and generally violent attitudes in the world at the time.  Given the current political climate of our world, these essays speak today in the same way they did then.  Here are a couple of great nuggets.

"Christ our Lord did not come to bring peace to the world as a kind of spiritual tranquilizer.  he brought to his disciples a vocation and a task, to struggle in the world of violence to establish his peace not only in their own hearts but in society itself."

"The Christian is and must be by his very adoption as a son of God, in Christ, a peacemaker (Matthew 5:9).  He is bound to imitate the Savior who, instead of defending himself with twelve legions of angels (Matthew 26:53) allowed himself to be nailed to the cross and died praying for his executioners.  The Christian is one whose life has sprung from a particular spiritual seed: the blood of the martyrs who, without offering forcible resistance, laid down their lives rather than submit to the unjust laws that demanded an official religious cult of the Emperor as God.  That is to say, the Christian is bound, like the martyrs, to obey God rather than the state whenever the state tries to usurp powers that do not and cannot belong to it. We have repeatedly seen Christians in our time fulfilling this obligation in a heroic manner by their resistance to dictatorships that strove to interfere with the rights of their conscience and of their religion." 

Jesus enters the scene shortly before the greatest King (Augustus) kicks the bucket.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, by the time Jesus begins his ministry, all of the progress of peace that Augustus achieved was ruined and proved to the world, once again, that the "imperial man" philosophy failed.  No human could ever bring about lasting peace and joy.  If any King proved this, it was Augustus.  

This is why it doesn't ultimately matter who wins the election.  No President can bring about an existence where there is no war, everyone is well-fed, people cease to die from curable diseases, etc.  If you listen to a political stump speech, you get the idea that whenever Candidate _______ gets elected, all will be well, the world will be nothing but sunshine and farts, and the government will just throw money at everyone until they are happy.  Even if a President creates any sort of progress, the chances are great that the next guy (in four or eight years) will screw it all up and the whole thing is for naught anyway.

Christ came so that the world may live in harmony with God.  This harmony is available to all, is free from government meddling, and isn't dependent on outside circumstances.  This life leads to peace, it leads to joy, it leads an existence where love abounds...ideally.  If the Church will get off its collective duff and stop waiting for politicians to fix all of the world's problems, then the world would be a better place.  It would be a place where the lion lays down with the lamb, a place where swords are beaten into plows, and where 16,000 kids a day don't die from starvation.  McCain and Obama can't make any of this happen, but the Church, as the body of Christ, can and should.  

Whatever happens on November 4th, keep in mind that world leaders have promised everlasting peace and prosperity for thousands of years, and none of them have achieved it. 

Augustus (which means "worthy of praise and worship") Caesar was seen as the human ruler that would bring about everlasting peace.  He was well-liked and, generally, a good man.  He once paid the year's taxes for the whole province of Asia with his own money.  If the State treasury or a friend was out of money, he would finance it with his own money.  In the words of Stauffer "Augustus was a blessing to mankind."  To give you some idea as to his popularity and apparent achievements, here a couple of writings about him from shortly after his death:

"The emperor, ruler of oceans and continents, the divine father among men, who bears the same name as his heavenly father--Liberator, the marvelous star of the Greek world, shining with the brilliance of the great heavenly Savior." - an inscription found on the island of Philae after Augustus conquered Egypt

"The whole of mankind would have been almost destroyed in internecine strife, if one man and leader, Augustus, had not appeared, who is worthy to be called the hero who averted disaster, who healed the common afflictions of the Greek and Barbarian worlds.  It was he who not merely loosened but burst the chains which bound and oppressed the dwellers of the earth.  It was he who led all the cities of the earth to freedom, who made order out of chaos, who preserved freedom, and gave each man his due." - an Alexandrian Jew

While all of this is going on, a tiny infant is born in the dirt and crap of a backwater town in Israel.  

Augustus wasn't your average ruler.  He was a good and kind ruler, and was looked upon as the Savior of the world.  However, shortly after his death, the same cycle of strife and violence hit the Roman Empire (and, therefore, the rest of the world).  His dream of everlasting peace failed.  The greatest example of the homo imperiosus that the world had known was dead and everything returned to the way it had always been; an endless cycle of war and violence.  You could say that the movement died with the mover. 

Meanwhile, the tiny infant grew to be a man.  He began to say things like, "I have come to set the captives free."  "My peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you.  Not as the world gives..."  This man was saying things that sounded awfully familiar to a people under Roman rule.  He was speaking of bringing peace to the world.  He was making the claims of a king.  But surely this would turn out like all the rest.  Things would go well for awhile, but one day he would die and everything would return to the way it's always been.  Right?

9:44 AM

An interesting correlation

Posted by Brad Polley |

Socialism - a system of society or group living in which there is no private property (courtesy of Merriam-Webster dictionary)

"All the believers were one in heart and mind.  No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.  And God's grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them.  For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need." - Acts 4:32-35


I've been thinking a lot of about this election.  That could be due to the fact that I'm getting older and crankier about the fact that this government is grossly misusing my money, or it could be due to the fact that the election has been going on for 2 freaking years and I've had no choice but to think about it.  This election is being billed as "maybe the most important election in the history of our country."  That may or may not be the case in some regards, but I'm going to tell you why it's an irrelevant thing to say anyway.  

I'm reading (and by "reading" I mean picking through it at a snail's pace because a lot of it is pretty boring) a book called "Christ and the Caesars" by a dead German named Ethelbert Stauffer.  It's fairly fascinating and fairly boring at the same time, if that is possible.  In the book, he examines the history of Rome and the Caesars, and then he examines how these guys fit into the life and message of Jesus and the Early Church (the answer: a lot).  One of the more fascinating chapters I have read thus far is the chapter dealing with Augustus Caesar and Jesus. 

Jesus wasn't born into a vacuum, which is the idea you get from a lot of Christians.  Jesus is born into the world in a particular place, during a particular time.  This time and place are unique in history.  His message is one of the here and now (unfortunately Christians have hijacked it and made it to be a message of the someday, faraway future) that was distinct in its relevance, not only to the people he encountered in his earthly life, but to the world two thousand years later.  But before we get to that message, we must look at the world leader, and indeed the entire system of Caesars.

Almost every Caesar claimed to be the "son of God."  This would ensure a couple of things. One, absolute authority; after all, who's going to argue with a policy put forth by the the son of God?  Two, it would lend credence to any war you wanted to fight or any land you wanted to conquer.  There are thousands upon thousands of Roman coins found from the late B.C.E. and early C.E. that are inscribed with the face of a particular Caesar with a phrase such as, "Caesar is Lord" or "The Divine Son of God."  So you have a completely dominant world superpower who's leaders believe they are divine.  

Another aspect of the Caesars is that they thought themselves to be the harbingers of peace to the world (is any of this sounding familiar?).  This peace would be achieved by Roman military conquest, occupation, and a conversion to their way of doing government and society.  Almost every Caesar was seen as the human leader (according to Stauffer the homo imperiosus or imperial man) who would bring about everlasting peace in the world.  Just as an aside, this thought started with the Pharaohs around 3000 B.C.E., but the Caesars co-opted this thought with extreme vigor.  So now you not only have a succession of leaders who believe themselves to be God, but a succession of leaders who claim (and apparently fail) to bring about eternal peace upon the earth.  All of this culminated with Augustus who we'll look at more later. 

9:52 AM

Honesty in Advertising

Posted by Brad Polley |

I've regaled you numerous times with my opinions of advertising.  This post will not continue the trend of bashing companies for stupid marketing.  This post will be examples of advertising, were I working for an ad agency.  I'm the type of person who just wants more honesty in advertising.

Charmin - "It's like wiping your butt with a whisper."
McDonald's Coffee - "It's like Starbuck's, but you know...terrible."
Starbuck's - "We're actually just curious to see how much you'll actually pay for a cup of coffee."
Taco Bell - Yeah, it's crap, but it's cheap and you'll eat it anyway."
Lay's potato chips - "Filling half the bag with air and increasing the price since 2002."
Exxon Mobil - "Soul...what's a soul?  Never heard of it."
Any political campaign - "I promise to continue to promise a bunch of stuff that I will never deliver on."
American Airlines - "You get a $10 discount if you decide to just sit on the floor."
General Motors - "We're not sure why we're still in business either."
The American Church - "All are welcome unless you're gay or a democrat."

What are some of your ideas?

11:45 AM

The new racism

Posted by Brad Polley |

When did we time-warp back to the 1950s?  I don't understand.  When did it become acceptable again to deride people based on their nationality?  Has it always been this way and I just haven't noticed, or is this a recent thing.  I saw a video this morning of people at a McCain rally in Pennsylvania and they were yelling at a group of protestors.  The person filming all of this was asking people why they were voting for McCain.  They were saying things like, "Obama is a terrorist."  When asked why, the people said, "Because he's an Arab."  Later, they all start singing "God Bless America."  I'm sure God was pleased.  The video honestly made me sick.  

In another video, a man is holding up a monkey with an Obama sticker on.  Does no one else see how racist that is?  I don't care how anyone votes (even you, dad, I just like giving you a hard time), and it's their business as to why they vote for someone.  The racism has to end though.  If Obama was white and his middle name was something other than Hussein, we wouldn't be having this conversation.  

No one would admit that they won't vote for Obama because he's black, but let's face it, there are a lot of people who aren't voting for him for this very reason.  What they do say is, "Oh, he's an Arab," "he's a Muslim," "he's a terrorist."  So they've exchanged one racism for another.  The media seems to just let all of this slide.  Since 9/11, Arab bashing has become, not only acceptable, but encouraged.  I hear it from Christians all the time.  Note to Christians: Nothing could be further from Jesus' message than racism.  Don't forget that the person you profess to follow was middle eastern and considered a terrorist by the Roman government.  You should probably watch what you say. 

11:15 AM

It worked! It worked!

Posted by Brad Polley |

The bailout worked!  Wall Street is more stable, and the American people can continue to prosper!  The market is doing really well...what's that?  The Dow is down under 10,000 points for the first time since after 9/11?  Ooh, tough break.  I didn't ever want to retire anyway.  

10:41 AM

Beyond fun

Posted by Brad Polley |

This game is just hilarious.  I don't care what political party you align yourself with, this is good stuff.  The game pits political candidates in a Tekken sort of format.  Their weapons are all different.  My two favorites have to be Palin's special weapon (her hockey stick turns into a rifle) and Obama's (he shoots doves at his opponents).  The only thing about the game is that it's virtually impossible to win.  It could just be that I suck.  Enjoy.

10:34 AM


Posted by Brad Polley |

Here's what's going through my brain right now:

- When are people going to learn that the government is essentially worthless?
- When are people going to learn that Wall Street investors don't really care about them?
- If I screwed up my job as bad as Wall Street CEOs have screwed up theirs, would I get a huge bonus?
- I'm still wondering if a youth pastor is a necessary expense for a church.
- Is my heartburn from the sloppy joe I ate at lunch, or the fact that I have eaten my weight in apples over the last four days?
- The Velvet Underground may be one of the most underrated bands in history.
- Why did it take me so long to discover 1970s Stevie Wonder?
- Speaking of Stevie Wonder, does anyone remember the episode of the Cosby Show with Stevie in it?  That was a good episode.
- What is it about John Mellencamp's music that makes me want to drive off the road into a giant oak tree?
- I watched the movie "Rock Star" last night.  I wasn't impressed.
- I'm playing golf tomorrow and I can't, for the life of me, figure out why.
- Will my lethargy for life ever end?
- Could my kids be any cuter?  I doubt it.
- I get jealous of auto mechanics because they do more to help people than I do. 
- I eat at a Turkish restaurant from time to time?  Can I be Vice President now or do I have to meet Bono first?
- When did Bono become part of the United Nations?  Isn't he the singer for some overblown rock band?  
- Sometimes I secretly wish that God would just end this world immediately.
- It says in the biblical account of the great flood that God regretted creating humans.  Does anyone else think that is the saddest image ever.  
- I'm pretty tired of people like Bill Maher thinking that they are going to convert the world to atheism by making a documentary.  Seriously, what a biased load of crap.  He finds the craziest, most extreme examples of religion and then leaves out the other 95% of religious people who are intelligent, moderate, and are trying to make the world a better place.  Good journalism Bill Maher, you truly deserve an Oscar.
- I'm really tired of having to say I'm sorry for all of my crazy brothers and sisters.  
- Christians are hypocrites, but so is everyone else.  I've never met a person who wasn't.  Get over it. 

10:50 AM

So I'm confused

Posted by Brad Polley |

If you suspend your campaign in order to do your existing job, then do a speech the next morning before heading to your existing job after all the decisions have been made, is it still considered a suspension?  Can somebody clarify?

10:14 AM

Under the "Umm...yeah we know" file

Posted by Brad Polley |

Clay Aiken came out of the closet.  Umm...yeah we know.

2:32 PM

Giving Jesus another black eye

Posted by Brad Polley |

Guys like this need to be in prison.  In case you're wondering, this isn't Christian.    

10:15 AM


Posted by Brad Polley |

I've always wondered what it would be like to live through the Great Depression.  It looks like my dream will come true!  Hooray!

10:08 AM

Not much to say

Posted by Brad Polley |

Sorry for the blogging lull.  Not that any of you are crying yourself to sleep at night because of this, but whatever.  I just don't have a great deal to say right now.  The election is getting so ridiculous that I can't even find the energy to write about it.  Spiritually, I'm pretty dry right now, so I don't have much to say along those lines.  Add to that my incredibly busy schedule now that the school year has started.  All of this equals nothing to say.  Hopefully I'll have something of substance soon.

8:57 AM

The worst song ever written?

Posted by Brad Polley |

I got in my car this morning to go to work, turned the key and blaring out of the radio is the song "De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da" by The Police.  Now bear in mind that I'm generally okay with The Police.  I'm not ever going to own their entire catalogue or anything, but "Message In a Bottle" and "Every Breath You Take" (by the way, this is the best song about a voyeur ever written) are stellar songs.  But seriously, has there ever been a less relevant, more annoying song written than "De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da"?  After enduring that chorus a couple of times, you have to put up with overly philosophical lyrics like, "Their logic ties you up and rapes you."  It's a little too late to be philosophical when you've aurally forced yourself upon us with a completely idiotic title and chorus.  My assumption is that this song was thought out and composed after a twelve pack of Guinness and a number of pharmaceuticals were consumed.  

Right now, as I type this, I'm listening to "Machine Gun" by Jimi Hendrix.  I consider the day balanced. 

1:20 PM

Dear Christians: Good job of being consistent

Posted by Brad Polley |

So everyone in the Republican party is officially wetting themselves over Sarah Palin.  Fine, go ahead.  Here's one thing I don't understand though.  Fundie Christians make up a vast majority of the GOP.  They are okay with electing a woman who could very easily be president sooner than later (look at McCain and tell me he doesn't look like he belongs in a retirement home), and yet a vast majority of those same Christians won't allow a woman to be a leader in the Church.  So women can run the country, but can't be a part of setting the direction of the Church?  That's consistent.

9:18 AM

New picture of my youngest

Posted by Brad Polley |

I have a new picture of my youngest son Abram.  He's pale, he's bald, he has a turkey neck, and he's absolutely adorable.  I'm convinced that I'm the luckiest guy on the planet to have two beautiful boys, especially when this is half of what they had to work with:

So here's the newest picture of Abram: 

I swear he looks just like that, but cuter.  He's so pale that he's almost translucent.  He has a toothless smile just like Mr. Magoo, and he has a wrinkly face.  I love that kid.  

11:56 AM

The Crystal Meth of Gaming

Posted by Brad Polley |

If you have 30 minutes (or more, depending on your skill), play this game.  This is about as addicting as a game gets.  It's called Totem Destroyer.  Prepare to have you time gloriously wasted.

10:05 AM

How much do you have to know? part 2

Posted by Brad Polley |

So what makes someone a follower of Jesus?  Is it head-knowledge?  Is it a commitment in your heart?  What does that even mean?  I've really been mulling all of this over recently after some conversations with a pastor friend who is working with a student who is a professed atheist.  He recently attended a church camp of sorts in Colorado and he "found God" (I'm not 100% sure what that means other than to say that he now believes that there is a benevolent God out there somewhere).  He still isn't sure about Jesus.  He believes that there was a man named Jesus long ago, but he still isn't sure about the claims Christians make about him.  So is it possible for him to follow Jesus even is he doesn't necessarily believe all of the claims of Jesus?

If you look in the gospels, people stumbled into God's Kingdom in a million ways.  One of my favorite stories in the gospels is about a man who is paralyzed.  Jesus is sitting in a house teaching and healing people, and there is no room for anyone else to get in.  It then says that the friends made an opening in the roof (the original Greek actually reads "they un-roofed the roof" how awesome is that?) and lowered their paralyzed friend down on a mat.  The text then says something weird, "When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, "Son, your sins are forgiven."  He later heals the man of his paralysis.  I find Jesus' words very interesting. When he sees the faith of the guy's friends, he forgives his sins.  So in other words, this man found his way into God's Kingdom by having the right friends.  We never read anywhere that this guy even wanted his sins forgiven or wanted to be a part of what Jesus was doing.  All we can assume is that he just wanted to walk, so his friends ripped a freakin' roof off of a house in order to make that happen.  Because he had the right friends, he was saved.  

This obviously flies directly in the face of what churches teach.  Each church has their own "program" of being saved.  Bear in mind, hardly any churches agree on what someone needs to do in order to become a follower of Jesus.  The church where I work basically has this pattern: 1)Something happens in a person and they express interest in following Jesus. 2)Said person then talks to one of the pastors about all of this. 3)Said person generally comes forward during a church service to publicly profess their faith in Jesus as God, etc. 4)Person gets baptized.

It isn't that I have anything necessarily wrong with that series of events, I'm just wondering how much of it is necessary.  It's just that when I look at Jesus' life, I don't see any pattern develop of people following him.  You never even read of any of Jesus' disciples being baptized. Peter is the only one that makes any sort of a public statement of Jesus being the Messiah, and we've already seen that he obviously didn't fully grasp anything he said until much later.  

I understand that these patterns develop because humans naturally want things nice and formulated.  We always gravitate toward what is easiest to measure and calculate.  However, Jesus doesn't work that way.  There isn't a set pattern for people following him.  So, once again, I ask, how much do you have to know?

9:36 AM

How much do you have to know? part 1

Posted by Brad Polley |

Last night at the house church I belong to, we were discussing the book of Acts.  In chapter 2, we come across Peter, on of Jesus' closest followers giving a gigantic sermon to thousands of people. In his sermon, he details who Jesus is, what he did, what he's doing, and the roots of his existence in the Hebrew Scriptures.  It's an extremely theological sermon, meaning that it encompasses God's revelation through Jesus in a fairly complete way.  The interesting thing is that, just days before, Peter and the rest of Jesus followers had pretty much abandoned him as a fraud.  

At the end of John's gospel, we read of the disciples (including Peter) fishing.  This might sound insignificant, but it signaled the disciples' return to their normal everyday lives after Jesus' death. In most rabbi/disciple relationships, this signaled the breaking of the relationship.  The amazing thing is that the text tells us that the resurrected Jesus had appeared to them twice already.  So even after Jesus appears to them, thus saying that he's claimed the victory, and everything he taught had come to fruition, they decided to go back to fishing.  Also keep in mind that Jesus had named Peter "the rock upon which he would build his Church."  Some rock.  

Some will say that Peter's earlier confession of Jesus being the Messiah sent from God shows that he understood who Jesus was, but his later actions must be taken into account.  Not to mention, just because Peter made a verbal affirmation of Jesus' character, doesn't mean that he had internalized or fully understood the breadth of it.    

The return to fishing tells us something huge about the disciples; after three years of following in Jesus' dust trail, seeing miracles, hearing his teachings, etc., they were profoundly ignorant of who Jesus was.  In other words, they didn't get it at all.  We further see their ignorance at the beginning of the book of Acts when they ask Jesus, "So is now the time that you will restore the Kingdom to Israel?"  What they're really asking is if this is the time that Jesus is going to mount a military assault against the Romans, who controlled Israel.  Yet again, a profound misunderstanding of Jesus' mission, and a warping of the various teachings he taught confirming that he wasn't a military Messiah.  Once again, they didn't get it.  They still had no idea who Jesus was and what he was about.  

Here's the thing that I think Christians need to understand...they didn't get it, yet they were still followers of Jesus.  So the question is this: how much does a person have to know before they are considered a follower of Jesus?  Does a person have to know anything?  Is it possible that there are people following Jesus who have no idea that they are following Jesus?  

Tomorrow (or whenever I feel like posting again) I'll explain some background to why I'm thinking about all of this.  

8:45 AM

The Political Forum

Posted by Brad Polley |

There's been a lot of hype about the recent "political forum" at Saddleback Church in California. If you don't know what happened, Pastor Rick Warren sat down individually with both of the Presidential candidates and asked them fundie questions about religion and politics.  I have a few thoughts about this forum.  

First, it was a completely unbalanced atmosphere.  You're in a giant evangelical church, which candidate do you think has the advantage going in?  Obviously the Republican, because his ideals (which, incidentally, I don't think McCain has any to speak of) match up better with the audience. Obama didn't stand a chance of winning the audience over because the deck was stacked.

Second, I'm not your typical Christian who loves when political events take place in churches.  I hate (that may not be a strong enough word) when Christians try to exert influence in elections. It's happened too much in the past few years and it's happening again.  I keep hearing things on news channels like, "courting the evangelical vote" and "the power of the evangelical vote."  It makes me very uneasy because Jesus made it very clear that the key to living his way of life was not power, but powerlessness.  Not to mention that I wholeheartedly believe that Church and State should be separated.  Tony Campolo once said, "Mixing Church and State is like mixing ice cream and manure; it doesn't effect the manure, but it ruins the ice cream."  I think we're seeing that in the American Church right now.  It's deeply divided and the message of Jesus is continuously being compromised by a political agenda.  The manure of politics is ruining the Church.  When I see two presidential candidates sitting in a debate (it wasn't called a debate, but it pretty much was) in a church, it makes me want to puke.  

Third, the "highlights" that I watched reinforced my belief that all political candidates, regardless of party, are swindlers.  McCain was asked a question about how his faith affects his everyday life.  He says very briefly, "It means I'm saved and forgiven."  First of all, that isn't an answer to that question at all and it was equivalent to asking a group of middle school students a question about theology and they answer "Jesus."  It was a regimented answer that he thought people wanted to hear (and incidentally, the crowd ate it up and applauded it) and nothing more.  He then launched into a story about how he was tortured in Vietnam.  This part of the answer had even less to do with the question asked and people, once again, ate it up.  On a small tangent, McCain mentions his torture about once every three seconds.  Dude, I'm sorry you were tortured, I really am, but that in no way qualifies you as the best candidate for President so stop mentioning it please.  

In all fairness, I saw where Obama was asked about abortion and he did a pretty masterful job of not directly answering the question as well.  They're all swindlers, you don't get elected by telling the truth.  People in this country don't want to hear the truth, they want to hear answers that reinforce their own (often misguided) ideals, and politicians know it.  

I refuse to make a judgment call on which candidate has greater faith, because, in all honesty, I can't because I don't know their hearts.  I have my own suspicions about which candidate seems to be more sincere, but, once again, I don't trust politicians at all.  

9:27 AM

The Sports Machine

Posted by Brad Polley |

Let it be said from the get-go that I like sports.  I've grown up playing and watching sports, it's part of who I am.  I say all of that because this post might seem like I'm proposing a hatred for sports and other activities.  

I was watching the Olympics last night and I realized that, for all of the overly-poetic commentating saying otherwise, the Olympics are not about sports at all; they're about politics. It's about national pride, and one nation saying to the other nations, "I have the gold, thus making my country superior to yours."  This all hit me when I watched the men's gymnastics last night. China's men's team was performing (just as an aside, male gymnasts are absolutely enormous, seriously watch the Rings competition and have your mind blown) and what I saw was not a bunch of athletes who were happy to be there and have the opportunity to compete.  What I saw were machines who were bred and designed to win.  There wasn't a hint of happiness or joy on their faces, even when they performed well.  Even when they high-fived each other, they looked like they were getting into proper position first, and then robotically celebrating their actions.  After a performance, they would flash to the stands and show the Chinese coach, and his face was always stoic, bordering on angry, regardless of the performance.  

I saw a report the other day where the Chinese government hand selects the most nimble and flexible three year old girls to start training for the Olympic gymnastics.  Let that sink in for a moment.  It has nothing to do with whether the girls want to be gymnasts, they are told to be gymnasts.  This isn't sport, it's industrial breeding.  This is breeding for a political purpose.  China is trying to show the rest of the world that they are superior by winning more gold than everyone, most importantly the U.S. (this is actually a stated goal of the Chinese Olympic federation).  In my mind, this makes a great deal of the Olympics fraudulent.  Sports should be about fun.  Sports shouldn't be made into a political agenda.  

Lest we throw stones too quickly, let me say that I think we're headed the same direction.  Go to any Little League baseball tournament and you'll see what I mean.  The games aren't about fun anymore, they are about winning.  They are about winning, because they are about pride; pride in your town, state, league, etc.  If you don't believe me, listen to this.  A girl in my youth group who is a cheerleader (yes, I agree that cheerleading isn't a sport, but the same principle applies) told me about a girl on her squad that intentionally broke her ankle so that she wouldn't have to cheer.  After I picked my jaw up off the ground I asked the obvious question, "Um, why doesn't she just quit?"  Her answer said it all to me, "She didn't want to let her parents and coach down."  Wow.  She would rather find a way to break her ankle than to quit and "let her parents down."  

Sport should be fun, and sports should be enjoyable, but our culture is pushing all of the fun and enjoyment out of it.  I quit baseball when I was in fifth grade because I had one coach (not you dad) that sucked all of the fun out of it and was hell-bent on nothing but winning.  I'm not advocating getting rid of sports, I'm just asking for the fun to be brought back to it.  Let's lay down our stupid pride (pride of country, pride of our children being better than other children, pride of town or team) and just relax.  Let's also have a sense of perspective that, in the end, sports are completely meaningless and inconsequential when measured up to the world's bigger problems.  And stop freaking yelling at my dad for being a bad referee at basketball games, it hurts his fragile feelings.    

7:32 AM


Posted by Brad Polley |

A Russian Billionaire just bought a house on the French Riviera for $752 million.  People in Haiti are starving because they can't afford rice.  Good purchase.

1:44 PM


Posted by Brad Polley |

I heard the other day that the American Family Association (read: fundie Christians who hate everything) is calling for a boycott of McDonald's because they gave a donation to a gay and lesbian organization.  Honestly, I just don't get it.  Can the Church in America get any less significant than it seems to be right now?  This is what we boil the message of Jesus down to; boycotting a fast-food restaurant.  

Honestly, McDonald's should be boycotted, but more on the grounds that their food is killing you by coating your arteries with layers of slick and slimy fat (mmmm fries).  The saddest thing to me isn't that they are calling for a boycott, it's that somewhere in this country today, a kid wanted to eat a Happy Meal and was told by his mom that they couldn't eat there anymore because McDonald's was a bunch of gay-loving liberals.  

Is this move by the AFA going to help anyone?  I don't even have to answer that, because we all know the answer to that.  All this boycott does is further damage the name of Christ because more of his followers ignore the call to love.  Go ahead and read the gospels and count number of times that Jesus boycotts something.  You can probably guess that the answer is none.  The only thing that Jesus was against were hard-hearted religious people who tried to manipulate and control people by shackling them with rules and regulations, all the while ignoring the greater law of love.  Hey AFA, sound familiar?


9:17 AM

I'm not sure what to think about this

Posted by Brad Polley |

Read this article.

I'm really not sure what to think about this.  I always get nervy when I see the words "Christians" and "protesters" in the same sentence.  On one hand I admire their zeal, and porn addiction is destroying people's lives in record numbers.    

On the other hand, I do think porn is covered under the First Amendment.  The lawyer was right in the article when he said that the First Amendment covers speech that we disagree with.  I think there's a bigger issue here though.  I'm not sure if their approach is the one Jesus would take.  I never see Jesus protesting against people in the Bible.  The people that he railed against the most were the religious leaders.  He never took an approach like this with people outside of religion.  I just wonder if the approach these people are taking comes across as love or more Christian hate.  My hope is that they are doing this with genuine love and compassion for the people who are enslaved by porn addiction.  I can't and won't make that judgment.  However, their intent may not be the issue, the perception of their intent might be.  

So what do you think?  Is there a better way than this?    

7:39 AM

This is staggering

Posted by Brad Polley |

18 war veterans a day commit suicide.  So how is war working out?  Good?  I think we should stay in Iraq for another 100 years.  

1:26 PM


Posted by Brad Polley |

Here are some strands going through the ole' duder's head right now:

- When will I take Jesus seriously and finally get rid of a ton of stuff?
- Will I ever trust that God will provide for me regardless of what it may look like?
- Does liking "Killer Queen" by Queen automatically make me gay (take the poll to the right to help me answer this one)?
- How can punk music from the late 70s be so good, and punk music now be so ear-bleedingly terrible?
- Can the Church in America be saved?
- When will people realize that the Statue of Liberty and Uncle Sam didn't die for their sins?
- If Jesus said that loving God and loving people were the most important things, doesn't this mean that everything else churches talk about and do (i.e. church services, doctrinal arguments, etc.) become meaningless?  
- Does having the correct doctrine feed someone who is hungry?
- What does it mean to have correct doctrine?  Doesn't everyone think they are right?  Does God care?   Does all of our arguing about doctrine distract the Church from actually being the Church?
- How do I raise my kids to live the way of Jesus?
- If I dread my hair, will it look alright, or will I look like an old guy who is trying too hard?
- Would I be a more effective minister if I was bartender?
- Do you want to buy my house?  Or you?  Or you?  No?  Do you know someone who does? 

1:12 PM

Happy Birthday little buddy

Posted by Brad Polley |

One of the two cutest kids ever formed in a womb (as opposed to being formed in a...hmmm...not sure where I was going with that...anyway, moving on) turns two today.  I'm not sure I can really put into words how much I love this kid.  Despite his "I'm two years old" tantrums and hearing the words "no Daddy, bad boy" way too many times, I can't imagine my life without him.  Here's a picture from a couple of months ago. 

Happy Birthday buddy.  Mommy, Daddy, and Abram love you very much.  Thanks for being such a blessing to us.

9:59 AM

Why I'm a pacifist - part 6

Posted by Brad Polley |

I'll now mercifully end this series of posts by talking about something that bugs me about Christians.  I can't tell you how many times I've heard Christians say something to this affect, "Until Jesus returns, there will be no peace."  Beside the fact that that phrase makes me want to release my breakfast to the wind, it is patently ridiculous and unChristian.  

This phrase is uttered for two reasons as I see it.  One, because it is a simple copout that sounds Christian on the outside, and so most people accept it blindly as a pretty good explanation for why wars happen.  Two, because peacemaking is incredibly difficult in this world, and it is much easier to throw in the towel and wait to die so you can receive your eternal reward.

If our attitude is that nothing is fixable and the whole world is a sack of crap, then it is no wonder that the Church is so weak and feeble in this country.  It's no wonder that people would rather sleep in on Sundays.  We talk about victory, but to say that no peace will come until Christ returns sounds an awful lot like defeatism to me.  It's essentially saying that the battle for peace is lost, let's let big daddy Jesus fix it in his time.  Isn't the Church to body of Christ?  This means that we're called to fix things, being endowed with the power of the Resurrection as we are.  We are Jesus to a destructive and lifeless world, when will the Church understand this?  

Here's another thing I don't understand; the Church in America has become so militant and violence-minded, but the predominant NT picture of Jesus is one of a lamb.  Is a lamb a military sign?  It doesn't exactly strike fear in the hearts of enemies does it?  The lamb is a symbol of peace, not war.  How many sports teams have a lamb as their mascot?  None.  How many countries have the lamb as their national symbol?  None.  Jesus is called the Lamb of God.  His followers are called to be lambs as well.  

I want to conclude this whole broken series of posts with a passage from 2 Corinthians 10:

"For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.  The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of this world."

We are not called to fight with guns, bombs, and fists.  We're called to fight our enemies with a spoon and a cup (Read Romans 12).  I look forward to the day when the Church lays down its arms and embodies the spirit of the Lamb.     

9:14 AM

Why I'm a pacifist - part 5

Posted by Brad Polley |

Alright, I'm almost done polluting you with my hippie ideals of actually loving people.  The next two posts will be the last, and they will be primarily used to tie up some loose ends.  

I would like to spend some time talking about the divine image in everyone.  In the book of Genesis, it gives the account of creation.  It's (at least to me) a fascinating Hebrew poem describing the origin of life.  It says that when God creates people, he breathes into their nostrils and they become alive.  Ancient rabbis believed, in fact, that because of this, every time a person breathes, they say the name of God.  What all of this says to us is that every human being (Jew, Christian, Muslim, Taoist, Buddhist, Hindu, Atheist, etc.) carries with them the image of God.  We are told in Genesis that humans were made in the image of God.  We all carry with us part of God.  It's my belief that if people would truly internalize this and understand it, conflict would cease.  If you view every person as an image-bearer of God, then enemies fade away.  In the same way that you can't kill someone that you really love, you can't kill someone if you see them as bearing God's image.  At least you shouldn't be able to do that.  If you can, then it is my opinion that you are something less than the human you were created to be.  

What about WWII?  This is a question posed to me by my dad.  It's a fair question and a good one.  He was saying that because we were attacked on our soil, we had to do something about Japan and about Hitler.  My response to the question is this: we'll never know if anything else would have worked because we only pursued one course of action against Japan and Germany, and that was violence.  Because of this, we can't really answer this question fairly.  

It needs to be stated that we've lost our creativity and imagination in this country (and maybe the whole world).  When an enemy arises, instead of looking to God to find a peaceful and creative solution, we instead look to Toby Keith for the latest redneck anthem of why we should kill 'em all and let God sort 'em out, and we rename our french fries, "freedom fries." We're so steeped in violence that it seems like the only way to go.  That's why the issue of pacifism makes most people squirm.  It's a totally foreign concept to a world that is saturated with violence.  If you don't believe me, look at what happened when Obama announced that he would try diplomacy with countries like Iran and North Korea.  Republicans went berserk.  How can you be diplomatic with our enemies?  

Could a peaceful solution have been found to stop WWII from happening?  Who knows.  We'll never know because we never tried.  Maybe it's time to try something different.  All of our wars have failed to bring about real peace anyway.  

Here's another thing I don't understand.  Most of the pro-war Christians that I know are also militantly pro-life.  Does anyone else see a problem with that?  The claim of all pro-lifers (of which I'm one, but I need to explain my stance one of these days) is that God prizes every life.  So my question is this, does God only prize life until they leave the womb?  Countless people have been killed as "collateral damage" (that phrase makes me want to puke) in wars.  Does God not care about them?  Or is it just Americans who count (technically speaking, the policemen and firemen who died during 9/11 could be considered collateral damage as well because they weren't the primary targets)?  If you're going to be pro-life, then you can't be pro-war, because it takes away life.  This is a ridiculous inconsistency that no one seems to be pointing out.  Pro-life can't just mean fetuses, it has to count for all human beings.  The stance by most American Christians in this is the definition of hypocrisy.  

12:28 PM

John Lennon, where have you been my whole life?

Posted by Brad Polley |

Well, he's been dead for nearly all of it, but that's beside the point.

I recently purchased the John Lennon album "Plastic Ono Band" and, after about five minutes, punched myself in the face for not purchasing it years ago.  I have to admit, I'm a fairly pedestrian Beatles fan.  I happen to think they're okay, but not great.  They remind me of a bit of Nirvana in that if they would have come onto the scene a year later than they did, no one would have cared. They were a product of the right time and the right sound for the time.  That having been said, they wrote some pretty stellar songs such as, "Norwegian Wood," "Eleanor Rigby," and "Come Together."  I've given this some thought, and I will now rank the most talented Beatles in order from greatest to Ringo.

1. John - Seriously, buy "Plastic Ono Band" and "Imagine" and prove me wrong.
2. George - "All Things Must Pass" is incredible and I almost put him ahead of John.
3. Paul - He may be the most popular and well-known Beatle, but the most talented he is not...and his whole persona bugs the crap out of me.
4. Santa Claus - I hate Christmas music, but it's still better than Ringo.
5. The organ-grinder cymbal monkey on the street corner - Still better than Ringo, and cuter too.
6. That kid with Downs-Syndrome from "My So Called Life." - Anything he would write would be better than "Octopus's Garden."
7.  Ringo - I've heard people claim that he was more talented than some think.  My response?  Um, listen to "Yellow Submarine" or "Octopus's Garden," retract your statement, and then go and stick your head in a vat of earwigs until they have cleansed your auditory synapses, therefore giving you the ability to reason good music from bad.

I've posted a poll on the sidebar to definitively determine the best Beatle once and for all.  Give me your input.

7:17 AM

When did I start taking drugs?

Posted by Brad Polley |

Until last night, the weirdest dream I had ever had was in high school.  I was flying on an airplane, but the airplane was shaped like a cat, and the flight attendants were mice.  Pretty weird stuff, and one of those dreams where you wake up laughing.  Last night was different however.

In my dream, my wife was pregnant again.  Ok, pretty standard dream considering she's been pregnant for the better part of two years.  Here's where the dream becomes anything but standard.  She started giving birth to the kids, but she was giving birth to them by half-squatting like a penguin.  So she gives birth to two kids in this manner, then she lays an egg.  This is a pretty good sized egg, and when the egg opens, out pops a Panda.  Then she gives birth to another Panda, followed by another egg which produces another Panda, then another Panda.  So if you're keeping score, that's two kids and four Pandas.  The rest of the dream consisted of me freaking out about vacation and trying to figure out how we were going to get our eight "kids" to Tennessee for vacation.  I also remember saying, "There's a show called Jon and Kate, plus eight on TLC, what about Brad and Mandy plus eight?  When are we going to get our show?"

I woke up an hour before my alarm went off in a cold sweat and couldn't get back to sleep.  I'm happy to report that, as of this morning, Mandy is not pregnant and we still only have two kids at home.  I've yet to find a Panda in the house.  I was also unaware that Pizza Hut was now putting LSD in their pizza sauce, but apparently they do.  This is the only way I can explain my restless night of Panda nightmares.

11:55 AM

Why I'm a pacifist - part 4

Posted by Brad Polley |

So how did the early followers of Christ respond to his words following his resurrection and ascension to heaven?  One thing is for certain, any reading of the NT will show that the early Church took very seriously the idea that they were Christ's body on earth.  Imbued with his Spirit, they sought to live out the words he taught and the way he lived, full of love, peace, and compassion.  In today's Church, I find very few Christians who truly understand how literal the writers of the NT were when they referred to the Church as the body of Christ.  It seems to me (and I've been in the Church my entire life) that the Church sees this idea as nothing more than a fuzzy notion.  However, the implications of the Church being Jesus' body on earth are huge.  If we are his body (representatives, hands and feet, etc.), then it is imperative that we seek to live out his teachings and his way of life in order to finish his work of rescuing the world.  This isn't just a nice, clean, and fuzzy idea, but a concrete reality that we must take as seriously as the first Christ followers.  So what did they have to say along the lines of pacifism?

"Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse." - Here again, we must enter into some history.  In our day and age, we don't take blessings and curses all that seriously.  The ancient world was a whole different ball game.  We throw horrible words and phrases around like, "I hate you" and "You suck," and, many times, don't really mean them at all.  In ancient times, a blessing was something you conferred on someone that set the pattern of their lives.  These were words that people believed God participated in.  So if you said to someone, "May your life and home be prosperous," it was assumed that God heard you and made this happen.  Curses worked the same way, but with opposite results.  To heap a curse on someone was to wish them the worst kind of life.  It was to heap bad things upon them and their household.  So when Paul (the dude who apparently wrote this letter) tells the Church to bless those who persecute them, he was definitely setting up a new way of living.  He was telling Christians to turn the tables on people who hated them by invoking a blessing on their lives and wishing them well.  Once again, this doesn't work in a war theology  You can't wish someone well and then blow them up or splatter their brains across the desert.  It just doesn't work that way.

"Do not repay anyone evil for evil.  Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.  If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.  Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay,' says the Lord.  On the contrary: 'If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.  In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.'  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." - I was tempted to just let that passage speak for itself, but alas, the preacher in me just can't do that.  Paul says that "as far as it depends on us," live at peace with one another.  This means that we can't control the actions of other people, but we can control our own actions.  He calls us to fight with unconventional weapons.  He says that we are to fight with a spoon and a canteen.  If our enemies are hungry, we're supposed to feed them, if they're thirsty, we're supposed to give them something to drink.  So how do win a fight?  By not fighting at all.  On the surface, this looks like nothing more than laying down and losing, but it isn't.  It's winning through aggressive service to the ones who hate us the most.  How do you beat an idea?  With a better idea.

"Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails." - On the surface, it doesn't look like passage has anything to do with war and violence, but I ask this question: how can you fit blowing someone up into this passage?  If we're called to love our enemies, then this passage takes on a whole new revolutionary meaning.  Love always wins.  

"God is love.  Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.  This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus.  There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.  The one who fears is not made perfect in love." - Love is made complete when we live like Jesus here and now.  Jesus didn't fight back, if we are going to live like him, we can't either.  The reality is that fear is the root of all war.  We fear that something is going to happen if we don't act, so we lash out in violence.  The writer makes it very clear that fear and love are incongruous.  If we love our enemies, we don't fear anything they can do to us.  Jesus rising from the grave was a way of saying, "Now what?  You killed me, now what are you going to do?"  The worst thing that anyone can do to us is kill us.  But then what can they do?  Nothing.  They can't touch the soul.  

These are just a few examples of how the Church responded to the brutal Roman Empire in the first century.  There are many more examples, and I encourage you to look them up.  The next post will focus on what pacifism means and what it looks like.  We'll also talk about what author Shane Claiborne calls the prophetic imagination.  


8:00 AM

Why I'm a pacifist - part 3

Posted by Brad Polley |

In my mind, Jesus' words singlehandedly prove that his followers should be pacifists.  Regardless of any argument for war made by using the OT, it seems to me that the words of the person by who's name we are called should take precedence.  If we are going to be called Christ-ians, then his words should be of utmost importance to us.  So let's look at just a few examples of what Jesus has to say.

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God." - How can we be peacemakers and condone violence?  And don't try and use the argument that war brings about peace.  If that was true, then there wouldn't have been a WWII.  WWI would have worked and true peace would have been achieved.  More on this in a minute.

"You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for an eye, and tooth for tooth.'  But I tell you, do not resist an evil person.  If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also."- The OT law stated that it was legal to take an eye for an eye, etc.  The thing about this law was that it was designed to be prohibitive.  It was set up so that if someone stole your goat, you couldn't cut their head off.  However, this is all made irrelevant by Jesus' words.  He's essentially telling us not to seek vengeance.  This passage about turning the other cheek is one that has caused great debate among Christians for years in this country.  I've heard on a number of occasions someone say that he didn't really mean it literally.  Let me tell you why he meant it literally.

In Jesus' final hours, there are a number of different incidents which show Jesus' seriousness on this point.  When Jesus is being arrested, one of his followers draws a sword and lops off the ear of one of Jesus' captors.  Jesus' says this to his follower, "Put your sword back in its place, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.  Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?"  Jesus' point of living by the sword and dying by it is another way of saying that violence only begets more violence.  The idea that violence can bring about true and lasting peace is ridiculous.  Look at history and the fact that a war has been going on since the beginning of time (and yes, some of those in the name of Jesus himself).  So my question is, where's all of the peace?  If violence and war achieved peace, why does there seem to be so little peace in the world?  The word "legions" in that passage also lends itself to a pacifistic ideal.  The legion was a unit of Roman soldiers.  He is saying that he could very well use violent and military means to save himself, but he refused. 

After Jesus is arrested, he sits before the ruling counsel and listens while they bring all sorts of false accusations against him.  The text says that they were mocking him, spitting on him, striking him with their fists, and slapping him.  Jesus' reaction?  Nothing.   

I've thought a great deal about what would happen were my kids to get beat up at school when they are older.  The reality is that Jesus wouldn't fight back with conventional violent means.  If I'm going to raise my kids in the ways of Jesus, I have to tell them to not fight back and to turn the other cheek.  It doesn't thrill me to think of my boys getting the crap beat out of them, but Jesus' way of life is the better way, and I must trust that he will take care of them.  

"You have heard that was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven." - This is the final nail in the coffin of this argument.  No one can truly love someone (in the unconditional way that Jesus proposes) and hit them, beat them, or kill them.  If that is possible than we also have to say that a father who physically abuses his children does it because he loves them deeply.  No one in their right mind would claim that, so why the double standard among Christ followers?  You absolutely cannot kill someone that you love, there's no way to justify that.  

The reality is that Jesus calls his followers to a new plane of living; one that looks like utter foolishness to the world.  When the world uses force, we use the power of love and prayer.  When the world comes at us with the sword, we come back at it with the cross.  That is the way of Jesus, and it must be the way of his followers. 

11:52 AM

Great video

Posted by Brad Polley |

If anyone ever wonders what makes this country great, watch this video.  It may be one of the funniest, and most bizarre, videos I have ever seen.

8:16 AM

Why I'm a pacifist - part 2

Posted by Brad Polley |

Inevitably when someone is defending a pro-war stance biblically, they immediately go to the Old Testament stories of Israel attacking everyone in sight.  They do this for two reasons: 1)It's easy, because the OT is full of wars and, 2)You can't even begin to make a convincing argument for war and violence based on the NT, so they avoid it.  

The OT is full of war.  Anyone has to concede that.  In fact, I still haven't completely reconciled all of the violence and how it fits in with the picture of God we receive from Jesus.  The OT is the written history of one country, Israel.  Despite the best efforts of the religious right to convince people, America is not the new Israel, so let's stop using that argument right there.  There is nothing in Scripture to support this idea.  I say this because all of the wars were fought in a particular time and place, with a particular country, Israel.  So when an American tries to use an argument along the lines of, "God told the Israelites to attack the Canaanites," I will look at them with glassy eyes and say, "And your point is...?"  

The OT was written thousands of years ago and it chronicles the life and history of people who lived thousands of years ago.  The culture was different, the people were different.  The entire nature of civilizations at the time was one of war and violence.  If God is trying to get people to understand the fact that he is the only God, he can't just come out and say, "Cease all war and violence" to a culture who is steeped in war and violence.  They would immediately reject him and we can wave bye bye to monotheism.  The Bible speaks of progressive revelation.  Here's what I mean by that.

On a number of issues, the Bible works from front to back in a progressive series of steps which lead toward an ultimate social (and godly) ethic.  To give an example, let's look at women's issues.  In the OT, there is a passage which states that women can be taken as spoils of war, but they must be treated fairly and with respect.  In our day and age, that sounds totally barbaric, but in ancient times, this was nothing short of revolutionary.  It was saying that women had certain rights, something that wasn't the case in ancient cultures.  Jesus continued working toward a broader social ethic of women being treated as equals when he had women followers of his ministry, we call these followers "disciples."  In first century Judaism, rabbis did not have women followers, Jesus (who was a Jewish rabbi) did.  The rest of the NT speaks of women having leadership roles in the Church, leading house churches.  Paul then says that in Christ, "there is no male or female," in other words, we're all equal.    

Did you notice the progression?  Instead of going from a barbaric custom straight to having a woman president, the Bible works toward the ultimate goal of equality in a series of steps.  I argue that the same applies to war and violence.  The OT may be full of violence and war, but there is no mention of God's people engaging in it in the NT.  If we are to call ourselves "New Testament Christians," then we have to refrain from violence and be against all war.  Next week we'll look at what Jesus and the New Testament writers have to say to their culture (and by application, ours) about violence.

11:16 AM

Hey Mississippi...

Posted by Brad Polley |

1968 called and it wants its society back.

Read this article about a high school in Mississippi that had its first integrated prom with blacks and whites this year.  You read that right.  For the first time, black and white kids were able to go to prom in the same building at the same time.  Congratulations Mississippi on this giant leap in civil rights...maybe 40 years late though.

2:15 PM

Why I'm a pacifist - part 1

Posted by Brad Polley |

Per Michael's request, I'm going to write a series of posts on why I'm a pacifist.  I have no idea how many posts this series will entail.  I understand how polarizing this issue is, but I feel the need to say what I think, and given the fact that the internet is the last great bastion of free speech, I will exercise my right.  If you're offended by what I say, I refuse to apologize.  No one in church apologizes to me when they spew out their pro-war rhetoric, so I will not apologize for my opposing stance.  If you don't like what I have to say, then just stop reading.  So without further ado, here's a completely non-academic view of why Jesus is calling his people out of a violent mindset.

I must say that I wasn't raised a pacifist.  I didn't spend my childhood days sitting in drum circles with adults, taking in the faint smell of peyote in the air.  I grew up in a fully Christian (whatever that means), ultra right-wing Republican home (thanks to W, that home is not so Republican anymore).  Politics wasn't discussed much in my home, but I do have very vivid memories of the beginning of the Gulf War.  I remember sitting the home of my aunt and uncle on Sunday night after church and talking about the war with them.  My uncle said, "We're kicking butt and taking names."  I remember feeling a huge swell of patriotic pride at those words and thinking, "Yeah, darn right.  Don't mess with the U.S.A."  In fact, I would say that this swell of pride marked the first 25-ish years of my existence.  When a war would come along, I would get this sense of America being the world's police force for good.  I never once remember questioning why a war was being fought, or whether there was another way, I just accepted that if the President of the United States saw fit to annihilate a bunch of people, then there was probably a good (and Christian) reason for doing so.  

When 9/11 happened, I was a senior in college and I remember sitting on the couch in my house watching the news and balling my eyes out.  I remember my dad calling to ask if I was okay, and I remember sobbing that I was scared.  I didn't know what to do with evil that huge (I've since realized that this kind of crap happens all over the world on a fairly regular basis, but no one in America cares unless it affects us).  When we invaded Afghanistan I remember feeling that familiar sense of pride.  I remember seeing footage of the bombers and thinking, "It's okay now Brad, everything is going to be alright."  Something had to be done as a response to 9/11, so I just figured that blowing up people who were indirectly responsible for blowing up our people seemed reasonable.

A shift began taking place when we invaded Iraq however.  Shortly after the invasion, it became clear that our reason for going to war (WMDs) was faulty and stuff started sliding downhill quickly.  I started wondering if we really had a good reason to invade, or whether there was such a thing as a good reason to invade a country.  Afghanistan was one thing, but this was another.  That was retaliation, Iraq couldn't be pigeon-holed so easily.  This is where I became less pro-war and more of a believer in just war.  My thinking shifted from war for any reason to war for some reason.  In my mind, there needed to be a perfectly good reason for attacking a country (Pearl Harbor and 9/11 for instance), before we proceeded to do so.  

My next shift occurred when when I started studying the culture behind the Bible's writings.  I started realizing that the Bible wasn't written for me, it was written for a particular people in a particular time and place.  This changed everything.  I stopped reading the Bible from a 21st century American perspective and started reading it from the perspective of the ancients in which it was originally penned.  Stuff like "Blessed are the peacemakers" started making more sense when I realized that Jesus was speaking to poor peasants living under the brutal and violent Roman Empire.  I started reading the sayings of Jesus in a whole different light.  I will write more on this in a later post.  

Long story short, I want all of you to know that my change in thinking was a long process.  As you will see in coming posts, I find a pro-war mindset very difficult to justify using the New Testament.  I do, however, understand the desire to justify it using the Old Testament.  In the next post, I will take a look at the Old Testament versus the New and how the Christian is to reconcile the two.