Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Environmentalism as racism & housing in SB

Joseph Carnes posted this on his blog the other day...
Here is another interesting fact put forward by Michael Crichton:

"I conclude that most environmental 'principles' (such as sustainable development or the precautionary principle) have the effect of preserving the economic advantages of the West and thus constitute modern imperialism toward the developing world. It is a nice way of saying, 'We got ours and we don't want you to get yours, because you'll cause too much pollution.'"

It is an interesting comment given that the largest complaint made against affordable housing in Santa Barbara is that it would degrade the environment. That is a consistent argument made by the editorials in the Santa Barbara News Press.

Two pieces strike me. First off, this kind of thinking places all of the responsibility on caring for the environment on those with the least ability to care and who currently have the least power to change things. It also removes responsibility from those who both have power and are doing the damage. Let me give one example... we have water issues in Santa Barbara and often one hears that our water availability makes it impossible to add more people to the area. A quick drive through any neighborhood shows almost every house has a green lawn, requiring huge amounts of water for that non-native green grass. And we have some beautiful golf courses overlooking the ocean... Before we exclude the people who work here from living here, perhaps we should do away with all of the green lawns that waste tremendous amounts of water. Or shut down the golf courses?!? The News Press doesn't advocate changing the way water is used by the current property owners, only keeping the middle class out because they would cause environmental damage!?!?

The second piece is... imagination, or lack thereof. It seems to me that as a culture we suffer from a terrible lack of imagination. That lack gets us into all kinds of trouble and it certainly applies here. If the leaders in SB could imagine both the pain of those excluded and possible ways to meet the need without destroying the community we might be on our way. If the NIMBY crowd could imagine anything other than a community that doesn't exist anymore or their own greed, they would be looking for other possibilities for solving the problem.

interfaith relations

I'm current president of the Interfaith Initiative of Santa Barbara County. It is an organization that is committed to bringing people of a variety of faith traditions together to learn about and from one another. I also participate in a forum online of Christian musicians, most of whom are very conservative. On that forum there has been a lot of discussion regarding Islam.

Now, I am not an expert on Islam. I haven't even read the whole of the Qur'an. I am a Christian and I don't believe that all religions are "the same" or that all religions are true. I believe that in Jesus we can see God's self-revelation and that following him is the way to most fully experience the love and grace of God. Still, I do believe that one can find truth within virtually all religions. I believe that all religions reflect something built into human beings that drives us to seek God. I also believe that if Christianity is "most true" that we Christians have done a very poor job of representing Jesus to the rest of the world (but that is another post isn't it?)

I am saddened when my brothers and sisters of any stripe build walls that label people as "other" when Jesus spent all of his time and energy breaking down walls. I am saddened when Christians are so filled with hubris that they think they have all of the answers and nobody else brings anything of value to the table. I am reminded of Paul's words to the Corinthians...
1 Cor. 13:9-10, 12-13 (The Message Bible)
[9] We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. [10] But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled.
[12] We don't yet see things clearly. We're squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won't be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We'll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us! [13] But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.

Wouldn't be wonderful if we enter any dialogue with others with that mindset? We don't know it all and what we see, we see indistinctly... and for that reason, we trust, we hope, and we love extravagantly!

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

housing in Santa Barbara

I mentioned a few days ago that some of my testimony before the county planning comission was used in a documentary film The Price of Paradise (thanks again Lisa!)

The film was shown along with another documentary film Good to Great based on the research and book of the same title by Jim Collins. It was an interesting juxtaposition. During the Q&A an audience member asked what it would look like if the principles from the book were applied to the housing crisis in Santa Barbara. Basically the filmaker's comment was that we need level 5 leaders with imagination, commitment, and passion to change things. I would add to that, political will and a moral compass.

That said, every now and then something of imagination does happen here. There was a wonderful little house built in downtown Santa Barbara on a property that everyone thought was impossible to build on - the lot was only 20 by 20. It obviously isn't a house for everyone (each floor is a single room) but it is a fascinating little house that shows imagination. It certainly isn't an affordable house but as the LA times noted, 57 of them would fit inside Oprah's house... As more McMansions go up on the increasingly scarce free space in this beautiful area, perhaps this artsy little house can make us think in new ways.

another Lowden photo...

I got a comment on the Richard Thompson signature model in my earlier post on NAMM, so here's a photo of the back of the RT guitar...

Friday, January 26, 2007

sponsor a child

For years there have been lots of organizations - well meaning I hope - out there offering opportunities to sponsor a child in the developing world and make a difference in their lives. Frankly, I want to make a difference, but I just don't trust all of those organizations. And I'm not sure they way they operate is the best way even if they are sincere. I hope I'm wrong but...

Anyway, today I came across a very interesting take on child sponsorship. I'm guessing it is only a parody but it would be a great program. In this program, it is well-off American kids who are sponsored by families in the developing world. The family prays for the child and shows them both the way they live without all of the stuff we have in the US and shows them the effects of our lifestyle on the rest of the world... Wouldn't that be a great program?

Thursday, January 25, 2007


My friend, Ryan pointed to a blog written by Shane Claiborne about hell...

Shane begins with a joke that I think has some great theology in it
It was a busy day in heaven as folks waited in line at the pearly gates. Peter stood as gatekeeper checking each newcomer’s name in the Lamb’s Book of Life. But there was some confusion, as the numbers were not adding up. Heaven was a little overcrowded, and a bunch of folks were unaccounted for. So some of the angels were sent on a mission to investigate things. And it was not long before two of them returned, “We found the problem,” they said. “Jesus is out back, lifting people up over the gate.”

Santa Barbara Film Festival

The Santa Barbara Film Festival is a big deal and attracts some serious folk. This year, Helen Mirren, Forest Whitaker, Will Smith, Al Gore, and Davis Guggenheim are all being honored and will be present... but an even more important and bigger star will be seen in one of the films and will be present for the screening


Yep, I'm in the documentary film The Price of Paradise which deals with housing in Santa Barbara. It shows on Friday evening at 7:00 at the Marjorie Luke Theater in SB. I've been preaching (figuratively and literally) that housing is a spiritual issue and needs top be addressed in this community. As Lisa Snider, the director and writer of this film says, "THE PRICE OF PARADISE is bound to inform, inflame, and hopefully spur community action."

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Monday, January 22, 2007


Last week was the NAMM (National Association of Music Merchandisers) convention in Anaheim. Because of my relationship with the folk at Lowden Guitars I get a visitor's pass and get to go and look around and visit with the folk at the Lowden booth. It is an interesting experience. You get everything there from the folk representing companies that build grand pianos or orchestral instruments to those that aim at metal rockers to companies that crank out thousands of low end instruments for beginners. Because it is the music industry, there are also lots of rockers and wannabes and hanger-ons running around. This year struck me as being busier than last with more yellow "visitor" badges around. There also seemed to be fewer of the small boutique electric guitar and amp companies.

George and company had some amazing guitars hanging on the wall as well as a few celebrities. Thomas Leeb was demoing guitars to the amazment of a crowd that quickly gathered each time he played. Lowden is releasing signature models for Richard Thompson and Alex de Grassi, both of whom were at the booth.

I wasn't able to play any guitars due to my finger, so I didn't look as carefully as I would have otherwise. So... there wasn't a lot that really caught my attention. There were some pretty wild basses at a number of booths and it looked as if there is a lot of innovation going on in that world. A few companies were building acoustics out of carbon fiber and there were people standing on guitar cases made of that same material. One company had some pretty wild looking electrics.

As you move from one area of the convention to the next the atmosphere changes radically. The drum area was all sparkle and noise. The electronic music area was darker with screens everywhere and scores of folk playing keyboards or computers wearing headphones. The acoustic guitar booths tended to be smaller and understated while some of the electric booths - especially those aimed at metal players really did whatever they could to grab your attention. And since it is LA and we all know it is the land of implants, cosmetic surgery, and image inhancement... here's the obligatory sexist photo from the Diamond Amps booth...

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Run Barack, Run!

I've been waiting for a definitive announcement. This isn't quite it, but it is pretty close. I'm excited by the possibilities.

Run Barack, Run!

an example

In my previous post I spoke about theology being done in blogs. Bob Cornwall pointed me to a great example in Kim Fabricius' 12 Propositions on Same Sex Relations. And of course, the writing itself reminds me that I must continue to read to be able to do that kind of work.

Best Contemporary Theology Meme

I got tagged by Bob Cornwall to share three books that I consider to be the best in contemporary theology. At first I was embarrassed to have no good answers.

The task presented me with an interesting dilemma. Back in my seminary days (before the arbitrary cut-off of 25 years as "contemporary"), I wrote a paper in a theology class on Latin American Liberation Theology where my basic thesis was that liberation theology didn't count as "real" theology. It didn't provide a systematic exposition of the historic (read modern) theological themes. It wasn't particularly concerned about orthodoxy, indeed, it was clear that orthodoxy wasn't even on the radar. The seeds were planted though.

A few years later, I read James Cone for the first time along with some other agenda theologies and I began to get it. They were not systematic theologies. They were a new way of doing the task and thinking about faith. Orthodoxy was seen as less important than praxis. A post-modern world that was peeking over the horizon.

Since then, I have been much more interested in how everyday folk do theology in their daily lives. I have been thrilled to see theologizing move out of the academy and into the small group. I find I read a lot more blogs than books these days and much of what I read is removed from academia. At the same time, I realize that I have been lax on my part of the endeavor. There are folk in the academy who are doing amazing thinking and it is my responsibility to help move those thoughts along the chain so that the folk in the small groups can critique them. There are some titles at the master list of titles proposed so far that I really do need to read...

Until then, I a little embarrassed but I'm also excited to reaffirm that there is extremely important theologizing being done on blogs, in living rooms, and dare I say it... even in churches.

Friday, January 12, 2007


Last night I was not paying attention, tripped and fell and ended up with an injury known as mallet finger. It typically happens to baseball players and basketball players where the last bone in a finger is pushed too far and the tendon on the top of the finger either tears or pulls off a small piece of the bone. The end result is that the final section of the finger cannot be fully extended. This photo is a typical x-ray of the injury where a piece of bone has been pulled off. That is what happened to me although mine didn't look nearly as dramatic.

Treatment involves a splint for six weeks that keeps the joint completely immobile. If you move the joint even once, you're back to square one and the six weeks starts over. Then the splint comes off and you have a few weeks of a stiff joint but hopefully/normally with exercise, you get full use back.

I'm obviously not very happy. Playing guitar with a stack splint like the one in this photo will not be a fun exercise if it is possible at all. And I'm supposed to go on a work trip to New Orleans in two weeks... AARRGGGGHHHHH! And, of course, there is that nagging fear that I may not get the kind of motion back that I need to play guitar at the level I play.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


So... I've been tagged by Billy Calderwood
so here are 5 things you may not know about me...

I was beginning to feel left out

I voted Republican... once... but I won't tell you for whom

while I have never lived in the south, my birth father's peeps live in Alabama and his nickname was "Bama"

if I could pick one big name rock band to play with, it would be the Red Hot Chili Peppers

as a kid, living in the land of football - Pittsburgh, I wanted to grow up to be a defensive lineman

I tag
and Ryan

now let's see how often any of them read my blog.


Let me begin by saying I am anything but a fan of Paris Hilton. She is the caricature of a spoiled little rich girl with way too much money and way too little sense... everything vacuous. Well the other day, one of my guitar students was showing me a video online of a song that he wants to learn (Love Like Winter by AFI) and I saw that Paris Hilton released a recording and a video this past summer (shows you how in touch I am with such things). I watched the video. I was hoping that it would be terrible but the truth is that money can buy lots of things and quality is one. They obviously hired good musicians and a good director. The song is a nice light poppy thing with a reggae rhythm and the video is well done.

Does she have talent? I wouldn't go that far but she does have enough money to make up for what she lacks. I almost put the video here but I couldn't bring myself to do that. So, if you want to watch it, you'll have to google it.

Thursday, January 04, 2007


I was struck by the irony the other day with all of the news reports regarding the funeral of Gerald Ford and the execution of Saddam Hussein. In both cases, the government closed off the possibility of information getting out to the public.

I remember when Ford pardoned Nixon. Many of the current talk about that act refer to it as a positive act which spared the US from "looking like a banana republic with its leader on trial"(actual comment from one news person). I think and thought then that the results were exactly the opposite of that. The US did look like some corrupt country in the developing world where the leader was above the law. To make matters worse, because he was pardoned so early in the process, we never even learned what crimes he had committed. Somebody didn't want something to come out. Perhaps, it never did.

Watching the events unfold in Iraq, I wonder how many secrets have been buried with Hussein. Why the rush to execute him when there were so many trials yet to come and so much information to come out? Somebody didn't want some of that information to be made public. And to make matters worse there, the execution seems to have radicalized many more of the Sunnis left in Iraq.

Will we ever learn?

Wednesday, January 03, 2007


Alexis and I had an interesting discussion a few weeks ago that I've been wanting to blog about and haven't had time until now...

She was writing a paper on social capital and the different ways that it functions in different class settings. For wealthy folk, social capital is used to get ahead. For poor folk, social capital is used to survive. The discussion got me thinking about the year of Jubilee in the Bible (Leviticus 25) as an antidote to the accumulation of social capital.

The largest difference between a "conservative" and a "liberal" mindset is where one believes responsibility lies. For the conservative, responsibility is always personal. Each individual makes his or her own way. For the liberal, it is systemic. The system opens and closes doors and the individual has little or no control. A clear example of this dichotomy is seen in affirmative action programs. Typically, liberals feel that they must be in place for minorities ever to get ahead while conservatives claim that they represent oppression of those who just happen to be in the majority. The program is a way of distributing social capital - who you know, where you went to school, the quality of your education, the doors that are opened to you...

It seems to me that the real world functions somewhere along the continuum between the two poles. Hard work and ability does provide opportunities to get further in life. At the same time, the system provides doors for some that just aren't there for others. (Our current president is a clear example of that... were he not a Bush, there would have been no way that he ever would have become president). Social capital is a resource that is not divided equally and overcoming that lack is extremely difficult.

And here comes the year of Jubilee. Every 49 years, debt was cancelled and lands went back to the original family of ownership. That way, the next generations couldn't live off the hard work, good decisions, or luck of their ancestors and every 50 years the playing field was equaled. It didn't matter who you knew, everyone had more or less the same resources. Hard work and good decisions would pay off evenly. It was the ultimate affirmative action program.

As one would expect, the year was never observed. By the time the 49th year arrived, there were folk who had accumulated considerable power and wealth and they weren't about to give it up. Now, things are so complicated, it would be completely impossible to do something like this without a complete restructuring of the values upon which our society is founded. Still, it s a wonderful dream isn't it? A world where one's work and talent where what counted as opposed to who their parents were and the social capital that they had inherited...