The Easter Bunny is Real and Other Nonsense

It’s Easter Sunday, Resurrection Sunday, a holy day to many, a day for chocolate and presents for many more. I’ve been thinking for a while about what I wanted to say about today. I’m well aware that not everyone who comes across my writings here believes in God, nor do many believe in the Bible or Jesus Christ in any way as authorities. I’ve appreciated those who have stuck around and interacted with me despite my off-the-wall radicalism and extremism at times, and have taught me many things I would not have been able to see myself. I’ve been trying to think of what brilliant thing I could say to allow me to acknowledge my belief in the resurrection without being written off as a complete fool and a loony.

Whether you or I believe in the Easter Bunny or not, in no way affects whether an Easter bunny really exists. Someone said they found Jesus’ bones a few months ago, but whether you or I believe it has no effect whatsoever on whether they really are ‘Jesus’ bones’ or not. There are some things, such as the Easter bunny, that you and I could examine the evidence, and more then likely come to an agreement on a belief, and if I continued to disagree with you, you might say I’m nonsensical. We might also be able to examine the evidence concerning the Tomb of Jesus that was discovered, but if we come to different conclusions, it is probably not fair to write each other off as nonsensical in the same way that we did concerning the Easter Bunny.

I will be the first to admit that there are a great many things that I currently believe that are wrong. I recognize I am a flawed human being, and that is why this post is not a structural argument for why you should believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It’s also not an attempt to say that that idea is nonsense. I think my point is to say that I believe there is truth out there and we are all wandering travelers on a search for that truth. You might think it is nonsense that I believe I have found truth in the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, but that’s okay, because I’m willing to believe it is nonsense too. You might say the impact this belief system has had on my life is all psychological, and I’m willing to believe that might be true as well (though at the moment I disagree).
I don’t intend to come across in any way as relativistic. I believe there is absolute truth. In the same way that there is a truth concerning gravity, there is also a truth concerning whether Jesus Christ rose again or is dead and buried somewhere. I’m not sure what that truth is, as a finite and flawed being I’m not sure I’ll ever have an exact answer to that. And I can understand anyone’s critique of my beliefs, because they to do not see conclusive evidence to prove one way or the other.

If you remember anything from this rambling remember this:
Truth exist.

Flash Back: A look at Romans 13

A while ago I wrote a series of posts “Thoughts on War.” It mainly involved an on going conversation with Brian (glad to have you back).
Below is a brief take of mine on the famously referenced Romans 13 from, Let the discussion begin:

“Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.”
This is the first verse of the primary passage I hear cited in reference to why we should support the war. The argument I think is that quite simply God has put our president in place and therefore if our governing authorities call for something we should submit (support) it. To a large degree I find no disagreement with this argument. The struggle with this type of thinking for me comes when I start to think about who “Everyone” entails. That means an Iraqi Christian, if called to join the armed forces under Saddam, should join, and support the cause of the governing authority above him. That means the Nazi German soldier’s where simply following this same Scriptural reasoning when they begin killing the Jews. That means if the authorities in this country have deemed abortion as an acceptable practice, Christians should stop protesting Abortion Clinics and instead should be supporting them.

What followed (and preceded) was an ongoing discussion entitled, Thoughts on War.

What If We Stopped Dining Out Until Everyone Could Simply Eat?

Global hunger is a global problem. I don’t know that there was a time in the history of the world that we were better equipped with the resources, technology, power and money to be able to solve world hunger then we have today. It’s so obvious we have the resources and ability to do this that the UN’s first Millennium Development Goal is to:

  • Reduce by half the proportion of people living on less than a dollar a day
  • Reduce by half the proportion of people who suffer from hunger

We, as the human race, have agreed to accomplish this goal within the next 8 years (2015). It doesn’t look like we are on track. It seems we can talk the talk, but we can’t walk the walk. It seems we need to do something more drastic to make this goal a priority in the world.

What if we (meaning the human race) collectively took a ‘hunger strike’ of sorts and refused to eat out until we figured out this issue of global hunger? Could you imagine the implications something like that would have?
First of all, just in the USA we spend 354.4 billion dollars eating out each year. Just that, without the help of any government could solve world hunger. If we stopped eating out an entire sector of industry would suddenly be crippled and can you imagine the outcry from the CEO’s to the burger flippers? If there was no demand for beef overseas, we might suddenly free up enough livestock and grain to feed the people who need it most.
Blow up a building or start playing with nuclear stuff and we’ll hope in multi-million dollar jets, mobilize thousands of troops, and unify a whole country to zero there energy and hatred on one man. Thousands dying every day is the same story that was happening before I was born. It’s the same dull, unexciting, situation that was happening as relatives bought me cute little baby outfits when I was little, friends bought me cheap plastic toys, as pizza and breadsticks were enjoyed at Showbiz, and it’s the same story now as I take my fun money and go for a night on the town.
It should disturb us today, it should have bothered us ten years ago. Could you imagine a collective hunger strike and the implications that would have?

Hip Hop Lesson #1: Listen to People’s Struggles

Now that we’ve laid some groundwork for discussing Hip Hop, I’d like to jump into the first lesson we can learn: Listen to People’s Struggles. I work with a lot of urban and rural youth, many of whom are a part of the hip hop culture, some of whom are not. At times, there are youth who share some of the same comments that many adults share, “that music is so negative.” My caution to them is that, though it is okay to disagree with some of the content, it is important to listen to a person’s struggle when they are sharing it.
Tupac ShakurSong writing is an art form, and it often involves vulnerability and the bearing of one’s soul to some degree.  Now, not all songs are like this (Nelly’s song Grillz would be a good example, and I’m sure you can think of others in different genres), but many are to varying degrees. There are many hip hop songs that talk about violence, drugs, hustling, gangs and other issues, but through the lyrics you hear the struggles of a person trying to find meaning and purpose.

Tupac (I’ll probably reference him more in these posts) has many songs that talk about struggle. Here is an excerpt from Dear Mama:

They say I’m wrong and I’m heartless
But all along I was looking for a father, he was gone
I hung around with the thugs and even though they sold drugs
They showed a young brother love

And then there is the Notorious B.I.G. who sings in Juicy:

I never thought it could happen, this rappin’ stuff
I was too used to packin’ gats and stuff

Puttin’ 5 karats in my baby girl’s ears
Lunches, brunches, interviews by the pool
Considered a fool ’cause I dropped out of high school
Stereotypes of a black male misunderstood
And it’s still all good

Biggie SmallsI referenced these two songs for a particular reason. One of the local Hip Hop stations (101 the Beat), consistently plays those two songs throughout the day (probably the only two songs they play that are more than a year old). In other words, these are songs and lyrics that many people connect with. They are struggles many people today still understand and share.

What songs do you know that contain lyrics of people sharing their struggles?
(It doesn’t have to be exclusively Hip Hop)

Hip Hop ≠ Rap; Hip Hop > Rap

Music is the primary avenue through which most people connect with the Hip Hop culture. Therefore, I want to further explain one thing before we get into Lessons from Hip Hop. Yesterday, I posted a picture of a billboard that said: Hip Hop Rots Your Brain. I posted that because I believe a lot of people think that, but I believe it’s because they don’t complete understand Hip Hop, and instead they are usually referring to Rap.
I’ll say at times, “TV Rots your Brain.” Which also is a poor explanation of terms. What I mean is mindless TV watching, commercials, and many movies, shows and sitcoms are not healthy for you. However TV also has a lot of benefits, there are some powerful shows, educational videos, movies and more that are quite useful uses of TV.

Parental Advisory Explicit Lyrics LabelHip Hop ≠ Rap. Rap is a musical genre under the umbrella of Hip Hop. The reason I’m trying to make this distinction is that a lot of folks, from all walks of life, tend to misunderstand this. They equate ‘gangsta rap’ (a term often used to refer to the rap music with the negative lyrics) with all other aspects of Hip Hop Culture. This causes folks to have negative views of anyone they see wearing their pants low, listening to music with a Hip Hop Beat, or wearing their hat to the side (and, for many, any young black male they see).

Hip Hop > Rap. That is to say there is more to Hip Hop then the negative lyrics people have dismissed. That isn’t to say that rap is not important, does not have value, or does not have a role, but simply that it is important for those who don’t realize it to recognize that Hip Hop is more then just the rap lyrics they have dismissed. Hip Hop really is a culture. There is multiple art forms, attitudes, styles, products, values and forms to Hip Hop. And there is a lot of power behind it.

This is my second appeal to give Hip Hop a chance. I don’t know if this was adequate in laying the ground work to talk about Hip Hop, but it was my attempt. I’m not completely sure of my audience here, and I wonder how many are aware of, a part of, knowledgeable of or interested in Hip Hop culture. My hopes is that you’ll listen and interact with an open mind to some of the lessons I have learned from Hip Hop.

Lesson’s Concerning Hip-Hop

I’ve wanted to write a few post concerning Hip-Hop recently, but have hesitated because I’m not sure that this is the proper audience to be directing them to. No offense to you, readers, but there are some conversations I don’t think fit in this setting. Don’t worry though, I think we can talk about Hip-Hop a little bit, and so what I’m going to try and do is write a couple post ‘about’ first and then maybe, once we’ve built some understanding and respect, we can hear ‘from.’ I’m not sure this will be all that cohesive so I might as well just jump into it.

Hip Hop Graffiti
The first distinction that needs to be made is “Hip Hop” is more then what you might see on MTV. I would argue Hip-Hop is an entire culture, embraced mostly by the younger generation, but spanning all races and economic classes. Hip Hop can be considered a musical genre, but it is bigger then that. An extremely brief history: originally Hip Hop involved DJs, MCs, Break dancers and graffiti artist, all a part of what made the hip hop culture. Now it includes clothing styles, language, and styles. Unfortunately, most people write it all off with the parental advisory album or video they pass by at the store. But Hip Hop is much bigger then that and it is a forced to be reckoned with. One someone references “bling” it is more then likely they took that from Hip hop culture. When Karl Rove dances to a rap about himself, he is embracing (or at least trying to embrace) Hip Hop.

Mos Def
Now, to the musical genre. Hip Hop as a musical Genre should be distinguished from Rap. There are a lot of different explanations, and if someone has written off the whole “gangsta rappers” thing as evil and dangerous it’s hard to understand. Basically the type of music that tends to glorify drugs, sex, violence and materialism is Rap (50 cent, TI, Young Jeezy, Snoop Dogg and more). The definition of rap is more about the style of music, but I point out the content because that’s what most people know about and have written off. The Hip Hop genre tends to be more intellectual and often provides social commentary and challenging lyrics (Artist in this category include Mos Def, Common, Talib Kweli).

Hip Hop Rots Your Brain Hoax BillboardWhat’s the point? Hopefully you made it this far and enjoyed your two paragraph introduction to Hip Hop. For those who know and understand this subject a lot more, I’m sorry those paragraphs didn’t do it justice; and for those who hadn’t a clue, sorry I couldn’t have explained it quicker. The point of the introduction was to say that Hip-Hop is powerful, it is more then the violence glorifying lyrics you despise, and if your going to work with kids, have any kids, know any kids, you might want to give it some more of your thoughts and time.

That’s a good enough start for now. I’ll be touching on this topic this week a little more and hopefully we can create some health discussion around it.

Corporate Responsibility Monday: Going Ethically Bananas

Corporate Responsibility Mondays
Corporate Responsibility Mondays continues with a look into the fruit industry, and my personal favorite, Bananas. For those new to the Corporate Responsibility Mondays, my goal is basically to highlight a company in the industry that is being corporately responsible. My co-blogger, Josh, will be highlighting a company with a poor and sketchy history. This week we will be talking about bananas. My hope is that each of these posts causes you to seriously consider your purchasing choices. I’ll be honest this will be the toughest one for me, because I love bananas, but if there is an option, I feel pretty compelled to take it.

Today will be a brief lesson in corporate identity stuck into the middle of our banana conversation. The logo above is one you might recognize if you’ve ever looked for ethical coffee or tea. The first thing we need to clear up is that the logo above is for a Trademarked corporation, it is not the exclusive label for fair trade items. This means it is not like the FDA approval system were all fair trade items must be certified by it. The logo above is for a company whose business is to visit it’s (paid) membership producers and make sure that they meet the criteria of their Fair Trade Certified logo. So, it’s a good organization and a good business, but it is not the exclusive fair trade certifying group. All of the other companies I’ve highlighted in these posts are Fair Trade, though I don’t believe any are members of this organization. It’s unfortunate that this company was able to Trademark the words “Fair Trade”, because without the lesson your learning now, you might feel limited to exclusively items with this logo.

Now that we have that clarification out of the way, let me acknowledge that Fair Trade Certified really does mean that you are getting a fairly traded product.

Fair Trade principles include:

* Fair prices: Democratically organized farmer groups receive a guaranteed minimum floor price and an additional premium for certified organic products. Farmer organizations are also eligible for pre-harvest credit.

* Fair labor conditions: Workers on Fair Trade farms enjoy freedom of association, safe working conditions, and living wages. Forced child labor is strictly prohibited.

* Direct trade: Importers purchase from Fair Trade producer groups as directly as possible, eliminating unnecessary middlemen and empowering farmers to strengthen their organizations and become competitive players in the global economy.

* Democratic and transparent organizations: Fair Trade farmers and farm workers decide democratically how to use their Fair Trade revenues.

* Community development: Fair Trade farmers and farm workers invest Fair Trade premiums in social and business development projects like scholarship programs, quality improvement trainings, and organic certification.

* Environmental sustainability: The Fair Trade certification system strictly prohibits the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), promotes integrated farm management systems that improve soil fertility, and limits the use of harmful agrochemicals in favor of environmentally sustainable farming methods that protect farmers’ health and preserve valuable ecosystems for future generations.

They are the big boys on the Fair Trade block, but they seem to have done an ethical job of it thus far. You can search pretty far and wide and there isn’t any critique that I could find about their standards. The only thing I would say is that being a big organization and having the brand identity so established, you need to keep an eye on them if they lower their standards or start pocketing too much of the profit. For now though, they are about the only way in the USA to get ethical bananas.

The website will tell you were you in your state you can purchase Fair Trade bananas, but one place they leave out is Wild Oats. It’s the only place in Nashville that I can purchase fair trade bananas and that might be true for a lot of folks reading this from around the country. The fair trade bananas in my neighborhood cost .99 cents a pound which is double what I’d pay at the big grocer in town. So, maybe bananas become more of an occasional treat then an every day occurrence. Usually you buy a small bunch at a time and so the price difference won’t be that significant. There aren’t many other options out there right now, but as you and I and all your friends start buying things more ethically, business will see the need to comply and soon the whole fruit section will be full of fair trade options.


Don’t forget to check out Josh’s post this week on a less ethical banana choice.

Storing up in Barns…Take Life Easy

Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” ‘ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.”

It’s not hard to see that I’m quite fascinated with Jesus’ teachings on wealth. There are so many parables, so many commands and rebukes and admonishments he makes concerning wealth, it baffles me that anyone could miss how radical Jesus was.
Funny that the first thing that runs through my mind as I read this parable is how the guy could have responded to God, “Well, my children could get what has been prepared. That would be a pretty nice inheritance wouldn’t it?” Yet, Jesus’ parable and the rhetorical question of God is clearly not expecting that answer. So, what is the point of the parable?
Well first let’s look at the situation which he tells the parable after. A guy comes up to Jesus demanding, not asking, Jesus tell his brother to split their inheritance. I’m not sure if that was custom for Rabbis to dictate that stuff, or if the guy just had a warped idea of Jesus’ view of money and possessions.
Jesus rebukes him and reminds him, “Man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Now, what we tend to do is rip the verse out of it’s context, say “it’s an issue of the heart” and go on about our business collecting inheritances and possessions left and right.
I’m not here to demand a certain interpretation of the verses, I just want us to see them clearly so you can reflect on their meaning. Jesus rebukes the demand for an inheritance and then he tells a parable about how it is foolish/unwise to store up in barns. How do you apply that to your own life? Maybe it means you don’t accept your inheritance, you empty your storehouses, you humbly live your life in a way that is “rich toward God.” Let me know, cause I’m still just trying to follow.