The culture of perl

Posted by tom | Sep 6, 2005

At our Sunday Grad Fellowship, Roland referred to a speech by Larry Wall at a 1997 computer convention on Perl, an open-source programming language, in which he basically tells the convention that the whole basis of Perl as a programming language is his faith in Christ.

It's a provoking read as it dives into the question of how an evangelical navigates science and faith in creating organizational/intellectual culture. His perspective is different than you might expect. Would love to read your reactions/thoughts on The culture of perl

Care of Creation

Posted by tom | Sep 4, 2005

This was forwarded to me the other day by an InterVarsity Christian Fellowship colleague. As Theresa and I both have a biology background and a shared love for the Creator and His handiwork, we find this endeavor of interest (note: if you haven't already, we'd recommend you place Redeeming Creation: The Biblical Basis for Environmental Stewardship on your reading list):

So why am I writing to you? First, my experience talking with students at Urbana 2003 was a key factor in the decision to begin this organization. If you were at Urbana, you might remember a feeling of dismay that environment was nowhere to be found. I was representing Au Sable Institute of Environmental Studies, the only organization that had anything to do with the environment in the entire place - and Au Sable is a school! I had students lined up asking me where they could find an organization that would be able to use their interest, skills and training as environmental studies majors. There simply were no such organizations at Urbana. Those conversations stayed with me, and are a big reason why I'm now the Director of Care of Creation.

Dream Catchers Review

Posted by tom | Sep 3, 2005

So I'm not the only one interested in Dream Catchers :-) Check out the review on Urbana's site (also don't miss the transcript of Cross-Cultural Conversion, Urban 03 presentation given by Ray Aldred, Director of the First Nations Alliance Churches of Canada, Cree Nation):

As Jenkins explains, this marketplace demand for individualistic spirituality has profoundly affected Native religious life. Native religions have become much more "religious" and less ethnic. Rituals have become more abstract and esoteric, as millions upon millions of Americans have sought "pure" spirituality, accessible to tribal outsiders.

Most New Age seekers, Jenkins notes, have come from Christianity, and are seeking within native spirituality that magical something they found lacking in Christianity. Natives are thus under financial (tourist) pressure to downplay those overly other-worldly elements of their cultures, when working with non-Natives fleeing the perceived otherworldliness of Christianity. Conversely, Natives must often deemphasize the earthy, communal and moral elements of their faiths to appease non-Natives who are seeking individualistic and amoral spirituality.

Adulthood Beginning Later

Posted by tom | Sep 2, 2005

A number of people have passed along quotes such as the one given below. I am seeking direction as how I might engage this issue in graduate ministry among largely a young adult population. If you have insights. Please send them my direction.

Using classic benchmarks for adulthood (including financial independence from parents, finishing school, career, marrying, parenting, etc.), 65% of males had reached "adulthood" by age 30 in 1960. In 2000, only 31% had reached that level. In 1960, 77% of women had reached adulthood. By 2000 that number had fallen to 46%. Many researchers express concern over not only the extension of adolescence, but the extension of childhood as parents remain actively involved in running the lives of their grown kids into college and beyond. (taken from "A Nation of Wimps, Psychology Today, November 2004)

"New Age" already here by 1950

Posted by tom | Aug 30, 2005

So much of what we think of as the contemporary New Age was already in place no later than 1950, the year of Waters's Masked Gods and De Angulo's death. These components included ideas of shamanism and altered states of consciousness; an interest in Indian prophecies and lost continents; a thorough mingling of Native American and Asian beliefs; and the mass importation of Mesoamerican mythologies. Within a few years, other ideas that at least potentially could form part of this package included chemical experimentation, psychological self-exploration, envrionmentalism, and even religious feminism, a me`lange that was intoxicatingly different from the orthodox religious currents of 1950s America (p.149, Jenkins).


Left Behind, Way Behind

Posted by tom | Aug 29, 2005

As Pitt & CMU students hit the books, joined by the Pittsburgh Public School System on September 1, here is a disturbing NY Times Op-Ed piece regarding the state of education. Please ake a moment to pray as the new year starts that our neighborhoods would surge in the number of parents, community members, local congregations, teachers, and school board members which seek the growth and development of our youth in all aspects of their life. Pray also for each of us to step forward as role models to provide direction and give time toward this end.

Of all the factors combining to shape the future of the U.S., this is one of the most important. Millions of American kids are not even making it through high school in an era in which a four-year college degree is becoming a prerequisite for achieving (or maintaining) a middle-class lifestyle . . . Cartoonish characters like Snoop Dogg and Paris Hilton may be good for a laugh, but they're useless as role models. It's the kids who are logging long hours in the college labs, libraries and lecture halls who will most easily remain afloat in the tremendous waves of competition that have already engulfed large segments of the American work force.

Cosmologically Meaningful (Jung on Taos Pueblo)

Posted by tom | Aug 29, 2005

The Red deer Dance at Taos Pueblo was religious (as we white people know it) and cosmical (as we white people do not know) . . . The tribe's soul appeared to wing into the mountain, even to the Source of Things . . . Here was a reaching to the fire-fountain of life through a deliberate social action employing a complexity of many arts . . . These men were at one with their gods (John Collier, 1920, later director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs)

Jenkins argues that the benevolent dreams of the romantized, environmentally sensitive Indians of Dances with Wolves or Pocahontas are shaped by the consumers, the dream catchers. This sympathetic audience grew as American Christianity's self-confidence declined (leading some to doubt Christianity's claims to a monopoly on religious truth), esoteric/New Age believers sought legitimacy for their own beliefs/doctrines, & religion was redefined by proactive academics/advocates (p.9-15).


Dream Catchers

Posted by tom | Aug 28, 2005

I've just concluded reading Philip Jenkins' Dream Catchers: How Mainstream America Discovered Native Spirituality. As one shaped by the Smithsonian, PBS/NPR, National Geographic subculture, this piece was hard to set down as it

describes a radical change in American cultural and religious attitudes over the past century or so, namely in popular views of Native American spirituality. Though the process of toleration and dialogue between any of the major religions has been slow, gradual, and often depressing, many Christians historically faced special difficulties in recognizing what American Indians were doing as authentically religious, let along as something that could be permitted or accomodated. Yet attitudes did shift dramatically, until today, the vast majority of Americans respect and admire the Native tradition. Indeed, millions try, controversially, to copy it, to absorb Indian spirituality into their own lives. Americans today are prepared not just to grant that once-familiar religions have virtues, but to admit that the whole concept of religion is much broader than they might once have imagined . . . (too much to share. I'll give a series of excerpts over the coming days to try to give justice to this penetrating piece of scholarship).

More Intel

Posted by tom | Aug 24, 2005

As I've commented on Intelligent Design, more Intel has come my direction. Regarding the situation at the Smithsonian Institute (SI) see

Unintelligent Design: Hostility Toward Religious Believers at the Nation's Museum. Note: this is coming from the Discovery Institute, but there is also a link to a piece from the Washington Post

As a longtime fan of SI (museum, magazine, and related research), this controversy reminds of the assumed conflict of religion and academic research that has emerged in our culture. For more on this in realm of science see Scientists Speak Up on Mix of God and Science (Andy, Thank-you for making sure I didn't miss this).


More Intelligent Design Grumblings

Posted by tom | Aug 22, 2005

After all the controversy with a special event organized by the Intelligent Design Community at the Smithsonian, its not surprising that the organizational purification process has continued. I'm not sure why we just can't admit the miraculous nature of Gould's & Eldredge's Theory of Punctuated Equilibrium (1972), i.e., changes such as speciation can occur relatively quickly, with long periods of little change — equilibria —in between ;-)

For more on the current gossip, go to Intelligent Design & the Smithsonian. Where the NY Times updates us on the errant Smithsonian researcher who wrote an article contending

that evolution theory could not account for the great proliferation of life forms during the so-called Cambrian explosion some 530 million years ago, and that an intelligent agent was the best explanation. It set off an uproar among evolutionary biologists and was later disowned by the professional society that published it.

Note: A good piece describing the broader controversy just hit the press today: In Explaining Life's Complexity Darwinists and Doubters Clash


College: Finanical Tools, Freshman Blues

Posted by tom | Aug 22, 2005

This morning in the midst of 1st-Year drama at Pitt & CMU, I came across E-Resource: Pittsburgh's Source for employment, education, and entertainment (brought to us by Infinity Broadcasting). The publication has a number of small articles on a variety of topics. For families entering this season of life, I commend to you Finanical Tools for College & Freshman Anxiety Meets Parental Blues.


I would rather die

Posted by tom | Aug 20, 2005

A Harvard (& also CMU) alum passed along to me A challenge to Christian authors, artists, speakers, and publishers to freely share their work by Finny Kuruvilla. I'd encourage you to read this brief, well written recommendation

1. to release work under a licenses such as those provided by Creative Commons

2. to insist that published works also be allowed to be freely distributed on the Internet.

As Finny notes, it will force one to find new publishers and distributors, create new publishing models, and sometimes find other ways to support ourselves. It requires both courage and creativity.



Posted by tom | Aug 16, 2005
Came across Undergraduation when reviewing pieces by the author of Why Nerds are Unpopular. There is some good stuff here for undergrads, below I've given a section helpful for grad students. (More)

Getting back to CMU

Posted by tom | Aug 15, 2005

As new students prepare to flood the campus for the first time and returning students grit their teeth, I am reminded of a piece that Peter brought to GCF's attention a few years ago Why Nerds are Unpopular. As you pray for the coming year of ministry, please keep these members of the population in prayer.


Sophistication in language often dulls meaning

Posted by tom | Aug 8, 2005

I recently came across some comments by George Orwell (quoted by Dan Everts, God in the Flesh, IVP: 2005, pp.30-1) regarding how although modern language may strike someone as more impressive, it actually carries less meaning I found this an apt commentary on some of the obtuse conversations that occur in the university. Here is Ecclesiastes 9:11, according to Orwell's modern translation:

Objective consideration of contemporary phenomena compels the conclusion that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to be commensurate with innate capacity, but that a considerable element of the unpredictable must invariably be taken into account.


Children triumphing over adults

Posted by tom | Aug 7, 2005

Just the other day, I was thinking about how Charlie is responsible for the reuniting of Willy Wonka with his father after the candy genius' creativity hits a wall (when Charlie refuses to leave his family for the temptation of a candy empire). Charlie is quite a hero for his family and for Willy.

With this small underdeveloped thought, I found THE CANDY MAN: Why children love Roald Dahl’s stories—and many adults don’t a fascinating as it introduction to Dahl's writing, click more for a particularly thought provoking section regarding Dahl's use of fairy tales.


Jim Wallis continues to roll

Posted by tom | Aug 5, 2005

Jim Wallis, the editor of Sojourners magazine & author of God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It, offers five areas in which the Democrats should change their message and their messaging in a NY Times Op-Ed Piece entitled The Message Thing

An earlier blog touching on Christians which fall outside of the assumed right was Onward Moderate Christian Soliders, a link to a NY Times Op-Ed piece by John Danforth.

Elementary School: Medieval to Modern

Posted by tom | Aug 4, 2005




John Amos Comenius, i.e, Jan Amos Komensky in CzeckCame across this piece on Amos Comenius (1592-1670, painting by Rembrandt), a Moravian bishop often called the Father of Modern Education. I must say that this perspective resonates with me, even though our family moved from Moravianism to Presbyterianism several generations ago: 

Sensitive to the developmental needs of children of various ages, Comenius divided elementary schools by grades. Believing that children must be wooed rather than coerced into learning, he invented the illustrated textbook and made experience and discovery part of the classroom environment. He taught that corporal punishment, if used at all, should be connected only with moral and not intellectual faults. He insisted that girls were as fully capable of learning at the highest levels as boys. And he preached that schools should teach all realms of knowledge, including morals and piety. The Moravian's reforms were both praised and implemented all across Europe, with over half of European schools eventually using his textbooks.

But behind these reforms lay a deeper vision. Comenius belonged to the Unity of the Brethren-a group of Pietist Christians descended from followers of the proto-Reformer Jan Hus. This small group of Czech believers had been persecuted and exiled from their mother country since early in the bloody religious conflicts of the Thirty Years' War. It was this background that birthed a vision in Comenius for a Christ-centered, universal education called "Pansophism." He believed that a broad-based educational program bringing together people of diverse backgrounds in a common understanding could help avert further strife.

Tuesdays With Morrie

Posted by tom | Aug 3, 2005

"In the beginning of life, when we are infants, we need others to survive, right? And at the end of life, when you get like me, you need others to survive, right?"

His voice dropped to a whisper. "But here's the secret: in between, we need others as well" (pp.156-7).

Theresa picked up Tuesdays With Morrie at the library, when looking for a book on tape for our summer road trips. This proved to be quite a good choice, subsequently recommended to us by the Barnes & Nobles Summer Reading Table and my sister, who came across a copy at her work's lending library. Asking around, a number of people have read this piece and also have picked up Albom's recent 5 People You'll Meet in Heaven.

What is the attraction of Tuesdays With Morrie?


Desperately Painting the Plague

Posted by tom | Aug 1, 2005

"Hope and Healing: Painting in Italy in a Time of Plague, 1500-1800," at the Worcester Art Museum looks fabulous. I am particularly attracted to its attempt to

present mainstream Christian "high art," church art, in terms of function rather than form. The 35 paintings included are considered as devotional icons rather than as old master monuments. They are viewed from an existential rather than a doctrinal or sociopolitical perspective; through the eyes of a believer for whom a picture of the Virgin is a moral lesson and an emotional encounter before it is a Tiepolo or a Tintoretto.

But I can't help but come away with the question as to whether those visit the exhibition. . .


Growing up w/a dose of magic

Posted by tom | Aug 1, 2005
Thought you'd appreciate Growing up w/a dose of magic . . . a NY-Times Op-Ed extolling Harry Potter, epitomizing the urgency of finding out what happens in a new piece or one you've just come across & don't know what's inside (I have this problem a number of books like Philip Jenkins' Next Christendom, Robert Wuthnow's Loose Connections, Rodney Stark's One True God, Ralph Winter's Perfecting Ourselves to Death), having a series in progress, and growing w/a character (I remember the days of Luke and the original Star Wars, although not as much content as Harry Potter).

More Scientology in the Post-Gazette

Posted by tom | Aug 1, 2005

An interesting response to the pressures of researching and reporting on Scientology can be found in this Sunday's Opinion section of the Post-Gazette

Brief thoughts on and link to original articles

Science and the Trinity: The Christian Encounter with Reality

Posted by tom | Jul 31, 2005

When I have time, I would like to pick up this new piece by the scientist-theologian John Polkinghorne. For now I'll satisfy myself with the Crouch's Books & Culture review. Here is a piece I found of particular interest, after having spent a summer considering intelligent design (ID) as part of a faculty discussion group:

For Polkinghorne the developmental nature of both life and the cosmos are simply a natural consequence of the Creator's gracious gift of freedom to the created order. Howard van Till, another physicist-turned-theologian, describes the universe as displaying "robust functional economy," meaning that the universe was created containing the fertile complexity needed to develop the astonishing array of life we observe, without requiring further supernatural input.

None of this necessarily rules out the fundamental contention of intelligent design—that certain aspects of life are too complex to have arisen without the guidance of a designer. Yet it does reveal how limited id's scope really is. On the one hand, ID attracts hostility from the scientific establishment because it seems to undercut science's hopes of understanding the workings of chance and necessity in the world. On the other hand, the only Designer of which ID can speak is little more than a shadowy cosmic Engineer, ready to intervene with clever solutions to problems, but whose ultimate intentions are unknown and, within the scope of ID theory at least, unknowable. Polkinghorne's Trinitarian account of a freely developing universe, on the other hand, can fully accept science's understanding of reality while also making much more specific claims about the nature of the world's Creator. That Creator turns out to be a loving Economist, a kind of endlessly resourceful Alan Greenspan, who creates and sustains an wondrously fruitful, free world.


Disney's Narnia . . . entering the Wardrobe

Posted by tom | Jul 25, 2005

Have you seen Neeslan, a creation spurred by Liam Neeson's commitment to be Aslan's voice in the coming Lion, Witch, and Wardrobe release? A number of people have asked me if we'll find a faithful telling of C.S. Lewis' work come to screen in 137 days or if Disney will have corrupted its allegory of the work of Christ. I do not know, but Lord willing, there will be much value in the film and it will reflect the author's intent.

The other day, I watched Disney's Ruby Bridges: A Real American Hero, click here for the Ruby Bridges Foundation, with Hayley and Ellen. I found the film a helpful introduction to conversation regarding the relationship between the African American and the European American communities that our bridged at our local congregation. Furthermore, I found the faith of the Bridges' family and Ruby, in particular, a great encouragement and model of how to live when marginalized in one's community. I found myself mourning and praying against the destructive power of sin and the evil One in individuals and structures in our society, our world. So I do have confidence that the light of the Gosepel can shine through the Wonderful World of Disney and it is even more encouraging to read on

Is this going to be a secularized Hollywood version or will C.S. Lewis’ Christian themes stay intact? It’s no secret that C.S. Lewis was an outspoken Christian and his faith was woven throughout everything he wrote. Narnia is no exception and much of the stories are allegorical in nature. Will Hollywood have its way and strip out Lewis’ spiritual messages? Not so, promises Douglas Gresham, co-producer and stepson of Lewis himself. A committed Christian, Gresham has vowed not to “change the words of the master.” Indeed, Walden Media itself has a track record of family-friendly films so it seems that the film will be in good hands. Many are concerned that Disney's influence will water down the Christian themes which run through the Narnia stories, but it's important to remember that Walden Media is ultimately in charge of the film, not Disney.

Baylor Showdown

Posted by tom | Jul 24, 2005

The Baylor Showdown has reminded me how a college's return to faith is only accomplished by the grace of God. Reflecting on the transformation of Grove City College, the alma mater of both Theresa and myself, reminds me what a blessing it has been to know followers of Christ w/the passion, determination, and the sacrifical lifestyle necessary for being part of such a Kingdom endeavor. I was surprised by the omission of Grove City College in the recent article on the Renaissance of Christian Colleges, but maybe that has to do w/not being a member of the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) and finding itself outside the typical orbit of evangelicalism . . . which is not all a bad thing.


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