Author Archive

OBIT Tribute to Charlton Heston

OBIT Tribute to Charlton Heston

Join Us at KindlingsFest 08 on Orcas Island this July 17-20. For more information about KindlingsFest and to book accommodations (It is booking up fast) go to KindlingsFest

Check out Dick Staub’s new bookThe Culturally Savvy Christian.

OBIT Tribute to Charlton Heston

Among my most memorable Dick Staub interviews were those with Charlton Heston. We first met in Washington DC when he spoke at a lunch I attended. I needed to catch a flight and waited until he finished. I headed for a back exit, the same one he ducked into. As we reached the actual exit door alarms went off and a security guard approached. Recognizing Heston the guard waved him through¢â‚¬¦I quipped, “I’m with Moses.” Heston turned, laughed and waved me through with him. We introduced ourselves and a few months later we met in Chicago for an interview, then another and another. He was literate, articulate and a gentleman who loved words as evidenced by his comments in this reprise interview posted in four parts at “The Kindlings Muse”. “The Kindlings Muse” rekindling our spiritual, intellectual and creative potential.”

Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

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  • PS 3.

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    ‚©CRS Communications 2008

    Posted in Staublog in April 7, 2008 by | No Comments »

    NoMoPhobia Sweeping the Land

    NoMoPhobia Sweeping the Land

    <Join Us at KindlingsFest 08 on Orcas Island this July 17-20. For more information about KindlingsFest and to book accommodations (It is booking up fast) go to KindlingsFest

    Click here to listen to our latest daily podcast of “The Kindlings Muse”. “The Kindlings Muse” rekindling our spiritual, intellectual and creative potential.”

    Check out Dick Staub’s new bookThe Culturally Savvy Christian.

    NoMoPhobia Sweeping the Land

    The 21st century has produced a new illness, “no mobile phobia” (Nomophobia) the fear of being out of mobile phone contact. Researchers in the UK report that thirteen million Brits suffer from this stressful condition brought on by the fear that their phone will lose its charge, be misplaced or simply lose tower contact making them unreachable.

    One man was so fearful he had his ear pierced big enough to hold his cell phone (See today’s photo!)

    You would think with recent research theorizing that cell phones contribute to a higher likelihood of brain cancer that we would take a pause and rethink our newest addiction. It seems we’d rather risk tumors the size of watermelons than lose contact with all those people who urgently need to yammer on about their trivial pursuits.

    Our fear is not brain tumors. Our fear is bad reception.

    Technology has its good points–like connectivity with those we love scattered around the globe.

    But technology also has its downside; like isolation.

    A child sits listening to an iPod on the way to soccer practice while mom or dad drives and talks on the cell phone. Families sit passively in front of a TV instead of talking with each other.

    In our family I’m viewed as the cell phone Nazi because I believe we should not make or take extended cell phone calls while in each other’s presence. I’m taking a stand for human interaction with people who are actually present instead of snubbing present company in favor for the cell phone caller.

    Way back in the 1960s, social scientist Marshall McLuhan warned, “All media work us over completely. They are so pervasive in their personal, political, economic, aesthetic, psychological, moral, ethical and social consequences that they leave no part of us untouched, unaffected, unaltered.”

    I would add technology works us over spiritually.

    When Jesus needed to sort things out he withdrew to a quiet place and prayed.

    In earlier societies humans enjoyed down time while they walked or rode their saddled beasts. Where are today’s quiet places? When do sufferers of “nomophobia” make themselves inaccessible?

    Without alone time when do we think, meditate, problem solve or pray?

    In a day when people say they are too busy to pray I’ve suggested praying in the car instead of listening to music or talking on the phone.

    So–this is really about managing technology instead of letting it manage us–if in nomophobia you’ve got an early warning symptom that it is time to reevaluate your relationship with your cell phone!

    Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

    PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

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    Posted in Staublog in April 3, 2008 by | No Comments »

    Join Us at KindlingsFest 08 on Stunning Orcas Island (1st Announcement!)

    Join Us at KindlingsFest 08 on Stunning Orcas Island (1st Announcement!)

    Join Us at KindlingsFest 08 on Orcas Island this July 17-20

    For more information about KindlingsFest and to book accommodations (It is booking up fast) go to KindlingsFest

    KindlingsFest is a celebration of Art & Ideas where they intersect with the spiritual. This four-day getaway hosted by Dick Staub and friends provides just the right mix of free time for you and your family to enjoy the refreshing wonders of Orcas Island while drinking in the morning lectures with Dr. Jerry Root editor of The Quotable Lewis and a relaxing day’s end @ the Bag End Cafe with Nigel Goodwin.

    KindlingsFest 2008

    When
    July 17-20

    Where
    Beautiful Orcas Island, Eastsound Washington 98245

    Who
    Dr. Jerry Root, a leading Lewis expert and editor of “The Quotable Lewis” & the irrepressible British actor and arts advocate Nigel Goodwin, hosting the informal Bag End Cafe each evening.

    Subject
    C. S. Lewis and the Art of Being Fully Human

    Thursday 10 AM: Fully Human & “The Great Divorce”

    Caught in the Balances

    Friday 10 AM: Fully Human & “The Abolition of Man”

    Adjusting the Scoliosis of the Soul to Reality

    Saturday 10 AM: Fully Human & “The Weight of Glory”

    Unity is the Road to Personhood
Sunday
    10 AM Fully Human & “Prince Caspian”
    The King for the Kingdom

    Sunday evening: TBA

    For more information, to book accommodations (It is booking up fast) go to KindlingsFest

    Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

    PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

    PS 2. If you haven’t yet done so, register for our daily updates. You won’t regret it!

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  • PS 3.

    If you have comments regarding this column please contact us at:

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  • This web site is supported solely by tax-deductible donations. Please mail your generous contributions to: The Center for Faith and Culture, PO Box 77385, Seattle, Washington 98177

    ‚©CRS Communications 2008

    Posted in Staublog in March 28, 2008 by | No Comments »

    Religion When God has Left the Building

    Religion When God has Left the Building

    Check out Dick Staub’s new bookThe Culturally Savvy Christian.

    Also, click here to listen to our latest daily podcast of “The Kindlings Muse”. “The Kindlings Muse” rekindling our spiritual, intellectual and creative potential.”

    Religion When God has Left the Building

    Today I read an article about John McCain’s attempt to make amends with evangelicals. Two mega-church, televangelist pastors were named: Rev. Rod Parsley in Ohio and John Hagee (pictured on the right) in San Antonio Texas.

    That the media and politicians alike continue to fail to make any distinctions between fundamentalists, televangelists and evangelicals is not a surprise but is ignorant and inexcusable.

    Fundamentalists share in common a feisty, combative nature. Their black and white view of the world combined with their militancy lends itself to provocative comments and the demonization of those who disagree with them.

    The early “evangelicals” like Billy Graham, Harold John Ockenga and Carl Henry sought a more reasoned bridging of faith & culture.

    Fundamentalists are bridge burners and Hagee and Parsley fit the mold perfectly. Parsley rants about Islam and refers to Europe as the “godless pit.” Hagee has called Roman Catholicism “the great whore” and a “false cult system” and once claimed Hurricane Katrina was God’s punishment for a gay rights parade in New Orleans.

    In a free country people are allowed their opinions and can express them in any manner they choose. But the sloppy journalism that continues to label hostile talkers like Parsley and Haggee as evangelicals is disconcerting to those who value the conciliatory spirit and thoughtfulness that gave birth to the evangelical movement and led to it’s split from fundamentalism in the first place.

    A lot of mega-churches remind me of a comment I once heard about Roman architecture, “failing to make it beautiful they made it big!”

    With many people Hagee’s megachurch scores bonus points because of its bigness–with 19,000 active members it registers with political pollsters and marketers alike, who tend to think of big as good.

    That big is not necessarily good or true or beautiful is a fact that Hagee seems not to understand based on one very troubling comment he made about Barack Obama and “the ministry.”

    When asked about Barack Obama’s oratorical skills Hagee said, “He is going to be difficult to beat, because the man is a master of communication. If he were in the ministry, he would make it in the major leagues overnight.”

    That Haggee thinks of ministry in terms of major leagues and minor leagues (and himself as a big shot in the major leagues) may be very Texan and American, but it seems a bit uncharacteristic of the life, work and teaching of Jesus.

    The statement reeks of the kind of pride Jesus warns, “comes before the fall.”

    Furthermore, with a mere 12 disciples Jesus evidently was not in the major leagues. As a matter of fact Jesus warned against confusing big numbers with spiritual progress. “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

    I am among those who think American Christianity’s penchant for bigness and a minor league/major league mentality is one of the reasons it has been accurately described as “3,000 miles wide and an inch deep.”

    But lest my pride precede my fall, let me confess that though I spot these specks in Hagee’s eye it is likely I have a beam or beams in my own.

    All Christians–fundamentalists, televangelists, evangelicals, mainline Protestant, Orthodox and Catholics ought to think about what BONO once said, “I’m a believer, but sometimes I think religion is when God, like Elvis, has left the building. When God has left the building you get religion. But when God is in the house, you get something else.”

    Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

    PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

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    ‚©CRS Communications 2008

    Posted in Staublog in March 24, 2008 by | No Comments »

    At Easter: A CS Lewis Poem: Love’s As Warm As Tears

    At Easter: A CS Lewis Poem: Love’s As Warm As Tears

    Check out Dick Staub’s new bookThe Culturally Savvy Christian.

    Also, click here to listen to our latest daily podcast of “The Kindlings Muse”. “The Kindlings Muse” rekindling our spiritual, intellectual and creative potential.”

    LOVE’S AS WARM AS TEARS by C. S. Lewis

    Love’s as warm as tears,
    Love is tears:
    Pressure within the brain,
    Tension at the throat,
    Deluge, weeks of rain,
    Haystacks afloat,
    Featureless seas between
    Hedges, where once was green

    Love’s as fierce as fire, 

    Love is fire:
    All sorts–Infernal heat
    Clinkered with greed and pride, 

    Lyric desire, sharp-sweet,
    Laughing, even when denied, 

    And that empyreal flame 

    Whence all loves came. 


    Love’s as fresh as spring,
    Love is spring:
    Bird-song in the air,
    Cool smells in a wood,
    Whispering “Dare! Dare!”
    To sap, to blood,
    Telling “Ease, safety, rest,
    Are good; not best.”

    Love’s as hard as nails,
    Love is nails: 

    Blunt, thick, hammered through 

    The medial nerves of One 

    Who, having made us, knew 

    The thing He had done,
    Seeing (what all that is)
    Our cross, and His. 


    Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

    PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

    PS 2. If you haven’t yet done so, register for our daily updates. You won’t regret it!

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  • PS 3.

    If you have comments regarding this column please contact us at:

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    ‚©CRS Communications 2008

    Posted in Staublog in March 21, 2008 by | No Comments »

    Humans on A Rainy Orcas Sunday Afternoon

    Humans on A Rainy Orcas Sunday Afternoon

    Check out Dick Staub’s new bookThe Culturally Savvy Christian.

    Also, click here to listen to our latest daily podcast of “The Kindlings Muse”. “The Kindlings Muse” rekindling our spiritual, intellectual and creative potential.”

    Humans on A Rainy Orcas Sunday Afternoon

    What do humans do on a rainy Sunday afternoon?

    Staring across the marsh, its surface battered and pummeled by rain, looking over the berm towards the choppy waters of the Strait of Georgia where it feeds into Rosario Strait off the northern tip of Orcas Island, it occurs to me that I have no reason not to stay in my dry living room, listening to classical music while reading the New York Times.

    I’ve read the NYT every day since the late 80’s when my career took a turn into the chaotic waters of talk radio. Today I stopped three places before I found my Sunday NYT. Country Corner and Ray’s Pharmacy were both out. Darvill’s bookstore had only two left and I was told I was lucky, “they’re usually all gone by 11 AM.” It was already 2:30 PM. At Ray’s they groused, “probably the tourists snapped them up.”

    The Sunday NYT is it for the island–the daily version are only delivered by mail (takes over a week) unless you have it fedexed–for an annual cost somewhere in the neighborhood of leasing Lamborghini.

    My conservative friends will be chiming in with sarcastic comments about the unlined birdcage and such, but the fact is reading the NYT everyday, the paper version, not online, has become part of my intellectual and cultural mix, which when spiritual mediations are mixed in, are substantial fodder for my integrative thinking.

    Meanwhile back to staying indoors on Sunday. In AmeriKa (what my island friend Tom calls the mainland) such a leisurely meandering respite would seem like a guilty pleasure–so many other things I should be doing–socializing, seeing the latest film, eating out, shopping.

    Here where life operates at a slower pace, a rainy day, especially on Sunday, is an invitation to do what humans are meant to do on such a day. Stay in. Stay warm. Be fed–physically, spiritually and intellectually.

    I’ve just returned to the island after a two-week whirlwind¢â‚¬¦ I moderated the International Arts Movement in NYC (where among other things I interviewed Irish poet Micheal O’Siadhai and artist Mako Fujimura). Nigel Goodwin and I headed off to Jacks Swiss Chalet in Cle Elum Washington, where with Marty O’Donnell, we co-hosted a weekend Kindlings Hearth Retreat with ten artists, writers, filmmakers & others. We then returned to Seattle where I hosted the live The Kindlings Muse @ Hales (on the Bono-fication of Christianity), The Kindlings Muse @ the Cs Lewis Centre (Burke Museum Café on the UW Campus) and taped The Kindlings Muse @ The Movies.

    Sometimes islanders envy the richness of my off-island life and I always tell them I am weary of being off-island. I think they suspect I could not savor island life were it not spiced up with the off island forays.

    But I recall my earliest days as a child in a small Southern Oregon logging town (Bly, population of 600 at the time) and these are the shaping days for me.

    One paved road, a colorful assortment of interesting folks, no societal distractions, no diversions–only a rugged natural setting in which to be human. I remember in the summer an ornithologist visiting summers to track some Sand Hill Cranes, a local was an international expert on fungi/mushrooms, a man there invented a piece of logging equipment that revolutionized the industry. Ruby, the grey haired woman next door was the schoolteacher and her son had left town to become the CEO of a major grocery chain. One day a huge tree, big enough to fill the entire trailer of the logging truck, was brought into the mill. Everybody in town gathered to see it. Entertainment was real, local and free.

    A rainy Sunday for us here on Orcas is about quiet pursuits off the beaten track, with people we like and don’t like and always keenly aware that we need to coexist on this rock we called Orcas. We renew our spirits on this rainy day so tomorrow we can get back at the work of stewarding the patch of earth and maintaining our neighborliness in a place where the longest drive is 25-30 minutes, there are no stop lights and pretty much everybody knows your name.

    Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

    PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

    PS 2. If you haven’t yet done so, register for our daily updates. You won’t regret it!

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    Posted in Staublog in March 16, 2008 by | No Comments »

    Guestblogger. Bruce Herman: An Open Letter to Artists.

    Guestblogger. Bruce Herman: An Open Letter to Artists.

    Check out Dick Staub’s new bookThe Culturally Savvy Christian.

    Also, click here to listen to our latest daily podcast of “The Kindlings Muse”. “The Kindlings Muse” rekindling our spiritual, intellectual and creative potential.”

    Guestblogger. Bruce Herman: An Open Letter to Artists. “The Eye of the Needle”

    It’s been twenty-five years since I left behind my Eastern, mystical world-view hatched in the 1960’s and practiced for fifteen years into the early 80’s. This sojourn included a time in India and twelve years of being a disciple of the Indian spiritual leader Meher Baba, as well as many other aspects of religious and philosophical searching. My former perspective on life and the world was formed in the 60’s atmosphere which included a strong sense of things ending: the world on the “eve of destruction”; the heroes falling (or being felled); the sense that our generation was unique and called to a unique sense of prophetic rebellion against the established, corrupted order of things political and things religious.

    Since then much ink has been spilt to show that our ideals and our yearning for a better way were mired in narcissistic fantasy and lacking the test of suffering our parents endured in the Depression and WWII. We were one of the most affluent and privileged generations in American — in world history, and yet we were dissatisfied. In many ways we were living proof of Jesus’ baleful statement that it’s harder for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God than for a camel to squeeze through eye of a needle. Kids of privilege accusing their parents of corruption and bad faith (all the while happily cashing in on the privileges).

    Can there be an uglier image of smug, self-righteous, ungrateful dishonor to one’s parents? From my current perspective of one painfully aware of the log in my own eye, I am finding it harder and harder to accuse anyone especially my parents. There is a corollary, I think, between this accusing stance and one that indicates that we, the right sort of Christians, have the means of transforming the culture around us. Clearly if you have the audacity to declare the culture in need of transforming, you must have a better way.

    But what is it in the culture that needs transforming, and are we, indeed, the ones to do it?

    As evangelical Christians we are often cast as culture-critics as those who feel and assert that they have the answers and the “only way” to salvation. And our neighbors often react predictably with disgust. After all, who wants to eat dinner with someone who wants to steer every conversation back to his favorite topic? Who wants to be friends with someone who is always evaluating the weight of your thoughts or critiquing your expressions of self, of your passions, your dreams, etc by some invisible standard they believe they possess? The result of prominent evangelicals pronouncing public disdain for Hollywood or criticism of all our cultural neighbors and their products is that we live in self-imposed exile within the broader “secular” culture. It all reminds me, painfully, of the stance the 60’s generation has often been associated with the criticism which assumes a moral higher ground of superior knowledge, superior wisdom in a word, having the answers.

    But do we evangelicals really have the answers?

    For the last twenty-five years I’ve been involved in the evangelical movement in CIVA, IAM, Gordon College and the CCCU, and in various venues of culture work among my fellow Christians and I have felt that we are often a shoddy knock-off of the surrounding culture. Examples abound the “Band Aid” concert that raised funds through Christian rock bands for famine relief (two years after Bob Geldof’s Live Aid which was by all accounts infinitely better than our knock-off); the slew of books, records, art, talk-shows, movies, etc that all have a lackluster feel when compared with the genuine article the secular model. Our sub-culture is also plagued with a celebrity worship of our own, miserable marriage statistics of our own, and political intrigues of our own.

    Are we really in a position to call the shots for cultural renewal, for a “renaissance” in highly-visible public manner?

    My answer to this question is, sadly, in the negative. I feel that in real terms we are more needing to sit and listen to acknowledge the creativity and power of the so-called secular culture workers and their products than we are to dictate the needed improvements. We have been emulating the secular creative community for almost half a century, and that is testimony enough of our own cultural weakness and neediness. Why not admit all this and begin from a different posture? Would it hurt that much to trim-back our rhetoric and our claims? To sit and listen and look and receive from our neighbors?

    Actually, the real secret of hospitality is that the host welcomes the guest and receives more than the visitor. Perhaps a new cultural hospitality practiced by Christians would look more like this, rather than our pontificating from the soap-box. Imagine if evangelicals were stereotyped as weak but hospitable instead of strong and censorious?

    Lastly, what if we became known for extravagant giving instead of cultural power and judgmental attitudes? When Jesus spoke about the needle’s eye, he may have been simply stating the facts: when you cling to money and power and influence you cannot even see much less enter this new, counter-intuitive kingdom of God. And this kingdom is not only invisible, it’s upside-down. In this new kingdom the rich serve the poor, the powerful and influential do culture work without receiving acknowledgment or fame and name. In a word, the higher serves the lower, and the Lord of all is the lowest of the low.

    What implications does this have for us evangelical Christians in a time of cultural change? In a short letter I don’t have time to suss this out very completely, but I will suggest that we need at the very least to cease from posturing and putting ourselves in the drivers seat culturally-speaking. We need to be doers of our work and not posing in heroic roles like great culture redeemers. A future generation may look back and call us that, but we are not in a position to arrogate to ourselves that name. Let someone else name us, and let us shrink to a small stature one small enough to allow us to fit through that small window of opportunity the eye of the needle. Maybe then we will catch a glimpse of the kingdom that the rich and powerful cannot see because they are looking in the wrong direction. Perhaps then we can indeed help a little, offer a modest alternative, invite our neighbors to dinner and listen.

    Bruce Herman

    PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

    PS 2. If you haven’t yet done so, register for our daily updates. You won’t regret it!

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  • PS 3.

    If you have comments regarding this column please contact us at:

  • CultureWatch: culturewatch@dickstaub.com


  • This web site is supported solely by tax-deductible donations. Please mail your generous contributions to: The Center for Faith and Culture, PO Box 77385, Seattle, Washington 98177

    ‚©CRS Communications 2007

    Posted in Staublog in March 2, 2008 by | No Comments »

    William F Buckley after Crossan-Craig debate.

    William F Buckley after Crossan-Craig debate.

    William F. Buckley died yesterday (2/27/2008). I interviewed him in the 90’s after I participated in a debate between Dominic Crossan, controversial New Testament scholar and a prominant member of the “Jesus Seminar” and William Lane Craig, philosopher and apologist. It was moderated by William F. Buckley. It was a remarkable evening and eventually became the subject of a book and set of tapes. Immediately following the debate I interviewed Buckley back stage, Recently I discovered an individual had made a transcript of the debate (which I think I have in my tape archives but had never transcribed). I think it is fascinating, so here it is!

    Prior to the debate Buckley found a piano and asked not to be disturbed. He sat and played Chopin beautifully–I will always visualize him, not just in witty, intelligent, mischievous, feisty debate–I will member him off stage in private, quietly playing the piano.

    DS: I’m interested, first of all, in why you agreed to do this debate. What was it about the subject or the players in this debate that made this worth your time?

    WFB: I agreed to do it because I’m writing a book on Christianity, and I wanted to hear live the tone, the feel of a modern skeptic. In many senses Dr. Crossan wasn’t that — he kept saying that he believed in God, he believed in Christianity — so that in that sense I didn’t quite get what I came looking for.

    DS: What is it at stake in the issues that were being dealt with tonight?

    WFB: Well, what is at stake, really, is the continuation of the Christian commitment. Put it this way: if it were absolutely certain in everybody’s mind that Christ was divine, wouldn’t they simply need — for self-protection, if only that — to behave differently? And under the circumstances, since people behave as they do, what they manage to do is simply rule out the Christian alternative. Now a nice way to rule it out is to say that it wasn’t really there in the first place. And Dr. Crossan is there to reassure people who are skeptical at that distance.

    DS: If Dr. Crossan was here I’m sure he would argue that he starts with a certain literary criticism, an approach, a methodology, that has led him to certain conclusions. Certainly, I don’t think he would say that he has started trying to provide an excuse for ill behavior in society.

    WFB: No, no, I’m not saying that’s his motive, I’m saying that’s the motive of his followers.

    DS: That’s why people are enthused by his conclusions.

    WFB: Sure. Put it this way: anybody who says, “I have here a very concrete analysis that disproves the validity of the Christian religion,” you get a lot of disciples, do you not? Because a lot of people have a personal, and also an ideological, and even a religious stake for disbelief in Christianity. So it generates its own constituency.

    DS: He said near the end of the debate that he doesn’t know how you can win a debate like this. Did you sense that there was a clear winner in this debate tonight?

    WFB: No, there wasn’t, except that the “tug” of modern knowledge about Christianity sides with Craig, not with Crossan. That is to say, if it were established that Christ didn’t rise, that would be a front page story. As it is, it gets occasional mention in odd news magazines — the “Jesus Seminar” people. So, in that sense, he couldn’t hope to prevail. The most that he could hope to do is to stir it out. Except to the extent that people sometimes, as I said tonight, yielding to a restive intelligence, entertain doubts that are not always hygienic, he would not have made any headway.

    DS: You asked him a question, somewhat in humor, but I think somewhat seriously, “Why are you here?” I’m reminded of the political phrase that we’re both accustomed to “the big tent,” “is the tent big enough?” And in looking at Roman Catholicism and a Dominic Crossan and asking how big is the tent of Roman Catholicism, and how does Dominic Crossan fit?

    WFB: That was very curious because you’ll remember that in his closing statement he said that the end of the world, as far as he was concerned — meaning of what he would most approve — is a situation in which liberal Christians can speak to conservative Christians. Well, my answer to that is I don’t think the word “Christian” can be contained in a definition that excludes Christ as divine. The ethical culture people or the Unitarians don’t consider themselves Christians. Nor are they. Now this doesn’t mean that they’re not very nice people and that we don’t welcome the fact that they have faith in their particular doctrines — but they’re not Christians! The trouble with welcoming an amalgamation of the kind that would include Crossan and Craig is it becomes meaningless. There is nothing in between Christ’s divinity or non-divinity. He is either divine or he is not divine.

    DS: Crossan would argue, I think, that he, again, is committed to a certain literary criticism, a certain methodology. It’s the type that I was exposed to at Harvard Divinity School, and anybody in the major liberal divinity schools today is being exposed to this. And that he has simply followed the logic of that methodology. As a matter of fact, in his concluding comments tonight he said “I have simply applied this methodology fully. I have applied it not only to the words of Jesus and to the deeds of Jesus, but to the resurrection of Jesus and to the articles of faith…”

    WFB: But he can’t get away with it. Look, “methodology” is simply a structural method by which one proceeds. But Craig nailed him on that, because he said there is no structural method by which Crossan has proceeded — except that he is a naturalist and that he disbelieves the four principal historical validations of the resurrection of Christ. Having rejected those, all he becomes is a romancer. He gives us a way to acknowledge the existence of Christ, non-divine, and do away with the resurrection. Well, that’s playing games, however gifted one is and however resourceful one’s imagination, it’s simply playing games.

    Now, games are there to be played. If you want to write another book saying that Kennedy was in fact not assassinated by Oswald, go ahead and do it. But spare me any sense of obligation to hear you out again.

    DS: When we look at the issue of miracles, did you agree with Craig’s assessment that Crossan in fact was a naturalist? Crossan’s own definition that the spiritual only works through the natural seemed to me to be a difficult way of describing the supernatural.

    WFB: He really tried to have it both ways. What he said was that God exists, however God confines himself to working through the natural order, i.e., he does not intervene. I asked him is God capable of intervening? He had a tough time with that. Because if he said yes, he was capable, then he would have to tell us why he never chose to intervene. So as I say, there again, if you define God as “that which exists, whatever it is,” then we all believe in God. Because something exists. Winds and stars and the Aurora Borealis are all there. And simply to affirm a belief in God because of that doesn’t really get us very far theologically, does it?

    DS: I’d like to get to the issue of certitude which is one of the issues that you were raising tonight as well. It’s almost as if you are saying that if a person wandered off the street and heard this debate tonight, and they were a reasonable and reasonably intelligent person, they would be compelled by the nature of this debate, anyway, to believe that Jesus was a historical person, he did rise from the dead.

    WFB: No, no they wouldn’t. Because tonight simply wasn’t comprehensive enough. There’s no way in which you can say to somebody, listen in for three hours to anything, and become a Christian.

    DS: But is it your belief that, in fact, if given enough time, that we are concluding based on the fact that the majority of scholars agree that Jesus was buried in Joseph of Arimathea’s grave, that there was an empty tomb — we went through the line of argument that William Lane Craig raised. Would we then start concluding that we are reaching a point where the resurrection is verifiable and provable in such a way that it ought to be compelling to any reasonable person to believe it?

    WFB: Well, yes, except that human nature sets up certain resistances which aren’t necessarily rational. If we take the four statements of Craig — we know where he was buried, we know that he wasn’t there the next day, he was seen by other people, and the whole experience was validated by his apostles — then you say, “Well I’ve got problems if I don’t believe in Christ.” However, a lot of people don’t: the Jews don’t believe in him, Islam doesn’t believe in him, pagans don’t believe in him. So therefore, we can’t simply say, by pointing to these historical data, you can verify the resurrection. There is an element there of whatever you want to call it. But now are you dealing in natural theology or sacred theology? Well, there’s that admixture of the two. Mortimer Adler has written very interestingly on this question.

    DS: When we look at one of the major issues really tonight, which was in the nature of Christianity itself, can one separate the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith? What did you make of that dynamic in tonight’s discussion?

    WFB: I made of that that Crossan is urging the position that the Christ of Christianity, the risen Christ, the divine Christ, he doesn’t necessarily want to impeach. But he wants to tell us as a scholar that there are certain sundering differences between that Christ and the Christ that he as a theological historian has identified. Because that particular one didn’t rise from the dead, didn’t perform miracles, etc., etc.

    Now one is entitled to ask the question, why does he not confront the notion that Christians don’t want to persevere with a religion, the foundations of which have been overturned? Paul said it, “if Christ is not risen, then our faith is in vain.” But he seems to be saying, “It’s a cozy and useful faith, inspires a lot of people. So other than revealing to them that there is no reason to believe in Christ, I urge them to continue.”

    DS: Did you feel that Crossan raised any serious questions that do demand a better response than they received tonight?

    WFB: No.

    DS: You didn’t.

    WFB: No, I didn’t, no. Now I’m not a theologian, but Craig mentioned, what, half a dozen — eight, nine, or ten — scholars, who surveying the same evidence come to different conclusions from Crossan. So I have no reason at all to suppose that his is other than an idiosyncratic reading of the gospel and of the historical evidence.

    DS: Was there any sense in which you thought that what we had tonight was someone who is by nature, gift, temperament, and experience, a debater in William Lane Craig…

    WFB: No.

    DS: …and someone who is by nature a scholar, a researcher, a student, and not a debater in Crossan, and therefore we had a lopsided debate by virtue of the skills of the debaters themselves?

    WFB: No, no I didn’t, I didn’t feel that. I think that the situation called for the exercise of polemical skills. Polemical skills, making war on your position. But since Craig was talking from an established understanding, he had a more destructive role than Crossan, who was telling people in many cases things they had never heard before. He therefore had a different mandate: his mandate was to explain odd conclusions that he has reached. And the mission of Craig was to say “Here’s what you’re about to hear, and here’s why it’s not so.”

    DS: You were saying earlier that, when I had said it was kind of an interesting debate, you said there was really no thunder.

    WFB: No.

    DS: What would you have thought might have happened in a debate of this sort on this subject?

    WFB: Well, anybody who has read some of the great exchanges, even in this century, involving people like Henry Mencken, or William Lloyd Garrison, or Mark Twain, they put an awful lot of fire into what they said. Not only thunder in the sense of brimstone, but thunder in the sense of a total devotion and commitment to your position. Fulton Sheen would have used a certain amount of thunder; civil thunder, but thunderous…

    DS: Nevertheless.

    WFB: Yes.

    DS: But you know, when you look at Crossan, one of the reasons I think we didn’t see that kind of thunder, was while he has taken a radical position which for most of us leads us to a conclusion that would put us outside the faith, he is taking that radical position and then concluding by saying “I’m a Christian, you’re a Christian; I’m liberal, you’re conservative; and we can all get along and it’s good that we do.” So by his own kind of predisposition, he’s arguing that this is really important stuff, but not so important that it keeps us all from fellowshipping as Christians.

    WFB: It doesn’t work! Because — Craig is correct — either Christ was a blasphemer or he was divine. And I don’t want to worship a blasphemer. And I think it unreasonable for Crossan to expect that I should want to do so. So to the extent that he sustains his thesis, he excommunicates the entire Christian community.

    DS: I still go back to my impression tonight, and I predicted this going into this on the way here. We just had a guest from Germany and a guest from France. They were both in our home at the same time, and watching the two of them communicate was very interesting, as you can imagine. And I said to my wife, “I feel like what we’re going to see tonight is one person who speaks German, and the other speaks French.” Crossan is essentially in a very narrow field of New Testament scholarship using a certain methodology. Craig, on the other hand, is a philosopher and a theologian. They really do speak different languages, they’re on different playing fields, and in a certain sense we never connected the fields tonight.

    WFB: Well, I don’t think that’s true. For instance, how to interpret the resurrection in the light of Jewish thought. There was a very interesting and, I thought, valuable exchange between the two. They were both talking there as theological historians. But it is true that there wasn’t an engagement in the sense that you speak of. This is, in part, because the contributions of Dr. Crossan are, as I say, modernist and unfamiliar.

    Suppose I said to you now “OK, we’re going to have a debate tomorrow for two hours on the question of ‘Was Lincoln killed?'” You say “What?” I say, “Yes, I know somebody, a scholar, who thinks that Lincoln’s death was faked. He was taken out of the way and then he went to Brazil,” or whatever. Now, it would be hard to have a debate on that subject, because the person who upheld the fact that Lincoln was not assassinated would be simply postulating a whole series of connections and coincidences and this, that, and the other, which people listen to and don’t have really a chance to comprehend in the sense that they might comprehend the question “Who killed Kennedy?” Since books are written about that, and movies, still. So you can study that question, and then have a debate.

    DS: But you could have had an evangelical who uses the literary-critical method debating Crossan. And that evangelical New Testament scholar — a Raymond Brown from the Catholic tradition — could have, using the same methodology as Crossan, demonstrated why his conclusions are incorrect based on the text itself. And what we had tonight was theological and philosophical argumentation on the one hand, and on the other hand some conclusions without much understanding of the methodology that reached those conclusions. And Craig strategically chose to keep the issue on these theological presuppositions that he started the debate with, and really not to get into the methodological issues that were driving Crossan’s argument.

    WFB: Well, he gave the reasons for not doing so, but didn’t do so. That’s correct. But there was only a touch towards the end of the Craig final statement of a straight-forward appeal to the importance of the faith. When he said as a young man, he beheld Christ and became a Christian, and that has been the dominant influence in his life. He let that out. But there was no sense this evening of the preacher, the evangelist, who wants to communicate his faith, rather than maybe to show you how to cope with the skeptic.

    DS: Thank you for being with us.

    WFB: Nice to talk to you.

    Posted in DS Interview, Staublog in February 28, 2008 by | No Comments »

    Oscars 2007. Misty Twilight of the Soul

    Oscars 2007. Misty Twilight of the Soul

    Dick was featured this week on a PBS Special on God and Hollywood! You can READ the full PBS interview with Dick Staub or SEE Dick Staub featured in the PBS special Academy Award feature God and Hollywood).

    Check out Dick Staub’s new bookThe Culturally Savvy Christian. Also, click here to listen to our latest daily podcast of “The Kindlings Muse”. “The Kindlings Muse” rekindling our spiritual, intellectual and creative potential.”

    Oscars 2007. Misty Twilight of the Soul
    “There is a misty twilight of the soul 

    A sickly eclipse, low brooding o’er a man,
    When the poor brain is as an empty bowl,
    And the thought-spirit, weariful and wan, 

    Turning from that which yet it loves the best, 

    Sinks moveless, with life-poverty opprest 

    Watch, then, O Lord, thy feebly glimmering coal.”
    George MacDonald “Diary of an Old Soul.”

    Even the dimmest bulb on the planet can see that if “art is the language of the soul,” our Academy Award Best Picture Nominees reveal the misty twilight of human hope brought on by a dark shadows in the human story.

    All five nominees portray human capacity for evil and fallenness and each in its own way explores whether or not there is reason for hope. With one exception, these films reveal a sense of inevitable doom and a pervasive pessimism about the human condition.

    Two are memorable in bringing the extreme embodiment of evil to the screen as their official descriptions indicate.

    “There Will Be Blood forces us to confront Plainville, who seems to be a larger-than-life personification of evil.”

    In No Country for Old Men “the tension mounts, the body count begins to rise, confirming Sheriff Bell’s inability to battle this new wave of modern brutality¢â‚¬¦ Chigurh is a freakishly mysterious monster, and is certain to haunt viewers long after the final credit has rolled.”

    Three of the films take on the issue of redemption, each reaching a different conclusion.

    In Atonement “the honey-drizzled look of the first two thirds of the film contrasts achingly with the tension and seriousness of the action unfolding (and the grim intensity of the wartime sections).” These characters seek forgiveness and atonement, or as some say “at-one-ment,” and find it excruciatingly difficult to attain.

    In Michael Clayton “George Clooney delivers a rich performance as a hangdog and haunted man who wants to stay on the side of good, but is a little too skilled at moral margin-walking to make that an easy choice in every situation.” In this throwback to classic filmmaking, we see a man whose career has been devoted to being a “fixer” for the “dark side,” but who now tries to move into the “light” only to realize how difficult it is to change directions.

    If there is a feel good film this year it is Juno, the story of a teen-age pregnancy that ends not with abortion, but with birth. It takes the dilemma of human frailty more lightly, and offers a path to hopefulness.

    In the words of host Jon Stewart, joking about the dark movies up for Best Picture with comedy Juno, “Does this town need a hug…? No Country For Old Men, Sweeney Todd, There Will Be Blood. All I can say is, `Thank God for teen pregnancy.”

    Don’t get me wrong, these were powerful movies, art is doing a great job of revealing the desperation of the human condition, but now it is up to thoughtful, devout, creatives to show how their faith is an attractive and true solution.

    Pascal, a brilliant French mathematician and Christian apologist believed in such situations it was the job of a Christian to: 1) Show that religion is not contrary to reason, but worthy of reverence and respect. 2) To make it attractive. 3) To make good men wish it were true, and then show that it is.

    The current craze in Hollywood and in conservative Christian circles is to make faith-friendly, family-friendly films so nice Christians will come to the box office.

    Of course, such films offer no compelling, intelligent response to the questions raised by Hollywood. As I said to Kim Lawton in a recent PBS interview, “the Christian story has a resurrection, but it also has a lot of messiness in it. It has a lot of reality in it. So if you want to tell the Christian story, it’s not just a feel good story. It’s a story that has substantial pain and suffering and sorrow in it, just like our lives do.”

    Effective stories will start with “the feebly glimmering coal” and will reveal little glimpses of how that coal can be fanned to warmth¢â‚¬¦illumination is needed.

    Thoughtful creatives for whom God is of central importance–It is time to get to work!

    (You can READ the full PBS interview with Dick Staub or SEE Dick Staub featured in the PBS special Academy Award feature God and Hollywood).

    Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

    PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

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    Posted in Staublog in February 25, 2008 by | No Comments »

    Jesus WEPT: Wife Swap, The Age of American Unreason, Africa & The Demise of Christianity

    Jesus WEPT: Wife Swap, The Age of American Unreason, Africa & The Demise of Christianity

    Check out Dick Staub’s new bookThe Culturally Savvy Christian.

    Also, click here to listen to our latest daily podcast of “The Kindlings Muse”. “The Kindlings Muse” rekindling our spiritual, intellectual and creative potential.”

    Wife Swap, The Age of American Unreason, Africa & The Demise of Christianity”

    Woody Allen’s line in Hannah and her sisters is still one of my favorites. “If Jesus saw what is going on in his name he’d puke.” Setting aside the theological debate about whether Jesus in fact can see what is going on his name (peering down from heaven and the right hand of God and all that)–it is a prognostication that rings true.

    Just about everything I love about Jesus is what I don’t see in so much of today’s Christianity.

    Let’s begin with a stunningly depressing episode of “Wife Swap” that daughter Molly insisted we watch it and I’m glad we did¢â‚¬¦sort of.

    In this episode the wife of a fundamentalist family swaps with a career woman married to a house-husband with two PhDs,’ one in New Testament. He claimed to know something like nine ancient languages (including Ugaritic).

    In the fundamentalist home the father rules the roost, is the watchman at the gate and has, by his own admission, brain washed his children since childhood, to believe as he does about the role of women (marry, cook, love her husband) and a range of other issues.

    In the liberal Lutheran home, scholarly dad openly derides fundamentalists, in part because as we learn, he was raised in some form of it and bears deep emotional scars.

    Career woman talks to fundamentalist girl and learns the young one wants to be a doctor. Fundamentalist dad, upset at the liberal mom’s influence on his daughter, “kidnaps” the daughter and gets her back on the straight and narrow housewife path.

    Househusband liberal Christian becomes emotionally unglued when his views are attacked, specifically when his daughters are asked to take a vow of chastity until marriage–we find him sobbing in bed the next morning, crying out to fundamentalist wife that she has really hurt him. He is almost inconsolable, but fundamentalist mom, being a dutiful husband-supporting wife, actually morphs into the wife that supports liberal fundamentalist mocking husband. It is after all, her wifely duty.

    By the end of the show I’m sickened with the thought of what this has done to viewers perception of Christians and Christianity. Given the choice, any reasonable person would look for the box marked neither.

    Sadly, the reasoning process of media sated American is such that in the words of Susan Jacob, author of “The Age of American Unreason,” “we have reached a sobering new era where something different is happening: anti-intellectualism (the attitude that “too much learning can be a dangerous thing”) and anti-rationalism ( “the idea that there is no such things as evidence or fact, just opinion”) have fused in a particularly insidious way. Not only are citizens ignorant about essential scientific, civic and cultural knowledge, she said, but they also don’t think it matters.”

    Instead of being horrified we laugh when we see American Idol darling Kelly Pickler appearing on the Fox game show “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?” during celebrity week. Selected from a third-grade geography curriculum, the $25,000 question asked: “Budapest is the capital of what European country?” Ms. Pickler threw up both hands and looked at the large blackboard perplexed. “I thought Europe WAS a country,” she said. Playing it safe, she chose to copy the answer offered by one of the genuine fifth graders: Hungary. “Hungry?” she said, eyes widening in disbelief. “That’s a country? I’ve heard of Turkey. But Hungry? I’ve never heard of it.”

    Flip over to the March issue of “The Atlantic” and read “Born Again” an article on evangelicalism, described as flexible, user friendly and market driven,” a “religious tradition that seeks above all to be relevant.” Think about it. Dumbed down America meets need meeting dumbed down religion Viola evangelicalism.

    Flip over a few pages and read “God’s Country” about Christianity and Islam battling it out for religious superiority in Nigeria. Here in Africa’s most populous nations (140 million, one seventh of Africa) and wealthiest nation (one tenth of the worlds oil reserves) We learn that “using militias and marketing strategies, Christianity and Islam are competing for believers by promising Nigerians prosperity in this world as well as salvation in the next.”

    Did I mention that by 2050 because of the growth of Christianity, Nigeria will be the geographic center of Christianity?

    Sometimes when I look at the insanity of how Christianity is positioned, packaged and the form of the religion that is evolving into it’s sustaining force, I am reminded of the description of Apple in the early days, “it was like the Boy Scouts without the adult supervision.”

    I believe in the sovereignty of God, but I also believe that sooner or later responsible people need to stand up and say–enough is enough–what you are calling Christianity is not Christianity.

    Hopefully one day, the anemic imposter of so-called Christianity will be seen for what it is and Christianity will be defined for what it is supposed to be, the embodiment of Jesus who was full of grace and truth.

    Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

    PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

    PS 2. If you haven’t yet done so, register for our daily updates. You won’t regret it!

  • Register for CW

  • PS 3.

    If you have comments regarding this column please contact us at:

  • CultureWatch: culturewatch@dickstaub.com


  • This web site is supported solely by tax-deductible donations. Please mail your generous contributions to: The Center for Faith and Culture, PO Box 77385, Seattle, Washington 98177

    ‚©CRS Communications 2007

    Posted in Staublog in February 17, 2008 by | 1 Comment »