Friday, April 24, 2009

Urgent Memo to the Young Generation

Dear young people of the 21st century,

There is much I admire about you. You have a zeal and passion for life that is severely lacking in generations of old. You value being real, honest, and pursuing quality relationships with people. You're sick of settling for tradition just for the sake of tradition. You want to know WHY things are the way they are! These are healthy, admirable traits, that if used properly, will help you go far, achieve much, and enable you to give back to a society that is starved for authenticity. However, if I may be forthright for a moment, I have one humble request: stop popping your freaking shirt collars!!!

Incase anyone has not yet told you, let me respectfully cut to the chase: Popping your collars makes you look stupid and ill-equipped to handle the rigors of real life. And you can forget about ever being taken seriously in job interviews. When I see you dressed this way in public, I don't know whether to slap you or give you a helmet. As a nine year old back in 1989 (yes, some of you were not yet even born), I recall watching a scene from Back to the Future Part II, in which Marty is trying to fit in fashion-wise while visiting the year 2015. Doc tells him to turn his pants pockets inside out because "all kids in the future wear their pockets inside out." This scene was especially funny because I thought about how absurd that looked in the film and felt quite confident that our culture would never move in that sort of direction.

We totally don't need our moms to dress us anymore...

Well, here we are now, just six years from 2015 and here you are thinking you're all enlightened because you refuse to make proper use of the natural folds at the tops of your shirts. If your name begins with Dracula or Elvis Presley (or if you are one of those cool Dilophosaurus "spitter" dinosaurs from Jurassic Park) then you can get away with this ridiculous look. But seeing as you are clearly not one of the aforementioned exceptions, please fold down your shirt collars like the rest of humanity and we will forget that this silly experiment ever took place. Thank you.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Remembering the Legend: Harry the K

Two days ago, I received the devastating and gut-wrenching news that Philadelphia Phillies' Hall of Fame broadcaster, Harry Kalas had died suddenly, only two hours before the Phillies were to play an afternoon game against the Washington Nationals. I had just settled in to eat my lunch on that seemingly normal day at work, but after viewing that horrific headline, I could barely get anything down my throat. Over the course of the day, the foggy reality slowly set in: the man who had been the soulful voice of baseball in Philadelphia for almost forty years would never again call a single play.

Harry Kalas' enthusiasm, generous demeanor, and of course, booming baritone voice actually created baseball fans over the lengthy course of his career. When my passion for baseball first began in the early '90s, it was Harry who got me into the Phillies. Subsequently, it was Harry who actually enabled me to enjoy watching Phillies games during several abysmal seasons in the mid to late '90s. And it was Harry, whose colorful exuberance paved the journey for Phillies fans everywhere throughout the team's world championship season in 2008. His love for the game, regardless of the team's standings, was evident in the way he called each play. It was pure joy to hear his home run calls of "Swing and a long that baby....outta here!!!" no matter how good or bad the team was doing at the time. It was equally thrilling to hear him yell "Struck 'em out!!" after key strikeouts by Phillies pitchers; especially ones that ended an inning or ended a game. Harry resonated both our joy in the good times and our collective anguish through all the hard defeats.

The loss of Harry Kalas is right on par with the loss of my grandfather. Ironically enough, I'm finding out that many others in the Philadelphia area are feeling the same way. On the day that Harry died, I got a call from my friend Brian, asking me how I was doing. I found it kind of striking and actually somewhat beautiful because he and I ended up consoling each other the way one would during the passing of a family member. The reality of it is that Harry was family, not only to us, but also to millions of others in the Philadelphia area. This was a man I never met personally, but was still someone with whom I felt I had shared a lifetime of memories. On almost a daily basis during each baseball season, Harry had been a welcomed guest in my home or in my car. He knew Phillies fans and we knew him in return. He loved Phillies fans and we loved him equally in return! For many of us who've grown up as baseball fans in Philadelphia, Harry is all we know, and is the person primarily responsible for nurturing our initial sparks of interest into a roaring love for the game.

Since the 2009 baseball season began just two weeks ago, I've admittedly had a little trouble really getting into it since the Phillies are the reigning World Champions. However, over the first several games, hearing Harry's voice and his passion, even in the little details, helped to pull me back in and get me pumped up for this year's title defense. Truly this man had a gift for curing any and all forms of baseball apathy. The day before Harry died -- April 12, 2009 -- I was at my in-laws' house in Allentown and ended up watching the first eight innings of an eventual 7-5 Phillies win. Right before my wife and I left to return home, Chase Utley hit a 2-run home run to tie the game at 5. It was the last live home run I heard Harry call while he was still with us. Given that fact, I'll never forget it, nor will I forget how thrilled Harry was at the way the Phils had battled back from a 5-1 deficit to tie it up late in the game.

Going forward, the Phillies will have tremendous shoes to fill and a grieving city will have to face the unthinkable task of watching and listening to Phillies games without the steady guidance of the one affectionately known as Harry the K. There has never been and never will be another like him.

2008 was for you, Harry. Thank you for making us all champions.


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Gaining the World, Losing the Soul

The article below was written by Brian McLaren, founding member of Emergent Village, and was printed in the book, unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity...and Why it Matters by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons.
It struck a chord with me personally and I thought it was worth sharing.

Gaining the World, Losing the Soul
by Brian McLaren

From a vantage point further in the future, I think that an honest diagnosis will tell the truth about the pivotal role the Religious Right has played in these depressing statistics. In the aftermath of the Religious Right's ascendancy, it is not an accident that "antihomosexual" is the number one perception of Christians in America these days, followed closely by "judgmental" and "hypocritical" and "insensitive." Young people today could, if we had taken a wiser path for the last few decades, think "antipoverty" or "pro-environment" or "pro-fidelity" or "antiviolence" when they hear the word "Christian" or "evangelical." But because of the path influential people have taken over the last thirty years or so, what young people think of the Religious Right is what they think about evangelicals and even Christians in general.

That's why some of us believe that leaders in the Religious Right have, in a classic case of gaining the world and losing the soul, successfully gained political clout but helped lose our next generation.

But even so, a diagnosis of the evaporation of Christian commitment in the West and a prescription about how to respond must go deeper than complaining about the mistakes of the Religious Right. There are many factors, and they run deep. As for prescriptions, yes, we need more Bible--but we also need a better, more holistic and profound understanding of the Bible and what it says about justice, compassion, the future, power, poverty, money, war, sex, and the kingdom of God. Yes, we need more maturity--but we also need a better and more holistic maturity, a maturity willing to face the historic and social realities of our so-called Christian past: a past that includes anti-Semitism, racism, chauvinism, holocaust, colonialism, apartheid, slavery, attempted genocide of native peoples, and much else that is ugly and calls not for excuses and minimization but for forthright repentance. Yes, we need more discernment and missional engagement--but we also need better discernment that goes beyond name-calling and making pronouncements on two or three issues.

The data presented here can help us greatly in this regard, prompting us to discern how deep and serious the problems are, so that our missional engagement in the coming years won't be more of the same.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Turning the Page...

I'll be honest. I wasn't looking forward to this year's Opening Day of baseball season as much as I have in years past. Not because I'm not still a die hard baseball fan with a raging passion for the Phillies, but because it's exceptionally rare - especially in Philadelphia - to begin a new season with nothing to improve on from the year before. No talk of past failures. No "this is finally gonna be our year" battle cries. No rehashing of how we need to get over the hurdle or to the next level. After all the highs, lows, joys, and frustrations that went into last year's season, only one team was left standing at the conclusion of the 2008 World Series.

Which brings us to today...

Opening Day 2009 between the defending World Champion Phillies and the Atlanta Braves. The pregame ceremony contained a ton of festivities, highlighted by the official raising of the 2008 World Championship flag. And with that, the page on last year had officially been turned. Unfortunately, once the first game of '09 began, it was an all Braves show. Phillies starter Brett Myers had trouble from the get-go and surrendered three home runs (the toughest one of all to a 22 year old rookie in his first Major League at bat). Even worse, the powerful Phillies offense was completely silenced and choked in every clutch situation, save for a 9th inning RBI single. In many ways, it was reminiscent of a major two month hitting drought the team experienced last year while the rest of the division played so poorly that the Phils managed to stay in 1st place despite barely scoring any runs. Hopefully this will not continue to be the trend as I doubt such a luxury will be afforded this year in a completely revamped NL East.

Obviously, no need to draw any major conclusions just yet as this was merely game one of a 162 game season. The silver lining to this loss is that the Phils got hammered on Opening Day of last year's storied season as well. In fact, the Phils have only won three Opening Days this decade, so today's defeat was really just in keeping with tradition. Anyway, the Phils have officially begun their title defense, so here's hoping 2009 represents another fun and entertaining summer of quality baseball in Philly!