Archive for December, 2006

A 15 Minute Tribute To The Past 1,000 Years

Sunday, December 31st, 2006

Due to the wonders of technology, I am currently celebrating the onslaught of 2007 while this entry goes live. In fact, because of the extraordinary weirdness of existence, it is already 1am for me because I am in Germany. But seeing as this site is very prejudiced in favour of the GMT, even if you are reading from Australia or Canada or anywhere else, you have to deal with my marvelling from my time zone.

This is a fluffy Zoomtard to finish out 2006. Here are 100 things we didn’t know a year ago. I find that very presumptuous from the people at BBC. How did they know that I didn’t know that the TV chef had swam the English Channel in his youth.

Although the season of dinner parties has passed, here are some killer opening gambits for future conversational battles you may be engaged in.

Finally, this is a late entrant in the best site of 2006 awards. The Nietzsche Family Circus puts random Friedrich quotes to banal “Love Is…” style cartoons. I love this site. I adore it. It is spectacularly brilliant.

My favourite song of the year was Oh My God by Jars of Clay. The best album I heard was Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins’ Rabbit Fur Coat. The best movies of the year were Children of Men, Little Miss Sunshine and Stranger Than Fiction. The finest sporting moment was that point in the Brasil France game where Zidane just bounced the ball over peoples heads and held it under his armpit for a couple of seconds while pinching Ronaldinho’s cheeks like the little upstart being taught a lesson by his superior that he in fact is. Or was. Maybe only Stig and I caught that in the televised match. Sufjan’s gig was the best of the year. The best book I read this year was, predictably enough a Tom Wright book. It isn’t one of the much-heralded ones though but a little short book called For All God’s Worth. In its 100 or so pages there is packed such deep reflection, profound insight and thought provoking turns of phrase to last a lifetime. The biggest let down of the year, book wise, was J-Pod by Douglas Coupland. It is so bad, and it is by so beloved an author that we just can’t say anymore about it. The weirdest cultural experience of the year has to be the Ukrainian opera I attended in Kharkiv in the depths of January. The snow piled up outside the doors while we sat and watched a great huge cast of actors sing a plot I could just about follow in a language I couldn’t hope to comprehend to a crowd smaller than the cast. It was great. I mean, the theatre was lovely and my nose hairs weren’t freezing for the period of time that I was in the room which was a pleasant change from the rest of that very very very very very very cold day but I do wonder how I end up in places sometimes. The best new discovery of the year has to be cold takeout pizza for breakfast. What a freaking delight.

Well I have to go small talk with someone who actually calls himself the Magician and his teutonic girlfriend Hilke. I hope 2007 has a lot more genetic modification, Dawson’s Creek reunions and a new series of Killanaskully.

Your Correspondent, Hilary Duff’s Body Double

As Usual, There Was Quite A Lot Of Snow In Africa This Christmas

Saturday, December 30th, 2006

The Zoomtard Christmas was spent with my two 2 year old nephews, ONE singing Razorlight, the other pretending to be Diego or Mr Plod or Scoop Truck or a snake who devours chocolates or a fireman extinguishing a black doctor who is on fire. There is nothing quite as entertaining, yet discovered, than watching a two year old with a West Cork accent sing, “Everybody just looks the same but then last night was so much fun and now your sheets are dirty the streets are dirty too but blah blah childish murmuring IN THE MORNING!” while dancing around like a more flexible Thom Yorke and air guitaring as best he can.

For not very happy reasons we had to drive to Belfast and then make our first ever trip to Jaybercrow’s Coleraine and then on to Sligo to visit the dreaded in-laws. Cue funny in-law joke.

Q. What do you do if you miss your Mother In Law?

A. Reload and try again!

Excellent. Now that is out of the way, I can tell my story. All that driving meant we had to have some music to drown out the silence of our sham marriage. For whatever weird and festive reason we ended up listening to every album Jenny Lewis has ever released and all of Bright Eyes. Not only is this very definitely a Zoomtard-centric music selection (Neuro would only ever to choose the Gorillaz mashed up against Sarah Brightman) but it gave me an opportunity for an epiphany.

Yes. That is seasonal. An epiphany. I realised while listening to the complete works of these two fine people why I do the work I do. I am a missionary. I want to explain the story of God to people so they can find out their own story. When I listen to these two great honest musicians I hear for myself better than I could ever have said it, what lies at the heart of a life that doesn’t know what its for. They say the things I would have said if I had been perceptive and skilled enough to back when I was an angry atheistic teenaged socialist. It was a great wake up call to me now as an angry Christian immature socialist.

Both musicians have a catalogue that wrestles with meaninglessness. A sense of rebellion mirrored by a sense of inadequacy. A desperate desire to satisfy the hunger they feel even if it harms. The sense of impending doom that permeates their life when things get quiet. There is barely a song that Bright Eyes has written that doesn’t reference God, or ethics, or aesthetics or any of the things that Christianity claims to be all about. Listening to them, I was not just awe struck by his poetry or her stunning voice but by the God-shaped hole, the yearning for the ultimate, the desire to love and to be loved, the pain at not being loved and not loving, the sheer God-hunger of it all. They are both rejecting a god that no one ever claimed existed but missing the God they need and want.

At one point, desperate, Oberst sings, “won’t somebody please explain it?!” That’s what I want to do. That’s what I’d love my life to be about. I am not an expert. But I think I can explain it. Or at least, I can introduce you to the explanation. He’s a good friend of mine.

Your Correspondent, An Internet buffoon

Let Earth Receive Her King

Monday, December 25th, 2006

This Saviour reigns. Let every heart prepare Him room.

Your Correspondent, Fails to do this night justice

Get Behind Me Santa

Saturday, December 23rd, 2006

As I write, a worship music rehearsal takes place in my house. In an effort to drown out the holiness I have donned my cans and put on the most evil music I have. No, not Eminem. Jewel’s teeny pop album (Be sure to check out the hilarious user review!). Satan and Jehovah do battle, right here in my hallway.

You might be wondering why I have a copy of Jewel’s techno-tweenie album. No need to fear. I don’t.

I do however have copies of her first two albums because it is amazing what a teenage crush can convince you is musical.

Did you know Jewel is the best selling poet in history? Please, let you never again utter any shite about a belief in the natural goodness of humanity.

Her first collection is called A Night Without Armour. Eavan Boland she is not.



Autographed Velvet Elvis, originally uploaded by Zoomtard.

Rob Bell is the founding pastor of a church in Grand Rapids, Michigan called Mars Hill. Its a funny story really. He opened the doors and about 3000 people showed up. That makes me feel really good as I plant a church in the suburbs of Dublin and we cheer victoriously if a stray dog wanders into the service. One morning God really blessed us and a swallow got caught in the building and he increased the numbers listening to my sermon by 45%.

Maths works differently in church statistics by the way so don’t try to work that one out.

Anyway, a key part of Rob Bell’s effectiveness is that he is a legend. His sermons are rambling, conversational genius. It is really bad for me to listen to him because he is what I want to be like at the pulpit. You know that scene in Fr. Ted where Dougal sings in the mirror pretending to be Boy George singing Karma Chameleon? (Amazingly it is not on YouTube. Get to it nerdlingers!) Well us preacher types do that too except we pretend to be bigwig church leaders.

How pathetic is that? Take a moment and savour it.

Anyway, Rob Bell was in Ireland for some reason some time that I don’t know about and so I wasn’t there. Good thing too. You never would read the end of it on here. But my replacement Wylie was there and she got Rob to sign a copy of his book (which I was inspired by here last year). It must be very weird to be a church leader who signs books for people.

The reason why Rob Bell is very very well known is for his series of videos he calls Nooma. Nooma is a Koine Greek joke. Ha! Brilliant. They are all about 10 minutes long. They cost about $300,000 to make. Us Christians buy them for about €10. We watch them and we go, “Oh that is a good point he makes there”. Then we rub our chins and discuss. Its great really. And now thanks to YouTube you get to do it too. This one up here is called Kickball. It is not as good as Music which is the best one but you still have to pay for that one…

Alistair.Adversia is a very fine, intimidatingly good in fact, website of a St. Andrews theology student. Via him via an Aussie site I read this great slice by Umberto Eco. It is pretty condemning for much of the blogosphere blog writing out there.

[There is] another view common to bad writers – namely, that one writes only for oneself. Do not trust those who say so: they are dishonest and lying narcissists.

There is only one thing that you write for yourself, and that is a shopping list. It helps to remember what you have to buy, and when you have bought everything you can destroy it, because it is no use to anyone else. Every other thing that you write, you write to say something to someone.

I have often asked myself: would I still write today if they told me that tomorrow a cosmic catastrophe would destroy the universe, so that no one could read tomorrow what I wrote today?

My first instinct is to reply no. Why write if no one will read me? My second instinct is to say yes, but only because I cherish the desperate hope that, amid the galactic catastrophe, some star might survive, and in the future someone might decipher my signs. In that case writing, even on the eve of the Apocalypse, would still make sense.

One writes only for a reader. Whoever says he writes only for himself is not necessarily lying. It is just that he is frighteningly atheistic. Even from a rigorously secular point of view.

Unhappy and desperate the writer who cannot address a future reader.

I think that is some mighty fine writing there. Worthy of being read. I began Zoomtard without any hopes that anyone would ever find anything worthy to read here and I would feel a need to remind Eco that bad, unhappy, desperate writers only become good enough to read by writing and that this alone justifies the sphere of blogs sub-editors nauseatingly constantly refer to as the blogosphere. Eco, being one of the world’s top 3 intellectuals (that is even weirder than autographing church leaders) would be smart enough to point out that his target isn’t people who write badly but people who write badly and deceive themselves by saying that it doesn’t bother them if no one reads it or how someone might read it.

One can write badly by say, letting your sentences run on and on without any punctuation or indication of tone or pace or anything at all like that which capitalises on the hidden power of language or you can be a bad writer by using words artlessly so that clashing syllables juxtaposed by brutal syntax make a noise in your head or you can be a bad writer by using really really really really bad descriptive terms a hundred million times until your eyes bleed blood red blood or you can be a bad writer by writing about boring things like modern dance. Another way of being a bad writer is to write with bad ethics. Your style can be fine, excellent even but if your intentions or considerations are mis-placed (or as Eco suggests non-existent) then you can fail to communicate anything of worth. Saying that you didn’t intend to communicate anything of worthy doesn’t then make your contribution worthy.

Let me spell this out in case my writing sucks. You can be a bad writer by being bad at writing or by being bad while writing.

I really need Santa to bring me some books on aesthetics. Of course, if Santa actually did that this would be the worst Christmas ever. What I really want is a BB Gun.

Your Correspondent, Knows everything about females, everything except the details

A Promotion For Your Dad

Saturday, December 9th, 2006

“Dramatic Irony- Its always going to fuck with you.”
So the best movie of the year, so far, in my opinion, (as if that needs to be added) is Stranger Than Fiction. I haven’t seen a movie that is such a combination of acting, script, visually arresting presentation and superbly deep themes since Eternal Sunshine and before that Fight Club. This film exhilirated me. It tells the story of a man who starts to hear voices and that is all you need to know. I could waffle endlessly about postmodernism and the conquest of distance over time and especially the Incarnation but I won’t do it now because:

    I don’t want to torment you
    I will one day be a post-grad divinity student and I need to save it up for then.

If my glowing and visibly excited response isn’t enough for you, remember that Maggie Gyllenhaal is in it. Perceptive readers of Zoomtard know that she is up there with Jennifer Garner as the most zoomjectified woman in the world. Did you like how I made a flimsy joke out of my lechery by changing objectify to zoomjectify so as to obscure the creepiness of it all? You can’t learn that kind of skill at seminary. You hear that Jaybercrow? Seminary isn’t going to help you.

Come on! Let’s boogey to the elf dance!
Amongst the finest birthday gifts I got this year (and there were many classics) was the Songs For Christmas Singalong by Sufjan Stevens. The first three EPs of this 5-disc set were made available online 2 years ago but now he has gathered all the Christmas songs together in one box with a cartoon, some stickers, the chords for the songs, a video and 3 essays. It is quite the spectacular presentation.



sufjan-cartoon, originally uploaded by Zoomtard.

I love the essays that come with it. In one, Santa Sufjan writes,

It [Christmas music] intersects a supernatural phenomenon (the incarnation of God) with the sentimental mush of our mortal lives (presents, toys, Christmas tree ornaments, snow globes, cranberry sauce), leaving in its pathological wake a particular state of mind one can only describe as “that warm, fuzzy feeling.”

Or:

And at the very center of the universe I saw the Christ Child, an infant baby, helplessy crying, wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in the manger, trembling and suckling and cooing and burping and crying and laughing and giggling and spitting up breast milk all over the place. This was the mysterious incarnation of God, who came to Planet Earth not as a Divine Warrior, or a Supernatural Sorcerer or an Army of Alien Androids, but as a helpless newborn baby, probably not much bigger than a six pack of acrylic tube socks. Or maybe a twelve pack…

…to consider the immeasurable gift of life, the incarnation of God, the Christ Child, a newborn baby, lying in a manger, wrapped in swaddling clothes, who would conquer the world not with brute force, but with love.

I know I can’t say it better or more interestingly than that. Let us pray that IVP publish a book by Sufjan in 2007!

Links hold the chain of the Internet around your neck
Do Copenhagen have their annual Top 50 music videos up for 2006, all with videos available to enjoy via the wonder of You Tube.

Stephen Williams and David Livingstone, two brainy academics up there in Queens University put on a series of lectures for the Christian Institute, the big wig brainy section of the PCI. (I work for the PCI). The lectures are called 20th Century Voices and they discuss the effect that people like Foucault, Said, Kuhn and Kafka have had on how we view life. Those are topics we all need to be familiar with so that we can have interesting dinner conversations in ten years when we have settled for suburbian humdrummery and we need to act clever at the party you host to bring some sparkle to the tedium we call life. So take the opportunity to hear these talks now!

An excellect game to pass a minute or two: how many countries can you identify on the world map. I got 65 when I played. I don’t know if that is good until I hear what you scored!

Your Correspondent, Edited By Neuro For Awfulness

At Times Like This, Only Radiohead Will Do

Thursday, December 7th, 2006

So I am not at the Tom Wright lecture at the moment. It is harder for me to imagine than for you, I can assure you. I was already having a bad day before a series of traffic accidents meant the journey from Leixlip to Heuston Station took two and a half hours. Since the lecture had already begun before my delightful car battled through the crowds of other atheological cars to reach the quays, I decided to give up and turn for home. Sickeningly, I got back to Maynooth via the back roads in just under 30 minutes.

So while Tom Wright was “waffling, irrelevant and obscure as usual” (quotes a jokingDr. Patrick Mitchel of the Irish Bible Institute in a text message!) I was putting books on my office shelves. That took a lot of energy so now I am listening to a morbid mix of Thom Yorke, Radiohead and Gillian Welch while writing this and playing Football Manager. The fact that I am drinking beer alone should round this picture of patheticness off nicely. Also, I spilt some beer on my tshirt. How did I end up wallowing in my own pestulance like this.

I am so miserable, I am even making words up now.

I got into a less than excellent conversation with a congregation member about Genesis 1 today. She is a lovely woman who I dearly love and it broke my heart to see her face when I told her that I believed the universe was 14 billion years old, Earth was formed 4.5 billion years ago and humans cropped up sometime about 100,000 years ago, give or take 50,000 years. But I also believe the Bible! It was over lunch, which was doubly traumatic because it was all so pleasant before the unpleasantness. It is this part of church work that probably most makes me want to hide away in academia some day in the future when I might be qualified to do that. This part being the part where you accidentaly scare people by just talking about you know, stuff.

The literal reading of Scripture is probably the biggest chip on my chip-laden shoulders. Since I had meant to write five posts about Tom Wright this week (before workload and hypocrisy took over) I feel like sharing with you a killer point he repeatedly makes. In 1,000 years some history post-grad will happen upon newspaper clippings and news segments about the fall of the Berlin Wall. Distant from events and without any context, he or she may be more than able to mis-interpret these messages. When he reads that this was “literally an earth-shattering event” and that it “rocked the whole continent” he may conclude that the Wall fell because of an earthquake. The problem is two-fold; firstly all meaning is defined by context and secondly the use of the word “literal” has many different meanings, all of them metaphorical.

For example, I learnt the word literal in April 1989 when Ireland beat USSR 1-0 at Landsdowne Road. Early in the first half Steve Staunton scored a beautiful free kick and my brother said that Stan the Man “literally fired the ball into the top of the net”. He did not mean that Steve Staunton rolled a canon onto the field and loaded the Adidas Mundial into it before aiming it at the top right corner. In the same way, to say that my boss is literally as bad as Adolf Hitler or that I literally wanted the earth to swallow me up is not to mean that my boss has a moustache or that I wanted a bogburst to take place under my feet.

Tom Wright, people. He never waffles. He is never irrelevant. And nothing stays obscure once he starts writing.

Mr. Williamson has a big brainy site (this is the kind of site that makes Zoomtard seem infantile!) and he has a great post just laying out the very real potential for Dubya to make more stupid evil decisions in relation to Iran. What he doesn’t realise is that Iran’s position on the Jews has changed recently. Malcolm Gladwell, in a slight tangent, has a great post on how we might develop a hierarchy of racism.

Your Correspondent, Exploring himself…and Asia

Quit! You Hypocrite!

Tuesday, December 5th, 2006

I was talking to the boss a few weeks ago and as usual, the conversation was riveting. That is the church-boss-guy, not the Big Guy Upstairs. Church-boss-guy, on his many polymathic travels, once sat through a post-grad course taught by the recently disgraced American Evangelical minister, Ted Haggard.

Allegedly, Haggard was an exceptional communicator and a very gifted teacher. He also had a lot of very valuable things to say about church unity that influence church-boss-guy to this day. When Neuro and I heard reports about a leading Christian leader being exposed on the radio we were on holidays and we kept missing who it was. The news reporters kept saying he was the leading light of evangelicalism so we worried it was Bill Hybels or Tim Keller or John Piper. We didn’t know who Ted Haggard was. That is the first key thing to learn from this shambles of a disaster. If you rely on media reporting to understand Christianity at all, nevermind a narrow corner of it like American Evangelical Christianity, then you are on for a hiding even worse than if you rely on media reporting for your grasp of physics. A BBC reporter comes to report the story as carefully as she can but she has no experience of the huge world she has stepped into and she can’t tell crap from gold. If the crap makes a better story then she is not wrong to report it. But Haggard wasn’t the leader of American evangelicalism. What he was, was an influential political lobbyist for a strange ginormous beast that seeks to represent something called “Christian Family Values” to the lawmakers of the State.

The discussion that follows from that will take forever to disentangle and for me to get clear on. But suffice to say that overall, I think that political movement is a parasite on the back of Christianity which cannot be authentic if it is cosying up with the powers that be in that manner. But its for another day.

What I want to address from the Haggard debacle is the nature of hypocrisy. Everyone called him a hypocrite. Neuro and I shook our heads and tut-tutted and said, “such hypocrisy” under our breath. Imagine that if you will. Imagine that green hill of moral superiority under the bright shining sun that we were perched upon. We look at home there, don’t we? It doesn’t surprise you that we would end up in that position, does it?

Well you’re judging us now! YOU HYPOCRITE! So shut up!!!

The best comment I found on Haggard was from a theological journal called First Things where Robert Miller wrote brilliantly about how he finds the desire amongst Christians to distance themselves from Haggard morally perilous. Rather than slink away, he argues, we should be standing beside him. Amen to that! It seems so obvious but it doesn’t appear to be what is happening. (Of course for all we know there might be a circle of concerned and passionate friends guiding Haggard right now, indeed the letter suggests there are).

But Miller also argues that Haggard is not a hypocrite. I was going to write a Zoomtard about this 4 weeks ago but I had to stop and think about it. Back then this seemed like a reasonable argument. Here is what he says.

A man is not a hypocrite because he violates a moral norm in which he sincerely believes. President Clinton, I am sure, believes that adultery is wrong, and he violated the norm against it in his dalliance with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky; but this made him an adulterer, not a hypocrite.

An example of a real hypocrite is the acclaimed novelist German Grass who has spent his life calling for NAZI criminals to be chased down but it turns out he willingly joined the SS. This is a perfect description of hypocrisy. Miller defines it thus:

The hypocrite pretends to accept and live by one set of values when, in fact, he accepts and lives by quite different ones… the corporate executive who cultivates a reputation for honesty and lectures the business community on ethical issues but meanwhile engages in a scheme of financial fraud over many years, hoping to keep his ill-gotten gains when he retires to Bimini. Such people pretend to live in accordance with values that they do not hold and have no desire to hold. Their whole lives are lies, lies about what they think the human good is. That species of lying is hypocrisy.

Someone who says one thing and does another is not a hypocrite. He or she is a sinner. That is all we really do- we set levels of behaviour for ourselves and others and then we proceed to miss them entirely. I work for a church. I spend a lot of my life talking to God, (or an empty room), thinking about God (or a clever idea I made up) and figuring out ways to explain it to other people. A part of this is to say things like, “Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before people, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.” Then I go and buy a pair of [Red] Converse and wear them boldly with my Make Trade Fair t-shirt. That doesn’t make me a hypocrite. It makes me a badly dressed bad teacher.

I think Miller is right. To use “hypocrite” so broadly as to mean anytime anyone fails to meet their own standards, then in a very real way you can address everyone at all times with the moniker “Hypocrite”. Defining hypocrisy so that any apparent contradiction in the internal logic of a person’s ethics qualifies them for it makes hypocrite mean the same as sinner. Instead, hypocrisy is a very specific and particularly virulent expression of sin. I am certainly a hypocrite, but not because I wear my Coldplay-endorsed garments while preaching on the Sermon on the Mount. The true nature of my hypocrisy, like Gunter Grass’ hypocrisy is likely to never be seen by even you, my beloved internets.

But then I got to thinking about Haggard. He spent a lot of his time organising a political movement that sought to ban the civil rights of homosexuals to develop state-acknowledged monogomous relationships. Meanwhile, he saw a gay prostitute over a prolonged period of time. This seems to me to be a classic and clear-cut case of capital H Hypocrisy. In the apology letter that I link to above, Haggard writes about his internal battle with homosexuality. There are a number of worrying things in the letter, including a very low view of “the assassin within”, an emphasis on church members continuing to give money to the church and a request to forgive the man who outed him (why would we need to forgive him for bringing the light into darkness??). To dwell on them would make this a very different website so I will just send you to the JollyBlogger who will teach you about grace.

Two important links to make, both Gallic-inspired. The first is a regular call out, “props” if you will, for France A Million, the astoundingly readable blog you should spend the next 15 minutes procrastinating over. Also, my little brother, who should really have a blog like Zoomtard but where he sings hymns to economics instead of theology, linked me to musicovery, a French site that takes last.fm and pandora and does what you always wanted but never had the gall to dream of. (See what I did there, gall and Gaul…) It is web radio for the future. Unlike France, which mostly is a country for the past.

Your Correspondent, Can’t keep his eyes on the prize.

This Is The Sound Of Settling

Monday, December 4th, 2006

Tom Wright is in town at the end of the week to talk about the Da Vinci Code so I thought, in the fashion of the old guy from the Fast Show, this week I will mostly be writing about the Bishop of Durham.

Over the weekend I read a lovely little book he put together to accompany a BBC series in 1996 called The Original Jesus. It is a neat little book when you consider the content. If you consider the design and layout of the book however your brain starts to bleed and you will have to spend the rest of the day with cotton wool in your ears. He asks a question at one point,

Can I, as a historian, say that Jesus is God?

This is a question he gets asked fairly often once people find out about his academic credentials. I love his answer and so I will share it here. To ask that question is to imply that we have certain knowledge about what God is like (or not like). We know an awful lot about Jesus, about when he lived and how he died, the things he taught and the big things he did. We know what he believed he was doing and we know how he thought he had to do it. But we know very little, if anything, about God that can be agreed upon. The Christian should not be preoccupied therefore with the question “Is Jesus God?” because for is “What does Jesus tell us about God?”

The first question assumed some kind of God. Maybe an old guy with a beard who watches us like a kind hearted voyuer and is very concerned with some rules and laws that he thinks matter. But that God and Jesus can’t be reconciled. When Christians say they believe Jesus is divine we can’t meant that Jesus is God in the sense that we imagine him to be. We mean he is God in the sense that God is. Our ideas about God don’t impact on the reality of God; the God revealed most fully in Jesus.

This point probably touches on the whole question of whether the God of the Old Testament is different from He of the New Testament. As a Christian I say “hell no!” But starting at Jesus might help others to see this. The God who is revealed in Jesus is big enough to create the universe and sustain it. He is big enough to take on death and defeat it. But he is tender and compassionate to everyone he meets. He is the person who meets the Samaritan woman and welcomes her back into healthy relationship with God, with herself and with her community. He is the person who saves the woman caught in adultery, respects her and frees her to live a new life. He is the person who embraces Peter, who has denied him. This might seem obvious to the Christians out there but I think it is profound: Jesus is God with a human face.

The God of the Old Testament is the same as this God, Jesus. He raises his people up to reach great heights of justice. He longs and laments for his people like a cuckolded husband. He protects his people like a Mother Hen. The God of the New and Old Testament “is most clearly recognisable as God when he dies on the cross, sharing and bearing the weight of the world’s evil and pain”.

Is there enough evidence to say that Jesus is God? Turn the question around and think on the life, death and after-afterlife of Jesus and ask what this tells us of God. This Jesus-God isn’t a prime mover who has gone off on his lunch break, or a strict disciplinarian waiting for you to mess up. He is not merely concerned with rule-following and doctrine. This God we see in Jesus is flesh and blood lit by the love of God, a human being bearing the sacrificial love of God to us. Personal, accessible and openly seeking to relate to us.

Your Correspondent, You should probably drive him home.

On Content

Friday, December 1st, 2006

It is coming up to the three year anniversary of this website. Back when it began, it was a weird and great gift from a friend who didn’t have alot of money. I can’t remember if I was still doing my degree or was into my Masters by then but it was a different Zoomtard writing. Now I am married, I work for a church (!) and I have quite a few grey hairs making me look awfully dignified. Reading back on that first entry it is interesting (to me at least) that Mimi Smartypants had played such a role in my starting to write.

Mimi is usually off being a mom or tending to her career or engaged in more worthwhile activities like doodling imaginary subway systems on napkins as she watches paint dry these days and so she doesn’t write as often but when she does, it is always a treat. Neuro and I used to debate about whether she made things up because the stories she told were so damn funny. But as I have enjoyed her site over the last few years I have seen clearly why it is so enjoyable. The stories are good but there are two key elements:

    Her exceptional writing style
    Her approach to what goes on the site.

For me, anyway, these two things make Smartypants the Queen of the Internet. That is just a ceremonial title. Like if you call a Bishop a Prince of the Church or if you call the Intel employee at your party the Nerdbag. It doesn’t confer any actual authority on her and she can’t boss us around or demand that we put her face on our cash or that we should build her palaces. She doesn’t even get a crown. The way she can slip Focault into a story on the chaos of a creche makes me deeply envious of her learning and her light touch. But then sometimes her paragraphs unravel into self-questioning meditations on why she is writing this down and sharing and she always comes back to the same conclusion. Which is:

If there is one place where she can write whatever she likes it is her personal journal.

So I wanted Zoomtard to be a place where I would write whatever I liked and didn’t have to worry too much about its worth and maybe just maybe in years to come I would happen across an idea I had had or thoughts about a particular book and it would be helpful to have written it somewhere. Looking back on posts I made last year or even last week I often am shocked at the bad writing or the sloppy thought. I have lots of regrets hidden in these pages.

But something I didn’t dare hope has happened through Zoomtard. People who aren’t me, my wife or my best friends actually come and read. They enjoy it. Well, they enjoy some of it and chew through the monster episodes. I have made contacts with Mongolian monks, kept up with Ukrainian colleagues and bounced ideas against Canada-bound mentor types. Its actually been very useful. When the site was initially started back in the day (this is what it looked like) I was careful to protect my identity. Zoomtard was a deliberate alter-ego. As the months have gone by that has slipped so now if you know my name you’ll find Zoomtard. (It isn’t so bad yet that if you know Zoomtard you can find my name!) But as it has slipped and the content has become more transparent, I have had more and more feedback from people.

Smartypants is right, as usual. The private website is a very public, yet entirely personal communication device. I decide what goes up here. I decide whats get edited here. This is a patch of territory over which I am the autocrat. If I want to turn this site into a typical blog where I tell you what I did today then I can do that. If I want to turn it into a movie review site, then I can do that. If I want to turn it into a site where I just talk about how beautiful Hilary Swank is then… wait! Now that’s an idea!

But what I have realised over the last couple of months as more people have commented on how they have been helped/stretched/encouraged/bored by my theological sketchpad is that the stuff I can write on my little space counts out in the real world. If I can help people through the stuff on Zoomtard then it follows that being an asshole will hurt people. I know that I have hurt people in the past with off-the-cuff comments I have made. If I am in complete control of what is written here than I am completely responsible for the impact my words might have- positive or negative.

I don’t think I am writing the most interesting Zoomtard ever, but you know something, who cares?! Well maybe you do right now but studies have shown that you have already clicked away. In fact, if you haven’t clicked away, maybe you need to address the vast quantities of free time you have in your life. The internet finds work for idle hands.

The reality which I guess I am trying to avoid here is that I can’t really write anything here if I wasn’t willing to say it. The interface gives the illusion of security where I sometimes dream of unleashing a scathing attack on something but I’ve never had a real go at the fundie Baptist minister I disagree with or mocked the sillyness of a prominent Dublin church. I wouldn’t be willing to drop my crap on them in person, or in the pages of a PCI publication so I can’t really get away with acting like an arse and then just saying “its just a website”. If I did that I’d have to tell people who I respect like Stephen and Bob and the much missed Planet Potato that “its just a website” when they find something good in what I write.

So I think what I am saying is content matters. Over the next few weeks I’ll be experimenting with shorter, more regular content and see what happens.

Your Correspondent, Can’t help but thinking you have something to teach him