May 30 2007

Divisiveness vs. Inclusiveness in Christianity

Jamie Barrows


A friend of mine posted a commentary on his blog about preference and bias, and how it affects the Christian church today. His commentary really got me thinking about the tendency in the modern church to go to extremes of either separation, or inclusiveness. It doesn’t seem like there are many churches in between.
As many of you know, I went to a Christian College here in Pensacola. Pensacola Christian College sees itself as a spiritual leader in the Independent Baptist movement. And the truth is, that they are. Though, even though they won’t admit it, they share that position with Bob Jones University.

When I first went to PCC, I really didn’t know much about the college. I don’t come from a Baptist background, and hadn’t heard much about them. There were a few adjustments, but my church background was pretty conservative, so I didn’t have a big problem fitting in. The worship styles and daily living standards, were not much different from those in the Presbyterian denominations (OPC and PCA) I had grown up in. But what I wasn’t used to, was the extremes of separation the Independent Baptist movement goes to. Music, books, instruments, politics, Bible versions, clothing styles, preaching styles, praying styles, associations, lack of associations, and the list goes on. It seemed to me that they were actively looking for reasons to separate and vilify their fellow Christians. Most of the things they were separating over were petty and stupid, but if you suggested such, people assumed that that meant you didn’t believe in “separation.” The constant divisiveness and fighting really bothered me.

After I graduated, I did a lot of church hopping as I looked for a church I felt comfortable with. As a consequence I ended up visiting a lot of churches that didn’t believe in separating at all. So important doctrines and standards were thrown out in favor of presenting a united Christian front. All the emphasis was centered around being a big family. Which is good in a way. After all, we are a big family and will be together in heaven. But by ignoring key doctrines and beliefs in favor of unity, you open the door to a lot of problems and heresies that can seriously mess up peoples lives. The message seemed to be that in order to associate with people who believed differently, we had to accept that their beliefs were just as correct as ours. Even when they were in direct contradiction with our beliefs.

What is really needed, is a middle ground. We need to recognize and acknowledge our differences without vilifying each other over them. We should be able to meet on common ground whenever it won’t compromise our beliefs. Both sides fall into the trap of equating association with validation. There is no reason why you can’t associate with someone without agreeing with all his actions and beliefs.

May 23 2007

A new motto?

Jamie Barrows

Sunflower seeds

A friend of mine posted this pic on her profile in facebook. I couldn’t resist posting it here.
I love the motto on the side. “Eat spit be happy” I wonder who’s idea it was to put something like that on their packaging. I am definitely going to write this on the whiteboard in my office tomorrow morning. Just to see what kind of reactions I get from my coworkers.

May 23 2007

Plants and Happy thoughts

Jamie Barrows


The other day I was working with a coworker on a big project. Other than some initial checking of email and voice mail in the morning, I was pretty much in his office all day and wasn’t spending any time in my office. The project we were working on just didn’t want to come together. So we were both pretty stressed out. Towards the end of the day, I finally decided that we were going to have to take a break from that project and get back to it first thing in the morning.

So I headed back to my office to again check email and voice mail, and to wrap things up so I could head home. As soon as I entered my office, I felt so much less stressed and more relaxed. It’s not that my office is really any nicer than his. It has the same basic decor of his office. Same carpet, same color walls, even the same door. And it isn’t that I was relieved to get away from the project we had been working on all day. I knew I was going right back to it in the morning. If anything I was actually dreading getting back to my desk knowing that things would have piled up in my email while I was away from it all day.

The only real difference between our offices, is the plants. I’ve filled my office with live plants, and it makes such a difference. Just having green living things around seems to ease away stress and frustration. I’ve done the same for my house, putting plants all over the living and dining area. It really makes a big difference.

May 16 2007

Learning a Foreign language

Jamie Barrows

Mexico Map

For the first nine years of my life, I lived in Mexico. When I was nine, my parents and I moved back to the US. At the time, I was fully bilingual in Spanish and English. In the years since, that ability has atrophied to the point where I can make myself understood in Spanish with some difficulty, but am not at all comfortable with the language.

The problem is that neither of my parents were originally from Mexico, and so Spanish was never really spoken in my home growing up. Once we were no longer living in a place were it was used constantly, I had no reason to use it and keep it up.

I considered taking Spanish classes in college, but laziness kept me from getting the motivation to sign up for more work. Which is probably a good thing, since if I had signed up, that same laziness probably would have kept me from getting anything useful out of the class. Oh don’t get me wrong, I would have passed the class. But I would have done it using the bare minimum of work to get a B. Since I can still get the pronunciation right, and I do have some vocabulary, that wouldn’t have been hard. The problem is that once the class was over, I would still be in roughly the same position I was when I started. So anyway, I never did sign up for a class.

At this point my Spanish is very rusty. I can understand, and read it with a bit effort. And I can also speak it with about the same effort. My accent is about the only thing that hasn’t gotten rusty. I have no trouble pronouncing words, even ones I’ve never heard before. Sadly, my very rusty and half forgotten vocabulary is that of a nine year old. So there are a lot of words I’ve never heard.

I’ve decided though, that I am going to put some effort into updating my vocabulary and into practicing so that i will become more comfortable in the language. To that end, I’ve taken to attempting to read, hear, and speak more Spanish.

The reading isn’t that hard to find. Wikipedia has thousands of articles written in Spanish that I can spend an hour or two reading each day. And if I get tired of Wikipedia, there are tons of Spanish websites and blogs I can read.

Hearing Spanish is a little harder. I did find a few podcasts in Spanish that I can listen to. You can find most of them here: Foreign Language Lesson Podcast Collection
None of them are all that great. What would be best is some spanish television or radio. I’m going to go on an active search for some this week.

Finding places to speak it is almost impossible. I just don’t know very many people who speak spanish besides my parents. And I don’t have anywhere I can go to just hang out with people and speak it. I’m definatley going to have to work harder on this one.

Hopefully, with a little work, I can upgrade my rusty spanish skills. Of course, laziness may kill this whole project before it really accomplishes anything. We’ll see how long my motivation lasts.

May 13 2007

Political Correctness and Movie Ratings

Jamie Barrows

Sherlock Holmes No Smoking

Recently the MPAA, under a lot of pressure from the anti tobacco lobbying groups, agreed to begin using the presence of smoking in a movie as one of the criteria in its rating system. Previously whether characters in a movie smoked was not considered when rating a movie. Read the story Here. While they haven’t yet committed to it,they are under heavy pressure to give an automatic R rating to any movie that depicts smoking under any conditions besides those showing the smoker dying or in the hospital of smoking related health issues.

I’m no fan of smoking. I think it is a nasty and expensive habit. Cigarettes cost a great deal. And yes, I do know that a lot of that cost is artificially inflated by law to try to force people to quit. But that doesn’t change the fact that under our current system, they are very expensive. The other thing is that they make you smell pretty bad. Unless you are used to the smell, it is actually nauseating. So if you are already hooked on smoking, you really should do your best to quit just for those two reasons. But of course it gets worse. Smoking is also extremely bad for you, and will likely kill you. So you really should stay clear of it.

I said all of that to make it clear that I don’t like smoking. The problem is that I don’t think that our society should attempt to enforce codes of behavior on people simply because we don’t like the behavior. Codes of behavior should only be enforced when the objectionable behavior harms other individuals besides the one doing the action. Since I don’t think smoking harms anyone but the smoker, I don’t see any reason why we should try to force people to stop. Yes, I know all about second hand smoke. Do the research. I think you will find that all of the more modern studies show that unless you are living with the smoker, second hand smoke is less dangerous than the smog you get in a big city.

So I ask, does smoking by characters in a movie hurt anyone? Would it have been a good thing for the Lord of the Rings movies to be rated R?

May 5 2007

People are stupid

Jamie Barrows

Sea Wall

People will fight over the stupidest things in the world. I share a house with my brother in a nice neighborhood on the bay. The past six weeks or so, my brother and the neighbors one block over have been feuding.

It all started when those neighbors decided that they didn’t want people walking in front of their house. Their house faces the bay, with nothing between them and the water but a sidewalk and a seawall that the county owns and maintains. Because the sidewalk and seawall are owned by the county, many people in the neighborhood walk along the water on the sidewalk. The sidewalk is relatively new. The county put it in about a year ago when they rebuilt the seawall after a hurricane damaged it. Before the sidewalk was put in, no one realized that my neighbors property didn’t actually go all the way to the water. So people didn’t walk in front of their house, since they thought it was private property.

After the sidewalk it became quite common for people to walk in front of their house. This bothered our neighbors so much,that they put up signs at each end of the sidewalk saying that the sidewalk and the seawall were private property. When they first put the signs up, they told us and others in the neighborhood, that they were putting them up to keep people from outside of the neighborhood from fishing in front of their house. That seemed to me to be a reasonable concern, and I could understand their position. The signs worked quite well for keeping people from fishing and walking in front of their house. People who lived in the neighborhood knew the signs were bogus, and ignored them, at least for walking. Everyone seemed happy.

Then those same neighbors took a dislike towards my brother. I don’t really know why they decided they didn’t like him, and I really don’t care. The problem was that they started telling him he wasn’t allowed to walk on the sidewalk or on the seawall because they owned it. This is the exact wrong approach to take with my brother. Since he knew that they didn’t own it, them telling him they did, made him mad. He started deliberately walking on it every day.

The first few days, they just had shouting matches. With them yelling at him for walking there, and him yelling back that he had every right to walk there. Since that wasn’t getting them anywhere, they called the police and reported that he was trespassing. The police came out, but my brother had already left for work by the time they came. So they left him a warning. The same neighbors also came by the next day, to make sure that we had gotten the warning, and to let us know that the police had told them that “they take trespassing very seriously.”

Before this,my brother had been positive that he was in the right. Now he wasn’t so sure. So for a few days he didn’t walk there. But it bothered him so much that the neighbors had “won” the dispute, that he called up the county appraisers office. The county appraiser confirmed that the sidewalk really was public property. So my brother went back to walking on it and arguing with the neighbors. After all, he wasn’t going to let them win.

The neighbors again called the police,and again my brother wasn’t home and another warning was issued. My brother ignored the warning, but did go down to the appraisers office and had the appraiser print out a plat showing the seawall and sidewalk as public property. The county appraiser called the sheriff’s department and let them know that the seawall and sidewalk were public property. My brother kept a copy of the plat for himself to show the cops if they ever came back out, and the other copy he proudly presented to the neighbors.

They were so upset, that they called the appraiser and tried their best to convince him that his plats were wrong. They also called the cops yet again, but this time the cops didn’t issue a warning or even attempt to talk to my brother.
So, that is where we stand today. My brother walks in front of their house on purpose to annoy them, and they regularly call and report him for speeding and trespassing. They also have a yelling match about once a week with him.

This whole issue is so stupid on both sides. On my neighbors side, what does it hurt them if someone walks along the seawall in front of their house? It’s not like my brother was parking himself in front of their house fishing. All he was doing was walking past.
And on my brothers side, what does it hurt him not to walk there? He could go around, or simply not walk that direction. Go the other direction on the sidewalk.

Why do they both have to fight over such stupid things?

By the way, the picture above is of the seawall and sidewalk that caused so much trouble.

May 5 2007

Initial Creation

Jamie Barrows


Well, I just created this blog. This is going to be a new place where I can rant and vent my own struggles and opinions on life. I have another blog where I post pretty regularly, but the focus of that blog is news. Since these posts will not be “news” in the same way, I didn’t want to have them in with the other posts on that blog.
Some of the posts on this blog may well be news related, but the focus will still be more on my opinions and how I am affected, rather than the news itself.