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Jan 19 2009

When is too much information, too much information?

Jamie Barrows

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I read an interesting rant over the weekend. It’s titled "Is this the better world you were talking about?" And the main theme seemed to be the information glut that we are daily exposed to. And the point seemed to be that the information glut is causing more harm than good.

I’ve written about information overload in one of my posts before. But other than claiming I need to be better at dealing with it, I am pretty strongly of the opinion that more information is better than less.

The author of the article makes the point that a huge amount of the information out there these days is exaggerated or overreported. And he’s right. A lot of it is just exaggerated opinions and fearmongering. Bias and sensationalism is rampant in our news media. But is that really a difference from the past or a problem that needs to be fixed? As I posted in one of my posts over a year ago, I don’t see that as an issue. ALL NEWS is biased by the opinions and beliefs of the reporter. That holds true no matter what the medium (TV, Newspaper, Radio, Internet, etc.) is. As long as you can identify the bias of the reporter and know that it is there, you should be able to get the facts out of the story.

And as for being overwhelmed by the information, it isn’t all that hard to just turn off the TV, or not read the article. If the weather channel is giving you too much information, just don’t watch it. If you are constantly getting sucked into the conspiracy theories of fringe groups, stop listening to them.

The way I see it, it’s just a question of developing proper filters. People need to learn how to filter out the fringe extremist groups and make sure they get their news from multiple sources to recognize and counteract the bias present in any one source. They need to be disciplined enough to turn off the news feed if it is taking over their lives or becoming an obsession.

There will always be those people who can’t or won’t develop decent critical filters, but that doesn’t mean the world would be better off with less information. If you look at history, you will see that in almost every repressive society, much of that repression was accomplished by a strict control of information and the means of communication. That kind of control, in our information rich and information overloaded society,  is no longer possible.

These days we have true freedom to express our knowledge and opinions. And the luxury of being able to choose our sources of information and control the quantity of the information we receive. I don’t think I would want to give that freedom up or go back to the days of limited information.

Would you? Is there such a thing as too much information?


Jan 13 2009

Church Family

Jamie Barrows

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I believe strongly that church attendance is an important and necessary part of being a Christian. Without the accountability and family relationships that come with your church family, you are alone and can easily fall into sin. Furthermore, you will never develop and mature as a Christian without the support and encouragement of your fellow church members. That isn’t to say that I think missing church occasionally is a sin. Rather that being a member of a church family and getting involved with that church family is extremely important to your growth as a Christian.

So anyway, I was having a discussion with someone the other day who was displeased with the church he was in. He made the point that, in his church, the legalism and obsession with outward appearances meant that no one in the church really knew each other or even liked each other. Everyone constantly wore a mask to keep from being judged. Any slips or cracks in that mask simply exposed that church member to the disdain and criticism of those around him. Which in effect mean that most of the members of the church never did anything together outside of church that wasn’t directly church related.

Now, I’m familiar with the church he was referring to and could definitely sympathize. The church he attends is exactly that way. Which is one (aside from it being in a different city) of the reasons I would never attend there.

So I told him I thought he should try another church rather than keep staying at a church that doesn’t like him and that he doesn’t like either. His answer was that there were no other good churches in the area. My response to that was to point to some that I had visited in the past. He said none of those churches were acceptable and listed each the of minor belief or tradition differences that were his reason why they weren’t acceptable.

At this point, not wanting to offend him I left the subject alone. Clearly the minor doctrinal points and traditions were more important in his eyes than having a real church family. But it got me thinking.

What weight should we assign the church family aspect when we are evaluating a church? The New Testament is full of references to the importance of fellowship and communion with believers, and yet I think most of us don’t even consider that when we are trying to choose a church.  When did what hymns the church sings and what fellow church members wear become the main criteria when evaluating a church?

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t look for churches that believe what we believe. Or that finding one that worships in the manner we are most comfortable in isn’t important. It absolutely is! But we need to realize that having a church family is at least as important as finding a church who’s traditions we feel comfortable with. Because without placing an importance on the church family, we are likely to get stuck attending places like my friend’s church.

My friend’s church may believe all the right things, but it provides him no true accountability and no real fellowship. There is no family to support him in his personal growth or to help him through his struggles. Because for him to admit to having those struggles exposes him to being judged and ostracized. For him, church becomes just a place he attends every Sunday to hear preaching. And that isn’t a real church.


Jan 12 2009

Israel and Palestine

Jamie Barrows

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There has been a lot of news lately about the current war in Israel. And most of what I’m hearing is that Israel is being too aggressive against the Palestinians and Hamas. I constantly hear the term "disproportionate response." And I see on the TV and in the news, images of the devastation in Gaza. Images that show children living in bombed out homes and shelters.

The images are heartrending. And I feel real sorrow for the people whose homes, businesses, schools, and marketplaces have been destroyed. It’s a terrible thing to have your livelihood and homes destroyed. War is horrible and without fail it causes suffering among innocents who have no part in it.

The consensus of most of the world, seems to be that Israel should respond to the rocket attacks proportionately. But what does that mean? Has anyone who is saying this really thought it through. Are people really advocating that Israel should lob a rocket at a Palestinian neighborhood every time Hamas sends one at Israel? That Israel should deliberately target civilians with rocket attacks the way Hamas does?

I’m not one of those people who thinks Israel can do no wrong. They often take a very heavy handed approach to their security and many of the things they have done in the past have not been good. But in this case I’m not sure that we can totally fault Israel for the devastation.

Yes, it is Israeli missiles, bombs, and tanks that have destroyed the homes and infrastructure of the Gaza strip, but I don’t see that Israel has a choice here. Hamas deliberately positions their rocket launchers in residential neighborhoods and in critical infrastructure installations. So if Israel is going to take out the rocket launchers, there will be civilian casualties. And neighborhoods will be destroyed.

Is Israel totally blameless for the sense of hopelessness and poverty that most Palestinian’s live in? A situation that creates great recruitment fodder for extremist groups like Hamas. Of course Israel isn’t blameless. But then neither are the Palestinians who have been given many chances to improve their lives and yet keep handing the reigns of power over to groups like Hamas. There is plenty of blame to go around, but as I said before, I don’t see that Israel has much choice in it’s response here.

It’s great to talk about proportionate responses when we are talking a trade dispute or increased tarrifs. But when it comes to bombs and rockets, I’m not sure it applies. Especially when those rockets are dropping on your neighborhood. The place where your kids and loved ones live! In that case, you want it to stop. And that is what Israel is doing here. They are trying to make it stop.

Try to imagine yourself in a typical Israeli’s situation. What would you do if the country next door to your own was so lawless that militant groups were able to constantly shoot rockets at your home and workplace? What would you do if the official government of that nation either could not or would not attempt to stop these attacks? Would you be able to sit by and just hope that the next rocket attack didn’t kill you or one of your loved ones?

Don’t let the rights and wrongs of Israel being there in the first place, or Israel’s past treatment of the Palestinians, sidetrack you from looking at it from the perspective of a normal working person. Just put yourself in the place of a typical person and ask what you would do in this situation. Would you demand action against the people who were attacking your neighborhood?

I know I would be calling on my government (the job of which is to protect me) to make it stop. Even if that meant my nation had to invade, bomb, and occupy the other nation. Because the safety of my family and loved ones is more important to me than whether the people shooting at me are justified in their anger against my nation.


Dec 8 2008

Stupidity in News and Politics

Jamie Barrows

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Sometimes I get so frustrated with our media and the stuff that makes headlines. Take for example, the big Zune controversy that hit the news last week. It seems that someone saw the President elect Obama in the gym listening to music on a Zune. That’s right, a Zune rather than an iPod.

Which is somehow hugely newsworthy. The Tubes were ablaze with speculation and rumors about why he might have used a Zune rather than an iPod. And like the comic above implies, there were huge arguments about what this meant to his moral character. And it really was just silly.  And yet somehow it was a big deal in the eyes of Americans. So much so, that his administration made an official statement that he, Obama, does not own a Zune. 

What is wrong with our country? How is it that whether Obama uses a Zune or an iPod has become more important than what his positions and plans are on issues like Abortion, the War, or the Economy?


Nov 22 2008

Altar Calls

Jamie Barrows


Darrell Dow pointed me at an article on the history of Altar calls. I knew it was a recent(Relative to the history of Christianity) practice, but had no idea how it got started.

My church does not do altar calls, but I’ve attended many that have in the past. I personally do not like altar calls because I feel it is an attempt to pressure someone into making what should be a well thought out and considered decision. When you are making the most important decision in your life, it shouldn’t be made because someone pressured you into making it.

But given how prevalent the practice is, it can be interesting to read up on how it all got started. The Story Behind – Walk the Aisle


Sep 29 2008

A religious war?

Jamie Barrows


I read an article the other day that was talking about the war and the reasons for it. The article claimed that the war was not a religious war and that religion was only being used by both sides to sensationalize and justify the war.
Specifically it claimed those on our side are trying to make this war out to be a Christians Vs Muslims war and that this isn’t true. And in a way, I agreed with the author. It’s not a Christians Vs Muslims war. Though I’m not sure that, despite the article’s claim, all that many people on our side are pushing that idea. From what I’ve seen, most people on our side simply believe that the other side is blinded by corrupt leaders and a lack of education. But that aside, I did agree with the author that it wasn’t a Christians Vs Muslims issue. And that got me thinking.

If you read anything that people in the middle east are writing, it becomes very obvious that the other side believes this to be a religious war. And yet, we have no interest in pushing our religions on them. So if we aren’t out there forcing our religions on them, then why do Muslims in these countries feel like their religion is under attack?
They clearly believe their religion is under attack by the West(specifically the US, but also Europe). And yet, we are making no efforts to impose our dominant religion(Christianity) on these Muslim nations. Not even on the ones we have occupied.

So what are we attempting to impose on them? What is the West actively pushing in every nation in the world? The answer is Secular Materialism. The thing we truly worship in this country and in most of the Western world, is secularism. And we are actively attempting to push that on every nation in the world.
In the West, the mainstream thought is that Religion should be tolerated as a basic human right, but is not considered to be important. In our world, religion is no longer central to society. Secular thought processes and ideas are what our society and culture embrace and follow. But since it isn’t a religion, we don’t see it as such. But outsiders(in this case non-Western Muslims) do. And so to them, this is a religious war. A war to protect their society from the religion of the West.


Sep 8 2008

Do we know what we think we know?

Jamie Barrows


I watched a video yesterday that really got me thinking. How much of what we think we know, do we actually know? The video was one of the really excellent TED presentations. If you haven’t previously checked out the TED presentations, then you really should. The presentations are on all different topics and are done by people from all over the world. But all of them are thought provoking and interesting.

This particular video was on the failure of our education systems. A failure that is so pervasive and so subtle, that we don’t even realize it is happening. In fact we end up believing we know things about how the world and our society works, when we really don’t know them.

We live in a world filled with information. From the moment we enter the school system, and even before, we are bombarded with facts and details about the world around us. By the time we graduate from school or college, we know all kinds of things. But do we really understand the things we know? And how many of the things we “know” are actually wrong?

I posted the video below so that you can watch it for yourself. The presenter gives a simple exercise at the beginning to illustrate his point. I recommend doing the exercise. I think you’ll be surprised at what you don’t know. I was, and it really made me wonder about the other things I “know.”


Sep 7 2008

Contented?

Jamie Barrows

Saw the above comic on XKCD and it really struck me. Don’t you ever feel that way? I do.
A lot of the time I hear people complaining about this or that policy, and I think to myself, yeah that’s a problem. But at the same time I think it’s just not that big a deal. I’m basically content and happy with my life and with my country. I don’t feel the need to constantly protest or complain.


Aug 19 2008

Interesting People

Jamie Barrows

Thursday I had a rather interesting and odd event happen to me. Something that seems rather bizzare and that reminded me of the many strange and odd people that live in our country.
I had worked late Wednesday night, and hadn’t gotten to bed until about 2 am. So Thursday morning I was kind of sleeping in. I didn’t have to go to work, until 2 pm. So there was no reason not to catch up on the sleep I had missed the day before.

Around 9 am I woke up to hear someone knocking on the door of the house. Now, I was still pretty tired and I really didn’t want to wake up. So I waited to see if Stacey(my sister in law) would get up to answer it. But after the third knock, I realized that either Stacey wasn’t home, or she wasn’t going to wake up. So I got up, pulled on a pair of pants, and rushed down stairs to answer the door.
I’m sure I looked pretty wild. Barefoot, no shirt, my hair sticking up all over the place. I really wasn’t all that presentable. And the truth is I wasn’t very awake yet either.

So when I opened the door, I wasn’t really prepared for what I saw. There was the most backwoods, redneck looking lady I’ve ever seen standing at my door. She was wearing some type of flannel shirt and a pair of old jeans. But what really hit me, was that she was missing some teeth.

The first thing she did was hand me a paper that looked like it had been drawn with a crayon. Now remember, I’m not all that awake yet. So while I’m staring rather blankly at the paper, trying to decipher the crayon hieroglyphics she had drawn on it, she starts talking to me. (Click the thumb to see the paper she gave me)

It turns out, that she wants to know if she and her husband can have an old metal cage that had been left on the property by the previous owners of the property. I had been meaning to get rid of it ever since I moved in, but never got around to it.

So, still not all that awake, I told her to go ahead and take it. She gets this huge grin on her face(remember the missing teeth) and turns around to give her husband a thumbs up. Which caused me to look out at the street in front of my house. And there I saw the oldest most beat up truck I’ve seen in a long time. Her husband was just starting to get out of the truck. And believe me, he was just as redneck as she was. He started unloading sledge hammers to beat the cage apart with, and she ran down the stairs off my porch like she was afraid I might change my mind about letting them have the old cage.

They beat the cage apart, loaded it into the old truck and drove off. The strangest thing I ever saw.


Jul 31 2008

Freedom of speech

Jamie Barrows


I read a quote this morning that I thought was really relevant to our current society and culture. The quote goes like this.

“The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one’s time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.”
– HL Mencken

There has been a lot of talk in the news lately about “hate speech.” The main theme being that modern society should not tolerate or accept “hate speech.” And to some extent, I agree. I often cringe when I read or hear some of the things that people say. The hurtful and misleading things they say aren’t right, and they really shouldn’t be tolerated by the main stream of our society.

But unlike many who are calling for laws against this kind of thing, I don’t believe that laws are the way they should be handled. For one thing, laws won’t solve the problem. The racists, xenophobes, and intolerant people will still be there. They will still be around and will still be racist and intolerant. For another, who gets to decide what is defined as “hate speech.” Anyone can be offended by anything. So who gets to decide what crosses the line when it comes to free speech?

Freedom of speech, even for racist or hateful people, is far more important than not being offended by what someone says. As the quote above implies, once you start restricting what people are allowed to say, you will end up with laws against anything you say. While it’s never been my intention to offend, I’m sure there are things I’ve said on this blog that have offended people. So if we start restricting the speech of people like NeoNazis(who’s speech we all would agree is offensive and wrong), how long before this blog and others like it are told what they can and can’t say?

As the quote says, I don’t like having to defend the rights of people who are hateful and wrong, but I find myself having to defend their rights in defense of my own. I don’t think we should tolerate or accept hate speech, but I also don’t think we can ever outlaw it or be free of it.