02.24.07

Postmodern T-Shirts

Posted in culture, home service, postmodernism at 4:39 pm

My mom treated us to dinner last night at a place call Pizza Express. It’s one of those $3.99 pizza buffet places. It was Friday night, and it was packed. We had to wait a bit for someone to get up and leave before we could sit down. We saw a group of four get up (we were a group of 8), and a young man offered to hold the table for us while we went to find someone to clear it off.

I immediately noticed the young man’s t-shirt. In big bold letters, the shirt said, “If you ain’t Sunni, you ain’t Shiite.” I was puzzled by his slightly off-color shirt, but didn’t feel I should bring anything up. But the person at the table next to me did ask him what his shirt meant. I eavesdropped, and was very surprised by the young man’s answer.

He explained that it only meant whatever the person reading it wanted it to mean. Unsatisfied, the man who asked about the shirt pressed the young man to explain what he thought it meant. Obviously the wearer of the shirt bought it and chose to wear it for a reason. But the young man refused to interpret the shirt for us, and explained again that it can mean whatever we wanted it to mean.

I really feel like that’s a cop out. I don’t think you can wear a shirt that talks about two Muslim groups and not have an opinion on what it means. But his answer was very “postmodern.” Many young people (in Italy and elsewhere) don’t feel there are any absolutes, and so for him to “interpret” the shirt would be “judging” it.

But isn’t that really just a form of cowardice? By not refusing to interpret a t-shirt (or an ancient Book), aren’t people really saying that they’re just not brave enough to stick up for their own opinion?

All those deep thoughts, from one little t-shirt!

Feel free to comment now, Josh. (He’s my teammate, and I know this is the kind of post he’s going to jump all over).

02.17.07

The Personal Side of War

Posted in friends, home service at 2:38 pm

I just had an awesome lunch with a good friend of mine. He left for Iraq before we left for Italy, and got back after we were already there. I think it’s been almost three years since we’ve seen each other, and it was good to be able to talk face to face.

As he shared with me about his experiences in Iraq, I sensed his frustration with the media in the US. He told me about how his batallion had built 60 schools. He talked about the functioning electric grid and sewer system in Baghdad. None of these facts ever make it to NBC.

The war in Iraq is obviously a tricky subject. But I can’t help but wonder if more people would be in support of America’s efforts if some of the good news made it on the air. Today as the Senate debates “supporting our troops, but not supporting Bush’s plan” (an idea which makes no sense to my friend), I sometimes wonder if we’re getting the whole picture.

I’ve lived in Europe for 2 years, and Europe is (at least now) pretty firmly against the war. To tell you the truth, I’m not really sure where I stand. But I do know that I am proud of my friend who served in Iraq. I’m thankful for the times he looked at death and kept moving. And I’m reminded at how much I need to pray for him and his family as they try and navigate life after Iraq.

02.13.07

Taking Care of Each Other

Posted in church, home service, travel at 12:01 pm

Going into our first home assignment, I have to admit that I was nervous. There are lots of people to see and churches to report to. Having never done any of that, it was all a bit nebulous and unknown to me. It seemed odd to me that churches would want to cancel their normal services to hear me speak. I really am about the most normal person.

But my opinion changed slightly on Sunday when I spoke to Iron Gates Christian Church in Joplin, Missouri. I was the youth minister of this church for 6 years before moving to Italy. Now they support our work in Ancona. It’s a small church, but the welcome that we received far outweighed their numbers. There was a large basket of medicines and other things that we can’t get in Italy right by the front door. There were lots of hugs and handshakes. One dear couple handed me a check for $1,000 before I had even said hello to them. Another woman was so excited to share a tithe of her recent bonus check. After church, they threw a wonderful potluck dinner. They also had bought birthday presents for the kids for the birthdays that they had missed while we were in Ancona.

They just took care of us. They loved on us, and thanked us for working so far from home. They told us (some in words, others by listening so intently) that they were behind us.

I still get a little uncomfortable by all the attention. But it’s nice to know that the people that love and know you the best are behind you and want to take care of you.