TED: Ideas Worth Spreading

TED.comThanks to StumbleUpon, the most enjoyable social media/bookmarking site thus far (and the official choice of ADHD users everywhere), I was introduced to TED.com last month. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. TED began in 1984, bringing together the best and brightest from those three industries and thought groups. Since the '80s, TED has evolved into an annual invitation only conference where the most influential and/or innovative thinkers present the talk of their lives (limited to 18 minutes). TED.com makes the best of these talks available for free online.  

Once a year, 50 speakers share with more than 1,000 visitors in Monterey, California. Topics cover business, science, the arts, music, and global issues. The best TEDTalks are provided online via streaming video at TED.com.

Granted, the majority of speakers appear to be atheistic proponents of evolution. This is somewhat disappointing, though not entirely surprising. Past speakers have included the likes of Billy Graham, so it's fair to say that the organization is open to most ideas as long as they are presented in the proper fashion.

The recorded TEDTalks are worth watching. Some are more mentally stimulating than others (check out the talks on memes and, surprisingly, Tony Robbins). 137 presentations are currently available online. Additional talks will be released on an ongoing basis. 

TEDGlobal is a conference held every other year at various locations worldwide. The basic format is the same, but these conferences tend to focus more on development.

The TEDPrize is an annual prize awarded to three individuals who receive $100K and the granting of "One Wish to Change the World". The winners unveil their wishes at the annual conference, and the TED community comes together, pooling their resources, to grant each wish. Visit TED.com to learn more about past wishes granted. 

For those of you accustomed to the collegiate Pew / Paideia society or other philosophical and sociological communities, these talks will resonate along the lines of cultural examination of what is, what has been, and what could be.  

The only question remaining is, how does one get invited to TED? Send me an invitation. I'm in. 

Christian Social Media Sites: Good Idea or Bad?

GodTube video site

I will acknowledge the truth that parents need a place for their children to learn, to engage, and to socialize that will not scar them or taint their innocence. I wouldn’t want my kids listening to what I listen to or watching many of the films I watch. Since I am a P.I.T. (Parent in Training), my opinion might not be the most valid… but it is popular.

It all started when I left MySpace the first time in January 2006. I was sick and tired of the half-naked chicks everywhere via True ads. After some brief research, I found MyPraize, a Christian MySpace alternative. MyPraize is censored like there’s no tomorrow. It’s like youth camp and KLTY (boring Christian radio station) mixed together. Sorry, not interested. I set up an account, browsed around for 20 minutes, and then left (never to return).

My encounter with GodTube today was just the straw that broke this camel’s back. Seriously? GodTube? Why is it that Christians are always mimicking secular ideas? Christian musicians make music that imitates the sounds of secular artists. Christian television is seriously sub par. And now we get a whole new wave of sub-parness injected into web culture.

Am I anti-Christian? Of course not. I am a Christian. But I find isolation to be every bit as unrealistic as atheism. Why not just post your videos on YouTube? Why not use Facebook or Virb if you want to avoid the advertisements? At least you won’t only be online with Christians. My primary concern is this: beware of the bubble. It is the chief concern of American Christians to create protective bubbles in every sphere of life in which they can be “Christ-like” with each other but not have to encounter any of that nasty sin stuff.

Well, thanks but no thanks. From an adult non-parental viewpoint, I’d rather be relevant to the world than isolated from it. Now, when it comes to my children, I may sing a slightly different tune. Time will tell.

Want to know what kind of Christian resources I actually like? Why not!

BibleMap is a seriously cool site. Just type in the Bible book and chapter, and you will see where the action took place on a map of the Middle East. For all those times when the names and dates hold no significance to you, this helps you get a little more historical / human perspective of what was happening.

BibleGateway is my favorite site for reading the Bible. You get every possible translation for every verse in two dozen languages right at your fingertips, and the search function is easy to use. Search by book, chapter, and verse or by keyword.

EarlyChristianWritings is an excellent resource of writings from the early Church. It’s sorted by date, which helps you to get a sense of the maturity and development of Christian thought over the first two and a half centuries after the birth of Christ.

There are hundreds more tools and sites out there. My general rule of thumb is this: if it’s a useful tool, use it. If it’s for isolating yourself from the rest of the world, don’t waste your time.

Lennard Darbee Radio Sermons Coming Soon

As some of you know, Lennard Darbee was my grandfather. He had his flaws for sure, but his radio show and traveling healing ministry reached hundreds of thousands over the span of his lifetime.

I received the remaining print and audio materials from his ministry after he and my step grandmother both died. I am amazed by the paper saving abilities of that man! He wrote sermon notes on the back of every conceivable advertisement, napkin, church bulletin, and unused letter.

I’ve had these materials for eight years now, and it’s time they were put to more efficient use. That’s why I will be opening a new website to make streaming audio and/or downloadable versions of his radio sermons available to the public. It will take me some time to make them all available, seeing as there are hundreds of them.

A donation button will be located on the site. Please feel free to contribute whatever you feel is appropriate to assist me in the time and effort it will take to make these sermons and other materials available to the public.

Look for it soon at LennardDarbee.com!

False Christ Causing Waves in Orlando

Dr. Jose Luis De Jesus Miranda, a 61 year-old Puerto Rican, is claiming to be the second coming of Jesus Christ. Get real. A recovering heroine addict and an ex-con? Seriously?

Despite his outlandish claims that millions of followers and 30 countries acknowledge him as god, only 100,000 followers can be verified by the press. But do the numbers really matter? Sure, a number in the millions would be more likely to cause some people to pause and consider why so many have believed. But this guy is far from the image of the Son of God. It’s more than laughable. It’s “Springer does religion”.

I heard a televised statement made by Miranda this morning. His exact words were: “Jesus of Nazareth, on a scale of 1 to 10, he’s a 2. I’ve performed many many more miracles.”

Wonderfully unfounded and unproven. And honestly, even if he people were healed around him, that is no verification of godhood.

Scripturally speaking, this is just a case of yet another false christ. He tries to undo the Scriptures and start from scratch.

God is not mocked. Wait and see what happens.

The Downsides of Writing About Anything Spiritual

Call it spiritual… call it religious… call it whatever you like. The truth is, a weblog not set apart as faith-based from the beginning will usually take a massive reduction in traffic for writing about religion. People want the cool, bleeding edge news and gossip and technology without the morals or the history of the Church.

At CultureFeast, we’re not afraid to discuss our religious views. Anyone who doesn’t want to read what is written here doesn’t have to return. We’d love you to have you back, though.

This site will continue to confound those who demand a theme-based blog. Sorry, random thoughts is how we roll. One day it’s sports, then mortgage, then spirituality, then it’s talking about the next bastard politician.

Stick around! We want your feedback. Disagree with us. Argue with us. It doesn’t matter. Just keep it respectable.

Everything is Utterly Meaningless…. So What?

Why do we do what we do? That’s one of those questions my peeps hate to ask. Aaron in particular. He wants the white picket fence, three kids, and the leave it to beaver lifestyle. So he’s been saying for the past three or four years. I didn’t buy it then and I don’t buy it now.

He’ll read this a month from now and post some comment about how he pictures me in seclusion, lighting candles and writing poetry. Funny guy. I’m not quite that dramatic (shut it, Nathan – like how I mentioned your name and yet you get no link? Your mom).

Three thousand years ago, Solomon had it right when he said that everything is utterly meaningless and futile. He tried everything, and came up empty. Whether you work hard or not at all, whether you’re rich or poor, starving or overfed, ultimately it doesn’t matter.

There are a lot of underachievers who will read this and think, So what? I’ve always thought life was pointless. That’s why I don’t do anything. That’s not the same thing. Lazy ex-pot smokers aren’t exactly equal to good ol’ Sol.

I am notorious for my insistence upon meaning and purpose. I annoy the hell out of friends, family, and total strangers with my rants about pursuing purpose. I hate seeing people waste potential. I love watching people and guessing their deep purposes and callings. See, everyone has one, even the annoying people who hate hearing that and who feel the need to violently argue against the concept.

So how does a person like me believe in the simultaneously contradictory beliefs that life is utterly meaningless and that each person has a unique calling and purpose to fulfill? That’s an easy one. Logical or not, I’m simply disillusioned by how freakin’ hard life can be. I’m not very patient. I’ve been known to be a bit anxious. Picture someone spending an entire decade anxiously flittering to and fro like a speedfreak in an attempt to achieve his purpose, and you have a fairly accurate understanding of my life a few years ago.

My “meaningless” isn’t the same as Solomon’s. I think I actually know my calling – my God-given purpose for living. I believe that I have things to do before I die. I have ways to mature. It doesn’t matter if you think it’s a ridiculous notion. You’re bored and miserable sometimes as you go to sleep at night because you feel empty. You feel empty because you’ve yet to realize what that thing is that will make your life truly meaningful.

Yeah… It’s late, and I should be asleep. Consider yourself thoroughly scolded or chastised or whatever fits. I’m out.

LifeChurch Creates a Virtual Church on Second Life

I’m writing this for the benefit of my friends and the masses that are similar to my friends – i.e., those who have no clue about the latest and greatest news on the Web. I’ve briefly mentioned Second Life before, so use the site search engine on the right to find the other post.

Second Life is no joke. You may mock people who join online communities, but it is the wave of the future. When Reuters creates a website for the sole purpose of covering virtual community news, you know it’s worth a second glance.

LifeChurch, an Edmond, Oklahoma based church, is one of approximately twenty churches that have already bought Second Life real estate and formed virtual churches. The idea is to reach people wherever they may be.

My first reaction was that there’s no way a virtual church will thrive as an actual community of believers or as a successful evangelistic tool. I thought of the Christians who would jump on the Second Life bandwagon under the guise of “reaching the lost”, and I couldn’t help but feel sorry for them.

Perhaps I was too hasty. I’ve joined Second Life and look forward to seeing the sites, so to speak (that is, if I ever complete the stupid training exercises!). Unlike other Christians, I’m not a member for any reason other than sheer work-related curiosity. Too many SEO and interactive marketing companies are still playing catch up by joining MySpace. Forget that. MySpace is old news. It’s so old, in fact, that I don’t waste my time on it unless I want to search for new music. That is the #1 contribution MySpace made to my life: free and convenient access to music sampling.

Second Life represents Web 3.0 technology. It’s not been said much, but it’s true. Virtual communities are the new frontier (to be followed shortly, no doubt, by 3-D holographic virtual communities). You don’t have to participate, and you won’t be “less cool” if you don’t, but you will be clueless.

And for those of you who still think Second Life is “just a game”, Second Life users spent nearly 1.5 million dollars within the past 24 hours (according to Reuters). Major brand names, including sportswear and automobile manufacturers have swept in to take advantage of the virtual advertising space.

This whole thing is huge. You’ll see. Soon enough Second Life will have its own doomsday prophets, referring to it as the path to Armageddon and the Antichrist… I know it sounds premature, but it’ll happen. I have absolute faith in the paranoia of the public.

Though I have to say, be careful if you decide to venture out into the virtual space of Second Life. There is a lot of X-rated stuff going on there that can sneak up on you. That’s actually one of the main reasons why LifeChurch has a presence there. They know that it’s a place for people to hide their sins, and they hope to be a light in the virtual darkness. Kudos to them for trying. As long as they don’t attempt to become the virtual TBN, I wish them the best.

Christianity Today Faces Problems Not Addressed in the Bible

A lot of people, even those considering themselves to be faithful Christians, find the Bible difficult to read. Not only are the stories not presented in chronological order, but they are written to address problems of 2,000 to 4,000 years ago. It’s fair to say that a little has changed since then.

Someone correct me if I’m wrong (as unlikely as that is), but it appears to me that the most drastic change affecting our perspective and approach to Christianity is Christendom. For those of you wondering what the heck Christendom is, it’s defined as

Traditionally, the part of the world traditionally dominated by Christianity: most of Europe, Australasia and the Americas, plus parts of the Third World (thanks to http://www.csa.com/hottopics/religion/gloss.php).”

So when we speak of Christendom, we’re referring to world as influenced by Christianity. What I meant by calling Christendom the largest difference is this: we face a unique set of challenges, questions, doubts, resentments, and teachings which we must overcome that the pre-Christ world and early church had no way of predicting. No one who wrote or influenced the writing of Scripture had to deal with Baptist doctrine, Presbyterian doctrine, Methodist doctrine, Charismatic doctrine, etc. None of them grew up in a country claiming to be Christian. They grew up in a country claiming to be God’s chosen nation, which is somewhat similar, but they didn’t have the same Gospel message or road to salvation to deal with.

Pick twenty people off the streets in the United States and ask them what it means to be or become a Christian. On some level, you will hear twenty different answers.

My point is this: when a message has been around for 2,000 years, people are bound to screw up the details. That’s just how it is. Back when the New Testament was being written, people were being introduced to what they considered a “completely new religion”, even though it was only the planned transformation of Judaism. They didn’t grow up with Jesus being so common that they used the name while swearing without even realizing that they were mentioning deity. It just didn’t happen.

In today’s culture, Christianity is so “obvious” that most people assume they’re a part of it without even knowing what it is. Even those of us who think we know at least the fundamental ins and outs still have to deal with our stupid self-improvement culture that looks for the 7 Steps to a Fulfilling Life or the Top 10 Ways to Be a Good Christian. The Bible wasn’t written like that (yes, I realize that there were a Top 10 of sorts when it came to commandments). It was written to people who didn’t live based on the fundamentals of marketing and self-improvement. When they were told that Christianity is about relationship with God, they understood it on a level most of us have yet to fathom. For us, we tend to skip over that relationship stuff and look for a list of things to do to check off. We tend to believe that if we’ll say a prayer, tithe, read our Bible, pray over meals, avoid X-rated material, be faithful to our spouses, and avoid hurting other people as much as possible, that we’ve done our duty.

Someone has to address this crucial misunderstanding to the masses. It’s not enough that pockets of people are getting close to God at some churches. We live in a country of 300 million people who need to understand that God is not who the televangelists say He is. They need to know that God is not after their money (though He will require us to give it). They need to know that just because some old white haired guys and purple haired ladies with too much makeup get up on fancy stages on television and act like buffoons doesn’t mean that Christianity is a ruse.

And most of all, they need to know that it’s okay to throw out the rulebook and start from scratch… that God won’t be offended if they approach him with sincerity, even if they come with STDs, guilt, shame, depression, anger, lust, addictions, fears, doubts, or any other problem. People need to know He will accept them. They need to know it like they need to know that a real human being will accept them with all they’ve got going on inside and outside.

They need to know. It’s not fun to stop our ranting and raving about the coolest gadgets or websites or whatever drives us nuts. But there’s more to life than going to a Billy Graham crusade and working like a dog for the rest of your life. There’s more, and it’s my hope that we’ll cover more of this in the months ahead. I won’t burden you too often, since I know we all need to take in important truth in small doses until we grow accustomed to it. But we’ll take this journey together, throwing American religious traditions out the window and approaching God with fresh eyes and as few preconceived notions as we can manage.

Tarrant County Prays More than Dallas

I don’t know if it’s in the water or what, but my personal experience has proven that people in Tarrant County pray over meals more than people in Dallas County. We can’t really include Collin and Denton Counties in this comparison. Denton County is perhaps the most bizarre in Texas, and Collin County is full of overachieving business types – we all know they don’t pray ;).

To the point, I cannot count how many people pray before their meal in restaurants all over Hurst, Euless, Bedford, Arlingtonn, Fort Worth, Grapevine, Southlake, Colleyville, etc. As we speak, I’ve seen two of four tables nearest me pray before their meal.

My parents would probably say how sad it is that so few people pray in comparison to when they were my age. I, on the other hand, do not expect to see people pray in public ever, and it continues to startle me and make me feel oddly uncomfortable.

When did this become a problem for me? I realize now that I have slipped out of the habit of praying over every meal. It is a habit I kept for ten years, and only in the past year have started forgetting. The discomfort of public prayer for me has been largely that of making public something that is very personal. Despite the fact that I blog, which is an extroverted activity to say the least, I do not like having my personal details aired in front of everyone.

I admit it – I am still self-conscious and concerned about what others think.

But this article isn’t about me. Or, at least, it wasn’t supposed to be. Maybe Christians just gravitate towards Starbucks and Panera Bread. Whatever the case, I am amazed that so many people still pray. I don’t know why I am so pessimistic, but I tend to assume that most people attending church are Sunday Christians only, and any expression of faith throughout the week is unintentional.

Keep praying, Tarrant County. I don’t mind being wrong.

The Pursuit of Knowledge

“You attract what you think about most, and you become what you attract most.” Focus. Mental discipline. The Secret, written by Rhonda Byrne, is located in the New Age section of your local bookstore. Before you decide to tune out, read on for at least another paragraph. CultureFeast has never been dedicated to New Age materials and has no intention of beginning to do so. CultureFeast was founded upon the Christian faith, though we are willing to seriously scrutinize that faith and all others in pursuit of truths which those who have gone before either missed or refused to accept. The purpose is to know the truth. It is the truth that shall set you free.

Picking up a book from the New Age section of Barnes & Noble was an unnerving experience for me. What mental traps might I be stepping into, I wondered. Reason prevailed, however. It is because of one idea that I will open my mind’s doors to something labeled as an enemy by people sharing a similar faith to mine. The idea is best explained in several parts. They are:

  1. All people are human, regardless of whether they live today or centuries ago
  2. All humans are limited, fallible and incapable of knowing everything
  3. Because of this, even the authors of our faith did not possess all knowledge or understanding
  4. Because of the Canonization of Scripture and subsequent traditional beliefs of Scripture, many people fear to believe that we could learn anything new and true outside of Scripture because of how that might affect the strength of Scripture’s primacy
  5. Because of this, the Christian community has failed to lead the way in pursuing knowledge and understanding of God’s universe. That task has been left largely to the secular community, which has done the best it knows how.
  6. The secular community can provide scientifically tested data which indicates the probability of certain truths
  7. Just because the scientific community can postulate certain truths (the what and where) does not mean that it can answer the ever valid and crucial questions of how or why (or even when)
  8. If Christian leaders are not going to answer my questions, I must seek the answers on my own.
  9. Since Christian leaders often fear to consider the possibility that nuggets of truth can be discovered by non-Christians, and since these leaders do not themselves search diligently for certain answers, they’re assumptions cannot be automatically trusted
  10. Since non-Christians can discover or understand (on some level) universal principles such as gravity, inertia, and harvest, they have the capacity to discover or understand other such universal principles which the Christian community has yet to understand or acknowledge
  11. Since non-Christians will not often explain why a universal principle is true in a manner that instantly corroborates Scripture, I am responsible to sift the gold from the dross and accept only what either agrees with Scripture or might agree with Scripture upon further reflection and consideration.
  12. Overt disagreements with Scripture must be discarded because we must have a solid starting point from which to work
  13. We must challenge ourselves to find truths which support Scripture, explain/clarify certain mysteries in Scripture, and strengthen the body of Christ by filling in the holes which have riddled our faith over the years

Having said that, it might seem that we have left the Bible behind and have chosen more “exciting” texts to focus upon. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are finding ourselves led to sources of truth that support Scripture and make Scripture make sense to us in ways that we never before imagined.

For example, it’s not enough to read the verse: “whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”

Uh…what? For years, when I realized that my mind was constantly consumed with unhealthy thoughts, i’d rethink that verse and find myself at an absolute loss. I couldn’t come up with a single really “good” thought. Which thoughts are pure? What thoughts are just? What kind of thoughts are lovely? What is a thought of good report? Seriously!

I realized that I had not conditioned myself to know these things. I had spent my adult life fascinated with morbidity, death, dying, crime, suspense, intrigue, suspicion, slander, and on and on. I had become one of the “bent ones.” My thoughts were naturally bent towards selfish or less than holy issues.

Historians tell us that everyone once believed that the sun, stars, and planets revolved around the earth. It is referred to as the geocentric view. The heliocentric view (sun-centered) was suggested by some and considered heresy by the leaders of the time. As in many instances throughout history, scientific discovery has not been welcomed by religious or even political leaders. Men do express their own opinions throughout Scripture, as is obvious by David’s crying out for the death and obliteration of his enemies and Solomon’s declaration that everything is utterly futile and meaningless. Not necessarily views we should adopt. Then there was Peter’s snubbing of Gentiles until set straight by Paul. You get the picture. We’re all human.

It is the mature acceptance of these truths that enables us to allow something outside the realm of our comfort zone to challenge us and engage us. It is by setting and adhering to the tenets of our faith while simultaneously insisting on the pursuit of wisdom and understanding that we arrive at a rich and rewarding mode of existence.

The pursuit continues. For me, it continues with the reading and examination of The Secret, by Rhonda Byrne. This book contains possibilities which absolutely excite me. On the surface, it appears to elaborate on biblical statements such as, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he,” and “He who seeks, finds; to him who knocks, the door is opened,” and “think on these things,” and perhaps most importantly,

“The weapons of our warfare are not carnal (physical/earthly) but mighty in God for the pulling down of strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.”

What we see here that the weapons of a Christian are mighty to pull down strongholds, to cast down arguments and things that exalt themselves against the knowledge of God, to bring every thought captive. So the weapons of a Christian involve strongholds, arguments, knowledge, thoughts, and obedience.

We are being told that the weapons involve our minds. The language is dated, because of the period in which it was written, so we miss the point all too often.

More on this soon…