Archive for March, 2007

31
Mar
07

The Christian Alternative

In contemporary America, one would be hard pressed to find a group so omnipresent and so inextricably linked to the nation’s global image as Christians. Yet despite their prevalence in American culture, there is a tendency among some Christians in the United States to see themselves as separate from the popular culture; in some cases, certain Christian groups have taken this notion so far as to think of themselves as a moral minority, defending the true Christian and American traditional values against an evil society.

To that end, there are countless Christian alternatives to just about any secular thing one might imagine. There is an entire Christian recording industry, Christian coffee houses and Christian bookstores. There is even a Christian alternative to Youtube. This is a phenomenon with which I am truly fascinated. What is the reasoning behind the self-imposed segregation among Evangelical Christians? I have one theory.

The Christian alternative mindset perhaps hearkens back to the early days of Christianity in the Roman Empire. In those days, Christians truly were in the minority and were very much separate from the culture of the day, though whether or not they held any sort of moral high ground is really a matter of opinion. It is also true that the Christians of antiquity were oppressed, oftentimes used as scapegoats for whatever problems faced the empire at the time. Yet those Christians proved unshakable in their faith, unwilling to recant their faith in the face of death. Such devotion is admirable, and indeed that devotion proved important in the spread of Christianity.

The now iconic image of Christains and lions.

If we jump forward a few centuries to the present day, we see contemporary American society split between largely urban liberalism and largely rural conservatism. Evangelical Christians are quite firmly within the latter faction, and since the mainstream media caters primarily to the former group, the Evangelical Christians may feel alienated from that culture, which they see as sinful and corrupt.

Therefore, on the one hand inspired by their estrangement from popular culture and on the other by the piety of the Christians of the religion’s fledgling years, Evangelicals have tried to establish an identity for themselves as the defenders of a besieged morality. In effect, there is now something of a crusader mentality, evinced by the fact that one can now buy clothing with the following less-than-politically correct image:

As though Christians were being tread upon. And I seem to recall the Crusades not ending well for the Christians…

In any case, the Christian alternative culture is one that is spreading very quickly throughout the nation, particularly in the Midwest and in the South. Nor is this a purely adult phenomeon; the documentary Jesus Camp chronicles the Christian alternative culture in the context of children (albeit from a somewhat slanted perspective). As the movement continues to grow, it will be interesting to see where it goes, and how it affects the split in American culture.

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29
Mar
07

I Never Knew That About Myself

Every once and a while there comes a time when I realize something about myself. These moment’s don’t necessarily occur all that often, nor are they typically Earth-shaking epiphanies, but they are moments of discovery, no matter how insignificant the discovery may be. I had one of those moments a few minutes ago. I realized that I’m attracted to women who like slightly mannish. This isn’t to say that I’m into mullet-toting militant lesbians (nothing could be farther from the truth, in fact,) but I do fancy ladies who seem to have a streak of masculinity to them. I realized this when someone posted a picture of a young Ayn Rand on a LiveJournal community, and I found myself thinking, you know what? I’d hit that.

What can I say? The short, dark hair just does it for me.

26
Mar
07

A Lousy Job, Part II

After wrapping up my freshman year at college, the time had come for me to return to Kansas City for the summer, and to find a job. I wound up working at Washington Inventory Service. My job entailed taking stock of everything–and I do mean everything–that the client store had in stock; to perform this task I had a UPC scanner attached to what looked like an adding machine.

Most of the time the client stores were located in small towns in the middle of nowhere. I usually had to drive to these exotic locales, unless they were more than sixty miles from the WIS home office, in which case I could take a company van. Those long trips to such places as Manhattan, Kansas or the aptly-named Peculiar, Missouri on a van full of people who smoked and neglected to wear deodorant sometimes lasted several hours, and in some cases we stayed overnight. I had to do that twice, once when we did inventory for a Super Target in Des Moines, Iowa and again when we did a Lowe’s in Branson, Missouri. At least I was getting paid for those hours I spent on the van.

WIS did inventory for many different stores when I worked there, but the major clients (i.e. the stores where I worked most often) were Orscheln Farm and Home and Dollar General. Orscheln (pronounced Orsh-lin, apparently) was essentially a small-scale Home Depot that also sold such curiosities as horse bridles, thermoses shaped like shotgun shells and rectal suppositories for sheep. An odd place, but still very much in the spirit of the towns that they were in, and the atmosphere wasn’t too depressing, given that the store would be closed on the day we were taking inventory.

The Dollar General, on the other hand, was a horrible place. The stores were dirty, small and packed to the ceiling with cheap goods. Furthermore, the stores would also be open while we were working, which meant that not only would I have to hear Country music oozing out from the overhead PA system, but also that every once in a while I would be interrupted by an obese woman in denim hot pants who wanted to know where she could find the scented Jesus candles. Everything about the place just screamed redneck. It was honestly very depressing.

But on those occasions when I didn’t have to take the van (or even when I did), I sometimes found myself enjoying the drive. I would often go fifteen minutes at a time without seeing another car, especially at night. Beyond that, the plains and gently rolling hills of Kansas and Missouri are not without their own particular brand of prettiness, even if they can’t hold a candle to the majesty of the pacific northwest.

That notwithstanding, the Midwest was and is still a pretty miserable place, especially in the summer. I was quite glad to head back to Tacoma in the fall. Not a statement one hears very often, but true nonetheless.

25
Mar
07

A Lousy Job, Part I

Everyone has a job they loathe at least once in their lives; some unfortunates are stuck with that job until they retire. The first job I ever had was washing dishes for the New Theater Restaurant in Overland Park, Kansas over the summer of 2004. At eight dollars per hour, the pay was pretty good for a first job. The work, though, was brutal. Because the restaurant aspect of the business was a buffet, which meant that the kitchen produced the same food every day, in the same quantities. This meant that I had a massive amount of pans to wash every day.

Worse, though, was that three days out of the week (i.e. Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday) there was a matinée show and a lunch to go along with it. Needless to say, the workload was doubled on those days. My first day at work happened to fall on a Wednesday. What was worse was that the other dishwasher was absent that day. After ten hours of washing food service trays, pots, pans and two obscenely large mixing bowls which had been used to make mashed potatoes, I was beginning to question my career choice.

I stuck with the job, though; it helped that I was able to construct my schedule in such a manner that I never worked on a matinée day. The knowledge that it was a temporary gig and that I would be leaving for college in a month also kept me going.

This isn’t to say that the whole experience was entirely forgettable; over the course of my employment I met a Mexican fellow by the name of Juan. He barely spoke any English–in fact, I don’t think he spoke a word of the language at all–but he was a harder worker than anyone I had ever met, or indeed anyone I have met since. Working with Juan was something that helped to put my situation in perspective; sure, I had a shit job, but it was a job that I would be able to eventually leave. He, on the other hand, was stuck with it.

There was one other lesson that I learned at that job: adding hot water to just about any foodstuff results in a downright awful stench. This holds especially true for salad dressings, Ranch dressing most of all. In addition to the smell, there was the added joy soaking my forearms in filthy water for two hours at a time. This was the second important thing I came away with from the job: a strong stomach (though I must say that grease and fat still do a fine job of making me gag.)

Washing dishes was definitely not a pleasant job, but in retrospect I’m glad I did it; now I can feel good that I can empathize with the plight of the working man. This is hardly a boast that the typical college socialist can make, I think.