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My wife and I aren't much for buying souvenirs, but we've purchased a few nice items here and there that we still own and still like. I have a set of carved elephants I bought in Thailand. They rank at the top of my list, probably because I like animals more than because they’re souvenirs. But then again, they’re well made, and it’s interesting to glance at them in my office and know some person in Thailand crafted them from a block of wood.

In one view, souvenirs aren’t worth much. In fact, I’ll offer a definition of a souvenir: “An item that makes you smile when you see it on the tourist shop shelf and makes you frown with befuddlement when you see it at home."

But in another view, they’re treasured remembrances of good experiences long ago and maybe in far away places. Nothing wrong with that.

So whatever happened to souvenirs? We’ve been privileged to travel to a few places and almost without exception the “souvenirs” one finds are items made somewhere else.

Why would I want to buy a souvenir in Thailand if the souvenir was made in Taiwan (or wherever) and can be found in every tourist shop this side of the equator? And probably points south too.

I was out and about in Cyprus today and found souvenirs made of everything-non-Cyprus and made everywhere-but-Cyprus. But this is not a Cypriot issue. I’ve seen this in the Bangkok, the Holy Land, Manila, Paris, Berlin, a host of Caribbean island ports, and more. I’ve seen this in virtually every tourist trap in the United States too.

Here’s what passes for souvenirs: trinkets, cheap, non-locally made, same ol same ol, plastic or soap stone, baseball caps and t-shirts (Do we really need more? Is “I’ve Been To Paphos” a good buy?), factory made, items that have nothing to do with the locale or culture, gag gifts. Gag gifts? Yes.

My favorite store name in Cyprus is “Romantic Supermarket and Suvenirs.” I’m not into their “suvenirs,” but they do have some romantic cashews and chocolate candy bars that are pretty good.

Of course, in some if not most destinations you can find shops that offer higher-end, which is to say expensive, souvenirs. But even in these shops many of the items and much of the art comes from non-local craftsmen or artists.

If I’m going to buy a souvenir I’d like it to be something that actually originated in country and represents the local culture. Folk art is great, but again, it’s hard to find, at least without going out of the way to non-tourist areas, something you cannot always do.

Well, so much for this ode to souvenirs with character. Original souvenirs, we hardly knew ye.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2010

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow Dr. Rogers at www.twitter.com/RexMRogers.

I’m spending the week in Cyprus working with SAT-7 staff and board members and interacting at least here and there with Cypriots. The SAT-7 staff and board are an international group—Lebanese, Egyptian, Danish, English, Irish, American, Swedish, Palestinian, Syrian, Jordanian, and more. They speak a list of languages, Arabic mostly and English always as a second language, so they’re a smart assembly of people.

All the staff and board members, like me, bring their cultural backgrounds to the table. We can’t help it. Our culture is part of who we are and part of what makes us individually intrinsically interesting.

My interest in culture, which simply means “way of life,” began in high school and went into orbit in college. Culture encompasses anthropology and social science, which typically includes language, religion, politics, and economics. (Though one scholar, Henry Van Til, argued religion comes first and defined culture as “religion externalized.”) Culture is about human beings, their ethnicity, nationality, race, gender, and most importantly, worldview.

Culture shows up in how we eat, what we wear, how we marry and bury, what music we like, and how we rear our children. It’s a filter and an amplifier through which we view the world and life and everything within it.

Culture is powerful, sometimes it seems near overwhelmingly so. Though I concede it's an incredibly powerful influence, I do not believe in “cultural determinism.” This is the idea that where we live or how we’re raised dictates all that we are thereafter. My theology doesn’t let me go there. For Christians, for example, God places us “In the World,” but commands us to be “Not of the World” even as we go “Into the World.”(John 17). The idea and reality of the Christian faith belies the idea of cultural determinism, or for that matter, economic or any other determinism.

True Christian faith, empowered by the Holy Spirit, enables anyone to change, to become something different than they were before. This doesn’t mean all cultural practices are bad or wrong or must change with Christian faith. It simply means that some things must change and can change with God’s intervention. Theologians call it conversion, being “born again,” along with the sanctification (Romans 12:2) process that should follow thereafter.

So culture is, and when you travel, culture is fun. I enjoy hearing accents, seeing different dress, eating food I don’t recognize, not being able to get ice in my drinks, trying to understand why my approach to resolving an issue is so perplexing to my friends, or vice versa, hearing-but-not-understanding—and that’s in English, watching how spouses relate to one another, seeing wedding rings on right hands, driving on the left side of the road, not being able to find Half-and-Half, or in fact, seeing wrinkled brows when I say “cream.” I enjoy finding shampoo affixed to the wall in little dispensers, showering using a hose apparatus, surfing through television channels in Arabic, Russian, Greek, English, and I-don’t-know-what-that-one-was.

Culture is one of God’s blessings. It makes human beings different. So it makes us as varied as flowers in the wilderness and, therefore, forever fascinating. What a boring place the world would be if we were all alike.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2010

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow Dr. Rogers at www.twitter.com/RexMRogers.

The idea of a Sovereign God and luck are mutually exclusive concepts. Consequently, since God surely exists, luck does not. Yet people still believe in luck—lucky charms, fetishes as forms of luck, even magic.

Luck is still very much a part of our arguably sophisticated yet arguably superstitious culture. In surveys year after year ninety plus percent of us say we believe in God, but we hold onto our fantasies too. We go to church and wish people “Good Luck” in the same week. Too bad, because being luck-less is better than you think.

If luck doesn’t exist we’re liberated from thinking outside forces arbitrarily control our lives. We’re liberated from thinking that no matter what we do, it really doesn’t matter.

Belief in luck is a central part of America’s fascination with gambling. Increasing numbers of Americans gamble as an expression of their worldview. They believe in luck, that life is a big lottery of chance, and that if they gamble enough, long enough, their ship will come in.

But have you heard the one about the “Lucky gambler” who drove to Las Vegas in a $70,000 Mercedes and got to ride home in a $350,000 bus?

 

Read more about Why We’re Never Lucky.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2010

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow Dr. Rogers at www.twitter.com/RexMRogers.

Lazy language has become one of the “acceptable sins” in the Church. Christian people can be heard using the B-word, the S-word, and the A-word, along with a host of other crudities.

 

Years ago, men, especially around women, would attempt to mask such behavior with silly statements like, “Pardon my French.” I don’t hear that much anymore. Actually, it’s been years since I’ve heard anyone anywhere apologize for his or her language.

 

But I’ve heard Christians using what we used to call “bad language” on the golf course and at fancy dinners, from the podium no less. I’ve heard it on campus and in restaurants and coffee cafes. I’ve heard it in professional settings.

 

This is not a "go-to-heaven" issue. I'm not making that case. It is, though, a "testimony" issue and, I suggest, a "professional" one as well.

 

People say "You are what you eat," but the Scripture says "What goes into a man's mouth does not make him unclean, but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him unclean" (Matthew 15:11).

 

So why are we, Christians, using more bad words? Frankly I don't know, other than it's what Francis A. Schaeffer said years ago: "Christians catch their values like they catch measles." In other words, we just absorb cultural values and actions by osmosis right out of the air and don't apply any spiritual discernment to what we're doing. So we sound like our culture and don't know it.

 

Using morally acceptable language is also a leadership issue. Leaders who spew aren't going to inspire people to sacrifice to reach the next level, I don't care who they are. Leaders with tainted vocabularies may gain fear, but they will not gain respect.

 

Maybe the words on my bad-word-list aren't the same as yours, but bad words are not a mystery. Like pornography, you may not always be able to define them, but you recognize them when you see or hear them.

 

Sanitizing or sanctifying our vocabulary is a good, positive, immediate-impact way to craft for ourselves a better image, reputation, and ultimately legacy.

 

Read more in my essay at "Pardon My French."

 

 

© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2010

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/RexMRogers.

T-shirts, like bumper stickers and license plates, have become individual Americans' shout-out billboards. We proclaim our politics and theology, root for the home team, and express undying affection for this, that, and the other.

When you travel, reading t-shirts is one way to keep the mind active and the travel-weariness at bay.

Here are a few I've seen recently:

“The Sarcasm Society, Like we need your support.”

“If blondes have more fun…do they know it?”

“Just hand over the chocolate and no one will get hurt.”

Chicago: “Don’t hassle me. I’m a local.”

Knoxville: “I ran out of sick days, so I called in dead.”

Paris: “Shouldn’t the Air and Space Museum be Empty?”

Minneapolis: “I Love Boobs.” – The "I" is a bowling pin and text on the back of the shirt provides details re "bowling for breast cancer." By the way, a woman was wearing this t-shirt...

And my all-time favorite that I saw in Phoenix years ago: “Yeah, but it’s a dry heat.” Picture shows a human skeleton lying up against a cactus.

Is this a great country or what?

 

© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2010

This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow at www.twitter.com/rexmrogers.

American public schools continue to struggle with student dress codes: to have them or not to have them? To enforce them? How to enforce them? What should be allowed and what should be disallowed?

The problem is not so much modesty, lack of some perceived decorum, or distraction from the academic purposes of the school experience—though these concerns are real—as it is safety. “Hoodies” and cargo pants are being outlawed because they provide layers or pockets in which students can hide weapons or other contraband. In addition, schools are banning violent graphics and t-shirt messages, racist slogans, or other unnecessarily provocative material. Too tight, too loose, too many questionable insignias, too much skin, too much, too little, the beat goes on. But it’s a long way from the sixties and seventies. Of course, some of these actions prompted First Amendment challenges.

At Cornerstone University we discarded a lengthy, list-based dress code years ago. But we still want to influence students to select dress that represents them well as Christian people. So we developed a “Statement on Modesty,” which is available on the university website.

Basically, when it comes to dress we’ve told students they should apply two biblical principles: modesty and appropriateness. Our dress, regardless of our age or gender, should always be modest no matter in what culture we find ourselves. And our dress should be appropriate, which is to say it should fit the occasion or the event at which we are present.

I own a swimming suit that I believe is modest. I wear it on the beach, and I’ve worn it when I have been with student groups. I do not wear it to the local country club, fine restaurants, campus, or church on Sunday morning. The point is something can be modest but not appropriate. Both principles are important.

I’m not saying this university never experiences problems with student dress, nor am I saying that students never make poor choices or push the envelope. Sometimes we have problems because students make poor dress choices. But we’re here to help them learn and grow. We interact with them and talk about our principles, and most of them respond in due course.

This principled approach to student, or personnel, dress has spared the university a world of headaches. It is not specific, so at times it must be interpreted. But it’s rooted in our Christian worldview, and it makes sense to students. It gives them guidance for a lifetime, not just rules for the moment. These principles weather and survive changes in fads and fashions. Modesty and appropriateness principles may not speak directly to weapons and contraband hidden in clothing, but the Christian faith speaks to such matters in other ways.

Dress codes are problematic for administrators at any level and in any type of institution. I wish my colleagues well, and I’m thankful this university has found a very workable and effective way of addressing the issue.

 

© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/rexmrogers.