Saturday, November 05, 2005


Doing Church

Jollyblogger takea a long look at the place of church in the gospel. Mostly David is talking about a new book from my old buddy George Barna, but he makes some points that are very important, and that I can, hopefully, bring a unique perspective to.
My point in that is that all of these gospel presentations convey the true gospel but not the whole gospel. The whole gospel is the whole story of Jesus and so it would have to contain all of the material of the gospels, as well as the explanatory writings of the New Testament writers. For that matter, to know the whole gospel we would need to read the whole bible since all the Scriptures tell about Jesus, per Luke 24:25-27.

Although we might quibble with any gospel presentation regarding the order of presentation or what elements should be present I think they are at least on the right track as long as they address the holiness of God, the sinfulness of man and redemption through the cross. They are also on the right track when they focus on forgiveness of sin, restoration of fellowship with God and eternal lifee as the benefits of redemption.

But getting back to my point I do want to address the issue of where the church fits into these gospel presentations. In this respect, the Four Spiritual Laws and EE are representative of almost every gospel presentation I have ever heard in making membership in the church an addendum to the gospel.
What David is addressing here, in part, is the role of the "para-chruch." This is what I was when I was on Young Life staff. The para-church are organizations formed to do just part of the work of the church and to help enable the church to do it's mission better. World Vision, Young Life, Campus Crusade, Inter-Varsity...these are all para-church organizations. I think they all suffer from many of the same problems, but I am going to adress Young Life, since that is where I come from.

Young Life was founded by a guy as a specific outreach to get high school kids into church. The details of the politics of how it came to stand on its own are lost in the sands of time, but the mission was to introduce kids to Jesus sufficiently that they would participate in church. While it drew a lot of kids, that transition from YL to church never has really worked.

I personally think this is where much of the modern church trends are rooted. People that grew up with YL and its kin think that it is church. So, we end up with churches on the model. I cannot tell you how much a so-called "contemporary" worship service (singing with guitars followed by a talk) resembles a Young Life club. It's scary. And it comes at the cost of much that is vitally important in church ministry -- the sacraments, a sense of holiness. It is, in a very real sense, a dumbing-down of what it means to be a Christian.

David continues later
So don't read anything I am saying as meaning that we are obligated toward one particular institutional expression of the church. I am arguing against a mindset which sees as optional a covenantal relationship with a local body of believers, with all of the binding obligations and responsibilities it entails. And I don't believe that expecting an individual believer to enter into such a relationship with a local church is any more unreasonable than expecting a married man to live with his wife. It's just what you do when you are married, you live with the woman you married, not just any old woman.
Now, this I absolutely agree with. Confession time, I am not the happiest camper in church. There are a lot of people in the church I currently attend that I love dearly - with many of them I find genuine Christian fellowship. But taken as a whole, I view the church I am currently a part of as the lesser of uglies, not good, but better than the alternatives.

I stick it out because I believe I am supposed to, because I truly value the sacraments, because of the fellowship I do get from it, and because even in a less than ideal situation, I am a better Christian there that not there.

After leaving Young Life, "the transition," the movement from para-church to church has been the place where I felt most called to ministry. This is in part why I battle against "contemporary" worship as I do. It's church moving to para-church when the movement should be in the other direction.




Vote for HOLY COAST. Do not vote for anyone else, and especially don't vote for Peace Like A River or Perspective and Soda -- They're MOBsters. You don't want to support a "criminal" institution do you?


What's Happening?... Paris and Denmark? Is it civil unrest, or is it war? I'm not sure.

For all the news that's fit to read, check Instapundit -- Micelle Malkin -- American Thinker -- Dawn's Early Light. This is a big deal

Malkin quotes Robert Spencer on what I think is the true heart of the matter
But of course, all these problems are exacerbated by the non-assimilation policy that both the French government and the Muslim population have for so long pursued: the rioters are part of a population that has never considered itself French.
This might not be so chilling to me if I had not just spent some significant time learning that there are such grossly separate sub-cultures right here at home. Of course, that sub-culture rioted here in LA not that long ago.

In one sense this is no different than the LA riots. A large segment of the population, feeling disenfranchised, feels free to strike back with lawlessness. But it is different in one very strong sense. This population segment comes from a culture that in fact urges precisely the destruction they are wrecking. The LA riots did and would run their course in a relatively short period once the stores were emptied out and there was no material gain left ot the rioters.

This is very different -- the material gain to these rioters in the actual destruction of the surrounding culture.

In LA one could build a perimeter around the trouble and let things run their course. Not so here, these people will not be contained, save by overwhelming force. This will get much uglier before it gets any better.

The French have to make up their minds to act decisively and forcefully, but then they never have in the past, so why should they now.

To my mind, there are two important question arising out of this:

  1. The French, and Europe in general, certainly have not done what they should to assimilate these people, but these people are not too interested in being assimilated either. How is assimilation accomplished under such conditions?
  2. What are the consequences to US/UK national security if a large Islamic state arises from the French ashes? There were the Vichy, could there be the "Tehrani"? I think it a distinct possibility.

This is not a local European story. The press would do well to cover it more vigorously.


Comic Art

We finish up our tour of the Honorable Mentions this week with a look at Neal Adams. Adams is another one of those guys that has been around nearly forever. So much of his work was a part of my growing up and he made a huge impact.

He is still active today as you can see with this marvelous (yes, that was intended to be a publisher pun) rendering of The Mighty Thor. Thor remains in my mind one of the most visually dramatic (along with Captain American and Batman) of the comic heroes ever designed. He is after all a "god" and somehow he just looks the part.

I also love the way the platform Adams has put him on here ties in with Thor's apparel, it is as if they are one. Reminiscent indeed of Thor's original designer (and his look has never really been improved upon) Jack Kirby.

Here's another Adams marvel image -- this one of the Avengers. I really like the way he has put Antman and Hawkeye in the foreground in this image. Images of the Avengers tend to feature "the big three" - Cap, Iron Man, Thor - but it is really the other characters that make the title great.

I also have to say that Antman is one of the most visually interesting characters ever. Originally Hank Pym (whom you see in this picture in his Yellowjacket costume in the rear) the role has since been filled by Scott Lang -- a fascinating character, single dad, journeyman electrician, who got into the hero game under unusual circumstances. I really want the guy to get his own title.

What can be said about Hawkeye? His look has become a little dated, but what a great image.

Regular readers know my fondness for the Spectre. As a character he has come and gone, but as an image, just check him out. Adams, as you can see did him quite well.

It's never easy to know how to draw this character, part ghost, powerful as a God, does one draw him as mist or as massive. Well, Adams approach is obvious and I think it really works. Some find the character boring because he is so powerful that there is never any genuine conflict. That may make him hard to write for, but it open up visual possibilities that few characters can enjoy.

I think we are awaiting just the right mating of writer and artist to have the Spectre sore into the atmosphere. I would not be at all disappointed if Adams was the artist. This character needs to move onto the cosmic level somehow. I think there would be a great story if he actually attempted to set himself up as a God. Maybe a Marvel/DC cross-over where he battles the Living Universe or something like that. It would be serious eye candy.

Adams put the tall ears on the Bat, and while they look a little goofy on the blue and gray, they are the order of the day when Batman dawns his black.

Adams is also notable for putting Ras a Ghul (bad guy in the latest film by the way) on the map as Batman's opponent. Ras is the "anti-Joker" - all the cunning and hyper-rational to boot.

Note this dates back a ways - late '70's early '80's - that's how long Adams has been in the game and making an impact.

But far and away, his most "important" work was the GL/GA series. Pairing the conservative Green Lantern with the near-hippie Green Arrow proved to be the start of social commentary in comics. I did not always agree with the political conclusions arrived at in these books, in fact I usually didn't, but the idea was incredible.

These books were a large part of changing the comic audience. They were decidedly for someone a little older than 12, they were accessible by women, and they sold well. In my opinion they mark the beginning of the "adultification" of comics. A tend that has continued to this day. To the point where the publishers are having to make concerted efforts to groom another generation as an audience.

And it started with Neal Adams.


You Have GOT To Be Kidding Me

You've made it to the Home of the Lucy Bible Program and Study! This program takes lessons learned from the classic I Love Lucy TV show and uses them as a discussion starter for small group study!

(HT: Challies)


A Whole New Meaning To "Bringing Home Dinner"

Worst 10 states for auto-deer collisions

Pre-tenderized for extra goodness.


Well, THAT Takes All The Fun Out Of It

New Beanz Meanz No Fartz

What's with the "z" anyway? A fart by any other name still stinks!


While We're Discussing Gas

China takes heat out of kimchi row

Look, it doesn't make any difference whether you eat it off of paper plates or the good stuff - it makes "beanz" look wonderful.

Friday, November 04, 2005


How Did You Decide Where To Live?

Eric O. Jacobsen, writing at Common Grounds Online, contends that where we choose to live is a "fundamental ethical decision."
I would like to propose that, in contemporary American society, the choice of where we choose to live might also function as a fundamental ethical decision (I might make a parallel case for where we choose to work and where we choose to worship as well). Most serious Christians would agree that caring for the poor and showing hospitality to strangers is an imperative of the Gospel. And many have given serious thought about how they might be faithful to this command in their daily life. However, given the realities of postwar development patterns, it is now possible to choose places to live, work, and worship that almost guarantee that we will have no incidental contact with strangers or the poor.
While I agree that "caring for the poor and showing hospitality to strangers" is a scriptural imperative, so are a lot of other things. Not every Christin is called to each form of ministry.
Acts 6:2-6 - And the twelve summoned the congregation of the disciples and said, "It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables. "But select from among you, brethren, seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task. "But we will devote ourselves to prayer, and to the ministry of the word." And the statement found approval with the whole congregation; and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch. And these they brought before the apostles; and after praying, they laid their hands on them.
Here in the apostles state in no uncertain terms that their calling is to something other than the care of the poor. They do not deny the importance of that ministry, they simply provide for it by the use of others in the church.

One of the grave mistakes of faith is that we assume all are called to the same things we are. Certainly this lies at the heart of Paul's lengthy discussion of equipping and the role of certain particular ministires in I Corintians 12-14. Certain members of the Corinthian congregation thought that their ministry was the minsitry for all. Mr. Jacobsen said
Many Christians are aware of this disconnect between their ethical intention and their daily reality and seek to care for the strangers and the poor in more programmatic ways. Child sponsorship represents a less direct and volunteering at the local food bank a more direct strategy for dealing with this problem. While I don?t want to dismiss the important work of child sponsorship organizations or food banks, I also don?t think that either strategy alone fully captures the mutual benefit of encountering the poor and the stranger on our own turf and dealing with the ethical dilemma that they represent as part of our everyday life.
I think this is somewhat backwards from the scriptural model. Such programmatic ministry is precisely parallel to what the apostles established with the appointment of Deacons in Acts 6.

The mission of the church is huge and what it must accomplish must be accomplished by its totality. I will wholeheartedly support and applaud Mr. Jacobsen if he chooses to engage in ministry along the lines he promotes in his post, but it is hubris on his part to suggest that each and all of us in the Body of Christ should follow.


China Changing

The first time I ever worked overseas it was in the People's Republic of China. It was early in thier process of allowing "Economic Development Zones," small areas of capitalism, but even in those early days, 1989, one thing seemed clear -- The government didn't quite comprehend the forces they had loosed. The prosperity only possible with capitalism has a way of tearing down the controls of even the most iron fisted regime.

Dawn's Early Light links to a further sign that the collapse is on the way.
Hukou is the Chinese system of registration that ties an individual to the location they are from and has been used by communist parties to restrict travel within a country along with tracking employment and providing health benefits. However, with the massive migration from rural areas to urban cities in China, the Hukou system broke down.
People want what capitalism offers and they will chase it, regardless. My only hope is that the collapse of Chinese communism can be as non-violent as it was in the SOviet Union.


Actual Commonsense From A Jury

Jury finds Merck not liable over Vioxx

A miracle...answering my prayers.


Some War?!

It seems some of the MOB (Minnesota Organization of Bloggers) has taken me up on my offer of war over Radioblogger's Blog Of The Week competition. The voting starts today, but of the eligibles, there are three SCBA members and only one MOB member, and he's no threat -- always a bridesmaid, never a bride.

I've been called out by this guy and this guy is trash talking.
After all, are we going to let some sandal-wearing, granola-munching California conservatives get the best of Minnesota's finest?
I was going to return the favor, though it would be sad to take a shot at people who wouldn't know a suntan this time of year if it punched them in the gut, but they are just too good at doing it themselves.
He was antlered and dangerous - and he almost took out Gov. Tim Pawlenty. As Pawlenty arrived for work at the Capitol Thursday, he and his entourage heard shattering glass and then saw a big buck charge past about five feet from them. The deer broke two windows at the Capitol before bounding off.
Only in Minnesota would the deer be the terrorist, when he oughtta be a "hotdish." How can I insult such people?


Allegorical or Thematic?

That's an important question as you approach the Chronicles of Narnia. Few bits of literature are closer to my heart, and I anticipate the upcoming film with great hope and angst. One thing I am not worried about is the "Christian message."

According to this post form Mark Daniels, the stories are not allegory.
The person who sets herself the goal of identifying what every character or circumstance "represents" in Christian truth or the Biblical witness will soon understand the futility of the undertaking and rob themselves of the joy that goes with simply letting their tales come to them as is. (Although there are oodles of Biblical allusions.)
I have to agree, they are stories, not scripture. Which means, I don't think the books, or the movie are any more evangelism tools than other art with Christian themes - Crime and Punishment - for example.

That is one burden for the movie I am glad I don't have. I just hope the movie doesn't stink.


I Knew It

Anger is good for you, as long as you keep it below a boil, according to new psychology research based on face reading.

People who respond to stressful situations with short-term anger or indignation have a sense of control and optimism that lacks in those who respond with fear.
Thus blogging, a vent for that "short-term anger or indignation" -- Making bloggers the healthiest people on the planet.

I knew this was a good thing.


Friday Humor

There should be an inspector in the picture!


Best News I've Read In A Loooong Time

From The Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Despite continuing privacy and security concerns, government officials said they are ready to proceed with the Registered Traveler program aimed at speeding certain airline passengers through the screening process, with nationwide start-up in June.

Transportation Security Administration chief Kip Hawley gave Congress a timeline of about six months for implementing the program, which would allow frequent air travelers who submit to a background check to move faster through airport security screening, via dedicated lanes, bypassing the rigorous screening most passengers go through. He said the program would not only help alleviate long lines, but also help focus security on travelers more likely to be a threat.
Brilliant, simply brilliant.


Lowest Form Of Life Discovered

Softball Player's Prosthetic Leg Stolen


Christian Branding Gone Wrong

Stronger Church is on his high horse about VeggieTales...seems they are ripping off LOTR. Peter's rhetoric is a bit over-the-top even if his ciriticism is not
I mean, granted it's not the Bible, but good night. Forget rolling over - Tolkien must on a rotisserie in his grave. I have never read the Lord of the Rings series, but I have listened to all 40+ 90-minute cassettes of the unabridged version three times. The ease with which one can identify biblical themes may be up for discussion, but LoTR is a piece of literary art. And these guys, making sure that cute 'n shallow win out, have made it into velvet painting.
Small children need help with big ideas, no question, and something like this can help, but when they quit doing bible stories and start doing LOTR, I'm figuring they are in it for the bucks more than the mission.


Stuck In Court

Man Sues After Using Glue-Covered Toilet


Well, At Least They Died Happy

Scientists Find Fossils in Sexual Union



Thief Steals $75,000 Worth of Bull Semen

Thursday, November 03, 2005


Political Agendas And The Gospel

Mark Roberts has been examining the reliability of the New Testament documents is a recent series. One post recent post caught my eye concerning the possible imposition of a political agenda on the documents by the early church. Mark cites numerous examples of this happening with second century documents, many of the commonly cited non-canonical "gospels," and then goes on to point out how the four gospels were often "out-of-synch" to the likely agenda of the early church.
For example, if one supposes that the early Christians made up sayings of Jesus to address current concerns, then it's hard to figure why they didn't do a much better job of it. So many of the conflicts and challenges faced by the early church were never addressed by sayings Jesus, for example: the question of speaking in tongues; the issue of women in leadership; etc.

Moreover, some of the sayings of Jesus that were passed on orally and then incorporated into the gospels made matters more complicated for the early church, not less. For example, if anything characterized early Christianity, it was an evangelistic zeal that included the Gentiles. Yet some of the sayings of Jesus in the gospels seem, at first glance, to be contradictory to this very mission (see Matt 10:5, Mark 7:24-30). If the writers and editors of the gospels were motivated by their agenda to play fast and loose with history, surely they would have improved upon or even eliminated things in the Jesus tradition that were awkward. Yet this didn't happen with the New Testament gospels.
Why do you think Jesus left so many question unanswered? Why, for example, did Jesus in fact chastise many of His followers for wanting to conquer Rome. Why didn't Jesus redeem the society?

The answer, I think, is far simpler than we often think it is. Much of that stuff just does not matter. Consider for example the question of economic systems. The Old Testament is full of affirmations of private property. Christ chastises rich people, and Acts is full of communities that "held all things in common." Why didn't Jesus tell us exactly how to do it?

Set aside for a minute questions concerning God and foreknowledge, and consider God's history of interaction with man. He had, prior to Christ, a long history of just such precise dictation of how to order things -- and it did not get Him the desired result. The Jews just kept messing up. He'd also tried several different things, judges, kings, diaspora -- none of it "worked." What conclusion can be drawn from this?

The system, the ordering of society, matters less in accomplishing God's purpose with and for mankind that the people themselves. Here we are again, back at transformation. What God "learned" (if such can be said) through His history with the Jews was that He needed to change man, once changed, man would then function well within whatever particular ordering of society was in place.

Consider the question of caring for the poor. Socialism seems like a good answer, and the idea presented in Acts. But we have seen in communism that it is as corrupt and vile as capitalism -- its not about the system, its about the people. Will transformed people automatically order themselves in a socialistic manner? I'm not sure, you see transformed people would be sufficiently generous in a capitalistic setting that it might not matter.

But the point here is the gospel is not about politics, its about transformation, politics simply follow in the wake of that transformation.

The gospel writers understood that, that's why they did not need to impose a political agenda on their documents.


Practice Charity -- Today!

I took some heat a while back for suggesting that we give to Islamic charties for Kashmir quake relief. Here's why:

U.S. Copter Carrying Quake Aid Draws Fire

Aid that gets shot out of the sky is no aid at all. Jesus did say "Love Your Enemy." I can't think of a better way right now. Check this

Official toll in Pakistan quake rises to 73,276

And friends, that's just Pakistan, the quake was regional and affected other nations as well, most notably Afghanistan. Those nations aren't quite so good at counting, but hit as hard.

And while we are being charitable. Blackfive is hawking a fund raiser for Soldiers Angels - raising money for soldier's with specific injuries to get computers. They are running a bit of an inter-service competition. This civilian is afraid to shose sides on this one, I have too many friends in all the branches. Maybe I should send a little each way? Join me?


Alito And The Constitutional Option

Hugh Hewitt and Powerline are both looking at the same Washington Times piece and deciding the votes are there to break the filibuster on the Alito nomination, should it come to pass -- something I feel inevitable given stridency of the Kennedy/Boxer/Leahy crowd. So why am I worried?

Well, to be cliche' because it ain't over until the fat lady sings, and I ain't heard an aira yet. The biggest question is if this is true why did we have to go through Miers to get here? This president doesn't stumble and while he is loyal, he's no cronyist. Nope I think he knew something we didn't. That's what we're paying him for.

I think we will prevail in the end, but people are way too happy in this post-Miers conservative lovefest -- we have a fight on our hands -- no make that a war. Confidence matters, but it is way to early to crow, and while the anti-Miers crowd won the inter-service battle for who gets to command the fight, we haven't even started the war yet, you don't celebrate minor battles at this stage, you prepare for war.

While we are looking at Miers backwash, a couple of important pieces.

The first comes from Stratfor (subscription required) looking at the national security affects of the L'Afaire d'Miers.
In wartime, the power of the U.S. president is critical. It is the job of a skillful politician in wartime to do whatever it takes to keep the presidency strong and decisive. And as history shows, presidents who are able to hold the political center and act decisively-- despite challenges faced in the war or on other political fronts -- will survive. Franklin D. Roosevelt led the United States through a series of unmitigated disasters -- surviving more than a year of defeat and confusion -- because he nurtured confidence among the public and carefully manipulated situations so as to deflect blame from himself. Adm. Husband Kimmel, the commander-in-chief of the Pacific region, was fired after Pearl Harbor; Roosevelt was not.

Conversely, the center did not hold under Lyndon B. Johnson. His legitimacy and credibility as a warfighting president collapsed with startling swiftness when his own party turned on him -- and the opposition, though still supporting the war, never had any confidence in his warfighting strategy. Roosevelt survived the fall of the Philippines; Johnson could not even survive the Tet Offensive.
Continuing later
At this moment, a number of secondary powers are considering the condition of the American presidency. Iran, as we have noted, is one. Russia is another. For Moscow, the United States is an ally and competitor. If the American presidency is about to enter a black hole, Vladimir Putin will behave differently than he otherwise might. China is dealing with a host of American demands. Those will be dealt with differently if Bush no longer commands the government but only the White House. And in Iraq, of course, every party is looking at American will and American guarantees.

Bush has not lost his presidency. He is merely close to it, and other presidents have recovered from such precarious positions. What he needs is a decisive victory within the United States. That is why he has nominated Samuel Alito, a staunchly conservative judge, for the Supreme Court in place of Miers. Bush is putting all of his eggs in one basket, looking again to shore up his core base of support. If he can win this battle, the entire psychology of his presidency will shift in his favor.
This is no time to get cocky - the stakes are immense.

On another note, Hedgehog had a great post yesterday
Still, something about this does not sit well with me. During the intra-conservative Miers debate many seemed to be saying (whether they would admit it or not) that by default, if you want a serious job like Supreme Court justice done right, the best person for the job is one who has a highly-credentialed Ivy League background. This view seemed to be everywhere, most notably at NRO's Corner and sites like (One amusing thread at worried about whether Judge Alito is a "feeder judge," an insider term meaning that his clerks go on to be Supreme Court clerks. I had to smile; what did this mean about his qualifications to be on the high Court? Now we were talking about issues that matter only to the elite among the elites!)

Anyway, I'd feel better if we saw more people in high positions who had superb academic records at the Universities of Nebraska, Florida, Notre Dame, Utah, Colorado, Mississippi, Arizona, and the like. Those are not Ivies, but I think the Republic would still be safe, somehow.
I have to second that. I didn't go to law school, but I am no piker academically. I started my college days at Vanderbilt -- there's one of your elites. I left for personal reasons, not academic problems. Went to Butler, small private school in Indianapolis, graduated.

When I finished and entered the working world, I worked with a lot of people that had gone to the elites. I was way ahead of them because of the kind of attention and interaction I got at the smaller school. It was in a Fortune 500 company at the time and they reevaluated their graduate placement system based on my performance.

Besides, my favorite lawyer in the whole world went to University of Mississippi Law School -- DAD!


Illuminated Scripture


Internal Military Murder - Is It 'Fragging' Or Not

It happened several months ago. A soldier deployed in Iraq apparently killed some of his superior officers. At the time, I argued heavily against using the term "fragging" when related to the incident -- "fragging" is a term dating back to the Vietnam war.

The technical definition of "fragging" is as follows:
Fragging is military slang for a soldier killing a colleague or a superior officer.
Now hold that thought and link for a minute.

First of all, this has all come up in the context of a Section 32 hearing (the military justice equivalent of an arraignment) that occurred concerning the incident and the defendant was formally charged and made eligible for the death penalty.

Now, back to fragging. The term arose in Vietnam essentially as a form of revolt. Drafted soldiers, fighting in a war they did not want a part of, being asked to conform to standards they did not think they should were known to kill officers over it. In many circles it was a symbol for the corrupt military and the injustice of the action in Vietnam. Regardless of how one feels about Vietnam, because of the terms origin, it carries with it a contextual implication of illegitimate military action. Thus I have argued against its use in this case from the beginning.

That said, I was not the least bit surprised to see the NYTimes use it in the headline to their story on the hearing, but pleased they at least put it in "scare quotes." I was however, somewhat surprised to see it in the headline of the Stars & Stripes coverage.

To date the only person connected with the case that I have see use the term is the defendant.
A month before Capt. Phillip Esposito of Suffern was killed in Iraq, the man charged with murdering him told a fellow soldier that he wanted to kill the officer.

"He said, 'I hate that (expletive). I want to frag that (expletive),' " Capt. Carl Prober of the 42nd Infantry Division told a military court yesterday in Kuwait. The court is investigating the June 7 deaths of Esposito, 30, and Lt. Louis Allen, 34, of Milford, Pa., in Tikrit, Iraq.
[emphasis added]
Now why would such a man use such a term under such circumstances. Isn't it possible that he knew the implications of the term and wanted to make the murder he was proposing look like the military's fault? (but then don't most killers think they "had" to do it for some reason.) Anyway:
The alleged outburst occurred about the time that Esposito reprimanded Staff Sgt. Alberto Martinez, 37, a supply specialist in his unit. Esposito was company commander of the 42nd Infantry Division headquarters unit, and Allen was its operations officer.

Staff Sgt. Ashvin Thimmaiah told the court that three weeks before Esposito was killed, he prohibited Martinez from entering the supply room without an escort and that Esposito later began looking for a replacement for him. Arms and ammunition are stored in the supply room in addition to other necessities.
So, Espisito suspected our defendant (Martinez) of stealing, and he apparently got killed for it. Nothing so grandiose as "fragging" -- this was plain old murder-for-profit. There is no implication about the military or the legitimacy our military actions in Iraq in this story at all.


Political Correctness Nonsense And Backfire

Al Mohler looks at PC-weirdness run amuck in the church. It's about a church that tries, literally, to be "all things to all people." Now, one thing I want to make clear, the problem in this story is the inclusivity of the theological outlook of the church. At first glance it looks like a story about facility sharing, and that, I think, is not such a bad idea.

This has to be one of the most asinine things I have ever read.
A new grammar rule devised by the European Union in Brussels stipulates the word "Christ" shall be spelled with a lowercase "c."
Set aside for a moment the obvious religious bigotry and disrespect accorded in the move, (Sheep's Crib is all over that angle anyway) what in the world is a quasi-government body like the EU doing setting grammatical rules like this? I am farily certain they must have something more important to do with their time.

When I visited the Soviet Union in 1991, some of the citizens were found of telling me that they had a rule for everything. So many rules in fact that one could be assured one was always breaking some. Ringing any bells for you?

So, with this background, this story absolutely cracked me up.
A decision to call Christmas lights "Winter Lights" in south London has been condemned as showing a "total lack of respect" for Christians.

Advertisements for the switch-on of the lights in multi-cultural Lambeth have renamed them, apparently for fear of offending other faiths.
I guess it's not that you offend, but who that matters most. But then that;s the problem with political correctness, there is always someone to take offense. As I have no doubt someone will to this post.


Pay Attention To The Data

Pyromaniac said this yesterday
I am frankly weary of all the self-styled experts who are telling pastors and church leaders today that unless they get with the times, tone down their message, adapt their methods to meet the worldly preferences of the current generation, accommodate their message to the postmodern dialectic, bone up on this or that academic fad, or otherwise adopt some fleshly strategy, the church will die or lose the battle for the souls of the next generation.

We've tried all those strategies for at least three or four generations now, and we're still losing ground. In our mad pursuit of "relevance," has anyone noticed that the church is becoming more and more irrelevant? All this accommodation to the culture is the very thing that makes the church culturally irrelevant.
There's a dirty little secret -- those techniques are working for megachurches, but they are a poor fit when other try to put them on -- thus we are still losing ground. Phil finishes up with this
I'm not saying we should give up on reaching the world or be passive and silent. On the contrary, I think we should turn up the volume. But I'm also saying this: Don't distrust the weapons Christ has entrusted to His church. Don't underestimate the power of the plain word of God or the influence of clear and dynamic preaching. Don't set aside the weapons God has chosen and trade them for Saul's armor.
In business terms we would call this "capitalizing on your core competencies." Let the megachurches be megachurches, I for one will never go. I went once, figured I could stay at home and watch TV and get the same affect.

Wal-Mart has reduced boutique marketing, but it hasn't killed it. Those that are still in it, do very, very well, so long as they don't want to match Wal-Mart's gross sales figures. Besides, isn't church a quality buiness anyway.

And while we are talking about megachurches, the Constructuve Curmudgeon links to a rather good critique thereof.


Inspiring True Jealousy

The team I am leading have spent the last few days walking through the old city of Antioch....

...We are now off to Tarsus (the Apostle Paul's hometown) and Cappadocia (the land of cave churches and underground cities).
Having been to a few biblical cities, this sounds like more fun that humans should be allowed to have.

My experiences are in Corinth and Thessalonica. I have to say that scripture takes on a whole new significance when read in its actual setting.


Leave It To The Legacy Media... mix up parables and healing stories:

Good Samaritan Has Run-In With Demon


Call Me When They Have Proven 'The Fundmental Theorm Of Calculus'

Monkey Math Mirrors Our Own

Come to think of it, I did have a few suspicious classmates?!


A Reason To Hire A Martian Maid

Martian Dust Major Risk to Manned Mission


What Corporation Is Responsible For This?

Milky Way's Big Black Hole Gets Downsized

What does a black hole do when it is out of work anyway?


How Can There Be A Dawn If There Was No Sun?

Astronomers look for dawn of the universe

Wednesday, November 02, 2005


Being A Christian In The Real World

Evangelical Outpost has had a couple of great posts lately on some "rubber meets the road" issues about being a Christian in our world today. One post concerns religiously based arguments in public academic discourse. The other concerns Christian healthcare and what are Christian community issues and governmental issues.

In the "argument" post Joe says
Academics are not the only ones at fault. Many of us fool ourselves into believing that we can approach our vocations with a sense of religious neutrality. What we fail to understand is that we either bring the Logos to bear on our areas of expertise and fields of study or we reject him as irrelevant, a useless appendage that can be shaved off with Occam?s razor. We would do well to remember, though, Christ?s warning that if we deny him before men that he will also deny us before his Father in heaven?and that denying Christ can be done without ever moving our lips.
I agree with the spirit here. If a Christian does not bring Christ to everything they do, they are in fact denying Christ in some sense. How that happens will be different in every circumstance. Sometimes, in fact I think most times, though we bring Christ not in an intellectual sense, but simply in the sense of who we are. If I work on an assembly line bolting a part to a chassis there is very little I can do in an intellectual sense to bring Christ to that vocation, other than be a Godly person.

I also think it is important how we bring Christ to what we do. In the post of Christian healthcare Joe says this
This rigid adherence to political thinking poses a stumbling block to the search for Biblical-based solutions to social problems. Liberal evangelicals believe the primary agent in issues of ?social justice? is the state and that church?s role is merely to baptize the conscious of government. Conservatives, on the other hand, believe that the ?private sector? (i.e., corporations) is the responsible agent and that the church's contribution is to provide a ?safety net.? Neither side of the spectrum, however, appears to believe that ?bearing one another?s burdens? transcends socio-economic lines or is applicable to all Christians in the church.

Healthcare sharing ministries are certainly not the only possible solution for meeting the health needs of believers. And while the plans appear to provide a partial solution, they still require the ability to the individual to fund their ?share? of the burden. Still, these ministries offer fresh ways of looking at the issue and raise important questions about why we do not start with Biblical rather than political presuppositions when addressing these questions. Perhaps someday evangelicals will realize that healthcare issues are best addressed by the community of believers rather than by political parties.
I agree with Joe's primary thesis here, that as Christians we have to start to think outside the box in terms of the church's role for providing for social justice, but I think we need to think much farther outside it than the idea of Christian healthcare cost sharing as he describes it. I looked into this sometime ago, and I did not think it a grand idea -- it was really pretty standard healthcare "branded" as Christian. Such branding really scares me -- if Christianity is a label only, if it is not somehow substanitively different, then it will soon lose all meaning.

Which brings me back to the point I was making on Joe's other post. The best thing a Chritian can bring to his vocation is him/herself - transformed by Christ and indwelled by the Holy Spirit. Take the idea of Christian healthcare for example. If everyone oin the existing healthcare system came to Christ then it would, in fact, become a Christian healthcare system.

And that is where there is a "check in my spirit" over issues like this. I agree with Joe's overriding premise that the church is called not just to redeem individuals, but to redeem the world, but I think it is called to redeem the world by redeeming individuals.

The mission of the church is, scripturally, pretty well, and narrowly, defined. Social justice is an outpouring of that mission, but it is not the mission itself. Which takes me back to my post on Jollyblogger yesterday. I concluded with this
Sometimes it's just best to roll around in Christ.
The rest of it will take care of itself if we do.


Tell Me Again About 'The Religion Of Peace'

Tension Mounts in Troubled Suburbs of Paris After Five Nights of Rioting by Muslim Youths
The troubles were triggered by the deaths of two teenagers of north African descent who were electrocuted in a power substation where they hid to escape police they thought were chasing them. A third was injured but survived. Officials have said police were not pursuing the boys, aged 15 and 17.
Something is very wrong when a people group is willling to do stuff like this based on misinformation. That may be the definiton of "prejudice."


The Best Of Pravda

Pretty much everything you have heard about Russian women is true

Woman falls into the basement while having shower

They do grow them big.

Russia still does not quite get American politics, but they love to report it if it falls in line with their fantasies.

US Democrats urge George Bush to apologize to the nation for his presidency

And speaking of fantasies, they do like to have them big

Scientists to invent time machine in near future

They will, of course, be good Russian scientists.


IT'S WAR!!!!

Monday, Fraters Libertas posted on the seemingly huge representation of the MOB - Minnesota Organization of Bloggers - in Radioblogger's Blog Of The Week Competition. The Elder seems all excited that they have two winners and one perpetual nominee.

I think it necessary to remind the "gentlemen" at Fraters and the MOB in general that the two weeks prior to their two victories were won by members of the Southern California Blogger's Alliance - Powder Tracks and Just a Woman. And that the second such award ever awarded went to another fine SCBA member, ahem, yours truly.

So, I believe, at the moment this makes the score:

SCBA - 3 MOB -2

I believe it's time for an open declaration of Blog Of The Week War! SCBA v MOB. May the best bloggers win!


Diplomacy Lesson

Learn dining etiquette from around the world right here. Avoid that fauz pas!


And You Thought You Had It Rough

Here it is the "Top Ten" Worst Jobs In Science. You'll have to igniore a little political correctness along the way, but you have to admit "semen washer" (#7) is a pretty rough way to make a living.


Sci FI Channel Fodder Rides Again

Giant crabs invade Rome excavation

This one will have to be a Ray Harryhausen special. They roam through the city, destroying ancient ruins, stomping on traffic.


They Were Hiding In The Shadows

Scientists Surprised by X-rays from Lab Lightning

Then they jumped out and said -- BOO!


Ones, Tens, or Hundreds?

Another Wedding Guest Loses Digit in Fight

Tuesday, November 01, 2005


What Do You Know?

Jollyblogger remembered Reformation Day in his post yesterday. As I read that great post, one verse rang thorugh my mind over and over
1 Cor 2:2 - For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.
David puts it this way
The reformed tradition reminded me that no amount of self-striving on my part could enable me to win the battle against indwelling sin. Salvation and sanctification are by grace, through faith, because of Christ from first to last.
I love his post, but I am not quite sure how to react to it, I have a couple of possible reactions. First of all, David just sort of acts like a "pig in slop" just a happy camper in his happiest place -- I am tempted to join him.

But then there is a question that runs through my mind, "Is there a difference between the 'reformed' school and the 'evangelical' school, and if so what is it?" Now I realize "evangelical" may have the slipperiest definition of any word in the faith discussion, but I am asking on a personal level. I consider myself both, but if there is a big and significant difference between the two, then I need to jettison the "evangelical" label.

And while I am asking questions, here is another one. Because I believe it's all about what Jesus did (making me reformed) I also believe he works through other traditions and institutions than just those that claim the reformed label. He's God, He can work through whatever and do so however He chooses. So why is any label important at all? In David's great testimony, he talks about how reformed thought changed his faith life, but according to reformed thought, it didn't, rather Christ did. I guess my question boils down to, "Will the elect always believe in election?" I am all but certain that not everyone that believes in election is, in fact, of the elect but that does not make the converse true.

All of which me back to the place where I said David was -- the "pig in slop" place. Sometimes it's just best to roll around in Christ.


Well, This Seems to Be What Everybody Wanted

Well as conservative judicial nominees go, they don't come much more solid than Sam Alito. I know that I should be a trooper here and get real busy, real fast to back this nomination, like Hugh says I should. I am heartened that 2 of the Republican side of the gang of 14 say this nomination is not filibusterable. But I'm worried. I don't trust the Dems, and, frankly, I don't trust all our people either, particularly McCain, Snowe, Chaffee and a couple others.

Upon the announcement this morning, I saw a filibuster in our future. Some of these quotes (HT: Just A Woman) seemed to confirm my worry.
"Rather than selecting a nominee for the good of the nation and the court, President Bush has picked a nominee whom he hopes will stop the massive hemorrhaging of support on his right wing. This is a nomination based on weakness, not strength." _ Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass.

"President Bush put the demands of his far-right political base above Americans' constitutional rights and legal protections by nominating federal appeals court Judge Samuel Alito to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor." _ Ralph Neas, president of the liberal People For the American Way.

"It is sad that the president felt he had to pick a nominee likely to divide America instead of choosing a nominee in the mold of Sandra Day O'Connor, who would unify us. This controversial nominee, who would make the court less diverse and far more conservative, will get very careful scrutiny from the Senate and from the American people." _ Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.
These people will not concede defeat rapidly or easily. Hugh is proposing a blitzkrieg and I think that will help us win the initial battle but, I am thinking of this more in terms of the Pacific war, not the European one. I think we are contemplating the invasion of Japan here, with the expectation that every man, woman, and child will fight to the death. As when we started our planning for that war, we do not currently have the atomic bomb in our arsenal. I hope we can get one built by the time we need it.

This one's going to be for the long haul. Forgive me if I pace myself.


Real Wisdom From The Young

One of the younger bloggers that I really enjoy is the UK's Bluefish On Sunday he said
Church history is vital to know - to see the errors that have come again and again, and to be drawn again to the truth.
I am stuck by how often we have to learn the lessons that are there for us if we were but to look. I recently listened to a CD of the great speeches of Winston Churchill and, particularly those predating WWII, strikingly similar to so much of what has been heard in our current conflict.

How can that not be more so in our endeavors with God? We have 6000 years of history to draw upon, more than pretty much any other people. A lot had happened in that time. Must we repeat the mistakes of those that have gone before?

Some years ago I was walking the main thoroughfare in the ruins of the ancient agora in Athens. Each building was marked as to its purpose. I was struck by how little life has changed in these 1000's of years. It was so easy to see how people, on their way home from work were stopping to buy a bit of bread, and maybe work out in the gym. The technology has changed, but life is oh so the same.

Bluefish has grand advice for us all.


News Of The Military

Here is an action item for you via Blackfive It concerns Sergeant Walter Gaya injured in the line of duty
The Argentina-born immigrant, who moved to the United States as a child, was injured just eight days before he was to be sworn in as a U.S. citizen in a ceremony in Iraq.

Now, he's in a bureaucratic black hole: Federal immigration officials wouldn't renew his permanent resident card or tell him when he could reschedule the swearing-in ceremony. No one at the local U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office could tell him what to do next to get his citizenship papers, or even how to renew his immigration documents.
Please write the Senator and Congresspersons for the state of Washington. Let's get this man what he has so richly earned!

Most of the Milbloggers I read in Iraq are coming home. I am happy for them and will continue to read them. But I am looking for some new in country guys (or girls). That lead me to Firepower Forward. Alas, he is currently on relief duty in Afghanistan and not in Iraq, but its good Milblog reading.

Now, about those guys in Iraq -- any recommendations?

Finally the Section 32 hearing concerning the soldier on soldier murder in Iraq has come to pass. Results forthcoming.


News Of Common Sense

U.S. Methodist panel orders gay minister defrocked

Although, I'd of never figured the Methodists for it.


Alphabet Soup

This week's Alphabet Soup finds us in the "G's" which takes us to Greenwich, England. It was a tough call between this and the Grand Canyon, but we have been spending a lot of time in the American southwest, so I thought a visit to another country was in order.

Greenwich excited me more than almost any other place in England I have visited. Probably because of its technical and scientific significance. For years I turned on the shortwave radio everyday and listen to the US Standards broadcast telling me in the time-of-day (so I could set my watch) in "Greenwich Mean Time" From that alone the place became mythical to me. It was a while before I figured out it was "just" an observatory and that the battle to make it 0 longitude had been highly political between England and France and had nothing whatsoever to do with science.

Even though I knew that when I visited, the childhood excitment remained.

What I did not know, prior to my reading before our first trip to England, was the hisorical importance of Greenwich in general to Great Britain. It has had a massive role in the maritime tradions of Britain, and those traditions ruled the world for a time.

This Naval History museum is, first of all, stunning when viewed from the waterfront like this. You see it coming forever is you approach on the water. As a museum it is also amazingly valuable. It contain the very uniform that Lord Nelson died in, bullet hole apparent. That is just one of those "gee-whiz" sorts of things that you can;t quite believe you are looking at.

The place is also a photographer delight. (This is not my work, it was too cloudy the day I was there) As you can see the architecture and setting makes for some incredible opportunities.

Greenwich was a personal highlight of my first visit to London. I recommend it to any visitor, whi has even a passing interest in anything naval, and particularly in the technology of sailing.


Not All That Close

Mars had a close encounter with Earth, approaching to within 69.4 million km (43.1 million miles) of our planet in the early hours of Sunday.
That's still quite a bit further than "spittin' distance."


Time Waster

With Cats!


Did You Ever See 'Bachelor Party' With Tom Hanks?

Woman Gets Donkey for Her 50th Birthday

Then you don't need me for a punchline here.


So Why Not OJ?

Herd, zoos shun elephant with troubled past
The 19-year-old elephant with a checkered past - she killed her first baby and is suspected of killing a handler - failed to fit in at a British zoo, and now is having trouble at an Israeli safari park.
Know what I mean?


Super Villians In The Making?

U.S. Military Wants to Own the Weather

No doubt some mad scientist will steal it from them and then it'll be a job for [INSERT FAVORITE SUPERHERO HERE]

Electrocuted Squirrel Starts Grass Fire

Then with his newly acquired powers he made all the televisions in lower Manhattan tune to cable access, driving the population mad, forcing them into the streets in a frenzy of....

Sorry, I was getting a little carried away there.


Isn't That Usually How It Works?

Murder inquiry after body found

Monday, October 31, 2005


Some Great Comments - More On Freedom

My Saturday post on my discomfort with the concept of Christian freedom drew some great comments.

I would like to address one of those comments in particular. Mark Daniels said this
I think of the freedom of Christ as the freedom to fail. Luther talked about "sinning boldly." By that he meant that as we contemplate decisions in our lives, we should read God's Word, consider God's will as expressed in His Law, seek the counsel of trusted Christian friends, pray, and then, even if uncertain about what's right, do what we believe is right...sin boldly. God is interested in our motives. Even when we go wrong, if our will is to do God's will, we live in the knowledge of God's grace and acceptance. That, to me, is freeing.
I cannot argue with what Mark says there taken in it's total, but people rarely take the time and energy to fully develop ideas, and that is what troubles me so. I am also less concerned about someone that proceeds in uncertainty, than I am with someone who proceeds with absolute certainty. BTW, I know Mark and he is a good man -- what proceeds from this point is not to pick a fight with Mark, it's my personal struggle with the idea.

Historically the examples are rampant. Rasputin, for example, came to the place where he felt he was free to debauch. He in fact felt it neessary in order to experience grace at its fullest. (and before you bring it up, of course I know Romans 6:1-2, but that does not change the fact that Rasputin debauched himself in the name of God) Jim Jones of the People's Temple was convinced that as God's special prophet he was to father children by as many of his female congregants he could lay his hands on. The recently deceased Gene Scott knew, just knew, that his congregants were supposed to cough up cash for his several Rolls-Royces and rather impressive stable of equestrian flesh. These people all "sinned boldly" in what they thought was the pursuit of Christ.

I've met similar people on a smaller scale -- the pastor that manipulated his congregation into the extra gift of a car -- when he was already pulling down six-figures. They all are absolutely convinced that they are operating within the constraints of God's will, and the "freedom" that that provides.

"Abberations," "Flukes," "Miscreants," I often hear said when I bring this up. And yet, these condemnations of thier actions are never preached and only arise when I raise the issue. More importantly, such things do grevious harm to the name of God.

Christian "freedom" is not a straightforward idea. It comes with caveats, it must. "If you are in the Spirit" - "Guided by scripture and the Word" - "In submission to the Lord"

See, here is the thing -- I wonder if it is a concept most vaulable for another time. Christ came at a time when the law was oppressive. Freedom from that oppression was necessary and mandatory. We live in a most permissive age. In our age, and in large part the transformative nature of the gospel will make us appear to the world not as liberated (as it would have in Christ's and the apostle's time) but constrained. Not because we behave any differently than they did, but because the commonly accepted definitons of freedom and constraint have changed so radically.

We live in an age where all of society has already shucked the opppression of the law without picking up the mantle of Christ. They don't need freedom, they need transformation. That means, I think, that we need to be very careful in our use of the term "freedom" in the gospel context. It's reality I cannot deny. It's power is real. But it's effectiveness, in this age, I still have trouble with.


Blogging - The Dark Side

We remodeled the house a couple of years ago. That's hard work, particularly if you are trying to save some bucks with some sweat equity. But one part always went faster, easier, and gave better results than expected every time -- DEMOLITION. And what a sense of accomplishment! It only took a couple of hours to tear my kitchen down to bare walls and haul the waste to the dump. It was a thing of beauty. Took two more months to get it back together, but the demolition was fantastic. Enormous changes after a short time, done well. I was never so happy as I was on demolition day. The new kitchen took so long, and required so much effort, that its completion was marked more by relief than accomplishment. It was several months before I could look at it and really feel like I had accomplished something.

A common complaint about legacy media is that they are always looking for the next Watergate -- the next big scandal -- the next place where "they can really have an impact." All of us have blogged about it, usually in complaint. But now I am wondering about us -- do we have the same "bloodlust?"

Blogging has come a long way in a short time. "Christmas in Cambodia" -- "Swift Boats" -- "Rathergate" We all know the names, many of us started blogging because it seemed like fun to be a part of that. In each of these cases, blogging was an effective tool for circulating true information in an approriate context, information that might otherwise not have been circulated. Each case had major impact, and generated a great sense of accomplish.

Now, while they were happening the legacy media fought back against the rising tide of blogging by talking about the lack of professionalism, the line between gossip and reporting, the hysteria of the masses, the ability of the blogosphere to make mountains out of molehills.

The response to this legacy media argument was generally to divide the frontline bloggers like The Corner, Hewitt, Instapundit, Powerline...from the rabble in "the tail."

But let us consdier now L'Afaire 'd Miers. With the possible exception of The Corner (the "Caligula's horse" crack really did cross a line) the frontline bloggers disagreed, but attempted to stay within the bounds of generally acceptable discourse. But each little scrap and bit of information that came out really did echo throughout the blogosphere until it became in appearance far more significant and far more important that it really was.

Ask yourself this, why is there so much being written in an effort to make sure that what happened is not labelled "borking?" Why are so many defending what happened if they believe thier actions were so just? I have seen post after post after post defending what happened, stating that it was reasonable and just and within the bounds of civil discourse. The only accusations to the contrary have come from Hewitt (well maybe me and Hedgehog too, but I don't really count, and Lowell is just now arriving at the frontlines) and as a lone voice, would it not be simpler just to ignore him?

Blogging is about spreading information and forming ideas. Those things have consequences, but if we start with the consequences and then move to the information and ideas, we have a problem. Then we are in the same place we so often accuse the legacy media of being. Then we want to exercise our power as bloggers for its own sake. Just remember, that power only lasts so long as we do the primary funtion properly. That power only lasts when the information and ideas are accurate and in proper context.

Demolition brings a great sense of accomplishment, and it is immediate, but all you are left with is an empty room. Building something is lot harder, but given time and perspective, the accomplishment is so much greater.

UPDATE: Turns out I was not alon in thinking along these lines. This morning's OpinionJournal has a John Fund piece on the same topic.
One that deserves study is how a lightning-fast news cycle, a flat-footed defense and the growth of new media such as talk radio and blogs sank Ms. Miers's chances even before the megabuck special-interest groups could unload their first TV ad. Ms. Miers herself has told friends that she was astonished at how the Internet became a conveyor belt for skeptical mainstream media reports on her in addition to helping drive the debate.
Although as one of the chief anti-Miers pundits, Fund also tries to defend himself against the "borking" charge, something I don't think holds water given his grand assertions of huge revelations to come that turned out to be minor lunch speeches. Nonetheless, he concludes well
"The moral hazard of the new media is clear," says columnist Jim Pinkerton, an aide to President George H.W. Bush. "They can turn any discussion into a donnybrook, and any nomination into Armageddon." Such a development isn't inevitable--witness the civilized debate over John Roberts's appointment. But President Bush will have to consider that risk in picking a new nominee for the high court, just as Democratic senators will have to weigh how much they respond to Internet sites pressuring them to mount a filibuster against that nominee.
You're right John, but the Internet also needs to be asking itself what's really important and what's not. The last thing right-wing blogging should be is just refried MoveOn or Kos.


The Value Of Structures

Blogcorner Preacher is wondering about the role and appropriateness of the great structures of the church, you know, cathedrals, etc.
I've been in St. Paul's in London, and, wow. It's something. I've also been in many of the grand cathedrals in France, and some elsewhere in Europe. Wow again. I'm of two minds when entering such places. The first is usually, "surely they could have found a better use for the money this all cost?" Like, maybe, feed the hungry, clothe the poor, shelter the homeless. That sort of thing.

The second is to be in awe at some of the craftsmanship, sculptures, and paintings. Beautiful. What price to put on it? Ad majorem dei glorium, as my Jesuit brothers say. As to what Paul might have said, don't know. He was a bit of a curmudgeon, in a righteous cause, for which he gave his life. I suspect he'd not have liked it much.
I too have been in many of these glorious structures and I too have had the same thoughts, but a few experiences have brought me down solidly believing in their value.

Nowhere are such structures more pagan-seeming than in Russia. It has been common practice there to build such grand structures to commemorate events.

The "Church On The Spilt Blood" seen here was erected to commenorate the assasination of Tsar Alexander II. It never functioned as a house of worship. I was constructed as and has always been, save for the years of total neglect by the communists, an elaborate and overwhelming memorial. Royalty may have done some religious ceremony in it, but it was never a genuine house of God.

The same can be said for this building -- the extremely famous St Basil's on Red Square in Moscow.

This was built by Ivan the Terrible, the first real Tsar, to commemorate a victory over Poland. Again, it was never really used as a house of worship. Again, royalty may have used it for private religous matters from time to time, but is was never a place where God was pronounced the the people

Now consider this -- faith, the gospel, religion survivied the best efforts of Stalin, and the entire history of the Soviet Union. They may have neglected these places. But they dared not consider demolishing them -- it would have fomented revolt.

Strange as it may seem to our puritanical protestant minds -- these elaborate structures, with all their wasted money and seeming idolatry, maintained faith where faith was actively derided and persecuted. The power of their symbolism could not be overcome.

One must remember how incredibly literate this age is. There was a time, in fact most of history, when that was not the case. Even after the advent of printing, it was a long time before widespread literacy took hold. When that was the case, such structures, and things like orthodox icons, played a role similar to what coffee table Bible plays today. But these structures will last much longer than the inexspensively bound Bible on my coffeee table.

I can't begin to figure out the theology of all this - it is contrary to my puritanical training, but I have seen it work (I have visited not only current Russia, but was in the Soviet Union) I cannot deny its reality.


Stuff That Will Make You Want To Bathe

WolrdNetDaily is looking at a recent Bible Symposium at Florida Southern College. It talks about two of the presenters.
James L. Crenshaw, professor of Old Testament at Duke Divinity School, questioned Scripture's authority to govern matters of sexuality....

....The second speaker, L. William Countryman, professor of biblical studies at The Church Divinity School of the Pacific, is an ordained priest in the Episcopal Church and has been outspoken in debates over homosexuality in the clergy of that denomination. For Countryman, it is the gospel, ? "the good news that God made us all alike and loves us all equally" ? that has primacy.
We have got to get our seminaries and divinty schools under control. That these ideas come from the homosexual community, seeking legitimization, I can understand, but that it comes from institutions, the charter of which is to train people to minister in Christ's name, is abhorent to me.

If a seminary discards the authority of Scripture, all boundaries disappear. We have got to find a way to get this under control. I think it should be understated as well. Maybe we lobby places like Duke to rename their schools, or change the degrees they grant? Maybe instead of MDivs, we lobby them to grants MA's in Divinity. Maybe we get them to stop calling themselves Divinity Schools and call themselves something more innocuous like "School of Religion." My point is that in our religiously pluralistic society, we can't censor them. I think we should; however, work to draw as much a distinction as possible between what they think and espouse and genuine Christianity as possible.


Get Ahold Of Yourself Man

From the London Telegraph
According to a leading academic, the nation is in "thrall to a new priesthood of gurus".

In a speech at the Battle of Ideas Festival tomorrow at the Royal College of Art, Prof Frank Furedi says the collapse in traditional authority figures has not produced a less deferential or more questioning society.

Instead, we are now slaves to therapists and "hustlers" and taking advice on saving Africa from pop singers.
Boy oh boy is that true. We live in a world where there is simply too much to know. No one can know everything they really need to know. We must rely on experts, we must rely on leaders.

If that wasn't the case, the traditional authority figure would not have been replaced by priesthood of gurus. Here's the problem though -- traditonal authority figures had come through a system, usually an apprentice kind of system, that weeded the capable from the incapable and guaranteed us good leaders. Now anyone can declare themselves an expert and set up shop.

Now it is up to the free market, not the apprenticship system, to sort the good from the bad. In many ways that's more egalitarian, and fairer. But it will also result in a lot of bad advice and rip offs. What it ultimately says is "buyer beware" We need to carefully decide which experts we will and will not listen to. Otherwise we are going to end up in a world of hurt.


Really Cool Chemistry

Few things in chemistry have the "Hey cool" factor going for them. Synthesizing the "buckyball" - that the molecule you see here, was one of them. I promise you, there wasn't a soul in the world that knows anything about chemical synthesis at all that the first time they saw that molecular structure didn't say "Cool!" right out loud.

The guy that did it passed away a couple of days ago. This really was an important discovery, but it was of the kind that makes chemistry fun, and that makes Richard Smalley worthy a hearty Blogotional THANKS!



Proof that it's more about fear than reality
New York City has many odors, but when the city began to smell a little too good, New Yorkers became alarmed.
Come on on you ecologically-conscious-evolutionary-thinkers out there -- good things smell good and bad things smell bad for a reason. But no, something changes and our first thought is "BAD" -- does that tell you anything?

Is this about the bird, or a comment on the plan?

International albatross plan proposes new colonies

It's about the bird, but I thought colonialization was a bad thing?

I am getting really tired of reading how climate change is going to ruin everything. Europe is going to have all sorts of problems and good-bye coral reefs. OK folks, for the record -- the climate is changing whether we like it or not. Even the global warming "experts' will tell you the question is not that it is warming, but if the rate and extent of warming is natural or man-made. In the history of the planet eco-systems come, they go, and they change. We better get used to that.

OK, there is perception and there is reality. Consider biomass fuels
Biomass, which sees crops grown for use as environmentally friendly fuels, should be used to generate heat, a year-long task force study concluded.
Biomass is just a different way of obtaining natural gas, that's all, doesn't burn any cleaner than fuel already currently in use. Then there is the question of how much land and resources you have to use to grow the biomass, and then finally the issue of what to do with the leftovers. Renewable is different than environmentally friendly.

Finally, here is your reading list. Read them all.


No Mystery Here

Fire breaks out in university lab

The blaze broke out in a science laboratory on the ground floor of the three-story building in the early hours of Sunday morning.
Not, mind you, that I have any first hand knowledge of doing lab work into the wee hours with a few brews in the ice chest from my undergrad days, no, but I have heard of such things.


Movie Quote Game -- WE HAVE A WINNER!

The last Movie Quote Game has, after a week, produced a winner -- albeit an anonymous one. (see the comments in the link) Please recall, the quote was:

I Drank What?

The answer, quoting the winning comment is
"I was thinking of the immortal words of Socrates who said 'I drank what?'"

-- Val Kilmer in Real Genius
YOU ARE CORRECT SIR!I picked up the quote as a title to this blog and I am guessing the the reticence of the comment author to identify him/herself is because they are the author of the blog in question.

Regardless -- "Real Genius" is one of the more overlooked and very funny movies of all time -- it will also give you some amazing insight into my undergraduate years, there is nothing like being a lab science major of some sort to allow for practical jokes. I really can't say anything else without checking the statute of limitations on a few laws.

Much honor and glory is hereby bestowed upon "Anonymous." Thanks for playing.


Followed Here Only Sporadically

The rules of sarcasm

How dare they say this!:
They say sarcasm is the lowest form of wit.
Everybody, except of course for "they," knows that distinction belongs to the pun. Could these people be any more wrong?


It'd Be A Bigger Problem The Other Way Around

Conn. Wants to Ban Beer With Elf Label

Have you ever been around an elf after he's had a few too many?


What Happened To The Goose?

Police on wild boar chase


Those Darn Cats

I'm betting this is the badger's fault

Bon Voyage: Wisconsin Cat Sails to France

Although, I've met a few cats with a very french-like attitude. My cat has actually tried this:

Cat that ate my toe

It hurts!

Sunday, October 30, 2005


Dealing With Poverty

First I saw this

Births to Unwed Mothers at Record High

Then I saw this post from Common Grounds Online.
In our society, the poor are not restricted to any ethnic group. However, there is a disproportionate representation by African-Americans among the persistently poor. Caucasian poor are still more numerous, but there is greater mobility into and out of poverty by Caucasians. (Interesting fact: the most intractable poverty in the US is not inner city poverty but Appalachian poverty.)

This is not about blame but about dealing with what social scientists are coming to see as one of the chief variables (some say it is THE chief variable): single mothers in the African-American community. Are out of wedlock births issues for other racial and ethnic groups in the US? Yes, of course. But as a matter of proportion, the African-American community is disproportionately affected.
Glenn over at CGO is actually trying to make a case that some moral issues rise above religion and exist purely for the good of the greater society. He's right, but it also begs a question about the role of religion in society, if not in government.

Remember one of the things that our Constitution is really about -- separation of powers. That is the key. The establishment clause is not about abolishing the power of religion in our nation, which is what many people seem to think it is, rather it is about separating the legitmate powers of government from those of religion. It was based on the fact that historically, the state had usurped the power and authority of religion for its own purposes.

A society needs both power centers. Religion, as an institution, is the only thing that can grant moral authority, and as Glenn's piece points out, absent a reasonably coherent moral standard, and some authority to give it credence, the results in society can be disasterous. Separating that power from governmental power does not, by the way mean stopping intereaction between the two powers. It simply means that the powers intereact with intention and process and not simply assume each others powers.

To me, the important question is whose fault is the erosion of authority that religion has suffered? In the end, I am afraid it must belong not to those that seek to push religion out, but to those that have failed to demonstrate the real power of religion. Which to me means those that have practiced religion without genuine faith.

Why has poverty become a state issue? Because religion failed. Why did religion fail? Because not enough people in religion truly believed in what they were doing. I know, I am sounding a bit like Jim Wallis here, and it is making my skin crawl, but here is the difference. Wallis wants to use the authority of religion to make the state deal with poverty. I want religion to deal with poverty directly. The other difference is that Wallis wants religion to deal with poverty through handouts, while this data makes plain that dealing with poverty must also include a component of morality.

So where do we start? Revivial. We need to stop building churches and start making disciples. And, by the way, that does not mean we make disciples here in the burbs to go to the poor folks and feed them -- it means we make disciples of the poor folks. That will, as Glenn's post shows, lift them out of poverty. Sure, we may give them a little financial help along the way, but in the end it's not about relieving the poverty, it's about making them disciples.

Battling poverty is not "a ministry" - it is part-and-parcel of the ministry. We don't need deep pockets to battle poverty, we just need the Holy Spirit.


Disturbing - But Not In The Way You Might Think

This headline really is disturbing

Arizona Court: Preserved Embyros Are Not Persons

But by the same token, the first thought that ran through my mind when I read it, was "Of course they aren't." They aren't "things" either, but they aren't "persons." The helplessness of thier state makes them, in a functional sense, property of some sort. So too children and individuals like Teri Schiavo.

The question is not one of "personhood" but rather "person value." Do we and should we value embryoes and children and people like Teri the same as we value less helpless individuals? That's the key question. Now, of course, I think we should, but how does a society answer such a question?

Courts, for sure are not the place to find the answer. While we all deride the tendency of court to "make law," they do try, to some extent, to place their decisions within the framework of existing law. Thus they invent "rights" because "rights" is concept that is within the exisring framework of law, when what is needed is a whole new category. Thus in situations like this, where a new category is called for, they are going to be loathe to do that, and will instead try and classify it somehow in existing categories.

Ask yourself this, why do courts end up "making law." In part because we ask them to decide on things which aren't in the law. They should, of course, punt on such questions, but sometimes, the society has to have them answered, and the correct place to answer the question, in legislation, seems intractable. On issues closely dividied, elected officials want to punt, because any answer will honk off too many voters. However, it really takes legislation to posit new categories.

You know what I think? I think we have to grow up in this country. What I mean by that is that we have to gain some respect for the process and come to understand that the process will not always produce the result we want, but that it is a far cry better than having stuff like this imposed on us.


Sermons and Lessons


Little is known about the life of the Jesuit Jean-Pierre de Caussade beyond the bare facts of his career. He was born in Toulouse, France, and was ordained a member of the Society of Jesus in 1708. Although he was by no means unrecognized as a scholar and preacher, there is only one mention of him in the Jesuit calendar, and the only book he published, Spiritual Instructions on the Various States of Prayer, appeared anonymously and for a time was attributed to a more popular contemporary.

Two key phrases have become identified with his name. The first, "self-abandonment to divine providence," implies a dynamic surrender of ourselves to the will and way of God. The second, "the sacrament of the present moment," awakens us to the requirement of doing our duty, whatever it may be, a carrying out of God's purpose for us not only this day, or this hour, but this minute, this very minute.

We who long to press into the heart of God will find comfort and hope in de Caussade?s joyful surrender to God's will and constant discovery of God's loving purpose in the midst of life's trials and tribulations.


1. Sick Doctors and Healthy Patients

God's order, his pleasure, his will, his action and grace; all these are one and the same. The purpose on earth of this divine power is perfection. It is formed, grows, and is accomplished secretly in souls without their knowledge. Theology is full of theories and arguments expounding the miracles it works in each soul. We may be able to understand all these speculations, cogently discuss, write, teach, and instruct souls through them. But with only this in mind in relation to those in whom that divine purpose exists, I suggest we are like sick doctors trying to cure patients in perfect health.

God's order and his divine will, humbly obeyed by the faithful, accomplishes this divine purpose in them without their knowledge in the same way as medicine obediently swallowed cures invalids who neither know nor care how. Just as it is fire and not the philosophy or science of that element and its effects that heats, so it is God's order and his will which sanctify and not curious speculations about its origin or purpose.

To quench thirst it is necessary to drink. Reading books about it only makes it worse. Thus, when we long for sanctity, speculation only drives it further from our grasp. We must humbly accept all that God's order requires us to do and suffer. What he ordains for us each moment is what is most holy, best, and most divine for us.

2. What God Ordains for the Present Moment

All we need to know is how to recognize his will in the present moment. Grace is the will of God and his order acting in the center of our hearts when we read or are occupied in other ways; theories and studies, without regard for the refreshing virtue of God?s order, are merely dead letters, emptying the heart by filling the mind. This divine will flowing through the soul of a simple uneducated girl, through her suffering or some exceptionally noble act in adversity, carries out in her heart God?s mysterious purpose without thought entering her head. Whereas the sophisticated man, who studies spiritual books out of mere curiosity, whose reading is not inspired by God, takes into his mind only dead letters and grows even more arid and obtuse.

God?s order and his divine will is the life of all souls who either seek or obey it. In whatever way this divine will may benefit the mind, it nourishes the soul. These blessed results are not produced by any particular circumstance but by what God ordains for the present moment. What was best a moment ago is so no longer because it is removed from the divine will which has passed on to be changed to form the duty to the next. And it is that duty, whatever it may be, that is now most sanctifying for the soul.

3. The Fruit Ripens

If the divine will ordains that reading is the duty of the present moment, reading achieves that mysterious purpose. If the divine will abandons reading for an act of contemplation, that duty will bring about a change of heart and then reading will be harmful and useless. If the divine will rejects contemplation for confessions and the like (especially if they are lengthy), it will establish Jesus Christ in our heart which all the sweetness of contemplation would only prevent.

The mysterious growth of Jesus Christ in our heart is the accomplishment of God?s purpose, the fruit of his grace and divine will. This fruit, as has been pointed out, forms, grows, and ripens in the succession of our duties to the present which are continually being replenished by God, so that obeying them is always the best we can do. We must offer no resistance and blindly abandon ourselves to his divine will in perfect trust.

This divine will is infinitely wise, powerful, and benevolent towards souls who totally and unreservedly put their trust in it, and who love and seek it alone, and who believe with an unshakable faith and confidence that what the divine will ordains each moment is best, who look no further afield for vain comparisons with any material benefits God's order may bring.

4. Jesus Christ in the Center of Our Being

The will of God is the presence, the reality, and the virtue in all things, adjusting them to souls. Without God?s direction all is void, emptiness, vanity, words, superficiality, death. The will of God is the salvation, sanity, and life of body and soul whatever else it may bring to either of -them. Whether it be vexation and trouble for the mind, or sickness and death for the body, nevertheless that divine will remains all in all. Bread without the divine will is poison, with it true sustenance. Without the divine will read¬ing only blinds and perplexes, with it it enlightens.

The divine will is the wholeness, the good and the true in all things. Like God, the universal Being, it is manifest in everything. It is not necessary to look to the benefits received by -the mind and body to judge their virtue. These are of no significance. It is the will of God that gives everything, whatever it may be, the power to form Jesus Christ in the center of our being. This will knows no limits.

5. God's Purpose in the Present Moment

Divine action does not distinguish between creatures, whether they are useless or useful. Without it everything is nothing, with it nothing is everything. Whether contemplation, meditation, prayer, inward silence, intuition, quietude, or activity are what we wish for ourselves, the best is God?s purpose for us at the present moment. Souls must look upon everything as though it were a matter of complete indifference, and, seeing only him in all things, must take or leave them as he wishes so as to live, be nourished by, and hope in him alone and not by any power or virtue which does not come from him.

Every moment, and in respect of everything, they must say, like St. Paul, "Lord what should I do?" Let me do everything you wish. The Spirit wants one thing, the body another, but Lord, I wish only to do your divine will. Supplication, intercession, mental or vocal prayer, action or silence, faith or wisdom, particular sacraments or general grace, all these, Lord, are nothing, for your purpose is the true and only virtue in all things. It alone, and nothing else, however sublime or exalted, is the object of my devotion since the purpose of grace is the perfection of the heart, not of the mind.

6. This Secret Union

The presence of God which sanctifies our souls is the Holy Trinity which dwells in our hearts when they surrender to the divine will. God's presence coming to us through an act of contemplation brings this secret union. Like everything else belonging to God's order and enjoined by the divine will, it must always take first place as the most perfect means of uniting ourselves to God.

It is by being united to the will of God that we enjoy and possess him, and it is a delusion to seek this divine possession by any other means. Being united to God is the only way, not in any specific manner or style, but in a thousand different ways, and the one he chooses for us is the best. But they must all be loved and esteemed since they are all ordained by God and his purpose, chosen for and adapted to each soul to bring about the divine union. And souls must abide by his choice, preferring the way of this blessed will, and must love and respect it just as much in others.

7. We Must Set No Bounds

For example, if God?s purpose prescribes for me vocal prayers, loving sentiments, insight into the mysteries, I must love the silence and bareness which a life of faith inspires in others. But for myself, I must make use of my duty to the present and by it unite myself to God. I must not, like the quietists, reduce all religion to a denial of any specific action, despising all other means, since what makes perfection is God's order, and the means he ordains is best for the soul. No, we must set no bounds or limits or shape to the will of God.

We must accept any way he chooses to communicate with us and respect any way it pleases him to unite himself to others. Thus, all simple souls have but one general way, though specific and different in each one, which makes up the diversity of the mystical experience. All simple souls must admire and respect one another, saying: "Let us proceed each one along our path to the same goal, united in purpose and by means of God?s order which, in its great variety, is in us all." It is in this light that the lives of the saints and the spiritual books must be read, without ever being misled or going astray.

8. When Will God Be All in All?

It is why it is absolutely essential neither to read nor hold spiritual discourse unless ordained by God. Since his order makes it their duty to the present to do so, far from being misled, souls will find reassurance in the very things which contradict what they have learnt. But if God?s order does not make this reading and spiritual discourse the duty to the present moment, they will always emerge troubled and find themselves confused and uncertain.

Without God there can be no order anywhere. How long, then, shall we continue to concern ourselves with our own liberty or our own capacity to suffer the trials and tribulations of the present moment? When will God be all in all to us? Let us see things in their true light and rise above them to live purely in God himself.

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