Saturday, December 03, 2005


Looking At Election

Once again, it all comes together. Adrian Warnock had a conversation on calvinism which sent his searching and he found a Challies look at Romans 9 in the archives. Seemingly simultaneously John Samson over at Reformed Theology exegeted the same passage. Both gentlemen are defending the doctrine of election, and the posts make many of the same points.

Much as I am a calvinist and agree with the posts, I found them unsatisfactory, while they answered many of the possible objections to the doctrine of election, they did not ask, at least directly, let alone answer what is for me the essential question -- "On what basis does God decide who is and who is not elect?"

The answer, of course, is "We don't know" -- no, that's not quite right -- "We can't know." Is that an intellectual cheat, a non-answer? Maybe, but it is an answer in which I revel. Think about this -- what good is a God that I can understand? Think how silly the "gods" of the old mythology (Greek, Roman, Norse...) appear to us. They are little more than people writ large -- comic book superheroes. A god whose motivations and judgements are understandable - and human-like, is a god of a most unsatisfactory kind.

Think about the state of our world. Consider the judgements and motivations of those around you. Do things look like they are working well to you? Forget the big stuff like genocide and terrorism and think about the little stuff in your everyday world - the petty jealousies, the failures to perform, the self-centeredness. Can you possible expect a god subject to those sorts of things to render judgement in a just or even fair manner? Of course not! Have you ever met another person whose judgement you would trust to decide everything? I hope not.

No, I take great comfort in the fact that I cannot possibly understand the basis on which God makes his decisions, for it means that I worship a God that is worthy of the name. It means that I worship a God that at least has a chance of making those decisions in a just and fair manner, because if I could understand His judgement I could be assured it would not be so.

The question itself belies the problem and the problem is our presumption of godlike status. Asking the question is an act of placing ourselves where only God ought to be.

In the end, the doctrine of election is comforting because it is based on a God that I can rely upon.


He 'Craps' Out

Ok, It's a somehwat obscure and borderline profane gambling reference to the fact that "sevens" seem to be running all over the blogosphere -- so I thought I'd bite. I first saw it at Allthings2all but it's been everywhere lately. So, without further ado, and in no particular order, The SEVEN SEVENS

1. Seven things to do before I die

2. Seven things I cannot do

3. Seven things that attract me to my spouse.

4. Seven things I say most often

5. Seven books (or series) I love (I'm limiting myself to fiction)

6. Seven movies I watch over and over again (or would watch over and over if I had the time)

7. Seven people I want to join in, too

Your turn!


Freedom Of Speech Found In A Career Change

The Gad(d)about's leaving journalism and is taking the opportunity to lift the veil for us on that little slice of heaven called the newsroom. My personal fav:
News reporters know sports. Sports reporters know gambling.
Given that most of my freshman year in college was spent in a major college football locker room, I can attest to this truth. "The line" as nothing to do with how they are going to tell the story.


Comic Art

The young sidekick was a staple of the comics in the so-called "Golden Age." Of course, everybody knows Robin, but Flash had Kid Flash, Green Arrow had Speedy, Wonder Woman had Wonder Girl, Captain America had Bucky, The Original Human Torch had Toro - oh yeah, there was Aqualad, need I go on? Green Lantern never went there and Superman was, well, his own sidekick since they were publishing Superboy too.

Originally conceived as a device to give the young male audience a hook into the story, kind of a way to ride along on the adventure, some, most notably Robin, became characters in their own right.

DC comics got smart and banded all the sidekicks together in a group called the "Teen Titans." It has ended up being one of the more successful franchises in comics, even being a cartoon on Cartoon Network these days.

The original Titans line-up depicted in part in this first two images was pretty much all the sidekicks. Only Superboy was absent becasue he wasn't contemporary to the other characters and because he was teamed up, in the future, with the Legion of Super-Heroes.

The early Titans still struggled to get out from under the shadows of their adult dopplegangers, and the stories often centered on teen rebellion, correction for mistakes, and were, in sum a little adolescent. The title sold, but struggled.

It was when the sidekicks started to go away that the Titans really came into their own. In the '80's they added a few "non-sidekick" characters, retaining the core - Robin - and things really took off. More on that in a minute.

This is more or less the current Titans. The whole "Mini-Me" thing is in vogue, though these characters are definitely not side-kicks. Centered on a couple of the "non-side-kick" characters from the '80's this Robin is not Dick Grayson, Kid Flash is not Wally West, and Superboy, well he is a Star Labs clone of the big guy. The Wonder Woman doppleganger -- well, they are still trying to figure her out.

This new group is a fairly new title and I think the jury is still out as to whether they will be great or not. The elements are there, the characters are so active in other titles, that it may be a little hard to wedge them in here.

This, as far as I am concerned, is the classic Titans. These were some great books with some great stories.

Over the next few weeks, I want to take a look at the teen superhero and the sidekick phenomena -- it'll be fun. I hope you'll join.

In a related matter, the NYTimes had an interesting piece on the comic business last Monday. It notes great sales in 2005, but also notes that they are achieved through a bit of marketing as opposed to genuine creativity. They are using a "tent-pole" miniseries, the plot of which reverberates through all the titles, thus the avid fan is more-or-less required to buy dozens of books to get the "whole" story. This approach also makes for great novelization in the post immediate release area.

Since I buy a lot of comics anyway, the marketing concept doesn't bother me too much, but the uneven quality of the creative teams accross all the titles can be annoying. Sometimes you end up buying a title with an artist you really don't like just to get that piece of the story.

I also wish they would make it easier to follow the story lines -- publish guides through the title that are posted in the specialty stores and maybe offer special subscritpion services. When I was a truly avid collector (single renter, too much time and money) I didn't mind the effort to dope all that out, but as a more casual collector these days I could really use the help.


And Jimmy Carter Will No Doubt Certify It

Ballot boxes set on fire in Palestinian election


So Who's Been Talking About It Up Until Now?

Academics weigh in on evolution debate


What Happened To Detention?

Bad words are costing Hartford Public and Bulkeley high schoolers $103 each.

Police officers assigned to the schools have fined about two dozen students for cursing in a new program to curtail unruly behavior. The joint effort by school and police officials targets students who swear while defying teachers and administrators.
Is it just me or does this say more about the "teachers and administrators" than it does the students? I mean who really needs the corrective action here?


And A Thousand 'B' Movies Were Born

On November 30, 1954, Ann Hodges, a 31-year-old resident of tiny Sylacauga, Alabama, was taking an early-afternoon nap on her living room couch when an eight-and-a-half-pound chunk of rock smashed through the roof, destroyed her radio cabinet, bounced, and landed on her. It was the first, and so far only, recorded instance of a meteorite hitting a human being.
I wonder if her insurance covered that damage?


I Want One!

Air Force develops "dazzling" laser weapon

I'm betting it's a great cat toy too!


Well, If You'd Quit Inviting Them

Berlin bar hosts 81st burglary in 12 years

Friday, December 02, 2005


The Key Convergence

I am teaching my high school group through Acts this year. That's one of the reasons I have been so active in the whole cessasionism/charismatic/continualization thing. The prime source material is staring me in the face daily. Last night we covered Peter's resurrection of Tabitha.

One of the questions I am continually asking the kids is "Do you wish is was that 'simple' today?" Christian life in Acts seems hard, but simple. God was there; He was very real. It was easy to believe when your leaders were bringing people back from the dead. Sometimes, my heart aches for that clarity.

It has been said over and over in this discussion that we all want God to be made experientially real in our lives. But by the same token its amazing how the good Prebyterian kids in the group are afraid of this stuff. They said as one last night that their response to the Peter/Tabitha story was fear -- it would be scary to have or even witness that kind of power.

And then it struck me -- in all this discussion of convergence, I think I have stumbled on the key point. The problem with so much that is charismatic is that people view it about what it means to them instead of to God. I talked yesterday about what a blessing a private prayer language had been to some of my friends, but that is the wrong perspective, because it's not about them, it's about God.

When charismatics go awry, as they so often do, it is closely related to mega-churches, worhsip style debates and everything else - we focus on the wrong thing -- we focus on what God can do for us instead of what we can do for God. the gifts are only useful in the context of how they are useful to God.

There is nothing reformed thought does better than stay focused on God. See, my Bible study kids, being from this backgroud are, really focused on God, and a God that has that kind of power really is scary. In the miraculous, we confront not only God's blessing, but His strength. In our hurry for the miraculous, we are quick to grab the cute little miracles, but how come no one is claiming the power to move mountains? It's been promised to us.

The problem with charismatics isn't that they aim too high, it's that they aim too low, they look out for themselves instead of for God. The problem with the reformed is a God more idea than reality. No, what we need is the charismatic call to very real, very active God, combined with the reformed focus that it's all about God, not us. Then, we really will see mountains moving around -- and God and Him alone glorified.

I wrote this post then happened upon this one by Brad at 21st Century Reformation saying some of the same things. Proof great minds run in the same gutter.


The Guvenator No More

Arnold Schwarzenegger's signature character, The Terminator, is a single minded, unstoppable machine. Focused like a laser beam, the Terminator does not deviate from his mission.

Those of us that elected Arnold out here in California hoped he would show some of that same single mindedness, that same determination, that same laser like focus to fixing the state, which is so far off the rails it needs tires.

Well, after takng a lickin' in the recent special election, Arnold seems more interested in appeasement than actually fixing anything. He has appointed someone slightly to the left of Lenin and his new Chief of Staff.

It's amazing, the story I just linked to is in the LATimes and it describes the move as "extremeist."
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger may fashion himself as an ideological centrist, but he continues to govern as an extremist. The selection of true-blue Democrat Susan Kennedy as his new chief of staff is the latest example.

It isn't philosophical extremism - left or right - I'm talking about. It's extremist actions.
Much as I loathe to agree with the LAT, they are on to something here. Arnold is acting more like a movie guy than a governor. In the movies, particularly Arnold's movies, it's important to have big action - even if it's walking through the door that everyone knows is booby-trapped.

Well, anyway, Arnold clearly as lost his focus and therefore clearly can no longer be referred to as "the Guvenator." So, it's new nickname time. I don't have any great ideas just yet, but I'll be working on it. "Kindergarten Governor" ... "Conan, the Waffler" ... "Pumping Hot Air" ... "Total Reversal" ... "'Raw Deal' for Republicans"...


It Is Young Life!

The other day, I mentioned that "seeker sensitive" church was really a "Young Life club." Imagine my surprize when Tim Challies made my point for me yesterday.
A few years ago I spoke to a pastor of a small church that had been formed largely on the basis of Purpose Driven principles. I asked what their discipleship process involved. I was shocked when the pastor told me, without any remorse, that "if you are really looking to grow as a Christian this isn't the church for you." He went on to explain that his church was geared almost entirely towards evangelism. The Sunday morning services were stripped of almost anything that might offend: congregational prayer, the celebration of the Lord's Supper and so on. The music was done in the style of what was most popular in the town and the preaching always presupposed almost no knowledge of biblical principles. There was a small amount of discipleship training, but only on a very basic level. In other words, this church was driven by unbelievers. Their tastes, their likes and dislikes and their desires were considered the foundation for all the church was and did.
Folks, if I had to describe Young Life ministry activity, I couldn't do it any better than the descriptions Tim's conversational partner gave, "The music was done in the style of what was most popular in the town and the preaching always presupposed almost no knowledge of biblical principles. There was a small amount of discipleship training, but only on a very basic level."

In a typical Young Life ministry, at least when I was doing it, it has changed some, involved a "Club," that's your evangelistic meeting -- the program? -- sing cool songs, a skit, and a "talk," very much along the lines just described. Then there is "Campaigners" -- a very light introductory Bible Study for kids that wanted to probe deeper, just to give them enough vocabulary to feel comfortable IN CHURCH!

After reading this, I think Young Life ought to sue for program infringement, but I digress.

In my day, we called what we did in Young Life, the para-church. "Para" from the greek for "beside," generally to help. In other words. the para-chruch was designed to stand beside the church and help with one portion of its ministry, but it is not the church itself.

Tim's post is about evangelism as the primary focus of the church. He is quite right, it is not -- it is one portion of the total minstry of the church.


Let's Make Christmas Merry!

Obligations have required my attendance at "Holiday Parties" over the last few years. I hate it. I walked into the first one and was completely startled -- It was a party, but aside from that I couldn't tell what was going on. In the end it was just another excuse to drink, there was no sense of special to it at all.

Well, to give myself some sense of the season, I made a point of wishing all that I spoke to a "Merry Christmas." Nothing stupid, just a cheery, happy blessing. Boy did I see some raised eyebrows, you'd have thought I just insulted their first born. But there were a lot of others that were really, really grateful someone had the guts to say what they thought. One Jewish friend went out of his way to thank me and asked me to bless the meal.

Well, thanks to Holy Coast I now know that Kevin McCullough is suggesting that I send a Christmas card here:
"Wishing You Merry Christmas"
125 Broad Street
18th Floor
New York, NY 10004
What a truly grand idea, truly grand, preferably something that quotes scripture - "For unto us is born this day in the City of David..." Rick even suggests sending them to your local branch -- addresses here -- Let's bless their curmudgeonly souls!


And This Is Worth A Headline Because?

US certain to see 1,000th execution this week

It's number people! This legally and societially necessary execution is no different than the 999 that proceeded it. Those three zeroes attach no signifigance save for those that wish to grind some sort of axe. If you have a point, make it -- otherwise all you do is prove you can count.


Learn The World

SmartChristian links to a great resource to check bloggin from various world regions - Global Voices Weblog. Andy thinks there ought to be a Godblogger in every people group on earth. Sounds like a good idea to me.


Friday Humor

A burglar broke into a house one night. He shined his flashlight around looking for valuables, and when he picked up a VCR to place in his sack, a strange, disembodied voice echoed from the dark saying, "Jesus is watching you!"

He nearly jumped out of his skin, clicked his flashlight out and froze. When he heard nothing more after a bit, he shook his head, promised himself a long vacation after his next big score, then clicked the light back on and began searching for more valuables.

Just as he pulled the stereo out so he could disconnect the wires, clear as a bell he heard, "Jesus is watching you!"

Freaked out, he shined his light around frantically, looking for the source of the voice. Finally, in the corner of the room, his flashlight beam came to rest on a parrot...

"Did you say that?" he hissed at the parrot.

"Yep," the parrot confessed, then squawked, "I'm just trying to warn you."

The burglar relaxed. "Warn me, huh? Who the heck are you?"

"Moses," replied the bird.

"Moses?" the burglar laughed. "What kind of people would name a parrot Moses?"

The bird promptly answered, "Probably the same kind of people that would name a 140 pound Rottweiler Jesus."


Spoil Sports

Albert Swank Jr., a 55-year-old civil engineer in Anchorage, Alaska, is a man with a mission. He wants to install a nuclear particle accelerator in his home.

But when neighbors learned of plans to place the 20-ton device inside the house where Swank operates his engineering firm, their response was swift: Not in my backyard.

Local lawmakers rushed to introduce emergency legislation banning the use of cyclotrons in home businesses. State health officials took similar steps, and have suspended Swank's permit to operate cyclotrons on his property.
This is an appliance that no home should be without. What are these people thinking? PET scan isotopes ready at your fingertips!

To get serious for a moment, this is pushing the "home business" envelope a little far, but the reaction is one of pure ignorance, the word "nuclear" and everybody blows a gasket. Such devices are far more common that you realize and operated in the most innocuous of locations.


Proof Of Bovine Aliens

Probes Reveal Methane Haze on a Dynamic Saturn Moon

Cows belching and breaking wind cause methane pollution but scientists say they have developed a diet to make pastures smell like roses -- almost.
Your honor -- I rest my case.


And Then It Ate Dean Cain

Giant Water Scorpion Walked on Land

Well, he is in a lot of those SciFi Channel things.


Sharp People Would Be Better

Sharp Objects May Be Allowed on Planes


Yeah - But They Are A Lot Sneakier About It

Girls fart more than guys


Now - About The Painful Itch Of Hemorrhoidal Tissue?

New device promises end to hard butter misery

Thursday, December 01, 2005


A Little More About The Gifts

Adrian Warnock pointed to this post by Pastor Shaun which is one of the more eloquent and beautiful descriptions of the "cessasionist experience" I have read.

Adrain has placed me solidly in the Reformed Charismatic camp and I will accept that label, but there is one thing I want to make very clear -- I have never personally enjoyed a miraculous manifestation of the Spirit. I agree with everything Pastor Shaun says whole-heartedly and completely, the only difference that I have with him is that I do not see where anything he says rules out miraculous gifting. (although on a side note, I would remind Pastor Shaun that healings and other miracles are fairly common in third world churches.)
That kind of joy and those sweet encounters with God occur weekly in cessationist churches, too. We call them singing, praying, confessing, hearing, and responding to the Gospel of God. The sweetness of the Spirit's working occurs not because of the presence of miraculous gifts, but because of the presence of the grace of Christ, by His Spirit, molding and making us from within into God's new creation. The sweetness of encountering God comes as we, by faith, are lifted up the very throne room of God in worship.

We do not need miraculous signs when we have God himself.
Pastor Shaun is right when it comes to priority and preference and most especially a reliance on faith not miracles - but that fact was true in the apostolic age as it is today. And yet, the apostolic age was full of signs and miracles. Pastor Shaun refers to the miracles of Jesus' ministry but does not address those of the apostles, or the early diciples. Why would God change tactics with the death of John? (No, not me -- the Apostle John)

I am a continuationist mostly becasue I can't find a reason not to be. The argument for cessationism lies in the special office of the apostle. That would be fair if miracles did not manifest in the disciples as well.

I have steadfastly held all along that miraculous manifestations are far more rare than full blown charismatics would contend, and probably quite a bit more rare than Adrian would contend. Particularly when it comes to healings, prophesy and other more public manifestations. The bottom line for most people that really hold to experience is their private prayer language -- something entirely for personal edification and when properly practiced won't be publicly visible, or discussed much for that matter. I've seen this be a blessing in too many other lives not to grant it some credence.

The problem is not the gifts -- the problem is our practice of them, more importantly, our mispractice of them. That's why clear thinking reformed types could prove to be the great grace needed by the wild-haired charismatics.


Transforming the Environment

Normally I would save these comments for the regular Monday "Pollution" post, but it was my pleasure to spend Thanksgiving with the Counsul General for South Africa in Southern California and we discussed this story, so I thought it deserved a special post all its own.

There is a huge debate in South Africa over whether to cull the the elephant herd in Kruger National Park, or not. The debate is the now a common spectacle of competing environmental "goods." "Environmental thought," if indeed such a thing can be said to exist, tends to run along the lines that anything man does is "not natural" and is therefore not good, but in this age of competeing environmental "goods" we find the discussion is not about avoiding human intereaction, but about deciding what human or groups of human get to decide what to do. In other words its about power, that's all, raw naked power. And that may be the thing that I hate most of all about the environmental movement, it's a standard old political power play in an arena where traditonally political power did not extend or was extremely limited, dressed up as apple pie. And so many people are dumb enough to buy this load of...stuff. People are taking our political power, and we are letting them, because they have fooled us into thinking the issue is far deeper and more important than it really is.

Are you familiar with the question of Schroedinger's Cat? It's a quantum mechanics thing, but to make it simple it shows that whether a cat is dead or alive is a function of the observer and not the cat itself. Thus the observer can never really be completely disconnected from that which he observes -- the mere act of observation has an effect on outcome. People that try to separate human action as if it is "not natural" don't understand this principle. While it's true we are more prone to adapting the environment to ourselves than ourselves to the environment, that does not make our actions separate from the system.

Which brings me back to the elephants. Here's the money quote from the story
"Given elephants' ability to transform an entire landscape, action is needed, or the result will be the mass starvation of elephants and other species,'' Rob Little, conservation director for WWF South Africa, said in a statement Monday.[emphais added]
Look at that! The WWF no less, admitting that man is not even the only animal capable of changing the environment. Now what are environmentalists going to do? How will they decide what's "good" and what's "bad.?"

It is time to ratchet down the rhetoric when it comes to environmental matters. It's not a moral matter, there is no good and bad. It's a matter of management.


Training And Leadership

Mark Daniels has been writing a series of posts lately on leadership. I really enjoyed this one.
Leaders must accept the temporary inefficiency represented by seemingly lost time spent training others in order to insure the long-term health of their organizations.

This has been one of the most difficult lessons for me to learn as a leader. (And some days I almost remember it!)

Many, if not most tasks that leaders might assign others to do will be ones that they can perform better and more quickly. But unless the leader takes the time to train others, the leader won't be freed to do other things, things that will help their organization thrive and grow.

In volunteer organizations, like PTAs, youth service agencies, and churches, taking the time to train others to do things expands the base of ownership in the mission of the organization and it increases the overall capacity of the organization to fulfill its mission. People feel more a part of things when leaders trust them to do things...even to be slow or to make mistakes!
Mark has a great point here, but I think there are a few things he leaves out.

The first is the question of knowing when to train. Too many times I have trained people that already knew and therefore made them think I thought they were somehow dumb. Too many times I have failed to train people that I assumed knew what they were doing only to have the fall on their face, afraid to ask for help because they thought I expected them to know how to do something. Assessing the the necessity and level of training is a huge issue in leadership.

I especially have this problem in church. I am obviously a little better trained than the average PCUSA elder - because of prior experience as an elder and because of my seminary training. Too many times, I have been forced to participate in training situations that served only to bore me and waste time that I could use to much better ends, actually doing the job. But if they don't insist that I do, I appear singled out somehow. Heck of a problem isn't it.

The other issue that I think Mark overlooks is that a leader, in addition to training, is to allow to give those being trained the freedom to fail, not just make a mistake, but fail, for failure is the greatest teacher. This takes the frustration of it being "easier to do myself" to whole new levels.

Personally, my best leadership is in situations where there is so much going on that I don't have the time to pay much attention to the failures of those "under" me - I just have to keep things moving. It's the smaller leadership situations that make me nuts.

Which I think is a real key to leadership -- the idea is to multiple your efforts. If you have enough time and energy to "do it yourself" then you are not leading enough stuff. Get another project.


Illuminated Scripture


What's Wrong With This Headline?

Creativity Linked to Sexual Success and Schizophrenia

It implies sexual promiscuity as success. Anyone else have a problem with this?


An Anglican "Minority" Ascension Of The Good Kind

First black Archbishop enthroned

I'll take a few more of these, and a lot less of the Gene Robinson ones thank you very much.


And The French Ones Are Undoubtedly Way Too Impressed With Themselves

Monkeys have accents too, experts say


Well, It Was For All Of Us

Life would have been rough on ancient Mars

Why should the Martians have it any better?


Salmon's Got A Bright Idea

Note the by-line -- 'Nuff Said.


Yet, Without Further Instruction It Proves Difficult

70,000 people told to boil water


For The Guy That Has Everything

The perfect Christmas gift.


How To Get More Hunters Shot

Farmer Protects Animals With Orange Paint


In What?

Theologians to ask Pope to suspend limbo - reports

Wednesday, November 30, 2005


Need To Look A Little More Broadly

That tradtional mainstream churches are hurting is not news. This story from the Times of London, may help explain why. (HT: Sheep's Crib)
BRITAIN'S Protestant clergy are too shy to go out to convert people to Christianity, according to research that will be published next month.

A survey of Anglican, Baptist and Methodist clergy by the Right Rev Michael Whinney, retired Bishop of Southwell, showed that most were sensitive introverts who lacked the characteristics to be ?out there? in the community.

"One wonders about the stressful element of this type of work for the introverted majority in church leadership," Bishop Whinney said. "This begs the question as to how effective is the system for choosing and placing ministers in churches."
Bishop Whinney -- that last one is an understatement. But I think there is more to it than that. The people that are the kind of people you should be having are ending up in the independent churches where they do not receive the training and tempering that only the oldline mainstream can provide. Without that training and tempering we get all sorts of really "fun" stuff from the megabarn to the out-of-control charismatic nonsense.

The question is not just about "choosing and placing" it's about attracting. There is something very sick in the mainlines that makes the really gifted not want to be there.

I think the analogy to the personal is apropos here. I am fond of pointing out that God does not want just part of us, that He wants to recreate all of us. The same goes for the church. It's time to stop looking at the "little" picture and start looking at the big one. Time to stop solving the problem and start getting out of God's way.


When In Doubt -- Co-Opt The Language

SoCal ally Okie On The Lam deserves great credit for finding this LA Times piece. Reading the LA Times is a chore all its own, and while finding awful stuff there is not unusual, something this abysmal is. Here's Dale's post on the subject. And here's your money quote:
He calls himself an "abortionist" and says, "I am destroying life."

But he also feels he's giving life: He calls his patients "born again."
[emphasis added]
Oh where to begin. Describing abortion as a religious experience. Remember? The phrase "born again" is biblical in origin. No doubt someone is going to start throwing around all the biblical imagery about life out of death and so on, but I would remind you that the biblical death and rebirth in one's own -- not someone else's, like say the child you are carrying.

There are two things I find absolutely abhorent here. Firstly, I can understand, to some extent someone, having an abortion, but reluctantly so. But to have one joyfully, to describe it in liberation terms is somehow sickening. It is so utterly self-involved as to make me genuinely fearful of what else such a person might be capable of.

But worse still, to describe that self-involved "liberation" in terms borrowed from a completely antonymous context is a perversion.

I guess we are completely without shame in this nation anymore. For awhile now it has been obvious that instead of avoiding shame by avoiding shameful behavior we had simply banished it. But apparently that is not good enough anymore, apparently now we have to make the shameful appear good, no -- more, we have to make the shameful appear sanctified.

What a surprize our friends who are "born again" through abortion will have when they find out the genuine meaning of that term. I truly pray they will do so before the opportunity is lost to them permanently.


Wrong On Worship

Yesterday's post On Worship inspired my friend and sporadic guest blogger, who contributes under a nom de plume.
Mr. Blah-gotional writes:
Worship, to my mind is not an action -- it is a life.
Too bad my kind host is reduced to such grammatical absurdities.

Worship is a noun. It is also a transitive verb. You'll hear it occasionally used in contemporary church circles as an intransitive verb, but that's incorrect.

And why is this bit of grammatical arcana important? Because THE WORD ALREADY HAS A MEANING! It's had a meaning for millennia. Paul the Apostle didn't invent the word for private use. He used a word that already meant something in order to communicate actual content to actual people.

Worship is something Egyptians did to animals. Greeks did it to gods. Romans did it to Caesars and to the Greek gods all at the same time. According to Augustine, the Romans did these plays that chronicled the gods' really obscene behavior because they thought it amused the gods. And that was worship. The Romans also sacrificed sticky buns to the gods. No, I'm not making this up.

We Christian-types have gotten so cozy with the word that it has become one of those context-heavy, content-light words that ends up in poetic-sounding romantic sentences because the author doesn't really know what the word means, nor does the reader, but it sounds great. Like this sentence:
Worship is a life
.Mr. Blah' has been reduced to such inanities in order to be heard by those who find a dictionary difficult reading. I; however, don't mind mounting my high horse and proclaiming the stupidity of this usage.

If we just bothered to look up the word in a dictionary, most of the discussion about contemporary worship would end. Abruptly. NOTA BENE: One doesn't have to FEEL anything to worship God. Or Caesar. Or Ra. So when you hear contemporary Christians talking about how they FEEL about their particular WORSHIP STYLE, you know immediately that they don't know what they're talking about. But they're definitely not talking about worship.
So inspired was my friend that he sent a second post:
If a seeker shows up at your meeting, they're not looking for salvation, inclusion, community, spirituality, meaning -- none of that. They're looking for Jesus.

I don't mean that metaphorically. Not: they say they're looking for meaning and only Jesus can give meaning but they just don't know it yet. No, they're looking for Jesus and they know it.

Seriously. That's all we got. They heard somewhere about a guy who did some miracles, died, came back to life and says he's God. And they show up because you claim to have him. They may SAY that they're looking for spirituality, but only because it's too much to hope that you might actually deliver the goods. But that's what they want.

Believe me. They'll do anything to try to get to him. Be celibate. Sit atop a pole for eight years. Starve themselves. Climb a mountain on their knees. Give away bazillions of their own dollars. Collect chunks of dead former seekers. Put their hands on a TV set to feel themselves glow. Bizarre stuff.

Anything you say beyond "here he is" is montebancery with which the world is rightfully impatient.
by Davis X. McKenna, Liberal Trade-Spokesperson for the North American Blogger's Congress


Just A Little Over A Week...

...until the Narnia movie. A-Team Blog links to a nine-minute supertrailer.

I am very afraid to be excited about this movie -- I do not wish to build expectations that will not be met -- I want to be able to see it on its own merits and enjoy it, but I sure needed to wipe my eyes after this thing.


It's A Good Thing...

...that the prize is not the object of the search:
It's nearly haggis hunting time again. The Hunt begins on 30 November at 12 noon GMT.
Find the haggis and win a bottle of Scotch -- which is frankly absolutely necessary if you want to actually eat a haggis.


Big Brother Time

So you've filled your tank with petrol, wiped the bugs off your windscreen, and you're standing in the queue holding two pieces of plastic which will finalise the purchase.

One card carries the logo of your bank; the other, a picture of a burning planet.

The first will deduct money from your bank account; the second, credits from your carbon account.

You cough up your money and your credits, get back to the car and on your way; your tank is filled, and, what's more, the planet saved from the uncertain fallout of man-made global warming
No fiction, this is being proposed at that global warming conference in Montreal this week. So, how will my card account for my exhalations? -- Will my account be bigger if my respiration rate is faster? What about when I walk? I breathe harder and therefore exhale more CO2 when I walk. Will I have to swipe my card to use the toilet? -- There's a lot of carbon in that you know. What I about my garbage? -- I estimate that 85% of the stuff I throw away is carbon-based.

Oh wait, and how do they propose to enforce this? The carbon police? Will my garbage only be a misdemeanor, but my car a felony?

This is scary stuff.


The Best Of Pravda

Very early this month, we linked to the Popular Science story on the Top Ten Worst Jobs In Science. Well, this week Pravda picked up on it and reprinted it. Although after my 1991 scientific tour of the Soviet Union, I would have to say pretty much any job in that bureacracy would make the list.

Never sticklers for things like the law, apparently Pravda thinks Putin should bend it severly to keep his job past term limits. They do love their former KGB agents.

Given the gulag and other Soviet atrocities, this headline:

USA executes its citizens every ten days

Strikes me as the pot calling the kettle black. At least our executions come after the trial.


When Leaving The Planet...'s easier if you have a headstart.

Now Departing - from Spaceport Sheboygan?

If you've never been to Sheboygan, you're going to have to trust me on this.


I Suggest...

...we pool our money and buy the new Home for Misbehaving Bloggers.

County Jail Is Being Sold on EBay


To Hold What?

Welsh scientists drill world's smallest hole

I guess its for little tiny dogs to bury little tiny bones.


Who's Dumber?

O'Donnell's daughter, Victoria Lynn O'Donnell, 24, was preparing dinner around 6:30 p.m. for her live-in boyfriend, Jamal Scott, 30, and their 6-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter. The four share a home with Nancy O'Donnell.

Victoria O'Donnell went upstairs while the food was cooking, and police said that when she came back downstairs, she could smell bleach in the food. She tried the macaroni and cheese and immediately spit it out after tasting the bleach, police said.
One the one hand, we have a mother that attempted to poison her family with a poison readily detectable by odor and other sensory means. On the other hand we have the daughter who, upon smelling the bleach, decides to confirm the presence of a toxin by taste. We won't even go into what bleach would do visibly to fully cooked macaroni. My guess is there are no straight-A students in this household.


No - There's No Overstated Rhetoric Here

"The impact of spiralling pollution on the planet poses a threat to civilisation just as catastrophic as much-vaunted weapons of mass destruction," Britain's top scientist warned today.
OH PLEASE! Get over it.


Why Charge Him For Her Crime?

Ronald MacDonald Charged in Wendy's Theft

Tuesday, November 29, 2005


On Worship

Reformation Theology had a great post on the nature of contemporary worship. It's a little didactic for my tastes, but Marco Gonzalez makes some good points.

The lyrical content of most modern "praise music" is very weak and I find that problematic, though there are exceptions. I never have understood why some of the really great lyrical hymns cannot simply be updated with new music and lyrical adjustments as is necessary to modernize the vocabulary, ala changing "Holy Ghost" to "Holy Spirit" in the Apostles Creed -- a change I understand but will undoubtedly stumble over for the rest of my life.

Of course, the answer to my wonder lies in a different "goal" for the worship service. Says Gonzalez
Nevertheless, worship characteristically is acquainted with the congregation and their own selfish needs more than extolling the God they serve. Psychology and seeker sensitive ideologies are the primary justification for this outlook.
The key to me lies in something else Gonzalez says
Suitable worship is creating a correct response from believers. It is the obligation of the church to allow a proper response from regenerate Christians.
Worship, to my mind is not an action -- it is a life. If I say to my wife, "Honey, I love you" and then ignore her the rest of the time, my words are rendered lies. The worship service must be understood in the context of my entire life, and if the worship service is too easy to leave behind me on Sunday morning, then it too is rendered a lie.

I truly believe there is a place for the kind of seeker-sensitive meeting that passes for worship in so many places. It is, as I have said before, essentially a Young Life club -- something I know a little bit about. But a Young Life club is not church and it is not worship -- it is an evangelistic meeting, a yuppie tent revival -- but one small corner of the church.


Mr. President, Let's Chat

It came up in several contexts over the weekend. In the Chicago Sun-Times (HT: The Corner)and on Meet The Press which Hedgehog Blog comments on here. The idea is that President Bush should have "Fireside Chats" to, as the Chicago Sun-Times Pieces puts it
There's too much static noise out there regarding the war. It's filling a vacuum caused by the administration's failure to keep us regularly updated on what is happening throughout Iraq. It's time for the Bush administration to step up and tell us what is going on -- with regular reports, weekly updates, fireside chats, talks with soldiers -- through the entire country of Iraq.
Hedgehog thinks it could backfire, reacting to the Meet The Press discussion, he says
So I wonder if the old media would allow such fireside chats to be effective or helpful today
Lowell wonders is something like fireside chat might not work
"With the aid of talk radio and the blogosphere"
Personally, I think the White House might just want to have its own blog.

Two things I think matter here. The first is a bit esoteric. With a professional military, Many previous information channels into the populous have been lost. Previously word just "came home" - now that effect is only to the professional military class and to those of us that read the milblogs. I think we need to find some big money to make the milblogs a genuine highly distributed news source. That will happen eventually, but I think we need to find someone now to publish a weekly collection or get the best milblogs routinely published in the weeklies.

Secondly, the President really does need to do something to drive the information agenda. Lowell is right, whatever it is it will picked over, misconstrued and grossly over analyzed, which is why I think a blog might be the best way to do it -- it allows for immediate response. But I am just throwing ideas against the wall right now, seeing if one sticks, whatever it is, he really does need to take the lead.


Talkin' About Cussin'

There seemed to be a reasonable amount of discussion in the last few days over the use of profanity in a Christian context. Evangelical Outpost has the best summary of the discussion and points that I have seen. I tend to be a bit more libertine that Joe on this issue, but I stand very much in the middle between the two poles he establishes.
While I am sympathetic to both points of view, I think they each go too far. Tim's view tends toward excessive legalism while Rigney's errs by invoking a naive view of "Christian freedom."
Stacy Harp has some interesting comments on the topic as well.

I think profanity comes in two forms. The first form is that which is inherently unsanctified. This would be those expletives that inherently call upon God's name, you know what they are. The second form are those words that are totally defined culturally. The best example of such I can think of these days is the so-called "N-word." Clearly an insult, in the last 30 years, the word has risen to the level of unspeakable profanity, entirely out of its cultural context. There are obviously words in between, those that refer to things which are clearly unclean, like defecation and incest, that are much more difficult to figure out what to think about.

Outside of the inherently unsanctified words, I think the question to ask when it comes to profanity is it's effect on the listener. In some cultural settings, a failure to cuss can call into question the veracity of the speaker. In others, cussing is such an impediment to the listener as to render anything else the speaker says moot. In some cases, profanity can add an appropriate amount of emphasis to a specific point, and in some cases, I personally find it downright eloquent.

It is never appropriate if your listener will be offended, if it is placing a stumbling block in his/her path.


Another Great Military Salute

This Powerpoint honoring our service people landed in my inbox over the holiday weekend. It's extra good, so I am passing it on. Turn up the sound and enjoy.

You can get a free Powerpoint viewer here if you need it.



Man, 20, Arrested for Killing Rest of Family on Thanksgiving

That's a good start, but I'm hoping there's a lot more.

Rude shop staff ensure we are not being served

Oh, they're doing a lot more than that as far as I am concerned. The next time a clerk quits paying attention to me to answer the phone...

Science 'must teach experiments'

The experiment is the essense of science and frankly, as funding for lab work, particularly in high schools, has dried up, not to mention just silly liability issues, it is not surprising that science performance in students has fallen. There is much to science that is amazingly easy to understand in the lab that is nonsense on the chalkboard.


Come Listen To A Story...

...about Earl Scruggs, the Banjo player behind the song lyric I quote in the headline. Sheep's Crib is reporting that Earl fell off the stage at a bluegrass festival in Myrtle Beach this past weekend. The man's a mighty fine musician, we need to be praying for him.


Alphabet Soup

This week we come to the "K's" which means one of the very favs of the Blogotionals -- Kanab, UT. You see it on this map -- nestled north of the Grand Canyon, South of Zion and Bryce -- This is our gateway to the southern Colorado Plateau.

It's not much of a town. A main drag with the usual assortment of gift stores, gas stattions and motels, but it is beautiful and its location cannot be beaten.

We have visited several times, but by far our favorite is in fall. We were snowed on one October which made everything astonishingly lovely.

Aside from the national parks there are some quirky little attractions in or near Kanab. One of our favorites is Moqui Cave. The cave is in private hands -- has been since white men showed up. It was originally developed more than a century ago as a dance hall, with, to the shame of local Mormon officials, a bar, for the locals. The bar is still in there though not operating.

Now as a tourist attraction one of the things that makes it unique is that they sell the art of the last generation that owned it. Some of it quite lovely. This is just one of those kitschy, fun local things to do.

Kanab is also unique because of it's extreme cultural polarization. It's a hearty frontier kind of place in its roots and much of that remains. The same October visit with the snow also marked deer hunting season. This was met with enormous enthusiasm by many of the locals. It got television news coverage and everything. Such people are as about as down-to-earth and conservative as a soul could imagine.

But then, on the ourskirts of Kanab is an orphaned animal shelter -- it's huge. And it has attracted every new-age, animals-are-more-important-than-man, left-wing nut job for miles around. There are people in town that left good paying gigs to come pet dogs and cats. On the block long main drag you can find a good old coffee shop with chicken-fired steak and mashed potatoes and a vegan join that'll sort of make your toes curl.

Kanab is a town of extreme cultural contrasts in one of the most lovely settings a soul can imagine. It is also isolated enough not to be overrun. You can enjoy the parks, and their enormous crowds, but get away at the end of the day. Well worth the visit.


Oxymoron Alert

Scientists embrace plan for cyberhugs

I think there is a special emphasis on the "moron" part of that word on this one.


Talk Less?

Delegates meeting in the Canadian city of Montreal are to discuss how targets on cutting greenhouse gas emissions over the next seven years will be met.
Well, it would cut down on CO2 emissions!


I Am...

You scored as The Thing. With his brutish appearance and heart of gold, Ben Grim is a paradox. He hates his "condition," but he endures it for the good of the team. Ben is kind, loving, but hot-headed and emotional. He's really a romantic at heart, but he hides it behind his gruff exterior. His solution to most problems is to crush it.

The Thing


The Punisher


The Hulk


Mr. Fantastic




The Human Torch






The Invisible Girl










Which Marvel Super Hero Are You?
created with

Well, almost -- I'm somewhat uglier.


There Is A Fine Line Between 'Creative' And 'Silly'

SOMETIMES words are not enough - well, English ones anyway. Enya, the reclusive Irish artist, has invented a new language after deciding that English was too "obtrusive" for her lyrics.
And I think we've found it.

On a side note, this is the best opportunity to make a charismatic Christian joke I have run into in a very long time. But out of respect for the recent and continuing discussion, I shall resist.


And We Thought 'Conventional' Medicine Was Pricey!

Sons Pay $119,400 for Ginseng to Help Mom

I wonder if insurance covers that?


Time Warp?

Illinois Yields Bounty of Mastodons and Mammoths

And aren't cattle easier to raise anyway?

Monday, November 28, 2005


God In The "Big" News

I found two pieces over the weekend in the legacy media that simply astounded me. The first was an opinion piece by Umberto Eco in the London Telegraph. A lapsed Catholic, Eco nonetheless writes a startingly good defense of a Christian view of Christmas.
I think I agree with Joyce's lapsed Catholic hero in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man: "What kind of liberation would that be to forsake an absurdity which is logical and coherent and to embrace one which is illogical and incoherent?" The religious celebration of Christmas is at least a clear and coherent absurdity. The commercial celebration is not even that.
Sometimes, I think we as Christians forget the apparent absurdity of our faith. An omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, eternal Creator God somehow became a mortal, material, dimensionally limited, temporally contrained human and allowed Himself to die and be resurrected. Doesn't make much sense, does it? And yet, it is without question the most beautiful story ever told.

That magic is particularly important for bloggers to remember. The very absurdity of the Christian story prevents its full communication from ever happening in this medium alone. We can communicate the clear and concise nature of that absurdity here, but it's truth is a matter of experience, not words. As we write, we must endeavor to experience the truth for ourselves.

The other big story of matters godly in the legacy media was a Bill Buckley piece on persecution of Christians in China and North Korea. It's some horrific stuff, particularly in North Korea. The Christian Persecution Blog is maintained by a friend of mine and is a great resource on the matter. On a side note, given such real persecution of actual human beings, doesn't this, McCartney attacks China over fur, strike you as extraordinarily silly?

Buckley rightly asks questions in his peice of the State Department on the matter. There are limits to what we can do, but we certainly can pray. And we can thank God for the people who have the strength of their faith sufficient to suffer such persecution. Do you? Would you, as did some in North Korea, allow a steam roller to crush you before you would renounce your faith? Heck of a question, isn't it?

If your faith is not so strong, why not? There is a lot more to pray about in a situation like this than we might at first believe. Part of what I am praying for is that I can have their faith. Join me?


Why We Fight

Given the recent cut-and-run debate over our presence in Iraq, the worst attack of the weekend makes it plain why we have to be there. Here is Bill Roggio and here is Major K on the attack. From Roggio
The Thanksgiving Day car bombing in the town of Mahmudiyah encapsulates the nature of terror attacks directed at the Iraq people. Thursday?s attack killed thirty and wounded forty. The location was a hospital, and the target was American troops handing out toys and food to children.
Major K is quick to point out that it was a civlian hospital. Our withdrawal, prior to the time when the Iraqi forces are capable of dealing with such heinous threats, would only increase the boldness of the enemy with more such attacks resulting.

I am not sure people understand how utterly dishonorable and horrific such an attack is. People that die in combat die as people, they die fighting for something they believe in and support. While ending their life, their life is affirmed in their death. But this, this is utterly dehumanizing. This kind of attack reduces the dead, in this case those totally incapabale of defending themselves, to nothing more than political statements. They are stripped of their life not for what they wish to affirm, but purely for the political agenda of those that have taken it.

I can think of no better way to affirm those lost lives and give them back their meaning than to fight for them. In another post, Major K replicated a cartoon that says it all

On a related note, the cut-and-run talk by the Dems is beginning to look more and more like pure political posturing, as the White House is now saying it is looking at plans for significant draw downs in the next year. My guess - and it is purely a guess at this point - is that the White House plans leaked and the Dems hopped on it in an effort to appear to be the ones that motivated withdrawal. In other words, as they have been all along, they were trying to recover initiative where they had none. Maybe, just maybe, they would be better served by getting with the program than by trying to steal the limelight. Do you think?


Alright, I've Had It

The Christian blogosphere has gotten terribly ugly lately. I refuse to link to any of it. The only link I will provide is to Adrian Warnock, because his post is some rules that I basically agree with on how to handle this sort of thing. If you don't know what I'm talking about, you can find everything you need from there.

It has gotten personal. How can a blog discussion get personal? Most of us have never met each other for crying out loud. Some share more of themselves in their posting than others, but that is still a far cry from actually knowing each other. I've gone out of my way to meet Christian bloggers whenever I can, and I still would not claim to know those I have met really well - a dinner here, a Skype call there, a few emails, makes them all good acquaintances, even friends, but know them well? -- that takes years. How can anyone blogging presume to make personal judgments about someone they do not know or just barely know.

More importantly, how can we presume that much importance in what we say in these blogs, so much as to go ad hominum to defend it? I for one refuse to believe that anything I write, no matter how well researched and considered, is so vitally important, and so definitively true that I am willing to go to war over it. It's just words and ideas from the mind of an imperfect creature of God. I am not defined by my ideas, I am defined by my Savior.

Which brings me to the final point. Blogging is being Christians in a very public way. The world of Christians is very foreign to many people. Squabbles in the walls of the church is one thing. It is hidden from the greater public, but not here. EVERYONE sees this. Most non-Christians ignore us, and many Christians think we are a bunch of misfits that seek refuge in a virtual world because we don't fit in the real one. Things like this do nothing to change that perception.

So ask yourself this, has the debate of the last week or so let the light of Jesus shine through? Will someone just dropping in find something attractive and interesting and inspiring? If not -- KNOCK IT OFF.

If it is so important to you that you cannot keep your mouth shut -- take it to email, or Skype, or get in the car and go see the person.
Eph 4:25-26 - Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth, each one of you, with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,

Matt 5:23-25 - "If therefore you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar, and go your way; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering. Make friends quickly with your opponent at law while you are with him on the way, in order that your opponent may not deliver you to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you be thrown into prison.
All I can say is remember -- Jesus matters in this whole thing a lot more than we do. We'd do well to remember that, whether we are bearing our souls, discussing theology, or just cracking wise, and certainly when we are in dispute.


History Creates Perspective

When I was a kid there was a lot of talk in "real" Christian circles about how Christmas was a Christianized pagan holiday and that really true Christians might find something better to do with their Decembers. In just 30 years time, the holiday is so heavily identified with Christianity that it is a violation of church/state for the Post Office to sell Madonna and Child stamps or to wish patrons a "Merry Christmas." And Christians are up in arms about it. (Rightly so, but I am going somewhere else with this post so we'll leave that be.)

The idea that concerns me is that the meaning of the holiday is defined by the history that one chooses to attach to it. As a young Christian I and my friends attached that old, old pagan history and got all balled up in it. Now, secularists attach the Christian history to it and get all balled up. And so, as rationalists, we turn to our scholarly historians and we try to determine what is the "true" history and attach that to give the holiday its "true" significance.

The fact of the matter is that the pagan history is real and true and the Christian history is real and true. I attach the significance to the holiday that I choose and I then choose to focus on the history that implies that significance. I don't deny the other history, I just don't care all that much.

It matters to me; however, which history gets told, where and how, because that has a great deal to say about what significance others attach to the holiday and how that significance will shape society's behavior.

I reflected on this fact over the Thanksgiving holiday as we had our Thanksgiving meal with some people that were very well traveled and the subject of my visit to Chernobyl came up. There is a school of thought that says that Chernobyl was the beginning of the end for the Soviet Union. The idea is that it was a huge problem that could be detected outside of the Soviet Union. Thus, unlike other major mistakes on the part of the Soviet regime, they lost control over the telling of the tale, that is to say the writing of the history, and thus the people of the Soviet Union, for the first time, saw the incompetence of the regime, confidence eroded, until finally the events of 1991 brought it all crashing down.

But, like with most historical events, there is the prevalent bad side of the story, but there is also quite a good side. The Soviet Union's response to the disaster would be hard to match in the western world. There is no way this nation could accomplish an evacuation as readily, quickly and peacefully as they did the exclusion zone. The heroism of the first responders and of those that followed to contain and control the disaster is remarkable -- again, most of them in direct service to the Soviet state. But this good side of the story, equally as true as the accident itself, got lost in the shuffle and the USSR fell.

The same can be said for the issue of America's Founding Fathers and slavery. You can tell the true history of what great men they were, or you can tell the true history that they were slave owners. Depending on which history you tell and promote America is a great nation or it is a purely exploitative experiment in elitism.

So, what are we to do? Are we to deny "the truth" for the sake of preserving greatness? No, we don't deny the truth, but we do decide how and where to tell it. The slave ownership of the founding fathers has never been a fact hidden from public view. Anyone that chose to read serious history books would have known the fact. Serious history books were, in fact, the best place to record and acknowledge that uncomfortable fact. It was when the popular and populous media in this country picked up the fact, and trumpeted it like the great "gotcha" that the fact became problematic and began to truly reflect on people's perceptions of this nation.

Well, wasn't the press, as the great truth teller, as the first draft of history, obligated to report that fact? Report? - perhaps, but given that it was reported in the historical literature the obligation of reportage was in fact met. Trumpet? - not at all. The only service to be offered by trumpeting that fact is to destroy our otherwise good perception of the Founding Fathers and by extension our perception of the nation. In this case, I would argue that the reporting of the historical fact in the popular American media was not an act of truth reporting, but done in the purpose of furthering a political agenda, and a purely destructive one at that.

In the American tradition role of the journalist and the role of the historian are intertwined but they are quite distinct, we confuse them at grave risk.

Sometimes Hollywood gets it right. In the 1960's they got this particular question absolutely right in the John Wayne classic "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence." It's the story of a greenhorn lawyer (Jimmy Stewart) that moves to the Old West determined to bring civilization to the lawless land. He ends up in an enormous dispute with the enforcer (Lee Marvin) for the local ranchers. He fights for statehood for the territory, something that would rob the ranchers of many of their land priviledges. The Stewart character tries to do it "right," all the while his grizzled old rancher ally (and competitor for the hand of the local beauty), John Wayne, tells him the dispute can only be ended with gun play. Of course, Wayne is right and a gunfight happens. It appears that the notoriously poor shot Stewart kills Marvin. On the strength of this great blow for justice, Stewart is elected to go to Washington to fight for statehood and ends up being the Governor and and Senator for the new state.

But this story is told in flashback. As Senator, Stewart has returned to the two-bit town for the funeral of some old nasty ranch hand. The press shows up to ask why, and Stewart tells the story. The funeral is for Wayne, and Stewart reveals that he did not in fact shoot the Marvin character (Liberty Valence) that Wayne did from a hiding place. Stewart reveals that his public life, all the good he had accomplished, from statehood, to infrastructure development for the new state, to peace and prosperity was built on a sham.

Can't you just see the press drooling? But this movie gets it right. The reporter stands to leave and tears up his notes. When Stewart questions him, the reporter just says, "This is the west, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend."

This reporter understands his role. He knows that to write a huge expose would only harm the career of a man that has accomplished many, many good things. That the story he would write could serve only to tarnish that which shone brightly. If the reporter was smart, he would remember the story Stewart told, and when Stewart was dead, he might write a nice little biography, just to make sure history was "right." But he would not trumpet the book in his paper, nor sensationalize the story. The facts are the facts, but the facts of what the Stewart character accomplished were so much more important than the fact that it was built on a bit of a sham, that he knew it was best to keep that fact in the dark corner of history, visible to those that chose to look hard enough, but not so visible that it changed the general perception of the Stewart character and by extension his great accomplishments.

Sometimes, we got to choose history. We don't lie, but we do tell the story in the way and in the venue, that will provide maximum benefit for the most people. I think that is an important thought as this season, with its battles about its "true" meaning, commences.


A Must Read

Back last February, I blogged about some people in Maine that protested an art exhibition of combat art from Iraq. The artist, Michael Fay, is back in Iraq and blogging. Be sure and make Fire and Ice a regular read. He's posting sketches and they are great.


Of Course, It's Their Fault

Supermarkets 'undermine health' with fat and sugar

Oh no, it's not my problem because I buy the stuff, which makes them offer more since thier job is to sell me stuff. It's their problem because I buy the stuff. All this time I've spent chasting myself, how utterly silly of me.

Besides, the whole-foods, totally-organic, no-sugar-added, absolutely unappetizing food store is at least 2 miles farther away than the one I shop at now.



As always, there is plenty to talk about in this space this week, but there are two important stories on which I want to focus. The first is this one:

CO2 'highest for 650,000 years'
Current levels of the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere are higher now than at any time in the past 650,000 years.

That is the conclusion of new European studies looking at ice taken from 3km below the surface of Antarctica.
That's quite a claim, isn't it? But let's consider it for just a moment. Let's do so by analogy. In polling data we are all used to "margins of error." Most polls you see reported in the press are good to +/- 3%. Well such margins exist for any measurement, including historic levels of CO2.

If you take a poll and only report the answers of the people you interview, you have a reasonable margin of error. If; however, your poll consists of one person and you ask them what all their friends think too, the margin of error is considerably larger that the standard 3%.

Well, measuring CO2 levels in the atmosphere directly, when speaking on a planetary basis has a pretty big margin of error. The sample size alone necessary to describe the entire planet is daunting. To get a good average, you would have to take measurements at a huge variety of locations and altitudes. That is unless, of course, you used some indirect measurement technique, which is the scientific equivalent of asking a poll about what your friends think, it introduces a margin of error all it's own.

So, we can see that contemporary measurements are not necessarily all that dead-nuts on. Now imagine we are looking back in history half a million years, using an indirect technique, based on an unproven model at a single place on the planet. Now what do you think is happening to the margin of error? So why aren't those margins and other data reliability information included in the breathless story reported above?

The other story is the legitimate environmental disaster that occurred in China over the weekend and is creeping into Russia. It's an enormous spill from a chemical processing plant/refinery. Here's reporting from the AP -- The BBC -- The BBC again -- the Guardian -- and even the World Wildlife Federation.

This is a catastrophe. Apparently, roughly 100 tons of gasoline and gasoline derivaties were released, primarily into a river that is a source fo drinking water for both Chinese and Russian cities, not to mention wildlife. But, there is some need for perspective. This is only 0.2% of what was spilled in the Exxon Valdez disaster of 1989.

As with most environmental disasters of this sort, the initial panic is generally far worse than the actual outcome. Most large disasters from the Exxon Valdez to Chernobyl, have, in the final analysis, been remarkably well managed and contained - the damage relatively limited. These are miniscule occurences in comparison to the weather and tectonic related disasters of the last 12 months.

Environmental groups will decry this as "the greatest disaster of all time." Russia is already considering legal action against China. Which speaks volumes. There is enormous amounts of money to be made in a situation like this. Some of it will be purely extortive like the Russian threats of litigation. Some of it will be well earned -- companies that participate in the clean-up, or improve safety at various Chinese plants. Some of it will be punitive; I'm betting the UN will demand monies. And some of it will be hyperbolic, all those environmental causes will use this as a fund raising bonanza, even though their access to China is limited and of minimal effect. (Compare that to yours truly who has actually installed a pollution control system in a factory in the PRC, but I brag.)

Anyway, I urge caution as you read the reporting on this disaster. Look for data, avoid hyperbole. Be sober, don't hyperventilate and panic. In the words of Gene Krantz when Apollo 13 had it's disaster - WORK THE PROBLEM PEOPLE! - Ignore the circus.


The Force Is Strong With This Picture


Why Is It...

...everytime I see a story about this thing:

Japan's asteroid probe may be in trouble

I get a mental picture of a Asian proctologist and medical procedures that make me shudder? Somehow any word ending in "oid" and the word "probe" just don't belong in the same sentence.


Cognitive Dissonance On Sale Here

S.C. Cemetery Offers Annual Holiday Deal

"Here Mom and Dad, for Christmas I got you a funeral plot. It would be great if you used it before the credit card bills came in -- I could use the inheritance to pay them." There's a mixed message.


A New Take On An Old Classic...

But Judge Richard Watson wanted to know why the slightly dishevelled man was slurring while in court.

He had not had a drink that morning, McKain said, confiding he had been drinking the night before.

The slur was, he said, because of problems with his teeth which had been snatched from his mouth by his dog, a jack russell, and chewed by the animal.
Do you think I can find a way for a dog to eat electrons the next time I screw something up on this blog?


What'd Think The Offspring Will Look LIke?

Flamingos Top Turkeys in N.Y. Town


Oh, The Weather Outside Is Frightful...

Scientists discover singing iceberg in Antarctica

Well, what else is an iceberg going to sing?

Sunday, November 27, 2005


It's Coming

Stones Cry Out reminds us that today marks the beginning of Advent. They quote Charles Moore
Mother Teresa once noted that the first person to welcome Christ was John the Baptist, who leaped for joy on recognizing him, though both of them were still within their mothers' wombs.
Are you that excited about the coming of your Savior? Do you recognize who He is even now as He but gestates in His mother's womb? Do you jump for joy at His approach, even in rather cramped and uncomfortable quarters?

I have a hard time with this time of year. It just seems like an enormous amount of effort, for a couple of days pay-off, then an enormous amount of effort to tear it all down again. And I wonder does all that effort celebrate what truly matters?

This much I know -- it celebrates that which I decide it celebrates. I am the one that permits Jesus to be "the reason for the season," or not. I can choose to focus on Him when I am making all that effort, or I can choose to focus on the effort and be my normally curmudgeon self.

I do think the incarnation gets theological short-shrift sometimes. We get so focused on the cross and the theology that surrounds it that we just sort of assume that what gives the cross it's power is the fact that it was God Incarnate than hung upon it. That whole God Incarnate thing is a miracle to my mind greater than the resurrection. After all, Jesus raised Lazurus and promises to raise us -- but He has only once managed to stuff all that into such a small and insufficient package.

Sometimes during Advent, I feel like I am kind of stuck in a womb. So many demands on my time, so much that has to be done. It is confining and constraining and uncomfortable. I am sorely tempted to try and break out of the confinement. But this year I think I am going to try and find a way to jump for joy in the confinement. Hopefully, it will be contagious.


What's This?! A Comic Book Question...

...from a serious source? Jollyblogger is wondering about literary reference in "Batman Begins."
Jacobs goes on to explain why Lewis calls this experience "Joy," but I am pointing it out to speculate about whether Bruce Wayne's experience is based on any of this. I am sure the writers/producers/directors of Batman didn't read Jacobs, and I doubt they read Lewis, since Jacobs mentions that Lewis mentioned the Blue Flower without giving any explanation. But I do wonder if the Batman folks may have come across Novalis.
David is referring to the blue flower that plays a pivotal role in Bruce Wayne's training to become the Batman. There is a blue flower referecne running through the three authors mentioned, Novalis being the original source.

First of all, as someone acquainted with a few screenwriters (it's a hazard of living in Southern California where, actually, everyone is either an actor or has a script they are trying to sell) it is amuzing to wonder if a screenwriter has read something -- there is no limit to what they may or may not have read, from the wisest to the most profane. But, I digress.

Is the flower in Batman Begins a reference to Novalis' blue flower, which David quotes Jacobs quoting Novalis with this passage
There is no greed in my heart; but I yearn to get a glimpse of the blue flower [aber die blaue Blume sehn' ich mich zu erblicken]. It is perpetually in my mind, and I can write or think of nothing else . . .

Often I feel so rapturously happy; and only when I do not have the flower clearly before my mind's eye does a deep inner turmoil seize me. This cannot and will not be understood by anyone. I would think I were mad if I did not see and think so clearly. Indeed since then everything is much clearer to me.
I would be fairly certain of the reference. The longing which Novalis describes is what Lewis calls "joy" in his autobiography. Lewis uses this longing as his driver towards Christ. The modern interpretation of the Batman myth is remarkably similar, save for the fact that Batman finds his salvation in his search for justice, not in Christ.

The balancing of motivation and limitation is vitally important in Batman. His genesis is essentially vengeful, and yet modern sensibility discounts vengence as a legitimate motivation. Why is Bruce Wayne so obessesively focused on his task, yet never crosses the line into genuine vengenance, and he never kills? It is not an easy question to answer. The answer to that dilemma has always been that he seeks justice, not vengenance. Yet perfect justice in unattainable both for the legal system, thus the need for someone outside the system like Batman, or for Batman himself, for perfect justice would actually demand the death of some of his enemies.

Thus to offer a metaphor for the quest for justice would be most appropos for any Batman piece. Particularly since it is in that quest that Bruce Wayne finds the peace for his soul that Lewis claims he found in his joy.

It is also interesting that Bruce Wayne is lead to the blue flower by his eventual nemesis who claims to represent true justice. The metaphor of the search for justice is shared by both good, Batman, and evil, Ras Ah Ghul. They are supposed to be the right way to find Lewis' "joy" - again Batman - and the wrong way to find it - again Ras.

The symbolism of the flower in the movie is indeed quite similar to Novalis/Lewis. Given that most screenwriters are most avaricious readers, I think the likelihood quite high. Frankly, I wouldn't be suprized if the screenwriters read Lewis too.

As example I have a good friend writer that has talked about Christian parallels and symbolism in, of all things, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. (A show John Mark Reynolds coincidentaly wrote about yesterday) I used to go to church with one of the Buffy writers. Coincidence? I think not. Nope, I wouldn't be surprized at all is the reference is quite precise.

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