Saturday, February 04, 2006


He Won't Like It...

...but this morning I must heap praise on the head of my friend John Gillmartin - Sheep's Crib - For this post.
The scandals come with such consistency that I'm of the opinion that every church leader in the world bears watching; somehow we all need to be held accountable for our walk. God said nothing is hid from Him but the reports I'm reading are far too serious to go unheeded.

In the report linked above we're told Pastor Earl Paulk stood with the family as a precious baby girl was born; later Paulk would dedicated her to the Lord, then celebrate her high school graduation, and then, when in her thirties, he would foul her marriage bed ... this in spite of the fact Paulk arranged her marriage to his best friend.
After this description, John goes on to condemn this in the kind of strong language that is truly called for
I realize the most difficult of the gifts of the Spirit is self-control [Galatians 5:23] but that's just tough applesauce. We are a people of faith and power to overcome the flesh is given to those who will walk by the Spirit [Romans 8].
It will, I believe, be everywhere found, that as the clergy are, or are not what they ought to be, so are the rest of the nation. [Jane Austen (1775 - 1817), Mansfield Park]
The kind of behavior we're seeing here is why we see people like Steven Weinberg say things like this in the paper of record ...
With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion. [Steven Weinberg (1933 - ), quoted in The New York Times, April 20, 1999]
Jesus warned us we would know the Paulks "by their fruits"! Oh, if this is not an indictment upon our current church leadership I have no idea of what might be!
John is apparently going to write a couple more posts on the subject of corruption in the pulpit. Being a preacher himself, this is brave stuff for John to write. Part of the reason this stuff happens with such frequency is "the fraternity" is always slow to condemn its own.

Would there wass more of this. In my opinion, scandals of this sort do more harm to the furtherance of the church than a 1000 movies like "Brokeback Mountain."

While the gospel is full of grace, but we cannot afford institutional grace to men such as this. What happens with their eternal life is truly between them and God, but the institutions must keep them at greater than arms length.

I am aghast that Jim Bakker still has a ministry. And while Jimmy Swaggert's confession was the correct way to handle things, regardless, his behavior should have robbed him of his leadership position, at least for a period of several years.

Then there is the damage these people do to the lives of their direct victims. Can you imagine what this does to the faith of the women involved? It is a miracle that they do not all end up cursing God, but many do.

They say that rape is not about sex, it's about power. I think that is what happens in these circumstances. These sexual predators in the guise of God's men get off on manipulating the congregation and they get off on using that manipulation to manipulate women, well usually women though sometimes..., into sex. Language is so important, and the word "rape" has been robbed of much of its meaning through over- and mis-use, but this kind of stuff is much more than adultery or fornication, even if less than rape.

There simply must be punishment to fit the crime. Shame - of course! Excommunication - Definitely. This almost makes me wish churches had jails.

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On Impeachment

John Hinderracker over at Powerline had a really interesting post the other day.
But I also think that a considerable part of the Democrats' current pathology dates from the impeachment of Bill Clinton. I thought at the time, and still believe, that impeaching Clinton was a mistake. Unlike most Democrats, however, I don't think it was politically motivated. On the contrary, it was obvious at the time that the most politically expedient course was a censure vote, followed by ridicule. And the last thing any Republican wanted was to make Al Gore the incumbent President.

Clinton's impeachment was certainly justifiable--like Nixon, he obstructed justice; worse, unlike Nixon, he lied under oath--but in my view, the whole sordid affair didn't rise to a level that warranted the nuclear option of impeachment. Reasonable minds can differ about that, and when the process was over, Republicans moved on. Many Democrats, somewhat ironically, did not. They remained enraged that the right to lie about sex--it's got to be in one of those amendments, somewhere--had been infringed, and they've remained enraged, in many cases, right up to the present. So the current talk about impeaching President Bush was pretty much inevitable.
This brings to mind the thought that for some, in this case the Democrats - holding the levers of power matters more than what you do with them. The rank-and-file Dems may be upset ebcasue they think they should be able to have sex with whomever (or whatever) whenever and however they would like, without accountability, but that isn't true for the office holders. They aren't stupid - they know the sex thing was spin and not the charge.

For them the power matters. That is the path to corruption. Power is useful, but it is not an end to itself - it's a tool to create some greater good. The Democrat pathology, as Hinderacker calls it, stems from the fact that they simply want to tell us what to do. That is a grossly self-destructive problem. We just have to make sure they don't do too much damage to the rest of us while they work through that.

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Comic Art

No look at the various characters that make up the Justice Society of America would be complete without a look at the one and only Power Girl. She has got to be the most enduring character to never have her story straight - and I am betting you know why.

My wife is quite fond of pointing out to me the pulchritudinous nature of most women in comics, but Power Girl sort of puts them all into second place -- in a hurry. I honestly feel sorry for the woman. They have meddled with her legend so much over the years that now the "official" story is that even she doesn't know where she came from or how she got her powers. They have tried a few 4 issue miniseries with her, but she has always been a part of team books, and right now she has been reduced to an ill-tempered shrew good for little more than the occassional wisecrack about the size of her bosom. That's a shame.

They tried to give her a solo launch by pairing her with someone and changing her costume, removing the cleavage, but it didn't catch on.

This is my personal theory mind you, not the official story, but I think they just couldn't figure out what to do with the character so they kept drawing her breasts larger and larger to keep fans interested. They really were not this plastic surgery apparent when I was a kid. Of course, her super hard skin would prevent actual plastic surgery -- Superman's heat vision is the only thing that can penetrate it. To be honest, the way things have been going with this character lately, I think they are going to reveal that her breasts are the actual source of her power, but I digress.

Originally, she appeared as a Kryptonian -- that's right, just like Superman with the powers to boot.

For whatever reason, female Kryptonians have never really caught on. There have been more Supergirl's than you can shake a stick at. The current one also suffers from egregious amounts of feminine attractiveness, but in a very different package.

Now, before I get too carried a way, I should point out that there is a good reason female superheroes are very curvaceous. The idea when drawing comics is to draw distinctively, but rapidly. It is a lot of art to produce under deadline. Drawing faces and other subtle reminders of identity is difficult and time consuming -- thus costumes, they make the character very distinctive, very rapidly. So also it is easier to draw an idealized somewhat extreme female figure, but with PG they have definitely gone beyond "idealized" into...well, I'm not sure how to sum it up in a word.

In the end, I think it is a crying shame that this is where this character has ended up.

Since I first encountered her in her kryptonian days she has been one of the more fascinating females in comics, and in those days whe was not so well-endowed. Powered like the Supergirls, but not operating in the shadow of the big guy she had the possibility to be the real deal. The fact that they removed her from the kryptonian legend is probabaly the reason she has survived all these years continuously, unlike the S-girls, but at the same time she has ended up such a tangled mess that you can never really get your hands on her and learn to love her.

I am hoping, given the current emphasis in JSA of not knowing her legend at all that they are setting the table to give her a new legend, one worthy of a genuine visual icon in comics.

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Obviously Over The Legal Limit

Birds Die From Flying 'Drunk' Into Windows

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What Happens Next...

Woman Eats 26 Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

...should not be discussed in polite company.

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Call The Beach Boys!

Surfing moose causes quite a stir

If it was Rocky and Bullwinkle it was probabaly wind-surfing with Rocky as the sail!

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That's A Lot Of Puke!

Vomiting bug closes nine schools

From one bug no less!

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Friday, February 03, 2006


Do We Need New Apologetics?

JollyBlogger, looking at the Da Vinci Code, says this:
So, at the risk of sounding conspiratorial or alarmist I think this shows that Christians are facing a new set of circumstances in the DaVinci Code or post-DaVinci Code era. In the past we have focused on a kind of apologetics that defends the Christian story, now our apologetic task will be to define the Christian story. The DaVinci Code didn't cause this set of circumstances but it has brought it to the fore.

I hope to talk about this more in the future but for now I'll share a few thoughts on challenges facing us.

1. We need to recover our Christian intellectual tradition - the pietism of the past leaves us ill-equipped to respond to intellectual/academic attacks on the faith. "Just believe" and "just have faith" may sound fine in church but they aren't good responses to the arguments of DaVinci Code advocates.

2. We need to be prepared for a world where their worldview can accomodate ours but ours can't accomodate theirs - one of the things about the DaVinci Code and the new spiritualities it represents is that these new spiritualities are very inclusive.
I understand David's point here and agree that there has been insufficient emphasis on apolgetics in Christian training lately. The fact that the definition of Christianity has become elastic enough for this to be an issue is testament to that fact.

But on the road to Christ, apologetics only gets us so far. The apostles relied on apologetic agruement only occassionally. Christ Himself shone so brightly through the lives of the disciples that intellectual objections paled in comparision to the glory of the Lord.

Renewal is, I think, the ultimate answer. We as the church have to rediscover the Lord Himself. Yes, that means rediscover apologetics, but it means so much more too.

The life of the church should make the questions of the Da Vinci Code appear as the trivial, fictional ravings of conspiracy theorists that they are.

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The Difference Between Freedom and Duty

It has since the beginning been a tenant of life in America that the right to freedom includes the right to do things that some might find reprehensible. Traditionally, we drew a distinction between the merely reprehensible and the immoral, but in recent years the line between the two has been shifting radically. That is something that left many of us uncomfortable, but we knew the battle had to be fought on other than legal grounds.

Al Mohler posted yesterday on something, that he has, and I have, posted on before - the fact that much of the medical profession now presents the former "option" of abortion for a genetically abnormal fetus as a duty.

I almost lack the capability to respond cogently because that fact is so utterly abhorent. The fact that people choose to do so is disquieting and probably evil, but the fact that a physician, sworn to uphold life would recommend it? I refer you to yesterday's Illuminated Scripture.

I have argued previously that the best way for much of Christian viewpoint to take hold in the nation was through evangelism, not political action, but this gives me pause. Physcians carry an enormous amount of authority in this nation. Their recommendations are terribly important to people. I can't help but wonder if the church should not be struggling to regain its position as at least a competing authority?

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The New Prophet

Boris Johnson, a British MP, writing in the Telegraph of London said this:
But the more one listens to sacerdotal figures such as Lovelock, and the more one studies public reactions to his prophecies, the clearer it is that we are not just dealing with science (though science is a large part of it); this is partly a religious phenomenon.

Humanity has largely lost its fear of hellfire, and yet we still hunger for a structure, a point, an eschatology, a moral counterbalance to our growing prosperity. All that is brilliantly supplied by climate change. Like all the best religions, fear of climate change satisfies our need for guilt, and self-disgust, and that eternal human sense that technological progress must be punished by the gods.

And the fear of climate change is like a religion in this vital sense, that it is veiled in mystery, and you can never tell whether your acts of propitiation or atonement have been in any way successful. One sect says we must build more windfarms, and these high priests will be displeased with what Lovelock has to say. Another priestly caste curses the Government's obsession with nuclear power - a programme Lovelock has had the courage to support.

Or is he completely wrong? To say that would be an offence not just against science, but against a growing world religion.
I cannot help but think there is genuine wisdom in there. Our intellects have done away with hell, and still we have the primal urge to fear. I wonder if there is not an epistimological theistic arguement here - "the argument from fear."

But the real question is why has the church allowed this to happen? Where have we gone wrong so that our answers have been rejected only to have shamanism and pseudo-science fill the void we left behind.

Well, for one thing, we abandoned our fear of hellfire as well. Annihilationism is "the thing" theologically these days. As Christians, we are far too "enlightened" to succumb to such primitive concepts. And by abandoning it, we let someone else take that fundamental claim on the human soul.

In Christian thought apologetics has gotten a bit lazy. I am teaching a class on CS Lewis right now and I was amazed as I reviewed his primary apologetic works how few in the class had even considered the idea of apologetics. That's part of this, but I fear this runs much deeper.

Simply put Christ does not shine through us. We rely on staff to be Christ's amabassadors, we're just His citizens. The church looks like something done to us instead of something we are a part of. We are not transformed into creatures without fear, we have our fears manipulated to garner response, and those fears are not of a life without God, but of a life of bad self-image, or lonliness, or....

The answer here is to reclaim the gospel.

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Global Warming - The Hubris Of Faith

This article is fascinating. Paragraph 2:
A widely reported study last week said 2005 was the warmest on record. But headlines failed to note that the results were not concrete and a new study out this week challenges the findings.
Paragrpah 4:
The latest result came Monday from the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC), which is part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). These are the folks that run the National Weather Service. Their study concludes that the global temperature in 2005 can't be statistically distinguished from the record set in 1998.
Paragrpah 7:
Last week, The Associated Press and others reported that a NASA scientist said 2005 was the warmest year on record, nosing out 1998.
Concluding paragraph:
"We may get a more definitive assessment from additional data, but it also may be that we will never know for sure," he said. [James Hansen, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies] "However, it doesn't matter much. I am confident that we will exceed both of these years within the next few years."
So, to sum up - inconclusive and conflicting data notwithstanding the fear mongering must continue!

Does anyone see the problem here? They can't decide what the "global temperature" really is! - So how can they tell us if it's warming or not? Sheesh.

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Based on This Story...

Doctors Put Feeding Tube in Sharon's Stomach
Doctors inserted a feeding tube in Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's stomach on Wednesday, according to a statement from Jerusalem's Hadassah Hospital, where he is being treated for a massive stroke.

Sharon, 77, has been in a coma since he suffered a stroke on Jan. 4. Long-term care specialists and a U.S. authority on comatose patients have examined the Israeli leader in recent days. Experts say his chances of regaining consciousness or a meaningful level of activity are slim.
I am forced to observe that the difference between a coma and a persistent vegatative state may be how well connected you are.

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It's Forwarded..

What happens to your e-mail when you die?

Certainly there is email in heaven -- just no spam.

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Friday Humor

credit to GirlTalk.

BTW, if you don't get it, feel free to email.

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When The Event Has Become Idiom, Is It Still News?

Ex-Employee Kills 6 Others and Herself at California Postal Plant

Who doesn't know what "going postal" means?

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I Just Hope It's Feet First

Punching Horse May Land Man in Deep Doodoo

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OH, The Horror...

Salmon-munching seal to be moved

...for the salmon, not the seal.

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Whoever Stopped For Them...

Students in Tutus Saved From Mountain Road braver than I.

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And There The Starships Hide...

Asteroids near Jupiter are really comets

Obscure cultural reference: remember the Raelians?

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Those Theiving Athletes!

Before the Olympics, Turin had the shroud

You'd think they could leave the holy relics intact!

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Thursday, February 02, 2006


Slouching Towards Oblivion

Yes, I am making a bit of a play on Robert Bork's now famous book. But I don't wish to discuss the nation - I want to discuss the church. Two recent posts indicate how the church is undergoing much the same trend.

On Monday, Al Mohler looked at a LATimes piece
This is a quintessential example of the modern mind at work. First, confuse the reality of God's wrath with human attempts to understand it. Second, dismiss the Bible as antiquated, oppressive, and outdated. Third, suggest that liberation from the Bible's oppressive text now frees us to "grow in God," and to replace the God of the Bible with a vision of deity more in keeping with the spirit of the age.
Pretty strong stuff, but not inaccurate.

The GospelDrivenLife looked at some similar things
The Gospel is not renounced -- it is simply pushed to the margins, one small step at a time. We move the Lord Jesus Christ from the center of everything to the focus only of evangelism -- we move from blood bought salvation to self-improvement using the Bible as our textbook -- we move from bible based self-help to secular self-help with a few texts from the Bible -- we make a choice here or there to corrupt the church because we are afraid of angry response -- we move from sanctification to political action.

OR we move from redemption centered theology to abstract systematics -- we move from delight in the Savior to mandating and critiquing details of doctrinal agreement -- OR we move to a focus on externals as they key to renewal (be they recovery of former golden days or creation of radical models of the church).
Another excellent observation. What's a Christian to do?

Over at Out of Ur, Dave Terpstra, pastor at The Next Level Church in Denver looks at six stages of spirtual development and wonders about what happens when people reach the fourth stage.
This forth stage is where my experience (and the authors?) reveals the church?s weakness. Speaking in generalities, churches do not specialize in people who have been following Christ for years and who are deeply questioning and reexamining their beliefs. It?s especially difficult when people who reach stage four are in positions of influence and leadership. Churches, from the mega to the mini, are designed to help people mature in the external areas of service and discipleship, not the internal struggles of identity and meaning.

So what happens when people get burnt out on the basic teaching and serving. Some go looking for fresh new content and areas of service. Some discover a new teacher across town who ?really? teaches the Bible. Some discover service to the under-resourced or in foreign countries. While their true need may be for something deeper, they settle for at least something different.
Or, may I suggest, they get weird and they "go liberal."

The problem is one of leadership. Our professional minstering classes, speaking again in generalities, cease seeking spiritual growth they stop leading people and they start leading "the church" - that is to say the institution.

I grow increasingly convinced there is something structurally wrong in how we do church. We have to reorganize how we do things to accomplish two goals. One to make operating the institution a sideline, not THE goal. The other to take advantage of those that reach these levels of maturity. How that will happen will be different for every church, but I think it must start by admitting that is where we need to go.

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The Great Sheehan Kerfluffle

Best Of The Web said it best
But last night we realized just how forgettable the typical SOTU is.
It was a fine speech, but in a couple of months, all we'll be talking about is the arrest, and release, of Cindy Sheehan. We will forget it was nearly bipartisan caution on the part of the Capital Police and Cindy Sheehan's status as anti-war icon will shine all the brighter, despite the fact she is about as articulate as your average 12-year-old.

Frankly it is a no win situation, both the speech and the Sheehan situation. As I listened to the speech I could not help but think "too much." As BOTW said "small bore domestically." I think were I President there would be a written address that laid out the full agenda and the speech which would be no more than 20 minutes, maybe as short as ten that would just hit what really matters.

As to Sheehan, were she not taken out, you know as well as I do, misbehavior would have ensued -- she wouldn't have been able to help herself. Much as she has 12yo articulation she has similar impulse control.

There is no way, absolutely no way, in this day and age, to deal with such protestations without appearing somehow heavy-handed, no matter how inappropriate those protestations my be.

Alas all we can do is let the radical lefties bloviate and make their Nazi accusations, and rely on the increasingly unreliable common sense of the American people to see through the garbage.

While not illegal, Sheehan's (as her Republican counterpart) actions were incredibly, incredibly rude and tasteless. There is a place for decorum. Free Speech is not a license to be a jerk.

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Idols and Idolatry

Jollyblogger sounded like he had been reading my mind on Tuesday.
If I am in an upscale community that values family, success and financial freedom I might decide that the way to reach these folks is to build a family friendly church with classes and seminars on marriage and parenting, money management and a biblical view of success, or how to use your success in a godly way. There are many good aspects to all of these emphases, but we can miss the fact that people often value family, money and success for idolatrous reasons. In other words, it may be helpful to give someone biblical principles for budgeting, but it may be that their interest in budgeting is driven by an idol of greed.

And so I am suggesting that we not treat sinners as if they are sinless. For some time now it has been en vogue to listen to the unregenerate and tailor our ministries to their stated needs, desires and values. This has been the case with the church growth movement, the seeker sensitive movement, and in many cases with postmodern and emerging movements. In doing so we often fail to get behind the sinless and idolatrous motives that are driving the needs, desires and values.
There is so much that we make into sin, and usually it is the sin of idolatry. Watching the Super Bowl this Sunday is not a sin, unless I approach it with an idolatrous attitude.

Now here's the really incidious part - church growth is not a sin, unless I approach it with an idolatrous attitude - that is to say I operate my church in a fashion to pursue growth when I should be pursuing God.

Anything can become an idol. Have you ever thought that the Pharisees real problem was that they made the Law an idol? Think about it. They were so zealous to do what they thought God wanted, they forgot God, isn't that the very definition of idolatry?

Now here is the key question - how do we deal with attitutdes? I cannot tell you how many church planning meetings of one sort or another I have been in when I saw this attitude start to creep in. I could start getting all prophetic, but that usually just gets me booted out of the room, so my typical response is to call for prayer in an effort to refocus the conversation. But it is not uncommon for me to be told "We prayed at the start of the meeting - we don't have time for this."

Of course, changing people "on the inside" really is the work of the Holy Spirit, but somehow that seems like a cop out. Surely God has a role for us in situations like this? Ideas?

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Illuminated Scripture

Mrs. Blogotional says this one was inspired by this post. Thanks honey, It's nice to know I inspire you.

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Scotland Has It's Own Sheehan

The family of a Scottish soldier killed in Iraq have spoken of their anguish and claimed: "It wasn't his war".
Crying Shame - isn't one enough?

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Politcal Correctness Rewrites History - Again!

As if assassination wasn't bad enough, now Thomas Becket has to cope with character assassination.

The murdered medieval archbishop has been voted the second worst Briton in the past thousand years, in a readers' poll carried out by BBC History Magazine.
I am not delusional enough to think Becket a great holy man -- His battles with the King were more about establishing a power base than preserving the faith, but that power base mattered and matters a lot to the church.

Sometimes, less than honorable people do good things for less than honorable reasons. I am just happy for the result.

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McAfee and Norton Stocks Soar

Researchers Warn of File-Destroying Worm

Yes, I am a cynic from time-to-time.

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Everything Old Is New Again

An apparent copy-and-paste in a keynote speech by Prime Minister Sali Berisha had him mouthing the same lines spoken by his famously verbose predecessor Fatos Nano, Albanian television said with glee on Wednesday.

Top Channel television broadcast Berisha, a conservative, reading three paragraphs of a speech on energy policy, followed by a clip of Nano, a socialist, delivering the same quotes three years earlier. The cryptic wording was virtually identical.
The amazing thing is American Democrats have been doing this for years and no one has caught on....

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Because Some Things Are Too Funny Not To Link Too Again!

It's still funny!

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Amazing Scientific Discovery!

The Waffling Anglican has the full skinny on this amazing discovery. Some idiot left his empty on Mars!

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Dosing Medicine the "Easy" Way?

Trendy Australian undies maker aussieBum has rolled out vitamin-infused undies called Essence, according to The New York Post.

Company founder Sean Ashby told the paper health-care giant Bayer developed the drawers' special blend of polyester and lycra to "trap organic substances, which are then released slowly by natural body heat."
Oh, but there is a kicker!
The beefed-up briefs come in acerola, a plant rich in vitamin C, ginseng and the company hopes to release a Viagra version soon, Ashby told The Post.
That last option could make some things a little difficult.

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When Spam Is Good

When you can eat it!

SPAM innovation best in the nation
but ultimately decided on a breakfast corn dog, made with chunks of SPAM that have been dipped in an apple-cinnamon pancake batter. The sunnydogs are cooked until golden and dipped in maple syrup, applesauce or honey.
Oh, come on - you know that sounds like good eats!

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Not That Much Of A Stretch

NZ doctor to open a brothel

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Wednesday, February 01, 2006


Politics Or Commonsense?

The will of the PM was thwarted by Parliament yesterday. The spin is that it was an act of pure political rebellion
The government has suffered two shock defeats over attempts to overturn Lords changes to the controversial Racial and Religious Hatred Bill.

In a blow to Tony Blair's authority, MPs voted by 288 votes to 278 to back a key Lords amendment to the bill, which targets incitement to religious hatred.

The prime minister voted in the first division but not in the second, which was lost by one vote.

Home Secretary Charles Clarke told MPs the bill would now become law.

Mr Clarke claimed what had happened had been "a purely political act" by Tories, Lib Dems and members of his own side to defeat the government, rather than a genuine consideration of the issues in the bill.
The bill, prior to the Lords' amendment was, as I understand it, heinous. The bill would have limited the speech of say a pastor to declare, for example, that the Islamic faith was somehow less than truth.

I am forced to reflect on the meaning of the word "intolerant." Is it intolerant for a person of a professed faith to declare a different faith as untrue, or is it intolerant for a person to seek to legally prevent another from making such statements?
Matt 5:11 - Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me.
As Christians, we are urged to tolerate intolerance, we may be unique in that perspective. So, that being the case, why oppose such restrictions?

Because a bill like what was proposed would, in essence, take away my blessing. The bill would forbid precisely the kind of speech Christ says would bless me. Have you ever wondered why such speech is a blessing?

I think because criticism is a valuable thing, even if false. It accomplished two things. First it reveals the mind of the accuser -- that insight is useful in my efforts to reach out to that person. Secondly, even the most egregious rant usually contains some kernel of truth. My blessing in part comes from hearing that kernel and responding to it.

On a political note, I love the fact that the "correction" came out of the Lords. First time they have done anything useful in...?

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Alito Wins Supreme Court Confirmation

I can only say I am saddened by the histrionics it took to get us here. Yes, a significant portion of the Democrat party went into complete meltdown, and hopefully enough people paid attention for them to suffer significant politcal damage, but somehow I doubt it.

Mostly this is proof we need to elect a lot more Republicans in the Senate.

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Christians and Torture

Some PR guy at Christianity Today wrote me and gave me links to two articles on the use of torture in the current war, soliciting comment -- well, links if we are completely honest.

Front Line Dilemma
Christians in intelligence services are conflicted over the use of torture.

This is a somewhat balanced look at the various arguments presented by Christians, almost all of them anonymous, in the intelligence services.

5 Reasons Torture Is Always Wrong
And why there should be no exceptions.

This is an opinion piece. Here are the five reasons in summary:
    1. Torture violates the dignity of the human being.
    2. Torture mistreats the vulnerable and violates the demands of justice.
    3. Authorizing torture trusts government too much.
    4. Torture dehumanizes the torturer.
    5. Torture erodes the character of the nation that tortures.
My first comment is that there is not a whole lot of biblical support for the arguments offered here, in fact scripture is cited in discussing only the first two of the five reasons cited. While that fact may or may not say anything about the validity of the argument, it does say that the argument does nothing to advance the Christian view of torture.

I am going to limit myself wholly to discussing this from a Christian perspective. There are serious question about how efficacious torture is from a purely practical standpoint - I do not comment on that.

I will start by saying that under any circumstances, torture should be of last resort, as should any use of violence for any end.

Many of the arguments advanced here place the individual on a level superior to the group. They worry about the soul of the tortured and the torturer. The older I get the less convinced I am that this is God's absolute perspective. God has rather routinely sacrificed the individual for the sake of the greater whole - including most significantly His own Son. Scripture clearly supports the concept of a "greater good" even in the face of apparent injustice - whether it be admonitions for slaves to be content in their servitude or Paul's expressed sacrifice of his desire to go to heaven for the sake of the church. There are times when the concerns of the indivdual are secondary.

Certainly we must all admit there are times when violence is necessary. Self-defense for example. Most moral "absolutes" have exceptions. I think most would agree that self-defense is a sufficient justification to take a life. A more mundane example would be if a killer in pursuit of a victim asked you if you had seen the intended victom run by, would not a lie be justified? Did not God order King Saul to violate all common understanding of the rules of war and kill the women and children of a conquest? Did Saul not lose his blessing for failing to follow this command?

My point? I don't think one can make a decent Christian case against torture in all circumstances and in all settings. Certainly, if torture could produce information that would prevent the death of thousands, by say, a nuclear explosion in an American city I would find it justified. The devil is in the details. Can we be sure the person we intend to torture has the information we need? Can we be sure that the information will produce sufficient result to justify the acts?

These are questions that must be asked, and decision reached on a case by case basis. Guidelines should, and have been established. Are they the right guidleines? Perhaps only time can tell. We lack God's perspective, mistakes are inevitable, we can only do our best.

My bottom line thought is that I am glad there are Christians in the intelligence services and I am glad they are involved in making these decisions. If there is anything I take from all this CT reading it is that there may need to be a ministry developed to these poeple to support them in that decision making. But having the right people in those places is the best we can do.

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If Only It Were This Simple

The NYTimes carried an interesting piece yesterday on the interaction of science and government.
To fight such misunderstanding, Mr. Boehlert and others sponsored the Jan. 23 briefing, organized by the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard.

Capitol Hill has briefings by the dozen every year in which industry, academic and activist groups address diverse topics related to science.

Some criticize these briefings as little more than showboating. But Mr. Boehlert, like many others, thinks they are "absolutely" useful. And the briefing was unusual in that its subject was not avian flu, the budget for NASA or any other relatively narrow issue, but rather "how science works."
What's the problem? Well, even scientists don't agree on "how science works" - particularly when it comes to the issues that are most directly addressed in a governmental setting. In many such areas the problems lie not in the science but in the assumptions underlying the science. For example, embryonic stem cell research is a moral, ethical, and religious question, not a scientific one - the science is somewhat straightforward.

In the case of global warming, it's a question of risk/benefit ratio with a very healthy dose of uncertainty in the picture - again these are more policy than science issues.

What is an important question is how government decides what science to fund. The problem is they are far more likely to fund science with policy implications for what should be obvious reasons. This is, frankly, what has driven the increasing politicization of science in general.

I am skeptical - I think we would be far better served taking govenrment out of the science funding business than trying to educate them about it.

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Nyuk, Nyuk, Nyuk

The incident happened last week at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, England, which for decades has displayed a group of Qing dynasty Chinese vases on a window sill.

A hapless visitor tripped on his shoelace, tumbled down a flight of stairs and crashed into the vases, smashing them into smithereens.
You know, I've seen some chinese vases that make me wonder if this was more criticism than accident.

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An Oldie, But A Goodie

Should this replace the spongemonkeys as the Blogotional Theme Song? Vote with your comments!

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The Best(?) Of Pravda

Our first story indicates that our Russian journalistic firends have difficulty ditinguishing the "unknown" and the purely imaginary:

Schizophrenia helps learn the unknown

There is another rant from a disaffected American that writes like a long dead commie.
When will Americans recognize that theirs is a polarized, politically segregated society, not unlike those they helped create in Iraq and Palestine? When will they come to the realization that their political process is nothing more than a collusive duopoly and, as such, borderline totalitarian?

This is an editorial of Pravda and is amazing.

George W. Bush betrays his nation

Which leads to our final link - proof that jokes are often about context, casue this isn't even mildly funny.

Is it just me, or is the anti-American ranting increasing in Pravda?

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Not "The Best Of Pravda," But Worthy

A PROFESSOR yesterday claimed he is on the verge of creating a real version of Harry Potter's invisibility cloak.

Russian Oleg Gadomsky has patented a method of surrounding static objects with golden particles using optical radiation, so they cannot be seen.

He is now experimenting on moving material.

Prof Gadomsky, of Ulyanovsk University, said: "It shouldn't be difficult. It'll be possible to create a real Harry Potter cloak."
You know, I have a few Russian patents...A warp drive among them.

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One Man's Vandalism... another man's improvement
The nurse in the much-loved and equally maligned 26-foot "Unconditional Surrender" sculpture on Sarasota's bayfront sported a black peace symbol on her calf for a few days. On Sunday someone covered the mark with white paint.
Although from the looks of it, I'm not sure it can be improved upon by other than a wrecking ball.

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I Wanna Fly with This Guy!

My kind of pilot!

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Speaking Of Airplanes

There is something about this movie, with a scheduled August release date that just makes me laugh!

Snakes On A Plane

The title alone...

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But No One Hears

Japanese Scientists Identify Ear Wax Gene

Apparently their ears were plugged up for some reason.

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My Latest Excuse

Study Strengthens Link between Virus and Weight Gain

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Tuesday, January 31, 2006


Church And/Or Community

Tod Bolsinger has reposted something from last year that is really, really good.
What this means is the church in its essence is not an organization, even a helpful, divinely mandated one. Contrary to what many of us have been taught, the church is not just a means of grace; and the church is not just here to help you in your individual journey of faith.

Further, Christian Community is not just a shared experience. It?s not people who sit together in pews or a movie theater or a football stadium (even if they are the audience for a Christian event!). It?s not polite conversation at a potluck or a great weekend together at a Christian camp. Christian Community is an ontologically irreducible organism. It is a living reality that is imbued with the Spirit of God. And most dramatically, it is the very life of the Triune God drawing people into a covenantal relationship with God and each other. It is God?s own being on earth lived in and through believers for the single end-result of seeing each person become like Jesus Christ.
Tod is in the middle of series loooking at George Barna's highly controversial new book - Revolution. Barna, as usual, studies current trends in church and in this case he sees the trend towards Christians becoming more or less "a church of one." Lots of people have tackled Barna lately, Jollyblogger being one of my favs. In all the discussion, most of it good, I haven't heard anyone ask the chicken and egg question. Are people moving in the directions Barna describes because the church is falling down on the job or is people leaving the reason the church has lost its way?

Those with a vested interest in the church will tell us that we should stick it out no matter how bad things get - but frankly, I have seen some legitimately intoelerable situations.

The marriage analogy is overused, and underappreciated. Marriage fails when both parties quit trying, yes one or the other may quit trying first, but the collapse of the marriage comes when both stop.

You know all those two-sided Pauline admonitions - "Wives, submit to your husband, Husbands, love your wives" -- "Slaves obey your master, Masters, treat your slaves with humanity." I think that's the tone that needs to be taken here.

Not all Christians that are abandoning the institutions are doing so because the institutions are lost, but a lot are. Not all institutions are driving away the community of faith in a misguided efforts to survive, thrive,...but a lot are.

That's where Tod's vision is so good. For that vision to be realized, the church needs to recommit to it's members, and vice versa.

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The Fickle And The Faithful

Evangelical Outpost wrote a letter to the President yesterday. Joe, like many of us, is looking at possible military action against Iran and pointing out how incredibly fickle the American people can be when it comes to military action.
The American public is?how can I put this delicately?a well-meaning but fickle bunch. Our people are like that buddy you had in college who would rouse you to sucker punch the loudmouth bully at the pub, yet would mysteriously turn up missing once the fight had begun. The American public may encourage you to throw the first punch at the barfight but by the time the beer bottles start flying they'll already be at Starbucks sipping espresso macchiatos and denouncing your "preemptive, unilateral, and unprovoked" act of aggresion.

Keep in mind that the Japanese had to attack Pearl Harbor before we entered World War II (Hitler, it should be noted, had to declare war on us before we entered the European theater). And it took the death of over 3,000 Americans before we decided to take the threat of global terrorism seriously. What this means is that Iran will have to attack us on our soil before the American public will truly support any long-term military action against that dangerous regime.

If you decide to take military action against Iran you should know that you will only have the support of the U.S. military, Israel, a few hundred hardcore conservative bloggers, and a handful of talk radio hosts.
Joe makes his case with some truly saddening polling data. He's right, of course, so what this tells me is we have to act now. For two reasons.

Firstly, the consequences are too horrific to contemplate. A nuclear explosion in Israel or anywhere in America is a horror that makes it worth risking all political good will.

Secondly, we have to get to this while we have a President with the cojones to see it through. If we wait, we may not finish before this guy has to leave office and a lesser person might leave before the job is done - see reason 1. Secondly, if we wait way too long, the next office holder may not start at all - see reason 1.

No doubt the hand-wringers will fight this tooth-and-nail we have to ignore them. Much as the scientist in me wants to see a nuclear explosion - not in a populated area and not in anger.

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Why Scars Matter

Mark Daniels had a great piece yesterday called "Thank God For Your Scars." It really rung true to me. I am currently teaching a Sunday School class on CS Lewis and on Sunday we went through the apologetics works - rapidly - and ended with A Grief Observed citing that in that book Lewis discovers that apologetics can only take us so far and how it was in his hour of deepest grief that he found his deepest faith. Mark puts it this way
God is willing to forgive our sins and give us joy from living His way. But, be warned: If we're genuinely following Him, the scars we incur will never go away.

They're the trophies of those who've grabbed the outstretched hand of a loving God.

They're the yellow lights blinking us to be cautious when we're tempted to go our own ways instead of God's.

Scars are often the gracious gifts of a loving God.
In 1985 I was in a very serious automobile accident. I bounced off the windshield not once, but twice - stiches in my forehead on levels I never quite imagined (and those were the least of my injuries.) I can still feel the scars very prominently to this day. There is a numb spot on my forehead - sometimes it still hurts, and everytime I get in the car, that scar whispers, well actually screams, "seatbelt," right in my ear.

I am struck by the fact that healed is not the same as perfected. Ultimately we will be perfected, but for now, we can only be healed, scars and all. Sometimes those scars will hurt. How I long for the day God not only heals, but perfects me. How I long for the day the scars won't hurt anymore.

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Power And Disconnections

In Monday's OpinionJournal, John Fund looked at a conversation he had with Dick Armey on how the Republican party has gone wrong. It's a very interesting read, but I think the summary paragraph is this one
At a time when the late British theologian C.S. Lewis's "Chronicles of Narnia" has become a hit movie, Mr. Coburn urges his colleagues to recall Lewis's warnings about what befalls those who would seek what he called the Inner Ring of power. "The more those in Congress seek only to penetrate each ring in order to gather power or prestige, the more they lose sight of why most voters entrusted them with their position in the first place," Mr. Coburn says. "Once voters catch on that is your primary ambition, your days accumulating power are ending."
There is a lot of truth to that, but I wonder if that is the whole truth. Earlier in the piece, they dicuss pork and particularly "earmarks."
The base's despair is crystallizing around the issue of special-interest earmarks, home-district projects that are often secretly dropped into legislation at the last minute without scrutiny. Scott Lilly, until recently the chief Democratic aide on the House Appropriations Committee, said the lust for earmarks has become an "obsession" of members from both parties. "That's all they do," he told the Washington Post. Last year, the House Appropriations Committee received 10,000 requests for earmarks on one spending bill alone--more than 25 projects per House member. Mr. Lilly says it's amazing the overall number of congressional earmarks last year was held to 14,000, although that number is up from barely 2,000 five years ago.
What nobody seems to realize is that the voters like pork -- as long as they are the beneficiaries of that pork. The despairing base they refer to are those that are able to take some sort of national viewpoint, but the average voter does not see beyond the end of their nose.

The dirty secret of the 1994 Republican capture of the House was that everybody voted to "nationalize" the House, except for their own district. In an increasingly consumeristic and narcissitic nation, can we not expect voting patterns to follow that lead. If House Republicans really want to "recapture the dream" as they say they do, they need to start by telling their voters, in their district that they need to give up their pork. It's time to stop pointing at the other guys pork and start cutting your own. It's time to lead instead of to pander.

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Ever Blurring The Line Between Church And Entertainment

Christian wrestlers fight for Bible Belt

Actually, pro-wrestling blurs the lines between enetertainment and inanity - and I love it!

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Well, All Families Have Black Sheep Somewhere

President George W. Bush says Bill Clinton has become so close to his father that the Democratic former president is like a member of the family.
You know, the one you keep under the steps or in the attic.

And what about Hillary? Where does she fit in this picture?

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Alphabet Soup

Every town in t he American Old West had a "Boot Hill" but few are as famous, or should I say infamous, as the Tombstone, Arizona - the "T" stop in Alphabet Soup.
Tombstone would have been just another mining town, in this case silver, were it not for the place you see right here. Largely unchanged since it's most famous event (save for the addition of a wall around it so they can collect money from the gawkers) this is the OK Corral - home of the most famous gunfight in old west history. I've never bothered to count up how many movies have been made about the gunfiight that happened between the Earps and the Clanton/McLaurey gang, but I imagine it is more than any other single event. The fact that Wyatt ended his life as a movie script consultant in Hollywood probabaly didn't hurt any, but the gunfight was extremely famous even in contemporary times.

In the corral they have mannequins set up in the positions of the main protagonists so you can really picture what was going in. It is terrifying to see the proximity in which these men were to each other. It's amazing that everyone didn't die, and even more amazing that Wyatt Earp came away without a scratch.

Tombstone is a thriving community to this day with both a large tourist economy, but also busy raising cattle and there is even a little mining still going on in the region.

The Old West Main Street sort of sits off to the side of town now, preserved as best as possible to draw in the tourists and separate them from their cash. Only two of the buildings from Earps time still stand -- The Oriental bar and the Birdcage Theater, the later retaining some of the bullet holes placed in it by the outlaws.

The other buildings while newer, blend well with the theme of the place, and with the exception of the fact they all contain t-shirt shops or pizza joints, you'd think you were in the old west yourself -- well, that and the cars. It's a very touristy place, but the history is still palpable and visible. It's a lot of fun.

Amazingly, Tombstone is also a place of beauty. This rainbow happened just as we were leaving town and it is one of the most vivid I have ever seen.

Another beauty note is that just off Main Street one of the old houses still stands with a tree rose that was planted back in the Earps day. That rose is supported by an immense netting system and now covers the entire yard of the house -- an area roughly 30' X 30'. You can walk around under it, or climb a stand and look out accross the top of it. They claim it is the largest rose bush in the world. Regardless it is quite lovely.

If you love the Old West, or even just love old western movies then Tombstone is a great visit.

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A Gift From God

Cindy Sheehan May Challenge Calif. Senator

It could be the first political race in history that defies parody, because it is parody.

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Low Points In Eduction History

A school in London has banned children from raising their hands in class and teachers from calling on students with their hands raised.

Buck said the same children often wave their arms in the air, but when teachers try to involve less adventurous pupils by choosing them instead, it leads to feelings of victimization, the Daily Telegraph reported Saturday.

To spare embarrassment of the students who do not know the answer, the school has incorporated a "phone a friend" system, allowing one child to nominate another to take the question instead.
Wouldn't it be easier to, you know, teach them the answer?

Then there is this guy, where was this guy when I was in school?
Professor David Weale called it a "January clearance" -- and clear out they did. Dismayed by his crowded classroom, the history teacher at the University of Prince Edward Island offered his students a deal some couldn't resist: Drop this Christianity class and you'll get a B minus.
My profs made the class harder if they wanted us to drop.

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Not To Mention Steve McQueen Running Around Town Like A Maniac

Blobs Inside Earth Might Explain Rapid Mountain Building

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You Know How A Double Negative... really a positive? Well, that makes me wonder if this headline can raise the dead:

Princess Diana's ex-lawyer dies

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Got To Get Me One Of These!

Here's a match made in heaven: beer and robots. For most of the world, it's a match we are left to simply dream of (you know, slave bots bringing you a cold one, instead of the usual "Get it yourself!") If you live in Japan however, you should know that Asahi is running a promotion where they'll be giving away 5,000 fully stocked refrigerator robots. What do these lovely creatures do?

Well, aside from stocking and cooling up to six cans of beer and two mugs, upon the press of a button, the machine will open up a can, and pour in into the mug with a perfect head every time.
This is a lot easier than training the dog!

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Because No One Could Say It

Humuhumunukunukuapuaa Dethroned in Hawaii

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Monday, January 30, 2006


An Important Lesson From Long Ago.

A Mind Awake wrote a post last week that reminded me of a lesson I heard long, long ago.
Gordon Hugenberger (Gordon Conwell) wrote a book with an interesting view of marriage. The book is titled "Marriage as Covenant: Biblical Law and Ethics as Developed from Malachi".

He presents a Biblical case for "Sex" as the oath sign of the covenant of marriage.
Though not from Hugenbergers' book, I was taught that particular lesson way back in high school, when dinosaurs roamed the planet and dragonflies where the size of airplanes. It's one of those lessons that had become kind of a part of the fabric of my being, but it was also a stark reminder of the effect of culture.

Pretty much everybody I know, in and out of the church is tainted with sexual impurity of some kind, from divorce to hidden homosexuality to everything in between, it has touched us all.

I have never given up the ideal of sexual purity, and certainly have maintained it in my marriage. But I had come to veiw sexual impurity as a sort of inevitability. Anymore when I would hear about yet another sexual sin, I woud sort of shrug my shoulders in a kind of resigned recognition of our fallen nature.

Chris ended his post this way
One of the largest attended Sunday School classes that I was a partner in teaching was dedicated to singleness, dating, and sex. The sex lectures were well attended and the major questions on many New York single Christians minds were "just tell me how far I can go" and "how far down the continuum of sensual activity can I draw the line (where on the scale from no sensual activity to full intercourse can the line be drawn)." Hugenberger's argument gave them something serious to consider (not withstanding the clear mandate of scripture concerning pre-marital sex).
The thing that is so wonderful about this idea is that it removes to "rules about sex" from the realm of the forbidden and places them sqaurely into the realm of the beautiful.

More importantly, if you you think about it, that's true with all of God's prohibitions. He doesn't stop us from going some place just to say "no," He does it because He has something so much better for us.

My prayer this week is going to be to worry less about where God does not want me to go, and more about finding the wonderful place He has in mind for me.

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Capitalism Works!

And, it's fun to watch.
THE museum set up by the French authorities to commemorate the D-Day landings is struggling under a mountain of debt amid a sharp decline in the number of visitors.

The Memorial Museum in Caen, Normandy, has been accused of mismanagement for turning its back on the Second World War to concentrate on subjects from feminism to Father Christmas. In recent months the museum has focused efforts on transforming itself into a ?place of reflection on the contemporary world?.
Let's see, Thousands of Americans and Brits invade Europe to liberate France, but France, typically, decides memorializing that is too prosaic - ignoring how they even came to have the ability to have the place to begin with, and the silence is deafening.

Sometimes, you just have to love it when a plan comes together.

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Be A Man!

Last week, Questions and Answers had an interesting quote from Chuck Baldwin on the lack of masculinity in the church.
By masculine, I mean a man who not only demonstrates the physical qualities of ruggedness but who also possesses inner toughness. A man who says what he means and means what he says. A man who recognizes the importance of honesty. A man of noble principle. A man without covetousness. A man who cannot be bribed or bullied. A man committed to manly virtues. A man who is the head of his home and knows how to control and discipline his children. A man who loves justice but also knows tenderness and mercy. A man who fears God and shows reverence for the sacred. A man who knows the difference between the rule of law and the lust for power. On the whole, our society today has little tolerance for such men. Even in our churches, masculinity is dying.
The quote goes on to be a little more harsh than I might agree with, but there is a real point here.

Nowhere do I see it more prevalently than in what I would call "the indirect confrontation." It seems like whenever you have a beef with someone, from the most mundane to the most egregious there has to be a "process." This is really true in church. We are so afraid of hurting someone's feelings that we never just go up to someone and say what we think. God forbid we would ever use the words "you're wrong." The quote says this
There was a time in America when society as a whole expected men to be masculine. Boys were taught physical, emotional, and spiritual toughness. They played "rough" games. They were taught how to defend themselves and others. At the same time, they were taught rules of etiquette, polite manners, and proper speech. They knew the meaning of the word "gentleman." Manhood had more to do with how well he behaved, not how well he cussed.
A man was expected to know how to resolve conflict directly and succinctly. When his conflict was with another gentleman, things usually went quite well. If the other party was not a gentleman, well, a gentleman knew how to deal with that as well.

The real problem with all this "process" is that it muddies the waters, it is designed to always split the baby - so "no one gets hurt." We have to remember the wisdom in Solomon's decision to cut the baby in half was not actually cutting the baby in half, it was in unmasking the imposter.

Among other things, masculinity helps to preserve the line between right and wrong. We could do with more of that in the church today.

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Food For Serious Thought

John J. Miller, writing in last week's OpinionJournal, suggests doing away with the Indian reservations. As I started the article, I must admit to some skepticism, but Miller was convincing.

He begins by pointing out that this would greatly stem the tide of gambling that is growing in America, a worthy goal, but that is an aside from his argument. He mostly discusses that it would end some of the greatest poverty in our nation, his argument starts with a fact I did not know.
Although Indians once were able to obtain title to specific parcels within reservations, this practice ended in 1934--an act that essentially turned the reservations into not-so-little housing projects on the prairie.
In other words, Indians, despite the great tracts of land they hold, cannot leverage them, at least not individually, into cash with which to improve their lives. As Miller puts it, this effectively makes the reservations "collectivist enclaves within a capitalist society." Asolutely dooming them to poverty.

This also helps explain why the gambling that is growing does not bring the wealth to the reservation it promises. The need for outside capital means the outsiders reap the real rewards.

I can say this, at a minimum serious reform is necessary. Indians remain the only real underclass in America. Reservations are the only place I have ever seen genuine poverty in this country. It's time to put away all the PC garbage and help these people join the plenty that is America.

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Not The Wisest Of Assumed Names

Pa. Man Signs His Name As 'God'

I mean, would you really want all those poeple praying to you? Don't you think they will get angry when you let them down?

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How Not To Help The Good Guys

Conservative commentator Ann Coulter, speaking at a traditionally black college, joked that Justice John Paul Stevens should be poisoned.

Coulter had told the Philander Smith College audience Thursday that more conservative justices were needed on the Supreme Court to change the current law on abortion. Stevens is one of the court's most liberal members.

"We need somebody to put rat poisoning in Justice Stevens' creme brulee," Coulter said. "That's just a joke, for you in the media."
But it's not funny Ann!

I am beginning to think that she and Pat Robertson are secretly liberal moles, sent to sabotage the conservative movement.

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