Saturday, March 25, 2006
Ah - The Problem
And curiously, our greatest uncertainties all relate to the local problems of understanding ourselves - human societies, human behaviour, and human minds - all the things that really matter for human survival.Couple of points. The first that he is absolutlely right in saying that the greatest weakness in our understanding is in our behavioral studies. There is nothing like that image of God in us to screw up a good naturalisitc presumption.
In all the science we pursue we are used to seeing progress. Our first attempts to grasp the laws of nature are often incomplete. So, in our religious conceptions of the Universe, we also use approximations and analogies to have some grasp of ultimate things. They are not the whole truth but this does not stop them being a part of the truth: a shadow that is cast in a limiting situation of some simplicity.
Our scientific picture of the Universe has revealed how blinkered and conservative our outlook has often been, how self-serving our interim picture, how mundane our expectations, and how parochial our attempts to find or deny the links between scientific and religious approaches to the nature of the Universe.
He is also right in saying that our religious perception of the universe is dim, with one exception - we have incredible revelation in Christ Himself. Our faith is not built on our understanding, it is built on our Lord. An intellectual understanding of Christianity and its worldview will always be incomplete, but Christ Himself is wholly sufficient.
Related Tags: faith, science, naturalism, understanding, Lord, John Darrow
Guest Blogging And Basketball
Those of you who visit Blogotional regularly know that basketball is a BIG topic here. It?s woven in the warp and woof of everything about Indiana, and of course John is from Indiana. During our marriage I have learned that often times, the good times and bad times of basketball cause an ebb and flow in my husband?s moods. I?m mostly an onlooker, a fan following a fan, but have not the depth and breadth of basketball knowledge of a true fan. So it was with amazement I found myself deeply disturbed when I watched the last half of the Gonzaga-UCLA game and watched Gonzaga go down to a heartbreaking defeat, not just any defeat, defeat in the last minutes after leading the entire game. What I pondered has caused this depth of emotion? Why was I deeply sad that a team I follow only sporadically lost?
I?m from Washington state. For the last few years when John and I filled out our NCAA brackets I have realized that Gonzaga is edging up. Gonzaga was at first not taken seriously, but gradually they have earned respect. I found myself placing them higher and higher. So this year, I put Gonzaga as the champs, number one. Oh I know, it was a long shot, but I just had a feeling. And they proved me right at first.
Now fast forward to the fateful Thursday and the match up was Gonzaga and UCLA. Gonzaga led the entire game (at least that?s what the announcers said when I tuned in) I felt pretty confident, they had a large lead. But gradually that lead disappeared and was whittled away. My heart started to sink. This team, a long shot from an Eastern Washington farm community was not going to make it. In the minutes I had been watching the game I had connected with my past, my Washington childhood. Washington in recent years has been all about Seattle and Starbucks, Bill Gates and Microsoft. That?s not the Washington where I grew up. Most of the people we knew were only making enough to get by and had nothing extra. Working for manufacturers or doing hard physical labor were the jobs that put the bread on the table of my family and most of my friends? families. There was not a lot to cheer about and we certainly weren?t in the big leagues as far as colleges and universities. UCLA and schools like it inhabited another universe than the one where we lived. So now, for me, the idea that a small college from Washington could actually play in the tourney and beat UCLA was the stuff of dreams, dreams long forgotten.
You know how it ended, UCLA won. I found myself profoundly sad. The small school against the big school didn?t pull it off. And as I?ve perused the Internet, the comfort I?ve found is other people with the same reaction. It was a game that didn?t just end the Zags run for the title, it broke hearts. I?m not sure where I?ll recapture the dream. Maybe I?ll have to wait for Indiana to hire a new coach and make a come back. I know that would be a great day in the Schroeder household, stay tuned.
Related Tags: college basketball, Gonzaga, Indiana, Mrs. Blogotional, NCAA Tounrnament
Great Words Of Truth!
Disclaimer. I have paid for therapists at various times in my life. I have learned from them, and gained advantage from going to therapy sessions. I have a degree in psych from UCLA, and have studied it continuously for 35 years since graduation. Having said that, the science is mostly bunk.Such truth from someone "invested" in the system is rare and to be cherished.
Related Tags: psychology, pseudo-science, bunk, truth
Comic baddies are no exception, they have legions of fans and sometimes have had their own titles. As was the case with Darth Vader, the more popular they become, the more effort has to be made to make them somehow redeemable, and yet allow them to remain bad guys. Which can take the fun out of things as far s I am concerned.
But regardless, in the world of comics villains are an absolute necessity. There are only so many times you want to see Spider-man web up a bank robber and Batman beat another mugger. Let's face it, villains are what make the heroes look good. Otherwise they would just be a bunch of weird poeple with a costume fetish.
And thus we begin a series looking at comic book villains. I wish I could say they were my "favorites," but I don't approach the bad guys that way. These will be ones that I think are effective, or that have great look, or have had a huge impact.
Frankly, some heroes are something of a blank -- they are a canvas on which the villain can work his or her magic. This is often the case with solo heroes. Let's face it, the hero is the same for every book of a title. There is only so much you can write for it. It's the villains that change with each book or story.
In some cases today, the villain is losing his appeal as the "anti-hero" arises. Characters like The Punisher are so close to the edge they could almost be bad guys in their own right. This is, in some ways the same phenomena as making the villain redeemable, just coming from the opposite end of the spectrum.
I am no big fan of the trend either, I like my bad guys bad and my good guys good - it is in large part the appeal of the genre as far as I am concerned - it's a place where life is not gray.
I also think villains should look like villains. As always, in comics appearances matter pretty much more than anything else. In fact, I think that is where much of the fandom for villains comes from -- if they look good, you just sort of want to root for them. Evil should look evil.
It'll be fun to see what the next few weeks have to offer.
Related Tags: comics, comic books, villains, heroes, art, comic art
Oh Yeah, Mom Wants To Clean Up This Mess!
Think marshmallows are just for campfire s?mores, rice-krispy treats or gooey fluffer-nutter sandwiches? Well, think again. The Marshmallow Fun Company, maker of the award-winning Marshmallow Shooter, now offers a whole line of edible entertainment that takes this gooey treat to a whole new level of comical confection.Related Tags: marshmallow toys, sarcasm, joke, humor
Maybe Try Looking Around Soccer Fields...
Yeah, They Gum Up The Suspension
Fine Print Writer Available for Lawyers
Friday, March 24, 2006
Walking The Fine Line
Eccl 12:8-13 - "Vanity of vanities," says the Preacher, "all is vanity!" In addition to being a wise man, the Preacher also taught the people knowledge; and he pondered, searched out and arranged many proverbs. The Preacher sought to find delightful words and to write words of truth correctly. The words of wise men are like goads, and masters of these collections are like well-driven nails; they are given by one Shepherd. But beyond this, my son, be warned: the writing of many books is endless, and excessive devotion to books is wearying to the body. The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. [emphasis added]I am going to run a risk of sounding like something I abhor in this post. What I abhor are anti-intellectual evangelical, often pentecostal, shut-up-and-listen types. You know, the kind that think seminaries the devil's workshop and seminarians demons.
Why am I going to run this risk? Because parties in the Christian blogosphere are at it again as if the actuality of Christ's saving work itself were at stake.
Prov 3:5 - Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.People-People-People, theology is our own understanding - a worthy pursuit, but in the end always unsatisfactory. Can anyone rightly claim that their own sanctification, or anyone else's for that matter, rests on whether they are calvinist or arminian, whether they hold limited or complete atonement? I can't - because to do so would be to place my understanding above God's wisdom.
Does that mean we should not endeavor to try and figure which is best? Of course, not, but it does mean that as we do, we should keep our rhetoric within reason and our egos in check.
I'm not one of those that think we should keep our internicene battles behind closed doors - to the contrary, I think the proper conduct of such discussion in the public view is one of the greatest witnesses we have. Such demonstrates to the world around us that we are different, the witness is in how we are different
- We are different because we always hold the individual with whom we are debating in the highest possible regard
- We are different because we hold God more important than our intellectual understanding of God
- We are different because we find it more important to exhibit the fruits of the Spirit than to be right.
- We are different because we know righteous anger is reserved for egregious sin in God's name, but is inapproriate for mere intellectual pursuit
Environmentalists And Homeland Security - A Bad Mix
This has been a political hot potato for very good reason. There is little doubt that chemical plants can pose a huge danger to the public - there is adequate evidence of that fact in the Bhopal disaster of some years ago. Because of that potential, such plants are a reasonable security issue. But it is not a simple picture in how to provide for that security.
Let's start with the politics first. The key phrase in the whole WaPo piece is
Democrats and environmental groups, however, contended that Chertoff was offering a fig leaf to an industry that has avoided regulation for four years. [emphasis added]Environmental groups are traditionally left-leaning and as such have been opposed to most security measures. Their motives in seeking to "secure" chemical plants are certainly mixed. They view chemical plants as "evil" and are obviously trying to use this issue as a lever to gain access to information about the plants that they think companies are somehow hiding.
Yet existing environmental regulation is so overbearing and so odious in some cases that there simply is little room for addtional oversight - particularly of the type that has been proposed to date.
In the wake of Bhopal, and because of environmental concern in general, chemical plants now operate with safeguards and back-ups and checks within checks, not unlike a nuclear plant. They are designed so that even catastrophic problems will be limited to the plant itself. Environmental regulation works very hard already to make sure that a chemical disaster is unlikely, and if it occurs, limited in scale and not some sort of WMD-in-waiting like Bhopal was.
Simply planting a bomb in most chemical plants would be disasterous for the plant, but it would not be a disaster for human life outside the plant, and it would be limited even therein. The true terror effects from such an event would likely be in interupttions of vital industrial material supplies since some plants represent a very significant portion of the total supply of some materials.
To really make a life-threatening terrorist target of a chemical plant one would have to have an intimate understanding of the plants workings and engineering. This means your really possible big attacks would either have to be inside jobs, or because someone with engineering knowledge got their hands on the plans.
So, your most effective security measures would be
- Careful screening of employees
- Tightly controlled permieter security
- Tight security on plant design and function information
The first two items there could use improvement, but both can be addressed without hugely intrusive government regulation. That third one is a bug-a-boo though.
You see, current environmental regulation makes much of plant design a matter of public record. A potential terrorist could easily get his hands on the information necessary to turn a chemical plant into a WMD-in-waiting, but that is not the plant's problem it's the problem of environmental regulation. The best thing that could be done to increase security at chemical plants is not incresed regulation, but repeal of some regulation.
But even with the information, execution of a suitable plan almost demands an inside job which the first two points would address.
The real problem is that with environmental groups using security as a lever to advance their agenda, they are retarding genuine and useful moves to increase security, and thus things have been legitimately stalled.
I have urged my cleintele to take the first two of the steps I have outlined above on a voluntary basis, and many have. They'd like to take the third, but current regulation prevents it.
Related Tags: homeland security, chemical plants, environmental groups
Beauty And Worship Space
Max Weber begins his analysis of the relationship between "the Protestant ethic" and ?the spirit of capitalism? by noting the way Calvinism (my theological heritage) championed this world as being a legitimate venue of discipleship. The cobbler and the cleric became spiritual equals, as did merchant and monk.The issue to my mind is not one of 'sacred' or 'holy' but an issue of evocative of God. A worship space should be a place where it is easier to approach the Throne of Grace than in the ordinary, if yet sacred, world that we find ourselves in on a daily basis.
But Weber ends his analysis with the complaint that in the aftermath of the declaration that "everything is holy," Calvinism has left us in an "iron cage" where nothing is holy. Weber gave us the converse insight to Dostoevsky?s dictum, "If God is dead, it?s not that people will believe in nothing, but that they will believe in anything." For Weber, the consequence for believers? making everything sacred, is that in practice they allow themselves to hold nothing as sacred.
A couple of weeks ago, I riffed off a post at the blog Glenn roots, Common Grounds Online, on the role that beauty plays in spirtual formation. John Cunningham wrote the CGO post and said, in part
As Christians, we believe that beauty does matter, and that it is more than "aesthetic appreciation." It is also not something that can be grasped by human aspiration; it must be received as a gift. While the Greeks sought to ascend to beauty through contemplation, Christians believe that beauty was bestowed upon us in creation and was given in its fullest form in the Incarnation. We believe that God is both beautiful and Beauty itself, so that the Greeks were right to recognize an innate hunger for beauty (eros) in human beings. They were also wise to realize that humans must be enculturated into beauty, through acculturation into the community. Christian formation is a disciplined inhabitation beauty.As I said in my post of a couple of weeks ago, finding God in beauty is the experience C.S. Lewis called being "Surprised By Joy."
I was a very much a person in the "functional" school of church design until I began to travel in Europe and see some of the incredible houses of worship that were constructed there in days gone by. I was particularly struck in the Soviet Union where they no longer operated as a church at all, but were considered only museums, yet so often I found myself practically driven to my knees by the palpable presence of God. The beauty of those places, created in God's name, made God Himself more easily accessible.
Oh sure, the old puritan in me saw the extraordinary expenditure and winced a bit, but that wince was quickly overwhelmed.
Worship is about placing ourselves as close to God's presence as possible. If a beautiful and purpose-built space can assist with that effort, then it is not, in any fashion, a waste of money.
Related Tags: beauty, worship space, sanctuary, church, evocation
I Wish They'd Get Their Story Striaght
Yet now we find
Virtually all indicators of the likely future for the diversity of life on Earth are heading in the wrong direction, a major new report says.Wait a minute - Stop the truck - if evolution is aimed in a certain direction with a destination, won't species that do not meet that perfected goal begin to slough off? So how do they know that the reduction in diversity does not simply mean that we are nearing the end of evolution?
The great challenge in meeting the biodiversity target comes in the fact that these pressures are currently projected to remain constant or to accelerate in the near future - so slowing the extinction slide would involve major changes over wide areas of human activity.
Ah, but why be logical - the keyphrase is "major changes over wide areas of human activity" - that's their goal, tell me, and you, what to do!
Related Tags: evolution, diversity, consistency
My Life Is Over...
What are we going to do tonight Blogotional?
The same thing we do every night Reader - Try to Take Over The World!
Related Tags: Pinky And The Brain, WebTV, internet cartoons, joke, humor
If We Are Lucky...
...she has lost the ability to speak and the capability to write.
Related Tags: Joselyn Elders, sarcasm, joke, humor
PSYCHOLOGIST REPORT: "Claimant's father is deceased and his demise was not surprising considering particularly the number of bullets involved."Related Tags: Friday Humor, Social Security applications, A View From Her, joke, humor
APPLICATION REPORT: "Patient was born dead."
I Hade No Idea A Snake Had A Behind!?
Or was it the Blue Raja?
Related Tags: salad fork, Ninja, death, joke, humor
SURE! - Someone Could Get Hurt...
...and it won't be the bear!
Related Tags: bear wrestling, animal rights groups, silly, joke, humor
Michael Jackson's Sex Change Complete
Related Tags: Michael Jackson, flaming hair, woman, sex change, joke, humor
No Doubt Using An 'Acme' Product
Like Shooting Fish In A Barrel
Thursday, March 23, 2006
Leading In Spirit
I'd like to take a stab at summing it up in three words - humility - self-sacrifice - obedience. Those do not sound like leadership words do they? But consider the ultimate leader - Jesus Himself.
Phil 2:5-11 - Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.In that bit of scripture we see that Christ's path to acknowledgement as Lord lay in "humbling himself by becoming obedient to the point of death." How many declared Christian leaders these days exhibit those characteristics? Oh sure, they are self-deprecating and willing to "give God the glory," but how many are genuinely willing to follow the real example of Christ?
Think about that for a minute - Christ's "success" was not measured in the size of the crowds He preached to , but in His crucifixion. Christ's victory was not in the organization He built, but in His resurrection, witnessed but by the chosen few.
Frankly, the Christian leader I seek is the one that does not appear to want the job.
Cross-posted at How To Be A Christian And Still Go To Church
Related Tags: leadership, humility, self-sacrifice, obedience, church, Christian
How Things Work
In that post, I gave a link to a transcript of a State Department briefing that occurred after a visit with an Afghani minister. I read that transcript to say the State Department was doing its job. Now I appear to have been right as less than 24 hours later we begin to signs of a shift in the situation. Hugh Hewitt says the Afghani's are "looking for a way out." FOXNews reports
So what happened? Simple, in the State department meetings what they said behind closed doors and out of the public eye was likely something along the lines of, "We put you in this leadership position, you want our continued support, find a way to keep this guy alive." It's called allowing for, at a minimum, the appearance of sovereignty for the Karzai government - without it they would have no legitimacy at all. Oh, and look, the President is not so subtly reinforcing the message the State Department delivered.
And before you go all Michelle Malkin on me and start crying
Afghan officials are accusing Rahman of being mentally unfit. Watch him for yourself. Who is insane: Rahman or the jihadists who want to kill him?This thing is still not over. He gets declared incompetent, maybe then we can bring him to America for "the best treatment possible" where he can live out the rest of his life in Christian faith and happy.
Ideal ending? No, but what are we supposed to do - kill every Islamic man woman and child on the planet? I don't think so. Some sects and thought of Islam are horrific, but we are not going to change that with the government or the military.
NRO gets it just right
Yesterday, the State Department's Nicholas Burns adopted the right tone and substantive position when asked about the case by reporters. He said that, as far as the U.S. is concerned, the Afghan constitution guarantees religious liberty, and therefore Rahman shouldn't be punished for his conversion. But he also emphasized our respect for Afghan sovereignty. It is important that, while we push for justice in the case, we don't play into the hands of Karzai's enemies, who are eager to capitalize on the fears of a very traditional society. We should make it clear privately, but very firmly to Karzai - who would have to sign Rahman's death warrant - that we expect him to find some Afghan way to short-circuit the case before it ever gets to that point.Related Tags: Abdul Rahman, State Department, Afghanistan, military
Conservatives in this country have been admirably willing to accept the compromises and frustrations that come with President Bush's attempts to reform recalcitrant parts of the world. The judicial murder of a Christian convert by a government that exists only on the basis of American power and good will, however, would be intolerable.
Good Conclusion - Baaaaad Example
In the sanctuary as in the arena, everyone needs an intentional introduction to the liturgy.Amen to that! -- I have always felt that the biggest reason that liturgy is rapidly fading is because we no longer teach people the value and meaning of it.
When it is my honor to serve as liturgist at my local congregation I always try to introduce, briefly, the particular liturgical bit I am about to lead - to help people understand that it is more than just something to recite or read. I get wonderful responses - particularly from people who are "new" - "So that's what that's all about!? - It's wonderful now that I think about it!" is a phrase I have heard more than once.
But our blogging friend arrives at this marvelous conclusion by analogy, describing her experience taking a firend to her first ever ACC basketball game. Now, firstly, as a Big Ten person from Indiana, I must decry drawing any analogy from college basketball's minor leagues - but that aside I need to get serious again.
I love college basketball on levels near inappropriate. Whenever I see analogies of this sort I wince because of how hard I work in my life to keep basketball in its proper perspective - Sometimes I grow concerned that analogies of this type feed an already exisiting tendency to idolatry.
I really think it better to talk about basketball traditions rather than "liturgy." Yeah, I know, it destroys the analogy, but it preserves the uniquness of a word like "liturgy."
Related Tags: church, liturgy, college basketball
Because Lawyers Are Easily Bored
Won't it be fun? "Your honor, this soda..."
"So this is a drug case?"
Where are Abbott and Costello when you need them?
Related Tags: joke, humor, Coke, Pepsi, litigation
Because There Just Are Not Enough Stupid Ideas In The World
Related Tags: Bolivia, potatoes, sarcasm, joke, humor
Defrauding The Mythological
I just want to know who the reporter talked to to get such a story?!
Related Tags: mermaid, healer, sarcasm, joke, humor
Whole New Meanings To "Kiss Of Death"
...everybody knows James Bond uses a personal shopper.
Related Tags: James Bond, shopping, joke, humor
It's an easy confusion to make!
Related Tags: cat, fall, Catwoman, joke, humor
Elvis Was An Ancient Greek
If the ancient Greeks sold kitschy postcards to tourists 2,000 years ago, they would have depicted much different views of the popular sites that visitors flock to today.I'm betting it had leopard print carpeting too!
Archaeologists say many of the stony ruins looked much different in their prime. Many were brightly painted in hues that have faded with time and, in some cases, with forced removal.
The Parthenon in Athens was once covered in colorful splashes of paint, for example.
Related Tags: Parthenon, Elvis, ancient Greece, silly, joke, humor
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
Not Surprised By Joy
If we truly believe that the world and life end in eucatastrophe - in joy - then our decisions and priorities every day will reflect that conviction. Our isolated beliefs will become our operating beliefs. We will not despair - since, as Gandalf says, despair is only for those who know the outcome of all things - but will rejoice and choose to do that which is good and right. Decisions will be based not on expediency nor pragmatism, but on the truths and principles given to us by God. He knows the beginning and end. And He knows the outcome is one of eucatastrophe, not despair. He is in control; He is omnipotent: His final purposes cannot and will not be foiled.The challenge is to live as if God's promises are real and they will be fulfilled. How often we fail at that.
The Christian?s life should reflect that immutable fact.
A long time ago I learned that one of the key components to living in this fashion is to come to understand that I will never know, I can only know a God that knows. How desparately we want to know and to control.
When I pray about this, I pray for more than assurance that things will end in joy, I pray for the wisdom to rely on a God who knows and understands far more than I ever can.
Related Tags: joy, reliance, humility, faith, trust, God, Christianity
Reason And Passion - Politics And Goodness
This may be the most difficult post I have ever written because I too am outraged, in the same sense that I am outraged ANYTIME Christians are persecuted, but I must disagree vehemently with Joe when he says
The persecution of Rahman is evidence that we have failed in our efforts in Afghanistan.I must go even further, perhaps than I should, given that Joe is a man of long and honorable military service and I am not, but I think Joe misses something very important when he says
Did American troops give their lives removing the repressive Taliban government only for us to replace it with Taliban-lite?AMERICAN TROOPS GAVE THEIR LIVES TO PROTECT OTHER AMERICANS AND SECURE THEIR SAFETY - anything after that is a by-product at best.
Do I think religious persecution of this sort is an evil? - ABSOLUTELY - but to use our military might to enforce such a moral standard on another nation is an equal evil. The use of our military is justified only in the defense of our nation and in that it would appear we have succeeded. If the Afghani's have chosen a repressive Taliban-lite for themselves, it is repugnant, but I for one do not want to become the imperialistic power we are so often accused of being to prevent it.
Should our nation use all the other tools in its international relations arsenal to interfere, prevent and mitigate this gross violation of human rights? - FOR SURE, but it is definitely a job for the State Department and not for the military.
I guess what I am saying is this - the military did its job and did it well. It toppled the Taliban and it made America safer. That was its mission and mission accomplished.
Then there is the whole "hearts-and-minds" thing; that job remains undone - agreed, but how to do it?
I have a Christian friend that visited Afghanistan a few months after the "war" was over. He even met with Karzai. His comment was that Karzai's hold was on only a very limited part of the nation. Frankly the place lacks a sufficient infrastructure for any government to be very effective - it remains very tribal. If things are as Joe paints them in this paragraph
The persecution of Rahman is evidence that we have failed in our efforts in Afghanistan. We weren't even able to instill a love of freedom into President Hamid Karzai, who has refused to intervene in the case. "Within years of another President intervening on his behalf when fascists overran his country," says John Coleman, "Mr. Karzai has decided that fascism is the way to go."Then Karzai's decision to turn to fascism is because he had no choice to retain power. Would it be any better if we used military force to prop up his regime? But based on my friend's observations, Karzai is powerless in the face of things like the Rahman situtaion, not purposefully fascistic.
My passion is that the trial and possible execution of Abdul Rahman is a heinous and evil thing, but my reason reminds me that we succeeded in making America safer which means our primary mission was as success. If it were mine to IMPOSE goodness on the world then this would not happen, but the politics of region seem to make it inevitable. In light of those poltics of the region perhaps making America safer is the best we can hope for and all the success we can achieve.
Now it's up to the diplomats, and it appears to me they are doing a reasonable job, despite what Michelle Malkin and her links seems to say, The Corner transcribes a State Department briefing in which we learn some very important facts
- This is not a criminal law matter, but a civil one. Think how important that is, the Afghani government is not yet sanctioning anything other than acknolwedging the existence of Islamic Law as some what authoritative in the state. You know, when our nation was founded the precise place of church law had to be worked out in the court too.
- The State Department is asking for transparency in the trial process and the Afghani government seems to want to grant it.
Worship And Technology
I sort of want to give David a hard time here because, of course, when you worship anything other than the Lord Himself, you have a problem, so I think I want to rephrase the question a little.Technology per se does not assault the gospel, but a technological society will find the gospel irrelevant. What can be said of technology can also be said of many other facets of culture that are similarly laden with value (p. 11).Could there be a link between our culture's worship of technology and it's disdain for Sabbath worship as well as the gospel?
Has technology become an idol? I think so, without question. I have been in far too many church leadership meetings where I was told it was impossible to do "decent worship" without sound system X and video projector Y. I always respond by asking how the church managed worship for the prior two millenia, but am usually discarded as a curmudgeon.
But I think we need to look a little deeper at the issue. In the end, technology is no different that any other creative enterprise. Just like art can be used to uplift or to offend, so technology can be used to reveal God or be a barrier to revelation. I think most understand how it can be a barrier, but how can it be revelatory?
Being creative, whether your medium is oil paints or plastics, modelling clay or silicon, the violin or the audio speaker, is exercising part of the image of God that we hold - He created and we create. But just as we must create beauty in art, so should we in technology. How do we judge "beauty" in technology?
My answer to that question would be in whther it uplifts our humanity. So, for example, reproductive technology largely dehumanizes us, reduces us to chemicals and solutions, formulas and freezers - this is ugly technology. Computers, on the other hand, have freed our minds for expressions and discussion unlike any previous instrument. Yes, it can be used for mischeif yet, but it can be used beautifully.
So, in answer to David's question, yes there is a link, but not a necessary one.
Related Tags: worship, technology, idolatry, good, evil, beauty
Environmental Pogram Proposed
Farming poses the biggest threat to fresh water supplies, according to a major United Nations report.Modern agricultrual technique literally sustains human life on this planet, without it we simply could not produce enough food to feed the existing population. And yes that includes the use of pesticides and herbicides and fertilizers and all the rest. Their proposal?
Farms are consuming more water as the world population increases and as people turn to a Western diet, one of the scientists on the report said.
Agriculture uses two-thirds of water taken from aquifers and other rivers.
The UN concludes that ending subsidies on pesticides and fertilisers, and realistic pricing on water, would reduce demand and pollution.REDUCE DEMAND?! That means less food production and that means less for people to eat and that means....
There are things that can be done to better manage water resources in the agricultural sector, of that there is no doubt, but that's not what they are talking about, they are talking about using less and producing less food.
I just hope this is out of ignorance and not something more diabolical.
Related Tags: UN, water, pesticides, herbicides, fertilizer, resources
The First Reasonable...
Related Tags: joke, humor, farting, funny, video
Just Like Your Average Church Board Meeting
ended with real fighting, real cursing and a repentant participant stretched-out face-down in the ring weeping.Been there - done that.
Related Tags: sarcasm, Christian wrestling, board meetings, church meetings
The Best(?) Of Pravda
Come on, calling it the "pig olympics" in Pravda speak could just be short hand for "capitalist sporting event"
What do you make of this"
"Useless?" -- "trouble?" isn't causing trouble a use all it's own?
This next one may be the most important information I have ever encountered
If I ever want to behead somebody, I'll be sure an do it within 32 steps of their grave - it'll save me a lot of hassle.
Finally, you know you have struck gold when Pravda prints an op-ed that even they feel the need to disclaim at the end.
in which the author has what he described as a "mild epiphany" and concludes
Now, I'm just one person. And I've been closely studying economic, environmental, and energy issues for only a few years. And I'm no expert. Yet I've come to the conclusion - and I don't want to be a "Chicken Little" here - that civilization as we have known it for the last century is doomed.And here I thought German cinema was the most depressive media I have ever encountered. - SHEESH!
Related Tags: Pravda, silly
I'll Worry When I See It Wall Crawling!
Where It Found 4 Pounds Of Other Contraband And A Serious Case Of The Munchies
That is a smuggling joke, NOT a drug reference. (OK, sue me, but it's funny)
Related Tags: joke, humor, snake, smuggling, munchies
And I Care Because?
Related Tags: joke, humor, Pamela Anderson, condo, Las Vegas
Now That's What I Call A Positive Attitude
Is This Oxymoronic?
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
The Power Of The Gospel
I've decided that Archie Bunker is the patron saint of Christians who can't stop making their point. Christians who love to argue. Christians who can't stand it that someone somewhere disagrees with them. Christians who are caught up in theological controversy like University of Kentucky basketball fans are caught up in defending their team.I ran across this post while listening to Dennis Prager go on and on about the how many awful things were happening but all the while dismissing the doctrine of original sin (well, he is jewish....) and a thought struck me.
It's an old familar thought - the one about the fact that the genuine power of the gospel lies not in salvation, but transformation. God is not saving us, He is remaking us, He is restoring to us that of His image that we have lost. That transformation will play out on so many levels, personal, church, state, and so on.
I have said repeatedly on the blog that when it comes to a lot of questions the answer is not in the system, but in the person. For example, both Roman Catholics and Presbyterians have huge problems, and those problems stem from the fact that we are not fully transformaed, that if we were it wouldn't make much difference which form of church government was involved, the problems would disappear.
So, this says to me there is a heirarchy of transformation. God first transforms us as individuals, we then become His tools to transform other things, like church, state and society. I know, not exactly revelatory stuff. But two conclusions I want to draw from that may be a bit more important.
Firstly, this means that we must be diligent in allowing God to do His transformative work in ourselves. That is to say, if I feel called to work as a Christian in government, I still have to "work out my salvation with fear and trembling." It is not a license to be a little "more worldly" than say a pastor.
The second conclusion I want to draw relates backto JB's/iMonk's point. After ourselves as individuals, God seeks to transform the church - that's the second level/priority. I think the American church in general and evangelicalism especially has lost sight of that.
We really need to begin to do actual work on being God's people corporately. That's not about doing the "best ministry" that's about being God's people together. something iMonk/JB point to us not doing.
We need to stop worrying about doing minstry and start worrying about being the church. I hope that makes sense to you, because it makes a lot of sense to me.
Cross-posted at How To Be A Christian And Still Go To Church
Related Tags: church, Christianity, transformation, priorities
says high-energy rays from distant parts of space are smashing into our atmosphere in ways that make our planet go through warm and cool cycles. Cosmic rays are hitting us all the time -- a well-known fact. What's new is that researchers are asking what cosmic rays do to our world and its weather.But there is a kicker to this particular story, a real lu-lu
- Last year, the British science journal Proceedings of the Royal Society published a theory that cosmic rays "unambiguously" form clouds and affect our climate.
- Florida Tech and the University of Florida are jointly investigating whether cosmic rays are the trigger that makes a charged thundercloud let rip with lightning.
- In 2003, scientists from NASA and the University of Kansas suggested that cosmic rays "influence cloud formation, can affect climate and harm live organisms directly via increase of radiation dose," an effect they claim to trace over millions of years of fossil history.
Yet, for years he held back on his climate doubts. "I was scared," he says.The man was intimidated out of presenting his results - that's actually an old story in science, hardly the first time, but what it proves - what it must say to the world - is that science is not the objective pursuit you might think it is. Politics play a clear and in some cases definitive role in science.
The next time someone tells you that "everybody agrees" on global warming, you might tell them that people don't always have a choice in the matter, at least not if they want to keep their funding.
Related Tags: global warming, agenda science, politics in science, objectivity
For one thing, the number of available pulpits is shrinking, yet the seminaries want to survive, so it would be logical that they would direct their students towards other vocational choices.
I also think this trend says something about how we are preaching the gospel these days. That people would go to seminary for purposes other than to go into ministry says their faith is somehow more directed at their own benefit than the benefit of the world.
But I think this trend belies something more. I think enrollment is up in part becasue people are seeking "more" than they can get at church. Where does a person go in the average church today to keep growing? Few churches offer adult Christian education at all and those that do generally offer the same old canned curriculum - been there, done that.
What's really sad is that if my seminary experience is any measure, while it was a fine education, it contributed little to my own spiritual growth. The fact that the education I recieved was barely distinguishable from me education in chemistry, save for content, was troubling to me.
Being in the very close proximity to Fuller that I am, I know a number of these non-pulpit bound students, and while my evidence is purely anecdotal, they all seem to be seeking a place where they can continue to pursue their faith somehow!
You ever garden? I love growing tomatoes - store tomatoes are just awful things, barely suitable for human consumption. I usually grow tomatoes from sprouts I buy at the nursery. Growing tomatoes from seed is a lot of hard work, particularly heirloom varieties, and unless you nurse them like your firstborn, most of your sprouts just won't survive. Often by the time you get good sprouts its too late in the season to get a good crop.
I think that is instructive about how we do church these days. We work so very hard to sprout 'em - but we lose so many of them. And those that try so desparately to grow never seem to find the soil to do it in, good sprouts often die for lack of being transplanted at the proper time.
We really need to find ways in congregations for people to grow into maturity.
Cross-posted at How To Be A Christian And Still Go To Church
Related Tags: maturity, seminary, Christianity, learning, education
Why We Fight
Al Qaida and ideologically-linked groups such as Ansar al Islam, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, al Ittihad al Islami, Jemaah Islamiyah, and Ansar al Sunna represent the main enemy to long-term peace and stability in the CENTCOM AOR, promoting and thriving on instability and violence. They challenge our partners in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia. They attack our friends in Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Morocco, Madrid, and London. Although we have not experienced another attack on our homeland, the enemy that brought us 9/11 continues to represent a clear and unambiguous threat to our country.Related Tags: CENTCOM, Iraq, Afghanistan, Al Queda, why we fight
This enemy seeks to topple local governments, establish a repressive and intolerant regional theocracy, and then extend its violence to the rest of the world. To effect such change, this enemy believes it must evict the United States and our Coalition allies from the region. Masking their true intentions with propaganda, rhetoric, and a sophisticated use of the mass media and the internet, this enemy exploits regional tensions and popular grievances. Al Qaida and its associated movements exhibit strategic patience and are willing to wait decades to achieve their goals.
These extremists defame the religion of Islam by glorifying suicide bombing, by taking and beheading hostages, and by the wanton use of explosive devices that kill innocent people by the score. Their false jihad kills indiscriminately and runs contrary to any standard of moral conduct and behavior. The enemy?s vision of the future would create a region-wide zone that would look like Afghanistan under the Taliban. Music would be banned, women ostracized, basic liberties banished, and soccer stadiums used for public executions. The people of the region do not want the future these extremists desire. The more we talk about this enemy, the more its bankrupt ideology will become known. But more important, the more that regional leaders talk about and act against this enemy, the less attractive it will be. Osama bin Laden and Musab al Zarqawi cannot represent the future of Islam.
Al Qaida and their allies are ruthless, giving them power beyond their relatively small numbers. They are masters of intimidation. Their depraved attacks menace entire communities and can influence the policies of national governments. They embrace asymmetric warfare, focusing their means on the innocent and defenseless. In Jordan, they target wedding parties. In Iraq, they murder children playing in the streets, doctors working in hospitals, and UN employees supporting Iraqi efforts to build their country. They respect no neutral ground.
This enemy is linked by modern communications, expertly using the virtual world for recruiting, fundraising, planning, training, indoctrination, and proselytizing. The internet empowers these extremists in a way that would have been impossible a decade ago. It enables them to have global reach and to plan and coordinate terrorist operations throughout the world.
Finally, and most important, this enemy seeks to develop or acquire weapons of mass destruction. If they could develop or acquire a chemical, biological, or nuclear device, they would use it. This is not a guess. This is what they say. Their willingness to use suicide means to deliver such a weapon heightens this threat. There should be no mistake about the stakes in this broader war against al Qaida. The enemy must be deprived of time, safe haven and resources to prevent development and use of mass-casualty producing devices.
Today, we have a much fuller understanding of the al Qaida network than we did on September 11, 2001. It exists in the geographic realm, but also thrives in virtual space, constituting a global threat. Geographically, it seeks ungoverned spaces inside weak and failing states where it can establish safe havens and training sites. In these areas, military forces ? ours or others ? can have good effects. But this is a thinking enemy, adapting against our strengths. They have developed virtual safe havens. They have front companies. They employ facilitators and sympathetic charities that move their finances and enable their ideology to spread around the region. It is a secretive, complex network that often hides in plain sight.
Fortunately, the vast majority of the people in the region want nothing to do with the perverted vision of Islam preached by al Qaida. But the power and grip of the al Qaida movement and ideology should not be underestimated. Communism and fascism started with relatively few, but deeply committed adherents, and the hate preached by al Qaida resonates with young men and women of little hope. Its global reach is already disturbingly apparent. In 2005, they enlisted suicide bombers from all over the Middle East and deployed over 500 of them world-wide, killing thousands of innocent civilians, most of whom were Muslims.
It's good to see him get the boost - and hey, he mentions yours truly in the interview!
Related Tags: Dadmanly, Basil's Blog, interview, millblogging, salute
The Next Time You Want To Accuse Me Of 'Intolerance'...
A family of five has been beheaded in Sonitpur district, north-east India, by a mob who accused them of witchcraft....please remember what the real thing looks like.
Related Tags: intolerance, witchcraft, beheadings, politically correct
The Terrorbuster Saga
INSTALLMENT #1 - AUTHOR'S NOTE
Welcome to my experiment in serialized fiction. Regular readers know that I love comics, and devoted readers know that I would like, once in the life, to write and have drawn up and published a superhero comic story. How to do that?
Well, I could write a story for one of the comicdom's established characters and shlep it from comiccon to comiccon and have the publishers read it, tell me "Good, but not good enough" go back and work it over and start shlepping again. That is not an appealing process to man with his own thriving business who just wants to do this once, albeit well - not establish a new career.
Besides, they do not generally take submissions concerning the big-selling primary characters, they usually only look at stuff for "minor-appearance-in-four-panels-in-the-Avengers-man." I have a hard time dreaming up stories for that guy.
So, I decided to invent my own guy and serialize him here. Maybe, if I'm really lucky, a comic publisher will find this and like it enough to drop me an email - unlikely, but hey, allow a guy his fanatasies.
In the meantime, I hope Blogotional readers will enjoy the story. I've wanted superheroes in Great War On Terror fray since it started. Superheroes have their roots in fighting the nation's enemies and I would love to have them rediscover those roots. This story is my take on that.
Like a lot of superheroes, we start with an origin story, this one part Jack Ryan and part Nick Fury. If you like it and would like to see more, please leave a comment, otherwise, our hero's adventures will likely begin and end with his origin.
You will be able to keep up with this story in a beginning-to-end fashion at a blog I have set up expressiely for that purpose. You'll also see it linked near the top of the sidebar.
I hope you'll join me here next week for another installment in the Terrorbuster Saga.
Related Tags: fiction, comics, comicbooks, story, GWOT, superhero
Watch Out For The Burning Manure Bombs!
I hate it when they swoop down on you and do that!
Related Tags: flying cows, flames, police cars, silly, funny, joke, humor
And Monkeys COULD Fly Out Of My Butt
Don't you just love it when 'legitimate' science joins the lunatic fringe.
Related Tags: sarcasm, origins of life, aliens, silly
As Long As He Wasn't Driving
'Cause if he tried it would have to be in a car with a sun roof, those antlers are a real problem.
Related Tags: moose, driving, joke, humor
And The Score Was Counted In Bodies
That's OK - He's Baffled By Scientists
Related Tags: monk, miracle, baffle, sarcasm, decomposition, joke, humor
Monday, March 20, 2006
how our consumerist culture has even changed how we think about the gospel. We have changed the life-changing act of introducing people to the real Jesus into an act of prostitution.This is so deadnuts-on. A long time ago in a place far away, I wrote about intimacy and Christianity. My thesis was, and remains, we prostitute Jesus not for the other guy, but for ourselves.
We've all seen it numerous times. The guy walks into your worship gathering. His life is falling apart. He has no meaningful relationships. He has given his life to foreign substances. He is in touch with nothing good. He comes to your community because he has nowhere else to go. He is looking for something. He begins to reveal the horrible hell he has been living through. He knows his life is going nowhere, and that?s when we speak up.
"Say this prayer and you'll be saved." He may continue to live in hell, but at least he won't die in hell. He can't believe it's so simple. He can't believe it's so quick. He jumps at the opportunity. He says the prayer/incantation and walks out thinking his life is transformed. Wham bam, thank you ma'am, he's done. Everyone feels better. He's finally gotten his big break, and you've just brought another one into the Kingdom. Or have you? What if you just sold him a false gospel? What if the reason he couldn?t believe it was so simple and quick was because it's not? What if you just pimped out Jesus, a false Jesus that you brought out to provide a quick answer?
Prostitutes fulfill a need. It's a primal need. It?s not something that we?ve made up. They are a solid, sure answer to a real longing. The customer wants sex; the prostitute gives sex. The wham bam, thank you ma?am gospel does the same thing. Someone comes with a real longing: a new life of forgiveness, belonging, purpose, absolution, strength, or sympathy. We pimp out a fake Jesus to meet the need. The problem is that it is the wrong answer.
There is an underlying need for intimacy behind the need for sex, and the need for intimacy can't be met with a casual, impersonal romp. There has to be something more. Specifically, there has to be relationship and commitment. A prostitute doesn't want intimacy, she wants you to give her the cash, and get back to your life. The wham bam, thank you ma'am gospel wants the same thing. Make your confession, say your prayer, and maybe pay some dues, then get back to your life.
Think about sexual intimacy for a moment. I don?t have a lot of experience with that with anyone but my wife, but in this day and age it is not hard to find those that have a certain breadth of experience and it is not very hard to read about it at all. From the information I have been able to gather, the greatest reluctance in those situations is not the sex, it?s the nudity. Why do you think that would be the case? Why is nudity a barrier to sex? Nudity is pretty necessary to sex; I don?t know about you but the wife and I find that clothes usually get in the way.You see, confession lies right at the heart of the problem. We have simply got to start takng an honest look at ourselves, our churches, and our denominations. We need to spend a little less time talking about what is wrong about the other guy and more about what is wrong about ourselves. From that will flow intimacy and from that intimacy with each other we can find intimacy with Christ - then watch out world.
I think the answer is straightforward. Clothing creates an illusion. We can make ourselves look better than we really do look when we are clothed. But when we get naked we find that the object of our lust may not be quite as spectacular as the wonder bra (or sock in the pants) led us to believe. Sexual intimacy requires that we reveal ourselves, including our imperfections, to our partner. Nudity puts at risk our image of perfection, and more importantly puts at risk the desire that image has created in our partner, and thus we risk rejection.
Relational intimacy is the same. The more intimate we become with someone socially, the more we risk their discovery that we are not quite all that we are cracked up to be. The reason that intimacy is in short supply today is not because technology is in the way; it is because people are no longer willing to risk the exposure that intimacy requires.
Why is that? Everybody is imperfect; we all have foibles and problems, why should it be so hard to let others see them? I think it is because when we expose those imperfections to others we expose them to ourselves. The image that is REALLY at risk in intimacy is not the image the other has of us, but the image we have of ourselves. The risk is not that they will reject us, but that we will reject ourselves, or more aptly, we will be forced to confront the issue and try to fix it.
Let me say that again -- THE RISK OF INTIMACY IS NOT THE RISK OF REJECTION BY THE OTHER, IT IS THE RISK OF US HAVING TO CONFRONT AND WORK ON OUR OWN IMPERFECTIONS.
Cross-posted at How To Be A Christian And Still Go To Church
Related Tags: Christianity, intimacy, sin, confession
I Remember Terri
We invite you to join us for a Blogburst in remembrance of Terri Schiavo beginning March 18th (or earlier). Over the 13 days we are asking our friends to write about Terri's life and death, link to her family's foundation (Terrisfight.org) and affirm the intrinsic dignity of human life.So many people that I greatly respect think the nation sort of jointly lost it's mind during the great discussion. I disagree, I am only sorry that the energy could not be captured and focused on the essential issue.
I will not hash and rehash all the circumstances and discussions, but I will say this. No one, absent definitive and recorded wishes of the individual in question, should have the power to decide whether another person should live or die - no one. If your marriage is not strong enough to have the necessary discussions and do the necessary paperwork, you're gonna live. This is the one thing I would willingly accept a tax increase to pay for.
We cannot be in a position of deciding whose life is worth living and whose is not - it will rob us of our essential humanity.
Related Tags: Remembering Terri, Terri Schiavo
Where Does This Stuff Come From
Yep that thing that same-sex marriage would never lead to has arrived - as Krauthammer suggests, much to the chagrin of the same-sex marriage crowd. But what fascinates me is that all this discussion has arisen "spontaneously" from two sources - Newsweek and HBO. Are these two sources of information related? - Not really, but orchestrated for sure - and we bloggers need to be really beware of it.
You know that some PR guy for the HBO series whispered in the ear of some Newsweek editor about what a great story it would make, maybe even gave the reporter some sources. After such a confux of "primary" chatter - all the "professional chatters" like Krauthammer pick up the meme and then us amatuers join the fray - it's scary somehow, and I think we bloggers need to ask what our legitimate role is.
See, we may decry polygamy for the junk it is, but the net result of all the chatter, pro and con will be more people tuning into HBO and reading Newsweek and the pro-polygamy getting a hearing that it might otherwise be denied. Once an abomination like this has a hearing you can be fairly sure society will move in that direction, even if it does not completely jump off the cliff. When you are trying to legitimize something like polygamy, just getting people talking about it is a victory. There is a reason somethings are spoken of only in hushed tones.
There are no doubt a lot of hits to be garnerd by participating in this discussion, and if it runs a certain course, joining the fray will be unfortunately unavoidable, but just once, I'd like to see us be smart enough not to start echoing.
Related Tags: HBO, Newsweek, polygamy, Charles Krauthammer, NRO's The Corner, CNS
The Role Of Women
A little background. Chris is in the Presbyterian Church - America (PCA). I am in the Prebyterian Church - United States of America (PCUSA). Historically, probably the biggest issue that has separated our denominations is the ordination of women - my flavor does it, his does not. Although anymore, issues like homosexual ordination are just widening the divide.
I don't want to address the issue in depth - Chris did a great job with that, particularly the admonisions in I Timothy. But I do want to make a couple of comments.
Firstly, I am a bit of an agnostic on the issue, not entirely, but I do think Paul's prohibitions in his letter to Timothy are narrower than they are commonly interpreted in PCA circles. Additionally, I think that at least some of the roles filled by ordained individuals in the Presbyterian system fall outside of those prohibitions and therefore ordination is not entirely out-of-line. That said, I think that my own PCUSA is too liberal on the matter - thus my professed agnosticism.
By the way, I do think the role of women in the history of the church is generally underplayed in conservative circles.
But what this really rasies for me is the question of how to choose and live in a church. Assume for a minute that I am constrained to be a Presbyterian - How do I choose between PCA and PCUSA? Is it better to be a liberal in a conservative setting or a conservative in a liberal setting?
In part I think the answer lies in temperment, mine is very much the conservative cumudgeon, I would feel like a cat being given a bath trying to make a liberalizing argument.
But in the end, at least when it comes to this issue, I am PCUSA for two reasons. The first is the local congregation I participate in. It is just the right community for us, and that I believe is the primary consideration when choosing a church.
The second reason is effectiveness. I was born and raised PCUSA - been there virtually my whole life. I know a lot of people in the PCUSA, some of them in key positions. I can be effective in that denomination now in ways it would take me years to be in PCA.
In the end I have never found a denomination, congregation, or any other Christian institution with which I could claim complete and utter agreement. So I tend to put doctrinal and institutional questions at a lower priority and ask, simply, where I can best serve.
I like the way Chris closes his series on the women's role issue
At the end of this journey, I am open to the Stackhouse position that in a sense both sides are right and both sides are wrong.That's true on so many issues. You just have to make your decisions on some other basis when that is the case.
Related Tags: woman's ordination, A Mind Awake, PCA, PCUSA