Saturday, May 27, 2006


Links (Nobody is going to read on a holiday weekend anyway, so why come up with a cute title?)

Truth, real truth that could radically affect your career choice. Been there, done that, gotta agree.

Al Gore is an imbecile.

How will ET phone home from here?

Look - Catholics are reasonable people. Who knew? (Oh yeah, I did)

There's cool, and then there's way cool.

That he is making incredible claims is old news - that he is selling health products just shows where is genuine priorities are.

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Comic Art

I want to finish the discussion of comic book villians with a look at the character that may be the best villain ever - The Joker.

It's interesting to me that he has never been a very good bad guy when confronted with any other hero - but against the Batman he simply cannot be topped as a character - he's outstanding.

I think the Joker's perfection comes from the fact that he is not so much Batman's opposite number as he is who Batman ought to be. I have said it many times before, I do not buy the very fine line Batman walks between hero and murderer, vigilante and cattle-rustler. He is simply too obsessed, obsessed to the point of madness. The Joker simply is madness.

There have been oblique references in other titles, most notably in the Justice League, that only Batman can really deal with Joker. Martian Manhunter has probed Joker's mind and come up nearly insane himself. Batman deals with Joker because he too is mad - at least to some extent.

This image is from Miller's Dark Night Returns and is part of a sequence that I think best depicts the relationship between Batman and the Joker - they are inextricably linked, stuck forever in their battle - practically two personalities fighting for control of the same person, and they truly hate each other. Batman arrives at this pooint determined to finally kill the Joker, but in the end cannot do it. But the Joker, malevolent to the end, Kills himself so that Batman will appear to have been a murderer.

But like most great comic characters, it is the appearance, the image, the art that matters the most. Joker is brilliant because of the essential stuff of his appearance, he should be benign, even happy in appearance, but he is so ugly and so frightening. That a clown can appear frightening has been known since the first guy put on the whiteface make-up, but never has it been captured so well as in the Joker.

A final note - in all the history of movies based on comic characters, never has it been done so right as Jack Nicholson's performance as the Joker. Say what you will about the movie, Nicholson absolutely nailed the character - a genius for crime while being an absolute raving lunatic. It just does not get any better.

X-MEN: The Last Stand brief review

In a nutshell, this movie eschews the humanity of the mutants so well portrayed in the previous two films directed by Bryan Singer (who is doing this summer's Superman) for a straightforward action flick, with its contrived emotional peaks and flat characterization.

This film will appeal to fans of the comics in the sense that it introduces many characters and references missing from the previous films, providing those fans with a touchstone. However, in so doing it rewrites the legend of one of the greatest comic story arcs ever conceived very radically, and given the two-dimensionality of the characters the rewrite fails to provide the level of pathos that made the comic story so great.

Even the two newly introduced characters that have significant roles - Beast (suberbly casted and played by Kelsey Grammer) and Shadowcat, Kitty Pryde, are done so flatly that you come away wanting to know who these people really are.

In the end this is an enjoyable movie and worth the price of admission, but it lacks the stuff of greatness. This is more Con Air than Spider-Man.

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Friday, May 26, 2006


Going WAY Out On A Limb

I was born in Oxford, Mississippi in 1957, at the University of Mississippi. A large section of my extended family still lives in Mississippi so I have visited there often through the now nearly 50 years of my life. I was born in the heart of segregationist racism and have seen its ugliness. I have watched the south change through the years and it is fair to say that institutional racism is dead. It is fair to say that physical oppression, in the form of enforced poverty, is dead. Poverty exists without question, but it is no longer the the result of institutional discrimination.

That said, in some circles, racist attitudes still exist. It is painful to behold. In the wink of an eye otherwise lovely and wonderful people are transformed into very ugly, very mean ogres. And worse, I have seen such attitudes eat at their very souls, robbing them of a real richness of life. The attitude is a personal corruption, it is a small crucuble into which all that can be ugly in a human is crammed and it comes out like Gollum comes from Smeagol.

Such an ugliness hid in the heart of Christendom for centuries in the form of antisemitism. Despite the fact that Christianity was born of Judiaism, Christians through the centuries treated Jews much like blacks were treated in the American south.

Bigotry against blacks was born of two basic ideas - one racial, the other economic. It was useful to think about blacks as sub-human because such thoughts enabled slavery and the spiral went downward from there.

In the case of Jews and Christians, the bigotry was born, I think, out of the idea that Jews were not saved and simple adolescent rebellion. What child does not at some point in achieving maturity declare the absolute vileness of their parents? Somehow it seems to be a part of the break away.

The personal corruption I mention above is one of the reasons I have been so worked up about fundamentalist, "truly reformed" declarations concerning Catholicism. It is, in the end a purely discriminatory, ultimately segregationist attitude that is a corruption in the heart of good people.

Now, most people will say there is a big difference between declaring Catholics as "unsaved" or "not-Christians" and the kind of oppressive bigotry under which blacks and Jews have historically suffered. - Agreed, but within the declarations concerning Catholics lie the seeds of that same vile oppressive bigotry.

In the south today, save in the darkest corners of redneck bars far from civilization, you do not here the truly perjorative terms anymore - the "n-word" for example. No, the racist attitude expresses itself in a tone, in a look, in the idea that "they are not as good as us and they simply cannot be."

There is more, I think, to the declarations that Catholics are not real Christians than a simple theological distinction. The declarations are made too often, too vigorously, and with a bit too much enjoyment to be a simple academic statement. When you read them, you get the feeling that when the people that "really" know the truth get together in the dark corner of a sancturary far from civilization, the analogies to the "n-word" are uttered.

They also smack of the same adolescent rebellion from Catholicism that one sees in Catholicism as it relates to Judiasm. The Catholic thinking started simply enough, but through the centuries it grew to the horror that was the Holocaust. Not, mind you, that the Catholics are responsible directly for the Holocaust, but they kept anitsemiticism alive for centuries for Hitler to find and worsen.

The attitudes we harbor concerning others hides in our hearts and eats at our souls. Eventually they will eat our heart itself and leave us loveless - an empty husk filled not with the love of Christ, but only a disapproval, if not downright hatred, of all those we consider "the other." It is an ugly way for a person to end up.

My concern about these uttereances is not only a defense of my Catholic brethren, but also a deep concern and love for my fundamentalist brethren. I do not want to see them end up ugly and loveless.

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Lusious, Live Linkability

The second thing Arnold has gotten absolutely right. If only he could do that with staff.

Shields Up! RED ALERT - Phasers on maximum, Mr. Worf.

Great stuff - highly recommended.

Deep thoughts about Iran.

I know, but I'm not allowed to say.

Yeah, but they got it wrong.

Unfortunately, even the military has murderers, as we have seen before. It does not mean the military itself is corrupt, or breeds murderers somehow.

Not quite right, this is talking about liberal evangelicals - they are the minority. And we have enough trouble getting along as it is, we don;t need you confusing us.

To my friend Andrew every single person who has been in church life for a while feels like you do. (I should know - 20 years!) Your answers are no different than for married people - rely on the LORD!

Sounds like the Kobayashi Maru to me. You go James T.

The bloggy future.

Got to get me one o' these!

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Friday Humor

Taste Alert! - This one's on the edge but too funny not to post
A married Irishman went into the confessional and said to his priest,

"I almost had an affair with another woman."
The priest said, "What do you mean, almost?"

The Irishman said, "Well, we got undressed and rubbed together, but
then I stopped."

The priest said, "Rubbing together is the same as putting it in. You're
not to see that woman again. For your penance, say five Hail Mary's and put $50 in the poor box."

The Irishman left the confessional, said his prayers, and then walked
over to the poor box. He paused for a moment and then started to leave.

The priest, who was watching, quickly ran over to him saying, "I saw
that. You didn't put any money in the poor box!"

The Irishman replied, "Yeah, but I rubbed the $50 on the box, and
according to you, that's the same as putting it in."
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Thursday, May 25, 2006


Even A House Built On Sand Can Shelter You For A While

The other day I linked to and commented on a post from my friend John Gilmartin. John's post was about th tragedy that has struck a church that had an apparent revival 10 years ago. Both John and I felt that they had obviously built their plans on less than the Word of God and the actions of the Holy Spirit.

John left me a comment to point out a very thoughtful, yet disagreeing comment that his post had received.
I am a Reformed Southern Baptist, student at Southern Seminary, all that, and yet I am convinced that Brownsville was indeed a legitimate revival. My primary reason for thinking this may sound a little subjective, but here it is: I was converted at Brownsville.

Now I mean *really* converted. I had been in an SBC church all my life where my father was the pastor, but all my sinner's prayers and recommitments to Christ through my teenage years never resulted in any life change. I basically wanted to go to heaven but didn't want to live for the Lord. But at Brownsville the message of repentance hit home. I had a road to Damascus experience. I know no other way to describe it. Other family members were also saved there and are still living for the Lord almost a decade later.
This raises a very interesting point - is it possible that God put all those people through all of that, including all those that experienced much pain and sorrow in the downfall of the church, for the benefit of that one commenter? I won't begin to deny the positive experience of this commenter, nor deny that it was in fact good fruit. That said; however, even a bad apple tree produces a good apple now and then; even a house built on sand is shelter for a while.

We worship a great and wonderful God. He is capable of making bringing some good result from even the worst of circumstance, and in my experience, usually does. I praise God for the good that He wrought in this commenters life! But this andecdote does not change my evaluation of the situation in general.

The church is the body of Christ, and that is an eternal thing. I do not think that God intended His body to come and go and sway in the breeze. Say what you will about catholicism, they are not without problems, but this is one thing they have very, very right. They have built their church to reflect the eternal nature of the Almighty.

Not that I think such a thing could be statistically quantified, but I would argue that regardless of how much "fruit" the Brownsville revivial bore during its height, and it could possibly be more than the Catholic church during the same period, though doubtful given the Catholic church's world-wide appeal, that pales in comparision to what the Catholic church has born over the centuries.

I get chastised a lot because I have never taken the high-risk, quick-reward approach to my business. I could have made a lot more money in some years than I have, but I likely would have done so at the expense of building the relationships that have given my business a permanence that has made me quite comfortable today. Needless to say I have had many clients over the years that have taken the high-wire approach. I'm still here, they are not. And the wealth they garnered has evaporated. For every person permanently touched by the Brownsveille revival like John's commenter - how many, Lord how many, found themselves with their faith crushed because what they thought was the real deal, degenerated into nothingness?

One more point - the church is not here to produce my salvation. The church is here solely to praise God and to reflect His glory and grace. Make no mistake, many will find salvation in that, but bringing that salvation is not the church's purpose. Again, I am not certain what metric truly reflects fruit-bearing - but it is not "saved souls." God's glory is so much more than that.

Cross-posted on How To Be A Christian And Still Go To Church

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Illuminated Scripture

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Love 'Em or Link 'Em

Fact checking Gore - but then maybe we want him to come back, he'll be easier to beat than some of the alternatives.

Which will just mean we have to flush twice.

Selfishness beyond comment.

How not to get elected

Important & Interesting stuff on US/UK relations -- A little more on the latest version.

Big weekend, better prepare


Lazy Teachers - seriously, you CANNOT teach science and give a scantron gradable test.

Deep and important stuff. But, of course, my TR firends won;t be able to read it since the title contains an allusion to a curse word.

Please, not my home state, no this weekend

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Wednesday, May 24, 2006


GodBLOGGING and Labels

I have been pretty sanctimonious these last few days about the pronouncements from the "Truly Reformed" about the eternal fate of Roman Catholics and homosexuals. I want to emphasize that I am not perfect. I certainly make judgements about people. It is necessary to to get through the day and to conduct business. I may even utter my conclusions to close associates behind closed doors; people whose confidence I can rely upon.

Sometimes here in the world of Godblogging we think we are in the narthex just chatting with a few friends. We forget that our words are a Google/Technorati search away from anyone in the world "listening in."

You see, that's the problem when we start declaring things like "The Roman Catholic Church is not a true church," or "unrepentant homosexuals cannot be real Christians." Because anyone in the world can read it, and you label yourself a Christian and my brother, I now have to live with the consequences of your words.

There is a state of undeclared cultural war between the church and the homosexual community. Maybe in the TR churches they don't have to worry about such things, but in my church I have to have relationships with homosexual people - many of whom don't want to talk to me because they read your words and think I think they are not real Christians. In fact, all I really think is that they are sinners, just like me.

The fact of the matter is that most homosexuals want nothing at all to do with Christians because of the kind of declarations we have been seeing out of some TR sources lately. Now how precisely are we supposed to reach them with the gospel when they run at the very sight of us? - Just because some poeple don't have the common sense to NOT put some of their opinions on their blogs.

This is public debate - this is not a private chat - Those are why God invented email and instant messaging.

I have no question that on blogs and in chat rooms and bulletin boards throughout the homosexual culture, the words of our TR friends are being quoted and linked, and the wall between Christians and homosexuals is growing ever higher and thicker.

Worse, I know that is true when it comes to the Roman Catholics because I have been hearing from them. If you believe they are destined for the infernal fires of eternity (NOTE: I do not), don't you want to reach them with the good news of Christ? So why in the world would you take pains to publicly erect a barrier between you and them? Helping them - helping anyone - see their sin is part of evangelism, but pronouncing them simply damned is another thing indeed, whether merely assumed, or confidently declared. (although I am forced to comment that I absolutely fail to understand how a theological disagreement rises to the level of sin)

I have reached out to some of my more loquatious and eriudite Catholic friends in the last week, hoping to persuade one or more of them to write posts on my blog and take up the gauntlet on this debate. One of them, who has asked not to be named, but would be quite recognizable if I could, responded - in part - with these words
To be honest, anyone who could claim Catholics are not Christians is not worth arguing with. The great weakness of protestant thought is its irrationality. Anyone who would take such a position would never be swayed by arguments. I have always found it much easier to convert atheists and agnostics to the Catholic faith because they have spent time wrestling with the ideas and are ready to debate. The protestants I find just select a couple of favorite bible verses and repeat them endlessly and exclusively.
That is quite an indictment. All that wonderful, systematic, reformed thought reduced to dogmatic repitition.

If we want Godblogging to make a difference, we need to wake up here folks. People actually read these things, and not just other people that agree with you. Every word you write, every syllable you type, echoes throughout the entire Internet for anyone, ANYONE, to find, read, and react to.

Remember that the next time you are ready to declare an entire group of people as hellbound.

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Only Fools Link In

Do not tell Michael Schiavo. It's none of our business after all.

Good question.

Travel in Asia. It's nothing if not interesting.

For once, reason from a government. Sweet, blessed reason. Here's one for Scotwise!

Joe Carter takes everything way to seriously.

I took this flight once...never again.

On no, lobbying would be too difficult, and enough people probably do not support us - we'll get a judge to do it.

What was that CSN&Y song? - "Teach your children well"

Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Scotwise quotes Tozer and gets a big Blogotional AMEN!

Think about it.

Obviously they did a lousy job.

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Tuesday, May 23, 2006


An Even More Perjorative Term

My buddy Jollyblogger had a great post over the weekend on "moralism"
Those of us who use terms like moralist and moralism, use them loosely as a synonym for pharisee or pharisaism. There may not be an exact one to one correlation between the terms but it points us in the right directions. Moralists tend to follow the Pharisaic approach to life and ministry.
David's right here, but I think there is an even more perjorative term for pharisiasm that moralist - "theologist." By that term I mean someone who is so sure of their particular theology, whatever it may be that they think they hold TRUTH and anyone else holds only falsehood and only they and their kin hold TRUTH can experience real salvation. Whatever it is that others may hold, it is so wrong they will undoubtedly burn in the fires of eternal damnation. Such people can see someone that holds to the same moral standards that they do, and whose source for that adherence is claimed to be the same Holy Spirit, and yet assume that the other will rot eternally because the other holds a somewhat different view of how that Holy Spirit works.

I type those words and I cannot help but think of some of Christ's.
John 14:6 - Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.

John 8:31-32 - Jesus therefore was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, "If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."
The truth we seek is a person, not an idea or a system of thought. We are not saved by what we think - we are saved by Jesus Christ - He, personally, is the truth that really matters.
Prov 3:5-8 - Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your body, and refreshment to your bones.
Les Newsom over at Common Grounds Online said something very powerful on Monday. First he quotes a student who he has ministered to recently:
I've heard all that before. You don't understand, Les, I know the information. It's getting that information to mean something to me, to really grip me.
Then he starts his conclusion this way
New believers often quickly despair when they begin to think about what they have just done in signing on with Jesus. "Was I sincere enough?" they think. "Did I repent properly?" they wonder. "Do I have faith?" they ask. The simple answer to these kinds of questions ought to be, "Absolutely not."

But isn't that the point? Truthfully, these questions reveal a stubborn self-righteousness that sincerely wants to contribute something to this transaction of salvation: my sincerity, my heart-felt repentance, my faith. When our coming to Christ ought to be the abandonment of these things for wholehearted focus on Jesus and his merits on my behalf.
Les is so right here, whether the "newbie" he is talking about, or a moralist or a theologist we are all seeking to "contribute something to this transaction of salvation."

What really amazes me is that the worst theologists I have found are from what Internet Monk calls the "Truly Reformed." (see FAQ 10). How can anybody that holds the solas that tightly not get that they have nothing whatsoever to do with their salvation in thought, word, or deed.

Maybe if they spent less time criticising other writings, blogs, and such and more time turning those amazing critical facilities on themselves we might find the love that lies at the very base of the gospel.

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Building On Sand

My friend John Gilmartin blogs about a church that ten years ago hosted thousands and now hosts hundreds, and a deathly debt. John says something very profound
My heart goes out to those who were hurt and whose spirits were broken in all of this, but it doesn't cry out "do it again." My heart cries out, "Lord, do it for real" "do it for the first time."
So quickly my mind turned to scripture
Matt 7:20-27 - So then, you will know them by their fruits. Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.' Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine, and acts upon them, may be compared to a wise man, who built his house upon the rock. And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded upon the rock. And everyone who hears these words of Mine, and does not act upon them, will be like a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand. And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house; and it fell, and great was its fall.
We work so hard to "build the church" and what is described in John's post is so often the result. I was a part of just such a church, how well I know the tumbling attendance and the strangling debt. I also know that when it happened where I was it was precisely because we heard those words of His and did not act upon them - we built our house very much on sand.

We built our house on marketing techniques, on show, we lacked substance. From whence comes substance? As the passage above says - Christ!

The bottom line is this - we do not make things work, He does! Pray with me that we can rely on Him and not on our own understanding.

Cross-posted on How To Be A Christian And Still Go To Church

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Wxtry - Get Your Links Here

When the public is not afraid enough - change the risk assessment.

What's Star Trek got to do with it? Makes you wonder about Shatner though...

'Bout time someone tried to rein this stuff in a little.

How come kids get it? - when so many adults don't.

Insert your own gas-passing joke here.

This scares me. It doesn't take the question at all seriously, sounds like a 9-year-old dreaming about being Superman.

RCP Blog says the Guvenator's in "the driver's seat." The NYT says the Dems need a 'superhero" to beat him. They don't need a superheor - they have him.

I guess it's not so hard after all.

If only it had actually killed her career.

That must have been some dog! Krypto maybe?

Maybe even all of West Virginia

All for Republican Victory!

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The Terrorbuster Saga


Read this story from the beginning at The Terrorbuster Saga Blog

They had reason to have faith in their encryption. It took Carter an entire 20 minutes to get into the network. It only took him 15 to get into the DOD the first time.

The first thing that Carter discovered was that the entire operation was a front for what looked like the KGB, but of course, they don't exist anymore. Then it dawned on him, "Russian mob, old KGB, same thing." This he figured out just by seeing who was on the net and who was talking to whom.

In a short time he found what passed for the books at the place. He couldn't make heads-nor-tails out of them, but he knew someone who could. Back into the America system he went and before long all those files were on the computer of a Treasury Department analyst, marked, "Please review and advise" apparently by the Director of Homeland Security.

Within an hour Carter had an email for that self-same Director sitting on his computer. The report read as follows:

"This appears to be a straightforward extortion operation. The organization in question is stealing large quantities of a hazardous substance from somebody. They are threatening to spread the stuff everywhere if the parties that made it to begin with don't cough up enormous amounts of cash.

"They also have a couple of sidelines. In addition to extorting the generator of this substance, they are extorting all sorts of environmental watchdog groups that have collected huge sums to clean it up.

"The final sideline is that they are selling some small amounts of the material for enormous sums to someone that I cannot trace.

The analyst puts a bit of a personal note at the end of his report:

"Sorry boss, this looks like a matter for the organized crime guys, not for you."

"Yeah, right," thought Carter as he jumped back into the "charity's" network. He found they maintained a "field office" in some of the abandoned offices in the Sophiaskia power plant itself, but information about it was missing from even this tight computer grid.

"Well, you don't just waltz in there," Carter mumbled to himself. However, a bit of computer magic later and he had himself credentials as an Environmental Professional on a Technology Exchange Delegation visiting the plant the next day.

The delegation just happened to be staying in his hotel. He found a few of them in the bar and they wanted to buy him a drink before he could even sit down. They had witnessed his little trick with the Greenpeace Van.

From the bar they moved on to dinner. This was a group affair for the delegation, but Mark and Matt, the guys he had been drinking with, brought him along and introduced him to everybody. It seems that environmental professionals really hate environmental activists like Greenpeace. Carter spent the evening being regaled with tales of how everybody from Earth First to the Sierra Club got in the way of actually cleaning anything up because it would never be clean enough for them. Pissing on that bus had made Carter a hero.

Before the evening had ended, Carter was booked for Sophiaskia with the delegation the next day and they thought it was their idea. Best of all, they were all so drunk, they'd never wonder how he got credentials that matched theirs - they'd just figure it had happened sometime during that night of camaraderie.

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Monday, May 22, 2006


Getting Organized

Think about the most spectacular man-made thing you have ever seen. Hoover Dam - the Pyramids of Egypt - The Great Wall of China - whatever it is for you. Now, ask yourself, "How did it get built"?

In American we love the individual and we admire the accomplishment of great individuals, but large projects are never the work on one person. One person may lead the project, but it takes an army of people to do the kinds of projects in the paragraph above, to do pretty much any great thing. And while that leader may inspire and present vision, guide and motivate, even that leader cannot and does not keep that army working effectively - that job belongs to the bureaucracy.

In a nation that loves the individual like we do, probably nothing is more loathed than a bureaucracy, from the apparent inefficiency to the grossly dehumanizing atmosphere, we just hate 'em. And yet they are absolutely necessary for the operation of this nation. From moving the mail, to building the infrastructure, from holding elections to operating the courts, we simply have to have them, and they are useful.

Consider these selected and scattered quotes from the last two chapters of Hugh Hewitt's latest book Painting The Map Red
It is an era of rote celebration of individualism and an automatic assignment of virtue and intellectual sophistication to "independent" voters and thinkers...."Party politics" is MSM code for disreputable politics. Party loyalists are "hacks" who drink "kool aid," their arguements not even worthy of rebuttal....Congress is run by one of two parties. All the libertarian and Greens, all the socialists and independents...they are just the crowds at the sporting event....all the committees and all the subcommittees are run by one party and all the executive departments are run by one party....If the GOP throws up a nominee for the presidency or for a Senate seat who is not "orthodix" on all the big issues, the question will not be how to throw him or her overboard, but how to assure that the party rallies to their aid.
Do you see what Hugh is saying here? If you want to do something big, like in government you have to have a group and you have to organize the group.

Jollyblogger recently ran across a quote from George Barna in which he seems to back off a little from his book Revolution which as David previously contended
My biggest gripe about the book was that, in my mind, it destroyed the covenantal and communal character of the church.
What Barna said was
Am I defining mere relationships as "church"? No, as you know, the Greek word ekklesia, from which we derive the English term church is not clear to most scholars but most of them agree that it generally has to do with the gathering of called-out people. So my notion of "being the church" requires that you be not only engaged in such passionate endeavors but that you also be connected to other believers in some type of faith-oriented, regular meeting for the purposes of emulating and honoring Christ. Christianity is not an isolationist experience; it is covenantal and communal.
While this thought does indeed solve some of the problems with Barna's book as posited, I don't think it goes near far enough.

You see, we as Christians are charged with some pretty big things to accomplish. Yes, we are to first be sanctified, but we are also called to
Matt 28:19-20 - "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."
That, my friends is a tall order, perhaps the tallest of all. If it takes an organization, if it takes bureaucracy, to accomplish a task as relatively minor as building Hoover Dam, certainly it will to meet the charged that Christ has left us.

Cross-posted on How To Be A Christian And Still Go To Church

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A Comment On The State Of Godblogging

Last week saw two discussions in the Godblogosphere, both of which seem to have hubbed at Challies.

One concerned Challies analysis of Joe Carter's calling Andrew Sullivan a "Christian brother" and his proclaimation that the Roman Catholic Church is not a "true" church. Here is one of my posts on the subject - here is the other.

The other concerned Mark Driscoll's use, or misuse, of language in his latest book. Here is Adrian Warnock's very neutral links to some of the discussion which will give you a starting point.

Table laid - the first discussion saw less than 10 posts total amongst a few blogs - the second discussion I frankly have lost count of how many blogs have commented and opined.

There is an old adage in politics - when you cannot do anything about the problem at hand, either invent a problem, or pick a smaller one you can fix, and use it as a diversion. Somehow I sense that is what is going on here.

One the one hand we have a discussion wherein we are making judgements (ahem, er, excuse me - assumptions) about the the eternal fate of the largest and oldest church in the world and another where we are worrying about the use of slang terms for excrement. Does one of those strike you as really important, and the other as a bit of a side line? And yet, it is the side line that is drawing all the links, all the heat and all the discussion.

No doubt, everyone who reads this will at this point think I am just whining because I didn't get sufficient traffic in the discussion that I think is important. I can't change your impression - don't really care.

But I am really worried. We have here at our keyboards a tool that God can use to change us, the church, and the world. I for one, want Him to use my blogging that way. And yet somehow, it strikes me that we are letting ourselves be diverted from that effort when we concentrate on cussing in the face of really important and challenging issues.

Maybe if someone had said "*&^% the Roman Catholics" - then we would have a discussion. But then, isn't that pretty much what actually was said?

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Could it be because you're wrong and the American public knows that? Just wondering.

There is a God - and He is a lot smarter than us.

Been here, done this.

Snake Oil...get your snake oil.

Good idea, but sometimes consensus building can lead to bullying or worse, gridlock.

A sweet reason.

Biggest double-take headline I have seen in a long time. I almost hate to agree.

Speaking of immigration - food for thought.

At first, I found this headline vaguely oxymoronic, then I saw the list and well...

Interesting WaPo piece. - Powerline comments

Conglomerate takeover in space.

A fitting tribute to an even more fitting tribute.

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Sunday, May 21, 2006


Links ala Carte

An important insight into our operations in Iraq.

Would that be mp2's or mp3's?

Just in case your store-bought ordination does not give you sufficient authority - be certified as a Jedi!

All I can say is it's a good thing this country has grown past the politics of race. (Set you sarcasm meter on overload)

But some really should just stay there. (That's a family joke, don't ask)

Wise words.

Something wrong with the church. I will likely blog about this more.

I only live 3 miles from CalTech - should I go?

Stop the Presses! - Major breaking news.

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Sermons and Lessons


In 1947 a movement of the Spirit produced the founding of the Church of the Saviour in Washington, D.C. Pastored by Gordon Cosby, this church demonstrated a radical faith witness to the rest of the world. Elizabeth O'Connor was one of the church's early members and would later join the church staff. Her writings would chronicle their story, letting the rest of the world know of the amazing work God was doing in their midst.

O'Connor is a gifted writer whose insights into the spiritual journey have helped countless women and men grow deeper in their own walk with God. Her writings challenge and confront, as well as encourage and inspire. The following selection comes from a book that comprises several letters written to the early faith communities of the Church of the Saviour. Although these letters were written to stir and nurture the faith and commitment of these young churches, they speak a fresh word of exhortation to all scattered pilgrims on the very important subject of money.


1. The Handling of Money

"Filthy lucre," as money is sometimes called, has been a favorite topic of conversation for us since the early days of The Church of the Sayiour. We talk about it probably as much as Jesus did. When the founding members, young and poor, were forming themselves into a properly incorporated community of faith, they struggled for a discipline of membership that would help them and future church members to deal concretely with at least some aspects of the handling of money. In its first writing the discipline read, "We commit ourselves to giving 10 percent of our gross income to the work of the Church."

While there was some precedence in biblical history for the 10 percent figure, our first members felt that this kind of giving would enable them to begin to tackle the injustices of society in a way that would be meaningful to themselves, as well as to others - Their proposed constitution and disciplines were submitted to Reinhold Niebuhr, an eminent theologian of the last generation who had agreed to read them and comment. His only suggestion concerned the discipline on money. "I would suggest," Niebuhr said, "that you commit yourselves not to tithing but to proportionate giving, with tithing as an economic floor beneath which you will not go unless there are some compelling reasons." The discipline was rewritten and stands today in each of the six new faith communities:

We covenant with Christ and one another to give proportionately beginning with a tithe of our incomes.

2. Proportionate Giving

None of us has to be an accountant to know what 10 percent of a gross income is, but each of us has to be a person on his knees before God if we are to understand our commitment to proportionate giving.

Proportionate to what? Proportionate to the accumulated wealth of one?s family? Proportionate to one's income and the demands upon it, which vary from family to family? Proportionate to one's sense of security and the degree of anxiety with which one lives? Proportionate to the keenness of our awareness of those who suffer? Proportionate to our sense of justice and of God's ownership of all wealth? Proportionate to our sense of stewardship for those who follow after us? And so on, and so forth. The answer, of course, is in proportion to all of these things.

Proportionate giving has kept us from mistaking our churchgoing for Christianity, and from looking at our neighbor to see what we should be doing. In our better moments we desire that each member and intern member work under the guidance of the Holy Spirit to determine what proportionate giving means in his or her individual situation. We have, of course, hoped for ourselves and for others that the proportion of giving would increase as we identified with the oppressed and learned to trust God at deeper levels for our own future.

3. The Borders Have Been Pushed Out

By and large the discipline has served us well. Over the years we have kept the 10 percent floor for members and the 5 percent floor for our intern members. Many have struggled with the minimum giving, and some have turned away. Others have broken loose and showered our community with riches. The borders of the mission have been pushed out, and the suffering of our city has been eased a bit.

Sometimes the giving has been excessive and ecstatic, and sometimes impulsive - a diamond engagement ring dropped in the offering plate, a silver service set appearing at the door, a check for several thousand dollars representing the total accumulated wealth of a young couple.

4. Blessed Be the Tithe

I first heard the tithing discipline explained in a class in Christian Growth that I was taking when I was new to The Church of the Saviour and the Christian faith. Following the class we met with the members of other classes for a short worship service. The small chapel rang with the words, "Blessed be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love." My untutored ears heard the words as "Blessed be the tithe." I went home to explain the discipline to my nonreligious household, and commented, "They even sing about it."

The next Sunday we all went to see those strange people, and to hear about the things they were planning. Gordon Cosby was preaching his annual sermon on money, which was as spellbinding then as now. Before the year was over my household was tithing, and when the time came to purchase a retreat farm, we threw caution to the wind and went with everyone else to borrow what we could toward the down payment. It was not that our souls were so quickly converted, but that we sensed that something important was going on, and we wanted to be a part of it. We had been captured by a man?s vision of what a community might do if it really cared about the oppressed and the suffering.

5. Reclaiming Ourselves

In a recent sermon on money Gordon said as forcefully as ever that to give away money is to win a victory over the dark powers that oppress us. He talked about reclaiming for ourselves the energy with which we have endowed money "Money is a hang-up for many of us. We will not be able to advance in the Christian faith until we have dealt at another level with the material. It is a matter of understanding what it means to be faithful to Jesus Christ."

He went on to say that the poor suffer because they are not able to give. Without any doubt Gordon's teaching sermons on money have influenced the whole orientation of the new communities toward the material area of life. Each of them began on a sound financial basis because each began with a small nucleus of tithing members. All contributions of the communities are used to further the work of the missions within the year they are given. Nothing has ever been put aside for a rainy day. We have followed faithfully the injunction given by Moses to his people as he led them out of bondage, "No one must keep any of it for tomorrow" (Exod. 16:19, yn).

6. Stabilizing Our Standard of Living

Despite our corporate style and our exposure to the issues that are raised around the subject of money, we know that we have not gained much "downward mobility." While we have succeeded in stabilizing our standard of living, most of us cling to what we have known. Though the budgets of our faith communities are large by traditional standards, we are fully aware that they represent only a fraction of the potential giving of the congregation.

We still wrestle with fear when we consider abandoned giving. Our wills, with rare exceptions, look like the wills of those who have never been committed to the building of a faith community, or who have never had the poor in mind. This may indicate that, in the face of the threat caused by consideration of our deaths, we regress to old definitions of family and narrower spheres of identity. In any case, most of us would probably say that we are not as free as we would like to be where the material things of life are concerned. What may have looked like radical obedience to tts a quarter of a century ago, no longer seems radical today.

7. Faces That We Know

Coming to know some of our suffering sisters and brothers in the Third World and in the ghettoes of Washington has made all the difference in the way we view the earth. The unemployment statistics are made up of faces that we know. We behold the plight of the poor not only with fresh eyes, but with the awareness that our faithfulness in the past gave God one way of performing veritable miracles.

Scattered throughout our new faith communities are persons who ask with increasing uneasiness what it means to he faithful in this time in their individual treks and in our slow migration as a people out of the old orders of "necessity and death." In a personal and in a corporate way we are wrestling once more with the question of what we are to do with our money. Some of us experience an inner division, for our hearts so often tell us one thing and our heads another.

When we begin to take the Scriptures seriously, "You cannot serve God and Money" (Matt. 6:24, NEI3) becomes a personal address. One would expect God to applaud our small efforts at faithfulness; instead a Spirit comes and takes us where we are not yet prepared to go.

8. The Worship of Idols

As we become exposed to the poor and their needs, the rich young ruler and the widow and her mite lose the storybook quality of our childhood faith, and become figures in the counterculture literature of a revolutionary leader?the very one whom we call Saviour. The First Commandment and all the Scriptures on the worship of idols begin to lay bare our own primitive selves. Some of us have looked into the face of our idols and found that one of them is money.

Though we along with millions of other churchgoers are saying that Jesus saves, we ask ourselves if we are not in practice acting as though it were money that saves. We say that money gives power, money corrupts, money talks. Like the ancients with their molten calf we have endowed money with our own psychic energy, given it arms and legs, and have told ourselves that it can work for us. More than this we enshrine it in a secret place, give it a heart and a mind and the power to grant us peace and mercy.

9. Individual Answers

Do we believe that money and possessions have a way of coming between people who want to be in community with each other? Do we really believe that every life has resources more priceless than gold, and that our hearts, minds and labor are adequate for any task? What if the world is right and there are things that only money can buy, gifts of the spirit that only money can unlock, and blocks that only money can push aside?

The questions continue to be raised, and we continue to struggle for the answers that in the end have to be individual answers, for we are each at a different place in our spiritual trek with different understandings of what the Gospel has to say to us about what we do with our money.

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