Saturday, September 27, 2008

Planning to Vote for Jesus? Think Again.

As this sendup demonstrates, the state of political advertising in America has sunk to such a low that even Jesus could be made to look bad without too much difficulty. Two minutes.

Thanks to Friendly Atheist.

Friday, September 26, 2008

À la recherche du benzine perdu

Our moronic governor, Sonny "Head in the Sand" Perdue assures us there is no gas shortage in Atlanta.
Unfortunately, 18 of the 20 gas stations I've passed in the last day didn't listen to the news.
Somebody needs to tell them, so they will start selling gas again.
[P.S. In the French language, "perdu" means lost. A good name for our gov.]

Thursday, September 25, 2008

I Am Not an Imposition, Part 4 (The Jewish View, Part 3)

Are cities “bad”? Is Nature “good”? Should we curtail our actions in order to protect endangered species? The Jewish view of the creation mandate provides an interesting perspective on these questions, as shown in this excerpt from Environmental Stewardship in the Judeo-Christian Tradition:

The general hostility toward industrial development that is often evidenced by environmental activists is frequently rooted in a pantheistic opposition to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and is as old as the Tower of Babel. Judaism takes note of how industrial development tends toward the spiritual and away from the merely material. In our own times, this is quite clear as we see development lead societies past the manufacture of steel and large machinery to the creation of data and knowledge. . . . Judaism views this as a movement toward human recognition of the primacy of the spiritual over the material. It is no coincidence that this tendency for society to move toward the spiritual also brings along with it less disruption of nature. Instead of imposing barriers to industrialization upon the developing world, we could be better served to assist developing nations in moving through this early phase of growth. In this fashion, each part of the world can make its own decisions and judgments about how it will balance its own needs . . . . Those of us in the developed world may not want a rubber-tire factory next door. However, if we lived near Cairo and presently were neighbors to the world’s biggest garbage dump, which is populated by ghostly skeletons rummaging through the filth to find food for another day’s existence, we may welcome the arrival of a tire plant to displace the garbage dump. Judaism has great faith in the ability of ordinary human beings to make their own decisions and to find ways to overcome tragic circumstances.

This faith comes from another religious conviction not shared by many environmentalists. Again, if we are nothing but sophisticated animals, it is only right that important decisions should be made of us by an elite group of people playing the roles of zookeeper or farmer. In this view of reality, we are not capable of determining for ourselves just how much prosperity we are willing to sacrifice to halt development. Since nature is the ultimate good, our zookeepers will determine that no burden is too heavy for us to shoulder in service to our god of nature. . . .

The basic Jewish principle of balance and middle path also conflicts with the contemporary environmental doctrine that preserving each spotted owl and each kangaroo rat is more important than any costs borne by humans and any sacrifices made by people. Judaism would never countenance loggers suffering the indignity of joblessness in order not to disturb the nesting habitat of the owl. . . . People need not justify their needs or desires to nature. They are warned only against destroying things for no good purpose. . . .

Our task is, in essence, to subdue nature and redirect it for holy purposes. . . . Your labor is welcome, and its results are pleasing to me, says the Lord. For this reason, Judaism is prouder of man’s skyscrapers than of God’s swamps, and prouder of man’s factories than of God’s forests.

- pp. 24-26

See the previous post on this subject by clicking here.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

I Am Not An Imposition, Part 3 (The Jewish View, Part 2)

Here are some more thoughts from the Judaism section of Environmental Stewardship in the Judeo-Christian Tradition (Part 1 of the Jewish view was posted Sunday). In this excerpt, we learn why eating meat is a sacred act and why a good Jew can't be a vegetarian:

The Hebrew for conquering, koveish, clearly distinguishes between annihilating and conquering. The former is a verb for utterly destroying one’s enemy. The latter refers to leaving one’s enemy’s resources and abilities intact, or even enhancing them, but redirecting them for one’s own end. That is what we are told to do with the resources of the natural world. We may not destroy, but we may use them in every possible beneficial manner. Animals are part of the natural world, and their purpose is strictly in the context of human life…

A religious Jew may choose to restrict his diet to vegetables during the week, but come Saturday and most holidays, he is to eat some meat as a religious obligation. The reason for this is that God created a world of hierarchy. Minerals are consumed by a higher life form, namely plants. Animals survive by consuming plants, while the highest life form of all, humans, eat animals. It is interesting to note that those animals permissible to Jews as food are animals that eat only plants. In other words, those animals that violate the hierarchical order, such as wolves and bears, may not be eaten by Jews. Now, for a Jew to attempt to improve on God’s definition of morality by refraining from eating any meat on moral grounds is another way of announcing that one is nothing more than an animal oneself. Animals are supposed to eat only plant life. Thus, a Jew who eats only vegetables is announcing himself to be a very good animal. Once each week, God demands of his people that they leave the moral refuge of vegetarianism. We are then forced to confront the reality that an animal died to provide our meal. That places an obligation upon us to be worthy of the sacrifice…

While always prohibiting cruelty or wanton destruction, Judaism abhors the entire notion of animal rights since it violates the very foundation of biblical belief in God’s sovereignty and God’s role as ultimate arbiter of moral right. Judaism and secularism are fundamentally incompatible, and the doctrine of animal rights is a doctrine of secularism.

-pp. 22-23

In upcoming installments, we'll move into the Jewish view of issues we more typically identify with environmentalism.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

When Abortion Fails - Obama's Disingenuous Response

OK. Now I'm angry. Yesterday, I told you about Gianna Jessen, the aborted baby who didn't die and is now a grown woman. And I gave you a YouTube clip of her ad.

Now, rather than admit that he might actually have been wrong on this issue, Obama has fired back with this own ad in which he indignantly makes several false claims in only 30 seconds:

  1. The McCain attack ad is the sleaziest ad ever (interestingly, the voiceover says "the sleaziest," but the text on the screen says, "one of the sleaziest"). Actually, Gianna's ad wasn't paid for by the McCain campaign, but by her own organization.
  2. Even the bill's sponsor said the claims about Obama are untrue. Actually, you can read below the entire letter the sponsor wrote (not just the single quoted sentence) and see that Obama has intentionally quoted him out of context.
  3. "Obama has always supported medical care to protect infants." But he has not ever supported the medical protection of aborted babies born alive. The voting record on this is clear, and the facts clearly contradict his contention that he would have voted for wording that matched the Federal statute. It did, and he didn't.

Watch Obama's 30-second ad below, and then read the rejoinder from Real Clear Politics, which is a Time/CNN blog and not a partisan site:

Now, here's what Real Clear Politics had to say. I've bolded the sentence Obama uses in his ad, just so you can see how he misrepresented the writer:

The Obama ad cites a September 5 letter to the Chicago Tribune written by the Republican co-sponsor of the Born Alive Infant Protection Act, Rick Winkel, in declaring, "even the bill's Republican co-sponsor said it wasn't true." To put this in context, here is Winkel's letter reprinted in full:

A storm of controversy has risen in the presidential race concerning Barack Obama and legislation I sponsored in 2003 ("Obama's '03 abortion vote on forefront," Eric Zorn, Metro, Aug. 21). I introduced Senate Bill 1082 because of a nurse's claims that abortions at Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn resulted in living infants whom hospital personnel then allowed to die without medical or comfort care.

SB-1082 defined born-alive infants and required that courts recognize them fully as persons and accord them immediate protection under the law—including statutes outlawing infanticide. Opponents of the bill believed it was an attack on Roe vs. Wade, so I added neutrality language identical to the 2001 federal Born Alive Infant Protection Act that the United States Senate approved 98 to 0.

On March 12, 2003, I presented the neutrality amendment before the state Health and Human Services Committee chaired by then state Sen. Obama. All 10 committee members voted to add the amendment. Nevertheless, during the same hearing, the committee rejected the bill as amended on a vote of 4-6-0. Obama voted no.

I was stunned because the neutrality amendment addressed the concerns of opponents. It was the same neutrality language approved by U.S. Sens. Barbara Boxer, Ted Kennedy, Hillary Clinton and John Kerry in the federal bill.

None of those who voted against SB-1082 favored infanticide. Rather their zeal for pro-choice dogma was clearly the overriding force behind their negative votes rather than concern that my bill would protect babies who are born alive.

In 2005, I joined 116 state representatives and 54 senators in voting for HB-984, which contained the same born-alive definition and neutrality language as Senate Bill 1082, plus some extra language to satisfy the most zealous pro-choice legislators, yet harmless to the bill's purpose. No one voted against it. We had finally accomplished what we had set out to do - protect a newborn baby's life.

- Rick Winkel, Former state senator, Urbana

I used to think Obama was a person of integrity, but I'm over that now. I would like to start calling him all manner of contemptuous names, but I'll save that for another time.

Monday, September 22, 2008

When Abortion Fails

My friend David put this on his blog recently. It's an appearance on Hannity & Colmes by a woman who was aborted at 7-1/2 months. Gianna Jessen lived, obviously, and her story is engrossing. (Yes, there's an obvious political aspect in this election year.) Take 5 minutes:

There's a longer video on YouTube of her speaking at an annual Right to Life rally, in which she shares more of her story and more of her heart. If the lousy introduction annoys you, skip the first minute.

Jessen's website is

Sunday, September 21, 2008

I Am Not An Imposition, Part 2 (The Jewish View, Part 1)

Continuing the series which I began September 17 . . .
In the book, Environmental Stewardship in the Judeo-Christian Tradition, I found the Jewish discussion the most provocative. In this first excerpt, the authors differentiate between rights and responsibilities, between Creator and created, between ownership and stewardship, and between humans and everything else:

The Torah unhesitatingly prohibits cruelty to animals. This is not because animals also have rights; it is because only human beings have obligations. In the Torah’s depiction of moral reality, nobody has rights – only obligations. Naturally, if everybody discharges their obligations, we all end up enjoying those things we vainly attempted to obtain by claiming them as our rights.

The animal rights movement can best be understood by viewing it as an attempt to undo the opening chapters of the biblical Book of Genesis. The Torah and its accompanying oral transmissions insist that Genesis describes more the beliefs underlying Creation than its facts. This is to say that the Bible’s central premise is that humans and animals are qualitatively different, a contention violently opposed by the animal rights movement. . . .

The Bible teaches that the human person is the apex of God’s creation and that all creation is there for the human person to develop and use as a responsible steward. The principle at work here is, of course, precisely the same biblical principle that prohibits self-maiming, destroying a rented apartment, or even having an abortion. This is to say that tenants do not have the same rights as owners. We, as humans, do not own the world, our bodies, or the habitations we rent. Thus, we may improve them but not destroy them. According to the Torah, not only do women not have the right to do with their bodies as they wish, but neither do men. Our bodies are given to us by a gracious and generous God so that we may occupy them for a certain period of time. During that time they are to be treated with the same deference that a tenant should employ in caring for his rented premises. Similarly, we humans are granted use of the world and all it contains. We may hunt animals for food or clothing, build homes out of the wood we cut from trees, and mine the earth to extract the minerals it holds. However, we may not wantonly destroy anything at all.
- pp. 20-21

More from the Jewish tradition in an upcoming post.

Saturday, September 20, 2008


I found a video clip of our new worship team that will be leading us tomorrow morning at church. It's only 3 minutes long, but it will change your life. Be sure to stick around for the semi-Calvinistic "Zap" moment at about the 1'50" mark:

Friday, September 19, 2008


I sounded strange yesterday, but at least I could talk.
Today I have no voice.
Eventually, this cold or whatever it is will pass, and I'll start speaking again. Meanwhile, I'm thankful that I'm an introvert and that I know how to use e-mail.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

“Do you want to win, or are you more interested in your principles?”

Tony Jones is a leader in the emergent church movement. He supports Obama for President. In a blog post of a couple days ago, he tells of a teleconference that he and seven other unnamed "Christian leaders" (his term) had with members of Obama's religious outreach staff.

Of course, the issue of abortion came up, and there was some disagreement among the eight "Christian leaders" as to whether Obama should tackle this head-on or try to do an end run. Some felt that if Obama jumps in, he's letting the religious right set the agenda. Jones writes:

The Five continued to protest, saying that abortion is not an issue that O should deal with much. To which I replied, “Do you want to win, or are you more interested in your principles?”
Does anybody have a problem with that question?

We all know that politicians find ways to "shift" their positions in order to gain more votes. They could even be accused of changing their principles in order to win. But "Christian leaders"? Should they employ a similar approach to life?

The principles by which we live our lives define who we are. The principles by which Christians live their lives determine whether they are truly followers of the Jesus whom they claim. Fidelity to Christ and His kingdom must trump all other principles, wouldn't you think?

So when Bell asks, "Do you want to win, or are you more interested in your principles?", he is, in effect offering a conflicting principle: that winning is more important than integrity and fidelity.

Somehow, I see a tie-in with the emergent church movement. Doctrine, creeds, history, and dogma all fall to the wayside in the search for conversation, not conversion. I'm not sure what is won in the process, except a "good time had by all." Becoming all things to all men is a Biblical principle, but the driving force underlying it is that men and women would be won to Christ - not to conversation, coolness, relevance, or anything else.
Are we willing to stick with our principles, even if that makes us "losers"?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

I Am Not an Imposition

Global warming concerns have temporarily taken a back seat to hurricanes, financial crises, and the question of which shade of lipstick looks best on a pit bull. But the subject is far from dead.

A couple weeks ago, some European guy was in the news for suggesting that the best way to attack global warming was to stop having children. I didn't pay too much attention to the story, but I do find that it plays into an underlying assumption, often unspoken, sometimes almost subconscious, that accompanies the arguments of anti-global warming advocates.

The assumption seems to be that people are an imposition on the planet. That we should do as little as possible to change it (or as much as possible not to change it). That the earth is in some sense sacred and that we have no right to use or exploit its flora and fauna for our purposes.

And that all leads up to a small book I read recently. It showed up in the mail one day for reasons unknown to me, though I suspect it was sent to all people who subscribe to First Things. The book is published by the Acton Institute and is entitled Environmental Stewardship in the Judeo-Christian Tradition. This book has separate chapters from Jews, Catholics, and Evangelical Protestants, with each sharing the perspective on environmental stewardship that their faith tradition offers. Reading this helped to put thoughts to my sense of unease regarding the philosophy behind much global warming advocacy. And it supports my main contention when it comes to environmental issues:


(Nor Are You)

In upcoming blog posts, I'll explain what I mean by the above statement, as I share some of the thoughts from this book.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Nouwen On: Silence and Entertainment

Being silent seems like doing nothing, but it is precisely in silence that we confront our true selves. The sorrows of our lives often overwhelm us to such a degree that we will do everything not to face them. Radio, television, newspapers, books, films, but also hard work and a busy social life all can be ways to run away from ourselves and turn life into a long entertainment.

The word
entertainment is important here. It means literally “to keep (tain from the Latin tenere) someone in between (enter).” Entertainment is everything that gets and keeps our mind away from things that are hard to face. Entertainment keeps us distracted, excited, or in suspense. Entertainment is often good for us. It gives us an evening or a day off from our worries and fears. But when we start living life as entertainment, we lose touch with our souls and become little more than spectators in a lifelong show. Even very useful and relevant work can become a way of forgetting who we really are. It is no surprise that for many people retirement is a fearful prospect. Who are we when there is nothing to keep us busy?

- Henri Nouwen, Can You Drink the Cup?, p. 94

Monday, September 15, 2008

Sarah and Hillary, Together For the First Time

Sorry to post two videos in a row . . . the lazy man's approach to blogging . . . but these 5 minutes from Saturday Night Live are pretty humorous, indeed:

If you don't see the video above, you can access it here.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Oh, So THAT'S What They're Saying

I've never been a big fan of rap, in part because I've never really understood the syntax and vocabulary. But thanks to the following video (of 3-1/2 minutes' duration), I now have help in translating the "lyrics" into standard English.

I still don't like rap.

(I do, however, like my friend Roy, but I don't understand him, either. He's always using these words . . .in the original languages.)

Thanks to my roommate Eric for pointing out this valuable resource.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Spurgeon On: Predestination and Free Will

I recently came across these quotes from Spurgeon and think they represent a good balance regarding a paradoxical issue:

"That God predestines, and that man is responsible, are two things that few can see. They are believed to be inconsistent and contradictory; but they are not. It is just the fault of our weak judgment. Two truths cannot be contradictory to each other. If, then, I find taught in one place [in Scripture] that everything is fore-ordained, that is true; and if I find in another place that man is responsible for all his actions, that is true; and it is my folly that leads me to imagine that two truths can ever contradict each other. These two truths, I do not believe, can ever be welded into one upon any human anvil, but one they shall be in eternity: they are two lines that are so nearly parallel, that the mind that shall pursue them farthest, will never discover
that they converge; but they do converge, and they will meet somewhere in eternity, close to the throne of God, whence all truth doth spring." (New Park Street Pulpit, 4:337)

"Men who are morbidly anxious to possess a self-consistent creed, a creed which will put together and form a square like a Chinese puzzle, are very apt to narrow their souls. Those who will only believe what they can reconcile will necessarily disbelieve much of divine revelation. Those who receive by faith anything which they find in the Bible will receive two things, twenty things, ay, or twenty thousand things, though they cannot construct a theory which harmonizes them all." ("Faith," Sword and Trowel, 1872)
- C.H. Spurgeon, 1834-1892

Thanks to Derek at

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Abe Lincoln, the Religious Wacko Fundamentalist (and what it may teach us about Sarah Palin)

The ignorance of the press when it comes to religious matters is astounding. People of faith are too often treated as if they come from an alien planet and have habits normal mortals can never hope to understand. I've often referred to the GetReligion blog as an excellent site for cataloging much of this cluelessness - and pointing out the praiseworthy exceptions when they do occur.

Sarah Palin is being pilloried by some who see her as a Christian incarnation of a Muslim fundamentalist. And this is in the mainstream media. See, for example, Juan Cole's column on

One Palin comment raising eyebrows came in her address to graduating students at her former church, when she said, "Our national leaders are sending them out on a task that is from God. That's what we have to make sure that we're praying for, that there is a plan and that plan is God's plan."

Now, every "normal" evangelical, especially those who listen to the message in context, will understand her to be saying that our leaders should ask for God's guidance as they make decisions about (the) war, and that every citizen should beseech God to guide those leaders. Praying for our leaders is, in fact, a Scriptural injunction (see, for example, 1 Timothy 2.1-3). But the rigid secularists see her as claiming divine mandate for every decision that she might make. Then they take it even further and warn that she may singlehandedly attempt to usher in the Apocalypse in order to hasten the return of Christ. I'm sure such religious wackos do exist, but there's no sane reason to believe that Sarah Palin is one of them.

Somehow, this leads to Abraham Lincoln. I was remembering how he said that we should "do right, as God gives us to see the right," and how that statement wasn't much different than Palin's. And that got me to looking at Lincoln's second inaugural address. It's only 700 words long - if only today's political speeches were so short! - and the most notable aspect is that almost 2/3 of it reads like a sermon. I'll reprint that portion below. There's more theology in this civic address than I've heard in a lot of sermons. What was Lincoln's view of God's will? Of divine Providence? Of prayer? Of the attributes and character of God? Is this the kind of relgious wacko who should be entrusted with leading a nation at crisis?

Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with or even before the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. "Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh." If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

A New Community

My friend Garrett and I are starting a new discipleship group tomorrow evening. It will be smaller than the one pictured above, and I'm praying for a few other differences, as well . . . community and missionality for a start. Everybody staying awake would be good, too, though we'll let the dog sleep if she wants to.

I recently read Henri Nouwen's book, Can You Drink the Cup?, and found his description of community to represent one of the things I greatly desire for this new group:

Nothing is sweet or easy about community. Community is a fellowship of people who do not hide their joys and sorrows but make them visible to each other in a gesture of hope. In community we say: “Life is full of gains and losses, joys and sorrows, ups and downs – but we do not have to live it alone. We want to drink our cup together and thus celebrate the truth that the wounds of our individual lives, which seem intolerable when lived alone, become sources of healing when we live them as part of a fellowship of mutual care.”

[Community is] a fellowship of little people who together make God visible in the world.

So often we are inclined to keep our lives hidden. Shame and guilt prevent us from letting others know what we are living. We think: “If my family and friends knew the dark cravings of my heart and my strange mental wanderings, they would push me away and exclude me from their company.” But the opposite is true. When we dare to lift our cup and let our friends know what is in it, they will be encouraged to lift their cups and share with us their own anxiously hidden secrets. The greatest healing often takes place when we no longer feel isolated by our shame and guilt and discover that others often feel what we feel and think what we think and have the fears, apprehensions, and preoccupations we have.

The important question is, “Do we have a circle of trustworthy friends where we feel safe enough to be intimately known and called to an always greater maturity?

Vulnerability, growth, and mission. May they all be true of our new group as we seek to follow Jesus and be transformed into His image.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Nouwen On: Solitude

There is absolutely no reason for most people to be as busy as they are. You want to earn more money than you need. You want to see more television than you need. You want to read more books than you need to read. You want to see more people. You want to keep in touch with too many friends. You want to travel too much. You can even be busy with looking for the meaning of solitude! . . . . I shall have no time to pray whatsoever unless I radically say that prayer and solitude - being alone with God - is a priority. But my senses aren't saying that to me.
Solitude is a hard discipline, because we have the luxury of so many stimulations.
Solitude is listening to the voice who calls you the beloved. It is being alone with the one who says, "You are my beloved, I want to be with you. Don't go running around, don't start to prove to everybody that you're beloved. You are already beloved." That is what God says to us. Solitude is the place where we go in order to hear the truth about ourselves.

- Henry Nouwen, Beloved, pp. 11-13

Friday, September 5, 2008

Particle Acceleration For Dummies

CERN's Large Hadron Collider has been under construction for the last 10 years. It will be the world's largest and fastest particle accelerator when it comes on line next month, moving protons at 99.99% the speed of light.

Not up to speed on particle physics? Need a refresher? Take five minutes to watch this "Large Hadron Rap," and you'll know as much as I do:

Want to know more? Wikipedia has a nice summary.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Truth Your Doubts

Nietzsche’s [claim] was that our desire for truth above utility is just one of the many symptoms of human weakness and lack of self-reliance: we are incapable of carrying the burden of our solitude and asserting our will as the ultimate ground of everything we believe; we cannot bear the realization that we are self-grounded, unprotected by any universal order of things.

But on this point, as in most other areas of philosophizing, he was not consistent: he glorified the spirit of doubt, but failed to see that if there is no such thing as truth, there cannot be doubt either. My act of doubting implies that I believe
something to be true, but am unable to decide what that something is. If we get rid of truth, doubt becomes impossible.