Saturday, December 31, 2005

Leap of Fate

[via Slacktivist's Left Behind Archives]

They earnestly want any unsaved readers to get saved. And, since the prospect of unsaved readers picking up a book from Tyndale Publishers seems unlikely, they want their saved readers to be able to give this book to their unsaved friends knowing that it will explain to them both the need for and the process of getting saved.
The problem is the book doesn't do that. L&J want to tell readers what they must do to secure their own salvation. They don't necessarily offer the wrong answer, they're just asking the wrong question.

....Study that a minute. Turning in Jim would condemn his friend to years of misery in this world, but his own immortal soul would be damned for eternity -- and what are a few mortal years compared with that? Weigh such a choice on the scales that L&J use in Left Behind and Huck's choice is clear. But that is not the choice he makes.

"All right, then, I'll go to Hell!" he says. And the angels in heaven rejoice.

Huck may just be talking to himself there, but I think of that declaration as a prayer -- as, in fact, a prayer pleasing to God.

The characters in LB are constantly finding themselves, like Huck, in a close place, betwixt two things. They are constantly having to choose (or rather, thinking they have to choose) between the fate of their own immortal souls and the fate of other people here on earth. And every time, emphatically, they take the path that Huckleberry Finn rejected.

It Takes A Millenium...

How different things are now, just six years later. Then, we were all filled with the joy of how far we had come in a thousand years and with hopes for the future. With that memory in mind, it might be difficult to look at the world today and not be depressed but we should always remember that the real future is never as wonderful as the one we hope for nor as horrible as the one we fear. Either way, there's not much we can do about the larger world but, on a smaller scale, we can each make a difference.
[via A Sweet, Familiar Dissonance, emphasis mine]

Evolving Evoking...

With all the debates on the teaching of creationism, evolution, and intelligent design this year, it's good to know that some people take a more humorous approach to natural selection. Darwinian poetry is a project which asks a daring question - can the input of users cause inherently bad poetry to evolve into something better? By applying their own method of natural selection, the project hopes to create one of the most impossible aspects of any language - a good poem. {read more}
[via Damn Interesting]

I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.
- Douglas Adams

Thanks The Gad(d)about for the quote!

The Finish Line

With the finale of 2005, comes the finish line for many things I have been a part of in the last season of my life... and although these things will not completely stop come Sunday... It is time for the direction to shift, for some changes to be made and for decisions to be finalized.

I feel as though I have just ran the longest race of my life, and I am nearing the "finish line"... not that my life is now over or that I am finished with life, but that this time, this particular leg of the great race of life, is about to be over. I feel as though I could fall in complete exhaustion over the finish line tape. If this is not the end, I think I may fall in exhaustion anyhow.

In a race, one's body is exhausted; in this race, my spirit has been expended. Internally and externally to myself have been and continue to be mountains to climb, valleys to face, tears to cry, emotions to feel, decisions to make, hurts to endure, strength to be sought, and dreams to hold near....

None of this will ever end. There will always be dreams, there will always be brokeness, spiritual battles, and life in general to face. However, to everything there is a season Ecclesiastes tells us. I believe it is time for a change in season. Soon news will be brought that will help me to know where to head next in life. Soon work will shift and school will start and I will begin back into a regular pattern that will keep me until the end of May. Soon freedom will be found, redemption will be made, lives will be set free and true life will flow into the empty crevices of broken and weary souls. I believe this.
[via Becca's World, emphasis mine]

Mistakes and Surprises

I am a pilgrim, but my pilgrimage has been wandering and unmarked. Often what has looked like a straight line to me has been a circle or a doubling back. I have been in the Dark Wood of Error any number of times. I have known something of Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven, but not always in that order. The names of many snares and dangers have been made known to me, but I have seen them only in looking back. Often I have not known where I was going until I was already there. I have had my share of desires and goals, but my life has come to me or I have gone to it mainly by way of mistakes and surprises. Often I have received better than I have deserved. Often my fairest hopes have rested on bad mistakes. I am an ignorant pilgrim, crossing a dark valley. And yet for a long time, looking back, I have been unable to shake off the feeling that I have been led--Make of that what you will."

--Wendell Berry, in Jayber Crow
[quoted at Thoughts On The Way To The Abbey]

Chasing Change

There is often an important distinction between New Year's resolutions and lasting change.

Resolutions often involve a decision to make this year better than the past by changing what we don't like about ourselves...they're based on our insecurities. They are more impulsive and usually we set the bar so high that it's unrealistic. We accept nothing but perfection, and the first sign of failure we cash in the whole thing.

Lasting change happens when we are inspired about something...convicted. Convictions don't happen out of insecurity, they come out of passion. Passion never wavers, no matter how many times we fail and passion comes out of seeing a much bigger picture than just this moment.

Are you chasing a resolution or lasting change this year?
[via Life in My Vortex]

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

"The future is scary as it is without having to worry about it."

What will 2006 bring? Hell if I know. I'm not a prophet endowed with foresight. Unlike Isaiah, I cannot predict what will happen 600 years into the future. I do know this, one does not "arrive" in this life. One does not get to a point where it is all settled. There will always be change, always be growth, always be challenges. Never will you be "set". I first figured this out about 5 years ago. It's taken me this long to accept it.

I have to let go and not worry so much about tomorrow for tomorrow will worry about itself. Kind of hard for someone who has control issues, who's ADD has forced him into a routine just to manage on a day-to-day basis. The future is scary as it is without having to worry about it.
[via Blog of the LostDog, emphasis mine]


I don’t have the stats handy, but the number of Jews who marry non-Jews is a growing number, with interfaith marriages becoming more typical in the last few decades. And so every year we get stories about interfaith families — which in this case means families where one parent is Jewish and one parent is Christian. And even though presumably this poses challenges every day — of how to inculcate religious faith in children, celebrate holidays, and remain religious — the press notices it once a year. Around Christmas....

Hanukkah might be a secondary Jewish holiday, but its religious significance speaks directly to the comingling of religions.

A brief history: Under the reign of Antiochus (around 170 B.C.), Jews were forced to violate the precepts of their faith and an altar to Zeus was erected in the Temple. Mattathias, a Jewish priest, and his five sons John, Simon, Eleazar, Jonathan, and Judah led a rebellion. Judah, who took over following his father’s death, became known as Judah Maccabee and under his leadership the Temple was liberated and rededicated.

A new altar was constructed in place of the syncretistic Zeus altar and oil was needed for the menorah in the Temple, which was supposed to burn throughout each night. Even though there was only enough oil for one day, the menorah burned for eight crazy nights. An eight day festival was declared to commemorate this miracle.
[ via GetReligion]

Why celebrate both?
"Early New Testament literature sees the new covenant as a renewal of the covenant (with Moses) on Sinai," said Richard A. Horsely, professor of religion at University of Massachusetts in Boston. "They regard Jesus Christ in the role of the new Moses."

When Hanukkah and Christmas are celebrated on the same day, it's natural to wonder how the two great religions are intertwined. For the earliest Christians -- who were, in fact, Jews -- that relationship wasn't something they had to ponder and sort out. Their faith was developing as they lived it.

Jesus and his followers saw his birth, life and death, said Horsely, "as a fulfillment of the history of Israel, its struggles, its expectations and its desire to be free to live under the kingdom of God, not under oppressive kings and emperors ... that's the message of both Christmas and Hanukkah."
Christian or Jewish: It's a holiday for all by Tim Townsend

Monday, December 26, 2005

[via How will I know unless I ask?]

Why is it
that this decision
has created distance
between you and I
when it should
have made you happy
neither of us can control
the whole world
and if I had my way
I'd give you yours
but doing that would
revert me back to 4
when containers were
read to me
and food was cut
before being
placed before me
Im not sure what
else to say
but this is my decision
so let me make it

or tell me what to do

"...but a good read nonetheless"

I feel the love, Life of Turner, now that you've linked to me. Duly added to the rest on the right.

Not Just a Wash

via The South-East Asia Earthquake and Tsunami Blog:

Last year, on the 26th December, an earthquake, and then a tsunami, killed, wounded, or impoverished hundreds of thousands of people in South Asia.

During the course of the year, other disasters took their toll too. Most devastating of them: Hurricanes Katrina and Rita on the South-East coast of the USA; and another enormous earthquake near Pakistan's border with India.

These disasters took their immediate toll, and, each time, the world tried to help. But as calamity piled upon calamity, there has been a certain amount of fatigue. Perhaps people's stock of goodwill has run low. Perhaps seeing too much suffering hardens us.

But, the fact is, the suffering from those disasters has not ceased....

Last December and this January, the online community came together as never before to help in the aid efforts in South-East Asia. The lessons learned there were put to use, and improved upon, when the other tragic events of the year unfolded.

Can we harness that goodwill, that togetherness, that willingness to help once more?

The WorldWideHelp group would like you to join us in Remembrance Week.

[read the full post]

Sunday, December 25, 2005

In Exile, Liberty...

Against all odds, an heir infiltrates the empire to rescue captives and restore citizens.

[via The Wandering Heretic]

The fact that the Magi chose to give such an explicit act of allegiance to a king outside of their own countries—a ruler they openly identified as the "king of the Judeans"—would have earned them the displeasure of their local leaders and families. Such displeasure in the oriental kingdoms usually earned public dishonor, banishment, and even execution. To do so in such an open fashion was to invite such a response.

Nor would the Magi have found safe haven in the country to which they traveled. Herod would not have taken too kindly to being asked to his face where the new King of the Judeans resided. As the slaughter of the innocents later illustrated, giving allegiance to a King other than the one currently on the throne was a dangerous, treasonous act. Had the Magi not left Herod's borders secretly, it is not doubtful they would have met a similar fate as the children of Bethlehem.

Finally, the allegiance of the Magi to a King both outside their territories and not appointed by the Emperor would have put them under the interdict of Caesar himself. The Caesars knew the function of religion in the first century; it was to reinforce the rule of the elite and pacify a diverse set of ethnic groups into a single obedient whole subservient to Rome. It was not for naught that the emperors were given divine honors during their lives and were officially divinized at their deaths. All gods would be recognized as long as Caesar and his Empire were the highest and most consistently honored of them. The ultimate allegiance had to be to Rome. When religion did not suffice, the force of the Roman army made up the difference.

So the actions of the kings were dangerous and treasonous...Yet they still came.

Losing Christmas, Finding Christ?

I wonder what will happen to our culture as more and more people lose their ability to tolerate the forms of this holiday. I am finding more and more people, who like myself, have given up on the holiday and are searching for more authentic and less painful ways to spend the season.

When I think about it, I am forced to admit that I have no positive memories of Christmas for the last ten years. During college, I would return home to find a family dissolving around me, not willing to admit it to themselves or anyone else and in the meantime force themselves to have this empty, shiny happy Christmas. After college and grad school, I was working in a church, and got exposed to the church busyness cult. That pretty much sucked all the remaining joy at Christmas.

So here we are at Christmas again....

Mostly, though, more than the theological, philosophical and historical reasons, its the emotional reasons that drive me and end up sticking the hardest. Over the last couple of years I have been trying to shave off everything from my life that does not contribute to my evolution. When you have nothing but bad memories of Christmas, and there is just no joy left in it for you, I say GET RID OF IT. When did Christ ever say we should celebrate his birth, anyway?

I know what you are thinking. Why not make new, happy memories of Christmas? Take back what was taken from me, and reclaim Christmas for myself and my own happiness. After all, I am responsible for my own happiness....My life is like a trauma victim with a whole host of injuries, some more serious than others. I take care of the most pressing issues first, and then move on. Sadly, Christmas is the equivalent of a hangnail on a burn victim. Somehow I can't see the ER docs pulling off the skin grafts to treat the hangnail.
[via Canticles of the Unhomed, emphasis mine]


What better way for the Christian Right to wish everybody a Merry Christmas and a peaceful new year than to write a Christmas essay filled with violent and apocalyptic images. Russell Moore, like some leaders of the Christian Right, is almost pathologically obsessed with a masculine, muscular and militaristic re-interpretation of the Christian faith. Some excerpts from Moore's essay:

{read the rest}
[via Talk To Action]

How Then Should We Celebrate?

Pastor John Wright:

Yes, we are completely and unabashedly and unashamedly bourgeois in this exchange of gifts. As I age, I understand the depth of this practice as a celebration of Christ's nativity, as well as it's dangers. I am very thankful for the time to be together as a family, and share in a material exchange of gifts in honor of our Lord. Amidst a society that would fragment and individuate us even as a family into different market groups, the economics of gifts come to us appropriately in honor of our Lord. I am particularly thankful about this year, as the time will be wedged between the times when we gather as a congregation in observance of the Nativity of the Word of God.

Yet, of course, this gift exchange has become the basis for the consumer culture in which we live. As Eric over at quoted to me, persons like Bill O'Reilly invert the whole structure of gift giving at the Nativity by saying something to the effect that all business owners should thank Jesus for being born. In other words, God did them a favor for providing the spur to increased consumer spending that pays off in higher dividends for the owners.

How do we then celebrate? ....

If gift exchange becomes part of the malformation of our desires for aquisitiveness outside what is Good, True, and Beautiful, it will ultimately rip a family apart. Christmas familial gift exchanges that tie families together because of the momentary fulfillment of unchecked material desires set the stage ultimately for sibling dissolution over arguments of the distribution of goods following the parents' demise.

Relationships do not exist for the distribution of goods; goods exist for the good of human relationships. May all of our practices increase the desire for God and God's kingdom, celebrated in the gather of the congregation and even in the exchange of gifts in the context of a family on this coming feast of the Nativity.
[via la nouvelle theologie]

No Quick Fix...

The belief is that enough hope and tenderness will lead to world peace, one mind at a time. All nations will come together in kindness and justice, swords will be beaten into plowshares, spears into pruning hooks. This is a little hard to buy with a world stage occupied by Saddam Hussein and Kenneth Starr. But setting aside one's tiny tendency toward cynicism, in the meantime -- in Advent -- we wait; and hope appears if we truly desire to see it. Maybe it's in tiny little packets here and there, hidden in the dying grasslike winter wildflowers, but we find it where we can, and exactly as it comes to us, while the days grow dark. We remind ourselves that you can only see the stars when it is dark, and the darker it is, the brighter the light breaking through...

I want that belief, and that patience; I checked the box on the form choosing that. But it has not been forthcoming. I have instead been feeling a little -- what is the psychiatric term? -- cuckoo. My mind has been doing a Native American worry chant, WORRYworryworryworryworryworryworryworryWORRYworryworry ... It's not that I don't have a lot of faith. It's just that I also have a lot of mental problems. And I want to fix them all, and I want to do that now, or at least by tomorrow afternoon, right after lunch.
Anne Lamott in Salon, HT: Slacktivist

Not All Sweetness and Light

The discussion about Christmas in our society is endless and loud. The self-proclaimed defenders of Christmas go about daring salespeople to wish them "Happy Holidays," boycotting businesses that sell "Holiday Trees," and reminding one and all that Jesus is the Reason for the Season.

Which he is. But I say that many of the Defenders of Christmas have it almost as wrong as the secularists. Their vision of Christmas — centered on words, a rather generic baby, and nostalgic visions of families and fireplaces — actually gets no closer to the real Real Meaning of Christmas than do generic wishes for peace and joy in this holiday season.

What they forget, neglect or conveniently ignore is what we can not-too-dramatically call the Dark Side of Christmas.

The really traditional Christian remembrance of the Nativity is not about sweetness. It is about awe, fear, and trembling, and it is shot through with hints of suffering to come....Look at it closely, with clear eyes. At every turn in this story of this baby there is threat and fear and powers circling, attempting to strike at the light.
Amy Welborn on Christmas at National Review, HT: Go To Bethlehem and See...

Not Giving Up

Have the churches abandoned peace on earth? Not by a long shot. Could we be doing more? Absolutely.

Peace on earth is not a political agenda, but a deeply human one. I think the fact that churches are trying to figure out what peace on earth looks like is a sign that God hasn’t given up on us yet. That’s why Christians celebrate Jesus’ birth, the poor child born in a barn, who brought life and salvation to a hurting and broken world.

But the Christian task is not done yet. Together we struggle to live Jesus’ message of the kingdom of peace, justice, and life. Some times we get it right, other times we mess up completely. That’s because, at the beginning and end of the day, we are only human.
[via Kevin G Powell]

Gift Exchanges

The head of a conservative Islamic organization in Indonesia is offering hundreds of its buildings as sanctuaries for Christmas services. Indonesian Christians fear terrorist attacks as some extremist groups have attacked them and forced the closure of churches. But Din Syamsuddin, who chairs Muhammadiyah, one of the largest and conservative of Muslim groups said that "We invite our Christian brothers and sisters to say prayers on Christmas Eve and to celebrate Christmas in our schools and other buildings." His organization will also provide security guards. Local Muslims are disturbed about the violence being done in the name of Islam.

The offering was made at an interfaith meeting which originated a peace message for Indonesia to be read at the times of three major holidays: Christmas, New Year's Day and the Islamic Day of Sacrifice.
[via Jesus was a Liberal]

Friday, December 23, 2005

[via emancipated dissonance]

o fragile flesh
how close you are
-----to death
-----to damage
-----to permanent deformity
at all times

one slip on the ice
-----and falling
-----landingcrackingbreaking-----and that’s all it would take

and once this soul has left you behind
you will rot
or be burned in an oven
like the holocaust victims
(except not)

[the rest]

Happy Festivus Everyone!

(To get in the mood, you can watch the movie The Ref or the Seinfeld episode "The Strike"...)

'Twas the night before Festivus and all through Queens,
Not a Costanza was strange as it seems.
The family was sleeping, just waiting for light.
Saving their strength for the upcoming fight.

At the crack of dawn on December twenty-three,
Frank put up the pole... instead of a tree.
Estelle prepared the meal that would start the rite,
Not a laugh or a smile was anywhere in sight.

George dreaded this hour that came every year,
The airing of grievances would soon be here.
Frank stood at the table and bellowed outloud,
"So who's got a complaint amongst this crowd?"

"You two are crazy and have wrecked my life!",
Cried George at his parents who mocked him for spite.
"A Lloyd Braun you'll never be " was Estelle's refrain,
"Why should I try,ma?... the guy's insane!"

"Enough with the grievances," Frank said with some glee,
"Now which one of you two is wrestling me?"
"So feats of strength you want? Let them begin here,
"It's your turn to fight him, mom... he beat me last year."

The battle was started, the screaming was lyrical,
The fact no one got hurt was .... ANOTHER FESTIVUS MIRACLE!!!!

From: DFrank1068
Date: 12-23-01

[from Festivus Info Center]

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Lowly Places

This Christmas lower your expectations. Some of us, every year, get so discouraged because we build Christmas up way too high.

We say, ‘this is the year we’ll get along.
This is the year I’ll meet someone.
This is the year I’ll find the true meaning of Christmas.
We are flawed people who want so desperately to find someone or something that will fulfill all our dreams. It just won’t happen.

Ecclesiastes 2:1-11. moral of the story:
Solomon writes: “I denied myself nothing my eyes desired. I refused my heart no pleasure. Yet when I surveyed all my hands had done, all that I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, chasing after the wind, nothing was gained under the sun”.
That’s the reality and honestly, it’s not supposed to depress you.

Don’t set yourself up for failure. Don’t make Christmas what it was never intended to be. Don’t build it so high it can’t possible measure up. Like rats in a cage we spin and spin hoping to find joy in things that don’t satisfy.
Don’t wait for situations to change, things to improve. Be alive right now.
[via scott...diagonally parked in a parallel universe]

Perspective at Christmas

Last night on the Simpson's, the first story was actually really funny and cute. It was the Christmas story (sort of). And one great line stuck out: Marge (as Mary) told Homer (Joseph) that the baby (Bart as Jesus) cried every time someone suffered in the world. So he was always crying!

Wow. What a great moment, in a cartoon of all places! We should get it so well....

I hate to rain on everyone's parade, but Christmas isn't about you, or your family, or your kids, or your rest, or your peace, or your goodwill. It is about what God did for us. So suck it up. Quit whining....that is what we signed up for as Christians - to change the world.
[via Feminary]

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Saving Christmas

To miss a baby in a manger isn’t serious. To miss celebrating Christmas isn’t the end of the world: it won’t change your life. But to miss the Saviour whom God has provided for us? Don’t do it. Consider carefully the Saviour whom God has given us. Consider Jesus.
[via etrangere]

In the Meantime

Perhaps the ultimate healing is just the knowledge that Daddy is there? I don't know. I do know though that no matter how bad she felt, she seemed to find comfort in my lap or me lying next to her in bed. That brought joy to my heart that she trusted in me to get her through. What a parable. What a lesson for such a stubborn, selfish, self-centered, instant gratification needing S.O.B. like myself.

I really do hope that she gets better soon, but I enjoy my time with her in the mean time.

We seem to always have some kind of sickness at Christmas time. That doesn't really bother me though since Christmas isn't that big of a deal for me, but I hate how it affects everyone else.
[via The Reluctant Disciple]

Pure Resistance

Christmas was a source of huge confusion for me as a boy and teenager. Perhaps it still is.

As a Jewish kid, we had Chanukah. But the Festival of Lights, as it is called, seemed pale in the shadow of all that Christmas glitter of tinsel and bright blinking bulbs. Christmas was everywhere in the windows of homes and stores, on lawns in parks and even on rooftops. Yes, it was in the schools and no one even thought of objecting at that time. I still wouldn't....

But Chanukah had one special part for a Jewish kid in that era-- latent machismo. Judah Maccabee had led a successful guerrilla war against the previously undefeated Roman Legions, making himself the central figure in the whole Chanukah tale. Maccabee had kicked some serious Roman butt back when the Romans were the undefeated champs. It made me proud.
[via ItSeemstoMe]

Monday, December 19, 2005


I write as many citizens of the United State are beginning the Christmas celebration, of the arrival of the Prince of Peace as a baby. I will join with millions of Americans in that celebration but I know, according to Scripture, that in a matter of weeks following Christ’s birth the order went out to exterminate male children because one of those children was thought to be a Prince with a program of peace, that was suspected of lacking a reliable allegiance to the Roman empire or its local ruling puppet. Variations of state sponsored terrorism have been repeated through the centuries in many permutations until the present. I know that there are expressions of terrorism that are not under the control of any single state. The democratic experiment in Iraq which must show some success before the next election cycle will be paper thin if it relies on the underside of American war strategies. At best it will be a state built in the image of Saddam but with a few more democratic decorations. At worst it will crumble as a nation.
[via Peace Talk, HT: Kevin G Powell]


Then the guy in the purple hanging-around-the-neck thingee gets up and starts talking. Something about how Mary's initial response to the Annunciation is a lot like our initial response to seemingly impossible circumstances. "Nope, nope, can't be done. Uhn-uh. No way."

But the story takes a turn when the angel answers her objection: "With God, all things are possible." Oh, how nice. I can see where this is going....

I've heard it said that forgiving someone doesn't mean you excuse what that person did, but it does mean you let go of your need for payback. Do I pass that test? I think so. At one point, I would have enjoyed nothing more than trashing this man's reputation. (Thank God, I resisted the temptation.) Now ... no. But what about this lingering discomfort?

This whole "what forgiveness looks like in practical terms" thing starts making my head hurt. I begin to think I'm never going to get it. It's not the first time I've pondered it vis-a-vis this relationship, and I still don't feel settled about it.

But what was that about "impossible?"
[via The Accidental Anglican]


In an ancient rural county in West Virginia on Christmas morning, a bent old man with a face like gentle twisted wildwood will raise the American flag in the frost. Then he will go back indoors, sit down quietly amid the smells of cooking, light his pipe and dream.

My Uncle Nelson raises the flag every morning at the secluded nursing home in the hills of Morgan County, West Virginia. If anyone in this world should have that right, it is he. Because Uncle Nelson, whom we called Nels, never left Morgan County in his life. Not even once.

You see, when he was born a deaf mute over 80 years ago on that lonesome Blue Ridge Mountain farm, there were not handicapped programs available as there are today....

Nels' feelings are "close to the surface," the psychologist at the care center tells me. This was not exactly news, since his feelings have been written all over his face his entire life. He cries freely, and seldom out of sadness. When I last visited him he came limping across the lawn of the care center, his broad face streaming tears of joy.

Here before him was a 55-year-old nephew he'd not seen in a decade.

And I remembered how he used to babysit me when I was a kid. Often for days at a time. Which meant giving me rides in the wheelbarrow on the green farmhouse lawn in the summer dusk, happy feedcorn battles in the granary, and long laughing slides down through the hay mow.

And his calm tears were about all that.

In a season allegedly dedicated to the Prince of Peace across a violent planet I take comfort in having seen things inner landscape of at least one great soul -- a silent prince of our forgotten peace.
[via Joe Bageant, HT: Jesus Politics]

Monday, December 12, 2005

The Kitsch in Christmas

Rev. Dr. Giles Fraser:

The problem isn't that Christmas has become too materialistic – but rather that it isn't materialistic enough. Kitsch Christmas is another way of uncoupling the divine from the material, thus spiritualizing God into incapacity. I am not being a killjoy attacking the kitsch version of Christmas. Three years ago, my wife gave birth to a baby boy. The labour ward was no place to be coy about the human body and all its functions. The talcum-powdered unreality of kitsch childbirth cannot compare with the exhaustion, pain and joy of the real thing.

But perhaps the most important corruption of Christmas kitsch is how it shapes our understanding of peace. This is the season where the word "peace" is ubiquitous. Written out in fancy calligraphy everywhere, "peace and good will to all" is the subscript of the season. It's the peace of the sleeping child, peace as in "peace and quiet", peace as a certain sort of mood. But this is not what they need in Bethlehem today. They need peace as in people not killing each other.

This sort of peace requires a stubborn engagement with the brute facts of oppression and violence – which is the very reality that the kitsch peace of Christmas wants to take us on holiday away from. How ironic: we don't want the shittiness of the world pushed at us during this season of peace. This, then, is the debilitating consequence of kitsch. Kitsch peace is the unspoken desire that war takes place out of sight and mind – it's the absolute denial of shit. Political leaders who are preparing for yet more fighting will be happy to oblige. Christmas has become a cultural danger to us all, not just a danger to orthodox Christianity.
[via Ship Of Fools, emphasis mine]

Thanks for the link!

Make Stupidity History: Dedicated to the eradication of stupidity worldwide.

Making Merry, Not Peace...

"One of the central themes of Christmas is often omitted in our various greetings. Stop and think about it for a moment. When was the last time you heard someone say to you during the Christmas season 'Peace be with you.'"

"So maybe that's it—there is a wound in us that makes it too painful to say 'Peace be with you.' We are still bruised from terrorist attacks on New York and Washington four years ago and bruised even more by a brutal war in Iraq. In our present moment, saying peace be with you just doesn't make much sense. We settle for 'merry' and 'happy,' because it hurts too much to speak of peace when there is no peace."
[via Ethics Daily, HT: For God's Sake Shut Up!, emphasis mine]

Held Hostage

The Christian Peacemakers require its corps members to be “deeply grounded in Christian faith.” So you have a group of peace activists who may have already lost their lives because of their interpretation of the Bible. Leaving apart the possible merit or naivete in their political understanding, why aren’t reporters teaching us more about their Quaker-infused theology? Even after reading through dozens of accounts of the hostage situation, including a BBC profile of Christian Peacemaker Teams that was anything but, the religious motivation angle was only mentioned in passing....

Christians have been struggling with how to live simultaneously in secular and spiritual realms for millennia. The media tend to see this conflict on the right very easily when they cover conservative Christian battles in the public square. But it seems harder for them to look critically at the equivalent struggles among liberal Christians. In defense of the media, their poor coverage of religious attitudes toward war might be a reflection of the complete lack of debate on the issue in most American denominations.

In any case, are there different standards for justice in the church and in the world? Have Christians discussed this issue before? Does this play into separation of church and state? If there are different standards for how to handle conflict in the church and in the world, what does that say about current hot-button political issues? I hate it when I have nothing but questions after reading two dozen articles from different perspectives about the same situation.

If these four hostages are going to die at the hands of their captors, one of the few things we might expect from reporters covering the saga is an exploration of the hostages’ motivations.
[via Get Religion]

Winter Wonder

One of the odd things about the category of "Christmas" music is that it has come to include many songs that have nothing to do with Christmas at all. I referred to these in the previous post as "Winter songs." Examples include: "Sleigh Ride," "Jingle Bells," "Winter Wonderland," "Baby, It's Cold Outside," "Let It Snow!" and "Frosty the Snowman."
None of these mentions or even alludes to Christmas. "Frosty" is explicitly set at the other end of winter -- just before the spring thaw. And the sly pleading of "Baby, It's Cold Outside" (I'm partial to the Ray Charles/Nina Simone version) seems more appropriate for Valentine's Day.
But the point here is these songs are about winter. Yet we never hear them at all after Christmas. Four days into winter and our winter songs all get mothballed for another 11 months.
I suppose Falwell and O'Reilly could try to argue that such generic seasonal songs are part of the "War on Christmas." But I think what's happening is the opposite of what they claim. These winter songs aren't taking over Christmas -- Christmas has overtaken them.
To be honest, I can do without most of them anyway -- although I do like "Winter Wonderland." (My favorite version is a mariachi rendition from Steve Taylor, accompanied by a band he hired out of the Los Angeles phone book.)
[via slacktivist]

Friday, December 09, 2005

Over Family and Faith

Apparently some churches are relaxing this Christmas. The Internet Monk explains:

Some of America’s largest megachurches won’t be open on Sunday, December 25. After multiple services on Christmas Eve, they are giving their congregations, volunteers, staffs- and thousands of twice a year attenders- the day off to spend with their families.
Doesn't anyone really consider singles seriously? Using "the family" is partly an excuse, accordingly:
It is beyond doubt that there is a kind of idolatry of family that evangelicals regularly refuse to engage. It appears that when the choice is between honoring Christ in a meaningful tradition that thousands relate to, or giving place to the perceived needs of family life in middle class America, the choice is a very simple one for the megachurches.
Bill Keller of Liveprayer places the controversy in this light:
We as Believers are outraged at a lost world who won't celebrate and promote the birth of the Jesus they reject, yet the very churches that are God's instruments on this earth for that purpose choose to close because Christmas is on a Sunday! As I have stated often, rather than influencing our world, we have allowed this world to influence us![Liveprayer devotional, Dec. 8/2005, emphasis mine]
So how do we change the focus? Supposedly by just becoming involved in the service:
These pastors I spoke to are right about one thing. It IS a day for families and there is NO BETTER PLACE for a family to start their Christmas Day celebration than at church! As for the people who serve their churches in so many different capacities on Sunday, what better way to spend a few hours on the day we celebrate the birth of Jesus than by serving Him! Lastly, since when was opening the doors of the church about how may[sic] showed up? The reality is, Christmas and Easter are the two time of the year a HUGE portion of people who call themselves Christmas[sic] ever darken the doorstep of a church. It is also the time of year many who are not Believers have a desire to be in church. Other than Easter Sunday, Christmas is the greatest evangelistic opportunity of the year!!! ...

Don't you realize that in EVERY family there are people who are lost and without the hope we have in Jesus? If there was EVER a day to get that family member in church it is on Christmas Sunday![Liveprayer devotional, Dec. 8/2005, emphasis mine]
In other words, the status quo for most Christians is best. Yet what about those who sense an agenda in either family or church? Then what? If someone becomes disengaged (even unwittingly or indirectly) because of these circumstances, doesn't it seem to be too high a price to pay?

For example, ponder the dilemma of someone who was abused by church congregants or family. Celebrating with family or with Christians may not be the ideal that it is considered to be.

What are better ways to foster community, belonging and acceptance that was flexible and enduring for many without falling into easy solutions?

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Real Witnessing

IMAGINE IF SUNNI INSURGENTS decided to face down the greatest power on earth with a human chain of non-violent resistance. Or if Hamas threw human shields rather than human bombs at Israel.

This is the kind of movement that the four members of the Christian Peacemaker Teams currently held hostage in Iraq are trying to build, and it's precisely the model that the peace movement should have, but didn't, take as its strategy for challenging the Bush Administration and its imperial ambitions after the invasion. Instead, less than a dozen CPTers have stood virtually alone against 150,000 "coalition forces" and an equally violent and unscrupulous insurgency—a scandal whose reflection on the movement is every bit as devastating as Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo are for the US army.

It didn't have to be this way. The peace movement did not have to settle for the kind of "cheap activism"...{read more}
[via Mother Jones, HT: Jesus Politics]

Forced Focus on Family?

Christmas, short for Christ Mass, is essentially a Catholic tradition. I can think of few other non-Biblical Catholic traditions we Protestants have carried over. I suppose because the Bible is silent on such a celebration, we've decided not to offend tradition.

I think of the season in cultural terms, and I'm happy any time true Christian faith is expressed in any serious terms in a secular forum. But I refuse to belabor this day to complain about any missed meaning or lack of spiritual importance in our culture. At least in American, Christmas in its most pure form of celebration still looks like something out of Walt Disney's imagination. So much of its tradition is pagan, wrapped in shiny colors and bright designs.

Absent Biblical guidance, corporate celebration of Christmas is purely subjective, in my opinion, and to criticize churches who do not is a shaky position.

It just so happens that Christmas falls on a Sunday this year, and some churches are cancelling regular services to return the day to families who wish to celebrate Christmas privately. If someone wants to criticize the corporate Church for allowing too much emphasis on individualism and not enough emphasis on community, I'm right there with you.

However, keep in mind this day has become so family-oriented because we've made it that way, and it's a message that's reinforced in thousands of pulpits -- even in those churches with a corporate Christmas celebration.
[via The Gad(d)about, emphasis mine]

Offer a Real Gift...

Christmas is under attack. When Christians stand by and let a mean spirited, sexual-harassing, phone sex maniac “defend” the day commemorating the birth of their Lord and Savior, Christmas is in jeopardy. When Christians are offended by someone wishing them a “Happy Holiday” and it in effect robs them of the joy, hope, and peace this season brings, Christmas is in jeopardy....

Christmas is under attack my brothers and sisters! It’s time for those who follow Jesus to go to their inner room, close the door and pray to their Father who is in secret. We must show others the meaning of Christmas through our care for the poor, the outcasts, and the sinners. We must be humble.
[via Howie Luzus]

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Distraction or Discouragement?

It is easier to feel alone than ordinary.
Have you ever felt your body was trying to sabotage you? When my body injures itself, it usually means "need motivation to change?"!

Unfortunately, this normally happens right when I need to gain momentum, not lose it. Last year, I broke my ankle right before I wanted to do some spring cleaning, and also disturbed my walking routine which relaxes me. Just last week, I strained and pulled a muscle right after I was recovering from a cold when the cough was still lingering. (I'm still uncertain what caused it!) So every time the muscle is tender, it makes me cough and vice versa.

These scenarios are compounded by the fact that I'm an introvert, an emotional and physical inert one at that. It doesn't help to have one more obstacle to overcome. {Stupid body!} It's frustrating to not feel above it all, almost treading quicksand. One truly seems brought down to size.

Yet all is not lost; I am not alone. Many people have injuries like I have, even if they do not occur quite the same way. Things can be frustrating, incovenient, even insurmountable now, but it is okay to dwell in the ordinary sometimes. It can be intimidating, since we sense that we cannot rise from it. We are all human and all recognize our sinews of common bonds, however tenuous they may feel at those times. Great things can happen when we are not.

So be of good cheer, laugh, and take care.

Randall Friesen, writing in the Prince Albert Daily Herald:

The snow that we are blessed with, causes us to do some things that people in Florida and California don't have to do. We have to stop from our daily routine and think about winter. We must prepare ourselves for the coming of the cold and snow. The houses and cars need attention and we pull out our parkas and long underwear and mitts. The point is that we are required to stop from our ongoing life, and think about things coming. This is a blessing we don't always see.

When I talk with friends in California there seems to be a sense that life just continues, 52 weeks a year, with a day off for Christmas. There is no need to stop and think, no need to exchange our daily rhythms with seasonal ones. No need to look ahead and think about things coming. I think this is why we are blessed.

From Gad(d)about:

No Christian can always offer healing, but we can always offer love.
To which I would add:
For Christians, Jesus can always offer both.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Uhhh...was this what Dr. Seuss was trying to say?

From the Booklist review by Vanessa Bush:

With great anger and passion, Press, political commentator for Sirius Radio, laments the Republican Party's declared monopoly on religion and the infusion of religion into American politics. Drawing on a degree in theology, a decade in seminary, and long experience in political campaigns, Press juxtaposes various political issues--the death penalty, abortion, gay marriage--against religious doctrine, debunking the religious Right's declarations that their positions are derived from scripture. He traces the heavy influence of the religious Right on Republicans to the 1979 creation of the Moral Majority by Reverend Jerry Falwell and notes that, in George W. Bush, the religious Right has finally found a man willing to transform religious beliefs into policy. Recalling the traditional Democratic approach of keeping religion out of politics, even when dealing with classic issues of civil rights and poverty, Press urges Democrats to close the perceived "moral gap" between the parties. Although taking a partisan position, this thoughtful look at religion and politics in America will interest even those who may not agree with its premises.

Stuffy, Actually

I have never heard anybody question the fundamental basis of Maslow's argument (at least, in its ad agency 'Intellectual Lite' form; I've never read any Maslow, but then probably neither have you). Maslow's hierarchy assumes that you have to have fulfilled the criteria of each need before you can move on to the next.

It is like a frequent-flyer scheme for life: 'I'm sorry, madam. This is the lounge for esteemed people. The lounge for people who've only found acceptance is down the hall. If you see the people trying to make fire, you've gone too far.' It's a vision of society ratcheting itself up need by need towards Nirvana. It's neat, and like all neat ways of measuring human behaviour, it's attractive to marketers.

And like all neat ways of measuring human behaviour, it just doesn't work....

If Maslow is to be believed, people only start self-actualising when they have a surfeit of everything. This would be news to ice-age cave painters, creating great art on the brink of extinction, not to mention Diogenes, Vincent Van Gogh and Jesus.

Maslow can lead one to believe that poor people lead un-actualised, spiritually impoverished lives and will only respond to utilitarian offers at the lowest possible price. This is a dangerous and patronising assumption, but one that's all too evident in the 'come on down' approach of nearly all communication to people in lower socioeconomic brackets.
Brian Millar, quoted by mystic bourgeoisie, emphasis mine

Ummm...Happy Something!

Reappropriating a name doesn't necessarily reappropriate the symbol with which it is associated....

Levelling and sanitizing are not pre-conditions of inclusivity.

On the other hand, not merely tolerance of, but respect for the various religions and their symbols (in both their sacred and secular incarnations) are.
[via Portait of the Woman as a Young Artist]

Why Buy It?

November 25, was "Buy Nothing Day." The day is so named because people at Adbusters years ago decided that it would be a great idea to take a stance on the biggest shopping day of the year in the United States, the Friday directly after Thanksgiving, and that a great way to make a point about consumerism and all those kind of issues would be to engage in a protest that day by not buying anything. It's a great idea that I think has had a lot of success across the globe. But why is the entire globe subjected to this one day?

...If BND was moved in Canada to Boxing Day, then it would be meaningful. Until then, it's like American Thanksgiving - a quaint ritual that non-Americans don't understand and that Americans don't understand why non-Americans don't understand it because they're America and what they say should go. But of course, the main reason I bought nothing is because...well...buying things takes money, so most days from now until Christmas are "Buy Nothing Day" for Turner. My own little protest against being broke.
[via Life of Turner]

Friday, November 25, 2005

[partly inspired by Becca's grief]


The torso of our common good
Gets snatched away so easily.

The sudden interruption
Dislocates us like shoulders
That try to snap in place.

We dangle like limbs in shock.

We outstretch our arms
If only to embrace
The corpse that let us function.

It leaves a vacuum...

We bundle up like sticks
But it doesn't seem the same
All broken up with little to embody.

That is the rub we cannot touch.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

If you must sound stupid...

1.Turn someone’s generality into an absolute. For example, if someone makes a general statement that Americans celebrate Christmas, point out that some people are Jewish and so anyone who thinks that ALL Americans celebrate Christmas is stupid. (Bonus points for accusing the person of being anti-Semitic.)

2.Turn someone’s factual statements into implied preferences. For example, if someone mentions that not all Catholic priests are pedophiles, accuse the person who said it of siding with pedophiles.

3.Turn factual statements into implied equivalents. For example, if someone says that Ghandi didn’t eat cows, accuse the person of stupidly implying that cows deserve equal billing with Gandhi. {read the rest}
Thanks The Eagle and Child for the reference!

It's been argued that there's nothing new under the sun.
You and I, however, are not as old as the sun.
[via Unedited Ravings]

[a poem of mine today]


Are we truly just enough
When we pay tribute to the debt
Of resources we sow like stones
Into our wishing wells?

Donated for tomorrows
That we scarcely get to see
Without a price attached to them
Or spent on speculations
As we race towards the bottom

So were we really credible
With excessive insufficiency
To overflow prosperity
And float like currency?

Decreasing the disparity
As cheaply as our labours
While the poorest change we spare
Is abundantly expensive
To significantly gain.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Moose's Place now links to me and added to the blogroll. Previous winners featured at the right.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Decisive Splits

The moral blindness of the conservatives is that they’ve become unable to tell the difference between the good and the evil. Many American liberals, on the other hand, have become blind to how vital and how real that difference is.

The conservatives don’t see the true moral nature of their ruthless leaders. They have been seduced by those leaders, buying into the sheep’s clothing of their false righteousness, under which is hidden the wolf of their unbridled lust for self-aggrandizement. As a result, they’ve handed power to forces that work systematically to undermine good order in America and around the world.

The moral blindness of many liberals lies in their sliding into a moral relativism that sees matters of right and wrong as merely matters of individual opinion. Unwilling to judge anything but “judgmentalism,” willing to tolerate anything but “intolerance,” too many liberals have become unable to see the difference between good personal choices and bad ones.

While the most urgent threat to the soul of America comes from the right –for nothing is so dangerous to a society than to mistake the evil for the good, and to hand to forces of evil the power to shape its destiny—the moral blindness of today’s American liberalism has also contributed to this rise to power of fascistic forces.

....Just as the rise to power of fascistic forces and the degradation of values in the wider culture are two sides of the same coin, so also with these two forms of moral blindness.

The two sides of our polarized society are failing in different –but complementary—ways to meet the fundamental moral challenge that humankind must face at both the individual and social levels.

Goodness in the human sphere requires us to reconcile the desires and needs of our inborn nature and the moral demands of the larger order into a harmonious and life-serving whole, integrating the values of liberty and of order.

But as the goodness of moral integration breaks down, society becomes polarized, with each side of the divide failing in its own characteristic way to serve goodness. The parts that need to be brought together instead break apart, with each side of the polarized system emphasizing only one half of the picture and then trumpeting its corresponding unbalanced half-truth about morality.

Thus, social polarization epitomizes a cultural failure to put the pieces together.
[via See No Evil: The Blinding of America, HT: Jesus Politics]

The Presley-terian Church?

With interviews with Barbara Rossing, author of The Rapture Exposed: The Message of Hope in the Book of Revelation, and Joy Wallis (yes, wife of Jim Wallis of Sojourners).

Also features The Ten Commandments a Terrorist Threat, The End Times Watch, God's Creation Blog amongst other things. Pat Robertson, of course, is the Loser this time because he can't stop talking...while the Last Word redeems the time.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Not Plan 'B'...

:: I see that Target is allowing its pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions for birth control, if the pharmacist is of the "pro-life" bent. Via Shakespeare's sister, here's an e-mail one blogger sent to Target on the subject. What I always think of whenever I read about this issue is this: do any of these pharmacists refuse to fill scripts for Viagra?
[from this post at Byzantium's Shores, emphasis mine]

It's not enough to understand what the experts tell you. You also need to understand cognitive dissonance to understand how the experts and even you could be completely wrong about something that seems so completely true.
[via The Dilbert Blog]

Fuzzy Fact-finding?

The ethics of using interrogation and indoctrination to obtain information, achieve goals, change minds and opinions exist in a large gray area. Few people would argue with the basic legitimacy of law enforcement professionals questioning suspected criminals to obtain or verify evidence of crimes, or to gather information that might prevent or hinder criminal acts. Society's tolerance for the methods used in such questioning, however, varies widely depending on the specific circumstances.

In fighting crime and criminal acts, we expect - indeed, we demand - that the agents we empower through our government act with zeal and diligence, and employ every legitimate tool available. We've generally shown a high social tolerance for a certain amount of psychological pressure when there is good reason to believe the stakes are high. We have even shown ourselves willing to excuse a certain amount of physical pressure in very high-stakes cases. Conducting interrogations in environments of physical discomfort, intimidation, the use of good-cop/bad-cop pressures, even the occasional "slapping around" a recalcitrant suspect show up regularly as tacitly approved, if not always judicially legitimate, tactics in films and television shows.

Such tactics are usually further legitimated by showing high levels of incriminating evidence or behavior against the individuals being subjected to such techniques. The watcher of the TV show or film feels a sense of cathartic vindication when the scummy child molester is backhanded by the hardworking detective goaded past endurance. But reality is often very different.
[via Democratic Underground]

Authentic Debate

Tomlinson denied any wrongdoing and said, "Unfortunately, the inspector general's preconceived and unjustified findings will only help to maintain the status quo, and other reformers will be discouraged from seeking change."

Now, depending on your political point of view, this was either a refreshingly forceful, if slightly overzealous, attempt to inject some red new blood and real debate into a stagnant backwater of limp liberalism, or it's more evidence of a scary sort of coup d'etat from within, attempting to turn a public trust into a propaganda arm of movement conservatism.

And if you're a moderate? I find PBS, as well as NPR, laughably biased leftward (and ineffectual and irrelevant for all but true believers because of it). What really scares me is that liberals and conservatives no longer have a shred of respect for each other, and can no longer work together to provide representation for all of us and authentic debate and balance. Everything has to be in the hands of one gang or the other, and all's fair in the tug of war, including Karl Rove's specialty, behind-the-scenes dirty tricks.
[via Ambivablog]

Treat all disasters as if they were trivialities but never treat a triviality as if it were a disaster.
~Quentin Crisp

[Thanks Simian Farmer for the quote!]

People talk about a "culture of life" and a "culture of death". What about a "culture of resurrection"?

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

from Chris Rachael Oseland's review:

For any self proclaimed Grinches out there, this book is a hoot. Moore pokes shameless fun at the weird things people do around Christmas, from aggressive Salvation Army bell ringers to Xmas Present Amnesty.

At first, I was a bit put off by the returning cast of characters from previous books. Theo Crowe and his wife Molly Michon were in "The Lust Lizard of Meloncholy Cove," as were Theo's friend Gabe Fenton and his now ex, Valerie Riordan. The Mastersons and Mavis Sand were in "Lust Lizard" and "Practical Demonkeeping." Tucker Case and Roberto made it to Pine Cove from "Island of the Sequined Love Nun."

While the characters are familiar, years have passed since the last time we saw them, and life has moved on. This book isn't a sequel, it's a deliciously funny tale in a familiar setting.

Like all of Moore's books, relationships are at the center of the plot. No one wants to be lonely, not at Christmas, so just as quickly as people break up, they seek to pair off, if only through New Year's Day. Misunderstandings occur when Theo and Molly have their own O. Henry "Gift of the Magi" moment. Tucker Case, now divorced, is so desperate for compay he proceeds to successfully hit on a woman who has just defended herself to the death and doesn't know what to do with the corpse.

Unfortunatly, the corpse is dressed like Santa, and one little boy who wittnessed the murder is about to be visited by an Angel here to grant him a Christmas wish.

There are a lot of predictable places the story could go at that point. I thought I was braced for the right one. I won't give away the end, but I cheerfully admit I snorted strawberry-banana smoothie in shocked laughter. It took all my self control not to call people and read the last few chapters over the phone, just so someone would howl in laughter with me.

But that would be cruel.

Why Can't It Just Be Gnomes?

From Operation Nativity:

This work for the Nativity is good, my son. But you must do more."

"What, Lord? What would you have me to do?"

"You must save 1000 Nativity scenes by the turning of the New Year."

"But...why, Lord? Why must I save 1000 Nativity scenes?"

"Because this is your destiny, Crusader."

I swallowed hard and asked the question to which I dreaded the answer.

"And if I fail, Lord?"

"Then I will take you home at the turning of the New Year!"

{read the rest}

Not Unguided?

From Andy Borowitz via I am a Christian too:

Televangelist’s Brain, Mouth Elude Other Theories, Experts Say

Out of the controversial debate pitting the theory of evolution against the theory of intelligent design has emerged a new theory, dumb design, which some experts believe may explain the televangelist Pat Robertson.

The theory of dumb design holds that human beings were designed by a superior being, but one who mysteriously designed certain humans in a particularly dumb way.

Enter Rev. Robertson, whom many experts in the theory of dumb design are calling “Exhibit A” in their effort to prove that the theory holds water.

“If you take a look at Pat Robertson’s brain and mouth, and how they work or do not work in concert, you have a fairly persuasive argument that the theory of dumb design is valid,” said Dr. Davis Logsdon of the University of Minnesota, one of the leading advocates of the dumb design theory.

The theory of dumb design began to gain traction in August, when Rev. Robertson called upon the U.S. to assassinate Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez.

And last week, when Rev. Robertson warned the people of Dover, Pennsylvania, that God would strike them with natural disasters after they removed school board members who favored teaching creationism, the theory of dumb design seemed to achieve critical mass.

But even an adherent of dumb design like Dr. Logsdon warns against putting too much stock in the theory, adding, “No one theory could possible explain all the things Pat Robertson says.”

Silence is not always acceptance, just as Yelling is not always assistance.

Who am I kidding? Christmas is around the corner.

The trick is to find that magical point in time where you can enjoy the Christmas feelings long enough, but not so long as to overdo it so it's no longer special.
[via The Eagle and Child]

When You Have Lemonade...

MEMPHIS, TENN. -- According to Patrick Davis, his lemonade stand was audited by the IRS (Internal Revenue Service) today, as the result of an anti-war statement he made last week.

Davis, 8, said that as he made change to a customer last week, he said mentioned that he "misses his dad a lot," and "hates this stupid war." A few days later, IRS agents raided the lemonade stand, and demanded to see receipts.

Davis' father, Stanley, is currently serving in Baghdad with the Tennessee National Guard.

Anthony Mallett, a field agent with the IRS, said the reason for the audit has nothing to do with Davis' "anti-war tirade, but everything to do with the fact that his business expenses clearly exceed his income." {read more}

Monday, November 07, 2005

Powerful Impotence= Private Hypocrisy + Public Denouncement

Life after Ideology

Here, from Policy Review Online, is a fascinating review by Claire Berlinski of two books on the contrasting American and European responses to life after ideology: Alister McGrath's The Twilight of Atheism and Chantal Delsol's Icarus Fallen: The Search for Meaning in an Uncertain World (translated from the French by Robin Dick).

Berlinski is a bit doubtful of McGrath's assertion that the twilight of atheism means a new dawning of religion, particularly Christianity; she challenges the conventional wisdom that this is the predominant trend in America: {read more}
[via Ambivablog]

Undue Influence

It’s been noted before that the whole satanic-sex-abuse scare of that era was fueled partly by a belief in childhood innocence, and the disbelief that children could lie on that scale or imagine such gruesome things. But what’s interesting about Kyle’s explanation of his own motives — and I see little reason to doubt him — is that he didn’t lie so much out of motiveless malice toward the McMartins as out of the desire to please certain other adults, and the implicit pressure from the fact that other kids there were telling similar stories.

In my study of this issue, one little over-facile formula I’ve come up with is that conservative Christians trace all sins to disobedience, while liberal Christians trace them all to abuse of power. This, I think, helps explain their sometimes radically different attitudes toward children: kids are often disobedient, after all, but they among the most powerless people in society. One thing I liked about Yoder’s Politics of Jesus was the way he connected the two ideas: abuses of power occur because the powers are disobedient, and seek to usurp godlike power to themselves.

But the power issue is complicated. As a child Kyle had a power he probably didn’t even realize he had: the power of adults’ fears for him, their desire to protect him, and therefore the power to put the McMartins through hell. The fact that he didn’t coldly and willfully abuse his power doesn’t mean he didn’t abuse it. And he was likewise in the dark about whom, and what, to obey.
[via The musings & searchings of Camassia]

Cavalier Correlations

Translation: Religion is bad for your health.

More specifically, Mr. Paul indicates that democratic societies predominantly holding to a belief in God (read: the United States) are socially unhealthy, but democratic societies that are secular and embrace evolution (read: the majority of Western European countries) are on their way to utopia....

The first thing that bothered us was Mr. Paul’s peculiar selectivity. If the intent is to compare societies where faith is common to societies where faith is not, why were some countries included and others excluded....

So it appears to us that Mr. Paul has selected data, both in terms of countries considered and specific crimes looked at, in such a way as to paint the picture that was already on his mind. As demonstrated above, a broader look at available data presents a far more nuanced picture....

In the mind of Gregory S. Paul, nothing good can come out of Christianity and religious faith. He has believed this for many years and has done his best to make his ideas available for public consumption. In this regard, bloggers who contacted The Journal of Religion and Society where Mr. Paul’s opus was published learned that the original draft made even greater claims for the data and had to be toned down.

We can’t fault him for his desire to share his ideas, that is after all the reason we blog and the essence of the blogoshpere, but we think it’s important to point when something is a conclusion based on scientific principles and methodologies and when it is part of a campaign (he would dislike the term crusade). Mr. Paul is a gifted illustrator but he is not a sociologist.
[via Verum Serum, HT: Magic Statistics]

Sunday, November 06, 2005

[via The Tar Pit]

A semi-random round-up of blogosphere coverage of the Muslim riots in Paris...{read more}

Friday, November 04, 2005

"Leave us not to ourselves..."

[via Unedited Ravings]

The stuff of life
The stuff of self...
Such drives ugly
And forgotten things
Out from dark corners.

All truth illumines;
If not wed with love,
It is unnatural
And murderous.
{read the rest}

Disabled Democracy

From From a Different Viewpoint:

People off all incomes should have equal access to government documents. And the law isn't nearly as clear in this respect as it is with respect to disability (although it can still be argued well). Not everyone is going to be interested in every report but it should be available to everyone. The government should not be looking to get a profit off reports. And even if they are just recouping costs, well they shouldn't be doing it at the expense of democratic participation. Taxes should be covering government documents so that everyone has access and it isn't limited to those that have enough money to buy them. Not everyone was interested in reports in the past or is now. But you could get a copy if you were interested by getting in contact with your MP. $50 is a lot of money to a person on disability and it is even more to a person on social assistance. And these are the people least likely to have a computer and internet connexion. It's an issue that doesn't get any real attention but is important. If you want to have a real functioning democracy it needs to be accessible.

Minority Politics

I put down the phone and I thought to myself, “How old am I?” When I was a young pastor, it was always we liberal, mainline pastors who were told, “Boy, you need to stick to saving souls and stay out of politics.” Now, the roles have switched. It’s mainly conservative, evangelical Christians who are more strongly mixing religion and politics. My, how things have changed.

Of course, mixing religion with politics is as old as our republic, and it remains one of the most distinctive aspects of American democracy....Americans have always mixed religion with politics.

And yet, this is not an easy mix, for reasons having to do with the nature of our politics and the nature of our religion....

For instance, a friend of mine is an Islamic scholar. He casually remarked one day that the Koran, the Holy Book of Muslims, has absolutely no instructions for how Muslims are to behave when they find themselves a minority, in a majority non-Muslim culture. If they find themselves in such a situation, they are to change the culture into a God fearing, (that is Islamic) culture.

Of course, you knew what I was thinking when he said this. I realized that in our Christian scriptures we have absolutely no instruction for how to behave when you have power, when you are in charge of things, when you are President of a bank or a Mayor of a town. All of our New Testament is distinctly minority literature, the literature of the powerless and the marginalized.

Jesus gave us a great deal of instruction on what to do after a divorce or what to do when someone slaps us on the right cheek, but no instruction on how to run a government. Jesus Christ was crucified by the greatest government the world had ever known, with the most noble system of laws that the world had ever known. Rome. That ought to teach us Christians to be very wary and suspicious when we encounter governments and their laws, even if they presume to be democratic.

In conversation with Jerry Falwell a number of years ago, I told Mr. Falwell that my main objection to him was that he acted like a “Methodist from the 1950’s.” I reminded him that it was liberal mainline Christians like me who said in the 1950’s, “Oh, if we can just get an invitation to the White House. Oh, if we could just get a few more Senators elected who have Christian principles in their souls. Then we will no problem between us and politicians.”

It has been years since I’ve heard Methodists talk like that. Now the only people talking like that are the people who follow Jerry Falwell.{read the whole thing}
[via A Peculiar Prophet, HT: View From the Basement]

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Not Courting Evangelicals

One of the historical oddities of George W. Bush's decision to nominate Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court is that if confirmed, he will establish a majority on the court of Roman Catholics. This fact hasn't gotten a lot of comment so far, in part because it is and should be irrelevant to his qualifications, and in part because hardly anyone noticed that Clarence Thomas reverted to his Catholic upbringing in recent years, joining Justices Scalia, Kennedy, and Chief Justice Roberts as Catholic members of SCOTUS.

Given the brief but intense campaign by some conservative evangelicals to tout Alito's unsuccessful predecessor, Harriet Miers, as establishing an "evangelical seat" on the Court, you have to wonder how they privately feel about yet another Catholic nomination....

None of this, of course, means politicized conservative evangelicals wouldn't be happy with a Justice like Alito, who on the key constitutional issues they care about, has nearly perfect views. But beneath the surface, you do have to wonder what they think about the heavy representation of their ancient enemy, as contrasted with their own invisibility, on an institution that they regard as one of the commanding heights of American society.
[via, HT: Jesus Politics]

Happy Trails...To You, Maybe!

Look up some old trailers, like Friday the 13th -Pt. 8 -Jason Takes Manhattan or Ghostbusters 1, and you'll see what I mean. Wow! Back then, they never even got CLOSE to spoiling a movie with the trailer. Nowadays, you still get that SOMETIMES. Mostly, you get enough in most trailers, you don't even have to put down that 7 or 8 bucks to see it, you just gotta go on cheap night and see another movie. One-liners, cheap shots (usually at some poor dude's crotch), and enough of whatever techno/hip hop/rock soundtrack the film makers have cooked up to sell to the public. I mean, old school trailers had class and made you want to plunk down that hard earned cash for the ticket and popcorn.
[via Phreakin' A]

Futile Fights?

When Liberal Christians go bad: "We cannot prevail in this struggle if we resort to the tactics of the haters."

When Conservative Christians go bad: "What's the threat again?....Sigh. I can't say I'm surprised by this."

[examples via Mainline Protestant]

Nowdays when someone says, "I love you," what they really mean is, "I feel sentiment toward you." So why not just say that? You feel a connection? Great! Say that.

To me, the word "love" could be replaced by "cooperate with." If I love God, I want to cooperate with God, not sit on my ass praying up a bunch of sentiment. If I love my brothers and sisters, I want to cooperate with them in their lives and plans instead of passively saying how much I care for them. If I love my enemies, I may not feel so well toward them, but I will cooperate enough in their lives as to understand them better, and to learn that they are not all bad. Cooperation can be as little as listening sometimes. But this is the real kind of listening, not the "uh huh" listening we all like to do to one other.
[via Been There...Still There]

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Systemic Health

The good news about the avian flu is that while researchers have found that it resembles the "Spanish Flu" that killed between 50-100 million people worldwide in 1918 and 1919, it's also responsive to today's anti-virals, which didn't exist back in the day.

Hopefully the next pandemic influenza strain will be at least partially responsive to existing flu vaccines. They'll be available disproportionately in the wealthy states of the developed world. When enough people within a community get vaccinated it elevates what's known as the population's "herd immunity" and makes disease transmission slower and easier to contain.

The rest of the story is bad news. The 1918 pandemic left many of the elderly and the infirm alive and wiped out young, vigorous, healthy people. The pandemic of 1830-32 is believed to have been just as severe, but there were fewer people in the world. We dodged bullets in 1957 and 1968, with pandemics that brought far fewer fatalities.

Every year between 10-15 times as many Americans die from the flu as perished on 9/11....

If we have a pandemic this winter or the next – a virulent and deadly one – our healthcare system will shut down fast enough to make your head spin.
[via The Gadflyer]

You Were Expecting...A Moderate?

Where do you begin with the ghosts in the stories about U.S. Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito Jr.? It is hard to cover the territory, even if you limit yourself to The Washington Post. Let’s try to tiptoe through the minefield. But let me warn you right up front: I remain convinced that the key to this whole story is the old question, “Who gets to control the word ‘moderate?’”

This is a variation on the question I keep asking: If liberals are in favor of the status quo, which used to be called “abortion on demand,” and conservatives support a complete ban on legal abortion, what do the “moderates” want?

Of course, we already know the MSM answer to these questions. Moderates want to maintain the legal status quo and so do liberals. Thus, there are no real liberals.{read more}
[via GetReligion, emphasis mine]

Monday, October 31, 2005

Happy Reformation Day!

[Thanks Eric from The Wittenburg Door Chat Closet!]


The Reformation Polka
by Robert Gebel

[Sung to the tune of "Supercalifragilistic-expialidocious" ]

When I was just ein junger Mann I studied canon law;
While Erfurt was a challenge, it was just to please my Pa.
Then came the storm, the lightning struck, I called upon Saint Anne,
I shaved my head, I took my vows, an Augustinian! Oh...

Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation
Speak your mind against them and face excommunication!
Nail your theses to the door, let's start a Reformation!
Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation!

When Tetzel came near Wittenberg, St. Peter's profits soared,
I wrote a little notice for the All Saints' Bull'tin board:
"You cannot purchase merits, for we're justified by grace!
Here's 95 more reasons, Brother Tetzel, in your face!" Oh...

Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation
Speak your mind against them and face excommunication!
Nail your theses to the door, let's start a Reformation!
Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation!

They loved my tracts, adored my wit, all were exempleror;
The Pope, however, hauled me up before the Emperor.
"Are these your books? Do you recant?" King Charles did demand,
"I will not change my Diet, Sir, God help me here I stand!" Oh...

Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation -
Speak your mind against them and face excommunication!
Nail your theses to the door, let's start a Reformation!
Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation!

Duke Frederick took the Wise approach, responding to my words,
By knighting "George" as hostage in the Kingdom of the Birds.
Use Brother Martin's model if the languages you seek,
Stay locked inside a castle with your Hebrew and your Greek! Oh...

Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation -
Speak your mind against them and face excommunication!
Nail your theses to the door, let's start a Reformation!
Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation!

Let's raise our steins and Concord Books while gathered in this place,
And spread the word that 'catholic' is spelled with lower case;
The Word remains unfettered when the Spirit gets his chance,
So come on, Katy, drop your lute, and join us in our dance! Oh...

Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation -
Speak your mind against them and face excommunication!
Nail your theses to the door, let's start a Reformation!
Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation!

If "evil twin" isn't enough...

Perhaps I should be an "ex-straight woman gender reassigned into a man who is left behind". Then, I'd resemble the straight man I normally am, but be a lesbian man instead. Hmmmm....

With tragedy, any day can be a new year.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Grinch, The Freak

Halloween is Grinch Night:

The Grinch later appeared in a few more specials, and although they weren't as popular as his original Christmas outing, they're well-liked among the viewers. The Grinch returned to animation in the 1977 special Halloween is Grinch Night, in which he sets off to scare everyone in Whoville due to being bothered by a chain reaction of annoying sounds caused by the wind. There, he was voiced by Hans Conried. Later, in 1982, he starred in The Grinch Grinches the Cat in the Hat, where he attempts to ruin things for fellow Seuss star The Cat in the Hat. Most recently, he was a recurring character on the 1996 kids' show The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss, where he was voiced by Anthony Asbury.
[via Wikipedia, emphasis mine]

I think, "Better dead than condone torture."
[via Mainstream Baptist]

NOT a Hallowe'en Prank

David Gates of Newsweek makes a nearly perfect comparison regarding novelist Anne Rice’s late work, Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt — “It’s the most startling public turnaround since Bob Dylan’s ‘Slow Train Coming’ announced that he’d been born again.”...

Include me among those relieved that Rice has not signed on to a pre-trib rapture eschatology. Nothing would send her career to a quicker doom than becoming a featured speaker at National Religious Broadcasters.
[via Get Religion]

Voter Guides

The decision by former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore to enter the race to be Alabama's next governor ensures that the campaign will be filled with lots of God talk. Though Moore has stated the Ten Commandments will not be part of his campaign, it will be hard for him to keep that promise. After all, the only reason he has a platform from which to run for governor is the notoriety created by his public stand on the issue....

Here's an idea. Since everyone in the governor's race so far is a Christian, why not allow Christian virtue and ethics to shape the tone and the content of the contest. If folks are intent on wearing Jesus on their sleeves, then let's insist that Jesus be their guide.

For instance, since Christians are instructed to "love one another," why don't we call upon candidates in this race live up to that high ideal? No mean-spirited ads, no baseless accusations, no mudslinging. To do so would create the most atypical political campaign in Alabama history, but it might be refreshing.

Also, since all the candidates are also Bible believers, why not get together with all the parties, open the New Testament and put together a platform that conforms to the teaching of Jesus.

For instance, remember the rich young ruler? Jesus told him that before he could become a follower he would need to sell all his possessions and give the money to the poor.
[via Jesus Politics]