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]

Sunday, October 23, 2005

[via hitnatzrut]

Newsflash: Etymology is so often used as alchemy, it isn't magic... even in Hebrew.

A ceasefire is just a lasting peace that underacheives.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Intended Resolution

[quoted at Sean the Baptist]

If it is possible to interpret, then it is also possible to misinterpret; and to claim that misinterpretation has taken place is to engage in the practice of interpretative disagreement. In itself, disagreement is an ethically neutral act. It does not necessarily imply that one party is doing violence to the other, that a human right to freedom of speech is under attack, or that there has been a failure to understand the other's point of view. The ethical risks that accompany disagreement are perhaps no greater than those attending other practices, such as the avoidance of conflict. Disagreement is always an act rather than just an occurrence, and those who engage in it do so on the basis of means and ends they regard as appropriate and rational. Most important of all, disagreement presupposes a shared concern and thus an acknowledgment of community rather than a retreat into isolation. It always intends its own resolution, even if this can only be attained in the form of a negotiated compromise or an agreement to differ.{emphasis mine}
--Francis A. Watson, Paul and the Hermeneutics of Faith (London/New York: T & T Clark International 2004), 24-25

When In Roma...

The Gypsies, who now prefer to be called Roma, are the new Jews of Eastern Europe. The Roma unfortunately appear to have all of the disadvantages of the Jews without any of their advantages. While the Jewish Question has largely been "solved" due to the mass murder of the Holocaust and mass emigration of the survivors, the Roma remain a large, stateless, and often persecuted people throughout the region.

Ethnic Romanians are not always thrilled about the group name change because Roma sounds like, well, Romanian. The Roma form a sizeable minority of Romania's population but no one quite knows how many Roma there are--estimates range from 500,000 to 2 million out of Romania's 22 million people. Slavery of the Roma persisted in Romania until the mid-nineteenth century. Many Roma were also murdered during the Holocaust....

Prejudice toward Roma often bears a striking resemblance to anti-Semitism where Jews become the symbol of the Other and are blamed for all of the world's problems. Just as Jews were often blamed simultaneously for capitalism and communism, Roma today are often attacked as wealthier than other people due to mafia-style activity and as dirty, poor people in the next breath....

The problems appear so huge and difficult to solve that it makes America's racial problems appear almost trivial in comparison. At least American blacks and whites share a largely common culture. As Professor Henry Louis Gates provocatively likes to point out, African Americans have far more in common culturally with David Duke than with most people in Black Africa.
[via The Gadflyer]

Plentiful Irony

Look at the symbiotic model in nature - the delicate balance between predator, prey, and population. It is a common enough belief that a population never expands beyond its food supply's ability to sustain them. If they did, they would starve and die off. Yet look at humanity - the only organism on the planet that exists in such a state of overpopulation. And we will go on overpopulating because we place no limits on ourselves. We are producing food for a population many times our current size. And millions are starving. Yet our first solution is "produce more food" rather than population control. We are living outside of the order that every other creature on the planet has lived under since the beginning, and we're suffering for it.
[via This Great Arument]

And in the comments to that post:
It really isn't so much a matter of whether or not we are willing to follow the planet's rules. We can't "give up dominion." We've never had it. Not completely. The earth is much bigger, and much more devastating than us. It can live without us. We can't live without it. One way or the other, the planet will win. Whether or not we also win depends on whether we are on the same team with the planet. Otherwise at the very least, we will all lose.

Friday, October 21, 2005

True Modesty

What if every possible affirmation that can be made of God, even by the so-called religions of revelation, falls so far short of the truth of God as to be false? Who is the atheist then? The glib God-talk that infuses public discourse in contemporary America descends from an anthropomorphic habit of mind, dating to the Bible and beyond, that treats God like an intimate friend or well-known enemy, depending on the weather and the outcome of battles. But there is another strain in the Biblical tradition that insists on the radical otherness of God, an otherness so complete that even the use of the word ‘’God” as a name for this Other One is forbidden. According to this understanding, God is God precisely in escaping and transcending comprehension by human beings. This can seem to mean that God is simply unknowable. If so, humans are better off not bothering about it. Atheism, agnosticism, or childish anthropomorphism — all the same.

But here is where it gets tricky. What if God’s unknowability is the most illuminating profundity humans can know about God? That would mean that religious language, instead of opening into the absolute certitude on which all forms of triumphal superiority are based, would open into true modesty. The closed creation, in which every question has an answer, would be replaced by an infinite cosmos where every answer sparks a new question. If what we mean by ‘’God” is the living pulse of such open-endedness, then God is of no use in systems of dominance, censorship, power. God is everywhere, yes. But, also, God is nowhere. And that, too, shows in America, especially in its fake religiosity.
--James Carroll, quoted at living theology

The Shocking Truth

1 In late July, the Metro Chicago Synod heard that Jesus was attracting more first-time visitors and baptizing more adults than any other ELCA pastor in the city, 2 although in fact it was not really Jesus who had baptized them, but his irregularly-commisioned staff of unordained lay ministers. 3 Now when Jesus learned of this, he left the seminary community in Hyde Park and went back once more toward the ELCA headquarters on Higgins Road.

4 Now to get there, he had to go through an area just north of downtown called Boystown. 5 So he came to a part of Boystown called Northhalsted, not far from the plot of ground where Emperor Mayor Daley had ordained that the Chicago Cubs should play baseball. 6 Cub's Stadium was near there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey on the Red Line, sat down at a sidewalk café table outside the bar called Hydrate. It was just about lunch-time, and though the rainbow flags were fluttering in the breeze and the music inside the bar was pumping, there weren't many people around (because it's often hot and miserable outside, at mid-day in late July, in Chicago).

7 A waiter came to the table, wearing a bright pink "His+His" t-shirt and a "Silence=Death" armband, and raised one eyebrow at the man seated at the table in front of him in the "Come Follow Me" t-shirt. Jesus said to him, "Will you give me a drink?" 8 (All the lay ministers had gone down the street to pick up Subway sandwiches for the rest of the journey.)

9 The gay man said to him, " tell me. After all, you appear to be a straight Christian, and I'm a gay man. Let's face it - we don't get many religious folks in Boystown, let alone places like this. And I'm not only a gay man, but I'm a Muslim gay man. So where does a guy like you get off asking someone like me for a drink?" (For Christians do not associate with gays, nor with Muslims if they can help it.) {Intrigued? Read More}
[via Ragamuffin Ramblings, HT: dissonant bible]

Being, Not Doing

And here’s what really trips me up: I’m not convinced you can clearly define good anyway. Snap shots can make good and bad appear simplistically separate, simplistically clear, but really, aren’t the two more often mixed up? Sometimes it’s the most awful things, the most ugly or evil or extraordinarily pathetic, that lead to positive action. Don’t they? Like figuring out tough class or race-related things in Katrina’s aftermath. Like wounded people turning into healers. Some of history’s biggest embarrassments have been the reason why myriad smaller tragedies haven’t happened, or have actually gotten cared about.

And sometimes it’s the most well-intentioned things ever – the ones dreamed up by people doggedly committed to making the world a better place – that really, really screw things up. Think manifest destiny. Think over-protective parenting. Think any number of technological “advances,” and the Hiroshimas and global warmings and massive oil spills pluming in their wakes.

So. What does it mean for me to “try to do good”? What do I presuppose in even asking such a question?

While I won’t try answering that, I will give my conclusion. You ready?

I know that “good” and “bad” are difficult to separate sometimes, and that the “good” I try to do may actually harm someone, or mess up something better. But I’m thinking that’s par for this messy life-course. And I’m certainly not excited about doing nothing because I convince myself that no matter what I do (or don't do, as the case may be) is part of life’s yin and yang.

So my conclusion? I want to try to do good in the world because that’s what I like to do. I like it. It makes me hopeful. I like it better than doing nothing, and I like it better than knowingly doing bad. And heck if I understand my complex mix of motives better than that.
[via [un]Veilings]


...justification by politics is just another form of works-righteousness. We are all saved, and not by our own doing, or our political beliefs.
[via I am a Christian Too]

If I Have to Approve...

SO I have to wonder. Who are my jailers now? And who would I like them to be?
[via Following Frodo, emphasis mine]

Uh...isn't that supposed to be Christmas?

I hate the commercialization of this once great pagan festival, what was once a time from family and neighbors has been turn into nothing more than a tool for more crass consumerism - once again we have let the marketer take over a religious holiday and all we are left with is empty spirituality and empty wallets - its about time we put back the "hallow" back in halloween"
---Hassan [via The Wittenburg Door's Chat Closet]

What Would Jesus Do?

Last night Cole got talking about Christmas. The entire conversation centered around Santa and presents and I gently tried to remind him that Christmas wasn't about the stuff we get, it's about the baby Jesus.

He looked at me with a wave of panic and hollered "We have to get the baby Jesus born so he can die on the cross!"
[via Life in My Vortex]

Not Quite Right...

I know you’ve probably heard this all before, but it’s frustrating when something so powerful in my life is diminished to something that I am not in the eyes of those around me.
[via Estelle]

Uh...Eternal Life, Please?

As the Church was going on its way, a young man ran up to it and fell on his knees before it. "Good teacher, "he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"

The Church smiled down at him. "How about joining an Alpha course or Emmaus or one of our weekly study groups? Or maybe you'd like to train as a chalice-bearer or sidesman?"

The man was puzzled. Very few of the words the Church had used meant anything to him at all.
[via dissonant bible]

People who are certain use the Bible to become wise, yet become fools.

People who are doubtful use the Bible to receive direction, yet become lost.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Uhhh...should I be a chicken, then?

Eagles may soar, but weasels aren't sucked into jet engines."

- unknown
[via Quotidian Light]


By the modern Christian definition, if your little girl dresses up as a ballerina and begs for candy with the rest of the kids on her block, you might as well buy her a first-class ticket to hell.

If your little boy dresses up as a ballerina, I suspect that falls under a weightier concern, but let's not get off topic....

It was especially difficult in explaining to my friends why I could not go to the latest horror film with them. Movies like Amityville Horror and Poltergeist weren't tantalizing to me because they represented a reality (however skewed by Hollywood to titillate and thrill) that could never be conceived by my friends.

This led my friends to consider me a "weenie," meaning I was irrationally fearful of things that were not real.

I have learned to revel in my weenieness because it has kept me out of a lot of trouble. This also translates to a general objection to Halloween. People joke about things that I recognize as being very real. They make light of things I find offensive.

If I put up a Nazi flag in my front yard and played loud-speaker recordings people screaming in anguish for Halloween, I would be facing harsh judgment on many fronts. Why? Because people have an understanding of the real evil of fascism and bigotry -- as well as the genocide committed in the name of that flag. Play that same scene with cobwebs and faces of demons with glowing eyes, and I'm just "in the spirit" of the event.
[via The Gaddabout, emphasis mine]

What is It Enough?

Much off what we absorbed at last night’s Worship Freehouse is now posted.
Here are some of the highlights:{read more}
[via Unedited Ravings]

Compassion Fear and Fatigue

The rumours are true! Disaster donations are dwindling....

If bird flu ever mutates to hurt humans, it could be worse than all of these disasters put together. This said, fear--of this or anything else--is even worse.
[via EternaLee]

Hope is dangerous if pointed in the wrong direction.

---Jeremy[noted in comments to this post at]

Hope is coming out tonight
Knocking at the door
You've got to let that stranger in
Looking at your soul
Looking at your soul

A peeling and a shedding mind
Changing what we are worth
Blessed are the meek somehow
Taking in the earth
They are taking in the earth

And all this talk of love and peace
And wanting something true
Well peace can cut the rope sometimes
That's holding on to me and you
That's holding on to me and you

[from the Sarah Masen Hope]

Preserving Communion

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
For by it the men of old gained approval.
not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.
If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.
By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous, God testifying about his gifts, and through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks.
If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.
By faith Enoch was taken up so that he would not see death; AND HE WAS NOT FOUND BECAUSE GOD TOOK HIM UP; for he obtained the witness that before his being taken up he was pleasing to God.
not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.
not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.
not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going.

By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise; for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.
not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered Him faithful who had promised.
If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.
Therefore there was born even of one man, and him as good as dead at that, as many descendants AS THE STARS OF HEAVEN IN NUMBER, AND INNUMERABLE AS THE SAND WHICH IS BY THE SEASHORE. All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.
not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.
If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.
By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son; it was he to whom it was said, "IN ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS SHALL BE CALLED." He considered that God is able to raise people even from the dead, from which he also received him back as a type.
If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.
By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau, even regarding things to come. By faith Jacob, as he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff. By faith Joseph, when he was dying, made mention of the exodus of the sons of Israel, and gave orders concerning his bones.

By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful child; and they were not afraid of the king's edict. By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward.
If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.
By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen.
If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.
By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of the blood, so that he who destroyed the firstborn would not touch them. By faith they passed through the Red Sea as though they were passing through dry land; and the Egyptians, when they attempted it, were drowned. By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days.
not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish along with those who were disobedient, after she had welcomed the spies in peace.
If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.
And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection; and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were ut to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground.
not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect.
not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul.
If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.
Main quote: Heb. 11: 1-40, 12: 1, 10:35, 39 {NASB}

Fragments: Eph. 2:9, I Cor. 13:2b {NASB}

Monday, October 17, 2005

Needs, Not Wants

Service can be so touchy if we go into it thinking about how excited *we* are about doing our pet service activity. We can invest too much in the planning and ownership of that activity, so that it becomes all about us instead of all about truly meeting the needs of those we claim to wish to serve. We get offended and think that others just be grateful for our help. We need always to keep our focus away from what we think would be best and on those we are serving and what they really would want to receive rather than what we want to give. Otherwise, we are really only serving ourselves.
[via The Common Room, emphasis mine]

Tempting, but should I bite the apple?

Found an admirable tome but it's in praise of the wrong god? Faith Converter is a godsend for priests, vicars, rabbii and holy men of all descriptions. Preach next Sunday's sermon from the Vedas, Noble Eightfold Path, Torah or Das Kapital!

The premier theological plagiarism solution for OS X, Faith Converter converts text between twenty-seven different religions, encompassing Atheism, Biopsychosocialism, Buddhism, Christianity, Communism, Confucianism, Druidism, Falun Gong, Hinduism, Islam, Juche, Judaism, Keynesianism, Linux, MacEvangelism, Mahanism, Maoism, NIMBYism, Roman, Scientology, Shinto, Sikh, Stalinism, Taoism, Thatcherism, Trotskyism and Veganism.
[via Thinking Christian(.NET)]

Missing Peace?

Silence is consent, and consent can quickly become licence.

As Christian people we must be held accountable ultimately for what is happening to our brothers in Iraq, the birthplace of Abraham (patriarch of the three great monotheistic world religions) and site of the Garden of Eden. If this were the Middle Ages, a crusade would be launched from Europe.

The sacrifice of an ancient Christian way of life in Iraq is an extremely large price to pay for democracy and cheaper world oil prices. You may not appreciate the significance of the UN’s recent objection to the new Iraqi constitution in which Article 7 enshrines Islam as the “official religion of the state”.

The UN was a single voice crying in the wilderness, a voice of hope and reason, a voice which recognises the territorial integrity of an ancient land, its culture and history, and a voice standing up for the rights of the minorities. In advocating caution, the UN was doing its duty to defend the true principles of democracy and human rights.
{emphasis mine}
[via Irish, HT: Advesaria (Alastair)]

Not Over Yet

"The implications for dissidents, including religious dissenters, as well as for legitimate political opposition, women, religious minorities and non-believers, are quite troubling and ominous," said Freedom House Executive Director Jennifer Windsor." There is a real risk that all these groups will face serious dangers in the new Iraq, " she said.

Iraq now joins three other states with constitutions that provide for sharia experts who are not required to have civil law education on their Supreme Courts: Iran, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan. "These are not the models that new democracies should be emulating," said Ms. Windsor.

A constitutional provision related to the composition of the Supreme Court poses a threat of rule by Islamic jurists in Iraq, which could directly contribute to sectarian divisions within the country. Protections of the rights of women, and freedom of expression and belief are also in danger, as suggested by the case of Afghanistan, where the first act of the chief judge of the Supreme Court was to bring blasphemy charges against the only woman cabinet member on the basis that she criticized sharia.
[via Freedom House, HT: Get Religion]

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Purpose-Driven Hostage?

According to Rick Warren, this is how God works.

Now, it doesn't pose all that much of a public relations problem for Ashley Smith and her publisher since she's just a poor, confused recovering drug addict and mental patient who has been through so much in life that nobody with a heart and a hanky is about to hold her responsible for anything prior to her kidnapping, and probably after - especially if she continues to repeat the line that has helped so many busted celebrities over the years: "Yes, I've made some mistakes in the past; but I'm putting it all behind me now and moving on with my life" - which happens to be in keeping with Rick Warren's "accept yourself, love yourself, forgive yourself, believe in yourself and be true to yourself" gospel of self-esteem that he so courageously proclaimed in the March 2005 issue of The Ladies Home Journal.

This does, however, present a potentially explosive public relations nightmare for "America's Pastor" and his Purpose Driven Premise among more biblically minded evangelicals since he specifically used Ashley Smith's "miracle" to help market himself, his books, his programs and his Peace Plan to fellow Christians, many of whom believe that crystal meth is not a fruit of the Spirit. In fact, I believe the hostage crisis was even called the "high water mark" for his book; and this, my friends was the point of my Purpose Driven Hostage commentary that some seemed to miss.
{emphasis mine}
[originally at News With, noted at The Wittenburg Door]

No wonder Christians in America have Karma:

...we come to what perhaps is the symbolic low point of the whole dark process of Constantinian Christianity, a Christianity of violent power, prestige, prerogative, and property, all supported by ways and means contrary to the explicit teaching of Jesus. The low point of this process, it seems to me, occurs on August 9th, 1945. For on August 9th, 1945, a Christian bomb crew takes off from Tinian Island in the South Pacific, with the blessing of the Catholic and Protestant chaplains, and flies to drop the second atomic bomb. It’s original destination is Kokura Japan, but, in the mystery of reality, Kokura is clouded in, and it can’t drop the bomb, so it goes on to the secondary target, Nagasaki. And it gets over Nagasaki and it too is clouded in, and so there’s a problem. But then there’s a break in the clouds, and what they see below is the landmark they need to see, that they’ve been briefed on: the largest Christian church in all of Japan, the Nagasaki Urakami Cathedral. And using that as Ground Zero, they released the second of the atomic bombs. They release it on Nagasaki, the original, the oldest, and the largest Christian community in all of Japan. The community that Saint Francis Xavier founded when he went there.

Nagasaki is famous in Japanese Christian history. It went through almost 200 years of Imperial Japanese persecution; it lived a catacomb existence for that time, and it survived and flourished. The Jesuit martyrs of Nagasaki are famous; there are paintings and drawings of them, because the Japanese Imperial Government used to say, looking at the cross, “If that’s your Saviour, imitate him,” and they used to crucify them. And there’s drawings of crucified Christians, 40, 60, 80 of them together. And what the Imperial Japanese Government could not do in 200 years, Christians did to each other in 9 seconds. The entire community was evaporated. And the misery and agony of that destruction goes on in the Christian community of Nagasaki and its surroundings to this very day, as children and grandchildren are born with unimaginable death and disease inside them.
--Father Emmanuel Charles McCarthy, emphasis mine

[via Sister Earth]

Not a Gesture of Charity

"Biblical justice does not mean we should merely help victims cope with oppression; it teaches us to remove it." - Ron Sider

"Those who cannot see the face of Christ in the poor are atheists indeed." - Dorothy Day

"Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life. While poverty persists, there is no true freedom." - Nelson Mandela
[via The Worship Freehouse]

Clear, Consistent Call's not about gay marriage? Sigh. All that wasted energy...

The reason the people of God should respond to the physical, material needs of the poor is because our lives are formed by the church, and the church is formed by the careful, truthful reading of scripture, and scripture clearly, consistently calls us to respond to the physical, material needs of the poor. That clear, consistent call emerges as early as Exodus and lingers as late as I John. In Exodus 22:25, the Bible says, “If you lend money to the poor you shall not charge them interest.” In Leviticus 19:9-10, the Bible says, “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the edges of your field. You shall leave the edges for the poor.” In Deuteronomy 15:7-11, the Bible says, “Do not be hard-hearted or tight-fisted toward your needy neighbor. The poor will always be with you, therefore I command you, open your hand to the poor.” In Proverbs 17:5, the Bible says, “Those who mock the poor insult the Lord.” In Isaiah 1:17, the Bible says, “Rescue the powerless, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.” In Isaiah 58:7, the Bible says, “Share your bread with the hungry, bring the homeless poor into your homes. When you see the naked clothe them.” In Luke 3:10, the Bible says, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none.” In Luke 6:30, the Bible says, “Give to anyone who begs from you.” In Luke 14:13, the Bible says, “When you give a dinner, invite the poor.” In James 2:15-16, the Bible says, “If a brother or sister lacks adequate clothing and daily food, and one of you says, “God bless you” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what good is that?” In I John 3:17, the Bible says, “How can God’s love abide in anyone who has this world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses to help them.

There is no shortage of mysteries about the Bible. There are a number of issues on which the Bible speaks with more than one voice, leaving us to choose and interpret among those many voices. But when it comes to the subject of the poor, the vulnerable and the powerless, there is no question about what the Bible says.
---from "Why?" by Charles E. Poole

[also via The Baptist Studies Bulletin]

Proclamation of Politics

Turning from proclamation to politics, however, requires much duplicitous testimony. In public, politically powerful preachers will declare that the nation must acknowledge allegiance to God and will contend that the public square would be naked without meaningful references to Deity. In court, slick lawyers will argue that the oath in the pledge does not establish a religion because the words “under God” have “no significant religious content."

How fundamentalist Christians can so callously profane the name of their Lord–making it legally meaningless and publicly bearing false witness about it–reveals something about the depth of either their understanding or their spirituality, especially when they are leading a simultaneous crusade to post the Decalogue in public places. That, however, is another story.
-- from "Fundamentalism's Devious Debates for Established Religion" By Bruce Prescott

[via The Baptist Studies Bulletin]

Wishes Aren't Fishes

Then, one night, I had a dream that I lost my home and everything I owned in a fire. Everyone has disaster dreams; I'd had them before. Usually, you wake up, you shake it off, you say a prayer of thanks if you're smart, and then you go back to sleep.

But I kept having those dreams -- consciously, I knew it was because of the way I'd immersed myself in worrying about the aftermath of Katrina and Rita, and the horrifying impact the storms had had on thousands of people. It was purely an accident of geography that I wasn't in the same situation as all those people. And why did I live here? Why did I have things so many others didn't have? Was I worthy? Shouldn't it be taken away if I was reckless with it?

The idea of loss stuck with me into the next day, week... month. I started wondering what I'd do if I lost my job. I started thinking about what I should start acquiring, just in case my luck ran out. I talked to my friend who lost so much in Katrina about how he was picking up the pieces, and I thought about how quickly everything in my life could change for the worse, too. I could be destitute in the blink of an eye....

I'd gone from wishlists to possessions to guilt to fear in sixty days or less. It was such a waste of emotion and an unthankful way to look at my life -- whether I was wanting for money and dreaming of shopping or loathing myself for having more than the bare minimum, I was cultivating ingratitude on a grand scale.

When I look at both sides of the coin now, I'm embarrassed.

And I'm seeing things more clearly now. And enjoying life more.

I figured out that I needed to organize my spending more in order to start giving to others in a deliberate, organized, need-based way. I decided to start saving and planning ahead for things like houses and cars, because those things might end up feeling like possibilities for me one day. And I decided to practice thankfulness instead of materialism as soon as I would feel my wishlists kicking in, while at the same time, allowing myself a few things here and there that gave me a sense of satisfaction to earn.

Tonight, I learned that one of my roommates is moving on in a short while, which throws my financial picture into a bit of turmoil again. What is extra now is probably going to be assigned to fresh costs in months to come.

But I refuse to feel like I am making steps backward.

There is no backward for me anymore, or a particular state of income or lack of income that is going to create either greater peace or greater guilt in my life. As soon as money starts to dominate my thoughts like that, I know that I need to get a serious dose of perspective either way. It's just stuff -- or a lack of stuff, if you will.

And whatever happens, I'm going to be okay. Because wishlists are not what matter -- living is. And I haven't managed to stop doing that yet.
[via Blogcabin, emphasis mine]

Friday, October 14, 2005

[via States of Being]

In the final hour of
metamorphosis, the
anticipation is sharpest,
cutting through the
remnants of our hopes,
razors skimming across
the rind’s outer layers.
Errant breezes flicker
the emergent projections,
stridently questing.

It’s what we don’t get
enough of that drives
our lusts; desperately
striving to break our hearts.
Perspective convergences
flaunt our limitations,
our eagerness to underscore
and vivisection our lives.
It is not as if the struggle
has made us any stronger.

from the poem Butterfly Conspiracies by Melissa Songer

Motivating Justice

I continue to be persuaded, through this and other events, that there are very few people who literally do not want to help end hunger, or who don’t care about those suffering (although there are a few in that camp or whose motives are too mixed for me to understand). I think that what is more often the case, is that people feel overwhlemed by the complexity and enormous size of the problem, hear competing views on how and who should/can help contribute to ending hunger, and through guilt or busyness or not knowing how to start small with the problem, they give up or feel like they are personally not connected to it. Sometimes people choose to take on a watered-down version of a ’cause’ and then push in small ways that are popular or easy to do without any deeper commitment (think every Miss America contestant’s dream to end world hunger or establish world peace). Sometimes people become very ‘anti’ or ‘against’ different issues, retaliating in anger or frustration to complex issues, but seem unable to find something they are for or a way to constructively build toward a better vision or solution. Sometimes people are able to find a way to start helping, through personal one-on-one charity or through advocacy to begin to change the systemic issues involved in world hunger. Sometimes people seem to elect to be in the ‘business of social justice’ - and I am somewhat in this group - where their personal goals and interests become very comingled with the goals of bringing justice or helping others. This can be a very rewarding, and a very dangerous, place to be.

[a poem of mine today]


Unfinished business
Squats like addictions
That refuse to leave
The premises unscathed

The deposit of damage
Devalues the property
Of making a difference
In the prison that rents us

We want something to blame
We want another refund
To build a better refuge
Against the market crash

This caste has been removed
As we just try to evict
The flaws that bring us down
And dispossess utopia.

[listen here at Numavox]

Racing Away


I'm still losin' Time
Like a traveler out of touch with the life he left behind
This world ain't my home
I'm a stranger in my own backyard
But I'll never be alone

Time is so precious we waste it
Freedom so sweet we can taste it
But there are no boundaries in my dreams I go


Racing Away
On the Wings of Elijah, I'm on my way
Racing Away, to an endless season, to a better day

Please watch over me
From the breaking of the sunrise
'Til the end of every day
And every star you see
Above the crystal sky will mark the road where I will be

I lift my eyes to a new day
I see the world in a new way
Knowing no boundaries in my dreams I go


Nothing we do ever works out the way we plan
Some things we're meant to know some we don't understand
Nothing we do ever works out the way we plan
There's a place I see, beyond my mind
When it's time to leave this world behind

I lift my eyes to a new day
I see the world in a new way
Knowing no boundaries in my dreams I go

Copyright 1994 Kerygmatic Music / Art Street Music

[from When Things Get Electric by Kerry Livgren]

All Sides, No Main Course

I'd been working for five hours without a break, catching up to tomorrow's orders so that she wouldn't fly into a frenzy if there was anything left for her to do and now she was leaving the lab without relieving me? Everything was finished, because I'm amazing, when I work to my potential. I was cool with her walking out the door; in fact, it was prefered. But, I wasn't going to do her order without first having some lunch. Not out of spite. I was just hungry.

I can see why they get angry. I can see why I lose motivation. I can see all sides, objectively. My vision is 20/20. The problem I have is in keeping diplomacy about me.

There was a sticky note waiting for me when I came into work: 'Interpersonal Relations Course Cancelled due to lack of interest.'

I had signed up. I'd been the only one. Maybe it is just me.

Then again. Maybe it's all of them.
[via Cat on a Hot Tin Roof]


It would seem that the Hospitals and those who worked in them, felt they had very few options as Katrina moved ashore.

Reading the accounts is like reading fiction. It's amazing.

{read more}
[via Randall Friesen]

Spoiled Religion

Jan LaRue, chief counsel for the Washington-based Concerned Women for America, a conservative Christian group, said the fact that Miers is an evangelical and personally opposes abortion does not guarantee she would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade.

"Jimmy Carter claims to be an evangelical," she said, quoted in Time magazine, "and I wouldn't want to have him on the Supreme Court."

Robert Parham of the Baptist Center for Ethics said Dobson should still be required to testify under oath.

"Senator Specter should call Dobson to testify about what he asked Rove, what Rove told him and when they talked," Parham said. "Dobson's explanation of the exchange fails the smell test. On one broadcast, he claims insider information from the president's most trusted political adviser as the basis of his support for Miers. On a later broadcast, he shifts direction and downplays his special briefing. The public needs to know how the White House used a religious leader to do its bidding and how a religious right leader served as court prophet for the White House's agenda.

"The Dobson/Rove episode offers a sad example of spoiled religion—religion in which religious leaders get so close to political operatives that they lose discernment."
[via Ethics, emphasis mine]

The Furthest Away

Madagascar, though ostensibly a children's movie, is a great parable about the search for the unknown. Marty the zebra is frustrated with his life in the Central Park Zoo. He wants to see the wild, but the other animals are satisfied with their existence. Through some unique circumstances, the gang ends up in Madagascar, in the wild, a situation to which each animal has a different reaction. Marty loves it and makes the most of it; Melman the hypochondriac giraffe worries about his health and material concerns; Gloria the hippo ends up going with the flow and making the most of it; and Alex the lion resists the new surroundings the longest of all....

In the end, the animals are about to set sail for home, but they are not going home as they once were. They have all been changed, but it is Alex, the furthest away, who seems to have changed the most.
[via Life of Turner]

Monday, October 10, 2005

Making Things Timeless

The notion of "sustainability" is, at its essence, about time -- an intergenerational Golden Rule that promises that today's actions will ensure tomorrow's prosperity -- but most people's notions of "time" aren't particularly sustainable. We waste time, run out of it, and try futilely to manage it better. "Time is money," Benjamin Franklin declared in Poor Richard's Almanac, and many of us seem hellbent to maximize time's value, producing -- and consuming -- more and more along the way....

Could it be that our relationship to sustainability is similarly constrained by a perceived lack of freedom to make choices? Perhaps it's the assumption that "becoming sustainable" limits our options that's gotten so many of our leaders stuck on maintaining a status quo that nearly everyone intuitively senses can't last.
[via World Changing]

Loving Luck

I've been a bit down lately because of recent events, many of them global events, such as the recent horrific earthquake in South Asia, that has killed many thousands of people. Something struck me, and I brought up a Google box and hit the "I'm feeling lucky" button with the words "acts of kindness" as the search topic.

So, up pops this site: The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation.

Sometimes I question myself when I do strange things. But there must be some reason for my random whim to try the "I'm feeling lucky" feature that I've previously thought to be a bit useless. It's also going against how I truly feel lately. "Lucky" just doesn't capture it....

No, I don't feel very lucky at all, Google, so don't waggle your "lucky" button in my face, okay?
[via Infinite Wisdom or Absolute Idiocy?]

Be a Blessing. Break a Curse.

Musipedia...when you really want that tune in your head! From the website:

Welcome to Musipedia! Inspired by, but not affiliated with Wikipedia, we are building a searchable, editable, and expandable collection of tunes, melodies, and musical themes.

Every entry can be edited by anybody. An entry can contain a bit of sheet music, a MIDI file, textual information about the work and the composer, and last but not least the Parsons Code, a rough description of the melodic contour, to make the encyclopedia searchable by melody.

Musipedia uses the "Melodyhound" melody search engine. You can find and identify a tune even if the melody is all you know. You can play it on a piano keyboard, whistle or sing it to the computer, or directly use the Parsons code. To "name that tune", you don't need to know the key signature, exact rhythm, or intervals.

The Gospel against The World

At a church we recently finished I happened to be in the sanctuary alone a few days before their dedication Sunday. Upon seeing the American flag standing high and proud on the right side of the stage, I felt it was my duty to remove it and liberate them from their unthinking idolatry. So I removed the flag and hid it it a back storage room. (That I thought would be difficult to find because I was one of the few who worked on the storage room.) I immediately felt a little guilty. Who am I to take that kind of step of removing a piece of their stage setup? But as I thought about it longer I realized that I would be doing them a favor....

I was curious to see if the flag would be back on stage by Sunday. It was. But maybe I caused some little old patriotic lady to think for just a moment about why someone would have gone to the trouble of taking down the flag and hiding it in a back room. Maybe there will be a discussion about it at the next business meeting and someone will have the courage to ask why they need a flag on stage anyway. But it may simply remain on stage forever loudly proclaiming the gospel of America to a country already blinded to the rest of the world.
[via McCarty Musings, emphasis mine]


I'm an only child, so to me, doing things by myself feels normal. But, I hate it. The thing I crave the most, but struggle the most to accept is community. The biggest instance I can think of is my current living situation. A few months ago I was living in a two-room apartment with three other guys. It was community overload. By the end of it, I was frustrated with all of them, and hated going home. So, when I got my new apartment, I chose the other extreme. I live alone, and that was going well until I started school....

Community might be what I need, but I don't want to feel any worse today. I guess I'll just take a nap . . .
[via labelmeplease]

Up Short

When we attempt to understand the infinite with intellects that can only be described as finite, we will always come up short. Ironically, those who are convinced that they have God all figured out will be the ones who misunderstand the most.

What about Babel?
[via Theo Speak, emphasis mine]

Giving Thanks

I passed through the smell and noise and dark, and pushed the door open into the cold blustery wind and I realized with new appreciation just how thankful I actually was.

It was the day I learned about true gratitude.{read more}
[via Randall Friesen, emphasis mine]

Thursday, October 06, 2005

From Palmer's Journal:

"There is hope in the midst of hopelessness. Death is not where we lose; the onset of hopelessness is the great defeater. So allow hope to rise up within you. And when it seems that hopefulness is the least appropriate response in this situation, let is rise up even more. Whisper your hope when you lie down at night; scream your hope when you wake in the morning. Live your hope as if it is the one and only thing that sustains you in this ravaged world. You will not be disappointed."
[HT: Been There...Still There]

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Hating Less

The Catholic Church is eating itself alive, or maybe it's been dead for a long time -- I can't tell. It's disappointing, whatever the case may be. The Protestant denominations are either growing more extremist or splintering further. People are starving to death and it seems like the majority of AmeriChristians are busy bitching about birth control and "legislating from the bench" and how they're so persecuted because the big mean activist judges won't let them put the motherfucking Ten Commandments on public property. GET A GRIP.

I hate that my gut reaction, on learning Harriet Miers was an evangelical Christian, was "Oh fuck." I hate that derisive superiority I feel toward literal creationists. I hate that I love to make fun of them and call them hicks and ignoramuses (ignorami?). I hate this hateful person I'm turning into even more than I hate the people who think Jesus told them to make sure I can't get emergency contraception if I am raped.
In a follow-up post:
"If you're going to hate, hate the liars -- not the lied to." That was what my friend said today that gave me pause. Yeah, ideally there shouldn't be any hate at all, but sometimes you have to start smaller than that -- say, with hating less. With hating the hateful ideas, not the people who blithely espouse them.
[via Bad Catholic, emphasis mine]

Failed States

The one thing that history seems to reveal time again is that no one knows who’s going to fold first. The West might, with its self-conscious dithering and trepidation over its own power. So much of the world’s current security rests on America’s ability protect it. America might become over-stretched. China’s government might be broken by popular backlash from an economy that is prosperous for some but impoverishing for many. Islamofascists might only get as far as endless disruption without making any real political gains in opposing secularity; they offer no real spiritual alternative for living on this earth, only offering a glittering afterlife.

Each Weltanschauung may not be a wholly legitimate response to modernity, but all three pose legitimate questions as to how to address it. Failed states are confronted with all three ideologies. From their perspective, it isn’t obvious which Weltanschauung is the best model to pursue, or be subjected to. We should know who our competitors are on the world ideology market.
[via Donklephant, HT: A Sweet, Familiar Dissonance]

The Perfect Fool

Thanks 3 Quarks Daily for the link:

My portrait of the perfect fool of randomness is as follows: he does not believe in religion, providing entirely rational reasons for such disbelief. He opposes scientific method to superstition and blind faith. But alas, human skepticism appears to be quite domain-specific and relegated to the classroom. Somehow the skepticism of my fool undergoes a severe atrophy outside of these intellectual debates...

We humans are naturally gullible — disbelieving requires an extraordinary expenditure of energy. It is a limited resource. I suggest ranking the skepticism by its consequences on our lives. True, the dangers of organized religion used to be there — but they have been gradually replaced with considerably ruthless and unintrospective social-science ideology.

Religion gives many people solace. On a personal note I have to admit that I feel more elevated in cathedrals than in stock markets — be it only on aesthetic grounds. If I were going to be gullible about a subject, I would rather pick one that is the least harmful to my future — and one that is rewarding to my thirst for aesthetics.
[via Edge]

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

arise, arise, arise!
the time of one-click miracles is over

{the full poem here}

[via age of insomnia]

Less of an Answer

Postmodernism is typically known best for its rejection of absolutes. This has been a major clashing point for Christianity. Modernism was seen as compatible because it, at least, agreed with the Christian stance that there was an Absolute reality. We may disagree on what that reality is, but at least then we can debate on that. We stand on the same platform. It just comes down to who is more persuasive concerning the nature of the platform. Postmodernism rejects the very platform we stand on. No wonder it's such a scary thing to many. Yet, the rejection of absolutes is not the starting point for postmodern thought, but rather the conclusion of it. There are many presuppositions that postmodernists rest on to arrive at the statement that there is no Absolute Reality....

This leads me to my favorite quote of the day, "Ideology is the opiate of intellectuals." It provides not more, but less of an answer to the pain of experience. Utopia is only acheived when the few steal from the many to numb their own pain by gratifying every desire. The world goes to hell before dying, while the rich and privileged steal a slice of heaven before succumbing to the endless void that they have spent a lifetime distracting themselves from.
[via labelmeplease]

Government becomes the Problem

Of all the amusing things about the loony-bin slugfest that's shaping up among wingers over the nomination of Harriet Miers, the funniest has to be that she represents some kind of betrayal of conservative principles.

Au contraire, my fine feathered friends, this nomination is the culmination of 25 years of cynicism and brazen contempt for the very idea of government.

It started with Ronald Reagan being showered with praise for his political shrewdness in staffing government agencies with ideologues whose only qualification was unremitting hostility to the mission of the agency they were supposed to manage. It continued as GOP shills praised out-of-control Republican spending as the way to strait-jacket the government with debt, thereby keeping it from getting any bigger. And this is how it ends up: with the nomination of an unqualified stooge who helped out the boss on a couple of tough situations and now deserves a big payoff. After all, the guiding philosophy of winger-run Washington is to loot as much as possible while they have the keys to the house and access to all the credit cards. After all, if government is the problem and not the solution, then where's the dishonor in using government to enrich yourself and your buddies?
[via The Opinion Mill]

Mired by Meyers?

What will be the impact on the court? No one knows — but it's unrealistic to expect that the court won't move a bit (or more) further to the right. But, then, no one KNOWS.

What also isn't known is what her appointment will do to tensions already simmering within the Democratic party between those who want the party to take a harder, more uncompromising line with Republicans and take more clear-cut left positions and those who believe the party needs to move and drop its anchor in the center to be truly competitive.

Some Democrats were angry enough at other Democrats who supported Roberts. What will the the consequences this time? Or will many Democrats feel that they can cast a vote on Miers, even a losing vote, without it having to go into filibuster territory this time? The last vote on Roberts revealed a healthy split within the Democratic party. Will it be greater this time — to send a message to the party's activists that they're not forgotten? Or less — angering the activists?

Another issue: if Bush has not given conservatives the kind of candidate they really wanted on these two nominations, does this mean if one more seat opens up (which is likely the next three years) he'll name someone who veers harder to the right? Or, if this goes well, will the White House repeat the Roberts/Miers type of appointments?

And then there's the biggest and final issue: does this signal that the administration - battered by natural, political and legal crises - is turning a bit more towards a less confrontational style of governing as it moves into its final years?
[via The Moderate Voice, HT: The Conjecturer in this post]

Sold on Serenity

[via A Sweet, Familiar Dissonance]

The response to Serenity has been overwhelmingly positive. Here are a few of the reviews I've found.
{read more}

Also at A Sweet, Familiar Dissonance:
...Firefly and language. If you've ever had a problem with the characters in that show swearing in Chinese you need to read this. I have never had a problem with it but I always thought of it as merely an amusing device to get profanity past the censors - much more clever than making up silly sounding words that leave nothing to the imagination. But, as I just learned, this aspect of Firefly is much more realistic than I knew. Have I mentioned that I love the Internet?
[from this post]

If God were to die tonight, would we still be in hell?

If God were to die tonight, do you think most Christians would even notice?

...Would their wealth and “benevolence” find new outlets, or will preachers keep extorting money with false doctrines? Would they reconsider their hostility towards homosexuals, or would they simply find alternative rhetoric to defend their homophobia? Would they rethink their dogmatic political allegiances, or would they remain pawns of the same ideological con artists? Would anybody know if nobody told them?

....I question, because I don't find the message of reconciliation in mainstream Christianity - at least not in the manner that Paul explained it. It's mostly a conditional reconciliation, and God seems dead if you look at the fruits of how it influences people's lives. Some of their theology also leads me to believe that Jesus failed miserably in his mission on the Cross.
[via Grace Unzipped, emphasis mine]

Frankly, This is More Frightening

I was incredibly surprised. Popular culture's promotion of what "Frankenstein" is all about is notably distorted from the original novel. I remember watching the black-and-white version as a kid and it was nothing like the book. The book is phenomenal...

I was blown away by Shelley's writing and how so many themes were explored throughout the novel (which is captivating just as a story): human knowledge & technology, loneliness, the value of friendship, the majesty of nature, the power of written texts, God's heart for humanity, and taking affection for granted....

All in all, there's a reason certain books stand the test of time.
[via ~scottyd~]

The Story We Tell Ourselves

Americans have a set of stories that we tell also, stories of how we began as a nation, how we became who we are, stories of freedom and independence and triumphing over insurmountable odds. Those stories shape the basis for the way that we view reality. Others tell stories about us as well, stories that aren't so kind (but that deserve our hearing), stories about imperialism and oppression and might-makes-right. The worlds created by these two different sets of stories might, for example, determine whether one thinks of 9/11 as the work of "terrorists" or "martyrs". This is a fairly large oversimplification, but hopefully it gives some idea of what I mean when I talk about story forming the grid through which we view reality.

Back to intelligent design. This debate, really, has nothing at all to do with whether evolution happened. This is far more about the stories that we tell, stories of origins and beginnings and purpose and destiny. Both sides are fighting over the validity of their particular stories - and the validity of the stories that others tell. Neither side is really interested in a discussion of "what really happened". Unfortunately, both sides believe that's what this is about - as though we simply work with uninterpreted facts that don't adhere to a story for context and meaning.

I think what troubles me about this whole topic more than anything is that I have a nagging suspicion that there's another story that's being missed here. Is the story that we tell really all about how old this rock is that we call home, about whether our distant ancestors walked upright and dressed in this season's hottest fig leaves? Or is it more about why things are broken, why we search for transcendence, why we fail to live at peace, why we have inexplicable hope through suffering?
[via theopraxis, emphasis mine]

The Cycle Continues...

Regarding the article Cross-National Correlations of Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism in the Prosperous Democracies: A First Look by Gregory S. Paul:

There is much to ponder in a study by Gregory Paul in the Journal of Religion and Society with the catchy title “Cross-National Correlations of Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism in the Prosperous Democracies: A First Look”. The paper correlates statistics from western developed countries related to religiosity and social wellness....

I pose my hypothesis, in the absence of data to prove it one way or another, that it is neither and both. High murder, mortality, suicide, teen pregnancy and STD transmission rates produce fear. Fear can produce a particular type of religious belief, which reacts to fear in a way that makes the situation worse. Celebrating gun ownership in the face of crime, or pushing abstinence-only sex education in the face of teen pregnancy, fuels the social ills they are meant to stop. Fear of the secular world, including the government, precludes reasonable governmental solutions to these problems. As a result, the social ills grow, the fear increases, and the cycle continues.

The answer is to abandon fear. When we stop being afraid, we are free to love, even to love the murderer and the adulterer. When we stop being afraid, we find the courage to be.

O’Brien says that functional societies run on trust, and I agree. To which I would add that functional religions run on love.
[via I am a Christian Too]

Let the Disappointment Begin:

The more plausible complaint about Miers, from the point of view of conservatives, is that she won't have the intellectual prowess to pick the court up and move it, to persuade other justices with the power of her ideas. For moderates and liberals, the complaint is that Bush had plenty of opportunity to pick a woman without picking the one whose best qualification is that she's his friend.
[quoted by Byzantium's Shores in this post]

The Trouble With Compromise

...Roe became a legal earthquake that, in addition to warping both major political parties, effectively vetoed any attempts by any legislature anywhere to produce any political compromise that would forbid any abortions. Today, the small percentage of Americans who want abortion on demand claim that even a ban on late third-trimester abortions would be a complete loss of the rights protected by Roe.

So this raises a question...Will Roe have to fall in order for a bipartisan coalition to produce compromise legislation on abortion that would actually represent the viewpoints of most Americans?

....Roe made compromise impossible. What the majority of Americans want is compromise. Thus, Roe must fall in order for compromise to take place. Roe must fall for the moderate center to get its muddled and inconsistent way. That’s America.

Will the left be happy about that? Will the right be happy about that?
[via GetReligion]

Cold and Heartfelt

[via This is not a Ham Sandwich]

The first rule of Blog Club is "Don't blog about Blog Club."

[via Simian Farmer]

Sunday, October 02, 2005

A Bit Distracted

Sorry about the lack of posts the past few days. My computer Natasha has been acting up, and I've been working on articles that will end up here (hopefully) soon. I also am speaking at the house church I go to on Sunday. So...I'm a bit preoccupied.

Of course, I have been waxing nostalgic this week when I got the new Stryper CD, Reborn on Wednesday. When I demoed it at the store, I wanted it immediately. That doesn't happen often, even with CDs I want.

In case you were curious:

The Bottom Line

Not totally convincing on the first listen, the album takes some time to grow. But importantly, it contains enough class to draw the listener back in and it's then you discover something new. And so it goes until you realize this is a great record and the guys deserve a lot of credit for the contents of this album. I dare say that the sound and style might alienate a few, but I think the vast majority will agree that this is a very credible album and should see the guys sticking around for a while yet.

All in all this album is a steady reintroduction for the band. It doesn’t sound dated, as many suspected it would (myself included), and many fans will be pleased to know that the band is not trying to be Stryper circa 1987. If you haven’t followed the band since their breakup in the early 90’s you may want to check out some song samples before buying this. The key to whether or not you like this album lies completely in what YOU expect to hear.

---the great nothing's understandable that the thought of a comeback album would be greeted with considerable trepidation; after all, most attempts by old '80s hard rock bands to redefine themselves while simultaneously trying to cash in on the retro rock crowd usually yields mediocre results. That makes Reborn all the more of a shocker. Not only has Stryper pulled off the unthinkable, putting out a very solid hard rock album, but they've done it with their heads held high, pandering to no one. Trust me, I'm every bit as surprised as you are.

More rock than metal this time out, Reborn has the reunited Stryper (minus original bassist Tim Gaines) forgoing the blazing riffs of the old days, in favor of the more straightforward, open chord style that today's emo acts use, and any notion that the band is deliberately "alternafying" their sound is rendered irrelevant once singer/guitarist Michael Sweet kicks in. The man is now in his forties, but his voice has not lost a step, sounding as powerful as 20 years ago, but thankfully without the theatrics he too often displayed in his younger days. He and the band prove they still know a thing or two about pop hooks, as nearly every track boasts contagious, soaring, instantly memorable choruses. The most aggressive track, "Open Your Eyes", quickly gives way to more mainstream-friendly fare, highlighted by "Make You Mine", "Rain", and the rather superb "If I Die", which, in younger, Hoobastanky hands, would be massive mainstream rock singles.

The band are still as religious as ever, and Reborn contains their most outspoken in their lyrical content since Soldiers Under Command, but despite their uncompromising approach, they don't browbeat the listener. Yes, there are some very outwardly spiritual tunes, like "I.G.W.T." and "The Passion", but lyrics are tasteful and not syrupy, and the songs are so incessantly catchy, they're good enough to win over the doubting Thomases out there. Anyway, if it makes you uncomfortable, just mentally replace the word "Jesus" with "baby".

---Pop Matters

Reborn, however, faces the same issues that a lot of the band's contemporaries from the hairspray and spandex days deal with on returning to the studio. It's difficult to find the line between being true to the history of the group while making the sound current. Many artists end up leaning too far to one side or the other and find themselves falling short of expectations. On this set, Stryper bounces back and forth between the two worlds with some luck....

The album doesn't go nearly as dark as the questionable album cover might suggest but there are some elements in the album where the band shows an attempt to modernize its sound. Many of these forays work to some degree but don't have the appeal that some of the group's classic sounding material does. Still, it's a pretty decent effort from the band and worth a listen for those that were interested in the group beyond its handful of MTV hits.

---Oregon Music Guide

Saturday, October 01, 2005

When talking to yourself isn't quite enough...and when talking to others are a pain... offers fascinating conversation with a sparkling wit of a chatbot named George. George isn't just your ordinary AI. It/He learns from the input his human conversationalists offer. The more you (and everyone else) talk(s), the wider grows George's range of subject matter, phrasing, vocabulary and understanding of context. Granted, your conversation is likely to take a few unexpected and bizarre turns.
[noted via Quotidian Light. Thanks Cindy!]

Friday's Feast


When was the last time you visited a hospital?

A: This year, follow-up appointment after I got my cast off my ankle.


On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being highest, how ambitious are you?

A: Overall, probably 6.


Make a sentence using the letters of a body part. (Example: (mouth) My other ukelele tings healthily.)

A: HEAD-- Hold Every Anxious Directive.

Main Course

If you were to start a club, what would the subject matter be, and what would you name it?

A: I'm not sure...would I be a member?


What color is the carpet/flooring in your home?

A: blueish-gray

Post 23:5

I haven't been tagged, but I gotta post something right now:

The rules:

1. Go into your archive.
2. Find your 23rd post.
3. Find the fifth sentence (or closest to).
4. Post the text of the sentence in your blog along with these instructions.
5. Tag five other people to do the same.
My 23rd post was on December 4, 2002.

The text of the 5th sentence (technically the 4th) is:

But the cycle continues,
And the waves keep on crashing in,
And this dream that I'm living in... quivers.

(from the song Quiver by Jeff Johnson on the album The Isle of Dreams)

Holy Spirit to Benny, Come in Benny...

OK Benny. I know you meant well at the beginning. I know you were fascinated by that first revival your friend dragged you to. I know you really felt good the first time you became aware I was present. You even just meant to share how wonderful you felt with others. You were young, you had tasted meat when you were really only prepared to digest milk.

But enough is enough. I was present before you felt it, and I am present when the feeling dies down. Your body couldn't handle that kind of ecstasy on a continual basis. Genuine faith doesn't need it. You are good at pulling out Scriptural references where the Father is talking about "my Spirit," but you missed out on what my boss (you know, the Jewish carpenter) told the man who wanted to be saved: sell all that you have, give it to the poor, take up your cross and follow.

You've been telling the poor, sell all you have, give it to you, dance across the stage and follow. Follow me? No, follow you.
[via The Wittenburg Door, online extra]